World Leaders in Annual Debate Commend Democratic Transformations, Articulate Ways to Restore Global Landscape Scarred by Conflict, Instability, Intolerance

26 September 2012
GA/11294

World Leaders in Annual Debate Commend Democratic Transformations, Articulate Ways to Restore Global Landscape Scarred by Conflict, Instability, Intolerance

26 September 2012
General Assembly
GA/11294
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Plenary

9th, 10th & 11th Meetings (AM, PM & Night)

World Leaders in Annual Debate Commend Democratic Transformations, Articulate Ways

to Restore Global Landscape Scarred by Conflict, Instability, Intolerance

 

International Community Asked Not to Turn Its Back

On Volatile Regions, But to Redouble Support to All Fleeing Tyranny

Even with a slow economic rebound, bloody conflict in Syria and a deadly consulate attack in Libya casting a long shadow across the Middle East and North Africa — leading some to conclude that the Arab Spring had faded to an Arab Winter — leaders addressing the General Assembly today stressed that the international community, far from turning its back on the volatile region, must redouble support to all fleeing tyranny and seeking to determine their own destiny.

“The Egyptian revolution was not the product of a fleeting moment, or a brief uprising”, said Mohamed Morsy, the newly elected President of Egypt, taking the podium as the Assembly’s annual debate continued into its second day.  Nor was it “the product of the winds of change of Spring or Autumn”; rather, the uprising, and all the ones preceding and following it throughout the Arab region, he said, had been triggered by a long struggle of authentic national movements that sought a life of pride and dignity for all citizens.

Indeed, over many years, he said, some had wrongfully sought to attain stability through oppression and tyranny, and “some of us have, alas, applauded their bad deeds”.  But now that the peoples of the region had regained their freedom, they would not tolerate being deprived of their rights, whether by their own leaders or outside forces.

Turning to the situation in Syria, he said Egypt was committed to putting an end to that violent struggle within an Arab, regional and international framework, which should spare Syria the dangers of foreign military intervention.  The strategy was at the heart of a proposal he had made last month in Mecca, which had focused on the formation of a contact group of four countries — Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — to end the suffering of the Syrian people and provide them with an opportunity to freely choose the regime that best represented them.

The initiative, he told the world body, was open to all those who wished to positively contribute to ending the crisis, he said, adding that Egypt was also committed to supporting the mission of the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, and continuing current efforts aiming at unifying the Syrian opposition and encouraging it to evolve a comprehensive, unified vision of the steady, democratic transfer of power.

Acknowledging that Syria presented profound challenges, David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stressed that the Arab Spring was not at fault.  “You cannot blame the people for the behaviour of a brutal dictator,” he stated.  He held that the Arab Spring represented a “precious opportunity” for people to realize their aspirations, and he called for the United Nations to do everything it could to support them.  “We should never forget that for many in the world, the closest relative of poverty is injustice,” he said.

Although some believed that the Arab Spring had turned into the “Arab Winter”, said the Prime Minister, pointing to the Syrian crisis, the lack of economic progress and the emergence of Islamist-led Governments in the region, that was the “wrong conclusion”.  Moreover, it was not a time to turn back, but to redouble support for open societies.  Democracy was not about holding elections, but about establishing a democratic foundation, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law.  Each country had its own path, and at times, progress would be slow.  The damage of decades could not be “put right in a matter of months”, but it should be recognized that the drive for justice and the rule of law were not responsible for the problem, but were part of the solution.

He also challenged the idea that the removal of dictators unleashed new waves of violence, extremism and instability.  Rather, he asserted that dictators had brought instability to the region by, among others, denying their citizens their basic rights and funding terrorism overseas.  Those rulers dealt with frustrations within their own borders by “whipping up anger” against their neighbours, Israel and the West.  Their citizens, denied jobs and a voice, had only “a dead-end choice between dictatorship and extremism”.  The events of Tahrir Square illustrated the Egyptian people’s rejection of that “false choice”.

Indisputably, he said, the Arab Spring movement, despite its setbacks, had seen many great strides.  In Egypt, a civilian President had asserted civilian control over the military, and in Yemen and Tunisia, elections had ushered new Governments into power.  Morocco had a new Constitution and a Prime Minister appointed on the basis of popular vote.  “None of it would have come about without people standing up last year and demanding change, and this United Nations having the courage to respond,” he stressed.

Still, said Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, “we see an international landscape chequered by armed conflict, economic crises and environmental degradation”.  She agreed with other leaders that marginalization, inequality and injustice ignited conflict, much of which was internal.  Speaking from the perspective of a country which itself was emerging from conflict, she called, in particular, for support for the values of peace and tolerance.  Liberia was a clear example that; were it not for its tolerance to the new-found freedom of expression, the country would be back in chaos.

She expressed her country’s deep condolences for the recent death of a United Sates Ambassador and staff, as well as of Libyan nationals, in the attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, in response to a film that had demonstrated an “unacceptable insensitivity” to the Islamic faith.  Even in such circumstances, she said, “we must all be mindful that democracy requires freedom — freedom of ideas, freedom of association, freedom of religion, and, more importantly, freedom of expression”.  Tolerance, and not violence, was an appropriate response to prevent further violence, she added.

When the Prime Minister of Mali, Cheick Modibo Diarra, took the podium, he described the tense situation in the north of the country, which, he said, was occupied by armed groups comprised of drug traffickers, terrorists and bandits that were committing human rights violations.  Mali had asked the International Criminal Court to prosecute such odious acts, which he said constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Among them were amputations, summary executions, rape, torture, looting and destruction of cultural monuments and sites.

On 1 September, he reported, the Interim President had asked the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to recover the occupied territories as part of the fight against terrorism.  The Secretary-General, France, United States, African Union and the European Union had referred the matter to the Security Council.  A lasting solution to the Sahel situation required stronger, more dynamic cooperation among States in the Sahel, he stressed, advocating for the holding of a meeting of Heads of State and Government in the region to build capacity and also to enhance coordination of existing regional mechanisms.

Other speakers spotlighted the deep inequalities between peoples and nations as the world’s major source of ideological conflicts.  Drawing attention to the current global economic situation, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, said that, around the world, poverty was on the rise and the gap was widening between the rich and poor.  Economies dependent on consumerism and the exploitation of people served the interests of only a limited number of countries.  The world — founded on materialism and shaped according to selfishness, deception, hatred and animosity — was in need of a new order and a fresh way of thinking.

The “order of the day” now were unilateralism, the application of double standards and the imposition of wars, instability and occupations.  An arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by the hegemonic Powers had become prevalent.  Testing new generations of ultra-modern weaponry, and the pledge to disclose those armaments in due time, were now being used as a new language of threat against nations, to coerce them into accepting a new era of hegemony.  The continued threat by the “uncivilized” Zionists to resort to military action against Iran was a “clear example of this bitter reality”.

“The world cannot be driven by a bi- or multi-polar concert of powers,” warned Poland’s President, Bronisław Komorowski.  The stability and regulation of international legal order required a more extensive engagement of multilateral institutions, as well as norms and mechanisms that ensured adherence.  Only the United Nations system could ensure such adherence; reforms and commitments, once adopted, must be honoured.  Poland, “so sorely tried in the dramas of the twentieth century”, was committed to the work of the Organization in the hope it might meet expectations.  Like other speakers, he offered words of support to countries throughout the world that were embarking “on a road of democratic transformation”.

The Assembly was also addressed by the Heads of State and Government of Yemen, Zambia, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Japan, Kuwait, Italy Australia, Colombia, Swaziland, Guatemala, Madagascar, Republic of Moldova, Estonia, Malawi, Kiribati, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Latvia, Bolivia, and Belgium.

Also speaking were senior Ministers and high-level officials of Gambia, Niger, Romania, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Central African Republic.

The President of the European Council also spoke.

The representative of Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene to continue its general debate tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

Background

The General Assembly met today to continue the general debate of its sixty-seventh session.

Statements

ABDRABUH MANSOUR HADI MANSOUR, President of Yemen, said in recent weeks there had been a wave of outrage in the Islamic world against a recent film that contained “explicit denigrations” of the Prophet Muhammad.  It was deplorable that there had been a deliberate campaign of insults to Islam to taint its image and plant seeds of animosity.  Despite that campaign, the behaviour had been justified as part of freedom of expression.  Those people overlooked the fact that there should be limits to such freedom, especially if it was used to blaspheme the beliefs of nations.  He strongly denounced the film, while also calling for an enhanced understanding between different religions and cultures, and for the adoption of international legislation to prevent further abuses of the right to freedom of expression.  Denouncing violence and incitement, which was contradictory to true Islam, he called for adherence to peaceful expressions of opinion.

Heralding Yemen’s fiftieth anniversary of its 1962 revolution and its forty-ninth anniversary of its 1963 revolution, he noted his country’s peaceful transfer of power for the first time in its recent history.  The “historical achievement”, he said, demonstrated his country’s determination to end an autocratic regime and establish a republican government with a constitution that represented a “new social contract between the State and its people”.  As one of the “Arab Spring” countries, he lauded the disputing parties’ ability to reach an agreement and political settlement under the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, thus avoiding a “catastrophic” outcome.  Early presidential elections were conducted, granting the new authority full legitimacy to fulfil the Initiative provisions and lead Yemen into a “brighter future” where its citizens could freely “choose their rulers”.

Continuing, he said that the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen that would tackle pending problems and concerns was open for all Yemeni parties and would be a means to achieve national reconciliation.  Noting the current political arrangements, including the implementation of the settlement agreement and the Security Council resolutions 2014 (2011) and 2051 (2012), he pointed out that, although there were many political, economic, security and social obstacles facing his country, the Yemeni people would be undeterred in their efforts to join the twenty-first century.  In that regard, it was necessary to adopt an “overarching vision” that would take into account the historical and geographical components of Yemen, including the strategic location of Yemen on trade routes and international sea navigation.

Terrorism, he noted, had pervaded his country for more than 10 years, threatening local, regional and international peace and stability.  Regardless of the recent victories by Yemeni armed forces over Al-Qaida, he urged that the terrorist organization not be underestimated.  He drew attention to the humanitarian crisis that resulted from terrorism in Sadah and the recent events of the past year that displaced more than 500,000 people from their homes, in addition to the increasing number of refugees from the Horn of Africa region.  The United Nations appeal had asked for some $600 million, but it had been only about half funded.  He called for support from “brotherly and friendly countries” to respond to the appeal so that the basic needs of displaced people and refugees could be addressed.

Concluding, he said that it was deplorable that six decades after the General Assembly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many nations still suffered human rights violations, such as the Palestinian people by the Israeli Government’s activities, the violence against thousands of civilians in Syria and the “racial cleansing” of Muslims in Myanmar.  He congratulated the Somali people for their successful peaceful transfer of power and the election of a new president in a democratic environment, noting the “deep, historical relations” Yemen shared with Somalia.  However, with the continued influx of migrants and asylum seekers from Somalia into his country, national security, peace and stability was threatened.  He called for the international community to “share this burden” with Yemen, especially since his country’s own resources were “exhausted”.

ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, President of Liberia, said the theme of the present session could not have been more appropriate.  “When we review the state of the world, we see an international landscape chequered by armed conflict, economic crises and environmental degradation.”  For those who had experienced the pain of conflict, including Liberia, the theme was very pertinent.  The need for conflict prevention took on an added urgency, because most conflicts were internal, engendered by marginalization, inequality and injustice.  “It becomes imperative, therefore, to identify and remove those triggers of conflict before they explode,” she said.  Liberia’s efforts to achieve the twin objectives of conflict prevention and peace consolidation were being reinforced through its engagement with the peacekeeping and peacebuilding architecture of the United Nations.  It had prioritized actions aimed at re-establishing the rule of law by building the capacity of its institutions and processes for the delivery of justice and security.  Liberia’s partners, including the United Nations and its specialized agencies, had supported its priority programmes for women’s empowerment, increased agricultural productivity and food security, road and infrastructure, and jobs creation, among others.

Many developing counties, such as Liberia, had structured their economies around the Millennium Development Goals.  While some had made considerable progress in reaching those targets, many others would be unable to achieve them by the 2015 deadline.  There was, therefore, an emerging consensus that such progress must be accelerated in the next three years.  In that vein, she said that she was “honoured and humbled” to have been selected by the Secretary-General as one of the co-Chairs of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  That framework must build upon, but go beyond, the Millennium Development Goals in the establishment of new goals that are “ambitious, but achievable”.  “Defined goals should enable all people in all countries to be freed from the shackles of poverty through development that is sustainable,” she said.

Liberia believed that the United Nations should continue to occupy the centre of global governance by leading efforts in meeting the world’s collective challenges to peace, security and development.  To meet that objective, the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform needed to come to an early and logical conclusion, she stressed.  Liberia was encouraged that an increasing number of countries supported the enlargement of the Council in both the permanent and non-permanent membership categories, which would ensure a fairer and more equitable participation reflective of the world demography.  In that regard, Liberia supported the African Common Position, based upon the “Ezulwini Consensus” as adopted by the African Union.

Expressing her country’s deep condolences for the recent death of a United Sates Ambassador and staff, as well as of Libyan nationals, in an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, she stressed that all nations should be concerned about the spreading violence in reaction to a film which demonstrated an “unacceptable insensitivity” to the Islamic faith.  Even in such circumstances, however, “we must all be mindful that democracy requires freedom — freedom of ideas, freedom of association, freedom of religion, and, more importantly, freedom of expression”.  Tolerance, and not violence, was an appropriate response to prevent further violence.  Liberia itself was a clear example that, were in not for its tolerance to the new-found freedom of expression, the country would be back in chaos.

Noting that some parts of subregion were still regrettably dogged by serious challenges that risked undermining peace and progress, she said that Liberia was particularly appalled by the unconstitutional unravelling of democratic Governments in Mali and Guinea-Bissau and endorsed the decisions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed at the full restoration of constitutional order.  Further, as chair of the Mano River Union, comprising Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, her country had committed itself never to allow an inch of its territory to be used to destabilize its neighbours and it categorically condemned all attempts to undermine the peace and democratic gains in Côte d’Ivoire.  It was working closely with the Ivorian authorities and United Nations peacekeepers in both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire to protect and consolidate peace in the two countries.

“We are all part of a rapidly changing world in which the forces of globalization cannot be reversed”, she said.  Developing countries, like her own, must make globalization work if they were to achieve their growth targets and lift their people out of poverty.  As Liberia moved towards its tenth year of sustained peace, it could state with conviction that it had “turned the corner”.  The country was no longer a place of conflict, war and deprivation, but enjoyed an average annual growth rate of over 6 per cent.  More importantly, it had earned its rightful place as a country of hope and opportunity, she said.  She expressed thanks to the United Nations for being a committed partner, and added that today, for the first time in two generations, her country had a second successive democratic Government elected by the will of the people and, despite external and internal distraction, “our people are determined to take their destiny in their own hands.”

