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GA/L/3616
8 October 2020
Seventy-fifth Session, 3rd Meeting (PM)

Sixth Committee Speakers Argue over Differences between Legitimate National Defence, Terrorist Threats, as Debate on Combating Global Menace Continues

As the Sixth Committee (Legal) continued its consideration of measures to eliminate international terrorism, delegates held a heated debate, describing the challenges to their countries and their efforts to address and combat the global threat inside and outside their national borders.  (For background, see Press Release GA/L/3615.)

The representative of Ukraine stressed that counter‑terrorism measures must focus not only on individuals and organizations, but also on States which finance and support terrorist activity.  The Russian Federation supplied funds, weapons and training to illegal armed groups that engaged in terrorism in her country.  In particular, she condemned the cyberattacks on critical infrastructure facilities and the spread of misinformation.

However, the Russian Federation’s delegate rejected those statements as groundless accusations, based on disinformation.  They do not relate to the fight against terrorism, he said, expressing regret that certain delegations continue to undermine the Sixth Committee’s work.  Urging the Committee to focus on the legal aspects of counter‑terrorism, he called for stronger judicial cooperation and strict compliance with international law.

Armenia’s representative, condemning identity‑based hatred cultivated by State authorities, said that Azerbaijan and Turkey were responsible for sponsoring the flow of terrorists into her region.  The conflict zone was being turned into a launch pad for international terrorism and their military aggression had genocidal intent.  Citing the direct involvement of Turkish mercenaries and the use of heavy artillery and prohibited weapons, she said civilian lives as well as the heritage of Nagorno‑Karabakh were under threat.

Responding, the representative of Azerbaijan said that since the 1980s, Armenian terrorist organizations have perpetrated attacks against his country.  Rejecting attempts to blame his country and Turkey for alleged terrorist activities, he said this represented an attempt by Armenia to conceal its own crimes and justify the heavy losses inflicted on its armed forces and mislead the international community.

Iran’s delegate said the United States has been promoting terrorism, not only in his region, but almost everywhere in the world.  Pointing to the extraterritorial impact of its regulations on his country, he stressed that such coercive measures are manifestations of structural violence, amounting to economic terrorism.  Highlighting the impact on innocent civilians, he emphasized that the resulting social unrest is in line with a corrupt policy of regime change.

Mexico’s delegate drew the Committee’s attention to the preponderance of hate speech carried out by white supremacists and the easy access to firearms, which has led to tragic attacks.  He called attention to the 320 per cent increase in attacks associated with individuals affiliated with supremacist and extreme right terrorist ideologies.

“Desperate people do desperate things,” Lebanon’s delegate pointed out, noting that the current dire economic situation could lead millions of young people to despair. The confinement measures taken in response to the pandemic means that young people are spending more time on an unsupervised Internet, with more exposure to violent extremist ideologies.  Recalling the recent killing of four Lebanese soldiers in a counter terrorism operation targeting a terrorist cell linked to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), she said, “Prevention remains of the essence.”

The Sixth Committee will meet next at 3 p.m. on Monday, 12 October, to conclude its consideration on measures to combat international terrorism and take up criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission.

Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism

The representative of Lebanon cautioned that the current dire economic situation for thousands and millions of young people could lead them to despair, adding that “desperate people do desperate things.”  In her country, the pandemic had stoked an economic, financial and social crisis before the tragic explosion in the port of Beirut struck the ultimate blow.  Furthermore, as a result of confinement measures, young people were spending more time on an unsupervised Internet, which allowed for more exposure to violent extremist ideologies.  “Prevention remains of the essence,” she said, stressing the need to foster economic development, empower youth and women and promote the rule of law.  Recalling the recent killing of four Lebanese soldiers in an operation that disrupted a terrorist cell linked to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), she noted that Lebanon’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been coordinating counter‑terrorism efforts, with assistance from the European Union.

The representative of Ukraine, aligning herself with the European Union, stressed that counter‑terrorism measures must focus not only on individuals and organizations, but also on those States which financed, trained or otherwise supported terrorist activity.  In that regard, the Russian Federation has violated its international obligations by supplying funds, weapons and training to illegal armed groups that engage in acts of terrorism in Ukraine.  Further, the Russian Federation has interfered with her country’s internal affairs by carrying out cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure and Government agencies and by spreading misinformation.  Over 300 attacks on critical infrastructure facilities have been detected in Ukraine.  Terrorist groups and States that support them share an outrageous disrespect for international law, perpetrate attacks against civilians and critical infrastructure, spread misinformation and reject the truth.  She underscored that impunity for such States is detrimental to global counter‑terrorism efforts.

