H.E. Mr. Farouk Al-Shara'
Minister of Foreign Affairs
At the 56th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
New York, 14 November 2001
Check against delivery
President of the General Assembly
Mr. Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to congratulate you on your election to the presidency of this session. We are confident that the posts you assumed in your country and the respect you enjoy will facilitate your task in leading the deliberations of this session of the General Assembly to their desired objectives. I would also like to express our appreciation of your predecessor, Mr. Hard Holkeri, for the efforts he had exerted during the last year to lead the works of the previous session to a successful conclusion. I shall not fail to express my congratulations to Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, on the occasion of his reelection for a second term as a Secretary General to our international organization, and on the occasion of winning the Noble Peace Prize together with the United Nations. I would like to assure him: that our cooperation with him should continue in order to consolidate the role of the United Nations in different domains.
The international and regional circumstances we all witness, since the events of last September, leave heavy shadow on our work. You may agree with me that the "New World Order", the birth of which was announced after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War, rapidly faced its bankruptcy, due to the failure or lack of desire to adopt the language of dialogue in order to eliminate the aggravating hostile climates in the world, and the objection to apply equal measures in international relations to solve regional conflicts, as well as due to the adoption of the method of daily crisis management, in which only surface issues are addressed, instead of diving deep to the root causes and addressing these causes according to the criteria of justice, international legitimacy and human solidarity.
The world has watched with amazement the horrifying attacks on Washington and New York, and we in Syria and in the Arab World, did not hesitate to denounce these attacks and condemn them in the strongest language possible. In the aftermath of these attacks, we also called for an international cooperation under the auspices of the United Nations to uproot terrorism in all its forms. We also called for an agreement on the measures to define terrorism in an effort to guarantee the effectiveness of combating it and addressing its root causes.
The phenomenon of terrorism is not confined to a particular society, culture or religion; rather it has appeared, and is still appearing in many countries, embodied by varied and different groups with different demands, different beliefs and objectives. That is why it is a gross injustice to link terrorism to Arabs and Muslims. It is suffice to mention for example a number of terrorist organizations such as "Badr Maynhof" in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy and in Japan, and what had taken place in Northern Ireland and in Spain, not to mention different extremist organizations in the United States of America.
Those who link terrorist acts with Islam ignore the fact that the religion of Islam respects all monolithic religions, calls for tolerance among their followers and prohibits killing the innocents or aggressing against their properties. But the pressing question now is: how can we eliminate from the minds of the American citizens the feeling of hatred stored against Arabs and Muslims, feelings that were promoted by tens of thousands of publications, articles and films for the last fifty years.
Senior officials at the highest level in the American administration and in the European countries, warning against linking terrorism to Arabs and Muslims, issued positive statements. But, regrettably, these statements cannot do away with a long history of defamation if the books and films, which distort the image of Arabs, remain in circulation. Moreover, we have lately heard that new films are being made, and books being prepared for publication that incite feelings of hatred and link terrorism to Arabs and Muslims, manipulating the tragic September events.
Syria has always stressed the necessity of working on all fronts to combat international terrorism in all its forms in a way that is consistent with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations. Syria was she first country to call in 1985 for convening an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations to define terrorism and to differentiate it from the struggle of peoples for national liberation. In response to a request by Syria, an item was listed on the agenda of the General Assembly stressing the importance of finding out the root causes of terrorism, and taking the appropriate measures to prevent it, combat it and address its root causes.
Syria has also called upon all countries to take national, regional and international` measures necessary to combat terrorism and implement the provisions of international law and relevant international resolutions, with the aim of preventing the perpetration of terrorist acts or financing these acts, or inciting them. We would also like to indicate that the Syrian Arab Republic was one of the first countries that adopted in its national legislations firm laws for combating terrorism since 1952.
International terrorism is not the creation of today. Syria and other Arab countries were the victims of terrorism. For years, we have called upon the - international community to condemn all types of terrorism, especially state-terrorism practiced by Israel. In this context, I would like to indicate the values of tolerance which distinguished our region throughout history, that it had never known the phenomenon of terrorism until after the creation of Israel in 1948, on religious basis and through well-known terrorist organizations such as Irgun, Stern, Lehy, Haganah, which had sown the seeds of terrorism and fear in Palestine and outside it.
Israel, who invented new types of terrorist practices in order to continue its occupation of Arab territories, who expelled the Palestinians from their homes and lands and who perpetrated so many massacres starting with Deir Yassin in 1948 and reaching the Massacre of Beit Reima few weeks ago, was not taken to ask about these crimes. Hence, the Palestinian people found themselves with no alternative to rid themselves of the state of frustration, hopelessness and the international negligence to their plight except to start one uprising after another in the face. of occupation, as a way to liberate their lands and restore their dignity like any other people in the world.
