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

21 April 1999


Foreign Minister of Namibia Addresses Meeting

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

WINDHOEK, 20 April -- "In spite of all those crimes and deceptions committed against them, the Palestinians, like Namibians, have stood firm for a just cause and gained many committed friends on their side", Theo-Ben Gurirab, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Namibia, told participants at the United Nations African Meeting in support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People today in Windhoek. He expressed his conviction that the final settlement issues "will be resolved amicably for all the interested parties".

Representatives of the Government of Namibia and other governments of the region, academics, media representatives and non-governmental organizations met today for the Meeting at the Safari Court Hotel Conference Centre in Windhoek. In the coming days, they will discuss the current situation concerning the question of Palestine and how Africa can contribute to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The two-day meeting will include presentations by experts from the region, other countries, including the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as representatives of Governments, inter-governmental organizations, United Nations bodies and agencies and non-governmental organizations.

"At the end of the First World War, Palestine and Namibia became Mandated Territories ... what was meant then as a trust for political development ... turned into the same brutal nightmares and shameful betrayals for both peoples", Mr. Gurirab said in his opening statement. "It is with surging emotions that I welcome members of the Palestinian delegation ... to an independent and democratic Republic of Namibia".

Chinmaya Gharekhan, United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories, delivering a message from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, pointed out that this was the first meeting in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to take place in southern Africa, asserting that the occasion would provide an opportunity for the countries of the region to contribute to the debate on the question of Palestine and to explore ways in which their experience might help advance the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Ever since the beginning of the current Middle East process, the United Nations' efforts have focused on developing infrastructure, enhancing institutional capacity and, most importantly, improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people, the message said. The Secretary-General issued a renewed appeal to international donors to pledge support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Its precarious financial situation notwithstanding, the Agency continued to provide education, health care and relief to millions of refugees and to promote the economic and social development of the Palestinian territories. All parties involved in the peace process were urged to reinvigorate their efforts to bring the permanent status negotiations back on track, and to strive to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, based on principles enshrined in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and reflected in the Oslo accords.

Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, cautioned that Israel's continued illegal decisions on the question of Palestine constituted a flagrant violation of the spirit and letter of the agreements already signed by the two parties. He expressed the hope that the Meeting would assist in pushing Israel to conform to international humanitarian law
and to cease immediately all illegal measures it has taken in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

Suleiman Al-Najab, Member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Special Envoy of Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO and President of the Palestinian Authority, said the ultra-right forces in Israel were leading the peace process to a dead-end and threatened it with collapse. He expressed confidence that the Meeting would provide new ideas to move forward in the face of current difficulties at a time when the Palestinian Central Council was about to convene a special meeting to discuss and adopt resolutions based on the current situation.

The opening session continued with statements by representatives of governments, intergovernmental organizations and United Nations agencies. Abdul Samad Minty, Deputy Director-General for Multilateral Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement observed that despite long-standing and traditional support for a solution to the question of Palestine in conformity with the United Nations Charter and resolutions, it was extremely disappointing that almost four decades later, the self-determination of the Palestinian people was yet to be attained. It was incumbent upon the Israeli side to ensure that the Wye River Memorandum of October 1998, under which the two sides had agreed to "immediately resume the permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis and make a determined effort to achieve the mutual goal of reaching an agreement by 4 May 1999", was implemented.

Cheng Wenju, Counsellor, Embassy of China, asserted that the lengthy stalemate of the Middle East peace process would not only endanger the peace and stability of the region, but would also bring negative impact upon the peace and development of the whole world. He said the relevant United Nations resolutions on the question of the Middle East, the principle of land for peace and the earnest implementation of the concluded agreements and understandings by all parties concerned was the key to achieving a breakthrough in the deadlocked negotiations.

The agreements aiming at a peaceful settlement in Palestine -- set to expire on 4 May -- were limited by their timeframe, and many of the core issues rising from the needs and collective rights of the Palestinian people were left to the elusive final status talks, noted Joseph Schechla, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, had requested the assistance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as a part of its efforts to institutionalize the PLO's formal commitments to internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights. He said further assistance was needed to ensure that other States applied relevant international human rights and humanitarian law in the Palestinian Territory.

The delegation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People consists, apart from its Chairman, Ibra Deguène Ka, of Ravan Farhadi, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations and Vice-Chairman of the Committee, George Saliba, Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations and Rapporteur of the Committee, Martin Andjaba, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations, and Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer for Palestine for the United Nations, who are all assisting in the work of the Meeting.

The Meeting will continue this afternoon with the first plenary session focusing on the theme: "Promoting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people -- a key to peace in the Middle East". After presentations by six speakers, participants will discuss the theme.

Plenary sessions on Wednesday and Thursday will focus on "The role of Africa in supporting the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people" and "Celebrating the new millennium in a global vision of peace and reconciliation - the Bethlehem 2000 Project of the Palestinian Authority". A document containing the most important points raised at the Meeting will be presented at the closing session.


* Reissued to correct symbol of press release. It had been previously issued as PAL/1870.

* *** *
For information media - not an official record