NEW YORK, 4 OCTOBER 2001
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. FRANCISCO SEIXAS DA COSTA, AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, TO THE 56th SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (Agenda item 166: Measures to eliminate international terrorism: report of the Secretary-General)
Although I have said it before, on behalf of the Portuguese government, I must reiterate now how deeply we feel as a result of the tragic circumstances we are all living through.
It is time to try to use the opportunity of this debate further to reflect on our common commitment to work in restoring peace and stability to the international scene.
In the last weeks we have witnessed a unique movement of solidarity by the international community towards the United States.
This country, a host country of this Organisation, was subjected to a vile provocation and aggression, deeply felt by its government and people.
The brutal terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent people, citizens from many countries, including my own, shocked the international community and created an unprecedented wave of repulsion.
The expression of common grief with the American people took tones never seen before and the global political reaction could not have been more resolute.
The government of my country made clear, from the very first instance, its firm position.
We openly share the resolve of the United States to launch and sustain an international campaign, through different means and using diverse tools, to bring to justice those responsible for these criminal acts and to engage the international community in a concerted effort to avoid their repetition in the future.
We have acted on several fronts, from NATO to the European Union, from bilateral co-operation to the work of this General Assembly.
We have acted without ambiguity, siding with those who have called for concrete measures to punish the criminals and declaring that we do not accept their impunity nor will we tolerate it.
I call your attention, in particular, to the political and practical response of the European Union in facing this crisis, to which its presidency has already referred in a statement presented earlier in this debate, on behalf of all Member States of the European Union.
And the expression of solidarity with the United States was not only evident in bilateral terms.
The American people were also given the clearest demonstration of solidarity from this organisation, from the United Nations.
Two important resolutions of the Security Council and one of this General Assembly were approved by an inspiring unanimity, and the Secretary-General made clear the commitment of the Organisation to remain at the forefront of the struggle against international terrorism.
This is a moment for action but, simultaneously, it is also a moment for reflection.
This reflection must involve all areas of work of this organisation, exploiting all possible fields of activity that may contribute to tackling this problem, through direct or indirect means.
We need to be open-minded in looking at the political, economic, social and ethnic background of this problem.
We must not hide behind simplistic solutions to complex problems, looking at the trees where a forest exists.
We refuse to be single-minded in focusing on what must be done.
Some may say there are priorities to be followed and that we should concentrate on the most urgent ones.
In our opinion, the only real priority is to solve the entire problem and, with that aim, we must be prepared to act simultaneously in all the different areas that may be relevant.
Nothing justifies international terrorism and nobody in good faith would give reason to the mind of those responsible for terrorist acts.
But let us not be blind: terrorism prospers and gets public support among populations subjected to particular situations of poverty, social or political exclusion and inequality.
These factors do not, in any way, justify terrorism.
Nevertheless they contribute to increased tensions, promote conflict situations and thus provide fertile ground for extremism, fanaticism and other violent and unacceptable forms of political expression.
We must conduct this fight on all fronts, from constraining action to education, from enforcement of justice and crime prevention to the promotion of development.
Only with comprehensive solutions will it be possible to find a way to overcome problems of extreme complexity.
We are debating this important issue under very pressing circumstances.
The practical conditions are now in place to begin a rigorous international response to bring to justice those who are personally responsible for the crimes and to pursue all legitimate actions in order to prevent their repetition in the future.
A coherent campaign must be implemented, in the name of the values of justice, tolerance and the dignity of human life.
A fight also conducted under our essential values: democracy, rule of law and the pre-eminence of human rights.
Maintaining and reaffirming these values, especially in the difficult moments we are going through, will be the best expression of our resolve not to see the normality of our societies challenged by criminals: we cannot allow terror to dictate the rules of our lives.
This becomes a decisive struggle between basic values, between patterns of life and concepts of human dignity.
But let us not confuse things: this is not a fight between civilisations, this is not a struggle between the West and the Muslim world.
One needs not use historical memory to understand that fanaticism or fundamentalism are not exclusive to any region, culture or religion.
It is also very important to note that the Muslim tradition has represented, throughout the centuries, one of the most tolerant forms of civilisation.
Its values belong to our common heritage and in my own country we are very proud of the role those values have played in our history.
Portugal has Arab and Muslim countries among its best friends and we will never equate a most respected religion with a group of fanatics who have irresponsibly and unacceptably acted in its name.
Muslim countries and Muslim peoples have been afflicted for many years by international terrorism.
They are as committed as we are to this struggle and, in this very delicate moment, I feel necessary to stress this before this Assembly.
Let us be clear about this and firmly reject and fight all expressions of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.
As I have said, Portugal has been working hard with its partners in the European Union to find the best ways and means to contribute to this common effort.
European leaders recently decided to take major steps to deal with this threat, bringing together many of our judicial and intelligence capacities.
We believe that these efforts, to have full effect, should be pursued in other regional dimensions and co-ordinated at global level.
We urge Member States to consider taking all necessary measures to develop a framework of international judicial co-operation on criminal matters.
This is the only way to ensure the necessary exchange of information to permit law enforcement institutions around the world to tackle the spread of international terrorism.
We must recognise that, at the United Nations, and for some time, the question of international terrorism has not been high in our agenda.
We know the conceptual difficulties this organisation had to confront on this issue and how problematic it has been to overcome them.
These latest events seem to have changed the entire scenario.
It has become urgent and imperative, not only to use all the international law instruments in force, but also to re-direct most of our future attention to the completion of the indispensable legal framework to allow the United Nations to place itself at the forefront of this programme of action.
In this context, we very much welcome the adoption of Security Council resolutions 1368 and 1373.
The members of the United Nations also must accede, sign, ratify and implement the 12 conventions dealing with different aspects of international terrorism that constitute an existent cohesive body of law.
Portugal has already ratified 10 of these conventions and has signed the other two, which are under process of urgent ratification.
In the longer term, Mr. President, this Assembly must consider what other legislative measures it can take in this respect.
The work of the Ad hoc Committee created under the 6th Committee of the General Assembly needs to be focused on the drafting of a comprehensive Convention against international terrorism, in a manner that will preserve the acquis of the already existing conventions while addressing their lacunae.
This is a way to make this Organisation useful across the spectrum of international efforts and to guarantee that its legitimacy and its values remain at the core of all future actions to be implemented.
We should never forget that this Organisation is the highest and the universal expression of international co-operation and must always be preserved as such.
The Secretary-General, Mr. President, has called our attention to the looming humanitarian tragedy faced by the people of Afghanistan.
It is imperative that the international community mobilises the necessary resources to assist the millions of refugees threatened with destitution and starvation.
Let me end on a hopeful note.
Our concerted efforts show clearly where the international community stands in face of the recent tragic events.
Our United Nations can and will make a difference in the fight against the threats before us.
It is a struggle for peace and respect for human life, where one needs to take into account the risks and casualties that may befall us.
A struggle for freedom, waged under the rule of law and the full respect for human rights, democratic values and the basic principles this organisation abides by.
Thank you, Mr. President.