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.

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.