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Special U.N. Security Council Meeting To Discuss Israel's Attack In Syria
Aired October 5, 2003 - 16:45 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDREA KOPPEL: We will have more on those changes in Cuba in a moment, but first we want to bring you back to the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte, now the U.S. is president of the security council for this month, is getting the meeting, this emergency session under way right now.
This was called by Syria, which is urging the security council to pass a resolution calling on Israel to refrain from taking any other military action against Syria. Let's listen in to John Negroponte.
JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR, SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: I invite the representative of Israel to take a seat at the council table.
I should also like to inform the council that I have received a letter dated 5 October 2003 from the permanent representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations which reads as follows, "on behalf of the members of the league of Arab states, I have the honor to request that the security council extend an invitation to his excellency, Mr. Yaya Mahmasani (ph), permanent observer of the league of Arab states, to the United Nations. Observer for the league of Arab states to the United Nations to address the council under rule 39 of its provisional rules of procedure in the course of the council's consideration of the item entitled letter dated 5 October 2003 from the permanent representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations," addressed to the president of the security council.
That letter will be published as a document of the security council under the symbol s/2003/941. If I hear no objection, I shall take it that the council agrees, an invitation under rule 39 will be extended to his excellency, Yaya Mahmasani (ph). There being no objection, it is so decided.
The security council will continue its consideration of item 2 of the agenda. The security council is meeting in response to the request contained in a letter dated October 5 from the Syrian Arab Republic addressed to the president of the security council. I give the floor to the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic.
FAYSSAL MEKDAD, SYRIAN U.N. AMBASSADOR (through translator): Thank you, Mr. President. Allow me, sir, at the beginning to express to you our thanks for convening this immediate meeting at the request of the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon as well as the Arab group.
And because this is the first open meeting, we congratulate you, sir, on the assumption of the presidency and wish you success in your stewardship. We also express our thanks to the ambassador, the permanent representative of the United Kingdom and members of his delegation for their stewardship of the council in the last month.
Mr. President, allow me to begin by reading the text of the letter addressed by the minister of foreign affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic to the secretary-general of the united nations because this letter has not been officially translated as yet. Following this reading of the letter, I shall make my official statement on the subject on the agenda.
And I quote, "I wish to advise you that the Israeli air force has this morning, on Sunday, 5th of October, violated the Lebanese and Syrian air spaces and committed an aggression by launching guided missiles inside the territory of the Syrian Arab republic. The target was a civilian location in the Ein Sahera (ph) Village northwest of Damascus.
This act of aggresstion resulted in physical damage. While the government of the Syrian Arab Republic notifies you of the flagrant violation of the Lebanese and Syrian air spaces and an aggression against the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic in open defiance of United Nations charter and norms of international law in a new escalation.
It requests an immediate meeting of the security council to consider this Israeli aggression against Syrian territory and to take measure, or to consider measures that the security council must take in order to deter the government of Israel from persuing its policy of aggression against Syria.
The current government of Israel in its persistant aggression against the Palestinians and by deliberately provoking a broadening of the scope of this aggression to include Syria and Lebanon is reaffirming a fact that indeed it is a government of war and not a government of peace.
Syria is not incapable of establishing a resistance and deterrence balance that would force Israel to reconsider its calculations. Syria has exercised maximum self-restraint, because it recognizes that Israel is provoking pretexts here and there with a view to export its current domestic crisis to the entire region, thus rendering it exposed to further escalation and volatility.
Syria, currently a member of this security council, trusts that this August council is the most appropriate forum to address this dangerous development and to condemn it, deter it, with a view to prevent a repition of this action, because it endangers international peace and security and renders the already deteriorating situation in the region to dire consequences that might spiral out of control." Signature, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic. End of quotation, end of the letter.
And now allow me, Mr. President, to make my statement relating to the subject on our agenda. Mr. President, allow me, sir, to express our thanks for convening this emergency meeting of the security council in response to the request by the Syrian Arab government in order to discuss the flagrant Israeli military aggression inside the territories of the Syrian Arab Republic that targeted a civilian location in the Ein Sahera (ph) village northwest of Damascus. That aggression resulted in physical damage.
