Maintaining peace in the Middle East and North Africa
Statement by Ambassador Karen Pierce, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, at the United Nations Security Council
Thank you very much Mr President and good to see you in New York again. Thank you to Russia for the opportunity to discuss holistically the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.
Mr President, I think we all agree that many of the conflicts in this region share root causes and complex linkages. And we agree that an approach to resolving these conflicts that needs to consider each conflict in isolation will not succeed. They need to be looked at in the round. I think we’re also aware that there are some existentialist struggles between some of the Member States in the region, but not all are aggressive towards their neighbors or commit unfriendly acts towards their neighbours. The MENA region, people have been saying, should perhaps have its own Helsinki Final Act moment. And I don’t want to be prescriptive, but I think something that brings the region together would be very worthwhile considering and we would be happy to join any consideration of that issue.
Overall, our understanding of any conflict should be shaped by an analysis that looks at the full breadth of root causes, the role of regional and international actors and the individual history and circumstances of the country. And in return the response of the Security Council and the whole of the UN to these conflicts needs to be holistic.
Before I turn to the Russian concept note, Mr President, and our own views, I just wanted to start by endorsing fully what the French Ambassador said about Iran. We will have another opportunity to talk about Iran later this week, so I will expand my remarks then. But I just wanted to pledge the UK’s support to what he said.
Mr President, there were many points in the Russian concept note with which we agreed. We agree with you on the devastating humanitarian consequences of the various conflicts in the MENA region. And OCHA’s own figures are truly staggering: 22 million in need of assistance in Yemen, 13 million in Syria, 1.9 million in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and a million in Libya. The humanitarian relief efforts of all Member States, international actors and indeed ordinary citizens, have indeed helped to avert some suffering. But it isn’t enough. And 66 percent of humanitarian appeals, in OCHA’s own figures, have yet to be fulfilled.
We have written recently as the United Kingdom to the Secretary-General to set out our own humanitarian contribution to the crises in the Middle East. We continue to see examples of states restricting access to humanitarian agencies and we see attacks by armed groups on humanitarian workers. What justification, Mr President, can there be for these attacks? We agree with you that humanitarian assistance should not be politicised, but as long as these attacks continue, it will be.
Conflict has particularly affected religious and ethnic minorities. Yazidi in Syria and Iraq. The Baha’i in Iran in Yemen. Terrorist actors and state institutions in the region have been responsible for some of the worst persecutions in history. So we hope, like you, that the Security Council can unite behind efforts to resolve conflicts peacefully. We should do everything we can as a Security Council to support efforts made by the Secretary-General and his Special Representatives to bring peace to the region; make serious progress in Syria, Yemen and Libya; to use our collective and bilateral efforts to put pressure on those that oppose or undermine these efforts; and ensure that peacekeeping missions are fit for purpose.
On the Middle East peace process, Mr President, that a number of speakers have mentioned, we reiterate to our support for the two-state solution, and we look forward to the American proposals which we hope will be able to be issued soon.
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