Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-05-16-Speech-2-092"

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". In the name of God the merciful, the beneficent; Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me first to express my gratitude for the invitation. It is an honour to address this Assembly, which represents a unique success story for the peoples of the Europe; a story that contains various lessons that can be used as a paragon for many countries and peoples across the world. Sixteen months ago, the occupied Palestinian territory observed presidential elections after the death of President Arafat, in which I stood with a clear platform: to declare a truce and emphasise that negotiations were the only way to resolve the conflict. I also wanted to introduce a policy of reform in various fields, to strengthen democracy, to achieve a period of calm, to foster security, and to promote the rule of law. I am proud that the Palestinian people trusted me with this task. Our work started immediately, with the agreement of all the groups and factions, who agreed to respect this truce. It was the first time in years we had seen an almost complete halt in armed attacks by Palestinians. But our Israeli counterpart responded with the continued construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank that divides our territories into scattered cantons. It has continued with its assassinations, arrests and military incursions into our towns, villages and refugee camps. It has continued its tightened and suffocating sieges; it has continued to reject agreements and understandings, including the understanding reached in Sharm al-Sheikh after the presidential elections in Palestine. And in spite of all this, we agreed to Israel’s plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. We ensured that it was implemented smoothly and calmly, and proved our ability to assume our own security responsibilities, especially in the border areas where monitors from the European Union have assisted us in ensuring the proper functioning of the first border crossing in history that is fully administered by Palestinians. The Israeli policy of rejecting our extended hand, of rejecting the opportunity of negotiating and giving peace a chance, has increased the frustration of our people. Israel’s policy has also exacerbated the deteriorating economic conditions in Palestine, and has made movement between one town and another long and dangerous because of checkpoints spread throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank. These checkpoints oppress and humiliate individuals who only want to lead normal lives, reach their places of work and their fields, travel to their hospitals and universities, take their children to schools or go to mosques and churches. The frustration and disappointment created by the practices of the Israeli occupation and the absence of a positive outlook for the peace process formed the background for the legislative elections that took place last January. The whole world witnessed how the transfer of power was smoothly and democratically implemented, and how we established the foundations and the tradition of a democratic process that we have no choice but to follow. We would reiterate once again that democracy remains without soul in the absence of people’s freedom and in the continued occupation. Over the past four months, we have been going through an unprecedented situation. The declared platform of the party that won the elections and formed the government does not conform to my platform and the commitments and prior agreements of the Palestinian Authority. Our approach to dealing with this situation is underpinned by the same principles that led us to carry out elections on time. We are addressing this problem inside our institutions and in accordance with our laws and regulations. The political activity in Palestine over the last few months is gradually producing a public opinion that emphasises respect for the agreements and commitments undertaken by the Palestinian Authority, and commitments to international law. I have asked the new government to amend its platform in order to conform to these international commitments. We are in a constant and continued dialogue that will take us to an expanded national dialogue in just a few days’ time. I hope that this will lead us to the required process of amendment. Our approach needs the support of the international community. The new government must be given the chance to adapt to the basic requirements of the international community. Stopping assistance to the Palestinian Authority, cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority, will only further exacerbate the deteriorating economic and social situation in the country, and will weaken the network of efficient and working government ministries, administrations and institutions that the countries of the European Union played a vital role in building and developing in the first place. Here, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Quartet for its latest decision to resume providing assistance to the Palestinian people on the basis of a mechanism that will be developed under EU leadership. In that regard, we call upon Israel to fully release our tax and customs revenue immediately. The European Union can play a leading role here, and we would ask for your assistance in ensuring that Israel fully releases the tax and customs duties that are owing to us immediately. The Israeli Government is yet again repeating the slogan ‘No Palestinian partner’. You will recall that the Israeli Government used this slogan in the past as an excuse to abandon agreements and to refuse to return to the negotiating table. We are gravely concerned for the future of peace in our region as we hear about Israeli projects that aim to draw the final borders of Israel inside occupied Palestinian territory. These projects will foreclose any possibility of implementing the two-state solution because they will annex large portions of occupied Palestinian territory and will turn that which remains into scattered islands that lack geographical contiguity and vital water resources – water resources that the Israelis wish to claim as their own. This attempt to implement unilateral projects will destroy any remaining hope of reviving the peace process. It will also lead to another bitter period of tension and conflict, for which peoples in this region have already – for decades – paid a heavy price. The claim that there is no Palestinian partner or counterpart has no basis. I reiterate that, based on the constitutional power granted to me by our basic law, which entrusts the PLO Executive Committee, its President and its Negotiations Affairs Department with the responsibility of negotiation, we remain fully committed to returning immediately to the negotiating table to reach an agreement to end this long conflict. That is a fact I stressed when I spoke to Ehud Olmert by phone to congratulate him on taking office a few days ago. During that conversation, I stressed our true desire to immediately return to the negotiating table