The Bethlehem 2000 International Conference was organized under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and was held at FAO headquarters in Rome, on 18 and 19 February 1999.
The Conference's objective was to mobilize the widest international support for the Bethlehem 2000 Project of the Palestinian Authority for the celebration of the new millennium in Bethlehem in a global vision of peace and reconciliation. With the support of the Government of Italy, the Conference provided an opportunity for Governments, intergovernmental organizations, religious and cultural personalities and institutions, parliamentarians and non-governmental organizations to engage in dialogue and cooperation for the promotion of peace and reconciliation.
ORGANIZATION OF THE CONFERENCE
The Conference was attended by 93 Governments, 7 United Nations organs, agencies and bodies, 3 intergovernmental organizations and 71 non-governmental organizations. The Committee delegation was composed of H.E. Ibra Deguène Ka (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee; H.E. Dr. Ravan A. G. Farhâdi (Afghanistan) and H.E. Mr. Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla (Cuba), Vice-Chairmen of the Committee; H.E. Mr. George Saliba (Malta), Rapporteur, H.E. Mme. Mahawa Bangoura Camara (Guinea), member of the Committee; and H.E. Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa (Palestine).
At the opening meeting held on the morning of 18 February, statements were made by: The Honourable Francesco Rutelli, Mayor of Rome; Sir Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs and representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations; His Eminence Roger Cardinal Etchegaray, President of the Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 and Head of the Holy See delegation; H.E. Mr. Jacques Baudin, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Senegal; H.E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Mr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; H.E. Mr. Lamberto Dini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Italian Republic; and H.E. Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority.
In the high-level plenary entitled "Celebrating the new millennium in a global vision of peace and reconciliation", on the afternoon of 18 February, statements were made by H.E. Mr. Said Kamal, Assistant Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; His Beatitude Msgr. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; the Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; Reverend Father Archpriest Victor Petlyuchenko, Deputy Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, Moscow Patriarchate, Representative of His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia; His Eminence Cardinal Anba Moussa, General Archpriest, Representative of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III; His Eminence The Metropolitan of Switzerland, Damaskinos Papandreou, Representative of His Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch; Ambassador Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, President of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Rome; Mr. Dwain C. Epps, Director, Programme Unit III - Justice, Peace and Creation, World Council of Churches; and the Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, Director of Sabeel, Jerusalem.
The plenary entitled "Preparing for the millennium celebrations" was addressed by Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Minister, Coordinator-General of the Bethlehem 2000 Project Authority; Mr. Hanna Nasser, Mayor of Bethlehem; Mr. Nabil Sarraf, Vice-President, Palestine Development and Investment Company; and Mr. Valdo Spini, President of the Parliamentary Association of Friendship Italy-Israel.
The plenary entitled "Voice and responsibilities of Parliaments: Initiatives in connection with Bethlehem 2000" was addressed by Mr. Miguel Angel Martinez, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Council; The Honourable Luciano Violante, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies; Senator Domenico Fisichella, Vice-President of the Italian Senate, on behalf of The Honourable Nicola Mancino, President of the Italian Senate; Mr. Humayun Rasheed Choudhury, Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament; and H.E. Mr. Nahad Ibrahim Abdel Latif, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt, on behalf of Dr. Ahmed Fathi Sourour, Speaker of the People's Assembly, President of the Arab Parliamentary Council.
At the closing meeting, held in the afternoon of 19 February, statements were made by H.E. Mr. Rino Serri, Senator, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Italy, Representative of the Host Government; Mr. Nabeel Kassis, Minister, Coordinator-General of the Bethlehem 2000 Project Authority, representative of Palestine; and H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. H.E. Mr. George Saliba, Rapporteur of the Committee, presented the Rome Declaration on Bethlehem 2000 (see section VII of this report).
The present report contains the full text of statements made by invited speakers in accordance with the programme of the Conference.
Mayor of Rome
In extending a cordial, warm and sincere welcome to you on behalf of the City of Rome, I should like to affirm today the commitment of our city and of all Italian towns and trade unions to support this Bethlehem 2000 Project.
We reaffirm a commitment, which will serve to illustrate in concrete fashion that development, employment, stability and calm in Palestinian land is clearly also closely linked to development of accommodation, of programmes for tourism, for the organization of visits by pilgrims and all those who wish to go to the Holy Land and for Catholics, for that land in the Middle East is dearly loved throughout the entire world.
Finally, allow me, on my own behalf and on behalf of the City of Rome, to extend best wishes to this Conference which we have the honour of hosting, thanks to the commitment of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
I hope that this Conference will make a definite contribution, at the political, diplomatic and economic levels, so that the year 2000 may be celebrated in Palestine, in Israel, in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean with a genuine, just and lasting peace, for that is in the interest of the world as a whole.
That is what the people of that land are demanding from us; that is the question, the imperative that all people of good will and that the authorities in all parts of the world must answer.
I wish the Conference on Bethlehem 2000 every success in its work.