22 September 2016
Seventy-first Session, 14th, 15th & 16th Meetings (AM, PM & Night)

President Abbas Calls for Strengthening Palestinian Leadership on World Stage, as General Assembly Moves into Third Day of Annual Debate

Iran, Da’esh Our Common Enemy, Prime Minister Netanyahu Tells Arab States

The General Assembly moved into day three of its general debate today with a push to elevate the Palestinian legal and political leadership in the world body so as to allow for their chairing of committees and international groups, the ability to sponsor resolutions, and to proclaim 2017 as the International Year to end the Israeli Occupation.

Those themes and others concerning rights to independence, education and social and economic empowerment needed to create a more equitable world played into broader calls for the reform of United Nations structures and working methods that had outlived their utility.

President Mahmoud Abbas of the State of Palestine, in making those appeals, regretted that he had to address an issue that had confronted his people for 70 years:  the right to self-determination.  None of 12 Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli settlement-building in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had been implemented.  Those expansionist policies were destroying hopes for a two-State solution, based on the 1967 borders, and undermining Palestinian efforts to develop their economy. 

Moreover, he asked the United Kingdom to apologize for the “catastrophes, miseries and injustices” created by the Balfour Declaration, which gave the land of Palestine to another people nearly 100 years ago, and remedy the resulting dire consequences by recognizing the State of Palestine.  He also pressed the Assembly to adopt a resolution enabling the State of Palestine to present and co-sponsor resolutions beyond the question of Palestine.  The international community’s ability to advance Palestinians’ rights, he said, and ensure their exercise, would offer a unique opportunity for peace to prevail in the region.

Condemning Mr. Abbas’ attack on the Balfour Declaration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel stressed that the conflict had never been about settlements; it had always been about the existence of a Jewish State.  That right was non-negotiable.  He called on Mr. Abbas to help establish peace between their peoples, and expressed his readiness to begin negotiations today, inviting Mr. Abbas to address the Israeli people at the Knesset, while he in turn could address the Palestinian people in Ramallah.

Committed to a vision of two States for two peoples, he also underscored that the profound changes taking place in the Arab world offered a unique opportunity to advance that peace.  Despite consistent bias against his country, States in the region were recognizing that Israel was not their enemy, but their ally.  Their common enemies were Iran and Islamic State in Iraq/the Levant (ISIL/Da-esh), and their common goals were security and peace.  Israel’s diplomatic relations, he stated, were “undergoing nothing less than a revolution”. 

Also addressing issues in the region, Prime Minister Tammam Salam of Lebanon said his country was hosting one-third of the Syrian population and carrying out that duty with insufficient support.  He urged the United Nations to work with concerned parties on an effective plan.  Also referring to external factors influencing Lebanon, he said the vacancy of the Presidency was not solely in the hands of the Lebanese people.  He called on all who were keen to avoid new regional tensions to help bring about a solution.

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi of Iraq said he looked forward to the day the entire Middle East would be free of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  He urged the global community to maintain its aid for internally displaced Iraqis, especially with regard to the planned liberation of Nineveh.  He also asked that it demand Turkey to withdraw its forces from Iraqi territory.  They were not welcome and would hinder the Government’s efforts to liberate Nineveh from ISIL.

The war in Iraq, said President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, had sown the seeds of borderless terrorism spreading across the world through the security strategies of major Powers over the last 15 years. “Some Powers” had provided covert and overt support for Takfiri groups or had condoned their formation, and were now committing atrocities against innocent people under the guise of fighting terrorism.  Muslims, whether Sunni or Shi’a, had lived in harmony for centuries.  He affirmed Iran’s commitment to prevent a dismemberment of the region.

With global solidarity tested daily in an evolving geopolitical landscape, speakers also stressed that the United Nations must be reformed if it was to represent humanity’s highest ideals.  “The time has come for a capable and respectable woman from Eastern Europe to lead the United Nations,” said Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev, an endorsement of women broadly echoed by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, who challenged Governments to enact laws that gave women and girls the power they deserved.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, said she, along with the Presidents of Chile, Indonesia and Malawi, and the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, had initiated the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, and had submitted recommendations to the Secretary-General on 18 September.  President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone also advocated urgent reform so that Africa could take its rightful place in the Security Council.

The United Nations had no choice but to play a key role in delivering solutions to make the world safer, said Netherland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders. “The United Nations is the best imperfect organization we have”.

On that point, Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, thanked the Secretary-General for his efforts to resolve the Cyprus Problem, the second longest unresolved international issue on the United Nations agenda, expressing confidence that a solution would “offer a beacon of hope” that even the most intractable problems could be solved peacefully through the United Nations.

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government and senior officials of Cameroon, El Salvador, Madagascar, Kiribati, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Monaco, Lebanon, Rwanda, Liberia, Burkina Faso, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Marshall Islands, Angola, Guatemala, Libya, Serbia, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Greece, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Malta, Equatorial Guinea, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea and the Republic of Korea, as well the Holy See.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Iran and Brazil.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. Friday, 23 September to continue its general debate.


PAUL BIYA, President of Cameroon, said that, although the session was opening in a context marked by turmoil, fortunately, there were glimmers of hope.  In a remarkable show of human solidarity, States had laid the building blocks for one destiny, with the adoption of United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development outcome document, “The Future We Want”, as well as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Goals, he continued, were the first global agenda that considered development in all its dimensions:  security, economic, social, human and environmental.  While past agendas, declarations and action programmes had raised great hopes, they had been only partially implemented.  “We failed to honour all our commitments, especially financial,” he said, stressing that political will should not wax and wane according to circumstances.  Contributions should be effective and solidarity among peoples should be affirmed.

Cameroon had been engaged over the last three years in a war against terrorism, which required a collective response, determination and action, he said.  Goal 16 of the 2030 Agenda, which focused on the promotion of inclusive societies, would help fight Boko Haram.  He urged strengthening national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, notably in developing countries, to combat terrorism and crime.

The outcomes of previous agendas and programmes had shown the urgent need to achieve the ambitions.  “If we decide, here and now, to effectively and concretely mobilize our immense resources,” he said, the Goals would create a world of peace and shared prosperity.

NICOS ANASTASIADES, President of Cyprus, said that in order to address the root causes of the refugee and migration crisis, international efforts needed to be directed towards making sustainable development a reality for all countries — a goal that could only be achieved if the international community adopted a targeted and results-based approach to development cooperation.  Also required were efforts to eliminate inequality and social exclusion, address gender inequality and invest in human capital, especially girls’ education.  The threats posed by ongoing conflicts and the prevention of future ones needed to be confronted, as well.  Therefore, it was important for the international community to reconsider conflict resolution mechanisms, he said, calling for strengthening support for the United Nations.

In that regard, he thanked the Secretary-General for his efforts to resolve the Cyprus Problem, which was the second longest-standing unresolved international issue on the United Nations agenda.  It was regrettable that numerous rounds of talks had not been successful.  Nonetheless, he expressed his hope that the latest round of negotiations would end the “unacceptable status quo”.  Progress had been made on certain key aspects, but differences remained on a number of issues, the most important being property, territory and security and guarantees.  Those issues would weight significantly on whether a solution would be possible in the near future.

If the failures of the past were to be avoided, he continued, key issues would need to be addressed, including, among others, the financial dimension of the settlement that tackled property issue and the institutional functioning of the federal State; safeguards for the smooth implementation of the agreement; details regarding what the first day of the solution would entail; the introduction of the euro as legal tender on the first day of the settlement; and ensuring the speedy implementation of the various aspects of the agreement.

He said that he believed a solution by the end of the year was achievable, provided that all interested parties show the same degree of commitment, voicing hope that a solution to the Cyprus Problem would “offer a beacon of hope” that even the most intractable problems can be solved peacefully through the United Nations.

ERNEST BAI KOROMA, President of Sierra Leone, said his country had linked each of the new Goals to its national development programme, “Agenda for Prosperity”.  A national framework had been established, as had a benchmark system to address challenges relating to the data required for reporting on progress.  However, delivering on the Goals’ promise of a better world would remain elusive without reform of the United Nations.  “Let me put it straight:  our premier global institution lacks the democratic competencies to tackle the developmental, security and other challenges facing Africa and many other parts of the world,” he said.

