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46th plenary meeting
Wednesday, 12 November 2008, 10 a.m.
The meeting was called to order at 10.20 a.m.
Agenda item 45
Culture of peace
Report of the Secretary-General (A/63/262)
Note by the Secretary-General (A/63/127)
Draft resolutions (A/63/L.23 and A/63/L.24/Rev.1)
Address by Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel
The President ( spoke in Spanish ): The Assembly will now hear an address by the President of the State of Israel.
Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel, was escorted into the General Assembly Hall.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Peres : Earlier this week, we commemorated the passing of 13 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, my friend and partner in our journey, who was murdered while singing a song of peace. Assassins may take a life, but they cannot kill a dream. That fateful night at the square, we stood together and sang of peace, which has been the aspiration of my people for generation upon generation. Then came three shots.
However, we were not alone in our despair. Many around the world who cherished Rabin’s vision came to stand at our side and share our grief. Arab and Muslim leaders came, which we very much appreciated. At the time, it felt like sorrow had shattered barriers. Tragedy had united sons and daughters of all religions. Our shared agony shed light on our shared hopes, our hunger for fraternity and the dream of peace that we nurtured in our hearts.
In our region, children bear the names of prophets who are sacred to us all. Why should Avraham and Abraham and Ibrahim grow up as adversaries in animosity? Why should Moses, Moshe and Musa live that way? As our prophets asked,
“Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal deceitfully, every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” ( The Holy Bible, Malachi 2:10)
Abraham said to his nephew Lot,
“Please let there be no strife between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” ( Genesis 13:8)
That was the first call for peace among brothers in history. Brotherly relations should not involve violence and domination. We all worship the same Lord in Heaven. Religion carries the word of God to man, as is written in Psalms:
“What man is he that desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?” ( Psalms 34:12)
“Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” ( Psalms 34:14)
Religious belief requires that we recognize the eternal message that all men were created in God’s image. Harming a human being is tantamount to harming God himself. When nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, indiscriminate terror and fanatical incitement determine the agenda, all of us have to change that agenda.
The Jewish and Arab national revivals occurred at almost the same time and on almost the same piece of land. They occurred rapidly and in a land that was small. However, after the First World War, a window of opportunity was opened when Emir Feisal and President Weizmann aspired to create a new environment. They met 89 years ago, in November 1919, to announce an understanding between two peoples from the same cradle who could have lived under the shadow of the same trees — the old olives and tall dates. Their declaration states in part:
“mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their natural aspirations is through the closest possible collaboration”.
That was great statesmanship and timely wisdom. Alas, we did not take heed of it. Instead, we confronted one another, abandoning faith for greed and forging swords instead of peace. They tore apart the land and increased hostility, resulting in a region of barriers and walls that rose higher and higher and destroying any bridges that may have been built. Hundreds of thousands of men and women from all sides lost their lives; many were incurably injured; others lost their homes and became refugees. Fortunes were wasted on the purchase, maintenance and replacement of weapons that inevitably became obsolete. Resources were spent on sustaining hostility instead of advancing life. There can be no consolation for the bereaved families or the orphaned children, other than the end of violence and bloodshed.
There is an Arab proverb that states that there are three events that cannot be reversed: an arrow released from its bow, a word that has escaped one’s mouth and a bullet that splits the heart. Alas, we cannot change the past; however, we can build and shape a new future. That seems more feasible today in the light of the Saudi proposal that evolved into the Arab Peace Initiative.
I listened to the statement of His Majesty the King of Saudi Arabia. I hope that his voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region and all people. It is right. It is needed. It is promising. The Initiative’s portrayal of our region’s future provides hope to the people and inspires confidence in the nations. Yes, in order to change the world we have to change ourselves.
The Arab Peace Initiative states that “a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties”. Israel agrees with that assumption. The Initiative continues by saying that “just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries”. That is also the strategic option of Isr The Arab Peace Initiative states that “a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties”. Israel agrees with that assumption. The Initiative continues by saying that “just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is the strategic option of the Arab countries”. That is also the strategic option of Israel. The Initiative states that the goals are to “consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended … enter into a peace agreement with Israel and provide security for all the States of the region”, as well as to “establish normal relations with Israel in the context of comprehensive peace” and “stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good-neighbourliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity”.
