The General Assembly should condemn and punish Israel for its aggression against Lebanon, ensure the implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978), calling for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, and redress the losses caused by Israeli aggression, the President of Lebanon, Elias Hraoui, told the General Assembly this afternoon. He was addressing a resumed Assembly session on the situation in the Middle East, particularly Israeli attacks against his country.
The Lebanese President said that Israel's attacks had caused the deaths of up to 175 civilians, 109 of whom were killed in the Qana massacre at a base of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). It had also forced up to 500,000 people from their homes and damaged power plants, hospitals, homes and villages.
"How could the Israeli people, once the victims of Auschwitz, Treblinka and others accept that its State massacre more than a hundred men, women and children who were all innocent civilians in Qana that was once visited by Christ and was a scene of His miracles", he asked. "What do you want Lebanon to become? Do you want it to be the sight of mass graves for the world to visit?"
Speaking to the Assembly, the representative of Israel said that Israel had no territorial claim on Lebanon and had no intention of fighting with either the Syrian or Lebanese armies. But after exhausting all diplomatic and political means, Israel's defence forces began hitting back at Hezbollah strongholds, intentionally avoiding sending ground troops. The goal was to create a situation where the Hezbollah could not renew terrorist attacks against it.
The Lebanese Government had been told time and again to control the Hezbollah and it was deplorable that it had disarmed all the militias operating within its territory except Hezbollah, Israel's representative said.
Innocent Lebanese had been hurt because Hezbollah had positioned itself in population centres and close to bases of UNIFIL. Over the past week, Hezbollah had launched over 120 Katyusha rockets, which had injured 55 people and forced more than 12,000 from their homes. The attacks were designed to kill people, inflict terror and destroy the Middle East peace process. Israel would agree to a cease-fire if the other party agreed to a permanent cease-fire as well. It was ready to accept resolution 425 (1978) only within a framework of an overall peace settlement.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, the Chairman of the Arab Group of States, said that convening the meeting showed the international community's rejection of Israeli aggression, which threatened international peace and security. The international community should adopt a resolution condemning the aggression, adopt measures to end it, force the Israeli Government to pay compensation and assist Lebanon.
The representative of the United States said that she would vote against the draft resolution whose text was being circulated in the Assembly, because it was one-sided in context, failed to recognize the complexity of the situation and would exacerbate the problem. She expressed hope that the Assembly would endorse the Security Council resolution 1052 (1996) without embroidery. "If the Assembly took action on a different resolution it would be a divided house, a United Nations speaking with two voices and with no clear direction", she said.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Libya, China, Yemen, Brazil and Bahrain. Italy's representative spoke for the European Union in a statement joined by Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
The Assembly will resume at 10 a.m., Wednesday, 24 April, to continue discussing the situation in Lebanon.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met in resumed session this afternoon, under its agenda item on the Situation in the Middle East, to consider the recent hostilities in Lebanon.
ELIAS HRAOUI, President of Lebanon, said his country had overcome the senseless ordeals imposed on it for 17 years and had started rebuilding itself, so as to become a beacon for freedom, democracy, progress and peace. Security had prevailed. The Lebanese army had been deployed in the capital and other areas. They were about to be deployed to the south of the country to undertake, with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the task of consolidating national sovereignty. The State had started revitalizing its institutions and agencies and had embarked on enforcing the law and on redressing the effects of the war on national economic, social and educational levels.
He said Lebanon had won world-wide admiration for its achievements. It had come to the General Assembly in 1991 and asked for its rights and called for cooperation after the successful implementation of the national reconciliation agreement accepted by consensus in Al-Taif, Saudi Arabia, in 1989. That document had won Arab and international support, in particular the support of the permanent members of the Security Council. The State had called for cooperation in the implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978) referred to in the Taif agreement, which had in turn called for the spreading of Lebanon's authority to the south and western Bekaa through its own forces.
