SPECIAL BULLETIN ON

THE COMMEMORATION OF THE

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY

WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

1999

CONTENTS

Page

I.

II.

Commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Texts of statements made and messages delivered on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 1999

1

Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

3

Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

5

Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Mr. Danilo Türk (Slovenia), President of the Security Council for the month of November 1999

7

8

Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, delivered by

9

Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations

Mr. John de Saram (Sri Lanka), Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations and Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories

9

10

Mr. Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, representing Mr. Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa and Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries

12

Mr. Michel Kafando, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the United Nations, representing Mr. Youssouf Ouedraogo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, in his capacity as Chairman of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers at its twenty-sixth session

13

Mr. Abdelkader Mesdoua, Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations, representing Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria and Chairman of the Organization of African Unity

14

Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, delivered by Mr. Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States

15

Mr. Don Betz, representative of non-governmental organizations accredited to the Palestinian Rights Committee

18

III.

Messages received on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

A.

Messages from heads of State or Government

Prof. Burhân-ud-din Rabbâni, President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam

Mr. Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, President of the Republic of Chile

Mr. Zhu Rongji, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

Mr. Glafcos Clerides, President of the Republic of Cyprus

Mr. Jamil Mahuad Witt, President of the Republic of Ecuador

Mr. Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

Mr. Lansana Conte, President of the Republic of Guinea

Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana

Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of the Republic of India

Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, President of the Republic of Indonesia

Mr. Seyed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

King Abdullah Bin Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Mr. Khamtay Siphandone, President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic

Mr. Pakalitha B. Mosisili, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho

Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, The Yang di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia

Mr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia

Mr. E. Fenech Adami, Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta

Mr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius

Mr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, President of Mexico

Mr. Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia

Mr. Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan

Mr. Alberto Fujimori Fujimori, President of the Republic of Peru

Mr. Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines

Mr. Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland

Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar

Mr. Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation

Fahd Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King of Saudi Arabia

20
20

21

22

22

23

23

24

25

26

26

26

27

28

29

30

30

31

31

32

32

33

33

33

34

34

35

35

36

37

Mr. Abdou Diouf, President of the Republic of Senegal

Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, President of the Democratic  Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

39

40

Mr. Chuan Leekpai, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

Mr. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic of Tunisia

Mr. Bülent Ecevit, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates

Mr. Tran Duc Luong, President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

41

41

42

43

44

 B.

Messages from Governments

United Republic of Tanzania

Uruguay

Zimbabwe

44

45

45

C.

Messages from Ministers for Foreign Affairs

Mr. D. Guido Di Tella, Minister for Foreign Affairs,

International Commerce and Worship of the Republic of Argentina

46

Mr. Guillermo Fernández de Soto, Minister for External Relations

of the Republic of Colombia

46

Mr. Yohei Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

Mrs. Lila Hanitra Ratsifandrihamanana, Minister for Foreign Affairs

of the Republic of Madagascar

47

48

Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia

Mr. Ahmed Ould Sid’Ahmed, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation

of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania

49

49

Mr. Mohamed Benaissa, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation

of the Kingdom of Morocco

50

Mr. Alhaji Sule Lamido, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Mr. Yousef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs

of the Sultanate of Oman

51

51

Mr. Farouk Al-Shara', Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic

Mr. Borys Tarasyuk. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

52

53

D.

Messages from intergovernmental organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent offices at Headquarters

European Union:  Ms. Tarja Halonen, Presidency of the Council

Organization of African Unity:  Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General

Organization of the Islamic Conference:  Mr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary-General

54

55

55

E.

Messages from specialized agencies of the United Nations system

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization:

Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General

57

F.

Messages from non-governmental organizations

Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue:  Mr. Latif Dori, Chairman

Federación Palestina del Perú:  Dr. César A. Salomón Herrada, Secretary-General

58

58

IV.

Closing statements

Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department

of the Palestine Liberation Organization

59

Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the

Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

60

I.   COMMEMORATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY

WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

On 29 November 1999, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People was observed at United Nations Headquarters, New York, and at the United Nations Offices at Geneva and Vienna, as well as  in  several  other  cities, in accordance  with  the  provisions of General Assembly resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977.

All States Members of the United Nations and specialized agencies and observers were invited to attend the solemn meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

At  the  meeting,  statements  were  made  by:  Mr.  Ibra  Deguène  Ka (Senegal),  Chairman  of  the  Committee; Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the General Assembly; Mr. Kofi Annan,  Secretary-General of the United Nations; and Mr. Danilo Türk (Slovenia), President of the Security Council for the month of November.   The Permanent Observer of Palestine, Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, read out a message from Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the  Executive  Committee  of  the  Palestine  Liberation  Organization  and  President of the Palestinian Authority.   Also, Mr. John de Saram (Sri Lanka) made a statement in his capacity as Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.

In addition, the representative of South Africa, Mr. Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, delivered a message on behalf of Mr. Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, in his capacity as Chairman of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.  Mr. Michel Kafando, the representative of Burkina Faso, read out a message from Mr. Youssouf Ouedraogo, Minister  of State, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, in his capacity as Chairman of the Twenty-sixth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers.  Mr. Abdelkader Mesdoua, Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the United Nations, read out a message on behalf of the Organization of African Unity.

Mr. Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States, read out a message from Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.   A further statement was made by Mr. Don Betz, representative of non-governmental organizations accredited to the Palestinian Rights Committee.

Closing statements were made by Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Messages to commemorate the occasion were received from 27 heads of State, 9 heads of Government, 3 Governments, 11 foreign ministers, as well as the European Union, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and  the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.  Messages were also received from two non-governmental organizations.

In further commemoration of the International Day, an art exhibit entitled “Follow the Star: Images from  the Palestinian  City  of Bethlehem  at the  New Millennium”  was presented  by the  Committee,  in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, in the Public Lobby at United Nations Headquarters from 29 November to 12 December 1999.  In addition, the Committee arranged the screening of films for two weeks beginning 29 November at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium and at the exhibit area.

At the United Nations Office at Geneva, a solemn meeting was held on 29 November.  The meeting was chaired by Mr. Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, who opened the meeting by reading the statement of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  The Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mr. Michael Bartolo, spoke on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  Mr. Hewa Palihakkara (Sri Lanka), representative of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, made a statement.  Further statements were made by Mr. Saad Alfarargi, representative of the League of Arab States; Mr. Jafar Olia, representative of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; Mr. Pitso Montwedi, representative of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries; Mr. Venant Wege-Nzomwita, representative of the Organization of African Unity; and Ms. Muna Kaldawi, representative of non-governmental organizations accredited to the Palestinian Rights Committee.  Mr. Nabil Ramlawi, Permanent Observer of Palestine, read out the statement of Chairman Yasser Arafat.

At the United Nations Office at Vienna, a solemn meeting was also held on 29 November.  Mr. Abdelaziz Chaabane, representative of Tunisia, opened the meeting and spoke on behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.  Mr. Pino Arlacchi, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna, delivered the message of the Secretary-General.  Other speakers included Mr. George Lennkh, Chief of the Department for Development and Cooperation in the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Austria; Mr. Aly Safwat Soliman, Head of Delegation of the League of Arab States and Permanent Observer to the United Nations Office at Vienna; and Mr. Faisal Aweidah, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Office at Vienna, who read out the statement of Chairman Yasser Arafat.  Representatives from 25 Member States as well as officials of the host country, non-governmental organizations, other invited guests and United Nations staff members attended the meeting.

II. TEXTS OF STATEMENTS MADE AND MESSAGES DELIVERED ON THE OCCASION

OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE

PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, 1999

COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE OF THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS

OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

Statement by Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise

of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

[Original: French]

We have gathered here today once again to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  We are greatly honoured by the presence at this meeting of the many distinguished participants and guests.

This event, organized by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, gives the international community a renewed opportunity to voice its support in the just struggle of the Palestinian people for its inalienable rights.

As you are aware, Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations were resumed in recent months, following a lengthy and disturbing stalemate.  Promising steps have been taken by the parties as provided for in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum signed last September.  The signing of this important document opened the door for a series of measures on issues of crucial importance to the Palestinians and the Israelis.  These included the further redeployment of the Israeli troops from the West Bank, the release of 350 Palestinian prisoners and the opening of a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  The long-awaited resumption of the negotiations on permanent status issues was another tangible result of the Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, enabling the parties to reach an understanding on a timetable for concluding a framework agreement and a final settlement agreement.

We are all acutely aware that the issues on the table are complex and highly emotional, but raise justifiable hopes for the future relationship between the two peoples.  The work ahead would appear to be difficult and laborious, but with good will and determination, the parties will be able to overcome their differences and their efforts will not be in vain.  We venture to hope that both Israelis and Palestinians will follow the letter and the spirit of the agreements signed to date and will implement them – in full and in good faith – in accordance with the agreed timetables.

As the negotiations on the permanent status issues continue, it is incumbent on the parties to stand by their commitments and thereby preserve the integrity of the peace process.  Therefore, it is regrettable that, despite the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, some actions by the Israeli Government, especially the continuing construction of settlements, threaten to complicate the current negotiations.  The international community has on many occasions emphasized the unacceptability and the illegality of the settlement construction.  These actions are fundamentally altering the physical character of the area, creating faits accomplis on the ground and shifting the territorial balance in favour of one side.  Thus, in one way or another, they are predetermining the outcome of the permanent status talks.  The settlements constitute a form of continued occupation and thereby contravene the basic premises of the Middle East peace process and Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

The future of the Holy City of Jerusalem is yet another issue of concern to the international community, particularly in the light of the many illegal actions taken that are aimed at completely changing the status, demographic composition and physical character of the international Holy City.

It is vital for the success of the peace process that its accomplishments should not wither away.  The parties should be capable of embracing the historic opportunity presented to them to negotiate in good faith in order to reach, under optimum conditions, a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine.

The United Nations, for its part, will continue to have a permanent responsibility for the question of Palestine until it is resolved in all its aspects.  In this connection, our Committee has noted the important initiatives taken by the Secretary-General in support of the peace process, in particular the recent appointment of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the Secretary-General to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.

This year's observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is unique in that it is taking place on the threshold of the new millennium, as the Palestinian people look ahead with aspirations for a brighter future for their children, a future of peace, harmony and prosperity.

As you are also aware, the world is soon to celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, at the dawn of the new century.  This event is of landmark significance not only for the Palestinian people and the region, but also for believers throughout the world who will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and see there the shining star of peace and hope in the region.

This year, the General Assembly has once again adopted unanimously a resolution entitled "Bethlehem 2000", reflecting its faithful support for this historic commemoration that will commence next month and continue until Easter 2001.  We all hope that the Bethlehem 2000 celebration will bring a unique opportunity for dialogue among people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, in a spirit of understanding and tolerance, in an atmosphere of reconciliation and peace.  The Committee wishes to take this opportunity to renew its call on the international community to spare no effort to ensure the success of the Bethlehem 2000 Project, launched in 1997 by the Palestinian Authority.

All of you who are actively participating in the settlement of the question of Palestine – Governments, co-sponsors of the peace process, intergovernmental organizations, organizations and institutions of civil society, as well as individuals – should continue to contribute to the building of broad-based support essential for the peace process and the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  On behalf of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, allow me to reiterate the strong support of the members of our Committee for this noble goal.

We should like to take the opportunity afforded by this ceremony to offer a solemn thanks to the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for the active support he has always given to the Committee's activities and for the diplomatic, discreet and effective efforts which he is constantly making in order to move the peace process forward.

We also thank the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council for the interest they show in the work of the Committee.  The Bureau and members of the Committee have noted with great satisfaction the presence of many ambassadors whose kings, heads of State and heads of Government have transmitted messages of support, providing us with inspiration and encouragement.

Lastly, it is a pleasure for me to welcome among us the representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States, and I should like to ask them to convey to the Secretaries-General of those two organizations how much the Committee appreciates the invaluable tripartite cooperation which has developed among us since 1997 on the question of Palestine.

In conclusion, I should like to call upon all the representatives of Member States and of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations who are present here today to redouble their efforts in order to consolidate and support the peace process, especially during this pivotal transitional phase.  A peaceful tomorrow for Palestinians, for Israelis and for all the peoples and nations of the region has perhaps never been as close as it is today.  Let us not allow this chance to slip by.

Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab (Namibia), President of the fifty-fourth session

of the General Assembly of the United Nations

[Original: English]

The General Assembly, in its resolution 32/40 B of 2 December 1977 and in subsequent resolutions, called for the annual observance of this Day, in recognition of the need to promote and support the struggle of the Palestinian people for self-determination, peace and independence.

Once again, we are gathered here, under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, to commemorate another International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and to pray for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  It is my fervent hope that one day, sooner rather than later, there will be no need to hold this particular commemoration at the United Nations, except to recall it for the purpose of history.  That is a wish, but we are not there yet.  Hence the need for continuing the commemoration.

For the international community, it has become an occasion to renew its pledge to continue supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for self-determination and statehood, on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations, the principles of international law, as well as the relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations of various international conferences.

Mr. Chairman, in April of this year, my country, Namibia, hosted the African Meeting in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, organised by your Committee.  I was the Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker on that occasion.  The Meeting adopted the Windhoek Declaration.  It also reiterated the commitment of African States to assist, by all practical and peaceful means, the Palestinian people in realizing their cherished goals.  The Committee, moreover, endorsed the Bethlehem 2000 Project spearheaded by the Palestinian Authority.

The question of Palestine has been a major concern to the United Nations for over 50 years.  Regrettably,  General Assembly  resolution 181 (II) of 29 November  1947 ran into a premeditated wall of defiance and unilateralism.  The resolution could not  be implemented.  That and  the strategic projections of major Powers turned the region into a cold war zone of confrontation.  It has been a long walk since then and finding an amicable, just and durable solution to the question of Palestine as well as a comprehensive peace in the Middle East have remained elusive.  Five decades later, the problem remains the oldest unresolved issue on the agenda of the United Nations.

Now, following a long stalemate, and against the backdrop of the Oslo agreements, including other continuing efforts by various interlocutors, the peace negotiations have been revived.  The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, on 4 September this year, was a major breakthrough.  The international community was gratified that the parties, assisted by the co-sponsors, finally succeeded in breathing new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  This achievement has made possible the resumption of further negotiations, including progress on some of the outstanding technical matters, the release of Palestinian prisoners, the opening of safe-passage routes, as well as an agreement on modalities concerning issues such as a timetable and final status negotiations.  The way forward relating to the important negotiations on the permanent status has been set in motion.

Thus the urgent task of the international community must be to help the parties through this critical period so that the peace process can come to fruition for the benefit of all the peoples in the Middle East.  I know that the co-sponsors of the peace process, the United Nations, and indeed the international community as a whole, remain firmly engaged in assisting the parties towards reaching that ultimate goal, in the spirit of constructive dialogue, mutual respect and compromise that have now become noticeable between them.  This is absolutely crucial for the international peace, stability and security in the region that we all desire.

I wish to reaffirm the General Assembly’s position that the United Nations continues to have a direct interest in the peace process and upholds its responsibility for the question of Palestine until a satisfactory settlement is reached, based on self-determination, justice and mutual commitment to good- neighbourliness.

We all know that for peace to take root and become viable in the Middle East, it must be accompanied by social and economic development.  Simply put, there can be no peace without development.  Both peace and development need committed friends and assistance on a sustained basis.  Both the United Nations family and the international donor community should intensify their efforts aimed at providing the much-needed economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people, now and in the future.

Mr. Chairman, under your able and dedicated leadership, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has done so much to keep the question of Palestine among the most burning issues on the agenda of the General Assembly as well as on the conscience of the entire global community.  Over the past year, your Committee has devoted unceasing activities aimed at promoting the Bethlehem 2000 Project, which was considered recently by the General Assembly.  In this connection, I have received an official invitation from President Yasser Arafat to attend the Bethlehem celebrations and I look forward to doing so.  I wish to commend the Committee for all this and urge it to stay put on the right track until the job is done.

The achievement of common peace, security, cooperation and development in the Middle East will be a fitting tribute to the memories of all those who died in pursuit of these noble objectives, and it will also be a victory for the United Nations itself, as we enter the new millennium.

There is time for war, hatred and destruction; now is the time for freedom, peace, reconciliation and building together.  This, I believe, is what Israel wants and this is also what all its neighbours want, particularly the Palestinians.

Mr. Chairman, in diligently implementing the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly, your famous Committee has made, and continues to make, sterling contributions towards promoting that most desirable goal.  I want to wish you every success in your noble mission.

Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations

[Original: English]

It gives me great pleasure to join you for this annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  Each year, we come together to commit ourselves anew to the goal of finding a solution to the question of Palestine, which lies at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  This event also reminds us of the pressing need to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace throughout the Middle East.

This year, we meet against the backdrop of revitalized negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Since the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum last September, we have seen the further redeployment of troops from the West Bank, an agreement on the release of prisoners, the opening of a safe passage corridor between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the resumption of the permanent status negotiations.  And at the trilateral summit in Oslo earlier this month, the parties agreed to set up additional negotiating mechanisms and a timetable for the framework and final settlement agreements.

I would like to commend Mr. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel, and Mr. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, for their courage and wisdom in pursuing peace and reconciliation.  Their efforts have rekindled our hopes that peace, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), may finally come to the region.

Regrettably, there are still difficulties on the ground continuing to pose obstacles to progress.  So I would also like to call upon the parties to guard the fragile accomplishments of the peace process, to press forward and, above all, to refrain from any actions that might prejudice the outcome of the delicate permanent status negotiations.

Though important differences remain to be worked out, we can all agree that peace is much more likely to blossom in an atmosphere of improving socio-economic conditions.  That is why United Nations agencies such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will remain deeply involved in providing humanitarian aid, health care and education and in fostering agricultural, industrial and commercial development.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate UNRWA on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.  UNRWA continues to be a vital lifeline for more than 3 million refugees, and I urge the donor community to do all it can to put an end to the Agency’s chronic financial constraints and ensure that its dedicated staff have the resources and tools they need to carry out their vital work.

The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories is another expression of the keen interest taken by the United Nations in the situation.  I recently appointed Mr. Terje Rød-Larsen of Norway as Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and as my Personal Representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority.  I know he will do his utmost to enhance the assistance provided by the United Nations to the Palestinian people and to ensure that United Nations support of the peace process is as effective as possible.

The peace process has now entered a phase that is at once its most promising and its most difficult.  The continued support of the international community, including Governments, donor countries and institutions, and civil society, remains crucial.  This Committee has provided unwavering support for the Palestinian people throughout their many decades of suffering.  The United Nations family likewise remains strongly committed to the cause.  On the twentieth century’s last International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, let us dare to hope that one of the new century’s earliest achievements will be the long-awaited moment when peace and prosperity can be enjoyed in full by Palestinians, Israelis and all the peoples of the Middle East.

Mr. Danilo Türk (Slovenia), President of the

Security Council for the month of November 1999

[Original: English]

Allow me, at the outset, to thank the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for the kind invitation extended to me, in my capacity as President of the Security Council for the month of November, to participate in this special meeting held to observe the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to join in this important annual event, in which the international community demonstrates its solidarity with the Palestinian people and its enduring commitment to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

The annual observance of this Day is not just a symbolic act of solidarity with a people striving for the realization of its inalienable rights, but also a reflection of the importance attached to the need to bring about a long-awaited solution to the question of Palestine, which has preoccupied the international community for over 50 years.  We all recognize that such a solution remains a key element in the overall endeavour to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As you are aware, for decades, the Security Council has been engaged in the various aspects of the question of Palestine and in efforts at achieving a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.  In this regard, it is appropriate to note that the current peace process, launched at Madrid in 1991, has had for its basis Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Last September, we welcomed the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization as an important step forward in the Middle East peace process.  The members of the Security Council expresssed their belief that the new agreement opens the way for a just, lasting and comprehensive peace within a reasonable time frame in the entire region, based on all relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967 and 338 (1973) of 22 October 1973.   The Security Council condemned vigorously all acts of terrorism and violence in the region.  The Council called upon all parties to implement in full their commitments under existing agreements and to abide scrupulously by their obligations under international law.

The members of the Security Council continue to be determined to keep developments under review and to provide the necessary backing, giving full support to the agreements reached, as well as to the timely and speedy implementation of those agreements.

As the Palestinian people are going through a difficult period of transition, they need considerable economic assistance in many areas.  In this regard, the Security Council is grateful to all those organizations and entities within the United Nations family, as well as the international donor community, that have been providing and continue to provide invaluable economic assistance to the Palestinian people. To succeed, this undertaking should be focused, well-coordinated and sustained.

Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee

of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority,

delivered by Mr. Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations

[Original: Arabic]

On this important occasion, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I am pleased to transmit to you at your solemn meeting at United Nations Headquarters, and through you to the international community as a whole, the warmest greetings of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership and to convey to you our thanks and deepest appreciation for your solidarity with our people and your support for its struggle to secure its inalienable rights and establish a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East region.  The United Nations, which has been dealing with the question of Palestine ever since the Organization was first established, bears enduring responsibility for the issue, in legal, political and moral terms, until such time as all of its aspects are truly resolved.  Over the years, the United Nations has, in fact, upheld the rights of our people and has adopted a large number of resolutions in their regard based on the Charter of the United Nations, public international law and international humanitarian law.  Even if they have yet to be honoured in view of the refusal and intransigence of Israel, the occupying Power, these resolutions nevertheless continue to serve as a basic safety net for our people's rights and to  constitute  a foundation for  the achievement  of justice, which is a precondition for the achievement of peace.  We recall here that Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) are the basis for the Middle East peace process that we are seeking to complete.  In connection with the work of the United Nations and the Organization's endeavours, I should like to refer with appreciation to the efforts made by the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and those of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and its Chairman, Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, to restore the rights of the Palestinian people and establish peace in the region.

Mr. Chairman, we have been pursuing the peace process and advancing towards its goals, with God's help, since it began at Madrid in 1991  and since the conclusion  of the Declaration of Principles for the Oslo agreement between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel that was signed at the White House in Washington, D.C., under the auspices of President Clinton in 1993.  With the help of many Arab and international actors, we have recently been able to conclude with Mr. Barak's Government in Israel the Sharm al-Sheikh Memorandum, which was signed in Egypt under the auspices of President Hosni Mubarak, and we have begun to implement it in a sensible manner that we hope will move us forward.  We nevertheless remain extremely concerned by the many unlawful Israeli policies and practices that are being maintained in violation of the relevant United Nations resolutions and that are undermining the peace process.  Chief among these are the settlement activities, either the establishment of new settlements or the expansion of existing ones, and the expropriation of land and illegal transfer of Israeli civilians into the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem and areas around and just outside Bethlehem.

We are also embarking on the negotiations on a permanent settlement, which will include matters that are important and difficult but are also unequivocal in terms of the minimum rights acceptable to the Palestinian side.  They include our rights with respect to East Jerusalem as part of the territories occupied in 1967 and as the capital of our Palestinian State, the right of the Palestine refugees to return or to receive compensation in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) and our right to the territory occupied in 1967 with the requirement that Israel should withdraw completely therefrom in implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).  We need the support and assistance of the international community if we are to perform the difficult tasks entrusted to us and arrive at a definitive solution by the agreed time in September 2000.  We need the sustained efforts of the co-sponsors of the peace process and the endeavours of President Clinton, the Russian Federation, the European Union, Japan, China, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, the Islamic States and our Arab brothers (especially Egypt and Jordan) as well as those of our many friends everywhere and, in particular, of you at the United Nations.  As we stand at the threshold of the celebration marking the beginning of the third millennium from the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, I am confident that the suffering of our people is drawing to a close.  I trust in your continued support and assistance to us for the achievement of our rights, and I am confident that Palestine will participate in the forthcoming Millennium Summit of the United Nations as a Member State.

In closing, I also wish to greet the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, a comrade in the struggle for freedom and justice, and to salute you all, the faithful friends of our people.  I invite you one and all to join us for the celebration of the completion of the second millennium from the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem as marking a global historical and religious occasion.

Mr. John de Saram (Sri Lanka), Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka

to the United Nations and Chairman of the Special Committee

to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights

of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the

Occupied Territories

[Original: English]

I have the honour, on this important occasion – the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – to convey to the Palestinian people, to you, Sir, to the Secretary-General and to this distinguished gathering the respects of the members of the Special Committee.

The Special Committee, under its terms of reference established by the General Assembly, is obligated to inform the General Assembly whether or not the conditions affecting human rights in the occupied territories are in conformity, or are not in conformity, with international standards and with the requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which the General Assembly and the Security Council have affirmed applies to the occupied territories.

The Special Committee has not had access to the occupied territories, it is true.

Yet it is not possible for the Special Committee to report otherwise than it has done, repeatedly, to the General Assembly that there is in the occupied territories – undoubtedly because of the overall tensions that cloud life in the territories – a comprehensive and elaborate system of laws, and regulations, and administrative measures, in place, that seem to curtail very restrictively all aspects of the lives of the peoples of the occupied territories, and to infringe, significantly and substantially, on their human rights.

The Special Committee heard, in the last year, a number of Israeli nationals – lawyers, social workers and others – knowledgeable as to human rights, who appeared before the Special Committee to speak, movingly and impressively, of their awareness, and their concerns, that things still are not as they should be in the occupied territories.

It was refreshing and encouraging for the Special Committee to learn of some occasions of meetings between Palestinians and Israelis of the younger generation, showing what appeared to the Special Committee to be a willingness, between Israelis and Palestinians of the younger generation, to meet and communicate with one another and bridge the divide.

The decision, a few months ago, by the Supreme Court of Israel to prohibit certain extreme coercive methods of interrogation; an easing, a few weeks ago, of residency restrictions on Palestinians in East Jerusalem; and the recent opening of access between Gaza and the West Bank are also encouraging examples of what seems a more enlightened view which, hopefully, will lead, even while solutions to the many complexities of the peace process are being sought, to some measure of easing of the difficult conditions in the occupied territories.

Today is an appropriate day on which to reaffirm, on behalf of the Special Committee, its commitment to ensuring that it continues to be an impartial and objective voice, but nevertheless an adequate and effective voice, as to conditions affecting human rights in the occupied territories.

It is of course the profound hope of the Special Committee that the peace process will soon be satisfactorily concluded through the bilateral negotiations on which the two parties have already embarked.

On the eve of the new millennium, I have the honour to express the profound hope of the Special Committee that a just, comprehensive and lasting peace, long awaited by all the peoples of the region, shall at last be achieved, resolving the many political, economic, social and human difficulties that have troubled the lives of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories for such a long period of time.

Mr. Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United

Nations, representing Mr. Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa and Chairman

of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries

[Original: English]

On behalf of the people of South Africa and the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, I extend warm greetings to the Palestinian Nation and to President Yasser Arafat on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

We salute all Palestinians wherever they may be.  More than 50 years after the United Nations voted to accord the Palestinian people a national homeland, this dream remains unfulfilled, yet you remain committed in your struggle for the attainment of statehood.  We express our unflagging support for the continuing efforts of the Palestinian people, under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat, to achieve their inalienable national rights, including the right to liberty, to self-determination and to statehood on their own land.

We are convinced that the path of peaceful negotiation is the only means of ending conflict and of bringing peace and security to Palestine, Israel and the rest of the region.  This is surely possible only through committed negotiation and faithful implementation of all agreements reached thus far.  The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum and the positive steps taken by both Palestinians and Israelis to move the Middle East peace process forward in order to achieve an equitable and lasting peace are truly encouraging developments filled with hope and promise for the future of the region.  In this regard we would reiterate our firm conviction that there is no alternative to the formula for exchanging land for peace, thereby affording the Palestinian people their own national territory.

Despite these new developments, Palestinians continue to suffer humiliation and economic hardship.  There are still many who live in exile as refugees and as yet see no definitive end to their misery.  The legitimate expectations which emanate from the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993 and the initial expectations of progress were later dashed by obstacles and frustrating delays, particularly during the period when Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu was Prime Minister of Israel.   Fortunately, however, the peace process has once more been resuscitated.  The negotiations of a final status agreement have added new momentum to the process.  Since the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum and the recent Oslo Summit, there has been a renewed positive spirit in the quest for peace, and the resumption of negotiations will provide fresh hope to the Palestinian people.  South Africa and the world stand by the Palestinian Nation in their rightful quest for freedom and statehood within land which is theirs alone to govern.

We call upon the international community to remain steadfast in its commitment and support for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the realization of the legitimate rights of all Palestinians.  The people of Palestine and, indeed, the whole region need our support for their efforts to put an end to a conflict that has plagued the world for so many decades.  It is clear that peace will not only have an effect on the lives of the people of these ancient lands, but it will also reverberate around the globe.  It will promote the cause of international peace and security in a fundamental way.

The Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has reaffirmed its traditional and long-standing solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for the implementation of all United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine.  In this vein, and on behalf of the Movement and the Government of South Africa, I reiterate, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, our solidarity with and support for the struggle of the Palestinians to live in dignity as free men and women and to attain the prosperity, security and sovereignty they so richly deserve.

Mr. Michel Kafando, Permanent Representative of Burkina Faso to the United Nations,

representing Mr. Youssouf Ouedraogo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso,

in his capacity as Chairman of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers

at its twenty-sixth session

[Original: French]

On this day, 29 November 1999, the entire world is celebrating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

For half a century, the Palestinian people have been courageously waging their legitimate struggle for the satisfaction of their demands: the right to life, and the right to exist.

The international community, which cannot ignore this struggle for justice, is becoming more committed each day, through the international organizations, in particular the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, in the search for a just and lasting solution.

I therefore particularly welcome the willingness shown by the parties concerned and all interested parties to continue the negotiations on the basis of the Wye Plantation and Sharm el-Sheikh agreements, which have opened the way to peace between the Palestinian people and Israel.

In my capacity as current Chairman of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, I should like to reaffirm the full solidarity of our Islamic Ummah with the Palestinian people in their actions to achieve their noble objectives.

I cherish the hope that the momentum underlying the cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis will be strengthened so that the first glimmers of the dawn of the year 2000 will be a time of final peace.  Indeed, I am convinced that peace in the new millennium will draw inspiration from the example of the Middle East, which will provide guidance for the negotiations in other conflicts in the world.

On the occasion of this Day, I should like to commend the steady efforts made unceasingly by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, under the auspices of its Chairman, H.E. Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, to promote the Palestinian cause and the cause of peace in the Middle East.

I should also like to pay warm tribute to the President of the Palestinian Authority and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Mr. Yasser Arafat, and to commend his activities in the search for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Long live the Palestinian people!

Long live solidarity and cooperation among the peoples!

Mr. Abdelkader Mesdoua, Chargé d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of Algeria

to the United Nations, representing  Mr. Abdelaziz Bouteflika, President of Algeria

and Chairman of the Organization of African Unity

[Original: French]

First of all, I should like to thank you for having afforded us an opportunity to participate, on behalf of the States members of the Organization of African Unity and on behalf of Algeria, at this important meeting of commemoration and support for the just cause of the fraternal Palestinian people.

On the occasion of the celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, on behalf of the Algerian delegation and of the States members of the Organization of African Unity, of which H.E. Mr. Adbelaziz Bouteflika is currently President, I should like to convey my warmest and most sincere congratulations to the Palestinian people and their political leadership headed by His Excellency Chairman Arafat.

