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President Yasser Arafat , who was considered by his people as the father of the nation, dedicated his life to the establishment of a Palestinian State. By signing the Oslo Accords he accepted the principle of the peaceful co-existence of two States, Palestine and Israel. The best tribute to President Arafat would be the achievement of his dream of an independent Palestinian State living in peace and cooperating with all its neighbours.
On behalf of the General Assembly, I request the Observer of Palestine to convey my condolences to the Palestinian people and to the bereaved family.
I invite representatives to stand and observe a minute of silence in tribute to the memory of President Yasser Arafat .
The members of the General Assembly observed a minute of silence.
The President (spoke in French ): I now call on the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General: For nearly four decades, Yasser Arafat expressed and symbolized in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. He was one of those few leaders who was instantly recognizable by people in any walk of life all around the world.
President Arafat will always be remembered for having led the Palestinians, in 1988, to accept the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian State. By signing the Oslo Accords in 1993, he took a giant step towards the realization of that vision. It is tragic that he did not live to see it fulfilled. Now that he has gone, both Israelis and Palestinians, and the friends of both peoples throughout the world, must make even greater efforts to bring about the peaceful realization of the Palestinian right to self-determination.
Thirty years ago this week, Yasser Arafat stood in this Hall when he became the first representative of a non-governmental organization to speak to a plenary meeting of the General Assembly. One year later, the General Assembly adopted resolution 3237 (XXIX), conferring on the Palestine Liberation Organization the status of observer in the Assembly and in other international conferences held under United Nations auspices.
But the relationship between the United Nations and the Palestinian people is far deeper and broader, and dates back much longer than that. For 55 years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has provided humanitarian assistance, health care, housing and education to Palestinians. Today, there are a total of 19 United Nations agencies and bodies lending their assistance to the Palestinian people. We must, and will, continue that work for as long as the Palestinian people need our help.
Together with our partners, we will also continue our efforts to achieve the full implementation of the road map, as endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 1515 (2003). Our goal is the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002). That includes as its centrepiece the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel. Although Chairman Arafat did not live to see the attainment of those goals, the world will continue to strive towards them.
Today our condolences go to Chairman Arafat’s wife and young daughter, for whom his death is a personal tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers also go to his wider family — the wider family of the Palestinian people — in the hope that they will find the strength, vision and courage to look ahead to the possibility of a peaceful settlement, for the benefit of succeeding generations.
The President (spoke in French ): I now call His Excellency Mr. Crispin Grey-Johnson, Permanent Representative of the Gambia, who will speak on behalf of the Group of African States.
Mr. Grey-Johnson (Gambia): I speak in the name of the Group of African States. The Group of African States at the United Nations is profoundly saddened by the passing away this morning of Mohammed Yasser Abdul-Raouf Qudwa Al-Husseini, commonly known as Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority.
President Arafat was the personification of Palestinian nationalism. Since 1957, when he founded the Fatah movement in Kuwait, to the very last minute of his life, he lived for and advanced the Palestinian cause. Through his exemplary leadership, a Palestinian identity was forged, amplified and consolidated, and the question of Palestine was elevated from a mere footnote to full centre stage of international negotiations and discourse. The movement for the independence of the Palestinian people grew into the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, with a military wing — the Palestine Liberation Army — added to it in 1970.
In recognition of his efforts to have his people renounce violence, embrace peace and recognize the State of Israel through the Declaration of Principles, which he signed with the Israelis in 1993, Mr. Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin of Israel. In 1994 the Palestinian Authority was created by the Oslo Accords, and he was elected its first President two years later — a position he held until his death this morning at the age of 75.
Abu Ammar, as he was affectionately called by his people, committed his entire life to the cause of freedom for all the world’s oppressed people, for the liberation of the Palestinian people and the return of their heritage — a cause he vociferously defended on numerous occasions in this very Hall. For good or for ill, he has left his footprints on the sands of time. It is our fervent prayer that the peace that he sought for his people throughout the course of his life will soon radiate not only among Palestinians, but also among all people in the Middle East and beyond.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, to the Palestinian Authority and to all the people of Palestine. May his soul rest in peace.
The President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to Mr. Rezlan Ishar Jenie of Indonesia, to speak on behalf of the Asian States.
Mr. Jenie (Indonesia): I join you today as Chairman of the Group of Asian States to pay tribute to President Yasser Arafat, who passed away on 11 November 2004 at 3.30 a.m., Paris time.
We join the Palestinian people in mourning his death and regret that he did not live to see the birth of an independent Palestine. As the father of the Palestinian people, he kept the dream of an independent homeland burning ever brightly. However, a prolonged illegal occupation, which continues even today, prevented this from becoming a reality during his lifetime.
