“Missing opportunities to reach comprehensive solutions -– particularly on the Palestinian question –- is moving people towards the precipice of despair, and making them easy prey for the forces of ignorance and extremism,” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said today, as he called for an end to years of self-serving politics in the region, and declared his commitment to an upcoming United States-sponsored international conference aimed at resurrecting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
He called on the international community to promote understanding, saying that attempts to manufacture a clash among religions and cultures were dangerous. That was what made the United Nations-led “dialogue of cultures, religions and civilizations” necessary. “Global wars were wars of interests, not religions or cultures,” he said, asserting that Islam was a humane religion and that portraying it unfairly was a method used by international terrorists to sow mistrust. “Islam is against extremism; it is against closing inward,” he said.
In the face of all deterrence, hope was still alive. The Palestinian people were capable of overcoming the situation that extremist forces had pushed them to, he said, adding: “Indeed, there are forces in the Middle East who represent the desire to move towards democracy.” Though they worked under extreme difficulties, the “forces of moderation” were committed to creating a new future for the region in which his people would enjoy freedom.
Pledging the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to the success of a November summit on the peace process convened by United States President George Bush, he said he would present ideas to a popular referendum for Palestinian people, so that they could give their views on the conference outcomes. Further, aiming to end the “spiral of lost opportunities”, he had met recently with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss key issues, including Jerusalem’s status, refugees, water and security. Israeli occupation would end once a Palestinian State was created within the framework of the 1967 borders. That was why he was very committed to the substance of the Washington meeting, and hoped all parties would negotiate.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, President of Malaysia, said that history was marked by a few pivotal moments at which leaders could make fair -- or wrong -- decisions that would impact the destinies of future generations. “We are now living in such a time.” There were now two world problems that touched lives without exception: climate change –- another topic much on the minds of speakers today -- and the increasing discord between cultures.
The first problem was now affecting the well-being of the entire planet; the second was threatening to tear apart the fabric of peaceful relations. The misperception in the West that Islam promoted exclusivity and encouraged extremism largely contributed to the misunderstanding between the cultures. It was also wrong to put the blame on religion as the cause of the national disputes. Rather, political objectives, such as the repeated use of force by the powerful over the weak to secure strategic or territorial gains, served as the root cause for discord.
On Iraq, he said that world leaders could not deny most of the country’s problems originated from foreign occupation. National unity was best achieved through the practice of power sharing in a Government in which ethnic groups of all religious faiths were represented. Iraqis should be given the full opportunity to determine their own future with international support. Similarly, the problem of Palestine –- a problem festering for 60 years -– demanded a solution, as it topped the list of grievances the Islamic world held against the West. There were fresh initiatives to bring Israel and Palestine together for high-level peace talks, but peace could only be achieved if the legitimate rights of peoples were recognized and protected during negotiations.
Voicing support for efforts to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, he said these initiatives could help to “establish the truth that Islam is a religion which espouses universalism, not exclusivity; tolerance, not bigotry.” For their part, he added, Muslims had a responsibility to present to the world the true face of Islam. The teachings of Islam put a very high premium on peace and development. His country had used the progressive teachings of Islam as a basis for good governance and delivery of benefits throughout society.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Abdoul Gheit, said that, after pledging six years ago to work seriously to achieve long-awaited breakthroughs in old crises, the world seemed to have gone astray. The Assembly had failed to maintain its momentum, as narrow-minded domestic agendas had been imposed. How could the world have arrived at a point that bordered on a “clash between civilizations, cultures and religions”? he wondered. Why were some attempting to thrust the holy Islamic faith into the “labyrinth of a limitless clash with the West”?
Getting things back on track was Egypt’s main concern, he said, and directly addressing the chronic conflicts was the “correct way out”. Foremost among them: the Arab-Israeli conflict and its crux, the Palestinian question. While any attempt to achieve stability without serious settlement of those conflicts would not succeed, sustained action for the achievement of a just and comprehensive settlement would contribute to Middle East stability. The issue required leadership from all parties, and Egypt was constantly ready to work with Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans, and those who took to heart the interests of Palestinians.
Emile Lahoud, President of Lebanon, recalled that, one year ago, he had spoken on Israel’s atrocious 33-day war and had hoped then that such tragic events would pave the way for activating the Middle East process based on the Arab Peace Initiative. Regrettably, he said, nothing in the region thrived more than violence. Calls to stimulate the peace process remained echoless. Against that backdrop, he said Lebanon awaited the results of the upcoming Middle East peace meeting in Washington.
For any settlement to the Middle East crisis to survive, it should be lasting, just and global, and call for implementation of all United Nations resolutions pertaining to the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories, he continued. Paramount to all Arab rights was the right of return of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with resolution 194. Calls for resettlement in temporary host countries should be countered. The resettlement of Palestinians was contrary to the expressed will of world legitimacy, and: “In Lebanon, it will dangerously alter the delicate balance of its existence as a nation, based on coexistence among various sects that enjoyed mutual respect.”
EMILE LAHOUD, President of Lebanon, recalled that one year ago, he had spoken on Israel’s atrocious 33 day war and had hoped then that such tragic events would pave the way for activating the Middle East Peace Process based on the Arab Peace Initiative. Regrettably, he said, nothing in the region thrived more than violence. Calls to stimulate the peace process remained echoless.
Against that backdrop, he said Lebanon awaited the results of the upcoming Middle East Peace Conference. For any settlement to the Middle East crisis to survive, it should be lasting, just and global; a viable solution must call for implementation of all United Nations resolutions pertaining to the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories. Paramount to all Arab rights was the right of return of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with resolution 194. All calls for their resettlement in their temporary host countries should be countered. The resettlement of Palestinians was contrary to the expressed will of world legitimacy, as embodied in the General Assembly. In Lebanon, it would dangerously alter the delicate balance of its existence as a nation, based on coexistence among various sects that enjoyed mutual respect.
Lebanon fully rejected seeing the 2002 Beirut Arab Peace Initiative being emptied of its contents, namely, the exclusion of the right of Palestinians to return, he stressed. The Initiative carried a realistic solution to the Middle East conflict and its implementation could bring about stability to all parties.
He said the adoption of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) had ended Israel’s aggression against Lebanon, and his country was quick to abide by it. He reiterated Lebanon’s commitment to implementing the resolution, and wondered why the process had not yet moved into the ceasefire phase. Noting that Israel continued to violate Lebanon’s land, sea and skies, he said there had been over 500 breaches since the passage of 1701. He called on the international community to remain vigilant against any malignant intents harboured by Israel toward his country. Lebanese were proud that their national resistance and army had jointly claimed victory over a strong military arsenal that had violated all ethical norms.
He said full implementation of resolution 1701 could happen only when Lebanon: regained its occupied Shebaa Farms, the Kfarshouba Hills and some northern parts of the Ghajar village; secured the release of Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails; restored its legitimate rights over its water resources; and received maps of landmines and cluster bomb sites. He thanked the United Nations for its help in studying maps related to the Shebaa Farms and looked forward to practical measures to end Israeli occupation, and the handing over of those territories and water rights.
He reiterated Lebanon’s commitment to the implementation of United Nations resolutions. He had referred to the controversy surrounding the Special Tribunal on Lebanon, established to try the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in letters sent to the Secretary-General. He had asked that copies of that letter be sent to all Security Council Member States and others be kept for reference, as international justice should be reinforced. Lebanon had sought the whole truth since the first moment of the heinous crime. An impartial, transparent and just hearing would overcome such controversy.
As Lebanon was about to witness democratic presidential elections, he said international parties had attempted to intervene in Lebanon’s domestic affairs, contradicting international norms. His country welcomed all foreign assistance, and paid tribute to those countries that had stood by it following last July’s destructive war by Israel. Foreign aid should be made as a gesture of support to the restoration of Lebanon’s sovereignty and he urged the international community to stop foreign intervention in domestic affairs. Recalling the costly price that was paid by Lebanon’s national army, he said real assistance should be given to its army so it could accomplish its security goals.
