Address by Ambassador Yoav Biran,
Director General, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Head of Israeli Delegation to the 10th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council

Porto, Portugal – 6 December 2002

Chairman in office, Your Excellencies Ministers, Distinguished Delegates,

Let me first congratulate the Government of Portugal for their superb organization of this important international event, which has allowed us all to enjoy your warm hospitality and meet with your rich history. I also want to commend the leadership you have provided to the OSCE during the course of your presidency that is nearing its completion.

Let me also wish the best of luck to the Government of Holland who take over the gavel of the OSCE for 2003 and thank them for their effective leadership of the Mediterranean Partners of Cooperation.

We welcome the opportunity to work in the same spirit with the Government of Bulgaria, who in January will chair the Mediterranean Partners.

Distinguished guests,

The discussions of these two days are dedicated to confronting the most pressing global challenge and one that the people of Israel know all too well – the dangers of terrorism. In 1990 the OSCE added an "eleventh principle" to the Helsinki Decalogue: "To meet the challenges after the conclusion of the Cold War." The gravest security challenge facing our peoples in this new century stems from terrorism and the danger of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terror organizations. This great challenge must be addressed by our united action.

Unfortunately, during the last 15 months we have witnessed a global rash of terror incidents, from New York to Bali, from Mombasa to Djerba, from Jerusalem to Moscow. Events which have left hundreds of casualties and thousands of families to deal with trauma resulting from such barbaric actions.

The common thread of these and other murderous acts of violence, aimed at innocent civilians is that they aim at the heart of the ideals held so dearly by the OSCE, since its inception – the values of peace, sovereign equality and human rights and the commitment to solve differences through peaceful means and thus the OSCE should be at the forefront of this struggle.

Where democracy, human rights, rule of law and good governance do not take hold, tyranny, corruption and anarchy enter into the vacuum. In such a void terror thrives. Thus the activities promoted by the OSCE are so crucial in the struggle against terror.

There can only be one standard when dealing with terrorists: zero tolerance. Global terror has no boundaries – neither ethical nor geographical. It does not discriminate based on nationality, religion or race. Thus the struggle must be global, determined and vigorous.

When we all stand here together, OSCE members, Mediterranean Partners and Partners for Cooperation, and clearly state our support for the Charter on Terror put forth this weekend, we send out a loud and clear message. To those who use terror and to those who harbor, aid and abet terrorists.

I congratulate the OSCE, led by the current Chairman in Office the Foreign Minister of Portugal, for this important declaration.

As is stated in Article 8 of the proposed charter: "Every State is obliged to refrain from harbouring terrorists, sponsoring them or allowing the terrorists to use their territory to be used to organize such acts." The Middle East is the region with the greatest concentration of countries that sponsor terror. I call on all OSCE members to make clear to these states that they can not be considered as welcome members in good standing of the international community, and at the same time allow their territories to be fertile breeding ground for terror activities.

I also wish to call special attention to the relevance of Article 28 of the Charter to the current reality of the Middle East. There lies great risk to world security from the link between terror and weapons of mass destruction. Many of the same states in our region that support terror, are also involved in dangerous programs of armament and proliferation. That danger is becoming ever more close to being a terrifying reality.

OSCE members should be at the helm of preventing such states from acquiring weapons and technologies that threaten the safety of us all. It is also imperative to stress that these threats are not isolated to the Middle East, but extend far beyond, through longer-range delivery systems or "hand delivered" by terror organizations. Just last week, on the 28th of November an Israeli civilian airliner, embarking from Mombasa, carrying 280 civilians was fired upon by terrorists using shoulder fired missiles. This act represents a grave escalation in the efforts of international terrorists to disrupt global stability and thus must be taken as a major milestone in the annals of civil aviation. No doubt that this act is a precedent that requires immediate international action.

Israel believes that the protection of civilian aircraft demands the merging of technological resources, political commitment and action and intelligence into a unified integrated plan that is multifaceted and comprehensive. We call on all OSCE members and partners to adapt, without hesitation, such a unified plan of action and convene the necessary forums and experts to this end.

Distinguished colleagues,

We have been made much more aware since September 11 of the connections that exist between crime and terror. It is for that reason that we support the decision to dedicate the coming Economic Forum to this issue. We strongly support also activities aimed at eradicating the mechanisms utilized to finance terror and address the issue of illicit drug and human trafficking.

Let me also point out specifically the recently held meeting in Baku on "The Role of Religion and Belief in a Democratic Society" as a most important meeting. My congratulations to the Government of Azerbaijan on the hosting of this meeting.

The conclusion of this conference stresses that "violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion."

Furthermore, the final declaration adopted in Baku states: "There must not be any double standards or selectivity on political, ethnic and religious grounds in interpreting acts and manifestations of terrorism in various regions of the world… The incitement to inter-religious discord and hatred are extremely dangerous and inadmissible, and religious institutions and organizations should contribute actively to peaceful settlements of the conflicts".

Israel recognizes the importance of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and has taken every opportunity to support this noble cause. We are proud to have participated in the Alexandria Declaration, in which leaders of the three monotheistic religions have come together and reemphasized the sanctity of religion as a toll to promote peace and understanding and not hatred and violence.

I urge all of you to address also the important role that education and the media play in eliminating the roots of terror. When young school children are indoctrinated in hatred by teachers who are meant to be role models or by television programs that glorify terrorists as martyrs, the wells of the future are irreparably poisoned.

I feel it most important to raise before all of you the dangers that lie in all forms of racism, and in particular anti-Semitism. Recently we have seen a distressing rise in anti-Semitism worldwide. Israel strongly supports initiatives aimed at fighting this most ugly phenomenon. I wish to congratulate the Working Group on Tolerance, and express Israel’s firm support for the decision on Tolerance and Non-discrimination that has been drafted, and we recognize the efforts of the members of the OSCE who took the initiative on this matter. I also wish to commend the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on addressing this vital issue at their recent meeting in Berlin. Modern history has taught us the darkest lesson possible of ignoring this alarming phenomenon.

Honored guests,

Let me state clearly that Israel as a thriving democracy, with an unequivocal commitment to freedom of religion and human rights remains committed to the goals of the OSCE and remains your proud partner.

Too often though the scourge of terrorism has tested our social and democratic values. We have suffered hundreds of victims and will not for a second compromise the lives of our people and must take every possible measure to ensure their safety and well-being.

In this battle, we never once lose sight of our ultimate goal – Peace. We will do all that is in our power to create a Middle East, of peace, security and the best of neighbours. We value and even envy the level of trust that has been created in the OSCE as a most important element in guaranteeing confidence and security, on the path to peace and cooperation.

It is our hope that the activity in the Mediterranean Partners will be enhanced both by the OSCE and by our partners. I say to our partners: We cannot delay building bridges and developing confidence, for every step in place is a step back. Let us show that there is a different way.

As I have stated, Israel adheres and values the principle that lay at the foundation of the OSCE. It is in this spirit that we have made and will continue to make every effort to increase our involvement in helping you realize your important mission.