23 September 2011

Palestinian Authority President Outlines Application for United Nations Membership as Heads of State, Government Address General Assembly

23 September 2011
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly


19th, 20th & 21stMeetings (AM, PM & Night)

Palestinian Authority President Outlines Application for United Nations


Membership as Heads of State, Government Address General Assembly


Peace Can Only Come through Negotiations,

Responds Israel’s Prime Minister, Offering ‘Straightforward Discussion’

Declaring “this is the moment of truth, our people are waiting to hear the answer of the world”, Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, outlined an application for United Nations membership before a packed hall today as the General Assembly continued its general debate.

As world leaders held their annual gathering at the United Nations, he urged them to “stand beside Palestine” as it pursued its historic goal.  He did not believe that “anyone with a shred of conscience” could reject the much anticipated bid for full membership, which he earlier had presented to the Secretary-General for transmission to the Security Council.

With the eyes of the world watching, he waved the application document high in the air before applauding delegates, saying:  “We have one goal — to be.  And we shall be.”  The application was yet another in a series of peaceful Palestinian efforts to resolve the long-standing impasse between themselves and Israel, he said, recalling that in recent decades, Palestine had agreed to “painful and difficult” land concessions with an eye towards peace.  However, every initiative, conference and round of negotiations since then had been shattered by Israel’s settlement expansion into the already-diminished Palestinian territory.

He said that Israel’s intensified settlement-building — coupled with its refusal to commit to terms of reference for negotiations based on international law and United Nations resolutions — constituted the core issues of the conflict.  Reports showed a “horrific” picture of the Israeli occupation, including land confiscation and a continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip — which in itself constituted a serious violation of international law, he said.

Armed settler militias under “special protection” from the Israeli army had stepped up attacks on Palestinian homes, schools, mosques, fields and crops, he continued.  Nevertheless, Palestine was willing to return to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference and a complete cessation of settlement activities on Israel’s part, he said, calling for “bridges of dialogue, instead of checkpoints and walls of separation”.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — taking the podium only minutes later — swiftly denounced the application, saying that peace could only be achieved through direct negotiations, and not through United Nations resolutions.  Indeed, while Israel wanted peace, the Palestinians wanted a State, even without peace.  “I extend my hand to the Palestinian people,” the Prime Minister said, maintaining, like Mr. Abbas, that his side had made many overtures for reconciliation throughout the conflict of more than 60 years.

In 2000, for example, Israel had made a peace offer that had met nearly every Palestinian demand, but then-President Yasser Arafat had rejected it and responded with a fresh wave of violence, he said.  Such compromises on the part of Israel had not calmed the militant Islamic storm threatening Israel, but only brought it closer and made it stronger, he said, emphasizing that no responsible leader could wish away present dangers.  As Israel’s Prime Minister, he could not risk the future of the Jewish State on wishful thinking.

The world around Israel was becoming increasingly dangerous, he continued, warning against the “malignancy” of militant Islam, “which cloaks itself in the mantle of a great faith”, and which had taken over Lebanon and Gaza, poisoning many Arab minds against the United States and the West.  That militant ideology opposed not just Israel’s policies, but the very fact of Israel as a State, he stressed.

Mr. Netanyahu recalled that, in the very same hall, Israel’s desire for a homeland had been branded racism, while the country had been singled out more often than all the other nations of the world combined.  “Today I hope that the light of truth will shine, if only for a few minutes, in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country.”  Acknowledging that some of the things he would say today were bound to be unpopular among Member States, he stressed that he had not come to the Assembly to “win applause”, but “to speak the truth”.

Addressing President Abbas directly, he said it was time for both sides to have a straightforward discussion, pointing out that they were both in the same city — even the same building — at the same moment.  “I’ll tell you my needs and concerns, you’ll tell me yours,” he said.  “And with God’s help, we’ll find peace.”

Speakers throughout the day reiterated their support for the admission of a Palestinian State to the world body, with many also expressing their belief that Israel had a right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized boundaries.

“Recognizing Palestine as a new State in the United Nations is, in my opinion, the right way to contribute to resolving this conflict,” said President Mauricio Funes Cartagena of El Salvador.  The world was now diverse and complex, and there was a collective responsibility to find new ways to achieve peace and justice, including ways to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Meanwhile, President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea expressed doubts about the relevance of the United Nations, saying he was concerned that the current drive for membership should not become a symbolic battle bereft of substance.  He recalled that the 1993 Oslo Accords on self-determination had led to neither Palestinian statehood nor peace between the two sides.

Also expressed today were expressions of deepening concern over the humanitarian crisis affecting the Horn of Africa; assessments of the lessons learned in the area of nuclear safety since the Japanese earthquake and nuclear emergency earlier this year; and strong demonstrations of support for humanitarian interventions.

President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, the newest country to join the United Nations, addressed the Assembly for the first time.

Also speaking today were the Presidents of Ghana, Iraq, Czech Republic, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Namibia, Armenia, Japan, Hungary, Serbia, Guinea, Nauru, Niger, Haiti, Burundi, Federated States of Micronesia, Comoros, Kiribati and Madagascar.

The Prime Ministers of Bhutan, Sweden, Fiji, Mali, Swaziland, Grenada and Timor-Leste also addressed the Assembly, as did the Foreign Ministers of Greece and Bulgaria.

The Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on 24 September to continue its general debate.


The General Assembly met this morning to resume the general debate of its sixty-sixth session.


JOHN EVANS ATTA MILLS, President of Ghana, noting the increasing complexity of peacekeeping and his country’s extensive contributions to the effort, reaffirmed his support for the ongoing reform agenda undertaken by the United Nations in consultation with troop-and police-contributing countries.  He pledged that, as long as financial, material and human capacity existed at the national level, his country would continue its support in that area.  In order to equitably share the burden, however, it was important that personnel-contributing countries be financially supported by donor countries in a timely manner, while recognizing the financial constraints on all States.  He paid tribute to the United Nations personnel from Ghana and other countries who made the ultimate sacrifice in the past year for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Noting progress in the development of an arms trade treaty, he said he considered it indispensable in preventing the flow of conventional arms to destinations where they were likely to wreak havoc, particularly developing countries.  It was imperative that the remaining preparatory committee meetings come out with proposals toward a treaty that closed any loopholes of the illicit trade in such arms.  Turning to gender issues, he said it was critical to erase stereotypes, affirming that his country remained focused on that, as well as on improving living conditions of women and girls.  He expected the objectives of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to be met.

On the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration, he expressed hope that the implementation of the outcome document would ensure the enjoyment of human rights for all.  Welcoming the focus this year on non-communicable diseases, he noted efforts to improve his country’s health-care system, which included work on infrastructure nationwide, scaling up of a national ambulance service, training of emergency personnel and improvement at the policy level.  Welcoming also international focus on the International Year of Youth, he said his country was implementing a policy to situate young men and women in the centre of nation building, expanding education opportunities, providing free school uniforms and text books and turning over 1,000 “schools under trees” into brick and mortar structures.  He added that the country’s gas and oil finds would provide greater employment opportunities, and that the fight against the menaces of the illicit drug trade must continue.

Turning to climate change, he said that there was a need for urgent and concerted action to maximize the opportunities presented by the phenomenon, with the right investment in infrastructure, institutions and technology by the international community and States.  He hoped that the critical questions that the Cancun conference did not answer would be addressed in Durban.  Political commitment, strong leadership and flexibility were needed to ensure a mitigation regime was achieved.  Pledged commitments should be quantified, monitored and verified.  Sources of funding for the Green Climate Fund must be determined for that purpose, and the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must be empowered to have more authority over climate funds.

On the political and security fronts, he welcomed the shift in emphasis from national security to human security, for which his country was making legal and operational reforms to support.  It was also committed to implementing the global norm of the responsibility to protect.  Noting that presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled in his country a year from now, he said measures had been put in place that would ensure peaceful, free and fair polls.  “ Ghana’s democratic credentials stand tall, and we intend to keep it that way”, he said, reaffirming his country’s fullest commitment to the ideals of the United Nations.

JALAL TALABANI, President of Iraq, said the country had come a long way in building a political system that was based on the National Collaboration Government.  Iraq had started to restore its elements of strength that were lost due to more than three decades of internal and external wars conduced by the former dictatorship; the international isolation and sanctions that Iraq experienced; as well as the collapse of security institutions and the outbreak of sectarian strife that threatened its national existence after the collapse of the former regime.

In the area of development, having greatly improved its security, the country was still relying on the five-year plan for the years 2010-2014 that was announced by the Government in April 2010, and the licensing rounds that were held between Iraq and major companies in the field of oil and natural gas investments to improve the country’s oil industry, he said.  Those actions were taken with a view to keeping the wheels of development turning and, thus, push the economy to advanced levels.  Additionally, the country was able to rid itself of the sanctions and restrictions imposed on it as a result of the invasion of Kuwait.  Based on the relevant Security Council resolutions, Iraq had been freed completely from all the restrictions imposed on it which had prevented it from benefiting from scientific and technological advances.  Iraq had also gained its sovereignty in regard to its financial resources, he stated.

Continuing, he said after that important stage in rebuilding the State, the country was taking firm steps on the road of democracy and development and that it had a bigger need to open the doors of investment in Iraq.  Turning to the state of the country’s security forces, he told the Assembly that, at the end of this year, the United States Forces would withdraw according to the agreement signed between the two nations in 2008.  During the course of this year, Iraqi security forces demonstrated their great ability to combat terrorism and that they would be able to fill the vacuum that the withdrawal of United States Forces would create.  At the same time, Iraq would need to keep numbers of American experts and others in the fields of training and capacity-building.

Turning to Iraq’s international and regional relations, he noted that the country’s constitution and the national programme for the current Government determined the general basis for its foreign policy.  It provided that Iraq was a founding and effective member of the League of Arab States.  In addition, Iraq was part of the Islamic world and respected the principles of good neighbourliness and non-interference.  He urges his neighbours — Turkey and Iran — to use diplomacy and dialogue and stop the bombing of Iraqi territories in the Kurdistan region.  He also expressed Iraq’s concern about the “tragic situation” of the Palestinian people, which he said was the result of Israeli practices that were incompatible with international laws and customs, as well as international humanitarian law.  Iraq, therefore, endorsed and supported the Palestinian Authority’s “direction” to go to the United Nations to achieve full international recognition as a Palestinian State during the current session of the General Assembly and called on the international community to stand by the Palestinian people in their legitimate struggle.

On international cooperation, he pledged that his country would work to develop its cooperation will all countries that stood with it and supported it in the stability of the ongoing political process and the strengthening it and its reconstruction.  “We refer here to the United States of America and the European Union, when we mention these two parties, we mention them not because they are the only ones that stood with Iraq, but because we are linked by mechanisms of actions that should be implemented,” he said.  With regard to its relations with the United Nations, he declared that his country would continue in the approach of constructive cooperation with the world body and would keep the commitments it made.  He welcomed the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), and pledged Iraq’s full commitment to supporting the Mission and the protection of its staff and premises.

VÁCLAV KLAUS, President of Czech Republic, said that 19 years ago, the dissolution of Czechoslovakia was negotiated peacefully without the need for external mediation.  That experience showed that a lasting, acceptable solution to a country’s aspirations for sovereignty and freedom, or to a dispute among countries, must primarily come from within its region and from negotiations among the countries concerned.  In that spirit, he was convinced both Israel and Palestine must work together to find a way forward to end their dispute; there was no shortcut.  Both sides must take an innovative approach and overcome old, inflexible and rigid ways of thinking to negotiate a balanced, enduring solution.  That solution could not come from unilateral steps or steps imposed by the United Nations.

Based on its experience of successfully completing the transition from communism to democracy, the Czech Republic hoped that the countries of North Africa could make progress in the same direction, he said.  Removing several leading politicians was not the crucial moment of the much needed systemic change.  Instead, three pre-conditions were needed:  a clear and transparent concept of where to go; a feasible strategy of how to get there; and the ability to motivate citizens of the countries concerned to promote it.  “I still do not see these pre-conditions in some of the countries of Northern Africa,” he said.  “Systemic change cannot be agreed upon or pre-arranged at international conferences; it cannot be mediated or passively ‘acquired’ as foreign investment.”  Rather, systemic change was a domestic task and a series of policies.  Still, other nations should bolster cooperation with North Africa.  The European Union should foster free trade with it.  Prosperity in North Africa guaranteed its stability and was a pre-condition for preventing growing migration to Southern and Western Europe.

He supported the further development of nuclear energy and lauded the Secretary-General’s decision to hold a meeting on nuclear energy and security.  The main lesson from the nuclear catastrophe in Japan in March was that even coastal locations that were seismically stable for urban planning could be affected by earthquakes far below the sea.  Therefore, nuclear power plants should be built on locations least prone to damage by natural disasters.  Countries should not be deterred or discouraged from building nuclear power plants.  “Nuclear power is a stable, legitimate and — in some countries — an irreplaceable source of energy today,” he said.

He supported the “much-needed” Security Council reform.  The world had changed considerably since the Charter was signed.  New countries must have more responsibility in the Organization and for its financing.  The Czech Republic was the current President of the Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  While supporting UNDP, he said that, in order for developing countries to develop, all unnecessary barriers, standards, regulations and other constraints in the developed world must be removed first.  He also supported the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

GURBANGULY BERDIMUHAMEDOV, President of Turkmenistan, said that systematic efforts of the international community should be devoted to peace through development, in an integrated manner, which was essential for sustainable, stable and balanced international work in all spheres for which the United Nations had foremost responsibility.  Highly respecting the United Nations Charter, his country pursued a steady and purposeful policy of peace and good neighbourliness, rejecting the use of military force as an instrument of foreign policy.  In that light, he proposed that work start in this Assembly session on a declaration on political and diplomatic tools for solving international issues.

At the regional level of Central Asia and the Caspian Sea basin, he said his country had proposed several initiatives for maintaining peace and stability that had received a positive reception.  He offered to host a representative forum on the security of the region next year, and suggested that the establishment of an advisory council on the peaceful development of the region might become one of its political outcomes.

On the development side of global security, he said his country aimed at the maximum promotion of sustainable development by attaining the Millennium Development Goals and “the creation of efficient models of multilateral reciprocal action for the solution of urgent international issues”.  In that context, he said his country’s proposals on reliable transportation of energy resources for the international market had received positive responses, but it was time to develop concrete measures.  A new mechanism for interregional dialogue on energy under the aegis of the United Nations was needed, with the States of Central and South Asia, Caspian Sea, Black Sea and Baltic regions participating with all other States, companies and international financial institutions concerned.

He said that the world financial crisis demonstrated the necessity of the formation of viable models and realistic plans that took into account the interests of all States of the world.  Turkmenistan planned to take an active part in that process, contributing the successful experience of his country in a number of areas through its candidacy in the Economic and Social Council for the term of 2013 to 2015.  The country also intended to announce a number of proposals at the Rio+20 conference.  In that light, he underlined the importance of the creation of a modern transport infrastructure, noting work with regional partners on the “optimization of traffic flow in the Eurasian space”, for transit in the North-South and East-West corridors.  Suggesting that the United Nations could play an important coordination role in that effort, he proposed the development of a Special Programme on the Development of Transport, including a study of opportunities in transport between the Caspian and Black Seas, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Describing national efforts on climate change, he proposed to establish a specialized, interregional institution for systemic action on climate change under the United Nations, offering to host it and provide necessary infrastructure in his country’s capital Ashgabat.  The environment of the Caspian Sea, the importance of which went well beyond regional boundaries, also required joint efforts, and his country proposed to organize a forum on the issue.  Turning to humanitarian issues, he pledged his country’s continued commitment to the implementation of all related conventions, particularly those related to the plight of refugees.  Much could be learned from his country’s experience in granting citizenship for refugees and stateless persons, he stressed.  For that purpose, an international meeting on the issue in Ashgabat in 2012 would be useful.  In all areas, he said, his country was ready to take an active part in the creation and implementation of innovative models of cooperation to address the key issues of modern times.

MAURICO FUNES, President of El Salvador, said the world was changing economically, socially and geopolitically.  Today, more than ever, people were demanding political leadership to guide the international community through these uncertain times toward a more just, stable and secure future.  Such changes created the opportunity to reconsider policies, change policies and create a new international agreement that calmed the fears and distrust of millions of people grappling today with unemployment, poverty, political instability, natural disasters and an unsecure future.  “We must not betray the historical will for transformation and development,” he said.  The fight against poverty and inequality was the greatest political and economic challenge of the day.  “It’s time to stop seeing our future only in macroeconomic terms and to begin to focus the political debate on people’s needs for social justice,” he said.

The world was diverse and complex, and there was a collective responsibility to find new ways, that went beyond borders, to achieve peace and justice, including ways to end the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said.  El Salvador recently had recognized the State of Palestine.  That decision in no way sought to undermine El Salvador’s good diplomatic relationship with Israel.  Both Palestine and Israel had the right and the duty to co-exist.  “Recognizing Palestine as a new State in the United Nations is, in my opinion, the right way to contribute to resolving this conflict,” he said.  He supported all diplomatic efforts to peacefully end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Dialogue was the only way forward.

Organized crime and narcotic drug trafficking was the number one enemy, not only in Central America, but in much of the entire Western Hemisphere, he said.  He likened it to terrorism that threatened countries.  Many Latin American nations had unwillingly become corridors of illegal trafficking and were increasingly plagued by violence and corrupt institutions.  Those countries, suffering from weak economies of scale, extensive poverty and inequality, were threatened by such an economically powerful form of terrorism.  Drug cartels in Mexico and Central America had more money and influence than the region’s own Governments.  “We are true victims of organized crime,” he said.  Central American countries were undertaking sterling efforts to combat it, but they were no match for drug traffickers that moved $100 billion annually across their borders, leaving a trail of chaos and death.

He asked how Central American countries, with limited gross domestic products (GDP), or even a large country like Mexico, could take on such an enemy.  No nation was spared; drug consumption occurred everywhere.  The fight against organized crime was a common struggle.  He called on the United States to “lead with great resolve” and apply all its economic, human, technological and political resources to what was the “harshest” and deadliest war on the entire American continent.  Latin American countries would do their part, by strengthening institutions, reforming security forces and working to keep youth out of criminal gangs.  He noted strategies among Mexico, Colombia and the United States to fight drug trafficking.

He stressed the need to also tackle money laundering, reduce armaments and improve the justice systems, noting that organized crime had infiltrated Latin America’s judiciary and police forces.  But, consumer countries, like the United States, also had a moral responsibility to attack what was both a criminal and health problem.  Turning to the United States blockade against Cuba, he said it was an anachronism, a step toward disunity and a stumbling block that weakened the continent.  He called for its end.

MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA, President of Sri Lanka, declared that it was a matter of profound disappointment that, despite repeated references in the General Assembly by many member countries, on the right of the Palestinian people to a State of their own within secure borders, the international community had not been able to make that a reality.  He believed a window of opportunity now existed and urged that the opportunity be seized before it was lost, declaring:  “it is time for decisive action rather than discussion.”  Such action would be in the interest of the security and the well-being of the entire region, including Israel.

Turning to international terrorism, he said the scourge posed a threat, from which not even the wealthiest and most powerful of nations were immune, noting that terrorist groups frequently operated under the guise of front organizations.  Conferring legitimacy on them had the inevitable effect of providing comfort and encouragement to what he termed “the merchants of terror”.  As the leader of a nation that had paid a heavy price due to terrorism over a quarter of a century, he underlined his firm resolve to rid the world of terrorism, stressing the need for practical action on the ground that would send a collective message on the matter, loud and clear universally.

Stating that the interests of the developing world needed to be protected, Mr. Rajapaksa said it was vital to insist that the structures and procedures of multilateral organizations were uniform and consistent and devoid of discrimination.  Sri Lanka had reasons for concern with approaches tainted by an unacceptable degree of selectivity, which he had brought to the attention of the organizations concerned in recent weeks.  “The developing world must keep a vigil against these irregular modalities which should be resisted through our collective strength,” he said.

After three decades of pain and anguish, today Sri Lankans of all ethnicities were free from Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan terror, and no longer lived in a state of fear, he said.  However, he was mindful that the battle for peace was every bit as important and difficult as the struggle against terror.  After the eradication of terrorism, his Government had turned its attention to building anew, the foundations of a unified and vibrant nation and drawing upon the inherent strengths of the country and, in particular, the unique calibre of its human potential.  He listed as some of the major accomplishments:  the revival of the economy, which had enhanced incomes and improved livelihoods; ex-combatants and other cadres, after exposure to programmes of vocational training and counselling had been re-integrated into society; and the electoral process had been restored after decades, making possible the emergence of a democratic leadership.

He underlined the point that all those developments had taken place within the brief space of only 30 months, adding that, as a result of those achievements, Sri Lanka today was a self-reliant nation, with robust hope for the future and a strong economy, strengthened by inward investment inflows, unprecedented expansion of tourism and significant growth of international trade.  Towards consolidation of those positive trends, leaving behind the trauma of the past, he asked for the international community’s hand of friendship and goodwill, based on an understanding of his nation’s determination to confront with courage the challenges of a new era in its history.  Concluding, he said that the disproportionate pollution of the environment by industrialized countries, and the resultant impact on global warming and climate change, could not be remedied with any semblance of justice by imposing harsh restraints on developing countries, which had contributed very little to aggravation of the problem.  Those circumstances heightened the importance of social equity at the international level, he said.

ISMAIL OMAR GUELLEH, President of Djibouti, reaffirmed his country’s commitments to the ideals of the United Nations Charter and to the advancement of women.  He appealed, in the context of the current economic crisis, for the alleviation of the growing burden of debt on the least developed countries and the facilitation of trade and other measures in their favour.  Noting the devastation of natural disasters on developing countries, particularly in his region, he called for a concerted increase in mitigation measures.  Faced with the terrible scourge of global warming and the endemic drought that beset his region, he said emergency measures alone could not avert calamity.  Thanking donors for aid and noting the efforts of the countries of the region, he nevertheless said that large-scale water and food security projects were needed.

Somalia, he said, faced the worst of the drought, as well as still dealing with its long-term political insecurity.  He noted, however, that he was able to visit Mogadishu recently after the withdrawal of Al-Shabaab.  The fragile peace that ensued was an opportunity to rebuild the country and to consolidate lasting stability, with a transition to permanent governance next year.  He stressed that all efforts to end the endless infighting within the transitional authorities were welcomed, including the new roadmap to ending the transition.  The international community should provide necessary resources for that purpose and the authorities should show leadership and commitment toward that end.