In a world that witnessed daily bloodshed, he urged delegates not to allow Lebanon to fall, “because the falling apart of Lebanon would mean a collapse of moderation and a victory to those who favour the use of force.” Lebanon remained a “unique message to the world”, and he called on nations not to recede in front of adversity and to support what was right and just.
TUILAEPA SAILELE MALIELEGAOI, Prime Minister of Samoa,
On peace and security, he expressed support for attempts to resume the Middle East Peace Process and the possibility of an independent State for Palestinians. He supported the new African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur and said the international community should consider a more active role in Iraq as well. His country would continue to contribute to United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, as it had in the past, and was committed to assisting in the global fight against terror. In closing, he reiterated his firm belief that nations in key positions of leadership should lead by example and take action for the ultimate benefit and greater good of the world.
DATO’ SERI ABDULLAH AHMAD BADAWI, President of Malaysia, said that history was marked by a few pivotal moments at which leaders could make the correct or wrong decisions that would have an impact on the destinies of future generations. “We are now living in such a time.” There were now two world problems that touched lives without exception: climate change and the increasing discord between cultures. The first problem was now globally affecting the well-being of the planet; the second was threatening to tear apart the fabric of peaceful relations.
In a similar vein, the problem of Palestine, he said – a problem festering for 60 years – demanded a solution, as it topped the list of grievances the Islamic world held against the West. There were fresh initiatives to bring Israel and Palestine together for high-level peace talks, but peace could only be achieved if the legitimate rights of peoples were recognized and protected during negotiations. Palestine had been partitioned before, that should not happen again. The single most important issue that stood in the way of peace and fraternity between Islamic and Western countries was Palestine. Once leaders settled it, greater harmony would exist.
For its part, he added, Muslims had a responsibility to present to the world the true face of Islam. The teachings of Islam put a very high premium on peace and development. His country had used the progressive teachings of Islam as a basis for good governance and delivery of benefits throughout society.
NAVINCHANDRA RAMGOOLAM, President of Mauritius, said international peace and security was the bedrock of the United Nations and, despite its many accomplishments, it still had much more to do. A trail of violence and death continued to plague the Middle East. To give peace a chance, the international community should redouble efforts to find a peaceful, holistic solution to the question of Palestine. He reaffirmed his support for an independent and sovereign Palestinian State. In Darfur, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation was a positive step forward, he added. He recommended a similar commitment in Somalia. Terrorism was an international threat which should also be tackled by a united international front and a more effective and efficient mechanism should be implemented to deal with the financiers of terrorist organizations.
MAHMOUD ABBAS, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, expressed confidence in the role of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, given their historic responsibilities with respect to the Palestinian question. The institution had continued to reaffirm the national, stable right of Palestinians, and to guarantee support for them, be it in the political, economic or humanitarian realms. He drew attention to exceptional work done by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to preserve the future for generations of refugees and ensure basic services. He commended other institutions that had upheld basic humanitarian rights, supported education and contributed to national institution building. He thanked the Secretary-General for placing the Palestinian question at the head of priorities for his actions, and emphasized his creativity in seeking a means to re-launch the peace process.
Regional confrontation, wars and conflicts –- and their tragic repercussions –- were the primary threat to global peace, he said, noting that rapid intervention from the international community was needed. As experience over the past decades had shown, the policy of delaying settlement to regional conflicts –- the policy aimed at containing them -– further complicated the situation, which risked exploding into regional war.
Hope, however, was still alive, and his people were capable of overcoming the situation that extremist forces had pushed them to, he continued. Indeed, there were forces in the Middle East who represented the desire to move towards democracy. Though they worked in extreme difficulties, they were committed to creating a new future for the region in which his people would enjoy freedom. There could be no doubt that defending Islam -– a human religion -– was their responsibility. Islam was a religion of openness to the world, and it was important to preserve shared values.
