Washington Supports Meaningful Efforts, Says Secretary of State, as Tehran's Delegate Assails Involvement in Iraq, Yemen

Amid recent developments in the Persian Gulf and the wider Middle East, the Security Council discussed today how to ease tensions and contribute constructively to the resolution of conflicts in the region, as many speakers described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the core of regional instability.

In opening remarks, the Secretary General's Chef de Cabinet briefed Council members on current developments, from the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the recent maritime incidents in the Strait of Hormuz, the critical waterway between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The list of challenges is long, but this should not deter us, she said, recommending several steps, among them preventing the most acute flashpoints in the region from boiling over, keeping channels of communication open and fostering confidence-building measures to bring the relevant parties towards dialogue.

Although the Middle East has many fault lines and divisions, she continued, within such challenges lies the opportunity to build upon the words and intentions of the Charter of the United Nations towards action that will bring real change and a bright future to the region's people. The United Nations, for its part, is addressing challenges on multiple fronts, from supporting preventive diplomacy to nurturing capacities for tackling climate change, she said. Meanwhile, the Council's role in maintaining international peace and security remains indispensable, she emphasized.

As Council members shared many of her concerns, some offered practical solutions, others focused on the need to address the root causes behind the conflicts in the Middle East, and still others described their actions in the region.

The Secretary of State of the United States said his country's accomplishments of the last six months include the dismantling of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh). Washington supports meaningful and effective multilateral efforts, he emphasized. By contrast, Iran continues to escalate tensions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, he said, pointing out that, in July alone, Tehran defied its nuclear commitments, threatened further expansion of its nuclear intentions, detained several tankers and fired a ballistic missile in defiance of Security Council resolutions.

Iran's representative said the United States is responsible for prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and its involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen has contributed to support for terrorist groups. Describing that country's military presence in the Persian Gulf as one of the main causes of instability and insecurity in the Middle East, he said another destabilizing factor is the unbridled flow of American weaponry into the region. We should not lose sight of the destabilizing nature and impact of the 'divide-and-rule' strategy of the United States, he cautioned.

Similarly, the Russian Federation's representative said the policy of removing regimes that are inconvenient to certain Governments has led to bloodshed in the region, adding that his delegation cannot be satisfied that calls for Iran to sit down at the negotiating table are punctured by unilateral threats and insults. We cannot overlook the fact that 80 per cent of [Iran's economy] falls under the illegitimate unilateral sanctions of the United States aiming to force Tehran to bow before Washington, he emphasized. The Secretary of State used many negative words and cooperation only once � and then only in the context of a coalition against Iran, he pointed out.

The State Secretary of Germany's Federal Foreign Office said that political dialogue and, if need be, coordinated sanctions, could help in dealing constructively with Iran, cautioning, however, that unilateral actions would do the opposite. Only if all outside actors look beyond self-interest can we make progress towards a peaceful Middle East, he added, stressing the need to respect international humanitarian law.

Equatorial Guinea's representative cautioned against efforts centred on regime change, interventionism and interference in the internal affairs of State, pointing out that the dire consequences of such practices in Libya continue to spill over into Central and West Africa.

Syria's representative said that some Council members derailed the debate with the aim of distracting attention from the real root causes of conflict, which include occupation and the fabrication of crises that undermine the people's welfare and security. To change this trajectory, the Council must adopt a serious approach to resolving conflicts and identifying their real root causes, he said.

Also participating were Poland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, as well as speakers representing China, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Peru, Kuwait, South Africa, Indonesia, CAte d'Ivoire, Bahrain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates (for the Arab Group), Qatar, Lebanon and Jordan. Others represented the State of Palestine, as well as the European Union delegation and the League of Arab States.

The meeting began at 3:07 p.m. and ended at 7:40 p.m.

