PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE TO REQUEST NEW ASSEMBLY

ITEM ON 'BETHLEHEM 2000', MILLENIUM OF JESUS CHRIST

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this morning authorized its Bureau to address a letter to the Secretary-General requesting inclusion on the agenda of the General Assembly's next session of an item entitled "Bethlehem 2000" to mark the millennial anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Inclusion of the new item was proposed by the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, M. Nasser Al-Kidwa, on behalf of Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian people would be actively involved in commemorating the anniversary, and the Committee might also prepare a draft resolution on the observance, Mr. Al-Kidwa said.

Also this morning, Acting Committee Chairman, Ravan A.G. Farhadi (Afghanistan) reported on a 24 February statement by Mr. Arafat at the Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, held in Brussels. Mr. Arafat had expressed the hope that the event would mark a new chapter for the Palestinians and enable them to establish their independent State.

He said the Committee's delegation had also been received by Mr. Arafat, who called on the Palestinian Rights Committee to play an active role in the preparations for Bethlehem 2000. The Bureau had subsequently decided to bring that initiative to the Committee, and proposals on activities it might undertake would be welcome, the Acting Chairman said.

The Committee will meet again at a date to be announced in the Journal.

Statements

RAVAN A.G. FARHADI (Afghanistan), Acting Chairman, said the Committee, in cooperation with the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States, had organized the Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, held in Brussels from 24 to 25 February. A highlight of that Conference was the participation of Yasser Arafat, who addressed the opening session.

He said Mr. Arafat had spoken about the millennial anniversary of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem and expressed the hope that that religious and historic occasion would represent a new beginning, full of love and peace for the world. He had expressed the hope that the event would mark a new chapter for the Palestinian people which would enable them to establish their independent State. He had also called on the United Nations and the international community to assist the Palestinian people in their preparations for the celebration of Bethlehem 2000.

In consultations during the course of the Conference, the Committee's delegation saw an enhanced interest on the part of many States to participate in the preparations for the anniversary at both the national and international levels, the Acting Chairman said. On the first day of the Conference, the delegation was received by Mr. Arafat and they discussed the Palestinian question, the role of the United Nations and the Committee's activities.

Mr. Arafat had then called on the Committee to play an active role in preparations for Bethlehem 2000, Mr. Farhadi said. The Bureau had since decided to bring that initiative to the Committee, and proposals on activities it might undertake would be welcome. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Bank, the European Commission and individual governments were already involved in preparations for the observance, he said.

M. NASSER AL-KIDWA, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said the Palestinian people intended to organize worldwide celebrations for an entire year to celebrate Bethlehem 2000. They would start on 31 December 1999 and extend through 31 December 2000. Those events were highly important for the international community and would mark the beginning of the third millennium of modern history.

He said the Palestinians were working to ensure that all concerned people were involved in those activities, including the Arab family and the Islamic and Christian worlds, as well as friendly countries from all groups. In view of the importance of the celebrations, the United Nations must get involved. That involvement should take the form of moral support and of drawing attention to that important event, as well as working towards achieving the success of those activities.

At least some United Nations organizations could give technical and financial support to the Palestinians to that end, he went on to say. The Committee could motivate United Nations involvement, since the item was not controversial. The United Nations efforts should concentrate on dialogue with all parties and the achievement of consensus on each step to be undertaken.

He then proposed that the Committee call for the inclusion of a new item on the General Assembly's agenda entitled "Bethlehem 2000". The Committee could authorize its Chairman and Bureau to take the required legal and practical steps to that end, including a formal request to the Secretary- General that the item be included on the agenda of the Assembly's fifty-third session.

The Committee could also prepare a draft resolution concerning the celebrations, for the coming Assembly session, he said. Such a text would attract a large number of sponsors and would likely be adopted by consensus, thereby reflecting the importance and nature of the subject, which touched all States and peoples of the world.

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Document symbol: GA/PAL/776
Document Type: Press Release
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP)
Subject: Bethlehem 2000, Palestine question
Publication Date: 16/04/1998