ON STATE SOVEREIGNTY, DISARMAMENT MATTERS, WORLD LEADERS URGE SOLIDARITY OVER SELECTIVITY, AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE

27 September 2008
GA/10757

ON STATE SOVEREIGNTY, DISARMAMENT MATTERS, WORLD LEADERS URGE SOLIDARITY OVER SELECTIVITY, AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE

27 September 2008
General Assembly
GA/10757
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Plenary

13th & 14th Meetings (AM & PM)

ON STATE SOVEREIGNTY, DISARMAMENT MATTERS, WORLD LEADERS URGE SOLIDARITY

OVER SELECTIVITY, AS ASSEMBLY CONTINUES GENERAL DEBATE

 

Questions of national sovereignty, disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation dominated the debate in the General Assembly today, with world leaders calling for solidarity and reform of the Security Council to help diffuse the world’s active and simmering conflicts -– in the Caucasus, Middle East and Korean Peninsula –- all of which carried powerful repercussions for neighbouring States and regions.

Capturing the essence of the current international climate, Romania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lazăr Comănescu said:  “a dormant volcano can still be an active one”.  Among the 31 speakers to address the Assembly’s annual general debate today, he observed that the recent crisis in Georgia spoke to that point, proving that the global community could not shy from dealing with uncertain situations, and assume they would just disappear.

“Let us be honest:  no conflict stays frozen indefinitely, and without consequences,” he asserted.  Deferring solutions was not a suitable response, and the events in Georgia should serve to refocus attention on other protracted conflicts in that area, notably in Nagorno-Karabakh.  Full observance of all principles of international law, including territorial integrity, was “a must” if peace was to prevail in such situations.

Responding, Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said his country’s recognition of independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia was needed to ensure their security.  In South Ossetia, his Government had defended the most essential human right:  the right to live.  The existing architecture in Europe had failed the “strength test”; it had proven incapable of containing an aggressor.  The current Georgian leadership had undermined peacekeeping negotiating mechanisms by launching a bloody war on 8 August, however, “this problem is now closed”, he said.  The future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia had been secured by treaties between Moscow, and the respective capital cities of Sukhum and Tskhinval.

As such, he proposed a comprehensive examination of the situation, saying that the Treaty on European Security proposed by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev meant to create a reliable security system and promote integrated management across a vast region.  The process would involve all who reaffirmed a commitment to fundamental principles of international law, including the non-use of force; peaceful settlement of disputes; and non-interference in internal affairs.  Calling up the memory of the Cold War era, he urged following such principles to ensure that truth did not once again become “the first victim of war”.

At the same time, Mohlabi Tsekoa, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Relations of Lesotho, said every year, new hotspots and “designer wars” broke out as some big and powerful States resorted more and more to the use of force.  The illusory goal of imposing their will on others by force only led to a more unstable and dangerous world.  Further, the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction was being abused when it was used to target certain African leaders.  That Principle must be impartially and objectively applied so it was not used for political purposes. 

Overall, the Security Council must be an honest arbiter in conflicts, he said, and not “turn a blind eye” to a situation in one country, then act in another when a similar situation surfaced.  It must also be reformed in such a way that integrity and credibility enable it to carry out its lofty mandate more efficiently. 

Pak Kil Yon, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was a goal, and his country had remained consistent in its position to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue and negotiation.  The 1992 north-south joint declaration and the 1994 Agreed Framework demonstrated that position, as did the six-party talks that had resulted in the joint statement of 19 September 2005. 

He said inter-Korean relations had worsened since installation of a new regime in the south, which denied the joint declarations that had set out the path to unification based on the principles of independence, peaceful reunification and national unity.  Those declarations had been agreed and adopted at the highest level of both north and south.  They had received the support of all the people of the Peninsula and of the international community.  It was intolerable that they were discarded because of a changed regime.

Turning to the Middle East, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem 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 had prevented stakeholders from reaching an understanding.   Syria was seeking to arrive at a political understanding of the Iranian nuclear issue because any other option, it believed, 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 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. 

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said the current international approach to dealing with disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation was marred with defects.  He believed that security and military balance contributed to “laying the foundations of peace between countries and peoples”, and called for the establishment of “just and parallel” international and regional mechanisms in those areas.

Also speaking today were the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Peru, Mali, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Niger, Tunisia, Hungary, Zambia, Lesotho, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Greece, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, the Czech Republic and Malaysia.

The Deputy Prime Ministers of Viet Nam and Papua New Guinea also addressed the Assembly, as did the Secretary-General of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Oman, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the Gambia, and the Government Counsellor for External Relations and International Economic and Financial Affairs of Monaco.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Iran, Japan, United Arab Emirates and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The General Assembly will reconvene Monday, 29 September, at 9 a.m. to continue its general debate.

Background

The General Assembly met today to continue its general debate.

Statements

PHAM GIA KHIEM, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, noted that, while a trend of peace and cooperation continued to prevail, enduring local conflicts and acts of terrorism still occurred in many parts of the world, and new tensions had also emerged in Europe, including in the Balkans and the Caucasus.  At the same time, the world was experiencing the worst economic uncertainty since the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

More than ever, the current situation compelled States to promote dialogue and cooperation to surmount common challenges, both man-made and natural, he said.  He supported efforts to end violence in Afghanistan and Iraq, adding that the global community should also work to facilitate progress in the search for lasting peaceful solutions to nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula and in Iran, while recognizing States’ legitimate rights to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

On the follow-up to the Annapolis outcome, he reaffirmed support for the role of the Quartet, the League of Arab States and the United Nations, notably the Security Council, in finding a lasting solution in the Middle East.  Such a solution should recognize the inalienable rights of Palestinians to establish an independent State.  On Africa, he clearly realized the “organic” relationship between peace and development, and would work with the African Union and United Nations to find solutions to conflict on the continent.

New uncertainties were also unfolding -- climate change, energy and food shortages among them -– and he called for international cooperation.  Developed countries should take measures to ensure their financial stability, implement commitments and increase technology transfer.  Given such complex developments, the United Nations had a role to play in finding solutions.  To that end, he called for strengthening the Organization, notably by democratic and comprehensive reform of the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council and specialized agencies.  Viet Nam would contribute to such efforts to make the Organization more responsive.  In his own country, the Government was working to carry out the “One UN” initiative, and he hoped the experience implementing that pilot reform programme would be useful to other aid recipients.

He said Viet Nam seriously observed its commitments in addressing global issues, and strongly supported the Bali road map to address climate change beyond 2012.  Despite natural disasters and epidemics, Viet Nam was honouring its pledge to maintain rice exports of 4 million tons a year.  Also, 2008 was the first year Viet Nam had assumed responsibilities as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.  Desiring to make greater contributions to the maintenance of peace and security, his country had participated in the Council as a responsible member, and would continue to uphold the principles enshrined in the Charter.

Concluding, he said that, with trust in the power of people’s will, he was strongly confident that the global community would overcome new challenges.

PUKA TEMU, Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said the world faced formidable challenges, among them the destructive use of illicit small arms and light weapons and the food and energy crises, and he appealed to the General Assembly to respond to the issue of global warming and rising sea levels, which were security issues for small island States that threatened their very survival.  Also regionally, he commended the work done so far on the Pacific plan, which could catalyse the region’s development.  It was his strong belief that Member States from the Pacific region needed to receive a separate categorization in aggregated data, and in the area of social and economic classification.

At the midway point for the Millennium Development Goals, he said his country was cautiously optimistic.  Its successful progress towards the Goals showed a political stability that allowed for long-term development plans, strong partnerships with other Member States and foundations, and steady economic growth in recent years.  His country believed that strong partnerships -– the eighth Goal -– was critical to achieving the other seven Goals, and those partnerships must be underpinned by mutual respect.  To succeed, partnerships must be significantly scaled up.

Often, he said, the negative was stressed -- environmental degradation, climate change, crippling poverty -- rather than leveraging the positive.  His Government’s vision was to transform societal challenges into a framework for sustainable economic growth.  It was time to shed the policy chains of the past and create a new paradigm for the future and, on that issue, he wanted to stress three specific points.  First, the environment could not be considered an “externality” and the natural environment was not free for society.  Second, a broad framework for ecosystem service markets must be created.  Third, the natural environment must be viewed as an engine for wealth creation.  On the issue of deforestation, for example, it was a complex subject, but put simply “it is driven by the fact the world values forests more dead than alive”.  Traditional economic theory -- which considers ecosystem services a common good and thus free to all -- was primarily responsible for the massive loss of the world’s forests.

Global leaders must redraft economic theory and reinvent global markets for a more sustainable future, he said.  For example, the latest estimate was that approximately $20 billion a year would be needed to halve carbon emissions from deforestation, but that would be a wise investment, even for that one ecosystem service alone.  Forests sequestered some 3.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually.  In effect, rural communities were subsidizing the carbon emissions of the rich by approximately $100 billion per year -- more than that total of official development assistance annually.

He acknowledged Norway’s great leadership towards the necessary paradigm shift.  Norway had stood up against global climate change and had targeted carbon neutrality by 2030.  Sharing a similar vision, Papua New Guinea was commitment to reducing their emissions by 50 per cent before 2025 and being carbon neutral by 2050.  Concluding, he said the global economy values companies in the billions simply for advertising trinkets while people surfed the Internet.  In fact, Google was worth $150 billion, while the world’s last great tropical forests, left standing, were worth nothing.  “How can this be right?” he asked.  The world’s value frameworks must be reconstructed.  At the same time, there was hope, but bold leadership was required on both sides of the economic divide to transform “the way we value our environment and create wealth for rural populations”.

JOSÉ ANTONIO GARCÍA BELAÚNDE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Peru, said the struggle against poverty and the creation of opportunities was a priority for the Government of President Alan García, and the Peruvian Government welcomed the General Assembly’s recognition of poverty as an issue that required a comprehensive global response.  The increase in food and energy prices was felt most intensely by the poor.  The Government was working to find an appropriate sustainable solution to enhancing food security and adopting measures to cater to the needs of the most impacted sections of society.  New and more ambitious formulas were needed to deal with poverty and increasing food prices.

The new global threats were threatening to overwhelm efforts to battle poverty and there was a need for a decisive response by the developed countries to eliminate those crises, he continued.  His Government had a policy of growth and had created jobs and a social policy that reduced poverty and promoted equal opportunities.  Policies also included using advanced technology and management techniques to improve production and exports, and create jobs.  Thousands of small- and mid-size entrepreneurs had entered the economy, as a result.

Another priority for the Peruvian Government was expanding health, education and all basic services, he said.  There had been a 5.2 per cent reduction in poverty and significant achievements in maternal health, literacy and other indicators.  All that demonstrated that Peru would achieve the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline of 2015.   Peru recognized the role of international cooperation in improving the social fabric of the country.

Turning to migration, he said it was a problem that should be globally resolved, and migration could generate opportunities and those factors should be discussed in international forums.  The United Nations and other organizations should insure the human rights of migrant workers and their families.  The matter could be handled with information-sharing mechanisms.

The issue of global warming required working with the international community to reduce carbon emissions, he said.  Peru believed it was important to advance the platform adopted in Bali last year and work together towards a comprehensive, broad-based agreement in Copenhagen in 2009 to reduce emissions to avoid future natural disasters.

Globalization and fragmentation of the world was leading to increasing social inequality, he said.  Other emerging threats were terrorism, the degradation of the environment and the flouting of international law as a means of settling disputes.  Those issues jeopardized the collective security of all.  An international law based on peace was necessary and that called for strengthening the role of the United Nations to deal with the affairs of the international agenda, particularly peace and security, sustainable development, environmental protection and human rights.

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.

MOCTAR OUANE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali, said the global food crisis was a concern for Mali, as it was a potential source of generalized social and political instability.

His Government had “granted pride of place” to combating poverty, taking measures to temporarily suspend import duties and taxes on rice, flour, oil and milk, as well as subsidize gas and hydrocarbons.  Indeed, Mali was firmly determined to achieve food self-sufficiency and, to that end, had made agriculture the principle axis of an accelerated growth strategy.  It had also created an agricultural law that included, among other things, the launch of a “rice initiative” -- a structural response to the “dizzying” increase in product prices -– and the establishment of an agricultural fund, land commission, marshlands programme and high council for agriculture.

On fighting corruption, he said Mali would seek a comprehensive understanding of that phenomenon and define a plan of action.  The African Peer Review Mechanism would help Mali take stock of progress in the field of political governance, among other areas, and draw up recommendations to address it.  On human rights, he said Mali had been examined by the Human Rights Council, and he reiterated Mali’s commitment to turn the Council’s recommendations into action.

Mali believed in preventing conflicts though peaceful means, which guided its decision to find a lasting solution to insecurity that had existed in the north-east since 2006.  In that connection, he said the 2006 Algiers Accord preserved territorial integrity and national unity, while enabling Malians to fully participate in national construction efforts.  Similarly, security in the Sahelo-Saharan region was closely linked to the peoples sharing the place.  “Conflict in one country could very rapidly spread throughout the region,” he said.  Mali would organize a conference in Bamako focusing on security, peace and development for the Sahelo-Saharan region, which would provide Mali with adaptive responses to security, terrorism and the trafficking of arms, drugs and humans.

It was a global duty to undertake “vigorous” actions to secure peace, and he welcomed progress in settling conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan, Somalia and the Great Lakes region.  He also urged resuming talks in the Middle East, and the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State.

On climate change, he called for undertaking measures commensurate with the nature of the problem, explaining that Mali was a party to the Kyoto Protocol and eager to make contributions to the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen.  On HIV/AIDS, he urged stepping up efforts to implement the 2001 declaration on commitments, among others.  On the situation of land-locked developing States, a significant global challenge, he said Mali would actively participate in the high-level meeting on the follow-up to the Almaty Programme of Action.

Turning to United Nations reform, he said the expansion of the Security Council was a “pressing necessity” to restore historic injustices, including the fact that Africa did not have a permanent seat in that body.  Only a reformed and democratized United Nations could serve as a “crucible” for a universal collective conscience.

ELMAR MAMMADYAROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, stated that the effectiveness of the international security system impacted on the authority of the United Nations.  When agreement among Security Council members seemed elusive, it generally impacted on the Organization’s credibility.  Member States would respect shared values and accept the restraints inherent in those values, in order to find an approach based on a global consensus.  Essential reforms to the Organization would need to enhance the General Assembly policy-making organs of the United Nations and the Security Council’s responsibility for threats that transcended national borders.

He observed that the sixty-third General Assembly was taking place during critical times in the South Caucasus region.  Committed to contributing to the decrease of tensions, he acknowledged that the worrisome events in Georgia had demonstrated that the protracted conflicts in the region, including the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh, remained a major source of instability.  The Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform initiated by Turkey promised to be a starting point for the regional security system.  However, prerequisite to cooperation and good relations would be the withdrawal of the Armenian troops from occupied lands and restoration of full sovereignty of Azerbaijan over those territories.  The Azerbaijan Government was committed to a peaceful settlement based on the principles of international law and United Nations resolutions, and he reminded the delegations of last year’s agenda and resolution (document A/62/243) item regarding the situation.  He stressed that the principles laid out in the resolution would be used as a basis for negotiation.

With one of the highest gross domestic products (GDP) of the world, he recounted that Azerbaijan had contributed greatly to regional security and stability by strengthening and promoting energy, communication and economic cooperation projects, including the production and delivery of the Caspian Sea hydrocarbon resource to international markets.  The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway would also link Azerbaijan with Georgia and Turkey, creating effective communications and a connection between Europe and Asia.  He also recounted that Azerbaijan was recognized as a top performer in implementing business regulatory reforms and a country with an investment-friendly economy and an improved commercial environment that encouraged business start-ups.

At the same time, his country supported the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, he said, adding that the adoption without vote by the General Assembly of resolution A/RES/62/274 on the issue was a sign of global recognition of his country’s efforts.  He concluded by reaffirming Azerbaijan’s commitment to the work of the United Nations human rights bodies.  As a member to the Human Rights Council, it was the common task and responsibility of Member States to ensure that it become truly objective, vigorous and credible.

KAREL DE GUCHT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said that, in the last year, there had been unprecedented challenge, and there was now a major crisis of confidence undermining financial markets.  The “phantom” of a global recession had added to other challenges of global food prices, increased energy prices, climate change, terrorism and danger of nuclear proliferation.  Indeed, the world was growing increasingly multipolar.

Against the backdrop of the Olympic Games in China, the Russian Federation and Georgia had become involved in conflict, which carried powerful repercussions for Europe, he continued.  The consequences were far-reaching, and it was only through close cooperation and enhanced multilateralism that the world could respond to such challenges.  “Like it or not, we’re in a situation of mutual dependence,” he said.

On the financial crisis, he said that, if stabilization could be achieved, that would benefit entrepreneurs, consumers and citizens alike, including in the least developed countries that were least equipped to deal with the credit situation.  The crisis reached far beyond any single country’s ability to handle it.  The drafting of discipline standards was needed, notably for short selling.

Belgium believed in globalization and free trade, he said, noting that, in recent decades, the world had achieved remarkable development.  However, wealth sharing remained unequal, and the European Union had taken steps to address that situation.  In that context, he appealed for embarking on the task with energy and conviction.

He said new economies must take their “due place” in the world, noting that Brazil, China and South Africa needed exchanges that were open and equitable, in order to develop at the pace they deserved.  Political will was needed to restart the Doha trade talks, and solutions must be found to the food crisis, increased energy prices and climate change.

At the heart of his concern was sustainable development, he said, and it was crucial to successfully conclude in 2009 the world agreement on climate change.  The Millennium Development Goals should guide States’ efforts, while the follow-up to the Monterrey Consensus should see developed countries do more.  In that context, he reiterated Belgium’s firm intention to fulfil its pledge to commit 0.7 per cent of its GDP to development assistance by 2010.  That was a shared responsibility, and he would actively continue to promote good governance.

