28 November 2001


NEW YORK, 28 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, 29 November:

This year’s observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People takes place at a critical time for the Middle East and the world. Escalating violence and significant loss of life, mostly among Palestinians, but also Israelis, have increased mutual mistrust and animosity between the two communities, and have undermined efforts to build bridges of reconciliation and partnership.

Since the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of October 2000, international and regional actors have made repeated efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table. Earlier this year, the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, chaired by former Senator George Mitchell, provided a balanced and sensible set of recommendations which, if implemented, would lead the parties from confidence-building steps to substantive negotiations. A cease-fire is now desperately needed. This would also be in accordance with the understandings on security-related issues reached under the auspices of CIA Director George Tenet. I believe that full implementation of the Mitchell recommendations offers the best route to a peaceful solution, based on Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace.

The horrific terrorist attacks of 11 September have had a profound impact on events all over the world. In the case of the Middle East, there is a renewed sense of urgency to find a peaceful solution to the question of Palestine. I was encouraged to hear President Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres restate their commitment to security cooperation and dialogue at their meeting in late September. However, developments since then, in particular the assassination of Israeli Cabinet Minister Ze’evy and the Israeli Defence Force’s incursion into areas under Palestinian control, have made the situation even worse. The engagement of the international community –- in particular of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union, the United Nations, and Member States including Egypt and Jordan -- remains vital.

It is also essential now for the parties to preserve the achievements of the peace process and to do all they can to regain the path of peace and reconciliation. Both sides must realize that violence, and the excessive use of force, are the enemies of progress. I share the hopes expressed by President Bush and United States Secretary of State Powell that the Israeli occupation will soon end, and that two states –- Israel and Palestine –- will before long live side by side in peace with mutual respect and security. To this end, the expansion of settlements, assassinations, all acts of terrorism, economic blockades and incursions into autonomous areas should cease immediately.

The crisis of the past 14 months has had a catastrophic effect on the Palestinian economy. Repeated border and internal closures have led to a dramatic deterioration in living conditions and considerably increased unemployment and poverty rates, adding to the general sense of despair, frustration and anger felt among Palestinians. The international donor community has provided much-needed budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority and its institutions, and essential emergency relief to the Palestinian population. Further support will shortly be needed.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency continues to play a central role in responding to the rising needs of the refugee community. The United Nations Development Programme and many other United Nations agencies are also active on the ground. Donor assistance remains vital, especially now, at a time of crisis and severe economic hardship.

In addition, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Terje Rød-Larsen, has been working very closely with the parties, and with representatives of the international community in the region, to support the peace process and to coordinate international assistance in the areas of emergency relief and development.

For my part, I will continue to work with all parties until a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine is achieved, based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of "land for peace". At the start of the new millennium, the Palestinian people should finally be allowed to exercise their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination and to a State of their own.

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