Mr. President,

Allow me to begin by offering you my Government's warm congratulations as you assume the Presidency of the General Assembly. Having served the Czech Republic so well as Foreign Minister, I have full faith in your abilities to meet the numerous challenges that the 57`!' session of the General Assembly will no doubt present. Please rest assured of my delegation's full support in the execution of your duties.

Allow me to also take this opportunity to express my appreciation to H.E. Mr. Han Seung-Soo for the skill and dedication with which he has served this body during the session that has just come to a close.

Mr. President,

It gives the Government of Malta great pleasure to welcome the recent admission of the Swiss Confederation to our family of nations. We look forward to also welcoming among us later this month the Democratic Republic of East Timor. Their addition serves to further strengthen the trust and belief of all our nations that dialogue within a multilateral context is both worthwhile and irreplaceable.

Mr. President,

The international community has been seized with the issue of sustainable development over the past couple of weeks. Malta participated actively in the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa and although the summit's very ambitious objectives could not all be reached, we are satisfied that a Plan of Action with specific targets to tackle key development problems has been adopted. Throughout negotiations Malta worked closely with the European Union to include concrete plans and targets in the Plan of Action. As a result, the Summit agreed on a series of commitments in priority areas such as water and sanitation, desertification, energy and biodiversity. It is our hope that the Plan of Action will attract the necessary additional resources that will make its implementation possible thereby making sustainable development a reality for an ever-increasing proportion of humanity.

Mr. President,

When I had the honour to address this Assembly at the last General Debate in November 2001, I pledged my government's full support for the Franco-German initiative against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings. As a co-sponsor of the resolution that established the relevant Ad Hoc Committee we have followed carefully the deliberations within the relevant committee on the philosophical, medical, legal and ethical considerations associated with this pressing issue. This was a necessary debate which brought to the fore the consensus that exists on the need to respond to the challenges posed by scientists who are unable or unwilling to recognise the deep moral implications of their actions as well as the dangers that they may pose to mankind.

The convergence of political will has now been manifested. The time is therefore ripe for the Ad Hoc Committee established by resolution 56/93 to be given a clear mandate to negotiate a Convention thereon. My Government will strive for the timely conclusion of negotiations in this regard, preferably before the end of 2003.

However, whether or not the international community concludes such a Convention, before attempts at reproductive human cloning actually materialise, it is imperative that through international action and national legislation, member states deny safe haven to those scientists willing to defy the international community.

Mr. President,

Before this year is out we shall be commemorating the 2& Anniversary of the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. When, as a newly independent state, Malta called for the commencement of negotiations on the Convention, it was concerned with the numerous unresolved issues of rights and obligations of states with regard to seas and oceans and the seeds of countless conflicts that these might sow.

It is today impossible to speculate on the number of occasions the legal certainties that the Convention brought about helped to defuse, dissipate or prevent altogether the scourge of conflict and war. It is the curse of international law in our times to only make the news headlines when it fails, while passing unnoticed and unsung when it succeeds.

Mr. President,

We would do well to remain conscious of the role that international law, based on the multilateral process, plays in the prevention of conflict and the avoidance of threats to international security. That is to say, we would do well to remember the role it plays in upholding the central mandate of the United Nations itself. The role of the instruments of international law, and in particular, ones such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea, should be recognised for the contribution they provide in this regard.

Mr. President,

The United Nations Headquarters has just played host to a historic first Meeting of State Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The complex changes to national legislation necessary to allow for Malta's ratification of the Rome Statute have now reached an advanced stage and are expected to be presented to Parliament sin the coming days thus enabling Malta to formally deposit its instrument of ratification in the very short term.

The new International Criminal Court finds its roots in the atrocities carried out during the last century - not least in the Nuremberg trials. The ICC is thus a product of the lessons learnt over time and the widespread political will that has led to the creation of a credible deterrent to would-be perpetrators of the most heinous crimes. The ICC thus provides an effective, competent and fair forun where these may be tried.

The establishment of the Court also represents a major breakthrough in international law; one which has become more, and not less crucial, now that terrorism has imposed itself high on our international agenda.

Mr. President,

The terrorist attacks of the 11th September still loom large in our memories. The anniversary of this tragedy has again filled our television screens with horrific scenes of suffering and death. It has served to remind us of the resolve which is necessary in the face of such horror. My Government has taken, and will continue to take, the fight against international terrorism with full determination. This is evidenced not only by our thorough implementation of the International Conventions on terrorism and the ongoing process towards the implementation of Security Council resolution 1373, but also by ever-tighter controls and scrutiny at our ports. We undertake further to intensify our efforts in this field in order to assist in the permanent eradication of terrorism in whatever shape or form.

Mr. President,

The turbulence still underway in the Middle East also continues to be a source of great concern to my Government. The cycle of violence that continues to engulf the region provides a confirmation, if ever one were needed, that there is no purely military solution to the conflict.

