Israel's relations with the United Nations are "better than ever" and the country will, for the first time, seek a temporary seat on the Security Council, its Foreign Minister told the General Assembly today.
Silvan Shalom cited a number of recent positive developments which signal a "welcome shift in the attitude of this institution towards Israel." These included the special session to commemorate the Holocaust as well as the election of an Israeli to serve as an Assembly Vice President. "I wish to commend the Secretary-General for his unique contribution to this positive trend," he said. "Israel's relations with the UN are better today than they have ever been."
At the same time, he urged further progress, calling on all States to promote a more balanced and constructive UN approach to Israel. "Israel seeks to take its rightful place, as a country with full and equal rights in this institution," he said. "This is why I have decided to present – for the first time – Israel's candidacy for membership of the Security Council."
A number of other countries addressing the Assembly's annual debate this morning spoke of trends towards peace. Carlos Gomes, Junior, the Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, said international support is critical to the success of his country's political transition, especially in terms of achieving the economic progress needed to reach minimal conditions for governing the country. The Government was determined to work constructively to create the necessary conditions to promote national reconciliation and to practice good neighbourly relations with other countries in the region, he said.
Zarifou Ayeva, Foreign Affairs Minister of Togo, said the country had fortunately emerged from its tumultuous period and was currently consolidating peace through the electoral process. The Government of National Unity represented all factions and a dialogue had been opened with all sectors of society with a view to achieving full national reconciliation. He voiced hope that the UN would continue helping governments to become more democratic and accountable to their citizens.
Kuwait's Foreign Minister, Mohammad Al-Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, voiced support for the people of Iraq and confidence that they would achieve peace and prosperity. He also welcomed the Government's determination to try the leaders of the former Iraqi regime for all the crimes against humanity they perpetrated against the people of Iraq. "The trials should also include the crimes committed against the Kuwaiti people as embodied in the invasion of the State of Kuwait and the killing of Kuwaiti prisoners and third-country nationals," he said.
Mohamed Bedjaoui, Foreign Minister of Algeria, called for the elaboration and completion of a comprehensive global convention against terrorism, but one which will not serve to oppress peoples seeking to exercise their legitimate rights. The aim should be to unite in a common effort to wage a coherent fight against terrorism that leaves no doubt about international will on the issue. At the same time, it will be necessary to clarify that terrorism is not the province of any one religion or civilization.
Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, Foreign Affairs Minister of Spain, said his country was fully committed to the fight against terrorism, and called for the General Assembly to adopt a global strategy to fight the scourge that would include the creation of an international fund to provide assistance to victims. Above all, countries must work to conclude a comprehensive international convention against terrorism before the end of the current Assembly session.
Talbak Nazarov, Foreign Affairs Minister of Tajikistan, said the new Peacebuilding Commission should consider the situation in Afghanistan, where the process of national reconciliation is under constant threat. "The Taliban and advocates of Al-Qaida again are raising their heads and making attempts to restore the infrastructure of terror," he warned. "Their antigovernment actions threaten peace and security both in the country and in the region." In addition, narcotics production continues to pose a threat. These trends demand an international response, he said.
Guatemala's Foreign Minister, Jorge Briz Abularach, said his country would continue to participate energetically in the efforts to establish the Peacebuilding Commission. "Our own national experience enables us to contribute actively to these efforts," he said, describing how Guatemala is striving to consolidate peace and promote democracy.
Micheline Calmy-Rey, Chief of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Switzerland, welcomed the Summit's decision to replace the Commission on Human Rights with a Human Rights Council but voiced regret that it was not possible to define working methods. The new Human Rights Council should convene periodically in Geneva and should work in close cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She suggested that Member States work towards defining the Council's nature and the working methods ahead of the next session of the Commission on Human Rights, which starts next March.
Somsavat Lengsavad, Foreign Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, emphasized the importance of revitalizing the General Assembly, which "should continue to play a central role as chief deliberative policy-making and representative organ." He added that the Assembly should foster high-level policy statements and should consider issues of special political importance. "In order to strengthen the role and authority of the General Assembly, we Member States should stress on the need to fully respect and restore the balance between the principal organs of the UN within their respective purviews," he said.
The Foreign Minister of Niger, Aïchatou Mindaoudou, said that, more than ever before, solidarity and international cooperation have become essential. In the case of Niger, the recent food crisis has prompted a call for international support. Ultimately, durable solutions will be required to provide all people in Niger with food security.
Andorra's Foreign Minister, Juli Minoves-Triquell, stressed the interdependence of today's world. "Whether we are speeding toward challenges that will take the form of natural or man-made catastrophes, we can be assured that their effects will no longer be contained within national borders," he said. "We must prepare to respond to them with a strength and resolve that also knows no bounds." Towards that end, he called for a renewed focus on the potential contribution of the United Nations.
Kiribati's President, Anote Tong, said that for low-lying coral atolls, environmental issues such climate change and sea level rise are, fundamentally, security concerns. "A global and concerted effort, including stronger political commitment, is required to achieve the objectives of the UN Convention on Climate Change," he said.
He voiced appreciation for the support his country has achieved but said that contingency planning remains essential. "We acknowledge the need now to seriously consider the option of having to relocate our peoples when necessary – an option that can only be meaningfully addressed within this forum."