In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.
Blessings and peace be upon the most noble of prophets.
Distinguished heads and members of delegations:
It gives me pleasure, as we begin the work of this Session, to convey to Your Excellency, on behalf of the delegation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our sincerest congratulations on the occasion of your election to the presidency of the fifty-second session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Your election reflects appreciation for you personally, as well as for the role played by your country in the international arena. We wish you success in the pursuit of your mission and assure you of the willingness and desire of my country to cooperate fully in achieving the objectives of this session.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate your predecessor, Mr. Razali Ismail, for his effective conduct of the affairs of the General Assembly during its last session.
I am also pleased to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for the participation of His Excellency, Mr. Kofi Annan, in his first session as Secretary-General of the United Nations after having been elected to this high office which represents a crowning achievement for his many contributions to the work of this organization. The broad experience of His Excellency in the work of this organization over three decades, and his qualifications and wisdom, give us confidence in his ability to assume this sensitive post. Our world is undergoing a series of international challenges, which require us to reflect and examine the role that should be borne by the United Nations in light of the rapid developments in the international arena.
The approach of a new epoch in the history of humanity draws the curtain on the twentieth century with all its crisis and turmoil. We look forward to the arrival of the next century with the hope that it will reflect the experiences and lessons we have learned through the previous decades. In this respect, we attach the greatest importance to remembering the role of this organization in the maintenance of peace and security throughout the world as we enter the next historic epoch.
The Secretary-General, in assuming his heavy responsibilities, is leading us towards a new era, and it is our duty to help him improve this organization. The United Nations will have to carry out its role in the international arena in such a manner as to achieve for all our peoples their hopes and aspirations according to the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter.
Our deep faith in the important role played by this international organization in dealing with crises, and its attempts to prevent war and conflict, makes us more determined than ever to lend it our support to promote and consolidate its role. In this context, we should reiterate that the ability of our organization to deal with conflict will always remain tied to our political will to implement the principles of its charter.
We sincerely hope that the approaching era of this organization will witness a continuing eagerness on the part of the member states to ensure the realization of the hopes upon which the future of the United Nations will depend.
We have listened carefully to the statement of the Secretary-General, which highlighted the importance of the reforms and reconstruction of the United Nations. The proposed package of administrative and organizational reforms presented by His Excellency on July 16, 1997, was greatly welcomed by all governments and organizations as well as the media. This is proof of the recognition of the importance attached to these reforms and its promising role to reinvigorate our organization. At the same time, we are still studying the various initiatives concerning the reconstruction of the Security Council so that it may carry out its role in accordance with the Charter.
In this respect, our delegation sees fit to differentiate between administrative reforms, and those seeking fundamental changes in the structure of the Security Council. It is imperative not to make the administrative changes subject to the changes in the Security Council. Such administrative changes should be implemented regardless of whether the structure of the Security Council is changed or not. Any proposed changes in the Security Council should not result in undermining its ability to move effectively in order to maintain international peace and security.
The Middle East peace process is passing through a critical stage as a result of the stalemates of the past year. These seemingly insurmountable challenges and difficulties threaten its very existence. What is more discouraging is that the relative progress achieved since the peace process was launched in Madrid in October of 1991, has now been replaced with a situation of virtual paralysis as a result of the policies of the present Israeli Government. These policies are diametrically opposed to the requirements of peace, which were agreed to at Madrid and which had been enshrined in the agreements reached on the Israeli-Palestinian track.
The unfortunate violent incidents which occurred in Jerusalem recently, resulting in many innocent victims, are the consequence of the excesses and provocations carried out by the Israeli authorities. These actions are likely to escalate unless the two sponsors of the peace process, and indeed the entire world community, carry out the task of restoring the peace process to its proper path based on international legality and the principle of land for peace.
The task of saving the peace process requires commitment to and compliance with these principles. In this respect, the Arab leaders meeting at the Cairo Summit last year, expressed their eagerness to move forward with the peace process. Peace, they maintained, is a strategic option which cannot be reversed. This position was reiterated at the conclusion of the meeting of the Council of the League of the Arab States during its last session. The Arab ministers re-affirmed their commitment to the peace process, provided the other side also remains committed to its principles. Unfortunately, what we have witnessed recently is Israeli intransigence and insistence on ignoring the principles of peace as well as a complete reversal of the contractual commitments Israel signed with the Palestinians.
As an example, the settlement policies pursued by the Israeli Government in the Occupied Territories, aside from being in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, are contrary to United Nations resolutions and the principles of Madrid.
To subject the autonomous regions in the Occupied Territories to deprivation, hunger, and collective punishment through closure and other means of oppression is contrary to the logic of peaceful co-existence and conciliation. Furthermore, the practices of the Netanyahu government aimed at changing the demography of the City of Jerusalem and imposing a new fait accompli without paying the slightest attention to the legitimate rights, not only of the Palestinian people, but also of Muslims and Christians throughout the world, cannot in any way create an atmosphere of confidence or enhance the peace process.
The so-called security which Israel is hoping to attain can only be achieved through a just and comprehensive peace in the region in accordance with international legality and U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 425, as well as the principle of land for peace. To focus only on the issue of security to the exclusion of other issues, can only be construed as a total negation of all other commitments and a departure from logic.
We believe that the ideal means to achieve Israeli security within the framework of its relationship with the Palestinian Authority, lies in the resumption of negotiations between the two parties in order to solve all outstanding issues, as well as honoring agreements already made, rather than pursuing a policy of subjugation and humiliation. For Israel to achieve security vis-a-vis Syria requires the resumption of negotiations from the point where they were suspended. As for the state of tension and instability prevailing in southern Lebanon, this state of affairs can never be settled through revenge, but only through the prompt implementation of Security Council Resolution 425.
Peace based on international legality and the principles of Madrid is the means for achieving security for Israel and its neighbors. It is also the means for creating the proper circumstances for regional cooperation. Thus, in the absence of these circumstances, we see no incentive to explore new horizons for regional economic cooperation.
We do not see an alternative for the role of the United States, in its capacity as the main sponsor of the peace process, to exerting all its efforts to secure progress on all the Arab-Israeli tracks. It is true that negotiations remain the responsibility of the parties to the conflict; however, it has to be noted that any progress achieved through negotiations in the past came as a result of efforts exerted by the United States to remove obstacles that were placed in the way of these negotiations.
The recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to the region presented a good opportunity to witness the dangers currently confronting the peace process and the collective Arab desire to extricate this process from its pitfalls and place it on its proper path. Despite the modest results of this visit, it is, however, encouraging to recall that the Secretary of State reiterated the validity of the aforementioned resolutions and the principle of land for peace as well as the illegality of unilateral actions, which harm the final stages of negotiations.
This signals the beginning of an appropriate approach to put matters where they belong. We urge the United States Government to continue its efforts and take concrete steps to move the peace process in accordance with its basic principles.
If the Palestinian problem represents the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the issue of the Holy City of Jerusalem -- al-Quds al-Shareef -- is its core. It is also the source of high emotions and serious repercussions which represent the utmost concern for the Arab and Muslim worlds. Consequently, Israeli practices and violations in this Holy City will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the peace process as a whole, and on the future of security and stability in the entire region. Nothing is more revealing about Israeli intentions than its insistence on establishing and expanding settlements, demolishing Palestinian homes and confiscating their properties and identity. This is part of countless other practices aimed at the Judaization of the City of Jerusalem and changing its historical features. The intransigence of the Israeli Government has recently reached the level of facilitating the settlement of a Jewish family in a building located in the Ras Al-Amoud area to the detriment of the original owners, in unabashed display of alliance with Jewish extremists. This was immediately followed by the Israeli Prime Minister’s announcement to expand settlements by constructing 300 new housing units. This announcement was a severe blow to all that Mrs. Albright has called for during her recent visit to the region with respect to the inadmissibility of unilateral actions. Accordingly, we call upon the international community, and the United States in particular, to put an end to Israeli intransigence that affects the most sensitive and delicate part of the peace process. The issue of Jerusalem, which is the most important issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict, must be settled during the period designated by the peace process and in accordance with all Security Council resolutions, in particular Resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw from the Arab territories it occupied in 1967, and Resolution 252 regarding Jerusalem.
We are still concerned with the necessity of obligating the Government of Iraq to comply fully with all Security Council resolutions adopted in the aftermath of the Iraqi occupation of the State of Kuwait in 1990. The firm position taken by the United Nations on behalf of the international community to reverse the Iraqi aggression, must be followed by continued determination and steadfast effort to ensure that such aggression is never repeated. This can only be achieved by dealing with the relevant international resolutions as an integrated legal unit that is indivisible and not subject to selectivity. Although we feel pain and sorrow for the suffering of the Iraqi people as a result of the difficult conditions they are facing, we believe, nonetheless, that responsibility for this state of affairs lies squarely with the Iraqi Government. There is one way to rescue Iraq and its people from this dilemma and that is through an honest and clear acceptance of United Nations demands as stipulated in Security Council resolutions including Resolution 986, otherwise known as the “food-for-oil” resolution which was extended in last June, and to refrain from any actions or policies that might obstruct the implementation of this resolution.
