Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea


The Fifty-sixth Session of the United Nations
General Assembly

New York, 16 November 2001

(Check against delivery)

Mr. President,

Please allow me to extend to you, on behalf of the delegation of Eritrea, warm congratulations on your election to the presidency of the 56th Session of the UN General Assembly. I am confident that under your wise and able leadership, our deliberations will come to a fruitful conclusion. The Eritrean delegation assures you of its full cooperation and support.

May I also extend to your predecessor, H.E. Harri Holkeri of Finland, our deep appreciation for the skillful and wise manner with which he conducted the deliberations of the 55th Session.

I also wish to seize this opportunity to extend heartfelt congratulations, on behalf of the people and Government of the State of Eritrea, to H.E. Kofi Annan upon his well deserved election for a second term. I am certain that our organization will benefit immensely, during his second tenure as it had during his first term, from his vision, wisdom, competent leadership and selfless dedication. I also wish to congratulate him and the UN for their well-deserved award of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Mr. President,

Allow me to express on behalf of the people and Government of the State of Eritrea, profound sorrow and to extend sincere condolences to the people and Government of the United States of America in this, their time of grief.

The government of Eritrea condemns this barbaric act against innocent civilians by craven terrorists. We stand in solidarity with the people and Government of the United States. I also wish to express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences for the victims of the air crush of 12 November 2001.

Terrorism violates the most basic of all rights: the right to life and we must all unite in the protection of all our citizens against the wanton acts perpetrated by individual or organized terrorism. There shall be no impunity for these criminals.

Mr. President,

Mankind had entered the new millennium with optimism and hope. It had a reason. It had recognized through bitter experience the folly of war and conflicts as well as the virtue of peace, good-neighborliness and cooperative relations. It had the opportunity to review past achievements and errors and to identify the sources of strength and weakness. It had evolved lofty norms, values and principles to guide it. It had established refined procedures and created elaborate mechanisms to guarantee their implementation.

Yet, mankind had unfortunately not yet mustered the necessary determination or the collective will to translate vision into reality, words into deeds. It is evident that it has not yet learned the ways of peace. The full blooming of a culture of peace and development remains so near and yet so distant.

Consequently, two years into the new millennium we continue to witness with dismay the immense poverty in the midst of massive wealth in the world, deprivation in spite of the enormous advances in science and technology, willful violation of human rights and manifestation of mutual hatred and hostility.

The statistics are dismal. Yet, we must not be unduly alarmed if only because it is too early in the 21st century to be discouraged by unfulfilled and unkept promises. On the contrary, we must decide to confront the challenges, including the depressing disparity between the rich and the poor nations, the substantive issues of war and peace and the violation of human rights.

To this end, we must collectively address the new forces that are being unleashed by science and technology, including globalization. Globalization can serve as an effective instrument for establishing an equitable relationship between the rich and the poor and to promote sustainable development to their mutual benefit. However, this can be achieved only if a cooperative mechanism is established immediately, during this critically early stage, if we are not to be overtaken by the speed of the technology and information revolution. It is equally important that the capacity of the poor nations must be increased without delay to ensure their meaningful participation in the global economy.

It must also be acknowledged that peace, security and stability are dialectically linked to development. It need not be emphasized that there is no development without peace, security and stability and vice versa. To this end, any effort to re-establish peace and security in any region must, of necessity, address development issues as well.

Mr. President,

The world continues to be plagued by wars and conflicts that have spilled over from the previous century in spite of the international community's full commitment to, peace, security and stability.

The African continent has perhaps fared the worst in the last few years as it has been buffeted by repeated economic catastrophes, political disruptions and inter-state and intra-state conflicts.

It is a source of deep concern and worry to us that globalization has had a severely negative impact on African economies. It has deepened their marginalization and deprived them of the benefits of the global economy.

Africa suffers the most from extreme poverty and indeed recurrent famine. Plagues like malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, diareahea and a host of other debilitating and fatal tropical diseases have, in many cases, reached biblical proportions. The decimation of populations has had horrendous consequences on many already weak economies.

Mr. President,

In addition to economic crises and poverty, conflicts, wars and civil strife have afflicted Africa during the past decade and a half. In 1999, close to 20 conflicts were wreaking havoc on the continent. It was in acknowledgment of the gravity of the matter that the OAU Summit held in Algiers in 1999 decided to declare the year 2000 as the year to end conflicts and to start a new peace momentum.

It was an auspicious year. There were encouraging signs in the Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic Congo; and a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Yet, much remains to be done. It is encouraging to note that Africans are making great and sustained effort to resolve the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea Bissau the Great Lakes region, Somalia and Sudan at the regional level.

The problem in the Middle East must also find a just and durable solution through the creation of an independent Palestinian State.

