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

Fifty-ninth General Assembly
51st & 52nd Meetings (AM & PM)
11 November 2004



The Assembly stepped back from its agenda in the afternoon to hold a sombre tribute to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who died in Paris late yesterday. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Mr. Arafat would always be remembered for having led the Palestinians, in 1998, to accept the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future PalestinianState.  By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, he had taken a giant step toward the realization of that vision, and it was tragic that he did not live to see it fulfilled.  Even though Mr. Arafat was gone, both Israelis and Palestinians must make even greater efforts to bring about the peaceful realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination.

Just prior to calling for a moment of silence in memory of the Palestinian leader, Assembly President Jean Ping (Gabon) said that the achievement of the lifelong dream of establishing and ensuring the peaceful coexistence of two States -- Palestinian and Israeli –- would be the best way to pay tribute to Mr. Arafat. Following reminiscences on Mr. Arafat’s near 40-year political legacy and expressions of sympathy from regional groups, the Palestinian Observer said that the people could take solace that Palestine did not stand by itself in the struggle for freedom; support from so many States could provide consolation and hope for the future.


The observer for Palestine also addressed the Assembly, as did the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCRC).

Expressing condolences on the death of Yasser Arafat were the representatives of the Gambia (on behalf of the African States), Indonesia (on behalf of the Asian States), Belarus (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Nicaragua (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States), New Zealand (on behalf of the Western European and Other States), Sudan (on behalf of the Arab States), Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Malaysia (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)) and Turkey (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference).

The representative of Senegal spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and the representative of Egypt expressed condolences on behalf of his nation.



The General Assembly met today to consider the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance and assistance to the Palestinian people.  It was also expected to take action on two draft resolutions.


The Assembly also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/59/121), which contains a description of efforts made by the United Nations agencies, in cooperation with Palestinian and donor counterparts, to support the Palestinian civilian population and institutions.  Also included were observations of the political climate and subsequent challenges as the international community worked to end the cycle of violence and moved toward a negotiated settlement to bring peace and security to the Middle East.

The past year had brought new hope of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, states the report, but neither side had honoured its commitments under the Road Map.  The Israeli Government did not stop settlement activities and continued to carry out military operations in Palestinian areas, while the Palestinian Authority did not bring an end to violence and terrorism and failed to reform its security apparatus, according to provisions of the Road Map. In hindsight, it appears that a stronger international role in assisting the parties could have led to more effective results.  In an increasingly difficult situation, the United Nations agencies and programmes continued to offer a variety of types of assistance to the Palestinian people.  However, “the logic of violence, vengeance and destruction continues to prevail over the logic of dialogue and reason”, the report states.

Throughout the current reporting period, the United Nations agencies in the occupied Palestinian territory found themselves seeking additional resources to meet increasing emergency needs while trying to maintain their development activities.  Several development initiatives continued nonetheless, but the focus shifted even more to humanitarian aid as compared to the 2002/03 period.  A two-track strategy –- balancing emergency needs against development goals that supported a viable Palestinian Authority –- has been the basis of the United Nations approach for the past three years.

As a result of their considerable efforts, the United Nations system and donors had achieved measured success in both emergency and development assistance. Unfortunately, those successes have been overshadowed by the escalation of the crisis, which had led not only to loss of life, but also to a reversal in the progress made in the socio-economic sectors.

Humanitarian and financial assistance would not by themselves serve as a solution to the political crisis affecting the lives of the Palestinians and Israelis, the report concludes.  A solution regarding the status of the Palestinian people, as well as the economic situation and humanitarian crisis, was linked directly to respect for international law and the achievement of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  As a matter of priority, the Israeli Government must ease restrictions and work closely with the United Nations agencies, donors and humanitarian organizations, while effective steps by the Palestinian Authority to lessen Israel’s security concerns would facilitate such an effort.  There would be no peace, however, unless each of the parties, the region and the wider international community was ready to play its part.

By the terms of the draft resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people (document A/59/L.24), the Assembly would call on relevant parts of the United Nations system to intensify their assistance in response to the urgent needs of the Palestinian people, and call on the international donor community to expedite the delivery of pledged assistance to the Palestinian people to meet their urgent needs.




ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said the world had recently witnessed numerous outbreaks of natural disasters and armed conflicts, which claimed the lives of thousands of people, as well as aggravated the problem of refugees and internally displaced persons.  He emphasized the principal role of the United Nations in following up and evaluating humanitarian and relief assistance.  He supported the recommendations contained in the Secretary-General’s report, especially on helping poor countries build their national institutional capacities, and on establishing the necessary coordination among all humanitarian assistance organizations, in order to meet the challenges posed by natural disasters and wars, through an international strategy that dealt with natural disasters at all stages.

In that context, he urged the donor countries and international financial institutions to increase their contributions in order to fund humanitarian relief activities, in fulfilment of the principles of international solidarity and interdependence and those of the Charter.  He emphasized the importance of strengthening the role of international law in settling disputes and eliminating reasons for armed conflicts, which caused humanitarian disasters, as well as the importance of taking the necessary measures to protect humanitarian personnel.  His country was extremely concerned about the threats facing humanitarian personnel, especially the Palestinian personnel, who faced great difficulties in providing the required humanitarian services due to the continued blockade and movement restrictions imposed by Israel.

SOMAIA S. BARGHOUTI, observer of Palestine, said that the Palestinian people had learned today with great sadness of the passing of Yasser Arafat, and that her delegation appreciated the Assembly’s expressions of sympathy and support.  On the issues before the Assembly today, she said that she wished she could present a more positive assessment of the situation of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories but that was not to be:  their condition was deteriorating by the day.  A humanitarian catastrophe was looming, and the international community must move urgently to put pressure on the Israeli occupiers if a deeper tragedy was to be averted.

She condemned the occupation, stressing that Israeli forces continued to erect blockades and barriers, to destroy homes and businesses, and to disrupt Palestinian lives in countless ways.  Thousands had been killed and injured as the occupying power had ratcheted up its activities.  Palestinian infrastructure had been deliberately damaged and even trees had been systematically uprooted.  Israeli activities in the occupied territories had declared war crimes and the international community must bring pressure on Israel to live up to its international obligations, to stop flouting international law and to end its racist and expansionist policies.

Drawing attention to the relevant report before the Assembly, which stressed the problem of unemployment and deepening poverty in Gaza and throughout the territories, she noted numerous difficulties the Palestinian people had in ensuring not only their safety and security but promoting their development as well.  With all that in mind, she was most concerned by the obstacles and difficulties thrown in the paths of the United Nations and other relief agencies and their staffs -- particularly those aimed at hampering freedom of movement.

She praised the work of those agencies, which nevertheless continued to provide humanitarian assistance, and she welcomed the neighbourly efforts of Arab nations that had taken in wounded and provided help in the reconstruction of Palestinian infrastructure.  She also welcomed the assistance provided by the NGOs, as well as that of all other States and donor countries, particularly Japan and the members of the European Union.


TAREK ADEL (Egypt) ...


He also called on the international community to intervene decisively in the humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Palestinian territory, where there were blatant violations of the rights of the Palestinians, leading to the total paralysis of the Palestinian economy, as well as to the poverty and displacement of Palestinians.  Egypt appreciated the positive role that the United Nations and agencies took in providing assistance, in particular the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  He also called on States to increase support for activities to overcome and fill the financing gap. The goal was clear:  Palestinians should be able to determine their destiny freely in an independent, sovereign State.


Tribute to Yasser Arafat

JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the General Assembly, said that Yasser Arafat had dedicated his life to establishing a PalestinianState, and had accepted the principle of the peaceful coexistence of two States, Palestinian and Israeli.  The achievement of his lifelong dream would be the best possible tribute to President Arafat.

The Assembly then observed a minute of silence in memory of Yasser Arafat.

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General, said that for nearly four decades, Yasser Arafat had expressed and symbolized in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people.  He was one of the few leaders who was instantly recognizable by people in any walk of life, all around the world.  He would always be remembered for having led the Palestinians, in 1998, to accept the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future PalestinianState.  By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, he took a giant step toward the realization of that vision, and it was tragic that he did not live to see it fulfilled.

