Friday, November 28, 2014

Rome Ministerial Conference on Security Council Reform

Statement of Ambassador Tanin at Rome Ministerial Conference on Security Council Reform

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

* It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with you today. I want to thank Minister Frattini for his hospitality, for opening his door to us. In the new phase of the Security Council reform process, all involved will have to open the door to compromise. All initiatives to that end are considered welcome by yours truly, as Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on behalf of the President of the UN General Assembly. After wrapping up the previous phase of the reform process to everybody’s satisfaction, the President and I look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the entire UN Membership in New York . Let me now direct a few words to the delegations gathered here in Rome .

* I was always told: when speaking in Rome , quote a classical author. Sorry, it’s not a Roman author but a Greek one, Thucydides. His seminal work “The History of the Peloponnesian War” was the book that launched a thousand debates about the relationship between power and legitimacy. In the battle between Athens and Melos , the Melians were completely overpowered, but appealed to the higher power of international law to argue for their survival. “In our view,” they said, “it is at any rate useful that you should not destroy a principle that is to the general good of all men – namely, that in the case of all who fall into danger there should be such a thing as fair play and just dealing,” end of quote. That assertion that might does not make right, started off mankind’s odyssey towards finding a balance between power and legitimacy. The current effort at the United Nations in New York to reform the Security Council is a part of that journey.

* As an observer to today’s meeting, what I first and foremost observe is the will to reform. The will to achieve the objective set at the 2005 World Summit, when our leaders called for, and I quote, “an early reform of the Security Council – an essential element of our overall effort to reform the United Nations – in order to make it more broadly representative, efficient and transparent and thus to further enhance its effectiveness and the legitimacy and implementation of its decisions,” end of quote.

* As you all know, the President of the General Assembly last week announced that on February 19, we will finally sit down at the negotiating table. At the same time, he assured Member States that these negotiations will be conducted strictly according to the principles set forth by the Membership in General Assembly decision 62/557, and I quote: “in good faith, with mutual respect and in an open, inclusive and transparent manner” and “seeking a solution that can garner the widest possible political acceptance by Member States,” end of quote.

* The President of the General Assembly also let it be known, that on February 19 we will present a work plan for the negotiations. A crystal clear plan on how to negotiate and when to negotiate – beginning shortly with meetings on the five key issues: categories of membership, the question of the veto, regional representation, size of an enlarged Council and working methods of the Security Council, and the relationship between the Council and the General Assembly. The President and I will do everything in our power to safeguard the integrity of the process and the achievement of progress. Decisive progress. Our lodestar will of course be decision 62/557, and we will be guided by the UN Charter, the World Summit Outcome Document, the relevant UN rules and procedures, legal advice, past practice and input from Member States through the Open-ended Working Group.

* Nothing would do more to stir up cynicism about the United Nations than us wasting this historic opportunity for change. We have to rise to the occasion and not get bogged down. We decided – now we must follow through. I would almost quote Julius Caesar and say: “The die is cast.” There’s no turning back. But we all know that when he said those words, when he crossed the Rubicon, Caesar started a war against Rome . So in that sense, the quote is inappropriate – the effort to reform the Council is not about combat but about cooperation. We’re all on the same side here. The side fighting for a reformed Security Council and a renewed United Nations.

Thank you.

Plenary meeting of The 10th Emergency Special Session on the Illegal Israeli Actions

Plenary meeting of  The 10th Emergency Special Session on the Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,
We thank you, Mr. President, for giving us the opportunity to speak today. We commend your decision to reconvene the 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on Illegal Israeli Actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the Rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Certainly, what we are facing now in Gaza is an emergency of serious magnitude. Afghanistan and the Afghan people share Gaza’s pain, and we stand in solidarity with those in Palestine dying, suffering and mourning.

Mr. President,
It has been three weeks since Israel launched their air and missile attacks in Gaza, but the violence has only continued to escalate. The fighting has been terrible in its ferocity, particularly towards innocent civilians. So far, over a thousand Palestinians lost their lives, and around four hundred of those were children. An additional five thousand people have been injured, many seriously, and again women and children are the majority. Israel has, in fact, systematically disregarded human rights throughout the conflict, in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Despite these terrible casualties, humanitarian aid has been denied, supplies are not permitted to enter, and humanitarian workers are at constant risk of attack. Safe zones and civilian areas such as schools, mosques, and hospitals have been directly targeted.  We join all member states in condemning the Israeli attack on the UNRWA compound yesterday, which demonstrates a fundamental lack of regard for the international obligations that bind Israel as a member of the United Nations. We commend the extraordinary efforts and dedication of UN agencies and staff under such deplorable conditions.
The impossibility of assistance has pushed an already severe humanitarian crisis to the limit. UN agencies report that basic necessities such as food, water, and cooking gas are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The terrified population of over 40,000 internally displaced persons is not permitted to leave, unable to find refuge.
But the current casualties do not even tell the full story. The ramifications of the fighting in Gaza are far-reaching. Each additional day of violence means more desperation, and the prospects for reconciliation and peace are fading.
For all these reasons, the situation in Gaza demands our immediate dedication. Common human decency demands no less.