Mr. President,

The international community must be involved more meaningfully in assisting the people of these countries. Yet, the primary responsibility for resolving conflict, achieving national reconciliation and establishing peace and security lies with the peoples and leaders of these countries. It must also be emphasized that while any regional assistance rendered is to be appreciated, it must be based solely on the interests of the peoples concerned.

Mr. President,

The Horn of Africa has been a zone of conflict during the past four decades.
Peace, security, stability and development are the collective responsibility of the states of the region. It behooves them to earnestly promote, protect and consolidate cooperative relations on the basis of mutual respect for each other's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, renunciation of the threat or use of force, peaceful settlement of disputes, good neighborliness and peaceful co-existence.

Mr. President,

Since its independence in 1993, the State of Eritrea has espoused national security and development policies and programs based on the premise that Eritrea's security and development interests are a function of, and are closely linked to regional security and prosperity. To this end, it actively engaged itself in the revitalization of IGAD and the articulation of its new mission.

IGAD is now fully engaged in peace-making and conflict resolution as well as coordinating cooperative efforts. In this context, my delegation wishes to extend sincer thanks to their Excellencies President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya and President Ismail Omer Ghalleh of Djibouti for their dedicated and untiring efforts to bring peace to the Sudan and Somalia respectively.

Mr. President,

The search for sustainable peace, security and stability must be the collective commitment of all the member states of IGAD and must be anchored solely on the welfare and best interests of the people concerned.

Peace in Somalia is vital for peace, commerce and economic relations in the region. Such peace cannot be held hostage by any government under the pretext of preserving its national security. Any such government must therefore be held - and will be held responsible by the people of Somalia and history for aiding and abetting the shedding of innocent Somali blood and for being a bane to any peace-making effort in the region.

Mr. President,

The world welcomed the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and the Comprehensive Peace Treaty between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It has expressed the hope that the implementation of the agreements would proceed smoothly and ensure the demarcation of the boundary between the two countries, leading to a durable peace.

Both countries owe it to their people and a concerned international community to establish a durable peace at the earliest time. We face the challenge of meeting the great expectations of our people and the international community. Eritrea solemnly reiterates not only its abiding commitment to the peace agreement and its speedy implementation but its undertaking to fully cooperate with all our partners in the peace process.

The peace process has made significant progress. However, I should like to inform you that all is not well. Key provisions of the Peace Agreement remain unimplemented because the Government of Ethiopia has failed to comply with its obligations. It has, to date, obstructed the functional establishment of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) and the establishment of a direct air route between the capitals of the two countries. Moreover, it has and refused to submit operationally useful information on its minefields in the TSZ and to release of civilian detainees and war prisoners.

It has also resumed the deportation of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin in blatant violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Its deportation of 25 June 2001 was roundly condemned by UNMEE and the ICRC.

Under these circumstances, it is surprising that Ethiopia has recently been accusing Eritrea of putting its army under high alert and mobilizing its troops along the common border. This baseless accusation, refuted by the Secretary General's Special Representative in Eritrea and Ethiopia, is designed to hide Ethiopia's plans to subvert the peace process by provoking hostilities.

Mr. President,

The Government of Eritrea has consistently undertaken, in good faith, to fully comply with the provisions of the Peace Agreement in spite of the obduracy of the Government of Ethiopia and its violation of the Algiers Peace Agreements.

Mr. President,

The Government of Eritrea wishes to extend sincere appreciation to, and applauds the effort of, the peace partners and particularly the UN, the EU, the OAU and the Governments of the US and Algeria. It also extends its profound thanks to the friends of UNMEE for their crucial contribution to the peace process. At the same time we urge the international community to distinguish between the complying and recalcitrant parties and exert extra effort to persuade the Ethiopian Government to fulfill its legal obligations under the Peace Agreement and the UN Charter without delay.

Mr. President,

Eritrea has always been consistent in its condemnation of terrorism irrespective of who the perpetrators or victims were. It has itself now become a victim of terrorist attacks by elements organized, financed, trained and armed by the Ethiopian Government. These terrorists are often joined by Ethiopian troops and militia in their crimes against innocent civilians. We urge the international community to condemn these barbarous acts and to demand that the Ethiopian Government cease its activities forthwith.

In spite of its regrettable experience in the early days of the UN, Eritrea is convinced that the UN has played a crucial role in the maintenance of international peace and security and has contributed immensely to the promotion and protection of human rights as well as economic development and social progress.

Eritrea is fully committed to the strengthening of the UN. To this end, we believe that the UN has to proceed with a process of changes and reforms, which will reinforce the principle of the equality of all its members and guarantee its impartiality. Hence, we fully endorse the position of the Non-Aligned Movement on membership of the Security Council and the question of, a periodic review of its structure and functions. We are confident that much will be achieved with the visionary leadership of H.E. Kofi Annan during his second term of office.

I thank you.