Now that Mr. Arafat was gone, he continued, both Israelis and Palestinians must make even greater efforts to bring about the peaceful realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination.  Today, there were a total of 19 United Nations agencies and bodies lending their assistance to the Palestinian people, and that work must and would be continued, for as long as the Palestinian people needed help.  Together with its partners, the United Nations would also continue its efforts to achieve the full implementation of the Road Map, with the goal of realizing a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  That included as its centrepiece the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous PalestinianState, living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.

Though President Arafat had not lived to see the attainment of those goals, the world would continue to strive toward them, he added.  Thoughts and prayers also went to his wider family – the Palestinian people, in the hope that they would find the strength, vision and courage to look ahead to the possibility of a peaceful settlement, for the benefit of succeeding generations.

CRISPIN GREY-JOHNSON (Gambia), speaking on behalf of the Group of African States, said his delegation had been profoundly saddened by the death of Mr. Arafat, who had been the very personification of the Palestinian people’s struggle for self-determination.  He had committed his entire life to the cause of peace and had taken the question of Palestine from being a mere footnote on the international agenda to an issue of international debate and world discourse.  He had left his footprints on the sands of time, and the African Group hoped that his spirit and memory would radiate among Palestinians, as well as among all the people of the wider Middle East and beyond.

REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Group of Asian States, said his delegation regretted that Mr. Arafat, the father of the Palestinian movement, had been unable to see the emergence of an independent Palestinian State during his lifetime.  Despite many adversities, President Arafat’s determination to lead the Palestinian people to a just and lasting peace never wavered.  His permanent desire was justice and peace for a people only too familiar with the harshness of oppression.  And when the ferocity of the campaign against the Palestinian people did not lessen over the years, Mr. Arafat matched it with the intensity of his spirit and undying optimism.  For that, he was loved and admired by people all over the world.  His death did not mean that the flame of independence had been extinguished.  All of Asia extended its condolences to the people of Palestine.

ANDREI DAPKIUNAS (Belarus), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, said it was his sad duty to comment on the death and extraordinary life of President Arafat, who would be remembered as a lifelong symbol of the struggle of the Palestinian people.  As a person and as a statesman, he had left an undeniable imprint, not just on the Middle East but also on the world’s international political scene.  His delegation conveyed its deepest sympathies to the Palestinian people.

EDUARDO SEVILLA SOMOZA (Nicaragua), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said Mr. Arafat had been a historic figure who symbolized the feelings of his people until his very last breath.  The Group expressed its most heartfelt condolences to the Palestinian people, and particularly his widow and young daughter.  It would also urge the Palestinian people and their leaders to keep alive the search for a free, sovereign and economically viable State dedicated to peace, not only for Palestine, but for the region and the entire world.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, extended condolences and sympathies to the family of President Arafat and to the Palestinian people.  During the past four decades, President Arafat had come to symbolize the Palestinian national movement and the aspirations of the Palestinian people.  The Palestinians, and others, respected President Arafat as a leader who symbolized their long search for statehood and independence, and led the Palestinians to historic acceptance of the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future PalestinianState.  Now, the Palestinian leadership would have to shoulder the responsibility of carrying the vision of two States living side by side in peace and security, and bringing it to fruition.  It was hoped that the international community would provide every support it could to achieve that vision.

OMAR BASHIR MOHAMED MANIS (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the Arab States, said the late President continued to work on behalf of the Palestinian people to have an independent State, and he sacrificed everything that was precious to him to achieve that ideal.  The Palestinian people were losing a symbol of the Palestinian struggle.  Despite forced imprisonment, he had worked to mobilize efforts with the peace process and took brave decisions with insight to pursue the establishment of an independent state through difficult negotiations.

President Arafat’s loss was a source of great sadness for all peace-loving nations and people, and for those who cared about the peace process in the Middle East.  He offered condolences to the family and to the heroic people of Palestine. The Palestinian people, with the loss of their President, were losing an inspirational and steadfast leader who never wavered in his effort to liberate Palestine, and in his real belief in the legitimacy of their struggle.  He had firmly defended their rights and was committed to the struggle with rare strength and will power.  His principles would remain alive and would be the guiding light for his brothers until his goals were achieved.

