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11th plenary meeting
Friday, 28 September 2007, 3 p.m.
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
Agenda item 8 (continued)
The President : I have great pleasure in welcoming His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, and inviting him to address the General Assembly.
Mr. Erdoğan (Turkey) (spoke in Turkish; interpretation provided by the delegation ): ...
Another major source of instability in our region is the Middle East problem. We regard the question of Palestine, with wide repercussions both in and beyond the region, as the crux of all ills in the Middle East. The political rift within Palestine has further complicated the situation. Therefore, a lasting political solution to the question of Palestine and peace with Israel on the basis of a two-State solution will have important implications for regional as well as global stability. We believe that a negotiated settlement to this long-standing dispute will also reflect positively on the resolution of other problems in the region. We stand ready to support in every way possible the parties in the efforts to revive the peace process and to contribute to the prospective international meetings to be convened for this purpose.
The President (spoke in French ): I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Jean Asselborn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
Mr. Asselborn (Luxembourg) (spoke in French ): ...
For my part, I believe that this is a cardinal principle that should guide and inspire all action by the United Nations and its Member States from an overall standpoint of coherence in addressing the great problems of the time: conflicts in Africa — and I am thinking particularly of the situations with tragic humanitarian consequences currently prevailing in the Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and, to be sure, Zimbabwe; the Middle East, where it is important to support fully ongoing Israeli and Palestinian efforts and to progress ultimately towards a negotiated solution of two States living side by side in peace and security, and also towards a lasting solution for the whole region; and Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar and other hotbeds of violence and instability. There is no denying that we must take into account simultaneously the dimensions of peace and security, human rights, States rights, the rule of law and socio-economic development.
The Acting President (spoke in Spanish ): I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Abdelwaheb Abdallah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tunisia.
Mr. Abdallah (Tunisia) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
On this occasion, we reaffirm our principled and constant support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for their just cause. We urge the international community, in particular the influential parties and the Quartet, to intensify their efforts aimed at reviving the peace process, on the basis of United Nations resolutions and the relevant Arab and international terms of reference, inter alia, the Arab Peace Initiative, with a view to finding a just and comprehensive solution that would guarantee the restoration of the Palestinians’ legitimate rights, foremost among which is the establishment of their own independent State.
We welcome the initiative taken by President Bush and certain international influential parties to revive the peace process. In this context, we wish to stress the importance of convening an international peace conference that should yield concrete proposals for achieving a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and lead to the restitution of all occupied Arab territories and guarantee security and stability to all the countries and peoples of the region.
The President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Mr. Lavrov (Russian Federation) (spoke in Russian ): ...
The indivisibility of security is to be seen clearly in the Middle East. Early solution of the Palestine problem based on the two-State concept and the achievement of a comprehensive Middle East settlement underpinned by the international legal platform developed by the United Nations are next on the agenda. We are convinced that this goal could be advanced by holding a representative international conference preceded by thorough preparation. We consider the United States initiative to convene in November a multiparty meeting on a Middle East settlement as a step in that direction. We appreciate the preliminary considerations voiced by the United States side regarding the agenda and composition of that event. We reaffirm the importance of involving the Quartet of international mediators and the Arab League in the preparations.
The President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Yang Jiechi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China.
Mr. Yang Jiechi (China) (spoke in Chinese ): ...
The Palestine-Israel conflict is at the core of the Middle East issue. China supports the just cause of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples and the restoration of their lawful national rights, and it sincerely hopes that Arab countries and Israel will promptly end their disputes through political negotiations on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace. China calls on Palestine to strengthen its unity and welcomes the initiative to hold an international conference on the Middle East. We hope that the Iraqi people will continue to work for national reconciliation and restore peace and stability at an early date, and that this will lead to a comprehensive, just and lasting resolution of the Middle East issue.
