Question of Palestine home
23 September 1999
10th plenary meeting
th plenary meeting
Thursday, 23 September 1999, 10 a.m.
: Mr. Gurirab ........................................... (Namibia)
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
The Assembly will first hear an address by the President of the Republic of Albania.
spoke in French
While attaching priority to the problems of our region, the State and the Government of Albania have been and continue to remain attentive to developments in other parts of the world. We welcome the progress in the peace process in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. For my part, I would like to express the fervent hope that these processes prove irreversible.
: The Assembly will now hear an address by the President of the Republic of Cyprus.
Cyprus follows the situation in the Middle East with intense interest. We rejoice at the winds of hope that have recently appeared in the efforts to finally achieve peace in that long-tormented area and welcome the recent Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Cyprus, as a neighbouring State with close relations to the parties involved in the Middle East, reiterates its support for a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and the implementation of the peace accords.
I have great pleasure in welcoming the Crown Prince of the Principality of Monaco, His Serene Highness Crown Prince Albert, and invite him to address the General Assembly.
Crown Prince Albert
spoke in French
Finally, I should like most sincerely to express my satisfaction, as many have already done from this rostrum, at the resumption of the peace process in the Middle East and the immense hopes to which it has given rise.
I now give the floor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, His Excellency Mr. Amre Moussa.
spoke in Arabic
In the Middle East, the peace process is now heading towards a new and positive stage. It is our hope that this will lead to a comprehensive, just, and peaceful settlement that will establish the Palestinian State, put an end to the occupation of the Syrian and Lebanese territories and ensure security for all. Thus, an end will be put to this conflict and its files will hopefully be closed.
I would like to move to other, equally important, issues, among which are disarmament and the maintenance of international peace and security. In doing so, I must recall the need to observe the priorities established by the international community in 1978. Foremost among these priorities are nuclear disarmament and the elimination of other weapons of mass destruction. In this regard, there is a clear need to accelerate the process of nuclear disarmament at the unilateral and bilateral levels as well as within the Conference on Disarmament. There is also a need to speedily achieve the universality of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
On the regional level, I have repeatedly stated that the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, which is the optimum way to ensure the security of the Middle East region as a whole, can be achieved only within a comprehensive framework applicable to all without exception. Peace cannot endure with an imbalance of power or a discrepancy in rights and obligations in matters pertaining to national security.
In this regard, all the States of the Middle East, with the sole exception of Israel, have acceded to the NPT and the international regime for the inspection of nuclear facilities. This constitutes a source of constant tension. It negates to a large extent the effectiveness of the international instruments on non-proliferation and arms control. It will lead to an arms race. It is illogical to give a special privilege or a certain exception to only one State in as vast and sensitive a region as the Middle East, and under unacceptable pretexts.
Sound logic necessitates an end to this exception and calls firmly for Israel
s accession to the NPT. This subject will force itself on the 2000 NPT Review Conference. The States parties to the Treaty agreed in 1995 on an integrated and comprehensive package to enhance the non-proliferation regime and achieve its universality. The extension of the Treaty was but one of the elements of that package. I would like to stress here the importance of giving top priority at the next Review Conference to crystallizing the serious steps for achieving the universality of the Treaty. The States parties to the Treaty must honour all the obligations and commitments made in 1995 without selectivity or discrimination. Egypt and many other States insist on that. Otherwise, we will reach a state, which has actually begun, of suspicion and lack of confidence.
This will have a grave effect on the credibility of the NPT regime. It will weaken that regime considerably, making it possible to deviate from its provisions or make them subject to exceptions.
Talking of regional security in the Middle East leads me to address the peace process. Egypt maintains, as it always has, that a comprehensive peace based on justice is the only durable and stable peace. This means Israel's withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of a State of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital, restoring the legitimate human and national rights of the Palestinian people and the achievement of security for all. The peace process must deal with all the problems in good faith and with courage. It must not postpone dealing with or negotiating any item or problem. The postponement or abandonment of problems is a postponement and abandonment of peace. This is dangerous and unacceptable and runs counter to the framework and spirit of peace. It might even postpone the establishment of normal relations between the Arab States and Israel.