I would like to recall that exactly 30 years ago, in November 1974, President Arafat, the symbol of the genuine Palestinian struggle for independence, first spoke at a plenary meeting of the General Assembly of this Organization. It was clear then that his firm struggle for the independence of his country did not blind him to the need for compromise. On that historic occasion he offered an olive branch to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the political issues surrounding Palestine’s independence.
In the years following that address, despite the many adversities he had to endure, President Arafat’s determination to lead the Palestinian people to a just and lasting peace never wavered. Arming himself with courage and hope, he brought the peace of the brave to the Oslo Accords of 1993 and to the subsequent talks in Washington.
His permanent desire was justice and peace for a people who were only too familiar with the harshness of oppression. Having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, he made known the depth of his desire for peace by stating, “We will discover ourselves through peace more than we did through confrontation and conflict”. Peace, he reasoned, was indispensable to Palestinian ambitions for independence and sovereignty.
Yet the ferocity of the repression of the Palestinian people did not lessen over the years. But he matched its intensity with his commitment and undying optimism. Because of this, he was a much loved and respected figure, not only by the Palestinian people but by many all over the world, including Asia.
Despite repeated attempts and negotiations — including the famous road map brokered by the Quartet in 2002 with the objective of setting up a two-State solution in 2005 — he was effectively prevented from fully leading his people to peace or to the creation of a Palestinian State. His last days were unfortunately spent as a virtual prisoner in his compound in Ramallah.
Though his hope for gaining independence for the people of Palestine has not been achieved, that does not mean that the flame for independence has been extinguished. Palestine has lost its beloved leader, but the people have not lost their esteem and desire for liberty and independence.
All of Asia extends heartfelt condolences to the people of Palestine and the bereaved family. We pray to God the Almighty for the late President Yasser Arafat and for his family to be blessed with patience and strength in this time of deep sorrow.
The President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to Mr. Andrei Dapkiunas, the representative of Belarus, to speak on behalf of the Eastern European States.
Mr. Dapkiunas (Belarus): On behalf of the Group of Eastern European States, I have the sad duty of expressing a deep sense of grief and compassion on the passing away of President Yasser Arafat.
The life and work of President Arafat were inseparably connected with the struggle of the Palestinian people for their inalienable rights for a better and safer future in their homeland.
President Arafat will be remembered as a lifelong and committed advocate of the Palestinian cause and an important participant in the historic 1993 Oslo Accords. The Nobel Peace Prize of 1994 was a deserved acknowledgement of President Arafat’s role and contribution to the peace process in the Middle East.
As a person and as a statesman, Yasser Arafat has left a significant and undisputed imprint, not just on the modern history of the Middle East, but on world politics of past decades as well.
On behalf of the delegations of the States of the Eastern European Group, I convey deep condolences to the family of the late President Arafat and the mourning people of Palestine, the homeland he loved so much and devoted his whole life to. May his soul rest in peace.
The President (spoke in French ): I give the floor to Mr. Eduardo Sevilla Somoza, representative of Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Mr. Sevilla Somoza (Nicaragua) (spoke in Spanish ): On this occasion of profound sadness for the Palestinian people, I wish, on behalf of the members of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, to pay tribute to the memory of President Yasser Arafat, an historic figure who had an impact on the world until he drew his last breath.
The great majority of Palestinians feel they have lost their leader, their master, the father of the State. Unquestionably, he symbolized the feelings of his people. In his person he represented the aspirations of a whole people, raising to a world level his conviction for the establishment of a sovereign State.
The countries of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States express our most heartfelt condolences upon the passing of President Arafat to the Palestinian people and all members of his family, particularly Suha, now the widow of President Arafat, and her young daughter, Zahwa.
Our feelings of solidarity and support at this time of such sorrow and distress also go most particularly to Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa and the other members of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations.
The countries of the Group urge the Palestinian people and its leaders to keep alive the ideals of their greatest representative with a view to creating a free and sovereign Palestinian State, economically viable, but above all, dedicated to peace, not only for Palestine but for the whole of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
The President (spoke in French ): I call on Mr. Don MacKay, representative of New Zealand, to speak on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group.
Mr. MacKay (New Zealand): As Chairman of the Western European and Other States Group, I would like to address the Assembly today to express condolences and sympathies to the family of President Arafat and to the Palestinian people on the passing of Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority.
Over the last four decades President Arafat came to symbolize the Palestinian national movement and the aspirations of the Palestinian people. President Arafat was respected by the Palestinians and others as a leader who symbolized their long search for statehood and independence and led the Palestinians to a historic acceptance of the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian State.