Mr. President,
Afghanistan stands with the Security Council in condemning all violence directed against civilians, and in calling for the instantaneous implementation of Resolution 1860 and an immediate, fully-respected ceasefire leading to the full withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza strip
and a durable negotiated peace. In addition, humanitarian assistance and aid agencies must be allowed to reach those in need.
The resolution of this crisis must respect and abide by international human rights and humanitarian law.  The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a party, requires that civilians be protected during conflict, and Israel, in the position of occupying force, must respect its duties towards the civilian population of Gaza. The United Nations, in turn, must seek a solution that is in accordance to the Charter and consider the counsel and work of our own judicial entities: the International Court of Justice, the Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteurs.
Afghanistan stands by member states in agreeing that the durable solution must be one in which two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognized borders. This is the only way to address the security concerns of all parties and allow peaceful coexistence.
Once a ceasefire is achieved, the effort to achieve a durable solution will require all of our efforts, especially the regional countries who are directly impacted by the conflict. We appreciate and commend the tireless efforts of Egypt and the League of Arab States to successfully mediate and push forward negotiations. In addition, the Palestinian Authority under President Abbas should have a central role in any process. The solution, like the problem, will need to include regional actors and international partners.

Mr. President,
We offer our full support to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and call for all parties to cooperate fully with him as he works to stop the tragedy unfolding before us. We join his call for “a unilateral declaration of ceasefire by Israel” to put an immediate end to the violence.
Today we can wait no longer; we must all act, and swiftly.  Until a cease-fire is declared, there will be no end to the suffering of the people of Gaza. And once a cease-fire is declared, we must ensure that we have the political will to create a lasting, peaceful two-state solution.
I thank you, Mr. President.

Security Council Debate on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Zahir Tanin
Permanent Representative of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to
the United Nations  at the Security Council Debate on
Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts

Mr. President, esteemed colleagues,

Allow me to congratulate you, Mr. President, for your assumption of the presidency for this first month of the new year. In addition, thank you for convening this debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, an issue which should never be far from our attention. Here at the beginning of a new year, let us renew our conviction that no civilian, anywhere, should bear the costs of war.
As we speak, our thoughts are with the thousands of men, women and children who have been killed, and who have suffered in Gaza in the last 19 days. Civilians have been disproportionately affected by this conflict, and the brutality continues. We call for an immediate ceasefire, as requested in Security Council Resolution 1860. This conflict must end now.

Mr. President,

In Afghanistan as well, a new wave of violence is destroying the lives of innocent civilians. Over 2100 civilians died in 2008 alone. Women, men, students, teachers, aid workers, farmers, tribal leaders, and clergy are all victims. Civilian casualties are an issue that strikes at the heart of Afghanistan.

Mr. President,

In the past few years, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other terrorist elements have embraced tactics that target civilians with increasing deadliness. In 2008, terrorists accounted for the majority of civilian casualties. The numbers of victims of the terrorists are sobering: just this year alone, at least 270 civilians were executed, and an additional 725 or more were killed by suicide attacks or by IEDs. This targeting of civilians by the Taliban has accomplished several terrible objectives.
First, the terrorists have demonstrated their complete disregard for the sanctity of human life. Suicide bombs kill more civilians than military personnel. The Taliban regularly execute, abduct and torture civilians, particularly targeting Afghans and foreigners who are perceived to be cooperating with, or receiving services from, the government or international community. They behead doctors, teachers, clergy, and tribal leaders, recruit children as suicide bombers, and spray acid in the face of schoolgirls. Taliban harm to civilians and the creation of an environment of distrust and fear impede the Afghan government and the international community’s ability to deliver services to the people who need them most.
Second, the Taliban are using civilians as human shields, hiding in towns and villages and using men, women and children as cover for attacks on government and international forces. As a result, over 60% of civilian casualties have occurred in the South and East of the country, where the Taliban and al-Qaeda are most active.

Mr. President,

Unfortunately, many civilians have also suffered and lost their lives during counter-terrorist operations. This is a matter of grave concern for the Government of Afghanistan. President Karzai has recently and repeatedly raised concerns and has asked the international forces to find ways to prevent civilian deaths. Our Government believes that we need to work together with the international community in a spirit of open dialogue and cooperation to find a workable framework to address this problem, and we are discussing the issue with our partners. NATO and American-led forces have already introduced new strategies aimed at minimizing civilian casualties, and we have seen some positive results. However, any life is precious, and as a Government we have a particular responsibility to safeguard the lives of our citizens and not rest until every Afghan is safe.
Mr. President,
To decrease the harm to the Afghan people, there are three measures for us to consider. First, avoid tactics which cause significant unintentional civilian deaths. Airstrikes, in particular, result in enormous casualties among innocent people. We must minimize reliance on these methods of warfare. Second, work more in cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan and law enforcement on the ground. Home searches and detaining practices should operate within the guidelines set forth in the Afghan Constitution. Afghan National Army and Police should assume responsibility for home searches. Third, we encourage the international forces to operate with greater cultural sensitivity. In conducting searches and arrests, avoid heavy-handed tactics and operate with respect and minimal force. And where civilian casualties do occur, there should be apologies and accountability.

Mr. President,

With the increasing violence of the Taliban, it has become even more imperative that the Afghan government and the international community work together to effectively eliminate terrorism. The terrorists are responsible for the large majority of civilian casualties, but the Government of Afghanistan and the International Forces bear a heavier burden: we must provide security and protection to the people who need it. Our energies must be channeled collectively to prove to the Afghan people that we consider their welfare to be central to the endeavor for peace and stability in the country.
Thank you, Mr. President.