GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM CONTINUES DEBATE ON PROPOSED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE

16 February 2000
L/2943

GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM CONTINUES DEBATE ON PROPOSED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE

16 February 2000


Press Release
L/2943


GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S AD HOC COMMITTEE ON TERRORISM CONTINUES DEBATE ON PROPOSED HIGH-LEVEL CONFERENCE

20000216

The representative of Sierra Leone this morning called for international action to stop the sale of precious metals, such as diamonds, by terrorists, as the Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism continued its general debate on the convening of an international conference to combat terrorism.

He said measures should be put in place to make the sale of such commodities difficult, if not impossible. There must also be mechanisms to detect the origins of the metals in areas where terrorists operated, he added.

The representative of Syria reiterated his country’s call for a definition of terrorism, and added that the proposed international conference should make it one of its priority issues. That definition should draw a distinction between terrorism and legitimate national struggle against foreign occupation. Persons engaged in such a struggle were not terrorists. Given political will, a definition could be found, he said.

The representative of Cuba said his countrymen had been the victims of terrorism for the past 40 years. The impunity with which individuals in the United States had acted in planning and financing activities against Cuba illustrated how such acts had been encouraged for four decades. A worldwide legal framework to combat terrorism was essential. An international conference on terrorism could represent a significant contribution to the definition of terrorism and practical measures to deal with terrorism, he said.

The problem of terrorism had become urgent for her country and the Central Asian region as a whole, the representative of Kazakhstan said. The need for globally coordinated efforts against terrorism was greater than ever. A high-level international conference could generalize the experience and efforts of various countries in the struggle against that evil. Information exchange, besides strengthening cooperation between law-enforcement bodies, should be a central question at the conference. The United Nations must play a central role in combating terrorism, she said.

The Ad Hoc Committee, established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 of 17 December 1996, has been elaborating anti-terrorism instruments on a step-by- step basis, including the 1997 Convention for the Supression of Terrorist Bombings and the 1999 Convention for the Supression of the Financing of Terrorism. Also, on the agenda for its current fourth session, is consideration of a draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly - 1a - Press Release L/2943 Resolution 51/210 16 February 2000 15th Meeting (AM)

Statements were also made by the representatives of Uzbekistan, Slovakia and Canada. The representatives of Israel, Syria and Lebanon spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Ad Hoc Committee will meet again at 11 a.m. Thursday, 17 February, to hear a report by the Coordinator on the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

Ad Hoc Committee Work Programme

The Ad Hoc Committee on terrorism met this morning to continue its general debate on: the elaboration of a draft nuclear terrorism convention; the development of a comprehensive legal framework of conventions dealing with international terrorism; and the convening of a high-level conference on terrorism.

Statements

RAFAEL DAUSA CESPEDES (Cuba) said international terrorism was a cause of great concern for all States and had priority on the international agenda. He condemned all acts of terrorism, including terrorism financed or tolerated by States. For the past 40 years the people of Cuba had been the victims of terrorism encouraged and tolerated by neighbouring countries. On 1 January 2000, an aircraft based in the United States and crewed by residents of the United States, violated the air space of Cuba and overflew a no-fly zone, which included groupings of buildings and densely populated areas, dropping objects that endangered the citizens and aimed at terrorizing them.

The impunity with which individuals in the United States had acted in planning and financing activities against Cuba illustrated how such acts had been encouraged for four decades, he said. At the end of last year, a group of North Americans who had confessed to attempts to assassinate the President of Cuba on the island of Margarita, Venezuela, were allowed to go free.

Despite progress achieved by the Committee in recent years, a great deal remained to be done in coping with terrorism, he said. His delegation had supported all efforts to combat terrorism. The need for a world-wide legal framework to combat terrorism was essential. He supported the proposals submitted by India. His Government also supported the position of the Non- Aligned Movement on the convening of an international conference on terrorism. It could represent a significant contribution to the definition of terrorism and practical measures to deal with terrorism.

He said the convening and ratification of anti-terrorist conventions continued to be a vital instrument in coping with terrorism. The convening of an international high-level conference on terrorism could contribute to a climate of cooperation and confidence. The draft convention on nuclear terrorism was an extremely important instrument, but it was necessary to achieve consensus. He supported the Non-Aligned Movement’s position on such a convention. Cuba would continue to support all efforts to suppress international terrorism.

GHASSAN OBEID (Syria) said his country condemned terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, as criminal. It was against terrorism committed by individuals and States, and was also against terrorism during warfare. He stressed the need for a definition of terrorism, in order to distinguish it from the legitimate national struggle against foreign occupation. His country had already stressed the need for an internationally acceptable criteria that would distinguish terrorism from the national struggle of peoples against foreign occupation. Those defending their lands could not be described as terrorists, he said.

Syria was a party to a number of anti-terrorist conventions, including those enacted by the Arab States. He drew attention to a number of relevant General Assembly resolutions on terrorism and said some of their provisions could form a basis for arriving at a definition of terrorism.

