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17th plenary meeting
Friday, 22 September 2006, 3 p.m.
The President: I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Mr. Manasseh Sogavare, Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, and inviting him to address the Assembly.
Mr. Sogavare (Solomon Islands): ...
Solomon Islands follows developments in the Middle East with concern, in particular in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. It is sad to see parents burying sons in a conflict that claims the lives of more children than soldiers. Solomon Islands associates itself with the observation of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, that something is truly wrong. Under such difficult circumstances, we must find the strength to trust one another and work tirelessly to find a permanent, sustainable and lasting solution to the crisis. The world looks to this Organization for a solution, and we must not fail it. That can only be done if we are prepared to take a holistic approach in seeking a permanent solution to the Middle East question, by embracing all parties in the region and working in the spirit of the United Nations Charter and through dialogue and consultation.
The Acting President: I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Mr. Redley Killion, Vice-President of the Federated States of Micronesia, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. Killion (Federated States of Micronesia): ...
Terrorism affects all countries, large and small, rich and poor. Micronesia condemns, in the strongest terms, terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. The taking of innocent life is unambiguously unjustifiable, regardless of one’s grievances.
We therefore call once again on the United Nations to do everything in its power to prevent terrorism and to mitigate its root causes. While we are doing our best to uphold our responsibilities and obligations under the United Nations counter-terrorism resolutions, we need the assistance of the international community to more effectively implement and carry on the fight against this scourge.
In that spirit, we would like to commend the efforts that resulted in the recent ceasefire in Lebanon. We hope that the ceasefire will lead to a lasting peace for the Israeli and Lebanese peoples. We also hope that, by building on that momentum, the conflict between Israel and Palestine will be resolved. The people of Israel have the right to live within secure, recognized borders, free from the fear of terrorism. The Palestinian people have the right to have their own State and to coexist peacefully with their neighbours.
The Acting President: I now call on His Excellency Mr. Abdullah Gül, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey.
Mr. Gül (Turkey): ...
The hostilities and the outright destruction in Lebanon tested the faith placed in the United Nations. In the end, the resolve of Member States was manifested. From the very beginning, Turkey was engaged in active diplomacy and took its place at the forefront of the international efforts to end the bloodshed. At the same time, we remained in close contact with all the parties to the conflict. Throughout, we provided humanitarian aid to the people of Lebanon and assisted in the rapid evacuation of some 10,000 foreign nationals.
We supported the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). It is a major step forward. Yet, given the many challenges that remain, it is only a first step towards bringing peace and stability to the region. We have decided to contribute to the implementation of the resolution, which is aimed at restoring the political sovereignty of the Lebanese Government.
Indeed, we must try to seize the opportunity represented by resolution 1701 (2006). We hope that its spirit will be translated into a broader political perspective for the entire region. The tragic events in Lebanon should have reconfirmed that unilateralism is not the answer and that the use of force is not the solution. Similarly, they revealed for all to see that the question of Palestine continues to lie at the core of the problems in the Middle East.
This issue is not simply a conflict between two countries. It is a problem for which everyone pays a heavy price — a problem that has huge ripple effects on a global scale. Indeed, the continuation of this problem is used to justify extremism around the world. Therefore, progress made towards a lasting peace in the Middle East would have a positive impact on many other problems.
We note that everyone has drawn lessons from what took place in Lebanon. Now, in the aftermath of that tragedy, there is a different climate, conducive to a renewed peace initiative. Now is the time to revive efforts to put the Middle East peace process back on track. We make a heartfelt appeal to all the parties and to the international community not to let this opportunity pass by. What we need now is strong and determined leadership that will resolutely follow the path towards peace.
Let us not forget that the growing sense of injustice associated with the Middle East problem deepens the rift in terms of cultural perceptions. We cannot permit events in the region to undermine the prospects of the cross-cultural harmony that we are working so hard to achieve. We believe that better understanding among cultures is indispensable for global harmony. That is precisely why the Prime Ministers of Turkey and Spain co-sponsored the Alliance of Civilizations initiative, launched by the Secretary-General. The objective is to emphasize the elements that unite various societies around our common humanity.
