Palestinians Ready, Would Prefer to Reach Peace Treaty with Israel by September, Paving Way for Independence, UN Membership, Palestinian Rights Committee Told

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Committee on the Inalienable Rights
of the Palestinian People
332nd Meeting (PM)

Observer Says Continued Illegal Israeli Settlements Block Peace Process Revival; Committee Also Hears Reports on Montevideo Meeting, Helsinki Seminar Preparations

Palestinians were ready, willing and would prefer to reach a peace treaty with Israel by September — the deadline set by United States President Barack Obama and endorsed by the European Union to end protracted negotiations — paving the way for Palestinian independence and United Nations membership, Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine, said today in the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Briefing the 23-member Committee on the latest developments in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, he said Israel continued with its illegal settlements. His delegation had sent letters to the Presidents of the Security Council and General Assembly, as well as to the Secretary-General, on the extent of those violations, which included home demolition and displacement of people. With such illegal behaviour, Israel had blocked revival of the peace process.

Moreover, there had been a near renewal of full-scale military activities against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, he said, noting that those events had brought to light the need for international protection of Palestinians, and for Israel to both lift its blockade and end its illegal siege in that area. Those responsibilities were of extreme urgency, as was implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and the agreement on access and movement.

“I cannot say there is improvement in the situation of Palestinians living under occupation” since the Committee’s last meeting or in the months since the Security Council’s debate on settlement activities, he said. Though the Council had not succeeded in “legislating” a global consensus on the illegality of those settlements, the debate had shown the international community was of one view on that issue.

On the political front, he said that in the run-up to September, the Palestinian side was working to remove obstacles to the peace process, create an atmosphere conducive to reaching a peace treaty, and end the occupation that started in 1967, all of which would pave the way for Palestinian independence and United Nations membership. Such negotiations would require dealing with final status issues, he said, adding: “We were flexible with the United States Administration to convince the Israelis to extend the moratorium for three months.”

When those efforts had faltered, he said, his delegation had approached the Security Council to emphasize the illegality of continued settlement activity. By urging the Council to legislate that consensus and state that such acts must be stopped, his side had increased the chances for success in negotiations. Moreover, the Palestine side had drafted a “very delicate” draft resolution in the Council, and had met with Council members collectively and individually, as well as groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference, to involve everyone in the process.

In addition, he said the Palestinian side believed the Quartet should adopt the “parameters” articulated by the United Kingdom’s representative in the Council, reflecting the position of the Europeans. He had hoped the Quartet would have met in March to adopt the parameters. As that had not been the case, he expressed hope the Quartet would meet this month in Berlin.

“It is the collective responsibility of the members of the Quartet, including the United States, to articulate these bases as parameters and to invite the two parties to return to negotiations,” he stressed. Doing so would remove obstacles from the negotiation process and help create a “tranquil” environment to achieve a peace treaty by the September 2011 deadline.

Most importantly, the Palestinian side was implementing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to build Palestinian infrastructure and end the occupation, which had been endorsed by all corners of the world. “Name it, everyone is supporting the plan,” he said. The Palestinian Authority had received high marks from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations that Palestinian institutions were ready to govern in the form of a State. One hundred and twelve countries supported statehood and he hoped to see 130 to 140 countries on board by the summer, representing a more than two–thirds majority in the Assembly.

The Palestinian side also was ready and willing to negotiate the six final status issues, he said, noting that many elements would converge in September. His preference would be to reach a treaty to end occupation, allowing for independence and United Nations membership. Palestinians would not accept that Israel alone would determine the future. His side would always be ready to negotiate if Israel honoured its commitments and abided by international law.

Also reviewing recent developments, Committee Chairman Abou Salam Diallo said that, on 22 March, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco had briefed the Security Council on “the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. On 4 April, the Jerusalem Municipal Planning and Construction Committee had approved a plan to build 942 housing units in the “Gilo” settlement in East Jerusalem, while on 7 April, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip had hit a school bus in southern Israel. Israel had carried out retaliatory attacks in the Gaza Strip, killing some 20 Palestinian militants and civilians.

Moreover, on 13 April, a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee had been held in Brussels, Belgium, where the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations had reported that the Palestinian Authority had crossed the threshold for a functioning State in terms of its institution building, he said. Many donors, however, noted the lack of political progress had left the negotiating track “out of sync” with the Authority’s advanced state-building efforts. An agreement between the European Union and the Authority had been signed, outlining that all agricultural products, and fish and fishery products originating in the West Bank and Gaza, would be given duty-free access to the Union market.

In other matters, the Committee took note of the report of the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and the United Nations Meeting of Civil Society in Support of Israeli Palestinian Peace, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from 29 to 31 March.

Mr. Diallo, who introduced the report, said the conference — held under the theme of “The urgency of realizing a two-State solution” — had featured a keynote presentation by Sa’eb Erakat, member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee, who deplored the stalemate in negotiations between the two parties, which he had said was due to continued Israeli settlement expansion and other repressive measures against Palestinians on the ground.

The Committee also approved the provisional programme for the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, to be held in Helsinki, Finland, on 28 and 29 April. Organized in cooperation with the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University, the seminar would focus on “Mobilizing international efforts in support of the Palestinian Government’s State-building programme”.

The seminar would provide the opportunity to assess the socio-economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, discuss the urgency of bringing relief to and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, and consider approaches to advancing the Palestinian state-building programme, including by addressing political challenges.

In final business, four requests for accreditation with the Committee were approved: Comisión de Apoyo al Pueblo Palestino-Uruguay (Montevideo); Fundación Bait Al Hikma (Buenos Aires); Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel (Albuquerque, New Mexico); and the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy-MIFTAH (Ramallah), as observer.

The representatives of Uruguay and Mali also spoke.

The Committee will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.

For information media • not an official record