- Gaza International Airport Opens: After much delay on the part of the Israeli
government, Gaza International Airport opened on 22 November with the arrival of seven
airplanes on that day. The first to arrive was an Egypt Air plane carrying an official
delegation, followed directly by the arrival of an Air Morocco airliner, a Royal Jordanian
airliner, and then by two Palestinian Airlines planes. The sixth and seventh planes were,
respectively, a Spanish airliner, and a plane carrying H.E. Miguel Moratinos, the EU
Special Envoy to the Middle East. An official ceremony and a reception were held at the
airport, reflecting the importance of the event for the Palestinian people. On 5 December,
the first-ever flight of Palestinian Airlines from Gaza International Airport departed to
Amman, inaugurating regular services from the airport, which will make it much easier for
Palestinians to interact with the rest of the world in terms of travel and trade.
- Conference In Support of Middle East Peace and Development: On 30 November, the U.S.
State Department hosted a one-day international donors conference in Washington, D.C. to
raise pledges of aid for the Palestinian people. Attended by President Clinton, President
Arafat and Ministers from European, Arab and other countries, the conference brought an
estimated $3 billion in new pledges of aid from 43 nations. The largest donations were
pledged by the U.S., EU, Japan, Norway, and the Gulf States. The U.S. pledged an
additional $400 million, bringing the total American pledge to $900 million over a period
of 5 years, and making the U.S. the largest single donor. The assistance is to be used for
infrastructure development, such as water projects and road building, and for human
- Palestinian-American Bilateral Meetings: President Arafat paid a 3-day visit to
Washington, D.C., where he attended the donors conference on 30 November 1998 and met with
several members of the U.S. government. He met with President Clinton at the White House
and with Congressional leaders Rep. Bob Livingston and Rep. Richard Gephardt on Capitol
Hill. He also met with Secretary of State Albright in the first meeting of the
US-Palestinian Commission in an effort to invigorate the Commission and improve bilateral
relations between the American and Palestinian governments. The two sides discussed
various issues, including trade development, assistance projects, and cultural and
- International Day of Solidarity: On 30 November, the U.N. solemnly commemorated the
annual International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Since 1978, this day
has been observed annually on 29 November, the date marking the adoption by the General
Assembly of resolution 181 (II) on 29 November 1947, which partitioned Palestine into two
states, one Arab and one Jewish, with Jerusalem as corpus separatum. The meeting
was presided over by H.E. Amb. Ibra Ka of Senegal, Chairman of the Committee on the
Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, and attended by the
President of the General Assembly, H.E. Amb. Didier Opertti (Uruguay); the President of
the Security Council, H.E. Amb. A. Peter Burleigh (U.S.); the Deputy Secretary-General,
H.E. Ms. Louise Frechette; and the Chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate
Israeli Practices, H.E. Amb. John de Saram (Sri Lanka), all of whom delivered statements.
Concluding remarks were made by H.E. Mr. Farouk Kaddoumi, Foreign Minister of the State of
Palestine and Head of the Political Department of the PLO.
President Arafat sent a message on the occasion, which was read by the
Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations (Dr. Nasser Al-Kidwa). In his
message, Arafat stressed that the Palestinian people were "in greater need than
ever of the continuing and strengthening of such worldwide solidarity on the part of our
brethren and friends in order to assist the Palestinian people to make reality of the
Declaration of Independence and to implement it on the blessed soil of Palestine during
the coming year, after the end of the five-year interim period specified in the
Declaration of Principles that was signed in Washington on 13 September 1993." He
also expressed his hope that "the independent state of Palestine on Palestinian
soil will be declared and made a tangible reality in an atmosphere of understanding,
cooperation, trust and mutual respect for all the agreements concluded with the Israeli
Statements were also made by the representatives of the Chairman of NAM
(South Africa), the Chairman of the OIC (Qatar), and the Secretary-General of the Arab
League. Messages of support, in observance of the occasion, were also received from 33
Heads of State or Governments and 8 Foreign Ministers, as well as from the EU, UNESCO, and
several NGOs and U.N. organs.
On 30 November as well, an annual Palestinian exhibit in connection
with this day was inaugurated at the U.N. at the Visitors Lobby. This years exhibit,
on display for one week, was entitled Bethlehem 2000 and consisted of a collection
of photographs of Bethlehem and various traditional handicrafts from the Bethlehem area.
The exhibit was prepared in cooperation with UNESCO and Dar Al-Fan in Palestine.
Happy Holidays, Blessed Ramadan, and Best Wishes for a Happy New
From the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the U.N., Members of the
Observer Mission of Palestine and their families.