More than half a century has elapsed since the adoption by the General Assembly of its resolution granting the Palestinian people the right to a sovereign and independent State.  Today the Palestinian people are still being denied their legitimate right to live in peace in their native land, and face the bitter realities of foreign occupation, daily humiliation and deportation.

The peoples of the whole of Africa have unceasingly demonstrated their support for the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people.  This support is rooted in the liberation struggle which Africa courageously waged to break the bonds of colonialism and foreign domination, the culmination of which was its final victory over the anachronistic and execrable system of apartheid.

Thus, imbued with its ideals of liberty, justice and peace, forged in its struggle for freedom, Africa has always regarded the struggle of the Palestinian people with sympathy, solidarity and commitment, as an integral part of the legitimate struggle of all the peoples of the world for self-determination and independence.

It is gratifying to recall here that at the thirty-fifth summit meeting of Heads of State and Government, which Algeria had the great honour of hosting at Algiers from 12 to 14 July 1999, the African Heads of State and Government once again reiterated their solidarity with the Palestinian people, in particular by welcoming with honour and deference His Excellency Chairman Arafat, who found continuous and unflinching support among his African brothers.

At the end of their summit meeting at Algiers, the African Heads of State and Government reaffirmed the right of the Palestinian people, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to the exercise of their inalienable national rights, including their right to return to their territory, to recover their property, and to self-determination and the establishment of an independent State in their own national territory with East Jerusalem as capital, in accordance with the principles and resolutions of international law, and reiterated their support to the struggle of the Palestinian people to attain those objectives.

On this solemn commemorative Day, Africa issues an urgent appeal to the international community as a whole, and to the co-sponsors of the peace process in the Middle East in particular, to redouble their efforts so that the negotiations which are under way between the parties may  lead to the restoration to the Palestinian people of their legitimate and inalienable rights, in particular their right to establish their own independent State, with Al-Quds al-Sharif as capital, and the withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from other occupied Arab territories, in accordance with international law and with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.

The United Nations, for its part, must continue to honour its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people and their just cause.  It must work to restore their rights, which have been unanimously recognized by the entire international community, in accordance with international law.

It is precisely within this framework that the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People must play a primary role in continuing to mobilize further efforts and support to promote this noble cause until the day when the martyred Palestinian people are finally able to enjoy to the full their legitimate national rights, like all the nations of the world.

Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States,

delivered by Mr. Said Kamal, Under-Secretary-General for Palestine Affairs

of the League of Arab States

[Original: Arabic]

I have the pleasure to address you on behalf of the Secretariat General of the League of Arab States and to convey to you the greetings of its Secretary-General, Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid, together with his appreciation of the efforts made by you, your States and your organizations on behalf of the Palestinian cause and of all just causes in the world.  It is a great honour to join you in observing the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, an event to which we attach importance as a symbol of the international community's commitment to support the Palestinian people in the exercise of its well-established and legitimate national rights, including the right to establish an independent State with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

This observance also represents an opportunity for the League of Arab States to express its thanks and appreciation to the United Nations, and in particular to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, under the able chairmanship of Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, the Permanent Representative of Senegal.  The Committee represents the ideal framework within which to monitor the question of Palestine at the United Nations, and through which to make contacts and hold discussions with the Department for Palestine Affairs of the League of Arab States on a number of activities and programmes.

We met on this same day last year, and there was universal agreement that the peace process in the Middle East was at a critical point because of the policies being pursued by the Israeli Government of the time.  We meet again today, and the situation in the Middle East is at exactly the same uncertain stage.  When Mr. Barak won the election and took power in Israel, there was an optimistic feeling that the new Israeli Government had put behind it the mistakes of its predecessor, and that it would, by honouring its contractual commitments and respecting the resolutions of international legitimacy and the bases of the peace process, return that process to its proper course.  However, many of the positions adopted by Mr. Barak indicate that such optimism is partially or completely unwarranted.  Mr. Barak keeps reiterating such election slogans as that there will be no withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories to the 1967  borders, and  he  persists in  annexing  and  Judaizing Arab  Jerusalem, encouraging  settlement and preventing the Palestinian people from exercising sovereignty over its land, resources and borders and from establishing its own independent State.

There is also doubt as to whether Security Council resolution 242 (1967) will be implemented with regard to the Palestinian territories.  On the Palestinian track, time was wasted in renegotiating the Wye River Memorandum agreed by the Netanyahu Government in October 1998:  it was reformulated in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum of 4 September 1999.  The situation is no better with regard to the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, which have completely stagnated.  Meanwhile, Israel continues its daily attacks on innocent civilians in occupied South Lebanon.

Much of the behaviour of the present Israeli Government puts us in mind of the position adopted by its predecessor, and demonstrates that Israel, despite the change of government, is not resolved upon peace.  On the contrary, it continues to believe that the Palestinian territories are disputed rather than occupied territories that must be restored to their rightful owners.  Similarly, the Israeli institutions continue to consider their sway over the Palestinians, and even their negotiations with them, as an internal Israeli matter, and arrogate to themselves the right to impose their own choices on the Palestinians and to act fraudulently with regard to standards and undertakings.  Israel would like to deny any role to the United Nations or the European Union, and attempts to restrict the role of the United States of America as a partner in and the chief sponsor of the peace process.

Such Israeli beliefs and practices render the peace process meaningless and destroy its foundations, while threatening to ensure that – sooner or later – the region will explode and revert to being a vortex of violence.  It is not possible for peoples to accept injustice for ever, above all when essential matters are involved that affect the basic rights of the Palestinian people, such as Jerusalem, the settlements, the rights of the refugees and the right to self-determination.

Responsibility for the maintenance of peace lies primarily with the United Nations and the sponsors of the peace process, and thereafter with the whole international community.  The fact that the Arab side has made peace a strategic choice and stands by that choice does not deter the League of Arab States from issuing a strong warning as to Israel's attempt to peddle illusions and suggest that everything is going well in the peace process while at the same time it attempts to violate United Nations resolutions relating to the question of Palestine and to improve its position in United Nations bodies and regional groupings.  The League of Arab States can only express its concern and dismay with regard to such attempts.

I should like to remind those who would prefer to forget it that General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 1947, which provided international legitimacy for the establishment of Israel, also gave legitimacy to the establishment of the Arab State of Palestine.  General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948 still represents the best possible framework for the just resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.

The League of Arab States plays an active part in preparing the ground for the implementation of United Nations resolutions, and is responsive to the Organization's genuine call for support for the Palestinian people and assistance in building its institutions and the basic elements of its future State.  Since the inception of the peace process, the League, in cooperation with United Nations agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations, has begun work to support development, construction and the building of Palestinian institutions.

1. On more than one occasion, we have cooperated with the private sector in order to support the Palestinian economy.

2. We have cooperated with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in educational support programmes.

3. His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid chairs an Arab committee for involvement in the drafting of the Palestinian constitution.  Meetings of this committee are continuing, in consultation with Palestinian experts and officials.

4. His Excellency also presided over a conference held in Cairo on 13 and 14 November 1999 on the Palestinian monetary system, which was attended by the relevant international organizations and the foremost international experts with a view to studying the various options.

5. In the forthcoming stage, we intend to begin implementation of a broad programme of technical support for the Palestinian labour and vocational training sector, in cooperation with the International Labour Organization.  In addition, preparations are currently being made for a seminar on the Palestinian refugees to be held in Vienna in cooperation with the relevant committee and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The question of Palestine is at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East.  It is essential for the security and stability of the region that a just resolution of that conflict should be found.  However, many other factors in the Middle East give cause for concern.  Foremost among them are the situation in Iraq and the consequences of the second Gulf war.  The Iraqi people continues to pay an exorbitant price for the new world order and the merging of political, strategic and subjective interests.  The Kuwaiti and other peoples of the region have also paid part of this price, while no one knows who really benefits from the perpetuation of this tragedy.  I would suggest to the permanent members of the Security Council that there is no longer any justification for maintaining the sanctions on Iraq now that its forces have been withdrawn from Kuwait and legitimacy restored.  I would also suggest that if they were to consult the Arab peoples, there would be a unanimous response in favour of lifting the sanctions on Iraq forthwith, under the terms of the resolutions of international legitimacy.  This would not only satisfy the spirit of justice but would also serve those members' own economic, political and security interests.  As His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid stated to the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, constructive cooperation is more likely than confrontation and the spectre of problems and crises to lead to appropriate solutions.  The time has come for Iraq to regain its freedom and stability, play its customary role in the Arab order and be involved on an equal footing with the other States of the region in building security, peace and development in the Middle East.

One of the most significant factors in establishing and maintaining peace in the Middle East is the constructive role of the international community and its powerful authority in urging and assisting the parties in making progress in the peace process.  If that role is to retain its credibility, it must continue to be based on the resolutions of international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace, and be performed in an impartial and unbiased manner.

Among the States that have demonstrated their support for Arab rights, the European Union deserves special note.  It has provided welcome assistance to the Palestinian economy and, whenever possible, has taken initiatives to promote the peace process.  The League of Arab States is highly appreciative of the Union's role, which dates from the beginning of Arab-European relations and is based on a network of mutual economic, political and security interests, and looks forward to its continuance and development in a manner that will serve the peace process without falling into the trap of Israeli deception.

With regard to the American role in the peace process, which is the most highly engaged, the United States has sponsored that process from its inception.  However, it is a secret to no one that it faces difficulties in altering its position from that of a traditional strategy ally of Israel to one of a less partial mediator between the conflicting parties.  The Arab side has noted with appreciation the role played by the United States Administration, and by President Clinton in particular, in safeguarding the peace process and concluding the Wye River Memorandum.  However, the pressure brought to bear by some of Israel's supporters on United States legislative and media institutions is worrying, as is the occasional blatant bias we see in favour of Israel.  This is true in relation to Jerusalem and the transfer of the United States embassy to that city, and to the attempt to form a strategic alliance between the United States of America and Israel on the pretext of encouraging and assisting the latter to embrace peace with the Arabs.

On this occasion, I must mention the admirable letter addressed to the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama, in which he says that the Republic of Panama, pursuant to the principle of international peace and security, has absolutely no intention of moving the Embassy of Panama from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The establishment and maintenance of peace in the Middle East does not depend upon the signing of documents and the making of fine speeches, but on the achievement of justice and equality between the interests of the peoples of the region.  Once these have been achieved, the door to true coexistence and cooperation will open, and it is only under such conditions that real peace, from which there is no retreat, can come about.

Mr. Don Betz, representative of non-governmental organizations

accredited to the Palestinian Rights Committee

[Original: English]

Thank you for this opportunity to address this solemn meeting.  I also wish to express our sincere appreciation for your and for the Committee’s and the Division’s continued support of NGO work.

At this moment, I have the honour to represent the dedication and involvement of thousands of NGOs from every continent, and from Palestine and Israel, who daily tell the story of Palestinian people to their publics, the media and elected officials.  Some of them are present in this Chamber today.  These NGOs are united by their firm belief that peace will be won only when justice is secured.  We are active members of the civil society mentioned by several of the speakers here today.

For decades, NGOs and others have been advocates for the rights of Palestinians, for their right to a “normal life” that so many of us assume to be our birth right.

NGOs have been rich resources for the United Nations, with which they have worked in close cooperation on this issue since 1982, as well as for Governments and intergovernmental agencies.

NGOs have often served as humanity’s eyes and ears, speaking out in order to concentrate public attention on the harsh realities of Palestinian life.  NGOs have voiced the truth as they see it, sometimes exposing obfuscation, mythology and mendacity.  They have often said what others were unable or unwilling to articulate.  The NGOs link people to people, directly bringing people to witness and give testimony to what they have seen.

NGOs are active locally, on the ground, and internationally, networking in the international arena to present first-hand accounts of developments to those with decision-making influence.

A serious challenge facing all of us today is apathy in the face of frequent news reports about the status of the peace process.  These media stories may leave the impression that there is nothing left to do, when in fact what is vital for sustainable and real peace is increased advocacy and involvement during this delicate phase.

The Palestinian people continue to need the support of the international community, governmental and non-governmental, public and private, in their struggle to achieve human rights and self-determination.

On 26 November 1999, representatives of non-governmental organizations on the question of Palestine from different parts of the world met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York at the invitation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The NGOs reaffirmed the minimum requirements for a comprehensive and lasting peace.  They include the Israeli withdrawal to the 4 June 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in those territories, the establishment of an independent State of Palestine in those territories, the implementation of the right of return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners from Israeli jails.  All of these principles are enshrined in various United Nations resolutions and in the Fourth Geneva Convention.

During the Meeting, all the NGOs expressed their deep concern over the Israeli Government’s position and statements known as Mr. Barak’s four “NOs” policy, which reject the minimum requirements stated above.  This policy cannot lead to the establishment of an independent, sovereign and viable State that guarantees the minimum national and political rights of the Palestinian people.

Owing to the preponderance of coercive power available to Israel, the best outcome, if it is left to the Israelis and Palestinians alone, will be an imposed Bantustan-type agreement.  History has shown us how short-lived and destabilizing such agreements are.

Therefore, we call upon all the United Nations Member States, especially the United States of America, to assume their legal/moral responsibility and ensure the full implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions related to the question of Palestine.

The NGOs will persist in initiating their supportive activities.  We look forward to a continuing constructive relationship with the United Nations.  Over the years, NGOs have demonstrated their persistence in doing the right thing.  This responsibility we openly and willingly embrace.

III.   MESSAGES RECEIVED ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL

DAY OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE

A.  Messages from heads of State or Government

Prof. Burhân-ud-din Rabbâni, President of the Islamic State of Afghanistan

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I should like to express the most sincere wishes of the people of Afghanistan and those of myself for the full implementation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to statehood.

An independent Palestine as a full Member of the United Nations, in our conviction, shall contribute remarkably to global peace, progress and prosperity.

Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Government and the people of Bangladesh join me in reaffirming our total solidarity with the people of Palestine in their just and rightful struggle for an independent and sovereign homeland with Jerusalem as its capital.  The Day, let us recall, was dedicated by the United Nations General Assembly towards promoting a deeper understanding of the question of Palestine and empathy for the plight of the Palestinian people.  It also provides an opportunity to remind the international community that the question of Palestine and an independent homeland for the people of Palestine remains unresolved at the end of this century, despite all the efforts by the United Nations and the peace process that began in Madrid in 1991.

Bangladesh, with its deep constitutional commitment to stand by oppressed peoples throughout the world in their just struggle for self-determination, has never shied away from expressing the strongest solidarity with its Palestinian brethren.

The Father of our National Bangabandhu, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in his first address in the United Nations, voiced Bangladesh’s deep concern at the continued illegal occupation of Arab land and denial of the inalienable rights of our Palestinian brothers and sisters.  Bangladesh has always believed that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility in resolving the Middle East problem, at the heart of which lies the promise to establish the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state, as recognized in various United Nations resolutions.  We also believe that implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) forms the basis of the Middle East peace process and is the key to resolving the question of Palestine.  It is a matter of grave concern that new settlements continue to be built in the occupied Palestinian territories and that the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the Palestinian people continue to be grossly violated in utter defiance of relevant United Nations resolutions and international law by the Israeli forces.  We strongly condemn the systematic violation of international humanitarian law, degrading and inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people and destruction of economic infrastructure in the occupied territories.

