Amid challenges to global peace, Canadian Foreign Minister urges UN to focus on results

John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada. UN Photo/Jennifer S Altman

1 October 2012 – The United Nations must focus on achieving results rather than process, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, told the UN General Assembly today, noting that security issues in Syria and Iran trumped the world body’s procedural considerations.

“The UN spends too much time on itself. It must now look outward,” Mr. Baird said at the 67th Assembly on the closing day of its annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.

“Not in spite of our commitment, but because of our commitment to this body, we cannot and will not participate in endless, fruitless inward-looking exercises,” he noted, adding that if the UN focussed on the achievement of goals “such as prosperity, security and human dignity, then reform will take care of itself.”

Turning to the ongoing conflict in Syria, Mr. Baird stated that the violence in the Middle Eastern country was testing the UN’s ability to achieve results on the ground. More than 18,000 have been killed and hundreds of thousands more driven from their homes since fighting between the Government and opposition forces erupted across Syria some 19 months ago.

“The United Nations continues to fail to impose binding sanctions that would stem the crimson tide of this bloody assault,” he said. “Until the last syllable of recorded time, the world will remember and history will judge Member States that are allowing the atrocities to continue.”

In addition, Mr. Baird urged the Syrian regime to ensure that its stockpile of chemical weapons remains secure against possible use or proliferation “by those who would do evil,” stating that the effects caused by such weapons do not respect national sovereignty or territorial integrity.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, however, emphasised that it was Iran, not Syria, which posed “the most significant threat to global peace and security,” and reminded the gathered delegates that Ottawa had recently suspended diplomatic relations with Tehran amid growing tensions over the country’s nuclear programme – Iran says the programme is for peaceful purposes of energy production but many countries fear is aimed at attaining nuclear weapons capability.

“A nuclear Iran would embolden an already reckless regime and perpetuate a destabilizing factor for not just an already fragile region but the entire planet,” he declared, reiterating his call for Iran to comply with international nuclear obligations and cease any enrichment of nuclear materials.

Nevertheless, Mr. Baird noted that the Iranian regime still had a chance to redeem itself. “Rather than accept as inevitable the conflict Iran seems intent on provoking, Canada seeks a peaceful alternative. Iran must act immediately to stop all enrichment and abandon technology that could be used for weapons,” he said.

The Canadian Foreign Minister is one of scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual, national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends later Monday.


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