|OAS Secretary General Pledges Regional Unity Against Terrorism |
OAS Secretary General Pledges Regional Unity Against Terrorism
Cesar Gaviria addresses foreign ministers in Washington: Western Hemisphere governments will respond to the September 11 hijackings in the United States with concerted action to fight terrorism and ensure regional security, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) said September 21. Source: Washington File (EUR518), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., September 21, 2001.
"[T]he attacks against the United States are attacks against all American states; our states will lend each other their assistance; and they are resolved to embark upon their collective defense," Secretary General Cesar Gaviria said in September 21 remarks to a gathering of regional foreign ministers at OAS headquarters.
Gaviria spoke as the regional body began consultations on ways to unite the hemisphere in the fight against terrorism. On September 19, the OAS Permanent Council invoked the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), which states that an attack against one is an attack against all.
"We must act effectively, in unity and in solidarity. We must be engaged on all fronts: diplomatic, economic, financial, law enforcement and military," Gaviria said.
OAS ambassadors were prepared September 21 to consider two additional resolutions. One highlighted the terrorist threat to the Americas, and the other called on all member states to strengthen cooperation at the regional and international levels to help capture, prosecute and punish terrorists and their sponsors.
"The terrorists and their collaborators are mistaken if they think we will bow to their barbarity, that they intimidate us with their terror," Gaviria said. "We travel together in the hazardous and difficult task the United States has undertaken."
Following is the text of his remarks, as prepared for delivery: (begin text)
Organization of American States: Address of the Secretary General at the inaugural session of the twenty-third meeting of consultation of ministers of Foreign Affairs, Washington, D.C., September 21, 2001
Today, in this Hall of the Americas, our foreign ministers gather to tell the people of the United States, on behalf of all our governments and peoples, that we consider these heinous terrorist attacks to have been committed against each and every one of our citizens. The attacks constitute the greatest challenge to our civilization, to our values, to human rights and civil liberties, to the principles of tolerance and pluralism we all observe.
These despicable crimes have brought about the greatest threat to our collective security. That is the reason for the extraordinary decision of the foreign ministers of all 34 OAS member states, and of all the states parties to the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, to meet today to express in one voice to our sister nation, our grief, our indignation, our sorrow over the loss of thousands of innocent lives, to tell her of our prayers for the victims and their families. The insidious attack visited upon the democratic institutions of the United States of America moves us to live up to the historic commitment our states have undertaken, as a reflection of what our citizens think and feel: the attacks against the United States are attacks against all American states; our states will lend each other their assistance; and they are resolved to embark upon their collective defense.
The terrorists and their collaborators are mistaken if they think we will bow to their barbarity, that they intimidate us with their terror. Yesterday we heard President Bush, on behalf of this great nation, stand up to tell the world that no one will beat down a country that embodies the democratic values that unite all people of the Americas in a common destiny. We travel together in the hazardous and difficult task the United States has undertaken.
Our governments will not hesitate to do whatever is necessary to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors, and to punish them with the full weight of the law. Impunity is not an option. We are convinced that, as President Bush said last night, justice will be done.
Mr. Secretary Powell, our decisions should be aimed at erasing terrorism from the face of the earth. We must act effectively, in unity and in solidarity. We must be engaged on all fronts: diplomatic, economic, financial, law enforcement and military. The moment has arrived to stand against terrorism and give no quarter. If we fail to punish terrorism, it will take hold of our lives in every corner of the universe.
Just as we have committed ourselves to the most ambitious integration effort in our history, just as we have closed ranks in Lima a few days ago to defend our right to live in democracy, just as we have joined together to eradicate poverty and to make education the most potent weapon against inequality, so too we will unite to defend our security, safeguard our freedom, and defend the right we all have to live in peace.
In Mar del Plata, Argentina, we established, within the framework of the OAS, a permanent organ for hemispheric c
oordination against terrorism. It clearly requires reinforcement in order to meet this momentous challenge, to defeat terrorism's financing schemes, destroy its logistical support, root out its sanctuaries, develop the exchange and analysis of intelligence, prevent the forging of documents, strengthen border posts, develop mutual legal assistance, enhance legal and judicial cooperation, and expedite extradition procedures. The United States can rest assured that we share its resolve to pursue the terrorists wherever they may be.
Secretary Powell, the governments of the Americas will take immediate, unified, and concerted action on these tasks and on many others to be formulated in the near future. We make this solemn pledge with energy, with faith, and with determination. May the God of all people help us and guide us, ensuring that our children, and our children's children, live in the full exercise of their rights, that our peoples may live in peace.