What is both odd and surprising is that whenever these Palestinian refugees and their organizations residing in Syria are mentioned, the United States describes them as terrorist organizations, considering the country that hosts them as a terrorist country, and ignoring the responsibility of Israel in uprooting these Palestinians off their homes, expelling them out of their country and denying them until this moment their right of return as it is requested to do according to General Assembly Resolution (194). Regrettably, there are some countries and certain media apparatus which believe these claims and describe these Palestinian organizations as terrorist, and they do not stop there, but they extend this allegation to, Syria as well, instead of condemning Israel and experiencing appreciation to Syria for hosting about half a million Palestinians and offering them work, security and a dignified life.
But in all cases, the request of Israel and those who support it to expel these Palestinian refugees from Syria poses a very important question: where should they go? The natural and human answer says that they should go back to Palestine. They are more entitled to go back to their homes than a million Russian Jews who were brought in by Israel during the last ten years and also more entitled than the other one million Jews that the head of the Israeli government plans to bring into Israel, although they live well and secure in their countries, although the rulers of Israel claim that the Palestinians have no place in their towns and villages and that he return of the Palestinians threatens the existence of Israel; while the truth is that the return of the Palestinian refugees alleviates racism in Israel and does not threaten its existence.
During its invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israel perpetrated the ugliest crimes ever when it invaded the Lebanese territories and shelled Beirut and besieged it for over eighty days, during which time thousands of innocent Lebanese civilians were killed, the infrastructure of Lebanon was destroyed and many horrific massacres were perpetrated such as Sabra and Shatela which the entire world saw and heard of.
In the face of the arrogance of the Israeli power coupled with the failure
of the world society to stop Israel from
perpetrating crimes, and in the face of providing the Israeli arsenal with the latest American `warplanes and the most destructive and sophisticated weapons, the Lebanese people had no choice but to stand fast and resist occupation. This resistance continued till it achieved the most important victory in May 2000, through defeating the Israeli occupying forces from
most of the Lebanese territories. No one in the world should forget that the battles of the resistance were fought on Lebanese occupied territories and against Israeli soldiers, and that this resistance did not go beyond the international borders during twenty years of occupation in order to target Israeli civilians, whereas the Israeli occupying forces killed thousands
of Lebanese civilians, not to mention destroying hundreds of houses and the destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure more
After all this, how could anyone fail to differentiate between terrorism and resistance? Anyone who would like to target terrorism in our region must target the Israeli terrorism first and foremost, because what Israel does is the utmost form of terrorism that is absolutely shorn of human feeling. There is no alternative to addressing the root causes of this terrorism once and for all uprooting it from our modern life' through the implementation of international legitimacy in a way that leads to the establishment of rights, lifting injustice, putting an end to occupation and empowering' the Palestinian people to, determine their destiny with a free will.
These days coincide with the tenth anniversary of the convening of the Madrid peace- conference for which we exerted sincere efforts, so that it may provide an opening for a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The serious and purposeful negotiations that Syria had engaged in for the last years had revealed to the international community two things: first, that Israel is neither desirous nor serious to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Second, that it is the right of Syria to restore its entire Golan to the line of June 4th , 1967 without any compromise. But we were always faced with intransigence, denial of rights, evasion of real issues and of the requirements of peace by the Israeli side. Indeed, Israel had done what was promised by its prime minister at the time, that is to make negotiations go in vicious circle for ten years with all the dangerous repercussions and tragic results which followed from that.
Talk is being circulated nowadays about the existence of an opportunity for the resumption of the peace process according to Madrid's -terms of reference. We believe that unless the two co-sponsors of the peace process, the European Union and the United Nations make a serious effort for the implementation of the relevant United Nations resolutions, this opportunity will again be lost with all the dangerous repercussions on this important and sensitive region of the world.
The dialogue among civilizations has gained an increasing importance in the aftermath of the escalation of hostile attacks to certain cultures, religions and nationalities. Syria, who is the cradle of early civilizations' and a source of scientific and intellectual enlightenment, recognizes the importance of this dialogue and the necessity to pursue it in the service of humanity and its future generations. Our region, in. its heydays, was a lively example of the dialogue and interaction among civilizations. Under its broad horizons, the civilizations of East and West had met. Intellectuals, men of letters, scientists and philosophers from different parts of the world contributed to the formation of these civilizations. In this context, we hope that the Global Agenda for Dialogue Among Civilizations recently adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations will be implemented. We find in this agenda a horizon that responds to the aspirations of people towards enriching the awareness of common human values among all peoples and deepening the spirit of understanding among them.
Allow me to convey to you the gratitude of my country,
Syria, its President, government and people for the precious trust and the great support that so many countries- in the world had expressed, when they voted for the Syrian Arab Republic to become a member in the Security Council. I would like to assure you that Syria should remain, as it has always been, in the forefront of those who defend international legitimacy and the Charter of the United Nations and will exert every possible effort during its membership of the Security Council to contribute to preserving international peace and security.