He called on the international community to work for understanding, as attempts to create conflict among religions, cultures and civilizations were a primary danger, and a method used by international terrorism. That was why the “dialogue of cultures, religions and civilizations” was necessary, he said. Global wars were “wars of interests”, not religions and cultures. That reality was only one fragment of the overall picture. Missing opportunities to reach comprehensive solutions, particularly on the Palestinian question, was moving people towards the “precipice of despair”, and making them easy prey for the forces of ignorance and extremism.
Was it not time, he asked, to move seriously toward negotiating an end to Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories since 1967, and thereby achieve the vision of two States? Was it not time to create a Palestinian State, whose capital would be East Jerusalem, and end the suffering that had existed for six decades, to end the policies of colonial expansionism, and building checkpoints around cities, towns and refugee camps? He did not want to return next year asking the same questions. There was no obstacle to holding the upcoming peace talks, as his Arab brothers had shown their true readiness to create a just and lasting peace for the region. Israeli occupation would end once a Palestinian State was created within the framework of the 1967 borders. That was why he was very committed to the substance of that meeting, and hoped all parties would negotiate.
Acknowledging that no political leader knew the solution for Palestinians and Israelis, he said such a solution would be one that emerged from the various General Assembly resolutions; efforts of United States President George W. Bush, who had presented the solution of two States; the “road map” outlined in Security Council resolution 1515 (2003); the Arab Initiative; and other plans presented since 2000.
He had met with Israeli Government Head Ehud Olmert to discuss issues to end the “spiralling of lost occasions”, and settle Jerusalem’s status, refugees, water security, and other issues. He reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s readiness to find a comprehensive agreement on all issues. He would present ideas to a popular referendum for Palestinian people, so that they could give views on the conference outcomes.
Moreover, he reaffirmed he would deal with the overthrow events that had taken place in the Gaza Strip, based on fundamental laws, in order to preserve democracy. Attempts from groups to impose their will by force were wrong. Some had attempted in the past to transform the Palestinian issue into a map to serve regional interests or to achieve expansionist goals. Palestinians had devoted their lives to activism, achieving independence and rejecting hegemony, and would not allow manipulation of their national destiny.
He had come today, he said, representing an exhausted people who had suffered under occupation. Reiterating words of former Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat that “the olive branch would not fall from my hands”, he spoke for those trapped in Iraqi and Syrian borders, and thousands living as refugees in their own land. The voice of peace was stronger than any other voice in his country. He hoped that peace would come to those people who bled daily, including his Iraqi brothers and the Lebanese. He called for building a stable world in which the rights to life and self determination were respected.
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Prime Minister of Turkey,
Tensions in the Middle East was another source of instability with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the crux of all ills in there, he said. The political rift in Palestine, between Hamas and Fatah, had further complicated the issue. A two-State solution, agreed through negotiation, was the means to peace, and Turkey was prepared to support all parties to the peace process through any means necessary. His country was further willing to continue facilitating dialogue in Lebanon, and to contribute to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Afghanistan was another important conflict in the area, and Turkey remained committed to maintaining peace and security there. Turkey had twice taken the command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). It was also working towards solutions to the “frozen conflicts”, which continued to jeopardize regional stability in the South Caucasus region. Also, his country was committed to finding peace in Kosovo, and, it was considering participating in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
ABDELWAHEB ABDALLAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia,
In the political sphere, he said, the struggle of the Palestinian people continued to take centre stage, and it was necessary for the international community, in particular the Quartet, to intensify their efforts to revive the peace process and to convene an international peace conference. In Iraq, it was necessary for regional and international players to help the Iraqi people restore their security, economic and humanitarian situations, through the achievement of a consensual political settlement. And in Lebanon, he urged dialogue in order to “prevent the scourge of dissension” in the country.
SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the conflict range that was expanding in international politics through regional crises, terrorism, and disarmament stagnation jeopardized international stability, diverted resources, and called into question sustainable economic growth throughout the world. Such growth, however, was the fundamental goal, as poverty and economic backwardness expanded the breeding grounds for extremism.
Next on the agenda, he said, was an early solution of the Palestine problem based on the “two States” concept. That goal could be advanced through a representative international conference preceded by thorough preparation. The United States’ initiative to convene a multiparty meeting in November was a step in that direction. Concerning Kosovo, settling the problem was “only possible within the framework of international law based on negotiations”; unilateral steps would not lead to a lasting peace and would create the risk of destabilization in the Balkans and elsewhere.
YANG JIECHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that, despite a growing trend towards peace, development and cooperation, the world still faced traditional and non-traditional security threats, a widening gap between North and South, and the re-emergence of trade protectionism. Two years before, the Chinese President had called for a harmonious world of enduring peace and common prosperity. Today, that was still the best avenue to “win-win progress”.
China was particularly committed to a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, he said. The Six-Party Talks had become an important platform for normalizing relations between countries. China fully supported the use of dialogue to achieve denuclearization of the Peninsula. Diplomatic negotiation was also the best option for solving the Iranian nuclear issue. While China opposed nuclear weapons proliferation, “no non-proliferation efforts should deviate from the goal of upholding international peace and stability”. A country’s right to peaceful use of nuclear energy should be respected, and diplomatic dialogue was the way to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict while supporting the Palestinian bid for an independent state. National reconciliation in Iraq would also contribute to a resolution of Middle East conflicts. In Darfur, there should be talks among the Sudanese Government, the African Union and the United Nations, hand in hand with balanced progress in peacekeeping operations.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, recalling that six years ago the international community pledged to work seriously to achieve long-awaited breakthroughs in old crises, said the world seemed to have gone astray. The Assembly had failed to maintain its momentum, as narrow-minded domestic agendas had been imposed. Unwise objectives had replaced lofty ones, and “eradication of international terrorism” had turned into a loose slogan. How could the world have arrived at a point that bordered on a “clash between civilizations, cultures and religions?” he wondered. Why were some attempting to thrust the holy Islamic faith into the “labyrinth of a limitless clash with the West?”
Getting things back on track was Egypt’s main concern, he said, and directly addressing the chronic conflicts was the “correct way out”. Foremost among them: the Arab-Israeli conflict and its crux, the Palestinian question. While any attempt to achieve stability without serious settlement of those conflicts would not succeed, sustained action for the achievement of a just and comprehensive settlement would contribute to Middle East stability. Recalling that 16 years had passed since the historic Arab-Israeli peace conference in Madrid, he said persistence of the conflict only inflamed passions, and Egypt had endeavoured to bring a just and comprehensive end to it.
The issue required leadership from all parties, and Egypt was constantly ready to work with Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Europeans and those who took to heart the interests of Palestinians. Egypt’s purpose was to resume serious dialogue that would lead to settlement within a specified timeframe, and its commitment remained to the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian State, with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital. The upcoming meeting called for by United States President George Bush could provide an important opportunity to achieve progress.
SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, drew attention to the fact that, despite the efforts and peaceful constructive initiatives the United Arab Emirates had put forth, until now, no progress whatsoever had been made on the settlement of the issue of the 1971 Iranian occupation of three United Arab Emirates islands of Greater and Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa. He called for a solution of the issue by peaceful means, either through bilateral and unconditional negotiations, or by referral of the issue to the International Court of Justice.