The Palestinian leadership will now have to shoulder the heavy burden and responsibility of carrying that vision of two States living side by side in peace and security and bringing it to fruition. It is to be hoped that the international community will provide every support it can to achieve this vision.
The President (spoke in French ): I give the floor to Mr. Omar Bashir Mohamed Manis, the representative of Sudan, on behalf of the Arab States.
Mr. Manis (Sudan) (spoke in Arabic ): The late President Arafat continued to work to achieve the legitimate aspirations and dreams of the Palestinian people to have an independent Palestinian State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, to spread peace and establish stability, and for it, he sacrificed everything that was precious to him in order to achieve this noble goal. He endured all forms of unjust treatment, torture, siege, humiliation and displacement for this just cause.
The Arab and Islamic nation, with the loss of President Arafat loses a symbol of Palestinian struggle and a strong, unique and distinguished leader in the history of the Palestinian struggle. It has lost a fighter president that was at the forefront of all efforts to unite the Arab position in the darkest of moments and circumstances. He worked with true faith and real interaction in order to keep the Palestinian cause — the central cause of all Arabs — alive, despite the intransigence and the oppression of the Israeli occupation forces that have rejected all binding resolutions, and to regain usurped Palestinian rights.
Despite forced imprisonment and his recent illness, he worked to mobilize sincere Arabic and international efforts towards the peace process, taking courageous and insightful decisions in order to pursue a peaceful settlement and the establishment of a legitimate and independent Palestinian State through hard and serious negotiations until these efforts were crowned with the signing of many agreements.
Despite the tragedy of losing President Arafat today, we trust that the peace process and the path that he has drawn for his people in calling for their legitimate right to the liberation of Palestine from the occupiers and for establishing their legitimate State on Palestinian soil, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, will always be a beacon.
With hearts that are heavy with pain and sadness and with deep faith and surrender to the will of God we are shocked by the loss of brother President Yasser Arafat, whose loss is a source of great sadness and grief to the Palestinian people, to the Arab and Islamic nations and to all peace-loving countries and peoples, as well as to all those who care about the peace process in the Middle East.
On behalf of the Arab Group, we offer our deepest and sincerest condolences to the family of the late President and to the heroic Palestinian people and to Arabs everywhere and to all the peace-loving peoples who seek liberation, and we call on God Almighty to grant him heaven with the martyrs and the righteous for they are the best of companions.
The Palestinian people, with the loss of their President Yasser Arafat, have lost a courageous fighter, an inspirational and steadfast leader who never wavered in his diligent effort to liberate Palestine, in his honourable and brave national struggle and in his real belief in the justice of his people’s cause and the legitimacy of their struggle over the decades. President Arafat led the struggle of the Palestinian people with great wisdom and insight. He firmly defended the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, while maintaining the unity of their parties, without discriminating against any. He remained committed to his national principles with rare strength, willpower and courage. We hope his inspiration will continue to be a beacon for his people and for the Palestinian leaders, so that they may achieve the aspirations that he sought all his life to accomplish.
Although President Arafat is absent today, his ideals and principles will survive and will continue to be our guiding light. We are from God and to Him we shall return.
The President (spoke in French ): I now call on the representative of the Netherlands, who will speak on behalf of the European Union.
Mr. Van den Berg (Netherlands): On behalf of the countries of European Union (EU), I would like to convey our profound condolences to Madame Arafat, to the family of the deceased and to the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian people have lost a historic leader and a democratically elected President. Mr. Arafat’s devotion and single-minded commitment to the Palestinian national cause throughout his life has never been in doubt. He did not live to see the birth of a Palestinian State. However, the European Union will work with the Palestinian authorities and the international community to contribute to realizing the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
The European Union would like to commend the Palestinian leadership for their demonstration of dignity and responsibility in order to maintain the Palestinian institutions at this difficult time. We also pay tribute to the Palestinian people, who support their leadership. We wish to stress that the Palestinian people can count on the undiminished support of the European Union on the path towards a peaceful, durable and just settlement of the conflict. We are convinced that this goal can be achieved for both Israelis and Palestinians.
On a more personal note, we, the Permanent Representatives of the European Union, would also like to convey our heartfelt condolences to our colleague Nasser Al-Kidwa, the Permanent Observer of Palestine, who lost a President, as well as a family member. Our sympathies are with him. May Nasser have the strength and the courage to overcome this grave loss.
The President (spoke in French ): I now call on the representative of Malaysia, who will speak on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Mr. Rastam (Malaysia): I have the honour and the sad duty to speak on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on this solemn occasion to pay tribute to the memory of the late President Yasser Arafat, who passed away on 11 November 2004. I extend the sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathies of the member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement to Madame Suha Arafat and the family, the Observer Delegation of Palestine to the General Assembly, the Palestinian Authority and all Palestinians, over the passing of President Yasser Arafat, a loving father and husband, a learned tutor and an inspiring leader of the Palestinian people.
