STATEMENT BY
H.E. MR. JEAN OBEID
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND EMIGRANTS OF
THE REPUBLIC OF LEBANON

AT THE 58th SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
NEW YORK
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2003

Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations
866 United Nations Plaza,, Suite 531, New York, New York 10017

(Unofficial translation)

Mr. President,

This large number of Heads of State and Government has assembled at the current session not for the sake of performing formal rituals, nor from a commitment to respect periodic agendas. Rather, it is the state of the world today which requires this exceptional gathering, because, in the global consciousness, the struggle is heightening between fear and hope, security and instability, force and weakness, surplus and need, abundance and hunger, and freedom and coercion.

A return to this Assembly is tantamount to a return to origins and sources, and to common sense and basics, after today's world has strayed to the point of almost losing itself, as well as losing its founding principles.

We return to this Mother Organization like sons in different conditions and states. Some are obedient or renegade; some are oppressor or oppressed. This Organization, like its sons, was wounded by some of them.

Mr. President,

What hurts the United Nations hurts us all. Its fallen victims are, indeed, martyrs of humanity. This was the case of Count Folke Bernadotte, Dag Hammarskjold, Sergio de Mello, and others who were worthy of this noble martyrdom for the sake of our distinguished Organization and its lofty ideals.

Mr. President,

In the consciousness and hope of the world, the United Nations is not only a haven that upholds the rights of the weak and the needy, but also a dissuasive authority against the strong who act aggressively and forget their obligations and commitments.

In our region and in our country, we have been and still are suffering from this double standard of resorting to might at the expense of right.

Deviation from the spirit and raison d'étre of the international Organization remains the source of repeated wars and injustices, ever since the foundation, on the ruins of the people of Palestine, of an entity that does not recognize either its own borders, or those of others.

The international effort in Madrid to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict adopted comprehensive and just approaches, resulting in principles and accomplishments that cannot be renounced or reversed. Partial approaches emerged, but failed to achieve peace, maintain security, and ensure stability.

It has become certain to everyone, except to the arrogant in Israel, that there can be no security without a political solution, and no partial, peaceful, political solution without the comprehensive peace that embodies the spirit of the Madrid Conference and the integrated Arab peace initiative of the Arab Summit in Beirut.

Such a solution is based on the relevant international resolutions which return to Lebanon the remaining territory still under Israeli occupation, including Shebaa Farms; which return to Syria its territory up to the line of 4 June 1967; and which allow the Palestinian refugees to exercise their legal, humanitarian, and moral right of return to their homeland. Such a process should ensure the establishment of a sovereign, independent, stable, and viable Palestinian state with al-Quds al-Sharif as its capital.

Mr. President,

Developments on the ground, however, run contrary to hope. In fact, the government of Israel continues to build settlements, take decisions to carry out extrajudicial killings of men, women, and children, to demolish houses, and carry out preemptive arrests and assassinations.

Similar to events in Palestine, Lebanon suffers- from persistent Israeli threats, aggressions, and violations by sea, by land, and by air, which are carried out in a provocative and dramatic manner as described by the Secretary-General and his Special Representative in the region. The international community should therefore pressure Israel to end these violations.

Lebanese detainees and prisoners are still held hostage illegally and without trial in Israel, which still keeps the remaining maps of landmines it planted during its occupation of South Lebanon. Furthermore, Israel continues its policy of assassination and still covets Lebanon's waters and natural resources.

Mr. President,

I must warn that the failure to exercise the Palestinian refugees' right of return and to implement it fully puts the entire Middle East in an explosive situation. The Government and people of Lebanon are especially eager to implement this right, which they consider to be legal, natural, and moral.

Therefore, the so-called "realistic solutions" to this problem should not even be raised, since they are contrary to the principles of international law and the spirit of justice.

Indeed, the commitment to the right of return and the refusal to resettle the refugees in Lebanon are at the core of the Lebanese consensus that put an end to the war in Lebanon and that resulted in the Taef Accord endorsed by the United Nations.

In this context, I wish to stress that these options and positions regarding Lebanon and the Middle East conflict are not circumstantial ones that change according to the balance of power. We believe that these options are righteous, moral, and consistent with the requirements of a just peace. These options are the only ones capable of bringing about a possible settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict that would be satisfactory, lasting, and resilient.

Such an undertaking is compatible with the goals of the United Nations, as it strives to strengthen its role, with the endeavors of the co-sponsors of the peace process, and with the role of the European Union.

Mr. President,

It is in Israel's interest to revert to or to be reverted to the language of reason and justice. Since Israel's governments have failed to do so, this responsibility weighs on the international community.

For in Israel, there is a government that reads from the book of rights, but fails to read from the book of obligations. And we believe that the most dangerous people are those who read from one book only, whichever book it is.

Under the pretext of security, the government in Israel persists in building a wall of separation from the people of Palestine and attempts to build a higher, larger, and more hostile wall between the greater nations of the West and the rest of the world, especially the Arab and the Muslim world, in a bid to serve and support those willing to fuel a conflict between East and West, between Christianity and Islam, and among religions, cultures, and civilizations - when, in fact, there is only one human civilization which stems from common spiritual values, and from the belief in only one God, no matter how varied the means to Him and how numerous His messengers.

Furthermore, the government of Israel resorts to the stick daily as a means of subjugation. It ignores, or pretends to ignore, that the use of the stick incites disobedience; that, with time, the oppressors and the oppressed often exchange roles and positions; and that many who were once at the helm at various stages of their lives have fallen into the depths of oblivion and faded from memory, forgetting that only God is everlasting, as are the universal principles of equality, fairness, and justice.

In the government of Israel, there are those who were brought to power by the very extremism which ousted a predecessor and which assassinated another, and which, nevertheless, does not hesitate to label and accuse Arabs and Muslims exclusively as extremists.

And in Israel, there are those who insist on making Israel a fortress over the region, rather than a state in the region. There are those who make life for the Palestinians worse than death, determined to make their own people die with the Arabs in war, rather than live with them in peace.

And in the government of Israel, there are those who try to ignore that Lebanon, Syria, and the right of return are a mandatory path towards a settlement and towards a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace. On the contrary, they hopelessly use the feeble-minded to fan the flames of conflict among the Palestinians themselves, among the Lebanese, between the Lebanese and the Syrians, and among the Arabs, instead of extinguishing the flames of conflict between the Arabs and Israelis in a decent, just, and comprehensive manner.

The government of Israel considers that gaining time is more important than gaining peace; that manipulating tracks and problems is better than solving all the problems of the conflict on all the tracks; and that intimidation could right wrongs, wrong rights, and turn occupation into independence.

In Israel, there is a government that insists on clinging to the absolute sovereignty of Israel, as well as violating or sharing the sovereignty of others; a government that confines the role of its most important ally to providing money and weaponry, denying it even the right to advise. If the world's Super Power utters a word of advice regarding the construction of the wall of separation and discrimination, this advice is ignored, and the construction of the wall continues.

Mr. President,

Leniency towards faults breeds guilt. Much of the confusion of standards and yardsticks is caused by the use of more than one measure when it comes to justice and international resolutions.

It is neither just, nor wise, nor safe, nor peaceful for the powerful states to continue to tolerate double standards and criteria and multiple measures when dealing with Israel, while using firm standards and measures when dealing with the weak, the oppressed, and other nations of the world.

Mr. President,

This state of affairs obviously leads us to call for the reform and strengthening of the United Nations, notably by reviewing the mechanisms of the functioning of the Security Council, by expanding its membership, by giving it more weight in decision-making, and by respecting the democratic, consultative nature which should form the foundation of our international Organization.

Such a reform fairly and effectively addresses the new challenges facing the security and safety of the world. It also provides balance and stability in international relations, especially when coupled with the modernization of the work of the UN organs, as well as the rationalization and avoidance of the excessive use of the right to veto in a way that obstructs law and justice throughout the world.

Mr. President,

In Iraq, there is an increasing call for a pivotal role for the United Nations to assist the the people of Iraq in preserving their unity, assuming their destiny, ending the occupation of their territory, establishing the means to administer their wealth, choosing the provisions of their constitution, and electing their representatives freely.

War from the air can be waged by one side alone, while peace on the ground can only be accomplished through consultations with the parties in Iraq, its neighbors, and the United Nations.

The peace and destiny of Iraq require that Iraqis be free from occupation as soon as possible, working under the auspices of the United Nations in an expanded, pivotal, and political role, not restricted to purely social matters.

The events, the tragedies, and the appeals of the people of Iraq fall in this direction. Only the ignorant, or those who pretend to be ignorant, refuse to listen, to draw lessons, and to reach conclusions before it is too late.

Mr. President,

The beginning of this century has been marked by violence and terrorism, which showed their ugliest manifestations in the tragedies and crimes of September 11 and in the ensuing calls for extremism and a clash of civilizations. These circumstances prompt us to refuse to yield to the worst evils that threaten the peace and unity of our planet.

Lebanon was among the first countries to be targeted by terrorism, carried out by fundamentalist groups, and fought it with courage and resolve. At the same time, Lebanon still faces the state terrorism practiced by Israel, which has caused the death, injury, and displacement of thousands of Lebanese and the destruction of vital facilities and infrastructures.

While we differentiate between terrorism and the right of peoples whose territories are occupied to resist and to liberate their land, within the confines of international resolutions and the United Nations Charter, our country explicitly and firmly condemns all forms of terrorism, since it constitutes a danger that threatens all mankind, without distinction between race, color, or religion. Furthermore, Lebanon reaffirms its commitment to continue to cooperate with the international community to fight this extensively harmful and extremely damaging scourge.

Mr. President,

In conclusion, I would be remiss if I failed to congratulate you on your election as President of our General Assembly and wish you success in your stewardship. I also wish to commend the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, for his tireless efforts to promote every opportunity for peace, stability, and development in the world. I would like further to pay tribute to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for its role in South Lebanon. It is my hope, now that Lebanon has been able to liberate the major part of its territory, that UNIFIL will fulfill the remaining part of the mandate entrusted to it, and as defined in Security Council Resolution 425.

Lebanon has been and always will be a country that rejects seclusion and rigidity and that will remain open to dialogue and to creative, rich, civilized, and human interaction. Our country will always be true to its message, and, despite the challenges, will remain eager to promote justice and the rule of law, in word and deed, and to uphold the values of freedom and democracy, which constitute, since the beginning, the very bases of Lebanon and our lofty Organization.

Thank you, Mr. President.