Permanent Mission of Eritrea

To the United Nations

STATEMENT


BY


H.E. MR. HAILE WELDENSAE

MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

OF THE STATE OF ERITREA


AT THE


55th SESSION OF THE

UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY








Mr. President,

At the outset, I wish to extend my congratulations on your unanimous election as President of the Fifty-fifth (55th ) Session of the General Assembly. I am confident that, under your able and wise guidance, this session will successfully accomplish its tasks.

I would also like to express appreciation and thanks to your predecessor, H.E. Theo-Ben Gurirab, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Namibia, for the effectiveness with which he directed the work of the last session.

I also seize this opportunity to extend congratulations to the Republic of Tuvalu on becoming the latest member of the United Nations.

We shall not forget to express our thanks and appreciation to our Secretary- General not only for his tireless effort to ensure respect for the values, principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter but also for his farsighted and thought-provoking Millennium Report.

Mr. President,

The Fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly is meeting in the wake of the Millennium Summit whose Declaration embodies three fundamental messages.

First, it reaffirms that the ideals and goals of the United Nations are still sacred to humanity, and that the principles and purposes of the UN Charter are as valid today as they were in the past.

Secondly, it reminds us that the lofty principles enshrined in the UN Charter require us to continuously strengthen the UN and to make the necessary adjustments and changes to enable it to meet the challenges of justice, peace and security, poverty and disease, socioeconomic development and the inequities of the global economy and the protection of the ecology.

Thirdly, respect for the ideals, and observance of, the principles and purposes of the United Nations, remain the only keys to the creation of a peaceful, prosperous and humane new world order. To this end, it enjoins us to be loyal to these common ideals, goals, values and principles. It reminds us that each state has responsibility to act not only by itself, but also within a regional system, to give the loyalty that is due to these values and goals, principles and purposes.

In this connection, I wish to join others before me who have reminded us of the urgent need for reform of the United Nations, including in particular the Security Council and the General Assembly, with a view to enabling it to reflect the realities of the times and to empower it to meet effectively and efficiently the challenges of the day and the future.

Mr. President,

I wish to reaffirm the commitment of the people and Government of the State of Eritrea to the noble ideals and values, as well as the principles and purposes, of the United Nations. Having made supreme sacrifices, and paid dearly, during a thirty-year struggle for independence and membership in the international community, Eritreans appreciate the essentiality of the United Nations and its Charter to their well-being and prosperity. Having fully experienced the horrors of along war, and the benefits of a short peace, they recognize the need for the peaceful and just settlement of disputes and cooperation for mutual benefit in the long human struggle to create an international order based on justice and equality.

To this end, Eritrean foreign policy has been premised on the assumption that the threat or use of force can never be an instrument of foreign policy and that even, in a clear case of self-defence, it must be used only after all available methods of peaceful resolution of disputes have been exhausted -and then only with extreme caution.

It is for this reason, and because Eritrea had suffered from the non-application by the UN itself of the principles of its own Charter and the decisions of the General Assembly, that it had, upon independence, decided to make the ideals and values, principles and purposes of the UN Charter the corner-stones of its foreign policy. By its membership, it had also hoped to play a pro-active role in promoting the principle of universality of membership in the United Nations and towards the achievement of fair and equitable regional and international orders.

Mr. President,

Eritrea is also fully aware of its responsibilities as a littoral state of a strategic international thoroughfare and has committed itself to contributing its share to the stability and security of, and the creation of a zone of peace and cooperation in, the region. To this end, it has exerted all effort to foster an atmosphere which will enhance cooperation among the littoral states of both sides of the Red Sea and promote development and mutual prosperity. It had also played a major role in the transformation of IGADD from a simple natural disaster-control mechanism to a vibrant regional organization which will promote peace and cooperation among its member states as well as advancing economic and social cooperation for development. The recent meeting of the ever-expanding community of Sahelo-Saharan States in Asmara, our capital, is a testimony to Eritrea's commitment to the consolidation of the unity of, and the broadening and deepening of cooperative relations between, African countries. This commitment will forever be firm.

Mr. President,

In spite of its victimization, Eritrea had decided to forget the past and to start with a clean slate as it evolved a vision, and set its priorities, for the future. It established good relations with all its neighbours on the basis of the UN and OAU Charters and the principle of good-neighbourliness. It assumed that there would not be any territorial disputes with its neighbours since its colonial borders were clearly defined and recognized and had been accepted at independence by all its neighbours. It had no reason to assume that its independence would be threatened by any state, near or far, any more than it had any reason to assume that it has the right to use force to expand at the expense of its neighbours. Its sole ambition as a new member of the international community was to make up for lost time in development.

In spite of all its commitments and good will, however, Eritrea has, during the brief seven (7) years of formal independence, been tested by, and had to defend itself against, political pressures, threats and actual attempts which had endangered not only its sovereignty and territorial integrity but also its hard-won independence. True, Eritrea may not be the only new country in history that has been so tested. Yet, it must be the only member of the United Nations whose territorial integrity - indeed its very existence as a sovereign, independent state - has been threatened and is still being threatened at the beginning of the twenty-first (21 St )century.

It goes without saying that this struggle to preserve its independence has been detrimental to the nation-building and development efforts of the new state. Yet, throughout this time, Eritrea has never wavered in its commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes. Indeed, it had solved two of its problems peacefully on a bilateral basis and a third through international arbitration.

Mr. President,

It was perhaps during the last two (2) years that Eritrea's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity was severely tested. What was labeled a border dispute proved to be a serious attempt to reverse history and to recolonize Eritrea - or, failing that, to truncate it, to finlandize it, and to turn it into a satellite state. This attempt was thwarted by the united effort of Eritreans at home and abroad. However, it had its cost: the systematic and willful destruction of much of the economic and social infrastructure of the country and the deliberate, brutal violation of the human rights of Eritreans including the terrorization and brutalization of the population in the occupied territories.

Mr. President,

Eritrea is convinced that there is no alternative to the solution of conflicts by peaceful means on the basis of the UN and OAU Charters as well as existing principles of international law.

From the beginning of the conflict, Eritrea has repeatedly declared that war can never be an option to resolve conflicts, that neither of the parties can settle the conflict by imposing their will and creating facts on the ground - and then hope to achieve durable and meaningful peace. It is a clear manifestation of its commitment to peace and the rule of law that Eritrea still remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, notwithstanding the occupation of large tracts of its territory, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of its population, the continued brutalization and terrorization of the people in occupied territory and the feverish war preparations for yet another attempt against its territorial integrity. It has already taken bold measures, shown flexibility and made important concessions, however unpalatable they may have been, in the hope of achieving a just peace, inspite of the attempts that are being made to destroy the OAU peace proposals. Again, Eritrea pledges that it shall continue to do its utmost to reach a comprehensive and conclusive agreement peacefully.

Yet, the fate of peace hinges on three critical factors. First, the search for peace is a shared responsibility. It cannot be left to only one of the parties. Secondly, peace can be ascertained only when it is anchored on the values, ideals and principles of the UN Charter which have been emphatically reconfirmed by the Millennium Declaration. Among these is respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Thirdly, peace can be achieved only with the faithful implementation of agreements accepted by parties to a conflict. We invite all concerned to join Eritrea in extending full cooperation to the OAU Facilitators, making a genuine and unequivocal commitment to the OAU peace process and in being faithful to the letter and spirit of the provisions of the OAU peace documents, in particular the Framework Agreement and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.

At this juncture, I wish to seize the opportunity to renew our appreciation and gratitude to H.E. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika for his unwavering commitment to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, to his personal envoy, H.E. Ahmed Ouyiahia, for the wisdom and skill with which he led the Indirect Talks as well to the international community including, in particular, the Government of the United States of America and the European Union for the positive contribution they have made to ensure the signing of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities in Algiers on 18 June 2000. We request them to persist in their noble endeavour until a genuine and just peace is really achieved.

Finally, the Government of Eritrea notes with great appreciation the effort that has been exerted, and the commitments made, by the United Nations to ensure an early, comprehensive settlement of the conflict. In this connection, I wish to draw the attention of the Security Council to the urgent necessity of deploying the peace-keeping force authorized by its resolution 1320 of 15 September 2000 as quickly as possible in order to forestall any avoidable obstacles which may threaten, or even destroy, the gains that have been achieved at great cost and much effort by so many.

I thank you.