In the Presence of President Castro, 10,000 Cubans Express Solidarity with the Palestinian People

The United Nations Latin American and Caribbean meeting on the question of Palestine convened in Havana from 12-14 June 2001. The theme of the two-day meeting, sponsored by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), was Achieving the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People - a Key to Peace in the Middle East.

Cuba, the host country to the meeting, exerted all efforts for ensuring the success of the meeting. Actually, the Cuban government went beyond that and arranged its own program reflecting the full support given to the Palestinian cause by Cuba. The pinnacle of the program was a huge solidarity meeting organized in the anti-imperialist square that was attended by more than 10,000 Cubans in the presence of President Castro and many Cuban officials including the President of the National Assembly. The Cuban Authority also arranged for a televised Round Table in which President Castro, Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Head of the Political Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Ambassador Nasser Al-Kidwa, Permanent Observer to the United Nations participated.

In the opening session of the meeting, Mr. Danilo Turk, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, delivered a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The statement reiterated the Secretary-Generalís full engagement and preparation in doing his utmost to help move the peace process forward. He stated that the attacks by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian towns and villages and the restrictions imposed on Palestinian economic activity were excessive, disproportionate and counter-productive. He also stated, inter alia, that the events of the last few months had shown that there could be no military solutions to the conflict and that the only viable political settlement was based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

During the meeting, Mr. Felipe Perez Roque, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba; Ambassador Ibra Deguene Ka, Chairman of the CEIRPP; and Minister Farouk Kaddoumi also made statements.

In the closing session, the Havana Declaration was adopted. It declared support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State and the right to return to their homeland. It also declared that the excessive use of force by Israel, the occupying Power, the closures and the economic blockade of Palestinian population centers and the illegal measures of collective punishment must cease immediately.

Furthermore, the Declaration called for the reconvening of the High Contacting Parties to the Geneva Convention. In particular, it declared that international protection in the form of a United Nations observer force must be established. It also declared that the recommendations of the Report of the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee (Mitchell Report) be swiftly implemented in conjunction with the measures set out in the Egyptian-Jordanian Initiative.