Opening Remarks

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI, Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary General of the United Nations, said the situation in the Middle East remains troubling and complex, with some countries characterized by protracted conflicts, geopolitical tensions, governance issues and severe deficits in socioeconomic development. Yet, as the Secretary-General noted to the Council in 2018, the mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present. A shared aspiration must be to find ways for the region to realize its potential for the benefit of all, she emphasized. On recent challenges, she cited the incidents in the Strait of Hormuz that are raising tensions to dangerous levels, stressing the urgent need for restraint and genuine dialogue to avoid a major confrontation. Moreover, deep disagreements about Iran's nuclear programme are further exacerbating differences in the Persian Gulf, with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remaining the only agreed framework. Despite the efforts of the Special Envoys in Syria and Yemen, hostilities persist, she said. At the same time, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the longest-standing issue on the peace and security agenda of the United Nations, with a just two-State solution acceptable to both sides being essential for the future of the entire region. Indeed, realizing the promise of full respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and international humanitarian law requires commitment and bold action, including by addressing the root causes of violence.

She went on to emphasize that this is relevant in terms of tackling the threat of terrorism and violent extremism, and in accelerating implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by fostering inclusive growth, environmental sustainability, gender equality and opportunities for youth. She also underlined that, despite the gains made in gender quality, equal opportunities remain limited and gender-based violence is still widespread. Women must move from the margins to the centre of peace processes, she said, adding that a pushback against their rights is at the core of terrorist and extremist agendas. As for youth, creating jobs is an imperative, as is investing in education and training, she emphasized. The list of challenges is long, but this should not deter us, she said, recommending several steps, among them preventing the most acute flashpoints in the region from boiling over, keeping channels of communication open, and fostering confidence-building measures to bring the relevant parties towards dialogue. The United Nations, for its part, is addressing challenges on multiple fronts, from supporting preventive diplomacy to nurturing capacities for tackling climate change, she said. Meanwhile, the Council's role in maintaining international peace and security remains indispensable. Although the Middle East has many fault lines and divisions, within such challenges lies the opportunity to build upon the words and intentions of the Charter of the United Nations towards action that will bring real change and a bright future to the region's people, she said.

Statements

JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, which holds the Council presidency for August, spoke in his national capacity, saying that solutions providing peace and stability to a region ravaged by conflict are yet to be found. A positive approach must restore peace and economic growth, promoting entrepreneurship among youth, strengthening good governance, combating corruption and offering education with a view to tackling critical challenges � from mass migration to rising extremism. The Council must support and initiate actions to counter aggressive policies and activities in the region. Emphasizing that security in the Middle East is linked to the structure of the global order, he noted that conflicts in the region trigger worldwide political, economic and social consequences. From the spread of terrorism to the proliferation of missiles, challenges persist, including Iran's announcement that it will not abide by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and recent threats to maritime navigation in the Persian Gulf. However, the region's ample resources and strategic location makes it a key player in securing global energy supplies, he said, adding, however, that responsible State behaviour by Middle Eastern States in cyberspace can reinforce regional cyber stability. Highlighting the link connecting human rights, peace and security, he stressed the importance of States supporting free and fair elections, freedom of speech and the rule of law. The international community must help safeguard tangible, as well as intangible, heritage, which helps to develop inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, he added. We need a bold initiative to deal with the challenges to peace and security in the region. Highlighting the work of the Warsaw Process and its working groups, he said its discussions, to be held in October, are intended to help resolve multifaceted problems, as well as to foster stability and confidence in the region and beyond. Creating the conditions for stability will, therefore, allow the Middle East to unlock its enormous potential as a valuable contributor to global peace and security, he said.

MICHAEL R. POMPEO, Secretary of State of the United States, said the Trump Administration is reviving America's leadership in the Middle East. We care about outcomes and not gestures, he added, recalling the accomplishments of the last six months, including the dismantling of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh). The United States supports meaningful and effective multilateral efforts, he emphasized. He went on to note that, with conflict still raging in Libya, more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees yet to return to their homes, radical Islamist terrorists looking for new weaknesses to exploit, Iran continues to escalate tensions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. In July alone, Tehran defied its nuclear commitments, threatened further expansion of its nuclear intentions, detained several tankers and fired a ballistic missile in defiance of Security Council resolutions, he pointed out. Emphasizing the need for greater cooperation in the Middle East, from Aleppo to Aden, he declared: We need fresh thinking to resolve old problems, noting that the Warsaw Process is critical to enhancing cooperation for the sake of progress on issues affecting the region.

