Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Closing statement of Ambassador Tanin as Chair of UN African Meeting on Palestine

Statement by

H.E. Zahir Tanin

Head of the Delegation of the

Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine is drawing to a close, allow me, on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to express our sincere appreciation to all the participants. Our special thanks go to the distinguished panelists for sharing with us their valuable insights and expertise. Their presentations reminded us that despite the efforts of major international stakeholders and the declared intentions of the parties, the peace process has not yet moved forward. At the same time, facts continue to be created by the occupying Power on the ground threatening to render the two-State solution unattainable. Of particular concern, as repeatedly stated at this Meeting, is the situation in East Jerusalem.

The Committee appreciated very much the participation of Palestinian and Israeli experts, parliamentarians, politicians and representatives of civil society pointing out that the majorities in both societies support the two-State solution, including a just and viable solution for Jerusalem. The other participants in the Meeting, including the speakers from Africa and other international experts confirmed that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained a matter of utmost concern not only for Governments and politicians, but for broad sections of the population on all continents. The question of Jerusalem, in particular, is prone to spark emotions among millions of people, no Government can neglect, because of the city’s status as a spiritual center of the three religions.

We know that there are still large obstacles lying ahead in the peace process. We clearly know what those hurdles are. We know that crucial provisions of international law and United Nations resolutions are not being upheld. We are all actually aware of what needs to be done to bring peace, as articulately described in the concluding document just presented. Some of the issues we have discussed during the past two days are extremely sensitive, politically and emotionally, but none of them can be neglected and excluded from the permanent status negotiations if a lasting peace is to be achieved.

The main message sent out by this Meeting should be one of encouragement. Encouragement to our Palestinian and Israeli friends, to the politicians, parliamentarians and decision-makers to continue on the path to peace, to address, as matter of priority, the concerns of their own constituencies, in order to prepare the ground for the acceptance of the bold decisions that need to be taken and implemented, if peace shall ultimately be achieved between the two peoples. Internal divisions will have to be overcome, extremists isolated, and voices of reason and reconciliation strengthened.

The message of our Meeting should also encourage the international community to continue its efforts, at the political, economic and humanitarian levels, in support of the peace process. Speakers called upon the Members of the Middle East Quartet, in particular the United States, to stay engaged in order to achieve a breakthrough in the negotiations. Being in Morocco, the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative was emphasized, and Arab States encouraged to pursue it vigorously for the benefit of all peoples in the region. And the international community is called upon to continue its direct assistance to the Palestinian people, to alleviate the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza suffering from the three-year long Israeli blockade and to support the state-building efforts of the Palestinian Authority.

Our Committee was created some 35 years ago by the General Assembly to remind the international community of its legal and moral responsibilities to restore the long-lost justice. The Committee reiterates that the root cause of the conflict is the occupation by Israel of the Palestinian Territory, which has lasted for more than four decades. Palestinians have suffered for far too long. Years of occupation have also affected the lives of Israelis. This unacceptable situation must be urgently redressed to allow both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Committee and all participants in this Meeting, allow me to reiterate our sincere appreciation to the Government of Morocco for allowing us to gather in such a hospitable place to have these important deliberations. We enjoyed very much the cooperation and services received from the staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation. We very much look forward to continuing this excellent cooperation with the Moroccan Government.

Before I conclude, I would like to express the Committee’s sincere appreciation to the Division for Palestinian Rights of the United Nations Secretariat, the conference services team from the United Nations Office at Vienna and Geneva, interpreters, press officers, technicians, the staff of the Tour Hassan Hotel and all others for their contribution to the successful holding of the Meeting.

I would also like to inform you that the documentation of this Meeting will be posted on the web site maintained by the Division for Palestinian Rights, and a report of this Meeting will be published, in due course, as a publication of the Division.

I wish you all a safe journey back home.

I now declare closed the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine.

Opening Statement of Ambassador Tanin as Chair of UN African Meeting on Palestine

Statement by

H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin

Head of the Delegation

Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights

of the Palestinian People

CPR/AFMQP/2010/8

Excellencies,

Distinguished speakers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and privilege to welcome you, once again, to the United Nations African Meeting on the Question of Palestine convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, under the theme “Strengthening the support by African States for a just and lasting solution of the question of Jerusalem.”

At the outset, allow me to reiterate our Committee’s sincere appreciation to His Excellency Mr. Taïb Fassi Fihri, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Morocco, for the decision of the Moroccan Government to host this important Meeting. Our Committee highly appreciates the role of His Majesty King Mohammed VI as the Chair of the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the efforts to preserve the Islamic heritage in Jerusalem. We also highly value His Majesty’s leadership in providing humanitarian and other vital support to the Palestinian people. We, therefore, are grateful to be able to hold our Meeting on Jerusalem here in Rabat. We also appreciate Morocco’s participation in our Committee’s activities as an active Observer.

Our Committee was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975, with a mandate to promote the realization by the Palestinian people of their inalienable rights. The General Assembly has defined those inalienable rights as the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty, and the right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced and uprooted. In its political advocacy role, the Committee keeps the international community abreast of the various aspects of the question of Palestine through its annual programme of activities at United Nations Headquarters and worldwide, including the holding of international meetings and conferences such as this African Meeting.

We decided to focus the deliberations of this Meeting on the question of Jerusalem, which is a key element in the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations. The issue is highly sensitive in every aspect. Leaving it unresolved would undermine ultimate success in the negotiations to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace or a solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Last October, an important conference, the Al-Quds International Forum, was held here in Rabat. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon summarized in his message to the conference the position of the United Nations emphasizing that Jerusalem was a core issue that had to be resolved through negotiations, along with all other core issues. He stressed that the international community did not recognize Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which remained part of the occupied Palestinian territory subject to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention. If peace was to be achieved, he said, the goal had to be for Jerusalem to be the capital of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, with arrangements for the holy sites acceptable to all, which was the road to the fulfillment of both the vision of Security Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Our Committee fully aligns itself with this important position of the international community on the status of Jerusalem. It repeatedly expressed alarm about Israel’s settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, as well as demolitions of Palestinian homes, evictions, land expropriation and residency rights revocations. The most recent example is the approval by a Jerusalem planning body for a plan to demolish 22 Palestinian homes in the Al-Bustan area of the Silwan neighbourhood in the eastern part of the city to make room for an Israeli tourist centre. Such actions constitute clear violations of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. East Jerusalem is occupied territory as is the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Committee calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Convention to act against those violations by Israel, a High Contracting Party herself, as stipulated in Article 1 of the Convention, which obliges the High Contracting Parties to undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the Convention. The Geneva Conventions lay down crucial principles of international humanitarian law that apply to all conflict situations. Their persistent violation by one party only serves to undermine the effectiveness of the international legal system and may have serious consequences for international peace and security. The Committee also recalls that Security Council resolution 252 (1968) considered that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, including expropriation of land properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem, are invalid and cannot change that status,” the position repeated in many subsequent resolutions.

Our Committee’s position is that any agreement that does not encompass making East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian State will not lead to sustainable Israeli-Palestinian peace. A negotiated agreement on the status of Jerusalem should include internationally guaranteed provisions aimed at ensuring the freedom of religion and of conscience of its inhabitants, as well as permanent, free and unhindered access to the holy places by the Palestinian people and peoples of all religions and nationalities.

With regard to the rest of the occupied West Bank, illegal settlement activity continues in spite of the temporary moratorium on new construction declared by Israel, based on approvals issued prior to the moratorium. Although cautiously welcomed internationally as a step in the right direction, the announced moratorium of settlement expansion was not considered sufficient for creating for a climate conducive to conducting negotiations on all permanent status issues. A central concern has always been that East Jerusalem had been explicitly excluded from the moratorium, which has been proven by the worrisome recent developments in the City.

Our Committee would like to remind Israel, the occupying Power, that the presence of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. All of the West Bank land as determined by the pre-1967 demarcation lines is to become the future Palestinian State’s territory, and any modification to this principle can only be made through agreements between the parties.

The Committee has repeatedly denounced the ongoing construction of the separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, with all its adversary effects on the Palestinian population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It has called upon Israel to cease any further construction and dismantle the wall in line with the ICJ Advisory Opinion. Israel is obliged to make reparations to the Palestinian population for all damage caused by this construction.

With regard to the situation in the Gaza Strip, the Committee is of the view that the siege of Gaza imposed by Israel, the occupying Power, amounts to collective punishment of the 1.5 million Palestinians living there. Our Committee notes with great concern that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has been steadily worsening, exacerbated by the Israeli military offensive of December 2008. We in the Committee, have repeatedly called for a lifting of the blockade and the opening of all crossings to allow for the long overdue reconstruction and rehabilitation work to begin. The situation in the Gaza Strip gained wide international attention through the events surrounding the Free Gaza Flotilla the objective of which was to delivering the much-needed humanitarian goods to the Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s violent naval assault on the ships was widely condemned by the international community. We are of the view that it demands an impartial and credible investigation into the incident in international waters. At the same time, the international community calls for a full end of the Israeli blockade and the opening of all crossings, based on the comprehensive 2005 Access and Movement Agreement.

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Faced with very difficult circumstances of the occupation, the Palestinian Authority has been successfully carrying out its two-year State-building plan led by Prime Minister Fayyad, developing national institutions and infrastructure, improving the security apparatus and bringing investment to the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority has launched a diplomatic initiative with a view to achieving international support for Palestinian statehood at the end of the scheduled implementation of the Fayyad Plan in August 2011. The Committee expresses full support for this diplomatic initiative and calls upon the entire world community, including all African States, to be prepared to recognize the State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, including through a Security Council resolution, once statehood has been declared by the Palestinian leadership at an appropriate time. In particular, the Palestinian people and their supporters have a lot to benefit from the experience of African States in their quest for decolonization, independence and sovereignty, as well as their paths to economic independence and sustainable development. The role of the African Group at the United Nations in support of the Palestinian cause is also critical.

First and foremost, it is very important that the international community support the current proximity talks by encouraging the parties, Israel and the Palestinians, to take the steps necessary to built mutual trust and confidence in order to proceed to direct negotiations on all outstanding issues. Violence, incitement, settlement expansion and other provocative acts can easily compromise an already fragile state of the talks and need to be avoided at all costs. We all understand that time is of the essence. Losing the present opportunity might jeopardy the achievement of the two-State solution, and thus, the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live in their own, sovereign State, and of the Israeli people to live in peace and security in a prospering Middle East region.

For our part, the Committee will continue to carry out its mandate given by the General Assembly in order to bring an end to the decades of occupation and realize the two-State solution through the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, international law and previous agreements, supported by the Arab Peace Initiative.

Thank you very much.

* * *

Ambassador Tanin Opens UN African Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Rabat

H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, Vice President of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and Head of the Delegation of the Committee, today chaired the first day of the UN African Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Rabat, Morocco. Ambassador Tanin will chair the two-day meeting, which is convened by the Committee under the theme of “Strengthening the support by African States for a just and lasting solution of the question of Jerusalem.”

The meeting was opened by on Mr. Taib Fassi-Fihri, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for Morocco, who welcomed the participants and expressed pride at his country’s being the host for this year’s African Meeting on Palestine. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also had a statement, which was delivered on his behalf by Bader Al-Dafa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Africa. In it the Secretary-General stressed the importance of a negotiated peace in which the question of the permanent status of Jerusalem would have to be resolved.

In his opening statement, Ambassador Tanin called for a resolution of the status of Jerusalem that would allow East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. He asserted that unilateral attempts to annex or otherwise influence the status of Jerusalem would prevent the finding of a sustainable negotiated solution. He said that any solution would have to include provisions ensuring the freedom of religion of inhabitants, and unhindered access to holy sites. He condemned any action taken in contravention of the Geneva Conventions and called for the parties to the convention to take action in those instances.

The opening session also included a keynote presentation by Mr. Ahmed Qurai, a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Following that, the first plenary which included presentations by experts and a further discussion on the issue of the status of Jerusalem. The Meeting will continue on Friday with two additional plenary sessions before closing at the end of the day on Friday.

Before the opening of the Meeting, Ambassador Tanin and the rest of the Delegation called on Mr. Fassi-Fihri to express their gratitude to Morocco for hosting the Meeting and for its long-time support of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Fassi Fihri, Ambassador Tanin and Mr. Ahmed Qurai later held a press conference that stressed the need for a fair and just resolution to the question of Jerusalem in any sustainable negotiated peace in the Middle East.

For the full report of the first day, click here.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan