MICHAEL SPINDELEGGER, Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister for European and International Affairs of Austria, said that in the last nine months, the world had witnessed momentous change in the Arab world, which could not have been foreseen a year prior. An overwhelming number of young people had been at the forefront of that gigantic tide, beginning in Tunisia and Egypt. In Libya, thousands had lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy. In Syria — and to some extent in Yemen — the suppression was ongoing. He condemned the systematic human rights violations and violence against peaceful demonstrators and urged those responsible to immediately stop the bloodshed and engage in meaningful dialogue and reforms.
He said the international community and the United Nations must support the transition process in the Arab world, as the United Nations was now doing in Libya. He encouraged the newly empowered authorities to create a constitutional framework based on democracy and human rights in order to fulfil the mandate for democratic change responsibly and peacefully. Further, focus should be kept on the Middle East peace process. That region had taken centre stage this week at the Assembly, and the international community should build on trust and foster the belief among Israelis and Palestinians that a negotiated settlement could be achieved. That would entail a sustainable solution based on two States living side by side in a secure and peaceful neighbourhood within mutually recognized borders. “We have no choice but to return to direct negotiations between the two parties,” he said, voicing support for the Quartet’s statement of 23 September as a way forward with concrete timelines. “There is no time to lose,” he warned.
Last year’s tenth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security had reminded the Assembly of the promise of women’s full and equal participation in all efforts of maintaining peace and security, including mediation processes. However, those efforts had not yet come true, and in that regard the international community should intensify its efforts. For its part in mediation endeavours, Austria had invited decision-makers from both Khartoum and Juba to Vienna for a meeting platform. The United Nations Headquarters in Vienna served as a dynamic hub for the promotion of peace, security and sustainable development.
On other matters, he said the thematic debate in April on the rule of law and global challenges was an important step in the preparation of the high-level meeting on the rule of law, scheduled for September 2012. The international system could only function properly if it was based on clear and predictable rules, which applied equally to all Member States. The promotion and protection of human rights was also a core priority of Austria’s foreign policy, and his country remained fully committed to the respect for freedom of religion and belief. Further, various forms of child trafficking and exploitation constituted a gross violation of children’s rights, and as a member of the Human Rights Council, Austria would work to address that issue and develop counterstrategies. Austria was also committed to fighting forms of extremism such as racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination or intolerance, including anti-Semitism, and would work to strengthen protection of journalists against all threats and intimidation.