President Arafat was not only a leader of the Palestinians, but was also among the influential leaders within the Non-Aligned Movement. Together with our Palestinian brothers and sisters, the member countries of NAM mourn with great sadness and deep sorrow his untimely departure.
President Arafat will be forever remembered, not only by Palestinians but also by people from all parts of the world, for his immense courage, enormous sacrifice and strong determination in championing and protecting the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Palestine and their claim to their own sovereign homeland. He devoted his life to that struggle — against all odds — for almost four decades, including suffering the indignity of being virtually imprisoned by the Israelis at the Muqataa in Ramallah. President Arafat will indelibly remain the icon President Arafat will be forever remembered, not only by Palestinians but also by people from all parts of the world, for his immense courage, enormous sacrifice and strong determination in championing and protecting the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Palestine and their claim to their own sovereign homeland. He devoted his life to that struggle — against all odds — for almost four decades, including suffering the indignity of being virtually imprisoned by the Israelis at the Muqataa in Ramallah. President Arafat will indelibly remain the icon of the Palestinian struggle against injustice, against brutal oppression, against subjugation, as well as against the forces that seek to deny the Palestinian people their dignity, freedom and independence. It must be remembered that until his death, President Arafat remained the duly elected leader of the Palestinian people and therefore had the right to represent them, although certain quarters did not wish to acknowledge that.
President Arafat’s leadership of the Palestinian people may have come to an end, but, his legacy of iron will and fighting spirit, which he lived by all his life will continue to inspire the Palestinian people and those who share the legitimate cause of the Palestinians. The Non-Aligned Movement is confident that our brothers and sisters in Palestine will remain calm and stand united during this most difficult time, in order to collectively address the many challenges ahead.
The memory of President Arafat should serve to motivate all Palestinians to display solidarity in order to secure, without delay, an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital. As a fitting tribute to President Arafat’s memory, NAM will continue to support the struggle of the Palestinians to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and the establishment of the State of Palestine, living side by side with the State of Israel in peace within secure and recognized borders. NAM will remain strongly supportive of all endeavours aimed at addressing the Palestinian question, a question that has been high on the agenda of the Non-Aligned Movement since the Movement’s establishment in September 1961.
NAM calls upon all Member States of the United Nations, and in particular members of the Quartet, to closely monitor the situation in Palestine, as well as to restrain Israel from exploiting, in any manner, the present circumstances. We believe that it is timely for urgent measures to be taken to implement the road map for peace in the Middle East without any further delay.
The contributions of President Yasser Arafat to the Movement will long be remembered within NAM. His untimely departure is a great loss, not only to the Palestinian people, but also to all people who believe in the just struggle that he led. May God Almighty bless his soul with mercy and compassion.
The President (spoke in French ): I now call on the representative of Turkey, who is speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
Mr. Cengizer (Turkey): It is my solemn and sad duty to speak on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on our loss of a valiant leader of the Palestinian people, President Yasser Arafat. As evidenced by the numerous speakers who have taken the floor before me, representing the four corners of the world, this is a sad day for all humanity.
The Muslim world, about to observe the felicitous occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, grieves, but in a most meaningful way. The Muslim world joins its Palestinian brothers and sisters in this great loss. More than anyone else, President Arafat epitomized the rightful struggle of his people. There is no doubt that the flame he lit and nurtured with singular courage and determination against all odds, yet which burned unabated for more than half a century, will continue until Palestinian statehood is achieved.
In that spirit, we stand with our Palestinian brothers and sisters in their implacable grief and pay heartfelt tribute to President Arafat’s unforgettable memory and struggle for justice, which he sought until the very end. We pray for his soul, his family and his brethren all over the world, and we salute once again his ideals, which will never fade away.
The President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to the representative of Senegal, Mr. Paul Badji, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
Mr. Badji (Senegal) (Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People) ( spoke in French ): On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, I wish to express how deeply saddened we are by the death of Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian people have lost a most ardent leader of their cause, a determined fighter, an unequalled strategist and a visionary leader who for decades was the living symbol of the courage, tenacity, resistance and unity of the Palestinian people and of their legitimate aspiration to freedom, sovereignty and national independence.
Over the last 10 years President Arafat undertook a historic fight to achieve what he often called the peace of the brave and the goal of establishing the State of Palestine, living side by side with Israel — a goal that would bring peace, security and stability to the region.