On use of natural resources, he said illegal exploitation could lead to conflict, and States must combat that.   Belgium had organized a Security Council debate on that issue.  As a Security Council member, Belgium believed that increased international cooperation was needed, and he regretted that there had been a “turning inwards” vis-à-vis sovereignty concerns.  Sovereignty must be respected.  However, responsibilities must be taken seriously, notably with regard to national populations.  Sovereignty did not give States a carte blanche for behaviour contradicting United Nations values.  Too often, sovereignty prevented the global community from acting to prevent deteriorating situations, for example in Myanmar and Darfur.  There was a responsibility to protect, which could be undertaken through humanitarian instruments, or peacekeeping missions.

On combating impunity, he actively supported developing international criminal law for the gravest of crimes, noting that, two years ago, Belgium had begun its mandate in the Security Council, and was pleased at the progress made in managing crisis and expanding peacekeeping operations.  He called for a strengthened mandate of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), and welcomed the effort of regional organizations, such as the European Union’s involvement in Chad.

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.

SAYYID BADR BIN HAMA AL BUSAIDI, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman, said that economic development and trade had contributed greatly to the creation of bridges of communication for the mutual benefit of nations.  The existing trade system, however, was in dire need of a vision and systems that would keep pace with economic transformations and newly emerging economic entities, in order to capable of maintain the balance of the global economy and cater to the needs of developing countries.

The industrial countries needed to mitigate trade restrictions on the exports of developing countries, while the World Trade Organization should play a more active role towards the removal of such trade restrictions and the application of appropriate policies so as to create a free trade environment, he observed.  While welcoming the World Trade Organization’s invitation to hold another round of trade negotiations in the context of the Doha Development Agenda, he emphasized that such negotiations should rely on the laws of the World Trade Organization, which were rooted in equity and justice.

On the situation in Palestine, he criticized the harsh Israeli policies represented by the closure of crossing points, erection of checkpoints and the perpetuation of settlements, which, he said, made the daily lives of Palestinians difficult.  He urged the international community to intensify its efforts to make Israel shoulder its responsibilities, in view of the importance and the ultimate inevitability of a peace settlement as the only option for joint and peaceful coexistence between the region’s peoples.  At the same time, Oman’s commitment to peace was a fundamental and strategic one, in the realization that peace was a collective responsibility that had to be shouldered by the international community without weakness, regardless of the difficulties that might be encountered.

He believed that what had been achievement so far towards Lebanese conciliation was cause for optimism, and while praising the efforts of Qatar and all the other Arab States and the Arab league, he urged all Lebanese parties to commit to and implement the Doha Agreement in order to safeguard the higher interests of the Lebanese people.

Concerning the situation in Iraq, he expressed Oman’s satisfaction with the relative improvement in the security situation there and hoped that such improvement would continue until all parts of the country became stable.  He similarly noted the situation in the Sudanese region of Darfur, welcomed the steps being taken by the Sudanese Government, in cooperation with the African Union and the Arab League, to establish peace and stability in the region, and called on the international community to support those efforts in a way that would assist the Sudanese reach a national consensus.  Further, he called for a halt to the fighting in Somalia.

He encouraged the continuation of negotiations between Iran and other States on the contentious Iranian nuclear issue, in the hope that those efforts would result in an agreement that maintained Iran’s right to make use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, while eliminating the concerns of some States regarding that country’s nuclear programme.

MARAT TAZHIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said that, while globalization provided new opportunities for the world economy and human development, it also triggered a new surge in political and economic competition worldwide.  It was imperative to prevent the interests of peoples and countries from being sacrificed for the sake of that competition, and it was crucial to preserve the basic principles of international law, including the one on territorial integrity.  It was crucial to avoid double standards while implementing that principle.

Despite numerous efforts, the world was not becoming a safe place, he continued.  There was no international consensus on the issues of disarmament and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  The nuclear factor’s role in global politics had not decreased.  On the contrary, it had become more important and the world was on the threshold of another arms race at a higher technological level.  As a country that had voluntarily relinquished the fourth largest nuclear arsenal, Kazakhstan believed it was imperative to develop new mechanisms that would allow adapting the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons to the new realities.  He called on Member States to quickly finalize necessary the procedures to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, so it could enter into force and its verification mechanisms could be strengthened.  That was the purpose of an integrated field experiment on onsite inspection being conducted in his country at the former Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground.

The crisis of non-proliferation regimes had created a real threat of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons, he said.  Kazakhstan actively participated in the Global Initiative to Combat the Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and this year hosted the atom-anti-terror exercises and an international conference on the physical protection of nuclear materials.  Combating international terrorism was a global problem that required unity and determination of the entire international community.  Further, the situation in Afghanistan remained a matter of grave concern and strengthening international community efforts for peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan was the way to normalize the situation.  His Government had adopted a special plan on assistance to Afghanistan.

Kazakhstan was committed to the timely and effective achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and had achieved several targets in several areas including poverty reduction, access to education and empowerment of women, he said.  The country was now embarking on the Millennium Development Goals Plus, adapted to their national conditions to set up higher benchmarks and indicators.

Preserving the global energy balance had become more urgent and Kazakhstan understood its increasing role and responsibility as a reliable energy supplier, he said.  It viewed the problems associated with climate change and sustainable development as critically important and expressed appreciation to the international community and the United Nations and its agencies and programmes for their support in mitigating the consequences of environmental disasters in the Aral Sea and Semipalatinsk regions.  He also believed the that special needs of landlocked countries should be fully taken into account in accordance with the Almaty Programme of Action and hoped the upcoming mid-term review of that Programme would end with the adoption of specific ways to assist that group of countries.

MOURAD MEDELCI, Minister for Foreign Affairs for Algeria, said the central theme of this Assembly session highlighted the current concerns facing the international community and the current crises that had demonstrated the vulnerability of people and threatened political stability in many countries.

The consequences of climate change and the food crisis, sparked by soaring food prices, had placed millions of poor people into extreme poverty and threatened the realization of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, he continued.  It was necessary that the international financial and economic institutions alerted the international community about potential risks and made the necessary reforms to ensure that developing countries, in particular African countries, could meet their development goals.

Algeria believed in combating terrorism in all ways, he said.  On the issue of reform of the United Nations, it believed it was important to make the body an instrument of liberty and democracy, and improve its work procedures.  Reform of the Security Council was necessary, so as to equitably enlarge its composition and democratize its decisions and work procedures.

The re-launching of the Maghreb Union must be undertaken on a lasting and solid basis that took into account all the peoples of the region, he said.   Algeria supported all efforts towards finding a just solution to the Western Sahara conflict that conformed to international law and let all people exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.  It was necessary that the dynamics created by the process started in Manhasset, New York, be persevered and encouraged.

On the Middle East, he said he was pleased to note the positive developments and encouraged all people to persevere in the process of reconciliation.  There could not be peace without the settling of the Palestinian question.  There was need to remind people that a just accord in the Middle East needed to restore the Palestinian peoples’ historic rights and return all property occupied by Israel.  He appealed to the international community to step up its assistance of humanitarian aid to ease people’s suffering.

Regarding the African continent, he said Africa was moving towards peace, and the African Union and subregional organizations were partners in the prevention and settling of African crises.  While encouraged by the positive trends, more was needed for social and economic development programmes.  Further, it was important to refrain from any action that would thwart peace efforts or undermine the sovereignty of the Sudan.  The international community needed to mobilize a political process that gave a voice to the people of the Sudan.   Algeria supported the actions of the Arab League, African Union and other organizations to ask the Security Council to suspend the action of the International Criminal Court.

SHAIKH KHALID BIN AHMED AL-KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, called for an urgent and effective response to global challenges, including natural disasters, which made achieving the Millennium Development Goals very difficult. Progress to date had been uneven, and the world was on the verge of a “development emergency”.  Welcoming the high-level events on achieving the Millennium Development Goals and meeting Africa’s development needs, he cautioned against losing sight of the potential for natural disasters to reverse progress.  States could not afford to delay attention to such critical development issues.

Continuing, he said climate change was of “utmost importance” and that global energy demand was rising fast.  As populations were increasing amid economic growth, IAEA had predicted energy needs could increase by 50 per cent by 2030.  Given that, he looked forward to the climate change meetings, in Poland this year, and in Copenhagen next year.  He hoped all nations would commit to addressing the overriding interests of the future.

The peaceful use of nuclear energy was a preferred option for Bahrain, he said, adding that agreements on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes should be made within a strengthened non-proliferation regime, with improved safeguards and expanded verification systems.  The Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting last year in Doha had acknowledged States rights to possess nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in close cooperation with IAEA.  He suggested the creation of a global energy organization, which would help determine the role of nuclear energy and consolidate energy data, among other things.

On the food security crisis, he said high food prices had increased the number of hungry people by about 50 million people in 2007.  In that context, he called for reducing biofuel production and investing in sustainable agriculture methods.  The fact was that multilateral cooperation was fundamental to solving such challenges, and no country could solve them independently.

Turning to reform issues, he said Bahrain supported the reinvigoration of the United Nations and looked forward to reforming the world body so that it would be responsive to all challenges.  States should do their utmost to address shortcomings, including threats to the global security system from terrorism, money-laundering, drug traffickers and intellectual property pirates.  Terrorism had many faces, including the recent “heinous” crimes in Islamabad.

On the Middle East, he said there were many issues, the most pressing of which was the need for a just and comprehensive peace settlement of the Palestinian question.  He cited the Arab Peace Initiative in that respect, and called for the withdrawal from occupied Arab Syrian Golan and remaining Lebanese territories.

Moreover, the Gulf region would not be able to bear a new war, and he reiterated his desire for a peaceful solution to the Iranian nuclear file to avoid “the scourge of war”.  The Middle East needed to be free from weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, while safeguarding States’ rights to peacefully use nuclear energy.  States had a duty to review the idea of developing new regional frameworks to overcome long-standing challenges, including an organization of Middle East countries to discuss issues openly.  He accepted peace as a strategic option for solving conflicts and opening a new chapter for historical rapprochement.

Reforms in Bahrain sought to strengthen democracy and protect human rights, he said.  The country’s election to the Human Rights Council was clear recognition of its efforts in that regard.   Bahrain would not hesitate to promote its success stories, and the King had sponsored an award with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), among other things.  A key pillar for Bahrain was its investment in modern education, which encouraged “acceptance of the other”.  His country had achieved the Millennium Goal on education well before the 2015 deadline.

OMAR A. TOURAY, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Gambia, said that, increasingly today, the legitimacy of multilateralism was being questioned.  That principle was at the core of the United Nations work.  To that end, although there had been some progress in revitalizing the Organization, the only way to ensure that multilateralism and broad cooperation remained central to its endeavours was to carry out thoroughgoing reforms, especially towards equitable geographical representation on the Security Council.

Regarding current global challenges, he noted that the “usual pattern of convening meetings” and “too many false promises and unfulfilled commitments” from the international community would not help to end poverty, the food and energy crises, nor ensure the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  The food crisis was attributed to the international community’s neglect of agriculture sectors in developing countries, which had, over time, collapsed due to competition from heavily subsidized farmers in the developed world.  More concrete measures in the form of agricultural inputs like up-to-date machinery and fertilizers were needed.

On domestic matters, he said that Gambia continued its efforts towards gender parity and the empowerment of women, in conjunction with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  It was also participating in peace missions, including contributing troops to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  “Peace dividends” were in evidence throughout Africa, he said, as were signs of hope in Sierra Leone and Liberia, among others.

He went on to call for the admission of Taiwan into the United Nations, the lifting of sanctions against Cuba, especially in the wake of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav, and the humane and tolerant management of phenomenon of migration from Africa to European countries.  Specifically on that matter, he said that Africa realized migration was linked to myriad issues, including lagging development and youth unemployment.

He said that, while the international community worked out a just and comprehensive solution to that “conundrum”, it must also consider ways to empower youth through ob creation, and skills and vocational raining.  He also called for more attention to be paid to the concept of compensation for the flight of African-trained professionals to more advanced countries, which had resulted in serious challenges to the continent’s efforts to combat the scourges of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other infectious diseases.

SHEIKH ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of United Arab Emirates, highlighted many of his country’s recent accomplishments, beginning with the expanded role of women in governmental bodies and labour forces, the development of human rights legislations and laws, and the protection of the rights of overseas labour.  He also noted his Government’s active participation in foreign aid and humanitarian assistance, directly to and indirectly through United Nations agencies, to Member States and countries impacted by natural and man-made crises, such the current worldwide food and energy shortages.

Another achievement had been the collaborative sustainable development project with the Worldwide Fund for Nature of Masdar City, which would be the first carbon-free city in the world, completely run on renewable and clean technologies, such as solar energy, which would be used for power generation and desalination of water.  He said that great progress had also been made to restructure the country’s educational system, an essential component to breaking the cycle of poverty and ignorance and an antidote to the growth of terrorism and extremism.

However, he noted that Iran’s occupation since 1971 of the three United Arab Emirates islands -- Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb -- and called for the full restoration of his country’s sovereignty over them, their waters, airspace, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.  He appealed to the international community to urge Iran to resolve that issue with direct negotiation or through the International Court of Justice.

Turning to the issue of nuclear proliferation, he called for the Middle East and Arabian Gulf to become free from weapons of mass destruction.  That would require both Israel’s compliance with relevant United Nations resolutions, including the recommendations of IAEA.  He called as well for Iran’s continued collaboration with IAEA and the wider international community.  However, the United Arab Emirates still supported the development of nuclear power for peaceful means, including its own nuclear programme developed to meet its energy needs.

A dedicated supporter to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, he expressed concerns about Israel’s growing lack of interest in negotiation.  Only with pressure from the Security Council, the international community and the members of the diplomatic Quartet would relevant resolutions be implemented.  Such pressure could thus end occupation, ensure adherence to the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative, and establish an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, while, at the same time, ensuring Israel’s security.

LAZĂR COMĂNESCU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Romania, fully supporting the European Union’s statement, focused his remarks around two words: “responsibility” and “solidarity”, saying first that global cooperation could provide a solution to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, provided that responsibilities were discharged.

As for climate change, as well as the world energy crisis and food security, he said solutions could not be found individually and there was a moral imperative of responsibility for the future.  Because of such interconnected challenges, the United Nations must be better equipped.  He urged reform of the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Department of Political Affairs, noting that Security Council reform must take into account the legitimate aspirations of all regional groups.  It was also necessary to provide resources, and Romania was ready to support institutional consolidation, notably in the European Regional Bureau.  Regional political officers could expand cooperation with regional and subregional organizations, and he also noted cooperation with the African Union in Darfur and Zimbabwe.

On democratization, he welcomed the increased cooperation in the context of the international conference of new democracies.  The international cooperation network should not have anxiety as a common denominator, rather it should encompass freedom, respect for law and dignity for the human being.  The Assembly had adopted a resolution outlining the characteristics of democracy, and he praised United Nations efforts in Kenya, Iraq, Myanmar, the Central African Republic and Nepal, among others.

On Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, international efforts should be matched by the renewed commitment of the Iraqi and Afghani political leadership, and Romania -- among the first non-Paris Club countries that had agreed, in 2005, to the terms of debt relief for Iraq -- was committed to the democratic future of both countries.

On the Human Rights Council, he said that, under Romania’s presidency, the Council had examined 32 national reports, including one on his country.  States should not weaken their support for the Council or the Office of the High Commissioner.  On internally displaced persons, he said the suffering of 7 million Sudanese and 5 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, among situations in other countries, should catalyse assistance.  Romania had established a special evacuation transit centre for those most in need of protection and resettlement.

On the responsibility to protect, he said that the appalling humanitarian crises of the last decades should prompt States to react to such situations.  Further efforts should be made to form a common understanding of the concept, he said, adding that prosecutorial services were a pillar of the criminal justice system.

Turning to protracted conflicts, he said “let us be honest”, the recent crisis in Georgia proved that the global community could not shy from dealing with uncertain situations and assume they would just disappear.  “A dormant volcano can still be an active one,” he said, noting that deferring solutions was not a suitable response.  The crisis in South Ossetia and Abkhazia should focus attention on other conflicts, notably in Nagorno-Karabakh.  The Security Council should play its part, as hesitation was not helping.  Territorial integrity was “a must”, if States wanted peace to prevail.

On disarmament and non-proliferation issues, he stressed that statements, such as that made towards Israel, were unacceptable.  States had a duty to effectively implement commitments to promote the necessary legal framework, and establish appropriate mechanisms for verification control.  Solidarity at the regional and multilateral levels was needed.   Romania had always been willing to work with States in that respect, he added, citing work on an international seminar for how the Black Sea region could improve the global security situation.

He said the United Nations was the forum for all States “to have their voices heard and heeded”.  The question focused on how to make it more effective in the face of new challenges.  If the moral imperative was not enough, States must pay attention to pragmatism: the Organization belonged to the world’s people.

AÏCHATOU MINDAOUDOU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Niger, said that the main debate of the Assembly session, the high price of food, was crucial, as it impacted people and organizations around the world.  The challenge was to initiate steps to address hunger.   Niger had taken steps to mitigate food prices, but the country faced a serious drought and needed long-term solutions to deal with hunger and provide adequate crops.

She said the financial crisis that affected the world was exacerbated by globalization and required united efforts, initiatives and solutions from everybody.  If a rich country feared an economic recession, a poor country feared hunger.  The poorest countries also paid the most dearly for the dangers of climate change, and Niger called on the international community to combat climate change.

If the food, energy and financial crises were at the forefront of today’s challenges, the threats to international peace and security in countries shaken by conflict were also a scourge impacting harmonious development, she continued.  International terrorism, drug trafficking and the illicit trade in light weapons and small arms were also scourges for many nations.  She welcomed efforts and commitments by the international community were needed to help countries in conflict or emerging from conflict, such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Guinea-Bissau and the Central African Republic.  Those countries had been helped by peacebuilding efforts.  She also welcomed the peace and reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire since the accord of Ouagadougou of 2007.  She was also pleased with the resumption of talks under the Manhasset cycle and its attempts to reach a politically and mutually acceptable solution on the question of Western Sahara.

Regarding the Sudan, she said Niger welcomed the nomination of the joint mediator of the United Nations and African Union, Djibril Yipènè Bassolé, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso.  That provided new momentum to improve the situation in the country.  She also hoped the Palestinian-Israeli talks in Annapolis would continue the momentum towards peace in the Middle East, where there would be two States living side by side with mutually recognized boundaries.

