Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Mr. Brian Cowen, T.D., to the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Part III
Once again we meet in this General Assembly chamber under the shadow of terrorism. The recent appalling images from Beslan provide a further emphatic demonstration of the moral bankruptcy of terrorism. The fact that these attacks targeted innocent children and the consequent trauma caused to children worldwide who saw the torn bodies of the children of Beslan on their television screens, make them all the more heinous. They reinforce, if reinforcement were needed, the absolute duty of member states of the United Nations to cooperate effectively in identifying and bringing to justice those who plan, direct, finance, facilitate and carry out terrorist acts.
Terrorist acts are always reprehensible, and those who carry them out bear full responsibility for them. This is true, irrespective of any underlying factors that might exist, such as national or civil conflict, or oppressive economic or social conditions. We must show determination to confront and face down terrorists when they test our resolve through their involvement in heinous acts of violence designed to terrorise the public into conceding to their distorted view of the world. But we also have to be smart to win.
Terrorism can rarely be defeated by exclusively military or security means, though they are obviously a very necessary component in the fight against terrorism. It is necessary, at the same time, to address the root causes of terrorism. I made this point when I addressed the General Assembly in the aftermath of the atrocities of 9/11. I make no apologies for repeating it today.
Let there be no misunderstanding. I offer no excuses for terrorism. Terrorism is evil. But it is my strong belief that people are not born evil. At a certain point in their life, something - perhaps a particular event or the experience of indoctrination - causes them to embrace evil. To seek to address that root cause is not to be soft on terrorism. It is the intelligent way to attack terrorism.
Terrorism tests the effectiveness of our national and collective security systems, but it also tests the quality of our institutions, including our systems of justice, and the strength of our values. As we seek to protect ourselves, we must ensure that these institutions remain strong, that democratic values are not undermined, that our systems of justice are not compromised and that our struggle is conducted in full respect for international law and human rights norms. If we fail to do this, any success we achieve over terrorists will be at the expense of the way of life we seek to protect.
The people of Israel and Palestine continue to suffer from violence that is as futile as it is tragic.
The root of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a struggle over land. The land must be shared by agreement, arrived at through negotiation between the parties to the conflict. The continuing unilateral expansion of settlements and the construction and maintenance of the separation barrier on the West Bank will make the conflict more difficult to resolve. The entire international community - particularly Israel’s friends - need to send this clear and unambiguous message to the Israeli government and the people of Israel.
Ireland acknowledges the right, indeed the responsibility, of the Israeli government to protect its people, including, if it so wishes, by a security fence along its recognised borders. However, the building of the fence in the West Bank serves to divide Palestinian communities and creates severe hardship for them. It will also serve to perpetuate the so-called “facts on the ground” and make it more difficult to reach a final settlement. The advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice has given clear guidance on the fence which should be given careful consideration by those whose policies and actions it addresses.
The Palestinian Authority must also assume its responsibilities under the Roadmap, notwithstanding the difficulties it faces. Effective and responsible leadership is required. The Palestinian people can best achieve their sovereignty by restoring national discipline and rejecting the path of violence.
Ireland, in common with its EU partners, continues to believe that the only way to reach a comprehensive settlement of the conflict is through the Quartet Roadmap. In the Tullamore Declaration, issued during Ireland’s recent Presidency of the European Union, EU Ministers welcomed the expressed intention of Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw from Gaza, and acknowledged the impetus that such a withdrawal could give to the peace process, as long as it met certain conditions, including that it take place in the context of the implementation of the Roadmap.
I urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority, therefore, to cooperate closely with the Quartet, to ensure that the withdrawal from Gaza is accompanied by the full and effective assumption by the Palestinian Authority of its responsibilities in the territory, and that a momentum towards the full implementation of the Roadmap is developed.
The passage of Security Council Resolution 1546, and the subsequent establishment of the interim Iraqi Government, represented a crucial coming together by the international community on the importance of reconstruction in Iraq. It is vital that this Government should be able to move ahead and establish a full democratic mandate. However, the security situation in Iraq remains a matter of grave concern to us all, and the challenges facing the new Government are great. An end to the lethal violence which is disrupting the normal development of the country is essential.
Ireland has always seen the role of the United Nations as central to the issue of reconstructing Iraq. We therefore welcome the forthcoming return of the United Nations mission. Ireland and its EU partners will seek to ensure that this mission is provided with the necessary security to allow it to carry out its functions.