Doc. 9847

24 June 2003

The situation of Palestinian refugees


Political Affairs Committee

Rapporteur: Mr Margelov, Russia, European Democratic Group

I.       Conclusions of the Committee

1.       The Political Affairs Committee welcomes a balanced report prepared by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography, and shares its main conclusions.

2.       The Palestinian refugee problem dates from the Middle East conflict itself and is a direct result of the first (1948-1949) Arab-Israeli war. It is logical that the non-settlement of the problem of refugees influences the resolution of the conflict as a whole.

3.       Therefore, it is not coincidental that the refugee problem, being one of the most acute and difficult problems to resolve, has been relegated to the final stage of the agenda of previous Palestinian-Israeli talks. It would appear that this problem became the “stumbling block” during Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the final status held in Camp David in the summer of 2000.

4.       The “Road Map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” drafted jointly by the Quartet of international mediators (United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations) also provides for the settlement of the problem of refugees in the framework of an international conference to be convened at the 3rd phase of the process, thus underlining its political importance. According to the Road Map, final and comprehensive permanent status agreement must include “an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue”.

5.       The implementation of commitments to be taken by the parties as provided by the Road Map may require some forms of monitoring, including the deployment of international observers. Such ideas have already been presented, i.e. by the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. International presence, as a guarantor of agreements reached upon, may be a positive and stabilizing factor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict settlement. However, bearing in mind the complexity of problems in the region, such international peacekeeping presence should be worked out in the most thorough way, and be accepted by the both conflicting sides.

6.       While considering the issue of refugees, it is necessary to take into account the interests of a number of countries in the region, namely Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the future Palestinian state, and Israel.

7.       Regarding the substance of Doc. 9808, the Political Affairs Committee makes the following comments.

a)       Paragraph 6 of the draft Recommendation refers to the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 which stipulates the refugees’ right to return or to receive compensation. However, the wording of the above-mentioned paragraph suggesting that this principle should be implemented with “all necessary flexibility” is too vague and requires rectification. That is why the phrase “as agreed by the parties concerned through negotiations” ought to be added to the last sentence of this paragraph. Such wording is contained in the well-known Saudi Arabia “peace initiative” endorsed by the Arab League Summit in Beirut in 2002, and in principle enhances the prospect of obtaining a solution to the refugee issue which would be acceptable to both sides.

b)       Paragraph 52 of the explanatory memorandum could be interpreted as an attempt to disavow the political nature of the refugee problem by singling out its humanitarian aspect, which, in our opinion, is wrong. It would be suitable to reword this paragraph in the sense that the refugee problem should be considered not only as the political outcome / product of the Middle East conflict but as its humanitarian one as well.

c)       The section 3 C of the explanatory memorandum referring to the situation of refugees in Lebanon calls attention because of its extent and contents. It would seem advisable to attempt to tone down the flood of criticism aimed at the leadership of Lebanon because, firstly, the refugee situation is no better in certain other countries, and secondly, there are many objective reasons hampering the Lebanese authorities’ efforts to profoundly improve the situation by relying on their own capabilities without the help of the international community. Therefore it is hardly justifiable to put such strong emphasis upon the situation in Lebanon, especially since the situation in the West Bank and Gaza is prescribed quite reservedly.

II.       Amendments to the draft Recommendation and the draft Resolution on behalf of the Committee

Amendment 1

to the draft Recommendation

In the draft Recommendation, paragraph 1, replace the words “strongly condemns” by the following text:

“…refers to its previously adopted relevant texts, in particular Resolution 1245 (2001), Resolution 1281 (2002) and Resolution 1294 (2002), and reaffirms its strong condemnation of…”.

Amendment 2

to the draft Recommendation

In the draft Recommendation, paragraph 2, replace the last sentence by the following text:

“The Assembly expresses its hope that the third phase of the Road Map to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drawn up by the quartet of international mediators (United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia) will bring not only an end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but will make a contribution to the rapid settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem.”

Amendment 3

to the draft Recommendation

In the draft Recommendation, paragraph 3, in the last sentence replace the words

“…being largely a humanitarian problem should not await the political settlement of the Middle East conflict before being dealt without any further delay…” by the following text:

“…being both a political and a humanitarian problem should not be delayed until the political settlement of the Middle East conflict”.

Amendment 4

to the draft Recommendation

In the draft Recommendation, paragraph 6, at the end of the last sentence add the following words:

“…as agreed by the parties concerned through negotiations”.

Amendment 5

to the draft Resolution

In the draft Resolution, after the paragraph 1.iii add the following paragraph:

“iv.       The Assembly calls on the international community to give more focused attention to the problem of Palestinian refugees and to contribute to its settlement as soon as possible by all possible means.”

Amendment 6

to the draft Resolution

In the draft Resolution, at the end of paragraph 2, add the following words:

“…, Resolution 1281 (2002) and Resolution 1294 (2002).”

Reporting Committee: Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography

Committee for opinion: Political Affairs Committee

Reference to committee: Reference 2850, 23.06.03 (modification of Reference 2704 of 26.03.02)

Opinion approved by the Committee on 24 June 2003

Secretariat of the Committee : Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Chevtchenko, Mr Dossow, Mrs Entzminger, Ms Alléon.

1 See Doc. 9808, presented by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography