In the name of Allah, most compassionate, most merciful.
Blessing and peace be upon the Most Noble of Prophets
It is my pleasure to express my sincere congratulations to Your Excellency for your election to the presidency of the 54th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. As much as your election is an appreciation of you personally, it is also an appreciation of the role played by your country, Namibia, in the international arena. I am confident that your presidency of this Session will be an effective factor in achieving the objectives towards which the international community aspires during the present circumstances.
I would like to take this opportunity to convey to your predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Dedier Oberetti Badan, Foreign Minister of Uruguay and the President of the 53rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, our appreciation and esteem for conducting the Assembly’s work effectively, wisely, and objectively.
I am also pleased to express my appreciation and esteem to His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who manages the affairs of this international organization with great competence and experience, and who exerts continuous efforts and persistent endeavors to achieve peace and security in our modern world, which still faces many kinds of conflicts and various forms of crises and challenges.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is also pleased to welcome the admission of the Republic of Karibati, the Republic of Nauru and the Kingdom of Tonga to the membership of the UN Organization and hopes that their admission will further enhance the effectiveness of the UN in achieving the noble goals it was created for.
Some years have passed since we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the UN. The celebration was a valuable opportunity in which we reviewed the principles and objectives of this international organization and the opportunities and challenges it had faced over the previous decades. We also reviewed its achievements in maintaining world peace and security and the difficulties and obstacles it managed to deal with and transcend through the belief of its members and the nobility of its objectives. The existence of this organization, and its ability to find solutions for many of the problems that rocked our turbulent world despite all the challenges it faced, makes us all the more convinced of the vitality of its role, a role that becomes more pressing and urgent due to recent developments in the world.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as a founding member of this organization, maintains the same ideals and values that motivated it to participate in the universal effort with the other founding members. It called for the rejection of war and the establishment of peace and constructive cooperation among all peoples of this world. This occurred after a series of disasters and catastrophes that overwhelmed the human race during two destructive world wars, which claimed millions of lives and left behind devastation and ruin.
Wars and military confrontations are no longer thought of as politics or diplomacy by other means. Violence and warfare with modern lethal weapons can never be an effective means to attain political ends, nor a viable approach to achieving diplomatic gains. In today’s world there is no victor in any military confrontation.
Cooperation in social and economic arenas among peoples of the world as an objective of our organization is no longer a mere wish or luxury. In fact, it has become an unavoidable necessity dictated by recent political and economic developments, as well as major changes in technology and communications. As a result of these changes and developments, the world has changed from a vast collection of entities and trends to a village in which every part is affected by what ails another part. These parts are interdependent in many of the vital needs and environmental conditions. The concept of globalization that has become an integral part of our daily discourse is nothing more than a condensed formula for the intellectual and existential changes that have overtaken the lives of our people and states in the last two decades. We are now required to adjust to this phenomenon by developing our institutions and procedures if we are to deal with it in a way that emphasizes the positives and discards the negatives.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia confirms -- as it has always done in the past -- its steady commitment to the principles and objectives of the UN Charter and would like to reiterate the need for supporting this organization and its specialized agencies, which represent a viable framework for cooperation between countries and peoples, and an important forum for dialogue and understanding in view of the tidal wave of globalization. It also emphasizes once more that the ability of this international organization to resolve global problems and to fulfill its regular responsibilities relies very much on the political will of the member states to implement the principles of its Charter with all its visions and ideals.
What is meant by political will here is the degree to which each member state is ready to carry out its commitment and its adherence to the text of the UN Charter and to submit its conduct to the rules of the Charter. In this regard, my government is quite cognizant of the importance of modernizing the agencies of our organization in a manner that enables it to play its required role, and on a level that enables it to deal with the new developments that are taking place in modern international relations.
The Security Council, being responsible for preserving international peace and security, remains the pivot on which reform ideas have been expressed in different forms and shapes. In this regard, my country’s point of view was, and still is, based on a deep conviction that any restructuring of the Security Council must endeavor to improve its capabilities to perform its role effectively according to the Charter and to make its objectives more active in implementing its resolutions and in dealing with international crises, as well as to meet with the will of the General Assembly in a manner that achieves the required harmony and desired objectives.
