Fifty-ninth General Assembly
38th Meeting (AM)
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST DO MORE TO COMBAT RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, ENSURE
RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DISCUSSION CONCLUDES
Noting that racism and the lack of respect for the right to self-determination continued to serve as major causes of conflict in many parts of the world, delegates told the Third Committee today that the international community must accelerate efforts to combat racial discrimination and to ensure protection of the right to self-determination. The statements heard by the Committee today concluded its discussion of issues related to racism and the right to self-determination.
Highlighting concerns about the upsurge in levels of discrimination and the rise of new forms of discrimination, speakers emphasized the need to further advance the implementation of recommendations and standards set in conventions and conferences to which most Member States had subscribed.
Arab delegations expressed particular concern about the new dangers presented to the international arena by the heightened discrimination against Islamic and Arab communities in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The representative of Egypt called for more concerted efforts by the international community to eliminate that phenomenon, while the representative of Syria said the prevalence of hatred directed at certain groups seriously undermined peace and stability worldwide. The full implementation of the Durban Programme of Action and the demonstration of political resolve were required to adequately respond to racism and racial discrimination worldwide.
The representative of Israel said that a culture of hatred against Jews permeated both official and unofficial media in the Middle East, marked by calls for Israel’s destruction, the latest mutation of anti-Semitism. It was, therefore, crucial for anti-Semitism to be condemned in the strongest terms by the General Assembly, in all relevant resolutions. She said the Middle East conflict was a political conflict, not a racial one, and mutual respect leading to negotiations and compromise, was a key tenet of any hopes for peace. She reiterated that the State of Israel had always recognized the right of all peoples to self-determination and respected the right of all inhabitants of the Middle East, including the Palestinian people, to self-determination. The right to self-determination, however, did not translate into a right to violence. The right to self-determination must be exercised alongside the respect for the rights of others to their own self-determination.
The observer for Palestine said that the Palestinian people had been subjected to one of the most brutal forms of colonization in modern history. Their right to self-determination continued to be withheld by force by Israel, in violation of international legitimacy and international law. The Palestinian people’s enjoyment of their right to self-determination and independence remained essential to the achievement of a comprehensive, permanent and lasting peace in the Middle East. The Palestinian people had made historic compromises to exercise their inalienable rights and to live in peace and dignity, yet they would never succumb to the forces of oppression, violence, cruelty and injustice. They would continue to hold fast to their inalienable rights and to believe in the day that Palestine would participate as a MemberState of the United Nations.
The representative of Dominica, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said racism and racial discrimination remained of deep historical significance for the countries of CARICOM. Slavery and indentureship, as well as the persistence of colonialism, had negatively impacted the development process in the region. Since many of the inequitable social and economic conditions had been caused by historical misdeeds, corrective measures should be enacted, including meaningful debt relief, free and fair trade, special and differential measures and comprehensive initiatives for sustainable development.
Speakers also highlighted concerns about the use of political platforms to incite racial discrimination and the use of the Internet to spread racist propaganda. The representative of Jamaica stressed that there was a need to preserve a balance between protecting the right to freedom of expression and ensuring that this freedom was exercised responsibly.
The representatives of the Russian Federation, Cuba, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Armenia, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Jordan and Azerbaijan also addressed the Committee.
In exercise of their right of reply, the representatives of Latvia, Israel, Armenia, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan and Armenia made statements following the general discussion. The Observer of Palestine also spoke.
The Third Committee will reconvene on Tuesday, 9 November, at 2:30 p.m., to begin its consideration of issues related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its joint general discussion on racism and racial discrimination and the right to self-determination. For additional background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3798 of 3 November.
Statements on Racism, Self-Determination
Mr. LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance remained a concern; the main problem remained the manifestation of racist feelings in daily life. Such prejudices could lead to political extremism. It was essential to prevent such intolerance, and it was not enough just to condemn it. States must undertake anti-discriminatory human rights legislation. They must inculcate tolerance as a part of culture and mainstream it into the educational system. The World Conference at Durban had demonstrated the majority’s resolve to react powerfully through legislation and the mainstreaming of anti-racist feelings in public opinion to eradicate this phenomenon. Now, a clear strategy must be drafted for united action to implement those outcomes.
