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        General Assembly
25 September 2003

Official Records
General Assembly
Fifty-eighth session
11th plenary meeting
Thursday, 25 September 2003, 10 a.m.
New York

President: The Hon. Julian R. Hunte.............................................. (Saint Lucia)

The meeting was called to order at 10.05 a.m.


The President: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Tassos Papadopoulos, President of the Republic of Cyprus, and to invite him to address the Assembly.

President Papadopoulos: ...


This year again, the situation in the Middle East remains a source of major concern for the region and beyond. The Quartet’s road map, with the overwhelming international support it enjoys, represents an historic opportunity that should not be missed. Unfortunately, in recent days, the international community has held its breath as blind and spiralling violence thwarts the efforts to place and maintain on a solid track this process which would lead to a settlement. The necessary political will should be demonstrated by both sides, at all levels, and be matched with persistent action on the ground, in the right direction.

I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our longstanding position for a just settlement, in accordance with international law, United Nations resolutions and the agreements reached between the parties, which will put an end to the occupation and realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people for the establishment of an independent state, side by side with Israel, in peace and security. Cyprus, a country of the region with traditionally close relations with both parties, stands ready to assist in every possible way.


The President: On behalf of the General Assembly, I have the honour to welcome to the United Nations His Excellency Mr. Néstor Carlos Kirchner, President of the Argentine Republic, and to invite him to address the Assembly.

President Kirchner (spoke in Spanish): ...


We express our support and wish for a stable and lasting peace in the Middle East based on the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and an independent and viable State, while at the same time recognizing the right of Israel to live at peace with its neighbours within safe and internationally recognized borders.


Agenda item 9 (continued)

General debate


The President: I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency, Mr. Marc Forné Molné, the Prime Minister of the Principality of Andorra, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.

Mr. Forné Molné (Andorra) (spoke in Catalan; English text provided by the delegation): ...


The United Nations has a critical responsibility in fostering a constructive outcome for the Afghan and Iraqi people and also in resolving tension throughout the Middle East. In this regard I wish to express our confidence in the United Nations to bring an end to this complex and cruel conflict, a crucial step for the stability of the region and an important matter for the future of mankind. The United Nations will know how to find new ways and adequate solutions and will play a leading role in the establishment of new paths.


The Acting President: I have great pleasure in welcoming the Prime Minister of Ireland, His Excellency Mr. Bertie Ahern. I invite him to address the General Assembly.

Mr. Ahern (Ireland): ...


The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people continues to pose a serious threat to world peace. My own country’s difficult national experience shows that there is no such thing as a straight line to peace. Our experience in Ireland clearly demonstrates that farsighted leaders cannot allow their efforts to be held hostage by terrorists and extremists. They must have the wisdom to look beyond the politics of the last atrocity.

What is more, leaders must be prepared to deal with each other. As the Nobel Laureate John Hume once said, “you make peace with your enemies, not your friends”. President Arafat has a responsibility to lead his people away from violence and back to the negotiating table. It is a responsibility that he must assume. Threats to expel or assassinate him are deeply misguided and dangerous and can only further delay efforts to achieve a settlement.

Lasting peace can only be achieved through negotiation. Palestinians must realize that violence has failed. Terrorism is wrong and has brought nothing but misery to both Israel and Palestine. It has made compromise more difficult than ever.

Israel must see that repression and attempts at physical separation will not deliver long-term security. The most effective means for Israel to secure a peaceful future would be to accept the Palestinian people’s right to a viable State of their own on the basis of the 1967 borders. Israel should immediately reverse its policy of building settlements, settler-only roads and a security wall on Palestinian territory.

It is imperative that the parties re-engage in the task of implementing the road map, leading to a two-State solution based on the vision enshrined in Security Council resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973) and 1397 (2002). They need the support of the Quartet. But such mediation will not succeed if it is, or is perceived to be, one-sided. We must be careful to ensure that our demands are balanced and that we hold both sides equally to account.


The President: I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency the Prime Minister of the Republic of Malta, The Honourable Mr. Edward Fenech Adami, and in inviting him to address the General Assembly.

Mr. Adami (Malta): ...


The question of Palestine is one issue with regard to which sustained efforts at conflict resolution have not yet prevailed. Over the past few weeks we have been witnessing the gradual disintegration of yet another major and sustained effort at peacemaking in that region.

The immediate obstacles to peace in Palestine arise from two contrasting directions. On the one hand is the reality of an illegal occupation of territory originally achieved, and continuously maintained, by armed force. On the other is the reality of a resistance to this occupation that uses unacceptable means of civilian terror and destruction to pursue its ends.

These two realities feed upon each other in a vicious cycle of ever-escalating hatred and violence. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the situation in Palestine is the fact that each successive failure of effort towards peacemaking ratchets up the level of hatred and violence. The international community needs to find a way of breaking the conditionality which makes the two extremes feed upon each other.

