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Seventy-third Session,
14th & 15th Meetings (AM & PM)

Member States Highlight Complexity of Terrorist Threats, as General Assembly Debate Enters Fifth Day

Speakers Also Cite Diplomatic Breakthroughs in Africa, Korean Peninsula

World leaders underscored the continuing threats of terrorism and cybersecurity while urging protection of valuable principles such as freedom of the press and peaceful electoral processes, as the General Assembly general debate entered its fifth day.

India’s Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, stressing that terrorists should be accountable under international law, recalled that her country had proposed a draft document on the comprehensive convention on international terrorism at the United Nations in 1996, a convention that has still not been elaborated.  She also expressed concern over the presence of terrorism across her country’s western border, saying:  “Our neighbour’s expertise is not restricted to spawning grounds for terrorism; it is also an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity.”  She also refuted the notion that her country was sabotaging peace talks, noting that when talks halted it was due to Pakistan’s behaviour.

However, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, underscored that his country wanted a relationship with India, based on sovereign equality and mutual respect.  Yet, India “preferred politics over peace”, he said.  He went on to cite the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which chronicled massive rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir.  In addition, Pakistan was facing terrorism financed and orchestrated by India.  Expressing hope that there would be a new consensus on peace, security and development, he also highlighted his country’s elections two months ago, where the people had voted for reform, opting for a compassionate, peaceful and principled Pakistan.

Ministers from countries directly affected by terrorism shared their perspectives on looming threats and ways to stamp them out. 

Walid Al-Moualem, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, focused on the threat of terrorism in his country, pointing out it has been more than seven years since the beginning of the dirty war against Syria.  An illegitimate international coalition has been operating on the pretext of combating terrorism in Syria, yet they direct military support to terrorists.  He also drew attention to the activities of the “White Helmets”, calling it a terrorist organization created by British intelligence under a humanitarian cover.  That organization, part of the Al-Qaida-affiliated Nusrah Front, was a key tool in a public misinformation campaign that fabricated accusations on the use of chemical weapons.  His Government remained committed to the political process but would not compromise its national principles, he said.

Ahmed Awad Isse, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somalia, said that since assuming office a year and a half ago, his Administration has made huge strides in security sector reform and political and economic transformation, yet is mindful of the enormous challenges ahead, particularly to overcome terrorism.  New road networks and supply routes have been opened, liberating towns and villages from Al-Shabaab.  Stressing the importance of a multi-faceted security approach, he said the Government and its partners have militarily dismantled terrorist hideouts, while also engaging religious leaders, elders, youth, women and civil society groups to dramatically reverse the twisted ideology of hate and religious intolerance.

Joining Al-Shabaab is no longer appealing to young men and women, he said, noting that both this group and Al-Qaida no longer have a ready stream of new and volunteer recruits in Somalia.  Some have accepted the offer of amnesty, denounced violence and surrendered peacefully.  Senior commanders, former sector heads and infantrymen also have surrendered unconditionally, weakening the terror network’s logistical and planning capabilities.  The Government is now working with civil networks to flush out remaining terrorists.

In the same vein, Alpha Barry, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Burkina Faso, expressed deep concern about the spread of terrorism fanning out to areas bordering Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Benin and Togo.  To combat the threat of attacks, the Government is mobilizing all resources.  Unfortunately, terrorists are now using improvised explosive devices and targeting civilians, forcing closure of 520 schools and depriving 56,000 students of their right to education.  However, the attacks have strengthened the country’s unity, solidarity and determination to defend its values.  One thing is certain:  no country can fight terrorism on its own, he declared.

Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of United Arab Emirates, took the opportunity to highlight another kind of terrorist threat facing his region, that of the spread of extremist and terrorist groups through the exploitation of modern technology.  The situation is exacerbated by States who establish media outlets that incite hatred.  However, his Government is at the forefront of the fight against such extremism, including participation in the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which is working to build an alliance of Abrahamic religions and world philosophies.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Vivian Balakrishnan, also drew attention to the rise of concerted and targeted cyberattacks.  The international community needed to develop a trusted and open cyberspace that was underpinned by international law.  In July, a health database in his country was subjected to a sophisticated cyberattack.  This occurred despite the fact that in 2017 Singapore was ranked by the International Telecommunications Union as the nation most committed to cybersecurity.  Singapore stood ready to assist the United Nations as it worked to develop rules and norms in this area, he stated.

Also bringing attention to the matter of communications, Edgars Rinkēvičs, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, underlined the importance of the freedom of the press, which he said was vital for peace and for justice.  In that vein, he urged the Government of the Russian Federation to release Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and called upon Myanmar to free Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists incarcerated there.  He also underscored that all nations must adhere to their commitments under international law, particularly with regards to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

There were also announcements of diplomatic breakthroughs and political progress.  Ri Yong Ho, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, highlighted efforts being made towards a new peace on the Korean Peninsula.  Chairman Kim Jong Un had conducted energetic diplomatic activities with the goal of transforming the Peninsula into a land of peace free from nuclear weapons.  Progress has been made both in North-South relations as well as between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States.  “The Korean Peninsula, the hottest spot in the globe, will become the cradle of peace and prosperity,” he stated.

Ezéchiel Nibigira, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Burundi, spoke of his country’s new Constitution, which had been put to a peaceful referendum on 17 May.  In August, a meeting of all political parties culminated in a road map towards free, inclusive and peaceful elections in 2020.  Indeed, the situation in his country has now returned to a sense of normality and is “calm, stable and entirely under control”, he said, noting that this was an assessment that was also shared by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General as well as the Security Council.

Meanwhile, Osman Saleh Mohammed, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, highlighted the recent peace agreement between Ethiopia and his country that ended two decades of war.  “This historic agreement will allow both countries to funnel their resources, potential and positive energy solely towards much-needed development,” he said, noting that the accord has already infused hope and optimism while playing a positive role in fostering regional peace and security. 

Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government and senior ministers of Papua New Guinea, Oman, Algeria, Suriname, San Marino, Philippines, Austria, Bahrain, Brunei, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Czech Republic, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Belize, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Niger, Dominica, Congo and Grenada.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were the representatives of Qatar, India, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Pakistan.


EDGARS RINKĒVIČS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, said that the end of the First World War marked the birth of a new Europe which promised self‑determination, democracy and prosperity for its citizens with the establishment of the League of Nations.  However, the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Latvia and much of the European continent is a harsh reminder of what happens when serious violations of international law are tolerated.  The Russian Federation, the official successor of the Soviet Union, still does not acknowledge well‑documented facts of history.  He called on that country to embrace the truth and clearly condemn the actions of the Soviet Union, adding that the protection of human rights was essential to Latvia’s transition to a democratic society.

The United Nations must be capable of defending human rights in any situation, be it the bombing of civilians in Syria or the persecution of Crimean Tatars by the Russian authorities, he continued.  Security and human rights go hand in hand.  A free press is vital for peace and justice and he urged the Russian Federation to release illegally detained Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who is entering day 139 of his hunger strike today.  He also called on Myanmar authorities to free the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo.  All nations must adhere to their commitments under international law and human rights, especially regarding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which have deteriorated notably during the past year.

He voiced his support for the reform process initiated by the Secretary‑General in the areas of peace and security, development and management and for those reforms to be implemented swiftly.  “This is a unique organization with a heavy responsibility,” he emphasized, observing that Security Council reform is long overdue.  However, that stalemate should not impede progress elsewhere.  The Human Rights Council must be strong, effective and capable of reacting quickly to serious human rights violations in any part of the world.  Latvia is engaged in the process of improving the effectiveness of that Council, he said, adding that a prevention‑focused United Nations is even more important given that conflicts and crises not prevented tend to drag on for years and decades.

No nation was ever secure in isolation, he pointed out, stressing that Member States have a responsibility for one another’s security.  Further, at the beginning of the twentieth century, combatants accounted for 90 per cent of conflict‑related casualties.  Today, 90 per cent of the casualties are civilians.  Calling on all States to become parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, he underscored that the future of multilateralism will depend more on changes in the attitudes of Member States than on reforms of the Organization’s system.  “We should admit the United Nations for what it is.  It is not perfect,” he said.  Nonetheless, it still remains a very necessary instrument for maintenance of peace, economic development and codification of international laws.

RIMBINK PATO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Papua New Guinea, said his country was set to host the Asia‑Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum and emerge onto the global stage like never before.  As the largest Pacific island economy, Papua New Guinea, with its rich natural resources, is joining other countries in the region to protect the ocean.  The Forum seeks to promote prosperity through trade, protect the environment, foster inclusive policymaking and defend gender equality.  Further, international trade is an important engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty eradication, he said, calling for respect of the rules‑based multilateral trade system.

Marking the forty‑third anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s independence, he said efforts continue to consolidate economic and structural reforms; the country’s economic outlook is positive.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a solid pathway towards improved livelihoods.  His Government recognizes the importance of putting in place the building blocks needed to enable inclusive and participatory development.  Creating employment opportunities is essential to addressing the needs of the country’s youth.  In addition, one of the greatest challenges facing the country is ensuring women and girls enjoy full equality.  To that end, legislation is in place to combat gender‑based violence.

Guided by the Paris Agreement, regional leaders are reaffirming their strong commitment to work together to combat the adverse effects of climate change, he continued.  Papua New Guinea recently experienced a tragic and unprecedented earthquake which killed nearly 200 people and displaced 600,000.  The event destroyed vital infrastructure and resulted in an economic slowdown, he noted, thanking international partners who have provided assistance and are helping revamp disaster response plans.  He also welcomed efforts to replenish climate finance in the Green Climate Fund, stressing that improved access to financing is especially important for small island developing States.

