“Dear friends, dear comrades, ladies and gentlemen, dear President Mahmoud Abbas, dearest brother Abu Mazen, aSalaam ‘Alaykum.
I sincerely thank you for this invitation, the opportunity to share this historic moment with you on Palestinian soil. In today’s world of change, few things remain constant, but one thing that remains constant is our valued friendship, the value of a longstanding friendship which was forged between the Palestinian and the Greek people, between Fatah and PASOK, between our two historic leaders, Yasser Arafat and Andreas Papandreou, in very difficult times, at a time when only very few progressive voices dared to even speak out against the oppression, the occupation, and speak in favour of your desire for freedom and for the prospect of an independent, viable and fully sovereign Palestinian state.
It is this friendship, it is this vision, it is these common values that bring me here to your Congress, values shared by our wider movement, our Socialist International, which over the years has remained and today remains fully committed to this, to your project for a free, independent and united Palestine, a Palestine which can live in peace and prosperity alongside its neighbours, in peace with its neighbour, Israel.
I know, we know and you know from your trials and tribulations, your struggle, your suffering, that the goal of a free Palestine, the goal of peace in the Middle East is too often elusive, distant. It too often seems as an impossible dream.
The many times I have been here, the many times I have met with Palestinian leaders, Israeli leaders, leaders of the wider Middle East, I have also felt the same frustration. I heard this frustration in the heroic stories of the struggle you have recounted today, Mr. President, a frustration for so many, which becomes a pain, a pain of an open wound, an open wound which hurts even more by acts such as those which we have witnessed only a few days ago, the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem, the continued demolitions, evictions and settlement activities, those who remain jailed, the continued blockade of Gaza, and the humanitarian crisis there, after a brutal war and bombing.
The SI, the Socialist International Middle East Committee, only recently in Ramallah and Tel Aviv, again we expressed our frustration and condemnation concerning these events.
Only recently, Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, expressed this feeling of frustration. He said if Israel continues settlement activity, it will not only be acting contrary to international law, but also contrary to a strong international consensus.
So is there hope? Is there hope? First of all, I heard the strength of hope in your statements, dear Abu Mazen. But today your resounding presence here, so many delegates and representatives of the Palestinian people, not only from this region but from around the world, the Palestinian diaspora, you are the sign of hope that there is hope. You are the sign that there is reason to continue the struggle.
And you have kept this cause alive, and we are proud, as a movement, that our social democratic parties, our labour parties, our democratic parties around the world have worked with you in keeping this cause alive.
But there is a sign of hope, as Ban Ki-moon said. He spoke of a strong international consensus. Yes, your struggle for justice has created a strong international consensus, a consensus which has never previously been seen in the world, around the need for a peaceful and just solution, a two-state solution.
And President Barack Obama’s key speech in Cairo was a resounding confirmation of this worldwide consensus, a sign of new hope.
This historic consensus is all-important, first of all because both sides of this conflict are well aware of the elements for a peaceful and viable solution. We in the Socialist International have been able to forge common statements and proposals, even on the difficult issues of Jerusalem and refugees, with the agreement of our comrades, both in Israel and in Palestine.
The Arab Peace Initiative has been an historic and big step in creating this world consensus. Yet it will absolutely necessary for the international community, the Quartet or a new regional peace process to create the necessary political will for implementation of the peace dialogue, the negotiations and the settlements.
Secondly, the Palestinian issue has symbolized today the relations between the international community, the West and the Arab and Muslim World. If we have no solution, this not only means continued suffering for the region and its people. It also means a deep sense of injustice around the world, often exploited, used to foment fundamentalisms, absolutisms and violence around the planet.
And thirdly, because today humanity, all of humanity, face huge and common challenges, the economic crisis, the climate change, pandemics, inequality, poverty, it is absolutely necessary that the international community today shows that it can be successful, successful in working together, successful in cooperating, successful in making the dream of peace in the Middle East a reality.
It is time the world shows that it is no longer the gun that rules, but that it is that justice rules on this planet, that justice rules in the Middle East.
In these efforts, however, there must be unity amongst you, the Palestinians. And we fully support your efforts, and the efforts of Egypt, for reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas. We support you, Mr. President, in these efforts.
And as President of the Socialist International, we take this stand being fully aware of the internal struggles and at times violent encounters within the Palestinian movement.
By remaining committed to a single umbrella organisation representative of the Palestinian people, we believe we are contributing to the common purpose and an important precondition for success, for a Palestinian state, the ability for the Palestinian people to speak with one united voice, a united voice which can achieve a viable and independent Palestinian state, a state which can become a model of coexistence amongst different religions and beliefs, progressive and democratic and inclusive for all, where walls have no place in dividing people, societies and countries, where freedom means yes, the simple things, as you said, Mr. President, like going to a theatre with your family, your children, in security without fear.
Finally, I want to congratulate you on your Congress. Today with your Congress the PLO is again playing a leading role in uniting for peace and for final success.
I know, as a leader of my movement in Greece, the need for renewal, giving new opportunities to the younger generation, giving new life to an historic struggle, creating institutions of transparency, giving a voice to women – yes, giving a voice to women – this will make your movement stronger, much stronger.
In your struggle, in your fight for peace, for peace and freedom, you know we have been together in the past, as we are again together today, and we will be together, in solidarity, together tomorrow for however long is needed to reach this common vision of peace in the Middle East.
Yet I hope. I hope it will be soon, not far in the future, when we visit again in this region, when we meet again in an independent, free, peaceful, democratic and viable Palestinian state. Thank you very much.”