The disarmament and eradication of the trade in light weapons was very important and the challenges to international peace and security remained numerous and threatened progress in development, she said.  The current year was crucial for pushing development forward, as it was marked by the standstill of the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization talks, and the recent high-Level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.

Small, landlocked countries demanded special attention, such as financial assistance, aid and technical help, and she thanked the Secretary-General for his recognition of their needs.   Niger’s development priorities included the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, she added.

She said the United Nations must be the vehicle for the international community to look at issues of both certainty and uncertainty.  The United Nations system must be reformed.  But change would be incomplete without a reform of the Security Council that included fair representation and the Council’s working methods.  Other issues under scrutiny were an assessment of system-wide coherence and revitalization of the General Assembly.

SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said a “painful blow” had been dealt to the unity of the anti-terrorist coalition by the war in Iraq, when, as it turned out, under the false pretext of the fight on terror, international law was violated.  In a wholly artificial way, a deeper crisis was created, and it had not been resolved.  Further, more and more questions were being raised about what was going on in Afghanistan, he said, and asked if there was an acceptable price to pay for civilian deaths in the global campaign against terror.

“Who would determine the criteria of proportionality for the use of force, and why are the international contingents unwilling to engage in combating the proliferating dug threat that causes ever-increasing suffering to the countries of Central Asia and Europe?” he asked.  Those and other factors had led him to believe that the anti-terror coalition was in crisis.  It seemed to lack collective arrangements, such as equality among members in decision-making.

Mechanisms designed for a unipolar world started to be used, he said, and the outcome had been a “privatization of the global effort”.  The illusion of a unipolar world confused many.  In exchange for total loyalty, some expected a free pass to resolve their problems by any means.  The “all permissive” syndrome that developed had raged out of control, boiling over on the night before 8 August, when the aggression was unleashed on South Ossetia.  The Russian Federation had helped South Ossetia repel that aggression, and carried out its duty to protect its citizens, fulfilling its peacekeeping agreements.

Recognition of independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation was needed to ensure their security, he explained, adding that the “chauvinism of Georgian leaders” had begun long ago with a war driven by the slogan:  “ Georgia for Georgians”.  An end was put to that war, and peacekeeping negotiating mechanisms were put in place.  However, the current Georgian leadership had undermined them by launching a “new and bloody war” on 8 August.

“This problem is now closed,” he said, noting that the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia had been secured by treaties between Moscow, and the respective [capital] cities of Sukhum and Tskhinval.  Moreover, he said implementation of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan, to which his Government was strongly committed, would stabilize the two republics, though he was concerned at attempts to “rewrite” that plan.

Today, there was a need to analyze the impact of the crisis on the region, he said.  The world had changed yet again, and it was clear that solidarity expressed by all after 11 September 2001 should be revived and built on the rejection of “double standards” in the fight against infringements on international law –- either on the part of terrorists, belligerent political extremists or others.  Attempts to settle conflict situations by breaking off international agreements could not be tolerated.

In South Ossetia, his Government had defended the right to life -- the most essential human right.  The existing architecture in Europe had not passed the “strength test”; it had proven incapable of containing an aggressor, he said, proposing to look at the situation in a comprehensive way.  The Treaty on European Security proposed by President Medvedev could be “a kind of ‘ Helsinki 2’”, in that it meant to create a reliable security system in a legally binding form, to promote integrated management across a vast region.

Numerous challenges required the comprehensive strengthening of the United Nations, and he was, on the whole, satisfied by the reform process.  He welcomed proposals to expand Security Council membership that did not divide States, but facilitated the search for mutually acceptable compromises.  He reaffirmed a proposal to create a consultative council of religions, saying also that food, energy and security problems could be resolved by a new global partnership.  The Russian Federation supported further developing partnerships among the present Group of Eight members and key States in all developing regions.

In rethinking the responsibility of rendering honestly the events of August, and calling up the memory of the Cold War era, he warned that principles of international law urging restraint from wars of aggression should be followed to ensure that truth did not once again become “the first victim of war”.

ABDELWAHEB ABDALLAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, said an increasing pace in international events had disrupted the global balance and had created new challenges that had weakened the capacity of some countries to achieve progress in development.  The rising price of oil and basic food prices threatened world food security and lowered the purchasing power of many nations, thus making it more difficult for many of them to achieve the Goals set out in the Millennium Declaration.

Overcoming such challenges would require the efforts of the entire international community, as well as the adoption of development strategies based on the “noble humanist dimensions of world solidarity”.  He called on international financial institutions to establish and implement agricultural and production policies that would guarantee the fundamental right to food security for all.  Meanwhile, it was crucial to intensify efforts to operationalize the World Solidarity Fund as a mechanism to address the issues of global poverty and to reduce the disparities among peoples. 

Further, United Nations reforms would help the Organization enhance its ability to alleviate the negative impacts of the current food crisis and to turn globalization into a process that would help guarantee peace and development for all.  Tunisia supported all efforts to establish new frameworks and mechanisms that would help the international community better respond to the many global challenges it faced, he continued, stressing that, among others, the scourge of terrorism in all its forms needed to be addressed.  He called for an international conference, organized by the United Nations, to elaborate a code of conduct for the fight against terrorism. 

Turning to climate change, he underlined the close link between the environment and development and the crucial importance of promoting cooperation and solidarity to meet the challenge of global warming.  It was necessary to mobilize adequate financial resources to promote research in the field of climate observation, meteorology and the development of natural disaster early warning systems.  Investments to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions were also urgently needed.  On other issues, he said the success of national development efforts depended on the security and stability of the international environment.  The international community should thus increase its efforts to find solutions to situations of conflict, specifically in the Middle East and Iraq. 

On domestic issues, he said his country, due to its sound development choices and various development strategies, had already achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals.  Tunisia was now keen on achieving a higher degree of integration on bilateral and multilateral levels.  For instance, he said the Arab Maghreb Union was a “strategic and crucial choice for all peoples of the region” and similar efforts to enhance the capacity for joint Arab action should be promoted.  Tunisia was also keen on strengthening and diversifying its cooperation with “sisterly African countries” through its contribution to achieving peace and security on the continent.

He also reaffirmed his country’s support for the African Union and its role in conflict resolution in Africa.  Relations with the European Union were of equal importance and the building of the “Euro-Mediterranean cooperation space” remained one of Tunisia’s top foreign policy priorities.

KINGA GÖNCZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary, said the daily challenges that existed in an increasingly globalized world required answers originating from the principle of universally accepted values and the practice of flexible adaptation to swift changes in the environment.  That necessity was reflected in the new external relations strategy adopted by his Government at the beginning of the year.

Skyrocketing energy prices, the food and financial crisis, and commodity speculation were endangering the results achieved thus far in implementing the Millennium Development Goals.  She said that a coherent and coordinated response was needed to reverse the process.  As an emerging donor country, Hungary firmly believed that the international community could not use the difficulties faced by everyone as an excuse not to do the utmost to implement the Goals.

With the extreme pace of development and attendant increased emission of greenhouse gases, she continued, the environment was rapidly deteriorating.  Indeed, climate change was an established fact and a growing concern, and it was necessary to adapt to the new weather patterns and climate conditions.  A more effective institutional framework was needed to address those problems.  Such strategy should include clear political guidance; adequate, stable and predictable funding; a strong scientific base; and an improved assessment of activities and emergency response institutions.  However, solutions could only be achieved by obtaining practical answers and durable solutions that could be accessed by all.

Turning to the situation in Afghanistan, she said Hungary appreciated the achievements of the international community and the enormous amount of work that had been done thus far to bring tangible improvements to the everyday lives of the Afghan people.  Continuing, she said that Hungary also supported the efforts of the international community and the various institutions working to implement the peace agreement in Georgia.  The use of military force to settle territorial disputes represented a dangerous precedent that could have further implications in the whole region and beyond.  Any further steps and negotiations must be based on full respect of Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, internationally recognized borders, and a democratically elected leadership.

A lasting solution to present-day challenges could not be reached without the effective involvement of women into all aspects of international cooperation, she continued.  In the areas of genocide, Hungary had decided to prepare a feasibility study on the establishment of an international centre for the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities in Budapest.  The independent institution would aim to contribute to global efforts to prevent such crimes against humanity.

She went on to say that, in order to address the various challenges of the twenty-first century, the international community needed a strong, reformed and well-functioning United Nations.  In the past two years, progress had been made in all areas of reform, and some of the new bodies had become operational.  In other fields, however, further consideration and negotiations with other Member States were needed to achieve a lasting solution, and Hungary was ready to contribute to those negotiations.

KABINGA J. PANDE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Zambia, said that a global strategy to ensure achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for all would only be meaningful if it was “all-inclusive” and empowered women, girls and other vulnerable groups.  Indeed, women’s empowerment and gender equality were key drivers for reducing poverty, building food security and reducing maternal mortality.  To that end, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States had signed a Gender and Development Protocol last month, the first of its kind in Africa. 

