Saturday, November 18, 2017

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.

Statement of UN special envoy, Staffan de Mistura to the UN Security Council

Mr President, Members of the Security Council, Thank you very much, Mr President, it is a great pleasure to see you here again after your mission.

I would like to take this opportunity to elaborate on the UN’s activities in Afghanistan and the priorities in the current Afghan environment. I will be briefer than usual because we had the privilege of having the visit of the members of the Security Council to Afghanistan and therefore you have seen with your own eyes and heard with your own ears what the current situation is on the ground. I want, in this connection, to thank you for your visit. It came just over three months since I took up my own new assignment, and was very timely.

This is indeed a crucial year in Afghanistan, and I think that anyone of you who was there must have had the same feeling. It is a year in which we are all trying, together with the Afghan authorities and the Afghan people, to reach a form of stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan. Everybody acknowledges the fact that there is no military solution alone for what is the current situation in the country. There must be a lot more, and that is what we are working together on. For security gains to be sustained, Afghanistan requires a political vision that is articulated, driven and owned by the Afghans themselves. Efforts must combine to create a sufficiently conducive political environment to counterbalance rising insecurity in a manner that signals that Afghanistan assumes greater responsibility for its desirable end state.

This year has an intense calendar of events and in that sense we are moving in the right direction. We had the London Conference which was very useful. It did indicate a support by the international community to the Afghan authorities during this crucial year. We had the consultative Peace Jirga, which was equally extremely helpful because it gave the opportunity to everyone, Afghans and its international partners, to actually come to a realization that there is a common understanding on how to address the dialogue in order to have more Afghans inside the white tent where we all were during the period of the Peace Jirga.

And the next step is the Kabul Conference, where many Foreign Ministers will be coming and I understand that the United Nations Secretary-General has also confirmed his own attendance. It will be a stepping stone. Let me summarize in which direction the organizers of the Kabul Conference are going. I am referring to the Afghans of course; we will be co-chairing, but they are in the lead. The concept is a public contract, I repeat contract, between the Afghan Government and the Afghan people, offering concrete social and economic improvements. The international community will not be expected to bring new funds but to actually realign, if they feel comfortable with these priorities, the resources that have already be allocated to Afghanistan, bilaterally or elsewhere. This will have several advantages, one will be to further help the “Afghanization” concept, which should not just be a word but should become more and more a concrete fact. And the Afghans feel very strongly about that. They are proud people, historically proven to be so, and even more so these days. They need to feel that the future is in fact in their hands, and this is a good opportunity. If they are proposing concrete programmes, they should also feel they can lead them and, at the same time, be accountable for the results. The event will not be putting more pressure on donor countries, because it will be at best a request for a realignment of the current bilateral funding.

The UN, as you know, Mr Chairman, is now focussing on 3+1 priorities. We cannot cover everything, and if we did, we would not be able to make a difference. The 3+1 areas are elections, the internal dialogue, regional dialogue and constructive engagement, and aid coherence — which is assisting the Afghan authorities and the international community to avoid overlapping and better coordination of the huge amount of aid which is reaching Afghanistan.

Elections: it is the mother of all issues in Afghanistan, and frankly for all of us. The previous elections did not go well. It would be an understatement to say they went well. They did not go well, and this time we are all trying to work together. They will not be perfect and they will not be elections that you would see in other countries which do not have the same challenges, but they will be better, and they should be insha’allah better. Why? Because lessons were learned by everyone and secondly because there is much more monitoring taking place, internally, by the Afghans themselves.

UNAMA was able to contribute to one major part of the process. As you probably will remember, because so many things have happened since, in April there was a moment of difficulty. There was an institutional stalemate between the Presidency and the Wolesi Jirga, which could have blocked the electoral process. And the formula that the UN, with the cooperation of the whole international community present in Kabul, was able to propose and get approval by everyone for the implementation guidelines on elections. This resulted in: first, a new Chairman for the Independent Electoral Commission and a new electoral team; second, the presence of two international commissioners in the Electoral Complaints Commission with a concurring vote; third, the role of women — the fact that 68 seats were guaranteed for women and if, for whatever reason, a seat would have to be given up, they would be replaced by a woman and not by a man. All that produced a breakdown of the stalemate, and the elections are now moving in the right direction. The new commissioners have been doing their homework. We now have 2,677 declared candidates, of which 400 are women, and they are working on 6,835 polling centres and 19,942 polling stations. 30,000 new voters have been registered; we are getting close to 12.5 million expected voters.

