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
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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.


Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

Updated 19 September 2019

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

PARIS: Qatar is not fulfilling all its promises to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said Thursday.
In a report entitled "All Work, No Pay", the rights group said: "Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers."
The report came as French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were due to meet in Paris on Thursday.
Sheikh Tamim also attended Wednesday's high-profile clash between Paris Saint-Germain -- owned by Qatar's state-owned investment fund -- and Real Madrid.
Doha has made efforts since being named World Cup hosts to improve the conditions of the migrant workers who make up a majority of the Gulf emirate's population.
In November 2017, a temporary $200 monthly minimum wage was introduced for most categories of workers with a permanent level expected to be set before the end of the year.
Exit visas granted at the discretion of employers, required by some workers to leave the country, should be entirely scrapped by the end of 2019 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
But Amnesty reported challenges faced by hundreds of workers at three construction and cleaning companies in Qatar who went unpaid for months.
"Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life; instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director of global issues.
After coming under fire over the treatment of migrant workers, Qatar agreed with the ILO in 2017 to undertake labour reforms, including establishing new dispute resolution committees.
"We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully deliver what has been promised and end the shameful reality of labour exploitation," Cockburn said.
Amnesty cited the case of a Kenyan employee of United Cleaning who said he had to rummage for food in garbage bins after receiving no salary for five months.
The man said he had worked for two years and five months for the company without taking any holidays and was owed "a lot of money".
The companies all cited financial difficulties for the non-payment of wages, according to the report.
A Qatar government spokesman said the country had "made substantial progress on labour reforms".
"We continue to work with NGOs, including the ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective," he said in a statement.
"Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset that this would take time, resources and commitment."