The Committee hopes that in these times of hardship the Palestinian people will remain united and determined to continue on the road to peace marked out by President Arafat. We will support the Palestinian people until their inalienable rights are fully realized, in perfect harmony with international legality.
The Committee will continue to work for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, in conformity with the relevant United Nations resolutions and international law. The Committee believes that the road map remains the best way to attain a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine through the establishment of two States, Israel and Palestine, based on the 1967 borders and the relevant United Nations resolutions. Any unilateral act by either party will not contribute to a lasting settlement unless it is in conformity with the spirit of negotiations between the two sides and the road map. The Committee hopes that the Quartet and the international community will continue to work to achieve that goal. That would be the best tribute to President Arafat.
The Committee conveys its deepest condolences to the family of President Arafat, the entire Palestinian people and Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, our fellow Committee member, on the occasion of this cruel loss.
The President (spoke in French ): I now call on Mr. Amr Aboul Atta, chargé d’affaires of Egypt.
Mr. Aboul Atta (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic ): The Assembly is meeting today at a time of great sorrow, not just for the Arab world but for the entire free world. Yesterday we lost a brave fighter, a steadfast leader and a unique nationalist, the late President Arafat.
The Government and the people of Egypt offer their sincerest condolences to the brotherly Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority and its institutions on the occasion of the death of the late President Arafat. He embodied the national struggle for freedom and independence in our modern-day history.
The memory of peoples and the pages of history have never forgotten the great sacrifices that were made by symbols of national struggle such as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. The two achieved the dream of freedom and national independence. The name of the late President Arafat will forever remain a symbol of the history of the Palestinian people’s national struggle since Israel first occupied the territory of Palestine and since the Palestinians first strove for self-determination.
Yasser Arafat was not just a symbol of the national struggle against foreign occupation; he was a dedicated political leader. He exerted every effort possible and bore great hardships and suffering to carry the olive branch and extend his hand in peace in order to achieve a political settlement that would end the bloodshed of innocent people, recover all rights and achieve self-determination for an entire people, ending a conflict that has clouded our lives for decades.
Regrettably, fate did not allow President Arafat to achieve the fruit of his long struggle, fulfil his long-held wish to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque and see the free flag of the State of Palestine fly high over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a symbol of an independent Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
History will not forget that at a time when human rights are defended and the principles of international law and international legitimacy are respected, as are the will and firm right of peoples to self-determination, the leader of an Arab people lived under a humiliating siege for more than two years in his own land and in his own country, deprived of even the most basic human rights.
The leadership and people of the Arab Republic of Egypt have full and unwavering confidence that the values and principles that guided President Arafat in the struggle of his people over many long years will not be lost. The Palestinian people will rapidly overcome their sorrow to rally around a national leadership that will continue the struggle to achieve a just and comprehensive peace and regain all Palestinian rights.
The situation in the Middle East is continuing to develop rapidly and successively. Some developments serve to intensify feelings of frustration and despair, but some do provide a ray of hope for a future that may be brighter for the generations to come. We are very hopeful that the course of action that President Arafat initiated will be continued and that the next stage will see a real activation of the peace process and a return by both parties to the negotiating table, especially given the increased attention by the main international parties with a view to reactivating the peace process and proposing serious initiatives in this regard.
The President (spoke in French ): I call on the observer of Palestine.
Ms. Barghouti (Palestine) (spoke in Arabic ): With great sorrow and sadness, the Palestinian leadership and the entire Palestinian people wish it to be known that President Arafat — the leader, the teacher, the son and the symbol of Palestine, the architect of its current national movement, the hero of all of its battles for freedom and independence — passed away at the dawn of this day.
President Arafat has left this world, and his great heart has stilled. His pure spirit has returned to its creator. But he will remain as long as his great people remain, because he was a leader of their political struggle and their great march to build a national identity on their national soil. He was the symbol of their aspiration for the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, with its capital at Al-Quds al-Sharif, and for their liberation from the shackles of displacement, refugee status and occupation. Today we have lost the great leader of our struggle, one who strove for the freedom of his nation — the great leader of the movement for national liberation and independence. But he has left us a great universal and national legacy — one that represents our hope for a bright future of peace, freedom and development for our people and for all peoples.
President Arafat has passed on — he who was raised on the streets of Jerusalem and who lived his life in the hope that it would become the capital of an independent Palestine. Today, his tomb looks towards Al-Quds al-Sharif. He will lie close to Al-Aqsa, with a handful of the soil of Al-Quds al-Sharif.
