General debate of the 67th session of the UNGA concluded on Monday

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I know I am very late with this, but I wanted to cover the rest of the general debate same as I did with the first day, and then I wanted to do it properly, so at last I decided not to post it in pieces. That’s why this is going to be a long one. 

So, my thoughts on the general debate part 2 as follows. 

Whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad heeded the Secretary General’s warning or this speech was the original plan anyway, I – someone who expected nothing but the worst from him – thought he moderated his language for this time. Not that he didn’t make some unambiguous remarks, but I was kind of worried he would repeat what he said on Monday and would be getting at the point where the solution to every problem of the world he listed (he listed quite a few) would be eliminating Israel. As for his vision of the Ultimate Saviour coming and solving everything, I’m looking forward to that. Aren’t we all? 

(Please no-one mistake this for an unreligious comment! Actually, one more thought about this, I find it quite interesting reading notes about this particular remark of President Ahmadinejad all around the internet, how people think he was referring to Jesus Christ  or Imam Al-Mahdi as the Ultimate Saviour, depending on what their religious beliefs are. He said they would arrive together, and while it’s clear what he meant, it indeed can be explained either way.)

Herman Van Rompuy made the kind of speech I was hoping to hear from my President. As I am an EU citizen though, the President of the European Council was of course speaking in my name as well. And I thought he did a good job doing that. Talking about current affairs, he emphasized all along using different phrases that he spoke for millions of Europeans. According to his statement, “Europeans are in to help new democracies for the long run”, regarding Syria, he was joining “the voice of millions of Europeans in condemning violence”. He was also talking about the current economic, financial issues in the EU, noting that “what is at stake is the very future of our European project”.

Special attention was payed to newly elected officials of new democracies in the Arab world. Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi was speaking for about 40 minutes. He started with what he considers the “most important issue”, the Palestinian cause. He called upon members of the UN to support Palestine’s struggles for independende as they supported Egypt’s fight for freedom. He emphasized that his country want to take part in helping Syria, but he noted that they oppose foreign intervention if it can be avoided. Regarding recent uprises in the Arab world, President Morsi said the Security Council must address this new phenomenon, called “Islamophobia” for it is threatening international peace and security.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki started with condemning violence and extremism, saying that “today we are witnessing the great evil”. He said the price Tunisia had to pay for democracy was high, but they continue to go forward. Saying “dictatorship is a disease” he proposed an interesting, but given the present state of things, highly improbable idea about setting up an International Constitutional Court that would ensure the existence of democratic systems and would be “a deterrent weapon against any despots”. As opposed to Mr. Morsi, he asked for “rapid intervention” in Syria to help save the Syrian people from Assad. 

Lybian president Mohamed Yousef El-Magariaf reminiscing about the late Lybian dictator Quadafi’s never ending speech three years ago and how he threw the UN Charter, stated that the new Lybia stands for all the values and principles Quadafi rejected. He even apologized for all the harm and crimes commited by “that despot”. He of course talked about uprisings in his country, calling Chris Stevens a “messenger of friendship”, and stating that the demonstrations that condemn violence and extremism show the true feelings of Lybia. He suggested the UN to adopt a covenant to criminalize the assault of symbols of all religions. He, same as the other two new leaders, emphasized that they are only halfway in building democracy, they have many achievements, but many are yet to come.

I thought the Japanese and Chinese statements are going to be interesting together for their current disputes. Japanese prime minister  didn’t even mention the issue, he was mainly focusing his speech on disaster management: “humans must get wiser”, and the criterions of a sustainable future. Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs saying that his country promotes equality and diplomacy, empahsized once again that China does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, wouldn’t want other countries to interfere in theirs. Refering specifically to Syria, he said no more than this, only noting that relevan parties should play a constructive role, and that the Security Council resolutions and Kofi Annan’s 6 point plan should be implemented. He repeated several times – regarding this case and others as well – that win-win solutions are the goal. Regarding the island dispute with Japan he said the Japanese government “grossly violated” China’s integrity, when “stealing” the island from China, and that it was totally illegal and invalid. He was “strongly urging” Japan to stop.

I was looking forward to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech, him being a great rhetorician, one of my favorite speakers ever, whatever he is talking about. He reminded that last year he was speaking in support of the Arab spring, and though now many start to doubt (saying it will turn to “Arab winter”), he does so once again. He said every country will take their own path, progress will sometimes be slow. He called member states to give back “stolen assets” to their owners, the new Arab democracies, refering to assets of dictators that have been frozen as sanctions against them. While underlining the weaknesses of Islam (you cannot build open societies “if you lock out women”), addressing the fears of extremist groups gaining power he emphasized that we should judge new islamist governments by what they do, and that “democracy and islam can flourish one by one another”. He concluded by stating that the Arab spring is a chance for those people to rise up, and “we in these United Nations must do everything to support them”.

The Prime Minister of Mali was of course focusing his statement on the problems in his own country. He was talking about rebel groups keeping Northern Mali under their control, “war crimes”, “rights abuses”, “crimes against humanity” being the daily life of people who live in that region. He listed all the countries and organizations they requested assistance from, and quoated many UN officials refering to the seriousness of the humanitarian crisis in Mali. Stating that they are “not going to negotiate with terrorists”, he called for a resolution of the Security Council that would allow “intervention by an international security force”, based upon the Charter of the UN, since the situation in the region is a threat to the world.