The representative of Armenia, noting her country’s cooperation with various treaty organizations as well as the Council of Europe, said identity‑based hatred cultivated by State authorities provides a fertile soil for extremism.  In her region, Azerbaijan, with encouragement from Turkey, is conducting military aggression with genocidal intent.  Thousands of civilian lives as well as the heritage of Nagorno‑Karabakh are under threat from heavy artillery and prohibited weapons.  The scope and nature of these attacks unequivocally prove that they are premeditated, she said, adding that the direct involvement of Turkish mercenaries in the hostilities is a documented fact.  Azerbaijan and its enabling State are responsible for sponsoring the flow of terrorists into the region, turning the conflict zone into a launch pad for international terrorism, she said.

The representative of Russian Federation, urging the Committee to focus on the legal aspects of counter‑terrorism, called for stronger judicial cooperation to ensure that terrorists are punished.  The problem, however, cannot be solved by creating new, hybrid courts.  Further, a State must strictly comply with the norms of international law if its armed forces are to be present on the territory of another.  Either clear consent from the host State to said troop presence or an international legal mandate is required.  The number of troops authorized to collect, process and submit evidence to judicial bodies must be limited and authorization to conduct such activities must be included in the military mandate and comply with national legislation.  He also expressed regret that certain delegations continue to undermine the Committee’s work and rejected Ukraine’s groundless accusations as based on disinformation.  They do not relate to the fight against terrorism.

The representative of Myanmar, referencing attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on Government security forces in 2016 and 2017 and additional terrorist attacks including bombings committed in Rakhine State in 2019 and 2020, expressed concern that local Muslims were being radicalized and trained from abroad.  Under national counter‑terrorism law, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and the Arakan Army have been designated as terrorist groups.  The threat posed by these groups hinders the repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh and he stressed the importance of regional cooperation to counter terrorist activities in Myanmar.  He also called on the international community to avoid the explicit or implicit support of terrorist groups in Myanmar, stating that Jamaat‑ul‑Mujahideen Bangladesh was providing training to these groups.

The representative of Mexico underlined how the COVID‑19 pandemic has helped spread acts of racism and xenophobia which, in turn, has led to increased terrorist activity.  That situation has also eased the way by which radicalization measures can spread with terrorists taking advantage of the anxiety and confusion of crises situations.  He also expressed grave concern on the preponderance of hate speech carried out by white supremacists and the easy access to firearms, which has led to tragic attacks.  According to recent reports, there has been a 320 per cent increase in attacks associated with individuals affiliated with supremacist and extreme right terrorist ideologies.  Stressing the need to ensure that victims of terrorism have access to justice, he also voiced concern about the abuse of Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The representative of Nigeria, associating himself with the African Group, Non‑Aligned Movement and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), stated that his country is no stranger to terrorist activity, particularly from Boko Haram.  Nigeria continues to count on strong cooperation with United Nations counter‑terrorism bodies and neighbouring countries to overcome the terrorists in the Lake Chad Basin and the wider Sahel region.  On the national level, the Government commenced prosecution of suspects in 2017, dispensing of over 1,328 cases to date; of these, 366 suspects have been convicted and sentenced and about 882 have been released for re‑radicalization, rehabilitation and re‑integration.  Further, Nigeria’s national counter‑terrorism strategy has succeeded in uniting Nigerians from all walks of life towards defeating Boko Haram.  Through those efforts, communities and religious leaders have been encouraged to use places of worship to enlighten their followers against any form of extremism or intolerance.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that areas of armed conflict, especially those under foreign military occupation, create vast opportunities for terrorist activity.  Since the 1980s, Armenia and Armenian terrorist organizations have perpetrated attacks against Azerbaijan as a means of realizing groundless and unlawful claims.  He rejected Armenia’s attempts to blame his country and Turkey for alleged terrorist activities, stating that this represented an attempt by Armenia to conceal its own crimes, justify the heavy losses inflicted on its armed forces on the battlefield and mislead the international community.  Further, recent evidence shows Armenia’s active engagement in recruiting foreign fighters and mercenaries to use against Azerbaijan.  He called on Member States to suppress the mobilization of fighters within their borders and to prevent their travel abroad for terrorist purposes.

The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, called attention to the problem of foreign terrorist fighters in his country.  More than nine years ago, his country began a war against terrorists, which destabilized the region.  His Government’s vision, which was based on an early understanding of the dangers of terrorism, was rejected by many countries who export terrorism.  Some countries continue to prioritize national interests, he said, adding that the European Union must do its part to tackle the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters.  Instead of unilateral policies, these Governments must shoulder their responsibilities.  However, they are leaving terrorism dangling like the sword of Damocles over the Syrian people.  His country continues to shoulder its responsibilities, including by prosecuting the perpetrators of terrorism, he said, calling on the international community to uphold the Madrid Guiding Principles of 2015.