DIRK JAN VAN DEN BERG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the Palestinian people had lost a historic leader and a democratically elected President.  Mr. Arafat’s devotion and single-minded commitment to the Palestinian national cause throughout his life was never in doubt.  He commended the Palestinian leadership for their demonstration of dignity and responsibility to maintain the Palestinian institutions at this difficult time.  The Palestinian people could count on the undiminished support of the European Union on the path toward a peaceful, durable and just settlement of the conflict.  He added that the European Union was convinced that the goal could be achieved for both Israelis and Palestinians.

RASTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), said that President Arafat would be forever remembered not only by Palestinians, but also by people from all parts of the world for his immense courage, enormous sacrifice and strong determination in championing and protecting the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Palestine and their claim to their own sovereign homeland.  He had devoted his life to that struggle against all odds for almost four decades, including suffering the indignity of being virtually imprisoned by the Israelis.  President Arafat would indelibly remain the icon of the Palestinian struggle against injustices, brutal oppression and subjugation, as well as against the forces that sought to deny the Palestinian people of their dignity, freedom and independence.  His legacy would continue to inspire the Palestinian people and those who shared the legitimate cause of the Palestinians.  The NAM would remain strongly supportive of all endeavours in addressing the Palestinian question.

ALTAY CENGIZER (Turkey), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), said that today was a sad day for all.  The Muslim world was aggrieved but in a most meaningful way.  It joined its Palestinian brothers and sisters in their loss.  President Arafat epitomized the rightful struggle of his people.  The flame he lit with courage and self-determination, and which had remained unabated for half a century, would continue until Palestinian statehood was achieved.  He paid tribute to President Arafat’s unforgettable memory and his struggle on the side of justice.  He prayed for the late President’s soul, for his family and brethren around the world, and saluted his ideal, which would never fade away.

PAUL BADJI (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said the Palestinian people had lost a leader who, for decades, had been a powerful symbol of their national aspiration, unity and steadfastness, and who devoted most of his life to the struggle against the occupation and for the realization of their inalienable rights.  The Committee was hopeful that the Palestinian people would remain united and determined to continue along the road of peace charted by President Arafat. The Committee would maintain its support of the Palestinian people until their inalienable rights were fully realized in keeping with international legitimacy, and would also support international efforts aimed at re-injecting momentum into the political process.

The Committee continued to believe that the Road Map remained the best way to achieve the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine through the establishment of two States, Israel and Palestine, based on the 1967 borders and relevant United Nations resolutions.  He expressed hope that the Quartet and the international community would continue to work toward the achievement of that goal, and added that it would be the best tribute to President Arafat.

AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said the entire planet, as well as the Palestinian Authority and its various institutions, had been saddened by Mr. Arafat’s death. The Palestinian leader had been the embodiment of the national struggle for freedom and independence for all people.  The pages of history would forever recognize Mr. Arafat, as they had recognized Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi and all those who had struggled to achieve the dream of freedom.  Mr. Arafat had also been a dedicated political leader working towards a political settlement that would end bloodshed and halt a conflict that had been clouding the international horizon for decades.

Sadly, he did not see that dream come true, and history would not forget the humiliating circumstances under which he had been forced to live for the last two years of his life, confined to his Ramallah compound, without even the most basic of human rights.  Egypt, nevertheless, trusted that the values and principles that Arafat had lived by would not be lost or forgotten.  The conditions in the region were developing rapidly, and while many of them were negative, some also gave an indication that Arafat’s spirit would live on, that the peace process would be activated and that both sides would return to the negotiating table.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, observer of Palestine, said it was with great sorrow and sadness that the Palestinian leadership had announced that President Arafat had passed earlier this morning.  Mr. Arafat had left the world, and his spirit had returned to his Creator, but part of that spirit would remain with the Palestinian people.  He had been a liberator and had struggled to ensure that the Palestinian people were freed from the shackles of oppression and occupation.

