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10th plenary meeting
Friday, 28 September 2007, 9 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 9.10 a.m.
The President : On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations Mr. Emile Lahoud, President of the Lebanese Republic, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Lahoud: ...
A year ago, I spoke from this podium about Israel’s brutalities against my country and its atrocious 33-day war. I had hoped then that those tragic events that we had bitterly lived and suffered through in Lebanon would pave the way for activating the Middle East process based on the Arab Peace Initiative that was endorsed at the Beirut Arab Summit in 2002.
Regrettably, nothing thrives in our region more than violence and grudges, and nothing deafens more than the sound of war, while all calls to stimulate the peace process find no response. It is against that gloomy background and with a mix of anticipation and reservation that we await the results of the Middle East peace conference that is to be held in the near future. In that respect, I would like to reaffirm certain realities that cannot be ignored in any settlement, because I believe that unless we learn from our past mistakes, we will not be able to take full advantage of present opportunities.
First, for any settlement to the Middle East crisis to succeed, it must be lasting, just and global. Secondly, a viable solution must call for the implementation of all United Nations resolutions that pertain to the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories. Thirdly, paramount to all Arab rights is the right of return of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with resolution 194 (III) and the rejection of all calls for their resettlement in their temporary host countries.
The resettlement of the Palestinians is contrary to the expressed will of world legitimacy as embodied in the General Assembly. Moreover, and more specifically in Lebanon, it would dangerously alter the delicate balance of Lebanon’s existence as a nation based on diversity and the coexistence of a large number of its sects, which have lived side by side in harmony and enjoyed mutual respect.
In this regard, Lebanon fully rejects efforts to empty the Beirut Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 of its contents, namely by excluding the right of return for Palestinians. The Initiative, we believe, contains a realistic and global solution to the Middle East conflict, and its implementation could bring about stability and security for all parties.
Agenda item 8 (continued )
The Acting President : I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia, and inviting him to address the Assembly.
Mr. Badawi (Malaysia): ...
With equal candour, I must also say that the problem of Palestine, which has been festering for 60 years without a solution being found, tops the list of grievances that the Islamic world holds against the West. We are all aware that there are fresh initiatives to bring Israel and Palestine, together with other States, to high-level peace talks in the very near future. Although I take the position that any final settlement of the issue of Palestine must necessarily take place within the framework of the United Nations, let us support the peace talks and hope that they create momentum for a true meeting of minds.
In particular, we should urge the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to act courageously so as to meet the needs and expectations of their peoples, who have suffered long enough. Of course, real peace can only be achieved if the legitimate rights of peoples are recognized and protected during the negotiations. Palestine has been partitioned before. That should never happen again.
All of us must play the role of honest brokers, assisting the parties through a difficult negotiating process on the path towards true peace. Both sides to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must commit to reaching solutions through compromise. This opportunity must be seized. The onus of delivery is on all of us.
I believe that the single most important issue in the way of peace and fraternity between Islamic and Western countries is the unsettled problem of Palestine. I am equally certain that once the problem of Palestine is settled, there will be greater harmony between Western and Islamic countries, the inheritors of the world’s two greatest religions and civilizations.
The Acting President : I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency The Honourable Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. Ramgoolam (Mauritius): ...
The fragility of the Middle East situation, and in particular the question of Palestine, needs a holistic approach that, inter alia, includes linkages embedded in the socio-cultural, political, economic and security issues of the region. I should also once again like to reiterate our full support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State side by side with the State of Israel.
The President: The Assembly will now hear a statement by His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, to whom I give the floor.
Mr. Abbas (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic ): It is a pleasure, Sir, to congratulate you on your election to the presidency of the Assembly at this session. We have every hope that your efforts will be successful. It is also a pleasure for me to convey our appreciation and pride to Her Excellency Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa for the tremendous effort she undertook as President of the General Assembly at the sixty-first session.
I would like to take this opportunity to express our full confidence in the role of the United Nations and all of its specialized agencies with respect to their historic responsibilities regarding the Palestinian question, responsibilities they will continue to bear until this question is comprehensively settled. For many decades, those institutions have continued to reaffirm the established national rights of the Palestinian people and to provide varied support for our people, in the political, economic and humanitarian realms. Here, we must commend the exceptional ongoing work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other institutions in safeguarding the future for generations of Palestinian refugees and providing them with the basic services they need. Our appreciation goes also to those who have upheld the basic human rights of the Palestinian people and who have provided support in the areas of education and culture and in strengthening the role of the Palestinian Authority since its inception, as well as in building and strengthening our national institutions.
