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UN General Assembly Debates World Court Ruling on Israeli Barrier - 2004-07-17

The United Nations General Assembly held an emergency meeting Friday to debate an Arab-sponsored draft resolution demanding that Israel comply with an advisory ruling by the World Court to stop construction of a security barrier on land in the occupied West Bank. Israeli and Palestinian representatives traded barbed comments during the discussion.

The International Court of Justice issued a non-binding opinion July 9th calling Israel's construction of a 595 kilometer security fence a violation of international law because it crosses into West Bank territory. The Court advisory also called on the United Nations to take steps to halt the construction of the barrier. The World Court took up the issue at the request of the General Assembly. Now the General Assembly is debating a Palestinian draft resolution asking the General Assembly to reaffirm "the illegality of any territorial acquisition resulting from the use of threat or force" and to demand that Israel comply with the ruling.

Palestinian U.N. observer Nasser al-Kidwa say the United Nations is obligated to follow the Court's ruling and halt the construction of the wall and dismantle sections that are already built.

"This is not simply a matter of an adjustment of the route. The issue is the removal of every part of the wall that has been built in the occupied Palestinian territory," he said.

But Israeli Ambassador Dan Guillerman says the General Assembly should be focusing its attention on re-energizing the peace process and building bridges to real peace.

"The barrier between Israelis and Palestinians is not the security fence, but the terrorism that made it necessary. Were it not for that terrorism, a viable two state solution would have emerged long ago," he said.

The resolution was introduced by Arab nations and members of the non-aligned movement. A vote is not expected before next Monday as Arab sponsors of the resolution make modifications to win the support of the European Union. Arab diplomats have been intensely lobbying the 25 European Union members for support. But E.U. diplomats have been critical of the draft's failure to mention Israel's legitimate security concerns.

The United States opposes the World Court ruling. U.S. Ambassador John Danforth says that the judiciary is not the proper place to work out what is essentially a political process. And he says the United States will vote against the resolution.