H. E. Mr. MAHMUD
MINISTER FOR FOREIGNAFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LEBANON
56th SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK, NY
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2001
Allow me first to congratulate you on your election as president of this 56th Session of the General Assembly, which convenes under critical and exceptional circumstances, and to wish you success in your arduous endeavors. I also wish to thank your predecessor, Mr. Harri Holkeri. I would be remiss, if I failed to pay tribute to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, for the efforts he made throughout the year. We hope that he would be able to enhance the prospects for peace, stability, and security in the world during his second term of office.
The whole world was shocked by the enormity of the tragedy that struck the United States of America on the eleventh of September in the wake of the barbaric terrorist acts against the cities of New York and Washington D.C. These acts exacted a high toll among innocent civilians, and plunged the peoples and the countries of the world into an atmosphere of gloom and anxiety. We once again extend our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones; some of them were Lebanese, or American of Lebanese descent. We share their deep sense of grief and sorrow.
From this rostrum, I would like to reiterate Lebanon's condemnation of these terrorist attacks. Lebanon stands ready to cooperate seriously, positively and responsibly with the United States and the United Nations in the fight against terrorism in accordance with the rules of international Law and with the prerogatives of national sovereignty.
Lebanon has, for a long time, suffered from the Israeli occupation and from Israel's terrorist practices. We have resisted this occupation until it ultimately ended with Israel's withdrawal from most of our national territories. It is perfectly normal in this context to stress the need to distinguish between terrorism, which we strongly condemn, and peoples' legitimate right to struggle for the liberation of their territories from foreign occupation on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations and the Resolutions of the General Assembly. This is a given in our national life, unanimously embraced by all stakeholders. In our case, this was a provision clearly spelled out in the April Understanding of 1996, concluded under the auspices of the United States of America and France, in the aftermath of the Qana Massacre perpetrated by Israel in 1996 and in the Taif Agreement that laid down the tenets of our national reconciliation. The presidential statement issued on July 11, 1998 blessed the Agreement. Both, the Taif Agreement and the April Understanding, recognized the legitimacy of resistance against the Israeli Occupation.
Let me recall here that had it not been for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon on March 14, 1978, there would have been no Lebanese Resistance - which is of course the subject of our pride - to counter this invasion.
Had the Security Council Resolution 425 adopted on March 19, 1978 been implemented without delay as stipulated in its provisions, the Resistance would not have been born.
Had it not been for widening the scope of the Israeli invasion, and the subsequent occupation of Beirut in 1982, this Resistance would not have escalated.
Had it not been for Israel's persistence in occupying what it called "the security zone", no one would have had to resist it, and ultimately force it to withdraw in May 2000 from most of the territories that it had occupied.
Had Israel not occupied the Palestinian territories, there would have
been no need for a courageous uprising against occupation.
It must be pointed out that Lebanon is determined to fight terrorism. We have joined ten out of the twelve Conventions relevant to the question of international terrorism. We stand ready to respond positively to any international initiative, including the convening of an international conference for this purpose, to arrive at a standard definition of terrorism. It would be wise not to link terrorism to a race or a religion, particularly to Arabs and Muslims, if we want to avoid setting world civilization and religions on a collision course. We can thus avoid falling in the trap designed by those who are pushing the world towards collision, conflict and strife.
Side by side with its Arab brothers, Lebanon is determined to undertake additional efforts to combat terrorism and stamp out its various root-causes. The Arab States have successfully negotiated and concluded the Arab Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism in 1998, a convention with clear-cut purposes and objectives.
The events of September 11 demonstrated that mankind has not yet reached its ultimate evolutionary stage. They also proved that unbridled global rejection movements and terrorist groups that know no boundaries and accept no restrictions are capable of undermining our confidence in all that we have achieved so far. They are working to consecrate what can be referred to as a new world disorder and a global instability.
Under the circumstances and the prevailing apprehensions, a thorough look at what is currently happening in the Middle East conflict zone would clearly demonstrate the difficulty of realizing the objectives of peace and development that the United Nations promotes. In recent months, the world has witnessed the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, Israeli unjust arbitrary practices, desecration of Holy sites, blockades, killings, assassinations and displacement. Such acts were allowed to continue with no international deference or control.
The intransigent Israeli policies, the deviation from the Madrid's principles and terms of reference, and the stripping of the peace process from its political content in favor of the so called Israeli security considerations indicate that attempted solutions to the Middle East crisis are torn among many conflicting rationales. There is the rationale of partial solutions and that a comprehensive solution. There is the rationale of a solution based on force, and that based on what is right and just and on United Nations Resolutions. There is the rationale of achieving security at the expense of peace and that of peace being the foundation of security.
In the aftermath of the 11th of September, attention was directed at the need to step up the effort to find a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict; a solution that should allow the Palestinian people to establish an Independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian national soil. It is our duty to recall that the prerogatives of a just and comprehensive peace require that we simultaneously address all the aspects of the Middle East Conflict. The Lebanese and Syrian tracks must not be separated from the track of the overall settlement. This track is stalled and reviving it would require the dedication of additional efforts. The liberation of the Lebanese territories from the Israeli occupation must be completed. Israel must withdraw from the entire occupied Syrian Golan Heights to the line of June 4, 1967. The question of the Palestinian refugees, their legitimate right to return, and Lebanon's right to oppose their resettlement on its territories must not be ignored. This opposition is grounded in the principles of fairness, justice and sovereignty.
In the light of the above, we believe that a comprehensive peace built on justice and on the resolutions of international legitimacy is the sole guarantee of the sustainability of any coveted solution.
There are two fundamental political questions in Lebanon that are of
direct concern to the United Nations. One is the mandate of the international
forces in South Lebanon; the other is the destiny of the Palestinian refugees
In Paragraph 14 of Security Council Resolution 1365 (2001) of July 31, 2001, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to submit a comprehensive report on UNIFIL's activities, taking into account its possible reconfiguration to an observer mission in the light of the developments on the ground, and following appropriate consultations with the Government of Lebanon.
Due to the gravity of the situation, and in anticipation of the Secretary-General's report, it is important for me to stress, from this rostrum, that both, logic and the realities on the ground, call maintaining UNIFIL's existing mandate, unamended, and refraining from reconfiguring it to an observer force. Moreover, we believe that its role must be strengthened, particularly, that it did not yet fulfill the entire mandate entrusted to it by the International Security Council in Resolution 425(1978) dated March 19, 1978. This mandate cannot be implemented by an Observer Force due to the following questions that are still pending:
First: Verification of the Israeli Withdrawal form the entire Lebanese Territories:
It is a known fact, that the United Nations did not verify the Israeli withdrawal from all the Lebanese territories. It only verified the withdrawal of the Israeli forces to a de facto withdrawal line, which became known as the Blue Line. This line is not in conformity with Lebanon's internationally recognized borders, a fact recognized in the subsequent reports of the Secretary-General.
Therefore, the Sheb'a farms on the slopes of Mount Hermon remained under
Israeli occupation, together with three additional points along the line
of withdrawal drawn by the United Nations. At the time, Lebanon expressed
its reservations on these points. These territories are Lebanese lands
and Lebanon will reserve its natural right to restore them and spread its
Lebanon would like to stress here that it will stand up for every iota of its national soil and for all of its rights to its water resources in accordance with international law.
In this regard, we must draw attention to the fact that Israel continues to violate Lebanese sovereignty on a daily basis. In his report, issued in July of this year, the Secretary-General described these violations as "provocative". Furthermore, Israel also continues to increase the frequency of its threats against Lebanon and Syria.
Second: Restoration of International Peace and Security:
In his reports to the Security Council in May 2000 and July 2001, the Secretary-General recognized that UNIFIL did not fully implement the task entrusted to it. He repeatedly said that there is a third remaining task the international Forces have yet to undertake, and to which UNIFIL will have to dedicate itself. This task is the restoration of international peace and security in the region. How come we speak of a third task that UNIFIL is yet to fulfill under Security Council Resolution 425 and at the same time look into a possibility of reconfiguring UNIFIL to an Observer Mission?
In this respect, we are duty bound to recall that the security of the region is indivisible. We would be deceiving ourselves, if we were to believe that peace and security can be restored to the region outside the context of a comprehensive overall solution to all the aspects of the conflict and on all its tracks. Such an undertaking require an all inclusive and mutually supportive effort not by UNIFIL alone, but by the entire United Nations, which should be responsible for the enforcement of its resolutions, particularly Resolution 242, 338 and 425.
I call on the United Nations Secretariat, and on the Security Council from this rostrum to preserve UNIFIL's existing mandate. The timing is of particular importance, given the serious circumstances prevailing in our region and in the world. We must also recall that the Security Council adopted in May of this year a statement in which members recognized Lebanon's immediate and future concerns and apprehensions.
Lebanon is tirelessly seeking to achieve Israeli withdrawal from its territories and the liberation of the Sheb'a farms, at the time attaching great importance to the release of the Lebanese, kidnapped by Israel during its occupation of our land, and thereafter detained in Israeli jails. They remain incarcerated unjustifiably in Israeli prisons as hostages in contravention of international laws and instruments, particularly, the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its subsequent Protocols.
The one hundred and thirty thousand land mines that were left behind by the Israeli occupation are still killing, maiming and harming scores of civilians. They curtail their freedom of movement, and obstruct their work. We consider this to be a continued, albeit indirect, form of occupation by Israel of Lebanese territories. In the light of this situation, the United Nations and the international community should make a greater effort to compel Israel to hand-in all the maps and records disclosing the locations of the mines. We urgently need to clear the mines as soon a possible.
However, with respect to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were provisionally hosted on Lebanese land ever since their expulsion from their homes in Palestine, those whom the United Nations is taking political responsibility for their final status, we reiterate our demand for the necessity of finding a just solution to their cause, on the basis of the implementation of their right of return and of our refusal of their implantation in Lebanon. It behooves us, in this regard, to beware that the implantation of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would constitute a time bomb that would jeopardize the peace, security and stability to which we strive for in the Middle East, for they will relentlessly seek their return to their homeland, on the one hand, and on the other because Lebanon's inability of integrating them, the fragility of its own internal equilibrium as well as the provisions of its national entente does not allow for any form of implantation.
Furthermore, Lebanon appeals for more international attention to provide the urgently needed assistance that can help restore to normalcy our liberated lands and our economic balance, and strengthen the chances of growth after long years of occupation and destruction.
In certain ways, our world lives in an area of responsibility and accountability. Accountability can be neither selective nor must it be based on double standards.
The Israeli bombardment and destruction that ensued during the long years of occupation of the Lebanese territories killed thousands and injured and disabled thousands more. Our infrastructure, our vital facilities, our houses, schools and bridges were destroyed, our growth and development were hindered. Thus, Lebanon must be adequately compensated. Lebanon will spare no effort to resort to the relevant international political and judicial organs to request that Israel pay reparations for the damages resulting from its acts of aggression.
It may be useful to recall here that Israel did not withdraw from most of the Lebanese territories of its own will; neither did it withdraw in compliance with a decision of an international authority. It did not withdraw in response to a political requirement that remained on the table for twenty-two years either... It withdrew under pressure from the Lebanese Resistance that was embraced by the Lebanese State. It withdrew because of the resilience of the Lebanese people. No, its withdrawal was not a voluntary demarche towards peace, as some would have it. This withdrawal was a measure taken to avoid peace, and instead seek an alleged security at the expense of the prerogatives of a just and comprehensive peace.
Lebanon is an Arab democratic country, open to the world with a civilization that goes back 6000 years. Thanks to our diverse social composition, our experience has been driven by coexistence and consensus. It is a unique experience, rarely paralleled in our world today. We call on your distinguished Assembly to mobilize the forces of peace and justice in order to redress the historical injustice inflicted upon the Palestinian people. Your assembly must bring about a just and comprehensive solution to one of the most complex and dangerous regional conflicts in the Middle East region. It is a conflict that has depleted the resources of its people, hindered its progress and stunted its contributions to the world. This solution will unbridle its creative capabilities to develop a global partnership free from fear, injustice and terror.
My country is proud to be hosting the Regular Arab Summit that will convene in Beirut in March of next year; preparations are under way to receive their Excellencies the Arab Monarchs and Presidents. We shall also be hosting the ninth summit of the Francophonie in the fall of 2002, under the rubric "Dialogue among Cutlures." Lebanon was a founding member of the League of Arab States, the United Nations Organization and the International Organization of Francophones States. Lebanon which participated in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is capable of proving that it can re-assert its presence and its active role on the regional and international levels. We come from the land of a time-honored civilization, and were blessed by a unique and distinguished experience in coexistence. We will put this in the service of the noble objectives of the United Nations.
Thank you Mr. President