H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE, AT THE OPENING OF THE SENIOR OFFICIALS MEETING
Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Your Excellencies the Heads of Delegation,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you all at the start of your proceedings of this preparatory Senior Officials meeting, which will prepare the basic documents to be submitted to the Twenty-ninth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) scheduled to be held , God willing ,in just over a month’s time in Khartoum.
The General Secretariat has prepared the necessary documents for your task as well as the reports covering the developments that have occurred since the Twenty-eighth Session. The documents and reports are there for your consideration and examination and appropriate decision thereon, including appraisal, amendments, and of adoption. Your mission also includes reaching a consensus on the Agenda and Work Program for the next session.
As it is customary for your meeting to finalize the greater portion of the proceedings of the Foreign Ministers Conference, a great responsibility is placed on your shoulders of which I have no doubt that you are capable and worthy. I am also certain that you will dedicate yourselves to this work in order to reach optimal results that reinforce Islamic solidarity and strengthen the bonds of joint Islamic action.
The circumstances prevailing as you meet today are most exceptional and indeed go beyond exceptional to critical as the entire Islamic Ummah is facing grave and even decisive challenges that we must tackle with wisdom, equanimity, and courage. These exceptional, decisive circumstances require necessarily exceptional efforts and exceptional resolutions and recommendations that meet the demands of the responsibilities entailed by the present international situation and the expectations and aspirations of the Islamic world in these difficult times.
Since your meeting last year the Islamic Ummah has been facing grave events that have changed the course of ordinary international relations and cast their heavy shadows on the Islamic world, which has found itself experiencing critical situation as it has been subjected to unjust campaigns of calumnies and false accusations.
These events materialized in the attacks against the United States of America on 11 September 2001 and their serious political and military repercussions. They also materialized in the Israeli invasion of the territories of the West Bank in an unprecedented campaign of murder, massacres, destruction, and terrorization of innocent and defenseless people without discrimination.
The first condition for the efficacy of joint Islamic action is the unity of Islamic ranks, effective solidarity and rising above secondary and partial differences in order to face the imminent danger with a united will and determination.
The Islamic Ummah, representing more than a fifth of humanity. in view of its wide and interconnected geographical domain, key strategic position, and vast and diverse resources, is qualified to enjoy an effective global weight, and have its say at the international level. This could be achieved if it speak with one voice and face the world with a single position and a coherent single front based on a solid basis of interdependence and solidarity as continuously advocated by our true religion.
Developments in the Palestinian area surpasses our attempts give them expression in words and phrases; the Israeli aggression has gone beyond the scope of reason and patience. The insults made by the Zionist entity against the Arab and Islamic world, modern international civilizational values, the principles of international humanitarian laws, and the conventions and covenants agreed by humanity have transgressed all limits. It is therefore no longer possible to count on goodwill and hope that this aggressive entity would desist from oppression of its own accord without being faced with a firm and deterrent force at the Arab and Islamic levels and then at the international level.
It is regrettable that Israeli propaganda have been successful in promoting ideas to link the Palestinian cause and the struggle of the Palestinian people with international terrorism as I warned in some of my previous statements. The Israeli disinformation machine has used this misleading calumnies to justify its wanton practices, which international humanitarian organizations have described as “war crimes” and the Unite Nations Secretary-General as “a challenge to human conscience”. In view of the enormity of the tragedy unfolding in the occupied territories, I have addressed the United Nations Secretary-General in the past few weeks to urge him to personally intervene in an effective manner to put an end to the tragic plight of the Palestinian people. I called on him to urgently dispatch a multinational force to the occupied Palestinian territories to protect the Palestinian people, and I insisted on the need to dispatch also an international commission of enquiry into the crimes perpetrated by the Israeli forces in the occupied territories, particularly in Nablus and Jenin.
The Secretary-General has responded to this request as he has indeed constituted an international commission of enquiry and assured me of his full agreement with dispatching a multinational force to protect the Palestinian people from the brutal Israeli practices. However, this international demand has been met with the usual Israeli intransigence.
In this dark political environment, came the successful initiative of His royal Highness Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to reopen a door of hope for the possibility of reaching a comprehensive solution to the Middle East issue. This initiative has made its way through the Arab political scene, was adopted by the Arab Summit recently held in Beirut, and has also been welcomed at the Islamic and international levels which has given it a great boost and momentum. This initiative is expected to be used as the main basis for future international negotiations to resolve this issue.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As I have said before, the repercussions of the events of 11 September have had adverse effects on the Islamic world, on its states, and on Muslims generally because some have utilized these events to link Islam to international terrorism and hatred to western civilization. Both official and unofficial campaigns have intensified against Islam and Muslims in the West and the United States in particular.
This has been done in the context of the prejudiced interpretations presented at official and media levels to explain the motives and causes of the events of 11 September.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference has endeavored to swiftly address these repercussions by convening the Extraordinary Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Doha on 10 October 2001 in order to state to the world the position of Islam and the Islamic world on terrorism and to categorically condemn terrorist actions in all forms and manifestations, including state terrorism. It made a distinction between terrorism and national struggle backed by international legitimacy in order to remove occupation and gain the right to self-determination.
