Press Releases

    GA/9893
    16 July 2001

    CENTRAL ROLE OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN DEALING WITH
    CONFLICTS STRESSED, AS DEBATE ON
    SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPORT IS CONCLUDED

    NEW YORK, 13 July (UN Headquarters) -- As the General Assembly this morning concluded its consideration of the report of the Secretary-General on the prevention of armed conflict, representatives continued to express support for many of the recommendations of the Secretary-General’s report, advocating, with varying degrees of urgency, the need for their implementation.

    Much of the discussion focused on the need to enhance the role of the General Assembly in the prevention of conflict. Indonesia's representative said the report was rightly addressed to the Assembly, which had the competence, in concert with other entities of the Organization’s system, to eliminate the root causes of conflicts, especially those related to socio-economic development. The Assembly as a universal forum had an important role to play in the maintenance of international peace and security.

    While the Security Council was suited to taking immediate actions, the representative of Japan said, the Assembly could consider long-term conflict-prevention strategies, particularly in the pre-conflict areas of peace and stability and the post-conflict prevention of recurrence of conflict, which required political, economic and social measures. Needless to say, ensuring cooperation and coordination among various actors was essential to the success of such a comprehensive approach.

    India’s representative, however, warned that it was important to remember the dictum cautioning against fixing what might not be broken, and to concentrate only on areas where value may be added. In many cases, what was now being recommended had already been agreed upon and was being implemented. Over the years, the Assembly, as well as the Security Council, had adopted enough resolutions on the various issues covered in the report. What was required was pursuing those guidelines with prudence and sagacity.

    Addressing the situation in the Middle East in this morning’s debate, Syria’s representative said the report had not mentioned that explosive situation and the importance of preventing armed conflict there. Nor did it mention the Golan Heights or other territories occupied by Israel. Occupation was one of the most serious causes of armed conflict, and the Israeli Government was working every day to exacerbate the situation. Efforts must be made to prevent their aggression, and stop them from acting with impunity in the region.

    Israel’s representative said the attacks by Hezbollah against Israeli soldiers were actions that went against resolutions and statements by the Security Council. The Syrian Government continued to support the actions of that group, allowing its members safe passage to and from Lebanon and to also maintain terrorist training camps in Syria. The international community must seriously question the conduct of Syria’s Government, given its candidacy for a seat on the Council. A State that granted a terrorist organization blatant sanctuary was one that had total disregard for principles of the Charter.

    The Observer for Palestine remarked that it was strange that the Secretary-General’s report did not mention the Middle East and the Palestinian territories. Other recent Secretariat documents on issues relating to armed conflict, as well as those on the protection of civilians, had also avoided discussing the occupation of Arab territories in the Middle East since 1967, which was a serious disregard of international law and humanitarian law. Such omissions were inadmissible.

    The representatives of Romania, New Zealand, Indonesia, Russian Federation, Nepal, Venezuela, and the Observer for Switzerland also made statements this morning.

    The representative of Lebanon also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    The Assembly will meet again at a date and time to be announced in the Journal.

    Background

    The General Assembly met this morning to continue its debate on the report of the Secretary-General on prevention of armed conflict (document A/55/985).

    [For further information, see Press Release GA/9890 of 12 July.]

    Statements

    ALEXANDRU NICULESCU (Romania), supporting the earlier statement on behalf of the European Union, said that the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was a regional organization within the terms of the United Nations Charter which played an important role in promoting peace and stability, enhancing cooperative security, and advancing democracy and human rights in Europe. Speaking for the current Romanian presidency of the OSCE, he said an added value of the active involvement of that group was its work in the fields of preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. The OSCE valued cooperation with the various agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system, particularly the Security Council. Based on the lessons learned from conflicts and crises in its region, the OSCE had put forward several ideas aimed at improved coordination among the various bodies. These included: enhanced cooperation; regular flow of information; exchange of liaison officers; joint training of staff in the area of early warning and prevention; and the establishment of a database on conflict prevention capabilities of both the United Nations and regional organizations.

    He said Romania wanted to ensure a stable environment based on the consolidation of democracy and economic prosperity. His Government was committed to working to provide greater stability and security within the region, actively participating in a wide range of global, regional and subregional activities aimed at healing the wounds of past and present conflicts, and preventing he emergence of new ones. Romania supported the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report. It shared the view that conflict prevention and sustainable development reinforced one another; consequently, a greater focus on social and economic development, good governance and respect for human rights was required.