The General Assembly resolution declaring 2001 a year for dialogue among civilizations represents the desire of the international community to enter the Third Millennium with a firm resolve in order that harmony, justice and equality prevail among nations. It also represents the desire that all should participate in building a balanced world in terms of interests and mutual benefits and equitable living opportunities free of fear and terror and immune from hunger and poverty: a world in which the principles of justice are triumphant and peace and prosperity are available to all. The dialogue among civilizations is the ideal alternative to theories of conflict and inevitable clash of civilizations. This compels us to affirm the importance of dialogue and harmony among nations and the need to observe differences in the nature of societies and in their beliefs and to respect peoples and nations’ freedom of choice, as well as abiding by the rules of international law.
This organization has been preoccupied throughout its history with the problem of the Middle East, whether in the Security Council or the General Assembly, in order to achieve a permanent and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. When the peace process was launched in Madrid at the end of October 1991, with all its bilateral and multilateral tracks, on principles accepted by all parties to the conflict, all believed that a new era of peace, stability and growth is looming on the horizon, putting an end to the phase of wars and conflicts that exhausted the energies and capabilities of the peoples of the region. In fact, the peace process moved forward and some progress has been achieved, especially in the Palestinian and Jordanian tracks. The multilateral talks also gained some ground through regional cooperation. The peace process then suffered paralysis and impasse due to the policies and practices of the former Israeli government, although the Arabs had declared peace an irrevocable strategic choice. However, this did not change the practices of the former Israeli government and its lack of adherence to the principles of the peace process as well as its failure to fulfill its obligations in the agreements signed with the Palestinians, including the Wye River Accord.
At present, there is an attempt to revive the peace process in light of statements issued by the new Israeli Prime Minister that he intends to activate the peace process on all tracks. The Treaty of Sharm El-Sheikh, signed on September 4 of this year, could be a good step if followed by similar steps to move the process towards the basis and principles that were established at the Madrid Conference, principally the land-for-peace formula.
On the Palestinian track, peace requires withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the restoration of all the legitimate national rights of the Palestinians, including their right to establish their own independent state with Al-Quds as its capital. Al-Quds, as a final status issue, should be addressed according to UN Resolutions 242 and 252. Al-Quds is part of the Occupied Territories and Israel should refrain from undertaking any unilateral measures that prejudice the status of this sacred city. It is imperative and natural for any comprehensive and permanent settlement to address the issue of the return of the Palestinian refugees according to Resolution 194 and the release of prisoners in addition to the issues of settlements and water resources.
As to the Syrian track, negotiations should resume from the point they were frozen by a decision of the previous Israeli government. It is well known that Syria remains willing and prepared to reach a comprehensive and permanent solution based on the principle of land for peace. With regard to the Lebanese track, it is subject to Security Council Resolution 425 that calls for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of the Israeli forces from southern Lebanon.
Iraq is still, after more than nine years of its aggression against the State of Kuwait, procrastinating on the implementation of crucial parts of the relevant Security Council Resolutions. The Iraqi people are still paying the price for the crimes committed by their regime and for its continuous challenges to international legality. In spite of all Arab and international initiatives and proposals aimed at finding an effective process to lift the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and ending the suffering of the Iraqi people, the Iraqi government has not responded in a manner that would help move matters in the right direction.
What encourages the Iraqi government to continue maneuvering and procrastinating is the fact that the Security Council itself is unable to take actions due to the inability of the permanent members to agree on a common vision with regard to the proposals under discussion. These proposals aim at finding a way out of the current crisis that would revive the inspection and monitoring regime of the banned Iraqi military program and regulate the present and future relationship between Iraq and the UN.
Under any circumstance, Iraq should be required to fully implement all international resolutions relating to its aggression against Kuwait and to cooperate seriously with the International Committee of the Red Cross for the release of all Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti prisoners and detainees, as well as the restoration of Kuwaiti properties. It should also refrain from all provocative or aggressive acts against the State of Kuwait and other neighboring countries in accordance with Security Council Resolution 949 as well as prove its peaceful intentions towards its neighbors in words and deeds. Such is the viable way to put an end to the human suffering for which the Iraqi regime bears the sole responsibility. The pain which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its sisterly countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council feel can only be compared to their keenness to preserve the independence, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq.
Relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council member states have lately witnessed encouraging signs due to the positive attitudes of the Iranian government. Yet there remain outstanding issues to be resolved, particularly the three United Arab Emirates islands, Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa. The GCC Foreign Ministers, with the approval and blessing of the United Arab Emirates government, decided to refer the matter to a tripartite committee entrusted to create a conducive climate for direct negotiations between the United Arab Emirates and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This trend reflects the desire of the United Arab Emirates to resolve the outstanding issues in a positive spirit. We feel optimistic towards this issue in light of a demonstrated desire by His Excellency President Mohamed Khatami to turn a new chapter in relations with the Gulf countries, relations characterized by good neighborliness, non-interference in internal affairs and constructive cooperation to the benefit and interest of both sides.
When it seemed that the problem in Bosnia was resolved in accordance with the provisions of the Dayton Accord, which laid the ground for Bosnian independence and sovereignty, paved the way for the return of refugees, provided for the pursue and arrest of officials responsible for the crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and the establishment of peace, the Balkan region witnessed a crisis in Kosovo no less in its magnitude than that which took place in Bosnia. The Kosovars were exposed to the same degree of ethnic cleansing, genocide and forced deportation at the hands of the Serbian forces as were the Bosnians, and once again, the UN faced the problem of dealing with a dangerous situation threatening the entire Balkan region. This situation was only reversed by the intervention of NATO forces after Serbia refused to accept the provisions of the Rambouillet Agreement.
Resorting to military force without UN mandate to resolve such problems might not be the ideal solution to international crises, but at certain times it becomes an unavoidable necessity whenever the Security Council fails to fulfil its role in maintaining world peace and security. We hope that this pattern will not be repeated, in order for the UN to preserve its dignity and integrity.
Many regions of the world remain plagued by wars, regional and ethnic conflicts, border disputes and national and tribal conflicts. The fighting between the Afghan factions continues with the effect of denying Afghanistan and its people the fruits of liberation from foreign occupation. It is regrettable to see that some have exploited the current situation in Afghanistan to turn the country into a terrorist haven and training base, thereby contributing to the country’s insecurity and instability, and exposing the Afghan people to more suffering. My country supports efforts of the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to restore peace and security throughout Afghanistan.
The Pakistani-Indian conflict over Jammu and Kashmir remains a source of tension and instability between the two neighborly countries, especially after the recent military escalation. We call on both sides to exercise utmost restraint and to solve the conflict through negotiations in accordance with UN resolutions, which allow the people of Jammu and Kashmir the right to self-determination.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been following with great concern the latest developments in East Timor. While it welcomes the positive stand taken by the Indonesian government, especially its cooperation with the United Nations, it wants to affirm the need to respect the regional sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia and the importance of peace and security in the whole region.
The scenes of fighting and armed conflict between brothers in Africa, especially in the Horn of Africa region, are a source of pain for us. These conflicts will only deepen wounds and enhance poverty and distress. In this regard, we still have high expectation in the wisdom of the leaders of this great continent to consider the ultimate interests of their nations and resolve conflicts through peaceful means.
The international community was pleased to put an end to the Lockerbie issue that caused much suffering to Libya and its people. We look forward to a resolution by the Security Council to finally lift all sanctions imposed on Libya by virtue of its positive reaction to international appeals and its adherence to all conditions related to this issue.
I would also like to praise the people of Algeria for the great mandate they gave to their new leadership to move forward with the reconciliation plan to put an end to the era of differences and violence which caused a great deal of suffering to the fraternal people of Algeria.
The Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is keenly interested in the ongoing efforts to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East, including the Arabian Gulf region. This is demonstrated through its support of the efforts by the Arab League’s 101st Session, which called for making this sensitive part of the world a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, chemical or biological.