Concerning Iraq, he said “all should abstain from interference in Iraq’s internal affairs”. All parties should cooperate to bring an end to violence. He also called for respect for Iraq’s national sovereignty and said calls for partition and division should be resisted. He pledged the United Arab Emirate’s support of Iraq’s reconstruction. Turning to the Middle East crisis, he called on the United Nations, and the Security Council in particular, together with Middle East Quartet, to play a more active role in giving momentum to the Middle East peace process. Without Israel’s acceptance of the Arab Initiative, he stressed, there could be no comprehensive and just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Following with interest the effort to convene the international peace conference for the Middle East later this year, he anticipated a balanced and fairly-managed peace process to end the conflict. The peace process should be based upon the Arab Peace Initiative, the Road Map and the United Nations Security Council resolutions, as well as the rules of international legitimacy, in general. He also renewed support for Syria’s right to regain its full sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Shaikh KHALID BIN AHMED BIN MOHAMMED AL-KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said that international security was based on joint efforts to secure and stabilize States. But, international peace also required the rule of law and justice in order to face wars, nuclear proliferation, extremism and environmental disasters as a community. The Millennium Development Goals were a unique work which the Kingdom of Bahrain had been very pleased to work towards. Investment, national human rights strengthening and labour market reform had ensured Bahrain’s social and economic development.
The Charter of the United Nations required Member States to save future generations from the scourge of war, he said. Issues that threatened global security and peace were mainly concentrated along two fronts in the Middle East embodied foremost by the situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories. In that respect, Bahrain welcomed President George Bush’s initiative to hold an international conference on Middle East peace during the year. He expressed hope that the suffering of the Palestinian people might end, and that “an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital” might be established.
ABDELLAH AL-KHATIB, Foreign Minister of Jordan, said the Middle East continued to face major challenges, as no progress had been made on solving its most pressing issues. However, these challenges were not a justification for Jordan to abandon its national priorities in political and economic reform and in achieving the highest degree of openness and participation. It was vital to find ways to maintain national security while continuing to work towards regional reform.
The Palestine Question, at the core of the Middle East conflict, was at a “decisive crossroads”, and unless peace was achieved soon, the whole region could be swept into “extremism and anarchy”. The international meeting, called by the United States for the end of this year, may be the last chance to achieve progress. Meetings and negotiations should not be an end in itself. It was a means to an end -- reaching real peace. What was needed now was the political will to reach an agreement. Ultimately, the region will lack stability, and Israel will lack security, until an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian State was established, to give the Palestinian people their national rights.
Further, the situation in the Territory was not at all in harmony with a wish to achieve peace, he said. Settlement activities, and excavations in Al Quds Al Sharif must immediately stop. Also, in order the revitalize the Palestinian economy, the Palestinian people must be granted freedom of movement, through the end of road blocks and closures. At the same time, the Palestinian Authority must be allowed to rebuild its institutions and execute its national programme.
MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, supported effective multilateralism, inspired by values and principles sustained by the people. The international community was increasingly aware of the challenges affecting demography, sustainable human and economic development and their relationship to climate change. Real peace and political reason, not just the absence of war, were needed in the Middle East. He supported the Quartet, and called for an open dialogue, free of previous conditions, and for the inclusion of Syria and Lebanon. Spain also supported creation of a peaceful, viable and democratic Palestinian State, and an Israel that had good, secure relations in the region. Spain participated in the United Nations Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and hoped for a peaceful political solution to Lebanon’s political crisis. He also supported self-determination in Western Sahara, and trusted that friendly nations, with the support of the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, would encourage all parties to engage in direct negotiations and reach an agreement.
MOUSSA OKANLA, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and French-speakers and Benineses living abroad of Benin,
Turning to Security Council reform, he said the Council must be made more representative of the United Nations membership and more transparent in its working methods, taking into account the realities of today’s world. He also called for a peaceful end to the Israel-Palestine conflict, an international treaty to combat arms trafficking, and for the perpetrators of human trafficking to be brought to justice by the International Criminal Court. He welcomed expansion of the United Nations mechanism to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers. He also supported the hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur and called for similar support to address the conflict in Somalia. Benin and the United Nations Fund for Democracy had proposed holding an international conference in 2008 on challenges and issues concerning democratic change in Governments. He welcomed others to support the proposal.