General Assembly high-level debate was ‘rich and powerful,’ President says

General Assembly high-level debate was ‘rich and powerful,’ President says

GA President Jan Kavan
The just-concluded high-level debate of the General Assembly was a "rich and powerful" exercise which will guide the United Nations body over the course of the current session, its President, Jan Kavan of the Czech Republic, said today.

Recapping some of the main themes expressed during the 10-day meeting, he noted widespread agreement that the united international front in the fight against terrorism must be preserved. Many speakers also touched on the Iraqi offer to accept UN weapons inspections, he added, voicing hope that those views would shape action on the matter. Concerning the Middle East, he noted that numerous participants had stressed the need to realize the shared vision of two States - Israel and Palestine - living side by side within secure and recognized borders. Participants hailed progress in Afghanistan, calling for continued donor support to the country.

Numerous delegates also called for heightened attention to development and the preservation of the environment, and underscored the importance of meeting targets laid out at numerous UN conferences, the President said. Particular attention was paid to the need for UN support to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), he added, voicing confidence that the issue would remain high on the Assembly's agenda.

Among those taking part in the debate, which opened on 12 September, were 33 heads of State, 14 heads of government, 14 deputy prime ministers and 110 foreign ministers.

Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi, Vice President of Palau, said her country was committed to the battle against terrorism, but like many other developing nations, it lacked adequate resources. "To those leading the combat against terrorism, Palau says, 'Please, give us the tools we need to make a substantial contribution to this fight, she said.'" On environmental issues, she said evidence suggests that "global solidarity is limited to those areas which concern the major powers of the developed world." Countries enjoying the highest standards of living "have done so and continue to do so at the expense of the environmental integrity of our planet." Emitting greenhouses gases, these States are threatening small island countries such as Palau, "placing their mere comfort at a premium over our very existence, at the very same time they seek our support for their goals and initiatives." She called on those developed nations to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Elvin Nimrod, the Foreign Minister of Grenada, also pledged his Government's full support for counter-terrorism measures, while appealing "for assistance from willing partners in the fight against terrorism and the concomitant trade in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, which traverse our region via the Caribbean Sea." On the subject of development, he said trade offered the fastest route out of poverty, and called on developed countries to open their markets to goods from developing States. Specifically, he called for a reduction in trade barriers and tariffs "which impede poorer developing countries from full participation in the global economy."

Ilir Meta, Albania's Foreign Minister, said southeastern Europe has recently seen a number of positive changes, but "unfortunately, the traces of extreme nationalism and xenophobia, which are still present, remind us that we have a long way to go for escaping from the past and the genuine democratization of this region." He stressed the need for international cooperation to address the problem, and hailed the efforts of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) towards this end. In addition, he called for a regional approach to tackling organized crime, and pledged Albania's full engagement in tackling that scourge.

Speaking of the situation in his country, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, Ioannis Kasoulides, stressed the need to move towards a common future of prosperity, democracy and regional cooperation. "Both sides should seize the moment and take advantage of the window of opportunity that is now available for the achievement of a just and viable settlement to the Cyprus problem, based on Security Council resolutions, which represent the verdict and collective wisdom of the international community," he said. "The time to engage in a serious, meaningful dialogue is now, in view of the unique convergence of positive factors such as the renewed interest of the international community, the personal involvement and commitment of the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, to whom we express our appreciation, and the European Union accession process of Cyprus."

Also dealing with domestic issues, Monie Captan, the Foreign Minister of Liberia, said the sanctions imposed on his country were punitive and unjust. Liberia was in full compliance with the demands of the Security Council for the lifting of sanctions, namely the cessation of support to the Revolutionary United Front of Sierra Leone intended to lead to progress in the peace process in Sierra Leone. "No one can dispute the fact that peace has been restored to Sierra Leone and that the RUF no longer exists," he said, calling the arms embargo against his country a "flagrant violation" of its right to self-defence and urging the Security Council to lift its sanctions.

Also taking part in this afternoon's debate were Louis Straker, the Foreign Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Filomena Mascarenhas Tipote, the Foreign Minister of Guinea-Bissau, Yusuf Hassan Ibrahim, the Foreign Minister of Somalia, Jan Kohout, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Irma Loemban Tobing-Klein, Chairperson of the Delegation of Suriname, Alfred Capelle, Chairman of the Delegation of the Marshall Islands, and Martin Belinga-Eboutou, Chairman of the Delegation of Cameroon.