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

28 November 1997




Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to be delivered on his behalf by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky, in Tel Aviv, Israel, at a ceremony organized by the municipality of Tel Aviv on 29 November:

It is an honour for me to greet the people of Israel on this solemn occasion, which commemorates one of the pivotal moments in the history of the State of Israel. The ambassadors gathered here are a reminder of that dramatic event half a century ago when, as a result of the 33 votes cast by delegates from your countries, United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 was adopted. This decision helped pave the way to Israel's admission on 11 May 1949 as the fifty-ninth member of the world Organization.

For the United Nations, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of resolution 181 is an occasion on which to reflect on the pursuit of peace; on which we remember that compromises and difficult decisions are an inherent part of any peace process; and on which to encourage new inspiration and momentum in the negotiations on which the parties have so courageously embarked.

The United Nations had barely been founded when competing claims for sovereignty in Palestine were placed before the General Assembly as a matter of utmost urgency. The vote on the Plan of Partition, following a period of intense debate, was one of the most agonizing in United Nations history. But the plan was not accepted by the Palestinian Arabs and Arab States. Over the following decades, the region was the scene of several major wars, not to mention countless acts of violence and tragic incidents which produced suffering, anger and bitterness on all sides.

During the past 50 years, three major organs of the United Nations -- the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Secretariat -- have been continuously involved in the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Each of my predecessors has been an unwavering voice for a peaceful, negotiated solution. Since taking office I, too, have called for the parties to work together in a spirit of partnership so as to advance Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli reconciliation.

Israelis and Palestinians showed admirable courage in joining the negotiations launched in Madrid in 1991, and later in signing the various agreements referred to as the "Oslo process". We must continue to build on these historic steps which, like Israel's peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, are founded on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Regrettably, recent developments have sparked concern that the peace process is in jeopardy. Horrifying acts of violence against innocent civilians have occurred, including in Tel Aviv, the centre of so much of the country's life. The day-to-day reality of too many people in the region continues to be one of insecurity, destitution and despair. I have appealed to the parties on several occasions not to let themselves be swayed by the actions of those on either side who work against the peace process, but rather to intensify efforts to overcome all obstacles that stand in the way.

For all the difficult decisions that have been taken since 29 November 1947, the hardest lie ahead. Tonight's festivities are a time of celebration and affirmation for the State of Israel and for Israelis everywhere. They should also serve as a reminder that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians yearn for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution that would enable them to coexist in peace.

As the two sides continue their difficult, but inexorable moves towards a final settlement, we must exert every possible effort in support of this shared, long-held goal.

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