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Terrorism, regional hot spots dominant themes on second day of top-level UN debate

Terrorism, regional hot spots dominant themes on second day of top-level UN debate

With presidents of five countries addressing the morning session, the United Nations General Assembly resumed its annual high-level debate today as the fight against terrorism and the need for urgent action in regional hot spots dominated the statements.

Leading off the second day of speakers, President Glafcos Clerides of Cyprus told the Assembly that he was deeply disappointed over the latest refusal of the Turkish side to continue with the proximity talks to help the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to find a comprehensive settlement. “Our vision for Cyprus is a departure from the passions of the past,” he said. “We see as the future of our country, a reunited federal state, member of the European Union, with human and other rights of each and every citizen fully protected under the processes of democracy and rule of law, which we are proud to have achieved in the Republic of Cyprus.”

President Clerides recommended that the leadership of Turkey abandon its threats to annex the occupied part of Cyprus and urged them instead to consider the “obvious advantages” of the solution of the Cyprus problem for the stability in the region, the consolidation of the Greco-Turkish rapprochement and the promotion of Turkey’s aspirations to join in the process of European integration. “I urge the Turkish Cypriot leader, [Rauf] Denktash, to join me in sharing the vision of a Cyprus too small to be divided but huge for the common prosperity of all its inhabitants,” he said.

President Stipe Mesic of Croatia said the threat of terrorism was not due to a clash of cultures or religions, but was a confrontation of civilization and non-civilization. There is no such thing as “our” and “their,” or “justified” and “unjustified” terrorism, he pointed out. The nature of such acts – whether masked by an ideology, religion or a liberation war – is to kill innocent people, and that is unacceptable.

For the problem to be solved, two types of changes must take place in the way the world functions, he said. First, we should move beyond the dichotomy of choosing between terror-imposed anarchy on one side and autocracy as a response to the threat on the other. Fighting back through democracy and the rule of law is the best tactic. The second change involves rethinking the way countries interact and tackling the reasons why people turn to terrorism, President Mesic said: “It will not be difficult to encourage fanatic behavior not only in individuals, but also in large groups of people as long as famine, poverty and non-development are present in large parts of the world, and as long as people suffer from inequality as a result of unresolved regional crises anywhere in the world.”

Echoing this sentiment, the President of Paraguay, Luis Angel González Macchi, said the fight against terrorism should not be interpreted as a collision between cultures or religious beliefs, and that it should be accompanied by anti-poverty measures. In that context, he expressed hope that the International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held next year in Mexico, would not limit itself to mere declarations of intent, but would incorporate clear strategies that will help ensure that globalization bridges the gap between rich and poor countries.

Calling the General Assembly the world’s “most representative body,” the President said its members must make sure the forum is dynamic and does not become a routine endeavour with a pre-established work plan. The Security Council, he said, should be transformed into a more democratic and transparent body, in order to ensure a better political balance. On the Middle East, the President said the UN should redouble its efforts to find a solution that recognizes Israel’s existence within well-defined and secure borders, as well as the Palestinians’ right to have their own state.

World trade issues were of major concern to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, who called in his address for an end to protectionism, stressing that the "song about aid" was meaningless without access to markets. He noted that Africa had removed some of the old impediments to private investment and some of the African countries now had a consistently stable macro-economic framework. "The world, therefore, needs to encourage these positive trends in Africa by opening up their markets on a quota-free, tariff-free basis," he said.

Turning to terrorism, President Museveni said that in the on going debate no one has defined the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist. According to the Ugandan leader, the difference lay in the fact that while a freedom fighter sometimes might be forced to use violence, he could not use indiscriminate violence. The one who used indiscriminate violence was a terrorist, who did not differentiate between combatants and non-combatants, between civilians and servicemen, between armed servicemen and unarmed servicemen. "He fights a war without declaring one," President Museveni said.

Joseph Kabila, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the Congolese people understood the pain of the 11 September events, having been themselves "innocent victims of an aggressive war by Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi." Referring to the return of armed conflict in eastern DRC, the President said the hostilities were "the logical consequence of the failure of a new aggressive Rwandan plan which aims to eradicate all forms of Congolese resistance in order to more effectively occupy the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and continue to pillage its riches." In that context, he said the UN should institute sanctions against all States stealing the DRC's ressources. "The Congolese people ask only that justice be done for the weak as for the strong, and for rich and poor alike," he said.

On the domestic front, President Kabila said the Congolese process of reconciliation had made significant advances thanks to the Republican pact established by the Kinshasa Government, which he said was fully committed to taking part in sessions of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue to be held in South Africa. "It is important that representatives of all sectors of the population be able to participate in this dialogue, and I invite the international community to assist the Democratic Republic of the Congo to organize free and democratic elections," he said.

In his statement, Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth of Mauritius urged the international community to take a long-term view on terrorism since it was the greatest threat to international peace, security and development. Moreover, the war on terrorism must be fought on the basis of principles and standards that are accepted by “every single State,” he stressed.

Prime Minister Jugnauth underscored that aside from the war on terrorism, the world community needed to wage many other wars: on poverty, ignorance, hunger and underdevelopment. “Climate change in Morocco, the World Food Conference in Rome, trade issues in Doha, and a host of other meetings in recent days demonstrate the close dependence that we have on each other,” he said. “No country can afford to go it alone and the many problems that we face today must be faced by us all in a spirit of solidarity, cooperation and mutual accommodation.”