MICHAEL CHILUFYA SATA, President of Zambia, said that nearly one year ago, he had ended his decades-long career as an opposition leader when the people of the country had chosen to change political leadership through the democratic and peaceful elections that had ushered him into office.  He would endeavour to use his experience on both sides of Zambia’s political spectrum to make a worthwhile contribution to democracy.  Zambia faced considerable challenges in meeting the basic needs of the majority of its people, and while much had been made of the country’s macroeconomic indicators, the benefits did not trickle down to the wider citizenry.

In response to that gap, his Government aimed to tackle development at the microlevel and would focus on enhancing agricultural activity and access to markets for the poorest people and small-scale farmers.  It would also aim to provide improved health services — ensuring that those services were easily accessible by local communities and families — and education, as well as facilitate access to decent housing.  More broadly, he said that as the deadline for attaining the Millennium Development Goals neared, the international community must step up its efforts to ensure that all the targets were reached in the eight Millennium priority areas.

He went on to highlight progress Zambia had made in that regard, in education, which had seen an increase in the enrolment of children in primary schools, and in health, where gains had been made in dealing with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.  Zambia was also attempting to address diseases such as hypertension and cancer, he said, noting that his country had the second highest rates of cervical cancer in the world.  To that end, it had hosted in Lusaka this past July the sixth annual conference on stopping the spread of that disease in Africa.  That event had been launched by African First Ladies as a venue to raise awareness about cervical and breast cancers.

Turning to other national concerns, he said that Zambia was committed to promoting good governance, and had, in that regard, put in place a robust anti-corruption programme, bolstered by more resources, “which should set a new stage in our development.”  In addition, some of Zambia’s main governance and judicial organs were, for the fist time, being headed up by women; the Inspector General of the National Police, Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Commissioner for Drug Enforcement among them.  He said the Government was also focused on generating jobs for Zambian young people.  Despite its vast natural resources, unemployment remained high and had become a major concern.  The Government was, therefore, working to enhance partnerships with various United Nations agencies, among others, to harness best practices.

“My Government has recognized that without the rule of law, social justice and an independent judicial system, Zambia will not be able to attain sustainable social and economic development,” he continued, noting in that regard that as an initial step, his administration was spearheading a constitutional review process intended to bolster the rights and liberties of individual citizens.  Turning to the situations in other African nations, he said the debate’s theme — the peaceful settlement of disputes — was very significant in light of persistent conflict in places such as Sudan, South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Somalia.  His Government had several measures aimed at alleviating humanitarian conditions in some of those countries, and he urged the wider international community to redouble its efforts and relevant assistance.  Finally, he reaffirmed Zambia’s support for the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration regarding Security Council reform, calling for increased African representation — two permanent sets with veto power in an enlarged Council, and two non-permanent seats.

HENRI, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, said that since the establishment of the United Nations Charter in 1945 his country had found in multilateralism the “ideal framework to flourish” as an independent, sovereign State.  Thus, since that time, his country had committed to contributing to building peace and promoting sustainable development “for the greatest number”.  The peaceful settlement of disputes was an overarching objective of the Organization, and the Charter gave a major role to the Security Council, the General Assembly and the International Court of Justice.  In this regard, the crisis in Syria, which continued to worsen, was a “challenge to our conscience”.  However, in response to accusations of “inaction” by the United Nations, he stated that the responsibility lay with those responsible for the violence, war crimes and human rights violations and that, one day, they would “have to answer for them”.

However, the failure to solve the Syrian crisis “should not lead us to neglect the search for a political solution to other crises”, he continued.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been “going on too long” and that it was essential for parties to start anew with direct negotiations toward a sustainable peace.  His country had for many years supported the political and economic development of the Palestinian State, including financial support to the Palestinian Authority and contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), among others.  Further, between 2012 and 2015, Luxembourg would provide assistance in the amount of €15 million to Palestine refugees.

His country also contributed to the peaceful settlement of disputes through a committed participation in multilateralism within the United Nations system, he said.  Luxembourg had been one of the first countries to recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as compulsory, and it contributed financially to preventative diplomacy and mediation activities.  It also supported regional organizations, such as the African Union, and in 2010 it supported the mediation efforts by the Community of Sant’Egidio between political and civil society actors in Guinea and in Niger.

“To ensure durable peace, one must tackle the root causes of conflicts,” he stated.  His country was focusing on two issues in this regard, including social inequality that resulted from persistent poverty, and scarcity of natural resources.  In terms of development aid, Luxembourg had reached the United Nations goal by dedicating at least 0.7 per cent of its gross national income to official development assistance, with this aid exceeding 1.0 per cent in 2009 and 2010.

The effects of global warming were “catastrophic” and threatened to undo progress made toward the Millennium Development Goals, he said.  He called for more commitments to be made in reducing carbon emissions, and for more adequate financial and technological resources to be allocated to the most vulnerable countries, so that they could adapt to climate change.  Referring to the Rio+20 Conference, he urged that the international community act together.  “It is a matter of survival,” he stressed, and the United Nations was where the international community could organize its collective survival.

Disarmament and non-proliferation were priorities for his country, he went on to say.  Despite the “setback” in the past year, his country remained committed towards an Arms Trade Treaty where the international community could successfully combat uncontrolled arms circulation.  His country also participated in peacekeeping activities, with contributions to United Nations operations in Kosovo, Lebanon and Afghanistan, among others.  He urged that the Organization be given the support and means to be at the centre of multilateral action, and to “press ahead” with reforms, including reform of the Security Council by allowing new permanent and non-permanent members to service on the Council.  His country had announced it would be a candidate for a non-permanent seat for 2013-2014.  “Size does not matter when it comes to the commitment to effective multilateralism,” he said in conclusion.  Rather, echoing the Secretary-General’s address to his country’s Parliament this past year, it was the depth of a nation’s commitment to the wider world.

VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH, President of Ukraine, shared the deep concern about escalating violence in Syria, calling on all relevant parties to exert maximum efforts to settle the conflict on the basis of respect for the United Nations Charter and international law.  Ukraine had never distinguished grief into “ours” and “theirs”, as seen in its humanitarian mission to Libya last year, during which people of many nationalities were evacuated from hostilities.  Ukraine resolutely intended to use its capabilities to protect civilians in hotspots, and Ukrainian aircraft and ships used in those efforts would always be at the disposal of anyone needing help, regardless of nationality.

Condemning violence against diplomatic missions, he said Ukraine had supported the expansion of preventive diplomacy in international relations, with the United Nations playing a lead role.  His country had initiated a dialogue and resolution on preventing human rights violations at the Human Rights Council, and participated in the Peacebuilding Commission.  It would prioritize such work when it assumed chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2013.  In that role, Ukraine would work to strengthen regional security, consolidate the democratic institutions of its Member States, and increase OSCE’s efficiency in early conflict prevention.  He urged States parties to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe to ensure its full application, as it was a “cornerstone” for stability in the continent.

He went on to say Ukraine fully supported the Secretary-General’s action agenda.  To counter global threats, better cooperation among security and law enforcement agencies, best practices and confidence building measures were needed.  The outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development had proven the ability of countries to reach compromise and Ukraine supported the approach to sustainable energy for all, sustainable consumption and production and ensuring urban development.  Combating climate change was a global priority and Ukraine had acceded to Phase II of the Kyoto Protocol.

Turning to international security, he said Ukraine had been a steadfast supporter of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation for more than two decades, having voluntarily renounced the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world and removed the last stocks of highly enriched uranium from the country this year.  Security guarantees for States that had renounced their nuclear stockpiles and made other strategic concessions should be reflected in internationally binding legal instruments.  Also, 2012 marked his country’s twentieth anniversary of its participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations.  Over that period, 34,000 Ukrainians had participated in more than 20 operations.

As for the rule of law, he said international efforts should remain centred around the United Nations, underlining that relevant international organizations should continue playing an important role in that sphere, including the Council of Europe and its Venice Commission.  Advances in each of those areas would be impossible without a more efficient United Nations, the key to which was a reformed Security Council.  Ukraine was ready to discuss all progressive concepts of such a reform capable of achieving maximum consent among Member States.  Concluding, he said, “we must strengthen and preserve our unity” to face modern challenges.

JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA, President of Ghana, said that in the wake of the death of former Ghanaian leader John Atta Mills, the people of the country had proven their resilience and commitment to promoting the values of peace.  They had also been respectful of the institutions that safeguarded and maintained Ghana’s stable democracy.  As for the state of the wider continent, he hailed Africa’s fast-growing economies and the strides many countries were taking to consolidate or launch democratic governance.  “As is true of all new democracies, these systems are not without flaws.  And while they may not be perfect, they are promising,” he said.  Further, the number of countries engaged in active conflict was decreasing, and that Ethiopia, Malawi, as well as Ghana, had all lost their leaders and had carried out seamless, peaceful constitutional transitions to new Governments.

“So you see, today, something spectacular is happening in Africa.  Growth has replaced stagnation; tranquillity has replaced turmoil and democratic governance and the rule of law is replacing dictatorship,” he declared, underscoring that such significant developments required long-held misconceptions about the continent to be reassessed.  As for Ghana itself, he said, tremendous strides had been made in a number of areas, including in target areas set by the Millennium Declaration, such as reducing extreme poverty, achieving gender equality in schools, providing safe drinking water and fighting the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Yet, he said that, like most countries today, Ghana was grappling with unemployment, and taking aggressive steps to find long-term, sustainable solutions.  The Government was working assiduously to empower and support young people and to ensure they would not be left behind in today’s rapidly changing socio-economic and political conditions.  He said that social programmes were also being implemented across all spheres to ensure safety nets for the poor and vulnerable and to ensure that all citizens could reap the benefit of the country’s economic progress.  Massive investments were being made in education, agriculture, and social infrastructure, as well as in direct payments to the poorest households.

Turning to political matters, he said that Ghana was just a few weeks away from conducting its presidential and parliamentary elections, and he assured the international community that the polls would be free, fair and peaceful.  Looking next at the wider subregion, he said Ghana had long adhered to a policy of peace even as West Africa had been ravaged by civil war for years on end.  Because Ghana wished to coexist harmoniously with its neighbours, it was conscious of the need to maintain peace and stability when legislating national policies.  And when offering asylum or safe haven to refuges, it aimed to ensure that conflicts never spilled over its borders.  To that end, he said that mounting tensions in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali were of particular concern.

“ Ghana will not allow its territory to be used to destabilize other nations,” he declared, stressing that neither would Ghana be used as a storehouse for resources or weapons that would be used to undermine peace and development in the region.  He pledged to work with structures set up by ECOWAS, and to employ Ghana’s diplomatic tools to help ensure that security was restored in both Côte d’Ivoire and Mali.  As for situations of concern outside the continent, he said that Ghana supported the creation of an independent Palestinian State, coexisting peacefully with a stable and secure Israel.  His Government also reiterated its opposition to the long-standing economic blockade against Cuba.  Finally, he hailed the birth of a “new Africa”, one that was not burdened by debt, corruption and poverty. Such a new Africa would stand on the world stage as a mutual partner.  Yet, with such partnership must come recognition of current realities and the role Africa must now play in vital decision-making bodies.  As such, the Security Council must be expanded, so that body’s decisions could have a meaningful impact on the day’s important challenges.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, President of Iran, recalled that, in previous years, he had addressed the Assembly about the current challenges, solutions and prospects of the future world.  Today, he said, he wished to discuss issues from a different perspective.  He asked Member States to imagine, for a moment, if in human and recent history there had been no egoism, distrust, malicious behaviours and no one violating the rights of others; if humanitarian values had been viewed as the criterion for social dignity in place of affluence and consumerism; if the Crusades, slavery and colonialism had not happened; and if the wars of Palestine that followed had not taken place; if Saddam Hussein had not invaded Iran and the world’s large powers not sided with him; if the tragic incident of September 11 and the military actions against Afghanistan and Iraq not occurred. 

He further asked them to imagine if the world’s “arms [had] been turned into pens”, and if the right to criticize the hegemonic policies and actions of the world Zionist regime had been recognized; if the Security Council had not been under the domination of a limited number of Governments, thus disabling the United Nations from carrying out its responsibilities in a just and equitable basis; “imagine how beautiful and pleasant our lives and how lovely the history of mankind would have been”.

Drawing attention to the current global economic situation, he said that poverty was on the rise and the gap was widening between the rich and poor.  The total foreign debt of 18 industrialized countries now exceeded $60 trillion, and economies dependent on consumerism and the exploitation of people only served the interests of a limited number of countries.  Concepts such as moral principles, purity, honesty, integrity, compassion and self-sacrifice were rejected as defunct and outdated notions, and “pure” and indigenous cultures were under constant attack, and susceptible to extinction.  A lifestyle devoid of individual or social identity was being imposed by nations, he said; moreover, the “human soul has become frustrated, and the essence of humankind humiliated and suppressed”.

Unilateralism, the application of double standards and the imposition of wars, instability and occupations were now “the order of the day”, he continued.  An arms race and intimidation by nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by the hegemonic powers had become prevalent.  Testing new generations of ultra-modern weaponry, and the pledge to disclose those armaments in due time, were now being used as a new language of threat against nations, to coerce them into accepting a new era of hegemony.  The continued threat by the “uncivilized” Zionists to resort to military action against Iran was a “clear example of this bitter reality”.  No one felt safe.  Further, the earth’s environment had been seriously damaged or devastated by capitalists around the world.  In that context, he asked, “does anybody believe that continuation of the current order is capable of bringing happiness for human society?”

Some tried to justify that “everything is normal” and a reflection of divine will, putting the blame on nations as responsible for all prevalent vices and ills, he said.  However, those were arguments aimed at justifying the attitudes and destructive behaviours of the ruling minority.  “Poverty is imposed on nations, and Powers’ ambitions and goals are pursued either through deceits or resort to force”.  Masses of people never wanted to expand their territories, nor did they seek to obtain legendary wealth.  Peoples — including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and others — had no disputes among themselves, in principle.  Instead, the current “abysmal situation of the world” and the bitter incidents of history were due mainly to the poor management of the world and the self-proclaimed centres of power who had entrusted themselves to the Devil.  The world today was founded on materialism, and had been shaped according to selfishness, deception, hatred and animosity.  It believed in the classification of human beings and in the humiliation of others nations, and aimed to monopolize power, wealth, science and technology. 

Asking, in that context, what should be done, he answered that “there is no doubt that the world is in need of a new order and a fresh way of thinking”.  An order was needed in which man was recognized as God’s Supreme Creature, enjoying material and spiritual qualities and possessing a pure and divine nature filled with a desire to seek justice and truth.  Together, the world needed to place its trust in God and stand against the “acquisitive minority” with all its might. 

“It is necessary to note that the United Nations belongs to all nations,” he said, stressing the current structures of the United Nations must be reformed, and that the present existence of discrimination and monopoly in the Organization was in no way acceptable.  Participation in global management was the basis of lasting peace.  The more than 120 nations of the Non-Aligned Movement, holding their sixteenth session recently in Tehran under the motto “Joint Global Management”, had underscored the necessity of a more serious and effective participation of all nations in the global management. 

