Dr. Riyad Mansour Ambassador State of Palestine to the UN

We Want to Negotiate with Israel but it Must Stop its Illegal Behavior 

Download audio file 19 November, 2013 20:04

French President Francois Hollande on Monday sharpened his tone dramatically on Israel's settlement policies, demanding a "complete halt" to constructions in the disputed area. Riyad H. Mansour, a Palestinian-American diplomat and a Permanent Palestinian Observer at the United Nations since 2005, talked to the Voice of Russia's very own John Robles about Hollande's statement and the current state of affairs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Dr. Mansour, Israel has to stop illegally building settlements and expanding existing ones to allow  negotiations to proceed in an appropriate atmosphere. Dr. Mansour also called for the international community to force Israel to change its illegal behavior. The diplomat also condemned those countries with powerful veto powers in the UN that continuously provide cover for Israel's impunity. "We want to negotiate with Israel all the final status issues, borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security, settlements, water and prisoners", said Dr. Mansour; but for that, Israel has to "stop its illegal behavior".

This is John Robles, I'm speaking with Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour. He is the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.

Robles: Hello Sir!

Mansour:  Hello!

Robles: It is a pleasure to be speaking with you. Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. I would like to ask you some questions. There was a recent statement by the French President Francois Hollande. He is calling on Israel to stop settlement activities on Palestinian Territory. Do you think this is a realistic request of Israel? Do you think they'll stop building?

Mansour: Well, you see, in order for negotiation to be conducted in an atmosphere and to increase the chances of success, one needs to remove obstacles, especially if they are illegal things, from the path of the negotiation.

Settlements are illegal and they are a huge obstacle in the path of negotiation; therefore, the call of President Hollande, of France, and of all of us in the international arena who consider that buildings are illegal: we all believe that Israel has to stop this illegal behavior in order to allow the negotiations to move in an appropriate atmosphere. Because the negotiation is for the objective of ending the occupation that started in 1967.

So, if we want to end the occupation and to allow for the independence of the State of Palestine so that we can have two-state solution, the Israeli side need not to build more settlements, to expand the existing ones, to bring more settlers to the area where they are supposed to be evacuating and to evacuate with them all the illegal things.

So, if they continue to negotiate with us while they are continuing with this illegal behavior, then it means that they are not serious about negotiation.

Robles: Sure! Sure. For our listeners: in your opinion, why is Israel..? Why have they been behaving with such impunity? I mean, these are clearly illegal activities that they are engaged in.

Mansour: The Israeli side is not making, like us, a historical compromise. We made a historical compromise from as far as 1988, when we declared our independence in a PNC session in Algeria. And we said that we accept to build our state in approximately 22% of historic Palestine, meaning the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

It was a painful compromise for us to accept to build our own state in even half of what is available to us in accordance with Resolution 181.

The Israeli side, they are refusing to acknowledge that they are occupiers and that they have to withdraw from the occupied land that they occupied in 1967, including the occupied land of the State of Palestine.

Once they come to that conclusion, then we can negotiate in good faith the end of this occupation and the independence of the State of Palestine, and the prize would be peace between us, the Arab states and the state of Israel, and between the Muslim states and the state of Israel.

So far they are refusing to do that. They still believe that that is the land that was given to them by God and, therefore, they are not occupiers and they don't want to let go, and they are building illegal settlements. As long as they think that way, then it is difficult to have peace between us and them.

They need to change their thinking, to accept the fact that this land that they occupied in 1967 is not their land. This is the land where the State of Palestine is going to enjoy its independence.

Robles: I understand. As a diplomat, I don't know if you can properly answer this question "diplomatically" but why do they act with such impunity, why do they continue to do something illegal? Is it because they have the support of the United States?

Mansour: It is very unfortunate that the international community, especially in the Security Council, is refusing to have a political will in order to tell Israel that you have to act according to the international law, nobody should be above the international law, and if you continue to act with impunity, there will be consequences.

If the international community, particularly in the Security Council, to act in this manner and say that: if you don't change your behavior, there will be consequences, then we will start to see a different reality.

But if there is a country, or maybe more than one country, with powerful veto power that are sort of giving cover to the Israeli side, then the Israeli side has no incentive to change its behavior. But if the international community is to speak in the Security Council particularly, to speak with one voice that: Israel, will behave according to the law or there will be consequences, then Israel will be forced to change its behavior of acting with impunity.

Robles: There are certain countries, I don't think we need to name them, in the Security Council who believe that they are above international law, that they are somehow better than the international law.

Have you seen an influence by the Russian Federation in light of what happened in Syria (and by the People's Republic of China)? What kind of influence have you seen towards a return of rule of law in the United Nations and in the Security Council? Have you seen any influence from Russia there?

