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47th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 12 November 2008, 3 p.m.
The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.
Agenda item 45 (continued)
Culture of peace
Report of the Secretary-General (A/63/262)
Note by the Secretary-General (A/63/127)
Draft resolutions (A/63/L.23 and A/63/L.24/Rev.1)
Address by Mr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority
The Acting President : The Assembly will now hear an address by the Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority.
Mr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, was escorted to the rostrum.
The Acting President: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority , and to invite him to address the Assembly.
Mr. Fayyad (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic): At the outset, I wish to express our deep appreciation to the President for convening this important meeting. We are pleased and honoured to see him presiding over the sixty-third session of the General Assembly. I would also like, on behalf of His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas, to express our deep gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, for his noble and continued efforts in spreading the culture of tolerance and understanding among religions and for launching the international initiative to promote dialogue among religions and cultures.
I come to this Assembly from the land of divine messages to mankind, the land of Palestine, where tolerance has been rooted in the history of the Palestinian Arab people. Following in the footsteps of the Prophets that walked that blessed land and on the basis of complete faithfulness to the spiritual, civilizational and cultural heritage of Palestine that has embraced tolerance and coexistence among religions over the centuries, the Palestinian Arab people — Muslims and Christians — has preserved the culture of tolerance and coexistence, despite the historical injustice that has been imposed on them for over 60 years. Indeed, the Palestinians have responded to every call to prayer from every mosque, church, and temple with a hymn of compassion, love and peace.
I come to this Assembly from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, cities of peace and love, which have embraced and nourished coexistence throughout the ages, and whose people suffer today from the pain of isolation and the cruelty of siege, walls, discrimination, and from the destruction of their homes and even the confiscation of their cemetery lands. They look to this Assembly to bring an end to the shackles of occupation and injustice that have brought nothing but hatred, fear, intolerance and mistrust.
Our world is still suffering from all forms of religious extremism and racial discrimination and foreign occupation, which are the causes of hatred, extremism, intolerance and bigotry, which are contrary to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, which calls for joint efforts to strengthen international relations and provide capacities for building an exemplary human society. That, in turn, requires the expansion and deepening of dialogue and its affirmation as a civilized means for cooperation, security, peace and well-being.
Despite the passing of more than 63 years since the adoption of the Charter’s call for tolerance, coexistence and peace on earth, many peoples throughout the world continue to suffer from the pain of irrational and irresponsible practices and policies, which are governed by a sense of the arrogance of power and racial, religious or ethnic superiority.
On the other hand, the forces of good in all religions have always challenged those calling for extremism, confrontation and superiority. The forces of good have succeeded in many cases in confronting those abhorrent phenomena and have contributed to the success of the model of coexistence, thus helping to maintain international peace and security and promote friendly relations among nations and peoples based on mutual respect for the equal rights of peoples, including the right to self-determination.
Therein lies the importance of this noble initiative for dialogue among religions and for religious tolerance as represented by the mosaic of human diversity and necessitated by the sum of human experience, which has proven that civilizations have not arisen in human history without having interacted with other civilizations.
The President returned to the Chair.
That is what has enabled humanity to formulate the common value of coexistence, which calls for freedom and equality among all human beings, regardless of their race, religion or culture, and for the establishment of justice and peace in the world. Indeed, tolerance and coexistence among religions is a prerequisite for human life and coexistence among human beings.
In order to preserve this noble human prerequisite, which all religions have called for, we must promote and deepen dialogue aimed at achieving peace among human beings, avoid conflicts, suppress all acts of aggression and arrogance, ensure respect for the differences among religions, cultures and civilizations, and encourage the quest for positive interaction between civilizations, cultures and religions.
It is incumbent on all Member States, collectively and individually, to work hard under the aegis of the United Nations to uphold mutual respect among religions, to maintain the right to religious belief and human dignity, and to consolidate full equality of rights through the promotion of a culture of tolerance and understanding.
The only means to achieve this is through dialogue in a framework of international relations, and by addressing the root causes that fuel intolerance and extremism in all their forms. We must also work to raise communities based on real religious tolerance and non-discrimination of religion, race, colour and gender.
We must also respond decisively to the phenomenon of the defamation of religions and their symbols and to those who claim the inevitability of a clash of civilizations. There must be a cessation of defamation and stereotypical caricatures of peoples.
In this context, we emphasize the importance of the Mecca Appeal issued by the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue, held in June 2008 under the auspices of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Madrid Declaration of the World Conference on Dialogue of July of this year.
The international community is faced with an overall responsibility and a great challenge to respond firmly to all the abhorrent phenomena that undermine coexistence. It must formulate policies and approaches that ensure compliance with covenants and treaties and which will relegate this dark side of human history to the dark and painful past, rather than have it continue to threaten our present and future. There can be no choice but to overcome those abominable phenomena and their promoters and put an end to them, because the consequences of failure would be catastrophic for the future of all humankind.
As we speak about religious tolerance, we must speak about Jerusalem, the city of peace, the land of prophets, the first of the two qiblas, and the third holiest shrine in Islam, the place of the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the place of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him.
The Holy City has suffered from occupation for over forty-one years. During this time, it has been subjected to a series of practices and violations aimed, in essence, at altering its character and status. Some examples of this are the harassment of its Palestinian inhabitants, as well as of Muslims and Christians, attempts to force them to abandon Jerusalem, and the imposition of a fait accompli on the ground that threatens the prospects of achieving an agreement on the final status of the Holy City.
