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STATEMENT BY DR. RALPH J. BUNCHE, UN ACTING MEDIATOR ON PALESTINE,
BEFORE THE SECURITY COUNCIL ON 4 AUGUST 1949

UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information
Press and Publications Bureau
Lake Success, New York

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Press Release PAL/5:

4 August 1949

I have very little to add in elaboration of the statements set forth in my report to this Council of 26 July 1949 (Document S/1357). I am fully at the disposal of the Council, however, for such additional information or views as the members may require of me.

In summary, the crux of the present situation, as I see it, is as follows. The Security Council called for a truce in the fighting in Palestine and the parties complied. This truce was more than a simple cease-fire, for it involved certain specific injunctions as regards the importation of war materials, and the introduction of fighting personnel and men of military age. It also involved an elaborate system of United Nations truce supervision.

Subsequently, the Security Council called upon the parties to take a further step toward peace in Palestine — the conclusion of armistice agreements in "the transition to permanent peace in Palestine," to use the language of the resolution. The parties have now fully complied with this request.

It follows, inescapably, that the Security Council truce resolutions have been rendered obsolete by the conclusion of the armistice agreements. These resolutions continue in force, however, and will continue in force until the Security Council takes appropriate action concerning them. They are not self-terminating, and they will lead only to confusion and misunderstandings if not cancelled. Technically speaking, despite the armistice agreements, by the terms of the existing Security Council resolutions, I am still obligated under the Security Council resolution of 15 July 1948 to "supervise the observance of the truce. . . . [and] to deal with breaches. . .". I may confide in the Council that I have worn this responsibility rather like a loose garment since the conclusion of the armistice agreements.

In any event, the provisions of the armistice agreements, which are the product of voluntary negotiations by the disputing parties, are stronger than the provisions of the truce. They carry the strongest possible moral force, for they represent the voluntary agreement of the disputants.

The armistice agreements are not the final peace settlement. But the only possible interpretation of their very specific provisions is that they signal the end of the military phase of the Palestine conflict. The objective now, clearly, should be to restore normal conditions of peace, to the fullest extent possible. There can be little doubt that both sides desire to be freed from the many burdensome restrictions and interferences which were imposed under the truce. The entire heritage of restrictions which developed out of the undeclared war should be done away with. There should be normal access. Restrictions on importation and immigration should be eliminated. There should be free movement for legitimate shipping, and any vestiges of the war-time blockade should be removed as inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of the armistice agreements.


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In my opinion, great care should be taken to avoid any action which could in any way weaken the force of the armistice agreements or tend to discredit them, or which would appear to question the good faith of the parties signatory to them.

In paragraph 4 of the memorandum which I have attached to my report in the annex I suggest that the Security Council might now wish merely to reaffirm the simple cease-fire order set forth in its resolution of 15 July 1948. This suggestion is based on the assumption that despite the armistice agreements the Security Council might wish to maintain its basic injunction against any fighting pending the final peace settlement. As I interpret the Security Council's previous actions on this matter, its basic approach has been an order against resort to military action, i.e. an unconditional cease-fire, the implementation of which was by means of a truce carrying specific terms and obligations.

Practically speaking, it would probably be the case that whether or not such a provision for a reaffirmation of a simple cease-fire were incorporated in a new resolution, in the event of any renewed fighting in Palestine the matter would be quickly brought to the attention of the Security Council in any case, and the Council presumably would issue a desist order.

The suggestion is that only the injunction against resort to military action, i.e. the cease-fire order, in the 15 July resolution be reaffirmed, and that the rest of that resolution be considered henceforth inapplicable. In view of the armistice agreements, such an injunction is not indispensable, but it would perhaps have the value of keeping the hand of the Security Council in the Palestine situation pending its definitive settlement. In view of the great influence on the progress toward solution which has thus far been exerted by this Council, I would consider it highly desirable that it should not prematurely detach itself completely from the situation.

Article 2, paragraph (c) of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948 (document A/810), provides for the transfer to the Conciliation Commission of functions assigned to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine by resolutions of the Security Council.

The resolution of 11 December transferred to the Conciliation Commission all of the functions previously assigned to the Mediator under General Assembly resolutions. Since 11 December, therefore, my functions as acting Mediator have consisted of truce supervision and armistice negotiations, both under Security Council resolutions. Since the armistice agreements are concluded, and since they render any continued truce supervision unnecessary, there are, in fact, no functions remaining to me and therefore none to transfer to the Conciliation Commission.


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The truce supervision personnel has been drastically reduced. At the present time the observer corps consists of only thirty-five officers and thirty-four enlisted men. This number can be still further reduced, since it is estimated that not more than thirty to forty observers need be retained to assist the parties, at their request, in the supervision of the terms of the four armistice agreements. This is United Nations assistance which the parties themselves request in the agreements and which the United Nations should grant. But it must be emphasized that the parties themselves have devised their own arrangements for joint supervision of the terms of the voluntary agreements, and the United Nations, therefore, has no general responsibility for such supervision.

In other words, under Security Council urging, the disputing parties have made very great strides toward peace. The armistice agreements, all but one of which have now been in effect for several months, are proving very effective. There is certainly no basis for questioning the good faith of the parties to those agreements or their future intentions as regards their observance. They should be commended for having gone this far along the road to peace and encouraged to continue along that road in a spirit of good will and mutual trustfulness.

The more recent news from Lausanne is encouraging and gives support to my belief that all outstanding obstacles to permanent peace in Palestine, including the problem of the Arab refugees, who now suffer most from this unfortunate conflict, can and will be overcome by a mutual spirit of conciliation and by reciprocal concessions.