It cannot be overemphasized that the achievement of a lasting, just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East will contribute significantly towards the strengthening of international security, peace and progress.  Bangladesh has welcomed all peace initiatives in the Middle East, including that which was initiated in Madrid, and has hailed the Autonomy Accord of 1994.  However, a serious lack of political will and the pursuit of hard-line policies by the Israeli Government in violation of successive peace accords have time and again put the entire peace process into jeopardy.  We welcome the conclusion of the latest Wye River Agreement and the ongoing negotiations following the Oslo Summit towards a framework for a final agreement.  We hope in all earnestness that these negotiations will pave the way for a complete withdrawal of troops from the occupied territories, stop any further settlements in Palestinian lands and allow the Palestinian Diaspora to return with full dignity to their motherland.  In observing the Day, we urge all concerned to ensure that the peace agreements are complied with fully and the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other instruments of international humanitarian law are enforced to protect the Palestinian people in the occupied territories, as recognized at Cairo and Geneva.

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we reiterate our full support to the just and legitimate struggle of our Palestinian brethren.  We also appeal to the international community to be forthcoming in fulfilling their commitment to consolidate the peace process by extending economic, technical and moral support to the Palestinian people, so that their sufferings of more than half a century may cease, their legitimate rights may be restored and international law may prevail.  The observance of the Day in the last year of this century will bear special meaning only if the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people are established in a sovereign Palestinian State and a comprehensive and durable peace is achieved in the Middle East before 1 November in the new millennium.

Mr. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, President of the Federative Republic of Brazil

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the celebration of the 1999 International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I wish to extend, on behalf of the people and Government of Brazil, my warmest greetings and best wishes of peace and harmony to the Palestinian people.

The Government of Brazil follows with great interest developments in the Middle East peace process.  We had been witnessing with concern the stalling of the process initiated in Oslo, upon which the international community placed its best hopes for a lasting solution for the region.  In this regard, we welcome the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, in the belief that it opens the way for the implementation of the provisions of the transitional period.

We particularly welcome the commitment of the two sides to conclude a “Framework Agreement” by February 2000 and a comprehensive agreement on all permanent status issues by September 2000.  Brazil supports the creation of a Palestinian state, resulting from negotiations carried out in good faith and in accordance with the spirit of the Oslo agreements.

Brazil has, over the years, firmly backed the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.  We commend the Palestinian people for their endurance through long and difficult times.  Political freedom and economic and social development shall  be the  rewards for that patience and determination.  We take this opportunity to reaffirm our conviction that constructive dialogue and respect for agreements remain the best means to the establishment of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the region.

Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam

[Original: English]

I have the pleasure once again to celebrate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and reiterate my full support for all efforts, which contribute to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

In welcoming the recent Agreement to establish a framework for final peace talks by 15 February 2000, Brunei Darussalam hopes that the Palestinian people will soon be able to obtain the inalienable rights they sought for so long.

I take this opportunity to express my appreciation to all members of the international community who have contributed to revitalizing the Middle East peace process and renewing its momentum.

Above all, on this solemn day when we commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I hope that these efforts will help bring us all together in a common determination to address the plight of the Palestinian people everywhere.

May I wish them all peace, prosperity and progress and assure them our steadfast friendship and support.

Mr.  Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, President of the Republic of Chile

[Original: Spanish]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Government of Chile takes this opportunity to express its appreciation for the work being done by the United Nations to achieve peace in the Middle East and for the support which it has provided to the Palestinian people, especially through the assistance it has given to improve their economic and social conditions, thereby promoting a climate of reconciliation and compromise.

The President of Chile reiterates his support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and for the peace process in the Middle East, which is aimed at achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement that would guarantee prosperity and well-being in the region.  He also urges the parties to persevere in their negotiations until a comprehensive agreement is achieved.

Mr. Zhu Rongji, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China

[Original: Chinese]

On the occasion of the convocation of the conference marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I wish to extend, on behalf of the Chinese Government and people, our warm congratulations to the conference.

Over the past 50 years, the international community has consistently been concerned about and sympathized with the unfortunate sufferings of the Palestinian people who lost their homes and led a vagrant life.  The Palestinian people, under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat, have made unremitting efforts and waged protracted struggles to recover the lost land and restore their legitimate national rights and interests, and have finally realized self-rule on their own territory through peace talks.  Recently, the peace talks between Palestine and Israel have registered some positive progress.  The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum removed the obstacles in the way of implementing the Wye Accord, relaunched the Palestine permanent status talks and of late opened safe passage connecting the Palestinian autonomous area.  These are positive results attained by Palestine and Israel through adherence to peace talks.  We sincerely hope that the Palestinian people will continue to make new progress in the peace talks and march towards the goal of restoring their legitimate national rights and interests and establishing an independent state.  We also believe that the Palestinian people will live in peace and prosperity in the future.

To support the Palestinian people in their just cause and to support the Middle East peace process have been a set policy of the Chinese Government.  I would like to take this opportunity to call upon the international community to attach greater importance to the just cause of the Palestinian people and work harder to facilitate the continued progress of the Middle East peace process, and help realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people at an early date.  The Chinese Government and people will, as always, devote their efforts and work together with the international community to contribute to the just and fair settlement of the Middle East issues, including the Palestinian issue, at an early date.

Mr. Glafcos Clerides, President of the Republic of Cyprus

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I should like, on behalf of the Government and the people of Cyprus, to express our feelings of deep respect and genuine friendship to the Palestinians.

At the same time, I should like to reiterate and reaffirm our support to all the efforts that are exerted in establishing peace, security, stability and economic prosperity throughout the region of the Middle East as a whole.

Cyprus salutes the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum in September 1999, for it truly believes that it constitutes a giant step forward in the journey towards peace.  Moreover, it demonstrates that the Palestinians are genuinely dedicated to a peaceful solution and that their devotion to it has not dissipated.

For our part, we profess our readiness to contribute in any way feasible to peace, and in bringing the people of the entire area closer together.

My country has palpably and conscientiously been involved with the multilateral track of the peace process.  Through our participation, we aim at promoting the dialogue among the peoples of the Middle East and at ameliorating their living and economic conditions.  The fact that Cyprus is fully determined to implement a programme of economic assistance to the Palestinians testifies to our commitment to the peace process and the prevelance of peace, justice and economic prosperity throughout the Middle East.

We praise all the efforts that have been undertaken so far to establish and preserve peace, security and stability in the area.  For our part, we promise that we shall do our utmost to encourage all those actively involved with the peace process to rise to the occasion and prove, once again, that the willingness for peace triumphs over war, confrontation and bloodshed.  We simply cannot allow the peace to fail, or become stagnant, for the alternative is too horrendous to contemplate.

The path to peace was irrevocably and truly opened some time ago.  The foundations have already been laid.  Diplomacy still remains the sole tool available to the peace process for achieving a comprehensive solution to the Middle East problem, one that entails the establishment of genuine peace, justice, security, stability and prosperity for all the peoples of the Holy Land.

Mr. Jamil Mahuad Witt, President of the Republic of Ecuador

[Original: Spanish]

In marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I am pleased to reiterate once again the support of the Ecuadorian Government for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

In agreement with the universal principles of international peace and security, the peaceful settlement of disputes, sovereignty and peaceful coexistence, international cooperation and solidarity, Ecuador recognizes the effort made by the Committee, in carrying out its worthy mandate, in disseminating information on the problem of the Palestinian population in the occupied Arab territories and trusts that the negotiations and contacts that are under way may facilitate the establishment of a lasting peace in the Middle East that satisfies the aspirations of Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis.

This is an historic occasion since cooperation and peaceful existence in the Middle East without doubt constitute priorities within the framework of the United Nations objectives of international peace and security.

Accordingly, on this special occasion, allow me to extend to you the most cordial and fraternal best wishes of the Ecuadorian people.

Mr. Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt

[Original: Arabic]

It gives me great pleasure to express to you and the distinguished members of the Committee the appreciation that we feel for the genuine efforts made by the Committee to raise awareness of the Palestinian question and mobilize international support for the Palestinian people and the exercise of its legitimate and inalienable rights as affirmed by many resolutions of the General Assembly, the Security Council and other United Nations bodies.  I should also like to commend the successful United Nations International Meeting on the Convening of the Conference on Measures to Enforce the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, held in Cairo on 14 and 15 June 1999 under the auspices of the Committee.

This year, our commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People comes at a time when, with the opening of permanent status negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, the question of Palestine has entered an important and delicate stage.  We hope that these negotiations will be successful in granting the Palestinian people the exercise of its legitimate and inalienable rights, foremost among which is the right to establish an independent State.

With the signature of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on 4 September 1999, an atmosphere of optimism returned to the peace process, and the period of stagnation dating from 1996 was brought to a close.  The Egyptian Government welcomed the steps taken by the new Israeli Government with regard to the release of prisoners and the opening of the safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, regarding these actions as positive stages on the road to the realization of just and comprehensive peace in the region.  However, Egypt and many other members of the international family are still greatly concerned by the continuation of Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian land, considering this to be the gravest of Israeli practices and a threat to the future of peace which renders negotiation meaningless and pre-empts its goals.

Egypt therefore continues to stress that a comprehensive and just peace will not be realized in the region unless Israel implements in full those United Nations resolutions that represent international legitimacy, foremost among which are Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978).  Once again, we caution against any dishonest attempt to interpret these resolutions in such a way as to try to avoid the obligations which they impose on Israel, namely, its duty to withdraw from all the Arab territory which it occupied in June 1967, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

We hope that the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum will continue to be implemented in good faith and that the permanent status negotiations will keep to the agreed timetable and lead to the conclusion of a just settlement of the question of Palestine, which is at the heart of the Middle East problem, and is the cornerstone of a comprehensive and just peace and of the mutual security of all States and peoples of the region, without exception.

Egypt is greatly appreciative of the role played by your distinguished Committee, and reaffirms its commitment to support the Committee and the United Nations in addressing the situation in the Middle East and the question of Palestine, and to supporting all tracks of the peace process until that process reaches its final goal.  We shall spare no effort in cooperating with you and your distinguished Committee in order to reach the lofty goal to which we and all peace-loving people aspire, in the best interests of all States and peoples of the region and all present and future generations.

Mr. Lansana Conte, President of the Republic of Guinea

[Original: French]

On the occasion of the celebration by the international community of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I should like to take this opportunity to convey to you on behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of Guinea my sincere congratulations for the decisive role and the initiatives and actions designed to mobilize the international community which the Committee that you direct in such a selfless manner continues to carry out and implement in fulfilling the noble and eminent mission of restoring the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, whose heroic struggle constitutes  one  of  the  main   concerns  of  the  Islamic  Ummah.  The  Guinean  Government  takes  this opportunity to salute your efforts to mobilize the international community for the Bethlehem 2000 project.  I should like to reaffirm to you the unfailing support of the Government and the Guinean people for the struggle of the Palestinian people to regain all these rights in accordance with the relevant provisions of Security Council resolution 242 (1967) of 22 November 1967.

Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Guyana, I am pleased to send this message to mark the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and to express our hope that their inalienable rights will be restored to them before the end of this century.

In the year 2000, the international community will be celebrating Year of International Peace.  There can hardly be a celebration if the dispossessed people of Palestine continue to be denied a peaceful and settled existence.  Peace is indivisible: the world cannot enjoy peace if a part of it, however small, is prey to conflict.

Recent events encourage us to believe that peace is much closer than when the Palestinian struggle first began.  We believe that with good will on both sides, the dialogue between the Palestinian people and the new Israeli Government can lead to a definitive solution.

The Government and people of the Republic of Guyana urge all parties involved in the search for a solution to implement in good faith all agreements that have been reached in order to attain the ultimate goal of peaceful coexistence.

Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of the Republic of India

[Original: English]

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People represents an occasion for the international community to reaffirm its firm support for the realization of the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Historic bonds of friendship exist between the peoples of India and Palestine.  India has consistently supported the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to a homeland.  India welcomes the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September 1999 and is happy to note that many provisions of this Memorandum have been implemented, including the opening of the southern safe passage route connecting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and the release of Palestinian political prisoners.  We call upon the parties to refrain from taking unilateral steps and to faithfully implement all provisions of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum.  The atmosphere of mutual trust is necessary for the timely completion of permanent status negotiations to realize a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region, based on the principles of “land for peace” and the relevant United Nations resolutions.

India’s deep interest in peace, development and stability in the region remains unchanged.  We again reaffirm our commitment to the Palestinian National Authority for the economic reconstruction, development and amelioration of living conditions of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid, President of the Republic of Indonesia

[Original: English]

On the solemn occasion to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I wish to reaffirm, on behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Indonesia, our steadfast support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people for their heroic struggle to realize their legitimate and inalienable right to self-determination, national independence and sovereign statehood in a homeland of their own, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Despite a series of setbacks, the leaders of the Palestinian people have never wavered in their unswerving commitment to stay on the path to peace.  We pay warm tribute to the Palestinians for their resilience, patience and determination in overcoming the formidable obstacles faced by them within the framework of the peace process.  In this regard, the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on 4 September 1999, on the implementation of the interim arrangements and the initiation of final status negotiations, was an important occasion for revitalizing the peace process after an impasse of almost three years marked by procrastination and reneged commitments by Israel.  It is our hope that the Memorandum will pave the way for further agreements leading to a comprehensive and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, so that the Palestinian people can finally look forward to a future of peace, justice and economic development.

Indonesia deems it imperative to seize this opportune moment and implement without delay and in good faith the peace agreements and accords already reached.  We call upon Israel to fulfil its commitments contained therein.  Illegal policies of settlements and confiscation of Arab lands, in and around Al-Quds Al-Sharif, would not only dash the expectations recently generated by positive developments, but also impair the prospects for proceeding to the final status negotiations.  We were gratified by the recent encouraging steps taken to facilitate the endeavours for peace, such as the opening of a secure passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and fervently hope that they will be followed by determined and expedited efforts to resolve other contentious issues.

Indonesia has consistently maintained that there can be no durable peace without the withdrawal of Israel  from all  Arab and  Palestinian lands  occupied since 1967, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif, the Syrian Golan as well as southern Lebanon, which should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and on the principle of land for peace.  Furthermore, Indonessia has from the outset steadfastly supported the restitution of the inherent national rights of the Palestinian people, and we will continue to marshal determined efforts along with the rest of the international community towards the achievement of their noble goals.

As a member of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People since its inception, Indonesia takes great pride in having taken an active part in the work of the Committee, which has over the years tirelessly and relentlessly mobilized world opinion to the Palestinian cause.

In conclusion, while commemorating this important occasion, particularly on the eve of the next millennium, let us rededicate ourselves to the attainment of the long-cherished aspirations of the Palestinian people to statehood and sovereignty so that this question which has been on the agenda of the United Nations for more than five decades will be relegated to history.

May God Almighty bestow his blessings and wise guidance on all of us.

Mr. Seyed Mohammad Khatami, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

[Original: English]

The commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is a propitious opportunity to once again, on behalf of the great Iranian nation and as the current Chairman of the 8th Summit of the Islamic Conference, express my firm and full support for the sacred cause of the Palestinian nation.

From the very beginning, the question of Palestine has become a central issue for the Iranian people, who are still following, seriously and anxiously, developments and events of the region.  It is most unfortunate that these developments were not in line with the realization of Palestinian goals, but on the contrary, they have resulted in deepening the crisis in the Middle East and Palestine.

The current diplomatic efforts known as the Middle East peace process, in failing to take into account the root causes of the crisis, namely, the organized occupation of Palestinian lands and the forced mass expulsion of its inhabitants, are not only unable to restore the inalienable rights of the oppressed people of Palestine, but are also leading to further negligence of their rights.  They also provide Israel with another opportunity to continue, unworriedly, with its policies of occupation, suppression and invasion against Palestinians and other nations of the region.