Recalling his country’s invitation, extended to the Special Rapporteur on racism, he also recalled that, at the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, his country had sponsored a draft on countering actions leading to forms of contemporary racism. That text condemned neo-Nazi and SS activities. Such activities were particularly malicious on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the victory over Nazism, and some States’ opposition called the judgements of the Nuremburg tribunal into question.
Combating racism related closely to ensuring the rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities, he stressed. Unfortunately some new members of the European Union continued to discriminate against ethnic and linguistic minorities; in Latvia and Estonia, the situation remained very complicated. The situation had worsened due to authorities’ attitude towards ethnic minorities, who had been labelled “occupiers”. Moreover, according to plans to optimize the educational system in those countries, middle school education in Russian was being dismantled. For example, Russian-language schools had moved to using Latvian, while only 40 per cent of time spent in the classroom in those schools still teaching in Russian was given over to education in that language.
ZINA KALAY-KLEITMAN (Israel) noted the United Nations was founded on the principle that members of all races and ethnic groups should be free from racism and that all peoples should have the right to decide their own fates. Today, anti-Semitism had re-emerged with renewed vigour, strengthening to frightening proportions in recent years. In the Middle East, a heightened climate of incitement and a culture of hatred against Jews permeated both official and unofficial media. The pernicious hatred of the Jew as an individual, of Judaism as a religion, and of the Jewish people as a nation, continued unabated. Today there were calls for Israel’s destruction, the latest mutation of anti-Semitism. It was, therefore, crucial for anti-Semitism to be condemned in the strongest terms by the General Assembly, in all relevant resolutions.
She said that like the United Nations, Israel was born with the guiding principle that all peoples had a right to self-determination. It was a country representing a people that had been without a home for thousands of years. The State of Israel had always recognized the right of all peoples to self-determination and respected the right of all inhabitants of the Middle East, including the Palestinian people, to self-determination. Israel had no interest in dominating the Palestinians and was committed to the vision of a two-State solution articulated in the Road Map.
The right to self-determination however did not translate into a right to violence. The right to self-determination must be exercised alongside the respect for the rights of others to their own self-determination. The Middle East conflict was a political conflict, not a racial one, and mutual respect leading to negotiations and compromise, was a key tenet of any hopes for peace. In their yearning for self-determination and peace, the Palestinian people had suffered from the tragedy of a leadership that had put obstacles in the path of their own self-determination. She said her Government was striving to bring the region back towards the framework of the Road Map. The Security Fence aimed to reduce the terrorism, sponsored both implicitly and explicitly by the Palestinian leadership. Israel looked forward to the day when it could live beside its Palestinian neighbours, with the two peoples enjoying their rights to self-determination and peace.
CRISPIN S. GREGOIRE (Dominica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said racism and racial discrimination remained of deep historical significance for the countries of CARICOM. Slavery and indentureship, as well as the persistence of colonialism, had negatively impacted the development process of these societies and their people. As many of the inequitable social and economic conditions presently afflicting developing countries had been caused by historical misdeeds, corrective measures should be enacted, including meaningful debt relief, free and fair trade, special and differential measures and comprehensive initiatives for sustainable development such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Great significance was also attached to the speedy implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he added. Thus, the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the independent experts on implementation of the Durban mandate and the Working Groups of Experts on People of African Descent were all welcomed. CARICOM also noted initiatives undertaken by other United Nations bodies, including the anti-racist programme of the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s International Coalition of Cities against Racism.
Also espousing support for the work of the Special Rapporteur on racism, he said that CARICOM concurred with his recommendations, which called for national programmes to combat racism, discrimination and intolerance and to promote the concept of pluralism. There must be an “intellectual strategy” to combat these scourges, as well as attention to ensure that the legitimate struggle against terrorism did not breed new forms of discrimination targeting specific populations, religions, cultures or ethnic groups. CARICOM would have wished that the racism of old would have diminished into insignificance in the third millennium; however, it remained evident that racism and xenophobia continued to serve as major causes of conflict and tension in many parts of the world.
