Statement by H.E. President Yasser Arafat, President of the State of Palestine, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, President of the Palestinian National Authority, before the General Debate of the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, (11 November 2001, New York):

Mr. President, Excellencies, Secretary-General of the United Nations,

I would like to begin by expressing my congratulations to you, Mr. President, upon your election as President of this United Nations General Assembly session. I would like also to extend my congratulations to His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan upon his election for a second term as Secretary-General and to him and the United Nations for being awarded the Noble Peace Prize.

It is crucial to be with you today at this session, which is being held under very critical circumstances, for we meet in the aftermath of the terrorist, horrific, criminal and ugly acts of September 11, 2001 against New York and Washington D.C., which we strongly condemned. In this context I would like once more to extend our deepest and warmest sympathy to President George Bush, to the American people and Government and to the families of the victims.

The Palestinian people have expressed their readiness to confront all forms of international terrorism including state organized terror, in order to build a new world that will guarantee justice, peace, security and freedom to all people, a new world based on human rights, international legality. We call upon all nations to coordinate their efforts within the framework of the U.N. and international legitimacy in order to avoid a clash of civilizations and to encourage dialogue between all nations.

I would like to express my deepest appreciation to what President Bush declared in his speech yesterday about the necessity to achieve a just peace based on the implementation of resolutions 242 and 338, and on the basis of two states - Israel and Palestine - and to expeditiously resume the peace process. From our side, we will exert every possible effort to achieve these objectives. We have exerted and will continue to exert our efforts to provide the best conditions for this endeavor.

Mr. President:

I had the honor last year to address the U.N. Millennium Summit. Here I am, once again, addressing you with regard to the pains of the Palestinian people and their just cause, which is still awaiting a just solution.

As you recall, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into two states: one Jewish and the other Palestinian. But the Palestinian State was not recognized by the U.N. On the contrary the Palestinian people faced a tremendous, historic injustice and the majority were uprooted from their homes and were made refugees.

The Palestinian people continue to seek their rights to self-determination and return - rights that today form the backbone of all relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law. Rights that should be exercised on Palestinian national soil.

You are aware, ladies and gentlemen, that we have accepted the solution provided for by international legitimacy. Yes, we have accepted less than 25% of historic Palestine, while the General Assembly granted us almost 50% of historic Palestine in resolution 181 of 1947.

On this new basis we went to the Madrid Peace conference, which was held on the basis of the principle of land for peace, and with the objective of implementing all relevant resolutions, including resolutions 242, 338, 425 and U.N. General Assembly resolution 194 concerning Palestinian refugees.

Then we signed the Oslo agreement in Washington D.C., witnessed by the U.S., the Russian Federation, the European Union, China, Japan, Egypt, Jordan and the whole world. Later we signed a number of agreements and memoranda of understandings. After the assassination of my late partner Mr. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli governments that followed took the path of non-compliance and did not implement Israelís obligations arising from agreements signed, which impeded our sincere efforts to reach a comprehensive, just, lasting peace, the peace of the brave. Settlements and settlers were doubled since the start of the peace process, which reflect the lack of seriousness on the part of the Israeli government.

Then came the Sharon visit to the Noble Sanctuary in Holy Jerusalem, of which I had warned the Israeli government of its potential for grave consequences on the peace process and on the region. This action sparked the Palestinian intifada, which came as a reflection of the Palestinian peopleís rejection of the Israeli governmentís non-compliance with agreements signed, Israeli settlement policies, which are deepening the occupation instead of ending it with a withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and also its policies of undermining our Christian and Moslem holy places.

The current Israeli government continues the aggression against the Palestinian people, which began by the previous government. State terror is being practiced against the Palestinian people, using the might of the Israeli army, including F-15, F-16, Apachi helicopters, tanks, missiles and navy ships, as well as internationally forbidden weapons.

The Israeli army practices also include assassinations of Palestinian political leader, demolitions of homes, destruction of private and governmental institutions, and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of trees and farms (olives and fruits). These practices have included the killing of women, children, and elderly. More than 750 Palestinians were killed and more than 25,000 wounded, in which many were handicapped for life. Thousands have also been arrested.

It should be noted that the Palestinian economy has been devastated, losses reaching 7 billion dollars, as a result of all forms of economic, financial, medical, food, closures and siege imposed on all Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps. The closures continue to prevent the movement of people and goods, including the movement of students and teachers who are prevented from reaching their schools and universities, were recently tightened. Our international passages and airport are also closed. Workers have also been prevented from reaching their work places. All measures are in flagrant violation of basic human rights.

We face this aggression, escalation, and the bloody war of state terror being waged by the Israeli government against our people, land, holy places, the tanks incursions into our cities, villages and refugee camps, and the massacres committed in various locations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We call upon the international community, represented by all of you, and all supporters of peace, freedom, justice throughout the world to exert every possible effort to stop this war of aggression, send international observers to protect our people from the occupation, terror and ethnic cleansing practiced by Israel and to supervise the implementation of the cease fire declared a number of times by our side and always violated by the Israeli government.

Mr. President,

The international sponsorship of the Middle East peace process is the only guarantee for the efforts being exerted by the international community to make peace an established reality in our region. The absence of international involvement from the conflict and the serious search for a solution of the Palestinian question in accordance with justice and the principles of international law will push the region back to the era of violence, confrontation, bloodshed and make the situation more explosive and fragile.

Therefore, I call upon the international community to redouble its sincere efforts to end the current situation and the escalating crisis, which threatens the peace process. It is essential for the active involvement of the international community and the superpowers to save the peace process and put it back on the right track and sincerely and effectively move it forward. A lasting peace will not be achieved and sustained without the implementation of the international legality that should provide an effective international mechanism to implement the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions. The accurate and honest implementation of these resolutions will establish and sustain peace and prevent bloodshed in our region.

Pursuant to our belief of peace as a strategic irreversible option for our people, we have fully and positively cooperated with all international efforts and initiatives, including the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative, the Tenet Plan and the Mitchell Report, which we accepted as a package. We have also unilaterally declared an immediate, comprehensive cease-fire, and we have exerted maximum efforts to sustain it.

On the eve of the Jewish New Year, we initiated a call for peace, and offered our sincere congratulations to the Israeli people, and called upon them to make the new year an occasion for a new era of peace, security and coexistence between the Palestinian and Israeli people and the people of the Middle-East region.

We made our strategic commitment to peace, negotiations, and a peaceful solution of all outstanding issues between us and the Government of Israel very clear and unequivocal.

Regrettably, the Israeli government instructed its army to escalate the military campaign against our people, cities, villages and refugee camps. This included buffer zones which led to the destruction of our farms and uprooting of thousands of trees in various places of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Allow me to extend my deepest appreciation and sincere wishes to all brotherly, friendly nations and to the superpowers, which have realized today more than any other time before, that the establishment of a Palestinian state with Holy Jerusalem as its capital is the only guarantee for security, peace and stability in the region and the world, and constitutes a corner stone for establishing and sustaining it.

We call upon these nations, especially, the U.S., the U.K., the Russian Federation, France, China, Japan, and the countries of the European Union, to exert every possible effort to transfer this vision into a viable political track in order to enable the Palestinian people to live in peace, dignity, freedom and independence and sovereignty, within their independent State on their national soil with Holy Jerusalem as its capital; and to ensure the full and comprehensive withdrawal of Israel, the occupying Power, from all Palestinian and Arab territories, including Holy Jerusalem, to the June 4, 1967 boundaries; to end settlement activities and evacuate settlers from our land; and guarantee the right of the Palestinian refugees to return in accordance with resolution 194, which affirmed this right and called for compensating those not wishing to return.

We welcome the positive positions declared by President George Bush and other leaders, which have called for the establishment of the Palestinian State. We believe that it constitutes a significant step on the path towards ending the conflict and establishing peace in the Middle East.

I will candidly say to you that reviving the peace process will not be possible after all that has happened through interim solutions. It is impossible, of course, to achieve another interim agreement. To control the situation on the ground, to get the situation to what existed prior to September 28, 2000 and to revive hope, requires a clear political initiative.

What the peace process requires now for the achievement of a just and lasting peace is a genuine effort sponsored by the U.S., the Russian federation, the European Union, and the Arab and Moslem countries and other friendly nations in the Non-Aligned Movement, to introduce immediately a comprehensive framework for a permanent solution, based on international legitimacy, so that both parties can negotiate expeditiously on the details of the permanent solution. This should be immediately preceded by the implementation of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Plan.

It is very evident that we are in need for more international efforts and international presence on the ground.

I realize that the Israeli people, on the anniversary of the assassination of my partner Yitzhak Rabin, are looking towards peace. From here, I convey to them my full commitment to the peace of the brave, which I began with my late partner Rabin and my partner Shimon Peres - peace that will guarantee freedom, stability and security to Israeli and Palestinian and all people of the Middle East region. The peace of the brave, the comprehensive lasting, just peace that will end the Israeli occupation of all Arab and Palestinian territories and lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state with Holy Jerusalem as its capital. This is what should be done for the sake of their children and ours. From here I call upon the Israeli government to immediately resume the permanent status negotiations in order to implement the international resolutions and agreements signed.

In all circumstances, the United Nations and the Secretary-General must carry out their important role so we can achieve our peace endeavor.

I call upon the Israeli government and the Israeli people to react positively to this approach, so we can together build peace in the land of peace - the Holy Land. Needless to say, we need an expeditious effort that can no longer be delayed, especially in light of the current international situation.

We are ready to carry our share of the responsibility. We trust that you are ready to do the same.

I salute all of you, and hope that this session will produce the required resolutions and recommendation that will enable our people and nations and the whole of humanity to live in peace, stability and more prosperity.

Peace be upon you.