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      UNIS/GA/1696
      15 September 2000
     Strengthened Peacekeeping Operations, Middle East Peace Addressed,
    As Fifty-fifth General Assembly Continues Debate

    Hears from Foreign Ministers of Lebanon, Norway, Libya,
    United Kingdom, Germany, Syria, Ireland, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina
     

     NEW YORK, 15 September (UN Headquarters)  –  Too often the United Nations had failed to save those who needed protection from the terror of brutal conflict, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, Robin Cook, told the fifty-fifth General Assembly this morning, as it continued its general debate.

    Mr. Cook pledged his country’s support for the conclusions of the report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations –  the “Brahimi report”.  Further, he called for a United Nations Headquarters unit capable of rapid deployment within a few weeks of a Security Council resolution and also proposed a permanent staff college for peacekeeping.  Any mission to restore peace was an admission of failure to prevent conflict, he said, and the root causes of conflict – poverty, bad governance and denial of freedom or minority rights –  must be addressed.

    The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lebanon, Selim El-Hoss, told the Assembly that in the second half of May, for the first time since 1978, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was allowed to fulfil its mandate under Security Council resolution 425 (1978).  Israel must compensate Lebanon for the human, material and economic losses sustained as a result of Israeli occupation and his country would, in that matter, resort to the International Court of Justice.  He appealed to the donor countries and the international financial institutions to provide sufficient assistance for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the South.

     He believed that the opportunity for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East remained, provided that Israel committed to the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Madrid terms of reference.  To achieve peaceful settlement, the Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to their homeland.  

    The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, Farouk Al-Shara, said it was obvious that the continued Israeli occupation of Arab territory was the major obstacle in the path of peace.  The serious and carefully considered negotiations Syria had conducted had proven that Israel was neither desirous nor serious in pursuing a just and comprehensive peace according to United Nations resolutions.  Syria had the right to a full return of the entire Golan to the line of 4 June 1967, without concession or compromise.

    Syria was committed to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to return and to self-determination, he said.  It supported the establishment of their independent state on their sovereign land, and also supported the rights of Muslims and Arabs to a full Palestinian sovereignty over the Quds-al-Sharif, he said.

    Deputy Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Joschka Fischer, said protection of the natural environment would probably become the crucial issue affecting the planet.  The squandering of natural resources had to end and the transition from oil to the hydrogen age had to be accelerated.  Another key issue was the future of genetic engineering, which could only be mastered within the framework of a global consensus.  He proposed a convention under international law which promoted genetic engineering and safeguarded the freedom to research, while defining an ethical basis and guaranteeing protection against abuse.

     The Vice-President of the Assembly, Om Pradhan (Bhutan), announced that Grenada and Guinea had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.  [Article 19 stipulates that a Member which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.]

    Thorbjørn Jaglund, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, Abdurrahman Sahlghem, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya, Brian Cowen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Anna Lindh, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden and Jadranko Prlic, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina also spoke this morning.

    The Assemly will continue its general debate at 3 p.m.

    Assembly Work Programme

     The General Assembly met this morning to continue its general debate.

     Statements were scheduled by the representatives of Lebanon, Norway, United Kingdom, Libya, Germany, Syria, Ireland and Sweden.

    Statements

     SALIM EL-HOSS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lebanon, said that in the second half of May, Lebanon and the United Nations witnessed a historic event, when his country recovered most of its occupied territories in the South and in the western Bekaa.  Israel had to withdraw from those territories after a senseless occupation of 22 years, leaving behind a trail of devastation and a collapse in the local production sectors.  For the first time since 1978, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was allowed to fulfil its mandate under Security Council resolution 425 (1978).  The United Nations had to identify a line for the purpose of confirming the Israeli withdrawal.  

     Regrettably, in three locations that line did not conform to the internationally-recognized “Boundary Line” demarcated in 1978, he said.  The United Nations line also left the Sheba’a farmlands outside UNIFIL’s area of operations.  Despite Israel’s repeated violations of the withdrawal line and its obstructive practices, the international force was at long last able to deploy, accompanied by the Lebanese armed forces.  He paid tribute to the Secretary-General and UNIFIL for the tireless efforts they had made in fulfillment of their noble task.

