The ambassadors and staff of the 15-member UN Security Council yesterday applauded Senor Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Secretary-General, after he made a statement putting into effect Resolution 598 which was approved unanimously by the council in July, 1987 for a Gulf War ceasefire.
The ambassadors of both Iraq and Iran immediately pledged their country’s immediate commitment to peace.
Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, the Iranian Foreign Minister, told a press conference: “My Government is prepared to accept the demand of the Secretary-General and of the entire world community and refrain from any military action on the land, sea or in the air starting from today.”
Iran’s Ambassador, Mr Ismat Kittani, was asked when peace begins. “It begins today,” he said.
Senor Perez de Cuellar urged Iran and Iraq to hold their fire from now on, asking them to “exert the utmost restraint and refrain forthwith from any hostile actions on land, sea or in the air in the period before the coming into effect of the ceasefire”.
The UN ordered the belligerents to end hostilities in their eight-year conflict at 0300GMT on August 20 and to start direct peace talks in Geneva five days later.
Senor Perez de Cuellar said at a historic session of the council: “The restoration of peace will bring to the peoples of both countries victories far greater than those of war.”
As the Iraqi and Iranian ambassadors sat opposite each other at the circular Security Council table for the first time, the Secretary-General said: “I now call upon the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq to observe a ceasefire and to discontinue all military activities on land, at sea and in the air as of 0300GMT on 20 August 1988.”
Before leaving New York after his two-week stay, Dr Velayati served warning that if Iraq failed to observe the ceasefire “we would have no hesitation in retaliating”.
He was asked if there had been any winners or losers in the war. “We’re not a war-mongering country. We want to have an opportunity for reconstructing our country after the revolution, but if any country attacks us we will defend ourselves.
“The eight- year history of the war will show others that we are a people determined to defend ourselves.”
Dr Velayati and Mr Kittani in separate statements made clear that tough negotiations lay ahead in Geneva before peace would take effect.
Asked about the fate of the foreign hostages in Lebanon, Dr Velayati said Iran would try to help bring about their release for humanitarian reasons through its ties with the Lebanese Shia Muslims.
The State Department and the White House were also reported to be indirectly seeking Iran’s help in freeing the US hostages held in Beirut.
Earlier, the Secretary-General had told the Security Council that he was planning to send a 350-man monitoring force to supervise the truce along the 700-mile front and in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
The Chinese Ambassador, Mr Li Luye, as president of the council, said that it endorsed Senor Perez de Cuellar’s orders, called for an immediate restraint on the front, and pledged the council to seeing the full terms of its peace resolution put into action.
Diplomats said Iraq had caused an eleventh-hour hitch in the moves to establish a ceasefire when it briefly insisted on a direct statement from Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian spiritual leader, to match the public declaration on Saturday by President Saddam Hussein of Iraq that he accepted the UN’s terms.
Iraq declared a three-day holiday from today to celebrate the ceasefire. In Baghdad, the ruling Revolutionary Command Council said the announcement marked a “great victory which Iraq scores in the name of all Arabs and humanity”.
The Iraqi people were told: “Therefore we call upon you to celebrate it as a great victory, irrespective of the consequences that the implementation of other items of Resolution 598 would entail.”
In Iran, President Khamenei declared: “This war is ending … we go to peace with honour and a desire that never again will there be war between Third World countries, except if the oppressed rise against their oppressors and defend themselves.”
He criticized the Security Council for issuing “cool, careless and threatening” resolutions on the war before the ceasefire resolution of July 1987.
As recently as last September, President Khamenei stood before the UN in New York and denounced it as a useless paper machine.
Under the UN programme, outlined by the Secretary-General, two advance parties from the truce-monitoring force will set off immediately for Tehran and Baghdad.
Iraq has made clear that it wants to resolve outstanding border disputes with Iran rapidly at the direct talks including the dispute over ownership of the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
With the prospect of Gulf peace, American officials worked on plans to scale down the big US naval presence.