Security Council members, particularly those with permanent seats, must overcome their differences and unite to tackle a complex web of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, speakers said during a day-long debate in which several Member States suggested the creation of a regional mechanism � styled on the 1975 Helsinki Final Act � to foster dialogue and build trust.
Convened by the Russian Federation, Council President for June, the debate � on the theme Maintaining international peace and security: comprehensive review of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa � saw delegates of the 15-nation organ and regional Member States reflect on the root causes of the area's conflicts from a wider perspective and exploring ways to jointly tackle them.
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in a briefing that set the stage for the discussion, said many fault lines were at work in the region, crossing each other and generating enormous volatility. Surveying its many flashpoints, he said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained central to the Middle East quagmire, with the two-State solution remaining the only viable option � a view shared by many of today's speakers. He suggested that Middle East and North African countries find platforms akin to the Helsinki process during the cold war to talk and cooperate. At the same time, countries in the region must ensure the integrity of the State, governance systems and equal application of the rule of law. Concluding, he called on Council members to find much-needed consensus and act with one voice.
In the ensuing debate, speakers turned the spotlight on the Israeli-Palestinian and Syrian conflicts, giving attention also to the fluid situations in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon.
The observer for the State of Palestine said that the tragedy inflicted on her people remained a source of anger and despair. The sense of injustice has only intensified, she said, expressing concern for the Council's decline of authority. The protracted nature of the conflict, due to a lack of accountability for Israel's crimes, had weakened international norms, while the human cost had been immense. Those who dismissed those facts only fueled tensions and conflict, she said, emphasizing that the Council had a duty to remedy the situation and achieve global peace, staring by addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Israel's delegate said Iran had played a central role in destabilizing the region, with its nuclear activities posing the most dangerous threat to international peace and security. Iran had a violent and extremist regime with violent and extremist intentions, he said, adding that no civilian, community or country in the Middle East could be spared from Iran's hegemonic ambitions to devour its neighbours. The world was facing a regime that could not be trusted, as Iran remained the foremost State-sponsor of terrorism in the world, he added.
Iran's representative said the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands was at the core and central to all the region's conflicts. Any foreign intervention and occupation had resulted in instability which served as a breeding ground for terrorists and extremist groups. The experience gained during the past decade in the Middle East and North Africa region proves that the era of regional and global hegemony has long passed, and any effort by any Power to achieve it is futile, he said.
The representative of Syria attributed the international crises of the last several decades to the policies of certain Governments that enjoyed significant economic and financial leverage. Those Governments, included in the Council, had fabricated crises and wars to serve their interests. They claimed that bloody revolutions are multicoloured and rainbow revolutions, he said, adding that for the past eight years, Syria had suffered through the world's worst crisis in decades. Some Governments had even politicized humanitarian assistance and falsified evidence fabricating Syria's use of chemical weapons, he stated.
The representative of the United States, drawing attention to air strikes in Syria over the weekend, said the Russian Federation had the ability to stop escalation in the Middle East as we speak. Washington, D.C., had often said the missing ingredient for peace were leaders like Egypt's former President Anwar Sadat, who stepped forward, acknowledged hard truths and made compromise, he added. A further cause of conflict was the role of Iran and Hizbullah. These are the roots of conflict in the Middle East, he said, tied together with people's lack of voice in their own governance.
The representative of Egypt said the Council's selective approach to the Middle East had only fostered instability. Ignoring the Palestinian question is helping some parties to exploit it, he said. He added that Egypt would consider the establishment of an institutional regional dialogue mechanism, like the Helsinki process, and proposed that the Secretary-General invite regional States to a conference � with participation by permanent Council members � to negotiate a Middle East nuclear-weapons-free zone.
Ethiopia's speaker said that in the absence of genuine and meaningful dialogue and negotiation, achieving a peaceful and comprehensive settlement to the disputes in the region would continue to be unachievable. The 15-nation organ had a critical role to play, yet we all know that this Council has been effectively paralysed and its dysfunction has seriously undermined its credibility, he said. No longer was it a place for dialogue and compromise, but rather it had become a platform for scoring points and grandstanding among major Powers.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates said that diplomacy has failed in the Middle East, adding, however, that negotiation would always be vital to resolving conflict and urging that it be strengthened. Member States must support like-minded countries of the moderate Arab centre, she said, emphasizing that true stability would require Arab leadership. The era of hegemony and power politics must be replaced by respect for the nation State system � and for that to happen, the Council must play the role of neutral steward for peace and security.
Also speaking today were senior officials and representatives of the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, China, France, United Kingdom, CAte d'Ivoire, Bolivia, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Equatorial Guinea, Kuwait, Sweden, Pakistan, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Bahrain and Iraq, as well as the League of Arab States, the Holy See, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union.
The meeting began at 11:07 a.m. and ended at 4:51 p.m.
ANTA�NIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that in the Middle East and North Africa � a region once home to history's greatest flowerings of culture and coexistence � many fault lines were at work, crossing each other and generating enormous volatility. Economic and social opportunities were insufficient, trust in institutions was declining, and societies were fracturing along ethnic or religious lines, manipulated for political advantage. Foreign interference had exacerbated disunity with destabilizing effects and the risk of further downward spirals was sky high. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained central to the Middle East quagmire, he said, emphasizing that a comprehensive, just and lasting two-State solution that allowed both peoples to live side-by-side in peace, within secure and recognized borders, was essential for regional security and stability. International support was critical for creating a good environment for direct negotiations between the two sides, he said, adding that he was deeply committed to supporting efforts to that end.
In Syria, civilians had borne a litany of atrocities for more than seven years of conflict, he said. The country had also become a battleground for proxy wars by regional and international actors and, in the absence of trusted State institutions, many Syrians had fallen back on religious and tribal identities. He called on the parties to the Syria conflict to engage with his Special Envoy in the Geneva political process, adding that Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) was the only internationally agreed avenue for a credible and sustainable end to the conflict. More than ever, the aim was a united and democratic Syria that would avoid sectarians, ensure full respect for the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and enable its people to freely decide their future.