But Israel started to attack Lebanon daily and invaded the south in 1993, he continued. How could Israel justify its violation of Lebanon? he asked. "How could the Israeli people, once the victims of Auschwitz, Treblinka and others, accept that its State massacre more than a hundred men, women and children who were all innocent civilians in Qana that was once visited by Christ and was a scene of His miracles?" he said. "What do you want Lebanon to become? Do you want it to be the sight of mass graves for the world to visit? Would Lebanon say to this world `This is what you did with your own hands. Weren't the mass graves of Jews a testimony to the crimes committed by the Nazis 60 years ago?'" The President then gave the details of some of the destruction that Israel had inflicted on his country -- of power plants, hospitals, homes, villages and deaths. Despite the Israeli shelling, Lebanon remained united and was defending its national sovereignty, with international support a further incentive for its steadfastness.
The President said that his country had taken part in the Madrid Conference on the basis of the implementation of international resolutions, such as Security Council resolution 425 (1978). Its participation had been based on the letters of guarantee made by the United States administration to implement that resolution. Lebanon had joined the Conference on the basis of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), the principle of land for peace and a commitment to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Lebanon and Israel had held more than 10 rounds of talks without realizing any positive progress, because Israel had overburdened the process with manoeuvres and by asking for the impossible.
How could it be accepted that the United Nations enforced Security Council resolutions in the Middle East against a country that had challenged international will, while the international resolution in favour of Lebanon remained unimplemented? he asked. Israel had persistently challenged the resolution since 1978 by its continued occupation of Lebanon. Lebanon had not come to the General Assembly to cry or to lament, but in the hope that the world would stand firmly and decisively together against aggression and transgression and against the heinous crimes that went unpunished. Israeli aggression was proof that international legitimacy had failed to stop war and transgression. Lebanon was a founding Member of the United Nations and of the League of Arab States. "Lebanon is for a comprehensive and just peace", he said. "We in Lebanon are against gunboat peace. The Israeli crimes will not force us to give up our rights. Israel will not make us renege on our commitment to a just and comprehensive peace."
Lebanon was calling for the General Assembly to, first, condemn and punish Israel for its crimes against Lebanon, which had, apart from the deaths in its forces, led to the deaths of up to 175 people, 109 of whom had been killed in the Qana massacre. Up to 500,000 people had been forced from their homes. Secondly, Security Council resolution 425 (1978), calling for the withdrawal of Israel from the territories it occupied, should be implemented. Lebanese security forces would then immediately assume responsibility for security in the areas of the south and western Bekaa Valley. Third, he called for redress for Lebanon for the losses caused by Israeli aggression. The damage exceeded hundreds of millions of dollars. The Lebanese looked towards the Assembly to help return their rights.
GAD YAACOBI (Israel), said today was Yom Hazikaron in his country, a day of memorial for those in the Israeli Defence Forces who had fallen while defending Israel. But, today Israel's pain was doubled, because it was, once again, forced into a fight with those who sought both its destruction and the derailment of the chances for peace.
Once again, Israel was forced to fight as a last option, he continued. Who among you would agree to the existence of an armed militia operating from within your territory, beyond your government's authority, carrying out attacks against other States? he asked. Who among you would allow your citizens to be attacked and killed by terrorists? Who among you would not choose the right to self-defence? Unfortunately, Lebanon lacked the ability or the will or both to control the Hezbollah, so Israel must do it alone. "We are not ready to be victims again", he added.
Since February, he continued, the Hezbollah had stepped up their attacks and fired waves of Katyusha rockets from bases in southern Lebanon into northern Israel, unilaterally breaching agreements brokered by the United States in the wake of "Operation Accountability" in 1993. After a long period of restraint and after exhausting all diplomatic and political means, Israel's defence forces began hitting back at Hezbollah strongholds, intentionally avoiding sending ground troops. The goal was to create a situation where the Hezbollah could not renew terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel's activities in Lebanon did not contradict its pursuit of peace, but were taken in order to save the peace from those who would destroy it.
Israel had no territorial claim on Lebanon and had no intention of entering into battles with either the Syrian or Lebanese armies, he said. The Lebanese Government had been told time and again to control the Hezbollah. It was deplorable that it had disarmed all the militias operating within its territory except Hezbollah. Syria was told that, as it controlled a large part of Lebanon, it should used its influence to stop the terrorists. Israel was entirely against Hezbollah.
