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22 Sep, 2011

Palestine Now at the Core of Global Geopolitics: Travel & Tourism Should Pay Close Heed

The outcome of the 66th UN General Assembly, which began in New York on 21st September, will have a huge impact on global events in the second decade of the 21st century. The travel & tourism industry will not be immune to these events.

Two trends were apparent as the future of Palestine dominated the first day of the global summit. Firstly, the world wants to see a Palestinian state being born in order to end one of the longest running conflicts in global history, and free up valuable time and resources for solving other far more serious problems. Secondly, although President Obama’s speech got most of the publicity, the speeches by leaders of emerging powerful states such as Brazil, South Africa and others indicated that the United States is going against the tide of global public opinion. This is set to have a clear downstream ripple-effect on international relations and beyond on travel & tourism. If the industry is waxing lyrical about the prospects of the Arab spring, the future of Palestine is where the rubber will hit the road.

This dispatch of Travel Impact Newswire summarises key quotes on the Palestine issue from leaders of Brazil, South Africa, Jordan, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Latvia, Guyana, Mongolia, Finland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Mozambique, Switzerland and France. Their voices must be heard by the travel & tourism industry, especially by American corporate exevutives and American expatriates. They will not be able to claim ignorance when they feel the backlash. If they choose not to make their government accountable, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil

I regret that today I still cannot welcome Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations. Brazil already recognizes the Palestinian State within the 1967 borders, in a manner consistent with United Nations resolutions.

Like the majority of the countries in this Assembly, we believe that the time has come for Palestine to be fully represented here. The recognition of the Palestinian people’s legitimate right to sovereignty and self-determination increases the possibilities for a lasting peace in the Middle East.

Only a free and sovereign Palestine will be able to heed Israel’s legitimate desires for peace with its neighbors, security in its borders and political stability in its region.

I come from a country where the descendants of Arabs and Jews are fellow countrymen and live together harmoniously – which is as it should be.

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa

South Africa continues to support international efforts to assist the people of Palestine and Israel to find lasting peace. The decades-old struggle by the Palestinian people for a sovereign State of their own has now reached a turning point.

The Palestinian Authority, backed by the League of Arab States, has stated its intention to seek UN membership for the State of Palestine. South Africa fully supports this position.

It is a decisive step towards achieving lasting peace, economic cooperation and prosperity for the millions of people in the Middle East, and urge that it be viewed favourably.

King Abdullah of Jordan

Jordan is also working with our partners to address another global danger: the immense negative impact of regional conflict. And the central crisis, the single greatest driver of division and instability, is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

We are today at a dangerous impasse. The opportunities of a year ago — to move talks forward toward a clear-cut end game — failed to gain momentum. Negotiations have come to a halt. Frustrations are at a peak. Even as we speak, Israeli settlement activity is ongoing — despite every ruling of international law, and in the face of strong international protest. We are seeing settlement activity in Jerusalem, although this is one of the key Final Status issues, that can only be resolved through negotiations. This is a global concern. In my great- grandfather’s words, “a sacred chain” binds Muslims around the world to this Holy City. I cannot overstate the crisis that would arise from harm to the Holy Sites of any faith … or from efforts to annihilate the Arab character of East Jerusalem.

A two-state solution, that ends the conflict by meeting the needs of both sides, is and can be the only secure and lasting peace. Two states, with a sovereign, independent, and viable Palestine, and security and acceptance for Israel. This is the core of all major international proposals, including the Arab Peace Initiative. All are agreed that negotiations must go forward, and soon, resolving the final status of all four key issues — borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and settlements. Only then will the conflict cease to be a flashpoint for global violence — and people on both sides can get on with a future in peace.

President Obama recognized this strategic imperative when he set the parameters for a solution last May 19th. The Arabs viewed these parameters positively.

Israel builds settlements.

The Quartet, the European Union, and other representatives of the international community have put workable ideas on the table. The Arab states welcome them.

Israel builds settlements.

That’s where we find ourselves today. My Friends,

We cannot teach the next generation respect for law and mutual acceptance if they see law and compromise repeatedly fail. Yet we must uphold the law, or civilization falls.

We cannot teach the value of peaceful process if peaceful process repeatedly fails. Yet we must uphold peaceful process, or humanity is lost.

In this impasse, Jordan and the Arab States are holding fast to our principles of peace and law. We have come here, to the House of Nations, to seek the justice of nations.

