27 September 1996


27 September 1996

Press Release


19960927 Helms-Burton Act in United States Is Cited; Other Global Issues Discussed by New Zealand, Greece, Spain, Myanmar, El Salvador, Belize

Democracy and human rights could not be promoted through the blockade, exclusion or sanction of third countries in the field of trade, the Foreign Minister of Mexico, Angel Gurria, told the Assembly this afternoon as it ended the first week of its general debate.

Under the pretext of freedom and democracy, some countries were moving in the opposite direction, the Minister said, noting the recent adoption by United States legislators of the Helms-Burton Act. He called for international cooperation and strategies based on dialogue, inclusion, investment and exchange of information.

The Foreign Minister of Myanmar, U Ohn Gyaw, agreed that the threat or use of economic sanctions and the extraterritorial application of domestic law to influence policies in developing countries were unacceptable and a breach of the Charter. He ascribed steps his country had taken to counter the "growing menace" of narcotic drugs.

Globalization was an unprecedented phenomenon which, at times, denied the human rights of the individual and the group, the representative of Belize said. Taken to its logical extreme, globalization seemed to lead to an international attitude whereby the disadvantaged might starve to death, while the advantaged could gorge even more.

Statements were also made this afternoon by the Minister of State of New Zealand and the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Spain and El Salvador.

Statements in exercise of the right of reply were made by representatives of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Republic of Korea and Portugal.

The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 30 September, to continue its general debate.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its general debate by hearing statements by the Minister of State of New Zealand; the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Spain, Mexico, Myanmar and El Salvador; and the Minister for National Security and Foreign Affairs of Belize.


ROBIN GRAY, Minister of State of New Zealand, welcomed the adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which he had signed today. He said the Treaty was a significant step towards eliminating nuclear weapons, but it had shortcomings, including constricting provisions on its entry into force. Next year, he continued, all States, including nuclear-weapon States, should pursue negotiations on a phased programme of nuclear disarmament, with the goal of complete elimination, and the adoption of a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international controls. The aspirations of many States to be free of nuclear weapons had found expression in the establishment of four nuclear-weapon-free zones.

He said New Zealand supported the role of the United Nations in international peace-keeping, despite the mixed record of the past. It had been learned that the Organization must be given the resources to do its job, and also that care must be taken over mixing enforcement tasks with peace- keeping. The Security Council should be careful not to create mandates that the United Nations could not carry out.

New Zealand was committed to the implementation of international human rights instruments, he said. The United Nations was making progress in nurturing human rights frameworks in the Asia-Pacific region. Regarding sustainable development, it had been recognized that substantial new and additional funding would be required. In recent years, New Zealand had increase its official development assistance by one third. In 1997, the five- year review of "Agenda 21" would be conducted. At the upcoming special Assembly session to address that matter, the effectiveness of bodies which had been established to implement the Agenda must be reviewed. The Commission on Sustainable Development should strengthen its role.

He said the Security Council should be made more representative. The financing of the Organization must become more secure. The report of the working group on United Nations should serve as a blueprint for future action.

THEODOROS PANGALOS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said that reform of the United Nations was threatened, due to the looming atmosphere of imminent financial collapse. That situation also threatened the Organization's credibility.

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The case of Cyprus was an example of the inability of the international community to ensure implementation of United Nations resolutions and to address continued occupation of a Member State by another. But it would be totally wrong to discard multilateralism just because it had not solved all problems. No country could aspire to human, economic and social development without a stable and legally appropriate framework. However, the United Nations offered only the framework in which to achieve the important objectives, including the enforcement of international law and addressing international problems. The difficult relationship between Greece and Turkey, and their continued disagreement concerning the Imia islets in the Aegean Sea, showed that the existing framework must be improved.

He said the continuation of the status quo in Cyprus was unacceptable. Lingering tensions made settlement difficult. As a justification for the Turkish occupation force, Turkey claimed that the two communities could not live together. The truth was that they could; the demilitarization of Cyprus would diffuse tensions on the island.

He said Greece supported the long-term goal of Balkan countries to develop economic and political links with the European Union. Greece hoped that negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, moderated by Cyrus Vance, on the Republic's name would succeed in normalizing relations between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Regional cooperation continued, as shown by the recent meeting of Ministers from Greece, Bulgaria and Romania to bolster cooperation in transportation, telecommunication, energy resources and the development of infrastructure.