And also, at the beginning of my statement, let me express our satisfaction over the statement issued by the secretary-general of our international organization, Kofi Annan, in which he strongly deplored this act of aggression and expressed his concern over the potential escalation of an already tense and difficult situation in the region.
Mr. President, this unwarranted aggression, which constitutes a flagrant breach of the charter of the United Nations and international law and the disengagement agreement signed in 1974 between Syria and Israel is a clear manifestation of the Israeli policy which is based on aggression and no respect for accord agreed upon.
The aggression committed by Israel and aimed at a Syrian village is a true and direct embodiment of the Israeli terrorism which Israel falsely claims that it is fighting and standing against it. Also, this act of aggression and this terrorist act come as yet another example of the fact that the massacres committed by Israel under the pretext of the so-called terrorism represent a big lie and an irrational foolish claim in order to justify the policy of settlement colonialism and building settlements and in violation of all principles of peace and security on which the United Nations was built and against the peace process that started in Madrid in 1991.
And this act of aggression, committed by Israel against Syria this morning, comes within a strategic policy adopted by the Israeli government in order to escalate tensions in the Middle East and at a time when the international community is pursuing efforts in order to reach a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East that would secure peace and stability for all peoples in the region.
It has become abundantly clear for the whole world that it cannot be believed that Syria, which has respected and complied with the disengagement observer force since 1974 and with the testimony of all countries that sponsor the peace process and other world leaders and that the powerless Palestinians, who have no arms and who languish under Israeli occupation and severe oppression can take any actions that pose a threat to any party, especially as it is common knowledge that the Palestinian people do not have an army and a military arsenal similar to what Israel has in its position.
And the question that comes immediately to our minds, until when Israel could succeed in persuading the whole world that it is a victim at a time when Israel occupies the territory by force of others, lays siege to them, demolishes their homes, uproots their plantation farms and assassinates their children instead of sitting with them on the negotiating table in order to ensure the implementation of legitimate rights of all sides under the charter of the United Nations and the norms of international law.
This flagrant Israeli aggression is not an isolated incident. In point of fact, it was preceded by an Israeli -- another violation act when Israel committed on the 2nd of January, 2003, another flagrant violation in the disarmament zone that resulted in the killing of a Syrian soldier without any reason or provocation.
That report, issued by the United Nations force after an extensive investigation of that incident, found that there was no justification for that crime and that Syria has exercised maximum restraint that resulted in avoiding an escalation of the situation at that time.
It is indeed quite strange that Israel continues to violate international agreements and continues to flout the charter of the United Nations to the point that Arabs and many other peoples across the globe feel that Israel is above law. And above the international law and acts outside the jurisdiction of the resolutions adopted by this council.
It is very strange indeed that the Israeli government does not recognize after several decades of occupation and bloodshed and flouting international law that the path to achieve peace lies in the implementation by Israel of 11 Security Council resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. All those resolutions remained implementation; indeed, without respect by Israel to the international law. Nonetheless, it is important to set the record that Israel's record in terms of respecting international law and the United Nations' resolutions is not at all an honorable record. Israel continues to defy the United Nations and its resolutions since 1948 and until this very day.
General Assembly Resolution 191, relating to the Palestinian state, remains a dead letter (ph) since it's adoption. Resolution 194, relating to the return of Palestinian refugees, is not met except by challenge and denial on the part of Israel. Resolutions 242 and 338, which aim at achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, are challenged by Israel and are subjects of misinterpretation and distortion.
On this basis, it is only logical for all member states -- should speak about international legality and the implementation of Security Council resolutions, except for Israel, which has become a symbol of defying the United Nations and its resolutions. The current government of Israel, by its continued aggression against the Palestinians, and by provoking a broadening of this aggression to include Syria and Lebanon, reaffirms a fact by practice that it is a government of war and not a government of peace.
