GA/11860
29 NOVEMBER 2016
Public Opinions International
30th November 2016
Palestinian Leaders Always Seek Reasons ‘Not to Sit Down and Talk’, Says Israel

With the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands nearing its fiftieth year, efforts to resolve the long-standing conflict must move beyond words and promises and compel the occupying Power to end its “warlike” policies, stressed speakers today as the General Assembly opened its annual debate on the Question of Palestine.

Following the introduction of four draft resolutions addressing the various United Nations bodies and departments charged with defending the rights of the Palestinian people, the Assembly heard urgent appeals from a number of delegates calling for concrete action to herald in a new era of peace in 2017.  Many speakers also expressed support for the continued work of the Middle East Quartet — made up of the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russian Federation — as well as for a recent initiative by France to convene a conference aimed at restarting negotiations.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) pointed out that the Assembly had gathered against the backdrop of brutal conflicts in Syria and Yemen, a refugee crisis, the virulent spread of extremism and terrorism and the ongoing construction of settlements on Palestinian territory.  “For many, the prospects of peace feel desperately out of reach,” he said, noting that the fifty-year occupation continued to violate key United Nations principles.  Expressing hope that renewed international efforts could help to pave the way for the two‑State solution, he emphasized that the United Nations had a “permanent responsibility” until the question was resolved in accordance with international law.  

Fodé Seck (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, who introduced the four draft resolutions, said that while the international community was currently confronting many crises, it was crucial to remember that Palestinians still faced desperate situations and that every civilian killed only served to fuel the narrative of extremist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida.  “No individual is free unless all individuals are free,” he stressed, adding that “Palestinian lives matter.” 

Presenting the Committee’s annual report (document A/71/35), its rapporteur, Carmelo Inguanez (Malta) stated that, in view of stalled negotiations, the Committee would welcome efforts by any country to advance the peace process with support from a reinvigorated Quartet.  The Security Council and the General Assembly were also urged to give positive consideration to proposals that aim to present a way out of the current impasse, he said, also calling upon the international community to demand the lifting of the Gaza blockade.

Still, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said that while he was grateful for the international community’s support, he could not conceal his deep disappointment and frustration about the lack of progress.  Lamenting in particular the Security Council’s failure to uphold its Charter duties and implement its resolutions, he stressed that “what is lacking has not been support or solidarity for Palestine, but rather political courage and will to respect and ensure respect of the law in the face of Israel’s intransigence and disrespect.”

Indeed, Israel — which itself had been created by General Assembly resolution 181 (II) — had violated resolution after resolution, as well as principles of international law and an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion, he pointed out.  The past year had witnessed non-stop Israeli colonization activities aimed at changing the demography, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with Israeli settlements particularly eroding the two-State solution.  “Lip-service to the cause of peace is not enough,” he stressed, urging both the Assembly and the Security Council to act and ensure a viable path forward.

Israel’s representative, however, decried the General Assembly’s annual “cynical Israel-bashing festival”, which did nothing to help the Palestinian people.  Some 69 years ago, the United Nations had voted to partition the land into a Jewish State and an Arab State, but the Arabs had rejected the plan.  Instead, every time there was an opportunity to choose a better path for their people, they had chosen the path of violence, rejection and bloodshed.  Israel, for its part, had tried everything, he emphasized, including dismantling entire communities and uprooting thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip. 

“Time and time again we hear that settlements are the obstacle to progress,” he said, recalling that, despite a 10-month freeze in 2010, the Palestinians had still refused to come to the negotiating table.  Israel had tried everything, but the Palestinians always had an excuse.  The Palestinian Authority in 2012 had paid more than $75 million to terrorists in Israeli prisons and $78 million to the families of deceased terrorists, he said, adding that the responsibilities of Statehood would mean investing in institutions, ending terror and finally recognizing the Jewish people’s the connection to the land of Israel.

The European Union’s representative was among those speakers reaffirming their support for a negotiated two-State solution that met Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for Statehood.  Condemning all acts of terror and incitement, he said security forces must respond in a proportionate and consistent manner regardless of the perpetrator, and Israel must thoroughly investigate cases in which lethal force had been used.  Furthermore, all alleged violations of international human rights law must be investigated.  Expressing concern about recurring tensions at the holy sites, he emphasized that Jerusalem was a city sacred to three religions.

Jordan’s representative also underscored the need for concrete measures aimed at ending the occupation and other Israeli activities that undermined the two-State solution.  Noting that settlement activities were one of the most significant risks in that respect and that they represented a “red line” for Arab nations, she stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the heart of tensions in the region and that the occupation was one of the drivers of extremism in the region as well. 

Israel’s increased violations of international humanitarian law had led to widespread human suffering and destabilization, Cuba’s delegate said.  Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he voiced support for all efforts promoting a just and lasting solution to the conflict, which would require the exercise of the true inalienable right of the Palestinian people to build their own State within the pre‑1967 borders.  Commending the work of the Palestinian Rights Committee, he emphasized that “the historic debt to the Palestinian people must be paid.”

Also before the General Assembly was a report of the Secretary-General titled, “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/71/359–S/2016/732) and a note by the Secretary-General on “Economic costs of the Israeli occupation for the Palestinian people” (document A/71/174). 

At the meeting’s outset, the Assembly observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to the late former President of Cuba, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, who had passed away on 25 November.  Conveying his condolences to the Government and people of Cuba, Mr. Thomson said President Castro had been “one of the iconic leaders of the twentieth century” as well as a tireless advocate for equity and an inspirational figure for developing countries.

Also speaking were representatives of Lebanon, Kuwait, India, Maldives, Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay and Iran.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 30 November, to conclude its debate on the Question of Palestine and deliberate the Situation in the Middle East.

Question of Palestine

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, pointed out that the meeting was taking place at a time when the Middle East was being rocked by instability, including brutal conflicts in Syria and Yemen, a refugee crisis, the virulent spread of extremism and terrorism and the ongoing construction of settlements on Palestinian territory.  “For many, the prospects of peace feel desperately out of reach”, he said, calling on the parties involved to make genuine efforts to find peaceful solutions and to cooperate closely with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies so that urgently needed humanitarian, food and medical assistance could be delivered. 

The occupation of the Palestinian territory since 1967 continued to violate key United Nations principles, including the self-determination of peoples, among others, he continued.  The General Assembly had repeatedly affirmed the Organization’s “permanent responsibility” until the question was resolved in all its aspects and in accordance with international law.  He called on all leaders to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric – including by freezing the illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory and by respecting the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem. 

He also expressed hope that renewed international efforts could help to pave the way to realize the two‑State solution of Israel and Palestine living side‑by‑side in peace, security and prosperity within recognized borders based on pre‑1967 lines.  Acknowledging the vital role played by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in supporting some 5 million Palestinian refugees, he also urged all Member States to respond generously and expeditiously to the Agency’s efforts to fill its $74 million funding gap. 

FODÉ SECK (Senegal), Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the four draft resolutions before the Assembly on the Question of Palestine, recalling that 2016 marked the sixty-ninth anniversary of Assembly resolution 181 on the separation of historic Palestine into the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. 

Noting that the latter had been denied its independence, and that 2017 would mark fifty years of Israeli occupation – including policies of annexation, oppression and collective punishment – he stressed that without liberty the other rights of Palestinians were also being eroded or were becoming meaningless.  “Liberty is not a reward given out,” but rather a right of all peoples, he said.  The Committee would continue to defend that right and many Member States, including France, the Russian Federation and Egypt were also working to bring an end to the long tragedy.

While the international community was currently confronting many crises, he said, it was crucial to remember that Palestinians were still facing desperate situations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, among others.  Indeed, the absence of hope and the lack of a political horizon were having a profound, destabilizing impact, with every civilian killed only fuelling the narrative of extremist groups such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Qaida.  “No individual is free unless all individuals are free”, he stressed, adding that “Palestinian lives matter”.  In that regard, he called on the Assembly and the Security Council to implement the various resolutions adopted over the decades towards a lasting, global and peaceful solution to the longstanding question of Palestine. 

Introducing the draft resolution, “Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People” (document A/71/L.18), he said it would have the Assembly take note of the Committee’s work, and commit to doing everything possible to end the Israeli occupation as that fiftieth anniversary approached.  Taking note of the Committee’s latest annual report, the Assembly would also request it to continue to exert all efforts to promote the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination, to support the achievement without delay of an end to the Israeli occupation, and authorize the Committee to make appropriate and necessary adjustments in its approved programme of work in light of recent developments.

