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Responsibility to ensure protection of human rights rests with politicians, says Minister at UNGA

2.10.2013

Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, addressed the 68th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 30 September 2013.

At the outset, the Minister condemned recent terrorist attacks in Kenya, Iraq and Pakistan as well as the use of chemical weapons in Syria. In this context, he underlined the fundamental importance of international law and order and the role of the International Criminal Court.

The Minister emphasized that the Syrian Government has not lived up to its responsibility towards it citizens and welcomed the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution No. 2118. Furthermore, he stressed that the Geneva communiqué from last year must also be honoured and a Geneva II conference convened urgently.

The Minster noted that some of the most important achievements of the United Nations are in the field of international law. He welcomed the recent adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty which Iceland was the first country to ratify.

The Minister emphasized that respect for international law is fundamental for relations between States and said that disputes should always be settled by peaceful means. He named the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as a good example of an international convention that has served the international community very well since its adoption. Iceland is a stedfast advocate of the Convention - firmly committed to its provisions - and the Minister underlined that Iceland protests in the strongest terms when stakeholders resort to threats of coercive measures when differences arise.

Minister Sveinsson underlined the importance of the Millennium Development Goals which are the basis for Iceland‘s development cooperation. „As new goals are defined, the focus should remain on eliminating poverty, achieving gender equality, improving healt and providing education for girls and boys“, the Minister said. In this context, Iceland has the expertise necessary to make important contributions in the fields of geothermal energy, sustainable fisheries management, restoration of fertile land and the promotion of gender equality.

The Minister expressed concern about human rights and pointed out that international obligations are not honoured as long as people are mistreated for their views, race and religion – and even cast as outlaws for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Furthermore, he was alarmed by recent legislation in some countries that violate the fundamental principles of equality and freedom of expression.

The Minister commended women in the Arab world for their fight for democracy, human rights and equal treatment of women and men. With regards to dvelopments in the region, he deplored the loss of lives and condemned all violence and called upon the Governments to demonstrate their commitment ot democracy with concrete actions.

Minister Sveinsson welcomed the renewed peace talks between Israel and Palestine and commended Secretary of State Kerry for his commitment in this regard. „We must respect the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, as well as Israel‘s right to exist in peace with its neighbours“, the Minister said .

The Minister criticized Israel for violating international law by its continuing settlement activities in the West Bank, including Jerusalem and expressed fears that they threaten the two-state solution. He also condemned the oppressive policies of Hamas and the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza.

Minister Sveinsson spoke about the necessity to protect and conserve the living marine resources and the Arctic and said: „...we who live in that corner of the world know how urgent it is to act and plan for the future. The delicate environment must be protected, economic opportunities developed and the needs of the people who live in the Arctic respected“.

Speech of the Foreign Minister at UNGA

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