Check Against Delivery
I would first like to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of the fifty-eighth Session of the General Assembly. You have an important and challenging task ahead. In executing your duties, you can be assured of my full support and that of the Maltese delegation.
I take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the outgoing President of the fifty-seventh Session, His Excellency Mr Jan Kavan, for the dedication and initiative with which he accomplished his task.
I would also like to express our support for the Secretary General. The past twelve months have been a particularly difficult time for him and for the organisation he serves so well. We respect and admire the patience, tact, wisdom and determination that he has once again demonstrated in these testing times.
The attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August has added an unwelcome dimension of tragedy and urgency to this year's meeting. Our thoughts are with the relatives and friends of the victims, to whom we again express our deepest condolences. Not for the first time in its history, the United Nations is mourning the violent death of its talented servants in the course of their duty.
Besides being a human tragedy this was indeed, and for the first time, also a direct and deliberate attack on the United Nations itself. In this sense, an analysis of the implications of the attack in Baghdad needs to form an integral part of the broader considerations relating to the structures and objectives of the international system.
The reality is that in the United Nations the international community does possess a system that is both vital and indispensable. However, it is also a fact that for too long the international community has taken this system for granted. Events over the last few weeks and months constitute a renewed reminder that urgent reform is necessary. We need to heed the Secretary General's advice that this action has to be radical.
One important element in the process of building international cooperation and solidarity lies in the regional dimension. This dimension was given its importance in the original architecture of the United Nations Charter.
Over the last twelve months, Malta, together with nine other countries, successfully concluded negotiations to join one of the most creative and impressive manifestations of regional cooperation - the European Union. The results of these negotiations were confirmed by the people of Malta, first in a referendum and subsequently in the general election held earlier this year. Our desire to join the Union stems primarily from our appreciation of both the history and the present-day reality of the Euro Mediterranean region, and of Malta's place and role in this region.
At the same time, the objective of membership of the European Union has also been for Malta a further means of deepening and reinforcing its long-standing commitment towards international cooperation and solidarity.
We are gratified to see how much the European Union is fast becoming one of the main partners of the United Nations in the collective endeavour towards global cooperation and solidarity. We are encouraged to discover how much this partnership enhances the opportunities for even the smaller members to play a positive and constructive role in many of the issues of global concern.
Among such issues, the question of security in all of its complex dimensions has this year assumed formidable proportions. One of the more disturbing aspects in this regard is the way the different dimensions of terrorism and of arms control have become intertwined. This link has become a factor in the sometimes contrasting perceptions of the sources of the security risks which are faced by states. In turn this has led to differences of emphasis on action priorities, even among states with otherwise very convergent policies and approaches. When such differences find reflection within the Security Council itself, there is a risk of erosion in the still fragile structure of international legitimacy.
On the question of Iraq in particular, it is critically important for the Security Council to reach early agreement on the role the United Nations must play in the re-establishment of order and legitimacy in that country. We strongly urge all members of the Council, and in particular the permanent members, to spare no effort in achieving this objective.
The question of armaments today confronts us at bewildering levels. At one extreme there is the outrageous reality of child soldiers brandishing conventional weapons of major lethal effect. At the other extreme, there is the increasingly credible prospect that terrorist groups will procure and use weapons of mass destruction to sow major tragedy and destruction in the heart of states. These extremes have intruded into the more traditional disarmament process that has itself moved forward hesitantly and intermittently over the years.
Yet however hesitant and intermittent, the disarmament process has produced some results upon which we can build further. A range of agreements and instruments are already available concerning both weapons of mass destruction as well as conventional weapons. The more immediate challenges in this regard lie in the areas of compliance and verification.
Over the last months, the European Union has been working on a comprehensive security strategy on the issues of non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction. One of the key principles underpinning this strategy is the need to uphold and implement the multilateral treaties and agreements that exist in this area. Equally important is the need to support the multilateral institutions charged with the compliance and verification of these agreements. Primary among these institutions is the United Nations.
Terrorism in our day is a phenomenon that is unprecedented in its motivation, its tenacity and its methods. Over the past twelve months terrorist acts have indiscriminately touched peoples both in areas of active conflict and elsewhere. The counter-terrorism measures put into place following the attack here in New York of 11 September 2001 provide tools which can have an effect if applied forcefully, universally and consistently. Our response must remain adamant and clear. At the same time, as the Secretary General reminds us, while there is an unquestionable need to confront terrorist groups with determination, this should never be at the expense of the commitment to human rights.
The objective of increased security at the global level demands efforts across a range of widely different fronts, ranging from issues relating to peace making and peace keeping, to issues relating to economic and social development.