ANDREAS MICHAELIS, State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, pointing out that the Middle East has always been seen as a volatile region, declared: We have to change the negative dynamics in the region and stop moving from bad to worse. It is for the region's nations to create the political environment that would allow people to enjoy safety, dignity and liberty. Dialogue aimed at bridging ethnic and religious divides is the only way forward, he stressed. The region's stability has always been of global concern, he said, noting: Only if all outside actors look beyond self-interest can we make progress toward a peaceful Middle East. Stressing the need to fully respect international humanitarian law, he said political processes that promote de-escalatory efforts are essential. He went on to underline the need to end the bloodshed in Syria, while emphasizing, concerning Iran, the critical role of the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action. Political dialogue and, if need be, coordinated sanctions, could help in dealing constructively with Iran, he said, cautioning, however, that unilateral actions would do the opposite. As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he underscored the need to resume dialogue.

MA ZHAOXU (China) condemned external interference and self-interested politics in the Middle East, emphasizing that a two-State solution is the only way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The international community must hold high the banner of multilateralism and ensure that peace talks resume between the Israelis and Palestinians. He went on to state that the turmoil in the Middle East is rooted in poverty, stressing the need to promote sustainable development and education programmes. Building synergies to respond to the threat of terrorism is vital. The international community must resolutely combat terrorism and extremism and fight cross-border organized crime while maintaining calm, security and regional order, he said. Efforts should be made to implement and abide by the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action, which remains critical to preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he said, underlining that China supports a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and promotes conditions suitable for refugees to return home.

JOSA� SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said a number of conflicts are undermining development in the entire Middle East, and the impact of this instability has extended to neighbouring countries and beyond. An essential part of this destabilization is caused by terrorist groups, he said. Emphasizing the role of public institutions in establishing peace and calm in the region, he said education is the vital link to normality. It is urgent that we protect educational institutions during conflicts, he stressed, noting that attacks against education facilities erode the potential of children and young people. He went on to state that we must fight the illicit trafficking of weapons, which strengthens terrorist and criminal groups.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said the current troubling trajectory of the Middle East calls for a rules-based international system to foster stability, prosperity and security. The international community should find a way to address the region's challenges collectively, she added, suggesting an exploratory look at the recent incident in the Strait of Hormuz, with a view to launching regional dialogue. Urging Iran to return to its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, she emphasized: There is no better solution; there is no alternative. While the United Kingdom supports Iran's right to self-defence, that country's pattern of behaviour, including sending militia to Syria, violates Council resolutions and threatens regional peace and stability, she said, stressing that ensuring safe maritime passage in the Strait of Hormuz is essential. As for Syria, only a political process can end the conflict in that country, she said, calling for adherence to the ceasefire in Idlib and for an investigation into humanitarian violations. Turning to Iraq, she said the international community must continue to support the Government's efforts to quash terrorist activities. She went on to underline the need for political solutions to end the conflicts in Libya and Yemen, while highlighting Lebanon's recent policy to dissociate itself from regional conflicts. She expressed her delegation's support for the work of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), while also emphasizing the United Kingdom's support for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. More broadly, she called for dialogue to resolve the differences causing suffering across the Middle East.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) said that the Middle East, plagued by tensions and conflict from Libya to Yemen, faces numerous challenges that are too often tackled in a piecemeal manner. A multidimensional regional approach must address the root causes underpinning many security threats, addressing security and political aspects and economic and financial elements, as well as sociocultural factors, she emphasized. For instance, weapons of mass destruction remain a key point of focus, and the perpetrators of chemical weapons use in Syria must be held accountable. With a view to seeking peace and forging consensus, Belgium supports a multidimensional approach that brings together all the region's actors and follows a rules-based order. Recalling that people rose to claim their rights during the Arab Spring, she noted that some of those rights remain unmet. Today, however, such unmet desires must be addressed and fulfilled, she stressed.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) noted the looming threats of terrorism in Iraq, saying the Middle East also faces the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which threatens all and requires a collective response, especially since the Syrian regime and Da'esh have used chemical weapons. Expressing regret at the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and Iran's recent announcement that it will move away from that accord, she emphasized the importance of full adherence to all its provisions. Citing such current political challenges as violations of international humanitarian law that have grave consequences for Syria's people, she said the Astana Group should be able to advance progress in this regard. Concerning the conflict in Yemen, she expressed support for political dialogue without preconditions. She went on to stress the critical importance of preventing conflict and promoting dialogue in the Persian Gulf, and of confidence-building measures to ensure safe passage for vessels sailing through the Strait of Hormuz. Encouraging the Iraqi authorities to rebuild and stabilize areas controlled by Da'esh, she emphasized that women must participate in such peace processes. She concluded by underlining that lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians will only be possible through a two-State solution. In all these endeavours, the Security Council has an essential role to play, including providing support to the Secretary-General's Special Envoys, and it should play a greater role in preserving peace in the Middle East, she said.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said organized crime groups and the importation of illegal weapons are only exacerbating the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, emphasizing, however, that much can be done to prevent their proliferation, including by strengthening capacities to protect and promote the aspirations of the people and by addressing such pressing challenges as migration. Moreover, international cooperation must be strengthened to fight terrorism, he added. Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he expressed support for the Arab Peace Initiative. As for tensions in the Strait of Hormuz, he called upon all concerned to act with moderation and avoid new unilateral actions that could trigger further conflict in the region. At this critical juncture, the international community must try to avoid greater fragmentation in the region, he stressed.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), noting that five Arab countries currently have territory under occupation and six host peacekeeping operations, said that the resolution of the question of Palestine lies in ensuring Palestinians secure the right to their land. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the root cause of many problems in the Middle East, he said, adding: For many years, we have tried to contain these conflicts. Kuwait has sought to enhance regional security and resolve differences by helping to open channels of dialogue, including with Iran, he emphasized. Turning to humanitarian efforts, he said the approach to the delivery of assistance must focus on helping people on the basis of international law. He went on to express concern about the displacement of millions of people, calling upon the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, to guarantee that its resolutions are implemented.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), noting that a number of States in the Middle East are experiencing an existential crisis, said the policy of removing regimes that are inconvenient to certain Governments has led to greater challenges and bloodshed in the region. Geopolitical engineering and intervention in internal affairs have led to the collapse of entire States and caused much tragedy, he said, adding that many States were forced to engage in foreign wars. Telling Secretary Pompeo that he used many words that have a negative connotation, and only once the word cooperation � and then only in the context of a coalition against Iran � he stated: You spoke in an emotionally charged way about the Persian Gulf. Expressing concern that the United States continues to portray Iran as the main source of all problems, he said tensions in the Persian Gulf are largely fermented and stoked in an artificial manner. The Russian Federation is concerned about the military build-up in the region, he added, appealing for all parties to exercise restraint and resolve problems politically and diplomatically.

Frankly, we see no added value of the Warsaw Process, he continued, emphasizing that negotiations are possible under any circumstances provided that all parties are ready to engage on the basis of international law. The Russian Federation cannot be satisfied that calls for Iran to sit down at the negotiating table are punctured by unilateral threats and insults, he said, stressing: We cannot overlook the fact that 80 per cent of [Iran's economy] falls under the illegitimate unilateral sanctions of the United States aiming to force Tehran to bow before Washington. Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said Israel's continued settlement activities continue to threaten attainment of a lasting solution, while emphasizing that the Russian Federation will coordinate its actions with its Israeli and Palestinian partners. We continue to strive to establish a political settlement in Syria, he added, while pointing out that the current situation in Libya shows the consequences of foreign intervention. The number of fake news reports circulated by some non-governmental organizations supported by Western Governments is staggeringly high, undermining the entire system of international relations, he said, stressing that this approach won't go far.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said the Palestinian-Israeli question remains the core issue in the Middle East. Its resolution would have a positive impact on the entire region. He expressed deep concern at the humanitarian cost of various conflicts in the Middle East and called in particular on the international community to pay equal attention to Yemen, scene of the world's worst humanitarian crisis. He urged the United States to reconsider its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. For its part, the Council must display the required political will and good faith to resolve long-standing conflicts such as the question of Palestine. He went on to emphasize the importance of implementing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and achieving the objective of a nuclear-free Middle East.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) stressed the need for a new spirit of multilateralism, based on the rule of law and the Charter of the United Nations. No matter how grand proposals presented in the Council or elsewhere might be, they will be futile unless guided by a commitment to multilateralism and international laws. He emphasized the importance of investing for peace in the region, with community empowerment, development, human rights and democracy being part of the overall picture. He added that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of the region's plethora of conflicts. We must go back to the root causes of the spaghetti web of issues, he said, adding that it is almost unthinkable for an ecosystem of peace, stability and prosperity to take root in the Middle East before Palestinians gain their right to independence.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) noted that many of the conflicts in the Middle East are interlinked, threatening to spill over across the region and beyond. This is especially relevant in view of ongoing human trafficking, arms smuggling and other asymmetrical threats, all exacerbated by the situation in the Persian Gulf, which could endanger the commercial trade that remains valuable to the region and the world, he pointed out. Urging all actors to support genuine, broad-based efforts to ensure lasting peace, he said unity among Council members is essential. A just and lasting solution to the Palestinian question demands sincere cooperation among those involved, he emphasized. Commending countries that are hosting refugees, he called for a political solution to end the ongoing conflicts and the attendant human suffering, in Syria and other countries. Expressing concern about regime change, interventionism and interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States, he pointed out that such practices have already played out in countries like Libya, and their dramatic consequences are still spreading across Central and West Africa.

KACOU HOUADJA LA�ON ADOM (CAte d'Ivoire), citing the range of Middle East conflicts on the Council's agenda, emphasized that innovative solutions are sorely needed, including concerted actions involving both the United Nations and regional organizations. Amid threats from non-State actors and such terrorist groups as ISIL, all parties must engage firmly in constructive negotiations to forge the foundations of a lasting peace, he said, stressing: War will never generate enough wealth to purchase peace. Instead, inclusive dialogue involving women and young people must prevail. Concerning Iran, he said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains the path forward. In a similar vein, the recent situation in the Strait of Hormuz can only be settled through inclusive dialogue, he added. A two-State solution remains the only way to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added. Turning to Yemen, he stressed that the parties must fully implement the Stockholm Agreement. He went on to express regret at the absence of unity in the Council and called upon the United Nations and regional organizations to create a mechanism for the settlement of disputes in the Middle East.

JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain), emphasizing that peace and stability are based on the free flow of trade, said challenges in the Middle East are complicated and deep rooted. As such, all necessary efforts must be taken to ease tensions and resolve conflicts in order to avoid long-term destabilization of the region. This is a shared responsibility, requiring shared mechanisms as a way to achieve peace, he said, emphasizing that terrorism is among the greatest threats. Stressing the need to counter extremist thinking and dry up the sources of terrorist funding, he recalled that such issues were discussed during a recent meeting held in Bahrain to counter Da'esh. New initiatives must build upon the recent gains made in stamping out that terror group and others, he said. Reaffirming his delegation's position in support of a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said a meeting jointly organized by Bahrain and the United States provided a platform for discussion of financial opportunities in favour of Palestinians. He went on to condemn recent attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil fields, as well as Iran's actions in the region, expressing support for innovative solutions to address these and other pressing challenges.

BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria) said some Council members have derailed the debate with the aim of distracting attention from the real root causes of conflict, which include occupation and the fabrication of crises that undermine the people's welfare and security. Recalling the tragedies caused by colonial interests in the region throughout the last century, he said the ensuing challenges can be successfully resolved by following the provisions of the United Nations Charter. Israel's occupation of Arab territory, not reasons based on race or religion, remain the main reason for conflict in the region, he emphasized. Recalling that the United Nations was founded upon the principles of non-use of force and the sovereignty of States, he said Turkey is currently occupying Syrian territory and terrorizing the local population while supporting terrorist groups. Expressing concern about Israel's accumulation of weapons of mass destruction, he said that country should join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty without delay. As for the Persian Gulf, fabricated crises are threatening the population and the region, he said, emphasizing that, in order to change this trajectory, the Council must adopt a serious approach to resolving conflicts and identifying their real root causes.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOGLU (Turkey) said that sectarian and divisive politics, brutal oppression of legitimate demands for democracy, and unresolved armed conflicts have all created a breeding ground for relapse into violence. It is regrettable that the vision of a two-State solution has been deliberately weakened by unilateral and illegal practices in the occupied Palestinian territories. Any peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should endorse an independent, sovereign and viable Palestinian State. Turning to Syria, he said the crimes of the Assad region and myriad terrorist organizations continue to inflict suffering on Syria's people. He called on all parties in Yemen to refrain from further deepening the country's crisis, emphasizing that inclusive political dialogue is the only way towards establishing peace and security. On Libya, he said both regional and international actors have a crucial role to play in ending the conflict. The Security Council should play a more constructive role in the Middle East while the international community avoids approaching conflicts in the region from a zero-sum perspective.