We had hoped that the Arab-Israeli conflict would come to an end before the end of the twentieth century. This hope is still alive, since the year 2000 is the last year of this century.
The next speaker is the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, His Excellency Mr. Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, was escorted to the rostrum.
spoke in Arabic
): Mr. President, it gives me great pleasure to see you presiding over this new session of the General Assembly after your long struggle to gain freedom, along with Sam Nujoma, Nelson Mandela and others who fought to bring an end to the era of colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation.
Your presence here today leading this session of the General Assembly attests to the victory achieved by the people of Namibia in the battle for freedom and independence. It strengthens the hope of the Palestinian people that the dawn of their freedom and the independence of their homeland, Palestine, is near. Furthermore, the victory of your friendly country, Namibia, affirms the constructive role played by the United Nations in the eradication of the colonialism that has burdened oppressed peoples and in enabling them to gain their national independence. I call upon the United Nations to continue to undertake this historic role to eliminate all forms of occupation and colonialism and to strengthen the foundations of peace throughout the world.
As I congratulate and welcome you, Sir, I would be remiss if I did not extend our gratitude to your predecessor, Mr. Didier Opertti. It also gives me great pleasure to express our deep appreciation to Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General, for his distinguished role in leading this international Organization and promoting for world peace.
I also want to congratulate the three new members of the United Nations: the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru and the Kingdom of Tonga. Their membership is an important step towards the realization of the universality of the Organization.
I address the Assembly today
- the representatives of the international community - for the second consecutive year, seeking the continuation of support for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, particularly at this crucial and sensitive stage that lies between us and the declaration of our independent Palestinian State and sovereignty over our liberated land. This requires the strengthening of international efforts in order to really achieve a just solution to the question of Palestine, the crux of the Middle East conflict. The coming millennium summit, with all the renewed hope and promising beginning it represents for all people, must be a decisive deadline for the achievement of peace in the Middle East. We should work collectively and vigorously to achieve this. I look forward to the participation of Palestine, as a Member State of the United Nations, in the deliberations of the coming millennium summit, and I hope for and trust in the Assembly's support for this Palestinian determination to achieve independence so that Palestine can assume the position it deserves within the family of nations.
As the Assembly is aware, we concluded the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum with Mr. Barak, the new Prime Minister of Israel, on 4 September, under the auspices of President Hosni Mubarak, and in the presence of King Abdullah II, Secretary of State Albright, Mr. Moratinos, representing the European Union, and Mr. Larsen, representing Mr. Kofi Annan.
The Memorandum is aimed at the implementation of all the obligations of the interim period under the Oslo agreement, the Wye River Memorandum and the Hebron Protocol, and at the resumption of the final status negotiations. This was done with the hope of bringing to an end the policy of protraction and freezing that was pursued by the former Israeli Government, which completely paralysed the peace process and almost dashed the ambitious hopes created by this process for all the countries and peoples of the Middle East.
The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum serves as a source of new hope for putting the peace process back on the right track, as it reaffirms the implementation of existing agreements and of all the obligations within a specific time-frame. In this connection, I extend my gratitude and thanks to all those who contributed to the conclusion of the Memorandum, particularly our host in Sharm el-Sheikh, President Hosni Mubarak, as well as King Abdullah II and Secretary of State Albright, who undertook tangible and concrete efforts as a representative of President Clinton, and the European leaders, their representatives and their envoys to the peace process. The continuous involvement of these friends in this process was essential and necessary for pushing the process forward. International sponsorship of the Middle East peace process is the guarantee for its definitive and final success.
The absence of such an international role would send the fragile situation in the region back to square one. I therefore call upon the international community to accelerate and strengthen its efforts and participation to push the peace process forward and revitalize it on all tracks. A just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East can last only if it is protected by international legitimacy and if efforts are undertaken to implement all of the resolutions pertaining to the Middle East conflict on the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese tracks.