I would like also to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has given top priority to the Palestinian question, who has worked to reach a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict and who has placed this matter at the centre of his concerns. He has, in addition, creatively contributed to seeking the means to relaunch the Middle East peace process.
The confrontations, wars and conflicts in our region and their tragic repercussions for the peoples of the region constitute the primary threat to global peace. They call all of mankind to awareness. They demand rapid intervention from the international community with the aim of settling this situation boldly and without delay. Our experience over the years and decades shows that the policy of delaying a settlement of the principal conflicts in the region, the policy of providing partial solutions and the policy aimed at containing the conflict by limiting the damage only further complicate things, to the point where, today, there is a clear threat of civil war or regional war. Moreover this climate has been conducive to terrorism, which unfortunately has spread to become a global phenomenon.
However, this grim picture should not mask the fact that hope is still alive. Indeed, thanks to the determination of the vast majority of our people, and thanks to the support of the international community, our people are capable of overcoming the tragic situation that we are being pushed into by the forces of occupation, extremism and aggression and, by those who seek to provoke war and terrorism in our region.
There are on the other hand responsible, active forces in the Middle East, representing the consciousness of the people and possessing a true desire for freedom, progress and democracy for the people. Although these forces are working in extreme difficulty, they are firmly committed to overcoming the current situation in order to create a new future for the Middle East in which our peoples would enjoy freedom and equality.
There can be no doubt that defending Islam — a religion of moderation, of love and brotherhood; a human religion — is the responsibility of those active forces in our region who seek to counter any attempt to undermine that true religion or to portray it in an unfair manner that is entirely out of keeping with its precepts. Islam is a religion of tolerance that opposes killing, terrorism and assassination. It is a religion of enlightenment, not ignorance or backwardness; a religion of There can be no doubt that defending Islam — a religion of moderation, of love and brotherhood; a human religion — is the responsibility of those active forces in our region who seek to counter any attempt to undermine that true religion or to portray it in an unfair manner that is entirely out of keeping with its precepts. Islam is a religion of tolerance that opposes killing, terrorism and assassination. It is a religion of enlightenment, not ignorance or backwardness; a religion of openness to the world. It is against extremism and close-mindedness. We need to work hand in hand to preserve our shared human values.
Those values are today being violated, undermined and weakened. We need to work to strengthen human understanding among religions and cultures because the attempt to foment conflict among religions, cultures and civilizations is one of the most dangerous methods used by international terrorism today.
That is why a dialogue among cultures, religions and civilizations is necessary today, particularly because we know that world wars have not been wars of religion or culture, but rather wars of interest. That reality is only one fragment of the overall picture. In fact, missing recurrent opportunities to address the issues of our region seriously so as to reach bold, comprehensive solutions, in particular to the Palestinian question, moves our people to the precipice of despair and depression and makes them easy prey to the forces of ignorance and fanaticism.
Is it not high time to take this opportunity, the beginnings of which we see today, as the international community is moving towards relaunching the peace process, which enjoys the support not only of Israelis and Palestinians, but also of the international community and the world at large? Is it not time to move seriously towards negotiating a complete end to the 1967 Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories, thereby achieving the vision of two States? Is it not time to create a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, to settle the refugee issue and to put an end to six decades of suffering? Is it not time to reach a fair, agreed settlement under General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948? Is it not time to end the policies of settlement expansionism, of taking land from Palestinians under various pretexts, of building the apartheid separation wall, laying siege and creating checkpoints around cities and towns and refugee camps? Is it not time to end the policy of collective punishment and of denying freedom to the more than 11,300 Palestinians who are rotting in Israeli prisons, some for more than 25 years?
Is it not time to make Jerusalem a city of peace for all faiths and religions? Is it not time for Israel, the occupying Power, to end any work that would change the sacred nature of that city and all attempts to displace its inhabitants and to violate sites sacred to Islam and Christianity? Is it not time for Israel to end the daily assassinations, displacements, destruction of houses and seizure of land? Is it not time for our people to be able to enjoy freedom and independence on equal footing with all other peoples of the world so that they can build a peaceful future together with all of their neighbours, including the State of Israel?
