Czech Republic

Statement by H.E. Mr. Cyril SVOBODA

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

at the General Debate of the Fifty-Eighth Session

of the United Nations General Assembly

New York, 29 September 2003

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President,

Let me congratulate you on your election as President -of the 58th session of the UN General Assembly and wish you every success in this important position. It is a pleasure to see a representative of Saint Lucia, the smallest country ever to hold the office. This upholds the Charter principle of sovereign equality of nations in this important world body, as well as the desirability of universal membership in the UN where all the countries, large and small, have something to contribute.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank your predecessor, Mr. Jan Kavan, for his work and efforts devoted to the UN activities throughout the year. It was a great honor for the Czech Republic to preside over the General Assembly and to use this unique opportunity to further enhance the United Nations capacity and ability to respond to current global challenges.

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me express my country's deepest sympathy to all who have lost their loved ones in the terrorists attacks, including that on the UN building in Baghdad, which claimed the life of the UN Special Envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello and his co-workers. We perceive this horrible act as an attack against the principles of freedom, democracy and peace, the principles on which our Organization is built.

The UN effort aimed at the stabilization, democratization and reconstruction of Iraq has a full support of my country and I do appreciate the bold and selfless work done by the UN staff. The United Nations plays an irreplaceable role in this field therefore we support the idea of passing a new resolution of the UN Security Council that would provide framework for the widest possible participation of other countries. The Czech Republic will actively participate in this process and is determined to continue its engagement.

The recent terrorist attacks in Iraq and other regions of the Middle East strengthen our conviction that the international community must not give in to terrorist threats. On the contrary, we must combine and intensify our efforts to combat it. The success of co-operation between the United Nations, the Coalition Provisional Authority and Iraqi representatives in stabilizing the situation in Iraq and handing over the country's administration to the Iraqi people will be the essential step in this direction. The Czech Republic therefore welcomes the establishment of the Governing Council, the appointment of provisional ministers and the continued work on drafting a constitution and is interested in speedy creation of a stable government in Iraq that will honor its international commitments, respect human rights and freedoms and the fundamental principles of democracy. But this is not something what can happen overnight, as we know from our own experience; transition from dictatorship to functioning democracy takes some time.

Mr. President,

We believe that the progress in the Middle East peace process based on the Road Map must get into the center of efforts of the whole international community. We should not allow extremist and terrorist groups to dominate its agenda as the recent developments have shown. In the same time we call upon all parties involved to exercise maximum restraint in actions, which contradict the political and peaceful settlement of the crisis, especially extrajudicial killings and suicide bombings.

The Czech Republic supports the activities aimed to revive and continue the implementation of the peace plan. The Quartet and the parties concerned must at their talks take stock of the peace plan and identify obstacles on the road towards peace as well as outstanding tasks on the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Without a proper implementation the Road Map would suffer the same fate as the numerous peace initiatives we witnessed in the past.

The problems of the Middle East are very complex. In this fragile phase, my country emphasizes two basic issues, which we consider crucial for the implementation and success of the road map for peace: the security aspects of the peace settlement and the consistent suppression of all manifestations of terrorism as well as the consolidation and strengthening of the position of the Palestinian government and the process of its reforms, including concrete steps to confront terror and violence.

In our view, an inseparable part of these efforts should be tangible changes to the situation on the ground. The Palestinians, with the vision of their own independent state, at the same time should feel that their economic and humanitarian situation is improving. The Czech Republic is prepared to assume its share of responsibility in the efforts to improve the economic situation of Palestinian autonomous territories at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

Mr. President,

The restoration of ethnic peace, the strengthening of stability and economic growth remain the main objectives of the international community in the crisis regions of the Balkans. In the present conditions, the maintenance of international presence in the region is still a necessary prerequisite for the development of democracy and the strengthening of peace. The United Nations and other international organizations must exercise their control function even more systematically, use their experience in assisting the transformation of the society, ensure active participation of all ethnic groups in its administration, create conditions for the safe return of refugees, help with development of local economies and curb the organized crime.

I am convinced that the new SRSG H. Holkeri will further contribute to the achievement of the declared objectives. The transfer of competencies from UNMIK to the local authorities must at the same time be the transfer of responsibilities for the achievement of the objectives set by the international administration, above all the creation of conditions for the safe return of refugees. For the functioning of a multiethnic society, it is also necessary to ensure active participation of all ethnic groups in its administration.

The Czech Republic supports all international efforts in the field of disarmament, arms control, including verification of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. This process is a long-term priority of Czech foreign policy.

The Czech Republic devotes considerable attention to the relevant international treaties and conventions and takes an active part in addressing security problems. We are convinced that it is necessary to promote the universal adherence and reinforcement of the three major multilateral agreements relating to weapons of mass destruction, that is Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. In this connection we also support the promotion of an early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Particular emphasis should be placed on establishing effective verification mechanisms, namely for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

The Additional Protocol, which creates an integral part of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards system and strengthens the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty we consider to be a very important element of the verification system. That is why it is urgent for the States that have not entered into Safeguards Agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency to do so and fulfill their obligations in accordance with article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We are of the view that the Additional Protocol should be made the standard for all NPT Signatory States.

