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        General Assembly
28 July 1999

United Nations
General Assembly
Fifty-third Session
105th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 28 July 1999, 3 p.m.
New York
Official Records
President: Mr. Opertti..................................(Uruguay)

The meeting was called to order at 3.15 p.m.

Tribute to the memory of His Majesty Hassan II, late King of Morocco

The President (spoke in Spanish): This afternoon, it is my sad duty to pay tribute to the memory of the late King of the Kingdom of Morocco, His Majesty Hassan II, who passed away on 23 July 1999.

With his physical disappearance, Morocco has lost a leader who was able to consolidate the independence of his country, ensure political stability during his reign and establish the foundations of its economic and social development. The world, and his region in particular, mourn the loss of this statesman who, with his tireless efforts, helped to create conditions conducive to peace and harmony in the Middle East.

On behalf of the General Assembly, I request the representative of Morocco to convey our condolences to the Government and the people of Morocco and to the bereaved family of His Majesty Hassan II.

I invite representatives to stand and observe a minute of silence in tribute to the memory of His Majesty Hassan II.

The members of the General Assembly observed a minute of silence.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General: It is entirely fitting that the General Assembly should interrupt its proceedings as a mark of respect for the memory of the late King Hassan II. I am deeply honoured to share with members this moment of sadness and of gratitude for the life of a great man, as I was honoured to attend His Majesty's funeral in Rabat three days ago.

King Hassan II's devotion to peace, both within his country and in the wider region, was known all over the world. In an age of bitter conflict between Arabs and Jews, this was one Arab ruler who never lost the esteem of his Jewish subjects and who was always at the forefront of efforts to forge a new relationship with Israel based on peace, dialogue and mutual respect.

In an age when many people wrongly identified Muslims with anger and violence, he showed the world the true face of Islam C a face of wisdom, tolerance and moderation. He was a wise man, a refined politician and a remarkable diplomat. I am proud to remember him as a personal friend and I shall miss him very much.

He died at a moment of hopeful change in the region. I regret especially that he has not lived to see a peaceful resolution of the issue of Western Sahara, on which he and I worked closely together. But I have every hope that we shall be able to complete that work with his successor, King Mohamed VI, to whom I am sure we all send our most sincere condolences as well as our heartfelt good wishes for a long and successful reign.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on the representative of Zimbabwe, who will speak on behalf of the Group of African States.

Mr. Muchetwa (Zimbabwe): On 23 July 1999, the people of Africa received the terrible news of the passing away of King Hassan II of Morocco. On this solemn occasion, and on behalf of the African Group, I wish to convey to His Majesty Mohamed VI, King of Morocco, to his entire family and, indeed, to the people of Morocco my heartfelt condolences.

As Africa will remember, the life of King Hassan II was that of a distinguished statesman, a man of honour, dignity, courage and understanding. Africa will also remember King Hassan II as a founding father of the Organization of African Unity and a man who genuinely believed in Africa's enduring struggle for peace, unity and stability. Indeed, Africa will miss King Hassan II forever.

May Allah rest his soul in peace.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I call on the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic, who will speak on behalf of the Group of Asian States.

Mr. Wehbe (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): It is my honour to speak on behalf of the Group of Asian States to convey our deep sorrow at the death of King Hassan II of Morocco. In the face of this immense loss, I cannot find the words to describe the great qualities of the late king. His death was an act of God; God chose that the king should be with Him.

On behalf of my colleagues in the Asian Group, I extend our heartfelt condolences to King Mohamed VI, to the other members of the royal family, and to the Government and the people of fraternal Morocco.

Departing for the afterworld is something we must all face, but when we speak of the departure of His Majesty, we are talking about the departure of a great man who participated in the liberation struggle of his people to win independence and end colonization. King Hassan II sought education within his country and abroad, and became a legal expert and a great leader of his people following the passing of his father, King Mohamed V.

History will remember the pioneering role of King Hassan II, the role he played in winning the independence of his country in 1956 and in the evacuation of foreign bases in 1960. History will remember that he led his country on the path of spiritual and material development. Under his leadership, Morocco enjoyed great prestige in the world at various international levels, including diplomacy. In that context, many Arab and Islamic summit conferences were held in Morocco. The late king had solid, excellent relations with all, based on mutual respect, including countries in Asia and throughout the world, and, in particular, with the United Nations.

