I would like to begin by extending my most sincere congratulations to you and your country Macedonia on your election as president of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly. I am confident that your diplomatic expertise and thorough knowledge of international affairs will guarantee the success of this session. I would like to express my appreciation to your predecessor, Her Excellency Haya Rashid Al Khalifa, who presided over the previous session with wisdom and capability.
The commendable efforts of His Excellency Mr. Ban ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, were essential for maintaining the role played by the United Nations and upholding its principles, despite these difficult times and crucial challenges we face. He has our full support and deepest gratitude. The previous Secretary General, the Honorable Kofi Annan, certainly deserves our sincere thanks and appreciation for his excellent work during his tenure at the UN.
Our world is experiencing ever-accelerating political, economic and social changes, characterized by increased complexity. It is vital that we cooperate with each other now more than ever, under the banner of the UN, to manage the complex issues and changes with which we are faced. Balanced and healthy relations among countries, based on respect of international legitimacy and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, in a manner that guarantees justice and deepens mutual confidence and true partnership, are essential in achieving this. By promoting sound relations and understanding between countries, we will be best equipped to meet future challenges and to respond to them in a way that will be beneficial to the whole of humanity.
Current circumstances in the Middle East are extremely dangerous. Israeli occupation of Arab lands continues to transform the whole region into multiple crisis zones accompanied by the dramatic suffering of Palestinians causing the spread of despair and extremism. Add to this the threats to national unity and escalating civil conflicts that confront the legitimate authorities in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia.
The only way to avoid these dangerous results begins with achieving Arab-Israeli peace. The Arab-Israeli conflict has overshadowed and dominated all other issues in the past six decades. No regional crisis has greater potential to affect other regional conflicts or world peace than this conflict. Neglecting to find a just and comprehensive solution to this conflict provides a suitable environment for the spread of extremism and terrorism and would impose a festering plague that will grow in intensity and complexity with time. As conflicts consume and squander the rich resources and capabilities of our region, they inhibit the modernization, development and reforms needed for this region to play once again a necessary and positive role in world development.
Unfortunately, all efforts up to the present have concentrated on partial and piecemeal steps that achieved little, or unilateral measures that have only resulted in worsening the suffering of the Palestinian people. The previous approach of the Quartet has only achieved limited results and effectiveness, for it was characterized by an excess of emphasis on procedural issues, sidestepping the underlying substantive issues which are the essence of the problem and the path for its final resolution, and by the absence of clear and definite steps in accordance with a well defined time table that is monitored, followed up and verified on the ground by neutral observers with deviation from the course subjected to appropriate sanctions, has proved.
Clearly there is a need for a new fresh start to overcome the previous hurdles and obstacles. In this regard, the Arab Peace Initiative represents a unique and historical opportunity to re-invigorate the peace process, for it provides a general framework based on international legitimacy that enables all parties to negotiate fruitfully. All Arab countries without exception have committed themselves to achieve peace, security, recognition and normal relations among all the countries of the region on the basis of the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories of 1967. For the first time the Arab world commits itself to an agreed solution to the refugee problem.
Saudi Arabia, along with its Arab brothers, welcomed publicly the important positive points that were included in President Bush’s invitation to convene an international peace conference, especially the call for an end of occupation and for negotiated solutions to the issues of Jerusalem, borders and refugees, so an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state can be created to live in peace and security side by side with Israel. Needless to say, the success of the proposed conference is dependent on tackling these issues with clarity and directness within a comprehensive framework that includes all tracks in a specific and reasonable time frame.
The opportunity is upon us now if all of us uphold our responsibility in this regard. The Arab world has made its commitment to peace loud and clear. What is needed is for the major international powers to change their current approach. The minimum that is expected from Israel is to lift the daily suffering and humiliation of the Palestinians, and to end all settlements activities and the constructing of the wall which clearly aim to unilaterally create new facts on the ground in direct and clear contravention of the principles of international law. These hostile acts make it extremely difficult to enable any Palestinian government to function effectively, or to convince Palestinians of the feasibility of peace. Imposing greater obligations and conditions on the occupied Palestinians while the occupier is given greater latitude is clearly illogical and does not build confidence in the seriousness, fairness and credibility of the current peace process. If any of us fails to uphold his share in our collective responsibility for utilizing the current window of opportunity, the dire and even catastrophic consequences would not be limited to a single country or region.