to negotiate peace. The whole world demands this of us, and we ask that the international community act immediately to support us, in order to prevent the region from sliding into an abyss and a new cycle of conflict that will have a negative impact not just on the Middle East, but on the world as a whole at a time when the region is experiencing other tensions too. We want action based on international law and the roadmap. We want negotiations between partners as an alternative to the Israeli policy of unilateralism, diktat and the negation of the other side. All of this is extremely important for us, because it is only through negotiations that we can in fact unify people in our region, while providing them with the principles of peace, development and modernisation that we share with the people of Europe. When I speak to you today, I convey the message of the Palestinian people to the peoples of a continent we have always been linked to with relations of neighbourliness and as a result of our historical links of cooperation and friendship and partnership and association in numerous sectors. We would like to launch this cooperation through fruitful dialogue between civilisations and cultures which can enrich both sides of the Mediterranean and help all of us to defuse extremist views in order to ensure that our historically close links continue, and for us to be able to achieve peace in the Mediterranean area. I once again thank you for this invitation and for your hospitality. I believe that I have just spoken before friends who share with us the dedication to promote the values of freedom, democracy, tolerance and dialogue. I am confident that you will continue to support the just cause of the Palestinian people until we gain our freedom and build an independent state in the Holy Land on the basis of the 1967 borders with the State of Israel. Thank you for listening to me. As I speak to you today, I realise that I am addressing legislators who are very familiar with our problems, and many of whom have been eyewitnesses to the problems and the suffering of the Palestinian people during visits to our country. Only yesterday, the Palestinian people commemorated the 58th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, which represented the historical injustice when we, the Palestinian people, were uprooted from our land, forced into a Diaspora; when many of us were displaced and forced to become refugees. Throughout the political course and national struggle of the Palestinian people under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and following the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority in 1994 in the aftermath of signing the Declaration of Principles, the desire for a major, effective and active European role has always been a fundamental pillar in Palestinian policy and diplomacy. Our people have never forgotten the positive positions adopted by numerous European countries since the early 1970s in support of the Palestinian people’s rights and its national liberation movement led by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Our people have not forgotten either the European countries’ generous political, financial and technical support for building Palestinian institutions and a national assembly, and in helping us to deal with the consequences of the policies of occupation, besiegement and destruction. This support has strengthened our people’s confidence in the justice of our cause and in international law. At this point in time, another difficult time, we are quite logically looking to Europe, in that our region is open to all options, and that is why we seek and are waiting for Europe to play a leading role in the area. Despite the horror of the historical injustice inflicted upon our people, we have always been able to formulate a realistic policy to restore the rights of our people to self-determination. In early stages, European capitals were places where secret, semi-secret and public meetings between PLO officials and Israeli activists from the peace camp took place. It was in a European capital, Oslo, that the first official contacts took place between the PLO and the Israeli Government. The initial signature of the first agreement in history between the two sides in 1993 also took place in Oslo, before its official signing in Washington that same year. When the Palestine National Council approved in 1998 the Palestinian peace initiative and accepted United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, it offered an opportunity to achieve a historical reconciliation. I must honestly say that this was not easy for our people. But here I must recall the role played by our historical leader Yasser Arafat. It took courage to take these decisions; it took courage to put forward a peace formula enjoying the support of our people on the basis of establishing a Palestinian state on only 22% of the land of historical Palestine, which represents the land occupied by Israel in 1967. Following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, we have continued our intensive search for peace. We repeatedly emphasised that the core of the process had to be based on the principle of partnership, a partnership committed to agreement and to the resolution of problems imposed by the legacy of a long, bitter and bloody conflict; a partnership that understood the legitimate concerns of the other and that could lay the foundations for a new and different future for both Palestinians and Israelis. The severest blow to the peace process, which was supposed to have reached its final stages within a few short years, was a result of the Israeli rejection of the logic of partnership and its insistence on practising destructive policies, particularly on building settlements, constructing walls and confiscating land to create a reality on the ground that would prejudice and pre-empt the outcome of negotiations. The abandonment of commitments and agreements and the rejection of international patronage have become a main feature of Israeli policy, and have resulted in the loss of momentum of the peace process and the consequent shaking of people’s belief in its usefulness. This policy has developed in recent years to the level of attempting to completely destroy the Palestinian National Authority and its institutions, and to the systematic destruction of our basic infrastructure, which your countries contributed in developing. For our part, and despite the state of frustration and suffering of an extent that I am sure you will realise and appreciate – particularly those of you who have witnessed it closely – we have been careful not to allow our national struggle to be diverted from its course and to make sure that it has complied with international law. We have rejected and condemned attacks against civilians. We have rejected terrorism in its forms. We have emphasised the importance of building a culture of peace instead of a culture of war, and we have done everything peaceful that we could to resist occupation."@en1
"President of the Palestinian Authority"1

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