We congratulate you and the other members of the Bureau on your election and wish you success in discharging your responsibilities. We further assure you of our support for the successful work of the Commission.
Cuba associates itself with the statement delivered by El Salvador on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
It is regrettable that less than two years after the end of the "Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism", this scourge continues to be present, despite the deadlines set by this Organization for its eradication. Therefore, one of the priorities of the United Nations is and must remain the cause of decolonization until the debt to the peoples of the 17 territories still living in colonial status is paid off.
During the current year, the Special Committee on Decolonization has done some serious and permanent work to fulfill its mandate. The Committee has continued its dialogue with Administering Powers, Representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories and Member States. The Visiting Mission to the territory of New Caledonia to gather first-hand information on the implementation of the Nouméa Accord and to support New Caledonia in its preparation for the referendum to be held on 4 November 2018, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Special Committee, is an example of this.
The colonial question of the sister Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has been considered for over 41 years in the Special Committee on Decolonization, and consequently, 37 resolutions and decisions have been adopted.
The Committee adopted this year a new resolution, which reaffirms the inalienable right of the Puerto Rican people to self-determination and independence, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), among other provisions.
Puerto Rico remains a territory under the sovereignty of the United States and subject to the plenary powers of the United States Congress. This was made clear by the United States Attorney General before the Supreme Court. The political farce set up more than 50 years ago to remove Puerto Rico from the list of territories under colonial occupation was revealed by the colonizers themselves.
The current economic, social and humanitarian situation in Puerto Rico, which worsened in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, is a matter of great concern. Contrary to the perception that the government wants to offer, the island has not recovered from the devastation caused by these disasters, which claimed thousands of lives. At this point, the U.S. government has only disbursed 4 billion dollars of the 62 billion dollars designated by Congress, not covering damages estimated between 80 and 90 billion dollars. On the other hand, only 12.5% of those 62 billion dollars will have a direct impact on Puerto Rico's economy due to the privileged hiring of U.S. companies.
Cuba defends the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination on the basis of respect for the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, International Law and relevant UN resolutions. We reiterate our support for the efforts of the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to achieve a mutually acceptable political solution between the parties that provides for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara in the context of General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV).
We welcome the next round of talks convened by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy to be held early December in Geneva, accepted by both parties and without preconditions. We hope that it will be successful and conducive to a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people.
Once again, we express our unrestricted support for the legitimate right of the Republic of Argentina in the sovereignty dispute concerning the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, which are part of its national territory. We reiterate the call for a negotiated, just and definitive solution to the Malvinas question as soon as possible. We further emphasize that until a definitive solution had been reached, unilateral acts introducing changes to the situation of the Malvinas islands should not take place.
Mr. Chairman, We cannot fail to mention the occupied and besieged Palestine.
Cuba condemns Israel's continued military occupation of the Palestinian territory; Israeli colonizing practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; human rights violations and systematic war crimes that cause immense suffering to the Palestinian people. Urgent action is therefore required to ensure full respect for the Charter of the United Nations, International Law and International Humanitarian Law.
We reiterate Cuba's unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on the basis of a two-State solution, to allow Palestinians the right to self-determination and to have an independent and sovereign State, with its capital in East Jerusalem and pre-1967 borders.
The United Nations, especially the Security Council, is indebted to the Palestinian people.
Our delegation wishes to acknowledge the outreach work being carried out, in particular by the Department of Public Information (DPI), and we urge it to continue and expand its activities in order to achieve the broadest possible dissemination of information on decolonization. There is a need to further increase actions with a view to continue to inform the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of their self-determination options, as well as to raise awareness in the international community of the importance of its support for this process.
In this context, the fact that some Administering Powers continue to fail to send the information on Non-Self-Governing Territories despite the resolutions adopted on the subject remains a matter of concern.
Cuba's commitment and solidarity with the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories has also been evidenced over the years through collaborative actions. Currently, 110 students from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic are pursuing undergraduate studies in institutions of the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Higher Education of Cuba.
In 2016-2017 school year, 22 students from that brother territory graduated from our universities, most of them in the specialty of Medicine, and another 43 scholarships were awarded to begin studies in 2018-2019 school year. By 2017, a total of 2,876 Saharawi students had graduated from higher education, as well as a small number from Anguilla, Bermuda and Montserrat.
Cuba reiterates its unwavering historic commitment to the eradication of colonialism and recalls that as long as there is only one people under that status, the work of the Organization will be unfinished.
Thank you very much