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    29 November 1999
    Secretary-General Salutes International Day of Solidarity
    With Palestinian People


    NEW YORK, 26 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Sunday, 28 November:

     Each year, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, we 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 observance 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 Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel, and 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 and 338, 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 on 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 fiftieth anniversary.  The 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 Terje Roed-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.  The United Nations family has supported the Palestinian people throughout their many decades of suffering and 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.

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