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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


GA/PAL/802*
26 April 1999

UNITED NATIONS AFRICAN MEETING IN SUPPORT OF PALESTINIAN RIGHTS
CONCLUDES IN NAMIBIA; ADOPTS WINDHOEK DECLARATION


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)


WINDHOEK, 22 April -- One of the most important aspects to emerge from the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was the solidarity shown by the various governments and delegates with the plight of the Palestinian people, as well as the realization that lasting peace was not an unattainable objective, but within reach of the people who have suffered for so long, Mose Tjitendero, Speaker of the Namibian Parliament and member of the Executive Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, told the closing session of the meeting.

Mr. Tjitendero reminded participants that the meeting had taken place at a particularly crucial and sensitive stage of the peace process. He noted that the five-year time-frame accorded by the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Government of Israel, would end on 4 May. As the Israelis have reneged on this agreement, Mr. Tjitendero was of the view that whatever decision the Palestinian people reach next week regarding 4 May 1999, would be made in good faith and in accordance with the Oslo Accords.

Suleiman Al-Najab, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Special Envoy of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, expressed his organization's gratitude to the Government of Namibia and its people for their continuous support, and for hosting this important meeting in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. He also commended the tireless efforts of the Committee in the Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the African people for the continued and valuable support they have brought to the cause of the Palestinian people. Mr. Al-Najab also mentioned a special word of appreciation for the deep understanding and solidarity shown by delegates at the Meeting in support of the Palestinian struggle.

Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in his closing statement, noted that the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People focused on the concrete measures to be taken to alleviate the economic situation of the Palestinian people, including the activities surrounding the Bethlehem 2000 Project. It was agreed that the international community could no longer ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people and as such, should continue to support the just cause of the Palestinian people during this critical phase in its history. He thanked the Namibian Government and its people for hosting the Meeting, which he said attested to their continued and active support of the Palestinian people. The final document of the African Meeting, the Windhoek Declaration, was then introduced by George Saliba, Rapporteur of the Committee.

The Declaration reads as follows:

"1. The United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People was held at Windhoek, Namibia, from 20 to 22 April 1999, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Participants in the Meeting included eminent political personalities from Africa, representatives of Governments, intergovernmental organizations, United Nations system organizations and agencies, the Palestinian Authority, parliamentarians, non-governmental organizations and representatives of the media.

"2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations sent a message addressed to the participants in the Meeting.

"3. The Meeting took place at a time when the peace process, nearing the end of the interim period, remained deadlocked due to the freezing by the Government of Israel of the implementation of the Wye River Memorandum of October 1998. The Meeting was aimed at drawing the attention of the international community to the continuing lack of progress in the peace process, to the unjust and untenable situation faced by the Palestinian people, and to the dangers posed by the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. The Meeting also considered the action by and responsibility of the international community in the implementation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the role, in that regard, of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention. The Meeting focused on the role of African States in supporting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, and on discussing the international community's action in promoting the Bethlehem 2000 Project of the Palestinian Authority.

"4. The participants discussed in great detail the issue of land confiscation by the Israeli authorities, the establishment of new and expansion of the existing settlements throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the Israeli decision to create an "umbrella municipality" in the city and the illegal policy of "silent transfer" of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem from their homes in the city. In this context, the participants welcomed the adoption by the Tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly of resolution ES-10/6 of 9 February 1999 calling for the convening, on 15 July 1999, of a conference on measures to enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The participants also called upon all Governments, organizations, and individuals, as well as the international business community to refrain from rendering any form of financial, technical or other assistance to Israel that could be utilized towards its settlement activities. In discussing the issue of Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the participants expressed grave concern at the continued imprisonment of Palestinians in Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Israeli-Palestinian agreements signed to date.

"5. The participants considered the role of Africa in promoting a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine. The Meeting showed broad support by African States for the exercise by the Palestinian people of its inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and the establishment of the State. The participants emphasized that this remained a key element for the successful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the core of which is the question of Palestine. The Meeting also demonstrated the determination of African States to contribute to the international efforts towards restarting the peace process in order to allow the parties to proceed to the crucial stage of the permanent status negotiations. In this context, the participants reviewed action taken by African States at various levels, including within the United Nations system, the Organization of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement.

"6. The participants exchanged views on the experience of African States in the struggle for decolonization, independence and sovereignty, as well as the experience of Africa in the quest for economic independence and sustainable development. They also discussed prospects for the promotion of bilateral economic cooperation and trade, as well as the establishment of business partnerships with the Palestinian counterparts. The participants recognized the important role played by civil society in the process of institution-building. Special emphasis was laid on the need to enhance and promote the role of women in society.

"7. The participants recognized the significance and the implications of the impending end, on 4 May 1999, of the interim period and the possible steps to be taken by the various parties in that regard. In view of a serious legal and political vacuum that the end of the interim period will entail, a broad and determined international action will be required in order to allow the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and statehood.

"8. The participants welcomed the important work done by the Palestinian Authority on the various aspects of the Bethlehem 2000 Project. They stressed that, as the millennial celebrations of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem approach, there was an urgent need for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Encouraged by the assistance of the international donor community in rebuilding the Palestinian economy, the participants thanked the Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as the private sector for their support of the Bethlehem 2000 Project. They also recognized the important role played by the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Bank and other United Nations system entities in ensuring the success of the Project.

"9. The participants noted the important role played by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in supporting the Bethlehem 2000 Project through its programme of activities. They also took note of the Committee's effort to promote the Bethlehem 2000 Project at the United Nations. The participants welcomed the fact that, at the request of the Committee, an item entitled "Bethlehem 2000" has been included in the agenda of the fifty-third session of the United Nations General Assembly. It has also been included in the agenda of the Assembly's fifty-fourth session. Last February in Rome, the Committee held a highly successful Conference in support of this Palestinian initiative, hosted by the Italian Government.

"10. In connection with the Meeting, the Chairman of the Committee H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, and the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People had the honour and privilege of being received by H.E. Dr. Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia, who welcomed the efforts of the Committee aimed at bringing about a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

"11. The Chairman of the Committee H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, and the delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also had the honour of being received by The Right Honourable Hage Geingob, Prime Minister of Namibia, who stressed the importance of the work done by the Committee in pursuit of peace in the Middle East.

"12. In the course of the Meeting, the Chairman and members of the Committee delegation were also received by The Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Namibia, who encouraged the Committee to continue its important activities aimed at enabling the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable rights.

"13. The participants expressed their deep gratitude to H.E. Dr. Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia, The Right Honourable Hage Geingob, Prime Minister of Namibia, The Honourable Mose Tjitendero, President of the National Assembly and The Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Namibia, and to the Government of Namibia for hosting the Meeting and for the assistance and support extended to the United Nations Secretariat in its preparation."


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* Reissued to correct symbol of press release. It had been previously issued as PAL/1873.


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