5 February 2007
General Assembly

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

38th Meeting (AM)





Facing once again challenge and opportunity, members of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 to negotiate a comprehensive convention on international terrorism should do their utmost to bridge existing gaps and reach a compromise solution, the Committee’s Chairman, Roham Perera (Sri Lanka) said at the opening of its session this morning.

Stressing the need to build on progress achieved and avoid re-opening issues on which substantial agreement had been reached, he said a broad degree of consensus had been reached on the bulk of the text of the draft, with only a few,  albeit important, issues left outstanding.  Delegations had expressed the willingness to engage in open, substantive discussions on the outstanding issues with a view towards reaching a compromise text.  The main issue to be resolved was the applicability of the draft instrument to various situations covered by other fields of international law.  Delegations should focus their efforts on reaching an agreement on that important issue.

The Assembly’s adoption of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in resolution 60/288 of 8 September 2006 was an indication of the importance the international community ascribed to its work in the field of counter-terrorism, he added.  One important element of the Strategy was that States “resolved to make every effort to reach an agreement on and conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism”.  Although the issues involved in the finalization of the draft comprehensive convention were both complex and politically sensitive, it was important to keep a sense of perspective in that regard. 

The Ad Hoc Committee also held a brief plenary debate during which representatives of the regional groups and individual Member States discussed their expectations for the two-week session.  All delegations valued the Assembly’s adoption of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy and looked forward to building on the dialogue and spirit of cooperation that had given birth to that landmark plan of action.

There was also a general sense of agreement that whatever the outcome of the Ad Hoc Committee’s current talks on elaborating a draft comprehensive convention against terrorism, the United Nations should urgently consider convening a high-level international conference on combating the scourge that would also focus on bridging the differences, particularly the deep divisions among Member States over how to classify terrorism and terrorist acts.  Most delegations welcomed Egypt’s long-standing invitation to hold such a conference in Cairo, an invitation that was reiterated today by Egypt’s representative to the Committee.

Several speakers were quick to point out that, while the Strategy strongly condemned terrorism in “all forms and manifestations, committed by whomever and for whatever purposes”, the issue of the exact definition of terrorism had been left unresolved, leaving a serious gap in the Organization’s overall counter-terrorism regime.

The representative of Azerbaijan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said the Group reaffirmed its determination to make every effort to resolve outstanding issues related to the legal definition of terrorism, particularly the distinction between terrorism and peoples’ struggle against foreign occupation, and scope of the acts covered by the convention.  But Japan’s representative stressed that the deliberate targeting of civilians and non-combatants could not be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.  On the issue of self-determination, a just and lasting solution must be pursued depending upon the issues in individual cases.  “We must remember that the aim here is to reach early agreement on a practical convention in order to decrease the threat of terrorism that we are facing on a daily basis,” he said. 

Also this morning, Diego Malpede ( Argentina) was elected to serve as one of the Committee’s three Vice-Chairman.  Maria Telalian ( Greece) and Sabelo Sivuyile Maqungo ( South Africa) will continue to serve as Vice-Chairmen, and Lublin Dilja ( Albania) as the Committee’s Rapporteur.

In other organizational matters, the Committee adopted its agenda and programme of work for the session, which will include several meetings over a two-week period.  The Ad Hoc Committee’s mandate, according to Assembly resolution 61/40 of 4 December 2006, is to elaborate -- on an expedited basis -- the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and to discuss the item included in its agenda by Assembly resolution 54/110 concerning the question of convening a high-level conference under the United Nations auspices. 

The Committee will hold its next open meeting at a date to be announced.


MATTHIAS SONN (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the current session as an opportunity to finalize the drafting of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism to complement existing United Nations counter-terrorism agreements and contribute to deeper international consensus on a normative framework for the fight against terrorism.  The conclusion of the convention was the most important outstanding issue from the 2005 Millennium Summit after the adoption of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Strategy, and the European Union was committed to reaching an agreement based on the coordinator’s draft (A/59/894).  Negotiations should focus on the scope of the application of the convention.  The European Union’s position on whether to convene a High-Level United Nations Conference on Counter-Terrorism was unchanged.  Turkey, Norway, Iceland, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine also aligned with the statement.