The President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Mr. Aboul Gheit (Egypt) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Regrettably, narrow-minded, domestic political agendas have been imposed by some, and unwise objectives have replaced the lofty ones that we had planned to achieve. Instead of focusing on the eradication of the hotbeds of international terrorism — hotbeds which were not numerous six years ago — we lost sight of our main goal and vision. The eradication of international terrorism was no longer the goal but instead became a loose phrase. There was oppression, torture and humiliation, and, on the other side, more violence, resistance and atrocities.
This came as no surprise to us, since the objective was regrettably lost. We all stood stunned and flabbergasted before the events that were unfolding in this region and the world. How could we have been diverted from our goal? How could it be that our world was dragged down almost to the level of a clash between civilizations, cultures and religions? Why are some attempting to thrust the holy religion of Islam into the labyrinth of a limitless clash with the West, a clash that serves no one’s interests? To the contrary, it causes everyone grievous harm. Here comes the question: what can we, the national people of the world, do to get back on course?
In all honesty, I must tell you that this last question is our main concern in the Middle East. Despite the importance of the other questions, and even though we are fully aware of the answers thereto, we prefer to leave aside these questions and to let the historians and scholars probe them, detect any errors and assign historical responsibility to each party.
But in truth the more urgent task is to get back on course by finding a way out of the dark tunnel we have been forced into. In our opinion, the right way to proceed is to go back to where we should have started from in the first place and to address directly and effectively the chronic conflicts, foremost among them being the Arab-Israeli conflict and its core issue, the Palestinian question.
Any attempt to achieve stability and disseminate peace and security in the world without a serious settlement of the Palestinian question and the Arab-Israeli conflict will not be successful. The opposite is also true. Serious and sustained action to achieve a just and comprehensive settlement of that conflict and that question directly serves international peace and security and contributes to the stabilization of the Middle East region. All of us are aware of the importance of Middle East stability for the stability of the world at large. Furthermore, we are duty-bound to continue our work to defuse tensions in Iraq and Lebanon and to stabilize and improve the situation in Darfur.
It is hard to believe that sixteen years have already passed since the convening of the historic Madrid Peace Conference between the Arabs and Israel. Fourteen years have elapsed since the signing of the first Palestinian-Israeli accord in Oslo. Eleven years ago, Arab States adopted peace as their strategic option to end their conflict with Israel. Five full years have passed since the declaration by the Arab States of their historic initiative regarding their readiness to establish normal peace relations with Israel in return for the latter’s withdrawal from the territories it occupied by force in 1967 and for the just settlement of the Palestinian question. It has also been five years since the Palestinians and the Israelis reached a number of agreed points and memorandums that come very close to the final settlement of this question.
Given all of the above, one would scarcely believe that peace today still seems farther away than it was in the early 1990s. It is hard to believe that there is now talk going around in vicious circles about the bases and principles of the settlement, which are already known to all of us. It is also hard to believe that strenuous efforts are made to resume negotiations to agree yet again on mechanisms and formulations. Rehashing those old and worn-out subjects is an exercise in futility.
We in Egypt realize that the persistence of this conflict inflames passions and minds in the region. The Assembly knows the efforts and sacrifices made by Egypt in order to put a just and comprehensive end to this historic conflict in a manner that serves the interests of all parties.
But this issue requires leadership; it requires courage from all parties. It also requires a clear and correct vision that the lack of a peaceful settlement of this conflict not only denies the right of a whole people to freedom and dignity, but also feeds directly the calls for violence, extremism and the relinquishing of peaceful and political negotiation as a means to achieve the objective. Thus the conflict will continue to rage for years to come; peoples will continue to suffer; the world will continue to face the current state of sharp instability and polarization, as we are currently witnessing.
Egypt has displayed and continues to display its constant readiness to work with all parties: Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans and all those who take to heart the interests of the Palestinian people, the interests of the peoples of the region and the interest of world peace and stability. Our purpose is to achieve the resumption of serious political dialogue, which would lead to a settlement within a strict, specified time frame.
We will spare no effort to achieve that objective. We will not despair in the face of problems and difficulties. We will work in all sincerity because we are committed to the cause of our Palestinian brothers and to the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian State on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. We will continue to work because we are committed to the liberation of the rest of the occupied Arab territories in Syria and Lebanon and because we are committed to the objective of achieving just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. In this respect, the meeting called for by President Bush this fall may, if well prepared, provide an important opportunity to achieve long-awaited progress.