The extra-judicial killings of Palestinians, the deliberate destruction of the property and livelihoods of innocent civilians and the subjugation of the entire Palestinian population to collective punishment does not dim the wholly legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to a state of their own.

Likewise the targeting of Israeli civilians in suicide bombings and other forms of destruction of the lives and property of innocent civilians does untold harm to the cause the perpetrators of these crimes claim to support.

No cause, no argument and no justification can legitimise these abhorrent acts for either party to the conflict.

Mr. President,

My Government looks on in anguish as a fence, reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, that most shameful of symbols of the twentieth century, slowly takes shape. It is a harrowing reminder of how little mankind has learnt from the past, particularly if we look back to the outbreak of violence in the region since September 2000.

Unjustified pre-conditions to the start of political negotiations further hinder any progress in the discussions on a "two state' solution to the conflict. Negotiations, which must start without further delay, must be built on the clear and plain language of Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of land for peace. The recent initiative by the Member States of the European Union in presenting a `road map' for the Middle-East which outlines a three-stage process leading to the creation of a Palestinian State by 2005 provides a veritable basis to take negotiations forward. The international community looks to the Quartet to advance in this direction with urgency.

Mr President,

An issue which continues to persist in the Mediterranean is the situation in Cyprus which 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 re-iterate our full support for efforts to find a solution on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions. Cyprus' imminent accession to the European Union should provide the necessary impetus for the resolution of this long-standing problem.

Mr. President,

Malta is encouraged by the efforts of the Secretary-General to engage the organization in its quest to achieve a resolution to the situation with regard to Iraq before it deteriorates any further.

My Government calls upon the Iraqi Government to comply with all its obligations under all the provisions of relevant Security Council resolutions, in particular those concerning disarmament with respect to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq must meet its commitments and allow the re-entry of UN inspectors into its territory without any preconditions and as stipulated by the Security Council.

The international community should spare no effort in exploring all political and diplomatic options that would or could assist in resolving the issue. Malta is in agreement with the Secretary General that if Iraq fails to meet its obligations, the Security Council, as an organ primarily entrusted with the responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, must shoulder and face its responsibilities. The Security Council has to ensure compliance with its own resolutions in the interest of the international rule of law.

Mr President,

Malta's location at the centre of the Mediterranean has provided us with opportunities for trade and development, which we have been relatively successful at exploiting in the interest of our island which is otherwise bereft of natural resources. Our strategic location is however now also the scene of another socioeconomic phenomenon of a much less encouraging nature. I speak here of the poverty divide that cuts across the Mediterranean Sea.

The countries of the Mediterranean littoral share much in terms of history, culture and way of life. However the ever more apparent disparities of wealth continue to fuel the movement of thousands of people from the Southern Mediterranean and further afield, to entrust their lives and hopes into the hands of unscrupulous individuals. These traffickers of human beings, willing to exploit misery and desperation, have little respect for human life and often abandon the would be immigrants to the elements once they have secured their ill-gotten gains.

My Government has increased the punishment meted out for those found guilty of such heinous acts. We have also bolstered our surveillance and rescue capability within our territorial waters and are simultaneously seeking to provide treatment that is as humane as possible to the victims that land on our shores.

These efforts have been made however in the full knowledge that they deal more with the symptoms of the phenomenon of human trafficking rather than with its root causes.

The imperative of narrowing the wealth divide across the Mediterranean is one of the philosophical cornerstones of the Euro-Med Process that exists to bring the European Union and twelve Mediterranean States together on a number of issues of common concern. Malta has been an avid supporter of the Process since its inception and looks forward to developing its role further within this forum as a member of the Union in the near future.

My Government believes that accession of Malta to the European Union will serve to further enhance our capability to promote peace and prosperity within the Mediterranean, given our reputation as an honest broker that can identify with both sides of the Mediterranean.

Inasmuch as this is the case, we also believe that membership of the Union will also serve to strengthen our own internal workings at all levels of society, bringing prosperity to the Maltese both now and for the years to come. Indeed we believe that membership in the European Union constitutes a natural progression for Malta given our long-standing historical, cultural and political ties with the Union.

The negotiations concerning membership that are currently underway are nearing completion, and we look forward to joining this union of like-minded states at its next enlargement, in line with the timelines established at the Nice European Council.

Mr. President,

Malta has always played a role on the international scene far in excess of its size. This we intend to continue, and I augur that all our efforts, together with those of the other nations of the world, will combine to bring about improvements in all the areas that urgently call for our immediate attention.

This unswerving will shall guide our efforts in the various fora of which we form part and in the activities we undertake, as together we strive to make a better and secure world for this and future generations.

Mr. President, I wish you every success in your own endeavours in presiding over this General Assembly.

Thank you.