The Israeli regime has repeatedly proved its disregard of international law.  The reports of the relevant international organizations point to their gross violations of human rights, including the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the occupied territories of Palestine.  Unfortunately, the efforts  of the  international  community to  force  that  regime  to  observe  humanitarian  principles  in its relations with Palestinian residents have produced no results.  Moreover, the policy of expanding Jewish settlements remains in force and the process of the complete Judaization of Al-Quds continues unabated.

Underlining the principled and just positions of the Palestinian people aimed at attaining all the rights which have been denied them, I hope that the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People this year will serve as the beginning of serious cooperation among Governments and nations for the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people.

King Abdallah Bin Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

[Original: Arabic]

I should like to convey to you my sincere thanks and deep appreciation for the sincere endeavours that you have made through your distinguished Committee in support of the fraternal Palestinian people.  Over the past years, these endeavours have been central to the work of your distinguished Committee to support this people and defend its just cause.

By virtue of its position and close ties with the Palestinian people ever since the latter was uprooted and dispossessed of its land, Jordan has always been and remains the country closest to this people and its suffering and most supportive of its just cause.  We therefore make every effort and explore all peaceful options in order to support the peace process and assist it in reaching its lofty goals, namely, the return of the land – all the land – in exchange for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace that will satisfy all the peoples of the region, including the Palestinian people, and end the suffering and great humanitarian tragedy of that people.

At every stage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Jordan has believed that there is no choice but to recognize the usurped rights of the Palestinian people, which must be restored.  These rights have been established by the resolutions and conventions of international legitimacy.  Our efforts have therefore, in various international forums, been directed towards finding the optimum formula to ensure the restitution of those usurped rights and put an end to this tragedy and all its consequences.

The peace-building efforts made by all parties are currently beginning to bear fruit and make their effects felt.  The peace process begun in Madrid nearly a decade ago has the support of the international community, notwithstanding the obvious and undeniable uncertainty and dangers with which it is periodically beset.  We shall do our utmost to ensure that this process continues and achieves its aims, namely, the return of the occupied territories to their rightful owners.

As we stand by the Palestinian people on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, when attention is drawn to the suffering caused by the occupation, we should not only consider those who, waiting hopefully, steadfastly maintain their links with the Palestinian territory that remains occupied to this day, but must also think of the millions of Palestinians in the diaspora, who left their homes and were forcibly dispossessed of their lands.  There must therefore be a determined international stand in support of the right of those people to return and to receive compensation for the consequences of their expulsion and their suffering throughout the years of the occupation.

While we appreciate your distinguished Committee's support for the Palestinian people and its struggle to obtain its legitimate rights over its national territory, we should like to stress that peace and stability will not endure unless all aspects of the underlying causes of the dispute are addressed and a just solution is found to the question of Palestine, and unless all signed undertakings are honoured and promptly and faithfully implemented.  The international community must recognize its responsibility towards the Palestinian people and take part in the construction and development process that is necessary in order to build that people's independent State and achieve long-awaited prosperity.

With thanks and appreciation, we hope that your endeavours will be crowned with success.

Mr. Khamtay Siphandone, President of the Lao People's Democratic Republic

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I would like, on behalf of the Government and the people of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and indeed on my own behalf, to reaffirm our unwavering support for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to ensure the exercise of their inalienable rights to self-determination, including the right to establish an independent and sovereign State.

This year the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People assumes a special significance as hopes of putting the peace process back on track are revived.  Recently, with concerted efforts by the concerned parties and the international community, there has been new progress in the Middle East peace process with the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel on 4 September 1999.  The Lao People’s Democratic Republic welcomes this development and expresses the hope that the parties directly concerned will implement in earnest the achieved agreements and understandings in a continued flexible and pragmatic spirit so as to pave the way for more progress in the peace talks now under way with a view to achieving a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine, in compliance with all relevant decisions and resolutions of the United Nations and the principle of the land for peace.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic would like to take this opportunity to express once again its solidarity with the Palestinian people and remains prepared to make its modest contribution in order to ensure a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian problem.

It is our fervent hope that, under the wise leadership of President Arafat, the Palestinian people will triumph in their tireless efforts to establish their national homeland in the near future.

Mr. Pakalitha B. Mosisili, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government and people of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and on my own behalf, I reiterate Lesotho’s support to the Palestinian people in their struggle for the right to self-determination, national independence and sovereignty.  Even though the road to peace has been hard and often tragic, we are encouraged by progress made by the parties to the Middle East peace process since Wye.

We remain convinced that the consolidation of peace in the region requires genuine and honest commitment from all parties and thus commend the parties for their relentless efforts to facilitate a negotiated political settlement based on United Nations resolutions.

Once again, we would like to express our solidarity with the people of Palestine in their search for everlasting peace, socio-economic development and prosperity.

His Majesty Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah, The Yang di Pertuan Agong of Malaysia

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government and people of Malaysia, we are pleased to join the voice of the world community in presenting our warmest congratulations to the people of Palestine on this International Day of Solidarity.

In welcoming the recent progress in the peace process, the Government of Malaysia reaffirms its continued support for the struggle of the Palestinian people for their inalienable rights and for an independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

We are happy to see more support and recognition from the world community on the struggle of the Palestinian people to regain their legitimate national rights.

We would like to take this opportunity to extend our best wishes to President Yasser Arafat and the people of Palestine for their fortitude and perseverance.

Mr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I am pleased to convey on behalf of all Malaysians our warm greetings and felicitations to our Palestinian brothers.

The signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on 5 September 1999 is indeed a sign of progress which Malaysia warmly welcomes.  It is our fervent hope that this latest development will succeed in revitalizing the peace process.  It should bring the peace process back on track and clear the way for permanent status negotiations.  Malaysia supports all endeavours contributing to a just and permanent solution guaranteeing peace and prosperity to all countries in the region.

Malaysia has always extended its unfettered support to the Palestinian cause and will remain so in the continuous noble efforts to establish an independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Finally, I hope that the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will serve as the first step towards establishing a durable, just and honourable peace in the Middle East.

Mr. E. Fenech Adami, Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta

[Original: English]

This year’s observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People has a special significance not only because it is being celebrated at a time when positive developments in the Middle East peace process make us all believe that peace in this region can be attained in the foreseeable future, but also  because  it is being  held on  the eve  of a  new millennium,  a propitious  moment  for the settlement of old disputes and the establishment of new relationships conducive to mutual understanding and lasting peace.

Over the years Malta has consistently given its support to all efforts towards a peaceful solution of this issue.  This commitment is reflected in its role of Rapporteur of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a post Malta has occupied since this Committee’s inception.

The Government and people of Malta look forward to the attainment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  We sincerely hope that this Day will mark a new beginning and a new future for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, built on a spirit of reconciliation.

Mr. Navinchandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius

[Original: English]

I am pleased to extend to you and to the Palestinian people the fraternal greetings and best wishes of the Government and people of Mauritius on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

It is our earnest hope that through dialogue and goodwill the peoples of the Middle East will achieve a lasting and just solution that will allow them to finally live in peace.

Mauritius has always believed in a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue which would secure for the Palestinian people independence with internationally recognized borders.

On this occasion, I wish to reiterate the unequivocal support of my Government and the people of Mauritius to the Palestinian people in their struggle for their legitimate rights,

I wish to convey to you my best wishes for your personal well-being and for the prosperity and progress of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, President of Mexico

[Original: Spanish]

In marking the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Mexico reiterates its message of peace and friendship.

Mexico is convinced that the establishment of peace in the region will be possible only through the observance of international law and the full implementation of the United Nations resolutions.

The Government of Mexico notes with satisfaction the readiness of the leaders of countries in the Middle East to resume the dialogue, making it possible to move forward in implementing the peace agreements, with full recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people.

On behalf of the people and Government of Mexico, I express my best wishes in the hope that this important date will be commemorated in a successful manner.

Mr. Sam Nujoma, President of the Republic of Namibia

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Namibia, I have the honour to congratulate you, Comrade President, and through you the people of Palestine on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Comrade President, for the steadfast and qualitative leadership you have rendered to your people in these needy and testing times of the ongoing struggle of the Palestinian people.  As a matter of principle and in recognition of the cherished historic relations that exist between our peoples, the Namibian people, and the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) Party in particular, will forever remain ardent supporters of the just cause of the Palestinian people.

As you commemorate this important occasion, I wish you, Comrade President, renewed strength and continued good health as you continue leading the Palestinian people towards the desired goals of statehood, self-determination and economic prosperity.

Mr. Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan

[Original: English]

Today, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is being observed by the international community, including Pakistan.  We take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the cause of Palestine and reiterate our continuing and principled support for the Palestinian people.

Pakistan’s support for the Palestinian cause at all international forums has been a manifestation of the importance that it attaches to the just struggle of our Palestinian brethren for their right of self-determination.  We are fully supportive of the Middle East peace process and it is our earnest hope that all the agreements that take into account the inalienable right of the Palestinian people, including their right to statehood, will be implemented to the fullest extent.

It is imperative that the international community, particularly the United Nations, uses its good offices for ensuring full compliance with the peace agreements and also extends maximum assistance to help the Palestinian people in the reconstruction of their devastated economy.

Mr. Alberto Fujimori Fujimori, President of the Republic of Peru

[Original: Spanish]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I am pleased to convey the greetings and solidarity of the Peruvian people to all Palestinians on this important day on which they are honoured by the international community.

We are pleased to note that, after so many years of conflict in the Middle East, which have brought great suffering to the Palestinian people, major steps towards peace are being taken, such as the recent Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.  We hope that this process will come to a successful conclusion, in fulfilment of the resolutions of the United Nations and the Madrid and Oslo agreements.

The fact that, after so many years, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders are working together to solve problems and implement agreements is a hopeful sign not only for the peoples directly affected, but also for countries such as Peru which consider peace to be the supreme good of nations.

At this crucial stage of the Middle East peace process, I would like to express Peru's gratitude to the Palestinian people for having contributed to international peace and security by supporting their leaders' courageous decision to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation.

Mr. Joseph Ejercito Estrada, President of the Republic of the Philippines

[Original: English]

The Government and people of the Republic of the Philippines join me in congratulating the people of Palestine on the occasion of their International Day of Solidarity.

We admire the determination and faith of the Palestinian people, whose struggle and sacrifice for a just cause are now matched by their untiring efforts to forge a just peace.

We stand in solidarity with the international community in expressing concern over the difficulties involved in completing the Middle East peace process.  We hope, however, that they can be overcome through the goodwill of all parties concerned in implementing the Wye River Memorandum and other existing agreements.

We therefore urge all parties concerned to pursue unrelentingly the peaceful solution to this conflict so that the violence that has claimed so many lives in the Middle East may be ended.

We pray that the people of Palestine and those living in and around the Holy Land may enjoy the blessings of peace and brotherhood today and for generations to come.

Mr. Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland

[Original: English]

H.E. Mr. Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland, sends a message of solidarity to H.E. Mr. Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

In addition to the congratulations and best wishes which he extends to the Palestinian people, the President of the Republic of Poland emphasizes the attention with which my country is following the efforts Mr. Arafat and the members of the Palestinian Authority are undertaking towards the fulfilment of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  The President of the Republic of Poland also wishes to refer to the long-standing friendship between our two nations, which we intend to develop further.

The President of Poland is convinced of the importance of reviving the peace process in the Middle East, as envisaged in the Madrid and Oslo accords, with the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue as the most important part of it.  He also expressed the hope that the resumption of final status negotiations would lead to the establishment of a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East.  He is positive that Mr. Arafat and his partners will do their utmost to achieve this objective.

Mr. Kwasniewski assures Mr. Arafat that Poland is going to support actively – as it has done so far – all the endeavours aimed at reaching a lasting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.  He stresses that the constructive strengthening and development of the Palestine Authority in the direction of full sovereignty is in the interest of the international community and the peaceful future of the Middle East.

Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar

[Original: Arabic]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I must take this opportunity to applaud the struggle of the great Palestinian people to regain its freedom and construct an independent state on the soil of its homeland, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.  This glorious heroic struggle will be recorded in the most glowing terms in the annals of glory and honour.

All nations and peoples that have undertaken similar struggles are aware of the justice of the Palestinian cause, and value highly the immense sacrifices that the Palestinian people continues to make, freely offering up the lives of its children as the price of its legitimate ambition and longing to end the occupation and humiliation.

The Palestinian people and its wise leadership believe that a just and honourable peace based on the resolutions of international legitimacy and the principle of land for peace is the best possible option, and have approved a strategic choice for the restoration of its legitimate rights.  On this premise, the Palestinian leadership began the process of negotiations with the Israeli side that was inaugurated at Madrid, continued through Oslo and Hebron and culminated at Wye Plantation and Sharm el-Sheikh.  Those who  have followed  events have  been aware of  the determination  of the Palestinian  leadership to reach the desired end and the extraordinary flexibility that it has demonstrated during the discussions in order to achieve its goal.

Had it not been for Israeli procrastination in carrying out the obligations resulting from earlier agreements, there would have been no need to convene further conferences in order to elucidate those agreements or implement their arrangements.

Being convinced of the justice of the Palestinian cause, we shall spare no effort in standing alongside our brother Palestinians and in upholding their legitimate struggle for self-determination and to achieve a just peace.  I therefore urge all those nations and peoples that love truth, justice and peace to maintain their support for and championship of the Palestinian people, until that people obtains each and every one of its legitimate rights and establishes an independent State on its national soil, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.  We also urge Israel to respond to the language of rationality and logic, and implement in full its commitments under the agreements that it signed with the Palestinian side, implement the resolutions of international legitimacy relating to the situation in the Middle East, and in particular Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978).  We also call upon the present Israeli Government to take the opportunity offered to it by the international community, which was weary of the practices and obduracy of the previous Government, and recognize that stability cannot be guaranteed or sustained by force of arms, but rather by respect for the rights of neighbouring peoples and their legitimate interests.

In conclusion, I should like to express my great appreciation to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and in particular its Chairman, Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, and the distinguished members of the Committee, and to congratulate them on the tremendous effort they have made on behalf of a just cause and a great people that has contributed to the enrichment of human civilization throughout its long history.  We trust that, with the help of God, it will be able once again to join other peoples in making a full contribution to the heritage of all mankind.

Mr. Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation

[Original: Russian]

[Addressed to the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine

Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian

Authority, Mr. Yasser Arafat]

Chairman Arafat and dear friend, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I am happy to convey my warmest congratulations to the fraternal Palestinian people and to you personally.

The Russian Federation attaches particular importance to this date, through the commemoration of which the world  community confirms its  unfailing sympathy with and support for the  Palestinian people in its struggle for the right to determine independently its own future and to live and build in its own land. Now, at a time when there are reassuring trends in the Middle East peace process and negotiations have begun on the final status of the Palestinian territories, the achievement of this historic goal is becoming more real.

We commend the political courage and determination of the Palestinian leadership, which has firmly adhered to its choice in favour of peace, security and good-neighbourliness. As a co-sponsor of the peace process, the Russian Federation, for its part, will do everything to promote the stepping up of broad international efforts to make progress in bringing about a Middle East settlement on the basis of the Madrid principles and international law.

I should like to confirm that the Russian people cherish the ties of lasting friendship that have long bound our fraternal peoples together. I am convinced that the good traditions and accumulated potential of our mutually advantageous links will enable us to view the future of our relations with confidence and optimism.

I wish you, my dear friend, sound health and happiness, and the Palestinian people, progress and prosperity.

Fahd Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,

King of Saudi Arabia

[Original: Arabic]

As the international community observes the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is still struggling to regain its legitimate and inalienable rights, I take this opportunity to pray that Almighty God will grant success to your work.

The Government of Saudi Arabia is pleased to take part in this commemoration and is appreciative of the endeavours made by your Committee, which has shouldered the responsibility for defending the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to establish an independent State on its national soil, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

In participating in this observance, the Government of Saudi Arabia stresses its commitment to the international purposes, principles and conventions, the provisions of which affirm the right of peoples to self-determination.  The Palestinian people, without doubt, continues to be denied its rights, regardless of the numerous international resolutions calling for the restoration of its usurped rights.