Syria also supported the call by the Non-Aligned Movement for the convening of an international conference on terrorism. The Ad Hoc Committee must examine the possibilities for the conference to define terrorism. He said the Conventions for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, or all other anti-terrorist conventions, would not mean anything without a definition of terrorism. Given political will, a definition could be found.

He said actions against Lebanese targets was a form of terrorism. The occupation of the Syrian Golan since 1967 was the most serious and most flagrant form of terrorism. State terrorism practised by Israel was the worst form of State terrorism. The definition of State terrorism must be one of the priority issues of the envisaged conference.

On the draft convention on nuclear terrorism, he recalled that the Non-Aligned Movement had expressed reservations about some provisions of the draft text. The work done so far by the Ad Hoc Committee on the subject was a step forward. He said the draft convention should not be allowed to become a cover for one of the worst forms of terrorism by States or individuals. The provisions should not exclude the actions of the armed forces of States.

ALLIEU IBRAHIM KANU (Sierra Leone) said the Security Council had corrected the wrong done to his country by the international community by adopting resolutions 1270 (1999) and 1289 (2000). [The first resolution established the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone and the second expanded its military component.] For the first time, United Nations peacekeeping operations had a mandate to defend the civilian population, he said.

It was understandable, he continued, that the United Nations did not have the capacity and capability to attend to all acts of terrorism that took place almost daily in the world. Chapter VIII of the Charter gave regional organizations and agencies the mandate to deal with matters relating to international peace and security. Terrorist acts threatened international peace and security. For a Chapter VIII mandate to be carried out effectively, the United Nations must provide regional organizations and agencies with the requisite resources to carry out the mandate.

He said a network of major anti-terrorist conventions had been adopted, but acts of terrorism continued. Rogue States continued to frustrate the will of the international community by providing support and solace to terrorists. Those States must be named and shamed. In the West African subregion, there was evidence that terrorism stultified development and yet those States suspected of giving sustenance to terrorists were not effectively sanctioned by the international community.

In Africa, terrorists financed their terror through the sale of precious metals, like diamonds, he said. His Government believed that the international community should put in place policies to make such sales difficult if not impossible. Some mechanisms for the detection of the transactions should be put in place. He reiterated his Government's condemnation of all forms of terrorism and its manifestations. Concerted international efforts supported by national political will and commitment were required to suppress acts of terrorism.

MADINA B. JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said the international community was witnessing a proliferation of terrorist actions. Terrorists were united in organized groups, had a wide network of financial maintenance, access to modern technologies and had large-scale goals. That phenomenon required careful and deep analysis. Member States must manifest political will and develop a uniform approach to the problem. A comprehensive convention against international terrorism should become a universal document and reflect a joint international effort.

She said there should be a high-level political dialogue on terrorism, which should undertake concrete measures and plans of action directed at the suppression of international terrorism. Besides the development of preventive measures and strengthening cooperation between law-enforcement bodies, an exchange of information on the preparation of terrorist acts should be the central questions of an international conference on terrorism. The United Nations must play a central role in combating terrorism.

She said the problem of terrorism had become urgent for her country and the Central Asian region as a whole. She expressed concern over recent events in neighbouring States, noting that terrorism did not have national borders. No one had a guarantee that the consequences of terrorist acts would not affect their countries, directly or indirectly. At the January 2000 summit of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Kazakhstan had presented an initiative for the creation of an anti-terrorist centre. The work on establishing such a centre had begun.

The necessity for globally-coordinated efforts against terrorism was greater than ever, she said. A high-level international conference could generalize the experience and efforts of various countries in the struggle against that evil, and develop joint anti-terrorist actions.

SAEED AKHMEDJANOV (Uzbekistan) stressed the need for the coordination of international efforts to combat terrorism. The Ad Hoc Committee had produced impressive results, culminating in recent years in the adoption of two instruments –- the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings, and the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. His country was contributing actively to combating terrorism.

He recalled an initiative of his country’s President at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) concerning the establishment of an international centre to combat terrorism. He hoped the initiative would be supported by the international community. His country called for every effort to speedily adopt the draft text on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism. It also supported an international conference on terrorism.

DRAHOSLAV STEFANEK (Slovakia) said the Committee was the infant of the General Assembly resolution 51/210, but it was showing signs of malnutrition. The problem was that the parents were not providing enough food and, even when food was provided, it had been hard to digest. He would like to see an early completion of work on a draft convention and called for the resolution of the differences regarding anti-nuclear terrorism.

He said that any future exercise on the convening of a high-level conference should be well prepared, efficient and action-oriented. Consideration should be given to the preferable choice of convening a special session of the General Assembly. Under that option, the Committee could be transformed into a preparatory committee for negotiation of a draft of a binding nature, which he hoped would then be adopted.

He said Slovakia had signed the 1997 Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings and was preparing for ratification by the end of the year. Consideration of the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism was under way and should be approved for signing in the second half of the year.

JOHN T. HOLMES (Canada) said his country's position had been set forth in the Sixth Committee (Legal). He encouraged the work of the coordinator on the draft international convention for the suppression of terrorism and said negotiations were at a stage where a successful conclusion required political will. He urged all delegations to cooperate.

