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As the enemies of #peace grow more confident, we must support the forces of moderation against radicals and deliver progress on resolving the #Palestinian – #Israeli conflict

20/02/2018 Leave a comment

Today, Palestinian President Abbas spoke at the UN Secuirty Council. He joined the monthly debate on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian Question. In my briefing to the Council, I opened by reminding everyone that we meet this month as regional tensions are taking an increasingly perilous turn. Fighting in Syria is increasing, endangering de-escalation arrangements and regional stability, as well as undermining efforts for a political solution. Despite the positive news from Iraq and the defeat of Da’esh, much of the Middle East continues to be in the grips of an ongoing human tragedy of immense proportions.

Against this backdrop and after over a century of hostilities including 50 years of continued military occupation, Israelis and Palestinians are still no closer to peace; many have lost hope that they will see it in their lifetimes.

The enemies of peace are growing more confident by the day.

They see every failure of the forces of moderation as a win for the forces of radicalisation. They believe the political odds are turning in their favour. Day after day they are emboldened. Hindering peace are also those who push facts on the ground, who promote unilateral moves blocking the pathway back to the negotiating table. None of this will bring us closer to resolving the conflict. None of it will respond to the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to statehood or the Israeli longing for security. It will only drive us farther down the road of confrontation, suffering and a one-state reality of perpetual occupation.

Last month the international community discussed key priorities to advance the goal of peace at the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC). At the meeting, I was encouraged by widespread, unequivocal messages reaffirming support for the two-state solution, in line with relevant UN resolutions, and the need to resume meaningful negotiations over all final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. Participants also made a critical commitment to undertake efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including support for projects focused on water, electricity and economic recovery.

My message to all was clear: first, we must clearly reaffirm that sustainable peace requires a two-state solution, one that can only be achieved through a negotiated process. Israelis and Palestinians have defined the final status issues and only they, together, can determine their resolution. Second, efforts must continue to seek implementation of concrete and transformative steps on the ground – including ending Israeli settlement expansion and advancing policy shifts particularly in Area C of the West Bank – consistent with a transition to greater Palestinian civil authority, as called for in the 2016 report of the Middle East Quartet. Third, the Palestinian Authority must continue to advance institution-building and service delivery to the Palestinian people and work towards bringing Gaza back under its control. And lastly, it is critical that any future peace proposal focus on the two-state solution and all final status issues as per prior agreements and relevant United Nations resolutions. A failure to do so could have dangerous repercussions.

Maintaining support for Palestine refugees is fundamental to the pursuit of peace and stability in the region. I reiterate my ongoing concern over UNRWA’s sizeable funding shortfall, despite the welcome flexibility of some Member States in accelerating the disbursement of their funding commitments. In addition, the emergency appeals launched on 30 January seek to raise US$ 800 million for the West Bank and Gaza, as well as for the Syria regional crisis, to meet the essential needs of some 1.5 million highly vulnerable people. I encourage Member States to consider urgently providing new funding for UNRWA’s critical requirements.

As the peace process falters and the gulf between the two sides widens, Palestinians and Israelis continue to suffer the violent consequences on the ground. Seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces in various incidents across the occupied Palestinian territory and one Israeli civilian was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian in the West Bank. Three of the Palestinians killed died during violent clashes with security forces, one a 16-year-old was shot near Ramallah. He was the fourth child killed under such circumstances since the beginning of the year. I once again emphasized that the use of force must be calibrated and that lethal force should only be used as a last resort, with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by the authorities. I urge Israeli security forces to exercise maximum restraint to avoid casualties under such circumstances.

I called upon all sides to reject violence, condemn terror, ensure accountability and work to reduce tensions.

In recent days we have also witnessed dangerous security incidents in and around Gaza. On 17 February four Israeli soldiers were wounded by an improvised explosive device placed at the Gaza fence. This was followed by Israeli airstrikes on some 18 Hamas targets, while Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israel – one causing damage to a house in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council. Two Palestinian teens were killed by Israeli security forces while reportedly attempting to approach the fence. Prior to this latest flare-up during the course of the past month, three more rockets were fired towards Israel, with two Israeli retaliatory strikes, all without injuries.

I encouraged the international community to

join the UN in calling on militants in Gaza to refrain from such provocations

and end the building of tunnels and the firing of rockets towards Israel. Such actions, and the response they elicit, only risk the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, undermine peace efforts and increase the likelihood of another devastating conflict.

I also took the opportunity to note the need to resolve the matter of the missing Israeli soldiers and civilians that are being held in Gaza.

Two additional incidents, Mr. President, highlight the risk of escalation and the need for continued Israeli-Palestinian security coordination. These were the discovery of 12 roadside bombs in the West Bank on 26 January and the foiled attempt on 4 February, to smuggle a dual-use component used to make explosives into Gaza within a shipment of medical equipment.

I also noted that the trial of 17-year-old Palestinian girl Ahed Tamimi started on 13 February behind closed doors. She has been detained on remand for two months to date. As stated in my last briefing, the detention of a child must only be used as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time.

Throughout the reporting period Israel’s illegal settlement-related activities continued unabated. In response to last month’s killing of a resident of the illegal Havat Gilad outpost, on February 4th, Israel approved the establishment of a new settlement to absorb its residents. I strongly denounced the expansion of the settlement enterprise as compensation for Israeli deaths.

Settlement construction is not a morally appropriate way to respond to murder.

On February 12th, Israel also advanced two settlement plans for some 85 housing units near Bethlehem. I reiterated the long-standing UN position that all settlement-related activities are illegal under international law and are a substantial obstacle to peace; and I call on Israel to seize and reverse such policies.

Demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures also continued, with 31 structures affected, resulting in 33 Palestinians displaced. Particularly concerning was the demolition of two donor-funded classrooms serving Palestinian children in the Bedouin community of Abu Nuwar. This is the sixth demolition or confiscation in the school since February 2016. Overall, according to OCHA, 44 schools in the occupied West Bank are currently at risk of demolition. I urged Israel to cease this practice.

I briefed the Council last week on the situation in Gaza. Month after month, we have raised the alarm about the humanitarian, economic and ecological calamity underway. It bears repeating that the situation is unsustainable.

Continuing power cuts of up to 20 hours per day severely undermine the provision of basic services. Without additional immediate fuel deliveries, the situation could deteriorate with dramatic consequences.

I reiterated the Secretary-General’s

appreciation to the United Arab Emirates and to the State of Qatar

for their support to deal with this emergency. Their immediate response to our appeal has helped stave off a further deterioration.

I stated that I was encouraged by the trilateral meeting I had last week with Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah and Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Mordechai in which we focused on the humanitarian problems in Gaza. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism and agreed on the need for a joint review to improve its functionality, transparency and predictability.

As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza escalates, the implementation of the Egyptian-brokered intra-Palestinian agreement has stalled. Absent immediate steps to address the humanitarian crisis and to revive the economy, we will face a total institutional and economic collapse in Gaza. This is not an alarmist prediction Mr. President – it is a fact. I welcomed the proposal of the Palestinian Government to incorporate into its 2018 budget some 20,000 civil service employees in Gaza. A positive outcome, however, is contingent, inter alia, upon the collection of taxes, the payment of salaries, the return of the Government administration, and ultimately, security control of Gaza. I urged all sides to intensify their engagement and to move forward in this process.

For a decade two million people have lived under the full control of Hamas with crippling Israeli closures and movement and access restrictions. Throughout this period the international community has provided aid and humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering and to rebuild what was destroyed in three devastating conflicts.

It is time to break this cycle. It is time to return Gaza back to the control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority, for there can be no Palestinian state without Palestinian unity.

Those who stand in the way of reconciliation hurt the Palestinian national cause

and the price will be paid by generations of ordinary people.

The security situation on the Golan is also of growing concern. A worrying escalation occurred on February 10th, when Israeli Defence Forces destroyed what they identified as an Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle which had reportedly entered its airspace from Syria. Shortly thereafter, Israeli aircraft targeted a Syrian airbase. During the attack, one Israeli jet was hit injuring two pilots, which further prompted Israel to attack what it described as “12 military objectives” inside Syria. I urge all sides to work towards easing tensions in this highly volatile area.

Turning briefly to Lebanon I stated that heightened rhetoric was exchanged between Israel and Lebanon over disputed maritime areas. The United Nations continues to call on the sides to act responsibly, avoid security risks and explore with the support of the United Nations ways to resolve the issue. Preparations continue for May parliamentary elections in Lebanon and for the upcoming Rome II and Cedre conferences to support the security sector and economy, respectively on 15 March and 5 April. While the situation was generally quiet in the UNIFIL area of operation, heightened rhetoric relating to the Israeli Defense Forces proposed constructions in Lebanese “reservation areas” south of the Blue Line continued. The planned construction commenced in non-reservation areas on 7 February with no incidents reported.

Returning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I reiterated in closing that we in the international community must continue advocating for substantial Israeli policy changes related to the situation in the West Bank, including a halt to settlement construction, demolition of structures and prevention of Palestinian development in Area C. On Gaza, we must collectively work to alleviate the humanitarian disaster and provide full support to Egyptian reconciliation efforts. Our support to UNRWA also remains vital.

I also expressed hope that we will be able to look beyond the closed, dark negotiating rooms that are currently empty of diplomats and politicians, to see that there are Israeli and Palestinian advocates for peace working tirelessly to promote change: civil society organizations; youth and women’s groups; religious and community leaders – they all have a critical role to play and must be supported and allowed to express their views freely. We rarely discuss their role, we don’t speak often enough of the challenges they face, but their efforts must be recognized and supported.

At the Security Council we have often spoken of the need for leadership on both sides to reach a deal, a compromise, through negotiations that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to separate and be masters of their own fate. But these negotiations would not be negotiations between equals. For one side is under military occupation. Its leadership has committed to a peaceful solution to the conflict through negotiation. I urge the international community not to give up on support for the moderate Palestinian leadership or on building up the institutions that will increase the chances of success. Our window of opportunity is closing and, if we do not seize it quickly, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict will be engulfed in the whirlwind of religious radicalization that remains present in the region.

The UN’s man in Baghdad

03/04/2015 Leave a comment

maldenov-largeOriginally published by the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.

FLETCHER FORUM: How did your experience as the Bulgarian Foreign Minister, and even further back, as a staff member with the Open Society Foundation and National Democratic Institute (NDI), shape your view of your time in Iraq

NIKOLAY MLADENOV: It all started in 2006, when I went to Iraq for the first time. I was working with NDI on what looked like a short-term project to the newly elected Council of Representatives set up their parliamentary committees. We really started from scratch. We started from zero.

I borrowed heavily on my own experience from back home. Between 2001 and 2005 I was a Member of Bulgaria’s Parliament, I had been a young MP who had gone through training too. It was fascinating to work with the Iraqis, they were all eager to learn. I ended up writing two booklets on committee works and the role of MPs. Both, I think, were used extensively later by NDI and reprinted.

The year 2006 was probably the worst time in Iraq. We had twenty to thirty rockets per day targeting the parts of Baghdad and the Green Zone every day. It was really unsafe. The difficult time however brought us all together and I started developing strong relationships with many Iraqis. The people I worked with were inspiring. They braved the security threats and day after day came to work to build their new country. Some, if not all, were not sure if they would get back to their families at the end of the day. It was a tough time.

After leaving my Iraq project I went home and delved back into Bulgarian politics. In early 2007 I was elected to the European Parliament, but Iraq stayed with me. I joined up with fellow MEPs and we set up the Iraq Group in the European Parliament.

I think what all of this has really taught me, and I’ve tried to use it now with the UN, is that you have to always be very practical and very specific when looking how to help a country in transition. Stay away from generalities, broad analysis and guidance but try to identify actionable items and specific policies. I guess when you speak from your own experience, having gone from dictatorship to democracy, that gives you more credibility to have that type of a discussion.

I’ve tried very much in the UN to be practical. Iraq faces massive problems, but because of the violence and the difficulties of transition, people don’t often enough look beyond their own plate. Many other countries have gone through great difficulties and been able to come through. Maybe somewhere out there, there’s a solution that they ought to consider. For me, one of the roles the UN can play is to bring that international experience, knowledge to people in Iraq. One of our roles should be exactly that — to help Iraq see that its not alone, that there is knowledge and experience out there in dealing with the tough problems of today and to help people use that to their own benefit.

FLETCHER FORUM: Where were you last summer on the day when you heard that fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIL) had taken Mosul?

MLADENOV: In the Prime Minister’s office telling him that ISIL would take over Mosul. On the 9th of June, in the morning.

We had been monitoring Mosul and Nineveh for a long time, and it was very clear that ISIL had been for months “harvesting” the city: kidnappings, assassinations of government officials and local council members. Nineveh is the only province in Iraq where practically every single elected official throughout the whole province had been kidnapped, killed, or chased away from their offices in some way.

The whole government infrastructure had been challenged at every single level by ISIL. At the end of May, early June, it was very clear that large numbers of fighters were coming across from the border of Syria and that they would make a push for Mosul. Our security analysis was that the city would not hold and would collapse under this pressure.

On the morning of the ninth of June, I went to see Prime Minister Maliki with a very big map saying, ‘look, this is our security analysis. The city will fall.” What we could not have foreseen was what would happen after that. What we believed would happen was a fight that might last for a few days and then perhaps the city would fall, like Falujjar earlier in the year. But we had no way of seeing that the Iraqi Army between Mosul and Baghdad, within 48 hours would melt away effectively without a fight.

My advice to the government was to strengthen the Iraqi army, but as an immediate priority to begin cooperating with the Kurdish Peshmerga. We could have helped find an arrangement to guarantee that the disputed territories would not be taken over by one side or the other. This cooperation was vital however if Mosul were to stand a chance. We had shared this analysis with the Kurds before, and they had also been in touch with the Prime Minister before the fall of Mosul to warn him too.

The Prime Minister saw things differently. I think it was about 3 A.M. on the 10th of June when I got a call saying, “it’s happening. The city has fallen, hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing, and the Kurds are moving in to get involved.” By the next morning we could see this meltdown of the Iraqi Army all the way to Baghdad. After that things unfolded very quickly, we had to relocate most of the UN staff from Baghdad to other places because we didn’t know whether Baghdad would hold and I urgently briefed the Security Council on the situation on the ground.

FLETCHER FORUM: What was your initial reaction? What was Prime Minister Maliki’s reaction to the both the initial meeting and the 3 A.M. phone call?

MLADENOV: That 3 A.M. phone call came from the Iraqi security forces, but I think at that point they were scrambling to do whatever they could to hold on to Baghdad and to protect Samarra, which was the next city exposed to ISIL and the location of a big Shia shrine. If Samarra had fallen, or a big fight had occurred there, then it would have really been a sectarian conflict. Thankfully, Baghdad and the south of the country were preserved.

In that meltdown however ISIL gained not only territory, but access to vast amounts of weapons, old and cash. According to Government sources the Central Bank in Mosul had some $450 million in their coffers. They had control of almost the entire border between Iraq and Syria so that they could easily transfer people to Anbar, Nineveh. The myth that ISIL is invincible however was created not by their victories on the ground, but by the meltdown of the Iraqi Army. ISIL didn’t battle their way to the gates of Baghdad, they walked their way down to Baghdad.

FLETCHER FORUM: Not long after ISIL’s advance, negotiations over the formation of a new government in Iraq kicked into high gear. Here in the U.S. there were a lot of news reports about the haggling and whether or not Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki would step down. Could you walk us through those weeks and tell us what the environment was like? What were people thinking? What were you thinking?

MLADENOV: If you go back to before the elections, there was speculation that the election would not take place. People were saying [Maliki] would postpone the election or find a way to not hold it. In fact he always adamantly denied such accusations and to his credit, he never tried to stop the election. When the election results came in, I think everyone was surprised for different reasons.

To me the election results had two pieces of good news in it. One, you had over sixty-two percent of Iraqis come out to vote, which is a pretty high turnout given the security environment. Secondly, no political party was even close to a majority. The message from the electorate was clear: ‘We are not going to give one person or one group the full mandate to run the country, we want you all to coalesce and save the country together.’

To me that was the reading of the election results. What followed was a typical debate about what happens next. Should they do what they did in 2009, when the spent almost a year negotiating a grand deal for the formation of a government? There were people saying that Iraq needed a grand deal. That they need to agree on who will be the Prime Minister, the President, the Speaker of Parliament, and once we have that done, they we can take it to a vote in Parliament and move forward.

Then there were others, and this was the UN line, that said ‘no, you have a Constitution and you have to base everything you do on it and its timeframe. If you do this grand deal thing you’re not really acting according to the Constitution, as it has clear timeline. You have to convene Parliament, elect a Speaker, elect a President and he should nominate a Prime Minister’.

I’ll admit that we pushed very hard with everybody trying to convince them that this is the way to go forward. And the logic behind it was that in an environment in which you have ISIL on the doorstep and the Army collapsing, people need to see the institutions of state working. Sticking to the constitutional timeline is the best option. If they had failed to do that, the message would have been one of complete chaos. People would have seen politicians squabbling over positions while the country is in a free fall. Abiding by the constitutional timelines was the legitimate response.

Thankfully, most agreed with this approach and the first session of the newly elected parliament was held on time with only a couple of days delay. Then the Speaker was elected, then the President was elected. Once that had been put in place the question came to who will the Prime Minister. Then there was another internal debate about who would constitute the largest group in Parliament, because the largest group gets to nominate the Prime Minister. This was an important step before the nomination of Mr. Abadi. Once he was nominated by the President, it was clear that the goal would be to have a government of national unity.

FLETCHER FORUM: Going back to this idea of national unity, when the Iraqi electorate is indicating that they don’t want any one segment of Iraq to take over, what is the role of leadership in this situation to create a more inclusive process?

MLADENOV: Leadership is extremely important. It’s not just political leadership. In all my statement I always referred to political, religious and civil leaders as they all had a role to play to bring the country together.

In Iraq, and Iraq is not unique in this sense, you have different authorities. You have the political authorities—the people that have their parties and lead their followers, define their platforms. You have the religious leaders, more specifically in Iraq and particularly within the Shia community, you have the Marja in Najaf that have a very strong moral guiding function within the Shia community. And then you have local tribes and leaders.

For agreement to be reached you need all of these leaders together on the same message. Before the elections it was quite common to see the Prime Minister talk about one thing, the President talk about something else, and the Speaker of Parliament talk about a third thing. And then the religious authorities would also get lost in this cacophony.