The High-level Group for the Alliance of Civilizations will soon submit a comprehensive report to the Secretary-General setting out concrete and practical measures to improve intercultural dialogue. That is obviously what the world needs now. Therefore, we hope that the initiative will receive strong and sincere support from Member States.
The President (spoke in Arabic): I now call on His Excellency Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain.
Shaikh Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The events in the Middle East in recent months, especially in Gaza, the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank and then during the past few weeks in Lebanon, have driven the entire region to the edge of an abyss that could become even more dangerous. We must all work more diligently to address the root causes and repercussions of this struggle, which frustrates hopes for peace and disappoints the aspirations of the peoples of the region for peace, stability and security.
Resolution of this catastrophic situation, with its dire consequences, must not be delayed. The international community has special and multiple responsibilities in this regard. Therefore the Council of Arab Foreign Ministers called upon the Security Council to meet at the ministerial level. That meeting was held yesterday to discuss all tracks in accordance with the terms of reference of the peace process, relevant Security Council resolutions, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative, which was presented by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and adopted by the Arab summits. A settlement should be pursued through a new and developed mechanism to resume direct negotiations among the parties under the Council’s supervision, within a specified time limit and with international guarantees.
We wish to express our deep concern at the bloody events and huge destruction that took place in brotherly Lebanon this year caused by Israeli military operations. On the basis of our concern for the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, we support resolution 1701 (2006) and the need for all parties to comply with it. We also affirm the importance of the international community’s support for the seven points set out by His Excellency Mr. Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon, to complement that resolution. We reaffirm that the Kingdom of Bahrain stands with the Republic of Lebanon against anything that endangers its sovereignty and territorial integrity and support it with a view to preventing any act outside Lebanese State authority that endangers its stability. We also express our appreciation for the efforts of the Arab Tripartite Committee on Lebanon, the State of Qatar — the Arab member of the Security Council — and all other States that have supported the Arab position.
The Kingdom of Bahrain realizes that Lebanon, today, faces great challenges that require concerted international efforts by the United Nations, the European Union and all influential Powers. Such efforts must be aimed not solely at keeping the peace but also at rebuilding and reviving the economy with the help of the Lebanese Government and people, so that Lebanon can participate once again, as it has done through the centuries, in the cultural and economic development of the Middle East and the world at large. In this regard, the recent Stockholm Conference was a step in the right direction.
We reiterate our position that a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East necessitates, first and foremost, that Israel withdraw fully from all Arab territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights and the remaining occupied Lebanese territories. It also requires the return of Palestinian refugees and the establishment of a Palestinian State on all occupied Palestinian lands, with Jerusalem as its capital.
The President: I now call on His Excellency Mr. Ivailo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Mr. Kalfin (Bulgaria): ...
Bulgaria attaches particular importance to the situation in the Middle East. We welcome and support the efforts of the Secretary-General and the Security Council, as well as the key role being played by the European Union in the expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, which is called on to ensure peace in southern Lebanon in implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). Bulgaria will make its own contribution to the international community’s efforts to bring about lasting peace.
We remain convinced that the crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations would be best resolved by direct negotiations between the countries concerned, based on an absolute rejection of the use of force and with the necessary support of the international community. We support all of the efforts to that end on the part of the Quartet, as presented yesterday here at the United Nations.
The President: I now give the floor to Her Excellency Ms. Dora Bakoyannis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece.
Ms. Bakoyannis (Greece): ...
The tensions in the Middle East demand equal attention. The Middle East is the region that will test the mettle of this Organization as a force for peace in the immediate future. If we fail in that test, all of us stand to pay a heavy price. During the past several months, we all witnessed unforgettable images of suffering and destruction in that part of the world.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the root of most problems in the region, and it is obvious that it should be at the top of the list of our priorities if peace and stability are to return to that area. The Road Map offers the strategic plan for a solution based on the principle of land for peace, especially since basic elements of it are well known and generally accepted by the international community. The Road Map is in essence a performance-driven guide to a settlement based on all relevant Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and on the conclusions of the Madrid Conference and the Beirut Arab Summit. We must all make every effort to see that they are implemented.