     He underlined, among other things, that Lebanon’s internationally recognized borders were not negotiable and that his country insisted on its right to sovereignty over the Sheba’a farmlands.  Lebanon also insisted on its sovereignty and authority over the locations set by the United Nations inside the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) line in the Mount Hermon area.  Israel must compensate Lebanon for the human, material and economic losses sustained as a result of Israeli occupation and his Government would resort to the International Court of Justice.  He appealed to the donor countries and the international financial institutions to provide sufficient assistance for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the South.

     He believed that the opportunity for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East remained, provided that Israel committed to the resolutions of international legitimacy and the Madrid terms of reference.  The conflicting agendas of the Israeli political groups would hinder the settlement process in the region and compromise the protracted pursuit of peace.  He stressed that to achieve the peaceful settlement, the Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to their homeland.  Lebanon was anxious to reconstruct and rehabilitate its vital and civil institutions and productive sectors.  “We in Lebanon strive for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will bring back stability to our region and allow us to play a role in building the world in which we aspire to live”, he said.

    THORBJØRN JAGLAND, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said his country was committed to a strong and effective United Nations.  Some 60,000 Norwegians had participated in peacekeeping operations, including 1,500 military and civilian personnel currently serving in United Nations and United Nations mandated peacekeeping operations.  Further, although its population was but 4.5 million, Norway had been one of the largest donors of voluntary contributions to United Nations programmes; it contributed $1.3 billion for development cooperation in 2000.

     As a result of the successful Millennium Assembly, it was time to take stock and act upon the decisions made, he said.  In the near future, Norway would focus on a number of priorities.  First, it would focus on the root causes of conflict.  The fight against poverty, underdevelopment and environmental degradation was at the top of Norway’s agenda.  Also, financing for development was essential.  Norway reached the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP) for official development assistance (ODA) more than 20 years ago and was currently at 0.9 per cent.  His Government had pledged to reach a full 1 per cent.  Among other priorities, he added, were to advocate a more comprehensive approach to peacekeeping, continue to combat such diseases as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and focus even more strongly on Africa.

     In critiquing United Nations peace operations over the past five decades, he said that the Organization had too often relied upon last minute efforts and ad hoc arrangements.  Norway supported the recommendations of the Brahimi report, advocating its speedy and efficient implementation.  However, the United Nations remained in a difficult financial situation, and clearly the zero growth budget was not sufficient in helping the Organization meet its mandates.  “We cannot expect the United Nations to carry out new and additional tasks without additional funding.”

     The globalized world had led to unprecedented growth in some circles, but created marginalization and isolation in others, he said.  International trading and financial systems needed to be adapted, so that every country could obtain its  fair share of the benefits of globalization.  Further, in a shrinking world, providing humanitarian and emergency relief to people in need was the responsibility of every government.  Norway would increase its own humanitarian efforts -– which were already among the highest in the world.  He closed by saying that, for the first time since 1979, Norway was seeking a seat on the Security Council and hoped for election, based on its contributions and the principle of fair rotation.  His country remained committed to helping those who suffered and placing a strong United Nations at the centre of world affairs.  “We ask you to allow us to serve you all.”
     
    ROBIN COOK, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, focusing on the urgent challenges the Organization faced on peacekeeping, offered his country’s full support to the conclusions of the report on United Nations Peace Operations –  the Brahimi report –  and pledged its commitment to the report’s implementation.  He said that too often the international community had failed to save those who needed protection from the terror of brutal conflict.  Determination was needed to improve the capacity of the Organization to keep the peace.

     The United Nations must be equipped with a more effective and a more rapid capacity for peacekeeping, he continued.  Today, peacekeepers were typically deployed within States, not between them, and often where one or more parties to the conflict were not seriously committed to peace.  Peacekeepers needed a robust mandate, so that they could halt violence against civilians.  The United Nations also needed a headquarters unit capable of rapid deployment within a few weeks of a Security Council resolution, not a few months.  His country had, therefore, proposed a permanent staff college for peacekeeping.

     Any mission to restore peace was an admission of failure to prevent conflict, he said, and the root causes of conflict –  poverty, bad governance and denial of freedom or minority rights –  must be addressed.  An early warning system had to be developed that would alert to potential conflict.  Measures to ban “conflict diamonds” or to defeat drug barons would prevent conflict, by denying the resources with which to wage it.  His country would support the presumption that military firearms should not be licensed for sale other than to legitimate government bodies.  Help was needed from the international economic agencies, including the World Bank, to fund and to reward the surrender of weapons with development aid.

     He said that the end of conflict was only the starting point.  Peacekeepers must be followed by peace-builders.  He was astonished to learn that only nine civilian police at Headquarters administered 8,600 civilian police in the field around the world.  The international law on crimes against humanity had to be enforced.  The International Criminal Court would be one of the most powerful advances for human rights since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  He supported a doubling of the permanent membership of the Security Council to include Germany and Japan and three countries from each of the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

    ABDURRAHMAN M SHALGHEM, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya, said that the United Nations needed reform.  The role of the General Assembly had to be strengthened, so that it became the authority responsible for determining what conditions were truly threatening to international peace and security.  The Security Council should be restructured in a manner that achieved fair geographical representation in its membership, and its activities made more transparent.  The prerogatives that the victors in the Second World War granted themselves should be abolished, particularly the right of veto, which was undemocratic.  Finally, he proposed the establishment of an international committee answerable to the United Nations, to undertake the task of inspection and implementation of United Nations programmes.

     He said that the international community had an obligation to assist Africa in its efforts to reach peace and stability.  Many of Africa’s problems lay in the abuse of its resources, the plundering of its wealth, intervention in its internal affairs and the imposition of foreign concepts, alien to its traditions and culture.  Such practices should be discontinued.  He called upon the States that colonized Africa to offer their apologies and fully compensate it for the damages inflicted by colonialism.  Turning to the Palestinian question, he said that there was no other solution other than the return of Palestinian people to their homeland, and the establishment of their State on the land of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital.  The sanctions against Iraq should be immediately lifted, he added.

     It was important to provide a definition of terrorism that was universal, objective, democratic and scientific, he said.  It was not acceptable that some still classified the struggle of peoples for their freedom, and the struggle of persecuted groups against their persecutors, as forms of terrorism.  A blind eye was turned to real terrorism embodied in unjust sanctions, occupation, foreign military bases, the use of force, and the threat to use it.  Discussing the “Lockerbie” incident, he said that his country had fulfilled the demands stated in the relevant Security Council resolutions.  Despite that, because of the United States the Council had been hindered from adopting the resolution that should be adopted –  namely to lift sanctions.  The United States had given a number of groundless pretexts to prevent the Security Council from lifting the sanctions.  He demanded that the issue no longer be politicized, and that the Security Council adopt a resolution under which the sanctions imposed on the Libyan people were fully and irrevocably lifted.

     JOSCHKA FISCHER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said the Millennium Declaration should be the main focus of this and future General Assemblies.  Globalization had dominated the debate.  It would radically change economy and finances, politics and culture everywhere.  The question was whether this new world order would guarantee peace or create new divides.  Only the future could provide the answer to this question.  It was crucial to make every effort in the coming decade to ensure that globalization benefited all peoples.  That concern was reflected in the German initiative for a resolution on partnerships between the United Nations, industry and civil society.  The Cologne initiative launched by Germany combined debt relief and a strategy to combat poverty.  The 20 poorest developing countries should be debt free by the end of the year.  Development was impossible in the face of disease, and the fight against the disastrous spread of AIDS, particularly in Africa, had to be a priority for all.

     The second major issue was peacekeeping.  Peace missions needed a more robust mandate, as well as more personnel and equipment, he said.  The German Government would offer training for civilian peace-mission personnel and civilian capacities for the United Nations standby system, thus creating a pool of qualified personnel who could be deployed at short notice.  The prevailing form of conflict today was within States.  The main task therefore must be handling the internal roots of conflicts.  Another great danger still facing humanity was the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The risks of regional arms races, particularly in South Asia, had increased.  The triangle between Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East was threatening to become the crisis region of the century ahead.  

     The third issue, said Mr. Fischer, was protection of the natural environment, which would probably become the crucial issue affecting the planet.  The squandering of natural resources had to end.  It was in the interest of all States to accelerate the transition from the oil to the hydrogen age.  Another key issue was the future of genetic engineering, which could only be mastered within the framework of a global consensus.  The United Nations could create a convention under international law which promoted genetic engineering and safeguarded the freedom to research, whilst defining an ethical basis and guaranteeing protection against abuse. 