Mansour:  It was good that the Security Council was able to agree on a resolution on Syria and on a presidential statement on the humanitarian aspect.

These are moments in connection with the tragic situation in Syria in which there was a collective will by the Security Council to move in a certain direction.

We sincerely hope that all parties, including of course the special effort by Russia and the United States, could be in Geneva-2 and find a political and peaceful way of resolving this tragedy in Syria on the basis of allowing the Syrian people to select in free will their own future and to have the political government and system that they wish. And we sincerely hope that that would be the case.

From our side, in the Palestinian leadership, we play a constructive role with all parties including the Russians, the Americans and others in order to facilitate the early convening of Geneva-2 to move on that path.

Robles: Has Israel tried to pressure, in any way, the Palestinian people or your government with regard to Syria, for example?

Mansour:  As I said, we are an active player on the issue of Syria, because we have half a million Palestine refugees living in Syria.

We tried our best for them not to be involved in that situation. But nevertheless, one of the biggest camps is in Damascus and has, to a great extent, been destroyed.

Tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees are displaced or left Syria, and they are in the adjacent countries.

So, our people are part of this tragedy that is unfolding in Syria. Therefore, we have an interest in putting an end to this tragedy in Syria, and to find a political solution for this conflict and maintaining the unity and territorial integrity of Syria.

I'm wishing the best for our brothers and sisters (the Syrian people) in selecting whatever they want on the basis of their own free democratic will.

Robles: A question I wanted to ask you was regarding the following: there were reports regarding Israeli calls… (regarding the negotiations), that they do not want the State of Palestine seeking recognition from international bodies, etc.. Is that true?

Mansour:  It is not up to the Israelis to decide for the Palestinian people what to do and what not to do.

As an expression of our right to self-determination: that's why we went to the UN seeking membership in the United NAtions.

That exercise of the right to self-determination, nobody can exercise it except the Palestinian people.

As all the people who struggle for self-determination, they did not negotiate that right with their oppressors or with their occupiers, or with those colonial powers that were dominating them. They exercise it themselves, alone. But that does not mean that exercising our right to do what we believe is legal and correct, including on the international arena, that doesn't mean we don't want to negotiate with Israel.

On the contrary, we are negotiating with Israel, we want to negotiate with Israel all the final status issues: borders, Jerusalem, refugees, security, settlements, water and also prisoners.

But what the Palestinian people should do, which agencies of the UN they should join, which international conventions they want to sign: these are the exclusive domain of the Palestinian people and we will exercise it once our leadership decides the appropriate time for doing so and Israel has nothing to do with that.

Robles: That is good to hear. Is it possible that the final resolution could include a capital in Jerusalem for the State of Palestine and for Israel?

Mansour:  You see, we are asking the international community that all the occupied territory, occupied in 1967 (including the east Jerusalem) Israel has to withdraw from it.

We know that Jerusalem is a very important and precious city for all of humanity. East Jerusalem will be the capital of our state and West Jerusalem will be the capital of the other state.

And of course, we will make sure that the holy city, the old city of Jerusalem, which is important to all religions (the three religions) will be open for all people who want to warship and to practice their religions in that holy city.

Robles: I see, the situation is getting worse in Libya. I don't know if you can comment on reports that there was Israeli involvement in making agreements with the Transitional National Council to establish Israeli military bases on the territory of Libya. Can you comment on that and the current situation in Libya?

Mansour: There are two things. First of all, we wish all the best for our brothers and sisters in Libya, to come to a situation where there will be no bloodshed, so that they can concentrate on building their country and their political system in a very harmonious atmosphere.

Secondly, we totally trust the Libyan people, and their leadership in going through these difficult stages after the revolution.

We are confident that they will eventually be successful moving in the direction of resolving all of their issues in a peaceful way, in a democratic way, so that Libya can enjoy all of the resources that it has in building a state that reflects the interests of the Libyan people.

Robles: Regarding that rebuilding and building, and talking about Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya: these were the countries decimated by NATO and the West, destroyed.

Is there any international pressure for those countries that bombed, for example Libya, to be held responsible for rebuilding?

Mansour:  These are the issues for our brothers and sisters in Libya to handle, whatever they decide upon: we will definitely support.

We cannot speak on their behalf, but we support them and we trust their judgment, and they have to make these decisions themselves.

Whatever they decide in this connection we support.

Robles: Okay, thank you very much. I really appreciate it.

You were listening to an interview with Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour. He is the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN.

Israel: Negotiation for the Sake of Negotiation

Download audio file   3 October 2011, 10:29

Interview with Palestinian Ambassador Dr. Riyad Mansour from the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations.

Robles: I’d like to ask you some questions regarding the historic bid of Palestine before the United Nations. Experts are predicting that Palestine may receive observer status, largely due to the US’ threat to veto. In what ways would this affect Palestine both positively and negatively?

Mansour: Well first of all, you know, as a result of the historic day last Friday when president Mahmoud Abbass in fact did submit our application for full membership to the United Nations, he did that to the Secretary General, and we are grateful for the Secretary General for passing our application, within the span of one hour, to the president of the Security Council for consideration.  Our application is in the Security Council and an appropriate committee, especially the committee of experts is handling our application and we hope that the Security Council to finish this exercise as quickly as possible, and to adopt a recommendation of approving our application so that the General Assembly can act on that recommendation and grant us what we deserve on the basis of our natural, historic and legal rights to become full members of the United Nations. However we also know that there is a powerful country with a veto power in the Security Council that is declaring that they will obstruct our efforts in the Security Council and will not allow us to have a recommendation from the Security Council to become a member. We will just have to give the Security Council some time, we hope, only a few weeks maximum, to act on our application before we consider other options, including the option in the General Assembly, where it will resolve the issue of the fact that Palestine is a state but it is not a full member of the United Nations, it is an observer non-member state and that would allow us to do many things. Especially joining all of the agencies of the United Nations because these agencies require from us to be a state, not a member-state of the United Nations. And if we become a member in these agencies, a full-member as the State of Palestine, then we will have rights and privileges as the rest of the members and that is a big step in the direction of ending the occupation, and independence of the State of Palestine, therefore full membership of the State of Palestine at the United Nations.

Robles: Are the expectations of the Palestinian people high?

Mansour: Well the expectation of our people is high, because they participated in that historic day, Friday. It was not the decision of only our president and the leadership it was obvious that it is the decision of hundreds of thousands and millions of Palestinians. Those who went to the streets of the cities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, and in the diaspora, rallying around the application of the president for membership, and rallying around his historic speech that he gave the General Assembly. In this connection I must add that almost the entire international community stood and clapped for President Abbass when he entered the General Assembly Hall. Even before he said a single word, and he received many times, a standing ovation and clapping for a few minutes when he specially raised in his hand a copy of the application of membership that delivered, that he had delivered to the Secretary General just a few minutes before he started his speech in the chamber of the General Assembly, and that is a testimony to the international support for the right of Palestine to become a full member at the United Nations.

Robles: Has the United States stated any conditions under which they would not veto the application?

Mansour: The United States is opposing our effort in the Security Council and its opposing our effort to go to the General Assembly. They don’t want us to come to the United Nations period. What they want us to do is to go back to negotiations and they cannot even bring Israel into compliance with their obligation under international law and under the provisions of the Road Map which states clearly that Israel has to stop its illegal behavior of building illegal settlements in all of the occupied territory including East Jerusalem. They cannot stop Israel from doing so, they cannot bring Israel into compliance but yet they want us to go back to negotiations, and that is not possible, to negotiate with Israel while they are creating, unilaterally, illegal facilities on the ground. So how could we negotiate while they are continuing to build settlements?

Robles: If Israel, for example: stops settlement building would Palestine be willing to make concessions as well?

Mansour: President Abbass said that he is willing to negotiate with the Israelis if they meet two obligations. One: There is global consensus at the UN that the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem are occupied territories that Israel occupied in 1967. When we negotiate borders we have to negotiate on the basis of the borders of 1967, accepting the principle of minor adjustments to the border mutually agreed upon by the two parties, and secondly: since there is global consensus on the fact that settlements are illegal obstacles to peace. Then there is a call by the international community to stop all settlement activities in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem while we negotiate. If they meet these two obligations then President Abbass said he is willing to negotiate with them. They gave their answer to the quartet statement two days ago when they announced the approval of the construction of 1,100 units in occupied East Jerusalem. These illegal activities is their practical answer of saying NO to the statement of the quartet inviting the two parties to go back into negotiations and to abide by international law, and to meet their obligations under the Road Map. Therefore you have it, Israel does not, in reality, want to negotiate on any basis. They want negotiation for the sake of negotiation.

Robles: What are your next steps towards receiving full status in the UN?

Mansour: If we do not prevail in the Security Council, which most likely we will not, because of the position of one powerful country. Then the General Assembly could do many things, including not only upgrading our status to an observer state but also it could pressure the Security Council for reconsidering our application and approving our application for membership at the United Nations and it could also recognize the state of Palestine on the borders of 1967. The General Assembly could do a host of things, that will maximize the pressure on those who are obstructing our effort in the Security Council.


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