General Assembly speakers canvass topics from terrorism to trade and debt relief

Tonga’s Foreign Minister Sonatane Tu’a Taumoepeau-Tupou said his country welcomed recent moves to strengthen the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other treaties that propose to protect fish stocks. He said small island States are particularly vulnerable to economic problems because their development is often concentrated in only a handful of islands, leaving the remaining islands disadvantaged. Mr. Taumoepeau-Tupou also said Tonga has decided to contribute to the UN’s peacekeeping efforts for the first time since it joined the world body five years ago. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said it was obvious “there is just not sufficient support internationally to make it possible for Africa to meet the economic challenges it is facing,” especially given the terms of international trade and the continent’s crushing burden of debt. Describing Ethiopia’s border conflict with Eritrea as “a tragic setback,” he said Addis Ababa remained willing to have “open-ended dialogue” with Asmara and blamed Eritrea for the failure of any progress between the two sides.Niger’s Foreign Minister Aïchatou Mindaoudou told the Assembly her country has made strong democratic advances recently: this included setting up a pluralistic political system, establishing an independent judiciary and framing a national constitution that separated the powers of government. In November there will be presidential elections, she said, and successful district and municipal polls were also conducted recently – which meant Niger would enjoy a multi-party system for the first time since 1991.Souef Mohamed El-Amine, Foreign Minister of the Comoros, said the needs of small island States, particularly their vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, must be paid more attention by the UN and the international community. Next year in Mauritius, he said, world leaders are scheduled to review what progress has been made on the issue since a major summit was held in Barbados 10 years ago. Mr El-Amine also called on France to enter into constructive dialogue on the status of the island of Mayotte.Farouk Assaad Kaddoumi, Head of Delegation for the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, denounced Israel as “a war-sophisticated arms developer and dealer with no ethical or moral constraints and with no human rights concerns.” Demanding that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory end, he said it must follow the so-called Road Map peace process, which calls for two States to live side-by-side in peace. He added that the plan of Israeli leader Ariel Sharon to disengage unilaterally from the Gaza Strip still allows Israel to control “everything that enters and exits Gaza.” Highlighting the link between war and poverty, Askar Akayev, President of Kyrgyzstan, said poverty bred youths who felt dispossessed and were therefore prime targets for recruitment by terrorist groups. To eradicate terrorism, a harsh and united response was necessary and, particularly given the situation in nearby Afghanistan, that is why his country had allowed forces from the United States and the Russian Federation to be deployed on its territory. It was important for small countries to have big friends when it came to foreign policy, he said.Mr. Akayev also drew attention to the plight of the world’s least developed mountain countries. He called for the adoption of a General Assembly resolution that would cancel their foreign debt – thus helping them reduce poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015. Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk added his voice to calls for reform of the Security Council, saying that India and Japan, among others, “are pre-eminently qualified for permanent membership” given their respective roles in global affairs. Turning to economic issues, he said Bhutan hoped that the concerns of poor, landlocked nations are given high priority and that developed countries start giving more aid and debt relief – or otherwise the world will not achieve the MDGs. Habib Ben Yahia, Tunisia’s Foreign Minister, told the Assembly that his country wanted to reactivate the Maghreb Union to promote greater cooperation among the countries of North Africa. Through the League of Arab States and the African Union, as well as the UN, Tunisia was committed to the idea that it is vital to work together to achieve social or economic progress. He said the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, scheduled to be held in Tunis in November 2005, would demonstrate the importance of “a solidarity-based digital partnership.” Timothy Harris, Foreign Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, said that while “for decades countries and academics have questioned the viability of small States,” and their natural and financial resources are limited, many nations in the Caribbean region have still managed to establish a long and proud tradition of democratic values. He said it was crucial for such States to form partnerships like the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) because they lack the economy of scale to overcome their economic disadvantages alone. Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane of Mali called for greater international help to combat the current locust invasion in West Africa, which he said “has surpassed even the most pessimistic projections in its scope and speed.” The livelihoods of millions of people were affected, he added, because of the “catastrophic damage” on upcoming grain harvests. Mr. Ouane also emphasized the issue of children in armed conflict, saying it must remain a priority of the UN. Togolese Foreign Minister Biossey Kokou Tozoun said he was troubled by last year’s collapse of international trade negotiations at Cancun, Mexico, and wondered “where was that solidarity that had been so loudly proclaimed at the Millennium Summit” in 2000. The slow pace of progress towards the MDGs was particularly worrying, he said, because the world is “living in a fragile state,” citing continuing or recent conflicts in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Middle East, Liberia and Haiti as some examples. read more

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