Representatives of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council meet in Paris under the auspices of the IPU
Representatives of the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council (from left to right: Zeev Boïm, Ofir Pines and Ziad Abu Amr) met in Paris on 15 January 2001 under the aegis of the IPU Committee on Middle East Questions. The meeting was chaired by a French MP, Yves Tavernier. The President of the Labour group in the Knesset, Ofir Pines, the representative of the Likud Party, Zeev Boïm, and the President of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ziad Abu Amr (see interviews), attended the meeting. The IPU Secretary General, Anders. B. Johnsson, was also present.
This meeting, which took place in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue, was held in the French National Assembly at the invitation of the French Inter-Parliamentary Group. Participants discussed the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and in particular the main compromise points proposed by former US President, Bill Clinton, on questions relating to territory, security, the problem of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem and the Holy Places.
"Solution could be found"
The participants expressed different points of view on these questions,but the Committee President was "encouraged by the participants' determination to pursue the dialogue between institutions". Yves Tavernier felt that "a solution could be found" to the problem of territories. With regard to the problem of refugees, the Committee President called for reconciling the Palestinians' inalienable right of return with the need to safeguard the integrity and specificity of Israel. Finally, the Committee expressed the hope that the Palestinian Legislative Council would be able to
meet again without difficulty in Ramallah.
Next meeting in the region
The participants also emphasised the importance of promoting direct and regular contacts between the Knesset and the Palestinian Legislative Council, and invited the Committee to hold another meeting in the area.
Ofir Pines, Chairman of the Labour group in the Knesset
Q: How would you assess the results of the Paris meeting?
O. P.: I feel that the meeting of the Committee on Middle East Questions, which took place in Paris at the initiative of Committee President Yves Tavernier, was very important and useful. We greatly appreciated the efforts which the Committee members made to come from all over the world to attend the meeting. The meeting itself provided an excellent opportunity for an in-depth discussion on real issues, which went far beyond the information everyone gets from the media. Alongside the formal meetings, we also welcomed the opportunity for more informal encounters with the Committee members and with representatives of the Palestinian Authority.
Q: What role do you foresee for the Middle East Committee and more generally for the IPU in the peace process?
O.P.: The IPU and the Middle East Committee have an important role to play in promoting dialogue between the different parties. Meetings like this provide a good opportunity for both sides to present their positions and to respond to the questioning of the various Committee members from different areas of the world. This initiative serves as a very useful medium for an exploration of the issues.
Q: How do you think parliamentarians could contribute to the peace process?
O.P.: Parliamentarians can make a unique contribution to the peace process. While they are not actually involved in the formal negotiation process, they do have the ability to influence public opinion and are able to exert their own influence on decision-makers in their country. In general, I can say that these dialogues, encounters and exchanges of information at both the formal and the informal level are of immense value. The IPU plays an important role in facilitating the opportunity for encounters between the various parties and in creating networks which can facilitate a narrowing of the gaps and help push peace forward.
Zeev Boïm, MP from the Likud Party
Q: How would you assess the results of the Paris meeting?
Z.B.: The fact that we met is important. We met, we discussed, we exchanged points of views.
Q : How do you think parliamentarians can contribute to the peace process?
Z.B : In Paris, we were not in a position to negotiate because we only represent our parties in the parliament. We are not decision-makers, as we have not been sent by governments. But, as I said, the fact that we met is important. If such a meeting cannot have a direct influence, it helps to create a good climate for the long term. When we are back, we can talk with our party colleagues who are close to the government or who have friends close to it. It was the first time that I met Professor Abu Amr, an intelligent person, well educated and moderate. It is good to know such people. Sooner or later, we have to reach an agreement. Now, we face a very difficult problem, and I don't think we will reach an agreement.
Q: Do you think that if Mr. Ariel Sharon becomes Prime Minister things will change?
Z.B.: I am sure he will change the course of peace. He will try to move forward initiatives for the peace process. But Mr. Sharon will also say to Mr. Arafat : if you want to talk, first of all stop shooting in Israel.