In two days’ time we will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the historic statement delivered by President Arafat to the Assembly in 1974, the statement that placed the Palestinian people and their legitimate political rights on the international agenda and made the question of Palestine one of the most prominent just causes. He introduced the cause of the Palestinian people to the Assembly not just as a humanitarian question or a question of refugees, but as an issue involving a people struggling for their right to self-determination and independence. Since that time, the United Nations has addressed the question of Palestine in all its aspects and by every means in fulfilment of its permanent legal, moral and political responsibility towards the Palestinian people.
The Palestinian people will miss President Arafat’s great courage, attachment to principle, clear strategic vision and wise leadership. But the Palestinian people can take solace in the knowledge that they do not stand alone in their just struggle for freedom and independence. The generous support of all members of the Assembly means a great deal to us and gives us confidence in the justice of our cause and the inevitability of our triumph. We thank the Assembly, the Secretary-General and all fraternal and friendly States for their sincere expressions of condolence and their warm sentiments, which we greatly appreciate. We will be sure to convey them to the Palestinian leadership and to the family of the late President.
In this regard, we would like to inform the Assembly that the mission of Palestine will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, 15 and 16 November, to all delegations wishing to express their condolences on the passing of the President.
We are of God, and to Him we return.
Agenda item 39 (continued )
Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance
(a) Strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations
Reports of the Secretary-General (A/59/93 and A/59/374)
(c) Assistance to the Palestinian people
Report of the Secretary-General (A/59/121)
Draft resolution (A/59/L.24)
Mr. Zain (Malaysia): I would like first of all to express our deepest sorrow and grief over the untimely passing of President Yasser Arafat and to convey our condolences to the Palestinian people.
My delegation would like to express its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report under agenda item 39 (c), “Assistance to the Palestinian people”, covering the period May 2003 to April 2004, as contained in document A/59/121.
The past year has been marked by dramatic events. It had offered new hope of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, pursuant to the publication by the Quartet of the performance-based road map. Hopes were subsequently raised even further when the Prime Ministers of Israel and of Palestine committed themselves to working collectively towards the full implementation of the road map. The Aqaba Summit had also lent necessary impetus in that connection. However, the implementation of the road map has stalled, thereby rendering the achievement of the envisaged peaceful solution elusive. Even as we meet here today, events in and relating to the Middle East region are still unfolding with uncertainty.
Although they may not necessarily be at the centre of global and political attention, the role and functions of United Nations agencies and other humanitarian organizations in the occupied territories are crucial and indispensable. Malaysia has noted with utmost concern that, as pointed out in the report of the Secretary-General, the provision by United Nations agencies and programmes of a variety of types of assistance to the Palestinian people has as its backdrop an increasingly difficult humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Such assistance has been provided, and continues to be provided, under difficult circumstances, in the face of the dire consequences of the repressive administrative and security regimes and measures imposed by the Government of Israel. These have negatively affected the well-being of the Palestinian people. They also hamper the ability of United Nations agencies in the field to carry out their work.
My delegation strongly urges Israel to allow unfettered access to staff members of United Nations agencies and humanitarian workers in the occupied territories. We are alarmed over an observation in the report that it has become increasingly difficult for United Nations agencies to operate there, given that the importance of those agencies and their role in the occupied territories has never been greater.
As a matter of priority, the Government of Israel must ease restrictions and work closely with United Nations agencies, donors and humanitarian organizations to ensure that aid and development projects are delivered in a timely and comprehensive manner. We believe that the effective steps currently being undertaken by the Palestinian Authority to accommodate Israel’s security concerns will facilitate such an effort.
All of this notwithstanding, Malaysia is satisfied with the performance of the relevant United Nations agencies in carrying out various efforts and programmes to provide a variety of types of economic, humanitarian and social assistance to Palestinian civilians and institutions, as reflected, in considerable detail, in paragraphs 21 through 64 of the report. The ever-growing sector of “unmet needs”, as documented in paragraphs 80 through 84 of the report, requires particularly focused attention. All these efforts and programmes, if successfully implemented, could certainly create the necessary environment to facilitate the achievement of sustainable peace in the region.
We are concerned, however, that the implementation of practically all of these efforts and programmes is being hindered by a lack of financial and other resources. We urge the international donor community to increase its contributions to this cause. The international community must not lose its focus despite the challenges facing it and the sense of hopelessness. For their part, the Government and the people of Malaysia will continue to extend assistance, in their own small way and within their means, to our brothers and sisters in Palestine.
Malaysia supports the continued efforts being made to support the peace process by the Secretary-General and the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. We welcome the attempts that have been made to ensure effective coordination between the relevant institutions of the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations and the international community. Malaysia urges the Special Coordinator and his Office to continue with such efforts and to intensify them where possible and necessary.