I hope that I will not have to come back to this rostrum next year to ask the same questions.
There is not the slightest obstacle to the successful holding of the upcoming peace conference, because our brotherly, Arab countries have demonstrated through the Arab Peace Initiative their true readiness to bring about a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, from which all States of the region would benefit. Those States would have normal relations with Israel, once the Israeli occupation of Palestinian and other Arab territories had ended and an independent, sovereign Palestinian State had been created within the 1967 borders. That is why we are committed to the substance of that proposed meeting, which should be held soon with the participation of all parties concerned.
Let me say quite frankly that not a single responsible political figure or leader who does not know that the solution to the problem lies solely between us and our Israeli neighbours. Reaching such a lasting solution can only be a result of the many resolutions of the General Assembly, as well as of the initiative of President Bush, who has urged a two-State solution: a Palestinian State living side-by-side with the State of Israel. It must also be based on the Road Map, endorsed in Security Council resolution 1515 (2003), the Arab Peace Initiative and the various negotiations, projects and plans that have been proposed by many parties since 2000.
I therefore address myself to the Israeli Government, with whose head I have recently met. We discussed the important issues in depth, attempting to end the cycle of lost opportunities so that the international conference will become a substantial reality. We can move towards that conference together, with clear, realistic, detailed plans with a view to settling all of the final status issues, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees, water security and other key issues. I reaffirm here the full readiness of our people to join a genuine peace process that will lead to a comprehensive, full agreement on all final status issues.
As we promised, we will put such an agreement to a popular referendum that will include all Palestinian factions and groups so that they can give their views and opinions on any decision that would lead to defending and safeguarding peace comprehensively and strategically.
I also reaffirm that we will continue to deal with the rebellion that took place in the Gaza Strip. We shall do so in conformity with our basic laws and so that we can preserve democracy in our country. Attempts from whatever group or faction to impose their will and dark ideas by force and armed revolt will not derail our democracy. It would be wrong for anyone to think that our people, which has for decades sacrificed martyrs, prisoners and the wounded in order to obtain freedom, independence and democracy and to build a free and prosperous country, will follow such an armed group, a closed regime and a closed, backward society.
Some have attempted in the past to play the Palestinian issue as a political card in the service of regional interests in order to achieve expansionist goals or to promote specific ideas or ideologies that would ignore the true interests of the Palestinian people. But we who have struggled all our lives for our national cause, for the protection of the rights and interests of our people and for rejection of hegemony and occupation will not allow such a tragedy to reoccur. We will not allow those who tried to undermine our national destiny to achieve their aims.
I came to this rostrum to convey a message from an exhausted people which has long suffered from occupation, displacement, prison and martyrdom. At the same time, however, they are a people who, imbued with dignity and faith, will build their own future, even though their past has been the work of those who have plotted against them and against their rights.
I have come to reiterate the words of our immortal leader Yasser Arafat, who was certain that the green branch of peace, which never withers or dies would never fall from his hand. I have come to express the pain and suffering of every Palestinian man and woman, of all those who have lost loved ones or whose loved ones have been wounded, of all those who are waiting for the release from prison of their brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters, of all those who remain trapped on the Iraqi or Syrian borders and of the millions of Palestinians who are living as refugees on their own land. I have come to affirm that the messages of peace of the prophets and the other divine messengers who trod the paths of our land remain vibrant, like a tree that continues to grow and bloom. I have come to affirm that the voice of peace remains stronger than any other voice in our country. That is why I urge that we move forward, hand in hand, on the shining path towards peace, leaving expediency and short-term interests far behind.
In conclusion, and from this rostrum of the United Nations, I say to the Palestinian people, both those in Palestine and those abroad, that an important historic opportunity is emerging. Therefore, let us be united in order to make that opportunity a reality so that our people, who have suffered so long, can recover their legitimate national rights and achieve the peace, stability and prosperity to which they aspire and which they deserve. We also hope that peace will come to other peoples who are suffering daily, such as the brotherly Iraqi people, and to those who deserve to live in security and stability within the framework of democracy, such as our dear friends the Lebanese people. Together, let us build a stable world — a world of mutual assistance based on respect for life and for the right to self-determination. I thank the Members of the United Nations for their support.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches d elivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.