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In the General Debate of the 63rd Session of the General Assembly
27 August 2008 / 06:36



By H.H. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 
Minister of Foreign Affairs of The United Arab Emirates





Mr. President,

On behalf of the United Arab Emirates, I have the pleasure to express to you, Mr. President, and to your friendly country our sincere congratulations on your election as President of the General Assembly at its sixty-third session. I would also like to thank your predecessor, Mr. Srgjan Kerim, for successfully guiding the proceedings of the previous session. I should also take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his unceasing efforts to strengthen the Organization and re-energize its role in international affairs.

The United Arab Emirates has made major progress in a number of domestic areas. For example, we have increased the representation of women in our executive and legislative bodies, including by expanding their effective participation in the labour market. We are developing national laws on the protection of and respect for human rights and are making significant efforts to improve the welfare of those with special needs. Attempts are also under way to enact legislation to regulate foreign workers in order to ensure their full rights. In keeping with our commitments under relevant bilateral and international agreements, we are also increasing our efforts to combat human trafficking and to provide protection and all the necessary support for its victims.

With regard to the environment, the United Arab Emirates attaches great importance to environmental issues. In cooperation with the Worldwide Fund for Nature, we have launched a number of ambitious strategic programmes, such as the development of Masdar City, which will be the world’s first carbon- and waste-free city, completely dependent on renewable and clean technologies such as solar energy, which will be used to generate power and desalinate of water.

Foreign aid has an important place on our national agenda. We have continued to provide various types of financial and humanitarian assistance to many countries to help them to fund their development programmes and infrastructure projects. Directly and through our membership in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Donor Support Group and our contributions to the specialized agencies and programmes of the United Nations, we are also providing assistance to those who have suffered from wars and natural disasters.

In order to alleviate the suffering of millions of people as a result of rising food prices, my country has dispatched 2 million tons of wheat to Yemen, Syria and Egypt. Also as part of our foreign aid, we have provided additional financial assistance to help several developing countries adjust to the phenomenal increase in their energy costs.

In that regard, we would like to express our concern about the repercussions of the financial crisis in international markets. We reiterate that this matter urgently calls for a joint international mechanism that will contribute to the establishment of strong and transparent rules to regulate international financial markets.

The way in which development has taken place in the United Arab Emirates provides a vivid example of tolerance and coexistence. We hope to enrich and strengthen those values through our educational and cultural programmes, for we strongly believe that interaction between different nations and peoples is both of fundamental importance and an essential prerequisite for the achievement of stability, welfare and prosperity in our region.

The United Arab Emirates therefore attaches great importance to radically restructuring and modernizing our educational system to align it with technological and educational innovations so that it meets the needs and requirements of our development programmes. We also believe that providing education for all is one of the major and significant issues facing us. It is essential that we devote all our resources to it, for in education lies the hope that we can break the evil cycle of poverty and ignorance, which in turn lead to the creation of a fertile environment in which terrorism and extremism can take root and grow.

Iran’s ongoing occupation since 1971 of the United Arab Emirates’` three islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb is an issue of central importance to us. From this rostrum, I would like to reiterate our firm position demanding the full restoration of our full sovereignty over the three occupied islands and their territorial waters, airspace, continental shelf and exclusive economic zone. The islands are part and parcel of our national sovereignty. We reiterate that all actions and measures, whether military or administrative, undertaken by Iran since its occupation of the three islands are null and void. Iran’s actions have no legal effect. We therefore renew our call to the international community to urge Iran to respond positively to the sincere appeals of the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the League of Arab States by agreeing to resolve the issue through committed and serious direct negotiations or by referring the dispute to the International Court of Justice.

We strongly believe in making the Middle East, including the Arabian Gulf, a zone free from weapons of mass destruction. That would require compelling Israel to comply with United Nations resolutions by bringing its nuclear facilities into compliance with the safeguards regime of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and unconditionally signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, as other countries of the region have done. We also urge the Islamic Republic of Iran to continue its cooperation with the IAEA and the international community in order to dispel fears and suspicions related to the nature and objectives of its nuclear programme. We also call on all other stakeholders to commit themselves to continuing to address that issue through political and diplomatic means in order to avoid escalation and achieve a peaceful solution that can ensure stability and security for the region and its peoples.

Based on our firm belief in the right of countries to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in accordance with the safeguards regime of the IAEA, the United Arab Emirates urges developed nations to support the legitimate needs of developing countries for access to nuclear energy by providing them with the best possible access to the equipment, nuclear materials and technological and scientific know-how related to peaceful purposes. The United Arab Emirates believes that its peaceful nuclear programme provides a practical and responsible example of transparency in meeting our energy needs, while at the same time we pledge not to engage in enrichment or reprocessing, with the support of the organizations and institutions of some friendly countries and under the supervision of the IAEA.

On another front, the United Arab Emirates has continuously spared no effort to support and promote every regional and international effort to help the Government of Iraq and its people. It is our hope that the latest initiatives of the United Arab Emirates, including the write-off of more than $7 billion in debt and interest due and the re-opening of our embassy in Baghdad, will contribute to promoting economic development and strengthening the political process. That will require the renunciation of all communal and sectarian violence and full commitment to the unity, sovereignty and stability of Iraq, the preservation of its Arab identity and the rejection of any attempts to divide or fragment the country.

With regard to the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has strongly supported the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, including final status negotiations and the outcome of the Annapolis Conference. In that context, we would like to express our concerns about the lack of earnest in Israel’s attitude towards those negotiations. We call on the international community, and in particular the Security Council and the members of the Quartet, to press Israel to lift the siege it has imposed on the Palestinian people and to implement international resolutions related to freezing all of its illegal settlement activity, dismantling unlawful settlements and ending its occupation of all Palestinian and Arab territories occupied since 1967, including the holy city of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and some Lebanese territories. Ending the occupation would bring Israel into compliance with relevant international resolutions, the road map and the Arab peace initiative. It would also ensure the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as Israel’s security.

My country has cooperated effectively and consistently with every effort to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including money-laundering. We shall continue to do so in order to rid the world of that scourge and its causes. At the same time, we re-emphasize our support for all activities to promote dialogue among civilizations and enhance the spirit of tolerance among all faiths.

In closing, I would like to stress the need for full compliance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law in meeting the daunting challenges ahead. I hope that this session will produce international consensus on how to address those challenges for the benefit of humankind.