Guterres: Foreign intervention, manipulation have bred instability in the Arab world

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (front row L) and European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (front row 3rd L) sit with Arab leaders and head of delegations during the 28th Ordinary Summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan March 29, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 29 March 2017

Guterres: Foreign intervention, manipulation have bred instability in the Arab world

THE DEAD SEA, Jordan: Divisions in the Arab world have opened the door to foreign intervention and manipulation which breeds instability, sectarian strife and terrorism, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday at the Arab Summit in Jordan.
“I appeal to your leadership in shaping a new Arab world able to address and solve, by itself, differences through dialogue and cooperation. At this time of transition and upheaval, unity will be critical,” Guterres said as he addressed a room full of Arab leaders at the 28th such summit.
He added that the UN is ready to work with the Arab region and stressed that the priorities he has outlined for his time in office have direct relevance to the Middle East, from promoting peace to advancing inclusive and sustainable development.
“But that must not distract us from seeking to heal the longest open wound in the region — the plight of the Palestinian people. For far too long, the international community has failed to provide the avenues and support for a just and lasting solution to the question of Palestine,” he said.
“I understand the deep sense of despair of the Palestinian people. The dreams of generation after generation have been confined by the parameters of conflict, humiliation and half-a-century of occupation,” he said, stressing his view that the two-state solution is the only way to end the decades-long conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
“The two-state solution is the only path to ensure that Palestinians and Israelis can realize their national aspirations and live in peace, security and dignity. There is no Plan B,” he said, calling for an immediate halt of all unilateral actions that could undermine the two-state solution. He also emphasized the need to stop settlement activities, which are illegal under international law.
“It is also important to condemn terrorism and to avoid incitement,” Guterres said, stressing that “the Palestinians and Israelis do not need conflict management, they need conflict resolution.”
He added that conflict and displacement are widespread across the region, saying that the world’s Arab and Muslim communities face growing prejudice.
“Too many people have fallen into the trap of presenting the despicable acts of Daesh or Al-Qaeda as driven by Islam when in fact they utterly defy the faith. Indeed, Muslims themselves are the primary victims,” the UN secretary-general said, adding that too many populist political leaders distort Islam to spread anti-Muslim hatred, playing into the hands of terrorist and extremist groups.
“My experience as high commissioner for refugees showed me the true nature of Islam, as Arab countries extended remarkable hospitality to wave upon wave of people fleeing violence and persecution. Refugee protection is deeply rooted in the traditions of the Arabian Peninsula — refugee protection defined not only for Muslims but for all,” said the UN official.
“There is nothing in present-day international refugee law that was not reflected in the Holy Qur'an or the Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him),” Guterres said, adding that this same spirit is highly needed at this critical juncture for the region’s diverse people.
He expressed dismay and disappointment that some developed countries opted to close their borders to refugees fleeing this region and lamented that some used religion as a reason to keep them out.
On Syria, Guterres said it is time to end the years-long violence and fighting and expressed hope that the Astana process would manage to achieve an effective ceasefire.
“We will do everything we can to enable the Geneva-based political talks to lead to genuine negotiations. By now it should be clear to all involved that while fighting terrorism is essential, any success will prove ephemeral without a political solution that allows the Syrian people to freely decide their own fate,” he said.
Regarding the fight against terrorism, the UN official said the UN welcomes the progress in retaking territories from Daesh, including Mosul.
“We are ready to cooperate with [Iraqi] Prime Minister Al Abadi and all Iraqi leaders towards a truly inclusive and nonsectarian system of governance in which all communities feel represented, respected and safe. I also strongly believe that if we all work together, 2017 can see Yemen and Libya coming out of the vicious cycle of violence and conflict,” he said.
He said that each of these conflicts has created tremendous suffering, displaced millions of people, unsettled an entire region and contributed to a new threat of global terrorism.

Israel’s Syria assaults kill Hezbollah men, Iranian

Updated 9 min 49 sec ago

Israel’s Syria assaults kill Hezbollah men, Iranian

  • Israel says it has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against Iranian targets trying to establish a permanent military presence there

BEIRUT, DAMASCUS: Israel airstrikes near the Syrian capital overnight killed two fighters of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and one Iranian combatant, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said on Sunday.

“The Israeli raids targeting Iranian and Hezbollah posts ... in the southeast of Damascus killed at least three people — two from Hezbollah and a third who was Iranian,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Israel said on Sunday an airstrike against an arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Syria that it accused of planning “killer drone attacks” showed Tehran that its forces were vulnerable anywhere.

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander denied that Iranian targets had been hit late on Saturday and said its military “advisory centers have not been harmed,” the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck “Iranian Quds Force operatives and Shiite militias which were preparing to advance attack plans targeting sites in Israel from within Syria over the last number of days.”

The elite Quds Force is the overseas arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters the forces had been preparing to launch “killer drones” armed with explosives at northern Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the military had thwarted the planned Iranian attack.

“Iran has no immunity anywhere. Our forces operate in every sector against the Iranian aggression,” he said on Twitter. “If someone rises up to kill you, kill him first.”

Syrian state media said Syrian air defenses intercepted “hostile targets” over Damascus, the capital, on Saturday night.

Witnesses in Damascus said they heard and saw explosions in the sky.

The Syrian forces said in a statement that “the majority of the Israeli missiles were destroyed before reaching their targets.” Conricus, however, said the impact of the Israeli strikes was “significant.”

A war monitor said on Sunday that two members of Tehran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah and one Iranian were killed in the strikes.

Israel says it has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against Iranian targets trying to establish a permanent military presence there and against advanced weapon shipments to Hezbollah.

Iran and Hezbollah are helping President Bashar Assad in the eight-year Syria war. Russia, which is also aiding Assad, has largely turned a blind eye to the Israeli airstrikes. Netanyahu spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, the Israeli leader’s office said.

Israel made no comment on what the Lebanese army and Hezbollah said was the crash of two Israeli drones in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut early on Sunday. Hezbollah officials said one of the drones was rigged with explosives and caused some damage to the organization’s media center.

On Thursday, Netanyahu hinted of possible Israeli involvement in a series of blasts in the past few weeks that have hit weapon depots and bases belonging to paramilitary groups in Iraq, many of them backed by Iran.

On Wednesday, the PMF, the umbrella grouping of Iraq’s paramilitary groups, said the US had allowed four Israeli drones to enter the region accompanying US forces and carry out missions on Iraqi territory.

The US-led coalition, in Iraq to fight remnants of Daesh, dismissed the statement and the Pentagon denied it.

On the popular Israeli YNet news website, military affairs commentator Ron Ben-Yishai described the alleged Iranian killer drone attack plans as revenge by Tehran for the purported Israeli drone strikes in Iraq, noting that the two enemies were using similar weapons. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, and now executive director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said neither Iran nor Israel were interested in all-out war.

“We’re not there yet,” he said on Israel Radio. “But sometimes, someone makes a mistake.”