“The Non-Aligned Movement is proud to once again emphasize the rightfulness of its historic decision to reject the poles of power and the unbridled hegemony ruling the world”, he said.  The need to remove the structural barriers and encourage universal partnership in global management had never been greater.  If the United Nations was not restructured, international interactions and the spirit of collective cooperation would be tarnished, and the standing of the Organization damaged.  It had been created to expand justice but in practice had been engulfed in discussion and domination by a few countries.  Finally, he emphasized, the arrival of the Ultimate Saviour would mark a new beginning, a rebirth and a resurrection; it would be the beginning of peace, lasting security and a genuine life.  He would bless humanity with a saying that would put an end to “our winter of ignorance, poverty and war” with the tidings of a season of blooming.  “Long live this spring, long live this spring and long live this spring,” he concluded.

MWAI KIBAKI, President of Kenya, said after a decade of a “blossoming” democracy, his country had scored victories in poverty alleviation, diseases such as HIV and AIDS, education and economic development.  Still, poverty, disease and unemployment remained big challenges.  “The achievements in our country have been attained through the respect for the rule of law, sound policies, improved governance, as well as open and innovative democracy,” he said.

Regarding the session’s theme, he said Kenya had been built over the last 10 years on a bedrock of peaceful resolution.  Where conflicts and disagreements were not resolved peacefully, the subsequent bloodshed and suffering and the collapse of economic and social development led to tragic consequences.  Kenya’s own wellbeing and prosperity hinged on sustained peace, security and inclusive democracy in the region, he said, adding that his country supported such efforts by, among others, the African Union.  “Such efforts are central to the future of multilateral peacebuilding.  They must be the building blocks of international efforts to maintain peace ands security in our region and the world,” he said, welcoming the Secretary-General’s initiative to convene a series of high-level meetings during the week to discus political and security situations in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Sudan.

Encouraged by developments in Somalia, he anticipated the liberation of large sections of the country’s south central area to facilitate the return of some 650,000 Somalis currently in refugee camps in Kenya.  He hoped recent developments in Sudan and South Sudan would lead to reducing tensions over border security.  Turning to current conflict situations in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Africa, he called upon all warring parties in the world to lay down their arms and pursue the path of peace, dialogue and inclusive democracy.  He was also concerned that no progress had been achieved on the issue of Palestine, which he hoped would soon be welcomed with full membership in the United Nations.

There could be no lasting peace without sustainable and inclusive development, he said, noting Kenya’s appreciation for achievements at the Rio+20 Conference, notably the decision to strengthen the institutional framework and upgrade the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  “We are well aware that many of our modern disputes and conflicts revolve around concerns of water, available land and agriculture, forests, rivers and lakes,” he said.  “Strengthening global institutions that deal with the environment, our biodiversity as well as climate change must therefore be part of our strategy to avoid conflict and disputes among the peoples of the world.”

It was important that as a community of nations, the world invest in the peaceful settlement of disputes, he said.  “However, we must invest first in the prevention of disputes and second, in addressing the root causes of conflicts such as poverty, inequity, disregard for international law, disrespect for each other’s sociocultural and religious beliefs, among others,” he said.  “Only by addressing the root causes of conflict and disputes can we hope to find lasting peace in a just and equitable world.”

BRONISŁAW KOMOROWSKI, President of Poland, said that the weakness of international institutions in addressing the economic, security, humanitarian or environmental problems was “indisputable”, noting the Security Council’s response to the conflict in Syria, and international financial institutions’ inability to handle the recent events in the financial markets.  The Iranian nuclear program was cause for concern, as was the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions and an intensified arms race among the Gulf States.  The results from the mission in Afghanistan were a lesson on the “shortcoming” of the strategy of “military first”, which was not a suitable method for resolving difficult internal conflicts.

Despite the hopes raised by the Arab Spring, he went on to say, the civil war in Syria and the inability to contain it “cast a shadow all across the region”, as did other recent events, such as the tragic death of United States diplomats.  Although there were many examples of the successful peaceful settlement of disputes, including efforts made by Jimmy Carter and Martti Ahtisaari, without the “crucially important factor” of compromise, it would not be possible to arrive at a lasting solution.  In his country, the Solidarity and the Round Table talks in 1989 illustrated a compromise that, although not fully satisfactory to either of the two parties, had opened up “perspectives for further change” and ultimately achieved change.  The “art” of wise compromise, symbolized by Nobel Prize winners Lech Wałęsa and Nelson Mandela were “worth promoting”, yet that approach was not sufficiently promoted in the context of peaceful conflict resolution.

Another preventative method, he continued, developed in Europe after World War II by the European coal and steel community, was regional integration, in which a “no war” principle was imbedded.  “What was needed was to make war impossible,” he said.  With the expansion of the coal and steel community into most countries in the continent, threats to Europe’s security had been consigned to the past.  Even if this method could not be duplicated 100 per cent, it merited consideration in other regions of the world.

He then turned to the principle of the responsibility to protect, stating that, in light of the past decade humanitarian tragedies, the international community could not afford a situation where that principle became “a dead letter”.  He called for the United Nations to initiate work on defining a catalogue of instruments which could be applied in situations requiring engagement of the principle and which would allow the international community to be effective without exceeding the mission’s mandate or inciting disputes.  The international community, when faced with “flagrant violations” of human rights, such as the events occurring in Syria, needed to act in line with the mandate given to it.

His country had over the past 20 years journeyed from a totalitarian regime, the collapse of its economy and mass social unrest to a democratic stability, great economic growth and the ability to support peaceful transformations beyond its borders.  Further, the European Union Programme of Eastern Partnership, initiated by Poland and Sweden, worked to integrate the two parts of Europe that had once been divided in the cold war.  Poland also offered support to developing countries throughout the world that were embarking “on a road of democratic transformation”.

“The world cannot be driven by a bi- or multi-polar concert of powers,” he stressed.  The stability and regulation of international legal order required a more extensive engagement of multilateral institutions, as well as norms and mechanisms that ensured adherence.  Only the United Nations system could ensure such adherence.  However, in order to improve its effectiveness, the Organization needed to reform, with commitments, once adopted in good faith, honoured.  Poland, “so sorely tried in the dramas of the twentieth century”, was, he said in conclusion, committed to the work of the Organization and towards full implementation of its work so that it might “meet the expectations that we have in store for it”.

MOHAMED MORSY, President of Egypt, told Member States that he was the first Egyptian civilian President elected democratically and freely following a great revolution in his country.  Since that revolution, Egyptians had taken a number of steps towards establishing the modern State to which they aspired — one that was in tune with the present, based on the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights; a State that sought justice, truth, freedom, dignity and social justice.  “The Egyptian revolution was not the product of a fleeting moment, or a brief uprising,” he said, adding, “nor was it the product of the winds of change of spring or autumn.”  Rather, the revolution, and all the ones preceding and following it throughout the region, was triggered by the long struggle of authentic national movements that sought a life of pride and dignity for all citizens.

That vision of a new Egypt should also guide the country’s cooperation with the international community, he said, in a spirit of equality and mutual respect and entailing the non-intervention in the affairs of other States.  The “new Egypt” was determined to regain its standing among nations, assume an effective role in global issues.  Egypt’s involvement in Arab, Islamic and African issues was the reflection of the essential role it played in defence of interconnected fates and interlinked interests and values.  In that vein, long decades had passed since the Palestinian people expressed their longing for their full rights and for building their independent State, with Jerusalem as its capital.  It was shameful that the free world accepted, regardless of the justifications provided, that a member of the international community continued to deny the rights of a nation that had been longing for decades for independence.  It was also disgraceful that settlement activities continued in the territories of those people, along with the delay in implementing the decisions of international legitimacy.  He called, in that regard, for the immediate and significant measures to put an end to colonization, settlement activities, and the alteration in the identity of Occupied Jerusalem.

The bloodshed in Syria and the humanitarian crisis that had unfolded there “must be stopped”, he continued, as the Syrian people deserved hope for a future of freedom and dignity.  That was the essence of the initiative he had proposed last month in Mecca, along with three other nations; they would continue to work to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and provide them an opportunity to choose freely the regime that best represented them.  He also emphasized that the initiative was open to all those who wished to positively contribute to resolving the Syrian crisis.  Indeed, Egypt was committed to putting an end to the catastrophe in Syria within an Arab, regional and international framework.  That should spare Syria to dangers of foreign military intervention, which he opposed.  Egypt was also committed to supporting the mission of Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, and continuing the current efforts aiming at unifying the Syrian opposition and encouraging it to propose a comprehensive, unified vision of the steady, democratic transfer of power.

Turning to the situation in Sudan, he urged Member States to support that country.  Sudan had committed itself to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement and it had been the first country to recognize the nascent State of South Sudan.  “But let me be frank:  it has not received the support it deserves”.  Similarly, he called upon Members of the Assembly to support the Somali people in their present difficult period of transition, and in fending off those seeking to hinder their efforts to achieve stability, reconstruct public institutions, and realize the aspiration of the Somali people for a better future.

Over many years, some had wrongfully sought to attain stability through oppression and tyranny, he said.  “Some of us have, alas, applauded their bad deeds”.  But now that the peoples of the region had regained their freedom, they would not tolerate being deprived of their rights, whether by their own leaders or outside forces.  The will of the people, in particular in the region, no longer tolerated the continued non-accession of any country to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the non-application of a safeguards regime to their nuclear facilities, especially if that was coupled with irresponsible policies or arbitrary threats.  In that regard, the acceptance by the international community of the principle of “pre-emptiveness” or the attempt to legitimize it was, in itself, a serious matter and must be firmly confronted in order to avoid the prevalence of the “law of the jungle”.  In that regard, Egypt stressed the need to mobilize international efforts to hold a conference on achieving a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction before the end of the current year.  “The only solution is to get rid of nuclear weapons”, he said.

The world also had a responsibility to support Africa’s efforts at development and economic growth, beyond mere promises.  Egyptians, as Africans, were ready and willing to do so.  In addition, the youth representing the majority of the country believed that real legitimacy was derived from the people’s will, not the one imposed by an assertive authority that lacked any legal or moral basis.  In that vein, he recalled that he had proposed, during the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran, a new initiative dedicated to youth issues and paying particular attention to the issues of education, training, employment and improving their participation in political life.  In addition, “we look to the current situation in the international financial system, and stress the need to work diligently to reform it.”  Revitalizing the General Assembly and reforming the Security Council must also remain high on the priority list of issues that must be tackled with the necessary seriousness.

FELIPE CALDERÓN HINOJOSA, President of Mexico, said his country was a strategic ally of the United Nations, and as such, it shared the Organization’s fundamental views and aspirations.  During his time as Head of State, Mexico had endeavoured to pave the way for broader acceptance of the United Nations and its noble ideals.  In other areas, Mexico had sought to ameliorate the fallout from the ongoing economic and financial crisis.  As it had taken over the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20), Mexico had immediately sensed that it would need to work hard to reconcile the views of the nations that made up that body, especially those of different socio-economic development. Mexico had aimed to build coalitions that would work for the “equitable and sustained economic growth that we all yearn for.”

He went on to hail the commitment on bolstering the global economy that had been agreed at the recent Los Cabos meeting of the G20, and, despite lingering unease over the European sovereign debt crisis, Mexico believed the world economy was heading in the right direction. That meeting had also taken up a host of other socioeconomic concerns, including food security and providing safety nets for the poor.  Mexico was integrating some of those relevant initiatives nationally, including through the launch of many programmes aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty.  One such initiative targeted 6.5 million of the country’s poorest families and provided them with Government assistance providing certain conditions were met, such as ensuring children remained enrolled in school, for instance.

Continuing, he said that with three years remaining to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Mexico was making great strides, including providing universal health care, bolstering maternal and child health indicators, and ensuring free treatment and care for those living with the AIDS virus.  Significant progress was also being made in the education sphere, and not just in the area of enrolment, but also in training teachers so that those persons could contribute more effectively to society.  More globally, he said that in order to protect the gains achieved toward the Millennium objectives, Mexico proposed the identification of a second set of targets that were more aligned with specific national reality.

Turning next to climate change, he said he was certain that each and every country represented in the Assembly was dealing with weather anomalies, either unprecedented flooding, lasting drought or tornadoes.  Mexico was committed to tackling climate change and other nations must be equally committed.  Indeed, Member States must not fall victim to the “false dilemma” that they must either tackle poverty or mitigate the impacts of climate change.  “I am here to say we can address both concerns at the same time,” he said, pointing out steps Mexico had taken to that end, including launching massive tree-planting campaigns and setting aside large tracts of land as protected areas.  It had also held the sixteenth Conference of States parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancún, which had led to progress towards the REDD initiative.  “We are all responsible for the planet we share,” he said.

As for transnational organized crime, which was upending countless lives in Latin America and posing a grave global threat, he said that illegal traffickers and other criminals used violence to achieve their aims.  They also used their power to corrupt local governments and extort money from farmers and businessmen.  “Organized crime is one of the main causes of death and violence today.  It is also one of the main obstacles to democracy in the twenty-first century” he declared, emphasizing that Mexico had suffered severely and sadly, fallout from such criminal activity had turned the Latin American and Caribbean region into the most violent region in the world.  Unfortunately, the situation had persisted largely due to inertia, but Mexico was fighting back.  It was protecting its families.

It was launching a historic transformation of its institutions to ensure that police officials protected the population.  Yet, he said, all measures to tackle organized crime could not be taken at home, and to that end, he expressed supreme disappointment that negotiations on a comprehensive arms trade treaty had been unsuccessful.  Such a treaty would prevent weapons from falling into the hands of traffickers and other criminals.  Also, the time had come for drug consuming countries to evince the political will to tackle that issue.  If they refused to take decisive action, then they must at least try harder to cut off the massive flow of resources that was giving criminal networks “an almost limitless power to corrupt.”  While the region’s Governments were mobilizing to comprehensively address the issue, including through the establishment of a hemispheric mechanism that could monitor the situation, it was time for the United Nations to do more, including through assisting with the creation of a normative policy framework that combated crime, strengthened laws and law enforcement agencies, and restored social fabrics.

DAVID CAMERON, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, noting his responsibility as co-Chair of the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda, said that more focus was needed on the “building blocks” that took countries from poverty to prosperity, including the absence of conflict and corruption, the presence of property rights and the rule of law.  “We should never forget that for many in the world, the closest relative of poverty is injustice,” he stated.  Although some believed that the Arab Spring had turned into the “Arab Winter”, pointing to the Syrian crisis, the lack of economic progress and the emergence of Islamist-led Governments in the region, he stressed that this was the “wrong conclusion”, and that it was not a time to turn back, but to redouble support for open societies.  Democracy was not about holding elections, but about establishing a foundation of democracy, the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.  Each country had its own path, and at times, progress would be slow.  The damage of decades could not be “put right in a matter of months”, and the drive for justice and the rule of law was not responsible for the problem, but was part of the solution.

