The Government of Israel had intensified actions to escalate the seige against the Palestinian people and caused a stalemate of the peace process on the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, said as he addressed the General Assembly, during its general debate, for the first time.
Notwithstanding, the Palestinian people had not lost hope in the peace process, and would continue to implement their obligations in accordance with existing agreements, he said. The international community should exert pressure on the Israeli side to realize peace by implementing international agreements and resolutions. Eight million Palestinians, including the oldest and largest refugee question in the contemporary world, were being deprived of their right to exercise sovereignty over their land. Despite this, they had survived, preserved their national identity and would not give up their inalienable rights.
Statements were also made by the Vice-President of the Seychelles, and the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Algeria, the Gambia, Kyrgyzstan and Croatia.
The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its general debate. Scheduled speakers were: James Michel, Vice-President of Seychelles; Mate Granic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Croatia; Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority; the Foreign Ministers of the United Republic of Tanzania, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Gambia, Kyrgyzstan; the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; and the Chairman of the delegation of Antigua and Barbuda.
YASSER ARAFAT, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, said that Palestine was for the first time participating in the Assembly's general debate, thus manifesting the General Assembly resolution which had upgraded its representation -- an essential step towards full membership. Great changes were being experienced worldwide, which required collective efforts. The challenges of today -- including economic and social development, solving the debt crisis and addressing poverty, famine, disease and migration -- required the attainment of equitable relations that were rational and just. Many problems of a global nature, such as terrorism and drugs, required the enhancement of international law, and the establishment of international bodies and mechanisms.
In addition to these new challenges, the international community must also remember that many of its basic tasks had not yet been accomplished, he said. There were peoples who remained under foreign occupation, including the Palestinian people. They had not committed any crime or aggression against anyone. They had not occupied the land of another people. Yet they were victims of aggression. Their land was occupied. They were dispersed and forced by a military power to a life in diaspora and exile. There were still four million Palestinian refugees living in camps, awaiting the realization of justice to end the tragedy of life in exile as refugees for more than half a century.
More efforts were needed to resolve regional conflicts, including those in the Middle East, the Balkan region and Afghanistan, he said. Additional efforts and resources must be directed towards Africa, so it could move forward on the path of development and progress. The issue of sanctions must be considered, in light of their terrible and destructive impact on peoples and neighbouring States. As he called for solutions and the lifting of sanctions on the basis of implementation of Security Council resolutions, he said he could not but express the feeling of many concerning the use of double standards in implementation. He welcomed the progress that had been achieved, particularly with regard to Libya.
Turning then to the question of nuclear disarmament and weapons of mass destruction and non-proliferation, he said an immense problem existed in his region: Israel possessed those weapons and refused to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and place its nuclear installations under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Recent events in South Asia should encourage cooperation and commitment to one standard.
To respond to those challenges, the United Nations must become more effective, he continued. The goal must go beyond reducing expenditures, downsizing the Secretariat, streamlining the General Assembly and expanding the Security Council. The goal must be to achieve the complete democratization of the global organization. The role of the General Assembly must be enhanced and a solution found for the question of the veto in the Council. Transparency and clear rules of procedure must prevail in that body. Since 1973, the Palestinian question had been subjected to 21 vetoes by one permanent member.
Last May, the Palestinian people had commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of Al-Nakba, which marked their dispossession and suffering, he said. Despite those bitter years, the oldest and largest refugee question in the contemporary world remained without solution. The Palestinian people's natural resources were being exploited and the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif was being subjected to judaization, land confiscation, demolition, the imposition of demographic composition and artificial administrative measures. Eight million Palestinians were being deprived of their right to exercise sovereignty over their land. Despite this, however, the Palestinian people had survived and preserved their national identity. They chose peace and accepted the will of the international community in this regard. With their Arab brothers, they had decided to participate in the peace process, which began in Madrid in 1991.
The peace process had been progressing until the assassination of Yitzak Rabin and other events dealt it severe blows, he said. The Government of Benjamin Netanyahu had tried to undermine the principles of the peace process, and had ceased implementing the agreements, except redeployment in Al-Khalil, which was achieved only after intensive United States efforts. The Israeli Government's obligations during the transitional period, which were of great importance to the Palestinian people, had not been implemented. The stages of redeployment had not been realized. Policies of closure and oppression led to the loss of about $10 million per day, constituting an economic catastrophe.
The Netanyahu Government had intensified actions to escalate the seige against the Palestinian people and caused a stalemate of the peace process on the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks, he said. The entire world had called upon the Israeli side to comply with the peace process and implement existing agreements. The international community, in adherence with international law and in the interest of peace, should exert pressure on the Israeli side to realize peace, security and stability by implementing the agreements -- which had been signed at the White House by the Russian Federation, United States, European Union, Norway, Egypt, Jordan, and in the presence of Japan -- and to implement international resolutions and the principle of land for peace.
The Palestinian side had intensified efforts to stop the situation from deteriorating, in cooperation with many parties concerned; this had resulted in a United States initiative, he said. The Palestinian side had accepted the initiative, but the Israeli side had rejected and tried to undermine it. The United States should move effectively, in a manner that was consistent with its responsibilities towards the peace process and its interests and credibility in the Middle East. This morning, President Clinton had taken an important step to save the peace process by convening a meeting at the White House between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations.
Other parties should intensify their efforts, particularly the Russian Federation, China and Japan. The European Union, with its economic and political interests and capabilities, should move quickly to safeguard the peace process. He called for support for the French-Egyptian initiative to convene an conference of all States determined to save the peace process. The Palestinian people had not lost hope in the peace process, and would continue to implement their obligations in accordance with existing agreements, he said. They would not give up on the need for Israel to comply with those agreements and implement pending obligations. They would not give up their national or inalienable rights. Israel's participation in the Assembly's fifty-third session should be in conformity with international law: that would thus ensure that Israeli credentials did not cover the territories deemed by the Security Council and the General Assembly as occupied Palestinian and Arab territories since 1967, including occupied East Jerusalem.
He called on the United Nations to stand by the Palestinian people, especially as the five-year transitional period provided for in the Palestinian-Israeli agreements was to end on 4 May 1999. The Palestinian people awaited the establishment of their independent State, which must be established as an embodiment of the right to self-determination. His people would continue to pursue and protect "the peace of the brave" in the Middle East. If the Israeli Government wanted reciprocity, he demanded mutual compliance with the signed agreements, especially in the fields of security and the protection of Palestinians and Israelis from violence and terrorism. He invited the Israeli Government to engage in common, serious work with the Palestinians.
In the year 2000, the past and future would meet in Palestine, joined by a global vision of peace for all peoples, he said. The world would celebrate the second millennium of the birth of Jesus Christ and the beginning of a new millennium. Inviting the international community to participate in the forthcoming celebrations, he expressed appreciation that a new agenda item entitled "Bethlehem 2000" had been included in the Assembly's work. He said he looked forward to addressing the Assembly when Palestine took its natural place in the community of nations as an independent State.