12 NOVEMBER 2001

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Mr. President,

Allow me to begin by expressing my congratulations on your election as President of the General Assembly. This 56th Session is clearly going to be a challenging one, and one that I augur will further strengthen this Assembly's resolve to work hand in hand on all the different issues requiring our attention. At the same time I would like to express my appreciation to H.E. Mr. Harry Holkeri for the determined and skilful manner in which he presided over the previous Session.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the United Nations, and its tireless Secretary General, for the Nobel Peace Prize that they have jointly, and so well-deservedly, been awarded.

Mr. President,

This Session started in a markedly different manner to that of previous years. The horrendous September 11th terrorist attacks brought home the very real threat of terrorism to each and every one of us - no matter what corner of the world we inhabit. International terrorism does not limit its actions to individual countries. In fact, although the attacks were launched on US soil, the specific targets chosen clearly show the intent to destroy symbols of the modern world, icons to free peoples everywhere.

Indeed, by attacking this cosmopolitan city and its World Trade Center, the perpetrators targeted us all. Nationals of over sixty countries met their death in these dastardly attacks. Yet, even if our own nationals were not among those who lost their lives, we all feel under attack. We all feel violated. In one way or another, our lives have been altered forever and we must respond accordingly.

Mr. President,

We must fight this scourge of terrorism with unreserved and unhesitating resolve.

We must do this not merely as a means of defending all that we hold dear. We must do this to secure a safer world for ourselves, for those who will follow us and for those who have had their lives irrevocably transformed as a result of these terrorist attacks. This resolve must be our tribute to the innocent and the brave who lost their lives in the 11th September attacks.

The two-month postponement of the general debate has provided us with the time to reflect and act. Malta joined the international community's absolute and unreserved condemnation of the terrorist acts. We have also stepped up our actions in pursuit of an effective implementation of anti-terrorism measures including comprehensive compliance with Security Council Resolution 1373.

Malta was amongst the first six countries to sign the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and yesterday became one of the first states to ratify it.

On Sunday Malta also acceded to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons including Diplomatic Agents, to the International Convention against the Taking of Hostages as well as to the International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings.

The new realities of today's world have certainly brought to the fore the importance of these Conventions on Terrorism. At the same time they have also brought into bold relief the wisdom that underpins the efforts of the International Community in its pursuit of the establishment of the International Criminal Court. My Government is politically committed to the ICC and will seek the ratification of the Rome Statute by the Maltese Parliament in the near future.

In this way we feel that we are doing all we can to ensure that no stone is left unturned in our fight against terrorism.

Mr. President,

With each passing day, we are witnessing the domino effect that acts of terror may have at a national, regional and global level. The impact this has on the lives of millions must be addressed.

We feel therefore that the time is ripe to conclude the debate on an operational definition of the perpetration of a terrorist act. Intensified efforts aimed at an expeditious conclusion of negotiations on the Indian proposal should subsequently yield a comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, which will be of benefit to us all. We firmly believe that such an umbrella agreement will give added value to, and further complement, other existing conventions on terrorism.

We also believe that the General Assembly should actively consider convening a high-level conference on terrorism under the aegis of the United Nations upon, or immediately after, the conclusion of this convention. This will serve to reinforce our ongoing international efforts to formulate a collective response to terrorism.

The unity of purpose currently prevailing within the international community in its fight against terrorism is perhaps unprecedented. Indeed the political will displayed over the past two months is a clear manifestation, if any was needed, that multilateralism remains a vital tool in the conduct of relations between states at a global level.

This political will has also been seen in the other work of this organization. Allow me therefore to turn to other issues on the agenda of this Assembly.

Mr. President,

I would like to first express my government's full support for the German and French governments' initiative to bring the issue of human cloning before the United Nations. Aimed at drafting a Convention banning human cloning for reproduction, this initiative has received wide support from all quarters. The concern expressed underlines the fundamental nature of the threat to humanity posed by scientists who are unwilling to accept ethical and moral limits to their work. In responding to the Franco-German initiative, the United Nations will ensure that a strong and meaningful convention can be drafted and adopted within as short a time-frame as possible.

The United Nations has already had occasion to exhibit its ability to act swiftly and decisively when the conscience of the international community is heightened. The entry into force of the Ottawa Convention on Landmines, which Malta ratified earlier this year, was made possible by the international community's outrage at the devastating impact of these indiscriminate weapons whose horrific effects long outlast their military purpose.

Similarly, the seriousness and urgency of the problem of human cloning should expedite the conclusion of an internationally binding agreement on this issue. I have no doubt that the rich diversity of beliefs reflected in this room is united in its respect for human dignity and identity, and, its concern with the fundamental and far-reaching implications of human cloning.

Mr. President,

Other world events continue to pose a threat to the fundamental right of peoples to live in a secure, stable and prosperous environment.

The current state of affairs in the Middle East is one such example. The dramatic contrast between the optimism apparent at the Millennium Assembly's opening and the escalation in violence witnessed over the past few months has made it increasingly difficult for the parties to return to the positions they were in just over twelve months ago.