The international family will always remember that King Hassan II stood firmly on the side of right and justice and against occupation, racism, racial discrimination and apartheid. In the Arab context, King Hassan II worked to strengthen Arab solidarity and unity, playing an effective role in establishing the Arab Maghreb Union and supporting the Middle East peace process. In all the positions he adopted, he insisted on the need for complete Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan and from southern Lebanon, and he always supported the Palestinian people in their struggle to regain their lands and their inalienable rights. In that context, let us recall that until his death King Hassan II was the Chairman of the Al-Quds Committee, charged by the Organization of the Islamic Conference to defend the Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem, to prevent the loss of that identity and to restore Jerusalem to its legitimate owners, the Palestinian people.

When in view of his 38 years at the helm of Morocco the late king was asked about the qualities of a leader, he said that what was necessary was the ability to face a challenge. Here, the representatives of the international community pay tribute to the achievements of the late king in challenging backwardness and achieving progress, in challenging a difficult economic situation and achieving prosperity and dignity for the people of Morocco, and in challenging injustice and achieving independence and sovereignty for Morocco.

I wish in conclusion to reiterate the deep sorrow and pain of the Group of Asian States at the departure of King Hassan II. He will be sorely missed in the Arab and the Islamic worlds and in the international community. We share with King Mohamed VI, his family, his Government and the people of Morocco their feelings of deep sadness, and we ask God Almighty to grant peace to the soul of King Hassan II and to afford him his rightful place in paradise, and to care for His Majesty Mohamed VI, for the sake of the Moroccan people, of the Arab and Islamic worlds and of international peace and security.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I call on the representative of Azerbaijan, who will speak on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States.

Mr. Kouliev (Azerbaijan) (spoke in Russian): The whole world mourns the death of King Hassan II of Morocco. His death has aroused in us feelings of tremendous sorrow and loss. King Hassan II was a great man and a wise ruler of his State. He was a far-sighted politician and an outstanding statesman who shouldered responsibility for the destiny of his people and of other peoples of the region. As the leader of a country situated at the convergence of two continents, he turned Morocco into a bridge of understanding and cooperation between Europe and Africa, between different religions and traditions. His life was devoted to improving the lives of his people and to the development of his country. His active presence on the international scene and his authority made it possible to discuss and resolve many extremely important problems relating not only to the Middle East but also to the entire world.

He was a great teacher and an advocate of peace, mutual understanding and tolerance. His contribution to peace-building and to the establishment of a spirit of friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance constitutes an integral part of his invaluable legacy.

On behalf of the Group of Eastern European States, I should like to express our condolences to the King's family and to the Government and people of Morocco. On this sad day for us all, we pay tribute to the memory of His Highness King Hassan II. There is no doubt that his memory will remain forever in our hearts as an eternal source of inspiration for those fighting for lofty ideals.

Mr. Tello (Mexico) (spoke in Spanish): On behalf of the delegations members of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, it is my sad duty to convey to the people, the Government and the royal family of Morocco our solidarity and our sincerest condolences on the death of His Majesty King Hassan II.

Only five years after his country's independence, the then young Head of State faced the difficult task of consolidating Morocco's political, economic and social institutions. He took many risks, including personal ones, but succeeded, with determination and talent, in laying the foundations for stability and the prosperity of his people.

The 38 years of the reign of King Hassan II included countless examples of his universal mission. His intelligence, resolve and political vision brought Morocco to a privileged place in the concert of nations. For King Hassan II, peace and security in the Middle East were not just a chimera. With a sense of realism but also with great far-sightedness, he spared no effort to formulate initiatives or to serve as a mediator at decisive moments, even in the midst of the most acute crises. His insistence on dialogue, tolerance and understanding is today an integral part of the important progress made on the long and difficult path to peace in that region.

The political and cultural openness of King Hassan II was the guiding principle and a reflection of the profound democratic conviction of the people of Morocco. His leadership made it possible to modernize his country politically and harmoniously to blend the rich and valuable legacy of his forebears with the legitimate aspirations of its people on the threshold of the twenty-first century.

King Hassan II left his country a legacy of stability and prosperity. The international community inherited his multilateral mission and the legacy of a forward-looking statesman committed to the most lofty ideals of the international community.

