Statement by Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Ambassador, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, before the Resumed Tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, "Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory", 5 February 1999, United Nations, New York:(Original: Arabic)

Mr. President,

Once again, the international community finds itself obliged to take action, and once more Member States find themselves obliged to resume the tenth emergency special session in the face of Israeli intransigence and insistence on continuing with its illegal actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in grave violation of international law, international humanitarian law and relevant United Nations resolutions. This is in addition to its persistent undermining of the Middle East peace process and violation of existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements, all of which have pushed the entire region to a worrisome and dangerous situation.

Further disturbing is that the Israeli government continues in this manner in direct contempt and challenge of the four resolutions that you have overwhelmingly adopted since 24 April 1997, i.e. since the Member States determined to take the exceptional and complex step, for the first time in fifteen years, of convening an emergency special session of the General Assembly in accordance with resolution 377 A (V) of 1950, "Uniting for Peace", to confront those illegal Israeli actions and ensure their cessation after the Security Council failed to fulfill its responsibilities. The Israeli government does this in spite of the clear content of those resolutions and their distinguished legal and political importance. You should not allow this. No state should be permitted to reject and challenge the will of the international community and no state should be allowed to be above the law with impunity. Thus, the international community must not retreat and we must insist on continuing our work until Israel complies with the provisions of the resolutions of this tenth emergency special session.

Mr. President,

The provisions of the resolutions of this session have included the following: First, it reaffirmed the international community’s position on Jerusalem, once more demonstrating that the international community, through the United Nations, has a legitimate interest in the question of the City of Jerusalem. It also reaffirmed the position on the Israeli settlements as illegal and as an obstacle to peace.

Secondly, the session demanded of Israel, the occupying Power, the immediate and full cessation of the construction at Jabal Abu Ghneim and of all other Israeli settlement activities, as well as of all illegal measures and actions in Jerusalem; the acceptance of the de jure applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions; the cessation and reversal of all actions taken illegally against Palestinian Jerusalemites; and the provision of information about goods produced or manufactured in the settlements.

Thirdly, the session affirmed full support for the Middle East peace process and called for reinjecting momentum into the stalled process and the need for scrupulous implementation of the agreements reached between the parties, as well as for the upholding of the principles of the process, including the exchange of land for peace.

Fourthly, the session made a recommendation to Member States, basically aimed at the Israeli settlements, in which it recommended to Member States the cessation of all forms of assistance and support for illegal Israeli activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, in particular settlement activities and that Member States actively discourage activities that directly contribute to any construction or development of those settlements, which is meant to cover activities by individuals and non-governmental parties.

Fifth, the session recommended that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention convene a conference on measures to enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and to ensure its respect in accordance with common article 1. At a later stage, the tenth emergency special session recommended that the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depository of the Convention, undertake the necessary steps, including the convening of a meeting of experts, in order to follow up on the recommendation to convene the conference.

Sixth and lastly, the session adopted a follow-up mechanism through the reports requested at the beginning from the Secretary-General and through the possibility of resuming the session. This is exactly what we are trying to do today – to follow up what we have done in the past with the goal of ensuring the implementation of those resolutions and of ensuring that the will of the international community does not become ink on paper.

The question then becomes: What in fact happened to those issues enumerated above? We start with the demands made of Israel, the occupying Power. Unfortunately, Israel did not comply with those demands. Israel did not comply with even the minimum, nor did it claim compliance. Israel continued the construction of the settlement at Jabal Abu Ghneim, where it has completed the infrastructure and recently called for tenders for the building of the first group of units there. It continued with its settlement activities in Bab Al-Amud and Burj Al-Laqlaq in Occupied Jerusalem, in Al-Khalil (Hebron) and in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Further, it continued with the confiscation of land, the building of so-called bypass roads, actions against Palestinian Jerusalemites, separating the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and economic suffocation.

What about the peace process and what has become of it? Once more, in spite of the great necessity for the success of the process and in spite of virtual international unanimity on this matter, the policies and positions of the Israeli government unfortunately remain unchanged, in denial of the principles of the process and in continuous violation of the existing agreements. Recently, the United States intensified its efforts, including at the highest level, to bring the process back on track. After ten days of difficult negotiations at the Wye Center, the Wye River Memorandum was signed at the White House on 23 October 1998. The Memorandum is comprised of steps to facilitate implementation of the existing agreements in accordance with a specific timeline to be completed by 29 January 1999, which was one week ago.

In reality, immediately after the signing of the Memorandum the Israeli side began its attempts to evade and postpone implementation, as well as imposing new conditions, until the whole matter culminated with the Israeli government suspending implementation of the Memorandum on 20 December 1998. The whole world is witness to the responsibility this government, alone, bears for the intentional destruction of the peace process. The suspension was, of course, accompanied by a freeze of negotiations on the final settlement, which should be completed by 4 May 1999, the date when the five-year transitional period agreed upon by the two sides will come to an end.

I want to stress here that all of this pushes things toward a very dangerous situation. The existing agreements are not being implemented, the negotiations on the final settlement are not being conducted, and even the possibility of extending the transitional period for a specific time agreed upon by the two sides is not possible – all as a result of the positions of the Israeli government. In turn, we cannot allow the development of a legal and political void in our land and perhaps even the descent of the situation to the situation before the peace process. We must shoulder our responsibilities towards our people for the realization of their rights in statehood and independence.

Mr. President,

With regard to the recommendations made by the session to Member States, we would like to express our appreciation to the majority of Member States that have taken a firm and longstanding position in this respect. Further, it is reassuring to see important movement by other states in accordance with the existing trade agreements and, we believe, with their legal obligations aimed at goods and products manufactured by the Israeli settlements. We express our appreciation here for the position of the European Commission on this matter, and we hope for the adoption of final measures in this regard. At the same time, and frankly speaking, there continues to be support originating from other countries for the Israeli settlements, at least from individuals and non-governmental parties. We submitted specific examples concerning this issue in our letter to the Secretary-General on 20 August 1997 (A/ES-10/14), and we hope that the concerned countries will take the necessary measures in accordance with their legal obligations as High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Finally, Mr. President, what about the convening of the conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention? The session recommended the convening of this conference three times. The first recommendation was in resolution ES-10/3 of 15 July 1997, which was adopted 19 months ago. Later, the session recommended to the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the depository of the Convention, to take the necessary measures, including the convening of a meeting of experts before the end of February 1998, which was extended until the end of April 1998. With the initiation of this issue and upon the request of the Secretary-General, Switzerland consulted with the High Contracting Parties, after which the Secretary-General submitted his report on the results, which indicated that a large majority of High Contracting Parties supported the convening of the conference even at that early stage.

Switzerland undertook efforts of which we are appreciative. It organized a meeting between the Palestinian and Israeli sides in the presence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from 9 to 11 June 1998 in Geneva for the purpose of examining means to contribute to the effective implementation of the Convention. However, the meeting, as we expected, unfortunately did not lead to any change in Israeli policies and practices in violation of the Convention. Switzerland also convened a meeting of experts from 27 to 29 October 1998 on the problems related to the Convention in general and in particular to the situation of occupation. After that, Switzerland, as the Chair of the meeting, distributed concluding remarks regarding the proceedings of the meeting. From our point of view, that meeting was useful. However, as is known, it did not lead to the convening of the conference.

Needless to say, we have thoroughly cooperated with Switzerland in spite of our serious legal and political concerns, and in spite of our position of principle not to seek selective amelioration through negotiations, and in spite of our position of principle on the necessity of convening the conference and the meeting of experts in the manner recommended by the session. We have been very patient despite the pressure of continuous Israeli violations, and we have been cooperative despite the danger of the situation and Israeli intransigence. Now, we believe we have reached the end of the line. Negotiations and preparations and searching for a direction have all taken place, and now we have to take the only required step, which is the reaffirmation of the recommendation to convene the conference on a specified date, which we hope will be 4 March 1999 at United Nations headquarters in an agreed upon place. In this regard, we trust that the Secretary-General, if so requested, will be ready to make available all necessary facilities to the High Contracting Parties to convene the conference. We will, of course, always be ready to cooperate with Switzerland in this respect.

Mr. President,

The approaching fiftieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions should represent an incentive for all of us to reiterate our determination to further promote international humanitarian law and to reaffirm the undertaking by the High Contracting Parties to respect and to ensure respect for the Conventions in all circumstances in accordance with common article 1.

Mr. President,

We are hopeful that we will be able to enhance our work in upholding the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly resolutions of the tenth emergency special session, in the frame of which we meet today. We are hopeful to provide protection for the Palestinian people in support of their rights. We are hopeful to save the Middle East peace process from claws of extremism and expansionism - now and not later.

Thank you, Mr. President.