And I wish to stress and repeat here in the Security Council the contents of the letter addressed by the foreign minister of Syria to this council in which he stressed that Israel -- that Syria is not incapable of establishing a resistance and deterrence balance that would force Israel to reconsider its calculations. Syria has exercised maximum self-restraint because it recognizes that Israel is provoking pretext here and there with a view to export its current domestic crisis to the entire region, thus endangering it -- thus causing -- exposing it to further escalation and volatility. Mr. President, Syria has come to the house of legality, to the Security Council right here, and it represents the hopes and aspirations of millions of Syrians and Arabs and the concerns of millions and millions all across the globe who uphold the principles of international law in order to condemn this act of aggression, which has no justification at all, and to prove once again to the entire world and from this forum our compliance with the United Nations system and its resolutions. In this regard, Syria officially puts forward the text of a draft resolution that will respond to these changes and in line with the principles of the United Nations charter.
Let me stress that the draft resolution on the table reflects the positions usually adopted by the Security Council in the face of these aggressions and threats. We are fully confident that all members of the council will respond forthwith and would face this Israeli challenge in their constant efforts in order to address any threats that endanger international peace and security. Would this council respond to this new challenge? We are very hopeful that it will.
And I thank you, Mr. President.
NEGROPONTE: I thank the representative of the Syrian Arab Republic for his statement. And I now give the floor to the representative of Israel.
DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Thank you, Mr. President.
First, let me congratulate you on the assumption of the presidency of the Security Council. Let me also express to you my regret that your first meeting is of this nature and taking place on this day. I wish also to express to Ambassador Emyr Jones Perry my great appreciation for his able and fair stewardship of the Security council last month.
Mr. President, this meeting of the Security Council is being convened within hours of Yom Kippur, the day of atonement which is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. I deeply regret that the council could not meet after this most important religious day, so as to allow Israel to participate fully in the debate. I will, unfortunately, have to leave this meeting after I make my statement to observe this holy day.
Mr. President, yesterday a Palestinian suicide bomber entered the crowded beachfront restaurant in the port city of Haifa, murdering 19 innocent civilians and wounding at least 60 others. The restaurant, a symbol of Arab-Israeli coexistence, as is the city of Haifa, was frequented by both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and among the victims were four Israeli Arabs, and three children and a little baby girl.
Five victims were members of the same family, and three were members of another family. Whole families were wiped out by this horrendous act taking place on the Jewish Sabbath on a quiet peaceful beachfront in the city of Haifa. Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization that operates freely from Palestinian Authority territory and has headquarters in Damascus, Syria, proudly claimed responsibility for this massacre. Islamic Jihad is an organization committed to the destruction of Israel through holy war, which engages in the deliberate and widespread murder of innocence to that end. It opposes moderate Arab governments, and actively supports terrorist attacks against Western targets.
There could not be a more obvious example of a terrorist organization. The massacre in Haifa is the latest in over 40 terrorist atrocities committed by Islamic Jihad in the past few years. Among the attacks perpetrated by this organization, is the massacre of 21 teenagers at a disco tech in Tel Aviv on June 2, 2001; the bombing of June 5, 2002 at the Magilo (ph) junction, which killed 18 Israelis; the bombing of a commuter bus on October 21, 2002, which killed 14 Israelis; the attack on a shopping mall in the Israeli town of Afulah (ph) on May 19, 2003, in which three civilian killed and over 70 wounded; and the attack on March 30, 2003, where a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a cafe in Natanya, wounding 58 civilians.
Mr. President, the encouragement, safe harbor, training facilities, funding, and logistical support offered by Syria to a variety of notorious terrorist organizations is a matter of public knowledge. Among the many terrorist groups that operate and benefit from the auspices of the Syrian dictatorship are Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah and the popular front for the liberation of Palestine.
It is well known that the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, is one of several terrorist leaders that operates freely in Damascus and receives immunity and support from the Asad (ph) regime. Allow me briefly to detail for the benefit of the council the extent of support that Syria, as well as the regime in Iran, affords to terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, who are engaged in the deliberate massacre of innocent civilians.
One, safe harbor and training facilities are provided throughout Syria for terrorist organizations such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah, both in separate facilities and in Syrian army bases. The (UNINTELLIGIBLE) base, which was targeted in Israel's measured defensive operation today, is just one of these facilities sponsored by Syria and Iran.