King Hassan II gave evidence in word and in deed of the strong and profound commitment of Morocco to the San Francisco Charter and to the norms of international law. We will continue to share with Morocco our common aspirations for a peaceful, democratic and free world based on firmer foundations of economic and social development.

The delegations of the States members of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States wish to offer to His Majesty Mohamed VI dialogue, cooperation and friendship. We wish him a long life replete with personal achievements and peace, as well as stability and development for his country, the Middle East and all the peoples represented in the United Nations.

In concluding, may I, through you, Sir, request the delegation of Morocco to convey to the people, to the Government and to the royal family of Morocco the sentiments that I have just expressed on behalf of the States members of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.

May His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco rest in peace.

Mr. Kaskarelis (Greece): In my capacity as Chairman of the Group of Western European and Other States, I would like to express, on behalf of all of its member States, my heartfelt condolences to His Majesty King Mohamed VI as well as to the royal family, the Government and the people of Morocco on the tragic loss of King Hassan II, a leading State figure.

The Arab world is mourning the loss of one of its wisest and most experienced leaders. The tragic news has also deeply saddened the international community, for during his long reign he tried hard to promote reconciliation in the Middle East, to bridge the historic gap between the West and the Islamic world, and to balance opposing forces for the benefit of the region.

For the Middle East this is an especially great loss, given the King's tireless efforts to create a climate of confidence within the area and among the parties concerned. The Arab world will always remember him as a discreet but key mediator in the region's complex problems who, accepted by all sides, fought fervently for their peaceful and lasting solution. He played a pivotal role in bringing about advances in the peace process, and his low-profile involvement contributed to the Camp David agreements.

In addition, King Hassan worked continuously to forge closer links between the North African countries, while his inexhaustible efforts in favour of peace and reconciliation among all the peoples of the Mediterranean facilitated the creation of the basis for the Euro-Mediterranean dialogue.

King Hassan was a tireless worker, a man of great warmth and personal involvement, and a distinguished jurist. Nevertheless, throughout his long reign his main characteristic was wisdom. Having had an education combining tradition and modernity as well as training based on Arab-Islamic values and the principles of universal civilization, he placed particular emphasis on developing a dialogue between believers of different faiths, playing the role, as he said, of "teacher and defender of the values common to the Islamic and Christian faiths".

King Hassan used to say, "When I ascended the throne, people said I would not last more than six months." He ruled for almost four decades, a fact that speaks for itself. His enlightened policies played a critical role in bringing about a new era in Morocco. He pushed hard for his nation's greater development, prosperity and stability. Thanks to his actions, his country is playing a dynamic and constructive role within major international and regional organizations. He paved the way for a democratic and modern Morocco, while his personal popularity among his people was acknowledged even by his political opponents. Thus he realized a long-held vision of greater unity in his country.

Morocco has lost a great and subtle statesman and an accomplished political builder, who, with skill and adroitness, prepared his country to face the challenging problems of the new millennium. The international community will always remember King Hassan II with great esteem.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on the representative of the United States of America, His Excellency Mr. Peter Burleigh, to speak for the host country.

Mr. Burleigh (United States of America): My Government was deeply saddened by the passing of His Majesty King Hassan II of Morocco.

For almost four decades, King Hassan was a great friend of the United States and of peace in the Middle East. Today, as we offer our sympathy to His Majesty King Mohamed VI and the people of Morocco, we mourn the passing of a visionary leader and pay tribute to a noble life.

The King devoted his life to improving the lives of the Moroccan people. He worked tirelessly for national reconciliation and for the promotion of regional stability and development. As Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said, the King was "a pioneer of the Middle East peace process" and "an enlightened promoter of religious tolerance and understanding".

King Hassan's support and wise counsel will long be remembered by my grateful Government. President Clinton, upon learning of the King's passing, called him a partner and friend. The King will be truly missed, but his efforts in the name of peace will not be forgotten.

We stand with our Moroccan friends in this time of mourning and pledge to continue our mutual efforts to enhance the prosperity of the Moroccan people and bring lasting peace and stability to the Middle East.

We offer our thoughts and prayers to the family, friends and countrymen of King Hassan. We dedicate ourselves anew, at the time of his death, to the path of peace he followed in his life. We wish His Majesty King Mohamed VI wise counsel on the path ahead.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I now give the floor to the representative of South Africa to speak on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Mr. Kumalo (South Africa): On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement I stand to salute the life of King Hassan of Morocco. King Hassan was a person who loved freedom. He loved freedom not only for his own people, who enjoyed multi-party democracy; he so loved freedom that he supported those in need of freedom.

