Attending the Summit of the League of Arab States in Tunis, Tunisia, on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, recognized the critical importance of the region on the international stage and called for even stronger cooperation between the UN and the Arab States.
“North Africa and the Middle East are home to remarkable dynamism and potential. It is a region long-striving to build peace and prosperity. I believe it is vital for this region to assume that destiny,” he told the room filled with dozens of political leaders from the 22 League Member States. “The United Nations has no other agenda than to support those aspirations in a spirit of solidarity and unity.”
Citing the many contributions that the Arab world made to global civilization throughout history, he also expressed admiration for the way many Arab countries are “extending remarkable hospitality to wave upon wave of refugees in a context where, unfortunately, many other borders [are] closing.”
The Secretary-General went on to highlight the “turbulent winds” that have affected the region, from “the wars in Yemen and Syria”, to “the rise and fall of Daesh” and “the persistent denial of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people”.
“I strongly appeal for the unity of the Arab world as a fundamental condition for peace and prosperity in the region, and to avoid leaving the region vulnerable to interference by foreign parties with destabilizing effects,” he said, calling for a regional vision rooted in cooperation, respect and mutual interest.
Mr. Guterres mentioned the need to “untangle the Gordian knot of insecurity, allow no space for sectarianism, and deliver the peace, stability and effective, responsive governance that the people of the region deserve.” He also emphasized the need “to create jobs and economic opportunities, to uphold human rights for all, advance gender equality and women’s empowerment and promote the rule of law, diversity, fundamental freedoms and democratic values”.
Four imperatives to fight the ‘turbulent winds’
The UN chief then spoke of four specific issues in the region that could benefit from a comprehensive regional approach, starting with the imperative for a two-State solution, for Israel and Palestine, “living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders, and with Jerusalem (Al-Quds) as capital of both States”.