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Middle East, climate change among issues debated in General Assembly

Middle East, climate change among issues debated in General Assembly

President Harris
As the General Assembly began the third day of its high-level debate this morning, the speakers addressed a broad range of issues – from international terrorism to the situation in the Middle East and Africa, peacekeeping operations, climate change, as well as fishery management and marine ecology.

Rene Harris, President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nauru, told the Assembly that as the United Nations was focusing on the fights against terrorism in the wake of the 11 September attacks, the regional anti-terror initiatives should also be supported. President Harris also emphasized the importance of providing greater funding for UN humanitarian operations.

On other matters, he stressed that the issue of climate change and rising sea level were of major concern to his country. Noting that the Kyoto protocol represented a significant step forward, he stressed that significant action must be taken on a practical compliance regime to make financial outcomes enforceable. President Harris also pointed out that as the world’s very first Nuclear-Free Zone, the Pacific Island Forum had again expressed its desire to have the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) enter into force. Nauru will deposit its instrument of ratification on Tuesday and will also pursue its concerns about trans-shipment of radioactive material, he said.

Kenyan President Daniel T. arap Moi emphasized the need to tackle the crippling poverty afflicting millions of people across the world. “Poverty is a fertile breeding ground for conflict and instability and even terrorism,” he pointed out. Noting that the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other treatable diseases like malaria and tuberculosis were hampering development efforts, he lauded the establishment of the Global AIDS and Health Fund and urged all countries to support it.

Looking to the broader economic challenges facing developing countries, he pointed out that the issue of meaningful market access, particularly for agricultural products, must be resolved quickly. “Protectionist policies are in no country's interest and definitely contradict the principles of free trade and the process of liberalization,” he said, adding that solutions in the form of better terms of trade and market access must go hand-in-hand with the flow of foreign direct investment to developing countries.

Malta’s Foreign Minister, Joe Borg, drew attention to the increasingly apparent links between the environment and international security. In particular, he stressed the importance of talks aimed at operationalizing the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Despite being faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the international community succeeded in forging the Earth's first major action-oriented response to the phenomenon of global warming,” he said, adding that the recent agreement on the modalities for implementing the Kyoto Protocol had “opened the door” for all States to ratify that instrument.

The Foreign Minister of Turkey, Ismail Cem, called for further attention to the situation in Cyprus. “Any artificially imposed ‘solution’ that is not mutually acceptable to both nations in the island and to the guarantor countries, is bound to create a severe crisis,” he warned. “Turkey, as well as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, aspire to a mutually acceptable solution, sought through all possible means.” On Afghanistan, he pointed to the two dimensions of the challenge: to combat the terrorist network and to support the revival of Afghanistan by ensuring peace and stability. All countries involved in Afghanistan should be discouraged from relying on particular Afghan groups and refrain from pursuing their special interests through those groups, he stressed.

Calling for a “clear political and humanitarian perspective for Afghanistan,” German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the UN should be the coordinating agency for all peace efforts. “It is indispensable as the framework for the political process and as the guarantor of internal agreements within Afghanistan,” he said. “Only a peace process under the auspices of the United Nations will succeed in excluding external involvement in the future and ensuring a peaceful future for the country.” He also pledged Germany’s support for the economic and social reconstruction of Afghanistan.

John Briceno, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment of Belize, said that the recently concluded debate on the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations had produced meaningful discussion on the advantages of diversity and its benefits to human progress. “Enhanced by globalization, our actions impact others immediately, creating new realities and require more openness and greater sensitivity to the differences among us,” he said. Coming from a country where seven different languages or dialects were spoken and diverse ethnic populations lived together peacefully, Mr. Briceno said his delegation welcomed the prospect of increased dialogue among civilizations, one inclusive of all peoples, that would improve upon the understanding of “who we are and where we came from. Let us grasp the opportunity given to us through this process to work together as equal partners in this global community, seeking to understand our common objectives while respecting our differences.”

Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal, said that despite deep-rooted conflicts such as those in Burundi or Sierra Leone, progress had been impressive in Africa this past year and significant steps had been taken to reach peace agreements. It was now up to the Security Council to perform its responsibilities under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The Foreign Minister said the international community must find new sources of financing for the developing world, however, especially with cutbacks in official development assistance (ODA). The cycle of debt in Africa, which has been described as a scourge similar to slavery, must be broken, he stressed, as Africa was relying greatly on the ministerial results of the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting, the Conference for Financing and Development in Monterrey, Mexico, and other conferences to provide innovative solutions for Africa at the beginning of the millennium.

