Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
23 March 1998
SECRETARY-GENERAL ADVOCATES PATH OF PEACE, DIALOGUE,
IN ADDRESS TO PALESTINIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL
Reaffirms UN Support for Palestinian Cause
Following is the text of an address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Palestinian National Council at Gaza on 23 March:
I am honoured and delighted to stand among you today as the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to visit the Palestinian Authority On behalf of the United Nations, I wish to salute the courage and the persistence of President Arafat and of the entire Palestinian people. By making the bold and difficult choices for peace, you have set sail towards the horizon. History will not deny you a harbour and a home.
The voyage that has carried us to this point is a voyage that we have travelled together. At every juncture and every passage, with every
challenge and every success, the United Nations has stood by the proponents of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
Why? Because we could do no other. Your cause -- genuine self-determination for the Palestinian people -- is our cause. It is the
expression of the most sacred, most enduring and universal principles of our Charter.
Today in Gaza, I can declare to you that the bonds between the Palestinian people and the United Nations are stronger than ever. Our
commitment to your cause is undiminished, our hopes for your future undimmed.
A just and lasting settlement to your challenge -- peace with justice for the Palestinian people -- will mark a milestone of peace in the history of the United Nations. It must be a settlement based on the principle of land for peace founded on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.
Though you have come a long way towards realizing your dream, I know it remains a dream deferred. Though you have made great strides in completing your partnership with Israel, I fear it is a partnership which faces serious challenges. You complain that Israel is not fulfilling her obligations under the Oslo Accords. The Israeli Government, on the other hand, complains that the Palestinian Authority is not doing everything
within its power to fulfil its side of the bargain. During my talks of the past few days, I have heard repeated expressions of doubt and
skepticism about Israel's good faith. I shall be hearing the Israeli perspective over the next couple of days. Whatever the rights and wrongs of
the respective positions of the two sides, there is clearly a crisis of confidence.
But do not despair. Do not waver. And do not falter. Do not succumb to the ways of violence. Do not accept the claims of hatred or the cries of war. They will not prevail. They will only delay the peace that you seek.
As long as security is not genuine and is not permanent for one side, it cannot be for the other. I cannot repeat this too often or too strongly. For the resort to violence and the use of terror has set back the achievement of your aspiration for far too long. Neither your friends --
and you have many - nor your neighbours will be able to provide the support and the aid you deserve as long as violence is tolerated and not rejected by all.
Only peace, only compromise, only the understanding that two peoples must live -- and not die -- side by side, will bring peace to this land. Let me repeat: Only peace, only compromise, only the understanding that two peoples must live -- and not die -- side by side, will bring peace to this land and self-determination for your people. And that peace will only come about if both sides adhere faithfully to the commitments they have made and carry the process through to its conclusion -- a comprehensive peace settlement.
Chairman Arafat, allow me to salute your leadership today as your people are closer than ever to realizing the dream of self-determination. For 30 years, President Arafat has led the quest for the recognition of the Palestinian people.
To know that one is a master of one's fate, that one's culture and humanity have a place where they are sacred, and that place can be called home -- these are the very essences of human aspiration.
With the wisdom and courage of age and experience, President Arafat joined hands five years ago with Yitzhak Rabin to begin the voyage of peace to realize those aspirations. Since then, progress that no one could have imagined a decade ago has taken place.
New bridges of trust and coexistence have been built. New terms of cooperation and new forms of interaction are taking root.
A greater number of Palestinians than ever before know the meaning of self-rule. Israelis and Palestinians are working together as never before, educating each other, aiding each other, recognizing each other as indispensable partners. These are the early fruits of peace. But they are
only the beginning.
We at the United Nations are determined to see this beginning as the foundation of lasting, peaceful and sustainable development for the
Palestinian people. Our commitment to your prosperity is as old as the Organization itself.
At United Nations Headquarters in New York, the Palestinian cause has been promoted and its claims have been heard as nowhere else in the world.
In the Middle East, our commitment has been reflected in the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) over the past 50 years. It has provided education, health care and relief assistance to more than 3 million Palestinians over four generations, operating in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Allow me to say today how proud I am of UNRWA's work and to express my gratitude to President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, for your cooperation.
Together, we are educating almost 5000,000 pupils in 650 schools. We operate more than 120 health care facilities which handle almost 7 million patient visits annually. We provide food services to 200,000 refugees and promote self-reliance through poverty alleviation schemes.
Perhaps most importantly, UNRWA is deeply involved in bringing the fruits of the peace to the Palestinian people through projects and investment programmes. We all know that the absence of conflict is not enough. A peace that exists only on paper -- whether here or anywhere else in the world -- will not last. It must be lived and experienced every day by every Palestinian.
That is why I am so concerned with the current crisis in UNRWA's funding and why we will do everything to bring it to and end. The UNRWA is simply too important to the future of this region to be neglected. It must be restored to its full strength over time.
In my meetings with leaders from all parts of the world, I have very strongly urged them to provide UNRWA with the means effectively carry out its mission. Until that time, I am grateful for your understanding and patience.
The Oslo process also ushered in a new era in the work of the United Nations in the Middle East and among the Palestinian people. Drawing on UNRWA's long history, we have expanded our presence in West Bank and Gaza from three organizations in 1993 to 15 in 1997.
The combined total of funds disbursed through United Nations channels was $254 million in 1996.
Through the joint efforts of the United Nations Special Coordinator and the Special Representative of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations development activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are being coordinated and strengthened to ensure the greatest efficiency and effectiveness. We are determined that our assistance reach and improve the lives of as many men, women and children as possible.
That is what we can do. The rest is for you to accomplish. You and no one else can bring to life a Palestinian policy that provides the peace and prosperity that your people deserve.
You and no else can ensure that human rights are upheld and respected, not only for those Palestinians outside your jurisdiction but also for
those within. You and no one else can ensure that sustainable economic growth will benefit all through the practice of good governance at all
levels of leadership.
These are your burdens, and your challenges. I have no doubt that you will meet them.
As we turn another corner in the long passage to peace, let us recall that it was above all dialogue, and not force, that got you to this point.
Let us recall that it was negotiations, not ultimatums, that narrowed the divide and facilitated the first steps. Let us recall that it was the
courage to recognize in yesterday's adversary tomorrow's partner that made the dream as real as it has ever been.
The voices of the vast majority of men and women, young and old, Palestinians, Israelis and others around the world, are calling for peace.
They have seen its promise and witnessed its glories.
This is not the time to turn your backs on peace. Too much is at stake. Too much has been achieved.
I would like to conclude by taking this opportunity to make clear to you the nature, the demands and the promise of the agreement I reached with the Government of Iraq. I went to Baghdad, with the full authorization of all members of the Security Council, in search of a peaceful solution to the crisis. That crisis has, at least for now, been averted.
The mandate of the Security Council has been reaffirmed. The access of United Nations inspectors has not only been restored, but expanded to include any and all sites. The authority of the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission has been acknowledged and strengthened.
Whether the threat to international peace and security has been averted for all time is now in the hands of the Iraqi leadership. It is now for them to comply in practice with what they have signed on paper. If they do, it will bring nearer the day when Iraq can fully rejoin the family of
nations. In the meantime, the expanded "oil-for-food" programme should help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people.
The agreement reached in Baghdad was neither a "victory" nor a "defeat" for any one person, nation or group of nations. Certainly, the United Nations and the world community lost nothing, gave away nothing and conceded nothing of substance.
But by halting, at least for now, the renewal of military hostilities in the Gulf, it was a victory for peace, for reason, for the resolution of conflict by diplomacy.
If this agreement is fully implemented and leads over time to a new day in the Gulf -- if this exercise in diplomacy, backed by fairness, firmness and force, stands the test of time -- it will serve as an enduring and invaluable precedent for the United Nations and the world community. But it can do even more. It is also my hope that this agreement, in a small but substantial way, may also create a new belief in the possible in the
Middle East peace process -- a belief that diplomacy and negotiations, if entered into in good faith and practised with care and commitment, can
resolve the longest and most intractable of conflicts.
The United Nations, founded even before the close of the Second World War over 50 years ago, has an inherent obligation to remember that even the deepest enmities among nations do not last forever. It is this obligation that makes us persist in the face of opposition, and leads us to believe that a just and lasting peace -- here, as everywhere -- is not only needed, but possible.
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