Australian Government Statement On Death Of Yasser Arafat

Following the death of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, the Australian government has officially extended its condolences to the Palestinian people.

Statements made yesterday by the Prime Minister, John Howard, have been receiving extensive media coverage on the conservative FOX News network and right-wing websites.

In an interview with 3AW’s Neil Mitchell, conducted just hours before the announcement of Arafat’s death, Howard said that many people would judge Arafat a terrorist.

Text of a statement released by the Prime Minister, John Howard.

MR YASSER ARAFAT

ArafatThe Australian Government extends its condolences to the Palestinian people on the death of the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mr Yasser Arafat.

The Government will be represented at the obsequies for Mr Arafat in Cairo by our Ambassador to Egypt, Mr Robert Newton, and at the burial service by Mr Glenn Miles, the head of the Australian Representative Office in Ramallah.

The Australian Government shares the hope of all people of goodwill that momentum towards a peace settlement in the Middle East can be regained.

Extract from transcript of John Howard’s interview with Neil Mitchell on 3AW.

HOWARD:

Well I think history will judge him very harshly for not having seized the opportunity in the year 2000 to embrace the offer that was very courageously made by the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, which involved in the Israelis agreeing to about 90 per cent of what the Palestinians had wanted. I think if Arafat had grabbed hold of that opportunity in the dying days of the Clinton administration then the path of things in the Middle East may have been smoother.

MITCHELL:

Do you think he’ll be judged as a terrorist?

PRIME MINISTER:

Many people see him that way, yes.

MITCHELL:

What’s your view?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I find it very hard to believe that he couldn’t have taken more action to restrain the activities of terrorist organisations, let me put it that way.

MITCHELL:

Would Australia send a representative to his funeral?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will be appropriately represented, not at a ministerial level.

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