The United Nations, he went on to say, needed to step up efforts to support the people of countries struggling to build their own democratic future.  Progress had, in fact, been made, including elections in Libya to create a new Congress, and plans to integrate armed groups into the national police and army.  The “right response” to the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens, which was a “despicable act of terrorism”, was to finish the work he gave his life to.  The majority of Libyans supported this, with thousands, this past weekend in Benghazi, taking to the street to protest extremist acts.  The Arab Spring also continued in Egypt where the President had asserted civilian control over the military, and in Yemen and Tunisia where elections had brought new Governments to power.  Morocco had a new Constitution and a Prime Minister appointed on the basis of a popular vote.  Somalia had just elected a new President.  “None of it would have come about without people standing up last year and demanding change and this United Nations having the courage to respond,” he underscored.

He went on to challenge the idea that the removal of dictators unleashed new waves of violence, extremism and instability.  Rather, he asserted that dictators had brought instability to the region through the denying of basic rights to their citizens, and the funding of terrorism overseas, among others.  Those rulers dealt with frustrations within their own borders by “whipping up anger” against their neighbours, Israel and the West.  Their citizens, denied jobs or a voice, were given “no alternative but a dead end choice between dictatorship and extremism”, he said.  The events of Tahrir Square illustrated the Egyptian people’s rejection of “this false choice”.

He acknowledged that although Syria presented profound challenges, the Arab Spring was not to blame.  “You cannot blame the people for the behaviour of a brutal dictator,” he stated, pointing out that Assad’s inflaming of sectarian tensions was similar to his father’s actions 30 years ago in the slaughter in Hama.  A future for Syria could not include Assad who, through recent evidence, was shown to use children as target practice and schools as torture centres.  “The blood of these young children is a terrible stain on the reputation of the United Nations,” he said.  If the United Nations was to have any value in the twenty-first century, it needed to join together and support a rapid political transition.  Security Council Members had a particular responsibility to support the United Nations appeal, and he announced that his country, already the third biggest donor, would be donating a further $12 million in humanitarian support to Syria.

The international community was also responsible for helping these countries reclaim stolen assets, noting return of billions of dollars to Libya.  The Egyptian Government was also entitled, as well, and a new British Task Force was being created to work with the Government to pursue the return of stolen money.  Concluding, he stressed that there was a fundamental difference between Islam and extremism, the former a great religion observed peacefully by over a billion people, and the latter a “warped political ideology” of a minority that sought to use religion for their own means.  As seen in Turkey, democracy and Islam could flourish alongside each other and he urged that Governments not be judged by their religions, but by their actions.  In that regard, he called for support to the new Governments of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya so that their success “strengthen democracy, not undermine it”.  The Arab Spring represented a “precious opportunity” for people to realize their aspirations and he called for the United Nations to do everything it could to support them.

YOSHIHIKO NODA, Prime Minister of Japan, said his country would continue sharing lessons learned since the great east Japan earthquake hit his country in March last year.  The Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, to be held at the end of the year, would provide one such opportunity.  Numerous threats endangered human existence, some of which lay in advanced civilization itself and not just in nature.  What was needed for the human species to continue to enjoy peace and prosperity?  “Humans must get wiser,” he said, and one part of such wisdom was learning to act on behalf of future generations.  By way of example, he said many countries had amassed huge fiscal deficits, and if spending was not cut, future generations would be forced to repay them.  He also wondered if parliamentary democracy could ensure fairness, as it had no guarantees to represent future interests.  The structure invited a type of politics that burdened future generations with deferred problems.  “The challenges facing us must be resolved by our generation,” he said.

He said Japan had procrastinated in politics for 20 years and was considered a “country that delayed decisions”.  He had staked his political career on reforming Japan’s social security and tax systems, by carrying out ambitious policies to maintain a stable financial base and pave the way for fiscal rehabilitation.  Citing another “pearl of wisdom”, he said humanity, because it had obtained the perspective of “looking at the Earth from outside”, shared the sublime mission of protecting the environment.  At the Rio+20 Summit, Japan had proposed that sustainable growth be explored without the supply-demand crunch of natural resources and energy.  Japan would realize a low-carbon and sound material-cycle society and take the lead in solving common energy challenges.  Also, the Japan-led resolution adopted by the General Assembly served to guide development from a human perspective.

A third “pearl of wisdom” was the manner in which they settled disputes, although people had failed to resist the temptation to resolve conflicts by force, even in modern times.  He pressed the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to coordinate in urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran to take concrete actions vis-à-vis their nuclear and missile issues.  Also, abductions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also violated basic human rights and Japan was committed to do its utmost to realize the return of all victims through strengthened coordination with Member States.  It would work to resolve outstanding issues, settle “the unfortunate past” and normalize relations, in line with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration.  He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take positive steps.

Finally, he called for strengthening the rule of law and, on other legal fronts, said the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism allowed States to solve trade disputes through common legal language.  Japan recognized the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and led the world in its personnel and financial contributions to international judicial institutions.  There were a number of territorial and maritime disputes around the world and Japan was determined to settle disputes peacefully and in line with international law.  On other matters, he condemned the violence in Syria, and said Japan would contribute to rule-making efforts to expand trade, build maritime order and create prosperity for the Asia-Pacific region.  In closing, he said he had a belief that human beings would get wiser, would think about the future generations and learn to solve disputes peacefully.  “Let us take charge of our responsibilities for tomorrow together.”

HERMAN VAN ROMPUY, President of the European Council, said that when upheaval and historic transformation had begun sweeping through the Arab world in 2011, those events had spark mixed emotions in the wider international community.  Yet, while there had been fears of a rise in extremism and regional bloodshed, overwhelmingly, the world had looked on with understanding and hope.  Europe, geographically close and deeply involved with many of the countries undergoing those changes, had been keenly aware that it could be directly impacted.  “So, of course, expectations ran high; it was tempting to read the events in Tunis or Cairo as the opening pages of a fairytale.  But, this is the book of history,” he said, stressing that that tome contained dark chapters, some of which were being written “at this very moment.”

Indeed, new democratic institutions did not magically run smoothly; moribund economies could not be reawakened with the wave of a wand; and deep tensions did not vanish in the mist once a dictator was gone.  “The long path of transition lies ahead.  There will undoubtedly be disappointments along the way; there will be wrong turns, hurdles and setbacks,” he said, expressing the belief that the journey was nevertheless heading in the right direction.  “And there is no turning back:  whatever the future brings, the Arab Spring will remain a turning point.”  Once the voices of the region’s people had finally been unleashed, they could never again be silenced.  While it was the responsibility of the concerned countries to chart its own course towards ensuring the aspirations of its peoples, the European Union was committed to standing by their sides every step of the way.  The regional bloc was “in it” for the long haul.  “We still believe in the message of the Arab Spring,” he declared.

He explained that Europeans were well placed to recognize that political change was not painless and did not occur overnight.  Europe knew about long transitions, and in fact, when integration began in the region, most of the countries that were now members of the Union were not yet democracies.  “For us, transition of such magnitude should not be judged by its speed, but by its direction and by the progress achieved through countless steps forward,” he said, emphasizing that the starting point was free and fair elections.  In that regard, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, among others, were to be saluted for their organization of polls that had allowed many of their respective citizens to vote freely for the first time.

At the same time, the transitioning countries should remain cognizant that generating jobs, providing social justice and ensuring free expression would require their nascent democratic institutions to overcome, “every single day”, obstacles such as corruption and bureaucratic red tape.  Those Governments would also need to maintain the political determination to ensure inclusiveness and broad participation in the processes that were under way.  For its part, the European Union would offer advice to entrepreneurs and officials and would help train judges and police officers, and provide support to journalists and civil society groups.  He said that a democracy could only flourish when equal rights were guaranteed in law and practice, for all people, whatever their gender, religion, language or ethnic identity.

He went on to say that bringing together and reconciling former enemies in a common desire for peace and prosperity had been one of the European Union’s greatest achievements.  And while respect, tolerance and non-violence were core values, they were fragile, and sustaining them required constant attention, especially in a digital world where messages of all types spread at lightning speed and could be easily exploited.  “Tolerance is the ability to withstand criticism, to offer dialogue, to refrain from violence,” he said, adding that respect for the faiths and beliefs of others was also key for harmonious living.  “Each and every one of us in this room has a responsibility in defending and promoting tolerance, in and between countries, as well as respect,” he said, stressing that incidents such as the killing of United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens could never be justified, regardless of the motivations.

Continuing, he joined Europe’s voice to those that had deplored the “civil war now raging in Syria.”  Frankly speaking, even though confronted with mass killings of innocent civilians, the international community had not been able to stop the violence.  Europe and others were providing humanitarian assistance and supporting the efforts of the United Nations to bring about a peaceful solution, “but we will remain powerless unless the international community unites in common determination to end this senseless violence, which threatens to wreak havoc in the whole region.”  The longer the bloodshed continued, the more radicalized people would become and the longer it would take for the wounds to heal, he said.

As he turned to other pressing issues, including the need to address the instability and humanitarian needs in the Sahel and finding a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, he said that all major economies also needed to do their part to put the world economy back on track.  Indeed, the sense of resolve witnessed after the collapse in 2008 of marquee financial institutions on Wall Street and elsewhere seemed to have waned.  “Global growth depends on structural reforms in each of our countries and in reducing the macroeconomic imbalances between them,” he said, stressing that Europe was doing its part.  No effort would be spared to overcome the current difficulties in the eurozone, including through setting up stronger firewalls to guarantee the stability of the euro, and building a banking union that would better manage the financial sector.

JABER AL MUBARAK AL HAMAD AL SABAH, Prime Minister of Kuwait, noted the numerous challenges the United Nations faced as it neared the end of its seventh decade of existence, during which period the Organization and all of its organizations and agencies had worked on resolving and containing many crises, as well as political, humanitarian and economic challenges.  It was his view, however, that poor coordination, flaws in the joint and united action, the failure by some to fulfil their obligations, and antiquated mechanisms had made the United Nations incapable of reaching conclusive solutions for certain problems.  It was, thus, incumbent upon all to work on reforming, developing and enhancing the Organization, as well as providing firm political will to promote its performance to face up to the renewed challenges dictated by an ever-changing international environment.

He said, after two decades of discussions and in-depth negotiations to reform the Security Council, Kuwait reaffirmed the need to reform the Security Council to reflect the new international reality, and guarantee the rights of the Arab and Islamic States in being represented according to their size, their contributions, and their role in advocating the objectives and principles of the United Nations Charter.  On the “bloody tragedy” that continued to unfold in Syria, he said Kuwait congratulated the Joint Representative of the United Nations and League of Arab States to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and pledged to support him in his efforts, and reaffirmed its commitment and its support to the international efforts to reach a political solution in a manner that met the demands and aspirations of the Syrian people.  He appealed to the international community to provide more humanitarian assistance to alleviate the pain and suffering of the Syrians inside and outside that country.

Turning his attention to the Kuwaiti-Iraqi relations, he said those had witnessed a “remarkable and positive progress”, whereby his country had risen above the painful wounds of the invasion.  At the regional level, Kuwait renewed its call to Iran to take serious and effective steps towards cooperation with the international efforts that sought to find a political settlement over its nuclear programme, and thereby dispel the doubts that surrounded the goals and purposes of that programme.  That way, Iran would be sparing the region and its countries from further crises and conflicts that had regrettably become concomitant with that vital region.  On Israel, he said that country’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories represented a testament to the inability of the international community to find solutions that would end the plight of the Palestinian people.  Kuwait, therefore, “demanded” of the international community, represented by the Security Council, to pressure Israel and subject it to the resolutions of international legitimacy, the principle of land for peace, the Road Map, as well as the Arab Peace Initiative that would guarantee the establishment of the Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the total Israeli withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied after 4 June 1967.

On Somalia, he hailed the ratification of the provisional constitution and congratulated President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on his election as President of Somalia.  He also commended the positive positions of the United Nations and the international community on Myanmar, in the hope that those efforts would result in the cessation of violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.  Similarly, he joined the peoples and Governments of Islamic countries in their strong condemnation and outrage over the production of the film that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad and the Islamic faith, saying that irresponsible and impudent act had ignited extreme rage among the Muslim peoples and communities all over the world.  He denounced the film, as well as the acts of killing and destruction that ensued, which are very far from the spirit of Islam.

On environmental, economic and social and security issues that faced the world today, he noted that, despite the many accomplishments made by many States in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, many of those accomplishments did not rise to the set ambitions.  Therefore, it was imperative to continue the joint efforts to limit the effects of those challenges and to contain them, in order to guarantee achievement of the noble goals.  Concluding, he stated that Kuwait believed that dialogue, the dissemination of the culture of tolerance, moderation and the rejection of the manifestations of violence and extremism was the ideal way to advance the values of equality and justice and in turn reach the higher goal of maintaining international peace and security.

MARIO MONTI, Prime Minister of Italy, said that, in 2011, the financial markets had shown serious new signs of tension, due primarily to the deterioration of public finances.  “What we are experiencing is not a recurrent cyclical imbalance; it is the deepest and worst crisis in the history of the European Union.”  Other crises had threatened the continent in the past, but each time Europeans had found a way to continue down the path on which they embarked more than 50 years ago.  He cited, in that respect, Jean Monnet, who wrote that “ Europe would be built through crises”.  Indeed, it was by solving those crises that Europeans had realized how closely integrated their interests were and how interdependent their economies.  Today, the world had learned how essential a viable Europe was to tackling global economic and security challenges and how important the euro area was to the recovery of the global economy.  “Today, it is clear that ‘more Europe’ is in the general interest,” he said.

Italy had stood by the Arab peoples in their recent quests for justice and democracy, he said.  In the past months, it had, both bilaterally and through the European Union, lent concrete support to the new Governments to assist their recovery, set mutually beneficial trade policies and promote stability throughout the region.  The ultimate goals of peace and cooperation would only be achieved if all the countries concerned worked together on the basis of mutual respect and a shared sense of purpose.  “A culture of dialogue must prevail over confrontation,” he said, adding that extremism and intolerance must be isolated and rejected.  The Arab Spring had experienced difficulties, yet it had also scored a number of remarkable achievements.  “Nothing is easy, yet nothing is impossible.”

However, nothing could be achieved without good will and good faith, which would be needed if the world was to put an end to the ongoing massacres and the massive human rights violations in Syria.  The regime in Damascus refused to comply with Security Council resolutions and it continued to commit indiscriminate violence against civilians.  Italy fully supported the mission of the new Joint Special Representative for Syria, and strongly urged the Security Council to overcome the stalemate that was preventing international action.  “History will not be lenient in judging those who bear responsibilities,” he said.