Among other things, the General Assembly would also request the Committee to continue to keep under review the situation relating to the question of Palestine and to report and make suggestions to it, as well as to the Security Council, as appropriate.  It would request the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, established under General Assembly resolution 194 (III), and other bodies associated with the question of Palestine to continue to cooperate fully with the Committee, and invite all Governments and organizations to extend their cooperation and support to the Committee.  In light of the onset of the fiftieth year of the Israeli occupation, it would also request the Committee to focus its activities throughout 2017 on efforts and initiatives to end the occupation and organize activities in that regard.

 

By the terms of the text, “Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat” (document A/71/L.21), he said the Assembly would renew the Division’s mandate and request the Secretary-General to continue to provide it with the necessary resources and to ensure that it continued to effectively carry out its programme of work.  As well, it would request the Division to continue to monitor developments relevant to the question of Palestine.  In addition, the Assembly would request the Division, as part of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize, under the guidance of the Committee, an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, and encourages Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the International Day.

Introducing draft resolution, “Special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat” (document A/71/L.20), the Assembly would renew the mandate of the Department’s special information programme and request it to continue its work in 2017‑2018.  In particular, it would request it to disseminate information on all activities of the United Nations relating to the question of Palestine and peace efforts; to continue to issue, update and modernize related publications and audiovisual and online materials; to expand its collection of audiovisual material on the question of Palestine; and to organize and promote fact-finding news missions for journalists to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, among other things.

He then introduced draft resolution titled, “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” (document A/71/L.21), spotlighting key elements of such a solution and highlighting the urgency of bringing to an end the “dangerous developments” on the ground.  By its terms, the General Assembly would call for the intensification of efforts by the parties, including through negotiations and with the support of the international community, towards the conclusion of a final peace settlement.  It would also call for the timely convening of an international conference in Moscow, as envisioned by Security Council resolution 1850 (2008), and would call upon both parties to act responsibly on the basis of international law and their previous agreements and obligations. 

Among other things, the General Assembly would further call on the parties themselves to exert all efforts to halt the deterioration of the situation, reverse all unilateral and unlawful measures, observe calm and restraint and refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric.  Stressing the need for an immediate and complete cessation of all acts of violence, and reiterating its demand for the full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), it would also call upon Israel, the occupying Power, to comply strictly with its obligations under international humanitarian law and to cease all unilateral actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem.  Reaffirming its commitment to the two-State solution, it would also call for the withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and for the realization of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to self-determination and to their independent State.

CARMELO INGUANEZ (Malta), Rapporteur of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, introduced the report of the Committee (document A/71/35), outlining various chapters and summarizing its conclusions and recommendations.  The report provided a review of the situation relating to the question of Palestine with the aim of drawing international attention to issues requiring urgent action.  It also outlined the mandate entrusted to the Committee, including the Chairman’s participation in the Security Council debates and the continued dialogue between the Committee and members of intergovernmental organizations. 

In view of stalled negotiations, he stressed that the Committee would welcome the revitalization of the peace negotiations and supported efforts by any country to advance the peace process with support from a reinvigorated Quartet.  The Security Council and the General Assembly were also urged to give positive consideration to proposals that aim to present a way out of the current impasse.  The Committee also called upon the international community to demand the lifting of the blockade.

International donors were also urged to fulfil without delay all pledges in order to expedite the reconstruction efforts in Gaza and to secure long-term humanitarian assistance, including for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he continued.  Regarding Israel’s continued policy of illegal occupation and settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, he noted that the Committee would welcome further measures by the Human Rights Council to expedite implementation of its resolution calling for the creation of a database of all actors conducting business in the areas under Israeli military occupation. 

He went on to say that also welcomed would be further steps by Governments and private businesses to dissociate themselves from policies which directly or indirectly support settlements.  The Committee would continue to encourage civil society partners to work with their national Governments, parliamentarians and other institutions with a view to gaining their full support.  The Committee would also reach out to regional groups and step up engagement in the context of South-South and triangular cooperation.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that while he was grateful for the international community’s generous support to the Palestinian people, he could not conceal his deep disappointment and frustration about the lack of progress.  “As the situation further deteriorates and peace remains far from our grasp, we lament in specific the Security Council’s failure to uphold its Charter duties and implement its resolutions”, he said, stressing that the “silence” had irrationally and unacceptably continued despite Israeli contempt for the Council.  In that context, the despair of Palestinian youth, whether in occupied Palestine, including East Jerusalem, or in refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan had been a source of vast pain.

“What is lacking has not been support or solidarity for Palestine, but rather political courage and will to respect and ensure respect of the law in the face of Israel’s intransigence and disrespect”, he said.  Israel had violated resolution after resolution.  Israel, which had been created by General Assembly resolution 181 (II), had disregarded that same organ and the Security Council, international law and the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion.  Instead, the Israeli Government committed crimes as if the conflict was the exception to every norm and rule intended to safeguard human rights and peace and security. 

Indeed, Israel had persisted with its systematic and gross violations of international law in occupied Palestine with full impunity, he continued.  Report after report had conveyed the vast regime of violations.  The past year had witnessed non-stop Israeli colonization activities aimed at changing the demography, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Those activities included the expansion of settlements and the wall; destruction of homes; confiscation of land; forced displacement; imposition of checkpoints; exploitation of natural resources; and annexation threats by Israeli officials.  The Palestinian people had also witnessed daily military raids; massive forms of collective punishment; discriminatory and dehumanizing policies; and daily detentions of civilians.

There was an international consensus that Israeli settlements and expansion were eroding the two-State solution, and instead entrenching a one-State reality, he said, adding that could only be deemed apartheid.  “Lip-service to the cause of peace is not enough; empty promises and claimed commitments, contradicted by every action by Israel, must not be accepted in place of actual respect for the law and genuine efforts for peace”, he emphasized, urging the Security Council to act.  Reaffirming France’s efforts to mobilize the international community for Palestinian-Israeli peace and to convene a peace conference, he also voiced support for efforts to advance the Arab Peace Initiative, including cooperation with the Quartet members.  However, none of those efforts could absolve the United Nations of its responsibility.  The General Assembly and the Security Council must therefore act to ensure a viable path forward.

DANNY DANON (Israel) said the deadly fires that had spread through Israel from Haifa to Jerusalem had been deliberately set.  “This is terrorism and the people who set these fires are terrorists,” he added, calling for international condemnation.  Noting that every year the General Assembly held the “same cynical Israel-bashing festival”, which did nothing to help the Palestinian people, he said that since 1947, the Palestinian leadership had proven time and time again that they did not want a solution for their people.  Some 69 years ago, the United Nations had voted to partition the land into a Jewish State and an Arab State, but the Arabs had said no to that, he recalled.  Every time there was an opportunity to choose a better path for their people, they had chosen the path of violence, rejection and bloodshed, whereas the Zionist movement had accepted the United Nations plan despite the painful reality of having to establish a State without Jerusalem, the historic capital of the Jewish people.

The history of Palestinian rejectionism was alive and well today, he continued.  Israel had tried everything, including dismantling entire communities and uprooting thousands of people from their homes in the Gaza Strip.  That had been an opportunity for the Palestinian leadership, and they had thrown it away.  Instead of building hospitals and schools, Gaza had become a launching pad for attacks on Israeli towns and cities with rockets from above, and for committing unspeakable acts of terror from tunnels below.  The Palestinians persisted in their refusal to assume control over the Gaza border crossings, as they had agreed to do in 2005, he said, adding that their leaders would not even take responsibility for the territory and people they claimed to represent.  “Time and time again we hear that settlements are the obstacle to progress,” he said, recalling that for 10 months in 2010, Israel had completely frozen settlement building as a goodwill gesture to advance talks.  For 10 months, not a single apartment or kindergarten or community centre had been built in Judea and Samaria, yet the Palestinians still refused to come to the table, he said, emphasizing that it was not about the settlements.

More recently, under the leadership of Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel had offered deep concessions and had gotten nothing in return from the Palestinians.  The Palestinian Authority faced an important decision — talk peace with Israel or join forces with a terrorist group that sought Israel’s destruction — and they had chosen terror, he noted.  Israel had tried everything, time after time, but the Palestinians always had an excuse, he said, adding that there was always something missing and always some reason not to sit down and talk.  If they really wanted peace, they would have answered to the far-reaching proposals offered by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, and they would respond to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s call for negotiations.  Instead, they focused their time and efforts on political theatre — empty resolutions, flowery speeches and more funding.

He went on to state that according to the World Bank, the Palestinians had received $2.5 billion in international aid in 2014 and $21.7 billion in development assistance since the Oslo accords in 1993.  That money, intended to improve the lives of the Palestinian people, had gone instead to the families and inner circles of Palestinian leaders.  In 2012, the Palestinian Authority had paid more than $75 million to terrorists in Israeli prisons and $78 million to the families of deceased terrorists.  Taxpayers around the world should know that their hard-earned money was helping to fund stabbings, shootings and suicide bombings.  The Palestinians were on permanent welfare provided by the international community, he said, stressing that they wished the conflict to continue because they know that others would continue to pay their bills.  The responsibilities of statehood would mean investing in institutions, ending terror and finally recognizing the Jewish people’s the connection to the land of Israel, he said.

JOÃO PEDRO VALE DE ALMEIDA, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reiterated support for a negotiated two-State solution that met Israeli and Palestinian security needs and Palestinian aspirations for statehood.  Condemning all acts of terror and incitement, he said security forces must respond in a proportionate and consistent manner regardless of the perpetrator and Israel must thoroughly investigate cases in which lethal force had been used.  Further, all alleged violations of international human rights law must be investigated.  Expressing concern about recurring tensions at the holy sites, he emphasized that Jerusalem was a city sacred to three religions.

Accelerated settlement expansions since early 2016 had contradicted the Quartet report’s recommendations, he said, expressing concern about measures such as punitive home demolitions and withdrawing work permits.  Settlement activity in East Jerusalem had seriously jeopardized the possibility of Jerusalem serving as the future capital of both States, he said, expressing alarm at the advancement in the Knesset of the settlement regularization bill.  Calling on Israel to end the Gaza closure and fully open the crossings, he said both parties must promote confidence‑ and trust‑building measures.

NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), noting that Israel had established 131 settlements in the West Bank over the past 50 years, said a total of 800,000 settlers now resided on Palestinian lands.  The settlements, Israel’s attempts to “legalize” such outposts and the wall it was now building around the West Bank flagrantly violated international law.  After 50 years of occupation, numerous illegal policies and human rights violations had included the demolition of Palestinian homes and other civilian structures, confiscation of Palestinian land, forced eviction of Palestinian families and discriminatory practices with regard to water allocation and access to natural resources.  Israel controlled 100 per cent of the Jordan River Basin and 80 per cent of water reserves in the West Bank.  While Israeli settlers in the West Bank had access to 240 to 300 litres of water per day, Palestinians could access only 73 litres daily, less than the World Health Organization (WHO) minimum standard of 100 litres.  After 50 years of condemnations in the General Assembly, which had failed to end the occupation, the Security Council must now shoulder its responsibilities by enforcing resolutions on illegal settlement activities and call for concrete measures to end the occupation with a clear, binding time frame.

NAIF ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) stressed that reports such as the Secretary-General’s should prompt the international community to act quickly to help the Palestinian people deal with Israel’s “warlike” policies.  He expressed support for efforts to reach a just, lasting and comprehensive solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative, international law and the principle of equality, and welcomed France’s initiative to hold an international peace conference on the matter.  Denouncing the illegal, inhumane blockade of Gaza which continued in violation of Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention, he called for an international fact‑finding mission to examine the conditions of Israeli prisons.  Among other things, he also called on the Security Council to provide protection for the Palestinian people and for efforts to compel Israel to comply with its international obligations.

SIMA SAMI BAHOUS (Jordan) said that, notwithstanding the moral significance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, the bitter reality of Israel’s continued violations required more than a commemoration.  Concrete measures were needed to end the occupation as well as other Israeli activities that undermined the two-State solution.  Noting that settlement activities were one of the most significant risks in that respect and that they represented a “red line” for Arab nations, she stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the heart of tensions in the region.  Since Israel continued to ignore growing international calls to put an end to the occupation, new prospects should be considered.  Among other things, 2017 should be considered the international year to end the occupation.  “Every single year, we grow more determined” to recover the rights of the Palestinian people, she said, stressing that the occupation was one of the drivers of extremism in the region.  The international community should shoulder its responsibility and ethical duty to put an end to the Israeli occupation, ensure the rights of the Palestinian people and grant reparations.

TANMAYA LAL (India) said his country supported the cause of Palestine and stood in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people.  India would continue to support their development and national-building efforts by extending technical and financial assistance, he said, noting that his country had actively contributed to various kinds of projects and annual contributions to UNRWA.  India appreciated the Agency’s commendable work over the last seven decades and had contributed $4 million to the National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza.  The India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in Information and Communications Technology and Innovation at Al Quds University, Abu Dees, and its satellite Centre in Ramallah were now fully functional, he said, noting that the first batch of students had graduated from the Centre in July.  Additionally, more than 12,000 Palestinians had so far graduated from Indian universities and the Government had offered Palestinians 100 slots for annual training in a range of sectors.  India had also offered training to Palestinian security forces, customs officials and diplomats, he added.

AHMED FAZEEL (Maldives) condemned the use of administrative detention, movement restrictions and other measures that affected the Palestinian people’s human rights, including the growing number of house demolitions by the Israeli military in the West Bank, and legislation that would permit the confiscation of privately‑owned Palestinian land.  Such legislation would violate international law and undermine the right to self-determination, he said.  Meanwhile, thousands of houses that had been destroyed in Gaza must urgently be rebuilt and the Israeli blockade that had prevented their reconstruction must be removed.  Expressing support for a two-State solution, he urged the international community to move beyond rhetoric towards achieving concrete, lasting peace in the region.

HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) said that Israel’s increased violations of international humanitarian law had led to widespread human suffering and destabilization.  The establishment of illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of land and natural resources and the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians were affecting the viability of the two-State solution.  In addition, the blockade of the Gaza Strip by air, land and sea had led to the total isolation of the two million Palestinians who lived there.  Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, he also voiced support for all efforts promoting a just and lasting solution to the conflict.  That would require the exercise of the true inalienable right of the Palestinian people to build their own State within the pre‑1967 borders with a capital in East Jerusalem.  Commending the work of the Palestinian Rights Committee, he emphasized that “the historic debt to the Palestinian people must be paid.”

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said that after recognizing Palestine as a State for almost four decades, her Government was committed to ensuring peace for the Palestinian people.  Palestine would hopefully soon enjoy international recognition as a sovereign State, she said, expressing support for the Palestinian leaders’ declaration that 2017 would be the year the Israeli occupation ended.  Palestine had a right to become a sovereign State, based on pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Yet, Israel was not interested in a negotiated solution, she said, urging the immediate end of settlement construction and the Gaza blockade and the release of all Palestinian prisoners.  Any State supporting Israel would continue to perpetuate the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Nicaragua and the State of Palestine had just signed a memorandum of understanding that would be mutually beneficial in the area of advancing the rule of law, health and education.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said numerous peace initiatives over the years on the Israeli-Palestinian issue had not yet accomplished a just, comprehensive and lasting peace based on the two-State solution.  Given the recurring cycle of violence and intolerance, efforts must urgently be renewed and must aim at reversing the current negative trends on the ground.  Argentina supported the right of the Palestinian people to statehood and Israel’s right to live in peace with its neighbours.  The settlements were an obstacle to peace, as were attacks on Israeli civilians.  Argentina reaffirmed the special status of Jerusalem in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions, rejected any unilateral attempt to introduce modifications and deplored inflammatory rhetoric of extremists on both sides.  He called on Palestinians and Israelis to resume peace talks.

