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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
29 June 2004
UNITED NATIONS AFRICAN MEETING
IN SUPPORT OF THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS
OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

Cape Town, 29 and 30 June 2004
___________________________________________________________________________

29 June 2004


PRESIDENT MBEKI OPENS UNITED NATIONS AFRICAN MEETING
ON PALESTINIAN RIGHTS IN CAPE TOWN


CAPE TOWN, 29 June – South African President Thabo Mbeki told the opening session of the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People that despite predictions that it would take a long time for Palestinians to achieve liberation, “we dare not suffer from fatigue”. When the African Union meet next month, he would be honoured if he could communicate to the African heads of State and Government the conference’s decisions to be constituted in a programme of action.

Africa faced its own conflict but no one could feel completely free or secure when so many people continued to die, he said. It must be part of Africa’s principle agenda to engage the situation and contribute to its resolution. Peace and prosperity for Israel could not be achieved in a situation in which Palestinian rights were denied. No amount of force would make the Palestinians give up their rights.

Observing that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would not have been allowed to come to today’s meeting, he said no one should decide for the Palestinians who their leader should be. Mr. Arafat had been elected by his people and no solution could be found without his participation.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to the Israelis and the Palestinians to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map and international law. Israel should cease its practice of extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and other practices that violate its obligations as an occupying power to protect the civilian population. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority should act to halt all acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians and take steps to reform Palestinian security forces and empower the position of the Prime Minister.

In a statement read out by Commissioner–General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Peter Hansen, the Secretary-General expressed concern over the construction of the barrier in the West Bank noting that the project, which ran contrary to the spirit of the Road Map, had resulted in the confiscation of Palestinian land and restrictions on the freedom of movement of people and goods, thus threatening the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian State. The declared intention of the Israeli Government to withdraw from all Gaza settlements and parts of the West Bank could provide a rare moment of opportunity in the search for peace in the Middle East, he said.

The Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Paul Badji, said the South African experience in achieving a united, democratic and multi-racial nation was tangible proof that hope, determination and a concerted effort by the international community could and would attain common aspirations. As in the successful campaign against apartheid, the role of the international community in achieving peace in the Middle East was vital and indispensable.

The Road Map remained the most realistic approach to achieve the goals of both peoples – security for the Israelis and the end of occupation and an independent State for the Palestinians, he said.

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, said he looked to the conference’s participants to raise their voices against Israel’s aggression and economic siege, and to pressure Israel to end its policy of human rights violations. He called on the international community to work at regional and international levels including in the United Nations and Security Council to oblige Israel to implement the relevant international resolutions.

He said that Palestinians had sacrificed much for a just and comprehensive peace and had accepted international legitimacy as an exit to the conflict. They extended their hands to their Israeli neighbours and to all forces of peace

The Minister for Negotiations Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erakat also spoke.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Mali, Algeria, Switzerland, Jordan and Libya.

The representatives of the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola and the African Union also spoke.

The theme of the two-day meeting is “Achieving the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people – the key to peace in the Middle East”. Both the Meeting and a United Nations Forum of Civil Society in Support of Middle East Peace to be held on Thursday,
1 July will focus on promoting support for international efforts to stop the deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The Meeting, convened under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, will be divided into three plenaries. Plenary I will discuss the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Realizing a shared vision of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians will be the topic of the Plenary II and Plenary III will examine international efforts to salvage peace in the Middle East as well as African support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Invited to the meeting are eminent personalities, including high-level officials from the Host Government and the Palestinian Authority, internationally renowned experts, including Israelis and Palestinians, representatives of United Nations Members and Observers and parliamentarians. Also invited are representatives of the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations, the academic community, non-governmental organizations and the media.

The Forum of Civil Society, also sponsored by the Committee, will take up “Initiatives by African civil society in solidarity with the Palestinian people” in its morning session. The theme of the afternoon session is “Joining forces – African civil society and worldwide initiatives to support a peaceful solution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict”.

This afternoon, in Plenary I, participants will hear presentations by experts on Israeli strategies to consolidate occupation and create facts on the ground; the destruction of the Palestinian economy and the humanitarian crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in Palestinian refugee camps; strengthening Palestinian institutions: and the urgency of international protection of the Palestinian people.


Opening Statements

THABO MBEKI, President of South Africa said the question of Palestine must be kept under constant review and not displaced by attention to other matters. Despite predictions that it would take a long time for Palestinians to achieve liberation, “we dare not suffer from fatigue”, he said. The outcome of the United Nations African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which would deal with many important issues was critically important. When the African Union met next month, it would consider the Meeting’s recommendations. He would be honored if he could communicate to the African heads of State and Government the conference’s decisions to be constituted in a programme of what needed to be done.

Africa faced its own conflicts, he said. Many were preoccupied by the situations in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo and there was much discussion about what was happening in Sudan. Despite the concern with those and other African issues, the African agenda must include attention to a solution to the conflict in the Middle East. No one could feel completely free or feel secure when so many people continued to die. It must be part of Africa’s principle agenda to engage the situation and contribute to its resolution.