While he went on to express appreciation to the international community and many development partners, including China and the European Union, for their programme assistance, he also urged those partners to meet their commitments so Zambia could meet all the Millennium targets.  Such action was crucial because relevant reports of the Secretary General had noted that many developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, were in danger of falling short. 

To that end, he said specifically that Zambia and most of sub-Saharan Africa were impacted adversely by lingering drought, higher temperatures and more erratic rainfall -- all of which could be linked to climate change.  Moreover, global warming had deepened the current food crisis by pressuring water and agricultural systems.  Warning that all this could cause millions more to face malnutrition, and disrupt clean water and sanitation efforts, he called for urgent action from the international community to assist in the development of climate adaptation and mitigation measures.

He also called for stepped-up efforts to reform the United Nations, specifically through the designation of two permanent and two non-permanent seats on the Security Council for African nations.  Such a move would be fitting because Africa constituted the second largest block of United Nations Members.  It would also redress “the historical injustice against Africa”.

In closing, he advocated the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination in accordance with the Charter, and welcomed Zimbabwe’s signing of an inter-party agreement last month, which had formed a “good basis” for addressing socio-economic problems in the country. 

MOHLABI TSEKOA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Relations of Lesotho, said the current energy crisis was now competing for attention with the even more urgent food shortage crisis.  Ensuring food security was of utmost importance to developing countries, where abject poverty, malnutrition and the spread of HIV/AIDS had reached unacceptable levels.  “All of humanity has a right to food.  Hunger is a violation of human dignity,” he said. 

International commitments to fight hunger must now be implemented.  The way forward had been set out this past June at the Food and Agriculture Organization emergency food security conference, as well as by the “Group of Eight” statement issued at the Hokkaido Tokyo Summit.  That statement had stressed the importance of stimulating world food production and increasing investments in agriculture.  Development partners such as the Bretton Woods institutions must scale up efforts to help farmers in the least developed countries. 

Continuing, he said the world must remember that the United Nations had been born out of the ashes of the Second World War, and yet, every year, new hotspots and “designer wars” broke out as some big and powerful States resorted more and more to the use of force.  The illusory goal of imposing their will on others by force only led to a more unstable and dangerous world.  Further, the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction was being abused when it was used to target certain African leaders.  That Principle must be impartially and objectively applied so it was not used for political purposes.  With that in mind, he said that the International Criminal Court must enjoy full support and trust.  The Court must also be immune to external influences.

Finally, he said the Security Council must be an honest arbiter in conflicts.  It should not turn a blind eye to a situation in one country and then act when a similar situation obtained in another.  The Council must also be reformed in such a way that integrity and credibility enabled it to carry out its lofty mandate more efficiently.  He went on to say that the international community should support the people of Zimbabwe in its historic feat of having set aside political differences for a Government of national unity.  The Council should also intervene more decisively in the Middle East, Western Sahara and the Balkans, and in ending the unilateral embargo against Cuba.

HASSAN WIRAJUDA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said much discussed “Green Revolution” must embrace the entire developing world.  Democracy meant nothing if part of humankind was well fed but a larger part went to bed hungry every night.  Indeed, equality was a mirage in any country where half the population struggled against obesity and the other half wondered where its next meal was coming from. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization had warned that food prices would remain high for the next three to five years.  Food riots had already erupted in parts of the world.  The problem of global food insecurity must be addressed vigorously because it was putting peace at risk in the developing world and in pockets of poverty in the developed world.

Continuing, he said it was not easy to feed a population of some 230 million in Indonesia, but there had been no food riots there.  Exportable surpluses in rice production had been achieved by providing farmers with micro-financing, better seeds, inexpensive technology and affordable fertilizers.  Addressing the problem of food insecurity at the global level required the active engagement of all peoples and States and, to that end, the General Assembly must take concrete steps.

First, he said, the World Bank and the United Nations must develop mechanisms to help national Governments spend more on agriculture and on rural infrastructures to empower small farmers.  Next, United Nations bodies must link with regional mechanisms to develop measures such as common food reserves and early warning systems on regional food crises.  Finally, a framework for a global partnership on food security must be established.  For example, the World Trade Organization’s Doha development round of negotiations must support increased food production, and the Monterey Consensus on development financing must support opportunities to fund the Green Revolution. 

Further, he said that, because agriculture did not always lead to sufficient harvests, there should not be a rush to produce biofuels at the price of reducing food supplies.  The energy crisis could be addressed by alternative means in ways that also helped mitigate climate change.  The Bali Road Map adopted last December leading to Copenhagen in 2009 –- and through Poznań at the end of the year -- would allow for an ambitious post-2012 global climate regime to be produced by 2009.

Finally, he said that, even as the challenge of global warming was addressed, the reality of a global chill in the “politico-security” field must be faced, along with the possibility of a new arms race.  The Security Council had failed to resolve recent cases involving infringement of the principle of territorial integrity and of the political independence of States.  External interventions that had led to secessions had involved major Powers. 

Those cases must not set a dangerous precedent that would make developing countries extremely vulnerable in their nation-building, he continued.  And since true democracy was always home-grown and not imposed from the outside, the Bali Democracy Forum would be launched in December as an inclusive and open forum for the countries of Asia to share experiences and best practices in fostering democracy.

FRANCK BIANCHÉRI, Government Counsellor for External Relations and International Economic and Financial Affairs of Monaco, said that the international community could not fail in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  Acknowledging that there were food, energy and environmental crises that seriously affected the entire planet, he said Member States must redouble their efforts and build on their concerted action in the only universal forum -- the United Nations -- in order to achieve the Goals.

Still, since the road map set out in the Millennium Declaration had been defined eight years ago, States could not have imagined that things could worsen.  Each country suffered the consequences of the current crises in a different way, depending on its geographic location, economy, and commercial and financial market share.  Each country attempted to face the challenges with its own means.   Monaco, for its part, had chosen to fight the food and the climate crises with resources at hand.

In order to implement the target of 0.7 per cent of its gross national income by 2015, Monaco’s Government was increasing its official development assistance (ODA) by 25 per cent every year, and focusing on the needs of the least developed countries.  In 2008, 22 countries had benefited from a development partnership with Monaco, particularly those located around the Mediterranean Basin and in sub-Saharan Africa.

On the issue of climate change, Monaco would further its commitment to tackling the impact of the phenomenon by hosting meetings on the situation in the Arctic region in the coming months.  The first gathering, organized by the French Presidency of the European Union, would be in November, and the second, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), would be convened at the beginning of next year.

Notwithstanding the obstacles encountered on the road to implementing the Millennium Development Gaols, he continued, it was necessary to stay on track.   Monaco was deeply committed to the United Nations, which was a truly universal Organization that placed human rights and dialogue among nations at its core.  Without the United Nations, human rights might not have reached their universality, and that was indisputable.  At the same time, it was necessary to modernize the world body and adapt its institutions with the democratic principles of States, and with new geopolitical balances.   Monaco also supported the increase of the members of the Security Council.

Only the combined efforts of all partners would enable real progress in the fight against poverty, for better health care and education, and for water access and the protection of the environment.  The primary responsibility for achieving the Goals remained with African Governments, who had shown tremendous leadership in recent years and put in place ambitious programmes that could attract the financial support of partner countries for development.

VLADIMIR NOROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan, lamented that, in spite of the international community’s -- including the coalition forces’ -- enormous efforts in support of peace in Afghanistan, the situation there had worsened with more loss of civilian lives.  Worse still, that country also faced the problem of a growing drug trafficking problem -– with a total opium production accounting for over 90 per cent of the world’s production.

Moreover, he reminded the Assembly that drug trafficking was an important source of financing for militants as well as a destabilizing factor for Afghanistan and its neighbours.  Noting that war in that country, which had ensured for some 30 years -- had failed to bring a resolution to the Afghan problem.  The fighting had only managed to destroy Afghan economic and social infrastructures, and had impoverished the people of the country, and even served as a breeding ground for recruiting new militants.  The unfolding situation therefore called for new approaches to find a solution.

To that end, Uzbekistan believed that the main priority should be providing economic aid to Afghanistan so that its ruined economic and social sectors were restored, thus providing the population with employment which would help alleviate poverty.

On another issue, he noted with satisfaction important steps towards ensuring human rights for its citizens.  Uzbekistan had adopted key legislation, including on guaranteeing the rights of the child; and the ratification of the International Labour Organization’s Convention on minimum hiring age, and on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.  Also, realizing the urgency of the problem of trafficking in persons, both at the international and domestic levels, Uzbekistan adopted a law on countering trafficking in persons in April this year, he added.

DORA BAKOYANNIS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said that the only way to tackle a threat was to “face it together”.  It was in ancient Greece that society had developed the ideals cherished by people around the world today, including democracy and individual rights.   Greece had not forgotten what fear felt like, and that was why it continued to work closely with all States, organizations and institutions to ensure that everyone could prosper.  The United Nations needed increased support from more Member States, especially when it came to efforts to develop and improve the lives of people.

Gross violations of human rights unfortunately persisted throughout the world, and Member States must redouble their efforts to reduce them, she continued.  The Human Rights Council could be a powerful force in that struggle, and Greece had decided to become a candidate for membership for the term beginning in 2012.  The United Nations must also strengthen efforts to alleviate the bitter poverty that still gripped many parts of the world.