On Lebanon, strict implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) provides the blueprint for resolving the basic problems that led to the recent crisis. We understand the difficulties before us, but we must push ahead resolutely, because determination and tenacity are essential to tackling long-standing issues in volatile regions.
The President: I give the floor to His Excellency Mr. George Yeo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore.
Mr. Yeo (Singapore): ...
The recent war in Lebanon had no clear victor. Israel succeeded in removing the immediate threat across the border, but could not wipe out Hizbollah. Hizbollah claimed victory, having survived Israeli air bombardments and ground action, even though enormous damage was inflicted on Lebanon. On both sides, innocent people have suffered greatly. Whether the present ceasefire can become a lasting peace depends on many factors, not least the ability of the Lebanese army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon to maintain the buffer in southern Lebanon. But one thing is clear: without the eventual intervention of the United Nations, the fighting would have continued and more lives would have been lost.
The Middle East is going through the throes of change. In Palestine, there is no escaping a two-State solution. However, defining the precise boundaries of that solution is a grinding process which will take time. No one can achieve all his demands; no party can insist on absolute security. A new balance is being established between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere in the region. This will also take time. In many countries, there is tension between those who are impatient for change and those who believe that discontinuity will lead to chaos and anarchy. As long as there is more despair than hope, terrorist organizations will be able to find fresh recruits. What happens in the Middle East affects the entire world. No country is insulated, and certainly not from the terrorist threat or from high energy prices.
The President: I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Alberto Gatmaitan Romulo, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.
Mr. Romulo (Philippines): ...
Last year, our leaders met to commemorate 60 years of the United Nations. That meeting gave all of us renewed hopes for peace, growth, progress and the pre-eminence of the rights of all peoples. Those hopes remain, even in the face of continuing threats to the peace and security of mankind posed by terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons; even in the face of grinding poverty and financial uncertainty; even in the face of intolerance and misunderstanding; and, certainly, in the face of the fast-changing nature of our world.
Those hopes remain because the spirit of cooperation and community, which lies at the very heart of our Charter, lives on. Cooperation remains the key to reaching the goals set by our Charter. Cooperation, according to a twentieth-century philosopher, is the only thing that will redeem mankind.
It is in that spirit that the Philippines welcomes and supports the continued work of the Middle East Quartet and its call this week for greater progress towards a just and comprehensive peace. We strongly support the Road Map to peace and maintain our hopes for the realization of the vision of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
Together with the other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), we were gravely concerned over the deteriorating situation and the escalation of violence in the Middle East, particularly the disproportionate, indiscriminate and excessive use of force in Lebanon. The United Nations peacekeeping operation now under way in Lebanon renews our hope for peace and offers a great opportunity for the United Nations to demonstrate its relevance and its impact on the world stage.
The President: I give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Youssouf Ouédraogo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso.
Mr. Ouédraogo (Burkina Faso) (spoke in French): ...
In the Middle East, we have watched a disturbing escalation in the violence in recent months. Since the causes of that conflict are sufficiently known to all, there is no reason to go into them here. While welcoming the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and the deployment of an expanded United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Burkina Faso strongly hopes that negotiations will continue and intensify at all levels in order to achieve a global and lasting peace in that region, a peace that will restore the sovereignty of Lebanon, provide freedom for the Palestinian people and ensure Israel’s security.
The President: I call on His Excellency Mr. Ahmad Allam-mi, Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Chad.
Mr. Allam-mi (Chad) (spoke in French): ...
In the Middle East, including Palestine, we were appalled and outraged by the recent events that took place in southern Lebanon, resulting in the massive destruction of the infrastructure of the country and the loss of life among civilians. We hope that the provisions of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) will be respected with a view to a favourable outcome.