Turning to Yemen, the scene of a prolonged and devastating conflict with clear regional dimensions, he expressed hope that a negotiation framework presented to the Council last week by his Special Envoy would allow the resumption of political negotiations. In Gaza, Syria and Yemen, the international community must ensure a strong humanitarian response. On Libya, he said all stakeholders must lend support to his Special Representative's efforts on a political process that would allow the country to address the dramatic plight of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean. Concerning Iraq, he said the reconstruction of areas retaken from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) was a priority, as was the safe, dignified and voluntary return of displaced people, including those from religious minorities. Those who committed atrocities must be held accountable, in line with international standards.
What looked like religious conflicts were actually the product of political or geostrategic manipulation or proxies for other antagonisms, he said. Today's artificial divides must be overcome, based on respect for the independent and territorial integrity of countries concerned. In that context, he said steadfast international effects were critical in supporting Lebanon's efforts to consolidate State authority, safeguard the country from regional tensions and host refugees, in line with Council resolutions.
Expressing concern with the risk of destabilization around the Gulf, he said it was important to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which should remain a valuable element of peace and security, independent of wider discussion about the role of Iran in the region. During the cold war, ideological rivals still found ways to talk and cooperate, for example through the Helsinki process, and there was no reason why countries in the region could not find a similar platform to come together, he said. Underscoring the key role of regional and subregional organizations, he said the Middle East and North Africa must ensure the integrity of the State, its governance systems and equal application of the rule of law that protected all individuals. Majority populations should not feel the existential threat of fragmentation and minorities should not feel the threat of oppression and exile. Everyone, everywhere, should enjoy the right to live in dignity, freedom and peace, he said, calling on Council members to find much-needed consensus and act with one strong voice.
SERGEY VERSHININ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said that for any decisions to succeed, they must be truly collective and in line with international legal standards. Unilateral attempts to resolve crises were doomed to failure, especially when States declared that others were pariahs and sought to undermine regimes they did not like, only to create new ones. Reducing crises required bringing together international and regional efforts through inclusive formats, with a central role played by the United Nations and the Security Council. The true pooling of efforts to counter regional threats required a partnership dialogue, abandoning efforts to resolve conflicts through force and without politicizing humanitarian aspects of an issue. He advocated developing a unifying agenda for the international community to settle the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, stressing that respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of countries in the region was a prerequisite for creating a broad front for countering the terrorist threat. Attempts to use terrorist groups as a tool for creating a new regional balance of forces must also stop.
It was also important to counter the chemical weapons threat, he said, and not play into terrorists' attempts to use those weapons as a pretext for their aggressive acts. Attempts to divide the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were illogical, as was the similar lack of desire to support resolutions on the work methods of a joint mechanism in Syria and attempts to endow OPCW with unacceptable powers, which created a danger that a technical entity could become an area for political battles. The goal should be to improve the general atmosphere of trust, especially among Arab States, Israel and Iran. Recalling a resolution from 1988, he said any efforts by the Secretary-General to build stability in the region would require discrete discussion and painstaking approaches, he said, advocating that such work begin and that the Russian Federation was ready to facilitate dialogue. The goal was to build an inclusive regional security architecture, he said, suggesting that a conference be held with Persian Gulf States to discuss regional security, a compromise that could be extended to other Middle Eastern countries. It was important to foster a culture of peace to ensure that conflicts were not interreligious, especially between Sunni and Shiite. In that context, he expressed support for the Inter-Parliamentary Union's idea to hold a conference on interreligious and inter-ethnic dialogue, which the Russian Federation could host in 2022, noting that it was ready to work with interested partners in that regard.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said that longstanding and unresolved disputes in the region continued to fester, while new conflicts and crises were resulting in horrendous suffering for millions of civilians. The repeated use of chemical weapons was undermining the global non-proliferation regime, while the future of the Iran nuclear deal was under threat. In the absence of genuine and meaningful dialogue and negotiation, achieving a peaceful and comprehensive settlement to the disputes in the region would continue to be unachievable. The Security Council had a critical role to play in facilitating and supporting genuine and comprehensive efforts to prevent and resolve violence, yet: We all know that this Council has been effectively paralysed and its dysfunction has seriously undermined its credibility, he said. No longer was the Council a place for dialogue and compromise, but rather had become a platform for scoring points and grandstanding among major Powers.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that to fight the causes of recurring and potential new conflicts, a thorough and comprehensive plan of action should be implemented by the Governments, the United Nations and other international organizations. The political deterioration of State authority, which was being usurped by non-State actors and armed groups, called for greater action. It was critical to reach agreement among the warring parties to honour ceasefires and allow unhindered humanitarian access to reach those most in need. Conflicts in the region had become a vortex � drawing in neighbouring countries and other States attempting to sway the balance of powers, he said, stressing that now was the time for the entire United Nations system to seek a middle ground. Emphasizing that unilateral steps, especially the use of force, should not be taken under any circumstance, he said that efficient strategies to prevent and address conflicts and terrorism were required.
