|Volume 49 Number 10, May 18, 2019||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
On April 24-25, the United Nations General Assembly held a high-level plenary session to mark the first International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace. April 24 was chosen to coincide with the date of the Bandung Conference held in 1955 that laid the foundations for what would become the Non-Aligned Movement. In her opening remarks, Fernanda Espinoza, President of the General Assembly, said the world is increasingly polarised and fragmented and that going forward, the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace will be an opportunity to assess the UN's contribution to humanity.
Jorge Arreaza, Minister of the People's Power for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of which Venezuela is pro tempore president, said the world faces numerous complex emerging threats to international peace and security which demand that the international community address them through the frameworks of multilateralism and international law. Saying there cannot be double standards in international relations, he expressed grave concern over the growing trend of unilateralism and arbitrary measures that undermine the UN Charter and international law. He appealed to the international community "in this house of multilateralism" to achieve peace, sustainable development and human rights, and to spare future generations from the scourge of war.
Then speaking on behalf of Venezuela, Arreaza said the role of the UN has been highlighted because it is the maximum expression of multilateralism, because as indicated in the preamble of its founding Charter, it brings together all "the Peoples of the United Nations". It is not a club of friends, he said, but a forum for everyone. "That is why we cannot fail to insist on this occasion on the need to reaffirm the full validity of the basic principles of international law, all contained in the Charter of the UN: equality of rights and self-determination of peoples, abstaining from the use or threat of the use of force, and non-intervention in matters that are essentially the internal jurisdiction of States," stated Arreaza.
He went on to denounce the fact that the President of the United States used the UN as a platform last September to announce unilateral coercive measures against Venezuela and other countries in violation of the principles and aims of its Charter. More recently, he said Mike Pence, speaking at the Security Council, not only presumed the right to unilaterally impose sieges to make people suffer, but to impose the dictatorship of the United States on the United Nations, and shamelessly give orders to member states to ignore the credentials of other members with full rights like Venezuela. Arreaza said Venezuela sympathised with countries like Cuba and Iran, who are being subjected to unilateral, arbitrary measures that seek to make the peoples of their countries suffer and to bend the will of their governments.
According to reports, a couple of dozen delegates from Lima Group countries walked out during Arreaza's speech to show their shameful support for the US attempted coup against Venezuela.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he came to make the case that collective diplomatic efforts are no longer the prudent option, but rather the only solution.
He denounced the fact that despite 14 reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency validating Iran's commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - a multilateral accord enshrined in UN Security Council resolution 2231 - the US unlawfully withdrew from it. He then mentioned what he said were just a few of the unlawful unilateral policies of the current US Administration towards his country or the region: the extraterritorial imposition of domestic legislation; flouting of international accords and International Court of Justice orders; arbitrarily designating Iran's armed forces as 'terrorist'; breeding radicalisation through reckless and pointless never ending wars; shielding terror-sponsoring clients from their war crimes; and recognition of illegal and racist annexations.
As if this were not enough, Zarif said, the US also punishes those who seek to fulfil their obligations under Security Council Resolution 2231 - which calls for normalisation of economic relations with Iran.
To defend multilateralism, he said it was imperative to deny the US any perceived benefit from its unlawful actions, and to forcefully reject any pressure it brings to bear on others to violate international law and Security Council resolutions. He said in rejecting unilateralism, all UN member states had a responsibility to collectively hold any government to account for the consequences of any lawlessness.
Speaking for Cuba and associating herself with the NAM statement, Ana Silvia Rodríguez voiced her strong rejection of the strengthening of the 60-year US blockade against Cuba and its newly imposed unilateral coercive measures, calling them a flagrant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. She also said that solidarity with Venezuela is a right of Cuba as a sovereign State and also a duty, and that no threat of reprisals, ultimatum or blackmail by the United States would divert Cuba from its internationalist stance.
Rodríguez asked that the newly proclaimed day not just be taken as a simple celebration, but as a reaffirmation of the collective duty and responsibility to preserve peace.
Wael Al Khalil, speaking for Syria, also associated himself with the NAM statement, and said a culture of peace can only come about through respect for international law and the United Nations Charter. However he said there were some powerful states attempting to dominate the organisation to exploit it for their own purposes, creating colossal and tragic challenges for humanity, similar to those posed to the UN at its founding. Pointing to the disregard for Security Council resolutions, he said multilateralism is coming under attack to the greatest extent ever since the founding of the United Nations due to pressures being applied in international relations and in the application of legal resolutions, all to prevent peace being achieved. He said the Syrian people continue to pay with their blood because of interference and military aggression, terrorist wars as well as direct and proxy wars. He also denounced the imposition of illegal unilateral coercive measures and the creation of illegitimate coalitions that destroy infrastructure and assets of many developing countries.
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, associating himself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said multilateralism has always been under attack by those who believe might should triumph over right, who are ready to sacrifice long-term interests for short-term political gains, who forget the lessons of history and are seeking to erode the rule of law. International consensus regarding the question of Palestine remains the only basis for peace, he said, yet, no measures have been taken to ensure the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions or to hold those violating them to account. Despite the shortcomings of the multilateral system that they feel in the flesh, the Palestinian people continue to have faith in multilateralism and their commitment to international law as they struggle for freedom, dignity and the end of the occupation, he stated.
More than 70 delegations participated in the debate. The US was not among them.
After the two-day session ended, Minister Arreaza delivered a press conference at the UN to explain in detail the multi-faceted war the US is waging against the people of Venezuela, saying it was time to launch a campaign to denounce the devastating effects of the unilateral, illegal, and arbitrary blockade it has imposed on Venezuela. Among other things, he said, "Do you know the cost of paying the salaries of our staff at the United Nations, or in Canada, or in Europe? We owe them five or six months of salary." He explained that it is not that the government does not have the money, but that its funds have been blocked and kept by the correspondent bank used for such transactions.
Arreaza also announced that a NAM ministerial meeting is planned for July in Venezuela to further advance their project to uphold international law and the UN Charter and that discussions were taking place with another group of countries subject to sanctions on how to overcome them.
Also on April 25, the over 60 countries that first came together in February on the initiative of Venezuela and a number of other countries as the Group of Countries in Defence of the UN Charter, International Law and Peace held a meeting at the UN.
That evening, Arreaza and Samuel Moncada, Venezuela's Permanent Ambassador to the UN, addressed a livestreamed meeting organised by activists in New York City where they discussed how Venezuelans were coping with the economic war of attrition being waged against them by the US. They emphasised the importance of taking practical measures to counter the information warfare the US is waging against Venezuela, diplomacy to ensure it cannot kick Venezuela out of the UN in order to label it a "rogue" state deserving of being bombed, and continuing the work to stop the US from launching the actual "hot" war it is preparing for.
The next day, in an obviously vindictive move, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the Treasury Department, added Jorge Arreaza and a judge in Venezuela's judiciary to its sanctions list.