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The President (spoke in French): I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Tonio Borg, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Malta.
Mr. Borg (Malta): ...
It is also of satisfaction to record the successful first joint International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held in Malta last February, and organized by the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean. In this context I would like to recognize the importance of resolution 64/124, adopted by the General Assembly in December 2009, whereby the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, whose seat is in Malta, was granted observer status and invited to participate in the sessions and work of the General Assembly.
That brings me to an issue that closely involves the Mediterranean region. I am referring to the situation in the Middle East, with the Palestinian question at its core. Malta joins other Member States in welcoming the decision reached last month between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resume direct negotiations to resolve all permanent status issues. The launching of direct negotiations on 2 September in Washington, D.C., followed by the Sharm el-Sheikh and Jerusalem meetings, has renewed the sense of urgency and expectation for the resolution of an issue that has been on the international agenda for these last 62 years. The intense and unstinting efforts made during these past few months by the Quartet, the Secretary-General and the Arab League, as well as the Israelis and Palestinians themselves, in addition to the valuable contribution of the United States Administration, have opened new possibilities for the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel. As a member of the international community, Malta will continue to play its part within the United Nations, the European Union and other international, regional and subregional forums to support the creation of the right conditions for all peoples of the Mediterranean and the Middle East to live in peace and prosperity.
I now call on His Excellency Mr. Abubakr Al Qirbi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Yemen.
Mr. Al-Qirbi (Yemen) (spoke in Arabic): ...
It is, of course, a fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict threatens international stability and security. The history of efforts to solve this conflict shows clearly that Israeli recalcitrance and the Israeli Government’s settlement policies, as well as its refusal to abide by the internationally legitimate resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative or ensure the legitimate rights of the Palestinians are the main barriers to the achievement of peace.
The international community, in particular the main sponsors of the peace talks and especially the United States, should give Israel one last chance to abide by all of the resolutions, previous agreements and calls relating to the promulgation of peace in addition to the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State on its soil and the cessation of settlement-building. Furthermore, if Israel continues to reject peace, the Security Council should impose a solution to the conflict in accordance with relevant resolutions of international legitimacy and under Chapter VII of the Charter. Israel must also accede to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and enter into serious talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency aimed at making the Middle East a region free from weapons of mass destruction and to assert the right of States in the region to the peaceful use of nuclear technology.
The President (spoke in French): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Avigdor Liberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel.
Mr. Liberman (Israel): When I arrived yesterday in New York, I received a phone call from the chairman of one of the Jewish organizations, who asked me how I was coping with all the pressure that is being placed on Israel. “Surely”, he said, “it must be very difficult”. I recalled an old joke, which tells of five Jews who changed the way we see the world: Moses, law is everything; Jesus, love is everything; Marx, money is everything; Freud, sex is everything; and Einstein, everything is relative. So, I told him that everything is relative. On one hand, it is very difficult. On the other hand, it is easier than before, because now we have a stable coalition and a stable Government and we have the support of a majority of Israel’s citizens. We are ready for a fair solution and we are ready to cooperate with the international community. However, we are not ready to compromise our national security or the vital interests of the State of Israel.
At the outset, I want to emphasize that, contrary to what is often presented in the international media, the political arena in Israel is not divided between those who seek peace and those who seek war. Everyone wants peace, and the controversy in Israel centres on the specific question of how to achieve this peace, how to reach security and stability in the region. And the question is: why, in the 17 years since we signed the Oslo Accords, have we not arrived at a comprehensive agreement signifying the end of the conflict and the removal of future mutual claims?
Despite all of the efforts of all the good people with the best of intentions, including Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert; despite the summit meetings at Camp David between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat with the presence of former President Bill Clinton; and despite the Annapolis Summit between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, we are today still in deadlock.
In fact, contrary to the prevalent view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the heart of the instability in the Middle East or is the main reason for the region’s numerous conflicts, the reality is entirely different. More than 90 per cent of the wars and war victims of the Middle East since the Second World War did not result from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and are in no way connected to Israel. Rather, they stem from conflicts involving Muslims or conflicts between Arab States. The Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war, the wars between North and South Yemen, the Hama atrocities in Syria, and the wars in Algeria and Lebanon — these are just a few examples from a list that goes on and on.
The second flawed explanation for the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians that has gained popularity is that the root of the problem is the so-called occupation, the settlements in Judea and Samaria and the settlers themselves. Only the establishment of an independent Palestinian State in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, so the argument goes, will ensure peace in the region.
It is sufficient to state a number of well-known facts in order to refute that claim. First, all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza were under Arab control for 19 years, between 1948 and 1967. During those 19 years, no one tried to create a Palestinian State. Peace agreements were achieved with Egypt and Jordan, despite the presence of settlements. And the opposite is also true: we evacuated 21 flourishing settlements in Gush Katif and transferred more than 10,000 Jews. And, in return, we have Hamas in power and thousands of missiles landing on Sderot and southern Israel.
Another misguided argument is the claim that the Palestinian issue prevents a determined international front against Iran. This argument is not only flawed, it is completely irresponsible. The same argument could be made that the Palestinian issue prevents action on North Korea, piracy in Somalia, the humanitarian crisis in Sudan or the challenge of Afghanistan.