The problems of the current conflicts severely affecting the civilian population are closely connected with the issue of conventional weapons, especially small arms and light weapons. The Czech Republic supports the international community in its effort to prevent the illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons and their uncontrolled proliferation.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic greatly welcomes that the international community is increasingly sensitized to the observance and protection of human rights. There is a growing body of globally recognized human rights, most cases of human rights violations are strongly criticized by the democratic international community. It would be too daring to assume that a negative response can always mitigate the consequences of a human rights violation; however, the fact that most entities in international law lay stress on human rights is unquestionably a positive aspect. Therefore, I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Czech Republic, to call for the release of the "prisoners of conscience" in various parts of the world, and for the observance of their fundamental human rights. In the light of the recent developments, I consider it necessary to again mention the Nobel Peace Prize laureate from Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi or the numerous Cubans sentenced to many years in prison in the political processes in March and April 2003. These and similar cases only deepen the isolation of the countries concerned and do not solve the existing situation.

Mr. President,

The Czech Republic remains fully committed to the UN and is aware that the United Nations is a universal international organization, which plays irreplaceable role in the present globalized world. We support Millennium Declaration as the basis for reform of the whole UN system and further step towards the strengthening of the Organization's authority, operational capability and effective functioning, in particular the initiatives of the UN secretary-general seeking to improve the management and administration of the UN. Another important task is to proceed with the revitalization of the UN General Assembly, including areas like clustering of agenda items, their biennalization or triennalization, reduction of the number and volume of documents and reports, etc.

The Security Council reform represents the crucial elements in the development of international relations in the new Millennium. The Czech Republic shares the majority view that the composition of the Council is outdated, reflects rather the Second World War realities than nowadays and should be adjusted to the present state of affairs. Present situation is unsustainable; undermines UN legitimacy and therefore calls for an urgent action. The Czech Republic will continue to support inevitable reform steps, including the enlargement of the Council in both categories of me mbership. In particular we support the aspirations of Germany and Japan for permanent seats as well as allocation of other three new permanent seats for Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Using this opportunity let me also inform you about the decision of the Czech Republic Government to present its candidature for the non-permanent seat on the Security Council for the period 2008-2009 as our contribution to the safeguarding of international peace and security.

Mr. President,

I welcomed your intention to focus the Assembly's efforts on the implementation of the outcomes of the United Nations summits and conferences held in past decade and the United Nations development agenda, including the Millennium Declaration Goals. The Czech Republic emphasizes the importance of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals as a overarching platform for specific actions to achieve specific goals and targets. Actions at national, as well as re gional and international, levels are necessary to fight poverty, improve the access to health services, access to water, combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, provide education, bridge the digital divide, preserve the environment, to name only a few of our many concerns. At the same time, the efforts to achieve the development goals complement the efforts to achieve sustainable development, with its economic, social, and environmental aspects. The Czech Republic believes that focus on multilateral and international co­operation is indispensable to the success of the United Nations development agenda and is therefore prepared to continue contributing to this important process.

As regards the strategic document New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), in which the African states for the first time in history assumed their own responsibility for their further development, the Czech Republic is well aware that the support for this document must be translated into action as soon as possible. An active and constructive approach should be reflected in all "horizontal" activities of the international community. That is why the Czech Republic regards the "principle of good governance" as one of the NEPAD's key principles which can substantially contribute to the establishment of suitable conditions for the integration of African states in the ongoing globalization processes and for the creation of a favorable climate for the continent's further development.

The Czech Republic as an acceding country to the EU is prepared to assume its part in implementation of the "African Policy" in the scope of the European Foreign and Security Policy.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, let me stress that over last couple of years probably no challenge emerged so bitterly and forcefully before the global community as the challenge of security. Here, we have a real test of our will and ability to cooperate. In this respect the UN remains an irreplaceable forum for conflict prevention and a legal platform for multilateral steps taken in order to preserve world's security and peace. In this respect, we very much support the Secretary General's call for strengthening of multilateralism, since international security cannot be achieved only by single states or coalitions shouldering the threats for the rest of the world. In the whole history, humankind has not been challenged in such terms. I am not referring only to terrorism or nuclear threats but also to various epidemics, poverty and worsening environment being the very essential causes of conflicts. Further more, and we are witness of it in Iraq, reactive military actions both targeted and short dated are part of the solution, but do not provide the whole remedy: There is an irreplaceable role for the world community to play. Therefore we, the member states of the United Nations community should focus together with our utmost attention on efficient measures to make our planet secure and prosperous for present as well as future generations.

Thank you for your attention.