H.E. Mr. George
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece
56th SESSION OF
THE UNITED NATIONS
GENERAL ASSEMBLY GENERAL DEBATE
New York, NY
13 November 2001
The nations that constitute this organization are today attempting to draft a comprehensive Convention against terrorism; a difficult but absolutely necessary task. We may not yet agree on how to define terrorism, however, the world, with a near unanimous voice, condemned the September 11th events. The world showed solidarity with the US and its people. This highlights a simple truth and a profound consensus:
-a consensus that this was an act against humanity,
-a consensus that this was a crime against the values we hold dear as human beings and societies, and
-a consensus that justice must be done.
From the ruins of this tragedy there is a newborn moral strength, a clarion call to change this world: a call to create a moral order, a world community of values where a genuine sense of justice can prevail. It is in our hands today; in fact it is our responsibility to rise to this occasion, take a bold step beyond our traditional rivalries and consolidate a new spirit of cooperation. Let us make this a common fight for humanity.
To do so we need not abandon our national interests. We do, however,
need to place them in a wider context, a world order based on common practices,
shared principles and global values.
We must go beyond our rhetoric. This also means that our responsibilities must reach beyond our borders: Whether it be a child who is suffering from aids in Africa; whether it be an Afghani refugee facing starvation; whether it be a human being discriminated against because of race, sex or religion; these are today our shared responsibilities. Whether it be our threatened environment or the need for sustainable development; whether it be the need for equal educational opportunities, access to the internet, and inclusion of the poor in the fruits of development; these are today our shared responsibilities; nuclear weapons proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, and the protection of children in conflict situations; these also are today our shared responsibilities.
No events, more than those we witnessed with horror on September 11th could have made it clearer. We live in one world. And no problem is only our neighbor's problem - it is our problem also.
This underlines the need for a universal response to the challenges that the citizens of this global village face. It underlines the need for standards concerning principles and practices that guarantee justice: from the Middle East, to Cyprus, to Afghanistan, to Kosovo. The need for these principles underlines the pivotal role of the United Nations. I would like to express, our warm support, respect and gratitude for the tireless efforts of Kofi Annan. Heartfelt congratulations to him and the Organization he represents, the United Nations, for this year's Nobel Peace Prize. A well deserved accolade. One that carries with it a heightened responsibility to provide global governance in this globalized world: a world of global problems and global opportunities. Greece very much agrees with the words of Louis Michel, speaking in his capacity of Presidency of the EU, in support of the International Criminal Court and the continued reform of the UN.
Today, in our search for justice on a global scale, our challenge is to seek moral clarity. We must be able to unite around what is right. The words: freedom, democracy, human and minority rights, equality, peaceful resolution of conflict, solidarity, inclusion, open society, multiculturalism, tolerance, bio-diversity must become the core of our common values. Yet there are different interpretations and different practices in our world concerning these concepts. In our search for a common moral code we must not allow a clash of cultures. We must seek a dialogue of cultures and from this dialogue of nations, of cultures and religions a common moral order can and will emerge. The Charter of these United Nations embodies these very values. Our challenge today is to collectively give practical meaning to them.
Greece has always stood at a crossroads of cultures. Our best moments have been when we used this richness to learn. Today we are doing so again. Greece is a member of the European Union and of NATO; yet our roots in the East enrich us in equal measure. We are proud to be European and Balkan and Mediterranean. We once were a nation of emigrants and our Diaspora has linked us to all corners of the earth. Today we are a country that welcomes immigrants; they make up more than 10% of our population.
Ours is an open, multicultural society in the truest sense of the word. We see and we understand the world through many eyes. We understand that there are different truths and different histories. And yet we approach our traditions, not as a wall that isolates us from each other but as depositories of knowledge, sources of understanding and communication between cultures. We believe that our histories cannot enslave us; they must become our way of learning for the future. This commitment to dialogue is also a commitment to reach specific, practical results that will enhance our regions ability and the world community's capacity to establish well-respected values and principles in dealing with the problems of the world such as terrorism. But in our fight against terrorism we must uphold these principles - as they differentiate us from those who use violence as their means. We also must heed what the Secretary General, in his address, stressed. Our problems of September the 10th did not disappear.
However I am encouraged to report that we have made significant strides in our own region of South Eastern Europe. We did so by committing ourselves to serve these values: human and minority rights, democratic institutions, good neighborly relations, and the inviolability of borders.
We remained committed to the principle that should differences and disagreements
emerge, we will seek to resolve them peacefully with respect to international
law. Instead we should work together, in unity to determine all that is
right and all that is wrong. In this process we found much that we have
We have managed to establish the framework of common values, one that will help us to cooperate, to solve our problems. From a state of despair the Balkans today represent a ray of hope for all conflicting regions.
Of course there is still much to do. We suggest a clear list of priorities:
- We must turn provisional peace into permanent peace. We can do so by resolving outstanding bilateral issues.
- We must turn newfound democracies into permanent and active democracies. We can do so by building civic capacity and strong transparent institutions that will guarantee the rule of law.
- We must contain and eradicate organized crime -
a poison that runs through newfound democracies - which is often linked
to terrorist networks.
- We must turn opportunistic capital investment into entrepreneurial initiatives and permanent business propositions that provide youth with the prospect of a better and more secure future.