     If the United Nations did not adapt to twenty-first century challenges it would be sidelined, with fatal consequences for peace and development, human rights, the environment and social progress.  The United Nations needed to use its scarce resources more effectively.  An important prerequisite was that the United Nations should be placed on a solid financial footing through a more balanced scale of assessment based on the economic performance of Member States.  The Security Council no longer reflected the political reality of the world, and Germany shared the Secretary-General’s view that this steering organ must become more representative, legitimate and effective, and must involve the developing countries.

    FAROUK AL-SHARA’, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, said strengthening the role of the United Nations was a major topic of the Millennium Summit.  Reformation of the Security Council should be accomplished by expanding it and giving it a fair and balanced geographical representation, as well as by gradually eliminating the right of veto, which contradicted the concept of democracy.  The Council had to act to implement its resolutions, so that peacekeeping operations would not simply become an exercise in imposing the status quo.

    It was quite obvious to all engaged in the Middle East peace process that the continued Israeli occupation of Arab territory, once explained as the psychological need of Israel for security, was the major obstacle in the path of peace.  The serious and carefully considered negotiations Syria had conducted had proved that Israel was neither willing nor serious in its pursuit of a just and comprehensive peace as expressed.in United Nations resolutions.  Syria had the right to a full return of the entire Golan to the line of 4 June 1967, without concession or compromise.

    Syria was committed to the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to return and to self-determination.  It supported the establishment of their independent state on their sovereign land, and also supported the rights of Muslims and Arabs to a full Palestinian sovereignty over the Quds-al-Sharif.  The United Nations had to take a firmer and less selective stand in defending its Charter and international law, forcing Israel to respect international legitimacy and international conventions and to implement the resolutions of the United Nations.  He pledged support to Lebanon on all national issues, especially the ones concerning the return of its entire territory and the return of its hostages, and urged donor countries to fulfil their commitments to help Lebanon reconstruct what Israel had destroyed.

    He reiterated the importance Syria attached to the territorial integrity of Iraq, and called for an end to the economic sanctions imposed on that country by the Security Council.  He also called for an ultimate and immediate lifting of sanctions against Libya.  He said the tragic situation in Afghanistan was a source of great concern.  The problem could not be solved without stopping the fighting and entering into negotiations.  Ridding humanity of extreme poverty would require the establishment of a new economic international order that was both just and democratic, and fostering a multilateral commercial and financial system characterized by openness, justice and non-discrimination.

     BRIAN COWEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, said that enhancing the role of the United Nations in peacekeeping was a priority for the current Assembly session.  An integrated approach, combining prevention, settlement and post-conflict peace-building was needed to broaden the Organization’s role.  Ireland’s more than 40 years of experience in peacekeeping operations led it to believe that in analysing the proposals contained in the report, the focus should be on providing the Organization with sufficient resources and capacity to deliver well-planned and effective peace support operations; rapid deployment in conflict areas; and developing well-trained peacekeepers.

     He said that progress in disarmament was crucial both to the maintenance of peace and to development.  While Ireland welcomed the significant reduction in nuclear arsenals, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was designed to ensure a world free of nuclear weapons.  Progress in disarmament must be dependent on action by the five major nuclear-weapon States.  As for conventional arms they continued to cause suffering in conflict situations.  However, some positive results -– such as progress in landmine clearance -– had emerged from the effective implementation of the Ottawa Convention.

     In further stressing the relationship between peace and development, he observed that without peace there could be no development; without development, peace was hard to sustain.  It was a goal of the Irish Government that its contribution to development cooperation be steadily increased.  By 2007 the agreed target for ODA of 0.7 per cent of GNP should be reached.  Ireland advocated speed in delivering results from the Enhanced Debt Initiative, citing the European Union’s contribution of nearly $1 billion in debt relief.

    He noted that the international community had followed the peace process in Ireland with interest.  He was pleased to report that real progress had been made towards the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.  Policing reform in Northern Ireland was an important aspect of the new institutional arrangements.  Despite great strides in recent months, the long-standing divisions in society meant much remained to be done, in a spirit of partnership and mutual tolerance and respect.  Ireland paid tribute to the international community for its support and encouragement of the Agreement.  He concluded by saying that Ireland, a small State which had already made significant contributions to the Organization, was standing for election to the Security Council after 20 years’ absence.  With its experience of overcoming the legacies of strife and underdevelopment, it hoped to bring those lessons to the service of all nations. 

