Message by President Nelson Mandela on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People delivered by Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo

25 November 1998

On behalf of the people of South Africa, the Southern African Development Community, the Non-Aligned Movement and in my own name, I extend greetings to the Palestinian people and to President Yasser Arafat on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

We extend our friendship and solidarity to all the Palestinian people, wherever they may be. More than fifty years after the United Nations voted to accord the Palestinian people a national homeland this dream remains unfulfilled.

We express our support for the continuing efforts of the Palestinian people, under the leadership of President Yasser Arafat, to achieve their inalienable national rights, including the right to self-determination and national independence.

We remain convinced that the only means of ending conflict and bringing peace and security to Palestine, Israel and the region, is through negotiations and the faithful implementation of agreements reached so far. For this reason, we are deeply happy to learn of the results of the marathon summit between President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu, under the auspices of US President Clinton. We also salute His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan for the valuable contribution that he made under extremely difficult circumstances. We congratulate President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu on the signing of the Wye River Memorandum and wish them well in their quest for an equitable and lasting peace. May this agreement give new hope and courage to all in the region and may it indeed revitalise the Middle East peace process which has been deadlocked for far too long.

All the participants deserve our heartfelt congratulations for their courage, vision and their spirit of commitment to making peace. We trust that the implementation of this agreement, and more urgently, the release of all Palestinian political prisoners, will eliminate some of the obstacles and rebuild trust without which no efforts at achieving a lasting peace can succeed.

South Africans understand the suffering of the Palestinian people. Palestinians continue to suffer humiliation and economic hardship. Those who live in exile as refugees have for long been sustained by their hope for an end to the conflict and the dawning of a better future. The legitimate expectations born at the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993 and sustained through an initial period of progress, were subsequently dashed by earlier unilateral actions on the part of the Israeli Government.

We commend the Palestinian people for their commitment to peaceful negotiations and in the light of the new start made at Wye River Plantation, urge all parties to recommit themselves to a negotiated settlement and to refrain from acts of violence. We also call upon the Israeli Government to comply with its obligations to withdraw from Palestinian territory timeously, so that further progress can be made.

To the international community we address the appeal to remain faithful to the goal of achieving a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East. The people of Palestine and the whole region need our support for their efforts to put an end to this conflict which has plagued the world for so long. The achievement of a just and comprehensive peace will not only have an effect on the lives of the people of that region, it will reverberate around the globe and promote the cause of international peace and security in a fundamental way. It is accordingly in the interests of all members of the international community to continue to support peace-making in the Middle East. It has to succeed and each of us carries a responsibility for the success of the peace process in the Middle East which five years ago showed so much promise.

The Non-Aligned Movement has reaffirmed its traditional and long-standing solidarity with the Palestinian people, and its support for the implementation of all UN Resolutions on the question of Palestine and the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In this vein and on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Southern African Development Community and the Government of South Africa, I reiterate on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, our solidarity with and support for the struggle of the Palestinians to live in dignity and peace and, at last, to achieve security in a sovereign country of their own.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation