New York, 19 September 2002

Mr. President,

It gives me great pleasure at the outset of the 57th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations to convey to you personally and to your friendly country, the Czech Republic, our sincerest congratulations on your election to the important position of President of this session. We are confident that you will preside with utmost ability over the work of this session.

I wish to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to your predecessor, Mr. Han Seung-soo, who presided over the last session with wisdom and experience and deserves our gratitude and appreciation. I also wish to take this opportunity to express our thanks and appreciation to the Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, for his continuous and tireless efforts to achieve peace and consolidate security in the world, and for his good efforts to strengthen the Organization's role, raise its efficiency, and enhance its effectiveness.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is of the firm opinion that the accession of Switzerland to this organization will be extremely beneficial to the United Nations, and will undoubtedly enhance its role because of Switzerland's remarkable contributions and experience in international cooperation.

Mr. President,

Our current Session is convening at the time of the anniversary of the horrendous disaster that befell the United States of America as a result of a most despicable act of terrorism that led to the death of thousands of innocent lives, with enormous material losses and immeasurable consequences from which we are all still suffering.

The pain and suffering that befell the American people arising from the loss of their relatives and loved ones as a result of this cowardly act, was our loss too as we witnessed what took place in a state of total shock and dismay. We felt nothing but condemnation for those who committed this utterly criminal act.

I therefore convey to the President of the United States, to the families of the victims, and to the American people, our sincerest condolences. This horrible experience can only strengthen what we already know about the inner-strength and pride of the American people.

It was easy for us to observe the above first hand, while sharing with the American people and their President the first anniversary of this tragedy, as well as their determination to confront this challenge and move forward in accordance with the principles and values of the Founding Fathers of their great nation.

Mr. President,

It was indeed most painful for us to see a number of our young people, who were in a position to contribute beneficially to the development of their own country, fall victim to those that led them astray, as they embarked on a road that ended tragically. These young men committed a grave offense against their country, and against their religion, which totally and utterly forbids the crime they committed.

May I be permitted here to quote from the letter to U.S. President George W. Bush by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah, in describing those young men in a most unambiguous manner.

"We in Saudi Arabia felt an especially great pain at the realization that a number of young Saudi citizens had been enticed and deluded and their reasoning subverted to the degree of denying the tolerance that their religion embraced, and turning their backs on their homeland, which always stood for understanding and moderation. They allowed themselves to be used as a tool to do great damage to Islam, a religion they espoused, and to all Muslims. They also aimed at causing considerable harm to the historic and strong relationship between the American people and the people of Saudi Arabia. I would like to make it clear that true Muslims all over the world will never allow a minority of deviant extremists to speak in the name of Islam and distort its spirit of tolerance. Your friends in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia denounced and condemned the September 11 attacks as strongly as did the American people. We, like you, are convinced that nothing can ever justify the shedding of innocent blood or the taking of lives and the terrorizing of people, regardless of whatever cause or motive. Therefore, we do not simply reiterate sincere and true condolences to the relatives of the victims, but assure all of our continued will and determination to do our utmost to combat this malignant evil and uproot it from our world."

Mr. President,

The position of Saudi Arabia regarding terrorism has always been very clear. This is not surprising since our country was honored by God to be the custodian of the Muslims' holiest sites, and it is also the birthplace of the heavenly message of Islam.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia reaffirms its support for all Security Council Resolutions related to the question of terrorism, and has cooperated with the international community in implementing these resolutions with the aim of combating it. Moreover, Saudi Arabia has taken the necessary steps to close any gaps in the regulations pertaining to donations to charitable organizations that may be exploited for illegal purposes.

The appropriate authorities in Saudi Arabia have taken action to implement Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001). Moreover, the Government of Saudi Arabia has lent its support to every international effort, within the framework of the Security Council, to crack down on terrorism by all means approved by other states.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has itself suffered from terrorist acts, has enacted regulations that mete out punishment to the perpetrators of terrorist acts. It has, moreover, made the fight against terrorism part of the basic school curricula.

On the regional level, Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to become party to the Arab Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism that was adopted by the League of Arab States in 1998, and is also a signatory to the Convention of the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Combating International Terrorism.

On the international level, Saudi Arabia is a party to ten conventions that deal with various forms of terrorism; and sincerely wishes that the United Nations would make the international effort to combat terrorism a truly global effort without bias or discrimination, with the avowed goal of serving all members of the international community and protecting them from the evil of terrorism, including state-supported terrorism.

Mr. President,

Confronting terrorism, and International Cooperation in tracking down terrorist organizations, and the exploration of all means to eradicate it, represents important steps towards eliminating this dangerous phenomenon. However the international effort against terrorism, regardless of how effective it is, will not be able to totally eradicate this phenomena unless it gets to its underlying causes, including political, economic and social circumstances that constitute fertile grounds that breeds terrorism.

The decision to eradicate terrorism should not involve hesitation or vacillation. If our true objective is to eradicate the possibility of its rise again, then attention must be paid to the political, economic and social conditions that constitute, in many instances, the breeding ground for extremism, especially when these conditions reach serious levels with no possibility for peaceful change.