The United Nations has a steady record of positive involvement in peace keeping. The recent experiences in Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, and Kosovo provide encouraging instances of this. The Secretary General reminds us that involvement in peace-keeping efforts, and especially what he terms as "robust" peace-keeping, must be provided both with the necessary capabilities as well as with an adequate mandate. He also correctly points out that peace-keeping must be preceded by effective action towards conflict resolution.
The question of Palestine is one issue where sustained efforts at conflict resolution have not yet prevailed. Over the last few weeks we have been witnessing the gradual disintegration of yet another major and sustained effort at peace-making in this region.
The immediate obstacles to peace in Palestine arise from two contrasting directions. On the one hand there is the reality of an illegal occupation of territory originally achieved, and continuously maintained, by armed force. On the other hand there is the reality of a resistance to this occupation that uses unacceptable means of civilian terror and destruction to pursue its ends.
These two realities feed upon each other in vicious cycles of ever escalating hatred and violence. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the situation in Palestine is the fact that each successive failure of efforts towards peace¬making ratchets up the level of hatred and violence. The international community needs to find a way of breaking the conditionality which makes the two extremes feed upon each other.
Israel needs to clearly recognise
the illegality of its presence in the occupied territories. This implies
the reversal of the measures that are accompanying this occupation - in
particular the building and maintenance of settlements, and the construction
of the partition wall on Palestinian territory.
On their part, the Palestinians must recognise that all violent acts against civilian populations are unacceptable and must stop unconditionally. The Palestinian Authority needs to assert its control and prevent any further acts of terrorism.
In spite of the latest setbacks, the approach by the Quartet still needs to be supported and encouraged. By virtue of its composition, the Quartet offers the best prospects for finding ways of breaking the conditionality that feeds the extremes on both sides. The hope remains that, at the core of both the Israeli and the Palestinian populations, the desire for peace and reconciliation is stronger than the delirium of fear and hatred.
Malta also views the problem of Palestine from the perspective of its effect on issues of security and cooperation in the Mediterranean. Our membership of the European Union will provide us with enhanced opportunities to intensify our traditional role in this regard.
Progress in the process of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation has been slow but steady since the European Union launched its Euro-Mediterranean initiative in 1995. The process has itself been affected by the vicissitudes of the situation in Palestine over these years. Yet the general trend has remained positive, even in the most difficult of times.
The recent resolution of the Lockerbie issue further helps in creating the right atmosphere for enhanced regional cooperation.
It is now our hope that the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General, accompanied by the persuasion of the European Union, will succeed in resolving one of the still outstanding problems in our region - the problem of Cyprus. Malta would welcome in May next year the integration of a reunited Cyprus into the folds of the European Union.
One of the major strengths of the Euro-Mediterranean process lies in the linkage that it maintains between security issues and wider issues of cooperation in the economic and humanitarian fields. In his report this year, the Secretary General underlines the fact that issues related to development form an important part of the commitments undertaken under the Millennium Declaration. The Secretary General notes that a stronger consensus has been forged on this aspect. But he. also cautions that grave doubts remain as to whether Member States are sufficiently determined to act on this consensus.
The failure of the WTO meeting in Cancun last week highlights the difficulties inherent in translating broad consensus into concrete action.
In the area of trade, as in other areas of development, it is indeed the case that globalisation has exposed major disequilibria and inequalities in the international arena. In some respects it has also exacerbated the injustices arising from these inequalities. It is with greater reason therefore that the international community needs to persevere in its efforts towards more concrete and effective measures of consensus building. The high-level meeting on HIV and AIDS that has recently been concluded highlights the way in which problems that have a global dimension need to be tackled.
The problem of AIDS also underlines the importance of continuing efforts towards norm setting in the various dimensions of international life. The practice, instituted following the Millennium Summit, of holding annual Treaty Events has proved its value in this regard. This year's event is focusing on Treaties Against Transnational Organised Crime and Terrorism. On this occasion Malta is depositing its ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and two of its protocols. We have therefore already ratified or acceded to eleven of the fifteen treaties on which the Secretary General has focused for this year's event.
One area where norm setting is in its early stages concerns the issue of cloning. Malta approaches this issue from a moral and ethical standpoint based on the deepest respect for human life. We believe that while scientific considerations are sometimes relevant in matters of this nature, the final decisions must be based primarily on fundamental human, ethical and moral considerations. In this spirit, the proposed draft resolution proposing a convention that bans all forms of human cloning fully reflects our views in this regard. For this reason we will support this draft resolution. At the same time, we also believe that on issues of such deep ethical and moral sensitivities real progress can only be achieved through consensus.
The issues in front of this
General Assembly are many and far-ranging. Such a dense and varied agenda
confirms the relevance and vitality of our organisation. At the same time,
it also points to the problems regarding effectiveness and functionality
about which so many of us are concerned. I trust that under your guidance
the Assembly will find the wisdom and the energy to clearly define its
priorities and to take the necessary action. I wish you every success
in your endeavours.