It will not be easy. The main challenge: security. And the second main challenge: security. Because if the elections are tarnished by excessive security problems that may induce closing of voting stations and therefore the disenfranchising of people who could have voted. As we get close to 18 September, we will have to watch this closely in order to assist the Afghan authorities, in the lead of the elections.

The UN and the international community are proactively and actively offering their support, but the Afghans are in the lead. One example has been the vetting process, and some of you who were in Kabul were part of the intense moments related to the vetting. The vetting Commission, lead by the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the National Department for Security was for a moment unable to come up with any candidates to be excluded from the elections. The latest news is that a list of almost 40 people has been presented, representing different provinces. A decision is imminent. This is a substantial improvement from the impression we had that the vetting process had been inconclusive. We will be facing difficult moments regarding the elections, but I can certainly tell you that at the moment, the decisions made by the Electoral Commission are reassuring, including to those Afghans who felt the elections could be going in the wrong direction. We will cross that bridge when we get there and I may require your assistance when we get into difficulties, but at the moment, so far, so good.

Dialogue: the second area of priority for our own focus. As you know, this is again Afghan-led and should be Afghan-led, but the UN has the capacity in assisting those types of discussions that may take place, or are taking place. One example was the Hizb-i-Islami visit to Kabul, where the UN in coordination with the Presidency, received the Hizb-i-Islami team. The UN stands ready to facilitate dialogue. We are looking forward to playing a role in confidence-building measures, including on the 1267 sanctions list.

Regional: there is an agreement by everyone that no substantive sustainable development in Afghanistan can take place if we do not have a constant and constructive engagement with all regional players, stakeholders, and beyond. That is why, I myself, with the permission of the Secretary-General have been travelling to several of the regional countries such as Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere, in order to make sure that we would be able to hear their concerns and facilitate these concerns into a right direction. There are very useful initiatives that are being led by countries like Turkey, alongside other efforts such as the meetings of the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, the Shanghai initiative, and the Dubai process, which is being supported by Canada. And the UN has been leading the Silk Road Initiative, a very charming name, but in fact it goes beyond charm. It is meant to engage countries that are not necessarily geographically linked to Afghanistan, but which might have a political and historical relationship to the country. We are working on economic issues, also on issues such as drugs, or transport and energy. These topics are all opportunities for regional dialogue, which may then also help the political engagement that is needed.

Aid coherence: it is a part of our mandate and a major necessity. The good news is that our studies have shown that there are no major contradictions, no excessive overlap between multilateral and bilateral support. What is needed is more support for the Afghan authorities to take on themselves the aid coherence approach. There is a mechanism which is the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, and it will be meeting insha’allah on 8 July. I myself on behalf of the Secretary General will co-chair. The JCMB needs to be revitalised. The next opportunity for aid coherence is the Kabul Conference. If the international community can go into the Kabul Conference with a donor “realignment contract”, I am confident they can achieve aid coherence.

Regarding transition: this means moving from military to civilian control — particularly referring to the PRTs [Provincial Reconstruction Teams] — from military to civilian, and from civilian to Afghan and with Afghan means. This with the support of the UN, which with its 21 provincial and regional offices — staffed by more than 700 international staff and 6,000 national staff — will work toward squaring the circle to boost Afghan capacity to take over the lead also with regard to security. That is why we are also keen in securing your support for the financial package that will let staff in Afghanistan, but also Iraq, feel they are on par with colleagues working in more secure parts of the world. In that regard, I am grateful and thankful to the Dutch Government in offering their help to establish secure accommodation.

Partnership: You will be rightly asking how are we doing with ISAF, EU, and the ISAF Senior Civilian Representative? The short answer is, excellent. There is a feeling of mutual support, and, although we have different mandates and priorities, the goal is the same; coordination to have a “common messaging” to avoid contradictions. I would like to reassure you that this is moving in the right direction, while each of us are keeping are our independence, neutrality, impartiality but also respect for each others mandates. Our common goal is to help achieve a stable Afghanistan, while respecting Afghan culture, traditions, sovereignty and religion.

In conclusion, 2010 will be a year in which we all need to be resilient, creative, and respectful of Afghan priorities. At the end of the day it will be that Afghans that have to find their own solutions. The Security Council visit was timely and has given a strong boost to UNAMA staff and has also built a strong feeling among Afghan partners that the international community is, indeed, committed to its cause.

Permanent Mission of Afghanistan