Papua New Guinea remains committed to the 2019 referendum in the autonomous region of Bougainville as outlined in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.  His Government welcomes the easing of tensions in the Korean peninsula and commends efforts to encourage peaceful dialogue.  Providing an update of the status of refugees and migrants on Manus Island, he said the Island’s migrant processing centre officially closed last year and efforts are under way to resettle qualified asylum seekers.  Efforts are also under way to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in the country’s territorial waters.  The Pacific Islands Forum is working to secure the region’s maritime borders and eliminate marine litter.  He urged the international community to engage with Pacific island States according to accepted international norms so the region can be characterized by stability and security.

YOUSUF BIN ALAWI BIN ABDALLAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Oman, said that the work of the United Nations must focus on settling international disputes and achieving peace.  Underscoring that dialogue and negotiations are the most convenient means for resolving differences, he stressed that his country will spare no effort to support the initiatives that will spread peace and stability in the Middle East and the world.

Peace is a central building block for development, and the Palestinian question is the central problem for the Middle East, he went on to say.  The cooperation of the international community in creating a conducive environment to help the parties involved resolve the conflict is a matter of strategic urgency.  Despite the stalemate in the process, it is important to create favourable conditions for the two parties to reach a settlement based on the two‑State solution.  If the Palestinian State is not established there will be no end to the cycle of violence.  He called on the countries of the world, particularly the United States, to consider the future of this cause.

The suffering of Yemen is due to the collapse of the infrastructure including health, education and other crucial services that affect the day‑to‑day life of citizens, he continued. The international community must double its efforts to help that country, he said, welcoming efforts by the United Nations and the countries of the Arab coalition to establish a humanitarian medical airlift for patients with critical conditions to receive proper medical treatment under the auspices of the United Nations.  He also voiced support for the efforts of the Special Envoy to Yemen.  The political solution should take into account the reality in Yemen and all parties should be given a chance to fulfil a prosperous future for their country.

He lauded the efforts of the Special Envoy to Syria to help parties build on efforts to stop the war and reach a reconciliation that ends the conflict.  He also welcomed the positive developments in the African horn region and the understanding reached by States in the region and expressed support for the efforts of the Ethiopian Prime Minister and the pivotal role played by his country that contribute to achieving stability in the African Horn.  He renewed his country’s call to all countries of the world to adhere to the principles of the United Nations Charter and to resolve differences through peaceful means.

SUSHMA SWARAJ, Minister for External Affairs of India, highlighted how her country has initiated unprecedented economic and social transformations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  India has implemented the world’s largest financial inclusion, health insurance and housing schemes — which will benefit millions — as well as entrepreneurship and skill development programmes.  These initiatives have at their core the welfare of women, she stressed, adding that, whereas some developed nations with big economies only offer six weeks of paid leave, women will get twenty‑six weeks under a new national scheme.

Underdeveloped and developing nations are the worst victims of climate change, she continued, underscoring that “those who have exploited nature for their immediate needs cannot abdicate their responsibilities”.  Developed nations must lift the deprived with financial and technical resources.  The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities was reiterated in the 2015 Paris Agreement.  India has risen to the challenge, notably by launching the International Solar Alliance in partnership with France.  The Alliance is now comprised of 68 members.

Terrorism, which represents the second existential threat to humanity, is bred across India’s border to the west, she said, adding:  “Our neighbour’s expertise is not restricted to spawning grounds for terrorism; it is also an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity.”  The fact that Osama bin Laden, the architect of the 11 September 2001 attacks, was given safe haven in Pakistan is evidence of this.  Challenging the idea that India is sabotaging peace talks, she said that such talks had begun many times and that if they stopped, it was only because of Pakistan’s behaviour.  Her country accepted Pakistan’s proposal of a meeting between the two countries’ Foreign Ministers in New York.  But, soon after, terrorists killed three of her country’s jawans [junior soldiers], she recalled, questioning the idea that this could indicate a desire for dialogue.  Further, Pakistan accuses India of violating human rights.  Yet, “those who take innocent lives in pursuit of war by other means are defenders of inhuman behaviour, not of human rights”, she said.

She reaffirmed the need to bring terrorists to accountability through international law and, underscoring that India proposed a draft document on the comprehensive convention on international terrorism at the United Nations in 1996, she called on the General Assembly to come to an agreement on this accord.  The League of Nations went into meltdown because it was unwilling to accept the need for reform.  The United Nations must not make that mistake, she said, urging those present to “change the institution’s head and heart to make both compatible to contemporary reality”.

WALID AL-MOUALEM, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, said it has been more than seven years since the beginning of the dirty war against Syria.  His country remains committed to fighting until all terrorist groups, as well as any illegal foreign presence, are purged from Syrian territories.  Certain States have denied Syria its right, under international law, and its national duty to combat terrorism and protect its people within its own borders.  At the same time, these Governments formed an illegitimate international coalition, led by the United States, on the pretext of combating terrorism.  The so‑called coalition has done everything except fight terrorism.  It has become clear that the coalition’s goals are in perfect alignment with the terrorist groups, providing direct military support to terrorists on multiple occasions as they fought the Syrian army.

The situation today is more stable and secure thanks to progress made, he noted.  The Government continues to rehabilitate the areas destroyed by terrorists to restore normalcy.  Conditions are now present for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees.  Thanks to the Russian Federation, the Syrian Government will spare no effort to facilitate the return of those refugees and meet their basic needs.  A special committee was recently established to coordinate the return of refugees to Syria and help them regain their lives.  Syria has called on the international community and humanitarian organizations to facilitate these returns.  However, some western countries continue to prevent the return of refugees.  They are spreading irrational fears among refugees and are politicizing what should be a purely humanitarian issue.

As Syria moves ahead on counter‑terrorism, reconstruction and the return of refugees, it remains committed to the political process without compromising its national principles, he continued.  These include preserving the sovereignty, independence and territorial unity of Syria, protecting the exclusive rights of Syrians to determine the future of their country without external interference, and eradicating terrorism from the country.  His Government has engaged positively in the Geneva talks, Astana process and the Syrian national dialogue in Sochi.  However, it has always been the other parties that rejected dialogue and resorted to terrorism and foreign interference to achieve their goals.  Local reconciliation is also under way with agreements aimed at helping to restore stability and a normal life to these areas and allow people to return to the homes they were forced to leave because of terrorism.

He went on to say that Syria completely eliminated its chemical program and fulfilled its commitments as a member of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), as confirmed by numerous OPCW reports.  Furthermore, Syria has always cooperated with OPCW to the largest extent possible.  Unfortunately, every time his Government expresses its readiness to receive objective and professional teams to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons, certain countries block such efforts; they know that the conclusions of the investigations would not satisfy their ill intentions against Syria.  These countries have ready‑made accusations and scenarios to justify their aggression.  Such was the case when the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched a wanton aggression on Syria in April, claiming, without evidence, that chemical weapons had been used.

He also said that the terrorist organization known as the “White Helmets” — created by British intelligence under a humanitarian cover — was the main tool used to mislead public opinion and fabricate accusations on the use of chemical weapons.  This organization is part of the Al‑Qaida‑affiliated Nusrah Front.  Despite all allegations, Syria remains committed to liberating all its territory without concern for the black banners of terrorists or the theatrics of the White Helmets.  Meanwhile, the Turkish regime continues to support terrorists in Syria.  It has trained and armed terrorists, turning Turkey into a hub and a corridor for terrorists on their way to Syria.  Israel continues to occupy a part of land in the Syrian Golan and Syrian people there continue to suffer because of its oppressive and aggressive policies.  Israel even supported terrorist groups operating in southern Syria.  He also strongly condemned the decision of the United States Administration to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, which proves once again the United States’ disregard for international treaties and conventions.

RI YONG HO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that peace and development, which is being threatened around the world, is also being newly created on the Korean Peninsula.  In April this year, Comrade Kim Jong Un, Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of his country, put forward a new strategy concentrating all efforts on the socialist economic reconstruction.  Because his country has sufficiently consolidated national defence capabilities, the Government is turning to economic construction and that requires a peaceful environment.  Comrade Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted energetic summit‑level diplomatic activities with a firm determination to turn the Korean Peninsula into a land of peace free from both nuclear weapons and threats, thus making an important breakthrough in improving North‑South relations and relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States.

The key to consolidating peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is to thoroughly implement the Joint Statement adopted in June at the historic summit in Singapore, he stressed.  That Statement contains all issues regarding solutions such as terminating the decades‑long hostility between the two countries and establishing new relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States aimed at building a solid peace regime on the Peninsula while realizing its complete denuclearization.  Once it is implemented, and concerted efforts are made by all stakeholders at bringing down the barriers of mistrust and rebuilding trust, the current trend towards détente will turn into durable peace.  “The Korean Peninsula, the hottest spot in the globe, will become the cradle of peace and prosperity,” he stated.

Even before that summit, his Government took significant goodwill measures such as stopping nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, dismantling the nuclear test site in a transparent manner and affirming not to transfer nuclear weapons and technology under any circumstances, he continued.  “However, we do not see any corresponding response from the United States,” he said, noting its insistence on denuclearization‑first, as well as its increases to the level of pressure by sanctions.  “The perception that sanctions can bring us to our knees is a pipe dream,” he said, adding that the recent deadlock is because the United States relies on coercive methods that are lethal to trust‑building.