We will continue to strongly support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to statehood in fulfillment of their aspirations and in accordance with U.N. resolutions, and within a comprehensive and just settlement and the resolution of all final status issues. It is their right to seek it here, in the house of nations, the United Nations. This we must all support.

We seek a new and vigorous international push, with concrete steps toward the end-game. Not words, not process. But a decisive end to conflict, and a new beginning in peace. The peace that comes from real statehood and recognized-rights for Palestinians … allowing people to look forward in dignity and hope. A peace that brings real security for Israelis … putting aside their fortress mentality, and achieving acceptance in their neighborhood and the world.

Gen. Michel Sleiman, President of Lebanon

Such approaches primarily require engaging seriously and urgently within the framework of an integrated process to impose a just and comprehensive solution to all aspects of the conflict in the Middle East, based on the resolutions of international legitimacy, Madrid’s Terms of Reference and the Arab Peace Initiative in all its provisions. This would thus lay the foundations for a project of a broader dialogue and understanding between the East and the West and among civilizations, cultures and religions. It is an overdue historical understanding, following decades marked by feelings of injustice and hostility, decades of destructive wars and missed opportunities.

In this context, it is important to underscore the rightful Palestinian efforts aiming at earning the recognition of the State of Palestine and its full membership to the United Nations, in line with the right to self-determination. Lebanon will support these efforts, in order for the latter to succeed, with the coordination and cooperation of brotherly and friend countries.

However, the recognition of the Palestinian State and its accession to the United Nations – albeit its importance – neither restores full rights nor could be considered a final solution to the Palestinian issue, as stipulated by the concept of justice and the international legitimacy resolutions.

Consequently, and until reaching a final and just political solution to the question of Palestine, which guarantees the Palestinians’ Refugees Right of Return, the UNRWA remains responsible for the Relief of Palestinian refugees and for ensuring their welfare, in cooperation with the host countries, in line with the General Assembly resolution based on which the agency was established in 1949, and that away from any form of permanent settlement of these refugees, which is equally rejected by Lebanon and our Palestinian brothers. This requires supporting the UNRWA’s budget steadily and not seeking to merge it with other UN bodies or to weaken its capacity.

In another context, Lebanon, which has recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council and participated in the Paris summit on Libya’s future, expects from Libyan officials, with whom it is communicating for this purpose, to uncover the fate of Imam Musa al-Sadr and his two companions who went missing in Libya during an official visit in the year 1978.

A few days ago, Lebanon hosted the Second Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on cluster bombs that concluded with “the Beirut Declaration”, which constituted a defining moment in the course of implementing this Convention. And although addressing this issue stems from humanitarian considerations, this meeting has highlighted the terrible fallout of these weapons which have been heavily used by Israel during the aggression of July 2006. These weapons still threaten civilians on their farmlands and the innocent children in the open fields of their games in South Lebanon, which warrant condemning Israel and requesting that it appropriately compensate for the harm and extensive damage it has caused Lebanon through these weapons as well as the overall damage of its repeated aggressions against Lebanon, including those caused by the oil slick resulting from the Israeli bombardment of the Jiyeh power plant in the summer of 2006.

On the fifth anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 170I, Lebanon reiterates its commitment to persevere in implementing this resolution and calls once again the international community to pressure Israel and compel it to implement all its provisions. In other words, Israel is to halt its daily violations of the Lebanese sovereignty and to immediately withdraw from Lebanese territories that it still occupies in the Northern part of Al Ghajar village, the Shebaa farms, and the hills of Kfarshuba. Furthermore, it needs to desist its persistent threats against Lebanon and its infrastructure and its endeavors to destabilize the country through its spying networks and its recruitment of agents, while we retain our right to liberate or retrieve all our occupied territories through all legitimate and available means.

Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey, President of Switzerland

I note with regret that the spirit of optimism borne of the Arab Spring has not succeeded in breathing new life into the Middle East peace process. We well remember the words of President Obama a year ago before the UN General Assembly, words that encouraged us to believe that there was hope for a breakthrough in the Middle East. For a few minutes we dreamed the dream of “the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire”. We entertained hopes that together with Palestine and Israel we could succeed in reaching an agreement that would allow us to welcome a new member to the United Nations, a sovereign and independent Palestine, living in peace with Israel.

