Cablegate: At Un, Heads of State Begin 63rd General Assembly

Published: Thu 25 Sep 2008 10:24 PM
DE RUCNDT #0864/01 2692224
P 252224Z SEP 08
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1. SUMMARY: The United Nations General Debate opened on
September 22 with several heads of state taking the floor.
Most speakers mentioned the global food crisis, and many
spoke on peace-building, energy issues, global warming, the
financial crisis, and human rights. UN reform was another
common theme, with many -- led by GA President d'Escoto of
Nicaragua -- calling for a more democratic and inclusive
Security Council. The following spoke: Brazilian President
Lula da Silva; President Bush; French President Sarkozy;
President of the Philippines Macapagal-Arroyo; Qatari Amir
Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani; Liberian President Johnson-Sirleaf;
Turkish President Gul; Argentine President de Kirchner;
Madagascar President Ravalomanana; Serbian President Tadic;
and Gabonese Vice-President Di Ndinge. Topic covered
included: the economic and financial crisis;
democracy-building in Iraq, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe;
EU-Russia relations; threats posed by a nuclear Iran; peace
and stability in Africa; Kosovo independence; and Middle East
peace. All statements are available at debate. END SUMMARY.
2. On September 22, the first of over 120 heads of state and
70 other senior delegates undertook the UN's annual General
Debate extending through September 29. Brazilian President
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva repeatedly emphasized in his
remarks the gravity of the economic and financial crisis,
which he feared threatened the world's economy. He strongly
criticized policies favoring "adventurers and opportunists,"
quoting a Brazilian economist: "We must not allow
speculators' profits always to be privatized, while their
losses are invariably socialized." He touched upon the food
crisis, the energy crisis, the "risks to world trade" that
would result should an agreement not be reached at the Doha
Round, and the "unrestrained degradation of the environment."
He criticized the "populist nationalism" being "unabashedly"
practiced in developed countries, and called for an overhaul
of the multilateral system to address the challenges of the
twenty-first century. Lula da Silva noted the new political,
economic, and trade structure in today's world, and
highlighted the increasing role of Latin America in global
3. President Bush's address emphasized Member States'
obligation to govern responsibly, and to solve problems
"before they spill across borders." He said the UN and other
multilateral organizations are needed more than ever, and
highlighted a need to cooperate closely to prevent terrorist
attacks from occurring rather than simply passing resolutions
in their aftermath. He underscored the important role
democratic governance played in promoting peace and security.
President Bush touched upon the progress made in Afghanistan
and Iraq, noting that multinational efforts to establish
democratic governments have proven successful thus far. He
called upon Member States to support other young democracies.
4. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking, he said, on
behalf of the European Union, noted the importance of working
to achieve peace in Darfur; to avert the food crisis; to
fight global warming and provide universal access to water
and energy; and to stop "monetary, social and ecological
dumping." Sarkozy emphasized Europe's desire to establish
links with Russia, proposing to create a "continent-wide
economic space which would unite Russia and Europe."
However, Sarkozy said that Europe could not compromise when
it comes to the sovereignty, independence, and territorial
integrity of states, nor on respect for international law.
Europe's message, he continued, was that the use of force to
settle disputes was unacceptable. He cautioned that Europe
could not accept a nuclear-armed Iran, which would present a
threat to regional peace and stability, and added that Europe
could not tolerate calls for Israel's destruction. He called
for inclusion of Africa, in some fashion, in the permanent
membership of the Security Council, and for the enlargement
of the G-8 to 13 or 14 members.
5. Serbian President Boris Tadic protested Kosovo's
"unilateral declaration of independence," which he said
threatens the core UN principle of the sovereign equality of
states and presents the most dangerous challenge to the
nature of the international system since the UN was formed.
He cautioned that Kosovar independence would create a
precedent for the "dozens of Kosovos" around the world, which
will each claim an exception to international law. He
assured the Assembly that Serbia would not use force to
address its grievance, but had instead submitted a resolution
to the GA to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to
render an advisory opinion on the compliance of Kosovo's
independence with international law. Pending the ICJ's
decision, Tadic promised that Serbia would remain "a
good-faith partner in the interim administration of Kosovo,"
and called for the Security Council to approve the mandate of
the EU's civilian presence there (EULEX). Tadic concluded by
affirming that Serbia will one day join the EU, and that by
doing so, will belong to the unifying force in the region in
hopes of reversing the trend of "Balkanization." In pursuit
of EU membership, Tadic said, Serbia is "fully cooperating"
with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
6. In his dual role as Chairman of the African Union (AU) and
President of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete outlined the
threats to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
posed by the global food, economic and security crises.
Madagascar and Gabon echoed these concerns, calling on donor
nations to fulfill their pledges of assistance. The leaders
noted that the effects of the global food crisis are most
acute in Africa, and listed agricultural subsidies; tariff
policies among developed nations; climate change; and the
increased production of biofuels as contributing factors to
the current situation.
7. Balancing these concerns, Kikwete discussed the successes
of the AU in building peace and political stability in Africa
(thanking the UN and the EU for their assistance), fostering
democratic elections, enhancing the rule of law, and fighting
corruption. He called the September 15, 2008 power-sharing
agreement in Zimbabwe a "landmark breakthrough," crediting
the Zimbabwean leaders and South African President Thabo
Mbeki. There are still conflicts of concern, he continued,
pointing to Darfur, Somalia and the eastern region of the
Democratic Republic of Congo as ongoing challenges. On
Sudan, Kikwete voiced the AU opinion that an indictment of
Sudanese President Bashir would complicate the deployment of
UN forces to that war-torn country, stating that the first
priority should be to ensure stability there. The Tanzanian
and Gabonese leaders discussed the need for UN reform, with
Kikwete calling for Security Council reforms to include two
permanent seats with veto powers for African nations as well
as two additional non-permanent seats.
8. Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf noted that
Liberia does not always follow the "party line" or the
positions of allies on issues related to Africa. Referring
to the situation in Zimbabwe, she said Liberia had taken a
stand because it wanted to demonstrate that fair elections
and equitable political participation were essential to
achieving peace. Johnson-Sirleaf called for strong support
to the AU and to sub-regional organizations to work towards
peace in Darfur, Chad, Niger, and Congo. Johnson-Sirleaf
thanked the U.S. for its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act,
which seeks to promote trade rather than aid.
9. Turkish President Abdullah Gul highlighted Turkey's
expanding role in resolving regional and global issues,
including through co-sponsoring the Alliance of Civilizations
initiative under UN auspices, underscoring its decision to
seek a non-permanent seat on the Security Council for
2009-2010. Gul said Turkey is helping to resolve conflicts
in the Middle East by advancing peace talks between Syria and
Israel, among other efforts; supporting the people and
government of Iraq; and fostering cooperation between
Pakistan and Afghanistan to combat terrorism. A peaceful
settlement to the Iran nuclear question, in conformity with
IAEA norms, is another top diplomatic priority. Describing
Turkey as an emerging donor nation, Gul noted his country's
increased levels of bilateral development assistance and
enhanced contributions and engagement with the United Nations.
10. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner urged
Iran to comply with the Interpol-ratified arrest warrants for
the Iranian citizens accused of carrying out the 1992 bombing
of the Israeli Embassy and the 1994 bombing of the
Jewish-Argentine Mutual Association in Argentina, promising
the accused the full guarantees of the Argentine justice
system. She commented that contrary to the widely held
belief that financial crises begin in lesser-developed
countries, the current crisis began in "the world's largest
economy," and pointed to recent USG actions to mitigate the
economic downturn as validation for state intervention in the
11. President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said
that the "terrible tsunami" of economic uncertainty, caused
by recent "shocks" to the financial system had created "real
and profound" setbacks for the world. She thanked the U.S.
for its role in advancing peace and development in Mindanao,
and said the government would engage in dialogue once again
when the region was secure and its people safe.
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