SILVIO GONZATO, European Union delegation, underscored the bloc's support for the United Nations as the key actor for upholding respect for and compliance with international law, including Council resolutions on situations in the Middle East. Credible peace can only take root if all sides comply with their obligations under international law. Emphasizing that terrorism is a key challenge, and that Da'esh still poses a serious threat, he said that many countries in the Middle East are witnessing an erosion of social contracts, leading to fragmented societies and a proliferation of subnational armed actors. Without trust and inclusiveness, no political solution can succeed. Reviewing the situation in different parts of the region, he called on Iran to refrain from any further escalatory steps and to resume compliance with its obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Union supports a balanced and comprehensive approach vis-A�-vis Iran, including dialogue, and it is determined to enable ongoing legitimate trade with that country.

Turning to maritime navigation in the Gulf, he called on all actors to exercise restraint, especially as the risk of miscalculation remains high. The European Union insists on full respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen, and for a durable ceasefire to be implemented in Syria on the basis of the Sochi memorandum. The bloc is ready to assist in Syria's reconstruction only when a comprehensive, genuine and inclusive political transition is firmly under way. On the Middle East peace process, he reaffirmed the Union's commitment to the two-State solution and an agreement that ends the occupation that began in 1967. He underscored the lack of trust in the region and the need to create conditions for peace through the strengthening of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Failure to implement agreed policies and to enforce international law is the real challenge to bringing peace and security to the Middle East, he added. It has almost become fashionable simply not to agree on a course of action and not to follow agreements, he said, encouraging the international community to find ways to reverse that tendency.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), associating himself with the Arab Group, said the conflict in the Middle East is caused mainly by Israel and Iran. Although the world has recognized the two-State formula, Israel refuses to acknowledge the historic right of the Palestinian people to their own territory. Others speak about a conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ites going back centuries, which is incorrect, he added, reiterating that talk of a religious war is inaccurate. The Shi'ites have lived in cooperation, peace and security with Sunnis in the Arab world, he emphasized. He went on to underline the need to recognize the rights of the region's peoples so they can live in peace without interference in their internal affairs. The Security Council must do all it can to reaffirm the principles of peaceful relations among countries, he said, adding that the entire region must be able to devote its financial and intellectual resources to fighting social injustice and marginalization. Saudi Arabia supports development in the Middle East and stands ready to cooperate and discuss how to resolve the region's issues peacefully, he declared.

MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) emphasized that the Middle East needs stability based on a system of collective security, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. Iraq, with its geopolitical importance and cultural diversity, could help to build political stability in the region, he said, adding that constructive dialogue can help to defuse tensions and prevent another war. He went on to reaffirm that the Israeli occupation remains the cause of much of the tension in the Middle East. We must all work on creating the necessary conditions to achieve peace, he said, stressing the vital importance of combating corruption, supporting the aspirations of young people and advancing the rights of women. We must support women so that they can hold leadership positions in economic and administrative spheres, he reiterated.