Since this question first arose, the Government of Saudi Arabia, with its firmly held principles and absolute conviction of the justice of this people's cause, has been unflagging in its offers of help at all levels, with a view to finding a just solution to the issue and ending the oppression, torture and material and moral dispossession being inflicted on the Palestinian people.

Saudi Arabia has aligned itself with the international community in upholding the cause of this people and has supported peaceful efforts to restore its legitimate rights.  It endorsed the peace process begun at Madrid in October 1991, which resulted in the holding of direct discussions between the Palestinian  and Israeli sides  and the conclusion  of bilateral  agreements providing  for the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories and the transfer of further powers to the Palestinian Authority.  Saudi Arabia has joined other donor countries in assisting the Palestinian Authority, and has provided financial aid amounting to US$ 200 million.

As it follows current developments in the Palestinian arena and witnesses the lack of movement in the peace process, Saudi Arabia is concerned and displeased by the intransigence of Israel and by its policies, which have weakened and paralysed the Palestinian-Israeli track and have rendered meaningless the agreements signed with the Palestinian side.  The accords signed and proclaimed before the international community have been ignored, and Israel continues to pursue its settlement policy in the occupied territories and uses closures and blockades in order to subject the self-governing areas to all kinds of deprivation and starvation and impose collective punishment.  It puts in place plans and measures aimed at changing the demography of Jerusalem and imposing a new status quo in that city, thereby exposing the region to more violence and instability.

The Government of Saudi Arabia is unwavering in its position and in its support for the peace efforts aimed at ending the Israeli occupation of Arab territory and implementing the relevant international resolutions, and in particular Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and the principle of land for peace.  In accordance with the agreements concluded at the Madrid Peace Conference and the affirmation made by the Arab leaders at their 22 June 1996 Summit in Cairo, to the effect that the peace process represents a goal and strategic choice from which there can be no retreat, Saudi Arabia urges the members of the international family, and in particular the sponsors of the peace process (the United States of America and the Russian Federation), to bring all possible pressure to bear upon Israel to comply with the legitimate resolutions adopted in relation to the Palestinian people and to submit to the will of the international community by honouring the undertakings that it has made towards the Palestinian Authority and the international community, desisting from its obstruction of the peace process, ceasing settlement construction and halting its inhumane practices towards the Palestinian population.  Any permanent and comprehensive settlement must include the return of the Palestinian refugees and the release of prisoners and must resolve the issue of the settlements, which are in contravention of every international resolution, including Security Council resolution 465 (1980), the provisions of international law and the Geneva Convention.

The question of Jerusalem, which lies at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, remains the focus of concern of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the essence of the Palestinian problem.  Israeli practices and violations in this holy city can therefore only reflect negatively on the whole peace process, in particular in view of the fact that such practices are intended to Judaize the city of Jerusalem and to alter its religious and historical characteristics, and threaten to destroy the peace process and put an end to all hopes for peace in the region.  We therefore appeal to the international community and to the United States in particular to take immediate and resolute steps to end Israeli intransigence with regard to the most critical and delicate parts of the peace process, and to treat the issue of Jerusalem as the most significant component of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  This issue must be resolved within the timetable set by the peace process and in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy, and in particular Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), which provides for the withdrawal of Israel from the Arab lands occupied in 1967, and 252 (1968) concerning Jerusalem.  If there is to be credible justice and the basic rights of the Palestinian people are to be defended, it is both impossible and unacceptable to deal with this issue in a biased manner that differentiates between one people and another and one State and another.  We find it appropriate here to affirm that this principle must be observed in accordance with the spirit of justice and equality, and in order to serve security and peace in the region of the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia takes this opportunity to urge the international community to seize the initiative and bring pressure to bear on Israel to carry out the commitments it made at the Madrid Peace Conference and comply with the provisions of the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.  This will restore the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and guarantee stability for the region, serving the interests of all its peoples.  We are hopeful that the contacts and discussions currently taking place will lead to progress being made in the peace process, and we urge the international community to bring more effective pressure to bear on Israel in order to achieve a lasting and just peace in the region of the Middle East and ensure its security, stability and development.

We pray that God will grant success to all in what is for the best.

Mr. Abdou Diouf, President of the Republic of Senegal

[Original: French]

On this International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, it is a particular pleasure for me to reaffirm my total support, and that of my Government and all the Senegalese people, for the just struggle of the Palestinian people to regain their dignity and freedom.

Above all, I take this opportunity to make a solemn expression of my personal support and encouragement to Chairman Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority.  His courage, determination, lucidity, persevering efforts and sense of compromise deserve our admiration.

In this context, I commend the decisive role which he personally has played and the significant contribution of President Bill Clinton and President Hosni Moubarak to the signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, on 4 September 1999.

I am deeply convinced that the full implementation of the Memorandum, on the basis of the agreed timetable, will make it possible to achieve a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, in the interests of all the peoples of the region.

To this end, I should like to convey my congratulations and encouragement to H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, for the personal efforts he has made for the resumption and consolidation of the peace process.

In this context, it is important that the United Nations should continue to assume permanent political responsibility up until the final and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

From this perspective, I call particularly upon the co-sponsors of the peace process to continue it and to intensify their efforts to establish a climate of trust between the parties.

I continue to be encouraged by the recent developments in the situation in the region which justify all hopes.  I should therefore like to issue a solemn call to all the States Members of the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity, the European Union, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, other international organizations and institutions, including financial institutions, non-governmental organizations and persons of good will, to support the peace negotiations and increase their assistance to the Palestinian people.

I also urge them to intensify their political, technical and financial support to the implementation of the Bethlehem 2000 project.

I should like to congratulate the Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and all the members of that Committee for the invaluable and positive contribution which they have made to the efforts of the international community in support of the Palestinian people and the continuation of the peace process.

In this delicate period in which hope and doubt go side by side, I believe that it is important to do everything possible to keep the peace process on track; this clearly corresponds to the interests of peace and stability in the Middle East and in the world.

At this century's end, and on the eve of the celebration of the second millennium after the birth of Christ in the Palestinian village of Bethlehem, I express the wish that the Palestinian people may very soon regain in full their sovereign, inalienable and inherent rights.

My Government, for its part, will continue, as in the past, to work towards this end, for a Middle East which is reconciled with itself, in peace and security.

Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, President of the Democratic Socialist

Republic of Sri Lanka

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government and the people of Sri Lanka, I have great pleasure in conveying our warm felicitations and best wishes to His Excellency President Yasser Arafat and the people of the State of Palestine, on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Sri Lanka has always considered the question of Palestine as the core issue of the Middle East problem.  We have constantly and consistently supported the Palestinian people in their effort to realize their inalienable rights.

Sri Lanka therefore shares the satisfaction of the international community over the progress achieved so far in the Palestine-Israel negotiations for peace despite delays and obstacles.  We welcome the recently concluded second Oslo meeting, followed by the Ramallah talks in the Middle East peace process, which would certainly herald the dawn of a new epoch.  Sri Lanka believes that this would culminate in the creation of a new Palestinian state, by September 2000.

On this occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I am happy to reiterate Sri Lanka’s solidarity with them and to convey our sincere good wishes for their well-being.

Mr. Chuan Leekpai, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Thailand, I wish to extend our best wishes to all Palestinian people on this auspicious day.  I should also like to reaffirm our full support for the efforts to find a peaceful and durable solution to the question of Palestine in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Thailand welcomes the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum signed on 4 September 1999 by Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat as a significant step forward and another important breakthrough in the Middle East peace process.  This Memorandum sets, for the first time, a deadline for the conclusion of the final status agreement which would bring an end to the long struggle of the Palestinian people.  Therefore it should not be too far-fetched to expect that the acrimonious conflict that has been with us for more than half a century would finally draw to a close and we will start the next millennium with a new era of increasing peace and prosperity in the Middle East.

Apart from a political solution, Thailand also attaches great importance to economic and social development as it would provide strong foundation for lasting peace.  In this regard, contributions by the international community and international organizations as well as the work undertaken by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people are certainly commendable.

Finally, I would like to reaffirm Thailand’s firm commitment to support the efforts of all parties concerned to establish long-lasting peace and stability in the region by peaceful means.

Mr. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President of the Republic of Tunisia

[Original: Arabic]

Today Tunisia, in common with all peace-loving countries in the world, is commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  This is an opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering championship of the just cause of the Palestinian people and our undying commitment to support it in its struggle to regain its legitimate rights to self-determination and to establish an independent State on its territory, with Jerusalem as its capital.

On the basis of its firmly principled position in support of the Palestinian cause and its active stance shoulder to shoulder with the Palestinian people, Tunisia once again calls upon the international community to redouble its efforts and move swiftly in order to create the appropriate conditions and provide grounds for progress and success in the peace process in the Middle East by ensuring that Israel honours its international commitments and is bound by the authority upon which the peace process has been based since its inception, and in particular the principle of land for peace.  Israel must show respect for international legitimacy and implement Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and the relevant General Assembly resolutions.

This year, the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People coincides with the opening of negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the permanent status of the Palestinian territories.  It is hoped that these negotiations  will have the desired results within the specified period, and that the climate will be forthcoming that is necessary for finding a peaceful, comprehensive, just and lasting solution in the Middle East that will guarantee the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, the withdrawal of Israel from the Syrian Golan and the occupied Lebanese territories and allow all peoples of the region to live in security and peace and enable them to concentrate on building a better future.

While expressing its deep appreciation for the endeavours of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable  Rights of the Palestinian  People to establish  those rights, Tunisia reaffirms its determination to continue to support this distinguished Committee in its noble work for the victory of the Palestinian people and its contribution to the achievement of security and stability in the region.

Mr. Bülent Ecevit, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I take great pleasure in reiterating, once again, our firm support to the Palestinian people in their just struggle for the achievement of their legitimate rights.

The International Solidarity Day highlights the fact that the unresolved plight of the Palestinian people lies at the core of the Middle East problem.  Therefore, the persistent efforts made by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People under your able leadership to promote a wider awareness of the question of Palestine and thus to contribute to fostering greater sympathy and support in the international community for the Palestinian people are highly commendable.

Turkey considers the Middle East peace process as the only realistic and viable way to settle the long-lasting Palestinian problem and the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as to reach a just, comprehensive and durable peace.  We therefore believe that the Middle East peace process presents a golden opportunity that should not be missed and welcome the recent positive developments to put the negotiations back on track.  On the other hand, we think that tangible support for the Palestinian people by the international community through financial programmes and assistance is vital for the success of the Middle East peace process.

Turkey strongly wishes that the 21st century will be a century of peace and stability.  In this connection, we visualize a grand scheme of peace in the Middle East with the full restitution of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

I take this opportunity to extend the best wishes of the Turkish nation and the Turkish Government to the Palestinian people in their determined efforts for the realization of their legitimate aspirations, within the framework of a just and lasting peace.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates

[Original: Arabic]

On behalf of the Government and people of the United Arab Emirates, I am pleased to convey to you and to the members of the Committee our appreciation and gratitude for your tireless and genuine efforts to defend the justice of the Palestinian cause at all stages of its historical and political development.

On the occasion of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we reaffirm our support for that people's just struggle and its aspiration to gain its liberty and exercise its legitimate and inalienable rights to self-determination and to establish an independent state on all the national soil of Palestine, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

The Palestinian question represents one of the oldest and most long-lasting cases of occupation witnessed this century.  It is of the greatest difficulty and complexity, given the dangerous and systematically hostile and expansionist nature of the policy pursued by successive Israeli Governments.  This policy has led to murder, the expropriation of land and property, the arrest and dispossession of thousands of Palestinians and Arabs from their lands and homes, occupation by Jewish settlers coming from all corners of the world and the imposition of a new status quo in the occupied Palestinian territories that has transformed the demographic, legal, political and historical status of the original Arab inhabitants.

While we welcomed the peace process in the Middle East based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and the principle of land for peace, and the series of agreements concluded by the Palestinian Authority with the Israeli side, the most recent of which was the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, we are still concerned by the disregard shown on a daily basis by the Israeli Government for its political and legal undertakings.  Among the most serious causes of concern is the systematic and sustained recourse which that Government has to the expropriation of Palestinian land, property and natural resources and the building and expansion of yet more settlements in all parts of the occupied territories, and in particular in the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif.

The United Arab Emirates considers that all these Israeli policies are void and illegal and that they constitute a violation of the principles of international law, the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and other relevant conventions.  It calls upon the United Nations, the sponsors of the peace process, the European Union and other peace-loving nations to continue to assume their historical responsibilities and prevail upon the Israeli Government to withdraw completely from all the Palestinian and Arab land that it has occupied, including Al-Quds Al-Sharif, and to completely and immediately halt all its violations.  These violations not only prejudice the position of the Palestinian people and its national rights and legitimate sovereignty over the national land of Palestine, but also impair regional and international security, peace and stability.

In conclusion, we look forward to the day when the Palestinian people will, like the rest of the peoples of the world, realize its legitimate aspirations and be able to build its development, economic, social and humanitarian institutions and exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and establish an independent State on the national soil of Palestine, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Mr. Tran Duc Luong, President of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People of the United Nations  (29 November 1999), I would like to convey to you, and through you to the Palestinian people, our warmest greetings of solidarity.

The Government and the people of Viet Nam welcome the efforts undertaken by the concerned parties in promoting the peace process in the Middle East through the conclusion of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum on 5 September 1999 and the recent meetings between Palestine and Israel.  We hope that these agreements will be implemented, and that the concerned parties will overcome the existing obstacles to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, on the basis of Security Council resolutions  242 (1967)  and  338 (1973) and the “return  of  land for peace”  principle,  thus  ensuring  the inalienable fundamental national rights of the Palestinian people, including the rights to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state of Palestine in their homeland as well as the guarantee of the just interests of all the concerned parties.

Once again, the Government and the people of Viet Nam reaffirm their consistent support for the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people and firmly believe that the Palestinian people, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), will certainly achieve complete victory.

B. Messages from Governments

United Republic of Tanzania

[Original: English]

The United Republic of Tanzania, mindful of the history of dispossession and suffering of the Palestinian people, salutes their valour in the struggle for self-determination, peace, stability and prosperity.

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we urge the international community to redouble its efforts in support of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, the key to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Recognizing that peace and stability in the Middle East are an urgent necessity, not only to the parties and the region, but to the international community, we commend the developments of the recent past and urge all the parties to continue on the path of dialogue.

We therefore earnestly call for faster and strict implementation of the peace accords so that sooner, rather than later, the people of Palestine will be able to enjoy their inalienable rights in full.

The history of the region has been one of pain and suffering; we look forward to and hope for a future marked by the peaceful coexistence of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people, a future of peace, not only for the region, but indeed for the whole world.

Uruguay

[Original: Spanish]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Government of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay would like to express once again its fervent desire for the consolidation of a just and lasting peace to guarantee stability in the region and to enable the Palestinian people to achieve well-being and respect for their rights.

Uruguay reiterates its strong support for the continuation of the peace process, on the basis of existing agreements, as the only valid means of achieving peaceful coexistence in the context of international law and the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Uruguay trusts that the current phase will facilitate the progress of the negotiations and lead to solutions based on good faith and mutual respect between the peoples of the region.

Zimbabwe

[Original: English]

This solemn occasion to commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People provides me with an auspicious opportunity to reaffirm Zimbabwe’s strong commitment and unwavering support to the Palestinians in the attainment of all their inalienable rights to exercise self-determination and to establish an independent state.

