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In the absence of the President, Mr. Hussein (Ethiopia), Vice-President, took the Chair.
The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.
The Acting President: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to invite him to address the Assembly.
President Obasanjo: ...
The situation in the Middle East continues to pose a serious threat to international peace and security. We reaffirm our commitment to the right of the Palestinian people to their own independence, as well as the right of the State of Israel to exist within safe and secure international borders, consistent with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973). We therefore welcome the vision and the engagement of the Quartet, as well as other sponsors of the Middle East peace process. I urge the parties in the Middle East conflict to cooperate with the international community and give the ongoing peace process a chance. That becomes imperative because we cannot afford a situation of protracted conflict in the subregion.
Agenda item 9 (continued)
The Acting President: I now call on His Excellency Mr. Koffi Panou, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo.
Mr. Panou (Togo) (spoke in French): ...
The situation in the Middle East also remains worrying. We must find a solution to the vicious circle of violence — violence breeding violence. Togo has always stressed that violence can lead only to bitterness and resentment and that it further perpetuates violence. This cannot be said enough: dialogue and negotiation are the only means that should be used to settle disputes. We therefore strongly urge both Palestinians and Israelis to end the vicious circle of violence and immediately take up negotiations with a view to achieving a just, comprehensive and final settlement of the question of Palestine, which is at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East. Of course, such a settlement would require recognition of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to a viable Palestinian State. But it would also entail the recognition of the equally legitimate rights of the Israeli people to live in peace and complete security within internationally recognized borders.
The Acting President: I now give the floor to His Excellency Shaikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain.
Shaikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) (spoke in Arabic): ...
The Middle East is currently facing great danger as a result of Israel’s policy in the occupied Palestinian territories and of its perpetration of the most heinous crimes against the Palestinian people, such as assassinations, blockades and the destruction of the infrastructure and the economy. The events that took place in the Jenin refugee camp and in the Gaza Strip, along with the daily events that occur in all other Palestinian cities, are clear indications of the Israeli Government’s aggression and violation of international law and norms and of its unwillingness to accept peace or comply with the international agreements it has signed.
Furthermore, the Palestinian people are still resisting this ferocious assault with great courage and determination, thus asserting their right to fight the occupation and emphasizing their belief in their just cause, while upholding their legitimate leadership and defending their national rights, as endorsed by the international community, in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), and other relevant resolutions, the latest being Council resolution 1397 (2002). They are also upholding the principle of land for peace and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State on their national land, with Jerusalem as its capital.
On the basis of its principles and in support of justice, Bahrain has always stood by the brotherly people of Palestine. It affirms its full support for the Arab peace initiative adopted at the Arab Summit held at Beirut in March 2002 on the basis of the vision offered by His Royal Highness Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. That vision provides for an end to the Middle East conflict, the establishment of normal relations with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from all the occupied Arab territories to the borders of 4 June 1967, including withdrawal from the Syrian Arab Golan Heights and the remaining Lebanese occupied territories, and a just settlement of the question of Palestinian refugees in accordance with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 1948.
The oppression to which the Palestinian people are subjected and the ongoing situation that threatens security and peace in the Middle East and the world require immediate intervention by the Security Council and the international community to stop Israeli practices against the Palestinian people and to reactivate the Arab peace initiative at the regional and international levels. That initiative is a viable basis for any move towards the achievement of a just and comprehensive peace in the region.
Bahrain has welcomed the initiative of the United States Secretary of State with respect to convening a peace conference on the Middle East, on the basis of ideas and principles put forward by the Arab Summit in the Arab peace initiative and of the relevant international resolutions. It hopes that a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East will thus be achieved, leading to stability and security, ending the cycle of conflict and violence, and bringing instead a cycle of fruitful cooperation among the countries of the region.
Bahrain has also reaffirmed this position by welcoming the positive ideas in President Bush’s 24 June 2002 statement on the Middle East. Those ideas were reiterated in his statement before the General Assembly last Thursday and related to the settlement of the Middle East conflict within the framework of the resolutions of international legitimacy, and with a view to establishing a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security.
The Arab side, through the Arab peace initiative and by accepting the ideas that President Bush has put forward, has clearly demonstrated its interest in security and stability in the region. The Israeli side has yet to detail what plans it has for peace and what position it has taken vis-à-vis the Arab peace initiative and the ideas put forward by President Bush. What is needed now is to translate those ideas and initiatives into plans and practical steps that benefit peace and put an end to the present deteriorating situation.
Bahrain has supported all initiatives to establish nuclear-weapon-free zones and has supported other confidence-building measures in regions such as the Middle East, where we have supported the creation of a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions. We call upon all our neighbours to support this idea in order to release resources that could be used for the prosperity and development of peoples. We call on the United Nations to exert pressure on Israel to accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to subject its nuclear facilities to the comprehensive safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Acting President: I now give the floor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency Mr. Farouk Al-Shara’.
Mr. Al-Shara’ (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): ...
Since the end of the Second World War, our region has witnessed a series of wars and destruction as a result of an Israeli approach based on occupation, settlement building and the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland. The United Nations has made efforts to find a just solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict. To that end, the United Nations has adopted hundreds of resolutions that Israel has refused to implement, in a stark challenge to the will of the international community. Israel continues to occupy the Golan, the West Bank and Gaza and parts of Lebanese territory.
When the Arab countries unanimously launched their peace initiative at the Beirut summit in March 2002, Israel responded by launching a widescale military attack against Palestinian cities, villages and camps in the West Bank. Israel’s defiance of international legitimacy assumed proportions that have been condemned by international public opinion, particularly when the Israeli Government refused to receive the fact-finding mission to investigate the details of the massacre at the Jenin refugee camp.
