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Concluding session, Fourth Committee approves 23 draft resolutions, 4 decisions, including 9 today by recorded vote on Middle East, UN Refugee Relief Agency

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GA/SPD/418

Sixty-third General Assembly
Fourth Committee
24th Meeting (PM)

Aware of the fact thatthe Palestine refugees have suffered for six decades from the loss of their homes, lands and means of livelihood, the General Assembly would affirm the necessity of continuing the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), by one of nine draft resolutions approved by recorded votes today, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its work for the current session.

By a recorded vote of 158 in favour to 1 against (Israel), with 6 abstentions (Cameroon, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), that text -- on assistance to Palestine refugees -- would also have the Assembly decide to commemorate UNRWA's work on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of its establishment at a high-level meeting on 1 October 2009, during its sixty-fourth session.

By further terms, the Assembly would invite Finland and Ireland to become members of UNRWA's Advisory Commission. It would call on all donors to continue to make the most generous efforts possible to meet the Agency's anticipated needs, particularly in light of the ongoing deterioration of the region's socioeconomic and humanitarian situation. (For details of the vote, see Annex I).

A related draft resolution on UNRWA's operations -- approved by a recorded vote of 160 in favour to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (Cameroon) -- would have the Assembly reaffirm that the Agency's functioning remains essential in all fields of operation. It would urge Israel to speedily compensate the Agency for damage to its property and facilities resulting from Israeli actions, and to reimburse it for transit charges and other financial losses sustained as a result of Israeli restrictions on movement and access. (See Annex III).

Two other UNRWA-related drafts -- on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities, and Palestine refugees' properties and their revenues -- were also approved by recorded votes.

By the first, the Assembly would reaffirm the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967. It was approved by a vote of 158 in favour to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 2 abstentions (Cameroon, Canada). (See Annex II).

The second draft resolution would have the Assembly urge the Palestinian and Israeli sides to deal with the important issue of Palestine refugees' properties and revenues within the framework of the final status negotiations of the Middle East peace process. It was approved by a vote of 161 in favour to 6 against (Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention (Cameroon). (See Annex IV).

Expressing the hope that the Israeli occupation will be brought to an early and complete end, thereby ending the violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people, the Assembly would also request the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, to continue those investigations, especially violations of the Geneva Convention relative to civilian protection in wartime, according to one of five draft resolutions related to the Special Committee's report.

By a recorded vote of 87 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 70 abstentions, the Committee would have the Assembly reiterate its demand that Israel, the occupying Power, cooperate, in accordance with its obligations as a Member State of the United Nations, with the Special Committee in implementing its mandate.

By further terms, the Assembly would also deplore those policies and practices of Israel that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, included in the Special Committee's report. It would also condemn all illegal Israeli settlement activities and the construction of the wall, as well as the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against the civilian population. (See Annex V).

The Committee also approved, by recorded votes, four other draft texts relating to the report of the Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices, including on the Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Israeli settlements in all of the occupied territories, Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people, and the situation in the occupied Syrian Golan. (See Annexes VI, VII, VIII, and IX, respectively).

Speaking in explanation of vote were the representatives of France (on behalf of the European Union), Australia, Iran and Canada.

Syria's representative made a general statement.

The observer for Palestine to the United Nations also spoke.

The representatives of Iceland and Finland asked to be added as co-sponsors to the draft on assistance to Palestine refugees.

In concluding remarks, the Committee Chairman noted that the Fourth Committee had approved 23 draft resolutions and four draft decisions, and had held 24 formal meetings.