Published on Saturday, October 6, 2001 by Inter Press Service
U.N. Terrorism Talks Favor Cooperation Over Retaliation
The overriding messages from this week's General Assembly debate over terrorism are that retribution should be secondary to building a global anti-terrorism alliance that addresses the causes of violence - and that this alliance should be led by the United Nations, not the United States
by Jim Wurst
UNITED NATIONS - The overriding messages from this week's General Assembly debate over terrorism are that retribution should be secondary to building a global anti-terrorism alliance that addresses the causes of violence - and that this alliance should be led by the United Nations, not the United States .
Assembly President Han Seung-Soo of South Korea said the debate, which ended late Friday, showed "that a primary task facing the international community at present is to ensure that an effective legal framework for the prevention and elimination of international terrorism is in place."
Speakers avoided the word used so often in U.S. government and media circles - "war" - and instead emphasized the need to combat terrorism using a full range of diplomatic, legal, and economic initiatives.
"The immediate task is to ensure that the perpetrators meet their just desserts. In the medium-term, the challenge is to understand the root causes of these despicable acts and to eradicate them worldwide,'' said Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa..
This, he added, ''includes concerted efforts to resolve conflicts in all parts of the globe, including the search for lasting peace in the Middle East. It includes a joint commitment throughout the world to eradicate poverty and under-development."
For the most part, speakers preferred to stress cooperation rather than criticize the coming military campaign against Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan's Taliban rulers. Even Washington's closest allies advised cooperation.
Speaking for the European Union, Ambassador Jean de Ruyt said, "The fight against terrorism will require the broadest possible global coalition. That coalition should be formed under the aegis of the U.N., which remains the most appropriate forum for revitalizing and strengthening our coordinated efforts to eliminate international terrorism."
With 167 speakers, this was the largest number of nations ever to take part in a General Assembly debate on a single issue.
Speaking towards the end of the debate, Afghanistan's Ambassador Ravan Farhadi, who represents the United Front (renamed the Northern Alliance), placed the blame for the Taliban's rise to power and nurturing of bin Laden squarely on Pakistan.
"Pakistan's policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan dating from 1992 have been dead wrong all along, policies which transformed Afghanistan into a nucleus of global terrorist plans," Farhadi declared. ''Pakistan has constantly advised the rest of the world to 'engage' with the Taliban. This has proved to be like trying to milk a bull."
The UN has never recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government. The Taliban has had no formal representation in New York since the United States closed all its offices in December 2000.
"Pakistan is now harvesting a dangerously negative by-product of its hegemonic Afghan policy. Pakistan's pursuit of a subservient regime in Kabul for securing a 'strategic depth' has ended in a real 'strategic ditch'," Farhadi said.
In contrast, Pakistan gave no indication that it was at the center of the storm. Ambassador Shamshad Ahmad told the Assembly, "President Musharraf has clearly pronounced our policy on this matter and has taken our people into confidence in support of our decision to be part of (an) international coalition against terrorism. It is a difficult path but we are determined to support what is right and what is just." Ahmad did not even mention bin Laden or the Taliban.
The next diplomatic steps are scheduled for mid-month, when delegates here will consider a draft convention against terrorism that has been on the UN agenda since 1998.
There already are 12 treaties dealing with terrorism, but the latest initiative by India is meant to be a comprehensive approach. Indian Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma argued that last month's attacks on New York and the Pentagon highlighted loopholes in the existing legal regime.
"Planes were hijacked, but the cluster of conventions on hijacking provide for action only against the hijackers; on September 11, they killed themselves with their victims," Sharma said. "The conventions on terrorist bombings have precise definitions of what constitutes an explosive; no one thought a plane would ever be used as an explosive."
Added Sharma, "The international community could not take action (under existing treaties) against those who recruited, trained, ordered, supported, instigated or harbored the terrorists who committed the most horrendous act of terrorism the world has ever seen."
In a related development, the Security Council on Thursday named British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock to head the committee monitoring nations' compliance with the Council's sweeping anti-terrorist resolution adopted Sep. 28. This move breaks with a long- standing tradition of not naming any of the permanent five members of the Council to head these types of committees.
Copyright © 2001 IPS-Inter Press Service