NEW YORK, 23 SEPTEMBER 1998
STATEMENT BY H.E. Mr. JAIME GAMA, MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF PORTUGAL, TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY 53rd SESSION
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with the greatest pleasure that I congratulate my Uruguay colleague, Didier Opertti, on his election to the Presidency of this General Assembly. In his election, I see the recognition of the role played internationally by the Republic of Uruguay, an Ibero-American country friend of Portugal, as well as the appreciation and confidence we deposit in his personal, intellectual and professional qualities for the conduct of our work.
I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing President, Hennadiy Udovenko, for the dedicated and competent manner in which he steered the work of the 52nd General Assembly.
To the Secretary-General, I renew my tribute to the remarkable manner in which he has been carrying out his difficult functions, during a period in which the United Nations is increasingly called upon to intervene in many aspects of international life.
I would like to dwell upon some questions of particular importance to my country, beginning with those of a political nature; and, among these, Africa. I recall that my Austrian colleague has already addressed this assembly on behalf of the 15 member states of the European Union.
When releasing last April his excellent report on the causes of conflict and the promotion of a durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, the Secretary-General did not hesitate in qualifying as colossal the scale of the human tragedy which persists in part of the African continent, devastated by conflicts that have affected a number of states since the end of the cold war.
Within the realm of its possibilities and in accordance with its historic, cultural and social ties, which bind it to the many regions and countries of Africa, Portugal continues to make efforts towards helping overcome, by peaceful means, those conflicts and towards the promotion of economic development, social progress and good governance, which are indispensable for their eradication.
I would like to underline the readiness Portugal has shown to participate in United Nations peace-keeping missions, particularly in Africa. By way of example, I recall the role played by Portuguese forces in the framework of the peace process in Mozambique, and in the ongoing United Nations missions in Angola, in the Western Sahara and, most recently, in the Central African Republic, as well as in the evacuation operations undertaken in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Guinea-Bissau.
I must express here the very serious concern of my country at the situation in Angola, a country to which we are bound by so many and such deep ties.
The signs of rupture are becoming more dangerously evident in the peace process, which has proceeded with such difficulty. The refusal by UNITA fully to comply with the obligations of the Lusaka Protocol, which it freely signed - namely with regard to its demilitarization and transformation into a political party as well as the obstruction of the normalization of state administration - contributes to the resort to military options outside the framework of the negotiated solutions adopted by the international community.
As a member of the Troika of observer countries to the Angolan peace process and as one of countries that most contributed to UNAVEM and MONUA, Portugal continues committed to promoting concord in Angola, in close cooperation with the United Nations and, in particular, with the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Issa Diallo, whose difficult mission should be assisted and supported.
We are, however, fully aware of the fact that all the diplomatic efforts will be in vain if those responsible in Angola do not have an effective will for peace. The Government and UNITA must assume their responsibilities before the Angolan people, whose right to peace, security and well being is legitimate and inalienable.
We appeal, once again, for the Lusaka Protocol to be respected, and in particular to UNITA to assure immediately the Protocols implementation, in strict accordance with the terms that have been demanded of it by the Security Council.
The gains of a multiparty system in Angola must not be jeopardized. Its participants, particularly having endorsed peace and national reconciliation, must not see the erection of barriers to the respective mandates and all must be given the conditions of security necessary to face the reconstruction of the country.
The UN Secretary-General deserves our full support in continuing to promote all the necessary responses that the gravity of the situation requires from the international community.
Guinea-Bissau friend of Portugal, with which we also share many varied and strong affinities has been, since June, the site of a conflict that has had grave human, economic and social consequences for its people. At the express request of the parties to the conflict, Portugal and the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (the CPLP) - which is principally constituted by African countries and has among its main goals the political and diplomatic coordination of its members policies carried out, from the start, mediation efforts designed to stop the fighting, obtain a negotiated solution to the conflict and bring humanitarian assistance to the population of Guinea-Bissau.
At no time was it possible to doubt the legitimate intentions that led the CPLP (of which Guinea-Bissau is a founding member) to respond to the request that was addressed to it. The CPLPs intervention aligned itself with that of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), eventually permitting the signature of a cease-fire agreement between the Government and the military junta, which opens the way to a negotiated settlement of the conflict.
Still on the African continent, a word is also due on the events in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We defend unequivocally the need to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of that vast country, whose stability is strategically essential to the region in which it is located. We support unconditionally the African peace initiatives that seek a negotiated and peaceful solution to the complex political problems of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are at the heart of the conflict and cannot, nor should, have a solution based on the use of force or on the presence of foreign military forces.