In less than five months, the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea met three times and through their meetings and talks, they have been building trust in each other, he pointed out.  The dialogues in many areas, including politics, military, humanitarian work and sports are very active, and the atmosphere of reconciliation has been high like never before.  If the party to the denuclearization issue had been the Republic of Korea and not the United States, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would not have come to such a deadlock.  The United States, which possessed nuclear weapons before his country did, is the only country that used them in war.  “We did not even throw a pebble stone at the United States soil during the Korean War,” he said, but the United States threatened to drop atomic bombs in his country and kept bringing in strategic nuclear arsenals to its doorstep.  At this critical juncture, he added, the United States should make a foresighted judgement that implementing the commitment made in Singapore will be in its best national interests.

Turning to his Government’s new policy line of concentrating all efforts on economic construction, he called it the right political choice, not only in improving people’s lives in the country but also in realizing the common desire of people around the world for peace.  Calling on the international community to support his country, he added that the United Nations has a role to play in the implementation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea‑United States Joint Statement.  The Security Council that was once so eager to express “concern” about the tense situation in the Korean Peninsula now keeps silent about the precious momentum for peace there.  Worse still, the Council is rejecting the proposal by some of its member States to issue a presidential statement that welcomes the summit and the Statement, he said, calling on the United Nations to support developments that are helpful in ensuring international peace.

ABDELKADER MESSAHEL, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said global concerns with regard to nuclear weapons have never been so great since the cold war.  Climate change is developing faster than the international community can respond and inequality is increasing.  Nationalism and xenophobia are getting worse.  The seriousness of these challenges is heightened by a financial crisis that is still present.  This is even more alarming because of the emergence of unilateralism and protectionist desires.  The international community cannot content itself with the perpetuation of the global order which no longer promotes universal values of peace and development.  Rather than contributing to improving the lives of people, financial resources are being concentrated in the hands of the few.  A genuine global moral crisis is being faced.  The theme for the seventy‑third session is particularly appropriate.  Today, the United Nations must find a way to enable it to play the role that its founders assigned it.

The United Nations remains the forum for dialogue among all nations, but it must also provide the changes that are necessary to bring this about, he said.  The reform of the United Nations itself is imperative and it must relate to the structures as well as the functioning of the Organization, particularly the Security Council and repairing the injustice done to the African continent in terms of representation in the two categories of members for the Council.  The reform must also take into account the General Assembly and the strengthening of its authority.  There is an ever greater consensus around this issue.

With regard to the Western Sahara, he said that resolving the issue cannot be done other than through the exercise of self‑determination by the people there.  His Government supports the work of the Secretary‑General and the Special Envoy and he hopes that their action will contribute to the resumption of unconditional negotiations between Morocco and the Polisario Front to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

Algeria was the first target of terrorism at the turn of the last century, he noted.  Now that threat has become a global scourge.  Algeria’s experience, which his country is prepared to share, is based on the belief that any strategy to combat terrorism must address its root causes and must be accompanied by a fight against radicalization and violent extremism.

YLDIZ POLLACK-BEIGLE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Suriname, said a rules‑based world order with the United Nations at its centre is needed to address global concerns.  Noting that the mitigation of climate change requires the mobilization of funds, she pointed out that Suriname is among the most threatened countries that are directly impacted by the rise of sea levels.  Approximately 80 per cent of its population resides in the coastal area, where its main productive activities are also concentrated.  The forces of nature which recently struck again in the Caribbean and elsewhere are evidence the international community must move beyond the rhetoric and take immediate action.

As a commodity‑based export economy, Suriname is facing economic challenges, she noted.  The downturn in gold and oil prices three years ago and the closure of the century‑old bauxite operations in 2016 have caused the economy to contract.  The Government lost a third of its fiscal revenue.  It put in place significant reforms that have borne fruit, but the country still faces obstacles that are unjustifiable, notably its classification as a middle‑income country.  This classification based on gross domestic product (GDP) per capita does not reflect her country’s vulnerabilities.  “We strongly reject this unrealistic classification which disregards the full set of challenges that we face,” she stated.  Underlining that access to concessional financing is critical, she said an atmosphere of trust and political will is crucial to address all matters of concern through dialogue.

Suriname contributes significantly to the mitigation of the effects of climate change through its high forest cover and low deforestation rate, she pointed out.  Yet, global commitments based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities have yet to be materialized.  What is more, Suriname does not fully benefit from global arrangements associated with sound forest management even though it stores 18 per cent of tropical forest carbon.  In that context, her country will host a high‑level conference on climate finance mobilization in February 2019, aiming to initiate and implement new models of eco‑sustainability to improve the quality of life for all.

Due to its open borders, Suriname is strengthening its cooperation with adjacent and other countries to effectively combat transnational organized crime and its consequences, she continued.  International cooperation has been solicited to protect her country’s unique biodiversity that is threatened by poaching and the illegal trade in endangered species.  Regarding trade, she said it is reprehensible that economically powerful countries resort to unilateral sanctions when they encounter ideological, political or trade differences, and voiced disapproval for the continuation of the financial and commercial embargo against Cuba and its people.  Reaffirming that multilateralism remains essential, she stressed the need to make the United Nations more relevant by making it more democratic, transparent and accountable.

VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, noting that multilateralism is at a crossroad, acknowledged that sometimes, it has been oversold as a panacea.  Nonetheless, in this perilous period of transition for the international community, he emphasized that “we cannot abandon the rules‑based world order that has brought about unprecedented peace and prosperity for seventy years”.  Compliance with agreed rules is not only essential for global stability and the governing of the global commons, but also for the survival of small States such as his.  Globalization has not benefited everyone equally and pockets of poverty and hunger continue to persist around the world.  Further, frictions between the United States and China have raised the spectre of a trade war.  The negative impacts of protectionism will ripple through the global supply chain and undermine growth, he cautioned.

Noting the urgent need to promote the adoption of rules and norms in cyberspace, he urged the international community to develop a trusted and open cyberspace underpinned by international law.  The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) had ranked Singapore as the country most committed to cybersecurity in its 2017 Global Cybersecurity Index; yet in July, one of Singapore’s health databases was subject to a deliberate, targeted and sophisticated cyberattack.  His country was ready to contribute to the Organization’s work in developing norms and rules on cybersecurity, and especially supported the reconvening of the United Nations Group of Government Experts and the continuation of its work.

Turning to regional cooperation, he added that as Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Singapore will continue to work with partners to ensure that the regional architecture remains open, inclusive and rules‑based.  Member States of that regional group are committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes through a multilateral process.  Expressing concern about the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar and condemning all human rights violations, he noted that the crisis is complex and deeply rooted and will not be resolved overnight.  The Independent Commission of Enquiry established by that country’s Government must carry out impartial investigations.  In addition, the voluntary return of displaced persons to Myanmar in a safe, secure and dignified way should commence without delay, he urged.

Turning to the developments on the Korean Peninsula, he noted his country’s small contribution towards easing tension by hosting the summit between the United States’ and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s leaders in June.  The Summit, as well as the three inter‑Korean dialogues held this year are important steps towards lasting peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.  As members of the United Nations, he concluded, all States have a responsibility to work together to improve and adapt the multilateral system built painstakingly over the last seven decades.  “We owe it to our people, to find solutions and to build consensus,” he underscored.

NICOLA RENZI, Minister for Foreign and Political Affairs of San Marino, said global developments are putting multilateralism at risk at a time when Member States must work together to adopt common and coordinated policies.  San Marino believes that the United Nations — with its deeply democratic nature, its universal participation and its undisputed legitimacy — must increase its leadership role in managing global governance.  He reiterated his country’s support for the Secretary‑General’s reforms, saying they will strengthen the Organization’s ability to produce more concrete results.

The Security Council’s inability to intervene in Syria and other conflict areas has undermined the United Nations’ credibility, he said, reiterating San Marino’s position that permanent members not use their power of veto in decisions involving genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Emphasizing the relationship between peace and development, he said there remain strong inequalities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, within and between countries.  The principle of leaving no one behind requires specific measures to support those living in vulnerable situations.

He emphasized the need for children to grow up free of all forms of abuse and exploitation, as well as the importance of respecting international humanitarian law and human rights law in conflict situations.  Gender equality must be translated into equality in educational opportunities, particularly in scientific areas.  He added that San Marino is contributing at the international level to efforts aimed at combating the increasingly dangerous phenomenon of fake news, which is deceptive, uncontrolled and liable to incite hatred and to nurture prejudice.

As well, persons with disabilities and the elderly must be guaranteed full participation in social, economic and cultural life, he continued.  Climate change is a global problem that needs globally coordinated solutions, including more international cooperation to help developing countries move towards a low‑emission economy.  He added that implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration — “a clear example of what multilateralism can do” — will bring greater security, order and economic progress to the benefit of all.

ALAN PETER S. CAYETANO, Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said that beginning in childhood everyone is told stories that inspire a spirit of idealism that can change the world, the same idealism people feel as they enter the United Nations.  Unfortunately, among some, idealism becomes the victim of pragmatism, morphing further into a lack of desire to try new solutions for existing problems and an unwillingness to solve problems by consensus.  Approaches that simply repeat what has already been done plague many at the United Nations.

Tools like the Internet and social media allow for real time communication, he continued.  All people on Earth are now neighbours, members of the global community.  Therefore, efforts are needed to promote commonalities that define all people as global citizens, as people of the United Nations.  He stressed there are many problems that can only be solved by a united global community.  Issues ranging from climate change to terrorism call for international unity and for pragmatic idealism that instils hope.