The Security Council, the General Assembly and other organs have adopted numerous resolutions on this topic, all of which have reaffirmed that any measures taken by Israel, the occupying Power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on occupied Jerusalem are illegal, null and void and have no validity whatsoever. Those resolutions have also called for the cessation of all violations of the sanctity of Jerusalem.
Regrettably, however, none of those resolutions have been respected or implemented. On this occasion, we therefore emphasize that any situation where holy places are being violated or where one group or religion attempts to impose control, regardless of the pretext, is unacceptable. Continued silence in the face of such an unjust situation threatens the foundations of religious tolerance and serves only to escalate conflict and create more intolerance and hatred.
This makes it imperative for the international community to give Jerusalem and its inhabitants the protection they deserve, to address all illegal practices that contravene the principles of justice and rules of international law, as well as to provide protection for the city and its unique spiritual, religious and cultural status, as envisaged in the relevant United Nations resolutions on this issue. Such support will undoubtedly ease tensions, fears and hatred, while encouraging dialogue towards the achievement of the desired goals of freedom, peace and tolerance.
Nothing that has been said from this rostrum or in any other forum about Jerusalem can change the historical fact that East Jerusalem has been an occupied Palestinian territory since 5 June 1967 or can obviate the necessity of applying relevant resolutions of international legitimacy, particularly with regard to the Israeli withdrawal from the city and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.
The choice of the Palestinian people, as affirmed and detailed in the 1988 Palestinian Peace Initiative, is that East Jerusalem is the capital of the future independent Palestinian State. The Palestinian people thus expect the international community to provide urgent and effective assistance to put an end to the occupation and to enable them to exercise their legitimate rights, at the forefront of which is the right to establish their independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital with the 1967 borders. This will pave the way for ending intolerance, hatred and racism and is the key to peace, security and stability throughout the region.
Such an achievement will ensure freedom for all peoples of all religions and nationalities to permanently and freely reach the holy places. This is what the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have been accustomed to throughout history and they look forward to its continuation for the benefit of all believers of all monotheistic religions.
This is a commitment made by the Palestinian people in the 1988 Declaration of Independence, as well as in the constitutional principles governing the work of the Palestinian National Authority. Today, we renew this commitment before you.
The walls of the old city in East Jerusalem encompass the minarets of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the bells of the Church of the Nativity and these, along with every stone, rock and corner in its streets and quarters, represent the summation of the city’s enormous capacity for hosting coexistence among civilizations and cultures and is a source of hope for its inhabitants in ending the occupation.
Do not let this hope — amid the pleas of Um Kamel Al-Kurd for the restoration of her home, which was confiscated by the settlers — or the hope of all mothers in the Holy City diminish. This is our responsibility.
The suffering of the Palestinian people continues unabated, in terms of displacement, exile, confiscation of land and water resources, the unprecedented escalation of settlement activities, their subjugation to settlers’ terrorism and the imposition of severe siege, particularly on the Gaza strip, where the freedom of more than 1.5 million people is curtailed. This reality jeopardizes international efforts to establish peace on the basis of the two-State solution along the 1967 borders, a solution that received international consensus support and the economic, political and moral endorsement of the international community.
This requires intervention to ensure that all parties implement United Nations resolutions and adhere to the principles and foundations of justice and the provisions of international law. I am sure that Member States understand the results and repercussions of inaction, not only as it affects the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, but also as it concerns the whole region, as well as international peace and security. That which must also be understood is what the Arab Peace Initiative provides in terms of broad prospects to end the conflict in our region and to achieve peace, security and harmony.
This matter should prompt us all to step up our efforts and to make a serious commitment to settling this decades-long conflict, to putting an end to the longest occupation in modern times and to enabling our people to realize our right to self-determination and to establish our independent State, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, on the basis of the 1967 borders. This would pave the way for real possibilities for cooperation and coexistence. It would consolidate the principles of tolerance and close this tragic chapter, thus enabling our people to build its own future and actively contribute to the progress and prosperity of humankind.
When a representative of Palestine spoke for the first time from this rostrum, he, the late President Yasser Arafat, raised an olive branch, a symbol of peace in the land of peace. The olive branch is deeply rooted in our land as a symbol of coexistence and tolerance. Today, I would like to reaffirm to this General Assembly his message as included in the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine. In two days from now, we will commemorate that Declaration, which was drafted by the late great poet Mahmoud Darwish, the poet of Palestine and humanity, whose body was embraced by the soil of Palestine as he was bid farewell by old and young people of Palestine as a symbol of our nationalism and national culture.
I reaffirm here and now that the people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians alike, aspire to peace and justice and are committed to the principles of peaceful coexistence. We will continue to work responsibly and, to the extent possible, with all nations and peoples to achieve a lasting peace based on justice and respect, a peace in which humankind’s potential will flourish to build and achieve everyone’s well-being and prosperity, where competition will enhance the creativity of life and where there will be no fear of tomorrow, because we believe that tomorrow will bring, above all, safety for those who follow justice and not its opposite.
In conclusion, I wish to assure this Assembly that we will continue to make every effort to move from being a victim of history to a participant in its making, for the benefit of humankind and for the broader prospects of humanity. We are confident that this Assembly will assist us in our endeavour.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I wish to thank the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority for the statement he has just made.
Mr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, was escorted from the rostrum.
The meeting rose at 5.55 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.