Those expressions in the Arab Peace Initiative are inspirational and promising; they represent a serious opening for what may become real progress and a great reality.
A comprehensive regional peace requires the completion of the bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians and the sharing of the painful cost. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is conducting those negotiations and who has just returned from Sharm el-Sheikh, has said that we are going to continue to negotiate despite the Israeli elections. We are ready for that, as we have proved many times in the past.
Thirty years ago we signed the peace accords with Egypt. Fifteen years ago we undertook the Oslo initiative with the Palestinians. Fourteen years ago we achieved peace with the Kingdom of Jordan. Nine years ago we withdrew completely from Lebanon. Three years ago we evacuated Gaza completely and willingly dismantled all our settlements there; it was not simple. Today we are making progress in the negotiations with the Palestinians. We are exploring the possibility of real peace with the Syrians, who are last on the list of historic conflicts.
However, there are those in our region who sow hatred and try to widen the abyss and erect barriers; those who seek to wipe out other people and encourage killing, as though they were gods. In order to stand up against those who instigate discord and violence, we must bear the flag of brotherhood and peace. That will be a beacon for a world in trouble. It will end many conflicts and offer a comprehensive peace for all people — real freedom without domination or occupation; global economic cooperation and cultural relations — a new vision for the entire region.
I know that it is harder to pursue peace than to wage war. Building is more difficult than destruction. Yet, it is my life experience that it is worthwhile to strive for peace, build homes and respect human life. That is the proper biography for men of goodwill. For the sake of our children, let us break the bonds of hostility that stem from the past. When the world faces a serious crisis, let us offer a new remedy to overcome old maladies. The global crisis worries us just as our crisis worries the world. However, we can adopt a position acceptable to the entire world that does not erase our national identities but offers global opportunities for all of us.
This meeting of religious leaders can produce a movement of profound significance, one that will bear great responsibility. If we call on believers to serve peace in every nation for all nations, for every person and for all peoples, the bridges we build will render the barriers useless. Let us free the world from the perception that an irrevocable curse of darkness hangs in the skies of the Middle East. Our shared history has known golden ages during which we — Arabs, Jews and Christians — lived as friends and brothers.
Interfaith dialogue will elevate our spirits, bring a breath of fresh air to our peoples today and live on in posterity. Let us renew our faith in one God, in a God of values and respect for human life. That is the duty and responsibility of all States and religious leaders. Let us not recoil from difficulty. We must not hesitate when faced with risks. Working for peace will justify our prayers and bring a new sense of purpose to our lives. It will demonstrate our values to our children, all values to all children. Peace is not just a goal. It was a promise made to us at the dawn of time and at the pinnacle of the holiest mountains. Let us climb together to those mountains and breathe fresh air in a new landscape.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I wish to thank the President of the State of Israel for the statement he has just made.
Mr. Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel, was escorted from the General Assembly Hall.
Address by His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, Head of State of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
The President ( spoke in Spanish ): The Assembly will now hear an address by the head of State of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, head of State of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, was escorted into the General Assembly Hall.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, head of State of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
King Abdullah (spoke in Arabic ): ...
It is impossible to talk about interfaith harmony, especially between East and West, without also discussing conflict resolution in the Middle East. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the core conflict in our region. It is a political conflict and it demands a just, negotiated solution that brings statehood and freedom for Palestinians and security and more regional acceptance for Israel. For with every day that justice is denied to Palestinians, with every day that the occupation prevents a positive future, the regional and global impact grows. Resentment and frustration are felt throughout the region and, indeed, throughout the world. Millions of people, especially young people, question whether the West means what it says about equality, respect and universal justice. Meanwhile, extremists — Muslim, Christian and Jewish — are thriving on the doubts and divisions.
My friends, I can think of no more effective way to ease East-West and interfaith tensions than to end that divisive conflict with a peace based on our deep, shared values: justice, respect for international law and the right of all people to live in dignity.
As we move forward with tangible solutions to that and other regional conflicts, we must also make tangible strides in communication. That means a sustainable, institutional effort to spread tolerance and acceptance through practical initiatives across the globe. Young people are vital to success. I hope that from this summit we will launch student exchanges and joint university projects to bring young people together and show them that what humanity has in common is far greater than what separates us. I also hope that we can encourage leadership from the world’s media, large and small. No group is in a better position to get the truth out — on every continent — that people of different faiths can live in peace and harmony, and that when we do so, we are more equipped to face the challenges. Only together will we realize the prosperous future all of us seek.
Address by Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland
The President ( spoke in Spanish): The Assembly will now hear an address by Her Excellency Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland.
Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, was escorted into the General Assembly Hall.
The President (spoke in Spanish): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations Her Excellency Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, and to invite her to address the Assembly.
President Halonen : ...
The dispute between Israel and the Palestinians is often mentioned as a key issue, symbolizing the breach between the West and the Muslim world. Finland welcomes and supports serious initiatives to solve this dispute. It is generally acknowledged that any solution must be based on a two-State model and on reaching agreement on the status of Palestinian refugees and on Jerusalem. Nevertheless, there is no instant formula for peace. Finding a solution requires negotiations and we all know that these are always influenced by national and international political situations. Reaching a negotiated solution requires political will and courage, above all on the part of the Israelis and the Palestinians. Our countries and organizations should above all support the negotiations and refrain from doing anything that hinders them. Any agreement reached between Israel and the Palestinians must also be accepted by everyone else.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I wish to thank the President of the Republic of Finland for the statement she has just made.
Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Republic of Finland, was escorted from the General Assembly Hall.
The President ( spoke in Spanish ): The Assembly will now hear an address by His Excellency Mr. Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic.
Mr. Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic, was escorted into the General Assembly Hall.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Michel Sleiman, President of the Lebanese Republic, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Sleiman (spoke in Arabic ): ...
We must have a true dialogue, one of hearts and minds, so as to establish relations among different cultures and religions based on mutual awareness of common denominators as well as recognition of differences and particularities.
At the same time, impulsive resort to dialogue to resolve existing or potential conflicts will not yield results unless it is based on a long, cumulative process that has diligently and regularly integrates relations of trust and openness towards one another. We should be committed to our ideas, convictions and practices in a spirit of genuine dialogue based on justice.
Within the context of such a process lies the importance of the cultural, educational and media efforts that should accompany the dialogue, launched or supported by the United Nations and its specialized agencies. These agencies include UNESCO and the bodies that the Madrid World Conference on Dialogue created and to which participants committed themselves.
In spite of this, the effectiveness of this dialogue remains subject to the dynamics of asymmetric power relations. Furthermore, continuation of control, oppression and arbitrariness puts the credibility of any dialogue to a critical test. This is primarily true in our Arab Levant and the Holy Lands.
For how could any dialogue progress and flourish when Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories persist, when the national and human rights of the Palestinian people are systematically violated, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their territories and homeland, and when attempts to impose a resettlement of Palestinian refugees in other countries continue.
Such a reality is in contravention of United Nations resolutions that have brought us here today and with the spirit of justice which must embrace the dialogue that we have been convened here to discuss.
Therefore, Jerusalem, the city of peace, where believers in the monotheistic religions come together, would not realize its historic mission unless the injustice imposed on its sons and on the Palestinian people as a whole is redressed and the occupation is ended.
Address by Mr. Abbas El Fassi, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco
The President ( spoke in Spanish ): The Assembly will now hear an address by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Mr. Abbas El Fassi, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco, was escorted to the rostrum.
The President (spoke in Spanish ): I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Mr. Abbas El Fassi, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Morocco, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. El Fassi (Morocco) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
King Mohammed VI also called for defusing hotbeds of tension and combating the extremism that undermine international peace and stability. In connection with that principle, His Majesty has spared no effort to responsibly and diligently bridge the gap between the parties to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East and to push the peace process forward in an effort to reach a just, lasting and comprehensive peace that conforms to international legal standards and preserves the inalienable political and civil rights of the Palestinian people by allowing them to live in dignity in an independent and sovereign State, side by side with Israel in peace and security, with Al Quds as its capital.
In his capacity as President of the Al Quds Committee, His Majesty has always insisted on the need to respect the special status of Al Quds and to preserving its religious and cultural identity and its historical monuments so that it can remain the vivid symbol of dialogue and coexistence between religions and beliefs that it has been throughout history.
The meeting rose at 1 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.