The representative of Iran said that the United States imposition of national laws and regulations with extraterritorial impact on Iran and others is tantamount to terrorism and has exacerbated the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic.  These coercive measures are manifestations of structural violence that violate human rights.  The United States policy of maximum pressure against Iran is designed to deliberately and indiscriminately target innocent civilians; it causes pain, suffering and social unrest in line with its corrupt policy of regime change.  This constitutes economic terrorism on the part of the United States. Further, that country’s brutal and cowardly assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani is another obvious example of State terrorism pursued in gross violation of international law.  That killing was a gift to ISIL/Da’esh and other terrorist groups in the region who celebrated his killing.  It is an established fact, he emphasized, that the United States has been promoting terrorism not only in Iran’s region, but almost everywhere in the world.

The representative of Sri Lanka, noting that his country has suffered under the yoke of terrorism for nearly three decades, pointed to the 11 international instruments to which Sri Lanka was a party that addressed terrorism, including acts against certain means of transport or specific facilities; acts against specific categories of persons; and specific acts on hostage‑taking, terrorist bombings, nuclear terrorism and financing of terrorism.  Highlighting the symbiosis between organized crime and terrorism, he said that international networks with linkages to organized crime provide a strong support structure for terrorist groups and directly relate to financing of terrorism.  These networks are funded by profits siphoned from drugs, arms and human trafficking, money laundering and cybercrimes.  It is essential that Member States share intelligence, databases and expertise to counter this issue, he said, adding that prior to its military defeat in 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka had many connections to international networks of organized crime.

Right of Reply

The representative of Turkey, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the current outbreak of hostilities is a direct result of Armenia’s provocations on the ground.  Azerbaijan is exercising its right to self‑defence, as all hostilities are taking place on its sovereign territory.  He called for Armenian forces to withdraw from the territory they illegally occupy.  Turkey, for its part, supports a solution based on international law and rejects Armenia’s blackmail, he added.

Armenia’s representative responded, noting the strong messages from all over the world that urged a cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiation without preconditions following the military aggression unleashed by Azerbaijan during the COVID‑19 pandemic.  Further, Turkey is the only country openly instigating hostilities and Azerbaijan continues to perpetrate crimes of aggression targeting civilians, including an attack on a cathedral today.  It is an internationally documented fact that mercenaries and terrorists have been recruited and transported to the conflict zone to fight for Azerbaijan, she added.

The representative of Bangladesh refuted Myanmar’s accusation that terrorist elements were present in Bangladesh’s territory, calling such comments an attempt to divert attention from the fact that Myanmar has been fighting its own people for decades.  Myanmar’s own policies of exclusion and discrimination have led to violence.  Bangladesh does not allow any group to use its soil for subversive activities against other countries.  It is Myanmar’s responsibility to contain security elements that originate in its territory without creating humanitarian crises or spillover effects in neighbouring countries, as this destabilizes the region.

Azerbaijan’s representative said that, according to the consensus definition of “aggression” adopted by the General Assembly, that term meant invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State into the territory of another.  Nagorno‑Karabakh is not a State — it is part of Azerbaijan’s territory currently under military occupation by Armenia, he emphasized.  Since the outbreak of hostilities in September, 31 Azerbaijani civilians have been killed, 154 have been wounded and more than 1,000 houses and other civilian structures have been destroyed or damaged by Armenian shelling.  He also voiced his rejection of Armenia’s allegation that his country used foreign terrorist fighters or was involved in terrorist activities.

The representative of Turkey invited the relevant delegation to avoid hijacking the meeting by employing baseless propaganda.

Armenia’s representative, presenting a map depicting the relative size, population and location of Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, said that it was ridiculous to assume that Armenia could initiate unprovoked aggression against these countries.  She also expressed her rejection of repetitive, preconceived narratives that distort the Nagorno‑Karabakh conflict.

The representative of Azerbaijan pointed out that Armenia’s occupation has been condemned by the international community.  Armenia is responsible for a policy of aggression, occupation and ethnic cleansing towards the Azerbaijani people.  Armenia is the main threat to peace and security in the South Caucasus.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Venezuela, Republic of Korea, Bahrain, Viet Nam, Paraguay, Indonesia, Algeria, Panama, Afghanistan, Ghana, Costa Rica, United Kingdom, Nicaragua, Kuwait, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Senegal, Niger, Libya, Namibia and the United Arab Emirates.

For information media. Not an official record.