H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE (OIC), AT THE ANNUAL COORDINATION MEETING OF THE FOREIGN MINISTERS OF THE OIC MEMBER STATES
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Your Excellency Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail
Foreign Minister of the Republic of the Sudan and
Chairman of the 29th ICFM,
Assalamu Alaikum wa-Rahmatullah wa-Barakatuh.
At the outset I have the honour to wholeheartedly welcome you as we open, with the help and guidance of Allah, this Annual Coordination Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the OIC Member States alongside the 57th Session of the UN General Assembly. The objective of our meeting, as has been our custom, is to hold consultations on the new developments which have taken place since our meeting in Khartoum three months ago, and to coordinate the positions of our States regarding the issues featuring on the agenda of the General Assembly with a view to strengthening joint Islamic action, promoting Islamic solidarity, and defending the just Islamic causes addressed at this international forum.
Contemplating the situation of the Islamic world, one year after the appalling September 11th events and their repercussions, which have changed the map of many rules of international relations, reveals that the general outcome of this situation, at the Islamic level, is negative in its totality, since those events have propelled the Islamic world into an extremely critical, difficult and complicated phase in its relations with others and beleaguered it with serious and crucial challenges the likes of which it has rarely confronted in its long history.
This is due to the new escalating turn which the successive challenges we have been facing for the last year have started to take. The war against terrorism has been used as a pretext to publicize threats aimed against the fundamentals of our faith and beliefs, to encroach upon the basic elements of our way of life, systems and civilization, impose on us unjust political and cultural conditions, and seek to force us into presupposed clashes, which they claim are "inevitable between civilizations". Their frenzy has reached such a point that public threats have been made against the political entities of a number of Islamic States. The situation is so critical that we have to exercise caution and vigilance. We have to rise to our decisive and historical responsibility to rebuff such conspiracies. The situation further requires us to close ranks, to rally round in close unity and support, and adopt resolute collective positions reaffirming the principles of Islamic solidarity and sending a clear message to the world that our States and our faith seek for nothing else than to establish the reign of peace, security, and fraternity in the world so as to realize the Islamic precepts of close relations, harmony, tolerance, mercy, and human fraternity among all human beings without exception. Our States and faith seek no other goal but the good of all and believe in recognizing the other and in the diversity of cultures as a sources of enrichment for humanity. At the same time, our positions reject any attempt to undermine our religion, faith or culture and refuse that our magnanimous civilization should be drawn into animosity.
Yet our message to the world must also be clear and must show our steadfast adherence to the bonds of our Islamic solidarity and our commitment to defend one another against any external aggression in accordance with the principles of our Charter, which stipulates that a threat to the security and integrity of any Member State is considered a threat to the security and integrity of all Member States. This message should therefore clearly convey our categorical rejection of all insinuations injected into the media and other means, and threatening to cause harm to the political entities of some Islamic States.
In the midst of these events, the Islamic world was seething, last year, with the prolific activities undertaken by your Organization at this level. Two Extraordinary Sessions were convened that unequivocally expressed the position of the Islamic Ummah on terrorism and its categorical rejection of terrorism as an evil phenomenon denounced by Islam, which considers terrorist acts and the taking of innocent lives as a major crime affecting all human beings. We have distinguished between that kind of action and the right of peoples to resist foreign occupation. We further demanded that an attempt be made to eradicate the roots of terrorism which lie in poverty, underdevelopment, and despair—all of which are principles agreed upon by the contemporary international community.
Last year, we also held an Extraordinary Session to consider the grave conditions provoked by Israel in the Palestinian territories. These conditions have reached an intolerable level of violence and disregard for international and humanitarian values. In addition, we called on the international community to compel Israel to respect international covenants and conventions governing the affairs of citizens living in occupied territories and to implement the international resolutions adopted by the Security Council on respecting the legitimate and inalienable Palestinian rights.
The importance of our meeting within the framework of this international political forum, with which we are starting to enjoy even closer structural and political cooperation relations, is clearly reflected in the growing role of our Organization at the international level, and in shaping events in addition to its being one of the key players in this field given its political weight as a powerful block wielding about one third of the votes of the UN Member States representing one quarter of the world population. Further, the more our belief in the virtues of Islamic solidarity and our commitment to the line we adopt in our meetings increase, the greater our political power will be, the more our voice will be heard, and the more our rights will be preserved. Our strength and weakness in the corridors of this international forum hinge on the desire we display to energize our solidarity through the resolutions and recommendations which we adopt at our various conferences.