Without African voices at the highest level of the Organization, no solutions would be sustainable, he stated.  Africa’s position was about righting historic wrongs, but more than anything, it was about Africa’s contribution to making the United Nations more effective and democratic.  Diluting any elements of that position was akin to continuing an unfair status quo.  As Coordinator of the Committee of Ten on the Reform of the United Nations, he affirmed that group’s support for the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration, adding that he frowned at attempts to “take down our common position through divide and rule policies reminiscent of the colonial era”.

More broadly, he said, his Government was ready to deploy formed police units, special weapon and tactics units and police guards to the United Nations Standby Arrangement System.  He welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 2282 (2016) and Assembly resolution 70/262, both of which supported a comprehensive approach to transitional justice and an accountable security sector.  Sierra Leone was committed to good governance and would build on its post-conflict gains by strengthening its democratic institutions and access to justice. It had taken steps to improve service conditions in its justice sector and had created a legal aid board.  It was working to ensure there was no one was in correctional centres without an indictment.  Those efforts were the bedrock of its goal to become a middle-income country by 2035.

As well, legislation and policy actions had been taken to empower women and young people, he continued, noting that a record number of young people and women had been appointed to ministerial and ambassadorial posts.  The Ebola outbreak had underscored the need for more robust global health architecture.  He urged implementing recommendations by the High-Level Panel Review on the Global Response to Health Crises, adding that Sierra Leone was establishing a post-Ebola recovery programme.   While his country had contributed almost nothing to global warming, it was the third most-vulnerable country to those effects and he sought collaboration in that regard.  Concluding, he stressed that it was urgent for all parties to cooperate in the search for peace in Syria, South Sudan and Libya and speed efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITÉ, President of Lithuania, said that fighting terrorism and ending conflict could only be done with the full participation of women.  As well, implementing the Goals would also require special attention to women, who were left behind and ignored.  While both women and men were affected by poverty, lifting women out of poverty was more difficult.  Women faced gender-based discrimination and marginalization, she said, citing a report by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) that a woman earned 24 per cent less than a man and was more challenged in receiving a loan to start a business.

“The trend of poverty feminization has to change,” she stressed.  “By not allowing women to prosper, we condemn entire families to poverty.”  Moreover, while nearly half of the world’s agricultural work was done by women, if food was scarce, women were the first to suffer.  When public order broke down, a woman’s trip to bring water to her family could cost her life.  Expanding land ownership for women and providing credit would raise women’s incomes and make more food available for all.

In addition, for so many girls and women, the road to inclusive learning was an impossible dream, she said, noting that of the world’s 750 million illiterate adults, two thirds were women.  Girls were sold into early marriages and women into slavery.  Extremists burned down schools and killed teachers.  “That needs to change,” she said.  Educated women were a tremendous resource for the common good.  Girls must have access to education and be free to choose a profession.

While the challenges were immense, Governments could be part of the change by encouraging women to demand their rightful place in national parliaments, negotiation tables, science labs and company boards, she said.  They must ensure that nothing obstructed girls’ access to free quality education.  Abusive social practices must be combated, with laws that gave women and girls the power they deserved, and an investment in poverty reduction must be made.  “We cannot afford to fail in this challenge,” she stressed.  “To achieve this, we need everyone on board.”

SALVADOR SÁNCHEZ CERÉN, President of El Salvador, acknowledging that peace and security would be threatened without sustainable development, expressed his country’s full support for the 2030 Agenda.  In particular, El Salvador had made extraordinary efforts to reduce violence in its municipalities, as evidenced by a marked reduction in homicides as compared to the previous year.

Turning to the issue of migration, he urged the international community to meet that challenge with courage in order to strengthen related initiatives. Stating that he was aware of the factors forcing Salvadorans to migrate, he said that his Government was carrying out efforts to improve the situation.  However, guarantees that the rights of his people would be respected in transit through other countries were needed.  On that note, he stressed that “the wall” was not a solution as it only led to greater hate.

Attempts to destabilize Governments in the region, in particular Brazil, not only flew in the face of the rule of law, but hampered democracy, he went on to say.  In that context, he also expressed solidity with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros and the Venezuelan people, saying he trusted they would find solutions through dialogue.

He applauded the decisive role of the United Nations in promoting international peace and security, and praised the support given to his country over the past 25 years.  The peace accord reached in 1992 after his country’s civil war was a successful example of resolving conflicts through the world body and could be used as a reference to resolving others.  El Salvador was happy to share its experience, as it did in the case of Colombia.

HASSAN ROUHANI, President of Iran, recalled that the war in Iraq had sown the seeds of the borderless terrorism which had spread across the world.  The question of why the world was facing such a problem should be on the agenda of international forums.  “The genesis of borderless violent extremism and terrorism could be attributed to the security strategies developed by major Powers in the past 15 years,” he said, adding that security in one region at the cost of insecurity in other was impossible; it could lead to more insecurity everywhere.

It was regrettable that “some Powers” had provided covert and overt support for Takfiri groups or had condoned their formation, he said, adding that such Powers were now committing atrocities against innocent people and their defenders “under the guise of fighting terrorism”.  In particular, the Saudi Government must cease and desist from divisive policies, spreading hate and hateful ideology and trampling upon the rights of its neighbours.

His Government opposed any kind of sectarianism, he went on to say.  Muslims, whether they be Sunni or Shi’a, had lived in harmony for centuries and would continue to do so.  He affirmed his country’s commitment to prevent a dismemberment of the region, recalling such a situation which had occurred a century ago.

Finally, he expressed his concerns about the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which his country had reached with the P5+1 [China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States and Germany].  While the Plan of Action offered a model of the success that could be achieved through constructive interaction and dialogue, the United States had not met all of its commitments under the agreement.  That failure would erode the United States’ credibility in the world and should be rectified immediately.  Furthermore, he condemned recent measures by the United States Supreme Court to seize billions of dollars of Iranian assets.  Finally, he celebrated Iranian economic progress and predicted that Iran’s economic growth would reach approximately 5 per cent by the end of 2016.

HERY MARTIAL RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA RAKOTOARIMANANA, President of Madagascar, said that health, education and food security were among the most significant goals on his country’s development agenda.  An initiative to provide universal health-care coverage had been rolled out, with a focus on improving the lives of the most vulnerable groups in the country.  Vaccination programmes were also being strengthened, and the collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations on combating HIV and AIDS continued.  In the education sector, tens of thousands of teachers had been recruited, with the aim to enhance children’s school participation.

However, to improve food security, Madagascar must modernize its agricultural sector, promote sustainable farming and ensure food autonomy, he said.  Much of the country had been in the grips of draught, causing severe food insecurity.  Critical food programmes had been initiated to support the population in that dire situation.

Madagascar was one of the countries permanently suffering from the devastating effects of climate change, which was one of the main causes of food insecurity, he continued.  While the country took great responsibility in sustainably managing its natural resources, it also expected an equitable distribution of resources and capital from the Green Climate Fund, as well as and transfer of technology.  He reiterated his appeal for investments from the international community and private investors, especially in the electricity, infrastructure and water distribution sectors.

In regards to the Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, Europa and Bassas da India islands, he said that his country was delighted to have restarted negotiations with the French Government.  The aim was to reintegrate those islands with Madagascar, as they had been “arbitrarily separated from the country”.

TANETI MAAMAU, President of Kiribati, said terrorism, transnational organized crime, nuclear testing, war, refugee and migrant flows, the silent killer of non-communicable diseases, along with existential threat of climate change all continued to undermine sustainable development.  Addressing those challenges required a change of mind-sets, paths and methods.  “And we must do this together,” he said, stressing that the future of Kiribati was at stake.  Each year, his Government attended the Assembly with constant cries to help it adapt to such impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, storm surge and cyclones.  Villages had been forced to relocate, food crops had been destroyed and drinking water had been contaminated.