Ziad Abu-Amr, President of the Political Committee of the Palestine Legislative Council
Q : How would you assess the results of the Paris meeting ?
Z.A.A. : The Paris meeting was timely under the circumstances. The discussions in the meeting were serious, important and revealing. The Middle East Committee had an opportunity to listen to the views of the Palestinian and Israeli sides on President Clinton's proposals and on the peace process in general. The statement which was issued by the Committee President at the end of the meeting accurately summed up the discussion. I hope the meeting and its results will be of use to future meetings and deliberations of the Committee and the IPU.
Q : What role do you foresee for the Middle East Committee and, more generally, for the IPU ?
Z.A.A. : The Middle East Committee as well as the IPU should continue to be involved in Middle East issues, especially the peace process. The Committee can put the facts and the views to the IPU so it can articulate positions that can help bring about a peaceful settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The IPU should use its political and moral weight to achieve that end. The IPU, due to its nature and composition, is uniquely qualified to play this role.
Q : How do you think parliamentarians could contribute to the peace process ?
Z.A.A. : Parliamentarians can contribute to the peace process in more than one way. First, they should remain interested and engaged in the process. They can work together to reach a shared vision towards achieving peace. Parliamentarians can work with their respective governments and educate their people to ensure support for the process.
The Middle East Committee at a glance
The Committee will meet in Havana (Cuba) from 1 to 7 April 2001 during the 105th Inter-Parliamentary Conference and will continue to examine the situation in that part of the world. Founded in 1987, the Committee on Middle East Questions has a mandate to foster direct contacts between the Arab and Israeli delegations and promote parliamentary action in support of the peace process. The Committee meets during Statutory Conferences and at special sessions to hear the Arab and Israeli delegations. It is composed of 12 MPs from all parts of the world. The following were present in Paris : Mr. Raymond Ahouandjinou (Benin), Mrs Pensak Chagsuchinda (Thailand), Mr. Andrea Philippou (Cyprus) and Mrs Oddbjorg Ausdal Starrfelt (Norway).
| IPU's objectives for 2001|
By Dr Najma Heptulla
President of the IPU Council
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) enters the new millennium with the objective of making democracy more participative, inclusive and interactive. The first ever world summit of Presiding Officers of National Parliaments which the IPU organised at UN Headquarters last year represented a historic moment for the Organisation. It provided firm ground for a stronger relationship with the United Nations and its related organisations in which the IPU would provide a parliamentary dimension to international cooperation.
Meeting these objectives will require concerted efforts by all the Union's members. It will involve strengthening the Organisation through the reform process launched last year. It will also include establishing a new and strengthened relationship between the IPU, the UN General Assembly and its subsidiary bodies. Most importantly, however, the IPU must be able to channel the views of the people of the democratic world through their elected representatives - the members of parliament - to the international organisations, whether they are part of the United Nations family, the Bretton Woods institutions or the World Trade Organization.
The IPU will continue to discuss the vital issues of our time through its two statutory Conferences, the first of which takes place in early April in Havana, Cuba, and the second in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in the second half of the year. However, the IPU also plans to hold important parliamentary meetings, for example on international trade, in cooperation with the WTO in Geneva in early June. Moreover, the IPU will facilitate a parliamentary presence and input to important UN Conferences on least developed countries (Brussels, May 2001) and on combating racism (South Africa, late August, early September 2001).
Through all these efforts, the IPU will try to strengthen further its work to promote democracy. Here, the IPU has a particularly important contribution to make to development.
Mrs Françoise Saudan
President of the Swiss Council of States
Q: You have been elected President of the Swiss Council of States. What are your priorities?
F.S.: The office of President of the Council of State entails several duties: leading debates during sessions of the Council of States, representing the Council at official events and managing and overseeing the various departments of Parliament, together with the representatives of the National Council. My first priority is to deserve the trust that my colleagues have placed in me. Something that is just as essential in my view is strengthening our national cohesion, which is sometimes sorely tried by divergences that surface during nationwide voting.
Q: How do you see the role of parliaments in the 21st century, at a time of globalisation?
