Ministers Urge Serious Steps to End Long-Standing Conflicts, Support for Peace Processes, as General Assembly's Annual Debate Continues
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
21st & 22nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Conflict resolution and peacebuilding in places as diverse as the Middle East, Kashmir, Cyprus and the Balkans emerged as major themes as the General Assembly continued its annual general debate today, alongside calls for reforms to make the Security Council more representative of the United Nations membership, 65 years after the founding of the Organization.
Speaking in the context of renewed direct peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, and the end of a moratorium on new construction of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel, rejected the view that the conflict between the two sides lay at the heart of regional instability, or that it prevented international action vis-à-vis Iran.
Resolution of what he called "the Iranian issue" had to take place before a durable agreement with the Palestinians could be found, he said, adding: "We are not ready to compromise our national security or the vital interests of the State of Israel." He went on to say that the guiding principle for agreement in the Middle East should be the exchange of populated territory, rather than land for peace. The idea was not to move people, but to move borders - or "right-sizing the State" - so as to better reflect demographic realities, he said.
Tonio Borg, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malta, was among several speakers who welcomed the resumption of direct Israel-Palestinian talks. Closer Euro-Mediterranean cooperation could help the process, he said. However, Walid al-Moualem, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, said that so long as Israeli settlement-building continued, the proposed two-State solution would be a "dead letter" with no chance of survival. "Peace can be genuine only if there is a genuine will to make peace," he said, calling for stepped up action regarding the occupied Syrian Golan. Syria was ready to resume peace talks from the point where they had stopped, through the Turkish mediator, if it found in Israel a committed partner to such terms of reference.
In his address, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, thanked the United Nations and others for helping his country cope with the worst flooding in living memory. He also recalled how long the issue of Jammu and Kashmir had been on the Organization's agenda. He said Pakistan was willing to engage with India to resolve the dispute - an outcome that would help create peace and stability in South Asia - so long as the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people was upheld. He also called for reconciliation in Afghanistan to be led by Afghans, saying: "The time has come to turn Afghanistan from the centre stage of proxy wars, interference and confrontation into a hub for international cooperation and development."
Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, recalled his country's strong support for the "responsibility to protect" as the means to prevent genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, although he warned of the dangers of the principle being abused. Indeed, rather than being used to undermine State sovereignty, the principle was meant to ensure that sovereign responsibility was exercised in a manner that would prevent a repeat of the "mass atrocities" seen in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Sierra Leone. Sadly, some of those conflicts lingered today and the global community must assist national authorities requesting such help, with a view to enhancing the capacity of nations that were unable or unwilling to uphold that duty.
For his part, Dimitris Droutsas, Foreign Minister of Greece, recalled his country's efforts - in the context of a United Nations negotiating process - to resolve a longstanding dispute over the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; he also believed that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could find solutions and live together harmoniously in a reunited Cyprus within the European Union. Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov said Europe had to reaffirm its commitment to bring the Western Balkans into the European Union, just as the States in that region had to commit to tough reforms.
The question of reforming the United Nations, and in particular the make-up of the Security Council, was raised by a number of speakers. Hor Namhong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, said that a bigger representation on the Council for developing countries should be a priority. Meanwhile, Musa Kousa, Secretary of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation of Libya, proposed permanent memberships of the Security Council for regional unions and also suggested that the General Assembly consider moving the United Nations Headquarters elsewhere.
Also speaking today was the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahamas, as were the Foreign Ministers of Yemen, Myanmar, Singapore, Mauritius, Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, Oman, Liechtenstein, Tunisia, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Chad, Barbados and Mali.
The Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus and the Secretary of State for External Relations of Angola also spoke.
Also addressing the Assembly were the representatives of Mexico, Denmark, Burkina Faso, Tuvalu, Sweden, Guatemala and Cape Verde.
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Ethiopia, Iran, Eritrea, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Egypt and China.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. Wednesday, 29 September, to continue its annual general debate.