Migration is a reality, he asserted, urging all to “love thy neighbour”.  Those issues must be discussed openly, frankly and thoroughly and the Global Compact on Migration is a huge step in the right direction, he said, thanking all parties that contributed to its formulation.  Migrants inspired global leaders to create the first intergovernmentally negotiated compact on the matter.  Under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, the country is uncompromisingly working to promote the rule of law and to foster a just and equitable society that protects human rights.  As a sovereign and democratic State, Philippines is preventing its deterioration into a narco‑State.

Hunger for change, peace and law and order is genuine, he asserted, adding that economic reform is under way to ensure poverty does not force Filipinos to seek employment abroad.  The Government is instituting reforms in order to protect every single citizen.  When forced to choose between protecting the rights of law‑abiding Filipinos or the rights of drug lords and criminals, the Philippines will always defend the former.  The United Nations is a venue of great opportunity as long as States can transcend national interests for the good of the global community.  Making the United Nations relevant to all is a dream worth fighting for.

KARIN KNEISSL, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, speaking in Arabic, French, Spanish and English, described multilateralism as a sophisticated form of diplomacy.  She warned against favouring fine statements over action, losing contact with reality and losing the meaning of an exchange of views.  All too often, multilateralism fades into a flurry of meetings that some rich diplomats turn into a comfortable game, with hackneyed arguments about conflict zones where people are just trying to survive.  That is why Austria, with other countries, will contribute to mine clearance in Syria and increase its humanitarian commitment to Yemen.  Condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria and elsewhere, and rejecting biological weapons, she said there is no reason not to categorially ban the production and use of chemical weapons.

Noting the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which has suffered from inadequate implementation, she said disarmament treaties are not a moral matter, but a legal issue.  Genuine progress must be made on the path to nuclear disarmament, with ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear‑Test‑Ban Treaty being of paramount importance.  Describing her country as a steadfast supporter of the International Criminal Court, she welcomed the extension of the crime of aggression to its jurisdiction but regretted that its work is undermined by non‑surrender agreements.

Noting that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was negotiated in Vienna, she said its preservation is a matter of respecting international agreements and, in the end, a matter of international security.  Mutual trust is weakened if one of its parties walks away from it unilaterally.  Emphasizing Austria’s focus on the women, peace and security agenda, the political and economic empowerment of women and the fight against gender‑based violence, she said multilateralism has failed millions of women around the world.  The international community must stand up against female genital mutilation.

Turning to the Middle East, she said the collapse of the Ottoman Empire created a new map of the region based on pipelines, with recent wars fought in the name of oil.  Syria is the victim of instability created by those wars, she said, emphasizing that it is time for courageous steps towards a diplomatic solution.  In that regard, she encouraged decision‑makers from Washington to Moscow, via Tehran, Jerusalem, Ankara and Damascus, to seize the momentum, for which there is no alternative.

SHAIKH KHALID BIN AHMED AL-KHALIFA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, said his country, keen to implement programmes, plans to keep up with international efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and raise the standards of living for its citizens.  His country has succeeded in mitigating the impact of economic challenges, allowing it to become one of the fastest‑growing economies in the region.  Further, Bahrain’s election to the Committee on Non‑Governmental Organizations for 2019‑2022 reflects international appreciation for its policies that consolidate rights and liberties and contribute to the advancement of the objectives and purposes of the United Nations.  In addition, his country has put forward its candidacy to become a member of the Human Rights Council for 2019‑2021.

Achieving lasting peace, security and sustainable development in the countries of his region is a collective responsibility, he stressed.  However, the Iranian regime aspires to impose its hegemony on the region by “packaging and exporting its miserable revolution under which the Iranian people suffer from tyranny, oppression and injustice”, he stated.  The extremist ideology it disseminates is threatening the ambitions and aspirations of people who have coexisted for many centuries.  In addition, at a time where it is imperative to establish common mechanisms for collective security, Qatar is another impediment threatening security and stability in the region through its dangerous tendency to spread and feed terrorism.  He expressed hope that it will respond to the conditions put forth by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt — conditions consistent with international law, and the principles of good neighbourliness, mutual respect, and respect for the sovereignty and independence of States.

He welcomed the United States’ efforts in that regard, notably their cooperation to create the Middle East Strategic Alliance and their strategy vis‑à‑vis the Iranian regime.  Iran must end its occupation of the United Arab Emirates islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa and must seriously respond to the Emiratis’ efforts to restore their sovereignty on their territory.  Iran should also seek resolution of this issue through the International Court of Justice.  Regarding the situation in Palestine, he said “Jerusalem must remain, as it has always been, the historic symbol of coexistence and harmony among religions”, emphasizing the importance of the commitment not to alter the legal status of East Jerusalem.  The international community must act to put an end to all Israeli measures concerning the inhabitants of Jerusalem, sacred sites, and places of worship.

He expressed hope that Iraq will resume its leading role in its Arab, regional and international environment.  It is necessary that regional interference in Iraqi internal affairs, particularly that of Iran, come to an end.  He reiterated support for all efforts towards the reconstruction of the State and the unification of the military in Libya.  This would enable the army to protect the country and confront terrorism while preserving its unity and territorial integrity.  In addition, he stressed that his country stands by Morocco against the flagrant Iranian plotting and interference in its internal affairs.  It also supports Morocco’s serious and credible efforts to reach a solution regarding the Moroccan Sahara, based on the Moroccan initiative of autonomy and relevant Security Council resolutions, he added.

EZÉCHIEL NIBIGIRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Burundi, drew attention to his country’s new Constitution — which was put to a peaceful referendum on 17 May — and its President’s pledge to complete his second mandate in 2020 and support his elected successor.  Contrary to what others have stated about the President trying to hold power until 2034, his promise to stand down sets a praiseworthy example.  At the same time, a spirit of tolerance and transparency, as well as the openness of the political space, has seen the return of both refugees and exiled political leaders to Burundi as well as the release of more than 2,000 prisoners at the start of the year.

He reviewed the progress being made in the ongoing inter‑Burundian dialogue, saying that those asking the country to promote dialogue are pushing on an open door.  In August, a meeting of all political parties culminated in a road map towards free, inclusive and peaceful elections in 2020.  A national independent electoral commission has been set up and, this month, the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania and facilitator of the inter‑Burundian dialogue sent a team to consult with all stakeholders ahead of a fifth and final round of talks.

On the security front, he emphasized that, apart from a few instances of crime, the situation in Burundi is calm, stable and entirely under control — an assessment shared by the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General as well as the Security Council through its press statement of 22 August.  The return to normality enabled Burundi to organize the Constitutional referendum as well as host several conferences and visits by eminent persons.  He called on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to intervene with those countries putting up obstacles to the return of Burundian refugees.

He went on to say that Burundi stands ready to work with the United Nations and other nations to promote human rights based on mutually respectful cooperation.  Those who want to turn the Human Rights Council into a political tool risk compromising the goals set out by Member States when that Council was created, he said, adding that the withdrawal of some countries should be viewed as a disavowal of the way it is being used by a minority of States.  Noting the participation of Burundian troops in United Nations peacekeeping operations, he said Burundi is far from being a threat to international peace and security and called on the Security Council to have the courage to remove it from its agenda.  Burundi’s rightful place is not in the Council agenda, but with those United Nations agencies tasked with social and economic development, he said.

ERYWAN PEHIN YUSOF, Second Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam, noting the increasing geopolitical and geo‑economic uncertainty, said that for a small country like his, such unpredictability can be daunting.  It is crucial that the international community commit to an effective multilateralism that addresses global challenges, he said, adding that sustainable development depends on the consistency and stability underpinned by adherence to international obligations and the rule of law.

Reaffirming his country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda, he called on all countries to adopt legislations that are suitable to their own national circumstances.  Many developing countries face the challenge of uneven growth prospects amidst many risks including the volatility of energy prices.  Brunei Darussalam is no exception to this, he said, noting that the country is concentrating on diversifying its economy.  Underlying these efforts is a commitment to free trade and rules‑based multilateral trading system.  The country’s participation in various platforms such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and ASEAN exemplifies this.

However, he cautioned, efforts in increasing economic growth should be aligned with shared responsibilities in ensuring a safe and healthy environment.  As climate change poses a serious threat, the Paris Agreement remains the international community’s greatest hope in addressing it.  Turning to peacekeeping, he expressed appreciation for the Secretary‑General’s efforts in strengthening peacekeeping operations through the Action for Peacekeeping initiative.  This will enhance the global support for missions, he said, applauding the selfless work and sacrifice of peacekeepers.

Regarding “the unresolved question of Palestine”, he expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and condemned all actions that blatantly violate their rights and dignity.  Voicing alarm about the developments in Jerusalem, and the continued violence in Occupied Palestinian Territory, he called on all Member States to work together to realize the vision of a two‑State solution.

MAKHDOOM SHAH MAHMOOD QURESHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, noting his country’s elections two months ago, said the people had voted for reform, opting for a compassionate, peaceful and principled Pakistan.  The Government is keen to pursue a policy of partnerships for peace and prosperity in its immediate neighbourhood and beyond.  A peaceful environment is necessary to promote the country’s development agenda, both at the national level and in the region.  Under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, integrated policies and programmes have begun shaping a new Pakistan.

