Speakers this morning paid tribute to the memory of the late Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, and called on all parties to continue pursuing the path to peace, at a special commemorative meeting held in his honour.
The meeting was opened with a statement by Diogo Freitas do Amaral, the President of the General Assembly, who also read out a message from Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In his statement, the President said Mr. Rabin had been assassinated for believing in a future without bloodshed, a future of tolerance and coexistence. He was assassinated for pursuing a peace process in the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin was among those courageous individuals from different sides who overcame differences and began the process of peace. His courage and example would live on to inspire others.
In his message, Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali said the loss of Yitzhak Rabin demonstrated that those who pursued peace walked in terrible danger. However, the cowardly act that took his life could not stop progress towards peace.
"With Rabin's assassination, we lost a great statesman, a courageous soldier in both war and peace, a fine human being, a devoted son of Israel, the Jewish people and mankind", Gad Yaacobi (Israel) said. "Yitzhak Rabin was a soldier in the service of the Jewish nation and the state of Israel. Most of all, he was a soldier for peace who fell in the line of duty." The best way to honour his memory was to continue on the path towards peace.
Madeleine K. Albright (United States) said that in the month since the assassination of Israel's Prime Minister, Israel's Government and people had made it plain that they would not be swayed by that act of lawlessness and terror. She expressed confidence that the peace process would move forward. "But we know, as well, that we have suffered a grievous loss", she said.
The tragic death of Yitzhak Rabin had not shaken the dedication of the Israeli and Palestinian people to the process of negotiations, Sergey V. Lavrov (Russian Federation) said. Mr. Rabin had risen above the stereotypes of the Arab-Israeli conflict to work energetically for peace in the region. His contribution to Russian-Israeli relations would also be remembered.
Statements were also made by Norway, Spain (for the European Union) and Japan.
Also this morning, the President announced that messages had been received from the Governments of Egypt and Jordan, the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and from the Palestinian National Authority, conveying expressions of condolences to the bereaved family and to the people of Israel on the tragic death of Yitzhak Rabin. They reaffirmed their hope that the pursuit of peace in the Middle East would continue unhindered and that lasting and comprehensive peace would soon prevail throughout the region.
At the end of the meeting, all rose for a moment of silence in memory of Mr. Rabin.
DIOGO FREITAS DO AMARAL (Portugal), President of the General Assembly, opened the commemorative meeting with a statement and then read out a message from Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. In his statement, Mr. Freitas do Amaral said Mr. Rabin was assassinated for believing in a future without bloodshed, a future of tolerance and coexistence. He was assassinated for pursuing a peace process in the Middle East. Yitzhak Rabin was among those courageous individuals from different sides who overcame differences and began the process of making new friends. It was his courage and that of others which was most despised by the enemies of peace. However, that courage lived on. He pursued the path of peace even when it did not bring him popularity. He paid a heavy price for his pursuit of peace for all, but his example would live on to inspire others.
He then read out the message from Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who said that of all those who are called "great", the peacemakers were the greatest. Those who stood firm for peace must also reach out towards others in peace. Prime Minister Rabin was working for peace on the day he was killed, singing for peace on the night he was struck down.
The loss of Yitzhak Rabin demonstrated that those who pursued peace walked in terrible danger, he said. The farther they went on, the greater was their risk. But the cowardly act that took Yitzhak Rabin could not stop progress towards peace. All those who knew him, counted upon his steadfast courage and supported his brave endeavour had vowed never to yield to the forces of hate and perpetual strife.
His memory has bound the friends of peace together and given them greater strength than ever, the Secretary-General said. "We are uplifted by his memory to bear the beacon of peace forward, so that tomorrow will bring the better world he so valiantly sought."
GAD YAACOBI (Israel) said 30 days had passed since the death of Yitzhak Rabin. Today had special significance in the Jewish tradition, as it marked the end of the period of mourning. But the sorrow remained. "With Rabin's assassination, we lost a great statesman, a courageous soldier in both war and peace, a fine human being, a devoted son of Israel, the Jewish people and mankind. I also lost a friend."
Yitzhak Rabin led Israel to agreements with the Palestinians, the peace treaty with Jordan, and the breakthroughs with the Maghreb and Gulf States, he said. He became a Nobel Laureate. He was a man of great integrity -- a man who always meant what he said, said what he meant, and did what he said and meant. At a dinner in his honour last month, he said there was no other way to ensure security and a better future for generations to come than through peace.