In the aftermath of the Oslo accords of 1993, the world had some optimism with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.  Progress on the political front has not been matched with real improvement in the human conditions in the Palestinian community.  The peace process has since then been dogged by a lack of commitment to implement fully the letter and spirit of the Oslo accords, creating an absence of peace in the subregion.

In recognizing the significant steps being taken by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s Government to implement last September’s Sharm el-Sheikh peace accord, we call upon the parties concerned to give peace a chance by refraining from extremism and recourse to terror tactics.  We therefore acknowledge and encourage current efforts by the parties concerned to reach a framework agreement for a final accord early next year, and a possible peace treaty thereafter.

Zimbabwe wishes to reaffirm its strong belief that the successful progression of the peace process depends upon the commitment and willingness of the parties concerned to implement scrupulously all provisions of agreements freely entered into.  We are most confident that under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat the Palestinians are poised to witness the successful conclusion of the long and arduous process of establishing an independent Palestinian state.

The Government and people of Zimbabwe are happy to extend to the Palestinian people best wishes on this occasion.

C.  Messages from Ministers for Foreign Affairs

Mr. D. Guido Di Tella, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Commerce

and Worship of the Republic of Argentina

[Original: Spanish]

On the occasion of the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Government of the Argentine Republic wishes to reaffirm its support for the observance of this important Day.

The Argentine Government wishes to reiterate its firm conviction that peace in the Middle East must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978), the Madrid and Oslo peace accords, the Washington Declaration of Principles and the Wye River Memorandum, which contain the necessary elements for achieving a just and lasting peace in the region.  The Argentine Government notes with satisfaction and hope the signing on 4 September last of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum and the resumption on 13 September of final status negotiations, which have given much-needed impetus to the peace process and contributed significantly to confidence-building in the region.  The effort and willingness to negotiate that was manifested in the signing of the above-mentioned agreements and in the resumption of negotiations must be continued and intensified in order to achieve a solution based on mutual concessions from which all parties benefit.

The Argentine Republic believes that economic and social development combined with an improved quality of life for the Palestinian people are essential elements for the strengthening of the peace process in the Middle East.  For that reason, during the period from 1996 to 1998, it participated through the "White Helmets" initiative in successful urban planning projects in the municipalities of Gaza, Rafah and Khan Younis.  The White Helmets are currently collaborating with the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in urban planning activities related to the Bethlehem 2000 project.  Within this framework, Argentine experts are participating in activities to upgrade infrastructure, open up public spaces and renovate places of historical and cultural interest in the city of Bethlehem.

The Argentine Republic fully supports all the efforts being made by the countries of the region to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.  It reiterates its support for the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination within their own territory, and for the right of their neighbours to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, within the framework of the provisions of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973).

Mr. Guillermo Fernández de Soto, Minister for External Relations of the

Republic of Colombia

[Original: Spanish]

On behalf of Mr. Andrés Pastrana Arango, President of the Republic, the people of Colombia and myself, I have the honour to transmit to the Palestinian people and to their distinguished leaders most cordial greetings and sincere wishes for their well-being and progress.

Colombia has followed with interest the progress of the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis and, in keeping with its policy to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes, has welcomed the adoption of all General Assembly and Security Council resolutions aimed at achieving this objective in the region.

Moreover, at a time when we are all united by a common and profound desire to achieve peace in the Middle East, we note with satisfaction the progress of the current phase of the negotiations to achieve a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel, a process that has all of our solidarity and support.

We therefore join the international community in commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and take this opportunity to express to the Palestinian people our desire and intention to continue to develop and expand the friendly relations that happily exist between our peoples.

Our Government also shares the concern of many States at the difficult conditions under which Palestinians live in the occupied territories and hopes that international organizations would redouble their humanitarian efforts to alleviate the harsh conditions under which this population lives.

Mr. Yohei  Kono,  Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government of Japan, I would like to extend my sincere best wishes on the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  I would also like to take this opportunity to express once again my respect and admiration for the Palestinians who made a brave decision last spring to seek to realize their legitimate rights and to attain peace by means of dialogue, and not through unilateral actions.

After the Barak administration was established in Israel last July, the Palestinians, under the leadership of President Arafat and in cooperation with the Israelis, made extensive efforts to move the peace process forward.  As a result of a series of tough negotiations, the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum was successfully agreed upon last September.  Japan fully supports the Memorandum, and believes that for the peace process to make real progress it is essential to implement what has been agreed as scheduled.  It is also imperative that progress be made in the final status negotiations in order to reach a just and lasting solution on the Palestinian track.  A framework agreement is scheduled to be reached by 13 February and a final status agreement by 13 September 2000.  To achieve these goals, the parties concerned have to deal with such difficult issues as Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements.  Japan strongly hopes that both Palestinians and Israelis will do their utmost to overcome such difficulties with courage and determination, and will make progress towards their goals.

Japan, for its part, will extend all possible assistance to such efforts made by the parties concerned.  Japan, as one of the largest donors, has disbursed more than 500 million dollars in assistance to the Palestinians.  Moreover, Japan held a meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Tokyo last October to spur the political momentum for the peace process.  I am well aware that the international community should continue to provide assistance to the Palestinians who are striving for the realization of their right to self-determination.  Japan is determined to play its role both financially and politically to support such efforts.

We are now entering the year 2000 and subsequently the new era of the twenty-first century.  It is my sincere hope that a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East region will soon be achieved through the ongoing negotiations, and that the Palestinians will be able to celebrate the new era, having realized their right to self-determination.

Mrs. Lila Hanitra Ratsifandrihamanana, Minister for Foreign Affairs

of the Republic of Madagascar

[Original: French]

As is the case every year, the international community and all peoples that love peace and justice are celebrating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November.

As a member of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, Madagascar would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm its solidarity with the heroic people of Palestine, who have been struggling for a little more than 50 years to regain their legitimate and inalienable rights to self-determination and independence.  The Malagasy Government and people will continue to provide their support to all those working tirelessly to find ways and means to restore and ensure the exercise of the right of the Palestinian people to return to their homes and their land, to determine themselves their own destiny and to establish a Palestinian state with Al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital.

Madagascar is convinced that only the implementation of the relevant international instruments in this regard can guarantee a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel and, consequently, in the Middle East.

The international community was profoundly concerned at the standstill in the peace process that lasted several months, and Madagascar cannot but welcome the signing on 4 September 1999 of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, which has given rise to new hope concerning the implementation of the provisions of the Wye River Agreement.

In this connection, Madagascar would like to express its unreserved support for the initiatives taken by leaders in order to achieve this, be they heads of State or heads of institutions.  We should like, in particular, to underscore the personal commitment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, His late Majesty, King Hussein of Jordan, the President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, President Bill Clinton of the United States of America, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, who acted as true apostles of peace and brought about the agreements which the international community now has at its disposal.

This occasion also enables us to pay due tribute to the Palestinian Central Council for having postponed the proclamation of a Palestinian state scheduled for 4 May 1999, aware of the fact that such an act would have only a negative impact on the negotiations under way.  This attests to the goodwill on the part of the Palestinians to work in favour of peace.

We therefore urge the Israeli Government to halt any acts that might impede the smooth implementation of the  various agreements, whose ultimate objective is to restore to the Palestinian people their identity and their territory, thus guaranteeing security, stability and prosperity in that region of the world.

This year will also be the year for launching the Bethlehem 2000 project.  This coincidence also gives rise to hope since the holding of this great event in Bethlehem, the town of peace, will make it possible to renew the city's economy and, consequently, begin to solve the Palestinian problem, which is at  the heart  of the  problem in the  Middle East.  Madagascar  remains  convinced that,  on this  occasion, freedom of movement will be respected in order to enable the millions of tourists from all over the world to have access to the holy places.

Madagascar launches an appeal to all nations that love justice and peace to ensure that, striving together and within the framework of international law, we spare no effort to assist the struggle to which the Palestinian people have been committed for more than half a century and to provide them and the President of the Palestinian Authority with our unfailing support to enable them to live in complete peace in a sovereign nation free of any form of foreign domination.  Indeed, if this is done, and only if this is done, will words like the culture of peace and tolerance, solidarity, hope and peaceful coexistence be endowed with true meaning.

Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia

[Original: English]

On behalf of the Government of Malaysia, I wish to offer my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Since its birth, Malaysia has always supported the struggle of the Palestinian people in their search for peace, justice, freedom and dignity.  Malaysia will continue to provide political, economic and moral support to the Palestinians to achieve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Malaysia hopes that the recent signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum would provide forward momentum in the peace process.  Malaysia joins the voice of others in urging Israel to deal with all the issues, including that of the occupied territories and Al-Quds Al-Sharif, in accordance with international law and Security Council resolutions, particularly resolution 242 (1967) and 252 (1968).

In conclusion, allow me to emphasize Malaysia’s appreciation for the untiring support for the rights of the Palestinian people by this esteemed body and to reiterate Malaysia’s continued support for the Palestinian cause.

Mr. Ahmed Ould Sid’Ahmed, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation

of the Republic of Mauritania

[Original: French]

On this Day of Solidarity with the fraternal Palestinian people, I have the honour to transmit to you on behalf of the Mauritanian people and Government and on my own behalf this affirmation of our complete and total solidarity with our Palestinian brothers.

I wish you, and the Committee which you so selflessly chair, ever greater success in the achievement of your noble objectives, which we fully share, for the exercise of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Mohamed Benaissa, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation

of the Kingdom of Morocco

[Original: Arabic]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, on 29 November 1999, I am pleased to reaffirm the enduring solidarity of the Kingdom of Morocco with the fraternal Palestinian people, and its unwavering support for the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat.  Morocco also states its continuing firm support for the just demands of the Palestinian people to regain all its occupied territory, exercise its right to self-determination and establish an independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Believing firmly as it does in dialogue as the civilized way to resolve disputes and find solutions to international problems, Morocco made a positive and constructive contribution to the efforts that culminated in the convening of the Madrid Peace Conference on the Middle East.  Under the leadership of His Majesty King Muhammad VI, Morocco is genuinely involved in every step leading to the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the region, and pursues the policy drawn up by His Majesty King Hassan II, the goal of which is a peace built on the foundations laid down by the aforementioned Conference, namely, the principle of land for peace and the resolutions of international legitimacy, in the forefront of which are Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978).

In common with the rest of the international community, Morocco has noted with satisfaction the first steps taken towards a comprehensive settlement of the Middle East problem by means of the multilateral accords signed by the parties concerned, the most recent of which was the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, and hopes that these accords will lead the way to a future in which security, stability and cooperation prevail.

In keeping with its commitment to the peace process, Morocco calls upon the international community and the parties involved in that process to promote the successful and unreserved implementation of the agreements reached by the parties and ensure that the commitments and undertakings made on all tracks of the peace process are honoured.  It also supports the legitimate right of Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic to recover their territory occupied since 4 June 1967.

In view of Morocco's concern that peace efforts should continue and that a just and comprehensive settlement should be found to this issue, it will continue to make every effort to create a positive environment, conducive to the establishment of the peace to which the region aspires and of an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, and to the return of all occupied Arab territory.

Morocco is confident that the present Israeli Government will employ new methods in its dealings with the Palestinian side, thereby ensuring the success of the permanent status negotiations and the attainment of a solution that will help to build trust and establish the foundations of the security and stability to which the peoples of the region aspire.

Mr. Alhaji Sule Lamido, Minister for Foreign Affairs of

the Federal Republic of Nigeria

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the Government and the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria reaffirm our support for and solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for freedom, self-determination, peace and security.

It is important to acknowledge that significant progress has been made in recent times in the efforts to find a lasting and durable solution to the Middle East problem.  Nigeria congratulates all the parties for the success so far achieved.  The very solemn reaffirmation by the parties to conclude a permanent peace agreement by September 2000 certainly gives further impetus to the peace process.  We therefore strongly urge the parties to continue to work assiduously and take bold initiatives for peace.  In this regard, Nigeria commends all those who have contributed positively towards these important achievements.  We further urge that they should continue to work with the parties to ensure the success of the process.

Nigeria, as a member of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, strongly urges the international community to support the Bethlehem 2000 project.  Undoubtedly, this will be a historic moment, the threshold of the new millennium, for the international community to renew its support for and solidarity with all peoples of the region in their quest for peace, security and stability.

Mr. Yousef Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs

of the Sultanate of Oman

[Original: Arabic]

I have the great pleasure, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, of expressing my appreciation to you and the members of your distinguished Committee for your tireless efforts in support of the Palestinian people and in affirmation of its legitimate rights to self-determination, the return of its land and to establish an independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

All peoples who love peace and justice affirm these legitimate rights, which have been guaranteed by resolutions of international legitimacy, beginning with General Assembly resolution 181 (II), which established the State of Palestine, and other resolutions, foremost among which are Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) concerning Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territory to the pre-1967 borders.

The Sultanate of Oman will continue to uphold the legitimate demand of the Palestinian people for the restoration of its rights, the establishment of an independent state and for the right to live in security and stability on the territory of its homeland.  It also reiterates its support for the relevant resolutions adopted by the General Assembly and the Security Council.  Ever since the peace process began at Madrid in 1991, the Sultanate has voiced its support for that process and has taken perceptible measures in order to encourage all parties to move forward towards a comprehensive and just settlement that will guarantee security and stability for all the States of the region, on the basis of the principle of land for peace.

The Sultanate of Oman supports the endeavours of the Palestinian Authority and hopes that by the time of the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations, which are sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, international efforts will have been mobilized in support of development in the villages and towns of Palestine and restored the vitality of the autonomous areas.

In conclusion, we reiterate our commendation of your excellent efforts to assist the Palestinian people, represented by the Palestinian Authority, and your tireless endeavours to affirm its inalienable rights, in addition to your attempts to accomplish important development projects that will be of benefit to the Palestinian people, and renew the appeal to the various international donor agencies to continue to provide material and moral support for the fraternal Palestinian people.

Mr. Farouk Al-Shara’, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic

[Original: Arabic]

I should like to express my appreciation to you and your Committee for the part that you have played in organizing this important international assembly.  I have the pleasure of joining you in this observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

The Palestinian people has not submitted to the occupation, and is struggling courageously to regain its legitimate and inalienable national rights.  The people of the Syrian Arab Republic will continue steadfast in its defence of the just cause of the Palestinian people.

The inhabitants of the Israeli-occupied Syrian Arab Golan are also exposed to serious human rights violations, and are struggling equally courageously to end the occupation.

The peace process in the Middle East remains at a very difficult and complex stage because the current Israeli Government has defaulted on its election promises of peace and distanced itself from the premises on which the Madrid process was based, which called for the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and the principle of land for peace.  It has also reneged on the commitments, undertakings and agreements that were made by the former Labour Government during the peace talks held under the aegis and with the involvement of the United States of America.

From this international rostrum, we call upon the sponsors of the peace process and the international community to assume responsibility for the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, pursuant to the resolutions of international legitimacy, which have provided for complete Israeli  withdrawal from  the occupied  Syrian Golan to  the line  of 4 June 1967  and from South Lebanon and the western Bekaa, and have guaranteed the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.  We should also like to use this forum in order to urge the international community to take note of the serious threat posed to the situation in the Middle East by the Israeli Government's persistence in its positions and policies.  These flout United Nations resolutions, contravene international conventions and obstruct progress towards just and comprehensive peace in the region.

We acclaim the efforts of your distinguished Committee, which has been untiring in its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people.  Together with the international community, we look forward to the day when the region will enjoy a just and comprehensive peace that will assure all peoples of the region of security and stability.