MATÍAS PAOLINO (Uruguay), echoing the many calls for peace, expressed support for the right of the Palestinian people to live within safe and internationally recognized borders.  His country had strong links of friendship with both Israel and Palestine, he said, noting that “we have embassies in Israel and Palestine, and both have embassies in Uruguay.”  The international community must step up efforts to bring both parties to the negotiating table, and the parties themselves should create the necessary conditions to fully implement the recommendations of the Quartet and take steps to show their commitment to the two-State solution.  Encouraging Israel to abstain from illegal settlements and confiscation of Palestinian land, he also expressed concern about the glorification of terrorist acts.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran), associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said that while United Nations efforts to reduce the Palestinian people’s suffering were to be commended, the immediate priority of international efforts made so far had mostly failed.   For decades, the United Nations had condemned Israel’s various crimes against Palestine and its people, yet the occupying regime enjoyed support from a handful of allies.  It persisted in its disregard for international demands that it abide by international law, and its systematic violations against the Palestinian people continued unabated.  Israel’s imposition of the illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip continued to cause massive deprivation and hopelessness, and to fuel a grave humanitarian crisis, he said, adding that the Israeli regime also continued to violate each and every basic norm of international law.  Its continuing brutal and illegal occupation not only caused much misery, it also lay at the origin of various tensions in the Middle East and was dangerously inflaming the volatile situation in the region, with far-reaching and serious consequences.  He urged the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility under the United Nations Charter and international law and compel the Israeli regime to end its war crimes and human rights violations.

 

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Public Opinions International
24th November 2016|LONDON

NOAH LACHS (President, Oxford Union): Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the first event of three today. Our next speaker is a former Prime Minister of Norway, and in October of 2014, he became the thirteen Secretary General of NATO. Please join me in welcoming Jens Stoltenberg.

CROWD (Oxford Union): (Clapping).

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): Thanks so much and good afternoon. It’s really a great honour and a great pleasure to see you all today and to be able to speak to you because I know that the Oxford Union has really been a platform for free speech and for open debate for almost two hundred years. And for me, to be able to speak to you is really an honour because free speech and open society is what NATO is there to defend. That’s our core value is to defend open and free societies. And that I also would like to tell you that there are many alumnis from Oxford that have, and people who have been members of this union for many years that have served in NATO for many years. One, general called Wesley Clark–he was our Supreme Allied Commander for some years and he’s a Oxford Union member. And also my Assistant Secretary General, sitting there, Patrick Turner ­– he’s responsible for operations and he is a member of the Union, he studied here and he told me, just now, that he studied Medieval History and Medieval War, and then he started to work for NATO, which also…

CROWD (Oxford Union): (Laugh).

JENS STOLTENBERG (Secretary General of NATO): How should I say, not only good news. So, my task, or what I will do today, is that I will try to be brief, not too long, and to share with you some reflexions on NATO and how NATO is adapting to a new and more demanding security environment. And after that, I’m happy to take questions and answer. So, to have time for that, I’ll try to be brief and not covering all the issues but at least, pointing out some of the main challenges we face as an alliance today. And NATO’s core task being a military and political alliance is to defend and protect all allies – 28 member states from Europe, US and Canada. And we do so by protecting and defending each other while standing together based on the principle or the idea of “one for all, and all for one.” And this idea or this principle is enshrined in our founding treaty, the Washington Treaty, in something called Article 5, which is our collective defence clause. And the main message there is that an attack on one ally would be regarded as an attack on all allies, on the whole alliance. So, by standing together, and promising to defend each other, we are strong and we have been able to contribute to peace and stability in Europe for almost seventy years and to be the strongest alliance in history, protecting all allied countries. We have done so under very different circumstances. For approximately forty years, we did that during the Cold War, from our foundation in 1949 until the end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and then elated, the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But during the Cold War, we had a big confrontation between NATO, the United States on one side, and then the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact on the other side. And we successfully were able to deter the Soviet Union and the Cold War ended without any shot being fired, and we started after the end of the Cold War to try to build a partnership with Russia. We enlarged more and more of those countries that were previously members of the Warsaw Pact, they became NATO members. And people started also to ask whether we needed NATO anymore, because the reason why we existed – to confront the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact – didn’t exist anymore.

But then we soon discovered that it was still a need, still a reason to keep NATO as a strong alliance, because we saw that we had instability around our borders close to NATO allies, first in the Balkans, where we had a civil war in the 1990’s, or several wars in the 1990’s, and NATO moved into Bosnia and Herzegovina with a big military operation. We went into Kosovo to preserve, or to end the war and to preserve the peace and stability in the Balkans. That was, of course, important for our own security because the fighting and the civil war we saw in the Balkans was also a direct threat to NATO allied countries. Then we conducted a big military operation in Afghanistan after attacks on the United States, 9/11. We have been fighting piracy off the Horn of Africa, conducted air strikes in Libya and we have done what we, in the NATO language, call “crisis management” or “projecting stability” beyond our borders because when our neighbours are stable, then we are more secure. So, for about twenty five years, we didn’t focus so much on collective defence in Europe because the Soviet Union wasn’t there. We didn’t see a real threat coming from Russia. And we focussed on crisis management, projecting stability beyond our borders: Afghanistan, the Balkans and other places in the world. Then the world changed again with a more assertive Russia, with Russia using force first in Georgia, then later on in 2014, against Ukraine, illegally annexing Crimea. And then NATO was called upon again. And then we are now faced with the double challenge of both, continuing to project stability beyond our borders with actually more instability, more violence close to NATO borders: Iraq, Syria, ISIL and North Africa. And Afghanistan is still a challenge for us. So we have to continue to do crisis management, project stability beyond our borders, but at the same time we have to do more collective defence in Europe. So we have in a way, not the luxury of choosing either crisis management beyond our borders or collective defence in Europe. We have to do both at the same time. That’s exactly what NATO now is doing. We are adapting NATO to a new and different world. We are increasing our strength in Europe. We have implemented the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War. We have increased the readiness and responsiveness of our forces. We have tripled the size of something we call the “NATO Response Force,” a force which is able to reinforce to deploy quickly. And then, we have also for the first time deployed forces, so we are in the process of deploying forces, to the eastern part of the Alliance with the battle groups in the three Baltic countries, and to Poland and also increased presence in the south east of the Alliance. We do this because for us it is, of course, a co-responsibility is to continue to provide the necessary deterrents to prevent the war, not to provoke a war and we have adapted to a more assertive Russia, being responsible for aggressive action in Ukraine.

The important thing to remember is that, what NATO does is defensive, it is proportionate and we don’t want a new Cold War. We don’t seek confrontation with Russia and we, therefore, keep the channels for political dialogue open with Russia. And we are not strengthening our defence because we want to fight the war, but we are delivering strong deterrents because we now that’s the best way to prevent a war. At the same time, we are also now starting to increase defence spending because this has a cost, so we decided at our summit in Wales in 2014, that we needed to invest more in our defences. And some countries already meet the NATO target of spending 2 per cent or more on defence. The UK is among those countries, the United States is another. But most of the NATO allies do not spend 2 per cent, they spend less than 2 per cent of GDP on defence. So one of my, or perhaps, my main priority since I became Secretary General of NATO back in 2014, has been to urge member allies to invest more in defence. The good news is that they have actually started to do so. After many years of decline, defence spending have started to increase and there’s a long way to go, there’s still much to do, but at least, it is a good thing to see that more and more allies understand that they have to invest more in our security when times are changing, and when we see a more challenging and demanding security environment. In addition to doing more on collective defence in Europe, increasing our presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, we have also stepped up our efforts to fight terrorism and to stabilize our neighbourhood. We continue in Afghanistan our biggest military operation ever. We support the effort of the coalition fighting ISIL. We train Iraqi officers. We provide support with our AWACS surveillance planes to planes from the UK and from the United States, and from other countries conducting airstrikes over Syria and Iraq against DAESH or ISIL. And we also work with other countries in the region like Jordan and Tunisia to help them being able to fight terrorism and to stabilise their own, or to maintain their own countries, as stable countries in the region. We are also present in the Mediterranean. We have deployed ships to the Aegean Sea to help cut the lines of illegal trafficking of the Aegean Sea.

The reason why I tell you all this is just to illustrate that NATO has been able to adapt and to change. The world has changed, so NATO has changed and we are doing both a collective defence in Europe but we stepped our op at the same time, our efforts to stabilize our neighbourhood. And that’s perhaps the most important thing, is that NATO has proven again and again that when the security environment changes, we are also able to change. We are changing the way we are delivering our core tasks. But our core tasks remains exactly the same that by standing together, by being strong and by defending each other, we make sure that all allies are safe and by that also, preserving peace and stability in Europe and North America. So for NATO, it is important to continue to be united and that’s the most important strength of our Alliance. I will stop there to make sure that we have time for some questions. Thank you so much.

CROWD (Oxford Union): (Clapping).

