HE. Mr. Farouk Al-Shara'
Minister of Foreign Affairs
of the
Syrian Arab Republic

At the
58th Session of the United Nations
General Assembly

New York, 29 September 2003

Mr. President,

Allow me at the outset to congratulate you on your election as President of the 50' session of the United Nations General Assembly. I am confident that your wisdom, which is an expression of the positions of your friendly country, will galvanize dialogue among member states. In the final analysis, constructive dialogue remains the more valid means to address the entangled problems with which the international community is currently faced.

It also gives me pleasure to express to the Secretary General of the United Nations and to his assistants our sincere appreciation for the effort they have made, the hardships they have endured to preserve the status of this organization, and for not bowing to attempts to marginalize it on the international arena. It is with deep sorrow that we recall the great loss that the United Nations in general, and friendly Brazil in particular suffered in the death of Mr. Sergio De Mello and his colleagues in the attack against the United Nations Head quarters in Baghdad last August.

A great number of representatives of the peoples of the world, and of their leaders have converged on this international hub. This fact proves beyond any doubt that this edifice of international legitimacy and the resolutions that this organization adopted remain the more acceptable and respectable political recourse available to the different countries of the world, be they large or small, rich or poor. It is the only forum in which it is extremely difficult to pass an arbitrary or preemptive war resolution that will take away the lives of innocent civilians and destroy their properties.

Mr. President,

Our world today is faced with daunting challenges threatening the very foundation on which the system of international peace and security was built. World leaders are therefore called upon to make sincere and concerted efforts and evince an unwavering political will to commit once again to the principles of international legitimacy. Giving precedence to the logic of force, violating the sovereignty of people and tampering with their future compromises legitimacy and the principle of equality. It is a miscarriage of justice and an abrogation of the rule of law. Such a state of affairs may open the door wide for widespread chaos in international relations, and for crises that may be more severe than the ones we are currently facing.

My country believes that the failure to reap the optimal benefits of the remarkable scientific and technological advances that humanity achieved in the past two decades, coupled with a failure to achieve globalization with a civilized human face have heightened our peoples' apprehensions and alienated them. It obstructed the dialogue among civilizations and blocked further interaction with other cultures. The attempts by some centers of power in the world to manipulate the new fault lines across the emerging international equilibrium in pursuit of narrow national interests that cannot be preserved have added insult to injury. Cards were shuffled, and premises were challenged. New concepts totally alien to the UN Charter such as the pre-emptive war were invented. There was a unilateral and illegitimate recourse to force. In brief, this course of action has turned the clock backwards contrary to any superficial claims that new horizons were opened.

It is regrettable to see that in the twenty first century some think tanks produce to decision makers misleading and false information on the basis of which wars are waged outside the context of international legitimacy, blood is shed, accusations lacking any trace of credibility are leveled, and unbridled claims are advanced in a deliberate disregard of any logic that states and peoples have developed through out history.

Our region - which is the cradle of the divine religions and the depot for two thirds of the world oil reserves - has been singularly more victimized than any other region, and has endured more injustices, more campaigns of misrepresented facts and has been subjected more to the use of force. It is a region that lives more than any other region under external threats that continue to lie to waste its potentials and material and intellectual resources. No sooner had the peoples of the region enjoyed their freedom and independence than they found themselves once again thrown into a bottomless pit of more violent and unjust challenges unknown to them throughout their history.

The scourge of the Israeli occupation and continued aggression are the main reason for the suffering inflicted on our region ever since the concept of international legitimacy was introduced to the international community. It is the concept on which our organization was built and which it came to epitomize. There is a glaring contradiction that became the hallmark of our organization. Israel was the first state to acquire its legitimacy through a resolution adopted by the United Nations. This same Israel was the first state to ride a rough shod over international legitimacy, and which continued to do so to the extent that Arabs and many others around the world feel as if Israel were a country above the law, and as if it simultaneously enjoys the same veto power the United States has in the Security Council.

It is regrettable that after decades of occupation, bloodshed and contempt for international legitimacy the representative of Israel has yet to realize that the road to peace lies in the implementation by Israel of the 37 Security Council Resolutions on the Arab Israeli conflict, and the similar 600 General Assembly resolutions on the same subject, all of which have so far remained hostage to the Israeli defiance of the international legitimacy.

It would have behooved the Israeli Foreign Minister to explain in his address to the international community in this hall a couple of days ago the reasons for his country's refusal to implement this enormous number of the resolutions of international legitimacy on the Middle East instead of ridiculing these resolutions, and considering them as an obsolete thing of the past.

Are the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Palestinians unrealistic in their demands, or are they asking for the impossible if they stress that the only way out of the spiraling wave of violence and bloodshed lies in ending the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories occupied since 1967 through negotiations, by pursuing a comprehensive and just peace on the basis of implementing the United Nations Resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative adopted in the Beirut Summit in 2002?

The nagging legitimate question here is for how much longer can Israel continue to mislead some into believing that it is victimized, while it continues to occupy the territories of others by force, to lay siege to Palestinians, to destroy their homes, uproot their trees, and assassinate them in their occupied land? When did the victims of occupation, settler colonialism and population transfer become outlaws and terrorists without a just cause, whose killing by fighter jets and tank fire became sanctioned under the pretext of self-defense?

Then, some people in Washington ask, "why do they hate us"? Some authors who have ulterior motives or self proclaimed pundits writing in reputable newspapers or appearing on famous television programs volunteer their answers. "They hate us because we have high sky-scrapers and noble values". They chose to ignore that what is hated is the flawed policies and not the country, its beautiful landmarks and cherished values.

Mr. President,

The grave situation in Iraq has become a source of grave concern for our peoples who are already plagued by the Israeli occupation and the continued threats against them. This situation is also a major cause for concern for the international community due to the threat it poses to international peace and security. The credibility of our organization has suffered tremendously when it was unable to prevent the war against Iraq, a war waged outside the context of international legitimacy.

For weeks and months, the Security Council was drawn into a bitter strife debating the war resolution prior to the war. We had the marathon of the Inspectors' report that preceded the accomplishment by the inspectors of the tasks entrusted to them. This situation not withstanding, Council members were able to stay the course, upholding international legitimacy and the United Nations Charter. The war was ultimately waged outside the framework of international legitimacy. They chose not to linger under its burden.

Along with other neighboring countries, Syria remained committed to the principles of international legitimacy and the UN charter. In an unprecedented demarche, our countries unanimously stressed their collective concerns that should this war break out, its repercussions on regional, "Security and international peace will be more devastating than the precarious situation prevailing in Iraq at the time.

This said, Syria does not build its foreign policy on resentment nor do we gloat over the misfortunes of others. We do not redefine our policy in response to threats either. The real challenge therefore is how to extricate Iraq from this predicament and mobilize all efforts to win the battle for peace in post war Iraq?

Our country is directly concerned with what goes on in Iraq given our historical and geographic ties, and our common national loyalties with the Iraqi people. Syria affirms that finding the way out of this predicament does not lie in focusing on addressing the lack of security, therefore increasing the number of troops, using force to bring about security or leveling accusations at neighboring countries. The way out lies in an international commitment to the unity and sovereignty of the territories of Iraq, to setting a clear timetable for the withdrawal of the occupying forces from Iraq as soon as possible, framing a constitution accepted by the Iraqis, and the establishment of a government that is representative of the Iraqi people provided that the United Nations plays a pivotal role in Iraq in the various political, security and economic fields.

Mr. President,

This session of the Assembly saw intensive contacts among the permanent and elected members of the Security Council on a new resolution on Iraq. We must draw attention here to the need for any resolution to be adopted by the Security Council to allay the misgivings of the Iraqi people in all their factions and affiliations. Therefore the resolution to be passed by the Security Council must be brought to full maturity so as to reassure Iraqi people about their future, and to guarantee their independence and sovereignty over their land and their resources. The members of the Security Council should unanimously accept such a resolution and it must enjoy the support of neighboring states and that of the international community.