WU HAITAO (China) said the situation in the Middle East and North Africa was marked by inter-State conflict, ethnic dispute, war and humanitarian disaster, all of which were intertwined. Regional countries and the international community must accept a common, integrated and sustainable approach to security and find a path to development and prosperity. He advocated dialogue and consultation in efforts to advance political settlements, noting that the question of Palestine was at the core of issues in the Middle East, while expressing support for a two-State solution and resuming peace talks. In Syria, he expressed support for the Special Envoy and resumption of the Geneva peace talks. In Yemen, he urged support for the Special Representative's mediation efforts, and in Libya, support for efforts by Libyan parties towards national reconciliation and national governance. On Iran, it was important to ensure implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Programme of Action, and more broadly, support country-led and owned processes, with the United Nations taking the lead mediation role. Sovereign equality and non-interference in internal affairs was important, as was respect for countries' will in advancing a political process. Regional organizations should promote trust among all parties, while regional Governments should facilitate peace and not interfere in the internal affairs of others. An integrated approach was needed to address the drivers of conflict, which could all be traced to poverty and under-development. Countries required help in building capacity. China was ready to strengthen its cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
FRANCOIS DELATTRE (France) said pluralist governance in the Middle East was a precondition for stability, as there was no alternative to political settlement to conflict. Regional conflicts had arisen from absence of the rule of law and political openness, he said, citing Syria as an example, where years of dictatorship had created the ground for conflict and radicalization. Only a political transition based on resolution 2254 (2015) would help to create stability. All actors, particularly the Astana guarantors, must support United Nations mediation. Combating ISIL in Syria and Iraq was ongoing and areas liberated by the international coalition must be stabilized, especially as Al-Qaida was in the Arabian Peninsula. The international community must improve actions to combat foreign terrorist fighters; financing for terrorism; the spread of terrorist ideology, notably through the Internet; and impunity for terrorist crimes. In Libya, he advocated unifying national institutions under civilian authorities. More broadly, it was important to promote multilateralism and the role of the United Nations, as well as respect for international law. The Council's silence had compromised its credibility, he said, pressing it not to overlook the role of Hamas or the obligations of Israel on the Israeli-Palestinian question, reaffirming the parameters of the two-State solution. Voicing support for the United Nations mediation role, he said France would help create a dialogue mechanism for peace in the Middle East.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), emphasizing a holistic approach, said each conflict in the Middle East and North Africa could not be considered in isolation. Many conflicts shared root causes and they must be looked at in the round. The region should have its own Helsinki Final Act moment and the United Kingdom would be happy join consideration of that issue. She endorsed what the representative of France had said about Iran and expressed concern about the latest developments in the conflict in Syria. Noting that she had just come from the General Assembly debate on the responsibility to protect, she invited those countries that did not like the Security Council looking at human rights persecutions to consider what ignoring such incidents might lead to. The United Kingdom wanted to see the Council take collective action, but it was sometimes blocked from doing so or disregarded. International action was not solely a matter of the lowest common denominator. The use of chemical weapons by terrorists or State actions must be investigated and those responsible held to account. Emphasizing that sanctions were a vital part of the Council's arsenal, she said a holistic approach to conflict could not ignore the issue of good governance, which was the best way to maintain peace and stability. When Governments violated the human rights of their citizens, the risk of conflict and suffering grew. The Council must be informed about all such issues, given their impact on international peace and security.
ALCIDE DJA�DJA� (CAte d'Ivoire) said that through unity, the Council could play its preeminent role in resolving dispute. However, regrettably, there was a lack of unity on Syria, the Iran nuclear issue and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action represented a solid guarantee for implementation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, he said, inviting all parties to that Agreement to overcome their disagreements on its implementation. Reaffirming support for the two-State solution, he invited Israelis and Palestinians to renounce violence and unilateral action, and urged the Council to fully play its role and create a new impetus for a way out of the conflict. Turning to Syria, he said the absence of an accountability mechanism to fight impunity was a major challenge for the Council. He went on to deplore the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where there was no alternative to a political solution. From Afghanistan to Yemen via Syria, Palestine and Libya, the Council was finding it hard to discharge its responsibilities, he said, emphasizing the importance of respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter as well as dialogue, cooperation with regional organizations, identifying and holistically addressing root causes of conflict, and a coordinated fight against terrorism, violent extremisms and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. COHEN (United States) said the Russian Federation had the ability to stop escalation in the Middle East as we speak. Syria's President had launched air strikes, barrel bombs and rockets into the de-escalation zone, while the Russian Federation had launched air strikes over the weekend, he said, recalling that the ceasefire reflected a commitment between the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation and that his country would uphold its commitment. We expect [the Russian Federation] to do its part to uphold the ceasefire that it helped to establish, he said. Several times, the United States had raised the issue of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Hamas, a terrorist group, had served as the de-facto authority, showing more interest in initiating violence than in caring for Palestinians. Groups like ISIL had used civilians as human shields in conflicts throughout the Middle East to accomplish their political objectives. The United States had often said the missing ingredient for peace were leaders like Egypt's former President Anwar Sadat, who stepped forward, acknowledged hard truths and made compromise. Another cause of conflict was the role of Iran and Hizbullah, which had fomented violence throughout the region, he said, citing Iran's repeated violations of resolution 2231 (2015). These are the roots of conflict in the Middle East, he said, tied together with people's lack of voice in their own governance. We believe in the right of people to govern themselves.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLA�Z (Bolivia) said that people in Syria urgently needed humanitarian assistance, as the crisis had taken 500,000 lives. In Libya, violations of international human rights and humanitarian law continued unabated. The Palestinian question was at the heart of conflict in the Middle East, and as long as it was unresolved, there would be no lasting peace. The core issue was Israel's occupation of lands and territories that did not belong to it, which imperilled the region's security. The only long-term way to end that behaviour was through the two-State solution allowing for an independent Palestinian State along pre-1967 borders. In Yemen, 8 million people were at risk of famine, triggering a flood of displaced persons, who often fell prey to traffickers. Another consequence of conflict was the proliferation of terrorist groups, he said, citing regime change policies and intervention in domestic affairs among the root causes of governance vacuums, culminating in a lack of control over borders. Stressing that unilateral action contravened international law, he said that when a country controlled its resources, it was possible to achieve structural change that strengthened the rule of law. He supported the use of good offices, as well as respect for multilateralism, non-interference, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
KAREL JAN GUSTAAF VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands) said human rights were universal for a reason, as was the collective responsibility to protect them, stressing: If human rights are denied, they affect our individual dignity. He underscored the importance of integrated conflict prevention by addressing political and socioeconomic grievances, as the region's conflicts were interconnected. Regional tensions should be tackled structurally through dialogue and mediation, with the Secretary-General using his good offices to play an enhanced role. The responsibility to improve relations and strengthen dialogue, however, lay primarily with the region itself. Governments and international organizations should pay particular attention to women and girls, and there should be enough space for civil society. Integrated conflict prevention also meant looking at the broader issues of climate change and water scarcity, he said, stressing the need to end impunity by strengthening accountability, bringing criminal perpetrators to account regardless of their side in any conflict.
FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru) said that with steadfast international support, it was always possible for any region to forge lasting peace. Emphasizing the unparalleled level of resilience in the Middle East, he stressed the need to focus on root causes and to champion the relevancy of multilateralism and international law, with the Council ensuring that its decisions were complied with. Noting the binding nature of international humanitarian law over any conflict, as well as the non-proliferation architecture, he said the Council bore a responsibility for shielding civilians from atrocities when national Governments lacked the capacity or willingness to protect their own people. He went on to call for inclusive institutions, with an emphasis on the role of women and young people, and for efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals to be ramped up. History had shown that in many eras, the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa could flourish, he said, highlighting the need for those countries � in line with Chapters VI and VIII of the United Nations Charter � to have a regional mechanism that promoted dialogue and trust while underpinning peace coexistence.
MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland), associating himself with the European Union, said it was crucial for the entire United Nations community to address the challenges facing the Middle East, as well as their causes. Educating future generations was an important tool for deterring extremism and radicalization, he said, underscoring the need for women's empowerment, institution-building and good governance. He also stressed the need to respect international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians, and strengthening regional, political, economic and cultural cooperation. On Syria, he cited the lack of improved living conditions, inequality and nepotism among the causes of conflict, advocating a national consensus on a political transition to be reached through direct talks between Syrian opposition representatives and authorities in Damascus. In Libya, he expressed support for the Special Representative's engagement to facilitate national reconciliation, while on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he advocated for a negotiated two-State solution and resolving final status issues. Reconstruction efforts in Iraq must be accompanied by those to promote inclusiveness and reconciliation. In Yemen, likely the largest man-made humanitarian disaster today, it was of paramount importance that parties cease violence and that all ports, including at Hodeida and Saleef, were opened.
JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) said the overall situation in the Middle East and North Africa underpinned much of the instability in other parts of the world. Underscoring the Security Council's responsibility, he said it remained the body best fit to reach viable and lasting solutions. Many conflicts in the region were dragging on due to the lack of a common position among international actors with influence. On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said the only viable solution was for the parties to sit at the same table, conduct dialogue and reach a political settlement based on the two-State solution. On the conflict in Libya, he said it had had negative effects beyond that country's borders, including the migration crisis and human trafficking. Human suffering in Syria must end with that nation's people deciding their country's future. Emphasizing that partial and limited measures at the local level were insufficient, he said the international community must be united on combating terrorism, which only worsened human suffering. He went on to say that the situation in the Middle East and North Africa was the product of history, which reflected structural problems. The sovereignty of States in any crisis must be upheld and respected, he said, adding that the United Nations must play a leading role in finding lasting solutions.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the region, which throughout history had made valuable contributions to civilization, was still rich in natural resources and waterways, playing a strategic role in international security and the global economy. Yet nearly half of the Council's work was dedicated to crises in the region. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a chronic crisis which, if unresolved, would continue to have negative regional repercussions. Solutions to conflicts must be based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, including non-interference in internal affairs, respect for national sovereignty and dialogue. Kuwait supported political solutions set out in Council resolutions and those of regional organizations aimed at ending civilian suffering, he said, adding that the fact that conflicts remained unresolved had exacerbated disappointment and frustration among people in the Middle East. Implementation of Council resolutions must be followed up, otherwise conflicts would become more complicated while undermining the Council's ability to carry out its responsibilities. Efforts to rid humanity of terrorism must be stepped up, as terrorism � regardless of motives � ran against international humanitarian law and human rights law. Kuwait was working hard on coordinating international efforts to combat terrorism, he said, citing its role in the international coalition fighting Da'esh.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that nowhere more than in the Middle East and North Africa region was the Council more divided and failed to meet its responsibilities. Only by working together could the 15-nation organ shoulder the great responsibility entrusted on it by the Charter of the United Nations, with permanent Council members having a particular responsibility in that regard. The United Nations was the only international institution with the legitimacy and credibility to facilitate political processes to end the Syrian, Israeli-Palestinian and Yemeni conflicts and the Council must do all it could to support � in a united way � the Secretary-General's leadership and good offices in that regard. A common framework was needed in the Middle East to discuss and cooperate on issues of mutual interest and challenges, including security, he said, with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) perhaps serving as a model. Such a framework could help build confidence and trust between countries in the region. He went on to underscore the powerful role that women could play in building the region's future, as well as the potential for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to address the root causes of conflict.
Mr. VERSHININ (Russian Federation), President of the Security Council for the month of June, spoke in his national capacity, stressing it was critical to create conditions to bring the parties in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. To that end, a meeting was being organized to take place in his country. Strict adherence to the legal basis was at the core of a political solution to the conflict and was the only way to open a pathway to solutions.
Turning to the conflict in Syria, he emphasized that a political solution must be focused on, while the relentless fight against terrorism continued. While respectfully listening to the statements of the United States and United Kingdom, he reiterated his country's commitment to the cessation of hostilities in the region, emphasizing that no one was doing more than the Russian Federation to end the conflict. De-escalations areas in the south-west part of Syria, which his country had established with the United States and Jordon, had not been created to divide. Nonetheless, nearly 40 per cent of that area remained under control of terrorist groups and there had been no cessation of hostilities. The United States was in violation of the agreements made to stabilize that area and had done nothing in fighting terrorism.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said the situation in the Middle East required a comprehensive approach to address myriad challenges. Unilateral measures driven by narrow interests and false assumptions had only created suffering. Yet, external actors still attempted to shape the region according to their political preferences. Nowhere was that more apparent than in Palestine, where the two-State solution was being dismantled. The Council had stood by as Palestinians had been killed in Gaza during the Great March of Return, a dereliction of its responsibility. It was no coincidence that the General Assembly was holding a plenary meeting on the responsibility to protect today. Amid such gloom, Iraq had held parliamentary elections in May, marking a new chapter of democracy, and while progress was slow in Syria, every step forward on the path to political engagement was a gain for peace in that country. The situation in Yemen required a political outcome. Peace could not be built in the absence of justice. We are all insecure if some of us are vulnerable, she said, advocating a just settlement to the Palestinian issue.
ANDREA BIAGINI (Italy), associating himself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union, said that as a Mediterranean country, his country was directly impacted by any instability or conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. It is clear that there are no shortcuts, he continued, expressing concern over the issue of trafficking of human beings in Libya. He called on all Libyan political actors to converge on the same goal by respecting the electoral process and its outcomes. Italy had been largely alone in bearing the burden and tackling the migration crisis in its region. It is not a temporary emergency, he warned, adding that the European Union and its Member States must join forces in the name of shared responsibility. Italy had worked with various international partners including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to improve conditions for migrants and ensure their safe return to their country of origin. Further, he expressed concern at the alarming humanitarian situation in Gaza and Yemen. Turning to Iran, he said that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action represented an important pillar of regional security, reiterating Italy's commitment to that agreement.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, said that the tragedy inflicted on her people remained a significant source of anger and despair throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The sense of injustice has only intensified, she emphasized, expressing concern for the Council's decline of authority. The conflict's protraction, due to the lack of accountability for Israel's crimes, had weakened international norms. The human cost had been immense. Those who denied and dismissed those facts only fueled the tensions and conflict. The Council had a duty to remedy the situation and achieve global peace. That must begin with addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Simply put, the Council had a responsibility to act, she stressed, recalling Council resolution 2334 (2016) and urging the acceleration of international and regional efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The Council's failure was a direct result of the use of veto of one permanent Member. The Council must uphold international law, she continued, condemning all unilateral measures and schemes to impose unjust solutions. There was no military answer to any conflict, she added, calling for the empowerment of youth and rejecting the alignment of Palestine's cause with terrorism. For 30 years, her people had in good faith engaged in every peace initiative. Despite the many setbacks, Palestinians remained convinced that the United Nations Charter and the rule of law would help resolve the crisis and ensure justice. The Quartet Members, namely the Russian Federation, United States, European Union and United Nations, must exert every possible effort towards achieving peace.
MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES (Egypt) said unprecedented threats to the security, unity and territorial integrity of countries in the Middle East had been worsened by attempts to undermine the concept of the nation State by establishing sectarian allegiances on doctrinal, racial or tribal grounds to serve the interests of outside parties. The selective way the Council had addressed the issues had only fostered instability. A solution to the Palestinian cause, based on relevant Council resolutions, was required. Ignoring the Palestinian question is helping some parties to exploit it as cover for expansionist regional policies, he said. Egypt's peace with Israel, struck 40 years ago, would not have been possible without his country regaining all its lands without the reciprocation of political and security guarantees, proving that the roots of conflict were neither religious nor ethnic, and that the Arab-Israeli conflict was a political one.
He said reaching the peace treaty had not isolated Egypt from the larger Arab world nor detracted from its work to restore Palestinians' rights and support the liberation of occupied Arab territories. Noting that non-Arab parties were intensifying efforts to build doctrinal and ethnic allegiances, he said some States had even supplied terrorists with weapons, seeking to undermine the authority of certain Governments and threaten neighbouring countries. He called for immediately amending those policies, demanding that regional and international parties commit to the principles of international law. Egypt would consider the establishment of an institutional regional dialogue mechanism, similar to the Helsinki process that had set the security system in Europe. He proposed that the Secretary-General invite regional States to a conference, with participation by the permanent Council members, to negotiate the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone, which would pave the way for establishing sustainable political and security arrangements, and in turn, allow for all regional issues to be addressed within the framework of an integrated package. Parallel to that negotiating track, he called on all regional and international parties to respect sovereignty, condemn terrorism, and uphold the principles of citizenship, rule of law and human rights.
FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOGLU (Turkey) stressed that the latest developments in Palestine illustrated the urgency to revitalize the peace process. A two-State solution remained the only way for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace and its lack continued to inflame tensions and give way to new cycles of violence. The situation in Gaza, which was at the brink of collapse after a decade-long blockade, was being compounded by an acute gap of financial resources in the budget of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). It is our collective moral duty to support the Agency, he emphasized.
Turning to the situation in Syria, he noted his country's contributions to counter-terrorism and stabilization efforts, including Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch, which cleared more than 4,000 square kilometres from terrorists. More than 160,000 Syrians had voluntarily returned to their homeland. However, despite significant military gains against Da'esh, the socioeconomic destruction across Syria and Iraq still needed to be addressed. He called for the international community to increase its humanitarian assistance in response to the crisis in the region, at least until these countries get back on their feet again. That international support towards reconstruction and development remained an essential tool to avoid a relapse into new conflicts.
MARIA THEOFILI (Greece), aligning herself with the statement to be made by the European Union, said that the stalemate in peace talks posed another challenge to the two-State solution and that the conflict was spilling over and creating instability throughout the region. Turning to Syria, she said that the unprecedented flow of refugees from that country illustrated that the crisis needed to come to an end. There was no alternative but a political solution, as stated in resolution 2254 (2015) and the Geneva Communique. Ensuring those texts were fully implemented would allow the refugee situation to be addressed in a comprehensive matter and allow those people to return to an ordinary life. The United Nations had a fundamental role to play in the efforts towards stability and peace and must be supported by the international community. There must be respect for international law, an end to impunity and support for cooperation and development. In addition, her country had entered cooperation agreements with Italy, Cyprus and Israel, among others, in efforts to support stability in the region and create economic development.
KORNELIOS KORNELIOU (Cyprus), noting that too often we have seen the law of the jungle prevail over the principles of international law, called for the international community to collectively uphold its responsibility by adhering to the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. Using his country as an example, he said that if the rules of international law had not been violated, the Cyprus problem would not have arisen. Further, if those rules had been applied today, the problem would have been solved in the interest of all parties concerned. His country would continue its efforts to reach a negotiated solution under the United Nations auspices, he said, reiterating the Secretary-General's call that the Security Council increase its support and encouragement. Anachronistic mechanisms of guarantees and the presence of foreign troops in a post-settlement Cyprus were inconsistent with efforts to reunite the country.
Cyprus, together with Greece, had established trilateral partnerships with its neighbouring countries � Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, he continued. That cooperation was founded on the adherence to international law and a rules-based international order � bedrocks for peace and prosperity. His country had also concluded agreements for the delimitation of maritime zones with Egypt, Israel and Lebanon, which allowed development of a programme of hydrocarbon exploration in its exclusive economic zone, he said, adding that the principles of the Charter and international law had shown the way forward to such cooperation � and not unilateral actions that endangered international peace and security.
BASHAR JA'AFARI (Syria) said that the international crises of the last several decades were caused by the policies of certain Governments who enjoyed significant economic and financial leverage. Those Governments, included in the Council, had fabricated crises and wars to serve their interests. Those Powers were currently going against the will of the international community by opposing the multilateral system. They supported the ongoing Israeli occupation of Arab land and terrorism. They claimed that bloody revolutions are multicoloured and rainbow revolutions, he said. Those Governments aligned themselves with Wahhabi dictatorships and the Israeli occupation. They imposed unilateral blockades against innocent people. One of those powers had recently withdrawn from the United Nations Human Rights Council, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Claiming that religious and ethnic tension were the cause of conflict was blatant propaganda, he continued, adding that for the past eight years, Syria had suffered through the world's worst crisis in decades. Some countries had dedicated millions of dollars to militarizing the Syrian war. They brainwashed thousands of youth around the world to fight against the Syrian Government. Foreign terrorist fighters were now becoming an international crisis as Governments feared their return. Despite growing concerns, the United States continued to train such fighters. Some Governments had even politicized humanitarian assistance and falsified evidence fabricating Syria's use of chemical weapons. I would like to reiterate that the Syrian Government has not used chemical weapons, he said. Referring to Ankara's claim that it fought terrorism in Syria, he recalled the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, adding that Turkey's military interfered without permission from his country's Government. Turkey was one of the sources of terrorism and extremism, threatening peace and security in the region, he added.
GHOLAMALI KHOSHROO (Iran) said that a thorough analysis of all causes of conflict and war in the Middle East and North Africa over the past few decades proved that in most cases, there were common denominators, namely foreign intervention, interference, occupation or a combination of all three. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands was undoubtedly at the core and central to all conflicts in the region. Any foreign intervention, occupation and ensuing instabilities, as well as attempts to engineer societies in the Middle East and North Africa, had resulted in instability, which served as a breeding ground for terrorists and extremist groups. Other crises in the region, including those in Libya, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, were all examples of conflicts being stoked by invasion, illegal foreign intervention, terror, extremism and violence. The experience gained during the past decade in the Middle East and North Africa region proves that the era of regional and global hegemony has long passed, and any effort by any Power to achieve it is futile, he stressed.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) stressed that Iran played a central role in destabilizing the region, including its nuclear and nuclear-related activities, which remained the most dangerous threat to international peace and security. Iran had a violent and extremist regime with violent and extremist intentions, she said, emphasizing that no civilian, community or country in the region could be spared from Iran's hegemonic ambitions to devour its neighbours. There was no better example of Middle Eastern conflicts beginning and ending with Iran than Hizbullah in Lebanon. Iran spent about $7 billion each year funding various proxy and terrorist organizations, all at the expense of its own citizens. Iran's regional and global threat was evident through its vast missile programme, including short-, medium- and long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The world was facing a regime that could not be trusted, as Iran remained the foremost State-sponsor of terrorism in the world.
MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, recalled past peace agreements that proved the two-State solution and the road map had and always would constitute peace. The road map had also established the Middle East Quartet, and the United Nations was part of that to ensure the success of that process. At present, there was an absence of any political overview for the peace process in the Middle East, he said, noting, among other changes, the recent policy change of the United States that included a trend for that country to no longer pursue negotiations for peace, but instead substituted those aims with economic projects that included the West Bank and Gaza, but not Jerusalem.
The lack of ways in which Palestinians could protect themselves from Israeli forces also illustrated the need to bring peace talks back on track, he continued. The absence of efforts by non-proliferation of nuclear weapons countries and the United Nations to implement the fourth plan of action for the establishment of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction-free zone was also of concern. Israel continued to develop its nuclear capacity, of which nothing was known. Such changes illustrated how the Middle East was moving into an armed region.
The Middle East region and conflict areas had become a battleground of major Powers, he said, pointing to the veto being used in the Security Council � clear proof that that that tool had been used to forge regional alliances and ignore the plight and price being paid by the people living in areas of conflict. That was not what those Powers should be doing, particularly when they were members of the Council.
