Sommaire: December 5, 2001: Statement by H.E. Mr Jean-Marie Noirfalisse, Permanent Representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, Geneva. Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention
Before reading our intervention, the European Union first of all wants to express its greatest revulsion and its firm condemnation of the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Jerusalem and Haifa. The European Union recalls its total rejection of terrorist acts, particularly those that are targeted at innocent civilians. Those who foment such acts must be fought against with the greatest determination.
Furthermore, the European Union is deeply concerned about the worsening crisis. The European Union is convinced that the Palestinian issue cannot be resolved in any satisfactory or permanent way through violence.
To both parties we repeat that only together and by way of a negotiated political solution can both peoples live in the peace and security to which they aspire.
Allow me to read the intervention of the European Union, which, in our view, retains its full relevance.
I have the honor to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia - and the associated countries Cyprus, Malta and Turkey align themselves with this statement. I am also speaking on behalf of Ukraine, which has expressed the wish to join the EU statement.
The European Union welcomes that this Conference on the application of the Fourth Geneva Convention is taking place. There can be no doubt that international humanitarian law must be observed by all parties involved in an armed conflict and that the protection of civilian populations is an absolute necessity. The Fourth Geneva Convention is a vital instrument for ensuring that this protection is afforded in all circumstances.
With regard to the territories occupied by Israel since the 1967 war, the European Union's consistent position is that the provisions of the Fourth Convention apply to them and must be respected.
We parted in 1999 on the understanding that we would meet again if conditions on the ground so required. It is indisputable that the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories has deteriorated considerably in the meantime, particularly since the beginning of the second intifada. The reports which we have heard this morning show clearly that there is a very real economic crisis in the territories and that humanitarian aid for the vulnerable sections of the civilian population has become very problematical.
The European Union is participating in this Conference with the aim of arriving at a better application of the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus contributing to an improvement in the humanitarian situation on the ground, without thwarting efforts to secure the resumption of the peace process. The European Union believes that today we should not only reaffirm the universality of the Fourth Convention and reiterate the obligations of the Contracting Parties, but also launch a wider call for all sides to halt all acts of violence against the civilian population and to cease supporting or tolerating such acts.
The European Union has always acknowledged the legitimate security needs of the State of Israel. We are convinced that peace and security, which constitute a goal for both parties, cannot be assured by military force alone and that the security aim does not justify all means. The European Union furthermore calls on the Palestinian Authority to make every effort to halt the violence against Israel and to pursue those responsible for terrorist acts. We call on all political leaders to show courage and political vision in order to prevent a descent into an endless spiral of tit-for-tat reprisals.
I should now like to go into more detail concerning the Conference declaration. We believe the text reflects perfectly the objectives that you put before us at the beginning. The first is to reaffirm the universality of the basic instruments of international humanitarian law - the Geneva Conventions. The European Union considers that the approach followed has resulted in a substantial and well-balanced declaration.
Security considerations cannot under any circumstances be allowed to infringe the fundamental rights of the civilian population in the Occupied Territories or serve as a pretext for shirking obligations under the Fourth Convention. The European Union condemns the indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force to contain violence. It is particularly concerned by the breaches of international law, such as extra-judicial executions by the Israeli army. The European Union deplores the measures of cordoning off towns and villages and the wanton destruction of property. It also deplores the pursuit of the settlement policy in the Occupied Territories. Such settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to the peace process. The settlement policy must be reversed and any extension of these settlements must be immediately ceased.
There are several other passages in the text of the declaration, which are of crucial importance for the European Union. These include the reference to the strict distinction between the civilian population and combatants; the ban on collective penalties; the obligation to treat the protected population with humanity; respect for human rights; respect for the holy places and access to them; and the free movement of the international and local staff of the recognized humanitarian organizations.
Certain parties have underlined the important role which a follow-up mechanism to monitor violations of the Fourth Convention might play. The European Union would point out that there is no provision for such a mechanism in the Geneva Conventions. It considers that this conference has no competence to pronounce itself on creating one. We have concluded that any agreement supported by the parties to the conflict should be encouraged. In this context, the European Union repeats its call for the two sides to accept impartial monitoring which could help them to overcome their differences.
The European Union is aware that, although today's conference can be no substitute for the political negotiations and diplomatic efforts under way, it can contribute to it in a positive manner. The European Union's position on the Middle East peace process is well known: we stress the need for a resumption of the peace negotiations on the basis of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and the principles of the Madrid and Oslo Agreements. The recommendations of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan, endorsed by both parties, provide a specific framework and should be implemented without prior conditions. At the same time, lasting solutions must be sought, including solutions for the questions of Jerusalem and of the refugees. The European Union welcomed the references made to the creation of a democratic and viable Palestinian State during the recent discussions in the United Nations General Assembly. As is well known, the European Union declared its support for the Palestinians' right to their State in March 1999.
The fact that we are holding this conference today is a tribute to your efforts. We are grateful for your skilful facilitation and your perseverance in seeking an objective and impartial text.
In conclusion, the European Union wishes to pay homage here to all those, both on the Palestinian and on the Israeli side, who continue to work for peace and reconciliation. I hope that this conference will encourage them in their determination.