NEW YORK, 5 MARCH 1997
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR TADEU SOARES, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL, TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL 3745th MEETING (Agenda on the situation in the occupied Arab territories)
The successful conclusion of the Hebron agreement had led us to believe that Israel and the Palestinians would at this moment be focusing on the timely implementation of all agreements already concluded and would by now be starting talks on the final status of the occupied territories.
Instead we are now facing an element of destabilization that risks jeopardizing the atmosphere which should prevail to enable the parties to tackle the crucial issues that remain to be addressed. I am referring, naturally, to the decision by the Israeli Government to build a new settlement in the southern part of East Jerusalem, in the Jabal Abu Ghneim area.
This decision increases the frustration felt by all those who support the peace process. Unfortunately, it also encourages, perversely, the forces that are, directly or indirectly, opposing peace.
The Israeli Government's decision constitutes a violation of numerous resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly, and also of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Portuguese Government regrets the decision and wishes the Israeli Government had not taken it.
We believe that this measure is inconsistent with the terms of reference upon which the peace process is based, in particular Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). We cannot accept any decisions that aim at creating facts on the ground, prejudging the outcome of the final-status negotiations. Such measures can only undermine the indispensable trust and confidence that the parties must build in order to achieve a just, comprehensive and longstanding political settlement and to establish a new relationship based on cooperation, from which all countries of the region will benefit.
Moreover, the construction or the expansion of settlements, particularly in East Jerusalem perhaps the most sensitive and emotional issue of the entire peace process would create additional obstacles to the accomplishment of the ultimate goals of peace and cooperation envisaged by the parties. It will also further complicate the task of those engaged in mediating or assisting the parties in the peace process.
The presidency of the European Union will also address the Council on this subject. I should like to stress that Portugal fully subscribes to its statement.
Portugal firmly believes that there is no alternative to the Middle East peace process. Therefore, we call upon the Israeli authorities to refrain from any concrete action on Jabal Abu Ghneim that would have a negative impact on that process.
The Council must be clear and firm. Our purpose is to preserve and encourage the peace process. Therefore, we must urge parties to live up to their commitments and to comply with their obligations under international law and with the agreements they have reached. No one will understand or accept it if the momentum towards peace is lost as a result of disruptive actions by any of the parties.