He said his Government had been shocked by the latest violence in the West Bank and Gaza. There was no alternative for the peoples of the region to the principle of "land for peace".

ABEL MATUTES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, said the political commitment of countries to the United Nations should translate into concrete actions, including the timely payment of assessed contributions and the seeking of consensus solutions for reform in the Organization. He said the international community could not remain impassive to the problems facing Africa. There had been massacres in Liberia and displacement of people in the Great Lakes region, particularly in Burundi. Spain favoured the early convening of the Great Lakes Conference.

Speaking on the Middle East, he said Spain was following with great concern the serious events in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. The parties involved must refrain from acts of provocation and violence that might escalate tension. The positive statement of intentions by the Israeli Government had to be followed by actions and tangible progress. He hoped that the necessary conditions would be met for Israel and Syria to resume talks for the establishment of peace in the region. While it was necessary to preserve

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and strengthen the safety of civilians from terrorism, nevertheless, the closure of Palestinian territories, the delay in the redeployment of the Israeli army in Hebron and the policy of settlements represented serious obstacles to progress in the peace process.

On the question of Western Sahara, he said his country was concerned at the suspension of the operation of identification of voters and at the blocking of the settlement plan. The issue would be solved permanently only by the exercise of the right of self-determination by the peoples of Western Sahara in a free referendum.

Spain supported stability and reconciliation in the Balkans, he said. It also welcomed the consolidation of democratic governments in Latin America and the extension of mandates of the United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) and the success of the Mission of the United Nations in El Salvador (MINUSAL). He stressed the need for improving the logistics and planning dimension of peace-keeping operations.

One of the priority objectives of Spain, he went on, was the decolonization of Gibraltar. Through its resolutions, the General Assembly had pointed the way to decolonization based on the principle of territorial integrity which should be carried out through bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom, the colony's administrative Power, and Spain, the State in whose territory the colony was located. Spain would conduct bilateral negotiations on the basis of the Brussels Declaration of 1984.

He said the promotion and protection of human rights was an unavoidable need, and the survival of many depended on its effective implementation. But sustainable economic development was not feasible in the absence of institutions which helped in the realization of human rights. There should be integrated strategies for the promotion of human rights and development. An international criminal court with universal jurisdiction, which would be debated shortly by the Assembly, would contribute to the progressive development of international humanitarian law.

ANGEL GURRIA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said the Treaty of Tlatelolco was the first specific legal instrument to establish a nuclear- weapon-free zone in a densely populated region of the world. Mexico would continue to encourage the strengthening of that Treaty and firmly supported Brazil's initiative on declaring the southern hemisphere a nuclear-weapon-free zone. He said Mexico was concerned that two Powers, acknowledged possessors of chemical weapons, had postponed the ratification of the Convention on Chemical Weapons. Mexico would be initiating consultations with a view to submitting a draft resolution on the subject, and he urged the United States Congress and the Russian Federation to ratify the text as soon as possible. Mexico welcomed the Canadian initiative towards a total ban on anti-personnel mines.

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Mexico viewed with growing concern that, under the pretext of promoting freedom and democracy, action was being taken in the opposite direction through legislation in the field of trade. Citing the Helms-Burton Act adopted in the United States, he said democracy and human rights could not be promoted through blockades, exclusions or sanctions to third countries, but rather through dialogue, inclusion in multilateral forums, trade, investment and exchange of information and persons.

He said Mexico recognized the sovereign right of every nation to determine the rules and conditions for the admission of foreign workers to its territory, but the situation of Mexican nationals in foreign countries had become a matter of concern. Mexico firmly rejected all actions by foreign authorities that contributed to creating or exacerbating violence or intolerance towards Mexican workers. It believed that the early entry into force of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families would be an appropriate framework for the protection of migrant workers. Mexico would also have further proposals to protect migrant workers at the next session of the Human Rights Commission.

In closing, the Foreign Minister said that Mexico wished to express its dismay at the violent incidents in the Middle East and joined the appeal to all concerned to refrain from taking actions which could worsen the situation.

U OHN GYAW, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar said the United Nations was today at a crossroads. While post-cold-war trends compelled nations towards ever-growing interdependence and the globalization of the world economy, issues which had been dormant for decades had emerged. In this time of global transformation, the United Nations had an important role to play. Political, economic and social challenges could be overcome, and confrontation avoided, if the opportunity were taken to strengthen the Organization and promote a multilateral system based on the primacy of international law and freedom of choice and equality of all States.

