Highlights 

         Bethlehem 2000 Resolution Adopted by Consensus for Second Consecutive Year: On 10 November 1999, the General Assembly convened to consider item 36 on the agenda of its 54th Session, Bethlehem 2000.  Similar to the debate held on this item during the 53rd Session, which was the first time the General Assembly addressed the issue, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly supportive of the Bethlehem 2000 Project and the events being organized in commemoration of this historic millennial event.  The following speakers participated in the debate: Senegal (in the capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People), Palestine, Finland (on behalf of the European Union), Malaysia, Egypt, South Africa, Norway, Italy, San Marino, Cuba, Afghanistan, Cyprus, Indonesia, Philippines, Namibia, Peru, Armenia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and the Holy See.

Resolution 54/22, Bethlehem 2000, was adopted by consensus by the Assembly.  This consensus is reflective of the international community’s firm support for a dignified, peaceful, and glorious commemoration of this occasion, the coming 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ (PBUH) and the onset of a new millennium, in the Palestinian City of Bethlehem, the center of these commemorations around the world.

      Ambassador Al-Kidwa spoke on behalf of the delegation of Palestine at the debate and stated, inter alia, “The Palestinian City of Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him), is on the threshold of its millennial commemoration of Bethlehem 2000.  The forthcoming celebration around the world of this epic turning point in time is an occasion imbued with profound historic, religious, spiritual and cultural dimensions of high importance for our people, the people of the region, for all faithful and the entire international community.”

      “… The Palestinian people are proud and honored to be hosting such a historic occasion that, it is hoped, will reflect and promote a vision of peace, reconciliation and goodwill for all humankind.  We had truly hoped to begin the Bethlehem 2000 celebrations in an independent Palestine.   Of course, we are disappointed that this will not be so.  However, we are confident that the second portion of this occasion, including Christmas 2000, the start of the year 2001 and the conclusion of the commemorations on Easter 2001, will be celebrated in an independent Palestine and a peaceful Middle East.”

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, particularly the Chairman, Ambassador Ka of Senegal, continued to play an integral role in the initiative regarding Bethlehem 2000 at the United Nations.  Activities in this regard also include the work of the Committee, in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., in organizing the annual U.N. exhibit displayed in connection with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on the 29th of November.  For the second consecutive year, the theme of this exhibit will be Bethlehem 2000 and will be entitled: Follow the Star: Palestinian Images of Bethlehem at the New Millennium.

 

         The Vatican and Jerusalem: Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, who was in New York to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine at the U.N. on 25 October 1999, also addressed on 23 October 1999, focusing on Jerusalem.   Among the many important remarks made by the Archbishop, his statement clearly and concisely defined the Vatican’s official position and views on the Holy City of Jerusalem.  In this regard, he, inter alia, stated:

“… With regard to the question of Jerusalem, the Holy See has always maintained that this question cannot and should not be reduced simply to one of unimpeded access to the Holy Places. The living dimension of these places requires also (1) that the global character of Jerusalem as a sacred heritage common to the three monotheistic religions be guaranteed; (2) that religious freedom in all its aspects be defended; (3) that all the acquired rights of the various communities with regard to shrines, centers of spirituality and study, and charitable institutes by safeguarded; (4) that the maintenance and development of the respective religions be treated equally.  In order that all of these may be guaranteed, the Holy See seeks a special internationally guaranteed statute for the most sacred part of the City of Jerusalem.”

 

         U.N. Statistical Division Assigns the Occupied Palestinian Territory an Internet Code: After months of discussions and consideration of the issue, the Occupied Palestinian Territory was assigned both a numerical code and an Internet code (PS).  These codes were issued by the Statistical Division of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs and appear in the Division’s most recent publication of “Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use”.  The country or area name given to Palestine in this regard was “Occupied Palestinian Territory”.