With La Niña, he said, water scarcity could trigger sanitation and other risks.  Kiribati was considering immediate options to help its people survive and he called on the United Nations for urgent help.  Following its signature of the Paris Agreement last year, Kiribati had deposited its ratification instrument on 21 September.  He commended China and the United States for their commitment to that process and urged other countries to help save those in need.  There was a huge risk for low-lying island nations, including Kiribati, which were prone to drought desertification and flooding.

As the 17 Goals were reflected in his country’s development plans, he urged directing assistance for capacity-building and technology transfer to the national level where it could make a big difference. It would be a challenge to compete for resources with multilateral agencies.  Taiwan had been a significant partner in achieving the goals of the global family.  “This must be acknowledged,” he said, through increased and more meaningful participation in international processes.  “We need our global transformation to be inclusive of those who can contribute to the effective implementation of the Goals,” he said.

Key principles of his Government, which he had led for six months, included good governance, transparency and accountability, he went on to say.  In its first meeting, Parliament had set up a select committee on anti-corruption, and just last week, had accepted the first reading of the Bill on the Leaders Code of Conduct, and passed a constitutional amendment to establish a new justice ministry.  As a Government, “we can transform our nation for the better if our actions, as leaders, are underpinned by strong principles of good governance, transparency and accountability” he said.

PATRICE ATHANASE GUILLAUME TALON, President of Benin, said his country was pleased with the Sustainable Development Goals which answered “actual concerns”.  The world had always mobilized and organized itself to address global challenges and had done so with the challenge of climate change, leading “us to put our minds together” and decide to utilize substantial means.  As well, the world today was more open than ever before.  Migration movements had become unruly and destabilizing, and mass poverty had become a major threat to humanity.

With the same determination that led the world to the climate change agreement, he stressed that the international community must move ahead urgently to put in place a global programme eradicating mass poverty.  He called on the most developed countries and the institutions that financed development to “implement a strong collective action with a view to eradicating poverty which is dangerously sidelining most African countries”.

The international community had proved its capabilities by preventing Greece and Ukraine from collapsing, he pointed out.  Those efforts had not ruin countries or the institutions that had mobilized themselves for those “rescue operation”.  To quickly and efficiently eradicate poverty and underdevelopment in Africa, “we will indeed need the same will but not necessarily more means”.  African countries would also need to take part of responsibility by doing more for political stability and above all, good governance.

For Benin’s part, it had undertaken the required political, administrative and good governance reforms.  “One can add to this nearly half a century of political stability,” he said, adding that all those elements gave Benin the capacity to achieve sustainable development.  Nonetheless, adequate international support was critical.  He also said Benin was actively contributing to the implementation of the decisions of the climate change convention adopted in Paris, emphasizing that the “ratification process is on-going”.

ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of Côte d’Ivoire, said grim economic and social circumstances could slow progress to combat poverty and implement development programmes.  “We must win the fight against abject poverty and suffering,” he stated, urging developed countries to respect commitments made at the third International Conference on Financing for Development, as well as those outlined in Goal 17 and the Green Climate Fund.  Utmost efforts were needed to ensure the Paris Agreement became a reality.  Côte d’Ivoire would deposit its ratification instruments before year-end.

Through its 2016-2020 development programme, his Government would mobilize the resources to implement the Goals, he continued.  The country’s positive economic position had allowed it to improve social indicators.  However, several global and regional conflicts remained a concern.  The Security Council and main stakeholders must do more to end suffering in Syria, the Middle East, South Sudan and Mali.  The Council, with its present configuration and working methods, could not effectively resolve conflicts.  He urged reform in order to bolster its legitimacy.  Côte d’Ivoire had experienced an attack in Grand-Bassam, a reminder that no country alone could end terrorism, and the United Nations must coordinate efforts to combat that scourge.

Without such support, developing countries would have to invest resources in national security, and away from social programmes, with serious consequences for their populations, he pointed out.  Worsening security in many countries had increased migratory flows; fear and isolation were not an appropriate response.  There was a need for solidarity in tackling the root causes of that phenomenon.  Countries of origin must do more to improve living conditions and create peace for their citizens.  For its part, Côte d’Ivoire continued to modernize its institutions and maintain an annual 9 per cent growth rate, enabling it to establish social and economic infrastructure.

“Côte d’Ivoire lives in peace,” he said, recalling that his people had organized presidential elections in 2015, and would soon renew the mandates of parliamentarians and vote on a new draft Constitution.  Amid such progress, the Council this year had lifted sanctions imposed in 2004.  In June 2017, the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) would leave the country after 12 years.  His Government was proud of those developments.  Côte d’Ivoire was a candidate for a seat on the Security Council for 2018‑2019.  It had supported the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), working in a transport company from 2013 to 2015.  It was prepared send by year-end a 150‑person protection company to that mission.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of the State of Palestine, voiced his regret that he had to address the Assembly on an issue that had confronted his people for 70 years:  the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.  He reiterated his Government’s commitment to the agreements reached with Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accords.  Yet, Israel had not met its obligations under those agreements.  In particular, he condemned Israel’s continued settlement expansion in Palestinian territories, its extrajudicial executions, its detention of thousands of Palestinian prisoners and its aggressions against the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Despite the adoption of 12 Security Council resolutions condemning the construction of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, he pointed out that none of those resolutions had been implemented — a situation which encouraged Israel to continue its seizure of Palestinian land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem with impunity.  Those expansionist policies risked destroying whatever possibility was left for a two-State solution on the 1967 border.  They were also undermining Palestinian efforts to develop their economy — a right which was of international priority under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It was regrettable, he continued, that Israel had attempted to evade an international conference for peace proposed by France, and reiterated his hope that such a conference would lead to the establishment of a mechanism and a defined timeframe for an end to the occupation, in accordance with relevant resolutions, the principle of land for peace and the Arab Peace Initiative.  With the impending 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration — by which Great Britain promised the land of Palestine to another people — he called for Britain to bear its historic, legal, political, material and moral responsibilities for the consequences of that decision.  As part of that process, he asked that Britain apologize to the Palestinian people “for the catastrophes, miseries and injustices that it created, and to act to rectify this historic catastrophe and remedy its consequences, including by recognition of the State of Palestine”.

Finally, he called upon the General Assembly to declare 2017 the “International Year to End the Israeli Occupation”, as that year would mark half a century of the occupation.  He also appealed to the Assembly to adopt a resolution that would enable Palestine to present and cosponsor resolutions beyond the question of Palestine, and to support that country’s efforts to enhance its legal and political status by granting it additional responsibilities to chair committees and international groups.

ERNA SOLBERG, Prime Minister of Norway, said that recent violations of United Nations principles had caused wide-spread insecurity in Syria, Yemen, Ukraine, South Sudan and elsewhere.  The world had also come together, as demonstrated with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.  In going forward, “we cannot let fear guide our actions”, she said, or return to a world of zero-sum games, narrow national interests and protectionism.  Rather, it was important to rally around the multilateral system.  In Europe, some States, ignoring international law, had pursued national interests at the expense of others.  Instability in the Middle East and North Africa had led to violent extremism there and in Europe.  The solution should be to cooperate.  In Syria, global and regional Powers must take action “right now” to ensure a lasting ceasefire and humanitarian access.  The world expected the Security Council and the International Syria Support Group to deliver.  Likewise, she urged Israelis and Palestinians to address threats to the two-State solution by implementing recommendations by the Middle East Quartet.

More broadly, she called for intensified efforts to tackle the humanitarian impacts of today’s crises, emphasizing that Norway would continue to provide record levels of aid to Syria and South Sudan, among others.  The United Nations’ ability to help countries emerging from conflict must be enhanced.  To better combat terrorism, it was important to work with civil society, women, young people, faith leaders and local communities.  Peace operations must deliver on their mandate to protect civilians.  Sexual exploitation and abuse must stop.  “We need zero tolerance and resolute action by the United Nations,” she said, while humanitarian workers must be equipped with the resources they needed.  Her country would continue to support reform of United Nations peace operations, she said, noting that, with Cuba, Norway had facilitated the peace process in Colombia.

She also urged strengthening the United Nations human rights pillar, financially and politically.  With 263 million children around the world were out of school, rights to education and health were imperative.  Along with the Presidents of Chile, Indonesia and Malawi, and the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), she had initiated the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity, and had submitted recommendations to the Secretary-General on 18 September.  Another priority was to enhance epidemic preparedness and global health security by developing vaccines that could prevent new outbreaks, efforts that required cross-border partnerships.  On climate change, she said the ocean was already an energy source and she encouraged its further development to meet clean and renewable energy needs.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister of Israel, said that despite consistent bias against his country, Israel had a bright future at the United Nations.  Governments around the world were rapidly changing the way they perceived his country, relying on Israel for its proven capabilities in the areas of terrorism, technology, cybersecurity and water.  The most profound changes were taking hold in the Arab world, where States in the region were recognizing that Israel was not their enemy, but their ally.  Their common enemies were Iran and ISIL, and their common goals were security and peace.  As such, Israel’s diplomatic relations were “undergoing nothing less than a revolution”.  His country’s most cherished relationship remained with the United States.  On that note, he expressed gratitude for that country’s commitment to its long-standing policy towards Israel.

He condemned the President of the State of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas for his remarks to the General Assembly, specifically his attack on the Balfour Declaration, which recognized the Jewish people’s right to its homeland.  President Abbas was stuck in the past as he had persistently refused to recognize those rights.  The conflict between the two countries had never been about settlements; it had always been about the existence of a Jewish State, a right that was non-negotiable.

He called on Abbas to make a choice to help establish peace between both their peoples, adding that, while many had given up on peace, he had not.  He remained committed to a vision of two States for two peoples.  Changes taking place in the Arab world offered a unique opportunity to advance that peace.  He applauded the Arab Peace Initiative and welcomed a broader dialogue with Arab States.  He also emphasized that he was ready to begin negotiations today, inviting President Abbas to speak to the Israeli people at the Knesset, and in turn, he would address the Palestinian people in Ramallah.

Many had suffered from the savagery of extremist Islam, he said, with the heaviest price being paid by innocent Muslims.  To defeat the forces of militant Islam, the international community must fight them relentlessly, dismantle their networks and disrupt their ideology.  In his country, that battle was fought every day.  Nevertheless, the greatest threat to his country, his region and ultimately, the world, remained Iran, he said, recalling how that country had fired ballistic missiles in direct defiance to Security Council resolutions and continued to build its global terror network.  Iran posed a threat to the entire world; that threat was not a past one, but a current one.  He called for the international community to push back, adding that although the regime’s nuclear constraints had been lifted, his Government would not let them develop nuclear weapons.

SERGE TELLE, Minister of State of Monaco, said the world would see a steep rise in climate-induced migration in the coming decades.  In 2015, the number of climate refugees fleeing damaged ecosystems could increase to as many as 250 million, according to projections by the United Nations.  That issue was of monumental importance to Monaco and one of the reasons behind the State’s engagement in the 2030 Agenda and in the Paris Agreement, which it would ratify by the end of 2016. 

Emphasizing the role of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), he said the Fund’s programmes had become more significant than ever before.  In a time when women were subjugated to perpetual sexual violence and discrimination, that organization’s work was indispensable.  In line with that, he reiterated his country’s support for the Security Council’s resolutions on women and security, and women’s vital role in peacebuilding and peacekeeping.  Faced with a multitude of challenges in a contradictory world, those contradictions could be discussed and challenges could be resolved at the United Nations.  Therefore, his country remained wholeheartedly committed to multilateralism.       

Although Monaco was responsible for a small portion of global emissions, the country had the ambition to be a leader in energy innovation, he said.  It also had committed to reduce greenhouse emissions by 50 per cent in the year 2030 (from 1990 levels).  Those transitions had a cost, but his country was convinced the price for a greener world was “minimal compared to the cost of non-action”.  In line with its support for green environmental policy, Monaco remained a loyal supporter of the Green Climate Fund.  

TAMMAM SALAM, Prime Minister of Lebanon, said that the political crisis in his country had led to a quasi-paralysis of the legislative authority and had negative repercussions on his country’s economy.  Due to external factors influencing his country, the vacancy of the Presidency was not solely in the hands of the Lebanese people.  He called on all who were keen to avoid new tensions in the region to help bring about a solution.

The displacement crisis resulting from the situation in Syria had created an unbearable burden that exceeded his country’s capacities.  Lebanon was currently hosting one third of the Syrian population, and was carrying out this duty with insufficient support from the international community.  Its needs as a host country were not commensurate with the pledges that had been made.  He urged the United Nations to work with concerned parties on an effective plan.  His country was not a permanent asylum for displaced Syrians, he stressed.

Lebanon was still suffering from terrorism, he said, underscoring the importance of regional and international cooperation in fighting the scourge.  Isolationist tendencies and the unhealthy promotion of Islamophobia was not a panacea to combat terrorism.  Rather, it was a recipe for the emergence of extremist and racist tendencies.  Combating terrorism was a long-term process that addressed deprivation and injustice, and sought to meet people’s demands for freedom and equality.  Reiterating his country’s commitment to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), he called for the international community to compel Israel to halt its violations of Lebanese sovereignty and to fully cooperate with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to demarcate what was left of the “Blue Line”.

HAIDER AL-ABADI, Prime Minister of Iraq, said he looked forward to the day when his country, and the entire Middle East, would be free of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Although his country had recently made great progress in fighting that terrorist organization, the international community must come together to once and for all end terrorism.  “We deem any victory achieved against Da’esh anywhere in the world as a global triumph,” he said, adding that the terrorist organization was “literally an adversary to Islam, rather than other convictions”.

He commended Member States for their support to Iraq in attaining security and stability.  Through that support, Iraq had been able to implement programs for the return of internally displaced people, including water, electricity, educational and medical services.  He called on the global community to maintain their aid for internally displaced Iraqis, especially with regard to the upcoming planned liberation of Nineveh.  In a further appeal, he asked the international community to demand Turkey to withdraw its forces from Iraqi territory.  Turkish forces were not welcomed by Iraqi citizens and would hinder the Government’s efforts to liberate Nineveh from ISIL.

Weakening economic and social growth had also gravely destabilized Iraq, he said.  The main trigger was the collapse in global oil prices, in addition to the sharp rise in military and security expenditures that had negatively impacted development, investment and infrastructure programs.  Large reforms, he underlined, “would not be less difficult and dangerous than tackling terrorism”.  Nonetheless, the Government had initiated the restructuring of many State institutions, prioritizing citizen services, streamlining procedures and removing obstacles to investment.  In addition, it was strengthening partnerships with the private sector.

BERT KOENDERS, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands, said with the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, the United Nations had no choice but to play a key role in delivering solutions to make the world safer. “The United Nations is the best imperfect organization we have,” he said, highlighting the importance of multilateralism and the ability to deliver services on a global scale.  The Organization remained the platform where international goals and ambitions were set and where everyone could agree on new global challenges.  There was plenty of work to do, from the 2030 Agenda to the Paris climate agreement, and from peacekeeping reform to reform of the Organization’s development system.  “Let’s pause the talk for a while and get the action going,” he urged.

The Netherlands was doing its part, supporting peace and security and human rights as well as contributing to peacekeeping missions.  It would also ratify the Paris climate agreement shortly.  The United Nations must do its part in reforming the Security Council, focusing more on preventive diplomacy and ensuring sufficient resources for missions.  Peacekeeping had transformed from traditional ceasefire monitoring into complex missions with integrated mandates.  Such missions had protected thousands in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and had brokered peace deals in Nepal, Angola and Sierra Leone.  Those successes faded from public image when “we see images of children suffering,” he said, stressing that the priority must always be to restore cessation of hostilities and guarantee humanitarian access.  For Syria, there must be more qualitative and transparent monitoring, he said, urging that systematic violations of ceasefires be dealt with by the Security Council.