Just as the Khomeini Revolution had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue, neither is the Iranian decision to develop nuclear weapons related. In truth, the connection between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is precisely the contrary. Iran can exist without Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, but the terrorist organizations cannot exist without Iran. Relying on those proxies, Iran can, at any given time, foil any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians or with Lebanon.
Thus, in searching for a durable agreement with the Palestinians, one that will deal with the true roots of the conflict and will endure for many years, one must understand that, first, the Iranian issue must be resolved. One must deal first with the root cause of the problem, and not its symptoms. There are, of course, yet other problems that must be solved; solving that one would not be sufficient, but it is nevertheless a necessary condition.
In trying to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, we are dealing with two types of problems: emotional problems and practical problems. That is why the solution must also be a two-stage one.
The emotional problems are, first and foremost, the utter lack of confidence between the sides and issues such as Jerusalem, recognition of Israel as the nation-State of the Jewish people, and refugees. Under those conditions, we should focus on coming up with a long-term intermediate agreement, something that could take a few decades. We need to raise an entire new generation that will have mutual trust and will not be influenced by incitement and extremist messages. To achieve a final status agreement, we must understand that the primary practical obstacle is the friction between the two nations.
As is true everywhere, where there are two nations, two religions or two languages with competing claims to the same land, there is friction and conflict. Countless examples of ethnic conflict around the world confirm this, whether in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Africa, the Far East or the Middle East. Where effective separation has been achieved, conflict has either been avoided or has been dramatically reduced or resolved. Consider the cases of the former Yugoslav republics, the split-up of Czechoslovakia and the independence of East Timor as cases in point. Thus, the guiding principle for a final status agreement must not be land-for-peace but rather, exchange of populated territory. Let me be very clear: I am not speaking about moving populations, but rather about moving borders to better reflect demographic realities.
This is not an extraordinary insight and is far less controversial than some may seek to claim. In fact, precisely this notion — that a mismatch between borders and nationalities is a recipe for conflict — has long been accepted as a virtual truism in the academic community. Leading scholars and highly respected research institutions have even coined the term “right-sizing the State” to capture the idea that States and nations must be in balance in order to ensure peace. This is not a controversial political policy. It is an empirical truth.
But beyond empirical truth there is historical truth, namely, the almost 4,000 years during which the Jewish people were born in the land of Israel and developed the corpus of ethical and intellectual treasures that have been instrumental in the rise of Western civilization. The 2,000 years of forced exile and interim conquest by Byzantines, Arabs, Mamelukes, Ottomans and others cannot and never will impair the unbreakable bonds of the Jewish people to its homeland. Israel is not only where we are, it is who we are.
In closing, let me remind everyone in this Hall of the quote on the plaza across from the United Nations, words spoken in Jerusalem almost 3,000 years ago by the Jewish prophet Isaiah:
The President (spoke in French): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Mr. Hor (Cambodia): ...
The Israeli-Palestinian issue remains one of the longest and most explosive running conflicts in the Middle East. Year after year the Palestinian people are denied their right to establish a Palestine State living side by side in peace with the people of Israel. Year after year this Assembly urges the parties concerned to comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions, while the whole world waits impatiently for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Cambodia urges both parties to act with utmost restraint and to avoid any act of provocation, in order to pave the way for a peaceful solution.
Cambodia warmly welcomes the recent direct peace talks between the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President in Washington and in Egypt, as a step in the right direction for bolstering an atmosphere of trust between the two sides. Cambodia shares the view of the international community that new settlements in the West Bank present the main obstacle to efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the conflict. Cambodia hopes that both sides can finally look for a compromise on this crucial issue in order to achieve a breakthrough for the sake of a lasting peace in the Middle East.
The Acting President: I now give the floor to His Excellency Mr. Walid Al Moualem, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic.
Mr. Al-Moualem (Syrian Arab Republic) (spoke in Arabic): The Middle East region has been rife with tensions for many decades. It has survived major events and numerous wars. The policies, interests and trends that have unfolded on its soil have converged at times but clashed at others. Due to its geographic location, the Middle East influences neighbouring countries in Asia, Europe and Africa and is, in turn, influenced by them. Syria, which lies at the heart of the Middle East, has experienced these tensions, policies, events and outcomes and has reacted to them.
This fact — which has spelled both positive and negative consequences for the Syrian Arab Republic — prompted us to define our perspective in addressing external issues, particularly the nature of our international relations. Safeguarding and sustaining Syrian and Arab interests is our priority. Therefore, our door remains open for an in depth and meaningful dialogue aimed at reconciling differences with others and reaching common ground on the basis of which progress can be made. That was our response when Syria endured attempts to isolate and blockade it, a response we reaffirm today as Syria discharges its role as a major player in matters related to the security and stability of the region. We believe that civilized international relations must be built on openness and dialogue as opposed to insularity, isolation, confrontation and aggression. This is our approach, which we hope will prevail in a world driven by multiple interests and perspectives, overwhelmed by problems and complications, yet at the same time sustained by hopes and noble visions.