With all of its neighbours having been involved in conflict, he said his country had attempted to maintain peace, but in June 2008, he said it was dragged into a border conflict with Eritrea.  Since that time and despite Security Council resolutions, Eritrea refused to provide any knowledge of 19 Djiboutian prisoners of war, continuing a grave source of concern for his country.  Despite that country’s defiance of those resolutions, he was convinced that mediation was the only way to achieve a lasting peace.  For that reason, he welcomed the efforts of the Emir of Qatar to station troops in the conflicted areas, leading to the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the areas that they occupied.

“We will never stop believing in the virtues of dialogue and mediation,” he said, noting that such activity had recently borne fruit in the birth of South Sudan, which he welcomed to the region.  He contrasted that event with the situation of Palestinians, which he said continued to live under occupation that he called unsustainable, and likened it to the situation that his country had fought against in its own case.  The time had come, he maintained, to give hope to Palestinians by recognizing them as a full-fledged State.  History would remember this session if their hopes were allowed to come to fruition.

HIFIKEPUNYE POHAMBA, President of Namibia, underscoring the debate’s theme on mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means, stressed that the international community should uphold that principle in conflicts around the world.  While recognizing the legitimacy of the peaceful demands of democratic changes in sister countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, Namibia believed that the demands for democratic change should be locally driven and should not be used as a pretext to undermine the principles of sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of independent States.  “We are concerned that all efforts by the African Union to find a peaceful negotiated solution in Libya were ignored and undermined,” he said, adding that never before in the history of the United Nations had the sanctity of non-intervention been so compromised as it had in Libya.  Indeed, the Libya intervention reminded Africa of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, when the continent was carved up by the colonial Powers.

He underscored the importance of promoting genuine national reconciliation and unity in the aftermath of recent political changes in some African countries.  In addition, the challenges of poverty and unemployment, especially among youth, must urgently be addressed, he said.  South Sudan’s successful independence demonstrated the statesmanship and wisdom of the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan, and Namibia called on both countries to resolve all outstanding issues through peaceful means.  His Government also called for the immediate implementation of the United Nations Settlement Plan and relevant resolutions calling for a free and fair referendum in Western Sahara.  Reaffirming full and unequivocal support for the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people to achieve their inalienable right to self-determination and national independence, he voiced support for Palestine’s admission as a full United Nations Member State.  He also called for the immediate and unconditional lifting of the embargo against Cuba.

Namibia welcomed the recent signing, with the facilitation of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Mediator, of the Road Map by the Malagasy political stakeholders, he said.  That signing paved the way to return that country to constitutional order and democratic rule.  Now, the United Nations and the international community should provide adequate financial support to Madagascar and actively engage in mediation efforts to ensure the Road Map’s full implementation.

Among other issues, he called attention to the severe drought and famine and subsequent humanitarian catastrophe in Somalia, noting that Namibia had contributed food supplies as part of the international effort to aid the Somali people.  He further stressed that all Member States should work towards the successful completion of the seventeenth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Durban later this year.  It would, he said, set the tone for next year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”).  Finally, he underscored Namibia’s firm conviction that a reformed Security Council should be democratic, representative and transparent in its working methods.

SALVA KIIR, President of South Sudan, called his appearance at the General Debate yet another milestone in the long list of his country’s achievements and thanked the “many friends in this great hall” who helped the country get to this point.  After a total of more than five decades of conflict, however, his country stood in dire need of all the help it could get.  “Even before the ravages of war could set in, our country never had anything worth rebuilding,” he said.  “Hence, we characterize our post-conflict mission as one of construction rather than reconstruction,” he said, appealing for the overwhelming support that greeted independence to be translated into tangible development assistance.

His country, he noted, was endowed with oil and mineral wealth, but hardly anything had been produced there by the people of the country, and he was determined to diversify the economy, lessening the precarious and near-total dependence on oil, and using that resource as a catalyst to unlock potential in other areas, especially agriculture.  The ambition of his people was to transform their country into “a regional agro-industrial powerhouse”, and that goal would be very difficult without appropriate assistance.  “Much as we need external assistance, it is our passionate wish that it will be offered on terms that will also respect our political and economic choices.”

Peace and harmony was a pre-requisite for development, he acknowledged, and he pledged to promote peace and harmony domestically in the region.  He said that inside the country, inclusive executive and legislative organs had been set up, despite the fact that his party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) won in a landslide in the last elections.  Externally, he affirmed that his country fully adhered to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States, including the Republic of Sudan.  He categorically restated that South Sudan had not, and would not, interfere in any domestic conflict in that country.  However, he urged peaceful resolution of conflicts that could spill-over to affect his country’s own security.  For that reason, he emphasized that the reinstatement of the recent Addis Ababa Framework Accord on the situation in Southern Kordofan and political relations between the Government and the opposition could go a long way in bringing about stability in the region.

For the same reason, he said his country hoped to expeditiously resolve the outstanding issues that had carried over from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and he urged the Government of Sudan to consent to the speedy demarcation of the border between their two States with the help of the international community.  In that regard, he appealed to Sudan to agree to the submission of the dispute over the ownership of a number of border areas to international arbitration.  Applauding that States cooperation with the establishment of the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), he hoped that agreement would soon be reached on that area in line with the comprehensive agreement.  He stated that his country was ready to continue serious negotiations with Khartoum on arrangements to guarantee Sudan a fair income from the use of the country’s export infrastructures.

In terms of governance, he said that progress had been made in rectifying some defects and reinforcing accountability and transparency, and ultimately curbing corruption.  In that context, a number of key bills, including one on public financial management, were making their way steadily through the legislative process.  In conclusion, he said that “the new Republic of [South] Sudan vows to become an active member of the family of nations, making its contribution to fostering world peace and prosperity for the benefit of all humankind.”

SERZH SARGSYAN, President of Armenia, noting that his country highly appreciated the mediation efforts of global and regional organizations, said the success of mediation hinged on the articulation of a clearly defined mandate, such as in the case of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Another key factor was the mediators’ role in preventing conflict escalation and resumption of hostilities, an aspect that was sometimes overlooked, yet no less important.  Congratulating South Sudan on being elected to the Organization, he said its people had exercised their right to live sovereignly and independently, a choice also made two decades ago by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.  They had withstood the war unleashed by Azerbaijan and survived bloodshed to earn their right to live in freedom.

Azerbaijan’s unwillingness to reach an agreement and its “everything or war” position, however, had stalled peace talks, he said, adding that it had rejected the previously elaborated arrangement.  “ Baku has turned ‘armenophobia’ into State propaganda,” he said, and even more dangerously, “armenophobic” ideas were being spread among young Azerbaijanis.  The Azerbaijani propaganda machine regularly overwhelmed international and domestic audiences with lies about so-called “Armenian brutality”.  A number of documents had been signed, including the Meindorf, Astrakhan and Sochi Declarations, which stressed the need to boost confidence-building measures between the parties, but Azerbaijan had turned down repeated international proposals related to the non-use of force.

As a nation that had survived a “genocide” — the most extreme form of racism and xenophobia — Armenia was morally obliged to act to prevent such future atrocities, he said.  Eliminating racism and xenophobia would succeed only with a clear prescription of liability and the global community must denounce any expression of intolerance.  Unfortunately, Turkey continued to deny the genocide of Armenians perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire.  He unequivocally welcomed the international community’s position to preclude any possibility of immunity or pardon for the perpetrators of genocide or other crimes against humanity.

He went on to say that, in 2008, he had expressed hope that the process to normalize relations between Armenia and Turkey — initiated by Armenia — and to open borders closed by Turkey would become the first steps in starting dialogue and overcoming the “air of mistrust”.  But, Turkey had aborted the ratification and implementation of protocols Armenia initiated in 2009.  In other areas, he urged honouring international commitments to turn the South Caucasus into a region of cooperation and prosperity.  The link between security and development was not simply an abstract theory for his region.  The time had come for the leaders of regional countries to “stand above the dictates of a narrow political agenda” and move towards solutions aimed at a peaceful and prosperous future.

Recalling that just two days ago, Armenia celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its independence, he said that period had been one of great change and he thanked all States that had supported its construction of statehood.  Gains had been made in the fields of democratization, human rights, economic reforms and the establishment of the rule of law.  “We are convinced we are on the right path,” he said.  Concluding, he said Armenia contributed to international counter-terrorism efforts and would continue to do its best to create a safer world.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and President of the Palestinian Authority, said Palestinians had entered with sincere intentions into last September’s round of final status negotiations to reach a peace agreement with Israel.  After talks broke down, the various ideas and proposals of many countries and parties had been positively considered.  The Israeli Government had wrecked all those efforts and dashed hopes by refusing to commit to terms of reference for negotiations based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and by intensifying Israeli settlement building.  Reports by United Nations missions, other institutions and civil society groups showed a “horrific” picture of the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land, construction of thousands of new settlements in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem, and building of the annexation wall.  Israel also continued to refuse permits to Palestinians to build in East Jerusalem, while issuing orders to deport elected Palestinian representatives from Jerusalem.

Israel was “racing against time” to redraw borders, impose a fait accompli that changed the reality on the ground and undermined the potential for a Palestinian State, he said.  It continued its blockade on Gaza and attacks on Palestinian civilians there.  In recent years, armed settler militias, who enjoyed special protection from the Israeli army, had stepped up attacks on Palestinian homes, schools, mosques, fields and crops.  That policy would destroy chances for achieving a two-State solution, and threatened to undermine the structure of the Palestinian Authority and its very existence.  New conditions imposed by Israel threatened to transfer the raging conflict into a religious one, threatening the future of 1.5 million Christian and Muslim Palestinians that were Israeli citizens — a matter which Mr. Abbas rejected and would not accept being dragged into.

“All of these actions taken by Israel in our country are unilateral actions and are not based on any earlier agreements,” he said.  Rather, they were a “selective application of the agreements aimed at perpetrating the occupation”.  In 1988, Palestinian leaders agreed to establish the State of Palestine on only 22 per cent of historical Palestine, on the belief that making concessions could partly correct the historical injustice against the Palestinians and pave the way for peace.  But, since then, Israel’s settlement campaign had shattered every initiative and round of negotiations.  Mr. Abbas confirmed the Palestinian people’s goal to realize their inalienable rights to an independent State and to achieve a just solution to the refugee problem, which required the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.  He confirmed their commitment to renounce violence, reject and condemn terrorism, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between PLO and Israel.

“Here, I declare that the Palestine Liberation Organization is ready to return immediately to the negotiating table on the basis of the adopted terms of reference based on international legitimacy and a complete cessation of settlement activities,” he said.  Palestinians would continue their popular peaceful resistance to Israel’s occupation, settlement and apartheid policies.  In bringing its plight to the global podium, Palestine did not undertake unilateral steps.  “Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine,” he said.  “We extend our hands to the Israeli Government and the Israeli people for peacemaking.  I say to them:  Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity,” he said, calling for “bridges of dialogue, instead of checkpoints and walls of separation”.

The Palestinian Authority’s two-year State-building programme launched in 2009 focused on strengthening the judiciary and security mechanisms; building administrative, financial and oversight systems; upgrading institutional performance; and enhancing self-reliance to reduce the need for foreign aid, he said.  Months ago, the Palestinians had achieved national reconciliation based on the decision to hold legislative and presidential elections within one year.  Recent reports of the United Nations, World Bank, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) described those accomplishments as a “remarkable international success story” and confirmed their readiness for an immediate, independent State.  He did not believe that “anyone with a shred of conscience” could reject that bid for statehood.