The President : I now give the floor to His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates.
Sheikh Al Nahyan (United Arab Emirates) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
Regarding the Middle East crisis, we call on the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, to play a more active role, together with the Middle East Quartet, to give new momentum to the Middle East peace process. We stress that no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is possible without Israel’s acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative, which is based on the relevant United Nations resolutions and offers a balanced and comprehensive solution to this long-standing conflict.
In this context, we are following with interest the efforts to convene the international peace conference for the Middle East later this year with the participation of all concerned parties. We look forward to a balanced and fair settlement of the issue on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and the rules of international legitimacy. We also renew our support for Syria’s right to regain its full sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.
The President : I now give the floor to Her Excellency Ms. Ursula Plassnik, Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria.
Ms. Plassnik (Austria): ...
Austria firmly supports the current bilateral and international efforts that are taking place to renew the dialogue between Israel and its Arab neighbours. We hope that the meetings between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas will create the basis for implementing the two-State solution: Israel and a Palestinian State living as neighbours in peace and security.
We appreciate the efforts by the United States for an international meeting later this year to assist the parties in their quest for a just solution. We expect that meeting to advance the peace process substantially and sustainably by addressing the core issues, and we stand ready to assist in preparatory and follow-up activities. The people of the entire Middle East region are thirsty for a new perspective of hope.
The President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Ivailo Kalfin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Mr. Kalfin (Bulgaria): ...
Progress towards peace in the Middle East is of primary importance for the international community. Bulgaria welcomes the resumption of bilateral talks between President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert and hopes that they will lead to a just and lasting solution in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and the Quartet principles. Lebanon too continues to require a strong commitment on our part to secure its national unity, territorial integrity, recovery and reconstruction.
The President : I now give the floor to His Excellency Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Shaikh Al-Khalifa (Bahrain) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
We, as the United Nations, pledged in the Charter, in the name of our peoples to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights. That calls upon the international community promptly and effectively to address threats to international peace and security. At the forefront of those threats are the ongoing regional issues that the Middle East faces on various fronts, the most important of which is the situation in the Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories.
In this respect, we welcome the initiative of President George Bush of the United States to convene an international conference on Middle East peace this year. We hope that this will mark the beginning of a new stage in dealing with the core issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a just and equitable manner, putting an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people and to the occupation since 1967 of the Palestinian territories, the Syrian Golan and other occupied Arab territories in sisterly Lebanon. It should also lead to the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital. Such a State should also be able to engage in development and to live in peace and stability with all States in the region, including Israel, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative, United Nations resolutions and other relevant international agreements and terms of reference.
The Acting President : I now call on His Excellency Mr. Abdelelah Al-Khatib, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Mr. Al-Khatib (Jordan) (spoke in Arabic ): ...
The Middle East region, of which Jordan is an integral part, continues to face formidable challenges stemming from the failure to make any progress towards solving its main regional issues. Jordan, however, has realized that these challenges should not become a justification for abandoning its national priorities regarding political and economic reform and for achieving the highest degree of openness and participation. Therefore, Jordan has adopted a national strategy that strikes a balance between continuing to effect reform and protecting its national security.
Jordan has also continued to deal with regional issues on the basis of its belief that it is necessary to reach just solutions by peaceful means and in a way that protects the rights of all concerned and that achieves regional stability. Jordan is firmly convinced that the use of military force and the imposition of unilateral solutions lead only to the aggravation of problems, increase the suffering of the people and threaten regional and international stability.
The Palestinian question, which is at the core of the Middle East conflict, is now at a decisive crossroads: either the regional parties and the international community succeed in making real and tangible progress and reach a just and lasting solution within a reasonable and agreed-upon time frame, or the entire region will be swept into extremism and anarchy, which will be a grave threat to world peace and security. Therefore, the international meeting scheduled to be held before the end of this year may be the last chance to make that progress. This makes it imperative for the United States, which called for that conference, the members of the International Quartet and the regional parties to prepare for it well, ensuring that final status issues between Palestine and Israel are seriously discussed and in a way that will allow real progress to be made on those issues and a lasting agreement to be reached and implemented quickly within a time frame agreed upon by the two parties.