It was necessary to increase trade for development, and her delegation regretted the lack of progress in the Doha round talks.  The progress achieved thus far in attaining the Millennium Development Goals was jeopardized by higher prices -– particularly of food and oil -– and the global economic slowdown.  Success in achieving the Goals would be judged primarily in Africa, she continued, and one way to help jump-start development on the continent was to involve women in the economy more extensively.

Providing women with entrepreneurial opportunities at local, national and regional levels would allow them to strengthen their role in society, increase their involvement in education, and ultimately allow them to play a more active part in decision-making.  She went on to say that another challenge facing the United Nations was climate change, which, if not addressed, threatened not only the Millennium Development Goals, but also the world’s economic and social stability.  It was necessary to achieve in 2009 a new, truly global climate agreement that had binding mitigation targets.  A much stronger effort regarding adaptation was also needed.

Noting challenges, including, among others, migration, human trafficking, terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said such issues would require “the patience of Job to endure and the strength of Hercules to confront”.  As individual States, there was no hope of marshalling the strength to contemplate -– let alone battle -– the dangers the world faced.  But together, through the United Nations, States could find the resolve not only to confront the challenges, but also to subdue the threats that they posed for humankind.

KOFI ESAW, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Togo, said that the high-level debates and discussions throughout the past week on Africa’s development and the Millennium Development Goals had proven the need for immediate and effective international aid to help eradicate global poverty and help Africa achieve sustainable development.  The failure of the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round had not helped the current state of affairs and, without a positive resolution to those talks, the situation would likely continue to deteriorate. 

If the developing world was to achieve its development objectives, the international community –- specifically the most developed countries –- must finally make good on its Millennium commitments, he continued.  At the same time, however, new challenges had been added to the long list of those already facing the international community.  The rising cost of oil combined with the increase in food prices would likely have disastrous consequences if aid was not mobilized immediately to bolster the agricultural sectors of many developing countries, particularly in terms of agricultural infrastructure and irrigation. 

For many years, Togo had suffered from an extended political and economic crisis, he said.  However, the recent implementation of pragmatic political policies based on national reconciliation, poverty reduction, democracy and the rule of law had helped his country achieve some important successes.  Among the most significant were the holding of peaceful and transparent legislative elections in October 2007; reform of the judicial system; creation of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to help victims of crimes committed during the political crisis; and the signing of the African Peer Review Mechanism in an effort to fight corruption and improve good governance in Togo.

However, such achievements had been seriously threatened by recent heavy rains and flooding that had destroyed villages and valuable infrastructure, he explained.  Only with the help of the international community had Togo been able to respond and rebuild some of that lost infrastructure.  For decades, Togo had worked towards building friendship and cooperation at both regional and international levels. 

International conflicts -- such as those in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Darfur -- could also benefit from similar efforts towards cooperation and efforts should be made to find peaceful resolutions built on dialogue and discussion, he said.  The adoption of a legally-binding instrument to prevent the illicit trade in small arms would also help to reduce conflicts and create global peace and security.  Each country had a responsibility towards building that global peace since only then would the international community be able to focus on its other challenges, such as poverty, illiteracy and disease.

PAULA GOPEE-SCOON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said the increasing frequency and ferocity of hurricanes and other natural disasters had exposed the dire need to provide early warning systems and capacity-building programmes in vulnerable regions like the Caribbean.  Such disasters had also revealed sharply the imperative of purposeful action on climate change at national, regional and international levels. 

For its part, her Government recognized the need to promote clean energy alternatives, the development of new and renewable energy options and the proper protection and management of forest areas in partnership with the public and private sector at national and international levels.  Moreover, efforts aimed at addressing the current energy crisis also required international cooperation and partnership, she added, noting that Trinidad and Tobago sought to partner with African countries to develop long-term strategies for the sustainable development and use of their energy resources. 

The United Nations must take the lead in the management of the global food crisis, as the crisis threatened the achievement of some of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.  Member States must use all resources at their disposal to solve the crisis, including a recommitment to the work –- and recommendations -– of FAO.  Regionally, food security must also be pursued in the context of the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy, which provided for the integration of production and cross-border investment in agriculture.

Like poverty and hunger, terrorism remained a “major scourge” and members of the international community must embrace multilateral solutions to the challenge, she continued.  The reform of the Security Council was indispensable to the transformation and further democratization of the United Nations.  Failure to reform it could serve to undermine its authority in maintaining peace and security and its ability to discharge its other obligations.  Nationally, her Government had recently reformed its development policy and Trinidad and Tobago was now on track to meet or exceed all Millennium Goals. 

However, there were many States that would not achieve those Goals and the international community should assist them by honouring previously agreed-upon commitments.  The follow-up conference on the implementation of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus would also be an opportunity to further support developing countries and to forge a global partnership in a spirit of solidarity.

Turning to the “nefarious” narcotics trade, she said drug trafficking was closely linked to the illegal proliferation of small arms.  Regional efforts to confront those challenges should be supported by international and multilateral efforts.  To that end, she called for the inclusion of international drug trafficking as one of the crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.  The Criminal Court specifically, and international law in general, had contributed to the maintenance of international peace and security and Member States should show full respect for those instruments. 

GONZALO FERNÁNDEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said that, as one of the founding Members of the United Nations, Uruguay saw the fundamental principles of its foreign policy completely reflected in the Organization’s Charter.  It was important to emphasize, once again, his country’s traditional position of unreserved respect for and adherence to international law and its support of multilateralism; pacific settlement of disputes; sovereign equality of States; rejection to the use or the threat of the use of force; free determination of peoples; promotion and protection of human rights; and international economic and social cooperation.

Uruguay’s commitment to the principles of the Charter was not about listing good intentions, but rather respecting juridical principles and fundamental values, whose inclusion in the Charter granted them rank of international norm.  The principles also constituted essential tools to lead Member States in a world that presented great challenges.  States had the moral and juridical duty to find sustainable solutions to make peace and development the rule of coexistence between people.

A serious food crisis was affecting all too many countries in the world, he continued.  To find a sustainable and lasting solution, it was necessary to understand and respond to the structural factors present in the origin of the crisis.  Correcting the distortions in the multilateral trade system, particularly in agricultural trade, was a decisive way to ensure that there was enough food to cover the needs of the planet.

Apart from dealing with the crisis with urgent measures, it was indispensable to advance towards a long-term solution.  That must inevitably imply increased efforts to strengthen the multilateral trading system and to quickly re-launch negotiations in the World Trade Organization.  It was essential to do so, especially in the agricultural sector, in order to guarantee food security and avoid returning to protectionist practices that would only worsen the present situation.

One of the most crucial challenges facing the world economy today was the energy crisis.  In the case of agriculture, Latin America required technological cooperation from developed countries.  Regarding the development of the production of alternative energies, such as bioenergy and biofuels, research and technical assistance were critical to take advantage of opportunities offered by that production, without affecting food security or the environment.  The United Nations had a crucial role to play in that regard.

Turning to United Nations reform, he reiterated his country’s support for the Security Council reform process, including the addition of new permanent and non-permanent members.   Uruguay would not support the creation of new members with veto rights, however, because such a privilege went against efforts to democratize the Organization.  He also stressed the significance of the United Nations as the governing body and main multilateral forum to find solutions suitable for the most important challenges today.

KAREL SCHWARZENBERG, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said that, though agreements reached at the Assembly’s 2005 World Summit had sparked some substantive United Nations reforms, more were needed.  The first step would be to reform the Security Council, making that 15-nation body more representative, transparent and legitimate.  The Council’s authority had been recently undermined by its inability to address some acute international issues and it should reassert its authority in maintaining international peace and security. 

Indeed, the overall authority of the United Nations was currently being tested, as was the political and moral responsibilities of all Member States.  Recently, a powerful permanent member of the Security Council had acted in violation of the United Nations Charter through its “systematic provocations” and military aggression against its smaller neighbour.  He said the Czech Republic had sent substantial humanitarian aid to Georgia and the international community should do the same to help those displaced by the conflict.  There was also an urgent need for an “international and impartial mission” to oversee military withdrawals in Georgia and ceasefire implementation.

Promoting and maintaining international security required concerted actions, a strengthened United Nations peacekeeping capacity, and complementary efforts by other organizations, he said.  In particular, he invited the United Nations to take a more active approach to the situation in Afghanistan and, in the Balkans, encouraged ongoing cooperation between the United Nations, the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  The recent arrest and transfer of Radovan Karadzic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been a promising sign of cooperation between Serbia and the international community. 

Overall, international criminal justice efforts should be fully supported as they helped put an end to impunity for the most serious crimes.  In the area of weapons of mass destruction and non-proliferation, it was necessary to “undertake some bold steps” to reduce the risk of misuse.  In particular, he expressed concern over the situation in Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Though it was the “indispensable right of every country to exploit nuclear power for civilian purposes”, the global community should act when that nuclear power could be diverted to military purposes in breach of international commitments.

