Israel’s ambassador has used a UN Security Council meeting on terrorism to attack Syria as “one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism”.
Meanwhile Cuba’s representative accused the US of harbouring anti-Cuban terrorists.
The accusations highlighted the difficulty of defining terrorism, which has kept the UN from adopting a comprehensive treaty on terrorism. But yesterday’s debate nonetheless showed a desire by countries to fight global terrorism.
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Security Council demanded all countries stop supporting, financing and providing sanctuary to terrorists and it set up a committee to monitor how countries were fighting terrorism.
But the old disputes over how to define terrorism surfaced again yesterday at a follow-up meeting to last month’s gathering of foreign ministers, which called for worldwide co-operation against terrorism.
Syria said Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is terrorism. Israel called suicide bombers “murderers, not martyrs”.
Colombia and Iran stressed the links between terrorism and drug trafficking.
Australia said the greatest danger was that terrorists would get hold of weapons of mass destruction.
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman accused Syria of “continued, extensive and unapologetic support for no less than 10 separate terrorist organisations”.
“Of what use is the campaign against terrorism if others see that states which manifestly fail to live up to their obligations escape condemnation and are even elevated to the position of prominence at the United Nations?,” Mr Gillerman asked.
Fayssal Mekdad, deputy ambassador for Syria, which is one of 10 Security Council members serving two-year terms, accused Mr Gillerman of using “cheap tricks” and called Israel “the symbol and embodiment of terror”.
“It appears that Israel cannot understand that occupation is terrorism,” he said.
“Syria always cherishes co-operation with all countries of the world . . . To combat terrorism and eliminate it.”
Despite the rhetoric, Britain’s UN Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said he was encouraged by “the sense of global momentum behind our fight against terrorism”.
“Every regional organisation, every international organisation, is beginning to build into a global network against terrorism, with the (committee) as a catalyst at the centre, not an organiser of everybody, but a catalyst for action under the resolutions,” said Greenstock, who chairs the committee monitoring what countries are doing.
Cuban Ambassador Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla said his country “has never carried out, financed, tolerated or permitted a terrorist act, not even in self-defence”.
But he said Cuba had been the target of violence and conspiracies by Cuban-exile groups based in the US.
“Terrorism against Cuba continues to be carried out with absolute impunity from United States territory,” he said.
The US did not speak at the meeting and US diplomats declined to comment on the Cuban accusations.
Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador, said Iran had suffered due to illegal drugs and terrorists from neighbouring Afghanistan, despite both countries’ efforts to combat those problems.
“Given the fact that drug trafficking is inseparable from terrorism and is being carried out by well organised and equipped international gangs, ... there should be no doubt that combating it goes beyond the resources of individual countries,” he said.
Colombian Ambassador Luis Guillermo Giraldo agreed, saying Colombia rebel groups are financed from the drug trade and bring weapons into the country by the same routes.
He also thanked the council for condemning the bombing in Bogota on February 7 that killed 35 people.
“Without the co-operation of the international community, not only monetarily, but with the effective use of judicial and police actions ... we are unable to fight against terrorism and its sponsor: narcotraffic,” Mr Giraldo said.