PIETRO PAROLIN, Secretary of State of the Holy See, said that, without a stable financial situation, lasting investments and a commercial appraisal that favoured internal growth, the 2030 Agenda would be impossible to achieve.  “Pope Francis has emphasized that economics and politics, society and culture cannot be dominated by thinking only of the short-term and immediate financial or electoral gains,” he added.  Instead, world leaders must be redirected to the common good, which included sustainability and care for creation.  The environments of poorer nations must be treated with respect and be provided with the financial resources needed to deal with climate change.  Development, especially integral human development, could not be imposed; men and women must themselves be principal agents of change.  Moreover, human development would be impossible without peace.  Conflicts not only rendered the attainment of sustainable development impossible but also destroyed many human resources and cultural heritage.

War created a downward spiral from which there was often no escape, he went on to say.  It also increased political polarization while narrowing the space in which the same international community could propose effective solutions for a stable and lasting peace.  Failed attempts at resolving the crises in Syria and Iraq, as well as establishing peace between Israelis and Palestinians had dampened the hopes of generations.  Conflicts in South Sudan, the Great Lakes and eastern Ukraine had also brought about immense suffering.  He called for the “uproar of arms” in Syria to cease so that peace might stand a chance and for Israelis and Palestinians to abstain from unilateral or illegal measures.  He also praised Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey for the hospitality they had offered to millions of refugees from Iraq and Syria.  Appealing to other countries to do their part, he said:  “Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.”

ROSEN PLEVNELIEV, President of Bulgaria, said the implementation of the Goals was critical to make the world a better place to live.  Yet, national borders and international principles were being challenged like never before.  “No one is immune and no one is safe,” he added, emphasizing that violations of human rights were occurring every single day.  Protracted conflicts were causing many humanitarian crises. Although Europe was a symbol of hope, countries that were located closer to conflict zones, including Bulgaria, faced unprecedented challenges.  Migration had to be managed through collective global efforts with a focus on protecting the most vulnerable, specifically women, children and the elderly.  Partnerships between countries of origin and host countries must be strengthened.

“It is a children’s crisis,” he said, urging world leaders to “hear their voices” and honour their full rights as recognized in the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.  Crisis management efforts must include helping conflict-stricken countries to recover.  His country would continue to propose initiatives to enhance connectivity and dialogue. The European Union had unique legitimacy because of its settlement of differences and unprecedented shared vision among so many countries.  Leaders all over the world and in all sectors needed to not just register but also resolve conflicts.  To reconfirm, not to renegotiate the principles of the United Nations was critical.  Bringing back peace to Syria could only be possible through a Syrian political process that took into account the aspirations of all sides.

“We do not want to go back to the time when great powers allocated their spheres of influence,” he went on to say, emphasizing that any attempt to destabilize Ukraine was unacceptable.  Calling for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement, he stated that his Government would continue to not recognize the annexation of Crimea.  He also expressed support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.  Turning to the Middle East, he said new and fresh initiatives were needed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a two-State solution was the only just and realistic way to resolve the aspirations of all sides.  He voiced his support for Iran taking steps to achieve stability in the region and said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear programme threatened international peace and security. The United Nations had an important role to play in coordinating counterterrorism action and strengthening international cooperation.

Preventing the spread of radicalization and the destruction of cultural heritage was essential and to that end, UNESCO played a key role.  Bulgaria for its part was actively engaging civil society, young people, and the private sector and was focusing on building up the “green-economy”.  Bulgarian schools had even introduced curricula to teach young kids about sustainable development.  “Children should be at the heart of global action,” he said, adding that Bulgaria was proud to make the well-being of children and future generations a centrepiece of its national policies.  Bulgaria was also actively engaging in promoting gender equality, he said, adding that women in his country held executive positions both in the Government and the private sector. “The time has come for a capable and respectable woman from Eastern Europe to lead the United Nations,” he added.

PAUL KAGAME, President of Rwanda, said that in the past year, the international community had concluded landmark agreements on sustainable development and climate change and renewed its commitment to work together to combat violent extremism.  The progress of one country was closely linked to the progress of every other, and now was the time for implementation.  It was important to remember that the ultimate purpose of all those efforts was to transform the lives of real people by enhancing their well-being, safety, and access to opportunity.  He was proud to have joined the HeForShe campaign and encouraged others to support it.

Access to technology must be part of the strategy for achieving all the global goals, he said.  Everyone in the world needed access to high speed Internet.  Rwanda had seen the importance of forging meaningful partnerships with the private sector to improve the speed and scale of delivery.  Rwanda was pleased to host the new Sustainable Development Government Centre for Africa.

Real continuity between the frameworks that guided the international community’s collective action was necessary.  These agreements were not slogans or fashions, but hard-won statements of global consensus.  Next month, more than 1,000 delegates would gather in Kigali to consider a ground-breaking amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.  Already one of the most successful international agreements, the 30-year old Montreal Protocol now afforded the international community the opportunity to take a significant step forward in implementing the one-year-old Paris Agreement on climate change.  Rwanda urged all Member States to join it in passing those important measures.

The world was changing for the better, he continued.  The preservation of international peace and security depended on maintaining a shared vision of the desired outcomes for the world.  This accounted for the continued relevance and durability of the United Nations.  The international community’s collective responsibility for the rights and welfare of refugees and immigrants needed to be seen in that light, and the issue needed to be addressed with consistency and compassion at all times.

ELLEN JOHNSON-SIRLEAF, President of Liberia, welcomed the International Organization for Migration (IOM) into the mainstream of the United Nations.  She anticipated a cogent inter-agency dialogue between the IOM and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Liberia also called for reforming the United Nations, particularly the Security Council.

Conflicts in many parts of the world were escalating, and there was a rise in terrorism, extremism, xenophobia, and violence that threatened global political, social, and economic stability, she said.  Collective concerted action was necessary.  At the subregional level, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had demonstrated its commitment to combating terrorism in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and other parts of the subregion.  The African Union was also undertaking efforts in Mali, South Sudan, and with the Great Lake Chad Basin Force to combat Boko Haram.  As Chair of ECOWAS, Liberia confirmed it was unwaveringly committed to continue regional efforts at integration.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) had worked in that country since the end of the conflict there in 2003, she said.  The drawdown of the mission was successfully executed on 30 June 2016, when Liberian security agencies assumed full responsibility for security.

Liberia had embarked on a process of domesticating the Sustainable Development Goals through robust nationwide consultations and dialogues with major stakeholders, including the legislature, executive, judiciary, private sector, civil society, and faith-based organizations, she continued.  Liberia was formulating a road map to achieve full integration into its national development agenda.  With 43 per cent of the biodiversity in the West African region, Liberia was mindful of the imperative of protecting the environment from the effects of climate change.  The country was committed to sustainable land and forest governance and management.

ROCH MARC CHRISTIAN KABORÉ, President of Burkina Faso, said that achieving real sustainable development required the international community to eradicate poverty and fight inequality.  His country had developed a national plan to integrate the goals of the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  In Burkina Faso’s endeavour to efficiently implement those goals, his Government knew that it could count on the active solidarity of all.

Terrorist attacks and unprecedented violence had manifested as a worldwide scourge, he said, and continued by acknowledging the memories of all victims of terrorism.  “Our fight will only bear fruit if we destroy the rear-guard and manage to cut the supply source of terrorism,” he continued.  That should be done parallel to managing the root causes of terrorism: injustice, exclusivism and poverty. 

Peace, security and development were monumental challenges for the world and Africa in particular, he said.  His Government welcomed the progress made in the region, although hotbeds and flashpoints remained.  The security situation in northern Mali continued to cause great concern, requiring a strengthened mandate for United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the implementation of the rapid intervention force of the Group of Five Sahel, known as the G-5 Sahel.  South Sudan and Somalia were other countries that had to “close the chapter on violence”.  Furthermore, his country reiterated its appeal for a political solution to the conflict in Western Sahara.

The world would not become peaceful as long as the Middle East was not peaceful, and not until Israel and Palestine lived side by side in perfect harmony, he said.  He called on the international community to seek true peace in Syria, Iraq and Yemen so that those countries could contribute to the well-being of their citizens and their region.  He also reiterated his support for the African call for reforming the Security Council, in order to repair a historical injustice. 