It was no longer possible to redress the blocking of peace talks with the same means that had been repeatedly tried and proven unsuccessful.  The crisis was far too deep to be neglected.  Attempts to simply circumvent or postpone its explosion were even more dangerous.  “It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine,” he said.  Negotiations without clear parameters, credibility and a specific timetable were “futile”, and would be “meaningless” as long as the occupation army on the ground continued to entrench instead of roll back.

“It is a moment of truth; and my people are waiting to hear the answer of the world.  Will it allow Israel to continue its occupation, the only occupation in the world?  Will it allow Israel to remain a State above the law and accountability?”, he asked.  “There are either those that believe that we are not wanted in the Middle East or (those that believe) that there is a missing State that needs to be established immediately.”  Alongside the Arab Spring, now was the time for the Palestinian Spring.  “We have one goal…to be, and we shall be,” he said.  He thanked States that had supported the Palestinian struggle and had recognized the State of Palestine, and those that had upgraded Palestine’s representation in their capitals.  He also saluted the Secretary-General for saying a few days ago that the Palestinian State should have been created years ago.  Such support made the Palestinians feel they were being listened to and that their tragedy was not being ignored.  It also reinforced their hope for justice.

He then informed the Assembly that he had submitted to the Secretary-General an application for admission of Palestine, on the basis of the 4 June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, as a full United Nations member.  “I call upon Mr. Secretary-General to expedite transmittal of our request to the Security Council, and I call upon the distinguished members of the Security Council to vote in favour of our full membership.  I also appeal to the States that have not yet recognized the State of Palestine to do so,” he said.  The world’s support for that was a “victory for truth, freedom, justice, law and international legitimacy” and was the greatest contribution to peacemaking in the Holy Land.

In closing, he said:  “I have come here today with a message from a courageous and proud people:  Palestine is being reborn.”  He implored everyone to stand with it.

YOSHIHIKO NODA, Prime Minister of Japan, said “this has been a year of extraordinary challenges.”  A little over six months ago, following a major earthquake, more than 20,000 Japanese people were killed or are still missing, and 40,000 more were forced to evacuate.  He had been deeply moved by the feelings of compassion shown by people the world over for the people of Japan, he said, recounting several individual stories of kindness and sympathy.  Since the 11 March earthquake, the “sounds of recovery” had been echoing through the affected Tohoku region of Japan, he said.  The infrastructure and economies of the areas, which had been “washed away” by the quake and the ensuing tsunami, were now being restored.  Moving forward, Japan would focus on moving up the existing target period to achieve “cold shutdown status” at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station by the end of the year.  Meanwhile, such actions as removing debris and recreating livelihoods in the affected areas were still needed.

Recent changes in the Middle East and North Africa had been brought about by “the aggregate consciousness of all individuals who have awoken”, he continued.  In that light, “we have never felt more strongly the significance of ensuring human security.”  Japan would work hand in hand with all world leaders to make a substantive contribution to address world challenges and ensure a brighter future for all humanity, he said.  It had a long history of assisting developing nations through human resource development and nation-building efforts.  It would continue to support such development through official development assistance (ODA).

“We must not let the current global economic uncertainty and financial unrest hamper the efforts of the international community towards growth,” he said, calling on States to instead create “harmony out of the current chaos”.  Japan would press ahead with its targets for restoring fiscal sustainability, including a full-fledged recovery from the earthquake.  It was also important that trade activities not be disturbed by the excessive currency volatility, he added, stressing Japan’s commitment to green growth, energy saving and the clean use of fossil fuels, among other activities.  By next year, Japan would create a new strategy and plan for its mid- to long-term energy composition.  It would also contribute to the growth of the global economy and for discussions leading up to Rio+20.

“The first lesson from Japan’s recent tragedy is the importance of international cooperation in disaster recovery,” he said.  Japan was prepared to share with the world its experiences, and would host an international conference in the disaster-stricken Tohoku region next year.  It also proposed to host the Third World Conference on Disaster Reduction in 2015.  Japan also hoped to share its acquired knowledge and experience in the field of nuclear safety, he said.  Following the nuclear accident that came in the wake of the 2011 earthquake, Japan had implemented emergency safety measures and had further strengthened its resolve to contribute positively to the reinforcement of global nuclear power safety, drawing on the experience of its accident.  Next year, it would co-host an international conference with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to share results of the overall assessment of the accident in comprehensive detail, along with other follow-up actions.

He also described Japan’s efforts to combat other global threats, including piracy off the coast of Somalia and terrorist activities, such as the recent assassination of Mr. Rabbani, Chairman of the High Peace Council in Afghanistan.  It continued to contribute to the efforts of peacekeeping missions in fragile or conflict-prone States, he added.  Japan continued to urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take concrete actions toward the resolution of its “nuclear and missile issues”, which posed a threat to the entire international community.  It also maintained its contribution to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, focusing on health and education.  It would also host the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on International Development in 2013, among other development and humanitarian activities.  The last commitment he wished to mention was Japan’s support of reform and democratization efforts in the Middle East and North Africa, which projects for infrastructure building and development, as well as electoral assistance in Tunisia and Egypt.

After the 11 March earthquake, he said, “I strongly felt the magnificence of a society in which each individual undertakes action in an orderly manner, a society in which people help each other”.  He also believed in the strength of the Japanese people, he said, “which comes to the fore most prominently in times of crisis.”  He was certain that such resilience would be the very source of Japan’s future contribution to the international community, he concluded.

JIGME KHESAR NAMGYEL WANGCHUCK, King of Bhutan, signalling his intention to speak on the subject of happiness, said that the new era that was promised by the end of the cold war had dissolved into betrayal and disillusionment, as the world became ever more divided and insecure.  As a result, year after year, the general debate had become a mournful event that discussed promises broken, endless conflict, depleted resources, and epidemic threats of financial calamities and economic ruin.  Solutions were discussed, as well, but “lacking political will and indeed, clarity of vision, we deny with cleaver arguments what we know to be the cause of our predicaments.”  In that way, arms were acquired to prevent war, climate change was answered with more harmful emissions, more products were consumed in face of depleting resources, faltering economies were fuelled with debt and greed, the crevasses that separate the rich from the poor were widened, and individualism was idealized as family and community crumbled amid rising social dislocation, crime, mental illness and suicide.

Guided by the belief that life satisfaction was about material pursuit and accumulation, and that good economics was about limitless growth, the economic development process had created the monster of a consumerist market economy.  “But, the market give no satisfaction,” he said, “it enslaves humanity and thrives on the insatiable nature of our greed.”  A clear vision was needed that would transcend the diversity of cultures and bind everyone together, one that was holistic, sustainable, inclusive and humane.  It was, therefore, with a great sense of joy that Bhutan welcomed adoption of the General Assembly resolution entitled, “Happiness:  a holistic approach to development”, introduced by his country, in July of this year.

Promotion of happiness as an international objective would be a natural progression from the Millennium Development Goals that aim to establish minimum conditions for human survival and a basis for development.  It was about making true societal progress in ways that were meaningful, joyful and lasting.  He reported that his Government, in collaboration with UNDP and leading scientists, were preparing for a panel discussion as stipulated by the resolution, proposed for the spring of 2012 before the Rio+20 conference.  The goal of that discussion would be presenting to Member States a set of policy recommendations in pursuit of happiness.  He looked forward to wide participation in that meeting.

His country, he said, was also willing to share its experience in promoting a peaceful and secure international environment, through equitable and sustainable economic growth that was bearing fruit within a rich biodiversity that included forest cover that had expanded from 64 per cent to 81 per cent in the past four decades.  His country was the only one that had pledged to remain forever carbon neutral.  Its social and cultural values remained vital, even as it embraced globalization.  It had also smoothly transformed from an absolute monarchy to a full-fledged vibrant democracy.  For those reasons, and out of a sense of duty, his country aspired to serve as a member of the Security Council for the biennium 2013-14.  After 41 years of United Nations membership, Bhutan wished to contribute as a small State that could bring a fresh and holistic perspective to peace and security, which was not only about preventing war, but about recognizing and forging the will to deal with all forms of threat to the survival, progress and happiness of human society.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister of Israel, extended his country’s hand to the people of Egypt and Jordan, with whom it had made peace; to the people of Turkey, with respect and good will; to the people of Libya and Tunisia, with admiration for those trying to build a democratic future; to the other peoples of North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, with whom we want to forge a new beginning; and to the people of Lebanon, Syria and Iran, with awe at the courage of those fighting brutal repression.  Most especially, “I extend my hand to the Palestinian people, with whom we seek a just and lasting peace,” he said, stressing that Israel’s hope for peace had never waned.

He recalled that here, in the General Assembly, Israel’s desire for a homeland had been branded racism, while it was unjustly singled out for condemnation more often than all the other nations of the world combined.  That was, he suggested, not only “an unfortunate part of the United Nations”, but “the theatre of the absurd,” which not only cast Israel as the villain, but cast real villains as heroes.  Indeed, Lebanon, heavily influenced by Hizbullah, currently held the Security Council’s presidency, meaning, in effect, that a terrorist organization presided over the body tasked with guaranteeing the world’s security.  “You can’t make this up,” he said, adding that it was a place where automatic majorities could decide anything, including that the sun rose in the West or, as had actually been decided, that the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest place, was occupied Palestinian territory.

But, even in the General Assembly, the truth could sometimes break through, he said.  Indeed, he was advised upon his appointment in 1984 as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations that, while he would be serving in “a house of many lies”, he must remember that even in the darkest place, the light of a single candle could be seen far and wide.  “Today, I hope that the light of truth will shine if only for a few minutes in a hall that for too long has been a place of darkness for my country,” he said, noting that he came not to win applause, but to speak the truth that Israel wanted peace.  While he, too, wanted peace, it was clear that it must be anchored in security and could not be achieved through United Nations resolutions, but only through direct negotiations.  Yet, the Palestinians had so far refused.  Indeed, while Israel wanted peace, the Palestinians wanted a State without peace and, “you shouldn’t let that happen,” he said.

Remarkably, hundreds of millions had been lifted out of poverty since the end of the Cold War, with countless more poised to follow.  But, while that historic shift had been peaceful, a malignancy threatening the peace of all was now growing between East and West:  militant Islam.  Though cloaked in the mantle of a great faith, it killed Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and on 11 September 2001, left the World Trade Towers in smouldering ruins.  As he had visited the 9/11 memorial last night, he recalled the outrageous words of Iran’s President on the General Assembly podium yesterday, which implied that 9/11 was an American conspiracy.  He stressed that, “while some left the hall, all should have.”  Indeed, militant Islam had, since 9/11, slaughtered countless innocents from Madrid to Mumbai, and in every part of Israel.  Today, the greatest danger facing the world was that the fanaticism would arm itself with nuclear weapons, precisely as Iran was trying to do.  Inviting the assembled delegations to imagine what the “man who ranted here yesterday” would be like with nuclear weapons in his hands, he stressed that, if that happened, the “Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter.”