The situation in the region cannot withstand the continuation of developments that do not allow for real progress. The holding of international and regional meetings and negotiations should not be an end in itself but rather a means to an end, namely reaching a real peace, accepted and preserved by the peoples of the region. Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have been going on for a long time. The whole world knows that records of those negotiations contain alternatives that provide solutions for final status issues. What is needed now is the political will to reach an agreement instead of looking for pretexts and prolonging the negotiations.
Israel will never enjoy the security it seeks and the Middle East region will not enjoy stability unless the Palestinian people recover their national rights through the establishment of an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and unless other Arab occupied territories are returned. The current situation in the Palestinian territories is not at all in harmony with the wish to achieve peace. In order to give the impression of honest movement towards peace, settlement activities must stop immediately, as must tampering with the status of East Jerusalem, including stopping all excavations in the Jerusalem holy sanctuary at Haram al-Sharif and putting an end to all practices that violate international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Achievement of the desired progress requires a vast change to the tragic situation experienced by the Palestinians living in the occupied territories. There is an immediate need to revive the Palestinian economy in a manner that would lead to launching investment, creating vital projects and providing work opportunities. That revival will not materialize unless the Palestinians enjoy freedom of movement, which requires ending the closures, removing security roadblocks and stopping military operations. It is also imperative to enable the Palestinian National Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and his legitimate Government, to rebuild its institutions so as to succeed in executing its national programmes, which deserve financial support from the international community.
The President : I now call on His Excellency Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaubé, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain.
Mr. Moratinos Cuyaubé (Spain) (spoke in Spanish ): ...
We wish for a peaceful, viable and democratic Palestinian State, living in peace with Israel, and an Israel that is secure and has good relations in its region. The international community must support and assist parties in their efforts. Spain is firmly determined to make its contribution effective.
The President : I call on Her Excellency Mrs. Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of the Republic of Iceland.
Mrs. Gísladóttir (Iceland): ...
Crucial discussions are currently in progress to solve the decades-long situation in the Middle East. It is clear to me that most people in Israel and Palestine yearn for peace. Indeed, opinion polls bear this out. In particular, women from both sides voice their distress at the long-term effects of continued conflict on their children, who are the future of this region. The talks in progress at the moment, with the support of the Quartet, the efforts of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, and, most important, the efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian Governments, give some hope. I encourage political leaders to ensure that the will for peace among a great many people on both sides is reflected in the political process. This requires political courage and true leadership. It requires restraint when restraint is most difficult. It requires a determination to outflank the spoilers on both sides who wish to sacrifice the real prospects for a peaceful and fulfilling life for millions to the distant mirage of some unattainable utopia. Final status issues, which are critical to the Palestinians and the Israelis, must be on the agenda for the peace conference that the President of the United States has proposed. The outcome must give both sides a clear view of a realistic and acceptable future for their children. Meanwhile, all who have it in their power, bear a responsibility to do their utmost to ensure the humanitarian needs of the civilian population.
The President : I now call on His Royal Highness Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei Darussalam.
Prince Bolkiah (Brunei Darussalam): ... I also offer my congratulations to the Secretary-General on the progress he has made during the past nine months. His first report (A/62/1) is very encouraging, and we welcome his response to the new challenges we are all facing. I also wish to thank our United Nations representatives, workers and volunteers throughout the world who are undertaking very hard tasks which are often extremely dangerous. We thank them for their professional dedication. This is especially so in many parts of the Middle East. Here I offer once more our continued strong support for all the efforts being made by the United Nations to find a solution to the suffering of the Palestinian people. In doing so we reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Palestine in their efforts to find a just and lasting solution to problems that have been going on for almost 60 years.
The meeting rose at 9.30 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.