We should work hard so that the signing of this Memorandum will succeed in ending the stagnation of the peace process and in opening the door that the former Israeli Government closed in the face of all serious efforts aimed at achieving real peace.
As we reaffirm once more our commitment to the peace process and the implementation of the signed agreements, we hope that this time the Israeli side will implement these agreements scrupulously and honestly, including the phases of redeployment agreed upon in the Wye River and Oslo agreements, the release of prisoners and the other obligations of the transitional period, such as safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the construction of the Gaza seaport.
The Israeli Government is called upon to immediately and decisively cease all measures that violate international resolutions, laws and covenants and thus destroy the chances of peace. At the forefront of these are the settlement activities and the confiscation of land, especially in Al-Quds Al-Sharif, and its vicinity, and the siege of the city of Bethlehem and the rest of the Palestinian territories. The continuation of these settlement policies and practices will quash the hopes and expectations generated by the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum and destroy prospects for the final settlement negotiations, which began on 13 September. The cessation of all such measures is needed in order that we can, together with my new partner, Mr. Barak, continue the march of the peace of the brave that we began with two other partners
- the late Yitzhak Rabin, who gave his life for this peace, and Shimon Peres - for a new Middle East.
Hence, we look forward to seeing new, real and tangible changes in the positions and actions of the Israeli side that will open the door, in word and in deed, for the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace
- a peace of the brave that will lead to the realization of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to the establishment of their independent State, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Jerusalem) as its capital, and the realization of the right of the Palestine refugees to return to their homeland in accordance with resolution 194 (III) which affirms the right of the refugees to return to their homes and the right to compensation for those who do not wish to return.
The realization of the right of the Palestinian people to establish their independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital will provide the definitive guarantee for the establishment of a permanent peace in the Middle East. It will also be a validation of the Charter of the United Nations and its numerous resolutions over 50 years, beginning with resolution 181 (II) which called for the establishment of two States in Palestine, one Jewish, which is Israel, and one Arab, which is Palestine. The rights of peoples do not diminish because of a statute of limitations or under oppression, and our people have proved through the years that they deserve life, freedom and their own independent State. The time has come for the international community, represented by the General Assembly, to reaffirm this right and to work for its realization.
The goal of the current peace process is the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and the application of the principle of land for peace. The latter means total Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif
- the Holy City of Jerusalem, which is the first of the two
and the third Holy Sanctuary of Islam, the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, and the cradle of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The catastrophe that befell our people 51 years ago, uprooting them from their homeland and dispersing them into exile
- thereby stripping them of their dreams and rights as human beings in an attempt to negate their existence - is one of the greatest human tragedies witnessed by the twentieth century. The question of the refugees of Palestine is the oldest and greatest refugee question in our contemporary world. We must recognize the legitimate right of those refugees to return to their homeland, in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Four million Palestinians live in exile and in refugee camps awaiting the time of their return to their homeland, from which they were forcibly expelled. There is no way to achieve peace, stability and security in the Middle East without a solution to the question of the refugees of Palestine and the implementation of resolution 194 (III), which declares their right to return to their homeland.
Two essential things must occur for peace to be complete. First, it is necessary to reach a final settlement on all tracks
- the Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese - on the basis of the complete and precise implementation of international legitimacy, especially Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), and 425 (1978). The second is the provision of economic support and assistance by the international community sufficient for the achievement of a better economic situation and for achieving prosperity in the region. What is required foremost in this regard is raising the Palestinian economy up from the miserable situation in which it finds itself as a result of the long years of occupation, so that building cooperative economic relations in the region will become possible.
Here I wish to thank the donor countries that have provided and continue to provide important assistance to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian Authority. This assistance is necessary to enable us to overcome the immense difficulties that we have been confronting since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, as a result of the closures and sieges imposed by the previous Israeli Government on the Palestinian territory for long periods, which worsened further the total destruction of the Palestinian economy. The shadows of poverty and unemployment still threaten our economic abilities and plans to reconstruct, build and develop.