MOHAMED ELBADRI (Egypt) said that, among the numerous social maladies confronting the world, the most dangerous had been the contempt of man for man for reasons of race, religion, language, gender and other differences. While international efforts had started to eliminate this disease, success had regretfully been limited. The two reports of the Special Rapporteur had sounded an alarm of danger on numerous planes, including the emergence of new nationalist movements and radical rightist movements founded on xenophobia, presenting new dangers on the international arena. Of particular concern was the heightened discrimination against Islamic and Arab communities because of their religion and ethnicity. He stressed the critical need for internationally concerted efforts to eliminate that phenomenon.
It was regrettable that one symptom of that social disease was the question of Palestine, which continued to be held hostage by the intransigence of the Israeli occupation. Occupation forces applied racist and discriminatory policies against the Palestinian people. For how long would innocent people continue to be killed? For how long would their land continue to be confiscated for the interest of Israel? Egypt looked forward to the day when the international community would apply the necessary pressure to end Israel’s intransigence. New methods and a new framework were required. In closing, he emphasized the importance of education as a first line of defence against all social diseases.
JORGE CUMBERBACH MIGUÉN (Cuba) said racial discrimination constituted one of the most blatant manifestations of the exploitation to which some peoples of the world had been subjected for centuries. The idea that one group might be superior due to the colour of their skin, their spiritual creed, or bizarre interpretations of genetic dispositions, tried to hide the profound inviolability of cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. Scientists had shown that the genetic make-up of all human beings on the planet differed by less than one per cent, yet those seeking to control the world continued to insist they had a divine right to govern.
Unfortunately, he added, new legislation and the transformation of modern social science had not eliminated racism. The phenomenon remained the logical consequence of the desire to dominate. Thus, one could see in the most developed European nations that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and Islamophobia were all on the rise. There had also be an upsurge in far-right political parties, which could mobilize major sectors of society and establish networks to propagate violence outside States’ borders. In the United States, thousands of neo-fascist organizations continued to draw upon smaller groups and to use the entire range of media to disseminate their xenophobic messages. After the tragic events of 11 September 2001, this phenomenon had worsened, and a tendency to identify certain peoples, cultures and religions as particularly given to terrorism had emerged.
Given the present world situation, he stressed, the commitments undertaken at Durban must urgently be implemented. That process would require the support of all United Nations bodies as well as treaty organizations, the Commission on Human Rights and its special procedures. Among their successes, the commitments undertaken at Durban had helped to bolster unity in combating racism and had identified the root causes of racism, condemning it in its contemporary forms. The primary object now was to ensure that agreements were put into practice and that new initiatives were developed to address pending issues, including compensation for the serious harm and consequences of racism.
MICHELLE JOSEPH (Saint Lucia) said adherence to the principle of self-determination had enormous significance to the small islands and non self-governing territories under continual review by the General Assembly. It was critical, therefore, to acknowledge the importance of supporting the work of the Committee of 24, as well as the Fourth Committee. She reiterated her delegation’s view that both the Third Committee and the Fourth Committee should work in close collaboration, given the convergence of their mandates in the area of self-determination.
As a small island State in the Caribbean that had emerged into independence through a process of self-determination, its focus remained on the people of the territories in the region that had not yet exercised this fundamental right. There were still 16 territories, mostly small island countries, that had not yet achieved a full measure of self-government and had yet to exercise their right to self-determination. The international community must accelerate efforts to ensure that this basic right was achieved by the people of these territories.
She stressed the need for implementation of actions called for in resolutions adopted by the General Assembly, at the recommendation of the Third and Fourth Committees. The mandate of the General Assembly on self-determination could only be achieved through a concerted effort on the implementation of the recommendations in its resolutions. Her delegation hoped the mid-term review of the plan of action of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, to be conducted in 2005, would yield useful recommendations on how the United Nations system could finally implement the actions it had repeatedly been asked to undertake by the international community.
PAULETTE A. BETHEL (Bahamas) said her Government remained committed to eradicating the evils of racism and racial discrimination, including through the Caribbean Community, Organization of American States (OAS), Commonwealth and the United Nations. The country had participated at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and remained committed to the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The international community must remain vigilant against the resurgence of old racist ideologies and the emergence of new forms of intolerance, particularly regarding the use of modern information and communications technologies.
The Caribbean region, she noted, had been shaped by phenomena based on racist ideologies. To combat that legacy, the CARICOM had drafted a Charter of Civil Liberty, which served as a Bill of Rights for all persons in the region, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, creed or nationality. The Charter had become a sine qua non for membership in the Community since its adoption in 1997, and CARICOM remained committed to its full implementation.
