Wien/New York, 28. September 2012 Press release

Spindelegger before UN General Assembly: “A Middle East without nuclear weapons is more important than ever before”

Austrian Vice-Chancellor advocates solving the crisis by negotiation; Syria is putting the UN system to an acid test

Vienna/New York, 26 September 2012 – “Prevention is better and cheaper than a cure” – This was the motto of Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger’s address on the explosive nature of the current international political crises at the UN General Assembly in New York. Even when a conflict has broken out, he said, everything should be done to bring the parties to the conflict back to the negotiating table. And he underlined the importance of the United Nations Organisation as a global hub of dialogue for peaceful conflict solution. 

Syria is putting the UN system to an acid test according to Spindelegger who said: “The UN Security Council will finally have to live up to its responsibility in this issue. Thousands of people are losing their lives in their fight for freedom and reforms, which they are denied by a regime that tramples on any fundamental rights for the sake of remaining in power.” Spindelegger vehemently condemned the systematic violations of human rights and the bloodshed and demanded from the parties involved that they resume negotiations – now headed by UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi – as quickly as possible. And he urged President Assad, in particular, to leave office. 

The Vice-Chancellor supported peaceful political transition in the other states of the region that experienced the Arab Spring. “Austria welcomes the efforts of the new governments to lay the foundation for more open, encompassing and prosperous societies. We encourage them to fulfil their mandate for democratic change responsibly, to listen to their people’s concerns and to contribute to stabilising the region”, Spindelegger said and made it perfectly clear that he condemned the most recent attacks on foreign embassies in the region. A central element of destabilisation in the Middle East is the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said. In his view the two-state solution is the only possible way out. “We appeal to the political leaders of both sides to assume the responsibility with which they were entrusted by their citizens and to create a basis for peace and prosperity for their children and future generations.” 

The Vice-Chancellor was also very clear about the issue of a Middle East without nuclear weapons: “It is now more important than ever before to establish a zone without nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.” Iran, in particular, is called upon to credibly prove the peaceful character of its nuclear programme. Spindelegger also condemned the failure to achieve substantial global multilateral disarmament negotiations until this day: “The impact of any use of nuclear weapons on humanity, ecology and health would be disastrous for the whole world. In the 21st century, such an existential threat for mankind must not be handled as a mere issue of national security“, Spindelegger said and he also referred to Austria’s commitment in disarmament and non-proliferation. 

The Vice-Chancellor also used his speech at the General Assembly to stress Austria’s efforts for dialogue. “The peaceful settlement of disputes can only be reached through open dialogue based on mutual respect. Austria has a particularly long tradition of promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue. A tradition that we are still living today”, Spindelegger said and referred to the fifth Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilisations to be held in Vienna in February 2013. The focus of the conference will be on cultural pluralism and freedom of opinion. The international appreciation of Austria’s expertise in human and citizens’ rights is not least expressed by the election of the country to the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, the Vice-Chancellor said. In the Human Rights Council Austria supports, above all, the protection of the freedom of the press and freedom of religion and the protection of the rights of the child. He also mentioned the adoption of a resolution on the protection of journalists that was a nice success for Austria. 

Concluding his address, Spindelegger underlined Austria’s commitment to a sustainable global energy supply. “The universal access to energy, the improvement of energy efficiency and a higher share of renewable energies in the global energy mix are objectives that will help facilitate the access of one and a half billion people worldwide who have no access to electricity today”. He also mentioned the reduction of greenhouse gases and global warming that are an existential threat to many UN member states. Against this backdrop, he welcomed the decision of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to establish an office for the implementation of Ban Ki-moon’s “Renewable energy for all” initiative in Vienna. After all, the motto “prevention is better and cheaper than a cure” is certainly most true for the sustainable use of our planet’s resources.

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