Sat, 29 Mar 2003

RI steps up efforts for UN meeting

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

After the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) failure to stop the war against Iraq, Indonesia has stepped up efforts to seek support for an emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said that despite the dominant role of the U.S. in the UN, Indonesia would continue to persuade countries it enjoys close relations with to pressure the coalition forces through the world body to stop the attack.

"We are lobbying developing countries and have high expectations of those grouped in the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to push for a quick end to the war," Hassan remarked.

"We are fully aware that it is not so easy, but after our failure to prevent the efforts aimed at diminishing the UN's role, we chose to do something to try to stop the war," he asserted.

He cited the fact that the UNSC emergency meeting was unlikely to issue tough measures against the unilateral attack the U.S. and its allies have launched against Iraq.

Hassan pointed out that the council was divided into two major groups, one focused on ending the war and the other concentrating on humanitarian aid with implicit support for the attack.

He has repeatedly warned that due to the veto rights of the U.S. and Britain in the UNSC, it is impossible for the council to issue a harsh resolution against the war.

The minister insisted that Indonesia would continually seek opportunities to force the General Assembly to issue a harsh resolution against the war.

"We will spur efforts through developing countries' fora, although not all of them dare to publicly oppose the way the U.S. has handled the Iraq crisis," he said.

Indonesia has strongly deplored the attack, calling it an act of aggression, while at the same time criticizing the UN for its silence against the strikes.

Before the attack, Indonesia had launched a moral movement at home and sent an interfaith peace mission to Australia and Europe to lobby all countries, and the Roman Catholic Pontiff, to pressure the United States and its allies to avoid taking any unilateral action against Iraq.

Like many other countries such as France, Germany, Russia and China, Indonesia and almost all developing countries have tried to convince the U.S. and Britain to seek a peaceful solution to the problem but the allied countries have lashed out at it.

Nevertheless, the Indonesian government appears cautious in its response to the Iraq crisis since in its statements it has strongly deplored the attack, stopping short of condemning the action as many other developing countries have done.

Analysts have warned that should the UN standby and take no action it would set a bad precedence for the resolution of conflicts among UN members in the future.

Indonesia has largely relied on NAM to support its diplomatic efforts to end the crisis as the movement comprises of 116 member countries or two-thirds of the UN's members.

Indonesia's move to call for a UN General Assembly's meeting has gained a positive response but no measures have been taken.

Hassan asserted that what is happening in Iraq should be of major concern to the international community as the attack violates the world order.

"This is not just about a war against Iraq, but it is more about the fact that the UN is being sidelined and we should not let that happen," he contended.

UN General Assembly meeting could be convened under Resolution 337 on uniting for peace, which has been used on 10 occasions since 1950, with the Korean war in 1951 as the first instance.

However, in the recent UNSC meeting with over 80 countries joining the open debate, only around half of them had openly deplored the attacks.