Nationally, she added, the Bahamas had sought to create institutions and policies to foster an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for diversity. The Constitution contained entrenched provisions related to the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the Individual, applicable to all persons. The philosophy underpinning those rights had been translated into action, including in the areas of equality under the law, employment, education, health care and the provision of other social services. The most vivid demonstration of the country’s commitment to tolerance and respect for diversity remained the International Cultural Weekend held every October in which representatives of more than 50 nationalities displayed their art, culture, food and traditions.
DZIUNIK AGHAJANIAN (Armenia) said that while there had been a growing understanding that individual human rights could not be fully guaranteed unless people’s right to self-determination was exercised, the realization of that right continued to be preceded by attempts to suppress it, leading to military confrontation. The numerous violent and unresolved conflicts around the world should awaken the international community to the fact that current efforts and means used to address those issues were not satisfactory. The ill-advised attempts to juxtapose the principles of self-determination and territorial integrity in such a way that gave one a priority over the other was no recipe for success. It was necessary to define a balanced framework within which those two principles could be reconciled so as not to be considered on an “either-or” basis. A human-rights approach, respecting the values of democracy and human freedoms, could be useful in this regard.
She said the people of Nagorno-Karabakh had sought to peacefully defend their right to self-determination -- to live freely, with security and dignity, on their own historic land. However, Azerbaijan continued to reject proposals for a peaceful, lawful resolution. It was a historical fact that Nagorno-Karabakh’s secession from Soviet Azerbaijan was both legal and peaceful and carried out through a referendum. It was in full accordance with the principles of international law and the existing Soviet legislation of the time. No reinvention and rewriting of history could change the actual course of events.
A resolution to the complex issue of a people’s right to self-determination required determined efforts. Her Government regretted that its negotiating partners had preferred warmongering and the incitement of anti-Armenian hatred to serious efforts to find a negotiated solution to the conflict. The past history of this conflict was full of examples when xenophobia and intolerance had been propagated to create fertile ground for subsequent violence. Armenians believed that in the twenty-first century, the political will of people can and should prevail in solving conflicts.
SATISH MISRA (India) noted that the Secretary-General’s report on the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance had concluded that further determined efforts were required to combat frequent manifestations of racial discrimination and xenophobia. The study on political platforms that promoted or incited racial discrimination, he added, showed that those scourges had been on the rise in many parts of the developed world, and States must exercise greater control over racist and xenophobia statements by political parties or other ideological movements.
He also noted the report of the Special Rapporteur on racism and agreed on the importance of the elaboration of an additional protocol to the Anti-Racism Convention on combating the use of the Internet for racist or xenophobic purposes, among others. The recrudescence of racism in various parts of the world constituted a disturbing phenomenon. Globalization had led to increased income disparities, as well as increased unemployment and wider regional disparities exacerbated by racist, xenophobic and separatist tendencies. There was a need carefully to nurture multi-cultural, democratic and pluralist traditions, to inculcate tolerance and respect for diversity in society and to implement appropriate educational and legislative strategies against racism.
On self-determination, he noted his country’s leading role in the struggle for decolonization. Self-determination had been recognized as the right of peoples of non-self-governing colonies and trust territories to independence and self-government. Once exercised, the right enabled a whole people to choose its government and participate in national decision-making through representative, democratic institutions. With this fundamental principle came responsibility, he added. No right could be used to promote subversion nor to erode the political cohesion or territorial integrity of a MemberState. The right to self-determination could not be abused to encourage secession and undermine pluralistic and democratic States. Ethnic or religious segregation and chauvinism must not be legitimized.
REZA FARROKHNEJAD (Iran) said the rise in Islamophobia in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks was a major concern to Muslim communities in various parts of the world. Regretfully the adoption of some government policies, such as anti-terrorism measures and prohibition of the exercising religious precepts in state schools, had aggravated this situation and carried with them the serious risk of promoting and legitimizing Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims.