Instead we look out with bitterness on a bleak horizon of lead-footed progress, stagnation and a hardening of positions. It is a fact that for over 60 years the international community has failed to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The “peace process” has replaced peace. In an effort to bring peace once again to the centre of the stage, influential people on both sides have attempted to breathe life into a tangible and lasting vision. We gave them our support and facilitated a model agreement. The Geneva Initiative is today a consolidated, detailed proposal compatible with internationally accepted parameters, including the Arab Peace Initiative. It remains at the disposal of the decision makers, as well as of the populations whose right it is to demand peace.

Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France

The following translation of the French-language speech was made available by the Untied Nations.

President Sarkozy wondered who among those gathered at the General Assembly one year ago could have imagined that the world — already convulsed by an unprecedented economic crisis — would have undergone such changes. In just a few months, the “Arab Spring” had given rise to extraordinary hope. For too long, the Arab peoples were oppressed. They had now opposed those who proclaimed that the Arab-Muslim world was by nature hostile to democracy and human rights.

“We do not have the right to disappoint their hopes,” he stressed, adding that breaking those dreams would “vindicate the fanatics”. The international community could not respond to the aspiration for democracy by perpetuating the tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In that regard, new methods should be adopted where others had failed. It was time to stop believing that a single country or group of countries would resolve so complex a problem; too many crucial players had been sidelined for those efforts to succeed. A collective approach was now indispensable to create trust and offer guarantees to each of the parties. The peace would be built by the Israelis and the Palestinians and by no one else; no one could impose peace upon them, but they must help.

In that regard, by setting preconditions for negotiations, “we doom ourselves to failure”, he said. “Let us cease endless debates on the parameters” and begin negotiations with an ambitious timetable, he said, calling in particular for the parties to take one month to resume discussions, six months to reach agreement on borders and security and one year to reach a “definitive agreement”. France also proposed to hold a donors conference to assist the Palestinians in completing the construction of their future State.

“We should not look for a perfect solution, because there are no perfect solutions,” he said. Instead, the path of compromise should be embraced. The Palestinians had been waiting for a State for more than 60 years, and meanwhile, Israel had been denied the right to live in peace. The question of peaceful coexistence of the two peoples had continued to fester. Who did not see that a democratic, viable and peaceful Palestinian State would be, for Israel, the best guarantee of security? In that vein, any threats made against a Member State of the United Nations were unacceptable. Should such threats be made, France would immediately and wholeheartedly stand beside Israel.

Member States today faced a choice, he said. Everyone knew that Palestine could not immediately obtain full and complete recognition of the status of a United Nations Member State. However, a veto in the Security Council risked engendering a cycle of violence in the Middle East. “Let us not be diplomats for a day,” he told delegates, urging them not to exclude an intermediate stage in the conflict’s resolution, which would offer Palestine the status of a United Nations observer State. The ultimate goal must be the mutual recognition of two nation States for two peoples, established on the basis of the 1967 lines, with agreed and equivalent exchanges of land.

“Each [party] must make efforts to understand each other’s reasons, their sufferings and their fears,” he stressed. It was time for them to build peace for their children. Both Israeli and Palestinian mothers felt the same pain for the death of their children. At the same time, the United Nations should take the opportunity to “wake the Arab people up to the service of democracy”. A compromise solution would rebuild trust and give people hope. “We must not miss this appointment with history”; the solution was on the table, he concluded.

Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan

The complex question of Palestine has been under active discussion these days. Kazakhstan supports the creation of a Palestinian state. A difficult issue, however, has been placed on the Scales of History. Kazakhstan, which has good relations with all States of the region, advocates a just and lasting settlement of the conflict, including through direct Palestinian-Israeli talks.

Dr. Danilo Türk, President Of Slovenia

Indeed, no other theme seems more timely at this moment of search for an approach towards a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The European Union, to which Slovenia belongs, is currently fully engaged with high profile mediation in this context. The mediation under way has two aims: First, the revival of the peace process with a view to finding an early solution – a genuine and fair peace agreement involving two states, Israel and Palestine, which should live side by side in peace and security, and, second, as an immediate task, relevant to the United Nations, finding an adequate status for Palestine within the ranks of our common, global organization. These two aims are genuinely linked and the latter should be understood as supporting the former.

Armando Emilio Guebuza, President of Mozambique

We note with concern the lack of progress in the Israeli-Arab peace process. In this context, we urge the parties to commit themselves to the relaunch of negotiations that are translated into concrete actions with a view to a lasting, comprehensive and fair conflict solution. We reiterate our unequivocal support to the cause of the Palestinian people, who have been denied the inalienable right to self-determination. We reaffirm our support for the principle of the creation of two states, Palestine and Israel, coexisting peacefully and in accordance with the 1967 borders.

Andris Bērziņš, President of Latvia

Today international community has a historic responsibility to make the Middle East a safer, more prosperous and more democratic place to live. We must support the Middle East Peace Process with an aim of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

Latvia strongly encourages both sides to resume dialogue without delay. Sustainable peace is possible only if the Israelis and the Palestinians reach an agreement that takes into account legitimate interests of both sides. The international community, the UN, the Middle East Quartet, the Arab League and others, should act together to help both sides to return to the negotiation table.

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland

Reaching a solution to the Middle East conflict is more pressing than ever. The Palestinians have a right to their own state, Palestine. The international community gathered here in the UN General Assembly must show that it is united in its message to the parties. We need the urgent resumption of negotiations that will lead, within an agreed time-frame, to a two-state solution, with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side in peace and security. There is no time to waste.

Alvaro Colom Caballeros, President of Guatemala

We are following with attention and hope the events that affect several countries in North Africa, which tend to give a greater voice to their respective peoples. Clearly, it is up to them to decide their own destiny. But in the midst of the present turbulent situation, what cannot be postponed is a solution to the secular conflict which has resulted in a confrontation of the State of Israel with its neighbours. We support the creation of a viable and prosperous Palestinian State, living in peace and harmony, behind secure and defensible borders, next to the State of Israel. We understand that the international community can accompany the process to give fruition to this vision, as indeed is happening through the so-called “quartet”, made up of the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and the United Nations, but its implementation is up to the two parties – Israel and Palestine – to be reached through negotiations to solve all the final status issues.

Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of Colombia

What has been said so far can be applied to chronic conflicts, like the one between Israel and Palestine, where progress can be made if consistent dialogue and effective mediation are favored.

We are concerned -as is the rest of the international community- with the suspension of peace talks and encourage, what is more, we beg the parties to return to negotiations as soon as possible. This is the only, I repeat, the only path that would lead to where we all want to be: two States living in peace and security.

Željko Komšić, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina

We are deeply concerned by standstill in crisis resolution in the Middle East. Despite optimistic announcements and plans, expected peace process has not yet been revived.

The only way forward is the solution based on the principle of peaceful coexistence of two sovereign states: a viable and independent Palestine and a stable and secure Israel, with respect to the provisions of international law and instruments in the field of humanitarian law and human rights.

So far, the UN has supported and actively participated in creating a positive atmosphere in order to reach a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Bosnia and Herzegovina believes that conditions for a lasting and just solution can be achieved with additional political will and responsibility of the negotiating parties.

Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana

But that means consistency in our efforts to address all forms of insecurity. We need to support peaceful peoples everywhere to assert their basic rights to physical security and development – the global response to the Arab Spring and other peace movements across the Middle East was remarkable for its inconsistency. Guyana supports the right of the Palestinian people to full statehood, and we urge the acceleration of the negotiations to achieve this. We welcomed – and were delighted to co-sponsor the resolution that resulted in – the entry of South Sudan into this General Assembly. But we need to do much more – and Guyana will be supportive of all peoples who struggle for democracy and dignity.

Elbegdorj Tsakhia, President of Mongolia

The passing year has witnessed dramatic transformations. The Arab Spring has brought freedom to millions of people. But the Arab Spring is far from over. The revolution for freedom is not the hardest social change to make. Building and developing a free, open, fair civic society is even more difficult This is what our ancestors taught us, and these lessons have been reinforced during the 20 years of undergoing our own democratic transformation. Let me cite here the visionary teaching of the founder of the Great Mongolian State – Chinggis Khaan, who was rightly chosen as the Man of the Millennium. Chinggis Khaan once said that “conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is much harder”. The revolution for freedom is fought and won by the combined efforts of thousands of people. However, in one form or another, it is each and every person who pays the price for freedom. It is my firm belief that notwithstanding any challenge it faces, freedom is the future of all humankind.

Later in the speech, the Mongolian President added:

The Arab Change will be followed by the Arab Challenge. Although a democratic process is a homegrown phenomenon, it should be supported by international cooperation. Here, I have a message to industrialized, democratic countries: do not withdraw from the battle. On the other hand, democratization does not mean westernization. Democracy ought to develop naturally in line with the historical, cultural and development specifics of a given country. Nonetheless, respect for freedom, justice and human rights and strict abidance by the rule of law, are common to all successful and responsible democracies. Bad governance is the worst problem of all. Therefore, any aspiration to improve and streamline such a governance ought to be strongly supported at all times.