GJORGE IVANOV, President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, noted that the international community had witnessed serious conflicts which had caused global instability.  Terrorism had led to resistance movements that were hard to conquer.  To win the fight against terrorism, more than military force was needed.

Borders had to be secured, he said.  Europe faced a number of challenges, including migration.  New waves of migrants entering the continent were harder to absorb.  His Government had bolstered steps to secure the nation’s borders and to integrate migrants already in the country.  By protecting its own borders, the country was also protecting European borders.  European migration policies were threatening the security of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The country had faced great challenges since it became independent, he continued.  The Government recently had proposed a candidate of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the position of United Nations Secretary-General.  Furthermore, he highlighted the need to reform the United Nations to protect human rights.  The relevant international human right and humanitarian instruments should be given the attention they deserved to protect citizens.  His country remained blocked from membership in NATO and the European Union because of its history.  He urged the international community to support the country’s membership.  The whole Balkan region remained isolated and there was a great need for cooperation and integration.  Differences had to be overcome through dialogue and negotiations.  Next year, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would host the Brdo–Brijuni Process to enhance regional cooperation.

The balance of the earth’s climate has been disturbed, and it threatened future generations, he said.  He attached great importance to the participation of youth in global decision-making, stressing that policies for youth by youth were needed.  Education and employment projects had to be supported and strengthened.   New technologies and young people had to be included in all related initiatives of the 2030 Agenda in order to incorporate fresh ideas.  In order to thrive, future generations needed to live in societies based on strong rule of law and diversity.  He urged States not to be afraid of future generations.

HILDA C. HEINE, President of the Marshall Islands, said she wished to share her country’s story of how it — a small island and large ocean nation — was defining its future.  First, progress must be built on education to ensure young people had tools to lead the future.  The Islands must continue to improve teacher qualifications and design a curriculum emphasizing the Marshallese language and culture.  A new research partnership with Columbia University Teachers College would assist with bilingual education and inspire the country to serve as a model for others worldwide.

The future must also be underpinned by economic security, as the Islands had too long been reliant on outside assistance, she said.  While that had provided a vital backstop for basic social development, it had also undermined the country’s self-confidence.  It faced serious challenges as a small island State, but had unexplored potential to grow.  The country must expand the private sector, create jobs and increase its gain from sustainable resources, especially fisheries, ports, tourism and copra.

National growth and well-being must be driven by a commitment to improve delivery on basic social development, focusing on health, food security and the environment, she said.  Improved delivery should especially target the most vulnerable groups in the Islands, including the elderly, disabled and single parents.  The country had the highest rate of diabetes in the world.  Its consumption of sugary food and beverages was literally killing the people.  The environment was challenged by the overwhelming amount of plastic, metal cans, and trappings of the modern western world.

Even with its very survival on the line, the Islands were committed to addressing those challenges with immediate action, she said.  To counter diabetes, the Parliament was considering a sharp increase of import taxes on sugar-added beverages.  It was also implementing, with international support, a disaster risk reduction plan and measures.  Parliament was considering a national ban on plastic bags and implementing recycling to clean local communities and provide a modest stream of income.  The country was also taking practical measures to reduce its costly reliance on oil through sustainable transport and more efficient and renewable energy.

MANUEL DOMINGOS VICENTE, Vice-President of Angola, said that radical changes in the nature of conflicts provided incentive for the international community to accelerate reforms aimed at revitalizing the United Nations, in particular the Security Council.  Failure to do so would hinder the Organization’s ability to act and could crush its legitimacy.  Angola was in favour of increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the Council to make it more representative and better equipped to solve conflicts.  At the same time, Africa should be represented among its permanent members, as per the Ezulwini Consensus.

His country had been engaged in seeking solutions to problems affecting the continent and would continue to support and promote dialogue, peace, security and stability in Central Africa and throughout the Great Lakes, he said.  To that end, he welcomed the successful conclusion of the peace and electoral processes in the Central African Republic and pointed to the dialogue in South Sudan as an important step towards the establishment of peace.  Regarding Burundi, he urged respect for established powers in order to overcome the impasse created by post-election conflict.  He also encouraged support for the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to preserve stability and reconciliation.

JIMMY MORALES, President of Guatemala, recalled the Esquipulas Peace Process and the signing of the Procedure for the Establishment of a Firm and Lasting Peace in Central America.  The peace accords included a ceasefire and reforms.  Those reforms have greatly advanced development in Guatemala, benefiting vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples and women.  As a result of the peace processes, the rule of law had also been strengthened.

The election of the new Government was an expression of the discontent among the population, he said.  A reconstruction of society was required, and transparency in governance, health care, education and development had to be improved.  He emphasized his commitment to zero-tolerance for corruption.  Corruption weakened institutions and hampered development.  The Government had made primary education and the effective management of hospitals, nutrition and maternal health a priority.  Challenges in the areas of human rights and climate change remained.  His Government sought to engage further with the Human Rights Council to address those challenges.

He expressed his profound admiration for migrants in Guatemala and their hard work.  Migrants were model citizens and their rights and human dignity must be respected.  The Government was adamant about their protection during all stages of migration.  With regard to the 2030 Agenda, he noted that it was in line with the country’s 2032 K’atun National Development Plan.

He also called for strengthened international dialogue and cooperation to prevent future conflicts in the region.  Attacks and violence undermined trust.  He stressed the need to maintain peace in the region and to strengthen the rule of law.  Guatemala would continue to support United Nations peacekeeping missions worldwide and remained concerned about the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Mali and Sudan.

FAIEZ MUSTAFA SERRAJ, President of Libya, said the situation in Libya was of interest to the entire world and the country was grateful for all the assistance received to get through this difficult period.  To unify the State, he recalled the importance of the separation of powers.  Efforts had been made to bring together the voices of the country.  The Government would continue peaceful dialogue and cooperation and thanked all international partners for their support.  Adequate financial resources were needed to achieve peace and unity. Libya remained committed to strengthen cooperation and dialogue and would welcome the re-establishment of diplomatic missions in the country.

He rejected and condemned all terrorist activities.  They hurt Libya and other countries. All efforts must be made to prevent terrorism.  Libya’s war against terrorism was merciless.  He also expressed the hope that the Security Council would be more engaged in the fight against terrorism and that the international community would create a platform to fight terrorism together.  The country continued its fight against impunity and took advantage of the mechanisms offered by the Human Rights Council.

Massive migration had serious consequences for Libya and came with significant cost, he said.  Security had to be guaranteed for migrants and for countries of origin as well as receiving countries.  Libya would participate in any future efforts in that area.  He also stated his continued support for disarmament and the fight against weapons of mass destruction to avoid the escalation of conflicts.

Efforts were under way in Libya to implement the 2030 Agenda, he said.  Goals had to be translated into action.  To achieve sustainable development, the private sector must be strengthened.  He also asked for a more effective United Nations, including a more equitable representation in the Security Council.  Lasting peace would not be achieved as long as Israel occupied Palestine and continued settlements which resulted in the displacement of people and a serious humanitarian crisis.  States must be empowered to achieve true sovereignty.  He called on the international community to join together for justice and unity.

ALEKSANDAR VUČIĆ, Prime Minister of Serbia, expressed pride in representing the Balkans and thanked the Assembly for listening to small nations.  While the representatives of large Powers had addressed that body, he had not heard real solutions for important issues and in particular had heard no comprehensive solution on the migrant crisis.  As a small country in the Balkans, Serbia had been waiting for a proposal from the Powers.  The migrant crisis was not finished; it was just the beginning.  Serbia was facing many more difficulties than it had a year ago with 7,000 new people arriving there, and those people had nowhere else to go because other countries had closed their borders.  He asked whether a common solution existed or if Serbians should take steps for themselves by themselves.  They would do so, but would also be ready for a common comprehensive solution from the European Union and United Nations.

He went on to observe that over the past 25 years, and even the past 100 years, Serbia had not “skipped a single war” since the first Balkan war to the latest in the 1990s.  He expressed hope that, in the future, they would have the strength to overcome disputes and promote economic development.  Recently, his country had succeeded in that endeavour.  For the first time, it had seen a budget surplus, and would experience a growth rate of more than 3 per cent.  While that was not comparable to some countries from Asia and Africa, he expressed pride that it represented better than average growth in Europe.  However, his country was again facing regional instability which would place those accomplishments in jeopardy.  While Serbia had received support from its allies, the situation in the western Balkan region had still not improved and required further efforts, time and political will to overcome difficulties there.

In the Assembly today, his country had faced “terrible insults” from its neighbours, he observed, but had decided against responding and would stay on that track.  The western Balkan region needed peace, stability and real reconciliation in the future.  He was thankful to those States that had sided with international law and had not supported the unilaterally proclaimed independence of his country’s southern province, Kosovo and Metohija.  Serbia had persistently kept up dialogue in that regard, including talks facilitated by the European Union.  Finally, he said Serbia would do its best not only to protect its own interests but also to listen to other relatively small countries which must unite otherwise “our voice won’t be heard in the future”.

RAMTANE LAMAMRA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Algeria, noted the turbulent global situation that featured not just old conflicts but also new threats that required urgent and serious action.  The world witnessed waves of mass displacement unseen since the Second World War.  The United Nations held a high-level meeting on 19 September 2016, and that was a test for the international community which required solidarity.  The founders of the United Nations thought of a collective security based on equality that would avoid narrow interests and intolerance, and the Organization needed to be a source of inspiration in times of crisis.

It was unfair to place responsibility on the United Nations for all violations taking place in the world, because the Organization was reflective only of the political will of its members, he said.  New and unprecedented challenges meant that the United Nations needed to be reformed, and Algeria welcomed the outcome of the Non-Aligned Movement’s summit in Venezuela, which stressed the urgent need for that reform.  When the United Nations was created, most of the world was under occupation and the global balances of power were different.  Reform was not impossible.  The consensus on the 2030 Agenda showed that consensus was possible through negotiations.  Still, it would be a challenge to reduce poverty and it was important that developed countries not reduce aid to developing countries, whose needs were increasing.

No single person was immune from security threats, for example the threat of terrorism, he said.  Inaction on the Palestinian issue was evidence of the failure of the contemporary international order.  The issue of Western Sahara had to be settled according to international legitimacy and implementing the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.

RASHID MEREDOV, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, said that the current state of global realities and the nature and direction of political, economic and social processes required increasingly closer and more coordinated interaction of Governments and major international organizations to ensure international peace and security.  Unfortunately, today the world witnessed expansions of areas of conflict, and at times, brazen disregard for international law.  Turkmenistan called on all nations to seek conflict de-escalation based on the rules of international law under the auspices of the United Nations as the universal mechanism for overcoming existing differences.  Turkmenistan called for a special meeting of the General Assembly devoted to the strengthening of international law as the basis for the maintenance of global peace and security. 

Today there was a growing role of peacebuilding instruments, in particular the potential of neutrality, he said.  The High-Level International Conference dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of Turkmenistan’s status of neutrality was held in Ashgabat in December 2015, and Turkmenistan had proposed an International Day of Neutrality and had prepared a corresponding draft resolution of the General Assembly.

Terrorism fell outside the notions of human morality and threatened to undermine the entire system of world order, he said.  The fight against terrorism needed to be carried out universally at the global, regional, and national levels.  It was important to coordinate efforts to implement the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia, where work had recently been intensified.  Important documents on that area – the Ashgabat Declaration and action plans on countering terrorism in Central Asia – served as a road map.

Noting that the Sustainable Development Goals had been adopted one year ago within the General Assembly Hall, he said Turkmenistan had adopted at the legislative level the National Climate Change Strategy and would sign the Paris Agreement.  Water was also a critical regional issue, and Turkmenistan would assume this year the chairmanship of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea.

ALEXIS TSIPRAS, Prime Minister of Greece, said that his country had been the eurozone member hit hardest by the economic crisis and austerity measures imposed to resolve it.  It had also been on the frontline facing the greatest migration flows to Europe since the Second World War.  His country was now emerging, after seven turbulent years, from the deepest social and economic crisis in its post-war history.  Its priority was reducing unemployment to average European levels through a new paradigm and taking advantage of its strategic position at the crossroads of three continents to become a trade, maritime and rail transportation hub.  He urged partners to finalize necessary measures for debt reduction and set the path for Greece’s return to capital markets.  Recent planning successes had been reflected in a return to positive growth rates, a downward trend in unemployment and a revived interest in foreign investment.

On the migration crisis, he observed that nearly 60,000 migrants remained stranded in Greece after the closing of its northern borders because of other countries’ unilateral measures.  A political crisis had erupted in Europe with strong xenophobic forces pushing the agenda forward.  However, the Greek people, who had been hardest hit by the economic crisis, had proven to the world that neither their values nor humanity should be conditional.  Despite calls to violate the Geneva Convention, his country — whose asylum service had not existed three years ago — had dealt fairly with the fourth largest number of asylum applications in Europe.  A new global framework for refugee management was needed, which must increase support to countries hosting refugees, and tackle the root causes of migration, among other initiatives.

Regarding regional security, Greece had developed bilateral and trilateral relations with all its neighbours to promote peace, cooperation and international law.  It would remain steadfast in supporting intercommunal talks regarding the Cyprus issue towards a just and comprehensive solution, which could be viable only if the anachronistic guarantee system of the past was left behind and a withdrawal of Turkish forces from the island ensured.  His country had enhanced its dialogue and relations with Turkey through a range of initiatives including cooperation in managing refugee and migration flows.

ERLAN IDRISSOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, said the United Nations faced tremendous challenges, including issues of migration and a global economic slowdown that affected all nations and could lead to the weakening of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a round of damaging protectionism.

A lack of trust between major nations and regional groups prevented completion of nuclear disarmament, he said.  As a country which 25 years ago had closed the largest nuclear test site on its soil and renounced the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal, Kazakhstan had the full moral right to pursue disarmament.  Kazakhstan initiated the General Assembly resolution on a nuclear weapons-free world that was adopted in 2015, and 2016 was the tenth anniversary of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone.  Kazakhstan supported the establishment of similar zones across the globe.  However, international negotiations on nuclear disarmament had stalemated while numerous loopholes in international law were exploited to use nuclear technology for military purposes.  His country stood for a complete ban on nuclear tests and believed the irresponsible acts of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea undermined security around the world.

Stressing that the existence of military blocs could create situations where the security of some countries were secured at the expense of others, he said that Kazakhstan had declared war on war.  Sanctions were counterproductive, creating new division lines that alienated nations.  Genuine security was based on dialogue.  Kazakhstan was committed to strengthening United Nations peacekeeping as a pillar of the United Nations system.  Noting that this was the twenty-fifth anniversary of his country’s independence, he said that some in 1991 had “doubted Kazakhstan’s ability to survive as a sovereign nation”.  However, Kazakhstan had turned into a stable middle-income country and a respected member of the international community, and it took its election to the Security Council for 2017-2018 “with utmost seriousness and pride”, he said.

BRUNO RODRÍGUEZ PARRILLA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, underscored the gap between the world’s rich and poor.  Weapon stockpiles and $1.7 trillion in annual military spending gave lie to claims that resources for eradicating poverty and underdevelopment were lacking.  A new international financial architecture was needed.  Waves of Europe-bound refugees — driven by underdevelopment as well as NATO interventions — demonstrated the unsustainability of the current international order.  He expressed solidarity with small island developing States which had been most affected by climate change, adding that capitalism would never be historically or environmentally sustainable.

There needed to be a culture of peace and justice as the basis of a new international order, he said.  Observance of the Charter and international law — infringed repeatedly by NATO — was indispensable.  The United Nations must be defended from unilateralism and become more democratic.  Security Council reform should not be put off, while the role of the Assembly should be strengthened.  Finding a just and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict was imperative.  He was confident that Syrians could settle their differences on their own, once foreign intervention aimed at promoting regime change had ceased.  As the victim of State terrorism, Cuba condemned all forms and manifestations of terrorism.