    TREVOR HUGHES (New Zealand) said while it was true that solutions to conflict lay largely within affected societies and countries, development assistance could play an important role both in helping to head off conflict, as well as in post-conflict peace-building. The restoration of effective law and justice and the disarmament of combatants were areas that could be supported in that way. In Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, official development assistance (ODA) had been targeted to provide a rapid peace dividend with the aim of preventing a return to the almost habitual violence of the previous decade. In the Solomon Islands, ODA was helping to fund New Zealand’s contribution to the Australian-led International Peace Monitoring Team, as well as civil society efforts, in support of the peace process.

    He said that in the Solomon Islands, development assistance had been used to continue to provide education opportunities for young people who might otherwise have been tempted to become involved in fighting. Instability in Fiji had required a different approach with a focus on supporting law and justice, poverty alleviation, human rights and humanitarian objectives. His country, therefore, supported the call for peace and security considerations to be effectively integrated in bilateral and multilateral development programmes. He also stressed that it was through the care, protection and education of children that the seeds of future conflict could most effectively be eliminated.

    He said it was pleasing, as well, that part of New Zealand’s contribution of NZ$ 100,000 to the Trust Fund for the Implementation of the Beijing Declaration would be used for the United Nations study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, including the role of women in peace-building.

    FAYSSAL MEKDAD (Syria) said that Syria had examined the Secretary-General’s report with great interest. The effort to prevent armed conflict was at the very heart of the mission of the United Nations. Nevertheless, success in the area remained elusive. Efforts must continue; however, they must be in conformity with the principles and objectives of the Charter. It was important to emphasize democracy in the relationship between States, along with mutual respect that takes into account different value systems, national sovereignty, non-interference and equality. In the interest of collective security, injustice, inequality, racism and other problems must be redressed before they cause conflicts.

    Unfortunately, he said, the Secretary-General’s report did not mention the explosive situation in the Middle East and the importance of employing efforts to prevent armed conflict there. Nor did it mention the Golan or other territories occupied by Israel. Occupation was one of the most serious causes of armed conflict, and the Israeli Government was working every day to exacerbate the situation. Efforts must be made to prevent their aggression and stop them from acting with impunity in the region. Respect for international and humanitarian law must be enforced along with the human rights of the Palestinians and the Syrians displaced in the region. The report also did not mention nuclear disarmament, which was essential for conflict prevention. In general, any mechanism to prevent armed conflict must be developed in consultation with Member States, and in cognizance of efforts that had been made before.

    YEHUDA LANCRY (Israel) said he regretted the statement made earlier this morning by Syria’s representative about Israel and found his words disturbing, especially to the current peace efforts. The attacks by Hizbulla against Israeli soldiers went against resolutions and statements by the Security Council. The Syrian Government continued to support the actions of that group, allowing its members safe passage to and from Lebanon and also allowing them to maintain their terrorist training camps in Syria. The international community must seriously question the conduct of the Syrian Government given their candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council. A State that granted a terrorist organization blatant sanctuary was one that had total disregard for principles of the United Nations Charter.

    He said all the major achievements in the quest for peace in the Middle East were the result of direct negotiations between the parties themselves. This past September, however, the Palestinians decided to break from that formula, by abandoning both their commitment to non-violence and the path of dialogue. That was a greatly disturbing development that his Government was actively working to resolve by its full acceptance of the Mitchell Report and the Tenet plan for a ceasefire. Engaging in violence was incompatible with the achievement of political ends. The goal of conflict prevention would be served best by a clear message that such tactics were unacceptable. To a great extent, that was the very soul of the Oslo Agreements which made clear that there was no room for abrasive terrorism as a strategic tool for advancing political goals.

    He said the importance of fighting poverty and promoting sustainable development should not be underestimated. Providing for the material and social well-being of individuals in areas of strife was a powerful conflict prevention tool. "In this spirit, we have endeavoured at all times to reach out to our neighbours on more than just the political level, to establish people-to-people connections, engage in economic and development projects, and to increase programmes of cultural exchange", he added.

    He said Israel’s aspirations, beyond the necessary political settlements and peace treaties, were for full integration and acceptance, at a plurality of levels. "I appeal to our Palestinian partners to move on together towards a future of dialogue, peace and genuine coexistence", he said. "The longer this war is allowed to continue and the more our respective wounds are permitted to fester, the more difficult it will be to climb out of the darkness in which we have been living for more than nine months."

    MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said it had become increasingly self-evident that reactive methods would no longer suffice and it that it was time to mount a coherent strategy that would render conflict prevention an integral part of the Organization’s concerted efforts to maintain peace and international security. The Secretary-General’s report thus upheld the core mandate of the United Nations and its mission to forestall the emergence of conflicts, review the mechanisms and institutions and formulate a strategy for protecting humanity from war, armed conflict and indiscriminate violence.

    He said the report was also rightly addressed to the General Assembly which had the competence, in concert with other entities of the Organization’s system, to eliminate the root causes of conflicts, especially those related to socio-economic development. The Assembly, as a universal forum, had an important role to play in the maintenance of international peace and security. The implementation of the relevant provisions of the Charter relating to conflict prevention must be recognized.

    He said the modalities of operation between the United Nations and regional organizations needed to be improved in the areas of preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping and peace-building. A thorough exploration of possible mechanism and procedures to further strengthen that interaction was now pre-eminently important.

    YUKIO SATOH (Japan) referred to Japan’s comments on the role of the Security Council in conflict prevention, made before that body last month. While the Council was suited to taking immediate actions, he said, the General Assembly could consider long-term conflict-prevention strategies, particularly in the pre-conflict areas of peace and stability and the post-conflict prevention of recurrence of conflict, which requires political, economic and social measures. Needless to say, ensuring cooperation and coordination among various actors was essential to the success of such a comprehensive approach.

    He also supported ideas, contained in the report, for strengthening the Secretary-General’s traditional role in conflict prevention. Those included the increased use of United Nations interdisciplinary fact-finding and confidence-building missions in volatile areas; and the development, together with relevant regional organizations, of regional preventive strategies; as well as the establishment of an informal network of eminent persons for conflict prevention. He called for the recommendations of the report to be implemented.

    ANDREY E. GRANOVSKY (Russian Federation) said that all efforts to prevent crisis and conflict must be built on the firm principles of international law and respect principles such sovereignty and territorial integrity. A comprehensive approach to preventive diplomacy further justified the need to increase coordination between the United Nations and other international structures. His delegation supported both the involvement of the General Assembly in conflict prevention and interaction between that body and the Security Council on the issue. The involvement of those two principal organs of the United Nations in preventive activity must, however, include all of the existing resources of the Organization.

    He said the Russian Federation also supported the proposal by the Secretary-General to submit periodic regional and subregional reports on threats or potential threats to the Security Council. He also expressed support for more energetic involvement by the Economic and Social Council in regional efforts. The multifaceted nature of conflict prevention and the spillover of crises beyond national borders made it important to seek regional cooperation and additional resources beyond those already held by the United Nations.

    He said regional approaches to conflict prevention were timely, especially in explosive areas such as the Balkans. Removing destabilizing factors meant establishing broad political, social and economic cooperation. The convening of a Balkan summit would hopefully result in mutually binding agreements on State relations, sovereign equality, non-interference and the use of force.

    DURGA BHATTARAI (Nepal) said conflict prevention should be made the cornerstone of collective security under the United Nations in the twenty-first century, based on the full understanding of the linkages between sustainable peace and security and sustainable development. Noting areas of the report that had particular significance, he pointed to those on the Charter and those advocating comprehensive analysis and a holistic approach, with cooperative interaction between the entire United Nations system and its partners. All programmes, from media to women and children, and from drug abuse, disease and crime to human rights, food security and disarmament, must be implemented in harmony.

    He also pointed to national capacity-building, the struggle against illicit trade of small arms, and preventive deployment as being essential elements of conflict prevention. For an approach that took into account the peculiarities of each situation, he suggested a kind of "peace and development" index. Preventive measures would then be best employed on four different levels. Peacetime prevention would include development efforts. Prevention efforts during the beginning of conflicts would include fact-finding missions and preventative disarmament; and those during and after the conflict would include the whole range of peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building. In any case, the success of any conflict-prevention measures would be mercilessly contingent upon the sustained political will and a long-term commitment of requisite resources from all stakeholders.

    MILOS ALCALAY (Venezuela) said diverse events in various regions of the world suggested that conflict prevention was the best strategy to achieve the objectives of peace and security both between and within countries. This debate was the first structured debate in a pluralistic and democratic organ in which all voices could be heard on a subject that affected everyone. Conflicts were spiralling out of control and were a genuine threat to peace at a time when coordinated and integrated action by the international community was needed to address socio-economic problems, including poverty and health issues such as HIV/AIDS.

    He said it was, therefore, necessary to develop consensus-based strategies to achieve the peace and justice desired by the people of world. Peace must be envisaged broadly so that States -- small and large -- could realize their commitments to improve the quality of life of their people. Commitments needed to be made by all and not just the United Nations. His country also supported the approach to foster a culture of peace and prevention and take a preventive stance based on the precepts of international law.

    KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said that, in considering the prevention of armed conflict, it was important to remember the dictum cautioning against trying to fix what may not be broken, and to concentrate only on areas where value may be added. In many cases, in the Secretary-General’s report, what was recommended had already been agreed upon and was being implemented. Preventive deployment, peace-building within peacekeeping, consultations with the Emergency Relief Coordinator and the mainstreaming of gender perspectives were examples of those cases.

    India, he said, believed that there was, however, a real need for long-term measures to be developed. Those included measures to strengthen and spread democratic governance and remove economic impoverishment. Measures to respect the principles of inter-State relations and to seriously address disarmament were also crucial, as was an absolute commitment to peaceful negotiations. Over the years, the General Assembly, as well as the Security Council, had adopted enough resolutions on the various issues covered in the report. What was required was pursuing those guidelines with prudence and sagacity.

    NASSER AL-KIDWA, Observer for Palestine, said that the prevention of armed conflict required the promotion of respect for international law, including the resolutions of the United Nations, and the end of what had become known as the "culture of impunity." It also required assisting all those who languished under foreign occupation. The roles of all organs of the United Nations were essential in the effort.

    It was strange, he said, that the Secretary-General’s report did not include any mention of the Middle East and the Palestinian territories. Other recent Secretariat documents on issues relating to armed conflict, as well as those on protection of civilians, had also avoided discussing occupation as a factor, or specifically, the occupation of Arab territories in the Middle East since 1967, which was a serious disregard of international law and humanitarian law. Those omissions were inadmissible.

    Israel’s statement, he said, contained many misleading remarks. Israel was the only Member State considered by United Nations organs an occupying Power, the only one practising settlement occupation, the only one breaching many statutes of international law and humanitarian law, and the only one that violated scores of resolutions of both the Security Council and the General Assembly. Israel’s behaviour and the culture of impunity must be stopped. The recent deterioration of the situation undermined the credibility of the Security Council, which had been prevented from acting. If it could not act, the General Assembly must use its powers to prevent a regional war.

    PIERRE HELG, Observer for Switzerland, said that that all actors must be integrated in the important effort of conflict prevention. The main responsibility fell on the States themselves, of course, and Switzerland would continue to participate actively. It was an early supporter of the Trust Fund for Preventive Action, and also assisted with humanitarian aid and development in a systematic manner.

    In addition, Switzerland was, he said, closely involved in the fight against the proliferation of small arms and anti-personnel mines, and had an active policy for the promotion of human rights, international humanitarian law and democracy. It was working in many areas to promote stability in States and sponsored monitors in areas such as human rights and elections, to complement international peacekeeping operations. The international community, for successful prevention of conflicts, must strengthen its shared political will and translate that will into deeds.

    Rights of Reply

    HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) said the representative of Israel had forgotten or deliberately disregarded the conditions set by his Government in 1978 when it occupied Lebanese territory. The only reason for Israel’s recent withdrawal from Lebanon was the will of the Lebanese people as embodied in their resistance.

    He said no one could deny that the root causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict went back to Israel’s occupation of Arab territories which was evidenced in Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 calling for that State to withdraw from those lands. The demands by the Arab people and their governments for Israel to withdraw were legitimate and validated by international law and United Nations resolutions.

    He reminded the Israeli representative that the daily breaches committed against Lebanon had been mentioned by the Secretary-General in his last report to the Council on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). According to that report, Israeli war planes violated, on an almost daily basis, the red line and penetrated Lebanese airspace deeply. The report also referred to landmines deployed by Israel in Lebanese territory. Israel had also refused to hand over maps to the United Nations, which showed the location of those mines. Thus, around 100 Lebanese civilians had either died or were injured in the wake of Israeli withdrawal last year. Those landmines, situated in southern Lebanon, would also continue to pose a serious danger to UNIFIL.

    He asked whether the Israeli position and behaviour was in accordance with the culture of peace and the need to end armed conflict, which that country’s representative claimed it was seeking this morning.

    Mr. MEKDAD (Syria), in exercise of the right of reply, said that the words and phrases used by the representative of Israel regarding the situation in Lebanon, Syria and the occupied territories were ridiculous and ludicrous. He distorted facts and created false hopes, in order to distract from Israel’s practice of aggression and genocide. As he spoke, billows of smoke continued to rise from Palestinian homes that had been destroyed without justification. The behaviour of Syria was in accordance with international law; Syria helped Lebanon stem the civil war that Israel had exacerbated. Hezbollah was a Lebanese party. Israel occupied Lebanon for 22 years, and Syria had helped to end it.