He cited disarmament, sustainable development and the suppression of narcotic drugs as priority issues affecting the security and well-being of all peoples. The proliferation of arms remained the greatest potential threat to mankind's survival. Myanmar welcomed the adoption of the CTBT. He said his country had always supported the establishment of a nuclear-free zone and, along with its neighbours, had signed and ratified the South-East Asian Nuclear-Free Zone Treaty.

He said Myanmar shared the view of the Secretary-General that development be recognized as the foremost and most far-reaching task of our time. On the "growing menace" of narcotic drugs, his country had adopted a multi-sectoral approach, among which were crop substitution and livestock distribution for farmers in the border areas where opium was grown, preventive education, and law enforcement.

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He said that since the World Conference on Human rights three years ago, increasing emphasis had been placed on the promotion and projection of human rights. He questioned, however, the growing tendency by certain western countries to politicize the question of human rights and use it as a tool to interfere in the domestic affairs of States. The international community should take a more holistic approach to the issue and not be preoccupied with individual rights and freedoms. Anyone seeking to promote human rights should bear in mind the significance of national and regional peculiarities, as well as historical, cultural and religious backgrounds, together with the stage of economic development. In his country, poverty remained an obstacle to the full enjoyment of those rights. The allegations that wholesale repressive measures were being carried out had never been borne out.

While Myanmar, like some other countries, had been singled out by certain countries for punitive action in recent years, reforms taking place there should be noted. The centrally planned economy was being transformed into a market-oriented one. Private investment and domestic entrepreneurial activity were being encouraged, and the economy had been opened to direct foreign investment. Politically, a national convention was being held to adopt guidelines for a new State constitution in accordance with which a peaceful, modern and developed nation would be built. The Government had succeeded in bringing back to the fold 15 out of 16 armed groups, and the insurgency, which for decades hindered development, was virtually over. Although a number of death sentences were passed by civil and military courts following the 1988 unrest, none had been carried out.

RAMON ERNESTO GONZALEZ GINER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, said the General Assembly should take steps to strengthen and reform the United Nations. Debate in the Assembly should avoid unnecessary confrontation and should focus on constructive suggestions to strengthen the Organization. Convening summits had been praiseworthy, as had been the programmes of work adopted at those summits. The commitment of the international community to sustainable development had been demonstrated through the summits.

In an era of increasingly globalized economies, joint efforts by the international community should complement efforts of individual governments in the area of development, he said. He hoped the United Nations efforts to contain conflicts would lead to world harmony. El Salvador's experience in settling armed conflict in its territory could help other countries facing similar situations.

He noted that 25 new States had become Members of the United Nations in recent years. However, the principle of universal sovereignty had not been fully recognized since the Republic of China in Taiwan remained unrecognized by the Organization.

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A few years before the dawn of the new millennium, he went on, the countries of Central America had left behind confrontation. To ensure economic and social development, they had formed an alliance for sustainable development. In political terms, steps had been taken to strengthen the rule of law; in economic terms, to harmonize macro-economic policy; in social terms, to eradicate poverty and to give priority to education; in cultural terms, to value tradition; and in environmental terms, to promote reforestation. Barely four years after the peace accords, El Salvador was moving towards greater democratization and reconstruction. The challenges of creating a lasting democracy based on rule of law, of building health and education systems, and of promoting respect for human rights lay ahead.

EDWARD A. LAING (Belize) said corruption had been a scourge in his region as in other parts of the world, and to reduce its impact, the Organization of American States (OAS) had launched the Inter-American Convention against Corruption.

Noting significant developments in the international system, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the appeals body of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the preparations for an international criminal court, and the Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, he expressed the hope that large States, as well as small States, should fully submit themselves to their jurisdiction.

Belize was trying to cope with a novel phenomenon: globalization, which was the logical accompaniment to the reduction of scope of sovereignty, and represented a "new-fangled gigantism". Globalization was an unprecedented phenomenon, which sometimes denied the tenets of human rights of individuals and collectivities. Taken to an extreme, it seemed to an international attitude whereby the disadvantaged might starve to death, while the advantaged were enabled to gorge even more.

At the United Nations, he went on, reform should mean the enhancement of the Organization's efficiency and its own globalism. States must act globally, by harnessing in common the shared resources of the planet. Responsible and enlightened globalism meant, among other things, the strict obligation to keep the United Nations "Agenda for Development" on the front burner.

He said the contemporary approach to statehood fully justified the aspirations of a democratic Asian country: Taiwan. Its participation would be consistent with prevailing notions of sovereignty, and the People's Republic of China would be completely unimpaired.

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Rights of Reply

KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said the statement made by the "so-called Minister of South Korea" this morning had been an anti- North campaign. The Democratic People's Republic objected to the representative's statements on nuclear and chemical weapons.

The Democratic People's Republic requested a detailed explanation regarding the recent incident involving its small training submarine which had accidentally run aground in south Korean waters. The People's Republic had demanded that the personnel and the submarine be returned in the hope that the situation would not create tensions. South Korean authorities instead had used the accident for a sinister political purpose. While they had admitted that the boat had been stranded, the south Korean authorities had branded it a spy submarine. The personnel, which had had no choice but to go ashore, had been branded spies and many killed, among them, the captain. The Democratic Peoples' Republic wanted peace, but it would punish those that opposed peace. The People's Republic, the victim, could not show restraint for ever and it would be forced to retaliate -- retaliation which might be 100- or 1,000-fold. The south Korean authorities must immediately return the submarine and the dead crewmen.

IZHAR IBRAHIM (Indonesia) said he was obligated to respond to this morning's statement by the representative of Portugal regarding East Timor. It was regrettable that Portugal had to mislead the international community regarding the human rights situation and the process of decolonization of the territory. The people of East Timor had exercised their right to self- determination which had led to the legal integration of the territory. The question of East Timor had long ceased to be an issue as it had been settled by the people. However, his Government would support the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General to find a comprehensive, internationally acceptable and lasting solutions to the question.

STEPHEN GOMERSALL (United Kingdom), who said he was responding to Spain, stressed that he had no wish to engage in polemic with a friendly nation. Britain would conduct negotiations on Gibraltar in keeping with the Brussels Declaration of 1984. The Treaty of Utrecht had established Britain's sovereignty over Gibraltar, and Britain would not do anything against the freely expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar. There had been many issues left by history which would be better resolved by dialogue. Britain recognized that Spain was Gibraltar's neighbour, and, to that extent, it was open to talks to improve cooperation in areas such as drug smuggling.

YUNG WOO CHUN (Republic of Korea) said North Korea had made a number of allegations. However, he would dwell only on the submarine incident. North Korea had claimed that the submarine had drifted into South Korean waters due to engine trouble. That claim challenged human intelligence. North Korea had

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made the claim five days after the submarine had been discovered and 20 people had died. If it was, indeed, an accident. The deaths could have been avoided if South Korea had been informed of the so-called accident. There was compelling evidence that it was no accident. The North Korean submarine had moved southward against the current; it had never resorted to sending out distress signals which it should have done if it had engine trouble. Moreover, agents in the submarine had been dressed in Republic of Korea uniforms, and the submarine's engine was perfectly functioning until it ran aground. Those facts left no doubt about the nature of North Korea's military provocation. Its action constituted a violation of the Korean Armistice Agreement, and it was now using fabrications to justify what was unjustifiable.

PEDRO CATARINO (Portugal) said that, according to General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, East Timor was a non-self-governing territory where decolonization had not been completed. Portugal did not stake any claim to the territory. However, it felt moral and historical responsibility to ensure that the rights of the people of East Timor were respected. He hoped that a just and comprehensive agreement would be reached with regard to East Timor.

Mr. KIM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said he could not respect the "so-called South Korean Minister" for he was one of those responsible for the killing of people in south Korea. South Korean authorities could kill whomever they liked, as it was said they could do anything they liked, accept change a man into a woman, or a woman into a man. As the victim, the Democratic People's Republic had the right to retaliate, a retaliation for which the south Koreans would be to blame.

Mr. IBRAHIM (Indonesia) said the statement made by Portugal was a repetition of earlier ones. Thus, no reply was needed from Indonesia since its the position was well known.

Mr. CHUN (Republic of Korea) said he had no response to the accusations of North Korea. However, the North Korean authorities could not run from their obligations with false accusations.

Mr. CATARINO (Portugal) stressed that the contents of the Indonesian statements could not hide the facts of the situation in East Timor or erase the aspiration of the people of East Timor. Portugal stood ready to seek a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution to the problem, within the framework of the talks of the Secretary-General organized by the Secretary-General.

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For information media. Not an official record.