His Government urged all States faced with the problem of Islamophobia to review and revise their policies and laws which encouraged or led to the violation of the rights of Muslim communities. It also drew the attention of MemberStates and other influential actors to the need to develop a strategy to combat Islamophobia as a matter of urgency. His country was committed to pursuing policies, both at national and international levels, in order to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms. This included a commitment to the full implementation of the commitments undertaken in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine, said that, once more this year, she came before this Committee as the representative of a people subjected to one of the most brutal forms of colonization in modern history. At a time of almost complete decolonization, it was shameful to continue to deny the Palestinian people their right to self-determination. That right continued to be withheld by force by Israel, in flagrant violation of international legitimacy and international law.
Every year that passed without the Palestinian people’s realizing their right to self-determination, she added, constituted another year of intolerable suffering and misery. Any attempt merely to calm the situation on the ground, without truly addressing the core issue of the right to self-determination, would ultimately fall short of a genuine solution. The Palestinian people’s enjoyment of their right to self-determination and independence remained essential to the achievement of a comprehensive, permanent and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Over the past four years, she continued, Palestinian casualties had continued to mount, as the occupying forces launched military raids and attacks against the Palestinian population of the occupied territories. Israel had continued its attempts to colonize the occupied territories, including through construction of a network of illegal settlements, bypass roads and the wall. Yet, the International Court of Justice had decided that both the settlements and the wall were contrary to international law. Moreover, the wall deeply impaired the right to self-determination, as it swallowed up land and made the two-State solution virtually impossible.
The Palestinian people had made historic compromises to exercise their inalienable rights and to live in peace and dignity, she concluded. Yet they would never succumb to the forces of oppression, violence, cruelty and injustice. They would continue to hold fast to their inalienable rights and to believe in the day that Palestine would participate as a MemberState of the United Nations.
STAFFORD O. NEIL (Jamaica) emphasized the need for implementation of standards set in conventions to which most Members States were party and in outcomes of conferences to which Member States had subscribed. It was of great concern that racism continued to be a significant problem and was marked by upsurges in levels of discrimination. Also of great concern was the use of political platforms to incite racial discrimination. The use of racism in the political arena should be discouraged at all levels.
Freedom of expression, he continued, was another critical area to address, given that the Internet was being used to spread racist propaganda. There was a need to preserve balance -- to protect freedom of expression, while ensuring this freedom was being exercised responsibly. There was a need to strengthen collaboration with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of the significant role they played in the global campaign against racial determination. The world had witnessed their especially significant role in the anti-apartheid movement and the decisive role they had played in influencing world opinion against apartheid.
He said his delegation hoped there would be more information on activities of the working group on people of African descent. Regarding the implementation of the Durban Programme of Action, he reaffirmed the importance of corrective measures for historical injustices, and in particular the need for reparations to remove the legacy of slavery.
YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan) said his country had a multi-ethnic and multicultural population, with representatives of some 130 ethnic groups and 45 confessions, as well as many ethno-cultural and linguistic groups, living in its territory. Acknowledging its multicultural nature, Kazakhstan had striven to ensure equal participation for all in social life. Thus, prevention of inter-ethnic, interracial and inter-confessional divisions, preservation of the traditions and cultures of all peoples and provision of new opportunities for development constituted a priority challenge for the Government.
National legislation contained legal norms banning discrimination against minorities, he said. The Constitution provided for the equality of all ethnic groups, and the Law on Public Service prohibited any restrictions to join based on race, ethnic background and language. Moreover, article 4 of the Law on Culture prohibited propaganda and advocacy of racial or ethnic superiority. The Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan had been established with the goal of preserving civil peace, working as a deliberative, advisory body to the President. It brought together more than 300 national, regional and municipal ethnic and cultural organizations and served effectively to promote the interests of national minorities in development and implementation of government policies and programmes for social accord.
An appropriate educational, cultural and linguistic environment had been created, he added. Areas in which national minorities predominated operated ethnic schools and ethnic and cultural centres, including Sunday schools for teaching mother tongues and ethnic traditions and ceremonies. There were ethnic theatres, holidays, and newspapers and magazines. The right to study in and use mother tongues had been enshrined in relevant legislation and the Constitution. Not a single conflict based on ethnicity, confession or race had erupted in his country in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up, he noted.