NOAH LACHS (President, Oxford Union):  Thank you very much Secretary General.  You ended there saying that the world has changed and therefore NATO has changed.  To what extent to you think Russia who, you know, originally the power you are blocking in terms of the Warsaw Pact, in terms of the potential saying the invasion to what extent are they once again the greatest threat to European stability and European peace? 

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO SECRETARY GENERAL):  So we don’t see in there any imminent threat from Russia against any NATO country but what we see is a more assertive Russia, a Russia which has, over many years, invested heavily in defense.  They have tripled their defense spending since the year 2000 in real terms.  They have modernized capabilities, they are exercising more and they are much more modern in defence capabilities now, than they had just a few years ago and they are also modernizing their nuclear forces and they are also using a lot of, what I should say, rhetoric to intimidate neighbours and also related to their nuclear forces, a rhetoric related to the use of nuclear forces but, the most important thing is that we have seen a Russia which is willing to use military force against neighbours. 

We saw it first in 2008, in Georgia, but even more serious, we saw it in Ukraine, where they annexed, illegally annexed, Crimea and where they continue to destabilize Eastern Ukraine and the illegal annexation. Crimea is the first time since the end of the Second World War in Europe, that one country has used force to annex a part of another country so, all of this is the reason why we have stepped up, why we are investing more in collective defense, not because we want confrontation, not because we want a new arms race but because we have to respond in a measured, responsible, proportioned way to make sure that there is no miscalculations in Moscow about our resolve to protect and defend all allies. 

Q:  Sir, what do you think of the reasons for this sort of aggressive rhetoric, the increased defence spending.  Are Russia paranoid or is there an expansionist agenda?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I think as always, what I say, I am bit reluctant to speculate too much about the thinking but what we can see is, what they actually do. And, what they actually do, is that they are trying to re-establish some kind of sphere of influence in the neighborhood to re-establish the thinking we had after the Second World War with the Yalta Agreement, where Europe was divided in spheres of interest.  That is history, that is not a way to, what should I say, govern Europe because that is undermining or violating the respect for each and every nation’s sovereignty and a right to decide its own path.  So we don’t believe in spheres of influence, we believe in the independence and the sovereignty of all nations but what Russia does in Georgia, in Moldova, in Ukraine and in other countries is to try to, in different ways, to re-establish some kind of neighborhood which they control and especially for the Baltic countries which were part of the Soviet Union of course for them it is extremely important to have the guarantees from NATO, that we will protect them, that they will be independent and free countries and that NATO is there to make sure that no one violates their sovereignty and their the territorial integrity of those countries.

Q:  Another place that Russia seems to have some influence is in the mind of President-elect Donald Trump who has hinted that he might be willing to join Putin in Syria to re-establish the total rule of Bashar Al Assad and defeating ISIS in the process.  If this is not simple rhetoric and if it is true, what does it mean for Russia’s and NATO’s, sort of former satellite states?

JENS STOLTENBERG:   First of all the important thing is that I am absolutely certain that the United States will continue to be committed to NATO and to our collective defense and to US security guarantees to Europe.  I spoke with the President-elect last week on the phone and he expressed strong support to NATO.  He expressed strong support to the idea of NATO, of our collective defense, our security guarantees and I am certain that that will continue to be the case, not only because President-elect Donald Trump stated clearly that he supports NATO, and the obligations we all have made as in being members of the alliance, but I also strongly believe of it because a strong NATO is not only good for Europe, it’s obviously good for us because that is a cornerstone of security, but it’s also good for the United States. I think that two World Wars and the Cold War have taught us all, including the United States, that stability and peace in Europe is also important for the United States and we have to remember that the first time we invoked the Article 5, the collective defense clause NATO, was after an attack on the United States after the 9/11 attacks on the United States back in 2001 showing NATO’s solidarity is also important for them, and hundreds of thousands of European NATO soldiers have served in Afghanistan in an operation which was triggered directly as a result of an attack on the United States.  So, I am certain that the United States will continue to be committed to NATO.  Then for NATO it is no problem that NATO Allies talk to Russia on different issues.  Actually NATO decided at our summit in Warsaw in July this year, that we will keep channels for a political dialogue open with Russia.  Russia is our biggest neighbour and we have to talk to them, we cannot isolate them, and we have to sit down and address different issues, both as NATO as an alliance, but also individual allys.  For instance, the United States. They have spoken with Russia on issues related to Syria, many times, both on how to try to find a peaceful negotiated solution, but also how to make sure that there is no, how shall I say, incidents, accidents taking place in Syria where both Russian forces operate and the United States operates.  Russia was instrumental when it came to, regarding the Iran nuclear deal so to speak to Russia, to talk to Russia, to have dialogue with Russia is, is, absolutely in line with NATO policies and NATO decisions. So that’s nothing we should be concerned of. 

Q:  Okay, one of Donald Trump’s major gripes with NATO is similar to your own, it’s people not paying their way, not reaching this 2% and in fact there is four countries in Europe that make that 2% and as you said it’s England, Poland, Estonia and Greece.  What’s the reason that the other countries aren’t paying their way?

JENS STOLTENBERG:   The reason is that almost all politicians that I have met they would have preferred to spend money on defense, no sorry, on education, on health and infrastructure instead of defense because most people like education, health more than defense.  So, if politicians have, and what I say, an opportunity to do, to spend more on health and education and less on defense, they will do it; and I think we also have to understand that this is linked to the fact that for many years we saw tensions going down.  After the end of the Cold War, tensions went down, and the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and we felt that we lived in a safer world and I have told many people before that when I was Minister of Finance back in Norway in the 1990s I was responsible for cutting defense spending and I was quite, as I say, impressed by my ability to do so; but, when I became Prime Minister later on, I was also responsible for increasing defense spending in Norway after 2008, and the reason why I am saying that is, that I think it’s absolutely understandable that countries reduce defense spending when tensions are going down as long as they are able to increase defense spending when tensions are increasing and we live in a more dangerous world and that’s exactly the case now.  So, yes, it was possible to explain why we reduced in the 1990s and perhaps in the beginning of the year 2000, but now we have to be able to increase and as I said, the, the picture in Europe is still very mixed, but at least the picture in Europe is better than it was two years ago, because in 2014 it made a decision to start increase defense spending and now European Allies have started to move in that direction.  The UK leads by example because more nations are now following the UK and have started to increase defense spending.

Q:   Do you think there is something to worry about in Europe, in that stable Europe that you have described with the recent Brexit referendum here and potential referendum in France if Marie Le Pen gets in?  That the EU could disintegrate and we’d see sort of more sectarian violence as we used to maybe 100 years ago?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  First, I would like to state that what you have seen is, of course, for many, many years that there has been a lot of debate about the European Union.  We have seen different discussions about the future of the European Union and that is important. But, at the same time, we are seeing that NATO has remained united and strong.  So, of course, Brexit, that is not for me to comment.  I don't have any opinion on Brexit but Brexit has not, what shall I say, made NATO less united, if anything the opposite. NATO is an alliance of 28 democracies soon to be 29 with Montenegro.  People in different allied countries elect people from, or leaders from different parties with different political views, there are many different opinions among leaders in NATO countries but we have always proven that we are able to agree on our core cause to be together, to stand together and to protect each other and as long as we are able to do that, NATO is able to deliver what we are supposed to deliver; a strong collective defense deterrent and by that, protecting all allies.  So I am not going to debate about the future of the European Union but I have seen that NATO has been able to stay united, stay strong, also in times where we have seen more instability and political uncertainties around us.

Q:   So one of those nations with a complex relationship with the European Union, but a strong relationship with NATO is Turkey.  Now in 2015, Turkey involved Article 4, after the threats by ISIS to its territorial integrity yet Kurdish forces accuse Turkey of enabling and even helping ISIS.  Can Turkey rely on NATO’s support to protect itself from ISIS but also use ISIS to pursue and anti-Kurdish agenda?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  Turkey is a key ally for NATO, not least because of its geographical location.  Turkey is bordering Syria and Iraq, bordering ISIL in Syria and Iraq and Turkey is bordering both Ukraine and Russia in the North in the Black Sea and Georgia in the East. So, and Turkey has the second largest army in NATO.  Turkey holds 3 million, around 3 million refugees, so Turkey’s key,  both when it comes to the way we respond to a more assertive Russia, but also in the way NATO addresses the challenges with turmoil, violence to the South, ISIL DAESH, but also the migrant and refugee crisis.  All of this makes Turkey important, not only for NATO but for the whole of Europe and also for the European Union.  Turkey is a member of NATO but not a member of the European Union.  I visited Istanbul when I met with President Erdogan on Monday.  We discussed many different challenges we face together, but one of the challenges of course we discussed was the fight against ISIL and Turkey has now stepped up its effort, its efforts to fight ISIL.  They have ground troops in Syria and in Iraq where they fight ISIL and the important thing for me is that there is maximum coordination between Turkey, with its forces in Syria, and the US and other NATO allies which are present in the same countries.  NATO as an Alliance, is not present in Syria.   NATO, as an Alliance, supports Turkey.  We have increased our military presence equal in insurance measures in Turkey, and we are supporting the Alliance, but NATO as an organization is not responsible for ongoing operations in Syria, so how those operations are conducted I think it’s right of me to leave to the US, Turkey and the other countries which are on the ground. 

