See also: UN DPI Multimedia (Ref: 97-0148/97)
Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


19 February 1997




This is the text of the statement delivered today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening of the 1997 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People:

This is the first time that I am participating in a meeting of this Committee since my assumption of the duties of Secretary-General. I should like to express my appreciation to each of you for the commendable manner in which you have been carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to you by the General Assembly.

I should also like to congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on your wise leadership of this Committee during the past year. This reflects the long-standing and consistent support that your great country has given to the search for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

The General Assembly has, at its fifty-first session, reaffirmed the mandate from which this Committee derives. In the past few years, courageous new steps have been taken in the Middle East as a result of the peace process launched in Madrid in 1991, the signing by the Government of the State of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization of the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements, and subsequent agreements, in particular the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And only last month the peace process gained important momentum as a result of the agreement reached on the Hebron Protocol and the Israeli and Palestinian undertakings on other key issues. I take this opportunity to renew my congratulations to Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the progress they have made together.

These arrangements reached over the last three-and-a-half years are signposts of crucial importance along the road towards peaceful Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. They have led to the emergence of new realities on the ground, such as the establishment of an elected Palestinian administration in Gaza and parts of the West Bank last year. At times there have been setbacks. But, by and large, the vision inherent in the Declaration of Principles has been sustained. It is now of the utmost importance not to dissipate those achievements, but to build on them in order to fulfil the hopes of all the peoples of the region. For the Middle East peace process to flourish, progress is also required in the Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese tracks. This will be crucial for the realization of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). It is my earnest hope that these negotiations will resume quickly.

Promoting Palestinian economic and social development is essential in order to improve living conditions, especially in Gaza, and to create solid foundations for peace. The United Nations system is making an important contribution in this area, with a special emphasis on employment generation and Palestinian institution building. But we can do more. I have just appointed Chinmaya R. Gharekhan as Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories. In the weeks ahead, he will work closely with the Palestinian Authority to identify areas in which the United Nations can enhance its contribution in the economic and social fields.

Allow me once again to express appreciation for the efforts of this Committee in our common pursuit of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I am especially grateful for the flexibility the Committee has shown in response to the financial crisis, by exercising restraint in its use of the resources allocated to it. Mr. Chairman, I wish you and each of the Committee Members well in the challenging work before you.

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