F.S.: I see them facing a new challenge, that of establishing real cooperation between Parliaments in order to include this new dimension. It is striking to see how the major problems of our day, such as respect for human rights, environmental protection or combating organised crime, all require global solutions. The contacts which I have been able to make as Vice-President with representatives of other parliaments have been both enriching and fruitful.
Q: You are the second woman to have been elected to this post. Do you feel that women have an impact on the management of political power?
F.S.: Our impact is not commensurate with our political weight, which is sometimes greater than half of the electorate. Yet I do not believe in "female" politics because all politics serve all of the population, not just a part of it, and because virtually all of the problems we face - apart from maternity - affect men and women alike, be it unemployment, education, old age or illness. That having been said, women are generally acknowledged to have the ability to listen and a more rigorous approach as far as politics is concerned.
Mrs. Françoise Saudan and Mr. Anders B. Johnsson, the Secretary General of the IPU, will be the hosts of the Swiss Club of the Geneva Press on Tuesday 30 January, at 11.30 a.m.
Chilean MP Juan Pablo Letelier
elected President of Human Rights Committee
Mr. Juan Pablo Letelier, Chilean MP, was elected to chair the IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. "As a Chilean, it is an honour for me to chair the Committee at this significant time in our history. I am well aware of the Committee's commitment to parliamentarians whose human rights have been violated and my aim is to make its work even more visible", said Mr. Letelier.
"It is a duty of all MPs to be in the forefront acting to guarantee full and unconditional respect for human rights. The commitment of the Human Rights Committee is to responsibly uphold parliamentary human rights worldwide, making our active defence of these rights ever more visible, and preventing and condemning all those responsible for these violations and impunity. The image of a global and human world depends on the construction of local coexistences based on tolerance and respect for human dignity", added the newly elected President.
Born in 1961, Juan Pablo Letelier, son of the former foreign minister to the Salvador Allende government, assassinated in Washington in 1976, is an economist by training and a member of the central committee of the Chilean Socialist Party.
Sri Lankan MP. Mahinda Samarasinghe
At its 92nd session, the Committee also elected the Sri Lankan MP, Mr. Mahinda Samarasinghe, as Vice-President. Born in 1956, Mr Samarasinghe, also an economist, is the deputy parliamentary whip of the opposition UNP. "I will be striving to reinforce the work of the Committee, especially in relation to on-site missions", said Mr. Samarasinghe. "I hope that we will be able to visit a number of countries, including Myanmar, as it is a very important case for the Committee", he concluded.
IPU fact-finding mission to visit Cuba following the arrest of Czech MP
The President of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, Juan Pablo Letelier and the Secretary General of the IPU, Anders B. Johnsson will go on a fact-finding mission to Cuba in relation to the case of the Czech MP Ivan Pilip, arrested on 12 January.
IPU discuss possible creation of Assembly of Mediterranean States
The Ad Ho Committee of the CSCM (Conference and Security in the Mediterranean) set up by the IPU met in Valetta, on 19 and 20 January, at the invitation of the House of Representatives of Malta. All members of the Committee -formed of parliamentarians of Algeria, Egypt, Italy, France, Malta, Morocco, Slovenia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, and a representative of the Mediterranean Women Parliamentarians Tasks Force - unanimously reiterated their commitment to the idea of establishing, in the long run, a regional forum for parliamentary dialogue, and engaged in detailed discussions on the possible characteristics of the future assembly.
The Committee underlined that, for any such regional parliamentary forum to take root, a fair and lasting peace in the region was paramount, especially in the Middle East. It thus urged all parties concerned to spare no efforts to reach fair and equitable peace and lasting security in the region.
San Marino citizenship
On 30 November 2000, the Republic of San Marino passed a law which provides for the first time that children of San Marino mothers can become citizens of the Republic when they come of age. Until now, only children of San Marino fathers could become San Marino citizens. Men and women are not yet considered equal in the field of citizenship, since children of San Marino fathers can become citizens of San Marino at birth whereas children of San Marino mothers can only become citizens of San Marino once they turn 18.