Hence, and at this particular juncture in which several forces are gathering round to encroach upon our rights and undermine our faith and our immutable positions, it is appropriate, in my view, to recall that the best arena to reaffirm our identity and to show our solidarity, cooperation, and defense of our rights, is this forum where the entire world can see from us a collective united front that will bring us inviolability and respect; or else it can see from us, Allah forbid, the division and disarray that will bring us disrespect, the daring to isolate our States one by one, and the oppression of our rights.
In order to optimize this promising role of our Organization in the UN fold, ongoing and complete coordination between the two Islamic Groups in Geneva and New York was approved as such coordination represents an urgent necessity required by the smooth and unified operation of Islamic action at the UN. We hope that this cooperation will commence shortly.
Our Islamic positions may be reflected in the items of this session’s agenda with respect to issues raised at the international level, including of course certain issues of direct concern to the Islamic world such as terrorism, dialogue among civilizations, the cause of Palestine, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Jammu and Kashmir, Somalia, Azerbaijan, Muslim minorities living in non-Member States and others.
At the outset of this statement I elaborated on the issue of terrorism. However, I would like to refer to the many biased attempts made recently with the aim of widening the gap between the Islamic world and the Western Christian world in particular, which exploited the issue of international terrorism to spread the culture of "Islamophobia" and to make use of this phenomenon to reinforce the idea of a clash of civilizations. Our Organization made attempts to remedy the effects of this campaign by holding a joint symposium between the OIC and the EU on Civilization and Political Harmony/Consensus in Istanbul in February this year. The result was a positive general trend for deeper dialogue between the two sides in order to create more chances for further reconciliation and close relations and to avoid all forms of prejudice and difference. Contacts are underway to establish a permanent dialogue between the two organizations, as discussed in the joint meeting held alongside the present session.
The Year of Dialogue among Civilizations declared by the UN in 2001 fulfilled its role by highlighting the radiant image of Islam in dealing with others on the basis of noble humanitarian principles. It is important for me to refer to the document adopted by UN General Assembly at the conclusion of its consideration of the issue of Dialogue among Civilizations on 24 September 2001. The document reaffirms "The importance for states to refrain in their relations from resorting to the threat, or use, of force, threatening the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or the adoption of any other measure that is inconsistent with the objectives of the UN".
It is also important for Member States’ delegations to continue adhering to their positive position adopted within the framework of the Commission established by the UN General Assembly on Terrorism, its definition and its handling. The negotiations held by the above-mentioned Commission made tangible progress on several issues. The position of the Islamic Group enjoyed the backing of the other regional groups.
In this context, the central role of the UN should continue to be stressed in the area of combating terrorism. There is also a need to finalize the nomination of the members of the Islamic Committee to Counter Terrorism announced in Kuala Lumpur and to activate its role to go hand in hand with the action taken within the framework of the UN.
Regarding the cause of Palestine, the intifadha of the Palestinian people is now entering its third year of continued resistance to end the Israeli occupation of their territories. The occupied Palestinian territories have been the scene of heroic action and unique fierce struggle which demonstrated to the occupation authorities, and to international public opinion, the Palestinian people’s readiness to offer their lives in their resistance to occupation and their unprecedented adherence to the restoration of their full rights, especially after Israel’s re-occupation of Palestinian cities and villages. These acts of legitimate resistance, legalized by the unanimous resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly 40/61 dated 19 December 1985 which "reiterates the legitimacy of the struggle for self-determination, specially the struggle of the national liberation movements, in conformity with the objectives and principles enshrined in the Charter and the Statement of Principles of international law", were met with illegal Israeli practices prohibited by international law and covenants. Many of these practices are considered as state terrorism and flagrant war crimes. They include various forms of collective punishments, assassination and extra-judicial killing of leaders of civil society on mere suspicion, imposition of blockades on Palestinian leaders and of collective sieges on citizens through the clamping of curfews, destruction of residential units, public facilities, infrastructures and historical sites. They also include mass detentions of several thousands of people, in addition to the daily killing and deportation of Palestinian youths from their homes, and depriving them of access to food, medicine and hospitals.
These illegitimate practices renege on all peaceful efforts exerted to settle the problem as well as all covenants reached between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. They flout all relevant resolutions of international legitimacy. This makes of Israel a state outside the rule of international law and in violation of international covenants and UN resolutions. This is a serious situation that we should condemn with the strongest terms. It is also incumbent upon us to combine all efforts to support the Palestinian people to overcome this latest ordeal through the United Nations and the Quartet and to help them with all means to strengthen their steadfast struggle until they are able to establish their independent state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital. Furthermore, we must continue our support for Syria’s recovery of the occupied area of Golan and for the recovery of the Lebanese pockets still under Israeli occupation.
The gravity of the situation in Iraq continues to preoccupy our Organization, despite the breakthrough in Arab-Iraqi relations that emerged earlier this year. The continuity of the sanctions imposed against Iraq, with their severe social and humanitarian consequences, has inflicted heavy damages upon a whole new generation. This, we fear, will have extremely negative repercussions for this Islamic country for many years to come. It is our ardent hope that Iraq will be able to settle all its problems with its sisterly neighbors, the foremost among which is the issue of the missing Kuwaitis. We hope, also, that Iraq will settle its problems with the United Nations, particularly with regard to the return of the UN inspectors to resume and complete their mandated tasks.
In Afghanistan, we saw a good omen in the formation of a new transitional government following the convening of the elected Congress (the Loya Jirgah). We hope that the central authority will be able to have full control over all regions and establish the rule of law therein. In this context, we appeal to the Member States to offer urgent aid and assistance to this country to rebuild what has been destroyed by a quarter of a century of fratricidal war and conflicts, to finalize the measures needed for the establishment a fund to assist the people of Afghanistan. We also hope that the donor States will honour their financial pledges for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan.
In the region of Jammu and Kashmir, the Kashmiri people demand the realization of their right to self-determination recognized by the relevant UN resolutions. The OIC extended moral and political support to this people to regain their rights. It is our hope that the Indian government will find a realistic way to meet these demands and implement the above-mentioned resolutions that have been awaiting implementation for more than 50 years. This would spare the region of South Asia the repeated escalation of tension which threatens the outbreak of a destructive nuclear war in that region.
As regards Azerbaijan, it is our hope that the recent contacts made with Armenia will lead to the withdrawal of the latter’s forces from the occupied Azeri territories, and the achievement of a just solution to this dispute which respects the territorial unity of states and ensures non-aggression against internationally recognized borders. We also wish that the reconciliatory efforts exerted within the framework of the UN will bear fruit towards the realization of a solution the problem of Cyprus in favor of the Turkish and Greek communities and of their progress and welfare.
Also, we can only express our hope that the warring factions in Somalia will be able to put an end to the internal rift in this country and to give way to the transitional national government to put the Somali internal house in order in such a way as to ensure national reconciliation, the unity of the country, and the rule of law therein in preparation for the rehabilitation of the damage caused by the civil war, including the material destruction, the dispersion of the forces of the Somali society, and the crushing of the basic ingredients of its economy.
It is heartening that the civil war in Sierra Leone has come to an end and that this member country is ushering in an era of reconstruction in preparation for addressing the difficult social problems experienced by its people. We hope that efforts will also continue to finalize the measures to set up the Sierra Leone Reconstruction Fund.
All that I have said is contingent on our serious commitment to Islamic joint action, the desired Islamic solidarity, and the solidity of our ranks. The more we are earnest in this endeavor, the higher the respect and esteem of the others we earn. Consequently, our international status and stature among nations may be enhanced.
This is the best way forward for us in these critical times. This also represents an acid test for our ability to face challenges and to undertake action to reaffirm our identity and personality, while distinguishing ourselves with the qualities of courage and wisdom in order to win the battle imposed on us and to emerge safe, sound, and victorious as we have done in similar battles throughout our long history. In the true words of the Noble Quran (III: 173):
We are like " those who, on being told ‘your enemies have mustered a great force against you: fear them’, grew more tenacious in their faith."
Wassalamu Alaikum wa-Rahmatullahi wa-Barakatuh.