No one benefited more than Israel if those committed to peace prevailed, he continued.  But, as Israel’s Prime Minister, he could not risk the future of the Jewish State on wishful thinking.  In fact, no responsible leader could wish away present dangers, and the world around Israel was becoming increasingly dangerous.  Militant Islam had taken over Lebanon and Gaza, while also poisoning many Arab minds against the United States and the West.  It opposed not just the policies of Israel, but the fact of Israel as a State.  Some argued that to slow down the spread of militant Islam, Israel should hurry to make territorial compromises that would allow for peace to advance and moderate Muslims to be strengthened.  But, the problem with that theory was that it had been tried and it had not worked.  In 2000, Israel made a peace offer that met nearly every Palestinian demand, but Arafat rejected it and the Palestinians launched a wave of violence.  In addition to other offers since then, Israel had left territory in Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005.  Neither action calmed the militant Islamic storm threatening Israel, but, in fact, only brought it closer and made it stronger.  Moreover, peace had not come and Israel had only gotten war — and Iran, whose proxy in Gaza kicked the Palestinian Authority out.

He stressed that, while the Palestinians were armed with dreams, they were also armed with thousands of missiles and rockets, and now had a river of lethal weapons flowing into Gaza.  Israel was prepared to have a Palestinian State in the West Bank, but not another Gaza.  That was why real security arrangements were needed.  But, instead, Israel was asked to make concessions with no regard for its security, he said, stressing that “in the face of the labels and the libels, Israel must heed better advice.”  Indeed, it was better to have bad press than a good eulogy.  But, better still would be a fair press whose sense of history extended beyond breakfast.

In serious peace negotiations, Israel’s security needs and concerns could be addressed, he said, and they would certainly never be addressed without such negotiation.  At the same time, questions about Israel’s airspace and the smuggling of weapons into the West Bank were not theoretical, but entailed real problems and were, for all Israelis, matters of life and death.  Thus, those potential cracks had to be sealed in a peace deal before a Palestinian State existed, not after.  Otherwise, they would explode.  In that context, he argued that the Palestinians must first make peace, then get their State.  Once a peace deal was signed, Israel would be the first to welcome a Palestinian State, he said.

Noting that he had laid out his vision for peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian State recognized the Jewish State, he said the core of the conflict was not the problem of the settlements — which were actually a result of the conflict — but the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize a Jewish State within any border.  Thus, it was time for them to acknowledge what every world leader had:  Israel is the Jewish State.  Indeed, when they did so, it would be clear that the Palestinians were at last ready to compromise.  Asking President Abbas to join him in negotiations, he underlined the need to stop “negotiating about the negotiations” and negotiate peace.  After offering to go to Ramallah, he suggested meeting here today at the United Nations.  “Let’s talk doogri,” he said, pointing out that this meant “straightforward”.  “I’ll tell you my needs and concerns.  You’ll tell me yours.  And with God’s help, we’ll find peace.”

FREDRIK REINFELDT, Prime Minister of Sweden, said that important progress had been made since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals.  Poverty had declined in many countries, and was expected to fall below 15 per cent globally by 2015.  Strides had also been made in areas, including child mortality, education and new HIV infections.  But, there was a long way to go to raise standards of living and offer equal opportunities to people around the globe, he said, adding that today, he wished to focus on one related area:  “the unmet human, economic and social rights for 3.5 billion women and girls”.  He noted that women performed 66 per cent of the world’s work, but earned only 10 per cent of its income, and 1 per cent of its property.  Some 70 per cent of the world’s poor were women or girls.  And while the General Assembly had witnessed a historic step this week as its general debate was opened — for the first time — by a woman, still many countries did not even allow women to vote.  Only 19 women were currently leading their countries as elected heads of State or Government.

Those shortfalls were not only a loss for the women affected, he continued, but for society as a whole.  Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would have “huge implications” for the global economy.  It would boost American GDP by as much as 9 per cent, that of the Eurozone by 13 per cent, and that of Japan by 16 per cent.  It would also be an investment for the future, he added, noting that there was evidence that when women took control of a household’s income, more money was spent on children’s needs, such as food, health and education.  Moreover, when women took a greater part in society, there were clear improvements for the public good and less corruption.  He urged Member States to imagine what it would mean for the economic growth of their own countries if women were allowed to fully participate in society.

“Today, ideas of freedom and democracy are spreading at the speed of sound,” he said of recent political movements in the Middle East and North Africa.  Some were trying to put out roadblocks to those movements, and the United Nations must play a leading role in embracing and maintaining those new roads towards democracy and freedom.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression had recently concluded that there must be as little restriction as possible to online freedom of expression, he recalled.  Sweden, together with 40 other nations around the world, strongly supported that conclusion by launching a special Initiative for Democratization and Freedom of Expression.

He stressed that the movements of the Middle East and North Africa must have international support.  Where there were threats of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing or crimes against humanity — when autocratic rulers, like that in Syria, turned their guns on their own citizens — the international community had a responsibility to protect civilians, he added.  Sweden hoped to play its role in the current decisive phase in the Middle East, and was contributing to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) on Libya.  It was providing substantial humanitarian support to several countries in the region.

The European Union was firmly committed to Israel and Palestine living side by side with each other in peace and security.  “We all want to see the peace process resume,” he stressed, adding that violations of international law must end.  He went on to point out that the Horn of Africa was suffering its worst famine in 60 years, and said that the United Nations needed the full support of the international community to improve its response capacity.  For its part, Sweden would do its utmost to support a strong United Nations through substantial contributions to humanitarian and development assistance and to its work for peace, security and human rights.  It also wished to help revitalize the Organization’s work on disarmament and non-proliferation.  Together with its co-chair, Mexico, it would therefore work hard to advance the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.  Finally, he said Sweden had presented its candidature for a seat on the Human Rights Council for the period 2013-2015.  As a member of that body, it would contribute actively to making the Council a more “efficient and active” body.

PÁL SCHMITT, President of Hungary, associated himself with the European Union, said that the overthrow of autocratic regimes in the Middle East and North Africa was a first step, but his country’s experience showed that the most difficult stages of transformation were yet to come.  The process must be internally driven and carried out with international support.  He expressed hope that those witnessing transitional periods today would benefit from Hungary’s own achievements and avoidable mistakes.  “We are, of course, far from trying to give advice and provide ready-made solutions,” he said, noting that human rights and freedoms could only be implemented with respect for the cultural, religious and other traditions of each nation.

Turning to sustainable development, he said the concept of green economy was gaining ever-widening support, and described next year’s “Rio+20” was a unique opportunity to generate acceptance for the concept which, if implemented in a coherent manner, would create new resources for achieving internationally agreed development goals.  There was a need to reorganize the United Nations environmental architecture to streamline and pool existing structures, with a view to increasing the coherence and efficiency of the whole system, he said.

Hungary had been at the forefront of mitigating non-communicable diseases, and had put national cancer and diabetes control systems in place that could contribute to “functional alternatives” around the world, he said.  Comprehensive national and regional strategies could bring down the growing rates of those illnesses, contributing to cost-effective prevention, early detection and adequate treatment.  Hungary would be proud to share its knowledge and experiences in the collective effort to bring about better health worldwide.

He went on to announce that his country had put forward its candidature for Security Council membership in 2012-2013.  Hungary continued to uphold the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and international law.  The country also stood ready to contribute to all efforts to enhance the capabilities of the United Nations in conflict-prevention and mediation.  Hungary would advocate a stronger integration of security and development concerns, as well as enhanced interaction between the Security Council and the organization’s other main organs as an integrated approach to conflict resolution.

ERNEST BAI KOROMA, President of Sierra Leone, said his country’s commitment to democracy, prosperity and international peace had been seen in its 50 years as an independent nation.  Sierra Leone was proud of its distinctive contributions to the United Nations in such areas as decolonization, training and research, disarmament and non-proliferation, and peacekeeping, to name a few.  Its commitment to international peace had been seen in its transformation from a nation that hosting one of the largest United Nations peacekeeping missions in the late 1990s to one that contributed troops and police officers to the mission in Darfur.  It had also proposed participating in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Sierra Leone had made steady progress in the areas of agriculture, energy, infrastructure, health and education, which had been identified in the Government’s “Agenda for Change”, he said, adding that those gains had been made despite rising food and fuel prices.  Having identified 2011 as “The Year of Implementation for Sierra Leone”, the Government was working to ensure that every person benefited from the well-earned peace and democracy “dividends”.  It was to be hoped that projects and programmes under the United Nations Joint Vision for Sierra Leone would help the country attain the Millennium Development Goals.

Despite budgetary hurdles resulting from the global economic meltdown, Sierra Leone was optimistic about its future growth, he said, adding that he expected exports to increase, given the substantial investment in infrastructure.  The Government had put strong corrective measures in place to stabilize the fiscal situation, and had also made progress in the area of peace consolidation, with bodies such as the National Electoral Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission continuing to make gains.  Furthermore, the Government had established the Human Rights Commission and its national report had been presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Universal Periodic Review.

Pointing out that he had launched a process by which women would hold at least 30 per cent of elected offices, he said that ahead of the 2012 presidential, parliamentary and local elections, Sierra Leone was aware of its primary duty to provide logistical requirements, but needed international assistance to support its commitment to a free, fair and peaceful vote.  The Government continued its dialogue with all stakeholders, but national capacity-building programmes in peacebuilding and other priority thematic areas beyond the elections was crucial.

Sierra Leone was concerned about the illicit flow of small arms and light weapons across the subregion, and needed international assistance to eradicate their proliferation, he said.  As for the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes, he said it should be used to the fullest extent.  The greatest threat to security today stemmed from rising food and fuel prices, as well as from the fact that necessary sacrifices were increasingly placed on the shoulders of the weak.  “We must act now to save the world from the anger of the weak and the excessive indulgence and repression perpetrated by the strong,” he stressed.

BORIS TADIĆ, President of Serbia, emphasizing that unilateral action in problematic circumstances simply created crises without good reason, noted that, in its attempt to join the European Union and attain other objectives, regional cooperation had been the cornerstone of Serbia’s diplomacy.  The new level of confidence in relations with Croatia — valuable in terms of securing stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina — was another instance of the cooperation that had set the stage for Serbia to seek the Chairmanship-in-Office of OSCE for 2014, the centenary of the start of the First World War, and would help “close the book” on instability in Europe.

He said his country wished to fulfil all its obligations and to promote reconciliation and healing after the tragedies of the 1990s, and had devoted enormous resources to the capture of war criminals.  Others must do their part, as well, he added, stressing that the Security Council’s mandate to investigate serious crimes must be applied in uncovering the “full truth” about illicit organ trafficking in Kosovo, as alleged in a report by the Council of Europe.  He also underlined the importance of negotiated settlements as a basic international principle recently reinforced by the successful birth of South Sudan.  However, that principle was not applied in the case of the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, where the ethnic Albanian authorities had attempted secession.

Thanking those countries that had refrained from recognizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, he said appeals to the contrary, as heard in the Assembly, only reduced the chances of finding a solution acceptable to all, while creating a deeply disturbing precedent.  Similarly, the attempt to impose customs officers on the boundary between Serbia proper and northern Kosovo only served to evoke a threatening climate, which was counter-productive to the trust required to advance the important dialogue facilitated by the European Union.  However, Serbia would remain an active party, he pledged.

He said his country had always sought tangible assurances that ethnic Serb communities in Kosovo, as well as Serbian interests and cultural heritage, would be protected and allowed to flourish.  Any understanding on Kosovo must include guarantees on the status of the ethnic Serb population, the proper implementation of decentralization, protection of the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its holy sites, and resolution of pending property claims.  As for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) established by resolution 1244 (1999), he said there must be a limit to his country’s responsibility for developments over which it lacked the necessary authority.