Respecting the rule of law was the basic condition for promoting human rights and maintaining international peace and security.  In that vein, Italy announced that it was ready to accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in accordance with article 36(2) of its Statute.  In addition, despite the current financial juncture, Italy continued to do its part in crisis management, peacekeeping and stabilization missions.  Its expertise and resources — both military and civilian — would remain engaged in a number of critical theatres, especially Afghanistan and Lebanon.  Those commitments constituted a “heavy burden, but one we deem a worthy investment for the sake of the common interest”.

Finally, he turned to the Millennium Development Goals, which had played a crucial role in changing development cooperation policies and practices.  Since they had initially been agreed upon, however, the development landscape had changed deeply, with new challenges emerging and other issues and processes coming to the fore.  The post-2015 development agenda would, therefore, have to take those trends into account, and include such important dimensions as reducing inequality, fostering credible democracy, promoting human rights, good governance, equitable growth, migration, employment, decent jobs and tackling climate change.  An inclusive process for elaborating that agenda was crucial, as was the harmonization of the post-2015 Goals with the inputs that had emerged from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — “Rio+20” — concluded in June in Brazil.

JULIA GILLARD, Prime Minister of Australia, said that, as seen in the seven decades of the United Nations, the international community could do together what it could not do alone.  The Organization not only articulated the highest ideals, it made practical progress, as seen in the Millennium Development Goals.  The global economy had grown, and the world’s population living in extreme poverty had been halved, and the number of children who did not attend school reduced by a third.  But, because there were still areas where the international community had failed to achieve change, she had accepted the co-chair, with Rwanda, of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group.  Where the world had fallen short, the response “must be action, not disillusion”.

She went on to say that on a national and regional level, Australia had doubled its development spending on education in the past five years.  Further, Australia would join its Pacific Island Forum partners in the unprecedented gender initiative, “Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development”, contributing $320 million over 10 years to support women’s political participation, expand women’s leadership and to spread economic and social opportunities in the region.  The empowerment of women and girls was a principle underpinning every Australian aid intervention and initiative.

“2015 is a goal, but it is not a destination,” she said.  Looking at it as a point of departure, her country was committed to the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  Taking lessons learned since 2000 towards that end, she stated that peace was an essential foundation to development and to the progress of societies recovering from conflict.  Thus, peacekeepers needed to also be peacebuilders by enabling development.  Poverty alleviation could not occur without job creation and wealth.  Further, environmental protection and human development were not conflicting global goals, as climate change threatened secure food supplies which guaranteed development.  And new clean sources of energy could deliver a new source of economic growth.

Continuing, she said that her country was one of the most successful multicultural and multi-faith nations.  As such, she underscored that there was nothing “natural or inevitable” about violent conflict over religious belief and “we must reaffirm that here today”.  Denigration of religious beliefs was never acceptable.  However, “our tolerance must never extend to tolerating religious hatred and incitements to violence”.  The perpetrators of all such violence must be brought to justice and all such incitement must be condemned.

Turning to security issues, she said her country adhered to all Security Council resolutions aimed at curtailing weapon proliferation activities, such as those of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Australia also had a leading role in the United Nations mandated mission in Timor-Leste and was one of the largest non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) contributors to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).  In October, it would be a candidate for Security Council membership.  On the crisis in Syria, she noted her country’s contribution to humanitarian aid, and called for the international community to do “everything we can to end the suffering of the Syrian people”.  In that regard, she urged that the world unite behind the efforts of Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria, and for members of the Security Council to act decisively.

She then pointed out that six years after the Security Council first addressed Iran’s nuclear programme, Iran still refused to assure the world its nuclear programme was peaceful.  It was crucial that a strong message, through the Security Council, be sent to Iran to change its behaviour immediately, especially in light of its recent comments about Israel.  There was still opportunity for diplomacy, backed up by robust sanctions, to persuade Iran to change its course.  Also, the impasse in the Middle East needed to change.  In that regard, she called for direct negotiations to be resumed towards both the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian State and Israel’s right to exist in security and peace.  “Both sides need to make compromises” and sacrifices, she stated.  Concluding, she said that as a country of the Asia-Pacific region, with neighbours who were developing countries, Australia had a perspective of both the North and South.  From the beginning of the United Nations, her country had demonstrated not only its commitment to the high ideals of the Organization, but it took practical approaches to achieving change.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERÓN, President of Colombia, recalled that he had spoken from this podium two years ago to express his country’s aspiration to become a Security Council member for 2011-2012.  Colombia had taken on that responsibility and participated in decision-making on critical situations that threatened world peace.  In doing so, Colombia had maintained independence and was mindful of the enormous commitment required to work in favour of international peace and security.  It had been a particularly troubling time.

Countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire were making strides towards peacebuilding and the rule of law, he continued.  In Libya, a relentless tyranny that had been around for more than 40 years had been broken in a process where the Security Council played a decisive role.  “My Government did not hesitate to condemn the violent repression that the civilian population, justly clamouring for the exercise of their fundamental rights, was subjected to”, he said, adding there were still violent groups that wanted to sabotage a transition to democracy and use terrorist methods, such as the attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi.

On Syria, he expressed frustration that the dire situation had continued for more than a year and half and the international community had been unable to put an end to the tragedy that was taking more and more lives every day.  Stressing that the application of Kofi Annan’s six-point plan would contribute to facilitating a Syrian-led political transition, he expressed support to the new Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi.

He also recalled that Colombia led the proposal to establish the Sustainable Development Goals, which was the most important result of the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, held earlier this year.  The United Nations Secretary-General had identified them as one of the five priorities of his legacy.  Also this year, 30 Heads of State and Government from the Western hemisphere gathered in Colombia for the Sixth Summit of the Americas, a meeting characterized by frank and open dialogue regarding the most crucial issues in that region and the world, including the issue of drug trafficking.  “The debate on drugs must be frank, and without a doubt, global,” he insisted.

Amid the international turbulence, Colombia had managed to maintain a healthy and growing economy that had created more than 2 million jobs over two years and that shows important progress in reducing poverty, he said.  The Government had put in place initiatives of great social impact, such as the Victims Law, the only one in the world that sought to return lands to displaced peasants and some repair for the victims of an unfinished conflict, as well as Hydrocarbon and Mining Royalties reform to distribute much more fairly the revenues from these activities and generate a more effective social development.

Remarkable progress, however, had been restricted by an “absurd conflict”, referring to the prolonged internal armed conflict that had been going on more than 50 years.  The Government had made the decision to move forward with conversations with the guerrillas to achieve an end to the conflict.  After two years of contacts, he was now able to announce their talks would begin in Oslo in the first half of October and would then continue in Havana.  His Government took in the talks with moderate optimism but with an absolute conviction that it has an opportunity that could not be wasted.  “Today we present the world — with hope — this new moment for Colombia.”

King MSWATI III of Swaziland said the Assembly was meeting at a time when the world faced numerous challenges, including an ongoing economic and financial crisis.  The United Nations was the appropriate forum in which to deliberate such matters and work towards global solutions.  Swaziland had not been spared fallout from the financial crisis and many of its social programmes aimed at enhancing delivery of Millennium objectives and creating jobs had been adversely affected.  In addition, gains that had been made in the combat against HIV/AIDS were also at risk.  He said that Swaziland continued to receive support from the Global Fund against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, and that such assistance had helped inject resources into its national health programme.

He said that as the international community sought to address the global economic crisis, stakeholders should be cognizant of the social implications of some of the recommended solutions.  “Our strategies should not create more hardships, but should rather find answers that mitigate the difficulties we face”, he said, expressing confidence that his country would benefit from information that could be provided by States that had not been seriously impacted.  He urged those countries to share their experiences and called on the United Nations to take up the ongoing effects of the crisis as a priority issue during the session.

On national matters, he said that Swaziland had convened last month a “people’s parliament” to spur dialogue on social, economic and political issues.  The goal had been to craft solutions that would have the most impact on the lives of the people and ensure that every citizen was able to participate in that discussion.   Swaziland believed in the full participation of all citizens in decision-making processes, and in fact, its Constitution and national development strategy were products of that approach.  He went on to say that his Government was working hard to ratify core United Nations conventions, as well as continental and regional protocols.

Turning again to matters of global and regional concern, he encouraged efforts to ensure a swift end to conflicts in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and in North Africa.  On the positive side, he hoped that new developments in Somalia, which had been without a stable Government for years, would bring about lasting peace.  As for the Middle East, he said the war in Syria, which had claimed the lives of “too many” civilians, must come to an end.  Swaziland urged the parties to work with the Joint Special Envoy towards a lasting solution, and urged the wider international community to cooperate on all fronts.  He also called for a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in line with the two-State vision.

Further, while he was encouraged with recent positive developments between China and Taiwan, he hoped the two sides could resolve their differences and that the new situation would pave the way for Taiwan to participate fully in all United Nations agencies.  Finally, he called for more concrete action to tackle climate change and protect the environment.  The United Nations must ensure that Member States identified and put in place environmentally friendly technologies and practices.  He also called on developed countries to honour the commitments they had made in June at the United Nations Conference eon Sustainable development, known as Rio+20.

OTTO FERNANDO PÉREZ MOLINA, President of Guatemala, said that as his country’s new leader, he had set key priorities aimed at advancing stability and long-term development.  First, his Government had proposed a “Zero Hunger pact”, which aimed to reduce levels of chronic malnutrition — affecting more than 40 per cent of the country’s children under the age of 5.  He added that the initiative would specifically target rural areas, indigenous and farming communities.  The second priority was to promote the “Pact for Security, Justice and Peace”, which sought to reduce the high levels of social violence that plagued the country.

He was certain progress could be achieved in that area, especially since in just the past nine months, indicators showed a notable decrease in the number of homicides when compared with last year.  “We are moving in the right direction”, he continued, pledging that in the effort to ensure lower levels of violence and higher levels of security in Guatemala, his Government would work with neighbouring countries towards those goals.  The third priority area was to implement the “Fiscal and Competitiveness Pact”, which would aim to address fiscal affairs, “one of the weaknesses of our institutional arrangements”.  He noted that in the earliest days of his presidency he had successfully promoted fiscal reform, increasing receipts by 15 per cent and allowing the Government to maintain a stable macroeconomic environment by lowering the deficit without reducing public expenditures.

More broadly, he said that efforts to fully implement many of the plans and priorities under way in Guatemala were being hampered by the illegal drugs trade.  Indeed, at least 40 per cent of the homicides in the country were linked to drug traffic, and the Government was forced to allocate scarce resources to its combat against transnational gangs that trafficked drugs from producing countries in the South to consuming countries in the North.  “The existing framework, born out of international conventions of the past five decades, has not achieved the desired results,” he said, explaining consumer markets had expanded, as had the number of producers and types of drugs.  The complex issue was clearly one of global concern requiring joint and concerted actions.

“We believe that the basic premise of our war against drugs has proved to have serious shortcomings [and] I believe the time has come to accept this fact and adapt our fight against this scourge to take into account new realities,” he said.  In Guatemala, young people were the most affected population, and rising consumption among that group required immediate attention.  The issue should be addressed for what it was — largely a public health matter rather than a criminal concern.  “We must offer treatment, prevention, social protection, economic opportunities and development for the families and communities involved,” he said.

Wrapping up his address by turning to global concerns, he said that Guatemala would remain committed to the protection and promotion of human rights.  He announced that Guatemala would seek to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  His country would also continue to contribute to the ideals of democracy, justice and peace within a framework of absolute respect for international law.  In that regard, Guatemala would continue to carry out its work as a non-permanent member of the Security Council in a responsible manner, and he announced that the country would take over the Council’s rotating presidency in October.

ANDRY NIRINA RAJOELINA, President of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar, calling to mind the deaths of innocent civilians who died every day, strongly condemned the loss of human life, not only in Syria, but in other parts of the world.  All States and organizations must unite forces for peace and security around the world, he said, adding that “we cannot be passive witnesses to actual and future disasters”.

Recognizing that national conflicts transcended borders and became problems of the international community, he stressed the importance of diplomacy and international negotiations in solving current challenges:  impunity, instability in the Arab and Muslim world, the case of Somali piracy, illegal immigration, internally displaced, religious conflicts, land and sea border management, and food security.  The world was in upheaval and several countries were in the midst of transition.  People demanded change and hoped for sustainable development, he said, adding that they must be supported, encouraged, and not sanctioned.

In that regard, he highlighted the situation in Madagascar which had emerged from a political crisis, saying that with the involvement of the Southern African Development Community, the support of the African Union, the Indian Ocean Commission, and the International Francophone Organization, a road map had been signed and adopted by the political parties in September 2011.  Commitments had been honoured and institutions of transitional government had been put in place, notably the Government of the National Union and Transitional Parliament.  That road map had also allowed a launch of the political process, he said.

“ Madagascar needs to take the future into its own hands, write its own history and end the cycle of instability”, he continued, through the holding of fair and transparent elections and the creation of the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition.  An electoral timetable had been set in cooperation with the United Nations and presidential elections were slated for 8 May 2013.  He called on the international community to support this electoral process which is the only sure “path to democracy”.

During three and a half years of transition, despite all destabilization attempts, the Transitional Government had worked tirelessly to protect its people and solve social problems.  Also, despite the suspension of aid and international subsidies which represented 60 per cent of the State budget, it had been able to carry out its administrative functions and honour its commitments and debts.  Although Madagascar was one of the least developed countries, he continued, it is among the least indebted, with a rate of debt that amounted only to 5 per cent of its gross domestic product.  It was, therefore, possible to develop the country and create wealth for its people.

“The best way to help us is to trust us, honour your commitment and let us shoulder our responsibilities”, he stressed, adding that the Malagasy would decide its destiny without the influence of any country or external pressure.

NICOLAE TIMOFTI, President of the Republic of Moldova, said that after years of political turmoil, Moldova was enjoying political stability that allowed it to develop and modernize.  It was firmly committed to European integration, had instituted socioeconomic reforms, and aimed to establish the rule of law, comprehensive judicial reform and economic modernization.  Aid from European partners was very important towards that end.  The perpetuation of armed conflict, begun 20 years ago in the Transdniestrian region, did not offer any real benefit to most people on both banks of the Nistru River.  Rather, it undermined national security and territorial integrity, hampered economic development, divided society, isolated the Nistru population, incited human rights violations and generated economic stagnation on the left bank of Nistru.  There was no alternative to a reunified Moldova.  The Transdniestrian region should be granted special status within Moldova, thus giving it a comfortable level of self-governance.  Defining that special status was at the core of the political negotiations in the 5+2 format, which should result in a reasonable compromise based on sovereignty and territorial integrity.

By promoting business links, ensuring freedom of movement, protecting human rights, improving security and combating criminality, Moldova would better prepare the ground for a political solution, he said.  In order to build confidence rather than divide the two sides, it was imperative to transform the existing military peacekeeping mechanism into an international civilian mission.  International partners had essentially contributed to ending the conflict; growing assistance from the European Union was encouraging.  He called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Russian Federation, Ukraine, European Union and the United States to work together towards a final solution to the Transdniestrian conflict.  Russian forces present in the Republic of Moldova territory without the consent of the host nation and contrary to the constitutional framework and international commitments should be withdrawn.

Globalization and the global financial crisis illustrated the need to reform the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, he said.  All reform proposals should take into account the legitimate aspirations of all regional groups, including the Eastern European group’s call for another non-permanent Council seat.  Moldova would continue to support efforts to comprehensively reform the Organization to make it more efficient, transparent, accountable and representative.  He stressed the importance of United Nations ties to regional organizations.  During the current Assembly session, Moldova would strongly support consideration of the issue on cooperation between OSCE, Council of Europe, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization and others.  Moldova and other members of the GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development would actively advance the Assembly’s consideration of the draft text on cooperation between the GUAM and the United Nations.

He stressed the importance of the high-level meeting on Monday on the rule of law and said strengthening the rule of law would help maintain peace, promote development, and enhance cooperation.  He fully supported international efforts to exert constant control over, and take the necessary steps to prevent, unlawful development and delivery of weapons of mass destruction.  Moldova was taking significant steps towards arms control.  In cooperation with partners, it was adapting to global standards of export control, improving cross-border management of small arms and light weapons and actively cooperating regionally and internationally in arms control.

Joint efforts and standards were needed to promote international law and human rights standards, he said.  Acts of aggression, including attacks on personnel and the integrity of diplomatic facilities, violated international norms and deserved firm condemnation.  As a member of the Human Rights Council from 2010 to 2013 and as Vice-Chair of the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) during the previous session, Moldova continuously pledged to open-mindedly advance the cause of promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.  He supported the renewal of global commitments made at the Rio+20 Conference and the agreement to devise the Sustainable Development Goals.

TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, President of Estonia, noted that recent years of economic and financial turbulence had demonstrated a strong correlation between economic prudence and responsibility in fiscal matters.  Sustainability was not a term applied to development, but concerned all people, and responsibility and sustainability applied to human rights, good governance and development.  Turning to the recent attack on diplomats in the Libyan city of Bengazi, he said, “Diplomacy is to prevent war, and when diplomats are attacked we are all less secure.”

On human rights, he said it was not enough merely “to keep your house in order.”  As a conscientious member of the international community, Estonia felt the responsibility to do more globally.  This included paying attention to human rights violations in places torn by conflict, as well as doing more to stop and prevent violations of the rights of women and children.  It also meant making the most of new technologies in the service of fundamental rights and freedoms.  Estonia looked forward to becoming a member of the Human Rights Council and to work proactively towards the fulfilment of its mandate.

He described the situation in Syria as “the complete breakdown of any semblance of the rule of law,” citing continuous extensive human rights and international humanitarian law abuses.  It appeared that both sides — the Government and the rebels — had committed serious international crimes.  The Security Council, especially its permanent members, must overcome their differences and find a solution to this bloodshed.  The least that must be done by all parties was to allow for humanitarian aid to be safely delivered and to guarantee the security of those working to that end.  The international criminal justice system, especially the International Criminal Court, played a crucial role in providing timely and decisive responses to such crimes.  Investigations by the Court may deter further atrocities and prevent their escalation.  Among civilians, women and children were the most vulnerable, he said, stressing the immediate need to take Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security into account.

On governance, he expressed concerns about developments related to the Internet.  Cybersecurity was vital to prevent oppressive Governments and criminals from wreaking havoc.  It was not to prevent peaceful individuals from speaking their minds or gathering information and exchanging ideas.  Despite having experienced extensive cyberattacks, his country was committed to an open, secure and reliable Internet, and it was imperative to ensure that the International Telecommunication Union’s new regulation did not lead to restricted Internet freedom and to unnecessary limits to the free flow of ideas and information.  Estonia had signed up to the Open Government Partnership, alongside 42 other countries and was the first country to allow people to cast their vote online in parliamentary and municipal elections.  E-government, e-school, e-medical prescription and e-parking were some examples of Estonian innovation.

Turning to the question of development and responsibility, “sustainable development is not a clichéd utopia, nor is it something forced on us from above,” he said.  Burdening children and grandchildren with mountains of debt was immoral, as was living at the expense of others.  Growth without responsibility was illusory.  On Millennium Development Goals, he said “aiming high is the least we can do and there is no point in setting targets that we can be confident of achieving effortlessly”.  Failure to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals should not be an excuse for not setting new targets.  The world needed Sustainable Development Goals.  “Let us aim high and do our best,” he said.

JOYCE BANDA, President of Malawi, said that while joining the world’s leaders and addressing the Assembly as only the second-ever woman to lead an African nation was “a moment of pride”, hers was not a story of individual success but of the achievement of a people who had shown courage and determination in ushering her into office through a peaceful constitutional transfer of power just a few months ago.  “The people of Malawi have made a decisive choice:  they have chosen democracy; the have chosen peace; and they have chosen to work together to realize their destiny,” she said.

Turning to the work of the United Nations, she agreed with the Secretary-General that achieving sustainable development for all was the best way to ensure a peaceful and stable world.  Indeed, the greatest threats to peace were poverty, lack of opportunity and lack of hope.  It was unacceptable to her — and should be so for all leaders — that children still suffered from malnutrition, or as they learned, had to sit outside under trees rather than indoors in proper classrooms.  It was also unacceptable that so many of the world’s youth had few opportunities to realize their potential; or that farmers toiled in the fields, but due to lack of modern technologies, could not get their produce to market, and even if they could, found their way barred further by taxes and tariffs.

She said that as a social justice and human rights activist in Malawi she had pressed hard for progress on those and other issues and would continue to do so now.  Her vision was to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation.  The country would create wealth by transforming the structure of its economy, promoting private sector activity to accelerate job creation.  It would also protect vulnerable communities, she said, adding:  “My vision is to transform Malawi to become one of Africa’s fastest growing economies in the next decade.”  She saw growth as more than gross domestic product; it was about opportunity, wealth, health and prosperity for all.

Continuing, she said that for the past three years, Malawi had faced severe socio-economic challenges brought on by poor political and economic governance.  That situation could impact the country’s efforts to attain the Millennium Goals and, therefore, one of her first priorities had been to initiate a recovery programme to restore Malawi’s macroeconomic stability.  She was certain Malawi would achieve five of the Goals by the 2015 deadline, and the country would continue to strive towards reaching the final three — on universal primary education, gender equality, and maternal health.  She stressed that her vision for the country was “more than words” and tough decisions would be taken to ensure that Malawi harnessed its vast potential.  She was committed to seeing a change in the perception that Malawi was stuck in a state of underdevelopment.

Concluding, she called for the full implementation of the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action on the Least Developed Countries, particularly in the priority areas of duty-free market access and supply-side capacity-building.  In addition, she noted that the world’s poorest countries were increasingly feeling the impacts of climate change, which was causing devastating floods, environmental degradation and lasting droughts.  With that in mind, she welcomed the outcome of the Rio+20 summit and stressed that implementation of the commitments set out there “is very crucial for our future”.

ANOTE TONG, President of Kiribati, discussed the real and existential threat of climate change and sea level rise to the long-term survival of Kiribati.  Climate change, which resulted from the unsustainable use of the planet’s resources, was the greatest moral challenge of our time.  “Economic growth at all costs must not be our mantra”, he said, especially when those who least benefited from it had to pay the ultimate price.  He applauded the Secretary-General’s commitment to addressing the security threat caused by climate change and called on all nations to take the requisite action to address it.  He called for bolstering collective efforts to mitigate global greenhouse gas emissions and urged major greenhouse gas emitters to do their part.  He also urged development partners to provide the appropriate level of resources and technology to address the current impact of climate change and sea level rise and to prepare for an uncertain future.

While Kiribati was taking measures to ensure it remained inhabitable for as long as possible, the island nation was also preparing for the day when the island could not longer sustain its population, he said.  Kiribati was looking to improve its people’s job skills, so they could compete on the global market and migrate with dignity.  He noted some positive progress at the recent climate change talks in Bangkok, which built on the decisions made in Durban last year.  But, action had been too slow.  On consensus issues, the international community must move to implement agreed action without delay, while continuing to discuss contentious issues.

Kiribati was not on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said.  Like other vulnerable countries, it continued to spend a disproportionate amount of its limited resources to fight the onslaught of the rising seas and storm surges on homes, livelihoods and public infrastructure.  Given the right support, Kiribati could achieve sustainable development if it utilized available resources of its vast Exclusive Economic Zone, enabling it to reduce reliance on development aid.  It could eliminate aid altogether if given the needed support to develop its capacity to harvest and process resources.  Kiribati aimed to maximize returns from its fishery resources through creation of its first fish processing plant, a public-private partnership.  Seabed mining was another potential revenue source.  Maintaining the health and biodiversity of oceans and ecosystems was critical.  The Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a safe haven for marine biodiversity, contributed to that aim.

Cross-border initiatives were essential for ocean conservation, he said.  At the recent Pacific Islands Forum in the Cooks Islands, the United States and Kiribati announced plans to build a link between adjoining marine parks in the Phoenix Islands, under the umbrella of the Phoenix Ocean Arc.  “The international community needs to support such efforts, not as a hand-out but as an investment for the planet’s future,” he said.  There was no justice in some people benefiting from the unsustainable exploitation of resources, while others paid the ultimate price.  If the international community was to provide a secure, peaceful and prosperous future for its children, then it must go beyond “business as usual” and deliver now.

He was encouraged by the Secretary-General’s commitment to the reform of the United Nations to make it more transparent and accountable, and he welcomed the proposal to strengthen the Organization’s partnerships with civil society and the private sector.  He called for understanding and stability to prevail to ensure the survival of people in conflict areas in the Middle East and North Africa.  He lauded the continued easing of tensions and improvements of relations across the Taiwan straits, as well as Taiwan’s inclusion in international processes in the World Health Assembly.  He hoped that Taiwan would be able to participate and contribute meaningfully in other global institutions and processes.

ROBERT GABRIEL MUGABE, President of Zimbabwe, calling the death of Muammar Qadhafi a tragic loss for Africa, deplored NATO for having sought the authority of the Security Council to operate in Libya under the guise of protecting civilians, only to turn its mission into a brutal hunt for Qadhafi and his family.  He also expressed condemnation for the recent death of United States Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya.

There was an increasing trend by NATO States, inspired by the arrogant belief that they were the most powerful, to use unilateral military hegemony, which was the very antithesis of the basic principles of the United Nations, he said.  In the case of Libya, the African Union and its peacemaking role was “defied, ignored and humiliated”.  He urged the international community to collectively “nip that dangerous and unwelcome aggressive development before it festered” and praised the Assembly President’s theme for the current session because “the warmongers of our world have done us enough harm”.  Wherever they had imposed themselves, chaos in place of peace had been the result, he said, adding that the situation created by the Bush-Blair illegal campaign of aggression against Iraq had worsened the Sunni-Shiite conflict, “let alone the disastrous economic consequences of that unlawful invasion”.  Libya had been made equally unstable, following NATO’s deceitful intervention under the sham cover of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and the phoney principle of the responsibility to protect.

Zimbabwe firmly believed in the peaceful settlement of disputes between and among States, in a manner that was consistent with the principles and purposes of the United Nations.  In the maintenance of international peace and security, much more needed to be done to prevent conflicts from erupting in the first place, and to prevent relapses once a situation had been stabilized.  It was important to address their underlying cause and pursue more proactively a comprehensive approach focused on conflict prevention, peacebuilding, peace-sustenance and development, he said, while expressing regret that the United Nations Charter as it related to peaceful settlement of disputes had been ignored by the Security Council on occasion.  In contrast there seemed to be an insatiable appetite for war, embargos, sanctions and other punitive actions, he pointed out, even on matters better resolved through multilateral cooperation.

Stressing the need for the Council to respect and support the decisions, processes and priorities of regional organizations, he expressed concern that recent events had already demonstrated scant regard given to the pivotal role of regional organizations.  “Effective cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations will only become viable and sustainable when developed on the basis of mutual respect and support, as well as on shared responsibility and commitment,” he said.

Troubled by clear and growing evidence that the concept of “responsibility to protect” had begun to be applied and seriously abused, undermining the sovereignty of States, he stressed that “for the international community to successfully deal with global economic, social, security and environmental challenges, the existence of international institutions to handle them and a culture of genuine multilateralism are critical”.  Speaking on Assembly reform, he emphasized the need to reach consensus on measures to revitalize the most representative body of the United Nations and expressed deep concern that the mandate powers and jurisdiction of the Assembly were shrinking as a consequence of the Security Council “gradually encroaching upon the Assembly’s area of competence”.  That undermined the overall effectiveness of the United Nations, he said, adding that the Assembly must remain the main deliberative, policymaking body of the United Nations.

He also expressed support for the current intergovernmental negotiations on the reform and expansion of the Security Council, saying Zimbabwe stood by Africa’s demand for two permanent seats, complete with a veto, if the veto were to be retained, plus two additional non-permanent seats, as clearly articulated in the Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.  “For how long […] will the international community continue to ignore the aspirations of a whole continent of 54 countries?” he asked.  He condemned the economic sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe and reminded those who had maintained sanctions against it that there was international consensus, fully supported by the Southern African Development Community, the African Union, the Non-Aligned Movement and the rest of the progressive international community, on the immediate and unconditional lifting of those sanctions.  Zimbabweans had suffered far too long under those completely illegal punitive measures, he said.

MICHEL JOSEPH MARTELLY, President of Haiti, thanking the Secretary-General for all his support for Haiti, said that small States in the United Nations were capable of playing a major role and contributing to peace, even in a slow economic climate.  “The Haiti I love has been tried with ups and downs, with successes at times and with shortcomings at others,” he said.

He went on to say that often when circumstances were not good within a country’s borders, it turned to neighbours to “pick a fight”.  He fully supported the peaceful settlement to international disputes, but emphatically stated that “it may be better to try to prevent them”.   However, as long as access to water, large markets, and a healthy economy, among others, was not developed between countries and as long as differences were not respected, conflict would exist between nations.

Continuing, he pointed out that gender equality, democracy, equal treatment under the law, and respect for the environment, to name a few, were all parameters that prevent uncontrolled migration, climate change, religious wars, and ethnic conflicts.  It was crucial to allow national dreams to emerge, offering the possibility to every man and woman regardless of colour, religion, or political stance to live in peace and raise their children in peace and dignity.  The Haiti of De Toussaint Louverture understood those national dreams, but without development commitments followed by concrete steps, those dreams might not be actualized.

On the eve of Haiti’s presidency of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he said he had good faith that things would change because destinies of all countries were entwined.  “The great ones can only remain so” if they supported the transformation of the international community without exclusion or exclusivity.  It was necessary that dialogue prevail — “not this dialogue of the deaf” which the world had been enmeshed in for decades and which had brought conflicts and trouble to the world.  There was no equality in the international community’s relations.  “Every nation looks after its own interests,” he pointed out.  Yet, the United Nations gave hope that things could be different. “We cannot let these hopes die,” he stressed.

He went on to say that in any family, especially in the United Nations, there could not be “great or small”, but “equal” where every State would be able to express themselves and seek relationships based on equality and the pursuit of happiness of all.  The democratic framework was the process.  Haiti understood that and on a national level had strengthened its own structures because “a real democracy produced stability”.

He then formally reiterated to the Assembly the need to “stop our fights” and to work together to reduce disasters throughout the world which hindered development and the economy.  “Our respective countries have chosen us”, he stated, to create a world of peace.  Echoing Victor Hugo at the 1847 Congress of Peace, he called for a day where there would be no battlefields, but marketplaces and minds open to ideas.  “These are my wishes for the assembly of nations”, he said, calling for “a more beautiful and more just world”.

ANDRIS BĒRZIŅŠ, President of Latvia, said the theme of the debate was very timely.  The United Nations played a leading role in the peaceful settlement of disputes and had the legal and institutional framework for it.  But, such settlement primarily depended on the determination of national and international leaders.  The United Nations could come to a decision and act only through that determination and there were currently two concrete challenges that needed that strong will.  First, the conflict in Syria threatened security and stability in the whole region and beyond and the Security Council must find the political will to unite and solve that crisis, saying innocent lives had to be protected.  Also, the risk of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was another of the most serious global threats, and the international community must unite in its commitment to prevent it.  On a related issue, he was also concerned about the potential use of stockpiles of Syria’s chemical weapons.

He deplored the lack of progress in dialogue with Iran on the nature of its nuclear programme.  He believed that Iran’s full cooperation to clarify all outstanding questions was needed.  In that regard, he called for the strengthening of efforts to reach the goals of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its Action Plan, while applauding the steps taken by United States and Russia towards global disarmament and transparency.  Further, Latvia also welcomed the consensus outcome of the Second Review Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons and urged a redoubling of efforts to finding solutions on the Arms Trade Treaty in the near future.

He welcomed the increasingly active role of regional organizations such as the African Union and the League of Arab States in the peaceful settlement of conflicts, as well as the fact that European regional organizations too had been actively working towards resolution of protracted conflicts in Europe.  While he saw positive trends in the direction of political settlement in Transdniestria, Moldova, however, only with progress on foreign troop withdrawal would any settlement be sustainable.  In that regard, a multinational peacekeeping mission with an international mandate could be a rational way forward.  He observed that the consequences of the conflict in Georgia in 2008 would have a long-lasting effect on the security situation in the region; and Latvia remained concerned over the increasing number of incidents at the contact line in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Noting that Afghanistan had been at the centre of world attention for much more than a decade, he said the future of that country was closely tied to economic development and regional cooperation, and encouraged full engagement of the Central Asian countries in discussions on the region’s future.  He believed Afghanistan had the potential to become a regional hub for transportation and transit.  He said the global economic and financial crisis had focused leaders’ attention on immediate measures to overcome it, often diverting attention from long-term global challenges.  The world economy still remained fragile even if some positive trends could be observed.  Therefore, Latvia welcomed all efforts to stabilize the situation in the eurozone and supported recent steps to ensure it.  He added that his country was working hard to be part of the solution, and a net-contributor to global economic stability.

International peace and security was closely linked to development and human rights, he said.  Thus, he welcomed the establishment of a High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  Also, Latvia fully supported the work of a strong and effective United Nations Human Rights Council and had, in that regard, put forward its candidacy for the elections to the Council in 2014.  He stated that in order to keep pace with the modern world, the United Nations needed to change, explaining that the time had come to start what he termed “real negotiations” on the reform of the Security Council.  Latvia was supportive of the enlargement of the Council’s membership in both permanent and non-permanent categories.  Any such enlargement of the Council had to include at least one new non-permanent seat for the Eastern European Group, he added.

EVO MORALES, President of Bolivia, recalling that the theme of the general debate was “the peaceful settlement of disputes”, told the Assembly about the events surrounding Chile’s “unjust invasion” into his country searching for natural resources.  That invasion, in the early part of the last century, had ultimately robbed Bolivia of its access to the sea, effectively turning it into a landlocked country.  A treaty had been signed in 1909, but that accord had never been complied with.  Chile could not disregard Bolivia’s rights.  It could not act as if its treaty with Bolivia did not exist.  It could not continue to hurt the Bolivian people, who were only calling for an end to the country’s landlocked status.  Treaties could be altered or reversed, he said, reiterating his call on Chile to resume talks on the matter so that it could be resolved peacefully.  “Everyone in our country has a profound feeling that we must recover our access to the sea [and] we need the support of all you at the United Nations to put an end to this situation,” he said.

On other matters, he said that thus far, statements in the Assembly had revealed that world leaders agreed “in theory” on important issues such as human rights and democracy, but in fact there was very little real agreement on anything.  “The United Nations are not united”, he said, and the Organization would remain fractured until its institutions and mechanisms were reformed and democratized.  At the same time, he was pleased that some statements he had heard — questioning military intervention and the establishment of military bases — let him know that “some of us are losing our fear in front of the big Powers”.

If democracy was to be defended, the resolutions and decisions of the United Nations must be respected.  For example, he said that, while the American people spoke of democracy, Washington did not respect decisions taken by the United Nations, particularly regarding its illegal and “genocidal” extraterritorial blockade against Cuba.  Moreover, the United States had no authority to place nations such as Cuba on a list of terrorist supporters, especially since the United States itself, after “so many deaths, so many interventions”, was essentially the “first practitioner of State terrorism”.  That attitude had led that country to invade Libya under the guise of humanitarian intervention.  In reality, that action had been carried out solely to take control of Libya’s oil and other natural resources.

Bolivia was committed to fighting drug trafficking and had joined the relevant 1961 convention with the reservation that the coca leaf could be used for traditional purposes.  He acknowledged that there was an illegal market for cocaine and his country was combating it.  Indeed, there had been a net reduction in coca cultivation.  But at the same time, the country’s cultural traditions must be respected, especially by nations like the United States, which were always touting their commitment to tolerance and human rights.  As for the status of the Millennium Development Goals, he said that, as of last year, Bolivia had decreased levels of extreme poverty by 20 per cent, with more than 1 million of those persons now classified as “middle class”.  He said the Government had also vastly improved access to clean water, especially in rural and indigenous communities.  In addition, Bolivia was making good progress in maternal health.

He had received a mandate from the Bolivian people to recover or nationalize the country’s natural resources and his key priority was to rectify the wrongs committed at the hands of neo-liberal Governments and multinational corporations.  Outdated contracts with such corporations actually allowed Bolivia to retain only 18 per cent of the funds derived from the exploitation of its natural resources.  Removing those policies had transformed the national economy almost immediately.  “Natural resources did not belong to multinationals they belong to the peoples of the world under responsible State administration”, he declared, stressing that when a nation had the will to change, it could change.  And while Bolivia still had many challenges to address, it was committed to tackling them in a holistic and transparent manner.  In conclusion, he urged all peace-loving nations to continue to reject capitalism, to continue to question the motives of hegemonic Powers and to continue striving on behalf of their people.

ISATOU NJIE-SAIDY, Vice-President and Minister for Women’s Affairs of Gambia, said the paralysis displayed by common security mechanism was astounding.  Geopolitical interests had trampled the goodwill and humanitarian concerns that should compel all to address these raging infernos — be it in the Middle East, Asia or Africa.  The relevance of the United Nations had at times been questioned but one element that remained unchallenged was its character of being the best forum for confronting global challenges.  When it came to the issues of climate change, economic crises, financial turmoil, food insecurity, conflicts, fighting disease, poverty or the special interests of Africa, the convening power of the United Nations conferred legitimacy unparalleled elsewhere.

She said the scorecard on the Millennium Development Goals showed that, while some achievements had been made in some Goals, a lot still remained to be achieved.  Her country had met some of the key elements of the Goals and was on track to meet all of them.  In view of the fact that 2015 was just around the corner, there was a need to do more to mobilize the remaining resources that would further improve the critical link between success and failure on the achievement of Millennium Development Goals.  Critical to such achievement would be the scaling up of resources by enhancing the global partnerships.

Recalling that Rio+20 had defined the mechanisms through which the Sustainable Development Goals should be negotiated and agreed on, she said it was Gambia’s hope that the consultations on the post-Rio mechanisms would be inclusive, transparent and representative.  For developing countries to continue to benefit from the appreciable growth they were experiencing and in order not to compromise their capacities to bring education and health care to their peoples, debt cancellation or forgiveness was still a major option.  Debt serving still posed a major threat to the ability of developing countries to attain sustainable growth.  Their partners and the Bretton Woods institutions should consider the extension of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative further.

On conflicts in Africa, she said the international community would pay a very steep price if it did not wake up from its slumber and resolve the situations in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.  ECOWAS should not be left alone to shoulder the burden.  The Security Council must act with a great sense of urgency.  “ Gambia stands ready to contribute meaningfully to the settlement of these conflicts,” she said.  The level of steadfastness shown in solving the conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone must equally be shown in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.  The situation in Darfur continued to occupy the attention of her delegation.  She called for more dialogue in finding a lasting solution to this conflict, and expressed equal concern about the lingering conflict between Sudan and South Sudan.

She went on to appeal to the collective membership of the Organization, including China, to contribute to opening the avenues for Taiwan’s membership in various funds, agencies, treaty bodies and programmes.  This would only enhance the effectiveness of these bodies for mutual benefit.  Taiwan was a key player in international trade and politics.  Also, the stalled reform of the Security Council “was disheartening”, she said.  Year in and year out Member States came and made proposals and then they did not get anywhere.  Kofi Annan had said at the time of launching his report “In Larger Freedom – Towards Development, Security and Human Rights for All” that no reform of the United Nations was complete without reform of the Security Council.  “We cannot afford to be in a state of coma when larger regional interests, especially those of Africa get shunted around or jettisoned,” she said.  Africa needed to be at the table and it would not budge on that demand.  Africa must be legitimately represented on the Security Council.  Recognizing the appointment of Jan Eliasson as the new Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, she expressed confidence in his abilities and experience as an astute statesman and acknowledged his keen interest in and engagement with Africa.

ELIO DI RUPO, Prime Minister of Belgium, said his country was a founding member of the European Union and its capital, Brussels, was the cultural capital of the region.  NATO was also headquartered in the city.  Reminding the Assembly that 2014 would mark the 100th year of the start of the First World War, he said, it was “our duty to pay tribute to those who defended the ideals of peace”.  Belgium would host the World Outgames in 2013 and was a candidate for hosting an international exposition in 2017.  Those events have one objective, namely, to bring humanity together.

He stressed the value of human rights, including the right to a fair trial, the rights of women, refugees, and persons with disabilities, and the right to be free of all forms of discrimination.  Belgium, alongside Slovenia, had proposed a resolution on eliminating racial discrimination; that initiative deserved the fullest support.  Women must be equal to men at political, social and economic levels.  Violence against women must be addressed systematically.  In Belgium, women currently held office in the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Police.  Any discrimination, be it based on gender, disability, age or sexual orientation was unacceptable.  His country took pride in allowing same-sex marriage and welcomed the initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on homophobia.

Belgium supported efforts to strengthen the rule of law worldwide because it was convinced that it was essential to development, prosperity and a better world, he said.  The aim was to make it possible for every one to live peacefully and to flourish.  His delegation had responded to the Secretary-General’s specific measures regarding the rule of law and human rights, pledging his Government’s active cooperation.  The International Criminal Court could contribute to “the advent of the era of responsibility”.

On development, he said, the world of finance had its own logic.  Noting that computer traders were much faster than human traders, he stressed the need to monitor the financial world and the need for deep reform of the banking sector.  Expressing support for the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, he said, “We have to break the logic that devours natural resources”.

Of particular concern to his Government was the security of the Great Lakes region, he said.  The activity of M23 mutineers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had dramatic impacts on the local population.  Images of massacre, rape, child soldiers, looting, internally displaced people were deplorable and unacceptable, and efforts must be intensified to put an end to the rebellion.  The root causes of the conflict must be addressed.  At the same time, the territorial integrity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo must be respected and any foreign support to rebels must stop.  “ Belgium calls for reason to prevail”, he said, underlining his Government’s readiness to assist in the country’s restoration.

Turning to Syria, he said he was outraged by the attitude of the Syrian regime to its own people.  Some 30,000 people had been killed and the number of refugees had reached 250,000, but there been no agreement to stop the massacre.  Crimes against humanity were being committed.  Belgium supported Mr. Brahimi’s appointment, but felt one thing was clear:  Bashar al-Assad must go.  He had lost all legitimacy.  Humanitarian assistance was high priority, and it was urgent that hospital staff and other humanitarian workers be allowed to carry out their mandate.  China and the Russian Federation could join in efforts to attain that objective.  On the Israeli-Palestine issue, he called on both sides to find a solution to “coexist in peace, security and prosperity”.

CHEICK MODIBO DIARRA, Prime Minister of Mali, said that for Mali it was particularly important to settle disputes by peaceful means.  The country’s north was occupied by armed groups comprised of drug traffickers, terrorists and bandits that were committing human rights violations.  Mali had asked the International Criminal Court to prosecute such odious acts, which constituted crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Among them were amputations, summary executions, rape, torture, looting and destruction of cultural monuments and sites.  On 1 September the Interim President asked ECOWAS to recover the occupied territories as part of the fight against terrorism.  The Secretary-General, France, United States, African Union and the European Union had referred the matter to the Council.  A lasting solution to the Sahel situation required stronger, more dynamic cooperation among States in the Sahel.  He supported the holding of a meeting of Heads of State and Government in the region to build capacity and also to enhance coordination of existing regional mechanisms.

Algeria, Niger and Mauritania had joined Mali in setting up a joint patrol mechanism based in Tamanrasset, Algeria, he said.  He called for international support to effectively implement it.  The situation of aggression and occupation in northern Mali was a consequence of the Libyan crisis.  That was underscored in the joint United Nations-African Union report adopted by the Council in January 2012.  The presence of terrorist groups of various nationalities on Malian soil should mobilize the international community to take joint, rapid, effective action.  He reaffirmed Mali’s determination to continue to work with other core countries to fight terrorism, transnational organized crime and subversive trends in the Sahara-Sahel region.  He reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to negotiate with those who were not terrorists.  It was not ready, however, to negotiate issues that called into question Mali’s territorial integrity.

The conflict in northern Mali had led to the deterioration of already precarious humanitarian conditions, he said, pointing to the more than 350,000 people that had fled the fighting, the more than 84,000 internally displaced persons, and the more than 268,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.  The situation had impeded children’s access to education, damaged schools and equipment, and displaced 85 per cent of teachers and 50,000 students.  Many schools were now occupied by victims of floods in the south.  Mali was facing enormous humanitarian needs, including for housing, food, health care, education and nutrition.  On 31 July 2012, the Head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the crisis in Mali was one of most neglected humanitarian situations in the world.  Still, only $49 million of the $153 million appeal for relief aid had been received.