Security went “hand in hand” with development and human rights, he said.  In recent years, United Nations human rights institutions had undergone “long-awaited” reforms, but those reforms had only been partially achieved.  The Human Rights Council had been unable to tackle several serious human rights situations in a timely manner and the political imbalance in its Universal Periodic Review Mechanism further diminished reform expectations. 

Turning to the Millennium Development Goals and Africa’s development goals, he said international commitment must not wane.  The Follow-up Conference on Financing for Development and the conclusion of the Doha trade talks was an opportunity to help developing countries even further, specifically through greater trade liberalization.  The European Union had shown the flexibility needed for a positive outcome to negotiations and other key actors had to follow suit in order to get talks back on track soon.  Soaring food and commodity prices, as well as the negative impact of climate change, were hampering international development and only with strong political will could sustainable solutions be found.

RAIS YATIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, said that the world was facing “unprecedented” challenges, including skyrocketing prices of fuel and food, which had caused distress and widespread hardship.  The current financial crisis, as well as the effects of global warming, was also tearing the social fabric of Member States.  To merely label those issues an overall “economic crisis” was to understate the severity of what was happening today.

Indeed, the sheer complexity of and connectivity between food, fuel and global warming, and between finance and climate change, was what made the task of addressing the convergent crises so bedevilling.  All those issues must be faced and resolved by the United Nations and, if States failed to address and remedy the calamities, then the role, authority and responsibility of the world body would be questioned.

Some had called the present situation -- particularly regarding global food shortages and price spikes in commodities -- a “silent tsunami”, but he begged to differ.  In fact, the rumblings had been heard for some time, most particularly in Africa.  The international community had gathered in Rome as far back as 1974 to address global food security, and seven commitments had been adopted.  The latest figures, however, showed that, at present, 850 million people faced hunger on a daily basis, so States had clearly failed to take heed of the warnings made 34 years ago.

Liberalization had fundamentally changed the market structure for food and energy sources, and that allowed for greater market speculation.  In view of the volatility of food prices, he strongly supported efforts to promote agriculture and food production.  Moreover, the cause of the crises related to fuel and food, as well as climate change, were due squarely to the unfulfilled hopes and broken promises of sustainable development.

It was time for the international community, particularly the developed world, to demonstrate greater political commitment.  The focus of the developed nations should be on fulfilling their commitments and, in so doing, setting a standard for the entire world, rather than trying to pass the burden of action on to the developing world.  It was also necessary to find the right mix in balancing the competing interests of the three pillars of sustainable development:  economic growth, social development and environmental protection.  The optimal mix between governmental and private-sector action must also be found, and the role of Governments, in particular, was critical to providing policy integration and balancing the competing interests of the three pillars.

Government intervention was also required if technologies were to be made available at concessionary rates, he continued.  If energy security was indeed a global public good, then infrastructure build-up should also be seen as such.  Resolving the problems in the world’s most volatile regions –- which, coincidentally, were some of the world’s largest producers and distribution channels of oil -– was also necessary, and the United Nations must play a more forward role in the need for peace and security.

PAK KIL YON, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said nearly 10 years had passed since the Millennium Declaration and yet a “vicious circle of aggression and intervention, conflict and terrorism” persisted in international relations and presented new challenges to global peace and security.  Cold war military alliances were intensifying and the arms race was taking new forms.  Pretexts such as a “war on terror” were used to justify violations of the sovereignty of developing countries.  Disparities in wealth and imbalances in development were deepening.  Crises in energy, food and finance were seriously affecting vulnerable economies.

The worst “peace-breaker” and human rights violator in the world today was the United States.  That was evidenced by the country’s armed invasion of sovereign States and its willingness to massacre innocent civilians.  Member States must remain highly vigilant.  They must not accept politicization, selectivity and double standards regarding human rights.  Regionally, the reason that relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan had remained unresolved was that Japan had not liquidated its crime-stained past.  It had massacred millions of people and today still attempted to grab the sacred Tok Islet of Korea. 

He went on to say that reckless military manoeuvres in and around the Korean Peninsula were destabilizing the region.  Those included the strengthening of strategic military alliances, massive shipments of state-of-the-art war equipment and annual large-scale military exercises.  “ Japan must not be allowed to become a permanent member of the Security Council,” he declared.

Moving on, he said denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was a goal and his country had remained consistent in its position to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully through dialogue and negotiation.  The 1992 north-south joint declaration and the 1994 Agreed Framework demonstrated that position, as did the six-party talks that had resulted in the joint statement of 19 September 2005.  Agreements and implementation of phased actions had followed, until the United States had refused to implement obligations and had held out an unjust demand concerning verification, which had never been agreed on. 

The insistence of the United States on unilateral inspection was a “brigand’s attempt” to disarm the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and discard the commitment to denuclearize the Peninsula, the core of which was to remove the United States nuclear threat.  Now, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was taking countermeasures on the basis of the principle of “action for action”.  It would remain committed to denuclearizing the Peninsula, but it would not be indifferent to offences to its dignity and self-respect, nor to violations of its sovereignty.

He said inter-Korean relations had worsened since installation of a new regime in the South, which denied the joint declarations that had set out the path to unification based on the principles of independence, peaceful reunification and national unity.  Those declarations had been agreed and adopted at the highest level of both north and south.  They had received the support of all the people of the Peninsula and of the international community.  It was intolerable that they were discarded because of a changed regime.

Rights of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Iran responded to the “unacceptable, futile and unfounded claims” made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, specifically regarding three Iranian islands of Abu Musa, in the Persian Gulf.  Iran categorically rejected the United Arab Emirate’s claim to those islands and wished to emphasize that they were “an eternal part of the Iranian territory” and, as such, were under its sovereignty.

He expressed his Government’s wish to pursue positive diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and underlined the fact that all actions and measures in the islands had been taken in exercise of the sovereign right of Iran.  Iran was ready to continue its bilateral talks with the United Arab Emirates with the view to removing any misunderstandings that might exist concerning the islands. 

Also exercising the right of reply was the representative of Japan, responding to the statement made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Calling the statement “entirely groundless”, he said Japan could not accept it.   Japan had been facing its past with sincerity and consistency.  It had officially expressed remorse and apologized many times since the end of World War II.   Japan had been consistently dedicating itself for more than 60 years to promoting international peace and security, and to respecting democracy and human rights.

Further, Japan had consistently adhered to a position that international problems had to be resolved not militarily but, always, peacefully.  It must also be noted that Japan had been sincerely addressing the issue.  With regards to Japan’s position on Security Council reform, it had already been publicly noted and was well known.  Furthermore, Japan stood ready to contribute actively and constructively to international peace and security at any time.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, also speaking in right of reply, responded to the comments made by Iran’s representative regarding his country’s “unjust legal claims” over the islands of Abu Musa.  Similar statements had been made in years past, and the United Arab Emirates was disappointed to hear them repeated yet again.  The islands belonged to the United Arab Emirates, which had a “just and legal right” to the area. 

The territory could not be divided and he categorically repudiated all the “illegal measures” undertaken by Iran, he said.  The international community should urge Iran to enter into negotiations over the occupation of those islands or to bring the situation to the International Court of Justice.  Stability in the Gulf region required a respect for the sovereignty of States and non-interference in the internal affairs of respective countries.

Taking the floor for a second time, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that, in keeping with a declaration between the two Governments, his Government had made an investigation into the situation of missing Japanese persons.  It had informed the Japanese Government that five survivors of the abduction and all of their children were sent to Japan.  Furthermore, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan had, in the last month, agreed to undertake another investigation on the issue.  So far, his Government had done everything it could, and would do its best to solve the issue.

He said that Japan, however, had not shown any tangible willingness to properly fulfil its responsibility to redress its past crime.   Japan had refused to honestly repent heinous crimes committed against humanity, and had persistently evaded its responsibility.  In fact, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was very much concerned about the remarks distorting the facts regarding the crimes Japan had committed. 

He said Japan’s representative had spoken about the Japanese that had been abducted, but that was the “tip of the iceberg” compared to the great crimes against humanity committed by Japan.  For Japan to become a member of the international community, it had to discard its wrong way of thinking and make a political decision to redeem its past.

Responding, Japan’s representative said his Government and the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had held working-level consultations in June and August, during which they had agreed on what the aim of a comprehensive investigation on the issue of the abductions should be.  However, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had later notified Japan that it would not conduct the investigation until it ascertained the position of the new administration of Japan.

He said that Japan strongly hoped that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would establish an investigation committee and would commence the investigation soon.   Japan had been facing up to its past with sincerity and on a consistent basis.  However, the numbers that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s representative cited as those killed and murdered were totally groundless.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in response, said that, in fact, what the Japanese delegate had just said was groundless.  The exact number was that 7,784,839 Koreans had been drafted for forced labour, without knowing their destination.  In addition, thousands of teenagers, girls and women had been forced to serve in the imperial Japanese army.  It had taken half a century for Japan to admit its crimes in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and no one knew how long it would take for Japan to liquidate the crime.

He wanted to urge and remind Japan that, without a thorough illumination of the past crime, “a clear future” for the country could not be expected.  Despite whatever pretext Japan put forward, the fact remained that it had illegally drafted millions of Korean people to forced labour, but still refused to redress the crimes of the past.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.