Now, I think one of the most encouraging developments is that you see all of these people coalesce around a similar message. Yes, they all still have their differences, but the message that they need to be united, to stand up to this terrorist threat, to rebuild their country, that they cannot have one community dominate everything and there needs to be a balance. This is the core of the political message that can hep save and rebuild the country.

In Iraq the leadership of Ayatollah Sistani is extremely important for the Shia community, I can’t overstate how important it is. Then with the tribal leaders you need to be careful because there are many different tribal elders and you need to work with a broader number of people. On the political side you have a very different picture.

If you look the Kurdish side of the equation, you know who the leaders of the parties are, you know the power that they wield within their community and understand how that works. Within the Shia community you can also see the political leadership. But the really tough challenge is the leadership within the Sunni community, because over the years it has broken into different groups and then with ISIL taking over their provinces, many of these Sunni political leaders in Baghdad really struggle because they are put between a rock and a hard place. Their constituency is gone because it’s under ISIL’s control, yet they have to fight for that constituency in Parliament. There is a leadership issue there that needs to be addressed somehow.

FLETCHER FORUM: In the lead up to ISIL’s advances in Iraq, there was a lot of dissatisfaction within the Iraqi Army. How do you think the difficulties of creating inclusive institutions to strengthening the Iraqi Army today?

MLADENOV: That’s one of the most fascinating topics and a very long discussion. If you go back to the very beginning in 2003, everyone focuses on Paul Bremer’s decision to dissolve the army and police. That was the wrong decision and we all pretty much accept that, but after that there was a period of time that the Sunni Iraqi community was refusing to be a part of the new democratic political establishment in Iraq. They were boycotting politics and staying away. That to some extent prevented Sunnis from joining the new Iraqi Army, the political process, or the institutions.

This helped create the environment in which the Shia from the south started dominating the rank and file of the army. They themselves had been oppressed under Saddam Hussein and they saw democracy as a tool to guarantee that they will never be in a position of weakness again. Some of the militias, Badr’s in particular, were integrated into the police or the army. The end result today is that Iraqi Sunnis have a leadership problem, while the state institutions dealing with security in particular, are dominated by the Shia community.  There needs to be a balance if Iraq is to live in peace.

Then you had the de-Baathification laws. The affected all members of Saddam’s Baath party, including military officers. Over time some have been brought back in, however the process reeked of favoritism and lacked transparency. Coming back to Mosul, you had a big disconnect between the servicemen in the army—mostly Shia from the South, and officers and generals who had either joined the army recently or beloved to Saddam’s regime and had ‘adapted’ to the new reality. Not a very bright picture, right?

Ideologically the Iraqi army never developed a strong national base of what they were fighting for or what they were defending. Loyalty to the community, to the tribe was stronger than loyalty to the state. Corruption was everywhere. Money was getting lost and weapons were not being delivered. Living conditions for the soldiers were appalling. All of this had a demoralizing effect on the rank and file. And then when you see the enemy across the river and coming for you, and you see your generals say, “I’m going home,” everybody just left. That is what happens when you don’t have a strong esprit de corps holding the armed forces together.

The big challenge now is not to reconstruct the Iraqi army in the old way, but to reconstruct it on a truly national basis. This will take time, it will be slow and difficult. To succeed you need to go back to politics and prove that the government is inclusive, that is doing the right things and is engaging everybody and communities are not feeling marginalized. That message from the top of the country will inevitably get down to the rank and file and people will feel safe to join that army. But it will take time.

FLETCHER FORUM: What is the most important lesson on state building from your time in Iraq that you would impart to the person who takes on that role next for the UN?

MLADENOV: Many, many lessons. Where do I start? Its not your country, you can help, but you can’t do it for them. If you try and take decisions instead of allowing local people to take decisions, even when you know they are wrong, you will mess things up. Advise, help, give options, argue, encourage… but don’t try to do it for them. It’s their country and their ways. All we can do is help, but they have to take responsibility. This is the really big lesson.

The second thing is to bring in as much international experience as you can. At the end of the day, you are dealing with people who have for generations lived in some sort of war and dictatorship: Saddam Hussein, 1979, war with Iran, Kuwait, the first Gulf War, sanctions, the second Gulf War, terrorism, sectarianism, etc. Generations have grown up in this environment. You really need to help open people’s minds and show them the experience of other places and what’s been done elsewhere.

When you think about any issue related to minorities in Iraq, leave aside ISIL, you can just look Europe and you’ve got thousands of examples from country to country. And if you look into the details, you will find something that might work. Or at least it will give them ideas to look into, how about this or how about that?