     ANNA LINDH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said the United Nations could only be what the Member States allowed it to be.  The current Assembly provided an occasion to revitalize the much needed Organization; to create a truly modern United Nations with legitimacy, increased credibility, greater efficiency and continued global relevance.  In the context of globalization, the world community had to do its utmost to integrate developing countries into the global economy and battle against the two major threats to development –  poverty and HIV/AIDS.  Today, only four countries, including Sweden, met the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for development aid.  An integrated approach to development was required and she welcomed the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO)in preparation for next year’s “development round”.

     There was no contradiction between development and human rights, she said.  True respect for human dignity required an end to the use of the death penalty, a brutal and irrevocable form of punishment, which had no place in modern society.  National sovereignty was firmly coupled with a government’s responsibility to protect and promote the human rights of the individual.  Strengthening international law and humanitarian law increased the protection of the individual.  The establishment of an International Criminal Court would create a more just world.  Last year, the United Nations expressed honesty in drawing conclusions from previous mistakes made in handling international crises, particularly the studies of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Rwanda.  The lessons learned from the chilling reports on the massacre in Srebrenica and on the genocide in Rwanda must be put to constructive use in the future.

     If the Security Council could not act in an urgent situation, due to a veto or the threat of a veto, its credibility –  and its legitimacy –  suffered, she said.  It was time for the permanent members to agree on a moratorium on the use of the veto.  The credibility of the Security Council was of vital interest not only to its members but also to the United Nations membership at large.  In order to adhere to reality, the Council should be enlarged to make room for an increased representation of countries, not least from the developing world.  The establishment of a standing fact-finding mechanism at the disposal of the Secretary-General, as a complement to the Security Council, would increase the efficiency in peacekeeping operations.

     To promote disarmament and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction remained a major challenge for the United Nations, she continued.  A world free of nuclear weapons would not be achieved overnight and the momentum achieved at the Conference of the Parties to the NPT had to be sustained.  The United Nations today was stronger and leaner than three years ago, but the Secretary-General should be given the full authority to act in his leadership role.  While it was imperative that all Members paid their dues on time, a reordering of United Nations contributions should be considered, aiming towards a fairer distribution of the financial burden among Member States.  

     JADRANKO PRLIC, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that the reform of the United Nations was a delicate issue.  However, its postponement and the endless debates that only maintained the status quo were an even greater issue, bringing into question the ability of the United Nations to modernize and democratize.  An agreement had been reached on some of the most crucial issues regarding the reform of the Security Council, including the increase of its membership to include a fairer geographical representation of countries.  By adopting that minimum of official reforms, and through work on other issues such as the veto, a more favourable atmosphere would be created.  He said his country was considering very seriously the possibility of standing for election to a non-permanent seat on the Council after the year 2010. 

     He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina was fully aware that it still needed an international presence to assist in the normalization of life.  Implementation of the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement remained the main concern of the authorities. Implementation was also the primary focus of the international community and its representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Meanwhile the country must strive to achieve higher levels of development and living standards.  That would be possible only when the common institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina became an instrument for the realization of common interests, instead of being the occasion for costly obstructions and confrontations. 

     The return of refugees still remained the priority, he said.  There were still cases where refugees had to flee their homes when faced with attacks by neighbours belonging to different ethnic groups or religions.  It was encouraging, however, that returnees were more frequently welcomed and offered assistance and support.  That was the result of joint efforts, and one had to admit that the efforts made by the international community were more consistent than those of domestic authorities. 

     Bosnia and Herzegovina wholeheartedly embraced the Stability Pact, he said. There was no doubt whatsoever that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should participate, but its participation should be conditional upon necessary democratic changes.  He considered that other countries of the region should not be held hostage by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on their way to Euro-Atlantic integration.  At the early stages of the European Union, there had been no “waiting list”.  At this point in time, “waiting lists” and admission procedures could be counterproductive.  He said that he would like to count on the unreserved support of the international community for on a sooner-rather-than-later integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions.  

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