Press Releases

         15 November 2004

    Secretary-General’s Remarks at General Assembly Tribute to President Arafat

    NEW YORK, 11 November (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan today at the General Assembly tribute to President Arafat:

    For nearly four decades, Yasser Arafat expressed and symbolized in his person the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. He was one of those few leaders who was instantly recognizable by people in any walk of life, all around the world.

    President Arafat will always be remembered for having led the Palestinians, in 1988, to accept the principle of peaceful coexistence between Israel and a future Palestinian state. By signing the Oslo accords in 1993, he took a giant step towards the realization of this vision.

    It is tragic that he did not live to see it fulfilled. Now that he has gone, both Israelis and Palestinians, and the friends of both peoples throughout the world, must make even greater efforts to bring about the peaceful realization of the Palestinian right of self-determination.

    Thirty years ago this week, Yasser Arafat stood in this chamber, when he became the first representative of a non-governmental organization to speak to a plenary session of the General Assembly. One year later, the General Assembly adopted resolution 3237, conferring on the PLO the status of Observer in the Assembly and in other international conferences held under United Nations auspices.

    But the relationship between the United Nations and the Palestinian people is far deeper and broader, and dates back much longer, than that. For 55 years, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has provided humanitarian assistance, health care, housing and education to Palestinians. Today, there are a total of 19 UN agencies and bodies lending their assistance to the Palestinian people. We must and will continue that work, for as long as the Palestinian people need our help.

    Together with our partners, we will also continue our efforts to achieve the full implementation of the Road Map, as endorsed by the Security Council in its resolution 1515. Our goal is the realization of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1397. This includes as its centrepiece the establishment of a sovereign, democratic, viable and contiguous Palestinian state, living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.

    Though President Arafat did not live to see the attainment of these goals, the world will continue to strive towards them.

    Today, our condolences go to President Arafat’s wife and young daughter, for whom his death is a personal tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers also go to his wider family -- the Palestinian people, in the hope that they will find the strength, vision and courage to look ahead to the possibility of a peaceful settlement, for the benefit of succeeding generations.

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