Statement at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly

24/09/2011 Leave a comment

66th UN General Assembly Debate

Let me begin by praising His Excellency Nassir Abdelaziz AL-NASSER for the steady stewardship as the President of the 66th session of the General Assembly. In your work, Your Excellency, you can count on the constructive engagement of the Bulgarian delegation. But allow me also to personally praise you for the theme which you have selected for this session.

I take this opportunity to also pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Joseph DEISS, for his outstanding leadership of the previous session’s busy agenda.

Last, but not least, let me congratulate the Secretary General Ban KI-MOON for his re-election at the helm of the United Nations.

Mr. Secretary General, you have proven yourself as a diligent, hard-working leader who believes strongly in consensus and harmony – qualities that the UN needs now in its top administrator and will undoubtedly need even more in the years to come.

Let me begin by welcoming the work of our delegations in UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases. Cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes are now responsible for more deaths than all other causes combined. Bulgaria welcomes the negotiated final document. Over 80% of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths, almost 90% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more than 2/3 of all cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

To quote the UN Secretary General’s Report to the GA: “Knowing how to reduce such diseases is not the problem; the problem is lack of action.” Focusing on this “new frontier” now is an important challenge that can be addressed only if we all work together.

Bulgaria also particularly welcomes the High Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security. The effects of nuclear accidents have no respect for national borders. To adequately safeguard our people, we must have firm international consensus and action, as well as agree on stringent international safety standards. As many other IAEA member states Bulgaria considers nuclear power as a viable option to meet our energy needs. Nuclear energy has a key role for providing base load power to our economy with a share of 35% of the total energy mix.

Today we stand on the doorstep of historic change in the Middle East. Change, the scale of which can be only compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the sweeping transformation of Central and Eastern Europe after the end of Communism.

Both processes are quite different, but share a fundamental similarity — people have come out of the bondage of fear. Although the circumstances in each country are divergent, the root causes for what is happening in the Middle East are similar.

  • Corrupt leadership breeds dissent and with no democratic process in place, this dissent pours out onto the streets;
  • Young people want to be engaged in the future of their countries, not forced into a world of virtual reality and frowned upon by aging dictators;
  • Millions of people who live on the brink of poverty and see a privileged few reap the benefits of economic freedom will demand fair economic opportunities for all.

Add to that the feeling of revival, the demand of millions of young Arabs to be respected not to be denied the opportunities that others have, not to be talked down or discriminated and you have the makings of a revolution of Arab dignity and self respect, a historic revolution indeed.

Human dignity is a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I quote: “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood

As change swept across the Middle East and North Africa, some leaders cringed in fear, others embraced it. Those who opposed their people are no longer in positions of power; their countries are moving on and looking to democratic elections. Those who embraced change have initiated far-reaching reforms and responded to the legitimate demands of their people. His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan and His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco need to be commended for their vision and willingness to reform. They are showing the way forward.

At the same time the international community has been appalled by the developments in Syria. Instead of responding to the legitimate demands of the Syrian people by fulfilling promised reforms, the government cracked down violently  on protesters. They did not have unrealistic demands; they did not ask for anything out of the ordinary. According to the UN over 2600 people have been killed since March. The government in Damascus questions these numbers. Even if only one person had been killed, it would been one person too many. The responsibility for the repression lies squarely with the authorities and no one else.

I use this opportunity to call on President Assad — who has made many promises to his people and the international community — to come out from the shadows, change the constitution, dismantle the machinery of repression, and immediately call internationally supervised elections. The people of Syria have the right to elect their own government and hold it accountable. The time for transition has come.

Ladies and gentlemen,

at this session we welcomed the hundred-and-ninety-third member of the United Nations. Our hearts go out to the people of South Sudan who have struggled for independence and we commend the visionary leadership of their new government for paving the way for their independence in a peaceful manner.

We also welcomed the new representatives of Libya, free from the oppression of the Gaddafi dictatorship. It was at the gates of Beghazi in February that he international community, acting on a mandate of the UN Secuirty Council, acted swiftly to prevent a massacre and protect civilians against attacks from their own government. The people of Libya proved that they can stand up and defend their right to freedom. Our thoughts go out to the families of all who lost their lives in this struggle, who fell victim to the crazed ambitions of a deluded dictator.

Bulgaria stands ready to assist the people of Libya in rebuilding their country. Our friendship is strong and has been tested through the years. We know first hand of the brutality that Gaddafi was capable of. The five Bulgarian nurses and a doctor who spent eight years of their lives in a Libyan jail, much of it on death row, are still haunted by their tortures. “We died every time the cell door opened” said one of them in an interview recently. Now safely back home they need to be able to close the chapter of their nightmares. Like the nurses — innocent victims of a brutal dictatorship, the Libyan people do not want to see revenge, but justice. Such justice will be sought when the dictator and his cronies are brought before a court of law.

Ladies and gentleman,

No matter how successful we individually are, we cannot truly bear the fruits of our own development if we live in an insecure environment. Regional cooperation and good neighborly relations are vital for the wellbeing of our countries and our societies. With this introduction let me turn even closer to home — the Balkans. Allow me to use this opportunity to reiterate Bulgaria’s unfaltering commitment to the European future of the Western Balkans. So I will not tire to repeat exactly the same thing I said last year from this podium:

The European Union was created to make war impossible in a continent that has seen at least a century of conflicts. Europe shall not be whole and complete until our neighbours in the Balkans are not part of our Union.

It falls on us – those who joined the EU late, not by their own choice, but because of the ideological divisions of the Cold War – to say it loud and clear: to make war impossible in the Balkans we must see all countries that have emerged from former Yugoslavia be part of the European Union. This is our historic mission. Its our destiny.

This is why we will continue to work tirelessly to remove the obstacles to EU enlargement in the Balkans, to strengthen regional cooperation and develop good neighbourly relations in a region that has seen too much division. With particular vigor we will continue to encourage the EU facilitated dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina. Bulgaria welcomes the pragmatic approach taken by both Kosovo and Serbia during their first meetings. It is important that they build on this momentum and continue to engage in a constructive and pragmatic manner. All must show restraint and prevent the build-up of tension. This is vital for the security, prosperity and – ultimately, for the European perspective of the region.

Bulgaria will continue to contribute actively to regional reconciliation. Because we believe that our role in South East Europe and beyond is to bring people together, not divide them; to seek solutions, not watch from the sidelines.

We must constantly reaffirm our European commitment to bring in our neighbours in the Western Balkans into Europe, when they meet the criteria for membership. Our neighbours also must reaffirm their own commitment to undertaking often very difficult reforms, and to strengthening regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Bulgaria is a country that has had a proud but turbulent history. Our history teaches us that nations are strong when their civic spirit is strong. It teaches us that you must find pride not only in great historic battles and ancient legends, but in great feats of civic activism, in the standing up for your values and protecting your neighbors. One such inspiring example is that fact that the Jews of Bulgaria survived World War II because hundreds of religious and community leaders, politicians, ordinary men and women stood up and refused to be part of Hitler’s madness.

I stand tall and proud of the spirit of my predecessors. Their example of tolerance inspires much more than the Medieval stories of greatness and empires that we have so many of in Europe.

Two days ago we celebrated our national independence day. After 500 years of foreign occupation and domination in 1878 Bulgaria reemerged on the map of Europe. Our full independence however came only in 1908, some 30 years after the re-establishment of the Bulgarian state.

My country today is the product of the traditions of Christians, Jews and Muslims who all form the fabric of the Bulgarian nation. This is our richness, this makes us quite unique in the Balkans. This is why we cannot remain uninterested in developments in the Middle East, particularly to the elusive prospects of peace between the people of Israel and the people of Palestine.

Over the course of the last year we have seen the tireless efforts of the US administration and the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy to find a way to resume direct negotiations. These efforts, including the agreed Quartet statement of today, need to be applauded, encouraged and supported by all.

It was in the United Nations in 1947 that the State of Israel was born. It was born as a home for the Jewish people, a beacon of hope to a community that has been persecuted and oppressed for thousands of years; becoming the only truly democratic country in the region.

Today this landscape is changing. Slowly but surely the region is moving towards democracy. Democracy, accountable government and the rule of law are ultimately in the long term interest of all — Jews and Muslims; Arabs and Israelis.

The Palestinian people have a right to a state of their own. Indeed we — the international community — have an obligation to support the establishment of a viable and democratic, Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

A Palestine that lives side-by-side with the State of Israel;

a Palestine that lives in security and mutual recognition with the State of Israel;

a Palestine that has secure borders, based on 1967 with mutually agreed swaps.

Both Palestine, as the home of the Palestinian people, and Israel, the home of the Jewish people, must guarantee that all ethnic and religious groups have full rights and protection under law.

But let me also make one point very clear — to refuse the right of Israel to exist means to refuse the right of the Palestinian people to also have a state of their own. I can accept criticism of the policies of any government, but I cannot stand idle when the right of existence is denied to anyone — no matter their religion or ethnicity. To dismiss such policies in passing, would mean to fail the values of our civilization.

Bulgaria will never accept that and nor should any other nation in the global community.