Malta is convinced that the Mitchell report and the Tenet Plan provide a realistic and readily achievable way out of the spiral of violence that has engulfed the region. The peace, security and welfare of all the people concerned require that their full implementation be urgently embarked upon. This necessitates the re-establishment of security cooperation between the parties in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians, the stationing of international observers, preferably from several regions, and an end to all new settlement activity, including so-called "natural growth".

Against this backdrop Malta hopes that both parties will be able to return to the negotiating table with the aim of achieving a just and permanent peace in the region on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Mr. President,

Also in the Mediterranean, the situation in Cyprus has remained a cause of concern for over twenty-five years. We earnestly augur that an early settlement of the Cyprus question will be found and in this connection re-iterate our full support for efforts to find a solution on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions.

Progress towards lasting peace and stability in the Mediterranean often appears to unfold very slowly. Events in the Balkans since we met here last year, however, bring fresh hope to us all.

The end of the Milosevic era was a clear example of the positive change that can be wrought through the power of the people, signalling a fresh beginning for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and indeed for all the neighbouring independent republics.

In recent months, turmoil and unrest have also threatened to engulf the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Yet, the unfolding of the situation now reveals encouraging signs of the power of diplomacy. International assistance extended to republics in the Balkan region is also indicative of the power that resides with each of us to make our own contribution and to play a part.

Mr. President,

Malta feels this onus most strongly and actively seeks to play a role on the international stage that goes beyond the mere limitations of its geographical size. In fact, in keeping with this consciousness, Malta is proceeding steadily towards its objective of acceding to the European Union - a Union of like-minded states where we naturally belong, not only politically, but also economically, culturally and historically.

Our intention is therefore to form an integral part of the European Union at the next enlargement, enabling us to participate fully in a decision-making process that all too often carries wide-ranging implications for our country even today.

Like other candidate countries, Malta is currently negotiating the terms of entry to the EU in what will be an unprecedented widening and deepening of the Union. Already more than halfway through this process, we are working hard to ensure that Malta is not only well equipped to deal with the challenges of membership but is also in a position to make a significant contribution to the Union.

This historic project and the enhancement of Mediterranean co-operation are both of immediate concern to Malta. We feel that they go hand in hand.

Mr. President,

An increase in dialogue between all nations and a move towards securing a safer planet is in everyone's interest. However, threats to international security, not least those posed by weapons of mass destruction, continue to lurk in the background.

In July of this year Malta deposited its instrument of ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Malta hopes that the remaining thirteen countries whose ratification is necessary for the Treaty to come into forcen will join the eighty-four countries who have already done so. Thus, a significant collective step will have been taken towards reducing the risk of nuclear disaster.

Mr. President,

Not so long ago, the terms "environment "and "international security" in the same sentence would have drawn a perplexed response from most audiences. Today, the link between the two has become increasingly apparent.

The urgency in addressing the greatest threats to our natural environment was made amply clear in Bonn during the Sixth Session of the Conference of State Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COPS-6). Despite being faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the international community succeeded in forging the Earth's first major action-oriented response to the phenomenon of global warming. In this respect, allow me to offer my Government's expression of gratitude to the Chairman of the Conference, Mr. Jan Plonk, as well as to my compatriot, Mr. Michael Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, for their enormous personal efforts aimed at securing a successful outcome.

Their success laid the groundwork for the breakthrough achieved at COPS -7 in Marrakech last week. The agreement on the modalities of implementation of the Kyoto Protocol has opened the door to its ratification by all states signatories. Indeed Malta deposited its instrument of ratification yesterday, and looks forward to the present momentum being sustained leading to an early entry into force of this landmark Protocol.

Mr. President,

Difficult and complex as it may be to tackle environmental global problems, the most challenging environmental problems are often those in our own backyards. With one of the highest population densities in the world, Malta has achieved a high level of human development without any natural resources at its disposal. In seeking to continue to raise our living standards we grapple daily with difficult decisions aimed at ensuring that economic development on our islands is environmentally sustainable.

There is no simple trade-off between the protection of the environment and the production of wealth. The Mediterranean Sea, which provides Malta with its economic lifeline, is perhaps the most tangible proof of the fact that economic progress at the expense of the environment is no progress at all. In reaping its bountiful fruits we know that these are not unlimited, and if not tended to, will dry up altogether. The same applies to other seas and oceans.

With this in mind Malta yesterday became the thirtieth state to accede to the UNCLOS Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks - a move that will bring the Agreement itself into force on December 11th, 2001. Having initiated the process that led to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it is a source of great satisfaction for Malta to contribute to the further development of this veritable pillar of international law.

Mr. President,

While there is inevitably still more that can be done, both at a domestic and international level, I augur that this UNGA Session will serve as a renewed impetus for us all to promote all that is necessary to make the world safer and more secure. This is our fundamental duty, as political leaders, for the welfare of present and future generations.

We must continue to foster social justice, to promote equitable development, to nurture confidence amongst peoples, to settle conflicts and to take the appropriate measures to ensure security for all.

Yet, in doing all this, Governments and peoples must ensure that we continue first and foremost to build peace in the minds of men and women. That undertaking, adopted by the generation that survived the Second World War, still retains its noble authenticity today as we face the challenges of our own times.

Thank you