The Iraqi leadership must also show greater seriousness in its full compliance with other Security Council resolutions, such as the release and repatriation of all prisoners of war and detainees from Kuwait and other countries, the return of all stolen assets, compliance with the mechanism for compensation, and full cooperation with the U.N. Special Commission for the Elimination of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction, during the tenure of its new chairman, Ambassador Richard Butler, for whom we wish all success in his mission to complete the efforts started by his predecessor Ambassador Rolf Ekeus.
In the light of Ambassador Ekeus’s last negative report to the Security Council, which listed a number of obstacles placed by the Iraqi Government regarding the mandate of the commission and the activities of its experts and inspectors, we welcome Security Council Resolution 1115, which we are certain will facilitate the commission's work as required.
The Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques expressed great interest in the efforts leading to the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, including efforts by the Arab League’s 101st Session, which was geared towards keeping this sensitive part of the world free of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Hence, my government actively participated in the United Nations Conference on the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, held in New York in 1995. This position is in conformity with the support expressed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for efforts to achieve a comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. We believe in the need to make the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty more effective through the activation of the safeguards system of the International Atomic Energy Agency so as to become universal. We also see a need to adopt measures and criteria that would enhance the desired process in all areas of dismantling weapons of mass destruction in accordance with United Nations resolution number 1 of 1946, which addresses, inter alia, the issue of eliminating all weapons of mass destruction. It is noteworthy that Israel is the only state in the Middle East that has not yet become a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In this respect, we urge all states everywhere that have not yet become parties to the treaty, to take the necessary steps to do so, thus contributing to the maintenance of world peace and stability.
The occupation by the Islamic Republic of Iran of the three islands belonging to the United Arab Emirates (Abu Musa, the Greater Tumb, and the Lesser Tumb) remains a source of great concern, not only to the United Arab Emirates, but also to the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a whole. While all these countries have a desire to have the best possible relations with their neighbor, Iran, it is with regret that we notice no positive response so far on the part of Iran to repeated and serious appeals from the United Arab Emirates, as well as from regional and international organizations to resolve this long-standing problem through serious bilateral negotiations.
We believe that improving Arab-Iranian relations constitutes an important element in maintaining international peace and security. Hence, my delegation would like to express its satisfaction with statements made by His Excellency, President Muhammad Khatami of Iran, in which he called for turning a new page in Arab-Iranian relations. These positive statements will undoubtedly find an Arab willingness towards building cordial relations with Iran based on the principles of good neighborliness and the rule of international law. Thus, we see the need for Iran to engage in serious negotiations with the United Arab Emirates in order to reach a peaceful solution to the issue of the three islands, according to international law including, if necessary, referring the case to the International Court of Justice. Such a step would lead to opening a new chapter in Arab-Iranian relations.
Furthermore, based on the determination of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to maintain the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf region, we support the wise measures taken by the State of Bahrain to foster its security and stability. These measures were approved and supported by the Gulf Cooperation Council as well as the Arab League, based on the fact that the security of the State of Bahrain is part and parcel of the security of the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Soon after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords early last year, the issue of Bosnia-Herzegovina entered a new phase marked by the cessation of military operations between the belligerents in this young Republic. These accords laid the foundations of peace and stability. It also began the phase of reconstruction and institution-building after years of war, destruction and attempts by the Serbs and their supporters to dismantle this state.
Had it not been for the firmness and determination of the international community, the Bosnian peace agreement would not have materialized. In this respect, we commend the role played by the United States and by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in providing the conditions conducive to ending the war and inaugurating the phase of peace and construction. It should not, however, be overlooked that peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina remains fragile and in need of concerted and intensified efforts to consolidate and support it through action in order to put the terms of the Dayton Accords into full and precise implementation. In this regard, all possible efforts should be devoted to track down war criminals and to bring them to justice for the crimes they committed against humanity and to prevent them from exercising any role in future political life. Their apprehension should be considered an international responsibility that must not be taken lightly. The repatriation of refugees and displaced persons without impediment should be given due attention with continued emphasis on the unity, independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Any secessionist attempts along ethnic or religious lines must be met with resolute firmness.
The issue of reconstruction requires international support to assist Bosnia to overcome its economic difficulties. My government looks forward to the upcoming meeting of the Peace Implementation Council designed for Bosnia, due to convene in Bonn next December, for the purpose of reviewing and assessing the peace process.
The world is unfortunately still plagued with crises and problems that desperately call for our attention. These problems must be tackled to safeguard the international community from the scourge of war.