NOAH LACHS:  Thank you very much.  Now I would like to go to the audience.  If you have a question put your hand up high and wait for the microphone to get to you.   Could we go to the gentleman on that side. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1:   Yes Sir.  Thank you very much for being here today.  You spoke a lot about NATO’s deterrence capability vis-à-vis Russia, and I wonder, it seems to me that, that the deterrence capability is best, best organized to deter a conventional threat and there’s a lot of talk today about hybrid warfare as a threat that emanates from Russia and I wonder if Russia isn’t really operating with tanks and fighter aircraft and overland assault but rather through propaganda, political subversion, little green men how exactly is NATO positioned to deter that threat?

 JENS STOLTENBERG:  First of all I think you are very right that cyber and different kinds of covert operations, sometimes called hybrid warfare is, what I say, is a very big challenge and many of the threats that we have seen, have been much more related to that kind of warfare than more conventional attacks and what we saw in Crimea was what is referred to as “hybrid warfare” with what you  called “little green men”.   It’s hard to where the idea is to conduct covert operations, to deny in a way, responsibility and then create and use propaganda and so on to try and destabilize the country and by that conduct aggressive operations.  This was one of the issues I discussed with Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday.  Cyber is extremely important in modern warfare.  It’s hard to imagine any conflict without a cyber-component and the U.K. is lead, the U.K. has capabilities, competent skills in cyber, which is of high value for all of us.  NATO has decided, and we are in the process of strengthening our cyber-defenses. At the Summit again in Warsaw in July of this year, we made two important decisions. 

First we made the decision to establish cyber as a domain, as a military domain so now we have air, sea, land and cyber as military domains and that will enable us to be more, to better coordinate our efforts, to better focus our efforts related to cyber and cyber-attacks. 

Second we agreed on a cyber-pledge which is a kind of road map on our way in many different ways can increase and strengthen our cyber defenses.  That’s partly about protecting our own networks against cyber-attacks and partly about assisting, helping allies to improve their defenses of their own networks because the responder is the nation, then NATO is there to help and assist if needed.  An important thing with cyber is that, is that that’s something which is ongoing, because when you speak about other kind of threats there is a kind of theoretical possibility that we will have a conventional attack sometime in the future but cyber that happens almost daily against NATO Allies and NATO, so we have to defend ourselves against cyber-attacks every day and one of the key issues about that is attribution, is to tell who is behind and so increase and improve cyber-defenses is high on our agenda and Prime Minister May is very focused on that.  The U.K. is the lead nation and we work closely with the UK in addressing those challenges. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER 1:  Thanks.

UNKNOWN SPEAKER:  More questions please. 

AUDIENCE MEMBER 2:  Thank you.   So if we look back at NATO- Russian relations starting with the post, with the beginning of the post-Soviet period, so there was a period of dialogue and even expectations that a new democratic Russia would actually join NATO.  Then by the end of the 90s, with the bombings of Yugoslavia, with many post-communist states becoming NATO members these relations have really gone sour, then there was a rapprochement after the 9/11 when Putin supported Bush in the war of terror in Afghanistan, then starting with I think the Iraq war, there has been a constant period of falling and deteriorating relations.  So my question is, has NATO membership or some sort of a joint security programs with Russia, have they ever been on the table and if the cooperation with post-Soviet Russia failed, why do you think is the reason for such failure?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  So first of all you are quite right in that for many, for several years we actually established closer and closer corporation and dialogue with Russia and I was myself, as Prime Minister, attending different NATO Summits where Putin attended and Medvedev attended, President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev so, so that was an example of how we were working together and we also had practical cooperation in different things.  Of course there were some ups and downs, but at least we were moving in the direction of more cooperation. 

The main reason, there are different reasons, but the main reason why this has changed is Crimea.  The illegal annexation of Crimea, to use military force  against a neighbour is unacceptable and of course NATO had to respond and we have responded partly by, increasing our military presence in the Eastern part of the Alliance, to send a clear signal that we are ready to defend all allies against anything similar to what has happened in the Ukraine, Crimea.  We also responded by suspending our practical cooperation with Russia, so we still have political dialogue with Russia but we don’t have practical cooperation with them and then of course the West has also responded by implementing economic sanctions against Russia.  That’s not a NATO decision, but all NATO allies have, through the European Union the United States and Canada, have implemented sanctions.  So the main reason for the, the worsening, the deteriorating relationship is Crimea.  Then the question is why did Russia do that?  Well I think it’s because they have this idea of some kind of, they want to control their neighbours and to control neighbours is not compatible with the idea sovereign nations and sovereign states.  I am coming from the neighbour State of Russia and of course I am very glad that I haven’t tried to control Norway in the same way, as they have tried to control other neighbours and ah, and ah, but at the same time one of the lessons that I have learned from regional politics is that it is possible to talk to Russians.  It is possible to have a dialogue with them and Norway having a very long border line in the sea where we have gas and oil on the Barren Sea and the Polar Sea but also on land, we have been able to work in a pragmatic way both with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but also with Russia but the reason why we have been able to work with Russia is not despite of our membership in NATO but it’s more because of it, because as long as we are strong, as long as we are part of a strong military alliance, we have the best possible foundation also to engage in dialogue with Russia.  So I believe that we should, we have to stay strong, we have to stay united, but based on that we should continue to work and strive for a more cooperative and constructive relationship with Russia.  We should continue to have a chance for political dialogue open and manage our relationship with Russia as good as we can because Russia will not disappear, Russia will be there, Russia will be our biggest neighbour and therefore we have to relate to them in the best possible way. 

UNKNOWN SPEAKER:  Do you think one of the reasons you were appointed as Secretary General is because you have experience in this sort of corporate dialogue with Russia from when you were Prime Minister? 

JENS STOLTENBERG:  It’s hard for me in a way to answer why the leaders of NATO appointed me but as least they have, what I have said to some of them is that, is that it has also to do with my, my, let me put it another way, of course it has to do with my experience as a Norwegian politician because that’s what I have done all my life and I became Secretary General so it’s hard imagine something else and, and, and one important part of my political life in Norway has been to relate to Russia.  Actually when I became Deputy Minister for Environment back in 1990 one of my first tasks was to start to work with Russia on addressing pollution, emissions of sulfur up in the ( inaudible) which damaged a lot of nature in Norway and I went to ( inaudible)  and Murmansk and different cities and we discussed practical environmental cooperation.  Then later on in the 1990s I became Minister for Energy and Industry and we had a lot of commissions, we had a Norwegian Russian Commission on Industry and Energy.  We met in Moscow, we met in Oslo and we developed a lot of projects on energy and industry with the Russians and that was a mutual benefit both for Norway and for Russia and then when I was Prime Minister we worked on the Delimitation Line which is a borderline in the sea, in the Barents Sea, but it’s important partly because it’s a big, big sea, territory but also, because it divides the continental shelf and there is oil and gas there and we were able to reach an agreement with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev.  That was good for Norway, it was good for Russia and part of that agreement is also that we are going to cooperate up in the High North related to energy and also when I was Prime Minister I also and that’s still the case we had to know that the Russian military, the Sixth Fleet, the fleet up at the (inaudible) Peninsula they meet with the Norwegian Armed Forces every week, that is they communicate with them regularly to make sure that there are no misunderstandings, no incidents and no accidents.  We also have strong joint exercises with them related to search and rescue and so on up in the Barents Sea.  The reason why I say this is that, in the North there is some practical, as I say pragmatic relations between a NATO ally Norway and Russia but that takes place based on some absolute principles that they respect our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and actually they respect it so much that they have agreed on a new borderline and of course it’s based on the knowledge that NATO, sorry that Norway is a NATO ally so even if Norway is not really a big power they know that NATO is there to protect and defend us.  So for me, Norway is an excellent example of how strength and dialogue, defense and dialogue is not something which contradict each other but reinforce each other and I guess that’s one of the reasons why I was elected as Secretary General of NATO.

