Statement by H.E. Mr. Palitha T.B. Kohona Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories

Ambassador Abdou Salam Diallo,
Ambassador Riad Mansour, Representative of the State of Palestine,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

Let me begin by thanking Ambassador Diallo for inviting me to address the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in my capacity as Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. I am pleased to join you at this inaugural meeting to launch the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People as proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 68/12 of 26 November 2013.

Just over a year ago, the General Assembly voted to grant Palestine non-member observer state status. In the coming year, we hope that the negotiations between Israel and Palestine, brokered by the United States, will result in the realization of the long standing aspiration for sustainable peace on both sides and in the wider region. In this regard, the Special Committee welcomes the recent release of long-term Palestinian prisoners by Israel which will certainly positively contribute to the ongoing negotiation process. You will recall that the prisoner issue was highlighted in the last Report of the Special Committee to the General Assembly. The report also underlined the need to avoid any actions that will not help the objectives of the negotiations.

The continuation of settlement activity will remain a major factor unhelpful to the negotiations. Our fervent hope is that the principles of international law as clearly enunciated by the International Court of Justice and repeated in the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions will be respected. The Special Committee proposes to visit the region again this year.

Let me reiterate that the Special Committee was very concerned that the cost of failing to reach a peace accord could very well be another round of serious violence with tragic consequences. I hope that every effort will be made to achieve success in the resumed negotiations so that both the Israeli and the Palestinian people will be able to enjoy peace, stability and prosperity. The region has lived too long on the edge. The people of Palestine and Israel deserve peace. They should be able to live with confidence in their futures and hope in their lives.

I also recall the recent visit to Israel, Palestine and Jordan undertaken by my President, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Rajapaksa has been a friend of the Palestinian people from the early days of his long political career. He was particularly encouraged to observe that the people of Palestine are persevering with determination in the midst of much hardship to realize their goal of Statehood. The Government of Sri Lanka, through the establishment of a vocational training center, is helping to develop marketable expertise among the Palestinian working population. Links were also established with the Palestinian business community which will produce mutual benefits. Sri Lanka fervently hopes that the negotiations will lay the foundations for a two State solution.

It is welcome, and timely, that our expression of solidarity with the Palestinian People this year will not be limited to just one day but will be celebrated throughout the year. I am sure that many of us in this chamber today have not forgotten the talent and energy demonstrated by a new generation of Palestinian musicians and singers who performed here at the United Nations last November on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Let us all work together to ensure that the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People brings people from all walks of life, and in particular youth, together to support human rights and celebrate the rich heritage and culture of the people of Palestine.

Thank you.