Unfortunately, he said, the Hezbollah had positioned itself in the midst of civilian population centres and, as a result, innocent Lebanese had been hurt. Using the same logic, it had fired rockets in close proximity to UNIFIL bases. Last week's tragedy in Qana was caused because the Hezbollah launched rockets a short distance from the United Nations position. He deeply deplored the loss of innocent lives. The continued suffering of civilians was a result of terrorists. He sent sincere condolences to the families and hoped for a quick recovery by the wounded civilians and UNIFIL soldiers.
Over the last week, Hezbollah had launched over 120 Katyusha rockets at civilian centres in northern Israel, injuring 55 people and forcing more than 12,000 from their homes. The attacks were designed not only to kill people and inflict terror, but to destroy the Middle East peace process. The stated goal of the Hezbollah was not to remove Israeli forces from southern Lebanon but the outright destruction of Israel. Last month, its Vice Chairman, Naeem Kassem, said "We oppose and will continue to oppose the Zionist entity. Israel has no reason to exist." The organization had received funding from Iran, and it sought to dismantle the Lebanese State and replace it with an Islamic one based on the Iranian model. Israel welcomed political efforts to restore peace to the region and a sense of normalcy to northern Israel. It was ready to agree to a cease-fire if the other party was ready to agree to a permanent cease-fire as well. It was willing to accept resolution 425 (1978) only within a framework of an overall peace settlement.
MOHAMMAD J. SAMHAN (United Arab Emirates), the Chairman of the Arab Group of States, said that convening the meeting showed the international community's rejection of Israeli aggression, which threatened international peace and security. The international community was disappointed with the escalation of the Israeli aggression, which had led to the displacement and killing of Lebanese and the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure. He reviewed some of the sections of Lebanon which had suffered from the Israeli actions.
The shelling had continued despite a recent Security Council resolution, he continued. Such an action did not conform with the call for solving international disputes by peaceful means. The Arabs and others were disappointed that the Israeli attacks continued. The conduct of the Israeli Government required that the international community should act forcefully to get Israel to comply with international legality, including resolution 425 (1978), which called on Israel to withdraw from the Lebanese territory it occupied and to recognize its political independence. Such actions as those taken by Israel would fuel extremism and threaten the Middle East peace process.
The question of security was a fair concern of all nations, particularly in the context of the criminal acts of Israel, he said. The countries of the world should adopt a resolution that would condemn the aggression and adopt measures that would end the aggression and force the Israeli government to pay compensation for the destruction it had wrought on Lebanon. The killing of innocent civilians should also be condemned. Israel must abide by the Fourth Geneva Convention and immediately and unconditionally withdraw its forces from Lebanese territory.
The peace process would not be bolstered by Israeli actions, he said. Lebanon had the right to resist Israeli occupation of its territory and that resistance would not stop without Israel leaving Lebanese territory and returning to negotiations. Recent events had shown that resorting to force would not resolve disputes to bring peace in the region. He expressed solidarity with the people of Lebanon and called on the international community to extend assistance to them.
GAAFAR M. ALLAGANY (Saudi Arabia) expressed the admiration of his people for Lebanon's resistance to the aggression. Saudi Arabia had been able to host the Lebanese parties when they reached their accord at Al-Taif. The Israeli aggression continued to use every military tool at its disposal. The number of deaths from the action was rising, especially as a result of the massacre at the village of Qana, where the Fijian battalion was based. The village had been turned into a furnace comparable to Nazi crematoria, an act that had been described as a surgical strike in some quarters. Whole families had perished in their collapsing homes under an aggression that rained a large number of shells daily.
A lot of damage had been visited on the territory of Lebanon, the repair of which would cost something in the region of $300 million, he continued. The Israeli blockade of the coast had led to hardships and shortages of supplies. It was sad that the international community had stood silent on the matter. He cited a western journalist as saying that, if what had happened in Lebanon had taken placed in a western nation, it would have been called "ethnic cleansing".
Israel should withdraw from Lebanese territories without conditions, he said. Its raids could only lead to more tension and violence. Saudi Arabia reaffirmed its support for Lebanon in its defence. Lebanon could not be held responsible for what was happening in the south unless the Lebanese army was allowed to extend its authority throughout its territory. The Israeli attacks violated the texts of peace agreements and negated the rules of civilization, law and morality. The international community should place pressure on Israel to implement Security Council resolution 425 (1978) and withdraw from all Lebanese territory.
ALI SUNNI MUNTASSER (Libya) said that the Israelis had claimed that their military actions against Lebanon were carried out in self-defence, but that was as false as the Israeli media blitz to cover up their terrorist acts under flimsy pretexts such as the pursuit of Hezbollah elements. The acts, meant to destroy Lebanon and terrorize its people, were threatening its unity and territorial integrity. Regrettably, the Security Council had been lacking in addressing the deteriorating situation. Instead of shouldering its functions, as defined by Chapter VII of the Charter, and adopting a resolution condemning the aggression and forcing the aggressor to bear the consequences of its action, it had had to retreat under the pressure of some permanent members and adapt a weak and unjust resolution that equated the criminal and the victim.
Security Council resolution 1052 (1996) had called for the implementation of a cease-fire, he said. But Israel had tossed that aside and continued its terrorist demolition of houses and the killing of their residents, arresting hundreds of people and imposing a blockade on towns and villages. There was no doubt that the Israelis would not implement the demands of the Security Council, encouraged in their bullying by the limitless support they got from a permanent Security Council member. That showed the extent of the double standards of that powerful country. While on the one hand it would show keen interest in implementing resolutions of the Security Council to deal with other questions with extreme cruelty, including the imposition of cruel sanctions under Chapter VII, it on the other hand prevented the Security Council from condemning the most barbaric crimes, such as the Qana camp crime.
The representative recalled that an aggression had been committed against his country 10 years ago. Faced with the Security Council's inability to even condemn the barbaric American aggression, Libya had resorted to the General Assembly, which adopted resolution 41/38 condemning United States aggression and affirming Libya's rights to compensation. Today, Lebanon was in the same position and had resorted to speaking to the General Assembly after the Security Council's failure to act. The General Assembly should condemn the aggressor and make it responsible for compensation. It should also end Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, which had been rejected by Security Council resolution 425 (1978).
In the face of the Security Council hesitation in taking effective measures against the Israeli aggression, he said the General Assembly and the international community should warn the Israelis and their ally, the permanent member of the Security Council, that the barbaric aggression against Lebanon and the humiliating tactics used by the Israelis in their dealings with the Palestinians in the occupied territories would not serve any security or establish any peace. Instead, it would push the Arabs to the brink of despair, which could lead to unpredictable dangers and consequences.
QIN HUASUN (China) said that today's session expressed the international community's hope for an end to the hostilities and progress towards peace in the Middle East. Large-scale attacks in southern Lebanon had resulted in many refugees and an escalation of instability. His Government strongly condemned actions which contravened international law and believed sovereignty and independence should be fully respected. All resolutions, including 425 (1978), should be implemented and UNIFIL should be allowed to carry out its mandate without impediment.
He urged the international community to provide Lebanon with the assistance necessary for civilians who had suffered as a result of the hostilities. China opposed terrorism in all its forms. Terrorism in the Middle East had threatened the stability in the region and the peace process. The sovereignty and security of all countries, including Israel, must be guaranteed. However, the need to combat terrorism could not be used as a justification for actions which threatened the lives of civilians. His Government appealed for all sides to keep to reason and supported all efforts to bring about peace and an end to hostilities.
ABDALLA SALEH AL-ASHTAL (Yemen) said that Israel's aggressive action against Lebanon was continuing for the thirteenth day, by air, sea and land, paralyzing normal life in the south and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians. Despite that, the Security Council had been silent for days while Israel caused huge damage to Lebanon, which was just now recovering from past conflict. According to the resolution finally adopted, the Security Council response was conditional on current international efforts to stop the hostilities. The General Assembly meeting today was an attempt to restore the credibility of the United Nations.
The hostilities in Lebanon were not happening in a vacuum, but were a result of Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon, he continued. A resolution by the General Assembly was needed to breathe life into the peace process, which had become victim to Israel's blatant aggression.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT (United States) said that now was the time for nations to renew the call for peace and not a time to engage in rhetoric that favoured one side or the other. Such rhetoric did not advance the cause for peace, nor bring the day closer when civilians would be safe. It only diverted attention from the acts of terrorists who had exploited the complex situation in Lebanon to target Israeli civilians and obstruct the peace process.