In this respect, we are greatly concerned about Israel’s continued refusal to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus keeping its nuclear programs outside the range of international inspection and thereby constituting a serious threat to the region.
We believe in the urgent need to increase the effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through the activation and universalization of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguard system. We also consider it of the utmost importance to establish the necessary controls and measures that would assist in achieving progress towards the goal of comprehensive disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction in conformity with General Assembly Resolution 1 of 1946.
The scourge of terrorism that strikes indiscriminately throughout the world has become an international phenomenon with grave consequences that requires systematic international efforts to contain and combat. The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has regularly condemned terrorism in all international forums, lending its voice to international efforts aimed at combating this dangerous phenomenon. What needs to be emphasized here is that violence and terrorism are universal phenomena rather than the characteristics of a certain people, race or religion. Precisely because of the comprehensiveness and universality of terrorism, the only way to combat it is through a unified and collective international action within the framework of the United Nations, which alone could put an end to terrorism and save the lives of the innocent, and preserve the independence and sovereignty of the countries of the world. Combating terrorism would require international cooperation against sheltering terrorist groups, thus banning them from exploiting the territories and laws of the states where they exist.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia considers environmental issues and environment protection of key importance as evidenced by the prominent place given it in our domestic and foreign policies. This is because we believe that a decent life for mankind is directly connected to the environment. This explains the fact that the Kingdom has participated in all relevant conferences and international gatherings and arrangements. We have also become a party to several regional and international agreements that are geared towards this cause.
We only hope that international efforts relating to the problems of the environment will be formulated in a balanced and objective manner based on scientific facts and studies that take into account the needs of development in the developing world.
We call upon all states to abide by the Agenda for the 21st Century. We also urge the industrialized states to live up to their obligations regarding the transfer of environment-friendly technology to the developing nations.
The emerging forces of globalization that force geographic borders to recede and sovereignty to increasingly disappear, has become an issue to which all nations have to adjust. We are required now, more than at any time in the past, to deal with this phenomenon in a way that brings about a world of balanced interests and mutual benefits with equal opportunities for all. To achieve this goal requires that developing nations double their efforts in order to integrate their economies with the global economy. They are further required to intensify their efforts to remove the barriers that hinder this integration in the multi-faceted world trade system.
They are also required to adjust these economic policies and establish the infrastructures necessary for goods to meet standard specifications of the importing countries. In return, the industrially and economically developed nations should contribute to fulfillment of the desired goals through the following:
In this context, it is worthwhile to note that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been in the forefront in its contribution to the promotion and development of less developed countries, whether bilaterally or multilaterally. In the same view and in view of the Kingdom’s desire to shape the future trends of world economy, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia applied for admission to WTO and hopes, God willing, to gain the support of friendly nations to finalize the procedure of admission as soon as possible.
As we prepare for the third millennium, we are overwhelmed by different feelings and emotions. In view of the conflicts and social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges we currently face, optimism is mixed with pessimism for the future of our world in the coming historical era. If the purpose of creating the UN was to convert the logic of war and confrontation to one of dialogue and cooperation at a time in which the cost of using military force has become exorbitant and the outcome not guaranteed, we now live in a period resonant with new signs for a new era that requires us to strive to the utmost level possible to work together and cooperate in the face, not only of political and military challenges, but also to confront new types of challenges brought about by contemporary life with all its complexities and complications that cannot be solved or managed except by collective organized efforts.
Our firm belief that the UN can play a major role in dealing with current issues and enhancing international cooperation to resolve and contain them makes us more determined than at any other time to support this organization and endorse its constructive role. One of the valuable lessons we learned from the UN's performance is the need to enable our organization to detect crises and move to contain them before they erupt by applying as much as possible the system of protective diplomacy. Moving to manage crises before they aggravate is the best method to avoid their consequences and repercussions.
In conclusion, I have to reemphasize a basic fact that cooperation among us to solve current problems in a spirit of total disinterest and objectivity and a sense of responsibility has become a vital need on which the future of the UN, which is also our future, depends.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Help ye one another in righteousness and piety. But help ye not one another in sin and rancor.”
Thank you, Mr. President.