He said many delegations had expressed interest in the concept of an international conference and there were many ideas on what would constitute a successful outcome. To have a successful meeting, there needed to be a broad consensus on the format and outcome. He was open to the idea of an international conference, but a lot of work needed to be done to build a consensus.

He stressed the importance of the question of the implementation of treaties that had already been concluded. Everyone, he said, should be working actively to get the treaties signed. Canada's Foreign Minister had signed the anti-bombing convention and was working on the signing of the suppression of financing convention.

Right of Reply

ESTHER EFRAT-SMILG (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, referred to the statement by the representative of Syria and said that ever since its establishment, Israel had wanted peace with all of its neighbours, including Syria. Achievement of that would be beneficial to both parties. Today, Israel was seeking a peaceful settlement with Syria, but there had been an increase in active terrorism on ground.

She said Security Council resolution 1269 (1999) unequivocally condemned all acts of terrorism, regardless of their motivation, wherever and by whomever they were committed. Terrorist activities did not occur without the willing support of States, including the financing, fortifying or allowing the transfer of funds or material through their territory. A State could not claim to be a part of a peace process, while allowing the perpetuation of violence. Peace and terrorism were incompatible.

Mr. OBEID (Syria) said the Israeli allegations were weak. The whole world recognized who was committing crimes against civilians and the territories of others, and who bombed towns and civilians and threatened other States. The victims were those who defended their lives. The representative of the Israeli occupation had stated that Israel had proven it was ready to pay for the benefits of peace. That price was being paid in the form of weapons used against innocent civilians and towns. Those were not the assets of peace.

He said Syria had accepted the strategic options for peace, but the negotiations had been interrupted by Israeli intransigence. The establishment of peace required, first, an end to occupation. In calling attention to Council resolution 1269 (1999), the Israeli representative had forgotten that the resolution referred to State terrorism and that applied to Israeli terrorism.

He said the Committee was dealing with terrorism and crimes against populations. It had not defined terrorism and was calling for a conference to define it. People under occupation could seek freedom and it was legitimate to resist occupation. Syria had proven its good will and had always supported peaceful solutions. It was not true that Syria had interrupted the negotiations. The latest interruption had been caused by Israel’s refusal to study the boundaries between the countries. Israel wanted peace, while keeping the territory under its control. National interest was a legitimate right and was supported by the Charter. Israel should not give the false impression that it was trying to defend itself when, at the same time, it was occupying the land of others and bombing the infrastructure in the area.

Continuing, he said the Israeli statement that other countries financed terrorists was a false allegation and an attempt to draw attention away from Israeli aggression and occupation. If peace was to be achieved, Israel must withdraw from the area.

HOUSSAM ASAAD DIAB (Lebanon) asked to speak in exercise of the right of reply.

Ms. EFRAT-SMILG (Israel) said she had not mentioned Lebanon in her intervention and questioned why Lebanon should have the right of reply.

Mr. DIAB (Lebanon) said Israel had mentioned resistance as a terrorist act and that applied to Lebanese resistance. The Chairman, ROHAN PERERA (Sri Lanka), said he did not recall a specific reference to Lebanon in the statement by the representative of Israel.

Mr. DIAB (Lebanon) said that Israel had implied that acts of resistance against Israel were acts of terrorism and that included Lebanese resistance to Israeli occupation.

The CHAIRMAN granted Lebanon the right of reply.

Mr. DIAB (Lebanon) said it was ironic that yesterday Israel had objected to discussing its occupation. Today, she had opened that subject. Lebanon had discussed the Israeli terrorism against Lebanon as an example of the definition of international terrorism. Israel’s accusation that Lebanese resistance was terrorism was false. Israeli occupation forces continuously and persistently went outside the framework of the Lucerne Agreement and Council resolutions when they bombed the civilian population.

Ms. EFRAT-SMILG (Israel), speaking on a point of order, said the debate must be limited to the scope of the Committee. Lebanon had had adequate time yesterday to present its views.

The CHAIRMAN ruled that that was not a point of order. The representative of Lebanon had been granted the right of reply.

Mr. DIAB (Lebanon) said the Israeli occupation forces bombed civilian areas and acts of resistance against Israeli forces were legitimate acts approved by the Charter. He demanded the unconditional implementation of Security Council resolution 425 (1978). Pending its implementation, the people of Lebanon insisted on the legitimacy of their resistance, as stipulated in the Agreement of April 1996.

Ms. EFRAT-SMILG (Israel) said she regretted the abuse of the work of the Committee.

The CHAIRMAN suspended the work of the Committee for an hour

When the meeting resumed, the CHAIRMAN said that the afternoon would be kept free for interested delegations to continue their consultations with the Coordinator on the draft convention on the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism.

CATE STEAINS (Australia), the Coordinator, responding to concerns that had been expressed by some delegations, stated that her consultations were being conducted in a transparent manner. She was available to delegations, individually and severally. She added that she had ideas on how discussions on the text could be moved forward and would like to share them.

The CHAIRMAN announced that the Coordinator would report to the plenary tomorrow on her consultations.

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For information media. Not an official record.