As many others I was anticipating the statements by Palestine and Israel. President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas who was up to speak first, was welcomed and interrupted several times by huge applauses. He started by thanking all leaders who mentioned Palestine in their statements. He said Israel was continuing his campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people and called Israel to respect the Geneva Conventions. He was talking about how they conducted explorative talks with Israel, and the only understanding of their outcome, the “one conclusion” is that Israel rejects the two state solution. Palestine on the other hand refuses “a state with provisional borders”, because it “shall not bring about peace” and they think by this solution Israel is promising the Palestinian people a new catastrophe. Stating that they continue to obtain full membership for Palestine at the UN, he said their statehood would not be a gift, but a right, and “the Palestinian people is entitled to this right”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel barely even dealt with the Palestinian issue in his speech. For President Abbas he said “we won’t solve our conflicts with speeches at the UN”, have to sit together, negotiate. He of course emphasized that the only solution is the one that recognizes Israel as the one and only Jewish state. He also sent a message to those who say Israel have no roots in the Middle-East, and that it will disappear, he cited King David calling Jerusalem the “eternal home” of Jewish people. And then the main focus of the statement was on Iran and its nuclear program, after Prime Minister Netanyahu introduced this part by saying there is a fight between modern and medieval and that militant Islam forces of medieval want to destroy modern world. He said that a nuclear armed Iran equals a nuclear armed Al-Quaeda. And the rest of the speech is quite infamous with Prime Minister Netanyahu drawing a red line literally on Iran’s efforts to enrich uranium. Although I didn’t approve it in the first place thinking that the UNGA is simply not the stage to put on such shows, I didn’t agree first with those who said he “just made a joke of a very serious issue”. But when I started seeing all these memes spreading around the internet making fun of the whole thing, I wasn’t sure anymore. And I also wonder what was his purpose with it all, surely not being the biggest joke of this UNGA.  But then, if it was to give a memorable speech that people talk about, then it was well done.

Another pair of statements that worth paying attention to together is Sudan’s and South-Sudan’s. South-Sudanese Vice President said that independence haven’t settled all issues with Sudan, and called attention to the problems – hunger, masses of refugees – that still need to be solved. He listed a few agreements with Sudan, one was signed on that very day when he made his statement, but noted that there remained some issues with no solution yet. Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs also emphasized that there were many agreements between Sudan and South-Sudan, he also listed organizations and countries (The Philippines mainly) that helped. He said in achieving the MDGs, as for Africa’s development in itself it is crucial that Western states agree to the complete cancellation of their debts. He also said his delegation condemed all forms of terrorism, although he remarked terrorist acts are not to be mistaken with legitimate struggles for independence.

Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs was talking about how every year this time the same things are being said on the UNGA, but then when it comes to actions, nothing ever happens. For one thing, he said,  the Cyprus problem remained unresolved for almost half a century, for which he was partly blaming Greek Cypriots and “their lack of political will”. He called the recent attacks against Islam outright provocations and condemned Islamophobia as a new form of racism, but also condemned violence that led to loss of lives in the Arab world. Turkey is also the state which has received the most Syrian refugees, in this regard emphasized that his country continues to help Syrians who need it.

I don’t know whether I was the only one having a hard time following Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s statement. He cut to the chase without wasting any time on unnecessary civilities towards the presidency and jabbered his way through the speech about all the well-known positions of Russia on current affairs. Nothing surprising all along, he emphasized Russia’s take on the Syrian issue, he also repeated several times in different contexts that Russia can only accept any actions based on the UN Charter.

I was also paying attention to Azerbaijan’s and Armenia’s statements mainly because of Hungary’s recent case with these countries. The Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Armenian agression against Azerbaijan is a serious threat to international peace and security. Hypocritically, he condemned Armenia for treating war criminals as heroes. His Armenian colleague also focused his statement on “intolerance and hatred” on their part of the world. He mentioned the latest “human rights abuse” by Azerbaijan: the release and “glorification” of Safarov and making him an example to follow by youth. He cited European leaders who condemned this Azerbaijani act as an “abuse of European legal instrument”. Armenia also spoke as one of the countries receiving Syrian refugees.

Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs got to speak on the last day of the general debate. He said some well-known countries are contemplating new colonial policies through intervening in other’s domestic affairs. He accused several permanent members of the Security Council of supporting terrorism in Syria. This he said makes him question whether the international consensus on condemning terrorism several years ago was serious. He emphasized that the only peaceul solution to the situation in Syria would be the national dialogue among Syrian citizens, and that “Syrian people are the ones to choose their leadership through the ballot box”. He said that the Syrian government has cooperated with Kofi Annan, and it will cooperate with the new special envoy, Mr. Brahimi as well, but the solution is continously baffled by countries that support “terrorist groups” in his country. In his statement, the Foreign Minister invited Syrian opposition leaders to talk, and also called those Syrian citizens who left their homes in fear, to leave the inhuman conditions of refugee camps and return to their homes, his government, carrying out its duties saving its people from terrorists, promises guarantee to save them.

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