H.E. Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Minister for Foreign Affairs
27 September 2008
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AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that the General Assembly was meeting against the backdrop of developments that were closely linked to the peace and security of all humanity -- the food crisis, the increase in energy prices, the financial crisis, climate change, the diminishing collective ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, HIV/AIDS and combating terrorism. A new vision, along with new methods, was needed to deal with such global issues, since existing frameworks had been unsuccessful.
For example, on the food and energy crisis, Egypt believed a serious dialogue was needed between importers and exporters, as President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak had called for in the recent African Summit, since existing channels were quite divergent and could not provide a good dialogue between the two sides. For that reason, Egypt had been keenly interested in participating in the emergency summit convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and strongly supported the African endeavour to adopt a clear strategy to tackle the phenomenon, including through the Sharm el-Sheikh declaration.
By the same token, the creation of an “international will” to deal with climate change was urgently needed, and Egypt “is acutely aware of its gravity” because of the danger posed to its low-lying coastlines. A listing of the States most vulnerable was also called for, so that the United Nations and the international community could provide, as a priority, the necessary financial and technological support.
He noted that economic, social and cultural rights were not, unfortunately, accorded the commensurate attention that civil and political rights were, and that negatively affected public perceptions in many societies, particularly those that faced dire and occasionally abrasive economic and living conditions. To those people, continuous talk about human rights represented a luxury they could not afford and neglected their basic requirements for sustenance. Therefore, the promotion of socio-economic rights must be seen as a vital reinforcement of the human rights regime. In that regard, he wanted to shed light on the question of the use of freedom of expression to incite hatred of religion. He emphasized -- with the utmost respect for the importance of freedom of expression -- that he rejected the idea that a depiction that was a repeated affront to religion was a legitimate exercise of the freedom of expression. He called upon all States to consider the issue objectively, with a view to reaching a balance that protected the freedom of expression of some, and respected the rights and sentiments of others. He would continue to pursue that balance, with the aim of a consensus General Assembly resolution.
The international approach to dealing with disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation was marred with defects, he continued. He believed that security and military balance contributed to “laying the foundations of peace between countries and peoples”. But that called for the establishment of “just and parallel” international and regional mechanisms in areas of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation. Unfortunately, prominent members of the international community were unduly permissive with the issue of Israel’s nuclear capabilities and the extent to which it threatened Middle East security. For that purpose, Egypt had promoted the achievement of universality for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in an invitation to rid the Middle East of all weapons of mass destruction, and the subjection of all nuclear facilities in the Middle East to IAEA.
Regionally, Egypt was persistently involved in painstaking efforts to maintain “a window of hope” for an independent State of Palestine, he said. Although the current situation might suggest to some that there was some hope for a real settlement, it was an issue that required genuine political will on the part of Israel and “we are quite sceptical” about the strength of that will and the conviction of Israeli decision-makers. Their lax attitudes had resulted in the widely condemned and politically loaded settlement activity. But, Egypt would not lose hope and would continue to work with everyone for the sake of “justice, stability and security for our region”.
In regard to Sudan, Mr. Gheit noted that “numerous foreign hands” were interfering with the security and stability in Sudan, as if their objective was to drive it towards partition. Egypt had been working with all Sudanese parties, and its involvement included “significant participation” in the United Nations peacekeeping force on the ground in Darfur. Egypt had demanded an international meeting to address the crisis and agreement on a road map to end it.