Israel has claimed that the crimes it has carried against the Palestinian people under occupation have been carried out in self-defence and in the war against terrorism. We see how Israel has manipulated the war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. In that context, it is important to stress that silence in the face of such manipulation amounts to total disregard for human values, as much as it is disregard for defenceless Palestinian souls.
Without going into details of the Israeli attacks and violations in which American weapons were used, the only way out of the crisis faced by the peoples of the region is by making Israel abide by relevant Security Council resolutions, which thus far are 28 in number. Is it reasonable for the world to request Iraq to implement Security Council resolutions, while some help Israel remain above international law? It is indeed legitimate for us to ask the United States to distance itself from the aggressive Israeli practices and to apply to Israel the American law that prohibits the use of American weapons against a third party. It is indeed odd that the United States considers Israel to be acting in self-defence in occupied territories, which is not in keeping with Security Council resolutions in whose drafting and adoption the United States itself has participated since the founding of the United Nations.
Just and comprehensive peace in our region can be achieved only through the implementation of resolutions of international legitimacy that stress the need for Israel to withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied since June 1967 and to safeguard the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to establish their independent State with Jerusalem as its capital.
Much has been said recently about the danger of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the possibility that international terrorists might acquire such weapons. As is well known, that danger is not limited to one region. Rather, it exists in many regions of the world. It is regrettable that certain parties focus only on some Arab and Muslim countries, and not on others, ignoring in the meantime Israel’s nuclear arsenal. All the countries of the region have expressed, year after year, their readiness to make the Middle East region a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction — nuclear, chemical and biological.
Today more than ever before, we call for urgent and serious efforts to make our region free of all weapons of mass destruction, under the supervision of the United Nations. We declare from this rostrum that all the Arab countries are prepared to establish such a zone, provided that Israel will agree to establish such a zone and to submit all its nuclear facilities to the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as have the other Middle East, Arab and Muslim countries of the region.
The majority vote that Syria won upon submitting its candidacy for membership to the Security Council highlights the appreciation of these countries for Syria’s constructive role in supporting the United Nations.
Mr. Pfanzelter (Austria), Vice-President, took the Chair.
It is well known that Syria has always been in the forefront of countries whose respect for international legitimacy constitutes a principled position in their foreign policy. We agree with the Secretary-General about the necessity of avoiding unilateral measures and resorting instead to working within the framework of the United Nations, which represents international legitimacy.
In that light, we see no justification for igniting a new war in the Middle East. We strongly believe that striking Iraq, which no longer occupies the land of others, while keeping silent about the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories occupied since 1967, represents blind bias and a distorted vision of the real situation in the Middle East.
The Acting President: I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Joap de Hoop Scheffer, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Mr. De Hoop Scheffer (Netherlands): ...
... The Netherlands not only feels an individual responsibility for the defence of universal values, but a shared responsibility as well. Let me elaborate on this today in relation to four key areas of concern: the development of the African continent, uncontrolled migration, the continuing threat of terrorism and the situation in the Middle East.
That same commitment leaves us no choice but to continue to work towards peace in the Middle East. The instability there, the lurking dangers of religious extremism and weapons of mass destruction require our joint dedication.
The many different actors in the Middle East share a duty to restrain violence and curtail extremism. Stability in the region is an indivisible interest, not only for the region itself but far beyond. The countries in the region have prime responsibility for ensuring that their citizens can live in freedom and an environment of tolerance and respect. But the international community has a role to play as well. Here in particular, we expect the Security Council to take its responsibilities to end the Iraqi regime’s systematic non-compliance with a range of earlier resolutions. The inspectors should be allowed to return, yesterday rather than tomorrow. The credibility of the United Nations system is at stake.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be dealt with solely by concentrating on the fight against terrorism. Terrorism must stop, not only because of the human suffering it causes, but also because it is utterly counterproductive. The Palestinian people should ask themselves where this violence has got them. On the other hand, Israel cannot defer indefinitely answering the question as to when and how it is to live side by side with a Palestinian neighbour. Finding a solution again requires true commitment from all parties concerned and a dialogue across regional, religious and other borders. That involves us all.
The Acting President: I now give the floor to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Francophonie of Gabon, His Excellency Mr. Jean Ping.
Mr. Ping (Gabon) (spoke in French): ...
The cloud of uncertainty looming over our collective security is darkened by the Israel-Palestinian crisis. It is regrettable to note that renewed violence in the Middle East is calling all previous efforts into question. The international community must mobilize to rekindle the flame of peace in that region, which has been beset by ceaseless violence for decades. Gabon encourages both sides to resume dialogue and negotiation with a view to implementing the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, in particular resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), which stress the need for the coexistence of the Palestinian State with the State of Israel, with respect for secure and internationally recognized borders.
The Acting President (spoke in Arabic): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mongolia.
Mr. Erdenechuluun (Mongolia): ...
The prevailing explosive situation in the Middle East is of special concern. It calls for sustained efforts aimed at reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the problem. Mongolia supports the efforts of the Quartet and of the countries of the region to find ways to peacefully settle that long-festering conflict. The convening of an international conference to consider effective measures for such a solution will undoubtedly be a step in the right direction.
The Acting President (spoke in Arabic): I now call on the Chairman of the delegation of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Philip Sealy.
Mr. Sealy (Trinidad and Tobago): ...
It is in that context that Trinidad and Tobago views with increasing concern the continued absence of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is clear that peace will continue to elude that region unless all parties concerned demonstrate unequivocally the will to collaborate with a view to achieving the vision set out in Security Council resolution 1397 (2002).
The meeting rose at 1.30 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-178. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.