UNKNOWN SPEAKER:  Thanks.  Let’s get another question from the audience.  Let’s go to the sort of turquoise jumper.

AUDIENCE MEMBER 3:  Can you understand that Vladimir Putin sees it as a provocation that NATO has expanded to the east after the end of the Cold War, especially in light of the belief of apparently some Russians that the negotiations about the reunion of Germany were based on the promise or implicit promise that NATO would not expand to former Warsaw Pact countries.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  The answer is no, I cannot understand that Russia has the opinion that it is a provocation, that NATO has enlarged with new members from central and eastern Europe and the reason why I can’t understand that and I cannot accept that is that I very much believe that every nation, big or small, east or west, have the right to decide its own path.  So, it’s not, in a way, NATO that has expanded, it is Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary, that has applied for membership because they want to become members through the democratic processes and should we then tell them no, you’re not allowed to become a member of NATO because Russia would not like it.  That’s an impossible message.  And it’s violating everything I believe in when it comes to the respect for people to decide their own destiny and their own future.  So, the notion of NATO expanding sounds like we are, in a way, grabbing land. No, they are coming to us asking for membership and after various thorough assessment procedures and they have to qualify and meet standards and implement reforms, then they are invited in, but only as long as there are democratic processes and they meet NATO standards, and after many years of assessment.  So this is based on the idea that Russia has the right to decide the destiny of its neighbours and Russia do not have that right but neither do any other country.  So, for instance, yesterday I met the Serbian Prime Minister and Serbia do not want to become a member of NATO.  That’s fine. We respect countries if they say we don’t want to be a member of NATO and respect them if they say they want to be a member of NATO. It’s not for us to decide, it’s for them to decide and Russia should be more relaxed and accept that neighbours decide their own path and that will be good for the neighbours and for Russia.

UNNAMED PERSON: Let’s go to back middle, yeah, you’re turning around.

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. I wanted to ask you about Afghanistan. NATO has been involved in Afghanistan since 2003. I think Operation Resolute Support is going into its’ 3rd year and 10 years prior to that with ISAF.  The treasure and blood that has been spilled in Afghanistan is quite astounding in NATO’s history and I wanted to ask you whether this has led to lessons learned or any lessons for NATO members in terms of expeditionary versus neighbourhood activities?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  I would also like a moment, I just have to add one small thing to my last answer and that it’s not true, it’s a false statement that it was an agreement when Germany was unified that NATO should not have new members.  So that’s not true but second, even if it was on such an agreement, it would have been absolutely unacceptable that in a way the President of the United States or someone else should agree on what Poland or Hungary or Latvia have the right to do.  So it’s double wrong.  It’s wrong because it didn’t happen and if it happened, it would have been wrong anyway.  So that’s not the case. 

Second on Afghanistan, of course there are lessons learned from Afghanistan and I think that the most important lesson, there are actually two lessons.  One is that it was right to go into Afghanistan because it was necessary to react to an attack that killed thousands of people in Washington and New York, the Twin Towers on the 9/11 attacks, and it was impossible to accept that Afghanistan remain a safe haven for international terrorists.  It was a clear UN mandate, the international community supported it and NATO has been the instrument for the international community to fight terrorism and to prevent Afghanistan becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. 

The other lesson I think we have learned from Afghanistan is that we should have started earlier to train local forces because in the long run, it is difficult to beat foreigners, in a way, coming from NATO countries and partner countries and to fight the war in Afghanistan for the Afghans.  So it’s much better if local forces, forces from the country itself, can take responsibility for security and stability in its own country and therefore, we have now ended our combat mission in Afghanistan. Since 2015, we are only in to train, assist and advise  mission where we train and advise local Afghan forces and I’m absolutely certain that in the long run, that’s a much more sustainable and viable solution that we don’t do the big combat operations but we enable the Afghans themselves to stabilize their own country.  This is a lesson which is relevant for Afghanistan and if anything, we should have started to train local forces earlier so we could have ended our own combat operations earlier but I think it was an important lesson learned for other countries because I think one of the best weapons we have against terrorism is to train local forces, is to enable local forces to fight terrorism themselves because the fight against terrorism is not a fight between the West and the Muslim world. Most of the victims of terrorist attacks are Muslims. So we have to enable countries in the region, in the Middle East, in North Africa, to fight ISIL, DAESH, terrorist organizations themselves and in the long run, that’s a more stronger weapon than we fighting their wars.

UNNAMED PERSON: We have time for one more question. Let’s go to the person there.

Q: General Secretary, thank you for your time. I was wondering what is NATO taking in steps into de-escalating the tension between the NATO Alliance and Russia on a non-military basis. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  What we do is that we keep the channels for political dialogue open in different ways. We have something called a NATO-Russia Council, which is a council that was established back in the 1990s where Russia and the 28 NATO allies meet.  This kind of dialogue is important because it is important in a way to just sit around the same table and address some of our different security challenges and even if we don’t agree on all of them, I think it’s important that we talk, that we have dialogue, that we speak because that at least helps us to find solutions.  For instance, we have discussed Ukraine, we didn’t agree, but I think it’s important that we meet, discuss Ukraine. We have discussed Afghanistan and we have discussed what we call risk reduction and transparency and that is about how can we avoid incidents, accidents related to military activity because with more military build-up, more military activities along our borders, the risk for incidents, for accidents, has increased and we saw the downing of the Russian plane over Turkey last year and we have to try to do whatever we can to avoid that kind of incidents or accidents and if they do happen, prevent them from spiralling out of control and create real dangerous situations.  So the higher tensions, the more military activity, the more important it is that we have direct dialogue, direct contact, to avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations that can create really dangerous situations.  So, we do this, we continue to do that and of course, we also then continue to meet.  On a political level, I have met Foreign Minister Lavrov, my deputy secretary general has contact with her counterparts with Russian officials, so we continue to have and also many NATO allies have on a bilateral level contacts and dialogue with Russia. I mentioned Norway but also other NATO allies engage with Russia in different ways, for instance, the United States. The other thing is that NATO’s response, our increased military presence for instance in the Baltic countries, is measured, it’s responsible. We speak about battalions, which is an important but limited military presence. So there’s no way that can be a threat. NATO does not pose any threat to any country. So we also calibrate our military response in a way that contributes to keeping tensions down.  We are there not to provoke, we are there to prevent conflict and to provide the necessary deterrence to make sure that all allies are safe in a more unstable world.

 

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John R. AllenDean Kamen
Public Opinions International
22nd November 2016| KAMPALA

Editors’ Note: The call to action is clear, write Dean Kamen and John Allen: U.S. students are falling behind internationally, ranking twenty-ninth in math and twenty-second in science among industrialized nations in standardized testing. The future will be determined by students of STEM. This post originally appeared on the National Interest.

Our society practically worships two groups of individuals: athletes and entertainers. It has been this way a long time, but the trend has reached its pinnacle in the modern era. We swoon over pop stars and movie stars; we pay the best pro athletes in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Perhaps most significantly, in terms of what it says about our culture and how it shapes future generations, we send messages to our kids from early in their lives that sports are what count most at school, at least in terms of after-class activities. We often emphasize sports facilities, large coaching staffs and homecoming games over other types of extracurricular activities.

Not all of this is bad. We admit to liking sports ourselves. Strong, healthy bodies complement bright minds; exercise gets the blood flowing in ways that ultimately can help the brain, too. Done right, sports can develop teamwork skills and a strong sense of camaraderie.

But as a society, we need to rethink our approach. Kids will spend many hours a week learning to bounce or punt or throw or strike a ball correctly, partly for the fun of it but partly in the hope of becoming the next LeBron James or Cam Newton. And in many of the country’s neighborhoods and schools, it is often such figures who are the only prominent role models. Alas, for the vast majority of these aspiring young superstars, hours spent in the gym or on the playground are largely irrelevant to their career prospects and their life prospects.