The international community had to contend with the false view that to support Palestinian rights was to be against Israel. On the contrary, peace and prosperity for Israel could not be achieved in a situation in which Palestinian rights were denied. Observing that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would not have been allowed to come to today’s meeting, he said no one should decide for the Palestinians who their leader should be. Mr. Arafat had been elected by his people and no solution could be found without his participation. He should be liberated from his prison so that he could fully perform his role.

Continuing, he said Africans had welcomed the Quartet’s declaration that the Palestinian people must have its own independent state and had expected that once the Road Map had been announced, it would be implemented. It should be communicated to Israel that no amount of force would make the Palestinians to give up their rights.

Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said Israelis and Palestinians continued to yearn for a life of peace, prosperity and harmony but violence and counter-violence, extrajudicial killings and suicide bombings had continued at an alarming pace.

In a statement read out by PETER HANSEN, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, he appealed to both parties to fulfil their obligations under the Road Map and international law. Israel should cease its practice of extrajudicial killings, excessive use of force, and other practices that violated its obligations as an occupying power to protect the civilian population. In May, the Security Council had called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and in particular its obligations not to demolish Palestinian homes. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority should act to halt all acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians and take steps to reform Palestinian security forces and empower the position of Prime Minister.

He expressed concern over the construction of the barrier in the West Bank noting that the project, which ran contrary to the spirit of the Road Map, had resulted in the confiscation of Palestinian land and restrictions on the freedom of movement of people and goods, thus threatening the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian State. In its 4 May meeting the Quartet had stressed that a final settlement of the conflict should be negotiated between the parties themselves based on relevant Security Council resolutions and international law and agreements. The declared intention of the Israeli Government to withdraw from all Gaza settlements and parts of the West Bank could provide a rare moment of opportunity in the search for peace in the Middle East.

The United Nations, together with international donors and civil society, would continue its work to improve the living conditions of the Palestinian people and alleviate the humanitarian situation that had worsened during more than three years of strife and movement restrictions. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNWRA) support for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was ever more crucial. Around 1.1 million depended on the Agency for food aid, up from less than 130,000 in September 2000. He reiterated his call to the donor community to address the humanitarian needs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

PAUL BADJI (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People said the South African experience in achieving a united, democratic and multi-racial nation was tangible proof that hope, determination and a concerted effort by the international community could and would attain common aspirations.

Noting that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained tense, he recalled that last month, the Israeli military had carried on a week-long raid in the Rafah area resulting in many deaths that included women and children. Since the start of the intifada in September 2000, close to 1,500 buildings had been demolished by the Israeli army in Rafah alone, affecting close to 15,000 Palestinians. The Committee strongly condemned the Israeli practice of extrajudicial killings which claimed many civilian lives. At the same time, it unreservedly condemned suicide bombings against Israelis, acts for which there was no justification. The death toll in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the start of the intifada was over 4,000. More than 670 children had been killed: 570 were Palestinian and over a hundred were Israeli.


Reviewing recent actions by the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Committee, he said the international community had been rallying support to end the suffering of the Palestinian people and attaining what they have been promised for decades – their own sovereign and independent State. As in the successful campaign against apartheid, the role of the international community in achieving peace in the region was absolutely vital and indispensable.

YASSER ARAFAT, President of the Palestinian Authority, in a video message, said that Israel was accelerating its occupational assault and war on the Palestinian people. Its daily invasions into Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps and the systematic destruction of Palestinian infrastructures were intended to break the will of the Palestinian people, to legitimize Israeli occupation and settlement activities and to deprive Palestinians of their right to freedom and self determination.

He looked to the conference’s participants to raise their voices against Israel’s aggression and economic siege, and to pressure Israel to end its policy of human rights violations including the right of Palestinians to freedom of movement, to hold employment and to feed their children. He called on the international community to work at regional and international levels including in the United Nations and Security Council to oblige Israel to implement the relevant international resolutions. Israel should be called on to implement the Road Map. Palestinians had accepted the Road Map but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had put forth 14 conditions. Moreover he had issued personal threats, announcing his position bluntly with indifference to human rights, the Security Council and international legitimacy. Today Mr. Sharon referred to a disengagement plan for the Gaza Strip while his actions on the ground reflected exactly the opposite. Closures, air raids, killings and arrests were daily occurrences. One must not forget the expanding Israeli settlements and the construction of the Israeli Occupation Wall which would turn Palestinian areas into ghettos and isolated prisons. The Wall attempted to change the demographic balance, to facilitate the transfer of lands and thus create a new apartheid system in the Palestinian Territory like the one destroyed in South Africa.

Palestinians sought a permanent just and permanent peace based on international resolutions related to the question of Palestine. That peace would allow Palestinians to exercise their inalienable rights to freedom and statehood with Holy Jerusalem as its capitol. Palestinians had sacrificed much for a just and comprehensive peace and accepted international legitimacy as an exit to the conflict. They extended their hands to their Israeli neighbours and to all forces of peace.