The deteriorating conditions of oppressed people, whether they suffer injustice and oppression or are under the yoke of foreign occupation and the inability of the international community for one reason or another to find just solutions to these problems, all these conditions will ultimately lead to a situation whereby an opportunity is created for those with evil intentions to take advantage of naive young men who are led to believe that violence and terrorism are the only means to ameliorate the injustices that have befallen them.

Mr. President,

Thirty-five long years have passed since the Palestinian people came under Israeli occupation. The cycle of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories will never diminish unless the legitimate rights of the Palestinians are achieved. These rights have been approved by the entire international community under well-known international agreements signed by consecutive Israeli Governments with the Palestinian side.

The obligations contained in these agreements have been totally ignored by the Israelis, whether they concern the continuation of the occupation, or the treatment of the Palestinian people and their legitimate leadership.

The policy of siege, starvation, and military incursions, as well as the destruction of property and the desecration of Holy Places, is in total contravention, not only of signed agreements, but also of international law and humanitarian norms.

Further, the government of Ariel Sharon is marginalizing the Palestinian Authority established under the Oslo Accords, isolating the Palestinian territories and destroying the infrastructure. In addition, Sharon has lately undertaken a policy of not only imprisoning, but also assassinating members of the Palestinian leadership.

Mr. President,

The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is now at a point that will undoubtedly lead to a human catastrophe as a result of the economic siege, the unchecked spread of disease and epidemics, and the near collapse of public health and security forces.

The most important fact to be remembered by all, and the Israeli people in particular, is that the goal of security promised by the current government will never materialize. This is directly due to the policies and practices of that government, which chose to ignore dialogue and negotiations and opted for oppression and violence as a means of solving the Palestinian problem.

The statement of President Bush before this Assembly concerning the difficulty of attaining peace for the Palestinians and Israelis without providing the necessary freedom for both is in conformity with the current situation in the Occupied Territories, which continue to face a cycle of violence and suffering because one side, namely the Palestinians, has been denied its right to liberty and independence.

Therefore, the starting point out of this dilemma is for Israel to realize the importance of the existence of a Palestinian State built on a legitimate constitution that is capable of conducting negotiations, and solving intractable problems that cannot be ignored or bypassed if we truly intend to put an end to the current situation.

It is our view that an independent Palestinian State, based on a constitution binding on all Palestinians, and specifying the basis governing their relations with Israel, will ultimately constitute a guarantee, not only to the Palestinians, but to the Israelis themselves, because the Israeli side will have the assurances of dealing with a legitimate state, and a national authority, capable of carrying out meaningful negotiations with a neighboring state. To achieve this goal, it is necessary for the international community to move in the direction of halting the humanitarian catastrophe faced by the Palestinian people.

There is also a dire need to halt the violence raging in the area. This clearly means that the international community must hold the Israeli government to the same level of security obligations that is required of the Palestinian Authority.

To confine security obligations to the Palestinian side alone is neither practical nor a means to solving the problem. It is incumbent on all of us to work together to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians and then proceed to take the necessary steps to put the Palestinian problems on the road to the desired settlement.

As far as the comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned, we see in the Arab peace initiative adopted at the Beirut Summit a historic move that accommodates all the requirements for a just and permanent peace in the Middle East.

This initiative enjoys unanimous Arab support and for the first time, represents a concrete proposal based on resolutions of international legitimacy, which can lead to the signing of a peace treaty, through which a total Israeli withdrawal will be achieved in return for normal relations between the Arabs and Israel.

Mr. President,

There is another problem which has reached crisis proportions, and which has become a source of grave danger to the security and stability of the Middle East; namely, the issue of Iraq and its implementation of the resolutions of the Security Council. President Bush mentioned in his speech before the General Assembly the need to refer this matter to the Security Council for the appropriate resolutions. This represents a new and positive trend. Without a doubt, this step has paved the way for a new climate, one which recently resulted in the decision of the Iraqi government to allow the unconditional return of inspectors. This development, which will avert confrontation through diplomatic means, shows that a positive step, in most cases, will lead to a reciprocal positive step. It is appropriate, at this point, to express satisfaction with the Iraqi government's prompt response to the call of the Ministerial Committee of the Arab League, which met on the sidelines of the General Assembly. We believe that the responsibility now lies with the Security Council to undertake serious efforts alleviate the suffering of the fraternal Iraqi people.

Mr. President,

The world has suffered from great destruction and human misery during the last century, which was characterized by murderous confrontations, hate and violence. The peace and stability of humanity in a world of intertwined dependencies and common interests is contingent upon the convictions of the international community to forsake wars, renounce violence, combat terrorism and settle disputes by peaceful means through the promotion of the culture of peace and dialogue, as well as consolidating international cooperation, tolerance and understanding.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls for the establishment of an international humanitarian order based on a new partnership between the developed and developing countries, on a solid basis of cooperation, solidarity and international economic relations built on justice, equality and mutual interests.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia looks forward to a 21st Century governed by the rule of law not by brutal might, a century of true pluralism in which everyone will participate in managing the affairs of the present and create the future instead of excluding and ignoring others. We look forward to a year in which moral values that govern human behavior will prevail, and the banners of justice, mercy and brotherhood between peoples will be raised in order to achieve security, stability and peace for all humanity.