Brussels, 25 February 1998/MS/15824/c-is

Conference in Support of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Delegates at an international conference in support of the Palestinian people which was opened yesterday in Brussels, called for a more active role of the European Union in Middle East peace efforts. The conference is organized by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in co-operation with the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The conference was opened by the Foreign Minister of Belgium, Mr. Erik Derycke. The opening session was addressed by Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, who referred to the special historical responsibility of the United Nations for the Palestine problem because of the General Assembly's partition resolution of 1947. Mr. Arafat spoke of the 50th anniversary of the tragedy of the Palestinian people's expulsion from its homeland in 1948 when the state of Israel was created.

The opening session was also addressed by the President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. H.Y. Udovenko, by the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Mr. Azeddine Laraki, and by high-level representatives of the UN Secretary-General and of the Arab League. The Vice-President of Colombia, Dr. Carlos Lemos Simmonds, speaking in his capacity as representative of the Chairman of the Non-aligned Movement, said that international legitimacy will be eroded if Security Council resolutions on Palestine are not enforced and if the policy of double standards is continued. He stated that the unilateral actions of the occupying power in Palestine are null and void and he referred to the Non-aligned Movement's support for a conference of the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to ensure the implementation of its provisions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The International Progress Organization is represented at the conference by an observer delegation headed by its President, Dr. Hans Koechler. The conference will be followed tomorrow by the United Nations European NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine.