MICHEL SLEIMAN, President of Lebanon, said the current Assembly session was being held in a context dominated by major developments in the Arab world and the endeavour of the Palestinian people to gain independence. Also looming in the background was the fallout from the 2008 financial and economic crisis, tensions on the Korean peninsula, political developments throughout the African continent and natural disasters wreaking havoc in various parts of the world. While keeping a keen eye on international events, at home, Lebanon had committed itself to the principles of freedom and solidarity. It remained committed to the resolutions and decisions of international organizations, including those of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
As dramatic events had spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa, he said his country had hailed all peaceful approaches to reform and to preserving dignity and fundamental freedoms. Indeed, only through such principles could dignity, freedom and lasting development be ensured by all societies. Events in the Arab world must foster good and avoid “veering towards extremism or fragmentation on religious and sectarian grounds”. As the impact of those events reverberated, the international community must recognize the importance of ending oppression for all those that were marginalized. Most importantly, that would mean engaging seriously and urgently to ensure a just and lasting solution to all aspects of the conflict in the Middle East, based on all international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
Such a move, he said, would lead to a renewed dialogue of understanding between the West and the Arab world and end decades of misunderstanding. The overall effort should include support for the legitimate cries of the Palestinian people for self-determination. It was important to note that until a just and final political solution was agreed, which guaranteed the return of all Palestinian refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) remained responsible for the Palestinian peoples’ well-being. The agency’s budget, therefore, needed steady support, and its work must not be merged with that of other United Nations organs or bodies.
Noting that earlier this week the second meeting of State signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions had met in Beirut, he said that treaty was meant to eventually ban the use, manufacture and transfer of those weapons. While the instrument and the meeting had addressed the issue from a humanitarian standpoint, it had also spotlighted the devastating impact of those weapons, which had been used by Israel when it had launched a war in Lebanon in 2006. He called on Israel to end the use of those weapons and to take responsibility for the damage those weapons had caused, as well as the damage caused by the oil slick left after Israel had bombed a power plant, also in 2006.
Continuing, he called for full implementation of Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), which had ended the war, but which Israel had failed to respect. Israel must be compelled to end daily violations of that text and also immediately pull out from all Lebanese lands, which it still occupied, including Shebaa Farms. Lebanon retained the right to retrieve all its occupied territories by legitimate means. It also emphasized sovereign and economic rights over its waters and exclusive economic zones, including natural resources on land and sea. The Lebanese Government had recently sent a letter to the Secretary-General that explicitly marked and underscored the limits of the boundaries of its waters and lands. That letter had rejected Israeli exploitation of such zones and resources.
He commended the crucial role being played by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), particularly the mission’s cooperation with Lebanese Armed Forces. He meanwhile strongly condemned terrorist attacks against UNIFIL in recent months and assured the Assembly that his Government was actively pursuing the perpetrators. Returning to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, he said that the international community had been unable to prove its effectiveness by coming up with a just and comprehensive solution. While that had largely been due to Israel’s ongoing defiance of international resolutions and its illegal activities in Gaza and the West Bank, the situation had also exposed the need to reform the Security Council. That 15-member body must be reshaped to reflect modern reality. Finally, he called on all nations to celebrate the contributions that women made to peace and socio-economic development.