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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York


Fifty-eighth General Assembly
Plenary
11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/10160
25 September 2003



GENERAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE FOCUSES ON CENTRAL ROLE
OF UNITED NATIONS IN GLOBAL PROBLEM-SOLVING

Need for Reform of Security Council, International Financial Bodies
Highlighted by 27 Speakers, Including 16 Heads of State, Government


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Background

The General Assembly continued its general debate this morning.

Statements

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BERTIE AHERN, Prime Minister of Ireland, ...

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On the Middle East, he said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people continued to pose a serious threat to world peace.  The experience of his own country had demonstrated clearly that far-sighted leaders could not allow their efforts to be held hostage by terrorists and extremists.  They had to look beyond the politics of the last atrocity.  ...

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EDWARD FENECH ADAMI, Prime Minister of Malta, ...

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The United Nations has a steady record of positive involvement in peacekeeping, he said.  The question of Palestine, however, was an issue where sustained efforts at conflict resolution had not yet prevailed.  The immediate obstacles to peace in Palestine were two:  first, an illegal occupation of territory continuously maintained by armed force; and the resistance to that occupation using unacceptable terror to pursue its ends.  The international community must find a way of breaking the conditions that allowed those two extremes to feed upon each other.  Israel needed to recognize the illegality of its presence in the occupied territories.  The Palestinians must recognize that all violent acts against civilian populations were unacceptable, and the Palestinian Authority must prevent any further acts of terrorism.  In spite of the latest setbacks, however, the approach by the Quartet still needed to be supported and encouraged, since it offered the best prospects for eliminating the conditions that fed the extremists on both sides.

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SILVAN SHALOM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, said that until just one month ago, the international community had joined Israelis in the hope that the Middle East peace process might finally be back on track.  That glimmer of hope was darkened on 19 August by the extremists who blew up a bus full of Jewish families on their way home from prayers at the Western Wall.  The attack had been carried out by Hamas, a terrorist organization, which, under the Road Map, should have been dismantled by the Palestinian Authority.  The failure to dismantle Hamas had brought diplomatic efforts to a standstill.

Rather than acting to fulfil its obligation, he continued, the Palestinian Authority had chosen the route of inaction, and complicity in terror.  The infrastructure of terror must be dismantled to pave the way for peace.  There was no other time.  There was no other way.  The community of nations knew that those who sought to advance their political agendas through the killing of innocents were ready to strike at anyone or anything that represented the values of freedom and human life.

There could be no neutrality in the war against terrorism and there could be no immunity for those who engaged in it, he stated.  Abstaining was not an option.  Terrorism would not be eliminated until the world united against it.  Every member of the international community must take concrete and proactive measures to cut off all channels of financial, moral and political support to that common enemy.  States that sponsored and sheltered terrorists were accomplices, and they must be held accountable for their crimes.  It was no coincidence that States that sponsored terrorism, like Iran and Syria, were also striving to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

He noted that many saw Yasser Arafat as the symbol of the Palestinian struggle.  Tragically, however, for Palestinians and for Israelis, he was one of “the world’s icons of terror”.  In the 10 years since he declared his commitment to Israel and to the world that he would no longer use terror, 1,126 Israelis had been killed and thousands more wounded in 19,000 separate Palestinian terrorist attacks.  The carnage must stop.  Its impact on both sides was devastating.  Yasser Arafat bore direct responsibility for that terrible suffering.  For more than 30 years, he had led his people on the path of terror – from hijackings to suicide bombings.

As long as Yasser Arafat controlled the levers of power, no moderate leadership could emerge, he continued.  To vote for him –- as the Assembly did just last week –- was to vote against the Palestinian people.  “When Arafat wins  – terrorism wins, and we all lose”, he said.  Instead of rallying around Arafat, the international community must rally around the genuine interests of the Palestinian people, and it must do so now, before he led them even further down the path of terror and destruction.

Israel was ready to work with the Palestinians and the international community to make the vision of peace and security to both peoples a reality.  For that to happen, the Palestinian leadership must take the moral and strategic decision to abandon terrorism, once and for all, and make peacemaking possible.  They must guide their people to build their own society, rather than seeking to destroys Israel’s.  Also, they must understand that it was not poverty that bred terror, but terror that bred poverty.  For the sake of Israelis and Palestinians, for the sake of the United Nations and peace itself, he called on the General Assembly to rise above the “tired politics of yesterday” and adopt a new, courageous agenda for tomorrow.

JACK STRAW, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, ...

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Iraq was not the only territory in the Middle East in which the international community faced great challenge, he said.  In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there was no alternative to the Quartet’s Road Map, no alternative to the solution awaited by the entire world – that of two States living side by side in peace and security.  That and other issues tackled by the United Nations, including terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and peacekeeping, demonstrated the Organization’s continued relevance amidst calls for collective response.  The key was to ensure that the United Nations remained an effective global forum, capable of delivering results.  Collective action, he concluded, must not become synonymous with inaction.

JAN O. KARLSSON, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy of Sweden, ...

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On the Middle East, he said the Assembly had rightly condemned Israel’s decision to deport Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.  Both parties must implement their obligations under the Road Map.  He urged the Palestinian Authority to action to halt the suicide bombings.  Israel must also stop its extrajudicial killings.  The international community must do its utmost to se that both parties retuned to the path of peace.  International monitors and observers should be sent to the region, he said, adding that Sweden was willing to take part in such a mechanism.

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ALFRED MOISIU, President of Albania, ...

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Finally, regarding the Road Map as the way forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he stressed that peace in the Middle East would constitute an important pillar for peace and security the world over.  The settlement of the Palestinian issue was essential for the resolution of this conflict and would form a core element in the success of the fight against terrorism.

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BLAISE COMPAORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, ...

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The United Nations must be placed at the heart of efforts to define traditional political processes and reconstruction strategies in Iraq, he said.  In the wider Middle East, the Road Map was the best way forward.  But, without an international follow-up and control mechanism on the ground, no agreement would hold in that tense region.

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KAMAL KHARRAZI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, ...

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Turning to the violence against the Palestinian people, he said the killing of innocent people by Israel had become an everyday event, and the prospect for viable peace was increasingly diminishing.  The international community had a responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Regarding the recent decision by the Israeli regime to expel President Arafat, he said the move had outraged the international community, and the Muslim world in particular.  It was regrettable that the United States had resorted to the veto to block the adaptation of a draft resolution.  ...

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BENITA FERRERO-WALDNER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria, ...

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She said the deterioration of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was regrettable and noted that, while the situation had held up the Middle East peace process, the current setbacks should not be allowed to stall implementation of the Road Map.  The concept of two States remained the only viable solution.  ...

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Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

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Also exercising the right of reply was the Observer for Palestine, who said the statement made today by the representative of Israel was replete with misrepresentations.  It was also a vivid example of Israel’s arrogance and contempt for international law, the Assembly and, indeed, the United Nations and the entire international community.  Israel continued to act with impunity against Palestinians, and its Government continued to effect its racist policies.  Yet, all were to believe that this Government actually wanted peace. 

While it gave flowery statements in international forums, the Government of Israel continued to use its tanks, planes and superior weapons to kill more and more innocent Palestinians, she said.  There was no international law or norm that Israel had not violated, from assassination and money laundering to the violation of the basic and inalienable right of peoples, to self-determination.  

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