United Nations and NGO meetings in Vienna

Vienna, 22 February 2001/P/RE/17056c-is

At a meeting of consultations between the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and NGO representatives at the United Nations Office in Vienna, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, called for the immediate dispatch of a United Nations Special Protection Force to the occupied Palestinian territories. He stated that the international community has to act immediately in conformity with its collective obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

The President of the I.P.O. further urged the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to undertake all appropriate measures so that the huge quantities of emergency aid from Iraq can be immediately transported into the Palestinian territories where they are most urgently needed. Dr. Koechler stated that the Israeli occupying power has no right to block the humanitarian aid from Iraq on the Jordanian side of the border with occupied Palestine. He said that it is the collective responsibility of United Nations member states to prevent such acts of sabotage of humanitarian relief operations in Palestine.

The NGO representatives at the meeting of consultations in Vienna strongly condemned the illegal policy of closure imposed by Israel on the occupied territories, which has prevented Palestinian representatives, among them the Minister of Economy of the Palestinian Authority, to participate in the United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People in Vienna (20-21 February 2001) and in the subsequent consultations between the United Nations Committee and NGO representatives on 22 February 2001.

The President of the I.P.O. stated that the Palestinian people has now entered in a new and decisive phase of its just struggle for national liberation – in the framework of the Arab nation's struggle for independence from subjugation and foreign occupation. He said that the term "peace process" does not any more correctly describe the situation in Palestine. The use of this concept misleads international public opinion. He emphasized that the "Oslo process" of 1993 has failed because the aspects of a settlement were dictated by the stronger party upon the weaker party of the dispute, in a situation in which a unified Arab position had collapsed after the events of 1991 and in which the Palestinian side had absolutely no margin to act in an independent and sovereign manner. As history has proven, there is no peace by diktat. In reality, Dr. Koechler said, a Palestinian Bantustan has been created that is not viable in any way. The Israeli occupying power has increased the number of settlements in the occupied territories, has brought in more Jewish settlers from abroad and the overall living conditions of the people in Palestine have drastically deteriorated.

Dr. Koechler called upon the international NGO community to take note of the new realities and to put the Palestinian liberation struggle in the broader context of the Arab nation's legitimate struggle for independence from foreign domination. He pointed to the policy of double standards which consists in the fact that a core Arab sate such as Iraq is subjugated to a total economic blockade since more than 10 years on the basis of Security Council resolutions based on Chapter VII of the UN Charter, while no collective enforcement measures on the basis of Chapter VII have ever been imposed on the Israeli occupying power in Palestine. He called upon international NGOs to realize the connection between the collective punishment of the people of Iraq and the oppression of the people in occupied Palestine and to act decisively on both issues. The credibility of the United Nations Organization is at stake, the President of the I.P.O. said, if the Organization is not able to correct the policy of double standards in the Middle East. He stated that – for obvious strategic reasons – those who oppose the establishment of a truly sovereign Palestinian State are the same who insist on the eternalization of the total economic embargo imposed on Iraq.

International legitimacy can only be restored in Palestine and in the Arab world when the sovereign rights of all peoples of the Arab nation – whether in Palestine or in Iraq – are recognized by the international community and the policy of collective punishment, blockades, closures and occupation is effectively terminated. A truly sovereign State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital can never be established on the basis of tutelage on the part of an occupying power, the President of the I.P.O. concluded.

The meeting of consultations was presided by the Chairman of the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Ambassador Ibra Degu่ne Ka (Senegal). It was attended, on the side of the Committee, by the Permanent United Nations Representatives of Cuba, Hungary and Palestine. Among the NGO delegations were representatives of the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, Gush Shalom (Israel), and the Near East Foundation (Jerusalem). As stated above, all Palestinian representatives from occupied Palestine were prevented to attend because of the illegal Israeli policy of closure of the occupied territories.