In addition, Mr. Arafat had left a great universal and national legacy, which represented hope for the future for Palestinians and all people of the world.  He lived hoping to make Palestine an independent State and the people would miss his great courage, adherence to principle, clear strategic vision and wise leadership.  But they could take solace that Palestine did not stand by itself in the struggle for freedom.  The support of so many had provided consolation, she said, thanking all delegations as well as the Secretary-General and the Assembly President for their heartfelt words.  She announced that the Palestinian Mission would be open Monday and Tuesday, 15 and 16 November, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to all delegations wishing to pay their condolences.

Statements on Humanitarian Assistance

YUSOFF MD. ZAIN (Malaysia) said the role and function of the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations in the occupied Palestinian territories was crucial and indispensable.  Malaysia was concerned by the revelation in the report of the Secretary-General that the provision of a variety of types of assistance to the Palestinian people by the United Nations had as a backdrop an increasingly difficult humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  Such assistance was and continued to be provided under difficult circumstances, characterized by a repressive administration and security regime, as well as measures imposed by the Israeli Government.  Those had negatively affected the well-being of the Palestinian people and also hampered the ability of the United Nations in the field to carry out its work.  His delegation strongly urged Israel to allow unfettered access to the United Nations agencies and humanitarian workers in the occupied territories.

Notwithstanding, he continued, Malaysia was satisfied with the performance of relevant United Nations agencies to provide a wide variety of assistance to the Palestinian people and institutions.  But the ever-growing sector of “unmet needs” documented in the report required particularly focused attention.  He urged the international community to increase contributions to the cause and not lose focus, despite the challenges and sense of hopelessness.  The construction by Israel of the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territory had introduced a new dimension to the problem of providing assistance.  It had an adverse impact on the living conditions and freedom of movement of the Palestinian civilians.  The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion, had recently urged the removal of the wall.  He urged the Security Council to seriously look into the matter.


JONNY SINAGA (Indonesia) ...


International awareness of humanitarian problems had grown considerably over the years, he continued.  Many governments had greatly improved their preparedness, such as being able to facilitate the return of refugees and the internally displaced, and their resettlement.  Unfortunately, he said, those same things could not be said with regard to the situation in Palestine.  He called upon the Government of Israel to halt all actions that encroached on the territorial rights of the Palestinians, and to strictly observe the provisions of international law and implement the Road Map.  While Indonesia recognized that the main responsibility for improving the humanitarian situation and creating conditions for long-term development existed with governments, the role of the international community was very important to ensure the availability of resources for that purpose.  He added that humanitarian assistance must be delivered only with the consent of the affected country, and with respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States.


CHAIM SHACHAM (Israel) said today was a day of profound sorrow for his Palestinian neighbours.  But it also presented an opportunity for peace and the chance to fashion a future together.  In exceedingly difficult security conditions, his country did all that it could to help the Palestinian people meet their humanitarian needs.  Israel’s efforts ranged from direct financial and humanitarian assistance to participation in multilateral endeavours alongside other members of the international community, to the heavy consideration given to humanitarian needs within the context of his country’s security imperatives.  “Let us not forget, after all, that Israel does this while confronting a brutal Palestinian terror campaign against its citizenry, a war that, in subverting any chances for peace, does immense harm to both Palestinians and Israeli peoples.”  Terror was of no assistance to the Palestinian people.  “It is terror that makes humanitarian assistance and progress towards peace so difficult”, he stressed.

He said the Secretary-General’s report before the Assembly recognized some of Israel’s contributions and sacrifices, as well as some of the difficulties it faced because of its constant need to balance the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people with the security needs of Israelis.  Israel had done its utmost, together with the donor community and international organizations, to promote assistance to the Palestinian population.  Yet, as the report noted, as soon as new humanitarian arrangements were put into effect, terror groups found a way to use them to their advantage to carry out violent actions against Israelis.  But while problems remained, his country was committed to facilitating and assisting in the improvement of the humanitarian situation.

Perhaps the most important initiative that Israel was taking to alleviate the situation was the disengagement plan, he said.  That brave and courageous plan of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon aimed to stabilize the humanitarian and security situations, and to provide Israelis with greater security and Palestinians with greater control over their lives.  He hoped that initiative, combined with a return to the Road Map, would facilitate a true form of assistance to the Palestinian people.


Action on Draft

The Assembly decided to take action on the draft resolution on assistance to the Palestinian people (A/59/L.24) at a later date.


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