Cairo, 15 December 1997, MS/15749/c-is

At an international conference of legal experts in Gaza City/Palestine, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, stated that talking about a "peace process" without acknowledging the Palestinian people's right to self-determination amounts to empty rhetoric. In his presentation on "The Palestinian People's Right to Self-determination: Basis for Peace in the Middle East," the President of the I.P.O. explained that the so-called Oslo agreements of 1993 and 1995 avoid any reference to the right of self-determination. The agreements exclude the notion of Palestinian sovereignty and reserve all matters that relate to the exercise of national sovereignty to the occupying power. Dr. Koechler stated that the Oslo agreements' vague concept of "mutual legitimate and political rights" cannot provide the adequate legal framework for the final settlement of the Palestinian problem. Such a framework must include explicit acknowledgment of the Palestinian people's right of self-determination in conformity with earlier resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly. Because of the biased US position in favour of the occupying power, the President of the I.P.O. called for a more active role of the European Union in defining the adequate framework of a just and lasting settlement.

The conference of legal experts was organized by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a Gaza-based NGO affiliated with the International Commission of Jurists (Geneva). The opening speeches were presented by Mr. Salim Al Za'noun, Speaker of the Palestinian National Council, and by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Minister of Higher Education in the Palestinian National Authority. The Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on the Occupied Territories, Mr. Hannu Halinen, and a representative of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights also took the floor. Palestinian legal experts from other "self-rule areas" outside Gaza were prevented by the occupying power from attending the conference.