Minister Dlamini Zuma Offers Message of Support to the Fourteenth Ordinary Summit of the League of Arab States, Beirut, 27 March 2002

Your Excellency General Emile Lahoud, President of the Republic of Lebanon and Chairperson of the Fourteenth Ordinary Summit
of the Arab League
Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses
Heads of State
His Excellency Mr. Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League
His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Leaders of Delegations
Honoured Delegates

Allow me to express our sincere gratitude to President Lahoud and the Lebanese Government for the warm hospitality as well as for the kind invitation extended to us to address this august Assembly.
The President has instructed me to convey his sincere apologies for not being able to be here in person. On behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement he wishes you a successful 14th Summit, which is taking place at a defining moment in world affairs.

Solidarity, unity and co-operation among ourselves as members of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Arab League can only strengthen our voice as developing countries in this fast changing and challenging global village.

As we meet here today the world is still plagued by conflicts that seem intractable and this makes it impossible for us to focus on the developmental challenges of the 21st century. The situation in the Middle East remains a serious threat to world peace and security and hence it occupies the minds of world leaders. Urgent, firm and effective steps must be taken in order to secure the rights of the Palestinian people to sovereign statehood.

Accordingly, we are distressed at the ever-deepening Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The Non-Aligned Movement condemns the use of disproportionate force against civilian populations by the Israeli occupation force.

The seizures of towns and villages, the destruction of property, extra-judicial assassinations, the obstruction of provision of medical assistance to the injured and other forms of collective punishment, in flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, have taken the region to the precipice. We unconditionally condemn the killing of innocent civilians on both sides of the conflict.

The continued humiliation, maligning the legitimately elected leadership of the Palestinian people - starkly demonstrated by the absence of President Arafat from this meeting - only serve to harden attitudes and deepen mutual antagonism.

Mr. President,

There can be no military solution to the Middle East conflict. We need to take steps to encourage peaceful, negotiated settlement of this conflict.

The Non-Aligned Movement Committee on Palestine held a successful meeting at Ministerial level in Pretoria on 3 May 2001 and spelt out the fundamental principles that should guide the quest for peace in the Middle East. It also mandated South Africa to interact closely and at the highest possible level with all forces influential in the Middle East conflict including the US, Israel, the European Union and Arab states, with a view to finding a comprehensive, just and lasting solution. In this regard, President Mbeki convened a Peace Retreat in South Africa in January 2002 between prominent Palestinians, Israelis and South Africans. After extensive and frank discussions, participants concluded that there was a popular yearning for peace.

The Co-ordinating Bureau has played and continues to play a critical and crucial role in forging ever-closer solidarity and unity of action with regard to the Middle East crisis. In this connection, the Movement welcomes the recent US-sponsored resolution of the UNSC, which recognises the Palestinian right to sovereign statehood, alongside the State of Israel within secure and recognised borders. In order to achieve this, the immediate and faithful implementation of the Tenet Understandings and the Mitchell Recommendations, is a necessary first step.
We note, with appreciation, the various initiatives - and in particular the latest proposal by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia - to find a permanent and comprehensive solution to the Middle East conflict. It is our hope that this Summit will provide guidance and leadership to the Movement with respect to the best way of taking this peace process forward and fulfilling the requirements of UNSC Resolutions 242, 338 and the land-for-peace principle that we all agree constitute the cornerstone for just and lasting peace.

The humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Iraq remains a cause for concern to the Non-Aligned Movement. It is our fervent hope that the forthcoming talks between the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and the Iraqi Government will serve to resolve this longstanding issue. The Non-Aligned Movement looks forward to the day when the rifts in the Middle East region will have been resolved amicably.

Mr. President,

In the aftermath of the deplorable terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, any efforts to fight against terrorism must be undertaken within the context of the United Nations, the only agent for our collective security.

The growing incidence of anti-Muslim sentiments (Islamophobia) and anti-Arab racism in the West is a cause for concern. The vilification of any group of people, on the basis of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs, as if they are collectively responsible for the perpetuation of terrorism cannot be tolerated. The deliberations of the World Conference against Racism have become even more relevant in dealing with the scourges of Islamophobia and Racism, including anti-Arab sentiments.

We wish to thank esteemed Members of the Arab League, for their crucial role in the success of that Conference. In the same vein, we hope that the solidarity forged at the Racism Conference will also find concrete expression at the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and the South African Government is looking forward to welcoming you to the Summit.

Finally, Mr. President, we are encouraged by more and more insistent calls for closer and structured co-operation between organizations of the countries of the South and in particular Africa and the Arab World. The recently adopted New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) presents a firm basis for mutually beneficial engagement between Africa and our closest regional neighbour.

May we reiterate at this point our sincere wishes for successful deliberations during this landmark Summit, hosted in this beautiful city of Beirut.

Fi ammaan Allah.

Issued by: Department of Foreign Affairs

27 March 2002

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