Highlights

  • President Yasser Arafat visited the U.S. from 2 to 5 March 1997. It was his first visit upon formal invitation from the U.S. President. He met with President Clinton, Secretary Albright and other administration officials and members of Congress. In Georgia, he met with former President Carter and in Houston, Texas he met with former President Bush and former Secretary Baker. During his visit, he also attended several events organized by the Palestinian-American community. President Arafat came to New York on the 4th of March and attended a large reception in his honor at the United Nations, which was organized by the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine and sponsored by a hospitality committee of Palestinian-Americans from the New York/New Jersey area. While at the United Nations, he met with members of the Security Council, the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. President Arafat also met with a group of Jewish leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the editorial board of The New York Times and had a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • On the 4th of March, the Israeli government announced its decision to unilaterally redeploy its forces from an additional 2% of the West Bank and to change the status of another 7% of the West Bank. That would leave the Israelis in full control of approximately 70% of the West Bank. The Palestinians considered the Israeli announcement to be an attempt at deception and asserted that such a decision was not in compliance with the agreements reached and the Note for the Record of 15 January 1997, which states that further redeployments in the West Bank should be completed within 12 months, starting at the beginning of March 1997 but not later than mid-1998. By then, Israel is to have redeployed its forces to agreed military locations.

This recent Israeli decision was announced in the midst of other extremely dangerous steps such as the building of a new settlement in Jabal Abu-Ghneim, the closing of independent Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem and the blocking of agreement in the negotiating committees on overdue issues, including the airport, seaport and the safe passage. All such actions and measures are a clear detriment to the peace process and endanger it greatly.

  • The United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Anan, presided over the first meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in 1997. The meeting took place on 19 February 1997, during which the officers of the Committee were elected, including the Committee's Chairman, Ambassador Ibra Deguene Ka of Senegal. The Secretary-General made a statement before the meeting reaffirming the role of the U.N., and he also introduced Mr. Chinmaya Gharekhan as the new "United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories". Mr. Gharekan will be residing in Gaza, joining Mr. Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Another U.N. official, Mr. Timothy Rothermel, the Special Representative of the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is residing in Jerusalem.