However, the success of those efforts, as everyone knows, will be highly contingent upon the fullest cooperation extended by the Government of Israel and its apparatus. Therefore, we call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cooperate in the interests of ensuring peace in the long term.
The construction by Israel of the separation wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, has added a new dimension to the problem of providing assistance to the Palestinian people. It has had an adverse impact on the living conditions and freedom of movement of Palestinian civilians. The impact of the wall on Palestinian lives and on the territorial integrity of a future State of Palestine is prejudicial to the very idea of the two-State solution, as envisaged in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002). The International Court of Justice, in its advisory opinion rendered last July, concluded that the construction of the wall in the occupied territories was contrary to international law, that such construction should be stopped and reversed, that those completed sections of the wall should be dismantled and removed, and that Israel should make reparations to those affected by such construction. The General Assembly responded expeditiously to the advisory opinion by adopting resolution ES-10/15. We urge all Member States, in particular Israel, to take all measures necessary to ensure compliance with the provisions of the resolution. We also urge the Security Council to seriously look into this matter.
No matter how substantial the amount of financial resources that are available, humanitarian and financial assistance will not forever and by itself resolve the political crisis affecting the lives of the Palestinians and the Israelis. The solution remains in the ending of occupation, respect for international law and the achievement of a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The events of the past year have demonstrated to us how desperately the people of the Middle East need a political solution to their protracted conflict. Peace will remain elusive unless all parties concerned, the region and the wider international community are prepared to play their part responsibly and with a high degree of political will.
My delegation reaffirms the permanent responsibility of the United Nations, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, towards the question of Palestine until it is resolved in all its aspects on the basis of international law. As a member of the Quartet, the United Nations is well placed to play a pivotal role towards achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace settlement and towards achieving the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. In that connection, my delegation believes that it would be only sensible for Member States to join the consensus in support of draft resolution A/59/L.24 on this agenda item.
Mr. Kim Sam-hoon (Republic of Korea): Before I begin my statement, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deep condolences to the people of Palestine on the passing away of President Yasser Arafat early this morning.
Mr. Sinaga (Indonesia): Allow me at the outset to express my delegation’s deep condolences to the Government and people of Palestine with regard to the passing away of President Yasser Arafat today.
International awareness of humanitarian problems has grown considerably over the years. In that connection, many Governments have greatly improved their preparedness in, for example, facilitating the return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said with respect to the situation in Palestine. Despite the increasingly difficult humanitarian situation there, United Nations agencies continue to render assistance to the Palestinian people. Such assistance is provided under complex circumstances, characterized by closures, curfews, incursions and other measures imposed by the Israeli military, all of which negatively affect the well-being of the Palestinian people and hinder the efforts of the United Nations. Indonesia joins the community of nations in calling upon the Government of Israel to halt all actions that encroach on the territorial rights of the Palestinians, to strictly observe the provisions of international law and to implement the road map.
Ms. Feller (Mexico) (spoke in Spanish ): I would like to echo the expression of condolences extended to the Palestinian people by the Chairman of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States upon the death of President Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Baatar (Mongolia): Let me begin by expressing my condolences on behalf of the Government and people of Mongolia to the bereaved family and the Palestinian people on the passing away of their father, husband and leader, the late President Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Kamanzi (Rwanda): Allow me to begin by joining other delegations in expressing my Government’s condolences to the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people on the death of their leader, President Yasser Arafat.
Mr. Zenna (Ethiopia): Sir, allow me to express my deepest sorrow on the passing away of a great leader, President Yasser Arafat, and to express my condolences to the people, the Government and the family of the late President.
Mr. Shacham (Israel): Israel understands that today is a day of profound sorrow for our Palestinian neighbours. Yet this day also presents an opportunity for renewed momentum in a quest for peace between our two peoples. We hope that all parties will seize this opportunity to fashion a better future together.
I will confine my comments today to agenda sub-item 39 (c), “Assistance to the Palestinian people”.
Israel shares the belief of the international community that all people, in the Middle East and elsewhere, should be able to live prosperous and full lives in security and peace, with standards of living befitting universal human dignity. The Palestinian people, of course, are no exception to that. On the contrary, Israel is particularly interested in the conditions of all our neighbouring communities, especially the Palestinians. Well-being within a nation helps to foster harmony between nations. The Palestinian people are not our enemies; they are our neighbours, and we seek to live side by side with them in mutual respect and mutual dignity. Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in security and in peace. The suffering of both peoples is a humanitarian problem, and the right of both peoples to self-determination must be respected.