We also remain concerned about the continuing deterioration of the situation in the Palestinian territories, especially the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We call on the international community to involve itself more fully in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has for too long been a source of instability in that region.
The President (spoke in Arabic): I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Mohamed Benaissa, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco.
Mr. Benaissa (Morocco) (spoke in Arabic): ...
Since its inception, the United Nations has contributed to the settlement of many international disputes and the establishment of peace and security in many regions. However, the Middle East and Africa still suffer from many conflicts, wars and economic and social crises that thwart peoples’ natural aspirations to security, stability and development.
In that regard, and having welcomed the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as a first step towards the establishment of a Palestinian State in accordance with the road map, Morocco hopes that the current dire situation, which has led to even more killing and destruction, will rapidly come to an end. Following the failure of various international and regional efforts to resume the peace process and settle the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Kingdom of Morocco reiterates its call on the international community, and the Security Council in particular, to assume their responsibilities in the search for a comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict, in accordance with the terms of reference of the peace process, relevant United Nations resolutions and international legality, as well as the principle of land for peace.
Concerning the military aggression against brotherly Lebanon and the resultant loss of civilian life and destruction of infrastructure and service facilities, Morocco welcomed Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and expresses its hope that all concerned parties will cooperate in providing the appropriate political conditions for a lasting settlement on the basis of the Taif agreement and the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. Morocco also calls upon the international community to provide more cooperation and solidarity in the reconstruction of Lebanon and to support the success of efforts to achieve peace and tranquillity for our brother Lebanese.
The Kingdom of Morocco, whose head of State, His Majesty King Mohammed VI, chairs the Al-Quds Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, reaffirms its commitment to work together with all parties towards a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The achievement of that objective will depend on the Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories and the establishment of a Palestinian State, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, living side by side in peace and security with the State of Israel.
Morocco firmly believes in dialogue and negotiations as a means of settling regional and international disputes. It also considers that resorting to force, whatever the reason or motives, will not yield viable solutions or lead to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. On the contrary, it will only exacerbate and prolong the status quo.
Morocco is equally convinced that peace in the region can be achieved only if the United Nations creates the right environment and works to eradicate the causes of tension and escalation and coordinates regional and international efforts aimed at reviving the peace process on all tracks, with a view to ultimately achieving security and lasting peace. In that way, the peoples of the region would be able to move towards a more promising future in which generations to come can cooperate and live together in harmony.
The President (spoke in Arabic): I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Fawzi Bin Abdul Majeed Shobokshi, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Shobokshi (Saudi Arabia) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The Middle East is in the midst of a very dangerous phase, with the emergence of new crises and the worsening of old ones, such as the continued Israeli occupation of Arab lands in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon; the volatile situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border; the invasion of Lebanon; the challenges posed by continued instability and sectarian violence in Iraq; and the as-yet unresolved issue of Iran’s nuclear programme. The accumulation of crises and tensions in the region can only encourage an environment in which extremism and terrorism will thrive with undesirable consequences. It is, therefore, imperative that we warn specifically against the continued trend towards stopgap crisis management that has taken the place of the serious pursuit of a comprehensive and just solution based on the principles of international law and resolutions of international legitimacy free from partiality, double standards or selectivity.
Undoubtedly, the key to resolving these multiple crises will be to invigorate the peace process with the aim of achieving a just and durable settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the oldest conflict in modern times. This conflict is the most enduring international conflict today, and its continuation negatively affects the prospects of reaching effective solutions to other crises.
The ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine represents a flagrant breach of international law and the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force and blatant disregard for resolutions of international legitimacy. This issue lies at the core of the Middle Eastern problem. The international community should no longer tolerate procrastination or repeated failures in resolving this situation. The international community, and especially the major Powers, must set aside their divisions and face up to the vital task of reaching, as soon as possible, a peaceful, just and lasting solution, in accordance with the principles of international legitimacy.
The resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must be placed in its appropriate context by reconciling the rights of the Palestinian and the Israeli people and establishing two neighbouring States enjoying security, which is a natural outcome of peace. It is peace that ensures security, and not the other way around. The basis for a solution is clear to all of us, as expressed by the President of the United States in the context of his two-State vision, which is in harmony with relevant United Nations resolutions and with the Arab Peace Initiative, adopted unanimously at the Beirut Summit. What is urgently needed today is to link that vision with a clear agenda bound to a specific time-frame.
Regrettably, the problem has been portrayed as inextricably complicated and not amenable to customary solutions. Using security considerations as a pretext, exceptional provisions allowed one of the parties to the conflict to specify unilaterally the basis and conditions for negotiations, to choose its negotiating partner, to violate previously concluded agreements, to impose unilateral measures and to use force to impose a status quo. Our purpose here is not to enter into futile debates, but it is important to recognize that the peace process has suffered greatly from these exceptions, which give rise to double standards and inequitable obligations.
Reviving the peace process will require serious international cooperation so as to realize the two-State vision within a reasonable time-frame. Recent events have once again proved that military solutions only undermine the interests and the security of all parties. It is therefore essential that we learn the lessons of our previous failures in the pursuit of peace. These failures resulted from an exaggerated emphasis on procedural and provisional issues. The establishment of interim security arrangements proved complicated and exhausting, while procedures for building mutual trust enabled the enemies of peace to undermine the peace process in its entirety.
What is required from us today is a fundamental change in our quest to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the area. It is imperative that we go to the root and heart of the conflict by establishing an effective mechanism to ensure immediate and peaceful negotiations addressing all final status issues, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees and mutual security arrangements. The required breakthrough can be achieved only through a historic and comprehensive deal.
A clear outline of the solution has been apparent ever since the adoption of resolution 181 (II) in 1947. That resolution set out the partition of Palestine, which was then under a British Mandate, into an Arab and an Israeli State. It also proposed clearly defined borders for those two States. Since then, the Security Council and the General Assembly have issued hundreds of resolutions, including Security Council resolution 242 (1967), which emphasized the principle of refraining from the acquisition of territory by force, and called on Israel to withdraw from all territories occupied in 1967. It also reiterated the need to find a just solution to the issue of the Palestinian refugees. Thirty-nine years after the adoption of this resolution, the Palestinian people continue to be deprived of their inherent right to self-determination and of their entitlement to live in an independent State with Arab Jerusalem as its capital.
Only two months ago Israel launched a brutal act of aggression against Lebanon, resulting in the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure, the displacement of one third of its population, and the wounding and killing of thousands of civilians, including women, children and the elderly. That senseless war, of course, did not make Israel any safer. The only thing achieved by Israel in Lebanon was vast destruction and devastation, provoking yet deeper hatred and enmity. We wonder how many tragedies and victims we and the world will have to have before everyone understands that military solutions will not succeed.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reaffirms its full support for the legitimate Lebanese Government as it seeks to extend its authority and influence over its entire territory. The Kingdom also calls on the brotherly people of Lebanon to stand united so that their country may once again enjoy security and prosperity. We reiterate the need for all parties to remain committed to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) and call for a rapid Israeli withdrawal from the Sheba’a Farms area, recognized by Israel as an occupied territory. We also call for a return to the Armistice Agreement signed between Lebanon and Israel in 1949, as this is the only means of guaranteeing security and stability and avoiding a return to the status quo ante.
As part of our commitment to reconstruction efforts in Lebanon, we call on the international community to hold Israel responsible for providing fair compensation for the destruction and losses inflicted upon Lebanon as a result of that aggression. One of the reasons why Lebanon has been a victim of repeated Israeli invasions — seven so far — is that we have not held the aggressor accountable.
The meeting rose at 8.45 p.m.
This record contains the text of speeches delivered in English and of the interpretation of speeches delivered in the other languages. Corrections should be submitted to the original languages only. They should be incorporated in a copy of the record and sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned to the Chief of the Verbatim Reporting Service, room C-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.