MAJID TAKHT RAVANCHI (Iran) said Israel's unlawful occupation of Palestine is the main cause of conflict in the Middle East. The land of Palestine is not up for sale, and the aspirations, honour and dignity, and inalienable rights of an entire nation cannot be bought, he emphasized. The United States is responsible for prolonging this conflict, and its involvement in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen has contributed to supporting terrorist groups. That country has also interfered in Iran, including by supporting several coup attempts and by perpetrating economic terrorism targeting ordinary and vulnerable Iranians, he added. Describing the military presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf as one of the main causes of instability and insecurity in the Middle East, he said another destabilizing factor is the unbridled flow of American weaponry into the region. We should not lose sight of the destabilizing nature and impact of the 'divide-and-rule' strategy of the United States, he cautioned, pointing out that the Iranophobic statements of its officials try to justify its policy in the region. Iran will vigorously exercise its inherent right to self-defence, he stressed, warning: While we are not seeking confrontation, we cannot and will not remain indifferent to the violation of our sovereignty. Iran remains determined to continue ensuring the safety and security of maritime navigation in this area, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz, he added, underlining that the littoral States are responsible for the security of the Persian Gulf.

MOHAMED FOUAD AHMED (Egypt) said decades of war and conflict have depleted resources and placed a heavy toll on the people of the Middle East, with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remaining the core issue and the cause of regional instability. The Arab Peace Initiative must be re-operationalized to better address the people's concerns, he emphasized. At the same time, the region has also suffered for years from efforts to destroy the principle of citizenship, leading to the spread of terrorist organizations and armed groups. Egypt is committed to achieving the people's aspirations, but security and stability hinge upon respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, especially at a time when the Middle East so badly needs peace, he stressed. Condemning countries that are funding terrorist groups, he said such grave actions contravene international humanitarian law. Other recipes for peace hinge upon removing all weapons of mass destruction, he stressed.

DANNY DANON (Israel) recalled his country's signing of the peace agreement with Egypt 40 years ago, saying it set the foundation for blossoming relations. However, the Palestinian leadership keeps trying to prevent fruitful relations between Israel and other States in the Middle East. In addition, Iran foreshadows the climate of today's relationship-building through its violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as well as numerous Security Council resolutions and through its support for terrorism, he said, adding that it funnels more than $7 billion in annual contributions to terrorist groups such as Hizbullah, which is destabilizing Lebanon. Meanwhile, Israel and the Arab countries can come together to collaborate, with a growing number of countries forging ties with Tel Aviv, he said. Indeed, many speakers today have said Iran is the main threat in the Middle East, he noted. Despite the continued incitement of hatred against the Jewish people and their country, Israel can be a partner and is interested in dialogue, even though the Palestinian authorities refuse to talk, he emphasized, calling upon regional actors that do not see Israel as an enemy to join his country in forging towards peace. Addressing Arab Member States, he offered to conduct direct dialogue with them, saying: Israel is not your enemy.

SAUD HAMAD GHANEM HAMAD ALSHAMSI (United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, emphasized that a just and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian crisis and the entire Arab-Israeli conflict is fundamental to peace in the Middle East. The Arab Group is determined to continue its efforts to relaunch serious and effective negotiations within a specific timeline, he said, adding that the Group also continues to work on ending the crises in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. The Arab Group stresses the importance of upholding international resolutions relating to the occupied Syrian Golan and rejects any action aimed at changing the legal and demographic status of that territory, he said, stressing that protecting the region from foreign interferences and ensuring that all States respect the principles of good-neighbourliness is essential. The Arab Group condemns the ongoing interventions by the Government of Iran in Arab affairs, which fuel religious and sectarian conflicts, he said, declaring: We also demand for Iran to stop supporting the anti-Government militias in Yemen. It is essential to strengthen security coordination among Arab States and to intensify international efforts to combat all forms of extremism and terrorism, he said, stressing that it is critical to implement international resolutions relating to the establishment of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.