The deteriorating security situation in Iraq continues to inflict unimaginable levels of suffering on the Iraqi people, and to hamper the efforts of those countries sincerely committed to assisting Iraq in overcoming its ordeal, rehabilitating its economy, and helping it to rebuild. The Kingdom has always reaffirmed the importance of consolidating Iraq’s unity, preserving its independence and sovereignty, and refraining from interfering in its internal affairs. The path ahead was made clear by the growing regional and international consensus on the need to achieve national Iraqi reconciliation as soon as possible. It is the responsibility of the Iraqi leaders and government to fulfill the constitutional, legal, political and economic requirements of a comprehensive national reconciliation. This is the only way that can convince all Iraqis that they enjoy equal rights and protections against all kinds of violence, and that their active positive participation in the political process is both welcomed and meaningful. Religious authorities in Iraq undoubtedly have also a historical responsibility in this regard.
As Lebanon stands on the threshold of a constitutional turning point, and at a time when serious Lebanese initiatives to achieve national dialogue began to materialize, Lebanon was faced again by another cowardly and criminal assassination that aims at preventing reconciliation and sabotaging the constitutional process. We are deeply and profoundly concerned by the continuation of Lebanon’s political crises, fueled by external interference that does not bode well for Lebanon and its people but seeks to turn Lebanon into an arena for all kinds of regional and international conflicts. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emphasizes the paramount importance of holding presidential elections in Lebanon on time and in accordance with the constitution, free from interference, intimidation and external sabotage. We reaffirm our full support to the Lebanese government as it seeks to extend its authority over the entire territory of Lebanon. Welcoming the establishment of a special international tribunal by Security Council Resolution 1757, we reiterate our support for the work of the international investigating committee, and call on the tribunal to speedily carry on its work so that the criminals can be brought to justice, for this carries a great significance to the consolidation of the stability and security of Lebanon and the region. Saudi Arabia reiterates the need for all parties to remain committed to Security Council Resolution 1701, and calls for a rapid Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms area, recognized by Israel as an occupied territory.
We cannot ignore the serious threat to global peace and security which weapons of mass destruction continue to pose—whether they are used in wars and intimidation between states or in case they fall in the hands of terror groups. Effective non-proliferation of these destructive weapons requires abandoning double standards. We therefore emphasize the importance of making the whole Middle East, including the Gulf region, free from nuclear weapons. Israel is the only country in the region which is known to possess weapons of mass destruction but is not subjected to any form of monitoring.
While we support the rights of all countries to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including acquiring knowledge and nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, we call on Iran and all the countries of the Middle East to strictly respect their obligations under current international conventions and treaties that include specific safeguards to all nuclear programs. We hope that Iran cooperates positively with international efforts that aim to insure a peaceful and swift end to the Iranian nuclear issue, and to spare the region from futile arm races and serious environmental dangers.
In view of the eagerness of the Kingdom and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council to sustain and develop their relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, we hope that the government of Iran responds positively to the repeated calls by the United Arab Emirates to peacefully resolve the issue of the occupied islands belonging to the UAE.
The people of Somalia have suffered for too long from the ordeal of civil wars and internal divisions that resulted in the absence of stability and security. This necessitates that we all extend all possible efforts to help in re-establishing Somalia’s unity, security and development. In this context, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz sponsored the signing in Jeddah of the Somali national reconciliation agreement, which resulted from the national reconciliation conference in Somalia, asserting that this is a first step, and that what is important is actual implementation of the agreement with total commitment and serious work, so that Somalia can once again enjoy security, stability and prosperity. We call on all Somali parties to speedily join the national reconciliation process. We hope that the Arab League and the African Union will speed up coordination efforts aimed at arriving at a clear and practical plan to establish peace keeping forces under UN command to replace foreign troops without delay and without risking a security vacuum.
The continued humanitarian suffering in Darfur is not acceptable to all of us in the international community. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques has sponsored a meeting between Sudan’s president and the UNSG during the Riyadh Arab Summit, with the participation of the Arab League and the African Union, to dispel the climate of mistrust between Sudan and the UN which inhibited effective solutions in Darfur. Saudi Arabia welcomes Security Council Resolution 1769 on deploying a mixed international-African force to help in establishing peace and ending the conflict in Darfur. Commending the Sudanese government for its approval and cooperation, and the UN Secretary General for his active role, we hope that all the parties will assume their responsibilities in ending violence, and that the United Nations and Sudan will refrain from taking any steps that complicate the situation even further. Our mutual objective should always be achieving a lasting peace, so that the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Darfur can be met, the return of refugees can be speeded up, and reconstruction efforts can be started.
The phenomenon of global terrorism is a threat to us all. The ongoing atrocities perpetrated by terrorists continue to test our determination to combat and counter it. As one of the main targets of terrorism, the Kingdom has repeatedly denounced all forms of terrorism and achieved tangible successes in combating it. The Kingdom joined most of the international counterterrorism agreements, as well as the Arab Agreement and the OIC Counterterrorism Agreement. We hope that this session will adopt the proposal of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz regarding the establishment of an international counterterrorism center under the auspices of the UN. The only way to preempt terrorist plans is to exchange intelligence and up-to-the-minute information between countries and agencies. Innovative solutions can be found to address adequately reservations regarding the sensitivity of the information and its sources.
There is no justification for any form of terrorism, but we cannot ignore that terrorism does have roots and causes which make it thrive. Achieving decisive victory against terrorism requires not only denying terrorists all financial support, but also combating extremist thought and the environment in which it prospers. Addressing the feelings of despair, anger and frustration which peoples feel when they are denied their legitimate rights will deprive extremists of their causes and rallying cries.
As we renew our commitment to the international campaign against terrorism, we warn against the attempts by extremist forces and advocates of the clash of civilizations and cultures to exploit this campaign in a way that contradicts its objectives. It must be repeated at this point that there is no true religion which advocates the use of terrorism. The great religions of the world all promote noble and peaceful values and we should not hold the vast majority of true believers responsible for the deviant behavior of a very small minority in any religion. The success of the global campaign against terrorism is contingent upon our strict adherence to the rules of international law and respect of human and religious rights.
Every passing year reaffirms the great need and indispensable role of the United Nations in our World, for the host of global problems we face can only be successfully addressed within the context of multilateral cooperation it provides. Invariably, it is the neediest who suffer the worst from the threats of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, or the spread of diseases and epidemics, or even natural disasters, making it all the more urgent for the international community to assume its collective responsibility in giving priority to and exerting its full and concerted efforts towards effectively addressing these issues. Over the last three decades Saudi Arabia, a developing country itself, has contributed approximately 4 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in official economic aid, the highest percentage in the world. Saudi Arabia has also offered debt relief amounting to more than $6 billion to a number of less developed countries.
To ensure continued worldwide economic growth, Saudi Arabia has increased its oil production capacity in order to stabilize oil markets, to ensure the continued flow of sufficient oil, and to curb artificially high prices. Saudi Arabia hosts the Secretariat General of the Energy Forum, which it established as a forum for discussing areas of cooperation and dialogue between oil-consuming and oil-producing countries. Increased cooperation between these countries will contribute directly to the stabilization of oil markets, oil being of course an essential strategic commodity for sustained global economic growth.
As a signatory to international agreements protecting the environment, including the Kyoto Protocol, Saudi Arabia participates positively in all international efforts to protect the environment. The international community is hopefully able to adopt policies that combine economic growth with a better protection of the environment. The key to confronting environmental problems, including climate change, lies in continuing to develop energy efficiency technologies. International efforts in this regard must be based on the principle of shared but varied responsibility between the developed and developing countries.