Mr. President,

A lot has been said lately about the dangers of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by countries that already have different types of such weapons. Some have even waged a war under the pretext of eliminating these weapons. As it is already known, this danger is not confined to a particular region in the world, but could be found in many other regions. What is truly regrettable though is that some quarters selectively choose to level their false accusations at some Arab and Islamic states but not on others, while simultaneously ignoring the Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Also ignored were the repeated appeals by all the countries of the region, with the exception of Israel to make the Middle East region a zone free from all weapons of mass destruction. Syria translated its words into deeds by tabling an integrated draft resolution calling for declaring the Middle East a zone free from all weapons of mass destruction. It is surprising that those who led the campaign against Syria stood in the way of adopting this Syrian initiative.

Syria is aware that its membership in the Security Council is temporary. However we appeal to the international community to continue to support the Syrian initiative calling for the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction from the ME region.

Syria condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Throughout its membership in the Security Council, it has been supporting the Council's efforts to counter international terrorism. Syria has also acceded to the relevant core international conventions to combat terrorism including the Arab Convention to Combat Terrorism, and the Convention of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to Combat Terrorism. Both instruments define the terrorist crime, and distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate right of people under occupation to resist such occupation in accordance with international law and the charter of the United Nations.

Mr. President,

Syria which is not pursuing any political agenda believes that the international community's success in its major battle against terrorism depends to a large extent on the success in addressing the root causes of terrorism, often found in poverty, ignorance and injustice. Alleviating injustice requires first and foremost an end to foreign occupation.

As a member of the Security Council, Syria contributed to all the deliberations on the situation in Africa. Syria also presided over Council meetings that were dedicated in full to finding solutions to the predicaments of the friendly people of Africa. On more than one level the Council succeed in providing assistance to Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, the Ivory Cost, Guinea- Bissau, Burundi, Angola and Sierra Leone. My county would like to express its satisfaction for the positive developments that made it possible to find peaceful solutions to African questions, solutions that guaranteed the security, stability and territorial integrity of the African States concerned.

Syria expresses its solidarity with the African Continent. My country calls upon the industrial states and those who are in a position to do so to provide assistance to the countries of this great continent.

Syria also expresses its satisfaction over the progress made in the Sudanese peace talks with the signing of the agreement on security and cease-fire arrangements and ultimately the comprehensive agreement that would end the conflict in this fraternal country, in a way that would preserve the unity and territorial integrity of the Sudan.

We call for a total lifting of the embargo that has been imposed against Cuba for decades outside the context of international legitimacy. We also welcome the international efforts made to defuse the tension in the Korean peninsula, and support the Korean people's legitimate aspirations to unity and prosperity.

Mr. President,

Syria has actively participated in the deliberations on the reform of United Nations acting upon the collective responsibility of member states to promote the role of this international organization. In this regard, the Millennium Declaration that was adopted three years ago represented a good basis, all factors taken into account, to bring about this reform. We hope that this reform will continue to be carried out in a comprehensive, transparent and nonselective manner. We believe that in cooperation with the Secretariat of the organization, member states have a primary role to play in the reform deliberations, and the decisions to be taken accordingly.

In conclusion, our sense of this daunting responsibility that we must shoulder together as members of this international organization should prompt us to raise some rhetorical questions. Do we have at our disposal a better option than to enhance the purposes and objectives of the Charter, and pursue the goal of reforming this organization for the establishment of a more just and more democratic international order? Shouldn't we persevere to safeguard the milestone achievements of international law? Shouldn't we aspire to a system that would not accommodate the arrogance of force nor compromise our fundamental principles? Shouldn't we seek a system that pursues fruitful cooperation among states and encourages a dialogue among civilizations epitomizing the essence of a creative human interaction?

Thank you Mr. President.