Recruits at camps such as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come from Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terrorist groups. They are taught how to assemble bombs, conduct kidnappings, prepare suicide bombs, gather intelligence and establish terrorist cells. Some have also received aviation instruction.
Recruits training at these camps are slated to return to the Palestinian Authority territory and other areas to set up cells and conduct terrorist operations. Syria has itself facilitated in the directed act of terrorism by coordination and briefings via phone and Internet and by calling activists to Damascus for consultation and briefings. Three such operatives, for example, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Ali Safori (ph), and Tab Bat Madadawi (ph), have been identified under investigation as specifically designated liaisons for relaying instructions between officials in Damascus and terrorist cells in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Madadawi (ph) himself has admitted involvement in many attacks, including a bus bombing in Haifa in May, 2001, a suicide attack at the restaurant (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in August of that year, and bus attack near Nazarif (ph) in March 2002.
Another example comes from an intelligence report provided by the head of the Palestinian Preventative Security Apparatus on October 31 2001, which asserts that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah were meeting in Damascus -- and I quote -- "in order to increase their joint activity with the aid of Iranian money." Instructions are also given to whole terrorist activity when it suits Syrian or Iranian interest to avoid the spotlight, such as following the terrorist attacks of September 11th in the United states. It is very strange that Syria decided to be in the spotlight today and actually put itself in the dark (ph) on this very day after these actions.
Iran, through the use of the Syrian and Palestinian banking systems, sustains a systematic money transfer system, and large sums of money have been transferred to Islamic Jihad, as well as other terrorist organizations, through Damascus for the planning and perpetration of attacks.
Mr. Shalah himself, the secretary-general of Islamic Jihad, is known to have transferred funds in the hundreds of thousands of dollars from Damascus to the individual accounts of Islamic Jihad operatives, such as (UNINTELLIGIBLE), who is responsible for Islamic Jihad financing in Jenin.
Syria uses its state-run media and official institutions to glorify and encourage suicide bombings of -- against civilians in restaurants, schools, commuter busses, and shopping malls. Too mention but a few examples, Radio Damascus, far from being a free radio, in a broadcast of May 9, 2002, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- and I quote -- "The wonderful and special suicide attacks which were executed by some of the sons of the Palestinian nation."
In another state-run announcement of January 1, 2002, Damascus radio declared that -- and I quote -- "The entire world knows that Syria, its political leadership, and its Arab people, have turned Syrian Arab soil into a training camp and a self-safe haven and an arms depot for the Palestinian revolutionaries."
And on May 13, 2002, President Bashar Assad himself announced in reference to a so-called act of resistance, "If I had not been president of Syria, I wouldn't hesitate to participate in them." This was not said by Osama bin Laden or by Saddam Hussein, but by a president of a state which is a member of this council.
Syria has also played host to a number of conferences in which senior terrorist operatives from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other organizations meet. Syria has facilitated the transfer of arms to Palestinian terrorist organization success as Islamic Jihad by relying the transfer of sophisticated weapons from Iran to Hezbollah through Syrian territory. Hezbollah itself, a vicious terrorist organization, has then sought to smuggle these arms to Palestinian terrorist groups, as was evidenced in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shipment and similar incidents.
Mr. President, these are just a few examples of the extent and nature of the involvement of the Syrian regime in the deliberate murder of innocent civilians. Each and every one of these acts constitutes a grave violation of international law and Security Council resolutions, as well as a threat to international peace and security. There are few better exhibits of state sponsorship for terrorism than the one provided by the Syrian regime.
Security Council Resolution 1373 adopted under Chapter 7 of the charter, which in an act of the highest hypocrisy Syria itself voted for, makes absolutely clear that states must prevent acts of terrorism and refrain from any form of financing, support, safe harbor, alteration of terrorist groups. Syrian complicity and responsibility for suicide bombings is a -- as blatant as it is repugnant.
The membership of this arch sponsor of terrorism on this council is an unbearable contradiction and an embarrassment to the United Nations. For Syria to ask for a debate of the council is comparable only to the Taliban calling for such a debate after 9/11. It would be laughable if it wasn't so sad.
And yet, maybe members of the council and the United Nations can hardly be surprised at this shameless act of hypocrisy by the Syrian regime. This is the same regime that speaks so often of occupation, while it brutally occupies the neighboring territory of Lebanon. It is the same regime that speaks of international law and human rights, while it subjugates its people under an oppressive and primitive dictatorship, violating countless international obligations.
It is the same regime that supported the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in violation of Security Council resolution, and to this day, facilitates the infiltration of terrorists to attack civilian and military targets in Iraqi territory. And it is this same regime, despotic regime, that speaks so freely of double standards at the United Nations.
Syria will do well to take a hard look at the mirror and count itself fortunate that it has not yet, for unfortunate reasons, been the subject of concerted international action as part of the global campaign against terrorism. Not yet.
The Syrian delegate speaks a great deal about so-called resistance. Perhaps he can tell us precisely without his familiar diplomatic word games and misrepresentations, how exactly the murder of children and babies in a restaurant is an act of legitimate resistance. Or perhaps he could tell us how the Syrians themselves have dealt with resistance, such as in the case of Hama (ph), in which some 10,000 Syrian civilians were murdered by the Syrian armed forces.
Mr. President, Israel's measured defensive response to the horrific suicide bombings against a terrorism training facility in Syria are a clear act of self-defense in according with Article 51 of the charter. These actions come after Israel has exercised tremendous restraint, despite countless acts of terrorism that have claimed hundreds of innocent lives for which Syria bears direct and criminal responsibility.
It comes after Israel and the international community as a whole have called repeatedly on Syria to end its support of terrorism and finally comply with international law. And it is designed to prevent further armed attacks against Israeli civilians in which Syria Syria's complicit with a view to encouraging Syria to resolve its dispute through bilateral negotiations in accordance with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, as it is legally required to do.
May I ask what any other country sitting around this table would do in the face of the callous murder of hundreds of its civilians? This is not a hypothetical question. Many states in this organization and in this council have been faced with terrorism of far less intensity and have responded with far less restraint and far less concern for human life. And yet, the Security Council has not seen fit to scrutinize their conduct.
Indeed, on certain occasions, the council has specifically endorsed such defensive measures. If there is a double standard in this organization, it is that, while some states are afforded the right to protect their citizens, Israel too often is sent the message that its citizens are not worthy of protection. If there is a double standard, it is that some states are able to support terrorism with impunity, while those defending against it are called to account.
If there is a double standard, it is Syria sitting at this table and raising one hand to vote against terror and the other to perpetrate and initiate terror around the world. For the sake of peace and the reputation of this council, let there be no such double standard today. In the face of the rejectionism, aggression, and terrorist sponsorship of the Syrian regime, together with Iran and the Palestinian Authority, what would the international community have us do?
Like any state faced with such a critical and prolonged threat, Israel must exercise its inherent right and obligation to defend its citizens. What can we tell the Arab and Israeli mothers of children and babies murdered in this weekend's attack in Haifa? We could have prevented the death of your son or daughter, we could have stopped a terrorist from walking into your town, your school, your home, your bedroom but our hands were tied?
Israel remains committed to a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict and is ready to make painful compromises to that end. But no peace can come while terrorism prospers. No negotiations can bring progress while our citizens die on the streets.
Today, on the very eve of the day of atonement, and the 30th anniversary of the Egyptian-Syrian aggression that initiated the Yom Kippur war, we call on members of the council to come to the aid of the victims of terrorism not their sponsors. Syria deserves no support for its complicity in murder, and the council would commit an unforgivable act of moral blindness were it to act otherwise. The time has come for the council, which adopted Resolution 1373, and which has been at the forefront of the global counter-terrorism campaign, to hold to account a brutal dictatorship that is world renowned for adopting terrorism as its primary tool. The world is watching, and today, more than on any other day, god is watching too.
Thank you, Mr. President.
NEGROPONTE: I thank the representative...
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