Israel needs to clearly recognize the illegality of its presence in the occupied territories. This implies the reversal of the measures that are accompanying this occupation — in particular the building and maintenance of settlements and the construction of the partition wall on Palestinian territory.

Furthermore, the support of the chosen leadership of the Palestinian people is necessary if progress towards peace and stability is to be achieved. In this spirit, we call upon Israel to desist from any act of deportation and cease any threat to the safety of the elected President of the Palestinian Authority.

For their part, the Palestinians must recognize that all violent acts against civilians are unacceptable and must stop unconditionally. The Palestinian Authority needs to assert its control and prevent any further acts of terrorism.

In spite of the latest setbacks, the approach by the Quartet still needs to be supported and encouraged. By virtue of its composition, the Quartet offers the best prospects for finding ways of breaking the conditionality that feeds the extremes on both sides. The hope remains that, at the core of both the Israeli and the Palestinian populations, the desire for peace and reconciliation is stronger than the delirium of fear and hatred.

Malta always views the problem of Palestine from the perspective of its effect on issues of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean. Our membership of the European Union will provide us with enhanced opportunities to intensify our traditional role in this regard.


The President: I now give the floor to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, His Excellency Mr. Silvan Shalom.

Mr. Shalom (Israel): I would like to congratulate His Excellency, the Foreign Minister of Saint Lucia, upon his assumption of the Presidency of the General Assembly, and wish him much success.

Until just one month ago, every person in this hall and every Member of this Organization joined us in the hope that the Middle East peace process might finally be back on track, and that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be on the horizon. The establishment of a new Palestinian Government promised an end to terror and a new beginning.

This 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 holiest site in the Jewish religion. Twenty-three people, young and old, mothers and babies in their cradles, were slaughtered in that attack. That attack was carried out by Hamas, a terrorist organization, which, under the road map, should have been dismantled by the Palestinian Authority. Failure to dismantle Hamas and other extremist organizations has brought our diplomatic efforts to a standstill. Rather than acting to fulfil its obligation, the Palestinian Authority has chosen the route of inaction, and complicity in terror.

We cannot allow this to continue. We must restore hope that we can build a better future for our children. The infrastructure of terror must be dismantled so that we can put our peace efforts back on track. There is no time other than now. There is no other way.

For many years it was thought that terrorism in the Middle East was Israel’s problem, not the world’s. Today, the world knows otherwise. Today, it is not only Israel that mourns the loss of its loved ones, including women and children and babies, at the hands of the terrorists. Sadly, we have been joined by peoples from across the globe — from Mombassa to Casablanca and from Moscow to Bali. Even the United Nations, which for so many has been a symbol of peace and goodwill, is not immune.

Gathered here today in New York, just two short years after 11 September, the community of nations knows that those who seek to advance their political agendas through killing innocents are ready to strike at anyone or anything that represents the values of freedom and human life.

Terrorism has declared war on us all. Israel has often stood alone in this battle. A country that has suffered more than any other from terrorism, we have always understood the danger it poses to democracy and freedom everywhere, even when others refused to see this, and condemned us for our actions. We have always understood that terrorism, no matter what cause it claims to serve, seeks only to destroy, rather than to build.

There can be no neutrality in the war against terrorism and there can be no immunity for those who engage in it. Abstaining is not an option. This is not a war of choice. Terrorism will not be eliminated until the world unites against it. Our only choice is to win. Every member of the international community must take concrete and proactive measures to cut off all channels of financial, moral and political support to this common enemy.

States Members of this institution that sponsor terrorists and give them shelter are accomplices in the acts of terror themselves. They must be held accountable for their crimes. It is no coincidence that States that sponsor terrorism, like Iran and Syria, are also striving to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Their hostility to freedom and the rule of law puts the very future of humanity in jeopardy.

I know that many in this place see Yasser Arafat as the symbol of the Palestinian struggle. Tragically, for his people and for ours, he is one of the world’s icons of terror. In the 10 years since Arafat made a commitment to Israel and the world that he would no longer use terror, 1,126 Israelis have been killed and thousands wounded in 19,000 separate Palestinian terrorist attacks. In relative numbers, this would be the same as 11,000 French or 56,000 Americans dying from terrorism in the same period of time.

This carnage must stop. Its impact on both societies is devastating. Yasser Arafat bears direct responsibility for this terrible suffering. He has led his people along the path of terror — from hijackings to suicide bombings — for more than 30 years, always preferring Israeli pain over Palestinian gain. He has been — and he remains — the greatest obstacle to peace between our peoples. For as long as he controls the levers of power, no moderate leadership can emerge. To vote for Arafat, like we saw in this Assembly just last week, is to vote against the Palestinian people. When Arafat wins, terrorism wins, and we all lose. Instead of rallying around Arafat, the international community must rally around the genuine interests of the Palestinian people. They must do so now, before he leads them even further down the path of terror and destruction.

When a responsible and empowered Palestinian leadership finally emerges — a leadership ready to join the war on terror — it will find us a willing partner for peace. Israel is committed to the vision for Middle East peace laid out by United States President George Bush on 24 June 2002. Israel will not compromise on the safety of its citizens, but we will go the extra mile, as we have proven before, to bring peace and security to both our peoples.

We are ready to work with the Palestinians and with the international community to make this vision a reality. For this 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 seek to destroy ours. They, too, must understand that it is not poverty that breeds terror but terror that breeds poverty.

We cannot stop only at dismantling the infrastructure of terror. We must also build an infrastructure of peace. It is up to political and moral leaders everywhere to foster an environment which rejects extremism and empowers the peacemakers. This is particularly so in the Arab and Muslim world, where incitement against Israel closes hearts and minds to the possibility of peace.

Leaders must guide their people away from the culture of hate, and replace it with a culture of tolerance. Concrete expressions of cooperation and exchange must be built in media and government, education, science and business, to reinforce the message of tolerance and acceptance.

For the sake of our collective future, voices of moderation must be heard. For the sake of our collective future, Israel and the Arab nations must learn to live together side by side, to overcome our conflicts just as the nations of Europe have learned to overcome theirs. Israel is living among its Arab neighbours. We believe in a common future of peace and prosperity with them. My many meetings with Arab leaders over the last few days have encouraged me to believe that together we can make our region a better place.

This culture of peace must permeate not only the borders of the Middle East, it must permeate the walls of the United Nations as well. In the past, the United Nations has shown us that it can play a positive role. This Assembly was key to the founding of the State of Israel, 55 years ago. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) are our guideposts to negotiations and peace.

To play such a constructive role in the future, the United Nations must reform. It must move away from the partisan hostility that has taken over its Middle East agenda. For more than three decades, this Assembly has passed every year a litany of resolutions designed to discredit Israel, challenge its interests, and promote the will of its greatest enemies.

In my hand I am holding a collection of the decisions of the fifty-seventh General Assembly on the Middle East — 175 pages filled not with hope, but with the negative agendas of the past. No other country has suffered such unjustified attack and consistent discrimination within the United Nations system. The time has come to end this campaign of diplomatic incitement. For the sake of Israelis and Palestinians — for the sake of the United Nations and peace itself — I call on this body to rise above the tired politics of yesterday, and adopt a new, courageous agenda for tomorrow.

I call on the General Assembly to abandon the automatic adoption of anti-Israel resolutions and to find ways of making itself relevant once again to the interests of the people it claims to serve. I call on this Assembly to fulfil its historic mission and help promote what unites us, not what divides us.


The Zionist vision of Israel’s founders was to bring into the world a State in our ancient homeland to serve as a haven from persecution for our people, a place where the Jewish people could fulfil its right to self-determination in the modern era and a bastion of democracy and opportunity for all its citizens. Our founders also made a promise not just to the people of Israel, but also to the people of the Middle East as a whole — to pursue peace and to work for the common advancement of our region.


Israel’s historic record is clear. Whenever a true partner for peace has emerged, he has been met with Israel’s extended hand. This was true when President Anwar Sadat of Egypt came to Jerusalem in 1977 and it was true when King Hussein of Jordan signed the Peace Treaty with us in 1994. The same is true today. Israel stands ready to complete the circle of peace with all its neighbours — real peace, not just peace for the headlines, but peace which brings an end to violence and hostility and positive change for the citizens of our region.

From this great rostrum — a rostrum shared by all humanity — I call on the leaders of Syria and Lebanon, of Iran and of the Palestinian people to abandon once and for all their hostility towards us and to join us in building a better future for our children.


The President: I now call on His Excellency the Right Honourable Mr. Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr. Straw (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland): ...


Iraq is, sadly, not the only territory in the Middle East where the international community faces great challenges. Three months ago, we all had high hopes about the work of the Quartet of the United Nations, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States in Israel and the occupied territories. It is tragic that these hopes were blown apart on 19 August by the terrorist atrocity in Jerusalem, which came only a few hours after the terrorist atrocity against the United Nations in Baghdad, but the international community has to stay united on both the means and the ends in the Middle East. There are no alternatives to the road map and there can be no alternatives to the outcome the entire world wishes to see — two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. This can be the only fitting memorial to the thousands who have died on both sides since the beginning of this appalling conflict.


The President: I now call His Excellency Mr. Jan Karlsson, Minister for Development Cooperation, Migration and Asylum Policy and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden.

Mr. Karlsson (Sweden): ...


The General Assembly has rightly condemned the Israeli decision to deport President Arafat. Both parties must implement their obligations in accordance with the road map. We urge the Palestinian Authority to take action to cease the suicide bombings. Israel’s extrajudicial killings are contradictory to international law and must be stopped immediately.

The international community must do its utmost to assist the parties in the peace process. The road map, as Jack Straw pointed out only a few minutes ago, should be implemented immediately with a view to the establishment of a peaceful and democratic Palestinian State in 2005. International monitors and observers should be sent to the area and Sweden is willing to take part in such a monitoring mechanism.


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-154A. Corrections will be issued after the end of the session in a consolidated corrigendum.

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