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Department of Public Information (DPI)
12 November 2008
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-third General Assembly
Meetings (AM & PM)
INTERFAITH INITIATIVES CAN ENSURE RICH CULTURAL DIVERSITY MADE WORLD MORE SECURE,
NOT LESS, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON CULTURE OF PEACE
Assembly President Says Only Heroic Action Can Remedy ‘Moral Bankruptcy’,
Leaders from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Philippines Urge Cultural Dialogue, Tolerance
The General Assembly met today to begin its two-day high-level meeting on the culture of peace.
SHIMON PERES, President of
, recalled that 13 years ago, this week, his friend and partner, then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had been assassinated, “while singing a song of peace”. However, he went on to say, “Assassins may take a life, but they cannot kill a dream.” He reminded the Assembly that during that time, many Arab and Muslim leaders had joined Israel in its grief, allowing tragedy to unite across boundaries and borders, and illuminate the shared goals of peace and fraternity.
“ Israel is ready for peace,” he stated. Regardless of the elections in Israel, he affirmed the Government’s commitment to continue peace negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as the recent explorations of peace with Syria. Such efforts could produce results that offered global opportunities, while not erasing national identities. While renewing faith and strengthening dialogue among nations, he heralded the high-level meeting as one that could produce such a profound movement of reconciliation throughout the world. As the international community faced many shared and serious global crises, the results of such efforts -- a duty and a responsibility of all States and religious leaders -- would offer new solutions to such old challenges.
KING ABDULLAH BIN AL HUSSEIN of
On the Middle East political conflict, its growing regional and global impacts were noted, especially with young people questioning its relevance to equality, respect and universal justice.
He went on to say that the political conflict was the core conflict in the Middle East. It demanded a just, negotiated solution that brought statehood and freedom to the Palestinians, and security and more regional acceptance for Israel. Millions of people, especially the young, were questioning “whether the West means what it says about equality, respect and universal justice”.
TARJA HALONEN, President of
The dispute between Israel and the Palestinians was often mentioned as a key issue, symbolizing the breach between the West and the Muslim world. Finland welcomed and supported serious initiatives to solve that dispute. While it was generally acknowledged that any solution must be based on a two-State model, and on reaching agreement on the status of Palestinian refugees and on Jerusalem, there was, nevertheless, no instant formula for peace.
Finding a solution required negotiations, which were always influenced by national and international political situations. She said Finland considered it self-evident that Israel must immediately cease building settlements, and that the Palestinians must cease their violent attacks on Israeli targets. Other countries and organizations should, above all, support the negotiations and refrain from doing anything that hindered them.
MICHEL SLEIMAN, President of the
Republic of Lebanon
Continued oppression placed the credibility of any dialogue at stake, he said, which was primarily true in the Arab Levant and Holy Land. He asked how dialogue could flourish when Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories persisted. Such a reality contravened United Nations resolutions, and Jerusalem, the “City of Peace”, would not realize its historic mission unless the injustice imposed on the Palestinian people was redressed.
ABBAS EL FASSI, Prime Minister of
He said Morocco’s King had also made great efforts toward creating a successful and lasting peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, calling for the creation of a sovereign State, side-by-side with Israel with Al Qods as capital.
SALAM FAYYAD, Prime Minister of the
Palestinian National Authority
offered his gratitude and thanks to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and to the President of the General Assembly for the convening of the High-Level Dialogue. He said Palestine was a land where the lives of the great prophets were deeply rooted in its history, and where Palestinian Muslims and Christians had preserved hundreds of years of a culture of tolerance and coexistence despite the past sixty years of strife and conflict. He called on the Saudi leader and the Assembly to help bring an end to “the chains of occupation and injustice, which have brought nothing but hatred, fear, and intolerance to our land”.
The Charter of the United Nations was based on joint efforts to strengthen international relations and to build capacities for an exemplary human society. That required the expansion and deepening of dialogue. Although many still suffered from governance based on racial, religious or ethnic superiority, he heralded the challenges to such extremism. Those challenges continued to contribute to the model of coexistence and the maintenance of international peace and security by building and developing friendly relations, based on equal rights and the right to self-determination, among nations and peoples.
It was here that the current initiative for dialogue was so important, as civilization “did not arise in human history without having interacted with other civilizations”. He went on to observe that tolerance and coexistence between religions -- a necessity to human life -- could only be promoted through the deepening of dialogue aimed at achieving peace, and he called to all Member States, collectively and individually, to uphold those core principles. He also called for the creation of a culture of tolerance that maintained the right to religious belief and human dignity with full equality of rights. To that end, the “Mecca Appeal” issued by the World Islamic Conference for Dialogue, in June 2008, and the Madrid Conference this past July had both advanced the framework for addressing the root causes that fuelled intolerance and extremism in all forms.
However, to speak of religious tolerance he needed to speak of the city of Jerusalem, a city of some of the holiest shrines of Christianity and Islam. Occupation of Jerusalem over the last four decades had altered the character and status of the Holy City through the harassment of its Palestinian, Christian and Muslim citizens. The Security Council and General Assembly, as well as other United Nations organs, had adopted numerous resolutions which challenged measures taken by Israel, making void its laws and jurisdiction.
However, none of those resolutions had been implemented and he called for the international community to give Jerusalem and its inhabitants the support necessary to address illegal practices that impeded on the principles of justice and rules of international law. Doing so would ease tensions and fears of the citizens and enhance dialogue toward the achievement of freedom, peace and tolerance.
If the suffering of the Palestinian people continued unabated –- from their displacement and living in exile, to the confiscation of their land, water and resources -- he stated, the international efforts to establish peace on a two-State solution based on the 1967 borders would be jeopardized, and he urged the international community to support the Arab Pace Initiative which provided broad prospects to end the conflicts and establish peace and harmony. Recalling that the late President Yasser Arafat had “raised the olive branch […] which is deeply rooted in our land as a symbol of coexistence and tolerance”, he reaffirmed both Arafat’s message and the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine. “The people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians, aspire to peace and justice and are committed to the principles of peaceful coexistence,” he said, and pledged to continue to work for a lasting peace based on justice and respect for all rights so that, rather than being a victim of history, the Palestinian people could become a participant of history.
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