“I look forward to the day when I can stand at this podium and report that we have resolved this issue, that we have found a mutually-acceptable compromise, not an imposed outcome where one side gets everything,” he said.  Serbia’s other immediate and parallel objective was accelerated progress in gaining membership of the European Union.  Serbia had set a regional example in matters of reconciliation, the rule of law, and the fight against organized crime, he said, emphasizing that the country’s presence as a candidate for membership, actively negotiating accession, was an asset to both the European Union and the United Nations.

ALPHA CONDÉ, President of Guinea, said he was honoured to address the Assembly as the first democratically elected leader of his country since independence, an event that marked its return to the international stage.  As Guinea turned an important page in its history, his Government was committed to furthering respect for human rights, consolidating national unity, building a democratic society and extending progress and prosperity to all Guineans, he said.  Yet, that effort was filled with many challenges, since the State he had inherited was completely dysfunctional and the economy had collapsed.

The day after elections, the Government had committed to a series of real actions to rebuild the economy, he recalled.  Among the reforms undertaken, those aimed at achieving food security and reinforcing the agricultural sector were critically important.  The mining sector was being improved through a new code that addressed Guinea’s needs, as well as those of its partners.  Meanwhile, the legal system was being reformed, and changes were also under way in the financial and economic sectors, including efforts to curb corruption and prevent misconduct.

The Government had also drawn up strategies to reduce poverty and boost access to basic services, he said, highlighting health care, education and the environment as top priorities.  Guinea was negotiating with the Bretton Woods institutions to sign a public-private partnership agreement to free the country from debt, he said, acknowledging the support of IMF, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

Describing national reconciliation as the “cornerstone of State action”, he reported that a provisional commission co-chaired by the Grand Imam and the Archbishop of Conakry had been established to work with regional “wise men” on ways to reinforce national cohesion and achieve true reconciliation.  Guinea was also working to reform the military, and to correct the electoral irregularities that had occurred during the recent elections, he added.

Touching on other issues, he said the Palestinian people must be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination, which was the only way to achieve genuine peace with Israel.  He hailed the new-found stability in Côte d’Ivoire and welcomed South Sudan as the newest Member State of the United Nations.  He also stressed that the international community must provide aid and support to those suffering the dramatic humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the Horn of Africa.  He further condemned trafficking in drugs, as well as in small arms and light weapons, which was ruining West African economies and tearing the social fabric in the subregion.

ISAIAS AFWERKI, President of Eritrea, said the Assembly was meeting at a time of opportunities to better the lives of hundreds of millions of people, but the favourable prospects must be weighed against such profound dangers as the global economic crisis, massive unemployment and recurrent famine, among other ills.  While none of those problems was new, there was no denying that the malaise seemed much more intractable today than in the past.  “The reality is that the problems we face are systemic, were accumulated over many years and decades, and require systemic and structural change,” he said.  In that regard, Eritrea looked to China, India, Russian Federation, Brazil and other emerging and re-emerging Powers to show more leadership.

He said 2011 had seen “stirring and courageous” efforts to effect fundamental change in many countries.  While North African and the Middle East had been the epicentre of that movement, it was not limited to the Arab world or to developing nations.  There was the same sense of anger in the developed world, at Governments beholden to a “small minority with special interests”, he noted, urging acknowledgement of that “stark global reality”, and calling for the empowerment of the people, especially youth, to work for a better future.  The United Nations had already become “hopelessly outdated” and risked irrelevance, he said, adding that there was an urgent need for real reform and a comprehensive transformation, rather than a mere tweaking of the system.  A critical element must be the strengthening of the General Assembly, he emphasized, saying that, as long as it was deprived of real decision-making powers, the world body would remain unrepresentative.

Despite the hope of the early decolonization era, the past five decades had been largely disappointing, he continued, pointing out that Africa continued to struggle in a difficult and complex international environment.  While the continent would not shun partnerships, it would give primacy to its own capabilities and to cooperation at the continent and subregional levels, he emphasized, saying that Eritrea was committed to economic development and integration into the Horn of Africa and Red Sea subregions.  It would also work to revitalize the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), while working with Sudan and South Sudan, with which it had long-standing ties.

On Somalia, he said it was abundantly clear that a new approach was needed.  Since rebuilding the country and its institutions was the central goal, it was imperative to engage and bring all stakeholders into a Somali-owned political process, including the Governments in “ Somaliland” and “Puntland”.  As for the Middle East, he reaffirmed Eritrea’s support for the right of Palestinians to self-determination and an independent, sovereign State.  He also upheld Israel’s right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized boundaries.

At the same time, he expressed concern that the Palestinian drive for United Nations membership should not become a symbolic battle bereft of substance, recalling that the Oslo Accords had led neither to Palestinian statehood, nor to peace between the two sides.  In closing, he reminded the United Nations of its duty to end Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory, adding that lifting the “illegal” sanctions on his country would enable the people of the region to work together in furthering their collective interests.

MARCUS STEPHEN, President of Nauru, said his country had made great strides in sustainable development and poverty alleviation since 2007, but would fall short of its ambitious goals until the international community chose to create an environment in which all countries had the opportunity to realize their development aspirations.  Like most small Pacific island States, Nauru’s culture and economy were heavily dependent on a healthy and productive marine environment for its food security and Government revenues, he pointed out.

Calling for the “Rio+20” United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to recognize the importance of the “blue economy” in that context, he said it was important to enable small island developing States to enjoy a greater share of the economic benefits of their marine and coastal resources.  Destructive fishing practices must be reduced and eventually eliminated, fisheries must become sustainable and the resilience of coral reef ecosystems must be built up to withstand the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, he stressed.

Meanwhile, Nauru had taken action, he said, noting that his island nation’s application to join the International Seabed Authority, which would enable it to engage in innovative ways to generate economic growth, had been granted.  Proceeds from the development of copper, nickel and manganese resources, which would be extracted in accordance with the highest environmental standards, would go towards funds supporting education and training, as well as health and the environment.  However, targeted international assistance to address the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States was still urgently needed, he emphasized, calling for the creation of a formal small island category with dedicated support mechanisms.

Unfortunately, all such efforts would be for nought unless if immediate action was not taken to address climate change, he said.  For that reason, the upcoming Conference of Parties in Durban must make significant progress towards a comprehensive, legally-binding document that could ensure the survival of all nations.  In addition to a new post-Kyoto commitment regime, the Cancun Agreements must be put into practice, with more ambitious mitigation commitments and actions, he said, urging the launch of the Green Climate Fund and he conclusion of a binding agreement based on the results of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action.

Noting that his country would chair the Alliance of Small Island States in 2012, he said he had no illusions about the enormity of the challenges ahead, particularly considering that countries were turning inward.  “We must resist the urge to engage in zero-sum politics and recommit to principles of multilateralism,” he urged.  Durban would be the next opportunity to “embark on a more sustainable path and create a world we are proud to leave for future generations,” he said.  “We should not let this opportunity slip away.”

MAHAMADOU ISSOUFOU, President of Niger, said poor political and economic governance was the root of evil while inequality caused disorder, crisis and conflict.  Noting that a minority of the world’s population owned most of its wealth, while its poorest people lived on less than $2 a day, he said that was a moral affront and economically inefficient, as it limited economic growth.  Niger and other poor nations had suffered enormously under the misguided economic programmes of structural adjustment begun in the 1980s.  Regrettably, rich nations had not made good on their commitments to provide official development assistance which, coupled with the global banking crisis and the lack of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa, had negatively affected the continent’s economies.  Global balance required development in all regions and the creation of a powerful middle-class, he noted.

Turning to developments in the Middle East, he said that in seeking recognition as a full United Nations Member State, the Palestinians had given the world body an opportunity to make a brave decision to resolve the question of Palestine in a definitive manner.  Failure to make such a decision would amount to a failure to live up to the expectations of the Arab Spring and erase its gains.  On terrorism, he said that the recent suicide attack on United Nations headquarters in Abuja showed that no region was safe from the menace.  Niger faced the threat of terrorism on its northern border with Algeria, on its western border with Mali and on its southern border with Nigeria, he noted.

He said his country was also grappling with the threat posed by traffickers of drugs and human beings, a situation exacerbated by the Libyan crisis.  Weapons flowing throughout the Sahara-Sahel region could end up in the hands of terrorists, he warned, adding that Niger was committed to working with other countries in the subregion to address that possibility.  He expressed hope for a rapid solution to the crisis in Libya, stressing that failure to resolve it would have negative security and socio-economic consequences for Niger, including an end to Libyan-funded infrastructure construction.  As Nigerien migrants fled Libya, their country would receive them as well as Libyan refugees, in accordance with international law and standards, he pledged.

Regarding environmental concerns, he pointed out that least developed countries produced just 1 per cent of greenhouse gases, but suffered constantly from climate change.  Drought and flooding in the last decade illustrated the increase in extreme weather conditions, and to address it, the Government had increased irrigation and tried to protect the environment.  However, the current crop season would suffer greatly, he said, renewing his appeal for international aid to prevent impending food insecurity.

Niger was rich in resources such as uranium, gold, coal, cement and oil, he said, adding that the Government wished to use those resources to improve the socio-economic lot of its people.  The country had joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and intended to create tens of thousands of jobs for young people.  It was also encouraging private investment and hammering out a law on public-private partnerships for the rapid mobilization of funding.  He called for sweeping reform of international organizations, including the World Bank and IMF, as a prerequisite for global peace and stability.

MICHEL JOSEPH MARTELLY, President of Haiti, welcoming South Sudan as the 193rd United Nations Member State, joined the leaders of other countries that had experienced the heavy burden of post-catastrophe or post-conflict situations in saying:  “The weakest and the most vulnerable still harbour hope.”  They understood that change — in mentality as well as political, economic and social management — must be their key belief.  He said he had been elected with a mandate to bring about that change, and that awareness would lead to a new global order.

He went on to say that when countries in the global South survived a major catastrophe, it raised questions about whether responsibility should be local or global.  Post-disaster situations included those resulting from natural disasters and those caused by human folly, and the response to both must be even more coordinated and audacious.  In such instances, it was primarily up to the affected country to find solutions — the people of the global South determining how to use their wealth.

By supporting Haiti’s presidential elections, the United Nations had understood the urgency of the situation in his country, he said.  However, it would be irresponsible to deny a disaster-stricken country assistance from sister nations in the emerging South or in the North, he said, adding that a balance between mature governance and international assistance should be sought.  By way of example, he said that a country in conflict often welcomed United Nations peacekeepers initially, but host-country expectations grew excessive in the medium term.  Nothing would be more irresponsible than allowing peacekeeping missions to leave until an alternative was in place, he emphasized, asking what would happen to Haiti if the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was suddenly to withdraw.  “The trees must not hide the forest,” he said, stressing that political stabilization involved several stages and required more than a mere observer force.

Noting that the four pillars of his Government were education, employment, environment and the rule of law, he wondered how to achieve universal free education in a country where there was massive illiteracy.  With respect to jobs, “we can talk as much as we like about human dignity… but an empty stomach is death to words”, he said.  It was with the creation of decent jobs, especially for the most vulnerable, where justice began.  On other matters, he said the international community must commit to combat deforestation and climate change, and tackle the problem of water.  There could be no peace in the world as long as the environment in countries like Haiti were so degraded that disasters became even more dramatic, floods more severe and drought more deadly.