- We must turn segregated communities into multicultural societies by investing in education.
We cannot stop now. As a world community we must continue and we must
strengthen our investment in people and in financial resources until our
work is complete.
Two years ago I stood before you, with my Turkish colleague Ismail Cem, expressing the hope of a new beginning in our relations; relations which history seemed to have frozen into a constant rivalry and conflict. Today, I need not express only hope but I can report that we have made significant progress. I have just come from a meeting with my Turkish counterpart where we signed a series of new agreements. Our meetings have become frequent and regular. We work together; we learn together, we help each other out in times of difficulty or crisis. We have discovered the importance of being good neighbors. We have started developing a common "architecture of trust".
The products of our efforts are significant. We are constantly adding confidence building measures to assure peace in the Aegean, we have made a commitment to jointly become parties to the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition and Destruction of Anti-Personnel Mines and we have taken steps to cooperate against natural disasters. We are cooperating in the fight against crime, drug trafficking, illegal migration and terrorism. We are cooperating in tourism. Our trade has doubled. New field of further cooperation are energy and agricultural. Our two societies have taken the initiative to commence and develop common economic, cultural, educational and athletic activities.
These achievements stand as a reminder of the response of our people after the earthquakes when they sent us a message saying "we have more in common than what separates us; we are all equally vulnerable to pain and suffering, equally capable of sympathy and compassion, equally responsible for the life we offer to the generations that are to follow." Our neighbor's path toward the European Union, a path we wholeheartedly support, has set the framework through which many of our remaining differences shall be resolved. Step by step we are building a solid foundation.
Of course our work in the region is far from complete. The "architecture of trust" we are building in South Eastern Europe is significantly hindered by the situation in Cyprus. For the question of Cyprus remains unresolved. The island remains divided, in a shameful condition. Cyprus is a tragic example of where our shared sense of justice, our shared code of values, has gone astray.
And yet here we have a new opportunity: both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities could benefit from the islands membership in the European Union. It is a win/win situation. I sincerely believe that every Greek aspires to a solution to Cyprus that will satisfy both communities; a solution imposed by no one and accepted by all. I believe that this is what every Turk should also support.
Our constant reference to UN Resolutions that clearly call for the creation
of a bizonal, bi-communal Federation cannot be interpreted as a desire
for outside imposition. On the contrary, this call expresses our deep belief
in justice for Cyprus; a sense of justice for both communities. This is
what the framework the United Nations can guarantee.
I appeal to both the Turks and the Turkish Cypriots, and in particular Mr. Denktash, to use this framework for a just solution. Let us not expand the wall that divides the two communities in Cyprus to divide Turkey from Europe. Let us instead break down this last Berlin Wall in Europe and help create a common future for the citizens of a free Cyprus. To all of us in the region, a region seeking to eliminate division, the prospect of the island's entrance into the European family should be a source of euphoria, not fear.
If we do share a common moral order, a common understanding of what
is right and wrong, then the Middle East peace process came close to articulating
the principles we share. For the good of the people in the region and its
stability, this process must continue until a Palestinian State lives peacefully
next to a secure Israel.
We also aspire that the hardships of the people of Iraq will cease and that the country will be fully integrated into the world community under a leadership that cooperates with the international community and complies with the U.N. resolutions.
This is also our stand with Afghanistan. We look forward to the day that its government represents its people and leads them closer to the world community.
At times when it is easy to succumb to fear, we must have the strength
to build confidence within and among our societies. We must be able to
celebrate humanity in this global village to go beyond our differences
and conflicts. One such occasion is the Olympic Games. They are an ancient
tradition that grew out of the need for peace in the ancient world of Hellenism.
Today, the 5 rings of the Olympic Games, which represent five continents, are the most recognized symbol on this planet- surpassing Coca Cola. Let us use this global celebration to further strengthen our community of common values. Let us bring back the tradition that linked these games to a moment of peace. Let us follow the footsteps of our ancient forefathers, who observed the Olympic Truce for 12 Centuries without exceptions, and again give peace a chance whenever the games take place. Let us again pledge our commitment to the Olympic Truce, which the General Secretary Kofi Annan has so strongly supported and the Millennium Summit has called for.
We see Olympic Truce as a moment in time powerful enough to change the
world. During the war in Kosovo, the Red Cross managed to vaccinate hundreds
of children. The two Koreas parading the same flag at the Sydney Games
was a powerful moment witnessed by millions of viewers around the globe.
We see Truce as a time to reflect: that moment between one person's action and another's reaction that can help prevent the escalation of violence.
We see Truce as a moment of silence: a powerful moment to understand our differences and our anger, but also to appreciate the things that unite us.
Truce is also a time to question: it is a time to examine all that we believe in. A time devoted to our values, our principles and our freedoms.
Truce is a time to heal our wounds: to ease our pain and the pain of those around us. It is the time to lend a helping hand.
We can use this pause from violence to celebrate and to rejoice and
we can use it to mourn and to remember. In Salt Lake City we can use it
to honor all those unjustly lost.
If our global quest for peace is a journey of one thousand miles then Truce is but the small first step. But imagine, Mr. President, how glorious the rest of our journey can be, if we give peace a chance, if we commit ourselves to this first step.