He welcomed the peace agreement in Colombia, adding that Cuba would continue to support Venezuela against imperialist and oligarchic interference.  Cuba condemned the parliamentary and judicial coup d’état in Brazil, and Puerto Rico deserved to be free and independent after more than a century of colonial domination.  More than a year after re-establishing diplomatic relations, Cuba and the United States had achieved progress in their bilateral relations.  However, the blockade was still in force, dealing hardship to Cubans and hindering its relations with other countries.  Given that situation, Cuba would again present the Assembly with a draft resolution entitled “necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.

JOSEPH MUSCAT, Prime Minister of Malta, said that migration had reached crisis levels, a phenomenon set to become a “new normal” and which needed to be managed.  His country had been working with partners and independently on common challenges, such as addressing human trafficking using measures aimed at disrupting criminal business models.  Such efforts must be stepped up by sharing information and improving the implementation of national enforcement policies.  A global perspective was necessary with closer cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination.  That had been the focus of the Valletta Summit on Migration hosted by Malta in November.

On regional matters, he said Malta would continue supporting Tunisia, which was gradually emerging as “the first, albeit fragile, Arab democracy.”  However, the picture in Libya continued to be bleak.  His country welcomed the recent adoption of Security Council resolution 2298 (2016) allowing for the destruction of chemical weapons present in Libya, but its population needed a functioning Government to address their basic needs.  He reiterated the need to support the Libyan Peace Accord and the Presidency Council, while respecting that country’s sovereignty. 

As host to the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, he went on to say, Malta believed that the most effective way to counter terrorism was by empowering the rule of law and strengthening the judiciary in States where such activity was gaining ground.  His country was committed to Euro-Mediterranean dialogue and cooperation based on the principle that there could be no peace and security in Europe without peace in the Mediterranean.  That vision would form the primary driving force behind Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  It would continue strengthening relations with the League of Arab States with the aim of consolidating institutionalizing relations.  It would also actively support revitalizing relations with the Gulf States through the Gulf Cooperation Council, which would be another opportunity to step up multi-level regional cooperation with the European Union.

AGAPITO MBA MOKUY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Equatorial Guinea, noted that a constant wave of immigrants were fleeing conflict and seeking a safe place to live in Europe.  Terrorism had continued to affect innocent victims in all regions and remained a threat to the well-being and development of all.  Political instability endangered the lives of thousands in many countries, leading to negative consequences for growth and economic development, particularly in developing States.  Such a situation made the United Nations role increasingly essential and more valuable than ever.

Turning to the 2030 Agenda, he stressed the need to achieve its Goals, which were necessary and essential in ensuring decent lives for all.  Equatorial Guinea had mainstreamed the Goals into its Development Programme Horizon 2020, which prioritized economic transformation through sustainable growth.  One aspect of development progress it had made was in the area of health.  The WHO had recently proclaimed Equatorial Guinea one of the few States in the region that had reduced the risk of maternal mortality, thanks to preventive medicine and free vaccinations.  Economically, it had focused on diversifying its activities in fisheries, agriculture and hydro-carbon development.  Through another programme, all the country’s citizens had access to health services and clean drinking water.

Many in the world continued to live with insecurity, which had led to a serious refugee crisis, he said.  He recalled that a 13-year-old Syrian immigrant had appeared before the international press asking the world to help Syrians, who wanted to return home rather than stay in Europe.  The boy’s proposal should guide efforts to resolve the current migrant crisis.  Partnering with one of parties and supplying it with weapons only led to death and increased the flow of refugees.  All must say no to the supply of arms, stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and end conflicts by other means.

ELADIO RAMÓN LOIZAGA LEZCANO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, said the United Nations needed to be reformed and updated, with the General Assembly — “the Parliament of the world” — strengthened.  Acknowledging increased transparency in selecting the next Secretary-General, he said Paraguay would like a head of the United Nations who would attach priority to preventative diplomacy and mediation.  The Security Council also needed to be more democratic and representative, with more space for developing countries, he said, noting Paraguay’s aspirations for a Council term.  He called on all nations to prevent threats to peace and to enact disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control measures.  Paraguay was contributing personnel to seven peacekeeping missions and it would continue to do so.  He strongly condemned terrorism and violent extremism, noting a criminal attack last month in which Paraguayan military personnel had been killed.  Furthermore, China should have a better presence within the United Nations system.

Paraguay was implementing policies and programmes in response to the 2030 Agenda that would improve its citizens’ quality of life and, in turn, strengthen democracy, he said.  With thousands of Paraguayan families having emerged from poverty, the challenge was to ensure that they did not fall back into it.  The private sector played an important role in creating opportunities towards full employment and decent work.  Countries like Paraguay which depended on natural resources were more vulnerable to climate change, he said, adding that his State would deposit its ratification of the Paris Agreement in the coming days.  He urged developed countries to open their markets wider to products from landlocked developing countries.  Turning to the Human Rights Council, of which Paraguay was a member, he said it was essential to strengthen that body and to give it the tools needed to fulfil its mandate.

PUKA TEMU, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister and Minster for Public Service of Papua New Guinea, said the ongoing plight of refugees, migrants and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives should and could not be the new “normal”.  No country was immune from the implications of this increasing global concern.  His country pledged to work together with the international community to address the root causes and also better assist affected victims and impacted countries of origin, transit and destination.

Papua New Guinea was concerned that the international community was unable to contain ongoing wars based on economic, religious, ethnic and other causes, including acts of terrorism, he said.  He welcomed efforts to regulate arms trade that would minimize global conflicts and displacements of people.  The international community should work hand-in-hand to resolve simmering conflicts.

Papua New Guinea was also staunchly opposed to the existence, testing and use of nuclear weapons and other tools of mass destruction. Expressing concern about ongoing nuclear weapons and missile tests carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he strongly condemned those threats to regional as well as global peace and stability.  Turning to sustainable development, he said his country was currently translating and integrating the 2030 Agenda at the national level under the framework of the “National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development”.

YUN BYUNG-SE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, pointed out that the international community still faced a great number of challenges, despite new declarations.  He called for strengthened multilateral efforts to address those challenges and to include those vulnerable and marginalized.  He offered to share lessons learned in development to facilitate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Sustainable development and climate change were inextricably linked, he continued, noting that his Government had taken the necessary steps for the ratification of the Paris Agreement.

He noted with great concern the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s pursuit of nuclear and missile programmes, as well as related threats that were made by that Government.  He urged the Security Council to adopt stronger and more comprehensive sanctions that went beyond resolution 2270 (2016).  He recalled the repeated violations that State had perpetrated, undermining the authority of the General Assembly and the Security Council.  The international community needed to end impunity and take appropriate action.  He went on to say that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea nuclear and missile programmes were carried out at the expense of that country’s own people, leading to more human rights violations, hunger and starvation.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Iran said that the Israeli representative had tried in his statement to “fool the whole world”.  He had spoken of peripheral instead of the core issue, which was the land grab and military occupation of Palestinian territory.  He had also been self-congratulatory about Israeli gains and had tried to divert attention from the arsenal of weapons and military build-up policy that country had pursued for many decades.  He had also levelled baseless accusations against the Iranian Government, by accusing it of terrorism without proof.  The Israeli regime was armed with nuclear and chemical weapons and had unleashed them on Palestinians, yet it kept setting out accusations against Iran’s nuclear programme.

He also spoke about the claims made against Iran’s territorial integrity.  His country had full sovereignty over the Persian Gulf islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, and he rejected categorically any claim to the contrary.  His Government stood ready to resolve any misunderstandings with the United Arab Emirates.  Iran’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over those islands was non-negotiable.

Also in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Brazil referred to the statements by the representative of Cuba.  He noted that different cultures and political systems coexisted successfully in the region, and called on States to respect cultural and political diversity for fruitful cooperation and harmonious coexistence at the regional and international levels.

For information media. Not an official record.