| Address by Mr Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine,
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the PLO and President of the PNA at the Meeting of
the Foreign Ministers of the Countries of NAM, Members in the Committee on Palestine and
the NAM Caucus of the UN Security Council in Pretoria on 3 May 2001
H E Brother President Thabo Mbeki, President of the
Republic of South Africa
Allow me, at the start, to convey our deepest thanks and appreciation to the friendly Republic of South Africa and its President, H E Thabo Mbeki for this initiative. It is an initiative that reflects the devotion shown by South Africa and the countries, members in NAM and in the Committee of Palestine, towards Palestine, its people and its cause. It also shows the interest of the leaders of these member countries in the developments that are accelerating in the Middle East, especially the far-reaching Israeli occupation and aggression against our Palestinian people. I would like also to convey our greetings to President Nelson Mandela.
The escalation of the ongoing Israeli war of aggression against the Palestinian people, in which Israel is using an array of internationally prohibited weapons along with the closure and blockade of 3,2 million Palestinians, - a war of aggression that is about to enter its ninth month represents a dangerous Israeli tendency that shakes the foundation of international and regional stability. This stability was in the process of being consecrated as a result of the peace process and the limited progress achieved on its path. The international community became aware of the dangers created by Israel on both the human and political levels. Thus the UN Commission on Human Rights took the initiative in condemning the Israeli crimes committed in this all-out war against the Palestinian people. The UN Security Council condemned also in its Resolution 1322 the use by Israel of excessive force. There is also the recent US position, namely, their demand that Israeli forces withdraws immediately from the Palestinian territories under full Palestinian jurisdiction which we call area "A" following its recent re-occupation by the Israeli Army of Gaza Strip. There are as well, the decisions and resolutions adopted by the European Union, Russia, China, Japan, and the Non-Aligned, the Islamic and the Arab countries. All these have formed an international consensus that condemns aggression and caution against its dangers regionally and internationally.
Therefore, I view this initiative with great interest and pride. I am really betting on the effectiveness of your joint efforts, whether within the framework of the Non-Aligned Movement or any other framework. In so doing, I take into consideration that the members of the committee on Palestine and the NAM Caucus are active on the international scene on all levels.
Our Palestinian people are subjected to an ugly Israeli occupation that continues since 1967 and aggression as well as to a war of destruction and annihilation that threatens their life, property, and human and national rights. The number of our martyrs and wounded over the recent few months exceeded 24000. All this is in addition to what the Palestinians are exposed to as a result of the ongoing military escalation from land, sea and air; the use of the internationally prohibited weapons; the siege imposed on our towns, villages and refugee camps; the siege and blockade imposed on supply and the economy to starve our people, including medical; the holding of our tax revenues; the closure and destruction of our water resources; the bulldozing of agricultural lands, including olive trees which were planted thousands of years ago, from the Roman era; the assassination of leaders in an unprecedented manner in our contemporary era; the massive detentions of our populace; the destruction of religious sites, residential areas and medical, tourist, education and official institutions and facilities; the destruction of many of our industrial areas; the banning of importing primary goods for these industrial areas; the dismissal of our workers, so much that the number of workers unemployed exceeds 360 000; and even forbidding our fishermen to fish on the sea.
All this makes it pertinent that we all make joint and coordinated action to confront this military escalation and racist aggression as well as their repercussions on our people. We should put in the first place, the right of our Palestinian people to receive immediate international protection to stop the ongoing Israeli aggression against our Palestinian people, their Christian and Islamic holy sites in Holy Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and other areas. Also we should stop the daily and bloody killing of our masses. I would like to thank your distinguished Caucus for its effective support and help in this regard. I look forward to continue the work with you at the United Nations, the Security Council and at other international fora so that this legitimate human right is not taken off the UN agenda by the veto power, and is not dropped by the force of the various attempts that aim at emptying UN resolutions from their real contents.
Our Palestinian people have decided not to walk away, under any circumstances, from international legality. They have decided not to lose hope in the possibility that this legality will come to the support of their rights and aspirations. Our people have proved by adopting this correct and civilized attitude, that they can define the effective and convincing bases for peace and stability in the ME vis-à-vis the Palestinian cause. International legality has the definite and satisfactory answers to all questions and elements of the ME conflict. On the basis of international legality and its resolutions we demand the Israeli withdrawal from all the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied in June 1967, including Holy Jerusalem, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and on the basis of the Madrid Peace Conference "land for peace".
