Wednesday, June 08, 2005

C24 declares intentiont to look at its duties with fresh eyes

Dominique Searle reports from the United Nations in New York

The UN Special Committee of 24 on Deconolization (C24) yesterday promised to respond to Gibraltar and do its job diligently after it was urged to put people first, before political disputes over sovereignty, and to discharge its duty to Gibraltarians.

That message, from Peter Caruana, Chief Minister, was thrust upon the C24 as it gathered for a second day of its session at the United Nations building perched on the banks of the East River, New York. Mr Caruana was supported by Labour leader Daniel Feetham.

After years of being told by Gibraltar that it is failing to discharge its duty, Chairman Dr Julian Hunte spelt out that he was “not chairing the committee for my good looks, only” and that “these are now matters that require some movement in so far as where it is heading and we have a responsiblity to discharge, which we will do fairly and in the interests of transparency and the determination of the issues which are before us.”

Spain in turn made a statement – unusually ahead of the Gibraltar delegates – in which it set out a position that combined its traditional claim with a restatement of the December 2004 declaration.

Mr Caruana went no further than his opening remarks to remind the countries charged with the decolonisation process that they had a ‘sacred’ duty to see that Gibraltar is decolonised and the right of self-determination be respected irrespective of any ‘sovereignty dispute’.

Mr Caruana’s message acknowledged the improved climate with Spain but without any sacrifice to the Gibraltar position on the rights of the people to decide the future of the Rock as a whole.

Yet at the heart of the day’s statements to the world’s political watchdog was this one critical backdrop going to the heart of the nature of the current process with Spain.

“The Government of Gibraltar will certainly continue to take part in this new process of dialogue, which is not incompatible with our right to self-determination and which is safe. But we will never compromise on our right to freely and democratically decide our own future in accordance with our right to self-determination,” said Mr Caruana. And he made clear also that Gibraltar would press for the continuation of constitutional reform talks with Britain.

Opposition Leader Joe Bossano fresh from his presentation at the UN seminar in St Vincent made his central theme the argument that there must not be any resumption of sovereignty discussions between the UK and Spain. This, said Mr Bossano, is “totally unacceptable”.

Himself in the very throes of building diplomatic relations with Madrid, Mr Caruana treaded a finely crafted path which combined robust statements on the Gibraltar position with a major emphasis on the human rights issues at the centre of the debate He stressed that the sovereignty dispute cannot suspend, displace or cancel the applicability of fundamental human rights. And these issues, not sovereignty are, he told the C24, the business they should be addressing. He challenged the use of their qualification, included in Seminar conclusions, which sets out territories “in which there is no sovereignty dispute” for preferential treatment in the application of the C24’s work.

Mr Caruana chastised the C24 for failing to take up the invitation to visit Gibraltar and of failing to take the Gibraltar question to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion to dispel the “false assertions” used to decline self-determination to the Rock.

Targeted in his address was the decision not to send a UN mission to Gibraltar “because there is a sovereignty dispute.” And Mr Caruana openly criticised the C24 for its inactivity on issues affecting territories. “Fundamental rights,” he declared,” cannot be that fickle.” He reinforced this with reference to the finding in the Namibia case before the ICJ which said self-determination must apply to “all” the self-governing territories.

As in previous addresses Mr Caruana set out the case against Spain’s ‘territorial integrity’ argument and he challenged the idea that the C24 could possibly endorse a transfer of sovereignty against the wishes of its people in this century.

The Chief Minister went on to report as a significant breakthrough the current talks process with Spain. He reminded the C24 of his regular declarations on Gibraltar’s terms for participating in open agenda dialogue and the rejection of the Fourth Committee’s annual backing for bilateral talks. Producing a copy of the Straw/Moratinos statement of last December which set out the basis for tripartite dialogue, Mr Caruana applauded Spain’s decision to support such a process and its statement that it wanted to normalise relations with Gibraltar even though the Rock is seeking that Spain recognise Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and to bring about the withdrawal of the sovereignty claim. However the judgement on this process, he said, will be made on Spain’s actions not her words.

In what appeared to be a broadside at Mr Bossano’s claims of triumph at the recent Caribbean seminar Mr Caruana told the session that the establishment of the new trilateral forum was at the root of the disappearance from the seminar’s report of support for the bilateral process between UK and Spain under the Brussels Process.

He went onto not only welcome the disappearance of that recommendation but added the argument that the two processes (Brussels and tripartite) are “incompatible and cannot operate in parallel or at the same time.” He hoped this would be reflected in the Consensus Resolution this year. Britain he said had given assurances that it had no intention of resuming Brussels talks.

Related Articles:

UN Special Committee of 24 on Deconolization (C24)

Full text of the Chief Minister’s address at the United Nations Committee of 24

08 June 2005 - Gibraltar’s arguments 'compelling' – C-24 Chairman

08 June 2005 - Spain gestures friendship but clings to traditional stance

06 June 2005 - America expected to support Gib's self-determination

06 June 2005 - Gibraltar politicians leave for New York

27 May 2005 - Announcement imminent of GSD/Labour link, says report

19 May 2005 - Bossano attends Decolonisation Seminar


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