The achievement of all of this necessitates the continuation of the constructive efforts of the United Nations, which has permanent responsibility towards the question of Palestine until that issue is resolved in all its aspects. We will also remain in need of our Arab brothers, the Islamic countries and our friends in the Non-Aligned Movement. We will remain in need of the two co-sponsors of the peace process, the United States and the Russian Federation, and also of the European Union, China, Japan, Norway and our other friends around the world.
We must heighten all our efforts until the arrival of the new millennium in many areas and spheres, and not only in the Middle East. In this respect, we have observed some positive developments which are quite reassuring. There is tangible improvement in the area of conflict resolution on the African continent and on the path towards achieving better economic and social development in that great continent. There is the international attention given to Kosovo, as well as other measures carried out in the Balkans. There is also the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, as well as the additional consideration being given to the four Geneva Conventions on the occasion of their fiftieth anniversary. We refer here, with appreciation, to the convening of the Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention last July regarding the Israeli occupation of our land. There are also the follow-ups and reviews of a series of international conferences five years after their convening, in addition to the preparations being made with regard to such important issues as the culture of peace and the dialogue among civilizations.
All of these things are important developments, but perhaps not enough for us to be able to begin the new millennium under new circumstances. This is particularly so if we look at some of the events and worrisome developments in different areas. There is the continuation of the state of siege in Iraq and the profound suffering of its brotherly people. There is also the continuation of internal conflicts in many countries, such as Afghanistan and others. Recently there have also been worrisome developments in East Timor. But I would like, in particular, to refer to the rise of extreme poverty and to the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots on the individual, national and regional levels.
Perhaps it is we, the poor people of the South, who are most concerned about how to bridge the gap between us and the North, particularly in this era of globalization of the world economy, whose challenges and consequences we must all face. Here we must exert serious efforts and seek creative means beyond hasty and temporary measures. While it is time for the South to be more prepared to realize such an achievement, the North should also be more prepared for partnership and more realistic, effective and just sharing.
In addition to economic matters, we must also strive to achieve some needed improvements at the political level, particularly with regard to international political relations. It is imperative in this connection that we all give greater significance to the United Nations. This must be done in order for this body to truly and urgently become the effective centre of international and political relations and the source of international legitimacy. It is also necessary to be wholly committed to upholding the principles and provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and of international and humanitarian laws, as well as ensuring that they apply to all. We should apply to others the same moral values as we accept for ourselves. There should be one set of criteria and one standard for all cases and in all places. All of this will lead to a more credible system of international relations, in which the incentive to commit wrongs will be lessened and the collective capability to confront and prevent those wrongs will, in turn, be enhanced.
It is with great pride that I would now like to speak of the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations. The Palestinian city of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, is the place where we are making preparations to celebrate the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third. It is also there, in Palestine, that the past, the present and the future will meet in a global vision of hope for all peoples. It is a religious and spiritual occasion of high importance, not only for our people and the other peoples of the region, but also for all the faithful around the world and for the entire international community. I appreciate the unanimous adoption last year of the resolution concerning this great and important matter, and invite the Assembly to continue to grant it its attention and consideration this year.
Here, I wish to extend once again the Palestinian people's invitation to the Assembly and to all the leaders of the world to visit us during this important spiritual and religious occasion in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and the other religious and spiritual places, so that we can proudly live together in peace at this special, historic time.
I should like to extend my gratitude to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to the Committee's Chairman, Ambassador Ibra Ka of Senegal, to the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories and to all the staff members of this international Organization working in programmes relating to the question of Palestine. They have all provided immeasurable support to the just cause of the Palestinian people and have most certainly contributed to advancing the peace process towards the achievement of a just, permanent and comprehensive peace
- a peace of the brave that will secure justice and freedom for the Palestinian people and their sovereignty over their land, along with security, stability and peace for all countries and peoples of this region.
Once again I express my congratulations to you, Mr. President, and my gratitude to all the members of the international community, reiterating to you the appeal of Palestine
- an appeal of right, justice and peace.
On behalf of the General Assembly, I wish to thank the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority for the statement he has just made.
Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, was escorted from the rostrum.
The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.