Yearbook of the United Nations, 2003. Part 1, Political and security questions. Chapter 6, Middle East
In 2003, the Middle East situation was marked by both hope and disappointment as the international community set in motion a process for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only to be thwarted by the intensification of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) and the defensive countermeasures adopted by Israel, stalling the political process and creating an unprecedented humanitarian and socio-economic crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Quartet, a coordinating mechanism for international peace efforts, comprising the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, continued its efforts to mediate a ceasefire and to revive the peace process. It formally presented to both parties at Aqaba, Jordan, on 30 April, its plan for restarting peace negotiations, the so-called “road map”, which aimed to achieve progress through parallel and reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political, security, economic, humanitarian and institution-building areas, under an international monitoring system, reaching a permanent status solution by 2005. On 19 November, the Security Council endorsed the road map. In keeping with the terms of the road map, the Palestinian Authority (PA) initiated the reform of its institutions, including the creation of the post of Prime Minister, and Israel took measures to improve the lives of the Palestinian population. The two sides undertook to restart negotiations based on the road map. Also, a number of Palestinian groups declared a ceasefire in June. Those measures led to a significant reduction in the violence and a marked improvement in the security situation. A June summit meeting held at Aqaba, organized at the initiative of United States President George W. Bush, and attended by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, gave new impetus to the implementation of the road map and fostered new hopes about a peace settlement. Those hopes were dashed by the outbreak of a renewed cycle of violence in August, with a heavy loss of civilian lives on both sides. The already critical situation was made worse by the continued expansion of Israeli settlements, Israel's accelerated construction of a separation barrier to deter terrorist activities, with large parts of it cutting into Palestinian territory, with serious economic consequences for over 200,000 Palestinians, and the September decision of the Israeli Security Cabinet to “remove” PA President Yasser Arafat, who remained under siege at his headquarters. Concerned about the deteriorating situation in the region, the Security Council convened on a monthly basis during the year, and at times even more frequently, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. On 16 September, a draft resolution, by which the Council would have called on Israel to desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of President Arafat, was not adopted due to the negative vote of a permanent Council member, nor was a 14 October draft resolution on the legality of the Israeli separation barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The General Assembly, at its resumed tenth emergency special session, convened in September, October and December to discuss the item “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, adopted three resolutions: one calling on Israel to desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of President Arafat; another demanding that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the barrier and asking the Secretary-General to report on Israel's compliance with the resolution; and the third requesting the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the construction of the barrier. In November, the Secretary-General reported that Israel was not in compliance with the Assembly's demands. In southern Lebanon, Israeli forces and their main Lebanese opponents, the paramilitary group, Hizbullah, continued to face each other along the “Blue Line”, the provisional border drawn by the United Nations following the withdrawal of Israeli troops from south Lebanon in June 2000. An initial period of relative calm was replaced in the second half of the year by an escalation of violence in the Shab'a farmland area, which also strained relations between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic. Tensions escalated further in early October 2003, when, in retaliation for a suicide bombing attack carried out by the paramilitary group Islamic Jihad in the city of Haifa, the Israeli air force bombed a target inside Syrian territory. The Security Council convened in emergency session to discuss the attack, though no action was taken on a draft resolution submitted by Syria. The mandates of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights were extended twice during the year, and the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization continued to assist both peacekeeping operations in their tasks. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East continued to provide education and health and social services to nearly 4 million Palestinian refugees living both in and outside camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. An emergency appeal was launched in June 2003 to provide food, health services, shelter and short-term emergency employment opportunities for refugees. During the year, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories reported to the Assembly on the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People continued to mobilize international support for the Palestinians. By decision 58/527 of 17 December, the General Assembly deferred consideration of the agenda item “Armed Israeli aggression against the Iraqi nuclear installations and its grave consequences for the established international system concerning the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and international peace and security” and included it in the provisional agenda of its fifty-ninth (2004) session. The item had been inscribed yearly on the Assembly's agenda since 1981, following the bombing by Israel of a nuclear research centre near Baghdad [YUN 1981, p. 275].
Yearbook of the United Nations, 2003. v. 57; Vol. 57
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