In his address, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Iceland, Halldor Asgrimsson, said that uprooting terrorism must go hand in hand with solving regional conflicts threatening international peace and security, which was particularly true for the Middle East. By prolonging the violence and refusing to negotiate, both sides played into the hands of extreme elements that wanted neither a continuation of the peace process nor a political solution to the Middle East conflict. He urged both parties to unconditionally resume negotiations, which was the only way to secure a lasting peace in the region and which should be based on the establishment of a viable and democratic Palestinian state and on the right of the Israelis to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.

Combating terrorism was not a one-dimensional task but one that required cooperation on many fronts, said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria. In that regard, the UN played a key role. She also stressed that there was a role for regional cooperation, such as the so-called “Regional Security Partnership” established between her country and some of its neighbours. Above all, the world community must address the long-term societal development at local, national and global levels and the capacities required to build a universally shared political culture based on respect of human rights, human dignity, including the plurality of identities at all levels of society.

For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, warned that terrorism would exploit political, economic and social imbalances and the absence of justice to advance its goals. Therefore, addressing the main causes of despair, frustration and sense of injustice in a serious manner was perhaps the most effective way to confront terrorism and pre-empt its potential appeal and support. In that vein, a truly effective international effort to eradicate terrorism required a just and acceptable resolution of the question of Palestine. Mr. Khatib pointed out that the efforts of Jordan’s King, Abdullah II, had led to a full international consensus on the requirements needed to break the current deadlock, including an end to the use of the Israeli military machine against the Palestinian people, lifting the blockade, abandoning the assassinations policy and the incursions into areas under the control of the Palestinian National Authority. Implementing those steps would set out an appropriate entry to start the implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, he said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities of Cape Verde, Manuel Inocencio Sousa, said finding solutions for two of the most critical problems faced by the UN and by the African continent – poverty and armed conflicts – could not be postponed because they loomed larger now. He warned that the Millennium Summit goal of cutting in half the number of poor people in the world by 2015 would not be met unless a strategy to reverse the process of socio-economic degradation was adopted. “It is an undisputed fact that, as a rule, conflicts occur in countries that are marked by poverty,” he said. “This cause-and-effect relationship has become a vicious circle that cannot be terminated without efficient coordination between the preventive diplomacy and social action of the UN, along with more effective engagement by the industrialized countries.”

In his speech to the Assembly, Aichatou Mindaoudou, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Niger, noted that the Millennium Summit recognized the magnitude of the problems Africa was facing, which included the ravages of armed conflict and HIV/AIDS. The flow of official development assistance (ODA) to Africa had plummeted and foreign investment continued to stagnate, he noted, adding that it was vital to increase ODA, expand initiatives for cancelling debt and promote investment. The UN, more than any other forum, was the place to promote new partnerships for the benefit of Africa. Next year’s Conference on Financing for Development should be a decisive turning point on the road to a more equitable world economic order and should result in a clear-cut political declaration with respect to the capacities of developing countries, he said.

The West African sub-region remained characterized by conflict, growing levels of poverty, the illicit proliferation of weapons and the multiplication of armed gangs, said Modibo Sidibe, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali. In order to deal with these conflicts, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) undertook a regional approach to determine the root causes and the humanitarian consequences of these conflicts. ECOWAS had assumed an important role in the resolution of regional conflicts, and was at the forefront of early-warning systems, Mr. Sidibe said. He added, however, that the success of these activities required help from the international community, particularly the UN.

Focusing on the question of globalization, Rashid Abdullah Al-Noaimi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, stressed that not all of the recent changes in society, technology and communications had been positive, as they had widened the information gap between the peoples of the developed and developing worlds and spawned new situations of conflict that threatened the social fabric of communities while undermining sustainable development. To enable countries to take advantage of the economic and technological aspects of globalization, beyond the assistance that States like the United Arab Emirates have extended, the World Trade Organization should reinforce the developmental dimension of multilateral trade agreements, he said. It should activate clauses related to preferential treatment in favour of developing countries and rectify flaws affecting the development policies of the developing countries and their export earnings.