Zlatko Lagumdzija, the Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, underscored that the war against terrorists was justified but warned against failing to do everything to help the innocent who were suffering. Only a comprehensive approach -- military, humanitarian, political and socio-economic - will prevent terrorists from interpreting the intervention in Afghanistan as a war against Islam or a clash of civilizations, he said. Lauding the role of the UN in confronting old and new challenges, he said the contribution of the international community to the progress in his country was particularly visible in the UN mission and other multilateral organizations and institutions represented there.

Prime Minister Lagumdzija said Bosnia and Herzegovina supported further democratization and modernization of the UN as new challenges called for equal geographic participation of States and peoples in the world body. In announcing his country's intention to seek a non-permanent member seat on the Security Council in 2010, the Prime Minister said "we are convinced that by doing so, we confirm our commitment to contribute fully to the work of the UN. This would also be a clear sign of advanced stabilization and normalization of life in our country, and particularly our commitment to economic and democratic development."

The Foreign Minister of China, Tang Jiaxuan, said the United Nations had an “irreplaceable role” in international cooperation in response to globalization and that it should increase its input in development and work more effectively to fulfil the development objectives set forth in last year’s Millennium Declaration. Both the International Conference on Financing for Development and the International Summit on Sustainable Development scheduled for next year should provide opportunities for launching new multilateral cooperation projects, he said. Furthermore, China was supportive of the World Trade Organization (WTO) launching a new round of multilateral trade talks. “It is our hope that with the concerted efforts of all countries, the new round of talks will give full consideration to the concerns and interests of the developing countries so that it will truly become a round for boosting development,” he said.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, Jack Straw, applauded the General Assembly and the Security Council for their resolve in responding to terror. Turning to Afghanistan, he said the UN was the only institution that could deliver a better future for the country. For the first time in decades, there was consensus in the Security Council and among Afghanistan's neighbours that there should be a broad-based government, and that the country's future must be put in the hands of its people. "We should all give Ambassador Brahimi every support in planning a future that leads to Afghanistan retaking its place as a fully fledged member of the international community, able to protect and promote the interests of all its people," he said, referring to Secretary-General Kofi Annan's chief envoy for Afghanistan.

Erkki Tuomioja, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Finland, said the 11 September attacks required a changed thinking within international organizations. “We must respond quickly and efficiently to the challenges of the real world,” he said. “We cannot be buried in old rhetoric and positions when people outside require concrete action and help.” The UN’s efforts – from conflict prevention through crisis management to post-conflict peace-building – needed a fresh approach, he said, pledging his Government’s support to the recommendations contained in a report on ways of improving the Organization’s peace work.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy, Renato Ruggiero, said many global problems could be alleviated through a fair functioning of the international market economy and free trade, which should continue to foster inclusiveness. Noting that Italy was one of the top three contributors to UN-led peace operations, Mr. Ruggiero said no peacekeeping action could achieve lasting results unless it was coupled with measures to strengthen government institutions, safeguard human rights and rebuild the economic and social fiber of affected areas. Debt relief, he said, was an essential tool that could free up resources in developing countries to stimulate economies, for instance by promoting investments into health care and education. As for the problem of the political future of Afghanistan, Mr. Ruggiero said it should be solved only by the Afghani people and must remain a high priority on UN agenda.

Ali Abdi Farah, Foreign Affairs Minister of Djibouti, deplored the 11 September attacks, which he said were proof that no country was immune from terrorism. He also stressed that no country was able to counter such violent acts alone. The international community, he said, must work together so that anti-terrorism measures assume a face of "legitimacy and acceptability." That could be done through the UN, within the framework provided by Security Council resolution 1373, he said. However, the world community should not squander the extraordinary opportunity it now had to examine all possible or probable root causes of terrorism, including attitudes, frustrations, and economic and political conditions, he said. The Djibouti Minister also highlighted the need for the international community to give more attention to the issues of water scarcity, HIV/AIDS, poverty, the peace process in Somalia, and the continuing "brutality" against Palestinians.

Jean Ping, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of

Gabon, said international terrorism must be ended by all military, diplomatic and political means possible. Parallel to such efforts, the international community must bring appropriate responses to problems that could be used as pretexts by certain radical groups. "It is urgent to act with a view to finding solution to the conflicts as well as the economic and social problems of our time," he said. Finding settlement to such conflicts could be more easily accomplished if the illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons were stopped, he said, noting that the implementation of the UN Conference on light weapons, held in New York last July, would bring the world closer to that goal. On the Middle East, the Gabonese Minister encouraged Isrealis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.

In his address to the Assembly, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization and President of the Palestinian Authority, pledged his full commitment to "the peace of the brave," a process begun with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and continued by Shimon Peres for a peace that would guarantee freedom, stability and security to Israelis, Palestinians and all people of the Middle East. He also expressed his "deepest appreciation" for the statement made yesterday by US President George W. Bush, who spoke of the necessity to achieve a just peace based on the implementation of Security Council resolutions and on the basis of two States - Israel and Palestine.

President Arafat stressed that the Palestinian Intifada was in response to Israel's "non-compliance" with the peace process, which included an increase in Israeli settlements, attacks on Palestinian property and the assassination of its political leaders, and increased economic hardship for the Palestinian people. He called for the United States, the Russian Federation, the European Union and other friendly countries to help the two sides achieve a comprehensive framework for a permanent solution and reiterated that any agreement ought to be preceded by the implementation of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet Understandings, referring to the recommendations by former US Senator George Mitchell and former Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet.