Terrorism remains dominant theme as General Assembly ends 3rd day of debate

Terrorism remains dominant theme as General Assembly ends 3rd day of debate

With terrorism remaining a dominant theme, the United Nations General Assembly concluded the third day of its annual high-level debate after hearing 3 presidents and over 20 foreign ministers, whose statements reflected a wide range of concerns and challenges facing the UN membership.

Opening the afternoon session, the President of Albania, Rexhep Meidani, said his country had “categorically denounced” the extremist violence in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and stressed that political dialogue was the only means of resolving the outstanding problems. He welcomed the recent accord reached between the Macedonian authorities and the Albanian community and expressed hope that it would soon be implemented, as that would serve the cause of peace and stability in the country and in the region. He also warmly welcomed the involvement of NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Regarding the situation in Kosovo, he welcomed recent positive developments and lauded the work of the UN mission in the province in advance of the general elections. He said the balloting would mark an “important page” in the history of Kosovo as it would be the first time that its people would be allowed to freely elect the democratic organs of government that would take charge of their future. “We express our sincere hope that the Serb minority and other minorities living in Kosovo will participate in these elections,” he said.

Maria E. Levens, the Foreign Minister of Suriname, noted that the September terrorist attacks, in addition to extracting a severe human toll, would have far-reaching economic consequences. “We have already seen the devastating effects on the Caribbean in terms of loss of income, in for example tourism and trade,” she observed, pointing out that the region faced grave problems brought on by limited access to global markets brought on by stringent trade rules and World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations. “Suriname pleads for an institutional arrangement between the UN and the WTO to allow developing countries easier access to this body,” she said.

Recalling last week’s regional anti-terrorism conference hosted by his country, Poland’s Foreign Minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, said that the forum’s declaration indicated strong political commitment to fight against that menace. “The adopted plan of action spells out concrete measures,” he said. At the same time, he called for increased vigilance about weapons of mass destruction. “The spreading anthrax scare, representing but a tip of an iceberg of potential danger of bio-terrorism, spreading of fissile materials and chemical weapons are a powerful argument for the urgent need to strengthen and strictly enforce the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, and some other legal instruments in this sphere,” he said.

Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalghem, Secretary of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya, stressed the need for international agreement on a definition of terrorism. “We cannot condemn terrorism and fight it when it hits one country and turn a blind eye when it hits other countries and peoples,” he said, calling for the General Assembly to convene a special session on terrorism to examine the issue in all of its dimensions. Concerning the situation in the Middle East, he urged “the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland from which they were expelled, and the establishment of a democratic non-racist State in which all citizens are equal, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.”

The Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Phil Goff, said the events of 11 September had made it even more imperative that countries minimize the threat that chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of extremist groups. He called for all countries to ratify treaties against biological and chemical weapons, as well as the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. In addition, he said the terrorist attacks against the US “should encourage all countries and organizations, but most particularly those directly involved, to renew their efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to the Middle East crisis.”

The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Lydie Polfer, said that although a direct link between the 11 September events and the situation in the Middle East could not be justified, that region was still cause for great concern. “During my recent visit to the region, I could see how the peace process, which has been blocked for too long, suffers from the absence of concrete perspectives and mounting mistrust between the parties,” she said. She called for a halt to the violence and a return to negotiations leading to a just and durable peace in the region based on the establishment of a Palestinian State and the right of Israel to exist in peace and security.

Mohamed Benaissa, the Foreign Minister of Morocco, said the Middle East was experiencing one of most serious regional conflicts the world has faced over the past 50 years. Noting that the violence there had been escalating, costing the lives of hundreds of women and children, he called for an end to the vicious cycle of violence and reprisals. Peace for Palestine, he stressed, would require an Israeli withdrawal from all the land it had occupied since 1967 in full compliance with international law. Concerning the situation in Western Sahara, he said the Settlement Plan did not come to a halt because of identification problems, but because of the huge difficulties outlined by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his report to the Security Council.

Mikhail Khostov, the Foreign Minister of Belarus, expressed concern about the situation in Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia “provoked by aggressive separatism and international terrorism.” He said political logic must prevail over the logic of force. “On the eve of the forthcoming all-nation elections in Kosovo, Belarus confirms its adherence to the principle of territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and supports the diplomatic initiative by the Russian Federation to legally reconfirm the existing national borders in the Balkans,” he said.

Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Brian Cowen, said those responsible for the 11 September terrorist attacks could and must be stopped. At the same time, he expressed hope that the military campaign now under way would achieve its objectives in as short a time frame as possible. “Every effort must continue to be made to spare civilian casualties, and it is crucial that the military campaign be accompanied by a visible and effective humanitarian strategy,” he said. He also called for a concerted international effort, coordinated by the UN, to assist the people of Afghanistan in establishing a broad-based government, accompanied by comprehensive support for the post-military rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country.

Josep Piqué, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, called for efforts to finalize the comprehensive convention against terrorism. “The goal must be to draw up an operative and executive instrument that cannot be paralysed by discussions of a political and not legal nature,” he said. At the same time, he urged attention to the situation in the Middle East in order to “stop the blind cycle of violence and return to the negotiating table.” Talks should lead, ultimately, to a point where “the State of Israel and the Palestinian State will coexist peacefully within secure borders.”