Also on the basis of this international legality, we demand a just solution for the refugee problem, which is the basis of the Palestinian cause and forms its human and political context, this solution must be in accordance with UNGA Resolution 194.
On the basis of international legality, we work for and demand the cessation of the crimes committed by the Israeli settlers against our people and our religious holy places. We demand the removal of the settlement phenomena in accordance with the signed agreements and international resolutions. It is a phenomenon that is rejected on the international level and is illegal and destructive to peace not recognized by any international party. I here would like to appreciate the statement made yesterday by the Secretary of State, Colin Powel, concerning his demand to cease settlement activities including those expansions within existing settlements.
These are the bases for demanding our rights. These are also the solid foundations of a permanent, just and comprehensive peace, the peace of the brave, which I have contracted and agreed upon with my late partner Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin who was assassinated by the Israeli extremists. This is the peace that realizes the interests of all and guarantees security and safety for all.
Allow me from here, to salute with confidence and appreciation, the countries of NAM who have never wavered in their indefatigable and effective work on behalf of Palestine and the rights of its people; for the protection of the Christian and Islamic Holy Places which are facing today ongoing difficulties, challenges, threats and violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupiers; and for your protection of the peace of the brave, the permanent, just and comprehensive peace, in the ME and the whole world.
From here, I would like also to salute the state of South Africa, the ally of Palestine. I would like to salute all the peoples yearning from freedom and independence. I salute the great people of South Africa who have presented, and still do present, a viable model, full of life, for the persistent struggle against racism and for freedom and independence.
I draw my confidence from your support and from your continuous efforts here, in all fora and at all difficult junctures.
Before concluding I would like to point out to the efforts being exerted by our brothers in Egypt and Jordan in their Egyptian-Jordanian initiative. This initiative was approved by the European Union, Russia and the USA. It is supported by the Arab Summit. Lastly, and following much exerted efforts, Israel sent Mr. Shimon Peres to discuss it with our brothers in Egypt and Jordan. We hope that this will lead to calm down the dangerous situation through which the Palestinian people pass through as a result of the Israeli escalation and the economic and financial blockade. We hope that it will also bring back the situation to the status where it was before 28 September 2000, and will start the negotiations from the point we arrived at then including what has been agreed upon at Sharm Sheickh in the presence of President Clinton, King Abdalla, Mr. Kofi Annan and Mr. Xavier Solana and under the hospitality of President Mubarak.
Finally, I convey the greetings of our struggling people in Holy Jerusalem and Palestine, the Holy Land. Our Palestinian people who have written wonderful stories of heroism and sacrifice. They are a people who have written the chapters of the highest forms of steadfastness and courage: both in terms of principle and aims. They are the people who really deserve your support and solidarity in order to be able to regain their legitimate rights including their right to return, to self determination and to establish their independent state, on their national soil, with Holy Jerusalem as its capital.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my deepest appreciation to President Thabo Mbeki for the efforts he has been exerted and will exert for the cause of peace in the region and for the Palestinian People.
Allow me also to extend my appreciation to my dear sister Foreign Minister for your wonderful efforts as the one heading this meeting.
Before I end my message, I would like to reiterate what was agreed between me and H E President Mbeki, and what I said this morning after my meeting with ex-President Mandela.
I re-iterate my full commitment to the peace process and all agreements signed. The language of violence and bombardment will not serve the interests of Palestinians or Israelis.
Therefore in front of this distinguished gathering, I announce my full acceptance and commitment to the Egypt-Jordanian proposal.
I do this with no reservation for the cause of a comprehensive, lasting and just peace in order to revive the hopes of peace and put the peace process back on its right track.
I do so on behalf of the interests of the Israeli people, the Palestinian people and the people of the Middle Eastern Region.
I am making this commitment in front of President Mbeki and I count on you all.
I send this to Mr. Sharon; the Prime Minister of Israel, saying my commitment to peace is for peace and security for your children and our children and for the stability and peace of the whole Middle-East region.
I thank you and may God grant us success in the best interest of our people.
Peace be with you and Gods mercy and blessings be upon you.