Dear Chair, colleagues and representatives of the Palestinian National Council,
I congratulate Mr Kox on presenting a good and comprehensive report. Unlike the situation in the Moldovan Parliament, I have had a rare opportunity to congratulate a member of the Group of the Unified European Left. I should like to congratulate the PNC on the proposal to grant it Partner for Democracy status. It will be the second institution to be granted that status after the Moroccan Parliament earlier this year. It is very encouraging to hear that the Israeli Parliament supports the request.
Taking note of the strong commitment expressed by the PNC in the request that was sent to our Assembly, I should like to stress the need for strong involvement by the Palestinian authorities in the process of reform to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Palestinian Territories. One of the main reasons for strengthening those fundamental rights is the need to ensure complete respect for freedom of conscience, of religion and of belief, including the right to change one’s religion, and to guarantee freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.
It is an extraordinary challenge to achieve full respect for religious freedom in the birthplace of the Abrahamic religions. I am firmly convinced, however, that it is worth pursuing that goal and I hope that Partner for Democracy status will be a strong motivation to move in that direction. Peaceful co-existence by people of all faiths and religions, including the minority religious groups, in the very centre of three major religions is the key to peace in the Middle East. A prayer in the book of “Psalms” urges us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”. If we take that in a much broader sense, we realise that peace in the Middle East should be one of the highest goals for the world today.
In conclusion, I call on the PNC to be open and to address all the issues that I have mentioned, including those listed in the draft resolution, to ensure full implementation of assumed political commitments. About 10 days ago, I visited Israel, including the West Bank, and I noticed a longing desire for peace and well-being among ordinary people. In the next two years, it is crucial that we promote deep political and legal reform, including reform to ensure full respect for freedom of conscience and religion. Whatever the challenges and difficulties, I believe that there is hope and a future for the people of the Middle East. I look forward to a successful and efficient partnership between the PNC and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
(mai jos este replica Dlui Kox)
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – I shall begin with our colleague, Mr Ghiletchi, from Moldova. The report gave him the opportunity for the first time to compliment a member of the UEL. If it is of any use, at least for him, I hope that that will be the beginning of a new tradition.