102nd Plenary Meeting of General Assembly: 50th Session

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06-Mar-1996 01:18:11
Downing of planes sovereign act in defence of borders, Cuba tells General Assembly at 102nd meeting.

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The Foreign Minister of Cuba, Roberto Robaina Gonzalez, told the General Assembly this morning that his country's downing of two planes flown over Cuban airspace on 24 February by the organization "Brothers to the Rescue" was a sovereign act in defence of its borders, taken after a long history of provocative acts by that organization.

Addressing the Assembly at a special meeting held at Cuba's request, he said the group's aggressive plans left no room for doubt that it was a paramilitary, terrorist organization in open war against his country. "Cuba has more than enough proof that this organization made plans to dynamite high tension towers in Havana, to sabotage the Cienfuegos oil refinery and to carry out attempts on the lives of the main Cuban leaders, among other actions", he stated.

"Today we are asking this Assembly if the sovereign right to defend the borders and national security of countries is only a prerogative of the powerful and not of poor and small countries", he continued. "If the world tolerates what has happened to Cuba, it would be tantamount to giving a license to freely violate national sovereignty and to convert all nations of the international community into potential victims."

He said the Cuban-American ultra-right, in complicity with extremist sectors of the United States Congress, had initiated a "mean conspiracy", both against Cuba and against that country's own Administration, in the midst of a ferocious electoral fight for the presidency. Despite irrefutable evidence that the United States Government had also been concerned about the actions of "Brothers to the Rescue", the Administration was now being dragged into serious contradictions, which had led to passage of a bill intensifying the blockade against Cuba.

"We are not interested in any sort of confrontation, nor is that our attitude", he said. "If the Government of the United States is really interested in eliminating or reducing the points of friction or conflict between our two countries through discussions and negotiations, we emphatically reiterate here that Cuba is and always will be ready to advance in this direction."

Drawing attention to the immediate aftermath of the downing, he said units of Cuba's border guard had immediately begun search and rescue efforts and had accepted the request of the United States Coast Guard to enter its territorial waters to participate in them. The Cuban Government had also been the first to publicly regret the loss of life that resulted from the irresponsible and criminal actions against its people.

"The United States did not, and does not, seek a confrontation with Cuba" the representative of the United States said in exercise of the right to reply. Her Government and its people wished that the incident had not occurred, but it could not be silent when its citizens were murdered. It would not allow the Cuban Government, which had ordered that crime, to transfer the blame to the victims.

She had listened in vain for a simple unqualified apology from the Cuban Foreign Minister, but "all we have heard from the Cuban Government thus far is propaganda", she said. Behind the smokescreen of Cuban rhetoric, the incident was a simple matter of right and wrong, of what was legal and what was not. The fundamental issue was whether it was acceptable for Cuba to shoot down two unarmed civilian aircraft.

"It was preposterous to believe, as the Cuban representatives would have us do, that the young men in those unarmed planes were enemies of the Cuban people", she added.

Also this morning, the Assembly took note of a letter from the Secretary-General stating that the following countries had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount by specified in article 19 of the Charter: Guinea-Bissau, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Syria, Turkmenistan and the United Republic of Tanzania.

[Article 19 states: "A Member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years ..."]

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