Syrian Arab Republic
H.E. Mr. Walid Al-Moualem, Minister for Foreign Affairs
27 September 2008
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WALID AL-MOUALEM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, described the Middle East as one of the world’s most volatile regions, faced with mounting challenges. Daunting as those challenges might be, they should not deter the search for ways to improve the situation, and Syria was an essential part of that effort by virtue of its geographic location, as well as the aspirations of its people. For that reason, Syria’s President had called for the Damascus quartet summit attended by the President of France, the Emir of Qatar and the Prime Minister of Turkey. By calling for the summit, Syria had stressed that a just and comprehensive peace was its strategic choice and it was striving to achieve it with partners who shared its vision.
“We all went to Annapolis, despite the ambiguity of the undertaking,” he continued. Now, the question was, what had been achieved? Had the promises to establish a Palestinian State before the end of the year been fulfilled? Had Israel stopped building settlements? Despite that lack of progress, Syria had entered into indirect negotiations with Israel, with mediation by Turkey. The intent was to pave the way for direct negotiations. That, however, required a genuine Israeli will capable of accommodating the exigencies of peacemaking. It also required the will to include Middle East peace on the United States list of priorities, after years of deliberately ignoring it.
He stressed Syria’s support for the Palestinian people’s rights to recover their occupied land and establish an independent State with Jerusalem as its capital, and underlined the need to restore the Palestinian national unity through national dialogue -- a goal his country was working towards as current Chairman of the Arab Summit.
On Iraq, he said the situation in that country was a matter of concern, not only because Iraq was an Arab country, but also because, as a neighbouring country, Syria was affected by developments in Iraq, whether negative or positive. For that reason, Syria had always stressed the need to preserve, among other things, the unity of the Iraqi people, its territorial integrity and independence, and its Arab and Islamic character, and opposed calls to divide it. Syria had repeatedly asserted that the solution in Iraq began with national reconciliation, built on the principle of respect for the will of its people. In addition to calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops in agreement with the Iraqi Government, he said his country had also condemned and continued to condemn all acts of terrorism that had taken a high toll among innocent civilians.
He believed that the stability the country longed for required an Iraqi consensus to overcome the obstacles barring its realization. It was regrettable that the United States invasion in 2003 had prompted many Iraqis to leave their country to seek safety and security outside, a great many of whom were now in Syria. He hoped for an improvement in the crisis that would permit the return of the many Iraqis forced to leave their country because of insecurity.
On Lebanon, he said that Syria was satisfied the situation there was in the process of being resolved, following the conclusion of the Doha Agreement that enabled the Lebanese to elect a consensual President, establish a Government of national unity and initiate national dialogue. Despite unfounded claims to the contrary, he went on, Syria had and continued to support all efforts to assist the Lebanese to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions based on dialogue and an affirmation of national unity. During the recent visit of the Lebanese President to Syria, a joint decision had been taken to establish diplomatic relations and also agreed to resume to work of the joint Lebanese-Syria border demarcation commission.
On Sudan, he told the Assembly that his country was supportive of efforts aimed at guaranteeing the North African country’s unity and territorial integrity and promoting peace and stability. In that context, Syria opposed “totally” the decision by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and urged the Security Council to suspend it, with a view to creating the favourable conditions for pursuing the initiative endorsed by the Arab League Council of ministers of 9 August. That initiative called for the establishment of an Arab ministerial committee under the chairmanship of Qatar, and entrusting it with overseeing comprehensive peace talks between the Sudanese Government and the armed groups in Darfur. Syria was a member of that committee.
Turning to the Treaty on Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he observed that much had been said about the Iranian nuclear issue. Even though Iran had time and again stressed that it was solely dedicated to the peaceful uses of nuclear power, deep mistrust between Iran and its interlocutors complicated matters and prevented stakeholders from reaching an understanding. Syria was seeking to arrive at a political understanding of the Iranian nuclear issue, because it believed any other option would not be in the interest of anyone and would inflict “catastrophic losses” on the region and the world.
“In that context, and in line with our principled position, we call for declaring the Middle East a zone free from all weapons of mass destruction,” he said, stressing the need for compelling Israel to dismantle the hundreds of nuclear warheads in possession, to put nuclear facilities under the safeguard regime of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
On the recent crisis in the Caucasus region, he said it was impossible to ignore its dimensions and repercussions on the international scene and declared that it was abundantly clear who was responsible for igniting it, and was aware of the provocative acts associated with it that had prompted the Russian Federation to go for the option it did. “We appreciate Russia’s positive response to the efforts made by France in its capacity as President of the European Union to arrive at a settlement of this crisis that will guarantee regional stability and spare the world a replay of an older version of international relations that were relics of a past era,” he added.
Similarly, he said, while much had been said about the war on terror, years after waging that war, it needed to be asked whether terrorism was less widespread today than it was before. Accusing countries, for political motives, of sponsoring terrorism was, in his view, a desperate attempt to justify the failure of the approach pursued by those promoting those claims.
Concluding, he stated that the experience of previous years had proved that unilaterally dictating the world’s political agenda was wrong. The wars and the financial and food crises raging throughout the world today required that the international community work together, with an approach that sought to engage all regional and international stakeholders and using dialogue as the tool to settle controversial issues.