NASRIA ELARJA, Observer for the League of Arab States, called for efforts to bolster safety and stability in the Middle East, which faces dangerous repercussions arising from multiple crises and conflicts. Arab States support collective efforts to face these challenges and understand the need to propose solutions for the alleviation of civilian suffering, she said. However, certain groups and States have fanned the flames of extremism, most recently involving the safety of maritime traffic, she said, stressing that this interference must stop, as it directly violates the United Nations Charter. Arab States, through the League, continue to work diligently to resolve conflicts and address their humanitarian consequences, she said. We are peace-loving people and peace-loving nations, she added. Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she cited recent illegal settlement activities and aggressions against Palestinians, emphasizing the essential need to end the Israeli occupation of their lands.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said it is impossible to examine, understand and remedy the root causes of the situation in the Middle East without addressing the Palestinian question. Attempts to sidestep or downplay the ruinous impact of the uprooting of the Palestinian people 70 years ago, or the more than half-century of Israeli military occupation, or the denial and violation of Palestinian rights do a disservice to the goal of regional peace and security. Absent Palestinian-Israeli peace, that goal will remain elusive. Meanwhile, confidence in the Council to halt violence, uphold international humanitarian law and resolve conflicts is in freefall, he said, with Israel's defiance of Council resolutions being the most glaring example. He also warned that Israel's reckless provocations in occupied East Jerusalem, including at Al-Haram Al-Sharif, risk sparking a dangerous religious conflict. Forging a secure and peaceful future in the Middle East requires a just solution to the question of Palestine in line with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, he emphasized. The problem is not that the Council's resolutions are unrealistic, vague or unimplementable, but rather that they have never been given a fair chance to be implemented. The Council's authority has been met with flagrant contempt by Israel, the occupying Power, with a permanent Council member's use of the veto further exacerbating the situation. Stressing that there is no military solution to this or any other conflict in the Middle East, he urged the immediate mobilization of political will to implement Council resolutions. He reiterated the State of Palestine's call for a multilateral political process and reaffirmed its readiness to engage, including in an international peace conference. Urging the Council to act, he also called on Quartet members to make serious efforts in cooperation with regional partners, the League of Arab States and all peace-loving nations.

Responding to the statement by Israel's delegate, he denounced allegations that Palestinians do not want a resolution to the conflict, saying the extremist Israeli Government reduces any prospect of peace. He described Israel's representative as a liar who chooses not to heed international law or to listen to promises by Arab countries to work for peace.

JASSIM SAYAR A. J. AL-MAAWDA (Qatar) said a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is essential to resolving the various challenges and problems of the Middle East. Israel must cease all its settlement activities and the international community must deliver protections for the Palestinian people, he added. He went on to stress the need to achieve peace in Libya, Yemen and Syria. Despite the myriad resources of the Middle East, the region faces tremendous challenges that contribute to its instability, he noted. Attaining lasting peace demands abandoning threats and ending the stoking of artificial crises, he said, pointing out that the imposition of an illegal embargo on his country has contributed to regional instability. States must refrain from escalating conflict, he added. Lack of institutions and international rules to govern cybersecurity requires that robust measures be undertaken. It is also critical to address the incidents and developments occurring in the Strait of Hormuz and to focus on achieving a lasting solution there, he emphasized.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said that, as of the beginning of 2019, the Council has held no fewer than 11 meetings on Middle East issues, attesting to an alarming deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in many parts of the region. Regarding the question of Palestine, the United Nations and the Council have a responsibility to ensure that their resolutions, the Geneva Conventions and international law are respected. She called on the international community to find a sustainable solution to the financial ordeal faced by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), adding that the absence of a settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli issue based on the two-State solution will condemn the region to continuous conflict and bloodshed. Reaffirming Lebanon's commitment to resolution 1701 (2006), which called for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah, she noted Israel's daily violations of Lebanese sovereignty and called for the Council to renew UNIFIL's mandate in the coming days.

SUDQI ATALLAH ABD ALKADETR AL OMOUSH (Jordan) said the Middle East is hostage to myriad political, economic and security crises. Noting that no progress is being made towards ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, he said: We have supported and continue to support a peaceful settlement based on a two-State solution. Jerusalem remains at the top of Jordan's priorities as the historic guarantor of Holy Sites, he said, adding: That is part of our duty to the Arab and Muslim world. Objecting to Israel's violations against worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, he condemned any attempt to change the historic status quo of the Holy Sites. Schools that provide education to Palestinians must remain open, he added. Palestinian families need support, he said, stressing the need to fund UNRWA. Turning to the challenges posed by the millions of displaced people in the region, he applauded efforts by the United Nations to ensure that everyone is provided with hope and opportunity, including by improving infrastructure and education.

Source: United Nations

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