(The collective response of the Non-Aligned Movement sent by the Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Movement, to the Permanent Observer of Switzerland. The Arab Group in New York also sent a similar collective response) 

Your Excellency, 6 April 1999

I have the honor, in my capacity as Chairman of the Coordinating Bureau of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, to refer to your letter of 9 March 1999, addressed to all Heads of Permanent Missions and Heads of Delegations to the United Nations and its attached sample of a note which "seeks clarification with regard to the modalities of a conference as recommended by Resolution ES-10/6 adopted by the General Assembly on 9 February 1999." In this regard, I would like to convey to you the collective response of the Non-Aligned Movement to the questions contained in the note, as adopted Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement, as follows:

- We believe that the conference recommended by resolution ES-10/6 should be convened as agreed on 15 July 1999 at United Nations Offices at Geneva. Thus, we believe that questions related to the principle of convening a conference have become moot. The overwhelming majority of states have repeatedly and consistently recommended and supported the convening of the conference, both by voting in favor of General Assembly resolutions ES-10/3, ES-10/4, ES-10/5 and ES-10/6 and during the consultations conducted by the Swiss Government in its capacity as the Depositary of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the results of which are contained in the report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations of 14 October 1997 and its addendum of 10 November 1997. At this time, it should also be noted that 20 months have passed since the adoption of resolution ES-10/3 on 15 July 1997.

- We attach importance to the position of the parties principally concerned. After all, it is these parties who either must comply with the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention or who has the most interest in the convening of the conference. However, it is absolutely essential not to allow any party directly concerned, especially in the case of long standing violations of the Convention, to have a veto or even a decisive say with regard to the convening of the conference. 

H.E. Ambassador Jeno C.A. Staehehlin

Permanent Observer of Switzerland

to the United Nations

- We believe that there has been ample accumulative experience from the conferences related to international humanitarian law, such as the Preparatory Meeting of the Two Additional Protocols of 1972 and 1979, or those of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The rules of procedures and modalities of the upcoming conference on 15 July 1999 can rely heavily on the experiences of these above-mentioned meetings. In this regard, we believe that the Depositary is in a position to prepare the necessary documents after some consultation and could distribute them to the High Contracting Parties. It always remain possible for the conference itself to adopt the necessary documents at the beginning of the deliberations, or possibly even a preparatory meeting held immediately before the conference could consider such documents.

- The objective of the conference is to enable the High Contracting Parties to carry out their collective responsibility to ensure respect of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem. This will be an important contribution to ensuring respect of international humanitarian law in all circumstances. The conference could adopt a resolution or more and could also adopt a report. The adoption of such documents should always be subject to the position of the majority. Our Group, however, given the nature of the conference and the importance of the subject matter will do its utmost to contribute to very broad agreement or even consensus if at all possible. We are also confident that the Chairperson or possibly the Bureau of conference could play a constructive role.

- With regard to the cost of the conference, this is a matter that has already been discussed prior to the adoption of resolution ES-10/6. Moreover, operative paragraph 8, which "requests the Secretary-General of the United Nations to make the necessary facilities available to enable the High Contracting Parties to convene the conference" was specifically added with the aim of absorbing most of the expenses, such as the venue and the interpretation services. We are also confident that the Government of Switzerland, given its generosity in the past, will not hesitate to cover whatever unsubstantial costs might remain.

Finally, we recall operative paragraph 7 of resolution ES-10/6, in which the Assembly "invites the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as the Depositary of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to undertake whatever preparations are necessary prior tot he conference". In this regard, we would like to express our gratitude to the Swiss Government for its note of 9 March 1999 and its follow up of the matter and to express confidence that the "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" will take place at the agreed upon venue and on the agreed upon date.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration. 

Signed: Pieter Vermeulen

Acting Permanent Representative of

The republic of South Africa