Vienna, 11 November 2004 - "With the death of President Arafat the PLO and the Palestinian people have lost the central figure of their struggle for self-determination. Against a background of major tensions in foreign policy and domestic politics he remained the key figure integrating his people right until the end", said Minister for Foreign Affairs Ursula Plassnik following the announcement of the death of the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Yasser Arafat.
"He did not live to see the achievement of the great goal of his political efforts, the establishment of an independent state of Palestine. His contribution to this cause was and remains decisive; his turn towards efforts aimed at a negotiated solution opened up new perspectives. The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Arafat and his Israeli counterparts Rabin and Peres following the signing of the Oslo Accords and his election as President of the Palestinian National Authority stand as the major testaments to his political successes", continued the Foreign Minister.
It was to be hoped that his successors would learn the right lessons from Arafat's strengths, but also from his mistakes during the years following the installation of the Palestinian National Authority, Plassnik went on. In particular, therefore, the question will be whether they have the courage and the political farsightedness to seize every chance for a peaceful solution.
Concluding, Plassnik pointed out that Austria has been cooperating with Yasser Arafat since 1974, when the country became one of the first of today's EU Member States to do so. This cooperation, which was initiated by the then Federal Chancellor Kreisky, has been an Austrian foreign policy tradition ever since.