Stabilization also meant establishing the rule of law, which required an independent, strong justice system, he said.  It meant the difficult task of establishing institutions stronger than individual interests.  “We must stop talking about condemning people,” he stressed, adding that in disbursing post-disaster assistance, the funds that escaped inflexible procedures were the ones best adapted to needs.  Procedures must allow the affected country to take ownership of its own future, and pledges should be followed by action and the implementation of reconstruction projects, he said.  “It would be sad to see the left hand take back what the right hand has been given.”

PIERRE NKURUNZIZA, President of Burundi, said that the United Nations-supported peacebuilding process in his country had led to the successful 2010 elections.  The spirit of dialogue within that process had allowed the establishment of the national Ombudsman’s office and the independent Human Rights Commission.  Among other things, a new land code, a national strategy for democratic governance and legislation on political parties had been developed.  Not only had power been transferred peacefully, but, for the first time, the people had decided what was to be done, he said, adding that the country’s institutions were legitimate and legal, charged with protecting Burundi’s citizens and promoting economic development.

However, insecurity persisted, owing in part to the presence of former combatants and persistent poverty, stemming from rising energy prices and other financial challenges, he said.  A disarmament effort was under way and the Government was continuing its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Among other things, the number of students and teachers had increased, and training programmes had been created to train youth for future employment.  Initiatives were also being undertaken for the provision of basic services, including health care for children under five.  More than 2,000 schools and 80 health clinics had been built, and 2,000 pumps had been installed to provide potable water.  All of those tasks had been accomplished in just three years, he noted.

Highlighting the continuing presence of armed bandits in the Great Lakes region, he noted in particular the recent tragic events at a nightclub in Gatumba, Burundi, in which victims from all ethnic groups and political leanings had been targeted.  The Government had decided to provide help to the injured and to pay for the funerals of those who had lost their lives, he said.  Meanwhile, those responsible had been found and further inquiries were ongoing.  While the incident called for increased vigilance, it should not be seen to define Burundi.  Calling on the international community unreservedly to condemn the attack, he said independent commissions were investigating recent assassinations.

Turning to regional and international concerns, he noted the situation in Somalia, where further support was needed to ensure food security and combat terrorism.  The latter goal required that national Governments be able to meet the challenge, he said.

EMANUEL MORI, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said the Security Council’s “giant step” in adopting a presidential statement during its July debate on the security implications of climate change had been encouraging.  As a Pacific small island developing State, the Federated States of Micronesia faced a threat to its existence from the adverse impacts of climate change, but those who had opposed the Council debate, as well as those who doubted the security implications of climate change ignored the obvious, he said.  It was imperative to begin immediately reducing greenhouse gas emissions to protect vulnerable regions, he emphasized.

He went on to point out that an estimated 60 Second World War-era shipwrecks filled with a “ticking environmental time bomb” of 32 million litres of oil also threatened his island nation.  Some of the oil had already started leaking, and a collapse of the corroding wrecks could create a spill comparable to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.  “In this respect, to avoid a major environmental disaster, I am now appealing to the international community for immediate support,” he said.

For the Rio+20 Conference, the Federated States of Micronesia and other Pacific small island developing States had called for recognition of the “blue economy”, he said.  Ocean resources had enormous value, but their custodians had not received an equal share of that bounty.  Selfish illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing would, if unabated, continue to deprive the country’s people and fishing industries of millions of dollars in annual revenues.  The conservation and sustainable management of oceanic resources would be needed in the days ahead, so the Government had committed to various conservation activities, including support for the establishment of shark sanctuaries.

There was also a need for new measures to address the unique vulnerabilities of small-island States, he continued, emphasizing the importance of building upon the momentum of Rio+20 to convene a third global conference that would develop results-oriented measures.  A special category for small islands developing States was still imperative in improving the lot of their disadvantaged peoples, he said, adding that non-communicable diseases were also a major concern.  If allowed to continue unabated, they could potentially devastate economic development by undermining labour supply, productivity, investment and education, he warned.

On the Israeli-Palestinian question, he urged the international community to uphold the principles of peaceful co-existence enshrined in the United Nations Charter.  “We continue to support Israel’s right to live within secure and recognized borders, free from fear of terrorism,” he said.  “We also acknowledge Palestine’s right to statehood, which can only be achieved through negotiated settlement between the two parties.  And I agree with President Obama that there are no shortcuts to solving the problem.”

IKILILOU DHOININE, President of the Comoros, said humankind was facing one of the most difficult times; peace had never been so threatened in all regions and countries.  It was threatened by political crisis, disease, natural disasters, bad living conditions and underdevelopment.  The recent revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East continued to claim many victims as countries suffered from non-communicable diseases.  All were threatened by natural disasters related to climate change, particular small island developing States like the Comoros.

The international community must enhance its role of seeking speedy solutions to the crises, he continued.  By acting together, countries could succeed in re-launching development, a key factor of peace and stability.  Member States must further develop their solidarity to reverse the world’s growing vulnerability, he said, describing the “quasi-collective” effort by North America and Europe against the global financial crisis as commendable, but stressing that the effort must spread to other areas.  Solid democracy and good governance in the Comoros would only be truly irreversible if poverty was erased, he said, pointing out that, as a small developing island country, it attached very special importance to the question of climate change and the environment.

He said his Government worked hard every day to improve the lives of its citizens, but needed support from the international community.  It maintained its modest contributions to the quest for a better world, taking part in the East Africa standing force and playing a role in the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  Terrorism, piracy and the trafficking of weapons were direct threats to security, and the Comoros was doing its best to combat them, but others must provide more assistance on prevention, he said.

Conflicts unresolved for decades could also cause problems for peace and security, he said, noting that the current efforts of the transitional Government of Madagascar called for international support.  That was also the case of Palestine, whose application for United Nations membership and statehood, within pre-June 1967 borders, the Comoros supported.  The Comoros could not take a different position on that question since it was concerned about an equally significant matter affecting its own unity and territorial integrity.

He went on to point out that the international community had not found solutions to the thorny question between the Comoros and France over the island of Mayotte.  The visa regime imposed on Comorians by the French authority had broken up many families, and could not be continued without follow-up or settlement of the issue.  The Comoros would continue to negotiate for Mayotte’s integration, but needed a realistic and lasting solution to the dispute, which had existed for more than 30 years.  Similarly, he supported Morocco over Western Sahara and China’s One China policy for peace and prosperity.  He added that a permanent Security Council post for Africa would help eliminate many frustrations and antagonisms.

ANOTE TONG, President of Kiribati, said natural and human-induced disasters had been the cause of great suffering in different regions, while countries and peoples faced all kinds of security threats from armed conflicts, terrorism, human trafficking, economic recession as well as the impacts of climate change.  As a result, many communities suffered increasing poverty, hunger and dislocation.  Was the United Nations, in its current form, equipped to deal with those emerging issues, or was it time to review the structure and effectiveness of the international governance system? he asked.

Indeed, the lack of progress on climate change negotiations clearly demonstrated the wide divergence of positions on that issue, he pointed out.  Unless any future mediation could be approached with trust and commitment, the world would be caught in a vicious cycle in which the obsession to protect whatever was perceived as a critical national interest would win out, he warned.  Thanking the Secretary-General for his comments about Kiribati in opening the general debate, he said they were a powerful endorsement of what the most vulnerable countries had been saying for years.  Hopefully it would communicate to all the need for urgent action on climate change, which was already proving to be a curse for a few nations.

While some would argue that climate change did not fall within the conventional definition of a security threat, that was only because it was not yet such a threat for them, he pointed out.  In Kiribati, many young people went to sleep fearing what could happen to their homes overnight.  Indeed, the accelerated and continuing erosion of Kiribati’s shorelines was destroying settlements, forcing some communities to relocate even as he spoke.  Despite ongoing negotiations to find amicable solutions to the threat, the pertinent question was how long the world would continue to argue, he said.

As the world converged on Rio+20, the Government of Kiribati hoped it would embark on bold and innovative initiatives to address climate change.  Noting the apparent common ground on the issues to be discussed at this year’s climate change meeting in Durban, South Africa, he nevertheless asked what point would be made by reaching consensus if no concrete action followed.  Kiribati had finally been persuaded to associate itself with the Copenhagen Accord — despite its misgivings over that agreement’s serious shortcomings — on the premise that doing so would trigger the flow of pledged adaptation funds, yet it continued to wait for those funds today.

Stymied by external factors in its attempts to meet its sustainable development goals, and worried that the impacts of climate change would progressively dominate its national agenda, he said Kiribati was unsurprisingly off track in its quest to realize most of the Millennium Development Goals.  It was therefore imperative to mobilize climate change adaption funds to free up development resources that could otherwise be diverted to the most urgent adaptation needs.  Furthermore, the Green Climate Fund should be made operational as soon as possible, he said, adding that all nations and peoples contributing to climate change, including Taiwan, should be part of the solution.

ANDRY NIRINA RAJOELINA, President of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar, said that after three years of political crisis, his country was proud to resume its place among the wider community of nations.  He said the multiple world crises, including those in North Africa, bore witness to the importance of the general debate’s theme — mediation and preventive diplomacy.  Indeed, diplomacy had been essential in helping Madagascar work towards resolving its internal disputes, he said, paying tribute to the pioneering efforts of the late Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in the area of dialogue and mediation.

He said conflict could be sparked in a number of ways, including through popular uprisings when Governments failed to respect the aspirations of their people.  In such cases, mediation was essential in finding lasting solutions.  However, such solutions and the dialogue leading to them must be inclusive and relevant to the realities in which the citizens lived, he said.  In Madagascar’s case, the Malagasy people had risen up in 2008 to force a break with an oppressive Government that had abused human rights and obstructed socio-economic progress for decades.  The people had demanded a better life even while respecting international principles.

Commendable mediation efforts had been implemented with the help of civil society partners, the international community and the Southern African Development Community, among others, he said, “at just the moment when consensus seemed like it could not be reached”.  The involvement of all those actors had been critical to mounting an effective and comprehensive response, he said, adding that the response had indeed been commensurate with the crisis.  The people had been patient, even as they had suffered for three long years.  The post-crisis road map outlined by SADC represented the concerns of a broad range of stakeholders in Madagascar, and the country was prepared to move forward with it for the benefit of all the people, he said.

Yet, while an extremely important step had been taken, “there is a long way to go”, he said.  It was therefore necessary to implement the road map fully, in line with the people’s expectations.  The ultimate and most pressing goal was holding free and fair elections, which was the only way truly to resolve the crisis.  Madagascar was determined to move forward, he said, adding that he would spare no effort in ensuring that the country achieved the expected results.  In that regard, he appealed to the international community to support the objectives of Madagascar’s electoral needs assessment, so that preparations could be laid for free, fair and broadly representative elections as soon as possible.

JOSAIA VOREQUE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, said that in the past year his country had opened its first diplomatic mission in Africa and joined the Non-Aligned Movement, among other positive developments complementing its “Look North Policy” and its intention to expand relations with non-traditional partners.  As per its guiding People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress document, Fiji had also formalized diplomatic relations with 37 countries this year, and continued to participate actively in United Nations peacekeeping missions, including in Iraq, South Sudan, Abyei, Darfur, Liberia and Timor-Leste.  It was also currently chairing the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and as a member of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization, Fiji continued to call for the effective monitoring and assessment of New Caledonia’s Noumea Accord.