The text of a draft resolution on the topic being circulated in the Assembly was one-sided in context and failed to recognize the complexity of the situation and was likely to exacerbate the problem, she continued. The United States would vote against such a resolution. She hoped the Assembly would endorse the action of the Security Council in its adoption of resolution 1052 (1996), without embroidery. If the Assembly took action on a different resolution it would be a divided house, a United Nations speaking with two voices and with no clear direction.
The Charter foresaw such a situation and sought to avoid it with Article 12, she said. A divided message was troubling because everyone shared a common view on the essential points -- the need for an end to the violence and bloodshed and a return to the peace process. That view should not be misinterpreted. Her Government would do all it could to bring about a settlement and remained fully committed to the territorial integrity, sovereignty, independence and unity of Lebanon. But expressing principles did not always bring results.
PAOLO FULCI (Italy), speaking on behalf of the European Union, and Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Rumania and Slovakia, renewed its appeal for an immediate cease-fire and its support for Security Council resolution 1052 (1996). Only a political solution could end the current crisis and allow the peace process to resume its course. He deeply deplored the suffering inflicted on the civilian populations of both Israel and Lebanon, particularly the tragedy at Qana and the continuing loss of civilian life. Equally, the Union deeply deplored the attacks on Israel.
The European Union reaffirmed its support for all parties involved in the peace negotiations and confirmed its willingness to contribute to the search for a lasting peace in the region, he continued. It supported actions by the troika, notably France, and the efforts of others, particularly the United States. Such efforts must aim to halt hostilities and the violence and elaborate a lasting agreement between the parties that would not prejudice a global agreement between Israel and Lebanon in the context of the peace process. Such an agreement must guarantee Israel's security and preserve Lebanon's sovereignty in accordance with resolution 425 (1978). UNIFIL's safety, security and freedom of movement must be respected, so it could carry out its mandate effectively, he added.
Lebanon, which had for some years been courageously reconstructing, must find once again the peace to which, like its neighbours, it had a right, he said. The European Union would continue to provide assistance and support reconstruction and development, particularly in the field of energy. It would increase significantly its already substantial humanitarian contributions to help civilians, particularly the refugees in southern Lebanon. It appealed for free and secure circulation on the coastal road south of Beirut with the sole purpose of guaranteeing access for humanitarian assistance to the populations of Sidon, Tyre and Nabatiyeh.
CELSO AMORIM (Brazil) said his country, which had millions of people of Lebanese and other descent, shared the concerns expressed over the developments in the Middle East and called on all parties to renounce violence and solve their differences by peaceful means. Brazil had consistently condemned all forms of terrorism in the strongest terms. It was fully aware of the grief they caused the Israeli population. While recognizing the right of Israel to self-defence, it did not believe that the legitimate exercise of that right should degenerate into massive and indiscriminate attacks against civilian centres.
It was with deep consternation that Brazil had learned of the attack against the UNIFIL site in Qana, with the resulting casualties, he said. He expressed hope that diplomatic efforts currently going on would restore momentum to the peace process. The establishment of peace was needed for the resumption of social and economic development and for the well-being of all the people in the region. He called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. His country was ready to contribute efforts that would lead to reconciliation. Security Council resolution 425 (1978) should be respected and the rights of the Lebanese to their sovereignty and integrity observed.
JASSIM MOHAMMED BUALLAY (Bahrain) asked how Lebanon could be have a destiny of its own when its territory was being violated by actions that exceeded all norms of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions. How would peace would make progress when it was being blocked in its tracks? There should be efforts to build mutual confidence. That was necessary for the peace process to make any progress. The Israeli aggression was not helpful to the process and it placed obstacles on both the Lebanese and the Syrian tracks of the peace process. The General Assembly should call for the immediate Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory without conditions and adopt a resolution condemning the Israeli action and calling for the payment of compensation for Lebanon to forestall economic crisis. Bahrain, for its part, had reaffirmed its condemnation of the Israeli action because its violated the norms of international relations and it had also called for the implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978), calling for Israeli withdrawal from Lebanese territory.