Bulgaria believes very strongly that the definitive solution to peace can only come through direct negotiations. But direct negotiations can resume only on the basis of trust and a real understanding of the security concerns and the legitimate aspirations of both sides. Rebuilding trust between both parties is a prerequisite to resuming negotiations. Unilateral action, changing the realities on the ground cannot be a substitute for negotiations. Obstacles should be overcome and preconditions should be removed. If the leaders of Palestine believe that settlement policy is an obstacle to peace, the leaders of Israel must refrain from such activities. To give peace a chance. If the leaders of Israel believe that no preconditions to a final settlement should be put in place, then the Palestinian leaders must refrain from such actions. To give peace a chance.

Bulgaria has recognised the Palestinian state in 1988. We hold our friendship both with Israel and the Palestinian people dear. This is why we urge the immediate resumption of negotiations as the only road to peace. Bringing both sides back to the negotiating table remains out top priority. I am sure that the United States, working in concert with the European Union, can facilitate this process, based on a vision outlined by President Obama.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges of peace in the Middle East today are challenges of leadership.

Allow me now to turn to my delegation’s vision for the kind of leadership, the kind of United Nations we need for the the next decade. Our organization, in its reform, must be adequate and accountable, brave and bold in its actions, credible and compassionate.

An organization created by 51 member states functions today with 193 members. In order for the UN to be adequate today its institutions need to be reformed, first and foremost, in the composition of the UN’s main body guaranteeing international peace and security. We must build on progress achieved so far within the negotiations on the Security Council reform and move the process to a more result oriented phase. Bulgaria considers enlargement of the Council in its two categories — permanent and non-permanent members as one of the options that enjoys the support of a considerable number of delegations. The increase in the number of non-permanent seats should provide for a just representation of the Eastern European Group, whose membership has more than doubled over the last two decades.

Transparency is impossible without accountability. First, the UN must be accountable to its member states through a continued strive to improve management and the enforcement of strict budgetary discipline, especially in the current period of economic turmoil.

We, the member states, ought to be accountable to the UN by fulfilling all our commitments, including by paying our financial contributions to the organization fully, unconditionally and in time – a principle that Bulgaria upholds and adheres to: by June 2011 my country has paid all its due contributions for 2011 to the regular budget, the Capital Master Plan, the tribunals and the 2010-2011 peacekeeping missions’ financial period.

We all need to be accountable for our actions to future generations. It is easy to speak of “sustainable development”, but at the moment we are not even remotely close to making it a reality. On the contrary: the damage we have done to the planet’s geology, climate and ecosystems for most of the last century is so significant that scientists are increasingly asserting that the human race has actually managed to push the Earth, way faster than usual, into a new, eventually more unstable and dangerous geological period.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We need both wise and courageous leadership from the UN in our efforts to guarantee peace and security. Wise so as to avoid the temptation to use force when it seems to get results faster than mediation and protracted negotiations. Courageous to take responsibility when the use of force is a must.

In this context, I would like to acknowledge the initiative of Turkey and Finland to introduce a resolution on the topic which Bulgaria readily co-sponsored.

The United Nations will benefit much from strengthening its cooperation with regional security organisations. The cooperation with NATO in Afghanistan is an excellent example. International support has to continue beyond 2014. We were all saddened by the brutal murder of a great Afghan leader — former President Rabbani.  His work must inspire us to continue supporting the Afghan government ‘s efforts at reconciliation and reintegration.

It is high time for bold and decisive actions in the field of disarmament and nonproliferation as well. It is the legal and moral obligation of all of us to honor the commitments undertaken with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Outcome document of the 2010 Review Conference. A strengthened and robust NPT regime is in the interest of all States, especially with the growing risk of non-state actors getting access to weapons of mass destruction. All States Parties, including DPRK, are bound by the NPT regime. Leaving the NPT should not be without consequences.

Cooperation with IAEA is also essential. As long as Iran continues to not provide greater transparency of its nuclear activities, the concerns of the international community will remain valid. Full compliance with the Security Council resolutions and with the provisions of the IAEA safeguards agreement is paramount for the diplomatic solution of this case.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The sad anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York we commemorate this year, the more recent tragic events in Oslo, Mumbai and other cities of the world prove that terrorism is a global cancer that does not discriminate against developed or developing countries and societies. Its eradication requires decisive actions. The successful conclusion of the negotiations on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism has Bulgaria’s full support.

Bulgaria attaches great importance to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations and the only international court of universal character with general jurisdiction. We welcome the fact that the Court has acquired a solid reputation as an impartial institution with the highest legal standards that enjoys the trust of the Member States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I opened my presentation by focusing on the challenge of tackling non-communicable diseases. Human suffering caused by various illnesses is further exacerbated due to the effects of the series of global crises in food, finance and energy and the threats associated with climate change. Taken together, these and other new challenges impede progress towards the achievement of the MDGs.

Our world today faces challenges that will shape its tomorrow. We need to be able to meet these challenges in a bold manner, with a clear vision for the future and tackle them together as a global community of nations.

Thank you!