In exceedingly difficult security conditions, Israel continues to do all that it can to help the Palestinian people meet their humanitarian needs. That ranges from direct financial and humanitarian assistance to participation in multilateral endeavours alongside other members of the international community, and to the serious consideration given to humanitarian needs within the context of Israel’s security imperatives. Let us not forget, after all, that Israel does that while confronting a brutal Palestinian terror campaign against its citizenry — a war that, in subverting any chances for peace, does immense harm to both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, a battle against terrorists who have no respect for life or for law and whose violence endangers Palestinian lives just as it targets Israeli ones.
This terror is of no assistance to the Palestinian people. It is terror that causes hardship, not hardship that causes terror. It is terror that is the enemy of peace and the enemy of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples alike. It is terrorism that makes humanitarian assistance and progress towards peace so difficult. It is the terrorists who hide among civilians and see any humanitarian gesture as merely an opening for further attacks. That is the difficult reality in which humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people must be examined. Israeli security measures are made necessary by that reality, and the humanitarian situation cannot be properly considered without an appreciation of the context and the causes that have brought it about.
The report before us recognizes some of Israel’s contributions and sacrifices, as well as some of the difficulties it faces because of its constant need to balance the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians with the security needs of Israelis. As the report notes in paragraph 7, “The Palestinian Authority did not bring an end to violence and terrorism. It failed to reform its security apparatus according to provisions of the road map”. And because of that, the report states in paragraph 9, “Reprehensible terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups continue to visit carnage and fear on Israelis”. The report also notes in paragraph 52 that “data showed a clear relationship between political or security developments and the severity of access restrictions”, because those restrictions are not arbitrary but rather come out of a response to terrorism. Accordingly, as the report notes in paragraph 88, “Effective steps by the Palestinian Authority to lessen Israel’s security concerns would facilitate” the effort to improve the conditions of the Palestinian people.
Israel has done its utmost, together with the donor community and international organizations, to promote assistance to the Palestinian population. Yet, as the report notes, as soon as new humanitarian arrangements are put into effect, terror groups find a way to use them to their own advantage to carry out violent attacks against Israelis. One example, discussed in the report, is the smuggling earlier this year of terrorists — who were hiding in a shipping container — into an Israeli port, where they embarked upon a shooting rampage, killing and wounding several Israeli civilians.
Until a Palestinian leadership emerges that is willing and capable of acting to eliminate the terrorism that constantly disrupts the hopes for peace in the region, Israel will work to help the Palestinian people, even as it works to maintain the safety of its citizens. Problems remain and dilemmas are faced in the light of the continuing terrorist threat, but Israel is committed to facilitating and assisting the improvement of the humanitarian situation.
We are pleased to say that this year revenues have been transferred from Israel to the Palestinian Authority on schedule each month, accounting for nearly $50 million monthly. Israel has developed a much more efficient working relationship with humanitarian organizations on the ground, and new operating procedures have been instituted at checkpoints and crossing points to speed the transfer of humanitarian shipments, such as ambulances and the like. In addition, special trucking terminals now operate between the West Bank and Israel to provide an ongoing system of transport for produce and other goods.
Some 25,000 Palestinian workers and merchants enter Israeli daily from the West Bank and Gaza, with nearly 20,000 more working in Israeli communities within those territories and in the industrial parks adjacent to them. Trade with Israel accounts for more than 80 per cent of the trade of the Palestinian Authority. We feel, and act on, a responsibility towards our neighbours. In fact, despite the continuing campaign of terrorism, trade between Israel and the Palestinian Authority increased by 16 per cent from 2002 to 2003. In a further effort to ease the economic burden on the Palestinian people, and despite the security challenges involved, Israel facilitates transportation and crossings between Palestinian areas and neighbouring countries — for example, the Rafah crossing to Egypt and the Damia and Allenby bridges to Jordan.
Perhaps the most important initiative that Israel is taking upon itself to alleviate the situation is the disengagement plan. Prime Minister Sharon’s bold and courageous plan — which was recently ratified by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament — involves the dismantling of civilian localities and military installations in Gaza and the northern West Bank by the end of next year. It aims to stabilize the humanitarian and security situation, providing Israelis with greater security, providing Palestinians with greater control over their lives and facilitating greater freedom of movement for people and goods.
As the international community — including the Quartet — has recognized, the disengagement plan has the potential to jump-start the peace process and to bring both sides back to the course projected by the road map. We are hopeful that, by facilitating greater Palestinian self-determination and by urging the Palestinian leadership to live up to its own obligations and commitments, the peace process can regain its footing. It can and must be hoped that that initiative, combined with a return to the road map, will facilitate a true form of assistance to both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
As Prime Minister Sharon said in his statement on the eve of the adoption by the Knesset of the disengagement plan on 25 October:
The meeting rose at 5.55 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.