KHIN THANDAR (Myanmar), noting that the end of colonialism had regrettably not brought an end to racism, said much still remained to be achieved in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Myanmar was a nation of many nationalities, where citizens were equal, regardless of their race or religion. Although the colonial power had employed the divide-and-rule policy throughout its rule of Myanmar, the majority of Myanmar’s nationalities had chosen to remain in the Union at its independence. Post-independent armed insurgencies were rooted in colonial, ideological and economic factors, and were not related to racism or racial and religious discrimination.
She said the Kayin people mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s report were far from excluded and persecuted, as the report claimed. The Kayin national race was the second largest ethnic group in Myanmar. Another group mentioned in the report were the Shan people. The ShanState was the largest State in Myanmar. He stressed that Myanmar was a Union made up of 135 national races, all of whom were indigenous to the country. The reference contained in the report on the national races of Myanmar should never have found their way into a report on racism and racial discrimination.
SAJA S. MAJALI, Acting Director of the Human Rights and Human Security Department of Jordan, noted that the international community had collectively affirmed the right to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial, alien or foreign occupation. Occupation constituted a clear violation of the right to self-determination, and the denial of that fundamental human right led to non-realization of all the others. The tragic escalation of violence and resulting serious human rights situation in the occupied territories, described by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the territories and his colleague on the right to food, remained direct consequences of the military occupation, and the occupying Power’s failure to comply with international law.
The Palestinian people continued to be deprived of their inalienable right to self-determination, she continued, and to be subjected to numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The construction of the separation wall had served to consolidate Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and had jeopardized Palestinian national interests and the possibility of realizing a viable PalestinianState. Ultimately, it had jeopardized the possibility of peace.
All States, including those of the Middle East, remained entitled to live in peace within secure and internationally recognized borders, she stressed. Peace and security would not be ensured by military force, but by ending the occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people and their land on the basis of United Nations resolutions, including Security Council 1398, which called for a two-State solution. The Government of Israel must implement its obligations under the Road Map. Israel must take all effective measures to end the current crises and violence in the occupied Palestinian territories, to resume the peace talks and to implement all relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the construction of the wall.
RANIA AL HAJ ALI (Syria) said her delegation was gravely concerned about the upsurge of racism, which had been marked by the use of information and communication technologies to fuel hatred directed at certain groups and undermining peace and stability worldwide. The implementation of the Durban programme and the demonstration of political resolve were required to adequately respond to racism and racial discrimination worldwide. Her delegation wished for a balance to be struck between ensuring respect for commitments to realize the Durban objectives and to avoid putting too much emphasis on a specific region.
She said Syria was especially concerned about the drastic deterioration of conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories. The oppressive policies carried out by the occupying Power, including the construction of the separatist wall, continued to infringe on the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Her Government deplored the racist statements made by political and religious authorities of Israel, and the fact that the United Nations had not been able to put an end to arbitrary and oppressive policies being carried out against the Palestinian people, which prevented them from being able to exercise their right to self-determination. Syria had always provided political refuge to the Palestinians, and ensuring them the same rights as Syrian nationals. Peace and security in the region would only be fully achieved once there was an end to the illegal occupation of Arab territories allowing Palestinians to establish an independent State on their territory with Jerusalem as its capital.
ILGAR MAMMADOV (Azerbaijan) said the there was no opposition of the two principles of respect for the territorial integrity of States and the right to self-determination with regard to the situation of Nagorno-Karabakh. The right of peoples to self-determination was not applicable in relation to the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh as they constituted a minority residing within the territory of a sovereign State.
When international organizations had considered the situation and taken decisions thereon, they had primarily taken into account the norms of international law on the right of peoples to self-determination and the rights of individuals belonging to minorities and the correlation between these rights and the principles of the territorial integrity of States. Thus, one could see that in the Security Council’s four resolutions on the situation of Nagorno-Karabakh, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan had been reaffirmed. This made all previous and subsequent discussions about which State the region of Nagorno-Karabakh belonged to, and false allusions to the right of its population to self-determination, senseless.