Observing that forces of protectionism, populism and isolationism are gaining currency, he said that intolerance is ascendant over acceptance, rhetoric over reason and power over principle.  “Where the world needs bridges, we see fortifications,” he said, and “where it needs highways, we see blockades”.  New forms of imperialism are emerging and multilateralism is retreating.  The dark clouds of trade wars are looming larger on the horizon even as the challenges of climate change, environmental degradation, pandemics and transnational organized crime become more complex.

Pakistan desires a relationship with India that is based on sovereign equality and mutual respect, he stated.  Recalling that the two countries were to meet on the sidelines of the General Assembly to talk, he said that India called off dialogue for the third time.  “They preferred politics over peace,” he said, adding that for 70 years, the people of occupied Jammu and Kashmir have struggled for their rights to self‑determination in the face of oppression by the Indian occupation forces.  There can be no lasting peace in South Asia without a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute, based on Security Council resolutions and the will of the Kashmiri people, he stressed.  The recently released report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) chronicles massive ongoing violations of human rights in Indian‑occupied Kashmir.

Turning to Afghanistan, he stressed that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan.  Pakistan will continue to support an Afghan-owned and Afghan‑led process of peace and reconciliation.  That country’s security has a direct spillover impact on Pakistan’s security.  For the past 17 years, Pakistan has been combating terrorism, and with the deployment of 200,000 troops, it has conducted the largest and most effective counter‑terrorism campaign in the world.  Further, Pakistan continues to face terrorism that is financed, facilitated and orchestrated by its eastern neighbour.  India, in plain sight of the international community, perpetrates State‑sponsored terrorism, he said, expressing hope for a new consensus on peace and security and development.

DENIS MOSES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, said María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés’ presidency of the General Assembly is an impetus for global rethinking and acceptance of female leadership.  Further, this year’s Assembly debate compels States to reflect on the nexus between the United Nations reform agenda and the shared pursuit of a sustainable future.  With the push towards cost-saving reform, the Organization must not lose sight of its foundational principles.  Recognizing the need to serve all people, his country developed the “Vision 2030” national development strategy, as it is imperative to ensure equal opportunities are available to the most vulnerable members of society.

Small island developing States are disproportionately affected by external shocks, he underscored, adding that the Samoa Pathway is an essential component in the development frameworks of those States.  As part of efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda, regional partners are taking action to address the threat of non-communicable diseases.  Climate change is the most pressing challenge of the time and casting doubt on its scientific truth delays urgent action needed to confront the existential threat.  His Government is formalizing its commitment to the Paris Agreement, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent by the year 2030 and supporting international efforts to tackle shared environmental challenges.

The labelling of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries as “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions” severely destabilizes the region’s financial sector, he warned, noting that the label stymies the region’s engagement in the global financial system.  The United Nations recognizes the link between peace and development and persistent conflicts around the world are reminders of the need to promote a positive, dynamic and participatory international peace and security architecture.  Illicit arms trading and transnational organized crime affect the social and economic fabric of the Caribbean, he said, noting his country’s subscription to the object and purpose of the Arms Trade Treaty.

International peace and security must be supported by a robust international legal system and Trinidad and Tobago remains a fervent supporter of the International Criminal Court, he said.  The Court’s jurisdiction is only invoked when States are unable or unwilling to prosecute those accused of the most serious crimes.  Efforts to strengthen multilateral peace and security will fall short unless there is real and significant reform of the Security Council so that body is able to address the challenges faced by small island developing States.  The unifying power of dialogue is on full display in the Korean peninsula, he said, while voicing concern over the ongoing embargo against Cuba.  More so, facing global challenges calls for deep partnerships, meaningful dialogue and an appropriate view of established mechanisms and institutions, he stressed.

ABDULLAH BIN ZAYED AL NAHYAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of United Arab Emirates, said the international order is being characterized by major changes, most notably the rise of armed terrorist groups, some of which have the support of rogue States.  The United Arab Emirates must be more active in maintaining regional security through stronger partnerships.  The Government has a comprehensive approach to regional security that addresses the different dimensions of threats.  Key among those threats is interference in the affairs of the Arab world, where countries like Iran seek to undermine security efforts by spreading chaos, violence and sectarianism.  The United Arab Emirates joined the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen to put an end to the Houthi coup and to address Iran’s nefarious interference and pointed to the differences between illegitimate Houthi armed groups and the legitimate Government of Yemen.

Despite efforts to restore stability to Yemen, Houthi intransigence regarding peace initiatives has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country, he said.  In response, the Coalition launched military operations to liberate Hodeida from the grip of Houthis and to achieve a strategic shift that enhances the prospects of a political solution to the crisis.  Operations in Hodeida bear in mind the work of relief organizations, he assured.  The United Arab Emirates is also making progress in the fight against Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.  Concerns over Iran’s intentions are reflected in the decision of the United States to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with that country and re-impose sanctions.  Iran has not ceased its aggressive behaviour in the region and has not abandoned initiatives to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The second major challenge facing the region is the spread of extremist and terrorist groups and their exploitation of modern technology, he said.  The situation is exacerbated by States who establish media outlets that incite hatred, he stressed, stating that his Government is at the forefront of the fight against extremism.  These efforts include participation in the G-5 Sahel Joint Forces as part of efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism wherever it exists, he said, adding that the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies is working to build an alliance of Abrahamic religions and world philosophies.  Policies to counter supporters of extremism make no distinction between a group or a State, he said, noting that alongside close allies his Government has taken sovereign measures towards Qatar.  A third challenge facing the region is the absence of a political solution to the Palestinian issue.  The people of Palestine continue to wait for the international community to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to end their suffering. 

The region also faces a deterioration of economic, social and humanitarian conditions, he said.  At the core of the Government’s foreign policy development efforts is the strengthening of economic opportunities and empowerment of women and youth in conflict-afflicted countries, he said, calling for the protection of Yazidi and Rohingya populations.  He reiterated the vital role of United Nations reform in supporting political processes, strengthening dialogue and building conditions to maintain peace and security, adding that the international community must take a firm and consistent stance towards States that have hostile policies and violate international law.  He reiterated his Government’s demand for its legitimate right to sovereignty over the islands of Great Turb, Lesser Turb and Abu Musa, currently under Iranian occupation.

GURBANGULY BERDIMUHAMEDOV, President of Turkmenistan, said the world was witnessing a proliferation of conflict prone areas and a decrease in trust and mutual understanding of global development.  Under such circumstances, it is vital to ensure long-term security and every State has a responsibility for mankind’s destiny.  The United Nations plays a main, decisive role in preserving the international order.  “The validity of the mission of the United Nations cannot be cast in doubt,” he said, stressing that it is the only universal international organization designed to ensure multilateral cooperation aimed at strengthening international security and sustainable development.  Proposing that 2019 be declared “A Year of Peace and Trust”, he said the initiative envisions specific steps on reducing tensions, peacefully resolving political disputes and adopting appropriate decisions.

The fight against terrorism is the most important issue on the Central Asian agenda, he stressed, noting that cooperation on disarmament, the fight against drug trafficking and economic support for Afghanistan were equally vital for ensuring security and sustainable development.  Afghanistan should be a full-fledged partner in the implementation of energy, transport and communication projects, he said, as a strategy for guiding that country’s role in regional and global processes and guaranteeing the prosperity and well-being of the Afghan people.  Turkmenistan is constructing a power supply line and a fibre-optic communications network as part of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas line project.  A new railway towards Afghanistan has also been completed.  Turkmenistan continues to provide humanitarian support to Afghanistan, including by building social facilities, sending aid convoys, and training qualified specialists in various economic and social sectors. 

He recalled that Turkmenistan was among the first nations to adapt the Sustainable Development Goals into its national plans and social and economic development programmes, establishing a standing cooperation mechanism with the United Nations towards that end.  Such plans and programmes focus on ensuring food security, improving nutrition, promoting healthy lifestyles, ensuring full gender equality and creating the conditions for comprehensive, equitable and high-quality education.  Great attention is also given to ensuring the availability and rational use of water resources and sanitation for all.

Water is the common heritage of all the nations of the planet, he said, stressing: “equal and equitable access to clean drinking water is the fundamental right of human beings.”  Socioeconomic development and quality of life directly depends on access to and effective use of water resources.  Turkmenistan has always maintained that the resolution of water and energy issues in the region should be based on international law, the interests of each country and the active participation of international organizations, primarily the United Nations. 

On saving the Aral Sea, he said it could no longer be considered solely an internal regional problem, but one that requires international assistance and a comprehensive approach.  He called on Member States to support Turkmenistan’s initiative to set up a special United Nations programme for the Aral Sea basin and establish the Aral problem as a separate item for consideration.  The General Assembly resolution on cooperation between the United Nations and International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, adopted by consensus on 18 April, could serve as a good basis.  The signing of the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea on 12 August 2018 will transform the region into a strategic transit, transport and energy hub.  Turkmenistan stands ready to meaningfully discuss project implementation with all interested parties, he said, stressing that investments in these projects is an investment in the future.

JAN HAMACEK, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, said the United Nations purpose — the protection of peace, human rights, justice and social progress — is not a Western instrument, but one that forms universal ideals towards which all Member States should strive together.  Multilateralism is increasingly undermined and questioned, he said, calling on policymakers to realize the difficult structural and political reforms required for the United Nations to promote shared global responsibility and robust international cooperation and regain common values.  In recent years the Security Council has been characterized by blocking tactics rather than cooperation while failing to act on the world’s worst atrocities in ongoing brutal conflicts from Syria to Yemen.  Fully supporting the Secretary-General’s proposed reforms and their budgetary requirements, he said the prevention of conflict is a vital point and Member States should adopt a comprehensive approach to peace and security which treats climate change as a security problem.

The Czech Republic took great pride in holding the one-year presidency of the Economic and Social Council from 2017-2018 and will continue to champion Sustainable Development Goal 16 as a cornerstone of the 2030 Agenda.  The United Nations must seek more synergies between its humanitarian, development and security activities, he said, calling for special focus on post-conflict stabilization with more cooperation among United Nations agencies.  Despite its importance, the human rights pillar of the United Nations is chronically under-funded, he said.  Human rights are deeply rooted in the historical experience of his country, he went on, noting that the Czech Republic is currently running for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2019-2021 term.  He called for Member States to support his country’s candidacy.

Having an embassy in Pyongyang, the Czech Republic has a particular interest in improving the situation on the Korean Peninsula and is following the inter-Korean and United States-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea dialogue closely. Regarding the fight against terrorism, he said it is necessary to conclude the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism and called for an internationally recognized definition of terrorism that will hold perpetrators accountable.

It is not a given that all countries, including those situated in Eastern Europe, have the right to choose their foreign policy orientation without their sovereignty and territorial integrity threatened, he said, calling the annexation of Crimea a violation of international law.  He noted that the use of force is allowed under the United Nations Charter only in self-defence, yet the Organization is the sole guarantor of international peace and security.  Therefore, it is only through collective means that those goals may be achieved, he said.  He reaffirmed his country’s support of the International Criminal Court and supported the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism set up to investigate the most serious crimes in Syria.

SALEUMXAY KOMMASITH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, said his Government has addressed a country-specific need and “gone the extra mile” by adopting a plan to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 18 entitled “Lives Safe from Unexploded Ordnance”.  Noting the increasing intensity of climate change, he stated that extensive flooding was the worst disaster to ever occur in his country’s history, affecting 2,409 of 8,464 villages in 115 of 148 districts.  The precise extent and cost of the loss and damage will only be known after a post-disaster needs assessment is conducted, but the calamity had a major impact on the livelihood of people in affected areas.  With assistance from friendly countries and international organizations, his Government has provided emergency relief with temporary shelters, food and health care.  He expressed heartfelt gratitude for their valuable assistance during this difficult time.

Against this backdrop, he said it was more crucial than ever for world leaders to honour their commitments under the Paris Agreement.  His country highly values the ASEAN-United Nations Joint Strategic Plan of Action on Disaster management in addressing the issue and responding to its impact on socioeconomic development going forward. 

Turning to the scourge of transnational crime, he said the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is committed to working closely with the international community to fight illicit drugs, illegal wildlife trade and human trafficking.  His Government adopted a Drug Control Master Plan, implemented the ASEAN Work Plan on Securing Communities Against Illicit Drugs 2016-2025 and supports the Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem initiated by the President of the United States.  In the fight against human trafficking, the country is party to numerous regional agreements, including the ASEAN Convention against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

Emphasizing the need to maintain peace and security at all costs, he said that settling disputes by pacific means is the best way to ensure sustainable national development.  He welcomed the recent historic summit between the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, also hailing the third summit between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea as an opportunity to improve their bilateral relations and address denuclearization.  Despite those positive developments, he expressed concern over the lack of progress on the Palestinian issue, hoping that it will be resolved peacefully to achieve a two-State solution with Palestine and Israel living in peace and security within internationally recognized borders.  Stating that the enforcement of isolation and sanction measures on any country is a “loss for all”, he said it was time to end the embargo on Cuba and called on the international community to strengthen multilateralism and promote cooperation rather than confrontation.

WILFRED ELRINGTON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belize, noting that the current year marks the thirty-seventh anniversary of the country’s independence, said that Belizeans have now enjoyed almost four uninterrupted decades of freedom, peace and democracy in a sovereign independent nation.  During that period, the country’s leaders succeeded in making modest gains in sustainable development, notwithstanding a poisoned colonial legacy.  Acknowledging the United Nations role in the country’s journey to independence, he remembered Assembly resolution 1514, and subsequent resolutions which mandated the British to grant Belize independence.

However, he said, thirty-seven years hence, Guatemala still maintains a territorial claim to the country.  “Our voting public, in the finest democratic fashion is now seized of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to determine the fate of the country,” he said, noting that his Government has appointed 10 April 2019 as the date for the national referendum.  All registered voters will be entitled to cast their ballots signalling either their consent or rejection to having the Guatemalan claim resolved once and for all by the International Court of Justice.  In preparation, the Government has embarked upon a nationwide public awareness campaign, he informed the Assembly.

Simultaneously with the efforts to end the Guatemalan claim, he went on, the Government continues to promote economic development, job creation, education and health care.  Poverty persists in Belize and current statistics reveal that 43 per cent of Belizeans live below the poverty line.  The Government is targeting the problem with new programmes, including a food pantry and a job readiness course.  Further, the Government is building 35 new schools and offering a high school subsidy grant.  The recently launched Belize Youth Challenge Programme focuses on imparting life skills to youth at risk of involvement in crime.

Noting the range of natural disasters that ravage the Caribbean every year, he said that building resilience is an integral part of the country’s development planning, as evidenced by the National Climate Resilience Investment Plan.  By dint of geography, he noted, Belize is located along the path frequented by criminal elements of every ilk as they journey from the South to the North to traffic their wares.  Tackling transnational crime in Central America requires a truly collaborative approach, he said, expressing gratitude to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for helping implement programmes to address underlying social causes while building the capacity of protective and judicial institutions.

OSMAN MOHAMMED SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, recalled the recent peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia that ended two decades of war, constant tension and strife.  “This historic agreement — even if belated by almost 16 years — will allow both countries to funnel their resources, potential and positive energy solely towards much-needed development,” he said, noting that the agreement has already infused hope and optimism.  He emphasized the accord’s positive dividend for regional peace and security and thanked all parties who contributed to the process.

He said that the sanctions imposed on Eritrea in December 2009 and 2011 respectively were unwarranted and a perplexing injustice.  With “positive winds of peace flowing in the region, he echoed the call of several Security Council members for their immediate lifting.  Some countries are looking for procedural and other pretexts and preconditions apparently aimed at moving the goalpost and maintaining the illegal sanctions on Eritrea.  “As an aggrieved party on the receiving end of the miscarriage of justice, Eritrea cannot and will not plead for clemency or magnanimity,” he said.  “The people and Government of Eritrea will continue to stand up for their rights until justice is ascertained and wrongs meted to them are redressed.”

Calling the transgressions perpetrated against Eritrea symptomatic of hubris and perverse power games governing international relations, he noted that spiralling crises, instability and wars in the world are inevitable consequences of the absence of justice and the attendant outcome of international power imbalance.  The sanctions were due to the imposition of the United States as the principal architect using its unassailable power to advance a misguided regional agenda, the inability of the United Nations system to prevent such wrongs from happening as well as systemic flaws and political horse-trading in the Security Council.  This happened even though previous Ethiopian regimes had flagrantly violated the United Nations Charter and the Algiers Peace Agreement.  He argued that the principal architects of the sanctions resorted to regional Trojan Horses to imbue an “African face” to their resolutions.

The sanctions caused economic damages to the country and unnecessary hardship for its people, he said.  The related smear campaigns and defamation have caused immeasurable damage to Eritrea’s reputation and investment prospects, while the cost and loss of opportunity resulting from regional instability and insecurity — perhaps the greatest damage caused by the sanctions — has been huge.  He underlined the resilience and hard toil of the Eritrean population to advance justice and foster a climate conducive to security and stability amid the unfair sanctions.  “The people of Eritrea have not committed a crime or transgression that impels them to seek clemency,” he reiterated, calling for an immediate rescinding of the sanctions and amends for the damages incurred and opportunities forfeited.

URBINO JOSE GONCALVES BOTELHO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sao Tome and Principe, said the United Nations must manifest itself in fostering dialogue among nations and promoting concerted policies to address the migration crisis.  He appealed to Member States to continue efforts to resolve tensions and conflicts around the world, particularly in the Central African Republic and the humanitarian crisis there.  He saluted Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the upcoming elections in those countries and noted the positive steps towards reconciliation in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and in South Sudan.  He supported the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to relaunch the political process concerning Western Sahara based on the parameters set by the Security Council in 2007 and welcome the adoption of Council resolution 2414 (2018), which calls for a political, pragmatic, realistic and long-lasting solution for the dispute.

He called for the continuation of negotiations in the Middle East and the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba so the embargo on the latter may be lifted.  He regretted terrorist acts around the world and condemned the acts of Boko Haram in Nigeria, which undermined the development and security of the entire Gulf of Guinea.  He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to collaborate with regional and international partners to eradicate terrorism. 

Turning to climate change, he said global efforts must continue under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and put into practice the provisions of the Paris Agreement.  He looked forward to the next Conference of the Parties (COP 24) in Poland to continue the dialogue and move forward to implementation.  Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require the support of specialized United Nations agencies, he said, also highlighting and welcoming the efforts of the African Union in the implementation of the inclusive Agenda 2063. He noted his Government’s efforts to achieve both the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063, calling both the United Nations and the African Union important bilateral partners.

Looking forward to his own country’s upcoming elections, he invited the international community to join as independent observers to witness the strength of his country’s democracy.  Sao Tome and Principe must assume its leadership role in the congregation of efforts for the development of all peoples, he concluded, reaffirming his country’s commitment to the ideals of peace and fraternity among people.

SIDIKI KABA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Senegal, said he believed the theme of this year’s session was timely, relevant and provided an opportunity to take stock of collective action, especially in light of current global challenges that needed multilateralism to find solutions.  The United Nations is the embodiment of multilateralism and is the only forum where solutions can be arrived at as a common global family.  However, he noted that there is a rising tide of pessimism and some accuse the United Nations from deviating from its Charter.  Against this backdrop, it must be proven the United Nations is a vital platform for international affairs.

To render the Organization more effective it was essential to overcome ideological differences while promoting sustainable development and a world free of poverty, he said.  He noted that sustainable development must be achieved in all facets — economic, social and political — and this must be the international community’s driving force.  In this same vein, it is of paramount importance to finish the Doha Round to create mutually beneficial trade rules and set a fair price for commodities.  Moving on to the issue of climate change, he remained committed to the Paris Agreement.  More financing is needed for the Green Climate Fund; this will ensure that States can deal with climate change.  In addition, it would be beneficial to strengthen international law in this field.

He noted the need to complete reform processes as well as the need for  political will to ensure the United Nations can adapt to the new global political arena.  In addition, he highlighted the fact that Africa lacks a permanent seat on the Security Council.  Moving on to other issues, he said the adoption of a global compact on migration was more necessary than ever before, especially because migrants comprise 3 per cent of the global population.  Highlighting the attention given to the situation of women and girls, he noted his country’s robust plans and goal to emancipate women and girls.  Of importance is the issue of water, as Senegal will host the World Water Forum; it is involved in numerous other water-related initiatives, including the United Nations Water Task Force on Climate Change. 

He underscored that the United Nations represents the deepest desires of humankind and has historical responsibilities.  In closing, he said:  “I wish to echo the rallying cry of Kofi Annan, who said the United Nations was important only as it could solve humankind’s problems.  I urge the international community to be rallied permanently in achieving a better world for all.”

KALLA ANKOURAO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Niger, reaffirmed Niger’s support of the Secretary-General reforms and welcomed the theme of this year’s General Assembly as a reminder of the United Nations founding ideals.  The problems facing the world require greater global collaboration, he said, also welcoming the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  Combating irregular migration and illegal trafficking has been at the heart of numerous meetings; now the focus must be to implement those commitments.  To that end, Niger had designed a doctrine that would enable it to achieve significant results and it has already seen a reduction in migrants over the past year, he said, also advocating for humane treatment of migrants.  Niger will attend the international conference in Marrakesh this December and will support the adoption of the migration compact.

The Sustainable Development Goals are of particular interest to developing countries and offer an excellent opportunity for Niger to share the progress it has made in areas like education, health and security issues, he said.  As part of development efforts, Niger has developed a strategy for inclusive growth that also takes into account the African Union’s 2063 Agenda.  He supported the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which seeks to help countries overcome dependence on the export of basic products and find social and economic transformation for inclusive growth and sustainable development.  Efforts to mobilize domestic resources have been made but challenges remain.  Niger is a country that is two-thirds desert and feels the full brunt of climate change, a phenomenon that has a significant effect on its economy.  The Paris Agreement on Climate Change must be implemented, and Niger will host a round table on technical and financial partnerships that will define ways to implement the Agreement in the region.  Additional financing will allow countries in his region to better handle climate change, he stressed.

In response to Niger’s rapidly growing population, the Government bolstered up efforts to reverse the trend, and indeed, the birth rate shrank from 7.6 births per woman in 2012 to 6 in 2017, he said.  If that trend continues, Niger would, within a few years, achieve demographic growth in line with the country’s GDP, but will need assistance with certain social programs to achieve that goal, like ensuring girls stay in school until age 16.  Regarding the situation in the Lake Chad Basin, the deployment of troops had weakened the operational capabilities of Boko Haram there.  Now the challenges are more socioeconomic than security related, he said.  On the G-5 Sahel Joint Force, he said that thanks to the Brussels conference earlier this year, the Force’s financing needs for the first year have been met.  Yet prospects are not reassuring to guarantee the requisite financing for the Force to complete its mission, he said, asking that the Force’s mandate be placed under Chapter VII of the charter.

He welcomed peaceful developments in other parts of Africa, including the Horn of Africa and in South Sudan, but said that international solidarity for the Palestinians has taken a step back this year and reaffirmed Niger’s support for their cause.  Regarding Security Council reform, he encouraged Member States to speed up the process to adapt the Security Council to reflect today’s world.  New forms of conflict lead to asymmetrical war, he said, calling to strengthen peacekeeping missions.

FRANCINE BARON, Minister for Foreign and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Affairs of Dominica, said that there are moments in the history of a nation that captured its resilience.  She noted that for Dominica, the moment came last year, when Hurricane Maria unleashed its fury of 180 miles per hour winds that brought the country to its knees.  Immediately after, citizens began the daunting task of search and rescue, clearing roadways, and rebuilding.  Applauding Dominicans far and wide for being part of the relief efforts, as well as members of the United Nations family, she thanked all who helped.

“Let this not be another moment to simply sharpen the rhetoric or to speak merely of redoubling current efforts,” she said.  “We have done that too many times before — yet watched climate change ravage on, regardless.”  It is no secret that the lack of motivation by some countries is rooted in the fact that those who gain most from the activities that create climate change remain most removed from its dire consequences.  “Since climate change is the result of an economic calculus that will keep pushing global destruction further and further along, it must be accepted as the responsibility of our time,” she said, calling for collective efforts to stop it.

Within a few hours, Hurricane Maria caused damage equivalent to 226 per cent of Dominica’s GDP.  Two years earlier, a tropical storm had wiped out 90 per cent of the GDP.  The cost of building back better — of building a more resilient nation — comes with a price more than developing States can meet singlehandedly.  The price of consumption and production of goods that contribute to climate change does not compensate for the losses.  The “polluter pays” is an accepted principle and a golden nexus of morality, economics and environmental policy.  On an international level, it is the victim who pays.  The insurance model championed by many industrialized countries and international agencies as a solution to climate change asks island States on the front line to take out additional insurance against loss and damage, which are the direct results of a change in climate caused by others.  “This is asking the victim to pay by instalment.  This insane equivalent would be the arsonist saying to you that instead of trying to stop him setting fire to your house, you should take on fire insurance,” she said, adding that the game changer would be to establish a different kind of insurance, especially for vulnerable countries, that pays out quickly to the victims of climate disasters.

She proposed the United Nations oversee a “Climate Loss and Damage Insurance Fund” where premiums are paid by those who have contributed most and continue to contribute to climate change.  She noted Dominica’s response to climate change, instituting a plan to make it the first climate resilient nation in the world.  Dominica has drafted legislation to establish the Climate Resilience Executing Agency of Dominica and has identified $1 billion of critical projects.  The plan is based around designing super-resilient networks, water-proofing the economy, and building resilient communities.  The role of the United Nations is central to mobilizing resources, she noted, adding that official development assistance (ODA) must be re-engineered to take into account vulnerability.

JEAN-CLAUDE GAKOSSO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Congolese Living Abroad of Congo, said peace is an invaluable treasure and the raison d’être of the United Nations.  However, the current global landscape has seen a rise in intolerance, racism and violence at a time when multilateralism is being challenged.  Threats include the spread of conflicts, terrorism and violent extremism, evolving trade wars and a migration crisis that continues to see thousands of people perishing in the Mediterranean Sea.  Decisive and collective action must address those and other grave concerns, with a view to fostering peace.

As part of finding solutions to challenges facing Africa, Congo has hosted key debates on pressing problems, he said.  The wider goal is ending violence and boosting development.  Satisfied with regional developments, he commended the Democratic Republic of the Congo for its efforts to hold peaceful elections.  Turning to the Central African Republic, he called on all parties to join the peace process.  Calling for the restoration of peace across the continent, he emphasized that the United Nations must play its role in ensuring safe elections without violence.  For its part, Congo is taking steps to pursue the ideals of peace and development.  Young people and women have been brought into development processes, he said, underlining the importance of including all groups and of respect for their human rights.  After all, he continued, these groups will be the drivers of economic growth today and into the future.

On climate change, he said efforts are under way to address environmental concerns, including preservation of the vast forests in Central Africa.  Calling on sponsors and donors for assistance to the Governments of Congo Basin nations, he highlighted the importance of protecting these forest areas.  The Paris Agreement and other global instrument must be boldly supported if they are to serve the cause of humankind and to protect life itself on this planet.

C. PETER DAVID, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada, said the world must choose a deliberate path to global leadership that promotes shared responsibility for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies while addressing pressing challenges, from religion-based tensions to climate change.  Such global challenges are magnified in developing States, exacerbated by their limited access to development financing.  In the Caribbean region, which is still recovering from the 2017 hurricane season, there is hope.  Global climate challenges offer small countries the opportunity to highlight vulnerabilities and strengths by serving as test cases for the nationwide implementation of climate-related technologies and advances.  Small island developing States also represent some of the most globally compelling business cases for sustainable renewable energy investment.

For its part, Grenada has already taken steps to rise to the challenges it faces.  The Government aims at being climate smart and going beyond policies, he said, highlighting the establishment of the Ministry of Climate Resilience, Environment, Fisheries, Forestry, Disaster Management and Information.  Part of its mandate aims at speedily ensuring that every aspect of the country’s development addresses climate change and resilience.  Efforts must be made to address the scourge of non-communicable diseases, he said, calling for global leadership to find solutions.

Turning to financial concerns, he cited the negative effects on Caribbean economies of correspondent banking, de-risking, blacklisting and middle-income country graduation.  The unilateral graduation of many small island developing States to middle-income status without considering the region’s vulnerabilities has already resulted in budgetary shortfalls that are adversely affecting economic and social development.  While there are no easy answers to those challenges, he urged partners to desist from draconian approaches, such as blacklisting institutions as “money launderers” and countries as “tax havens”, as well as related arbitrary punishments.

On security, he said the Caribbean is a zone of peace and supports ending nuclear-weapon testing and arms trafficking.  “Small arms and gun violence undermine the rule of law and are often major factors behind the displacement of civilians and the violation of human rights,” he said.  As the world strives to create sustainable societies, he highlighted challenges in the region.  Cuba continues to face embargos, which should be lifted.  Some neighbours in Latin American are currently experiencing political and social challenges that threaten peace, sustainable development and the region’s stability.  Grenada continues to offer its hand to facilitate dialogue towards the settlement of disputes.

AHMED AWAD ISSE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Somalia, said that since assuming office a year and a half ago, his Administration has made huge strides in security sector reform and political and economic transformation, yet is mindful of the enormous challenges ahead, particularly to overcome terrorism.  New road networks and supply routes have been opened, liberating towns and villages from Al-Shabaab.  Stressing the importance of a multi-faceted security approach, he said the Government and its partners have militarily dismantled terrorist hideouts, while also engaging religious leaders, elders, youth, women and civil society groups to dramatically reverse the twisted ideology of hate and religious intolerance.  Joining Al-Shabaab is no longer appealing to young men and women; that group and Al-Qaida no longer have a ready stream of new and volunteer recruits in Somalia.  Some have accepted the offer of amnesty, denounced violence and surrendered peacefully.  Senior commanders, former sector heads and infantrymen also have surrendered unconditionally, weakening the terror network’s logistical and planning capabilities.  The Government is now working with civil networks to flush out remaining terrorists.  

Awareness that sustaining security is a collective responsibility has helped establish effective policing models involving the public, he said, citing plans to gradually transfer security tasks to the national security architecture.   He thanked the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and called on the United Nations to lift the arms embargo on Somalia in order to consolidate collective security gains and further support Somali institutions.  “Stronger fighter capacity would enable us to have the upper hand, it would entirely dismantle terrorists, and possibly within a shorter time,” he said.  Every Somali should enjoy the inalienable right to life, freedoms and protections enshrined in the provisional Constitution, he said, noting that a core value is the protection and support of minority groups, communities and persons with special needs.  A prosperous Somalia is only possible when the governance system is effective and based on the rule of law.  Somalia’s quest for inclusive, reformed politics is on the right track, he said, citing the election model adopted by the central Government and federal member states in Baidoa in June 2018.

Turning to economic development and sustainable productivity, he said that tapping into opportunities created by Somalia’s vast natural resources and long coastline will help transform the economy, streamline trade and open new trade routes, while stressing the need to strengthen alliances with partners worldwide.  To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, Somalia is working towards financial self-sufficiency.  Through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Staff Monitored Programme domestic revenue reached unprecedented levels.  The Government is now normalizing relations with international financial institutions bringing it closer to debt relief.  Somalia is taking a huge role in achieving economic integration in the Horn of Africa and serving as a mediator to end decades-long conflicts dogging the region to achieve the African Union goal of silencing the guns by 2020.  Towards that end, all economic sanctions on Eritrea should be lifted. 

On Agenda 2063, he stressed the need for joint policies that provide lasting solutions for illegal immigration.  “It should no longer be business as usual when year in year out hundreds of young productive men and women are lost to the Mediterranean in search of better living prospects,” he stressed, called it ironical as the world focuses on Africa for its resources, markets and labour.  He expressed hope for better days and prospects for all.  “For Somalia, it is the beginning of a transformation; we have risen anew and fresh.  We are not only optimistic, but we are also motivated,” he said.

ALPHA BARRY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Burkina Faso, said his country was enacting efforts to strengthen democracy through measures including a new Constitution.  Other progressive steps include abolition of the death penalty.  Despite a difficult security and social context, his country has a growth rate of 6.7 per cent, due to cleaning up public finance, improved tax revenue measures and growth projects launched under a National Economic and Social Development Plan.  A policy of free health care for pregnant women and children under the age of 5 will be gradually extended to the entire population.

He expressed deep concern that his country is the target of terrorist attacks, formerly limited to the northern region but now reaching the south-west and east, bordering Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Niger, Benin and Togo.  In three years, 229 people have been killed by terrorist groups, with his Government mobilizing all resources to combat the threat.  Unfortunately, terrorists are now using improvised explosive devices.  In the past week, they blew up two vehicles killing 14 members of defence and security forces.  Terrorists are also targeting civilians, students and teachers, forcing closure of 520 schools depriving 56,000 students of their right to education.  However, he said the attacks have strengthened the country’s unity, solidarity and determination to defend its values.  One thing is certain:  no country can fight terrorism on its own.  Pointing to General Assembly resolution 72/165, adopted in December, proclaiming 21 August the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism, he called for the Security Council to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force by placing it under the mandate of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.

Noting that poverty, exclusion and climate change are root causes of conflict, his country launched the Special Emergency Assistance Programme to the Sahel Member Countries and Sudan, addressing dual socioeconomic and security challenges.  More than ever, the world must defend and encourage multilateralism.  To that end, he noted Burkina Faso has 2,000 personnel involved in six peacekeeping operations.  One of three countries maintaining troops in Guinea-Bissau, his country is also the largest troop-contributing country to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

Turning to nations in crisis, he congratulated the Government and people of Mali on successful recent presidential elections despite the threat of terrorism.  The peace agreement between leaders of South Sudan and renewed negotiations in Western Sahara were also a source of hope.  However, he said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a concern and he remains convinced it can only be resolved with a two-State solution.  Dialogue on the Korean Peninsula is a good sign that needs the encouragement of the international community.  He also called for an end to the embargo on Cuba.  Pointing to the proliferation of small arms and light weapons as a threat to peace and security in several regions, he also condemned the resurgent use of weapons of mass destruction.  With humanitarian issues also a concern given the refugee crisis, he hailed the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, noting the conference to adopt it will take place in Africa.  As a country of immigration with 4 million citizens living abroad and 25,000 refugees on its soil, Burkina Faso will also adopt the Global Compact on Refugees.  Calling for Security Council reform for a more inclusive body, he said it must remedy an injustice against Africa, which deserves permanent membership.

Right of Reply

The representative of Qatar, exercising the right of reply, responded to the false statements made by his counterparts from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  Qatar plays an active role in combating terrorism and fostering peace.  These allegations have never been substantiated and they violate international human rights laws, he said, adding that these States do not practice what they preach when they terrorize civilians and interfere with the affairs of other nations, such as financing a coup attempt in Qatar and pretending to combat terrorism when terrorist activities have originated from inside their borders.  Bahrain’s unilateral action against Qatar is only undermining regional economic growth.  Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates is violating the principles of good neighbourliness with its targeted actions against Qatar, such as implementing discriminatory policies against Qataris.

The representative of India, responding to comments made by her counterpart from Pakistan, rejected a number of allegations made against her country.  The “new” Pakistan is not much different from the past, she said.  Fake allegations and fake facts are counterproductive, she said, adding that Pakistan must make moves towards ending its misinformation and choosing a new path based on the truth.

The representative of United Arab Emirates, commenting on the statement made by Qatar’s representative, rejected several false allegations.  Qatar has financed terrorist activities, threatening peace in the region and the world.  Measures that have been taken are in reaction to Qatar’s actions, she said, reaffirming that the United Arab Emirates respects the provisions of the International Court of Justice.

The representative of Bahrain, responding to Qatar’s statement, said Qatar continues to finance and support terrorist groups, destabilizing several countries in the region.  In fact, evidence demonstrates Qatar’s involvement in interfering with his country’s affairs.  Having coordinated with other countries to constrain Qatar and force it to respect its commitments and end its support for terrorists in the Gulf and the Middle East, he said Qatar must stop interfering with the affairs of other States and engage in dialogue with the concerned countries.

The representative of Pakistan, responding to his counterpart from India, said the breeding ground of terrorism in the region is actually in India.  Providing several examples of Pakistan citizens who were victims of terrorism in occupied Jammu and Kashmir and other areas, he said that in the India of today there is no room for dissent, as is apparent as the country continues to face 17 domestic insurgencies.  On the issue of occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he wondered whether India could deny the fact that more than 100,000 civilians have been killed.  The truth is that occupied Jammu and Kashmir is not a part of India and never will be, and India could no longer hide its actions against civilians there.

The representative of Qatar, responding to the statement made by the representative of the United Arab Emirates, said there is no basis to these repeated allegations.  While Qatar suffers under an unjust blockade, the country has forged new international allegiances.  Mentioning progressive national measures, he said Qatar will never impede international measures and it exercises restraint.  Yet, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain do the opposite, taking an approach based on force, including digital piracy and cybercrime.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates, in response, called such allegations erroneous.  She called on the Qatari regime to stop drawing attention from the real issue.  Qatar is spreading false information about the roots of the crisis and is exploiting regional instability by promoting terrorism, she said, emphasizing that her country is at the forefront of fighting the challenges of the region.

For information media. Not an official record.