Notwithstanding continued difficulties, we continue to believe in a democratic, free and prosperous future for Africa. We are, therefore, committed to bringing to fruition the initiative we launched in 1996 to hold a summit between the European Union and Africa (which is now scheduled for 2000). We, therefore, welcomed with satisfaction the decision taken by the most recent OAU summit in Ouagadougou to endorse that initiative.
I would now like to refer to another source of serious and justified concern of the international community, this time on the European continent: that is, the crisis in Kosovo, which jeopardizes peace and stability in the Balkans and is producing heavy human losses, in deaths, injuries, internally displaced persons and refugees. There can be no doubts as to whom falls the primary responsibility for the eruption of the current crisis. The adoption a few minutes ago by the Security Council of a resolution co-sponsored by Portugal is a clear signal of the determination of the international community and cannot be ignored by those to whom it is addressed.
Portugal welcomes the constructive spirit that dominated the most recent round of ministerial talks on the question of East Timor, under the auspices of the Secretary-General, whose efforts of mediation (as well as those of his Personal Representative, Ambassador Marker, and his collaborators) I would especially like to congratulate. I believe I can, for the first time, say that effective and promising steps have been taken towards creating the conditions to achieve a just, comprehensive and internationally acceptable solution for this problem, with full respect for the legitimate rights of the East Timorese people, in accordance with the principles of the Charter and the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.
While safeguarding the basic positions of principle of the parties, it was agreed to negotiate for East Timor a wide-ranging autonomy that we wish to see rest on genuinely democratic and participatory rules for its people, who, it is hoped, will progressively establish an ample degree of self government. It was also agreed to associate more closely the East Timorese whose will, freely expressed, in accordance with their legitimate right to self-determination, will be essential to validate any definitive solution to the question to the process of negotiations under way, entrusting the Secretary-General with the responsibility of promoting that wide consultation.
It is necessary now to achieve tangible progress with regard to the more critical aspects of the situation in the territory, such as the reduction of the Indonesian military presence, the release of all East Timorese political prisoners (including Xanana Gusmao) and the monitoring by the United Nations of the evolution of the situation on the ground.
We believe that we are still at a turning point. Nothing substantial has yet been settled or guaranteed. That is why we consider it essential that the international community continue to follow closely the evolution of this process, in its varied aspects, so that the goal of finally enabling the people of East Timor to enjoy a future of freedom, peace and security is not delayed any further.
In just over a year, on the 20th of December 1999, the territory of Macao, currently under Portuguese administration, will return to the sovereignty of the People's Republic of China, in fulfillment of the terms of the Joint Luso-Chinese Declaration of the 13th of April 1987.
The transition process has been carried out in a constructive and pragmatic climate, reflecting the good relations that exist between the two countries. We are convinced that this climate will persist until the end, guaranteeing, in this manner, a transfer of power conducive to the future stability and prosperity of Macao, while respecting its autonomy and own uniqueness.
As a short note on the question of official aid to development, I would like to put on record that, according to data on 1997 recently issued by the OECD, Portugal was the donor that registered the largest increase in this type of aid, 27.3%.
Within the framework of the International Year of the Oceans, Portugal dedicated the last World Exposition of this century EXPO 98 - to the theme the oceans a heritage for the future, attempting in this manner to contribute to a progressive enlightenment of humanity to the risks and challenges related to the preservation of the oceans.
Still in this area, Portugal has participated actively in various activities undertaken in the context of the United Nations, namely at the level of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO and the Independent World Commission on the Oceans.
In fact, Portugal was granted the honour of the presidency of the latter, in the person of Doctor Mario Soares, and its work led to the adoption of the report approved in Lisbon at the beginning of this month, which appeals for a democratic, equitable and peaceful management of the ocean our future and which will be submitted to this General Assembly.
Portugal is a non-permanent member of the Security Council until the end of this year.
We have sought to contribute effectively to the strengthening of the authority of the Security Council and the effectiveness of its action, in accordance with the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter. On the other hand, increasing the transparency and democratic nature of its functioning is essential to us, allowing, in this way, non-members to better follow the work of the Council.
In this the year in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, none can purport to defend international law and legitimacy while ignoring the fulfillment of those fundamental rights.
Terrorism is one of the most perverse forms of violating human rights, making urgent a coordenated international effort to combat it.
I would like to refer that Portugal is a candidate to the Commission on Human Rights, for a mandate that will begin in January 2000 and will coincide with the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union.
In an era of globalization of markets, information, circulation of people and cultural exchange we also have a duty to include in the international agenda the globalization of human rights. This will be the best tribute we can pay to the Universal Declaration that was issued fifty years ago.