At the 1996 Lisbon Summit, he added, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had suggested that three elements remained central to settling the conflict: ensuring the territorial integrity of Armenia and Azerbaijan; establishing the legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh in an agreement based on self-determination conferring upon the region the highest degree of self-rule within Azerbaijan; and guaranteeing security for Nagorno-Karabakh and its whole population. These principles were supported by all OSCE members except Armenia, which had, once again, demonstrated that the opinion of the international community did not coincide with its own understanding and interpretation of international law. The issue had also been considered by the Council of Europe, with the Committee of Ministers concluding that the settlement should be based on the rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights and the rights of minorities, as well as the inviolability of frontiers.
However, he concluded, these decisions did not answer the question of how, at the end of the day, the conflict should be settled. Neither national minorities nor majorities should be allowed to assert their identity in such a way as to deny the possibility for others to do the same, nor in a manner leading to discrimination against others in the common domain. The settlement should be based on preservation of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, as well as of the identity of the Armenian minority in Nagorno-Karabakh. For that reason, Azerbaijan had agreed to extend the highest degree of self-rule to Nagorno-Karabakh.
Statements in Exercise of the Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Latvia said the Russian Federation had made baseless statements regarding his country this morning. They had been unfriendly and unhelpful, but this was not surprising given that such statements had been part of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy vis-à-vis his country since its independence 13 years ago. Today’s statement distorted the picture to such a degree that one had to wonder why the Russian Federation had talked so about Latvia, which had shown steady progress in promoting and protecting human rights. Nearly all regional and international organizations had affirmed that improvement.
More and more often, he noted, the Russian Federation’s evaluations differed from those of human rights experts, international organizations and individual States. The Russian Federation continued to incite Latvia’s national minorities, instead of encouraging them to integrate. However, his delegation did note with appreciation the Russian Federation’s efforts to pay attention to issues of racism and intolerance internationally, as the domestic situation there had worsened.
He said 50,000 individual belonged to skinhead groups and had received support from some political parties. Issues related to xenophobia and racial discrimination had received little attention, yet close 70 per cent of Russians had declared they hated foreigners and supported the idea of keeping “Russia for Russians only”. Latvia also remained concerned about the Russian Federation’s interference with non-governmental organizations, which problematized attempts to address racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that using words such as “racist separation” was incorrect from a factual point of view and only added to any already tense issue. Noting the dissenting opinion of Judge Higgins of the International Court of Justice, she quoted his statement that the advisory opinion had been detached from reality to find that the wall constituted a serious impediment to the exercise of rights by Palestinians. He had recognized the real impediment as the unwillingness of both sides to move in parallel to secure necessary conditions, and had stated that it was unnecessary to find the wall, rather than the larger issue, as the serious obstacle to self-determination.
Stating that a serious and honest question had been raised earlier, she said that Israel did not refer to the end of occupation as the simplest solution to resolving the situation, as the issue was neither simplistic nor one-dimensional. Israel had striven to end the conflict, and had, in 1993, honestly believed in the Palestinian Authority commitment. A whole series of agreements had been signed, she recalled, and the Palestinians had solemnly undertaken to fight terrorism, to end incitement, and to confiscate weapons, among other priorities. However, Israel continued to face the bitter reality and remained surprised that no Arab speakers had denounced the bombing of civilians in Israel.
The representative of Armenia said, in reference to Azerbaijan’s allegation of aggression from his country, that the issue had never been between two States, just between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The resulting situation was a response to Azerbaijan’s decision to use force in suppressing Nagorno-Karabakh’s exercise of self-determination. In reference to Security Council resolutions, he counselled Azerbaijan to read their texts carefully before interpreting them, and to pay attention to the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh as a party to the conflict, which Azerbaijan continued to reject.
On the reference to the lack of a right to self-determination, she said that one country could not define whether a people had that right. Nagorno-Karabakh had been given rights in keeping with its autonomous status, as recognized by Soviet policies at the time. Nagorno-Karabakh had been forcefully placed under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction, which did not take away the people’s right to self-determination. Nagorno-Karabakh had never been a part of independent Azerbaijan and was not now. The Republic of Azerbaijan had been declined membership in the League of Nations, she recalled, including for the lack of effective control over the territories it claimed. The League had also recognized that the region had never been its own State. The multi-ethnic Soviet Socialist Republic of Azerbaijan had been created as an administrative region in 1921, with arbitrarily-drawn borders. Before the Union’s collapse in 1992, Azerbaijan’s borders remained administrative. Thus, the principle of territorial integrity defined by the Helsinki Final Act had no applicability to the issue.
The representative of the Russian Federation said Latvia had just called his delegation’s statement groundless with regard to the critical comments made regarding Latvian legislation and legislative practices on questions now under examination. Since they were groundless and pointless, Latvia should look carefully at the assessments and recommendations contained in documents issued by international experts on human rights, including the Committee on Human Rights and the Committee on Racial Discrimination, following Latvia’s periodic reports. In particular, Latvia should look at the sections “questions causing concern” and “recommendations”. These documents spoke for themselves and it was to be hoped that the conclusions of international experts would be taken into account as worthy of consideration.
The Observer for Palestine said that the Israeli representative had today continued to deliver flowery speeches about peace and the Road Map, including Israel’s support for it. Yet, the Road Map remained the same document that the Israeli Prime Minister had declared was not even on the table. The only initiative on the table was his disengagement plan, which had nothing to do with the Road Map. That same disengagement plan, claimed Israel’s Prime Minister, had not been intended to dominate the Palestinians and had recognized their right to self-determination. This was hard to believe as it had now been seen that the plan’s real intention had been to act as formaldehyde and prevent the establishment of a PalestinianState.
It was the occupying Power, not the Palestinians, that was not interested in peace, she affirmed. Israel continued to seek to perpetuate the subjugation of the Palestinian people and land through continued acts of occupation and expansion. It was time to stop blaming the Palestinians for Israel’s actions, time for Israel to stop hijacking the concept of security. The Palestinians had been deprived of all forms of security. Moreover, regarding Israel’s claim that the wall’s construction constituted a security measure to prevent terrorism, she said this remained illogical and representative of the same lie that had been used to cover all crimes committed against the Palestinians.
It should be recalled, she stressed, that the same security pretext had been used to justify Israel’s settlements activities. The international community had witnessed the actual colonization of Palestinian land while Israel had argued about security measures. In reality, the issue revolved around Palestinian land and designs on part of Israel to conquer more land at the expense of the Palestinians and their right to self-determination. Finally, she reiterated that the suicide bombings committed by Palestinians were condemnable. There was no justification for such terror, nor for the State terror perpetrated by Israel against Palestinian civilians. However, such violence had not emerged in a vacuum. Its roots could be found in the occupation, which remained the root cause of all ongoing problems faced today. The solution to the conflict must be negotiated, it would not be arrived at by force.
The representative of Azerbaijan said, in reference to the allegation that Nagorno-Karabakh, not Armenia, had occupied Azeri territories, that he would leave this claim to the judgement of the Committee. Could 100,000 individuals occupy 20 per cent of the territory of 8 million people? On the contention that Nagorno-Karabakh had never been occupied by Azerbaijan, or that it had been forcefully included in the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan by Stalin, he stressed that Karabakh had always constituted a part of historical Azerbaijan. The proof could be found in an early 1800s agreement between the Khanate of Azerbaijan and the Russian Commander-in-Chief.
In 1918, he added, both Armenia and Azerbaijan had proclaimed their independence, but Armenia had lacked the territory to establish its capital. It had requested that Azerbaijan yield Yerevan to Armenia, to allow it to establish its own State. This had been done in accordance with the principles of solidarity and the linked future of two neighbours. Moreover, the British General representing the Allied Powers in 1918 had recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan. The League of Nations had de jure recognized Azerbaijan in 1920, including Nagorno-Karabakh. Additionally, in response to Armenian territorial claims, the 1923 Soviet decision had declared that Nagorno-Karabakh should be retained in Azerbaijan, which implied that the region was, de jure, a part of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, Azerbaijan had been recognized by the international community, including the United Nations, within its present borders.
The representative of Armenia said the capital of Armenia had been established in 1782 B.C. It could, therefore, not have been given as a gift from
Azerbaijan. The references made in history books were much more verifiable than the reinvented or rewritten history being presented.
The representative of Azerbaijan said that the exchange of opinions between the two delegations reminded him of an anecdote in the former Soviet Union regarding a dispute between the Azerbaijanis and Armenians. A wire had been found in the fifth century leading a scientist to conclude there was a telephone connection with the use of fire. But since Armenians had not found the wire, they decided that in the tenth century there was a wireless telephone connection.
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