"Yitzhak Rabin was a soldier in the service of the Jewish nation and the State of Israel. Most of all, he was a soldier for peace who fell in the line of duty", he said. However, the bullet that killed him could not kill peace. Indeed, the need for peace was strong and support for peace had increased. The best way to honour his memory was to continue in the path towards peace and towards a brighter future for Israel and for all of the peoples of the Middle East.
MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT (United States) said that in the month since Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, Israel's Government and people had made it plain that they would not be swayed by that act of lawlessness and terror. The new Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, was a leader blessed with courage and wisdom. He and other regional leaders, including President Mubarak, King Hussein and Chairman Arafat remained committed to the path of peace.
She said President Clinton, President Yeltsin and other European leaders had expressed their continued support for Arab-Israeli reconciliation. "So, we are confident that the peace process will move forward", she went on to say. "But we know, as well, that we have suffered a grievous loss."
She said Yitzhak Rabin combined personal bravery with compassion and insight. He would be missed by family, by country and by all who believed in a better future for the Middle East. "Building the future is no longer within the power of Yitzhak Rabin; that responsibility rests with us." Neither America nor any other outside country could make peace in the Middle East. Only the parties could do that. "But we can help those in the region to bridge the remaining decisions. We can promote security. We can help finance development in Gaza and the West Bank. We can end unhelpful boycotts", she said.
She said action could be taken within the Assembly that supplanted old rhetoric with a focus on maintaining the momentum for peace. "And we can stand together against acts of violence and terrorism", she said. Each side had its martyrs and memories and its enemies of peace. Here was the great division of the world today, not between east and west or north and south, but between those imprisoned by history and those striving to shape it.
She said "Prime Minister Rabin embraced the future, and gave his life for it. Let us, in facing the future, heed his legacy."
SERGEY V. LAVROV (Russian Federation) said Mr. Rabin was one of the architects of the Middle East peace process. He rose above the stereotypes of the Arab-Israeli conflict to work energetically for peace in the region. It was because of the farsightedness of Mr. Rabin, his associates and their Palestinian partners that cooperation and a new understanding was born in the Middle East. The life which was cut short by a fanatic's bullet highlighted the need to implement Israeli-Palestinian agreements and to speed up the refashioning of the Middle East in the image of the peace process to which he devoted himself. His tragic death had not shaken the dedication of the Israeli and Palestinian people to the process of negotiations. His contribution to Russian-Israeli relations and his sincerity would be remembered in the Russian Federation.
HANS JACOB BIORN LIAN (Norway) said the world had been shocked at the news of the brutal assassination of Mr. Rabin. Norway strongly condemned that senseless act of violence and hatred, which deprived the world of a great statesman and visionary leader. He was an architect of the peace process and showed great personal courage in the pursuit of peace, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize. His legacy was a greater responsibility to pursue those efforts for peace. Norway saluted the strong commitment of the Israeli Government and Palestinian leadership to the peace process, as the only road to a better future. The international community must support that process. It must also continue to provide economic and social assistance to the Palestinian people.
JUAN ANTONIO YANEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that with the death of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a true statesman and one of the chief architects of the Middle East peace process had been lost. Today more than ever, the world must work together for a future of hope, progress and development in the Middle East. That would be the greatest tribute to him, and the progress made by Israel and its partners in peace, on the course set by Rabin, was encouraging.
He said the European Union wanted to reiterate once more its firm rejection of terrorism and intolerance. "Yitzhak Rabin: your life has been irrationally cut short, but your ideals persist and continue to light our way", he added.
SHUNJI MARUYAMA (Japan) said that at a time when remarkable progress was being made in the peace process, and when it seemed that a new and peaceful era was about to dawn in the Middle East, people around the world were shocked and deeply saddened by the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. Through his work over the past three years, which the Prime Minister consolidated in the final month of his life, the destiny of the Middle East changed more fundamentally than it had in the previous 70 years of his life. The international community owed Prime Minister Rabin a profound debt of gratitude for his far-reaching contributions to a more peaceful world.
He said Japan hoped that the people and Government of Israel would not waver from the cause for which Prime Minister Rabin gave his life. For its part, Japan would extend necessary assistance in the hope that further progress towards peace would be made.