Noting the recent proposal for establishing peace talks, he said that such a regional dialogue should be based on the Arab initiative to foster trust. How can we talk about trust when Iran and Israel continue to develop nuclear powers of which we know nothing about, he asked. The Arab League's stance called for a regional dialogue similar to that of Helsinki, but only if it was based on practical procedures to bring about fair and lasting peace and provide security for its countries. It was crucial that such undertakings include non-interference with internal Arab affairs, respect for the Charter, and the relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.
SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) urged greater regional and international cooperation for a genuine and clear political commitment to peace. We all have a joint responsibility to help the peoples of this region overcome the challenges they face, she added. Peace in the Middle East required a fair solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, specifically the formation of a Palestinian State based on the pre-1967 borders. She called on the international community to help Jordan deal with the refugee and migrant crisis and urged Member States to provide financial support to UNRWA. Jordan would continue to work to resolve the crisis in Syria by respecting that country's territorial integrity and sovereignty, she said, expressing particular concern over the security situation in the south of Syria. The United Nations must address displacement in that area. She reiterated that the only solution to the Yemeni crisis was a political one that respected that country's territorial integrity, stressing the need to work on a political track based on relevant Security Council resolutions and the Arab Gulf Initiative.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) said her region had been marred with decades-long conflicts and crises. Calling for a holistic solution to tackle the root causes of crises, she stressed focusing on meeting the economic and development needs of people in the region. It was essential to promote rule of law, good governance and opportunity for young people. Maintaining international peace and security required respecting the rule of law and the United Nations Charter. The contrived crisis imposed on Qatar as well as the unjust blockade was the epitome of irresponsible polices. Such a crisis had posed new challenges to international peace and security, she said, stressing the need for cybersecurity. Qatar reiterated calls for dialogue to resolve the Gulf Community Council crisis. No efforts must be spared to address the scourge of terrorism. Education and youth employment were vital to empowering future generations, she added. Qatar would continue its efforts to pursue the end of conflict in the Middle East.
KHALED MOHAMMED H. ALMANZLAWIY (Saudi Arabia) said Palestinians had suffered under Israel's racist policies, stressing that his country had supported Palestinians in all ways possible, notably through its $50 million pledge to UNRWA and calling for the denial of any Israeli claims. He urged the Council to ensure that Israel complied with its resolutions and international law to return occupied Arab territories, including the occupied Syrian Golan. He advocated peace on the basis of the two-State solution. Working with coalition countries, Saudi Arabia was carrying out operations � at the request of Yemen's legitimate Government � to retake regions occupied by Iran militias. Saudi Arabia sought to ensure the best possible civilian protection, while Houthis were using women and children as human shields, and missiles supplied by Iran to attack Saudi Arabia, most recently on 24 June. Evidence had shown those missiles to have been made in Iran, he said, condemning Houthi operations that threatened civilians and stressing that Saudi Arabia was spending $40 million to clear mines, along with the national Yemeni mine action programme. The humanitarian situation was dire in Houthi-controlled areas, where militias blocked aid to accomplish their political aims. In Syria, Riyadh had made a pledge at the Brussels humanitarian conference and contributed $1 billion to support refugees. Saudi Arabia would work to resolve the crisis peacefully on the basis of the first Geneva Communique, Council resolutions and Syrian consensus.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon), reiterating her country's commitment to the Arab peace initiative and to East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine, stressed that, despite years of efforts, there is no horizon for peace. Confidence among parties was at its lowest point and the basis for a political solution, including ending the occupation and establishing an independent State of Palestine based on the 1967 border, was being eroded or completely abandoned. Israeli violations were not conducive to peace, but in fact were inviting conflict. The situation in south Lebanon remained relatively calm because of the efforts of her country's armed forces. Lebanon was also at the forefront of combating terrorism and was one of the few countries that had defeated Da'esh. However, defeating that threat also entailed providing young people with education, job opportunities and hope. The Middle East should not be viewed as an arena for competition over spheres of influence, but as one filled with people seeking a better and different future. The Council must implement its resolutions to end the occupation, end oppression and fulfil the role that it had been entrusted to do at its founding.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said the Palestinian question remained the core issue for the peoples of the Arab and Islamic worlds. Israel's occupation was the source of all crises in the region, he said, emphasizing the two-State solution and the elimination of the cancer of settlement. Jerusalem was a final status issue and States should refrain from fait accompli measures, such as opening embassies in that city. On the root causes of conflict, he noted the absence of a genuine development vision for the Middle East and North Africa that would lift people out of poverty. More attention should be paid to youth and women, engaging them in all stages of political and economic development. External factors included interference in the internal affairs of States, the conflicting interests of major Powers and the imposition of certain perspectives relating to governance and human rights. He called for a comprehensive review of the freeze on Libyan assets, noting that its purpose was not to punish his nation, but to protect those funds. Some States had attempted to control Libyan assets on various pretexts, he added.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a prime example in which decisive action by the Security Council and the international community was needed to prevent further degeneration of the situation. The Holy See continued to support a two-State solution, as it remained the only viable peace plan. He called on Israel and Palestine to demonstrate wisdom, responsibility and the political will needed to reach a historic peace agreement that would meet the legitimate aspirations of both peoples. Regarding Jerusalem, he called on all countries to respect the city's historical status quo, adding that its identity could be safeguarded by way of an internationally guaranteed statute. He expressed concern for the deterioration of humanitarian crises in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the exodus of refugees from Syria, Libya and other troubled areas. Rule of law was fundamental to any political solution, he said, adding that respect for human rights contributed to efforts to address the root causes of instability. Moreover, responding early to violations of international humanitarian law could prevent conflicts before they became a threat to peace and security.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said that in the face of so many challenges, the international community � particularly the Security Council � must coordinate its action. The Palestinian issue must be the priority, but unfortunately the ongoing confiscation of land, border closures, developments in Jerusalem and an escalation of violence were hurting civilians and doing nothing to advance the two-State solution. Underscoring efforts by the King of Morocco vis-A�-vis the Palestinian issue, he said that resolving the matter would involve dealing with holy sites in Jerusalem in accordance with Security Council resolution and pre-1967 borders. Morocco attached great importance to the situation in Libya, where it supported the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to achieve a negotiated solution between the Libyan parties. He emphasized the importance of territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs, and welcomed Security Council resolutions aimed at foreign terrorist fighters, including sanctions which cut off funding to them.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) advocated a greater international role in ensuring implementation of relevant resolutions, resolving conflicts in the Arab region, and finding solutions that allowed States to maintain their sovereignty and territorial integrity. We must stop all those who support and finance terrorism, he said, whether States or other actors, and not allow them to be part of efforts to settle conflict or stop humanitarian crises that they themselves had unleashed. They must be held accountable for their destabilizing actions. He reaffirmed Bahrain's position on the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, expressing support for an independent State of Palestine along pre-1967 borders, based on the two-State solution and Arab Peace Initiative. Among the causes of conflict in the Middle East was intervention by States, notably Iran, into other nations' affairs through support of Hizbullah in violation of international law. Such was the situation in Yemen, where Iran-backed militias had carried out a coup d'etat against the legitimate Government and blocked efforts such as the Gulf initiative. He supported Yemen's unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as efforts by the Special Envoy and the opening of Hodeida port.
MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said peaceful and open societies required States to respect the United Nations Charter and international law and refrain from interfering in State affairs, which only led to religious and ethnic divisions, and in turn, instability. Stressing that injustice on water quotas undermined the sustainable development of water basins and calling water a human right, he pressed for the creation of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East and establishment of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guarantees. He underscored Iraq's commitment to the global disarmament regime based on its Constitution. Israel's occupation was the source of tension in the Middle East, and security required a fair resolution that freed Palestinians through the creation of an independent State along 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital and withdrawal from Arab lands. On Syria, he called for a peaceful intra-Syrian solution accepted by that Government, noting that Da'esh operated in areas between that country and his own. In Yemen, he called for a solution in line with the national dialogue to end the bloodletting, and in Libya, stressed that the political agreement must be respected as the only framework that would solve that crisis.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) said the Russian Federation had been a partner in addressing terrorism and extremist ideology in the Middle East, noting that her country's position on regional matters was known. Diplomacy has failed in the Middle East, she said, but would always be vital to resolving conflict and she urged that it be strengthened. While welcoming dialogue to foster confidence among regional countries, she said the region must first recommit to the central concepts that had driven the world order. All actors must accept the Charter, which Iran had consistently violated, and she called on Tehran to end its irresponsible presence in regional countries in the form of militias and terrorist groups. Member States must support like-minded countries of the moderate Arab centre, which rejected extremist ideology. While it was important to partner with external actors, true stability would require Arab leadership. The era of hegemony and power politics must be replaced by respect for the nation State system. For that to happen, the Council must play its part as a neutral steward for peace and security.
While some had said the chaos in Yemen had been caused by the Arab intervention, those critics had forgotten that a legitimate Government had headed a functional State and had put a process in place for transition, she said. The Council should have acted when the Houthis took Sana'a. If the coalition had not entered, in line with resolution 2216 (2015), there would be a lawless State today controlled by an illegal militia that represented 3 per cent of the population. In Syria, a prominent Arab role was essential to ending the conflict. Syria was an Arab nation and its future was in an Arab regional solution found with United Nations support. Her country looked forward to a new role for Iraq in the Arab political scene. Until Palestinian rights were met, they would cause instability and prevent Israel from having a secure place in the region, she said, urging that the trust deficit be filled through honest partners. Her country's actions against Qatar had been taken because it could not tolerate its support for terrorists. The new Arab centre model would speak to hearts and minds seeking optimism rather than nihilism. The United Arab Emirates stood ready to create new strategies and sought partnerships with both historical and new friends to advance those efforts.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that when the Powers to be in the global political system were partisan, crimes against humanity went unchallenged, parties acted with impunity and neighbours played dirty through proxies, one could not expect the weaker party to remain passive. Such was the situation of Palestinians. Israel should stop occupying their lands, violating international law and blocking their territories, while the international community must remain impartial. The Palestinian issue was the reason behind the creation of OIC. Crises in the region were no less complicated and resolving them required impartiality and commitment. Mediation cannot be dictation, he said, stressing that prejudice and misunderstanding between cultures had increasingly fuelled extremist discourse. As his organization grappled with tensions from within and outside its area, its priority focus was on the surge of terrorism, notably through a new peace and security architecture that made use of mediation, good offices and proactive quiet diplomacy. The vilification of Islam and Muslims, particularly in the West, threatened efforts to address intolerance on the basis of religious belief and cultural identity, he said, calling for a new dialogue-based culture of peace and security, which featured early warning measures to avert conflict, enhanced governance and a network of mediators.
GERARDUS VAN DEN AKKER, European Union, expressed alarm over the sharp escalation of violence witnessed most recently in Gaza, stressing that Israel must respect the right to peaceful protest and underlining that those leading the protests had a responsibility to avoid provocations and ensure they remained strictly non-violent. The Syrian regime bore the overwhelming responsibility for the conflict in that country having entered its eighth year of continuous and widespread violence. The Union reiterated the strong need for accountability in Syria for all war crimes committed, particularly the use of chemical weapons. Reaffirming the bloc's concern about the deteriorating situation in Yemen, he stressed that the latest developments risked undermining United Nations-led efforts to resume negotiations towards a political solution to the conflict. The Union remained committed to an inclusive inter-Libyan political process and deplored the continued human rights violations and abuses.
Source: United Nation