Mr. Borys Tarasyuk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

[Original: English]

I am pleased to extend to you my sincere congratulations on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

Over the past 12 months we have witnessed progress and setbacks in the Middle East peace process, the core of which is the issue of Palestine.  Ukraine hailed the signing in Sharm el-Sheikh on 5 September 1999 of the Israeli-Palestinian Memorandum on Implementation Timeline of Outstanding Commitments of Agreements Signed and the Resumption of the Permanent Status Negotiations.  We equally welcomed the beginning on 13 September 1999 of the permanent status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The Oslo Summit on 2 November 1999 strengthened hopes that both sides would eventually succeed in overcoming their differences and reach a comprehensive, durable and just settlement of the conflict.

Being one of the founders of the United Nations and an active member of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, chaired by Your Excellency, Ukraine has always attached great importance to the Palestinian issue, recognizing the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for justice, freedom and dignity and supporting their right to self-determination.

As a member of the Security Council for the years 2000-2001, Ukraine will continue to promote the Middle East peace process and the settlement of the Palestinian issue.  It is our hope that the year 2000 will see the realization of the long-sought aspiration of the Palestinian people: the creation of its own independent state.

Availing myself of this opportunity, I wish Your Excellency good health and every success in your responsible mission, as well as progress in achieving a solution that is mutually acceptable to the parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

D.  Messages from intergovernmental organizations having received a standing invitation

to participate as observers in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly

and maintaining permanent offices at Headquarters

European Union: Ms. Tarja Halonen, Presidency of the Council

[Original: English]

On the occasion of this special day I should like to express the solidarity of the European Union with the Palestinian people.

The European Union has always been firmly committed to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East and has therefore wholeheartedly supported the Madrid and Oslo accords, which initiated the ongoing peace process.  Here we recall the essential principles on which such a settlement should be based and which have been enshrined in the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  Among the key elements which should be reflected in any agreement on a just, comprehensive and lasting solution, I should like to mention the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the option of a state, as well as the principle of land for peace.

The European Union very much welcomed the signature of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, in which the parties renewed their commitment to implement the agreements with the ambitious time frames for final status issues.  In this context the European Union expressed its appreciation to Prime Minister Barak and President Arafat for their courage and determination in reaching the agreement in their direct talks.  Now it is important that the agreement should be implemented in a timely manner.  It is of utmost importance that the parties refrain from any unilateral actions which might prejudge the outcome of the negotiations or spoil the atmosphere conducive to a successful outcome of the peace talks.

The European Union wishes to play a useful role in the peace process.  We want to maintain regular contacts with the parties concerned and others interested in enhancing the peace process on all tracks.  The European Union remains committed to its considerable economic and technical assistance to the Palestinian people, the aim of which is the economic development and viability of the Palestinian entity, and development of democratic, transparent and accountable institutions and government.  The adoption of the updated Tripartite Action Plan in Tokyo gives possibilities for more efficient assistance to the Palestinians.

During my visits to the Middle East I have reaffirmed to all the leaders of the countries concerned the position of the European Union with regard to the rights of the Palestinian people.  I hope that with firm commitment by both the Palestinians and the Israelis to their obligations under the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum the ambitious time limits of the agreement can be met.

Organization of African Unity:  Mr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary-General

[Original: English]

On the occasion of the celebration, for the last time in this millennium, of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I wish to reiterate the unswerving support of the Organization of African Unity for the just cause of the Palestinian people.

I wish to recall that the Palestinian struggle was recognized by the General Assembly of the United Nations which, in its resolution 3236 (XXIX) of 22 November 1974, reaffirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the creation of a Palestinian state and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland and property.

For its part, the Organization of African Unity considers the Palestinian question to be intricately linked to the human rights and dignity of the Palestinian people and the process of decolonization.  This explains why the OAU has always supported the Palestinian struggle.

In line with decision CM/Dec.458(LXX) adopted by the Seventieth Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers meeting in Algiers, in July 1999, the Organization of African Unity will continue to reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people, under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to exercise their inalienable national rights, including their right to return to their country, recover their property, self-determination and the establishment of an independent state on their national soil, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the principles and resolutions of international legitimacy.

The Oslo Agreements and the Wye River Arrangements had given rise to genuine hopes, but those hopes were quickly dashed owing to the intransigence of the then Israeli Government and its refusal to implement the relevant provisions of those agreements.

Today, with the advent of a new Administration in Israel and the adoption, in Oslo, of new resolutions by the concerned parties during the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the Oslo accords, new hopes are looming for the peace process to be carried to fruition.  The international community must bring its support and encouragement to this process and remain vigilant to ensure that it is not undermined or derailed again.

At this critical stage in the Palestinian struggle, I wish to assure you, Mr. Chairman, that the OAU will spare no efforts to lend its support to the peace process in Palestine and in the Middle East until a just and final solution is found to the problems in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions.

I wish every success to your Committee.

Organization of the Islamic Conference: Mr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary-General

[Original: Arabic]

Please allow me to express my thanks and appreciation to you and the distinguished members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People for your efficient work to raise  awareness of  the question of  Palestine  and  explain all aspects of it to international public opinion, thereby strengthening international support for the just struggle being waged by the Palestinian people to regain its inalienable rights.  We hope that the cooperation between the Organization of the Islamic Conference and your distinguished Committee aimed at achieving our joint goal of providing support for the Palestinian people and upholding its just cause will continue, for the greater good of international peace and security.

On 29 November, the international community marks its annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 32/40 B, adopted in 1977.  This date is the anniversary of the adoption of General Assembly resolution 181 (II) on 29 November 1947.  The former resolution was adopted in order to express the desire of the world's States and peoples to see that the Palestinian people is treated fairly and to show solidarity with that people in its just struggle to regain its proven and inalienable national rights.

On behalf of the States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, permit me to express my thanks and appreciation to the United Nations and its various bodies and agencies for the efforts they make to clarify and expound to the world all aspects of the question of Palestine and for the assistance they provide at many different levels to the Palestinian people.

As we observe the occasion this year, the Palestinian cause and the Arab-Israeli conflict are at a very delicate stage:  two months after signing the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum, Israel redeployed its forces from part of the occupied Palestinian territories and released 350 Palestinian prisoners, and the southern safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was opened.  Despite these developments, there are significant matters in the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum that have yet to be implemented, such as the beginning of work on the port, the negotiations on the third redeployment, the framework agreement, the return of the Palestinians in the diaspora to their homes and other interim stage issues.

The worst aspect of this situation is the manner in which the Israeli Government deals with the settlements, of which there are now 42.  That Government has acted in a manner designed to mislead international public opinion and has attempted to establish two things.  The first of these relates to understandings:  the Government considers that its own decrees, rather than the peace process or the resolutions of the international community, are the legal authority with regard to the settlements, whereas the international consensus is that all settlement activity is illegal, prejudicial to the peace process and fundamentally wrong.  The second matter concerns the fact that the Israeli Government has not dismantled any settlements, but on the contrary, has reinforced them:  having dismantled 12 sites, it conferred Israeli legitimacy on 35 others.  The Israeli Government continues to implement its settlement policy, expanding existing settlements with a view to dividing up the Palestinian homeland, preventing communication between its people, and expanding Israeli control over the Palestinian territories.  At the same time, inroads continue to be made into the city of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, with a view to isolating it from the other towns and villages of Palestine, preventing Palestinian citizens from freely entering or worshipping in it and attempting to cleanse it of its Palestinian Arab population by destroying their homes and expropriating their property.  Such practices, which are in contravention of international law, the resolutions adopted by the international community and the agreements signed as part of the peace process, are aimed at creating a new status quo on the ground and predetermining the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.

Four million Palestinians still live in refugee camps, waiting for international justice to be carried out and for the  resolutions of the international  community to be implemented.  They  wait to be treated justly and for their tragic status as refugees and exiles, which has lasted for more than half a century, to be terminated.

The international community, which welcomed the peace process in the Middle East, must now make every effort and guarantee international sponsorship of the negotiations.  The United Nations must play an active role as a principal party to this joint diplomatic endeavour.  The resolution of all aspects of the question of Palestine is the essential goal of the permanent status negotiations, and responsibility for the implementation of Security Council resolutions 194 (III), 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) is borne by the international community.  The United Nations, as the foremost international institution, can play a direct part in ensuring that those resolutions are implemented.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference considers that there are indissoluble links between justice and peace.  Its commitment to peace as a strategic choice is therefore based on right and justice.  The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories must end if the Palestinian people is to be able to enjoy sovereignty over its territory and exercise its proven and inalienable national rights, including the right to return to its homeland, the right to self-determination and to establish an independent state on its national soil with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.  The Organization of the Islamic Conference also considers that the peace talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks must be resumed at the point at which they were broken off in February 1996, honouring the agreements that had been reached, and on the same basis on which they were begun in Madrid, pursuant to Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 425 (1978) and the principle of land for peace.

We are confident that our combined efforts will help to ensure that the Palestinian people is able to exercise its well-established, legal national rights and to establish stability and peace based on justice in the Middle East and a climate of tolerance in which the peoples of the region can live together.  We have great hopes that these goals can be achieved.

At the outset of the new millennium, we must call for peace and security to reign among all peoples, and for efforts, capacities and resources to be devoted to construction and development rather than violence, occupation and conflict.

E.  Messages from specialized agencies of the  United Nations system

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization:

Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General

[Original: English]

Today, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, I take the opportunity to express the steadfast commitment of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine and to the emergence of a peaceful, prosperous and modern society for the Palestinian people.

On this occasion, I have the honour, as Director-General of UNESCO, to co-host the international launch of the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations, with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mr. Yasser Arafat, at UNESCO House in Paris.  On the eve of the third millennium, which marks the birth of Jesus  Christ,  Bethlehem  is a  most  potent – and poignant – symbol  of  the  enduring  human  aspiration towards peace and understanding between peoples.  Through international solidarity that helps the town to develop a thriving economy, able to offer opportunities to all its inhabitants, respectful of its cultural heritage and fully involving its citizens, Bethlehem can become a shining example of a city of peace: an example that gives hope and inspiration to people all over the world in the century to come.

For many decades, UNESCO has worked with its partners, notably in the United Nations system and with the Palestinian people themselves, to build strong foundations for their future society, through education in particular.  Today, the prospect of a final, just and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine is within reach.  It is my profound hope that such a settlement will indeed be the first great achievement of the year 2000.

F.  Messages from non-governmental organizations

Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Dialogue: Mr. Latif Dori, Chairman

[Original: Arabic]

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we send that people our best wishes, and reaffirm our complete solidarity with it in the courageous and sustained struggle in which it has been engaged for decades to reach our common goal, namely, the end of the abominable Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

While the peace camp in Israel supports the most recent, positive steps taken by the new Israeli Government, it also urges it to implement in full all the agreements it has signed, and to halt forthwith all the iniquitous settlement activities that threaten to undermine the peace process.

We reiterate yet again that no force in the world can prevent the Palestinian people, which has earned a glorious entry in the annals of all struggles through its magnificent intifada, from attaining its worthy aims to achieve a just and comprehensive peace and to live in freedom and dignity on the soil of its homeland and in the territory of its own State.  We will therefore stand alongside that people forever.

We are absolutely confident that the year 2000 will be the year in which the historic declaration will be made of the establishment of the independent State of Palestine, which will take its rightful place as a prominent and equal Member of the United Nations.

Federación Palestina del Perú:  Dr. César A. Salomón Herrada, Secretary-General

[Original: Spanish]

We have the great honour to convey to you and, through you, to the members of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People our fraternal greetings and message of solidarity on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  Although this day is observed every year on 29 November, this year’s observance is very special and different from previous ones because it is the  last  one of  the millennium now drawing to a close and because its results have been very positive for the region, as the United Nations has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to the cause of peace, security and stability in the Middle East.

We share your hope that the most recent developments will become a powerful symbol of peace and reconciliation.

Both within and outside the region, we have witnessed real and tangible progress towards peace in the Middle East.  We have witnessed historic events that would not have been possible without the active participation of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, based on Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and aimed at the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

In the new millennium, the hardships and deprivations endured by the Palestinian people as a result of decades of conflict must cease and, on 29 November 2000, we should celebrate the “International Day of Arab-Palestinian and Israeli Integration” with a shared capital city of Jerusalem.  We no longer aspire to the desire for peace; we want peace itself, which will only be possible with the help and participation of the international community in achieving the objectives established.

The observance of 29 November 1999 is not just one more commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.  It is also a testament to the accomplishments of 51 years of United Nations action.  We would be remiss if we failed to acknowledge the efforts made and the successes achieved by taking up the new challenges of maintaining peace, as a requirement of the new millennium, and achieving peace and reconciliation in the Middle East by adopting international measures to ensure compliance with the obligations and commitments entered into by the parties concerned.

Your work over the past 51 years will go down in history and will remain in the hearts of all Palestinians for generations to come every 29 November.

IV.  CLOSING STATEMENTS

Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department

of the Palestine Liberation Organization

[Original: Arabic]

At the conclusion of this meeting at United Nations Headquarters convened to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestihian People, it is my pleasure on behalf of Palestine, on behalf of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and on behalf of the Palestinian people to convey our profound thanks to the monarchs, Heads of State or Government, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers, heads of specialized agencies and all others who participated in this observance with messages of solidarity with the Palestinian people.  I would like to single out the President of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General, the President of the Security Council and the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.  I would also like to extend my thanks to the Heads of State or Government and Ministers for Foreign Affairs who participated by sending messages of solidarity with the people of Palestine, as well as to the Chairmen of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Secretary-General of the  League of Arab States and the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity.  Such international unanimity is an expression of an overwhelming desire on the part of the international community to establish peace by supporting the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state on their national soil, as well as supporting the peace process that serves these objectives and that of the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland and their property.

This meeting, and the assistance that has been expressed here for the Palestinian people, is an international initiative calling for respect for the resolutions of the United Nations, which remains the sole custodian of peace, security and stability in the world.  The Organization also upholds the rights of peoples to self-determination and to end colonialism and occupation.  It also seeks to protect human rights in order to enable mankind to enjoy freedom from hegemony and domination.

Mr. Chairman, we cannot but commend with appreciation the tireless efforts you and your brotherly country, Senegal, have deployed in the service of the cause of Palestine, as well as the serious work that has been done towards achieving the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. Chairman, your unflagging efforts at the head of this Committee, which is dedicated to the achievement of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, have strengthened the hopes of our people in the unwavering commitment of the United Nations and the international community to achieving a just solution to the question of Palestine and to the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.

In conclusion, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, as well as the United Nations and its Member States, for participating in this meeting in support of the struggle of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as an indispensable basis for the maintenance of peace in the region and the creation of favourable conditions for peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the region.

Mr. Ibra Deguène Ka, Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise

of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

[Original: French]

I wish to thank Mr. Kaddoumi for his continuous updates on the latest developments in the area.  I would like in particular to reaffirm that the Committee will continue to make every effort to enable the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable and legitimate rights, particularly the right to determine their own destiny in peace and dignity.

We have received two further messages.  One is a very important message from the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Ms. Tarja Halonen, President of the Council of the European Union.  We have also received a message from Mr. Khamtay Siphandone, President of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, on the occasion of the Day of Solidarity.  We include them in the expression of gratitude that the Committee has just addressed to the monarchs and heads of State who have sent messages.

Before adjourning this solemn meeting, I wish to thank everyone who made this meeting possible, in particular the members of the Division for Palestinian Rights, the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services and the Department of Public Information, and everyone who works behind the scenes, including those who provide for our security.

I also want to remind everyone that a Palestinian art exhibit presented by the Committee in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine will be opened at 6.00 p.m. today in the public lobby of the General Assembly building.  This year’s exhibit, entitled “Follow the Star: Images from the Palestinian City of Bethlehem at the New Millennium”, is composed of a collection of very fine paintings by Palestinian artists.  The opening of the exhibit will be followed by a reception, to which all are cordially invited.

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