RANA SALAYEVA ( Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of OIC, said the Commission, under the Chairman’s leadership, was on the path where progress could be achieved.  The Group strongly condemned all acts and practices of terrorism and remained convinced that terrorism -- irrespective of its motivations, objectives, forms and manifestations -- could never be justified.  The Group rejected any attempt to link the scourge with religion, race, culture or ethnic origin.  On the issue of a high-level conference, she reiterated the Group’s full support to the initiative, appealing to all Member States to back it.  The Group reaffirmed its determination to make every effort to reach an agreement on and conclude the convention, including by resolving outstanding issues related to the legal definition of terrorism, particularly the distinction between terrorism and peoples’ struggle against foreign occupation, and scope of the acts covered by the convention. 

DONNETTE CRITCHLOW (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, welcomed the opportunity to continue negotiations towards the elaboration of a comprehensive convention in keeping with the mandate issued by Heads of Government in September 2005.  The Group condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  The international community should cooperate closely to end terrorism, which was one of the most urgent challenges to international peace and security.  She believed that the Committee was closer to achieving consensus on the convention than every before.  While some difference persisted, through flexibility and compromise, it would be possible to adopt a consensus instrument by the close of the session.  The adoption of the Strategy manifested a common desire to end the scourge of terrorism.  The Group was committed to working with other delegations to achieve consensus.

MIRIAM MAC INTOSH (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that nothing justified terrorism and that CARICOM condemned it in all forms.  The challenges in an interdependent world made cooperation in this area indispensable.  Even with the significant progress made so far, consultations on outstanding issues should continue with more determination, as well as on strengthening the legal framework for countering terrorism.  She reiterated CARICOM’s conviction that the fight take place with due respect paid to human rights and addressing its root causes.  Dialogue between civilizations was critical and any definition of terrorism should acknowledge the legitimate struggles of people for self-determination. 

YUN YONG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the “illegal United States invasion of Iraq” and “ Israel’s occupation of Arab territories and invasion of Lebanon” constituted State terrorism.  Unilateral and military invasion of other countries, overthrowing legitimate Governments and the massacre of civilians brought about a “vicious circle of terrorism” and should be addressed immediately.  State terrorism was the result of some countries abusing the war on terror for political purposes, which the Ad Hoc Committee should give priority in combating.  The right way to eliminate State terrorism should be identified, while discussing the drafting of the comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

GUAN JIAN ( China) said terrorism posed a grave threat to international peace and security.  While international terror was rampant today and a cause of great concern, countries were preventing and combating terrorism through various forms of cooperation.  International counter-terrorism was a long and arduous task.  His Government condemned terrorism in all forms and manifestations, and opposed it as a way of achieving political gains.  Counter-terrorism must follow the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as other international conventions.  Terrorism, moreover, should not be connected with any civilization, nationality or religion.  Civilizations needed to enhance mutual understanding.  To achieve real results, it was necessary to adopt measures on prevention, legislation and law enforcement.  It was also necessary to address the root causes of terrorism.  The United Nations, as well as the Security Council and the General Assembly, should continue to play a leading role in combating terrorism.  He hoped outstanding issues would be resolved so that the convention could be concluded at an early date.  China agreed to the convening of a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations.

Mr. GUMMRUKCU ( Turkey) said that it had been over ten years since the Committee had been established and, after a decade of arduous negotiations, delegations were still at work, even as terrorists continued to carry on their terrible work at an ever-increasing pace.  With that in mind, he said it was high time to move ahead with the elaboration of a comprehensive instrument:  the people and nations being represented today deserved no less.   Turkey was hopeful that the Committee could reach agreement during this session.

KARIM MEDREK ( Morocco) said his country had been firm and unambiguous in its condemnation of terrorism, no matter its forms or origins.  He said that, even though the United Nations had reached agreement on a global strategy against terrorism, the Organization’s arsenal remained inadequate and it was therefore high time to move forward on a comprehensive convention against the scourge.   Morocco was aware that one of the main sticking points was coming up with a definition of terrorism, and he hoped that serious and sincere negotiations among all States on that matter would take place during the current session towards a consensus agreement on that important issue.

TOMOHIRO MIKANAGI ( Japan) said advancing the discussion on the draft convention would enable the Committee to send a clear message that the United Nations and the international community were seriously working on combating terrorism.   Japan had reiterated on numerous occasions that a comprehensive convention would strengthen the international legal framework and help bring to justice those who were responsible for terrorist acts.  He said that, while most of the article of the convention had been agreed, disagreement remained on the relationship between terrorist attacks and activities of parties in a situation of foreign occupation carried out under the principle of self-determination.  The deliberate targeting of civilians and non-combatants could not be justified or legitimized by any cause or grievance.  On the issue of self-determination, a just and lasting solution must be pursued depending upon the issues in individual cases.

He said the draft convention was intended to ensure that persons who committed such acts would be brought to justice based on their acts regardless of where they were carried out or under what pretext.  Care must be taken, therefore, to ensure that no ambiguity arose regarding the scope of the convention regarding self-determination.  “We must remember that the aim here is to reach early agreement on a practical convention in order to decrease the threat of terrorism that we are facing on a daily basis,” he stressed.

CAROLYN WILSON ( United States) said the Committee was meeting, as it had before, to seek a way forward on a comprehensive convention against terrorism, an issue that the United States had strongly supported.  The United States remained convinced that there was genuine value in the world coming together to speak in one voice against terrorism.  But the United States was also convinced that the comprehensive convention must be a significant addition to the anti-terrorism regime already established by the United Nations.

An instrument that ended up giving succour to terrorists or those that harboured or financed them, or one that made no distinction between the combat against terrorism and violations of international humanitarian law, would not be worthy of the international community on the Committee.  The United States hoped that the Committee would conclude its work successfully and in a spirit of compromise and understanding.  In that spirit, she said she would not react to the provocative comments made by a previous speaker.  Such divisive rhetoric would not lead to progress.  She reiterated that her delegation would like to see the process conclude successfully and, at that time, it would also like to see an appropriate ceremony held in Cairo to mark that event.

EILON SHAHAR ( Israel) said the international community had recognized terrorism as a perilous threat to humanity and that the effective fight against terror could not solely be led by a handful of States.  Terrorism was a global phenomenon requiring a global response.  As such, efforts should be directed at upgrading joint initiatives to combat it.  She hoped that sentiment would be felt during the deliberations on the convention.  Indeed, it was surprising and disappointing that in the twenty-first century it had not been possible to arrive at an agreeable definition of terrorism and at a consensus confirming it as a grave threat to human civilization.  It would be unfortunate, however, should a convention only be achieved at the cost of including amendments that left room to allow terrorist organizations and State sponsors of terrorism to argue for situations justifying terror.  A comprehensive convention must reflect universal support of the basic legal -– indeed moral -- principle that murder of the innocent could never be justified by the furtherance of political or ideological goals.  Reaching an international agreement could not come at the cost of undermining that principle. 

The Strategy’s launch sent a clear message that terrorism would not be justified wherever, whenever and by whomever, she said.  The real test, however, was its effectiveness in practice.  The drafting of a legal instrument could be an effective tool in the war on terror.  Israel pledged its full support and full commitment to making real progress, which was not a luxury, but a necessity. 

JUANA ELENA RAMOS RODRIGUEZ ( Cuba) condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and gave its support to a convention adopted by consensus.  Such a convention would contain a definition of terrorism, which established a distinction between terrorism and the struggles of people to self-determination, as proscribed by the United Nations Charter.  She hoped that the Committee would be able to advance in the search for a definition of terrorism.  Cuba welcomed the idea of a high-level meeting and was ready to cooperate with all delegations for an in-depth analysis of the proposals present and other ideas that might come forward.  The work leading to the adoption of a new convention would contribute to the struggle against terrorism and would help to see that no act remained unpunished.  There were cases when that did not happen.  There was an individual on the territory of the United States, an assassin and terrorist who was protected on United States territory.  States should comply with their legal obligations and move from words to deeds.

SALEH ELMARGHANI ( Libya) said terrorism was a worldwide phenomenon and one State could not have the responsibility of eradicating it.  What was required first and foremost was an adequate definition on terrorism that identified causes.   Libya had been at the forefront of holding an international conference on the matter under the auspices of the United Nations.   Libya had also been among those who had drawn attention early on to the need to distinguish acts of terrorism from acts in exercise of self-determination or to resist foreign occupation.  He added that a comprehensive convention should not engender another form of terrorism:  State terrorism. 

NAMIRA NEGM ( Egypt) said that her delegation had always been in favour of holding a high-level meeting on the subject in Cairo.  The conference should not depend on concluding a convention.  The aim of such a meeting would be to build bridges between countries.

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