The world has declared that it is determined to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and has stressed that peace is an urgent prerequisite for the maintenance of security and stability in the region. In Israel, there is much talk about peace, yet the drums of war continue to sound. Land appropriation for settlement-building goes on unabated. Peace negotiations, we are told, are currently under way on the basis of the two-State solution, but settlement activities are about to make this two-State solution a dead letter that stands no chance of survival. Israel is intensely pursuing its Judaization plans for Jerusalem in order to depopulate it of its Palestinian inhabitants. Israeli actions threaten the safety of Jerusalem’s holy sites. Through settlement activities, actions and declarations concerning Jerusalem, Israel pursues a fait accompli policy on the basis of which it imposes its will regardless of whether negotiations continue or stall.
Peace can be genuine only if there is a genuine will to make peace. That is the litmus test. Political manoeuvres during negotiations under the umbrella of the desire for peace strain and exacerbate the situation and may make it more volatile and explosive.
Syria seeks a just and comprehensive peace achieved through the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and the Arab Peace Initiative. Our position has been known and declared for years. We have the will to make peace and we are the masters of our decision, which is unwavering. The occupied Syrian Golan is not negotiable nor is it a bargaining chip. Recognition of the fact that it must be returned fully is the basis on which peacemaking arrangements should be made. Syria is ready to resume peace negotiations from the point where they stopped, through the Turkish mediator, if it finds in Israel a partner committed to the terms of reference of peacemaking, and if that partner has the political will to achieve peace.
We note with satisfaction the objective opinion of the report of the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission investigating the Israeli attack on the freedom flotilla that was headed to Gaza on an exclusively humanitarian mission (A/HRC/15/21). We look forward to the conclusions to be drawn from the report of the international commission now that the necessary legal grounds and supporting evidence have been established by the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission.
The Acting President: I now call on His Excellency Mr. Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Mr. Qureshi (Pakistan): ...
Pakistan supports the just cause of the Palestinian people for restitution of their inalienable national rights, including their independent Palestinian State with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.
The brazen use of force against the humanitarian freedom flotilla on 31 May 2010, which resulted in the killing of humanitarian workers, was a flagrant violation of international law and norms. We look forward to a prompt, impartial and transparent inquiry of the incident by the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry.
The President (spoke in French): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Arvin Boolell, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of the Republic of Mauritius.
Mr. Boolell (Mauritius): ...
The current process for talks between Israelis and Palestinians has given renewed hope for lasting peace through the creation of an independent sovereign Palestinian State existing side by side with the State of Israel within secured and recognized borders. Mauritius has always supported the legitimate and inalienable right of the Palestinian people to live in peace and security in an independent Palestinian State. We therefore commend President Barack Obama for his initiatives and leadership in enabling the direct talks between President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The President (spoke in French): I now call on His Excellency Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria.
Mr. Mladenov (Bulgaria): ...
Bulgaria has seen stellar moments in its history, for example, when civil society rose during the Second World War and refused to allow its Jewish population to be sent to concentration camps, or when it integrated its Turkish population after the end of communism. But, it has also seen its dark moments — when it failed to save the Jewish populations of occupied Northern Greece and Vardar Macedonia, or when the Communist regime expelled a large part of our Muslim citizens to Turkey. Our history has taught us to be able to distinguish between good and bad. Our history proves that the cynics are wrong, that people can live together in peace.
That is why Bulgaria cannot remain uninterested in the Middle East. We believe that, just as the Jewish people have a homeland in the State of Israel, so the Palestinian people have the right to an independent State of Palestine that lives in peace with its neighbours. During the past months we have all witnessed the efforts of the United States Administration to restart the direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Many of us have made passionate speeches on the need and urgency of peace. Today, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders face the historic challenge of looking to tomorrow and not being tied down by yesterday. The Middle East cannot afford a failed peace process. The world cannot afford a peace process that does not have a comprehensive end goal in sight.
Today we must all recognize that hard decisions are called for and lend our full support to President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu to help them walk the hard road to peace. Obstacles should be overcome and preconditions should be removed. If the leaders of Palestine believe that settlement policy is an obstacle to peace, the leaders of Israel must refrain from such activities in order to give peace a chance. If the leaders of Israel believe that no preconditions to a final settlement should be put in place, then the Palestinian leaders must refrain from such actions in order to give peace a chance.
The choice today is not between peace negotiations and economic development, because peace and prosperity go hand in hand. No one should feel singled out or left behind, because the enemies of peace are many — those who feel that walls are safer than bridges and those who feel that religions cannot coexist. You can take away a man’s life, but you ultimately cannot take away his faith or dignity.
This is why I call on all Members of the United Nations to stand firmly behind the efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to achieve peace. In doing this, we must recognize the legitimate concerns of both sides — Israel’s security and the viability of a Palestinian State.
In this effort we should not forget the 1.5 million people who live in Gaza — Palestinians who have the right to a better life, just like the children of Sderot have the right to go to school without the threat of rockets. We have an obligation to help open up access to Gaza without compromising the security of Israel. History has proven that isolation and deprivation breed radicalism, and it is in the interest of peace that more opportunities be created.