    Prime Minister Sharon, he said, declared almost daily that he would not return to the peace process, and he called for expansion of settlements. Israel had two lexicons: one related to State-sponsored terrorism and aggression, and the other contained the kind of words that had been witnessed today. Syria’s candidacy for the Security Council had received much support from the Asian Group, which had not been swayed by Israel’s efforts to block it. In that forthcoming membership, Syria would continue to abide by all principles of the Charter and international law, and make all efforts to promote peace and Security.

    Mr. LANCRY (Israel) said his country’s occupation had not just fallen out of the sky. It had come about because of an attempt to eliminate his country in 1967 by a number of States, including Syria. In 1973, Syria made an aborted attempt to "liberate" –- to use that country’s preferred language -- the occupied Golan Heights and, at the same time, repeated its attempt to eliminate Israel. The occupation of Lebanon by Syria at the very least put the latter in the wrong, especially when self-defence and territorial integrity were advanced as reasons.

    He said Syria should begin by evacuating Lebanon. That would perhaps put it in better position to call for the implementation of the principles of international law, which it had been incorrectly invoking. In the situation it found itself, how could Syria afford itself the liberty of criticizing the international community and demand adherence to international law and norms?

    In the same context, he continued, he had listened carefully to the voice of the Lebanese representative this morning, which had not been raised against the occupation of his country by Syria. He wanted to know how Syria would have responded had Lebanon brought that issue up. Mr. Lancry said he could only express the desire for Lebanon to reclaim its full sovereignty –- that was a necessary condition for its own internal and external development. It would also enable it deploy its forces along the Lebanese-Israeli border and submit Hezbollah, a terrorist organization if there ever was one, to Lebanese law.

    He said Israel would have nothing to do with the Lebanese/Syrian situation if it were not so a grave a threat to the security of the entire region. He also regretted having to point out to the Syrian representative the necessary and vital truth -- Israel was not the only State in the region that occupied other territories. Syria, under the pretext of fraternal consultation, had occupied Lebanon.

    He said Israel had clearly shown its will for territorial compromise. One such compromise had been adopted with Egypt while a peace agreement had been signed with Jordan. In January 2000, in Shepherd Town, Israel had offered Syria a settlement in which the latter’s territorial integrity would have been fully respected. Syria had declined in the name of its national honour.

    Before a prestigious audience of writers in Damascus in 2000, he continued, Syria had said that Israel’s concept of peace was nothing more than the passage from military conflict to economic, diplomatic and cultural contact. At the same forum, however, peace, according to Syria, was said to be a shift from one conflict to another. That was very simplistic and totally contradicted what the Secretary-General was proposing in his report on the prevention of armed conflict.

    Mr. Lancry reiterated that peace solutions also lay in socio-economic and cultural integration. He asked delegations to consider Article 23 of the Charter on a State’s contribution to international peace when reviewing Syria’s bid for a seat on the Council, and reminded them again that Syria encouraged the terrorist organization, Hezbollah.

    Mr. DIAB (Lebanon), speaking again in the right of reply, said that Israel’s words were ridiculous. The alliance of Syria and Lebanon forced Israel to leave Lebanese territory. Syria was Lebanon’s ally; Lebanon did not forget the massacres caused by Israel in Lebanon or the kind of occupation and terrorism practised by Israel. Israeli opposition politicians confirmed those facts and that accusation of State terrorism. But in this august assembly, Israel continued to propagate its falsehoods.

    Mr. MEKDAD (Syria), speaking once more under the right of reply, said the representative of Israel made statements he himself believed were falsehoods. Only Israel portrayed the brotherhood between Syria and Lebanon in such a negative light. Syria would stand by Lebanon until they overcame all their problems. Israel was not serious in its efforts for peace; in 1967, Israel attacked many Arab territories and was interested in keeping the land, not in peace. The Israeli Prime Minister himself had said he would not withdraw. Israel had declared war on peace. Syria was not seeking Israeli land; it was seeking to reclaim its own land that had been occupied.

    OREN DAVID (Israel) looked forward to the day when he could quote opposition leaders in Syria. Syria was a police State, an occupier and a trafficker of narcotics. The whole idea of human rights in Syria was a joke. Israel had proposed a compromise land settlement with Syria, but Syria then had demanded land they had taken from Israel in 1949. That was why the talks had failed.

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