In the Indian subcontinent, there is still the issue of the Pakistani-Indian conflict over Jammu and Kashmir, which remains a source of tension and instability in the relations between the two neighboring states. We welcome the desire recently expressed by the leadership of both countries towards resuming their dialogue on this issue. We would like to reiterate the need to follow peaceful means in dealing with the problem of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with appropriate Security Council resolutions that are based upon the right of self-determination.
The situation in Somalia is still shrouded in tension and instability. It is up to the leaders of the different Somali factions to assume national responsibility concerning the salvation of their country and people. They must shoulder these responsibilities, resolve their differences and work towards the establishment of a national authority that would represent the various factions of the Somali people and reinstate unity, peace and stability to their country.
In Afghanistan fierce fighting is still going on among the different Afghani factions as a result of continued differences among their leaders, in spite of sincere efforts exerted by the United Nations and my government. As is well known, the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always extended its good offices in order to achieve national reconciliation throughout the country.
In Africa, numerous states suffer from the ravages of civil war, tribal conflicts, and secessionist trends, which have resulted in extremely difficult humanitarian conditions that call for our continued efforts to contain and mitigate their effects and consequences.
The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has unhesitatingly condemned the phenomenon of terrorism throughout the world. We have always supported all international efforts to eliminate it. This position was illustrated collectively in statements issued by the Gulf Cooperation Council, and by the states of the Damascus Declaration as well as by the League of Arab States. These statements explicitly and clearly denounce terrorism in all its forms. Considering the universal nature of terrorism, combating it calls for a concerted international effort to deal with the underlying causes of this phenomenon and its consequences.
The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pays serious attention to the issues of the environment and the need for its protection. It has allotted a prominent position to this issue in its external and internal policies on the basis that the welfare and health of human beings are closely linked to their environmental and climatic conditions. On the domestic level, the Basic System of Governance includes provisions that call for conservation, protection and development of the environment and prevention of pollution. The Government of Saudi Arabia, through the Ministerial Environmental Commission, has delineated its future national developmental priorities within the framework of concepts of sustainable development. At the international level, my country has effectively participated in conferences, symposia and commissions concerned with the environment and its protection. The most recent was the extraordinary session of the General Assembly on environmental issues, which took place in June 1997.
In addition, Saudi Arabia is a party to a number of related international and regional treaties. It is our hope that these efforts, when dealing with environmental problems, will be characterized by adequate objectivity, and that no proposed solution will be adopted with regard to climatic changes and environmental pollution except through serious and informed studies based on scientific facts. These studies should be balanced and take into consideration any impact on development in developing countries and the interest of the world economy at large.
A quick review of economic developments in the world and the role of the United Nations in determining the pace of international cooperation for development, indicates the relative success of this international body in addressing these issues and accelerating development. The international community has succeeded in dealing with numerous difficult problems and has achieved unprecedented breakthroughs in extremely sensitive sectors culminating in the establishment of the World Trade Organization. Unfortunately, we are still concerned about the continued practice of trade protectionism, a trend contrary to our conviction of giving greater importance to market forces and their natural role in the economic process. It should be our goal to liberate world trade from certain restrictions, which are still in place, particularly those that hide behind the issue of protection of the environment.
The former Secretary-General, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, exerted efforts that deserve appreciation within the framework of the development plan he proposed, which, if efforts are consolidated to enrich it, and if it receives the attention and follow-up of the current Secretary-General, can become a real mechanism for social and economic progress in the world. It is our view that the industrialized nations bear a particular responsibility for laying the foundations of cooperation which no doubt will result in prosperity and benefit for all nations, rich and poor. We believe that increasing the percentage of Official Development Assistance (ODA) will be a cornerstone to this desired cooperation.
Two years ago, we celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of the establishment of our Organization, a unique opportunity for contemplating, reviewing and looking ahead. It, therefore, behooves us as we approach the turn of a new century, to draw lessons from the past that will assist our organization to pave its future path in a way that will achieve what we desire. The first of these lessons must be that the success of our organization in dealing with international problems has remained, since its inception, linked to the extent of the political will of member states to adhere to the principles of the organization, and a commitment to the letter and spirit of the Charter. On its part, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, being a founding member of this organization, has always striven to ensure the necessity of consolidating the abilities of the United Nations and enhancing its effectiveness. The U.N. Charter must be defined in such a way so that justice, peace, security, development and prosperity will prevail.
I wish to conclude my statement with a verse from the Holy Qur'an: "And weigh with justice and skimp not in the balance."
May peace and the blessings of Allah be upon you.