SAEB ERAKAT, Minister for Negotiations Affairs, Palestinian Authority, said he had been inspired by the courage of President Mbeki during South Africa’s healing and reconciliation struggle. It had encouraged President Arafat and the Palestinians who had extended their hands to the Israelis despite the fact that there was not a day when Palestinian fathers and mothers had not buried their own children. The solution must be a two- state solution. The second alternative was a single state solution. Christians and Moslems were not racists and they could live in Palestinian towns with Israeli but only as equals. Failure to deliver a two-state solution and continuing to set up facts on the ground would not bring peace. Through those actions the Israelis were establishing streets in Palestinian land that only Israelis could use and towns which Palestinians could not enter. South Africans had buried apartheid. The planting of the evil seeds of apartheid in the Palestinian territory must also be stopped.

PAULO JORGE, Secretary for International Relations of the Movement for the Popular Liberation of Angola and Former Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Angola said it was time to move from words to concrete actions that could contribute to achieving the just aims of the Palestinian people. It was time to “just do it”.

Listing obstacles that had to be overcome, he said the political and financial support given to Israel by the United States made it difficult to hold serious negotiations between the parties. In addition, the leaders of the Arab countries were not united in supporting and defending the rights of the Palestinian people. If that unity and support could be concretized, independence would be implemented in a short time. The failure to implement Security Council resolutions relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict constituted a serious obstruction to solving that conflict.

If those issues received attention aimed at seriously analyzing the causes of the conflict as well its disastrous effects, a negotiated solution could be found to achieve peace in the Middle East.


Statements

The representative of Mali said the current meeting should be another landmark in the quest for peace. Was there a more opportune moment than now for the implementation of the Road Map, he asked. The attacks and extrajudicial killings, the forced isolation of the leader of the Palestinian Authority and the destruction on a massive scale of Palestinian economic security was risking the efforts towards peace. It was time for the international community to invest further in the search for a solution. The Quartet should recommend concrete actions to be carried out within a certain time frame so that the Road Map could be implemented.

The representative of Algeria said the list of illegal activities by the Israeli authorities was lengthy. The extrajudicial killings were a crime against humanity and demonstrated Israel’s wish to impose a solution by force. But no force could overcome the determination of a people to live in peace on their own land. The continuation of the conflict showed that the unilateral imposition of a solution would not succeed. Algeria would always support possibilities for peace such as the Road Map. His country placed much hope in the Quartet. The implementation of the Road Map was the best way to achieve a global, just and durable peace based on the principle of land for peace. That principle allowed the setting up of a Palestinian state within established borders and with Jerusalem as its capital. She called on the international community to honour its obligations and support the Palestinian people until they were able to recover their inalienable rights. The Meeting must support and show solidarity with the Palestinian people for the return to the negotiating table in the search for peace.

The representative of Switzerland reporting on a conference that had taken place in his country earlier this month on “Humanitarian needs of the Palestine Refugees in the Near East: Building on Partnerships in support of UNWRA” said the Conference had shown that the situation of the Palestine refugees deserved renewed attention from the international community. Among the themes of the Conference were ensuring better respect for international humanitarian law, an essential condition for creating a safe environment for delivery of services to Palestinian refugees. Access was identified as a priority: UNWRA’s task would be impossible unless major improvements were achieved. Protection was essential. Due to the large scale destruction of the infrastructure and housing, UNWRA must step up its actions to provide emergency housing. Improving housing and infrastructure in refugee camps should be given high priority. The conference also came up with innovative suggestions and approaches on education, employment creation, health care, access to micro finance and credit as well as community development. The conference, part of a process of cooperation and dialogue, intended to be a starting point of a new humanitarian mobilization.

The representative of the African Union emphasized the long-standing relationship between it and the Palestinian people. The African Union had always maintained the support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people on its agenda. He reiterated the Union’s support and concern for the developments in the Middle East. The Union’s solidarity had never stopped and would remain unflinching.

The representative of Jordan said that in supporting Palestinians this forum usually sent a message. There should be a strong message of peace aimed at the peace camp in Israel to renew their activities. He stressed that the Palestinian problem was part of Jordan’s national security. Jordan supported the establishment of an independent state. As a Member of the United Nations, his Government felt the role of the Organization should be renewed. Where there was a will there was a way, he said. Regarding the wall that Israel was building, the forum should warn that the wall would affect the very nature and existence of a Palestinian State. He called on Israel to withdraw from all settlements. The Palestinians were asking for peace for the children of both sides.

The representative of Libya said that each speaker had come to the conclusion that the situation was at a deadlock. Israel continued to violate international law and to block all moves by the international community to establish peace. Perhaps it had reached the conclusion that it was acceptable to engage international illegality. Should the Committee just continue to have these meetings? he asked. There should be some practical outcome. Actions spoke louder than words. Over 4000 people had been killed and an equal number of houses had been demolished. Was this not sufficient to invoke Chapter VII? What about considering a single state solution? He stressed that the alternative options should be considered.
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