Ad Hoc Committee Established by General Assembly Resolution 51/210 Concludes Session without Final Agreement on Counter-Terrorism Convention

2 July 2009

Ad Hoc Committee Established by General Assembly Resolution 51/210 Concludes Session without Final Agreement on Counter-Terrorism Convention

2 July 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

43rd Meeting (AM)

ad hoc committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 concludes

session without final agreement on counter-terrorism convention

“Negotiations are the art of the impossible; it is within our hands to make the possible impossible or the impossible possible,” the Coordinator tasked with ironing out a draft comprehensive counter-terrorism convention said today as the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210 concluded its thirteenth session without final agreement on a text.

Coordinator Maria Telalian ( Greece) noted that, despite the optimism expressed during last Monday’s opening meeting regarding the possibility of concluding a compromise draft, several delegations had expressed apprehensions in closed-door consultations throughout the week about the tone of the debate, saying it raised questions as to whether positions had changed.  Other delegations had viewed the exchange as a restatement of well-known positions.  Negotiations would extend into an intersessional period.

She said delegations had since assured her that the Coordinator’s package proposal of 2007 was still under active consideration.  Several had given assurances that, although different language was used as compared to previous years, there was no intention to change or signal a change of positions, and no desire to revert to the pre-2007 position.

During today’s meeting, the Committee adopted its draft report, in accordance with traditional practice, which contained a draft recommendation that the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) establish a working group with a view to finalizing the draft convention and continuing discussions on the question of convening a high-level conference on the matter, under United Nations auspices.

Underscoring several considerations that should be taken into account as talks proceeded, the Coordinator said that, first, the 2007 package proposal was aimed at overcoming the impasse, reiterating the general understanding that all proposals remain on the table pending agreement.  Secondly, the elements of the package were part of an overall package and should be understood against the background of the other provisions of the draft convention, particularly draft articles 2, 3, 14, 15, 20 and 22, prepared by Friends of the Chairman (document A/57/37, annex III).

Thirdly, any attempt to “slice” the elements would affect the overall balance, she continued, cautioning that it was not in the spirit of the proposal, nor was it the motivation behind it, that it would be open for delegations to pick and choose those elements they found favourable and discard those they disliked.  Finally, she sought to point out that the interpretation of the convention’s application was the primary responsibility of its signatory parties.  Words or terms that might appear vague, obscure and indeterminate would have their own dynamic, assuming concreteness, clarity and determinacy in specific-fact situations, as relevant authorities assumed their roles of interpretation and application.  That was the functioning of law in society.

As speakers took the floor to reflect on the session, Ghana’s representative said the time had come to “take a leap of faith and set aside any fear of the unknown and consider adopting this convention, without further delay”, with the 2007 proposal as the basis for future progress.  Ghana also supported the convening of a high-level conference, which would serve as a platform for adopting a declaration of principles of international cooperation in addressing the causes of terrorism in all its dimensions, and in addressing outstanding issues, including the possible elaboration of the definition of terrorism, particularly the implementation of the convention, once adopted.

There had been hints of a definition, he said, suggesting that in the meantime the current definition could serve as a “working tool while leaving ourselves open to the possibility of adopting an additional protocol to the convention once it was adopted, based on experience, practice and interpretation of the convention”.  The draft as it now stood could not be used to address all concerns, but it certainly contained the lowest common denominator.

He said any further elaboration of a definition could be considered in discussions of an additional protocol.  In other words, the convention would develop a life of its own, evolving through practice and experience.  Time was of the essence in concluding a comprehensive global response to the phenomenon of terrorism.  The Committee should inspire the confidence of the international community by no longer delaying that work.  The text should be adopted this year.

Other delegates, including those speaking on behalf of major regional groups, concurred with the need to move swiftly towards adoption of a draft convention, with many willing to proceed on the basis of the Coordinator’s 2007 package proposal, which had since taken on board several clarifications.  Sweden’s representative, speaking for the European Union, said he was open to a serious consideration of that proposal and looked forward to a substantive exchange in the Sixth Committee’s new working group.  The convention would be an instrument of international criminal law, and as such, once adopted, would neither alter existing obligations under international humanitarian law, nor create new ones.  The European Union was committed to reaching agreement as soon as possible.

Syria’s representative, speaking for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, reaffirmed that body’s commitment to the negotiating process and underscored the need for progress.  The Islamic Conference reiterated its own previous proposal concerning the scope of the draft convention, while indicating its willingness to continue its consideration of the Coordinator’s latest proposal.  It reaffirmed its determination to make every effort to reach consensus on the draft treaty.

The delegate of the Russian Federation noted that the Committee had been trying to adopt a convention for 13 years but had been bogged down in many different proposals.  The time had come for its adoption, lest the world get the wrong signal regarding the international community’s ability to put an end to international terrorism.

Some very positive signals had emerged during the bilateral contacts, which had been more intensive, open and productive, he said.  At the same time, there was still lingering pessimism, owing to some “very divergent” opinions among influential groups of countries.  It was clear that in the coming period delegations would either have to work on the Coordinator’s package or return to the 2002 proposal.  The positions of opposing groups of countries should be studied, but, at the same time, those groups needed to be more flexible.  The Russian Federation was prepared to support a high-level meeting, but only if it was based on an agreed convention beforehand.

India’s representative said he was pleased with the significant advancement of the process, and particularly encouraged by the report of the facilitator, who had undertaken extensive consultations, and by the Rapporteur’s draft report.  It appeared that the “culminating moment” had come in the negotiations.  Over the last few years, the Committee had grappled with remaining issues, but now there was a text, put together in 2002 and advanced by the 2007 efforts of the facilitator, which accommodated the concerns of some States.  “Our collective wisdom could bring about maximum support leading to adoption,” he said, urging all Member States to show the required flexibility in the process -- the objectives of which were accepted by all -– so that the Committee could adopt the draft convention when it next met.

Closing the session, Committee Chairman Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) said the meeting had been a further opportunity to renew engagement and maintain momentum in efforts to finalize the draft.  He was encouraged by the continuing interest of delegations in seeing the text finalized as soon as possible.  Stressing that negotiations had reached a “critical stage”, he said that, while encouraged by the engagement, he was also concerned that some sought to cling to “well-held” positions.  The time had come to move from those and reach a compromise.  In the words of Ghana’s delegate, it was time to take a leap of faith.

Basically it was outstanding issues surrounding article 18 of the text that had preoccupied the Committee since 2001, he said, adding that the key proposal on the table contained elements that sought to bridge the divergent positions.  The Coordinator’s text, together with the useful clarifications, also had the potential to facilitate agreement.  The forthcoming General Assembly session was crucial, and delegations should remain actively engaged during the intersessional period, mindful of the international community’s expectations of a conclusion to the long negotiation process.  Delegations could not afford to fail in the important legislative task mandated by the General Assembly.

Also speaking in today’s exchange were the representatives of Cuba, Brazil, Norway, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Liechtenstein and the United States.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.