Our intent is not to denigrate athletics. Indeed, advocates of science education can take a page out of the sports handbook, with the concepts of organized, after-school, team-oriented activities. The call to action is clear. U.S. students are falling behind internationally, ranking twenty-ninth in math and twenty-second in science among industrialized nations in standardized testing. Would the United States tolerate an Olympic team that ranked internationally twenty-second to twenty-ninth? Of course not. Yet it probably will not be Olympic athletics who will cure cancer or build the next generation of supercomputers or command the Mars mission. Our athletes and our performers are hugely important to this country, but they won’t determine the future of the United States. The future will be determined by students of STEM—young men and women from every part of America.

The term STEM is popular these days, and for good reason. It stands for science, technology, engineering and math. These are, as noted, areas of academic pursuit where American students rank among the lowest for the world’s major advanced economies. To be sure, America has the best universities, most innovative high-tech sectors, and best aerospace and medical innovation capabilities of any nation on Earth, to cite just a few of its strengths. But in the twenty-first century, excellence among our nation’s best 10 percent is no longer good enough. And in an era when Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are reflecting many middle-class economic anxieties, greater proficiency in technology offers hope. There are literally millions of jobs in the United States waiting for properly qualified individuals.

Schools in the United States today do try to teach the S and the M of STEM—science and math—fairly diligently. But math is abstract for most. And science often seems disconnected from reality. What does dissecting a frog, however cool, have to do with one’s future?

We need to do better with the T and the E. Technology and engineering. Today’s American children will likely watch astronauts go to Mars, cars learn how to drive themselves, new sources of energy displace hydrocarbons and humans routinely live beyond one hundred years. They have a choice to be bystanders as technology and engineering make such giant strides, or to be participants.

That’s where FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) comes in. It is a hands-on, mentor-based STEM program that one of us founded a quarter century ago. Presently operating in several thousand schools nationwide, just under 10 percent of the nation’s total, it tries to emulate the concept of a sports team but with a focus on realms like robotics that most children otherwise would consider abstract and remote. By making technology and engineering accessible to these students, and by helping them try to experiment and invent from an early age, we can literally change the culture of American society—and its economic prospects as well.

Today, FIRST is funded primarily by corporate and private sources. That’s allowed it to expand enormously. But it means that a school district in a remote or disadvantaged part of the country has to hope that a guardian angel will emerge to take interest in it.

Fortunately the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which was passed with strong bipartisan support and signed into law last December, contains provisions that could enable school systems in disadvantaged areas of our country to create FIRST teams. However, we need to ensure that this legislation is fully implemented and funded. It is essential at this critical time for government to help scale this concept to every school. Agencies like the Department of Defense and NASA have already funded several hundred FIRST teams, and continue to grow their involvement because of the well-documented success of this program. But it’s time for the next step. Simply by funding an after-school stipend for a science coach, akin to what schools give sports coaches already, the government could take the idea of FIRST to scale, helping it reach all schools in the country.

The cost is far from prohibitive. A stipend plus modest material costs of $5,000 per school translates into a total nationwide cost in the low hundreds of millions of dollars per year. By Washington standards, this is a tiny expense for a lifetime of more technically fluent and curious future American professionals. And for a presidential race in which candidates should rightly be expected to have serious economic visions for the country, this idea could be a crucial contributor to a broader road map for the future.

 

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By Adam Azim Director of Public Opinions International (Washington DC)
Public Opinions International
25th November 2016|

Inauguration day is on January 20, and the United States will witness a transfer of power between President Barack Obama’s administration and President-elect Donald Trump. But with such little time left until the inauguration, there is still no clear picture as to how a Trump administration would look like.

During the presidential campaigns and primaries, Donald Trump went up against not only his opponents in the Democratic party, but virtually the entire Republican party went up against Mr. Trump as well. The only true loyalist to Mr. Trump was and is Steve Bannon, a man who helped strategize Mr. Trump’s campaign victory and is now rewarded with the position of chief strategist. Many people in the United States are opposed to Mr. Trump’s appointment of Mr. Bannon, a man who is considered by some to be a white supremacist and a plethora of other things. But the appointment of Mr. Bannon as essentially the de facto number two person in the White House is a rule of politics everywhere. Bannon was the first one to support and organize Mr. Trump’s candidacy, and thus he was the first to be rewarded with a key position in a Trump administration. In politics, the first one in gets the spoils of war per se. The only people you are sure to see in a Trump administration at this moment are Mr. Trump as President, Mr. Bannon as chief strategist, and Mr. Pence as Vice-president. Aside from those three individuals, it is still not clear who will fill all these other positions that are left open.

The reason why it is so difficult for Mr. Trump to fill these positions in his administration is because the majority of democrats refuse to work with Mr. Trump after a very bitter campaign and the Republican party went all out against him during not only the primary season, but also during the presidential campaign. Mr. Bannon has also advised Mr. Trump to steer clear of Republican establishment figures because of their dark past. The only democrat who showed some support to Mr. Trump and refused to engage in petty bi-partisan politics was in fact President Barack Obama after the elections were over. My strong belief and my wholehearted suggestion would be that in the spirit of national reconciliation, Mr. Trump and his core supporters and loyalists like Mr. Bannon should consider bringing in Mr. Obama as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton into a Trump administration. By putting the past behind them, Mr. Trump and his core loyalists can focus on fixing the American economy at a time of internal balancing and at the same time Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton can help with the focus on foreign affairs due to their immense experience. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton will advocate support for Europe inside of a Trump administration at a time when Europe is the most vulnerable of the strategic interests of the United States. Mr. Obama is highly respected and loved in Europe, and Mrs. Clinton is also a staunch Europhile who has shown immense support for German leader Angela Merkel. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton would provide the perfect balance and harmony alongside Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon, and there is little doubt that the two camps would get along for the sake of helping America become powerful again.

Those individuals that went up against Mr. Trump in the Republican party were concerned solely with undermining the Iran deal and bringing further chaos into the Middle East. Now that the deal is done, everyone in America should get over the Iran deal as long as Iran abides by the terms of the agreement. The two main points of focus in a Trump Administration for the next four to eight years need to be domestic recuperation as well as Europe. There is no other way the United States’ global strategy can succeed unless these become the two main points of focus for the Trump administration.

 

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By Beecham Okwere David |East African Legislative Assembly Members of Parliament Candidate,EAC Youth Ambassador & A Member of the Mandela Young African leaders Intitiave ( YALI)
Public Opinions International
22nd November 2016|KAMPALA-UGANDA

Climate change impacts vary between different places, gender, age and class. Africa, though being the least contributors to the global climate change emissions, is the most vulnerable to climate change impacts due to poverty, high dependency to rain fed agriculture, deforestation, weak governance systems, technological and poor infrastructural development, population growth, environmental degradation, persistent conflicts and more importantly weak adaptive capacities to the impacts of climate change.

East Africa is one of the most volatile regions in the continent with a total population of over 327 million, which is about 5.15 per cent of the global population.
Further, the effects of climate change are not equally felt across the populations and studies have shown that they disproportionately affect women.

Emerging issues from discussions and General Observations.Among many others this are some of my partinent observations on this matter;

Efforts to adapt to the changing climate are intricately linked to the broader challenges of sustainable livelihoods, disaster risk reduction and natural resources
management.

Domestication of international frameworks (UNFCCC and others) must be implemented at national and local levels.

All stakeholders must participate in addressing the challenge posed by climate change and natural disasters;

Risk Reduction provides excellent opportunities for building community resilience and building adaptive capacity to Climate Change, and it can be considered as the first line of defence while building long-term adaptation strategies.

The main emerging issues and key players must  include;

Members of Parliament, EAC Youth Ambassadors and all Youth Leaders in EAC have a role in reducing impacts of climate change and its closely linked disasters in the region which have been a cause of most problems, this can be done through advocacy and awareness creation.

Sustainable development must recognize specific gender role in mitigating climate change and reducing its effects.

Information available is not disseminated and women are not adequately empowered, thus the need for building more capacity for women and men to be able to deal with the effects of climate change and to build resilience.

In order to ensure sustainable development, Partner States should target both women and Men for Us to have a more brighter future
Thanks very much for your Attention.

Beecham Okwere David
East African Legislative Assembly Members of Parliament Candidate,EAC Youth Ambassador & A Member of the Mandela Young African leaders Intitiave ( YALI)
www.beechamdavid.com
www.beechamdavid.org

 

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