In the Middle East King Hassan was a catalyst for change. He was a midwife for what came to be known as the Camp David process. He played a forceful role in helping move along the peace process in the Middle East.

But my people in South Africa shall always remember King Hassan as the one who remembered us when we were in the depths of apartheid. And not only did he remember us in our darkest days, but when our democracy began standing to take its first steps, King Hassan and the people of Morocco were always there to support us.

Beyond the matters of the day King Hassan was a holy man, a spiritual person. As a descendent of the prophet Mohammed and as a protector of the faith, he was well respected in the Muslim world, and those of us in the Christian world respected him too.

As we stand at the dawn of a new millennium, a millennium that will demand men and women of courage, men and women of incorruptible leadership, it is a sad loss for us to now lose King Hassan. On this day we mourn with the people of Morocco. We would be honoured if the delegation of Morocco could convey in all its Africanness the feelings that we feel, not only as people of Africa but as people of the world, people of the Non-Aligned Movement, the feelings of those of us who believe C among many, many things C that it will take peace, it will take development, it will take people living together as human beings for this world to become a better place.

We in the Non-Aligned Movement are honoured to have counted King Hassan among us.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on the representative of Israel.

Mr. Adam (Israel): The people and the Government of Israel have received with deep sorrow the news about the death of King Hassan II of the Kingdom of Morocco. King Hassan was a man of peace, honour and respect. He contributed endless efforts to the work of peace in the Middle East. Over the years he met Israeli leaders with mutual honour and discretion. He always respected and cherished the Moroccan Jewry, and the Jewish Moroccan community in Israel loved him back. They are mourning now along with all the citizens of Israel the death of the King.

May the flag of peace and understanding, which King Hassan raised, continue to be raised high above the peoples of the region.

The President (spoke in Spanish): I now call on the Deputy Permanent Representative of Morocco, Mr. Elhassane Zahid.

Mr. Zahid (Morocco) (spoke in French): The Moroccan delegation was greatly moved as it listened to the feeling homage paid to the late sovereign, His Majesty King Hassan II, by the international community that this Assembly represents.

The observation of a minute of silence in tribute to the memory of His Majesty King Hassan II C may God rest his soul C the sincere and profound condolences addressed to His Majesty King Mohamed Ben Al Hassan, the royal family and the Government and people of Morocco, as well as all the expressions of regret, sorrow, sadness, sympathy and grief, bear witness to the great prestige of the late sovereign, His Majesty King Hassan II, and the respect and admiration which he enjoyed. He devoted his entire reign to the social and economic development of Morocco, to building democratic institutions and to efforts to achieve peace and rapprochement among peoples and nations, in particular in the Middle East.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has described this great endeavour of the late sovereign, His Majesty King Hassan II, stating that he

"brought his people into the modern age while upholding respect and reverence for its ancient and glorious Islamic and Maghrebi traditions. By serving as a bridge of peace between different nations and cultures, King Hassan made Morocco itself a bridge of understanding and cooperation between Europe and Africa, North and South, East and West."

For his part, the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization referred to the death of King Hassan II as a great loss for humanity.

Such testimony, and the words that we have heard this afternoon, have been added to the thousands C indeed, the hundreds of thousands C of others expressed to the people and Kingdom of Morocco and to its king by those who wished to express their sincere condolences and solidarity and to offer comfort.

On behalf of the delegation of Morocco, I should like to express to you, Mr. President, to the Secretary-General and to all those who have spoken, our sincere gratitude for all of the expressions of condolence offered to His Majesty King Mohamed Ben Al Hassan, to the royal family and to the Moroccan people. We will pass on all of those expressions of condolence. I should also like to thank you, Mr. President, and all of those who spoke, for the wishes for success addressed to His Majesty King Mohamed Ben Al Hassan, and for the solidarity expressed to the Moroccan people who are mourning the sudden death of the father of the nation, leader of the faithful, His Majesty King Hassan II.

At this time, which is very sad for all of us, we implore the Almighty to grant the late sovereign, His Majesty King Hassan II, His infinite mercy, and to receive him into His everlasting paradise to dwell with the prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints.


The meeting rose at 4.45 p.m.

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