23 March 2005 Appealing for Arab support for his comprehensive package of United Nations reforms, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on an Arab League summit to take the lead in outlawing terrorism, above all in the occupied Palestinian territory, however genuine the grievances are over Israeli settlements and land confiscation.
“Legitimate causes cannot be advanced by illegitimate means,” he told the League’s 60th anniversary summit in Algiers, noting that the report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, on which he based his reforms package, stated clearly that the right to resist occupation cannot include a right to deliberately kill and maim civilians.
“For too long, efforts at the United Nations to confront this vicious phenomenon have been weakened by the lack of a comprehensive convention on terrorism, based on a clear and agreed definition,” he said, urging world leaders to unite behind the Panel’s definition and conclude a comprehensive convention on terrorism before the end of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly, which begins in September.
“I urge you to bring your own experience to bear, and to take the lead in this effort. Of course, where there are genuine grievances that encourage people to support or sympathize with terrorism, then we must find peaceful ways to redress those grievances, and convince the population that terror is not the way to solve them.
“Nowhere is that clearer than in the occupied Palestinian territory, which I visited last week,” he declared, stressing that he had seen the daily hardships faced by Palestinians, their concerns at continuing unilateral acts in the shape of Israeli settlement activity and land confiscation, their anger at the separation barrier that Israel is building in the West Bank and their yearning to see all political prisoners released.
But he also said he had sensed a new mood of optimism and hope after a long and bitter period of bloodshed and despair following the recent agreement by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to seek an end to violence.
Turning to the larger framework of his reform package, Mr. Annan declared: “Its main argument is that the great issues of our time are interconnected, and must be pursued together by all, as a matter of enlightened self-interest.
“And it stresses that the proposals make up a single package – a comprehensive strategy that gives equal weight to all the purposes of the Organization, and all the concerns of its membership,” he added, detailing the three main pillars of development, security and human rights, including curbing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and improving the collective capacity for peacebuilding and peacekeeping.
On another matter of regional concern, he said he was encouraged by the commitment given him by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to implement Security Council resolution 1559 calling for a withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.
He expected a withdrawal of all Syrian troops, including the intelligence apparatus and military assets, to take place before Lebanese parliamentary elections scheduled for between mid-April to mid-May.
He noted other positive developments, too, such as the accord ending the decades-long civil war in southern Sudan, although the “appalling situation” of the conflict in the western region of Darfur casts a long shadow over it, and the “strong appetite for democratic solutions” shown in recent Iraqi and Palestinian elections and events in Lebanon.
“In the Arab world, and everywhere else, democracy is not a solution in itself,” he declared. “But it is the best means we have to solve problems, promote peace, nurture development, and create inclusive, cohesive societies based on the rule of law. The United Nations, already your close partner in so many ways, will continue working with you to achieve these objectives, too.”
While in the Algerian capital, Mr. Annan held a series of bilateral meetings. As well as talks with President al-Assad, he discussed with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir the need for a political agreement in Darfur and security for people to go back to their villages there.
With Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak he discussed implementation of resolution 1559, Darfur and Mr. Mubarak’s recent announcement that he would allow multiple candidates in presidential elections. With Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the agenda focused on Western Sahara, Resolution 1559 and terrorism.
The Secretary-General also met with Arab League Secretary-General Amre Moussa, Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hamoud, Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawer and Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.
The Secretary-General will return to New York tonight, and is expected back at UN Headquarters tomorrow.