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UN chief to refer Goldstone report to Security Council

Nov. 7, 2009 9:22 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 8, 2009 4:03 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The UN Security Council will begin discussions of the Goldstone report "as soon as possible," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday.

"As requested by the General Assembly, I will transmit the report of the Fact Finding Mission to the Security Council," he told reporters in Kabul. "I would strongly urge the parties concerned to engage, without preconditions, to discuss this matter."

His announcement followed Thursday's overwhelming majority decision by members of the General Assembly to pass a resolution calling first for the endorsement of the report's call for independent investigations on alleged Israeli and Palestinian war crimes under the supervision of the secretary-general, and second for the report to be taken up to the Security Council.

General Assembly President Ali Treki urged all sides to conduct credible investigations. "The world is united on human rights," he said. "The vote was a strong declaration against impunity, and in support of justice and accountability."

"While the General Assembly has fulfilled its responsibility and will remain seized over the matter, it is vital that all concerned now devote efforts to implement the resolution and ensure follow up," he added.

Israel is still expected to declare its readiness to conduct investigations, he said, although the country has rejected the resolution. Nonetheless, Treki expressed hope that the Israeli government would respond positively to the resolution and conduct investigations.

He said a request to Israel had been made to conduct credible investigations, in accordance with international standards, to get to the bottom of the charges detailed by the report. Although it has rejected the resolution, Treki expressed hope that the Israeli government would eventually come around and embrace the resolution's terms.

The Palestinian side has been requested to do the same, he noted, within a three-month period. The de facto government in the Gaza Strip vowed, via Egypt, to take the allegations seriously and conduct an impartial investigation.

Taking questions, first on the follow-up he expected from the Security Council, Treki said it was extremely important that an overwhelming majority of states voted in support of the Human Rights Council report and of Goldstone.

He expressed hope that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention would hold a meeting, with the participation of international experts, that would take into account a report prepared by the Arab League, as well as other facts unearthed by European investigators and independent parties. Importantly, the Swiss government, as depositary of the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, agreed to the assembly's request to study the Gaza findings, he said, particularly on the use of certain weapons.

"This would be extremely helpful in determining the facts of the situation and serve the search for peace," he said. It was important for peace talks to resume, he said, once measures agreed by the Quartet had been implemented and settlement activities halted.

Asked whether he thought any further action would be taken by the Security Council or the International Criminal Court, he said that the council was the "master of its own decisions." Noting its responsibility to maintain international peace and security, and to protect human rights, he said the council would have a role to play. "I hope it will rise up to that responsibility."

To a question on whether it would have been important for the assembly to have garnered more votes on the resolution, if it had conceded to the European Union's request to change the word "endorse" to the word "welcome" in reference to the Human Rights Council report, he said the text's co-sponsors, which had led the negotiations, could address that.

Voting for the resolution were 114 countries, including China, Russia, and Arab and non-aligned states, as well as some South American and European countries. Eighteen voted against, including Israel, the US, Canada, Italy and Australia, while 44 abstained, including most EU nations, including France and the UK. General Assembly resolutions are non-binding.
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