The Islamic state most affected by the issue of international terrorism and the events of September 11, 2001, has been Afghanistan. As is known, the forces of the “international coalition against terrorism,” with the help of some Afghan forces, brought down the Taleban regime. Those forces also targeted Al-Qaeda organization accused of having organized the “9/11” (Sept. 11) attacks in the United States, in a bid to destroy that organization. The brotherly Afghan people paid a very heavy price as a result of such operations that took the lives of large numbers of innocent Afghan civilians while inflicting enormous damage on the country’s infrastructure and institutions. At the same time the situation of the refugees and their plight worsened dramatically.
With calls on the part of the international community for the establishment of an interim government in Afghanistan and the organization of campaigns to collect assistance for reconstruction following the ravage of 20 years of war, one notices a receding of the international interest in Afghan affairs, now that the Taleban regime has been eliminated and that events in the Middle East have overshadowed Afghanistan. That, in turns, means that hope is dwindling in seeing international donors making good on what they had pledged for the country’s rehabilitation. It is, therefore, imperative to point to the momentous importance of the efforts which it is incumbent upon the Islamic world to make so as to help the Afghan people in the task of national reconciliation and harmony among their various factions. No less important is the call for the necessity to reactivate the assistance fund in favor of the Afghan people whose establishment had been announced at the October 10, 2001 extraordinary foreign ministerial meeting in Doha. Some donations have already been received from a number of Islamic countries.
The General Secretariat received proposals from some member states aimed at giving Afghanistan’s seat in the Organization to the incumbent interim authority in Afghanistan. You will, no doubt, adopt a decision in this concern which, we hope, would enable the Afghan people to resume their activity within the organization.
As for the Kashmiri issue, it, in turn, awaits settlement, more than half a century after the Security Council’s decision to resolve it by granting the people of Jammu and Kashmir the right to self-determination. We witnessed a recent exacerbation in the dispute over Kashmir, which led to a grave deterioration in relations between Pakistan and India that drew the two countries near the edge of a devastating nuclear conflagration. At the same time, India exerted great efforts in trying to link the activity of the Kashmiri freedom-fighters to issues relating to international terrorism, except that those bids ended in failure and did not receive the worldwide response India was aiming at.
On another plane, many of the territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan, especially in Nagorno-Karabakh, are still under unlawful Armenian occupation, which is considered a violation of the territorial integrity of that Muslim country. Such a state of affairs requires us to keep on extending a helping hand to Azerbaijan for it to recover its usurped territories.
And there are other situations in certain Islamic states that call our attention, such as the ones prevailing in Somalia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. We ought to extend to them a great deal of solidarity in helping to resolve such issues.
As regards the issues relating to Muslim minorities in non OIC member states, they too, indeed, deserve our constant interest. We are duty-bound to look after the affairs of those minorities and foster their ties with Muslim world countries in all fields, particularly in the province of Arakan of the Republic of Myanmar. For its part, the issue of Muslims in the Southern Philippines continues to be a matter of particular preoccupation for us, in view of the rapidly succeeding events. We hope that the developments taking place there now would lead to a sound implementation of the historic peace agreement concluded in 1996 between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as a prelude to the establishment of the Autonomous Area, in a way as to promote the aspirations of the Bangsa Moro people.
My report on the subject addresses the split of the Moro National Liberation Front into two parts. In view of this new reality, you have to consider the issue of who represents the Front in the future OIC meetings and submit your conclusions to the next Ministerial Conference.
You will also find in my report a reference to the request made by Liberia to join the OIC and the attendant considerations thereof. The General Secretariat received a request from another State to accede to the Organization; the request has been referred for preliminary examination prior to its submission to you in due time for a decision thereon.
In the field of Information, we may say that the voice of the Islamic world hardly reaches the West, whereas Western Information is sweeping the Islamic world. The importance of exerting joint efforts so that there may be a strong Islamic Information beamed to international public opinion cannot be overemphasized. Such an apparatus must be supported by distinguished expertise and capabilities of a nature as to produce the necessary impact and let our voice reach the others. Similarly, it is important that we endeavor to penetrate the international, particularly Western Information markets and establish an effective position therein, without neglecting the important Information role that we must play on the Internet.
In conclusion, allow me to entrust you with a message which I hope you would kindly convey to the competent authorities in your respective countries. It is about settling the due contributions to the budget of the OIC General Secretariat so that it may carry on its task normally (knowing very well that this financial matter does not come within the purview of the working of your esteemed meeting). The reason is that the recurrent delays in disbursing the dues causes us substantial financial problems and I have deployed tremendous efforts in this respect, in accordance with a recommendation of the previous foreign ministerial conference charging me with contacting the member states and urging them to honor their commitments. However, the outcome of such contacts has, unfortunately, been very limited. I hope that you would urge the authorities in charge, on my behalf, in your esteemed countries, to speed up the settlement of their financial obligations so as to enable the General Secretariat to proceed with its work and carry out all the missions entrusted to it in the various fields.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Those were just some of the ideas and concepts we briefly stated and described for the kind attention of your august gathering as you set out to begin your proceedings and deliberations in preparation for the coming Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM). I wish you every success in your endeavor on which the eyes of the entire Ummah are veered, especially at the crucial circumstances the Islamic world is going through, making it incumbent upon us to plan properly as to how best to face up to the multifarious challenges, with effective measures and actions.
I wish you a pleasant stay in this land which God has blessed with the Divine Revelation to the Prophet (peace be upon him) – a stay in the good care of the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (May God preserve him).
May the Almighty guide you in every step and crown your efforts with success.
Wassalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh