Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
29 November 1999
ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT, MARKING DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN PEOPLE,
OPTIMISTIC AS PEACE PROCESS ENTERS 'CRITICAL' PERIOD
Following is the text of a statement by Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the General Assembly, marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, delivered today, 29 November:
The General Assembly, in its resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977 and in subsequent resolutions, called for the annual observance of this Day, in recognition of the need to promote and support the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination, peace and independence.
Once again, we are gathered here, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to commemorate another International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and to pray for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. It is my fervent hope that one day, sooner rather than later, there will be no need to hold this particular commemoration at the United Nations, except to recall it for the purpose of history. That is a wish, but we are not there yet. Hence the need for continuing the commemoration.
For the international community, it has become an occasion to renew its pledge to continue supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood, on the basis of the United Nations Charter, the principles of international law, and the relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations of various international conferences.
In April this year, my country, Namibia, hosted the African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, organized by your Committee. I was the guest of honour and keynote speaker on that occasion. The Meeting adopted the Windhoek Declaration. It also reiterated the commitment of African States to assist, by all practical and peaceful means, the Palestinian people to realize their cherished goals. The Committee, moreover, endorsed the Bethlehem 2000 Project spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority.
The question of Palestine has been a major concern to the United Nations for over 50 years. Regrettably, the General Assembly's resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 ran into a premeditated wall of defiance and unilateralism. The resolution could not be implemented. That, and the strategic projections of major Powers turned the region into a cold war zone of confrontation. It has been a long walk since then, and finding an amicable, just and durable solution to the question of Palestine, as well as a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, has remained elusive. Five decades later, the problem remains the oldest unresolved issue on the agenda of the United Nations.
Now, following a long stalemate, and against the backdrop of the Oslo agreements, including other continuing efforts by various interlocutors, the peace negotiations have been revived. The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, on 4 September this year, was a major breakthrough. The international community was gratified that the parties, assisted by the co-sponsors, finally succeeded in breathing new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This achievement has made possible the resumption of further negotiations, including progress on some of the outstanding technical matters, the release of Palestinian prisoners, the opening of safe-passage routes, as well as an agreement on modalities concerning issues such as a timetable and final status negotiations. The way forward to those important negotiations on the permanent status is now open.
Thus, the urgent task of the international community must be to help the parties through this critical period so that the peace process can come to fruition for the benefit of all the peoples in the Middle East. I know that the co-sponsors of the peace process, the United Nations and indeed the international community as a whole, remain firmly committed to assisting the parties towards reaching that ultimate goal, in the spirit of constructive dialogue, mutual respect and compromise that have now become noticeable between them. This is absolutely crucial for international peace, stability and security in the region that we all desire.
I wish to reaffirm the General Assembly's position that the United Nations continues to have a direct interest in the peace process and upholds its responsibility for the question of Palestine until a satisfactory settlement is reached, based on self-determination, justice and mutual commitment to good neighbourliness.
We all know that for peace to take root and become viable in the Middle East, it must be accompanied by social and economic development. Simply put, there can be no peace without development. Both peace and development need committed friends and assistance on a sustained basis. Both the United Nations family and the international donor community should intensify their efforts aimed to provide the much-needed economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people, now and in the future.
Under your able and dedicated leadership, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has done so much to keep the question of Palestine among the most burning issues on the agenda of the General Assembly, as well as on the conscience of the entire global community. Over the past year, your Committee has worked tirelessly to promote the Bethlehem 2000 Project, which was considered recently by the General Assembly. In this connection, I have received an official invitation from President Yasser Arafat to attend the Bethlehem celebrations and I look forward to doing so. I wish to commend the Committee for all this and urge it to stay put on the right track until the job is done. The achievement of common peace, security, cooperation and development in the Middle East will be a fitting tribute to the memories of all those who died in pursuit of these noble objectives, and it will also be a victory for the United Nations itself, as we enter the new millennium.
There is a time for war, hatred and destruction; now is the time for freedom, peace, reconciliation and building together. This, I believe, is what Israel wants and this is also what all its neighbours want, particularly the Palestinians.
In diligently implementing the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly, your famous Committee has made, and continues to make, sterling contributions towards promoting that most desirable goal. I want to wish you every success in your noble mission.
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