During her visit to Mali in August, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator had recalled the need for $213 million, he said, calling for greater mobilization by all partners to coordinate aid.  In August 2012, a national unity Government had been set up to facilitate the quick recovery of the occupied areas in the north and the organization of democratic, transparent, just and credible elections.  He called on the Council to adopt a resolution authorizing military intervention, so the Malian army could re-gain security of it national territory.  “We want to see the immediate presence of that force”, he said, stressing the Malian people’s hope that the Council would duly consider that request.  He thanked ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations for their efforts to end the Mali crisis, which threatened the stability of the subregion and Africa at large.

He called for a more in-depth dialogue to ensure more stable resources and financing for development to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in health, education, food security and the environment.  Climate change was affecting living conditions in the Sahel.  The expanding desert, deterioration of the ecosystem, floods, and poor rainfall underscored the need for appropriate responses to ensure sustainable development.  The United Nations, which had a crucial role in building a new world order based on justice, solidarity and sustainable development, must be reformed in line with current realities.  He called for correcting the historic imbalance that continued to deny Africa a permanent Council seat.  The situation in Mali was a manifestation of security problems in the Sahel.  The appropriate United Nations mechanisms must prevent an even worse situation for other people in the Sahel.  The security risks in northern Mali seriously threatened the entire region and, in the long term, the rest of the world.

MOHAMED BAZOUM, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigerians Abroad of Niger, questioned whether freedom of expression also meant the right to publish cartoons or produce a film that insulted Islam.  He renounced such acts and likened them to anti-Semitism and racism.  Those who insisted that they were different failed to recognize that they were deeply hurtful to Muslims.  Nonetheless, such insults could not justify the outbreak of violence in Libya, and he condemned the murderous attack against the United States Consulate in Benghazi.  He expressed the sincere condolences of the people of Niger to the United States, adding that those “savage bands do no justice to this great religion as they behave similar to those who they claim to denounce”.

Regretful that the promise of freedom, equality, justice, rule of law, national and international solidarity were yet to be achieved, he said the lack of regulation of the global economy, the domination of banks, unfair trade, and growing inequality between nations had led to disorder and disrupted global peace.  Additionally, the rise of terrorism and the threat of criminal forces controlling parts of the world worsened global tension.  “Anticipating conflict and dispute is the best way to prevent them,” he said.

Stressing the need for global economic growth that would benefit all, he said regulatory mechanisms must put an end to the hegemony of financial capital and unfair trade and that available resources must be directed, not towards speculative activities, but towards real economic investment.  Niger would benefit from this approach, he said, adding that if a country like his obtained a fair price for its raw materials and was able to control those exports, then it could achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  That was one of the ambitions for the “Renaissance of Niger”, a plan of action submitted by President Mahamadou Issoufou.  The Government had also prepared a Plan for Economic and Social Development for 2012-2015, the financing for which was being organized at a donor meeting to be held in Paris.  The initiative “3N:  Nigeriens Feed Nigeriens” was an integral part of that plan, he added.

He invited all bilateral and multilateral, private and public partners of Niger to actively take part in that programme and thanked all those who had responded to the President’s appeal during last year’s session and had answered the call for assistance following a poor harvest.  The mobilization of Niger’s citizens, the Government and its partners had prevented the drought from turning into famine, and had allowed them to prepare for a successful agricultural season, which promised a good harvest despite flooding in the country.

Turning to the situation in Mali, he recalled the request by President Issoufou during the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Deauville to not lose sight of the consequences of the Libyan conflict in the Sahel region, noting that his worries were confirmed by the rebellion in Mali and the coup d’état that followed in March.  The situation in Mali was a serious threat to the security and stability of the member States of ECOWAS, he said, warning that the Jihadists who had taken over northern Mali and destroyed World Heritage Sites aimed to conquer all of Western Africa.  They would not stop there and would attack Europe and the entire world, he cautioned.  “Clearly the threat is global, so the response must be global, immediate and without hesitation.”  The international community and particularly the Security Council, in cooperation with ECOWAS and the African Union, must act without further delay to restore unity, democracy and peace in Mali.

TITUS CORLĂŢEAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, strongly condemned the recent attacks in Benghazi and said attacks against diplomatic representatives were unacceptable in any circumstances.  Perpetrators must be brought to justice through fair, equitable trials.  The ideals of democracy must be pursued and stability and the rule of law should be the future pillars of society in Libya and elsewhere.  Romania was firmly committed to supporting international efforts to consolidate stability, security, tolerance and religious understanding.  In Syria, the Government must comply with its international human rights commitments and obligations.  Justice must be done in all cases of human rights violations and all perpetrators must face a fair trial.  The international community must curb the escalating violence in Syria, and he supported full implementation of the Six-Point Proposal.  All Syrians irrespective of religion or ethnicity, must be a part of Syria in the future, and everyone must help the Syrian people heal the scars of violence.

He called for a more structured United Nations response and a consensual approach by the Council to the Syrian crisis.  Violence could not be allowed to prevail when Syria’s people were relying on the international community’s ability to offer stability and predictability and when regional security and stability were at stake.  The severe humanitarian crisis in Syria deserved the world’s undivided attention.  Romania was contributing to global efforts to alleviate the pain and suffering of innocent people.  In other areas affecting peace and security, there had been little room for optimism.  Romania strongly supported all efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, including the Quartet’s initiatives and the Israel-Palestine, two-State solution.  Unilateral action was inappropriate and would have a detrimental effect on the resumption of direct negotiations and it would obstruct a final solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

He was also concerned about the lack of progress in negotiating solutions to “protracted conflicts” in the Black Sea region, including the Transdniestrian and Nagorny-Karabakh conflicts and the one in Georgia involving Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  He called for more attention to resolve them and lauded efforts by the United Nations, European Union and the OSCE towards that end.  Much remained to be done to ensure the principles of human security, the responsibility to protect and mediation were operational.  Romania was ready to work towards that end.  Based on his experience as the former Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, he believed the role of parliaments could be bolstered to prevent disputes and settle existing ones.  Cooperation and interaction among the United Nations, national parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in peacebuilding was highly relevant.  He commended the efforts of the Parliamentary Assemblies of the OSCE and Council of Europe to promote security, help settle protracted contracts and support respect for human rights, democratic transition and the rule of law.

In the last 15 years, Romania had made important contributions to civilian and military United Nations missions and it had begun to assist in post-conflict reconstruction, he said.  National and international banking and financial institutions increasingly should become a partner to Governments to resolve economic crises.  More attention must be paid to combat youth unemployment.  Youth needed universal access to education and professional training.  Climate change must be addressed comprehensively.  Water, the planet’s most precious resource, must not be allowed to become the planet’s most disputed resource and a source of bitter conflict.  Romania had contributed to development of the Human Rights Council’s working methods.  That body’s Universal Periodic Review was an appropriate instrument to implement protection of human rights.  He called on the Assembly to adopt a resolution similar to the one passed in the spring by the Human Rights Council on human rights, democracy and the state of human rights.

DANIEL KABLAN DUNCAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire, speaking on behalf of President Alassane Ouattara, said the President was doing all possible to reach sustainable solutions in Côte d’Ivoire and in the region.  Security in Western Africa was seriously undermined by the military-political crises orchestrated by the rebel and terrorist movements, particularly in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.  Stressing the tireless efforts by ECOWAS to restore order in those countries, he said the Community planned to deploy military force to help the Malian army defend the country’s territorial integrity.  That required major support from the African Union, the United Nations and all development partners, he added, warning that the presence of terrorist groups in northern Mali could lead to the implosion of the Western African region and Sahel.

“It is clear how incomplete the current instruments are for resolving these crises”, he said given the role of non-State players in those conflicts.  Stressing that the resurgence of terrorists in Sahel and northern Mali had created a lawless zone, affecting Western Africa and which could eventually affect Europe, he called for concerted action by ECOWAS, the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union, and welcomed the appointment of a United Nations coordinator to combat terrorism.

Turning to other matters, he noted that, since the West African coast was one of the six main centres of piracy in the world, he welcomed the ECOWAS meeting in June to take measures against piracy and organized transnational crime and the Secretary-General’s proposal to facilitate a meeting of Heads of State and to create a strategy with the African Union.  Noting that Côte d’Ivoire sought the adoption of a legally binding treaty on arms trade, he said the international community should not lose the opportunity to regulate, if not prohibit, a trade that led to the deaths of so many.  He also expressed support for the concept of “responsibility to protect”, as an important instrument of prevention and peaceful resolution of conflict.  Concerning Security Council reform, he favoured permanent membership for Africa and a right to veto.  The reform of the Council could be a historic opportunity to repair an “anomaly in international relations”.

With the valuable support of international community, especially the United Nations, Côte d’Ivoire had been able to emerge from a crisis that had hampered its economic and social development for more than a decade, he said.  A programme for post-conflict reconstruction had been put in place covering political, economic, social, security, and humanitarian arenas.  Results were made possible through the implementation of three areas of action:  security and stability; national reconciliation through the creation of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and reconstruction and economic resurgence evidenced by a GDP growth of 8 per cent in 2012.  The economic situation had improved considerably with the support of development partners, particularly since the implementation of the poverty reduction strategy in June, which would allow Côte d’Ivoire to soon achieve an economic growth of more than 10 per cent — essential to turn it into an emerging country by 2020.

PIERRE MOUKOKO MBONJO, Minister for External Relations of Cameroon, said this year marked intense activities for the United Nations, including discussions on current major issues and responses to them.  Two events were particularly important to his delegation.  The first was the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio in June, 20 years after the Earth Summit.  The event had defined “the future we want to leave our children”.  Indeed, to create a viable world and leave it to the future generation, a green economy was the most effective solution.

He said Cameroon had already begun taking action in that regard.  Among the steps being taken were initiatives to create a low-carbon society and to turn wasteful consumption patterns into a sustainable one.  Progress should be gradual and it must have the support of the international community.  As part of the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference, Member States expressed support for Africa on various fronts, including in the areas of technology transfer and trade.  The second area of importance to Cameroon concerned the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), whose activities must be strengthened.  This year’s Conference, held in Doha, Qatar, had addressed issues of globalization, poorly regulated trade and the problem of underdevelopment.

Highlighting next the downturn in the global economy since 2008, he said Europe, the United Nations and Japan were experiencing difficulties.  Now, emerging nations, which had shown high-economic growth, were slowing down.  Even if they continued to grow, the effect of the global economic downturn would be felt.  The objective was to achieve harmony between the functioning of economy and finance, but it was hard to see how that could be met.  The Group of 20 (G-20) and the World Trade Organization had analysed the state of global economy to establish the right balance.  It was up to the international community to act urgently, for which he encouraged broad consultation that took the needs of each country into account.  International solidarity could also play a role.  Drawing a lesson from Cameroon’s own experience, he said debt relief could help.  The country was now taking advantage of its rich natural resources to develop agriculture, energy and mining industries.

He said the theme of this debate, “bringing about adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations by peaceful means”, enabled delegates to revisit the United Nations Charter.  The principles enshrined therein were a good reminder for those involved in the settlement of conflict, including in the Sahel and Mali.  Such tensions highlighted the risk of resorting to force.  Be it international terrorism, threats to individual security, or violation of territorial integrity, peaceful means must first be explored.  There might be cases when such interventions were inevitable, but precaution must be exercised.  It was clear that the most desirable way was prevention and negotiation.

ANTOINE GAMBI, Minister Foreign Affairs and Central Africans Abroad of the Central African Republic, lauded the high-level meeting on the rule of law held on Monday, particularly when the rule was being tested everywhere worldwide.  It was vital to enhance the rule of law and democratic institutions and ensure they were respected.  He pointed to continuing hotbeds of tension in Africa, particularly in Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia, which would likely compromise considerably the rule of law.  His Government was making great efforts to support activities that promoted the rule of law to ensure that human rights were respected.  Without peace and regional stability, there could be no talk of national stability.  During the 1990s, many African States, including Central African Republic, began to move towards democracy.  Democratization, good governance and human rights were interdependent. There could be no rule of law unless those values were respected by those that governed and the governed.  The Central African Republic was working towards that goal daily.

His Government had promoted democratic practices and improved public affairs management, he said.  It had shown its commitment to human rights by fully acceding to regional and international human rights instruments.  The Constitution adopted in December 2004 enshrined the principles of good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights, while broadening the scope of individual and collective liberties.  The Government had also harmonized domestic legislation in line with international conventions, and it was implementing the African Charter of the Rights of Man and People.  Efforts were under way to protect and promote the rights of vulnerable groups, notably women, children and minorities, through social protection policies.  In February 2005, the Government published rules on press freedom that replaced prison terms with fines for any legal violations committed by the press.  To avoid post-electoral political crises, the Electoral Code was being reviewed to correct dysfunctional elements in electoral campaigns.

He stressed the importance of multilateralism and lamented that double standards were applied in the disarmament realm, with some nuclear Powers engaged in discriminatory practices.  The fight against terrorism and human rights violations could not be waged selectively.  Climate change and pressing concerns such as drought and food insecurity required urgent action.  The United Nations needed a greater leadership role in global governance and in devising lasting solutions to crises that had human rights repercussions.  He supported United Nations reform to ensure the Organization had more authority and capacity to address new global threats and challenges.  He called for revitalizing the Assembly and reforming the Council in a way that would honour the legitimate aspirations of developing countries, particularly in Africa.

He stressed the need for greater resources to address post-conflict situations.  He welcomed the African Union’s launching last July of an African solidarity mechanism to support post-conflict reconstruction in Africa, and thus prevent an upsurge in violence and ensure lasting peacebuilding.  As a post-conflict country, the Central African Republic understood the importance of an instrument to settle conflicts, and, prioritizing mediation in its action plan, had set up a national mediation council.  It was considering going a step further and establishing a civilian entity of mediators to restore peace among warring groups.  There could be no rule of law without defence of rights or liberties, including religious rights and freedoms.  He expressed regret over the recent attacks on the United States diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

Right of Reply

The representative of Iran, in exercise of the right of reply, said that this morning, the Kuwaiti Prime Minister had referred in his statement to the three Iranian islands located in the Persian Gulf.  The Iranian Government reiterated its full sovereignty over the Iranian islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb in the Persian Gulf and rejected categorically any claim to the contrary.  The measures undertaken in those islands by the Iranian officials had been always conducted based on the principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iran.

Iran, he continued, had always pursued a policy of friendship and good-neighbourliness with all its neighbours.  In that context, Iran stood ready to discuss the matter bilaterally with relevant officials in the United Arab Emirates, with a view to strengthen the relations in various fields and accordingly resolve any possible misunderstanding by the other party.  The territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Iran over the islands was not negotiable.

Moreover, he said, in relation to the reference made in the statements of a few delegations, Iran wished to stress that the only correct historically and universally recognized name for the sea between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula was “the Persian Gulf”.  Therefore, any use of fabricated or incomplete names for that body of water was totally groundless, absolutely unacceptable and of no legal, geographical or political value.

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