He said his country’s development efforts continued to be inspired by the Millennium Development Goals.  The Government was focusing on national infrastructure development under its “Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-economic Development”, which gave priority to expanding rural electrification, providing access to clean water and national roads.  National laws had been reformed to align with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, and consequently, increasing numbers of women were participating in local decision-making bodies, while greater numbers of women and girls were enrolling in tertiary education.  The welfare system was also providing increased assistance to the most marginalized, including single mothers, he said, adding that the 2010 Domestic Violence Decree was also being implemented effectively.

He went on to say that Fiji’s HIV/AIDS Decree had been acknowledged as among the world’s most progressive HIV-related laws.  Additionally, the country had recently enacted the Mental Health Decree, based on World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, and a Child Welfare Law that created a system of mandatory reporting of child abuse by doctors, police officers and lawyers.  Fiji was also undertaking key actions to address non-communicable diseases, including participation in a pilot salt-reduction programme.  At the same time, economic reforms had produced positive mid-term results, he said, noting that the credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s had raised its assessment of the country’s status last month.  He thanked Fiji’s development partners for their support, which had contributed to that improved rating.

Nevertheless, as a small island developing State, Fiji remained vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, he said.  While holding firm to its hope for a successful outcome to climate change negotiations, the Government also hoped that the presidential statement issued by the Security Council in July would enable that body to investigate further the plight of countries most at risk of losing territory due to climate change.  It was imperative that the International Seabed Authority remain vigilant in safeguarding the environmental integrity of the world’s seabed, he emphasized.  He welcomed the decision by the Authority’s Council to approve applications by Tonga and Nauru for the exploitation of polymetallic nodules in the Mid-East Pacific Ocean and underlined that Pacific small island developing States had a legitimate right to that oceanic resource.

He went on to note that Fiji would, from September 2012, turn its attention to developing a new constitution, adding that the terms of that process required an end to racial categorization and discrimination.  That would, in turn, allow Fijians to go into the 2014 elections on the basis of common and equal suffrage.  That would be real progress, he stressed, pointing out that it would undo decades of undemocratic laws and policies inherited from the country’s colonial past.

CISSÉ MARIAM KAÏDAMA SIDIBÉ, Prime Minister of Mali, said that while Africa had made remarkable progress in promoting peace and security, the situations in the Horn and North Africa remained troubling.  She called for an end to the use of force in Libya and for the start of negotiations to end the crisis.  On the Middle East, she said the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate had galvanized the international community, and urged the parties to take the necessary measures to end the deadlock in a fair and comprehensive manner.

Turning to the security challenges in the Sahel subregion, she said that her country and its neighbours were deeply concerned by a raft of illegal activities, including small arms trafficking and other forms of organized crime carried out in collusion with terrorist groups.  The Governments concerned had established joint mechanisms to combat activities that could destabilize the region.  Parallel to those efforts, the Government of Mali was working assiduously to enhance socio-economic prospects in the north, she said.

She said 2012 would be an important year in Mali, as it would launch an open process towards a constitutional referendum and near-term elections.  The current Government was committed to upholding reforms under way and holding open elections next year.  The country’s democracy had matured over the past four years, largely because Mali had begun to draw on its peaceful traditions and open, dialogue-based culture, she said.  She called on the international community to support the election process and to assist Mali is it prepared for the constitutional referendum.

On other matters, she said that due to its geographical location, Mali suffered from desertification, land degradation and the vagaries of rainfall.  It therefore considered climate change to be one of the international community’s major challenges.  As such, she reaffirmed her Government’s commitment to implementing all international measures aimed at preserving natural resources, protecting biodiversity and restoring natural habitats.

Mali was also committed to combating HIV/AIDS, and other infectious as well as non-communicable diseases, she said, noting that the latter were quickly becoming obstacles to development.  The international community must also maintain its focus on improving the situation of women and girls worldwide.  It must work harder to meet agreed ODA commitments, as well as obligations in the area of development financing and debt reduction or elimination.  In the quest for a fairer and more peaceful world, strengthening solidarity and cooperation was the best way to find solutions to the common challenges faced by all, she said.

SIBUSISO BARNABAS DLAMINI, Prime Minister of Swaziland, congratulated South Sudan on its independence earlier this year, and noted that credit must also go to Sudan for its resolve in seeing the successful result through.  The African Union had also been instrumental, using the vast experience of former leaders to bring African solutions to African problems.  Similarly, he prayed with the people of Libya for a swift end to the conflict there, a sustainable solution and an inclusive Government for a brighter future.

The hugely damaging long-term effects of the war in Somalia had been compounded by a famine that could be blamed on climate change, he said, pointing out, however, that it would be better addressed through comprehensive collaboration by the international community.  “Sadly, the world appears to have forgotten Somalia,” he said, noting that the country’s deepening piracy problem showed the need for a holistic approach to providing aid there.  The world certainly did not want to send a message that interventions only took place when specific interests were threatened, he said.

The promotion of human rights was a common objective of all countries, and there were still challenges, he said, emphasizing that greater importance should be attached to the right to development so that everyone could enjoy the benefits of globalization.  The right to life, the right to food and the right to health could promote cooperation in that regard.  More assistance from developed countries could be provided in areas such as technology transfer, debt reduction and market access for the sake of the universal right of development.

Swaziland was proud to have made great strides against HIV/AIDS, he said, noting that by 2015, all children born of HIV-positive mothers would be born HIV-free.  He went on to emphasize that in today’s interconnected world, Taiwan could contribute successfully to the international community.  Swaziland therefore urged the United Nations to find a way for Taiwan to contribute to its mechanisms.  There was doubt that the people of Taiwan had a functional need to be within the United Nations system and that their inclusion would be in the interest of the international community as well.

TILLMAN THOMAS, Prime Minister of Grenada, said the United Nations was meant to lead, perhaps more so in difficult times, noting:  “We all are obliged to work selflessly to preserve our planet.”  In the last year, the world had witnessed many challenges that undermined stability.  The economic crisis continued to weigh heavily on Grenada in the form of high food and fuel prices, lower national revenues and high debt.  Indeed, the green shoots of recovery had not reached the island, he said, adding that global instability anywhere hurt his country, as unemployment in the world’s capitals affected tourism and even remittances.

Urging growth with equity, especially for women and youth, as well as a just, peaceful and democratic global framework, he said Grenada had worked to strengthen democratic processes and advance Caribbean regional integration.  At the national level, the Government had promoted social inclusion, while regionally, it was working with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

With respect to sustainable development, he appealed to Member States to meet the commitments of the Durban meeting to be held in December, and Rio+20 to be held in June 2012.  He said it was disappointing that some countries had blocked the review of 1.5° C as the potential global average temperature increase, and called for supporting a safe threshold for islands.  This year, Grenada would launch a sustainable energy programme for 24 small island developing States, which would provide the basis for low-carbon economic growth, he said.

He went on to emphasize that a key outcome of Rio+20 must be the development of a green economy — combining investments and jobs with environmental resources — and a blue economy that took into account ocean-based income generation.  On other matters, he said that the United Nations, especially the Security Council, must be reformed to make it more representative and inclusive.  The body should be expanded in both its permanent and non-permanent categories, and be more open in its working methods.  Specifically, he called for a seat for small island States and stronger relations with CARICOM.

KAY RALA XANANA GUSMÃO, Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and Security of Timor-Leste, opened by thanking Member States for their support in rebuilding his country’s institutions, saying Timor-Leste had come a long way as a people and as a State, replacing intolerance with constructive dialogue, and the right to protest with the duty to protest responsibly.  Over the last four years, the country had been strengthening the institutional capacity of its public administration to defend the best interests of the State, improve public service delivery and promote good governance.  It was also reforming public-finance management and creating an Anti-Corruption Commission.  Additionally, the country had begun to develop the capacity of its private sector by promoting competence, professional honesty and technical skills.

He said that across the country, investments had been made in agriculture to increase the sector’s productivity.  It was also investing in local and decentralized development programmes, which focused on minor infrastructure projects to promote employment for young people in rural areas.  Those measures had contributed to economic growth and helped create jobs in the capital, Dili, as well as in rural areas.  They had also encouraged confidence in State institutions, leading to a spirit of optimism that had contributed to a change in mindsets.

As a result of good governance and the prudent use of revenues, Timor-Leste had recorded double-digit growth in the last few years, he said, adding that the country was on the right path to maintain that growth.  The institutions established to support the Timor-Leste Petroleum Fund would become stronger, ensuring responsiveness and greater quality of work and execution.  Additionally, having achieved its goal of stability, the country was in a position to prepare a 20-year strategic development plan that would replace the annual plan, he said.  It would cover three vital areas:  social capital, infrastructure and economic development.  “We want to shift from an oil-dependent economy to a non-oil-dependent economy.”

He said Timor-Leste was trying to be more active in the region and in the world, to show that it was possible to leave behind or close a long period of conflict and focus on humanist ideals of political and social tolerance for the dignity and development of all.  That was why the county was intent on joining the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), he said.  On aid effectiveness, he said it would be difficult for some developing countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 because they faced daily challenges and difficulties in combating maladministration.  Poor countries also needed a message of confidence, since all they heard about was transparency and accountability, he stressed, urging a change in attitudes.

STAVROS LAMBRINIDIS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said his country had a vision for peace, stability and cooperation in the Balkans, the key component of which was the European perspective of the region as a whole and of each individual neighbour.  Pinpointing the Kosovo issue as a serious obstacle to the consolidation of peace and security in the subregion, he said recent progress in the European Union-brokered talks between Belgrade and Pristina was some cause for optimism in the wake of the recent tensions seen in the region.  However, those tensions were not over, he warned, adding that they must still be dealt with and defused.

To that end, Greece wished to facilitate the process of reconciliation and compromise, he said.  It also wished to foster the kind of understanding that its neighbours needed on the path to a common European future because that was a policy that worked.  He said that another matter requiring his country’s attention was the “name issue” between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  It was high time a successful, mutually beneficial conclusion was reached, he stressed.

Turning to the Arab Spring, he said his country had embraced a vital role in those developments, not only on account of its long tradition of trust and friendship with the Arab world, but also because of its proximity to the countries swept by calls for change.  Consequently, Greece had conducted unprecedented evacuations of tens of thousands of people, provided ground support for the implementation of the no-fly zone over Libya, mediated for the release of European military personnel early in the crisis and established an early diplomatic presence in Benghazi to liaise with the National Transitional Council.

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, compared the scale of the historic change occurring in North Africa and the Middle East to that seen at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism.  Although the processes were as different as the circumstances, the events shared their genesis in the need of the respective peoples concerned to break the bonds of corrupt leadership, deficient democratic processes and lack of opportunities.

Young people in those countries did not want to be forced to live in a world ruled by “ageing dictators”, he declared.  “As change swept North Africa and the Middle East, some leaders cringed, others embraced it,” he said, noting that those who had opposed the will of their people were no longer in power and their countries were moving towards democratic elections. He called on President Bashar al-Assad to “come out from the shadows, dismantle the machinery of repression, and immediately call for internationally supervised elections”.

He said it was to Bulgaria and all those countries that had joined the European Union late — not by their own choice, but due to ideological divisions of the Cold War — to say it loud and clear:  “To make war impossible in the Balkans we must see all countries that had emerged from the former Yugoslavia be part of the European Union.  This is our historic mission.  It is our destiny.”  It was important that meetings between Serbia and Kosovo continue in a pragmatic fashion, and that the two sides engage in a constructive manner.

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