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.


UN food chief: Beirut could run out of bread in 2 1/2 weeks

Updated 32 min 16 sec ago

UN food chief: Beirut could run out of bread in 2 1/2 weeks

  • Beasley said a ship with 17,500 metric tons of wheat flour should arrive in Beirut “within two weeks"

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the UN food agency said Monday he’s “very, very concerned” Lebanon could run out of bread in about 2 ½ weeks because 85% of the country’s grain comes through Beirut’s devastated port — but he believes an area of the port can be made operational this month.
David Beasley, who is in Beirut assessing damage and recovery prospects, told a virtual UN briefing on the humanitarian situation following last week’s explosion in the Lebanese capital that “at the devastated site, we found a footprint that we can operate on a temporary basis.”
“Working with the Lebanese army, we believe that we can clear part of that site,” Beasley said. “We’ll be airlifting in a lot of equipment, doing everything we can.”
Beasley said he had met with Cabinet ministers — who all resigned later Monday — and told them the UN needs “absolute cooperation now, no obstacles” because people on the streets are angry and said they need international help but “please make certain that the aid comes directly to the people.”
For the first time since last week’s blast, two ships docked at Beirut’s port on Monday including one carrying grain, according to state media.
The head of the workers union at the port, Bechara Asmar told Al-Jadeed TV that since the grain silos were destroyed by the explosion, the material will be pumped directly to trucks or bags after being sanitized.”
“This is a glimmer of hope,” Asmar said about the first arrivals adding that the port’s 5th basin where the ships docked remains intact despite the blast.
Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, said a ship with 17,500 metric tons of wheat flour should arrive in Beirut “within two weeks, and that’s to put bread on the table of all the people of Lebanon and that will give us a bread supply for 20 days.”
“While we’re doing that, we’ve got a 30-day supply of about 30,000 metric tons of wheat that we’re bringing in, and then another 100,000 metric tons over the next 60 days after that,” Beasley said.
Najat Rochdi, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Lebanon, told a press conference after briefing UN members that Beasley went to the port with engineers to assess what can be done.
“They are very optimistic to start actually this rehabilitation as soon as this week to increase the capacity of the port of Beirut,” she said.
Rochdi said she understands a ship will be arriving Thursday with some construction material, followed by a ship with wheat and grain, “to address the issue of food security and to hopefully make sure Beirut is not going to be short of bread.”
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told diplomats the “swift and wide-ranging” humanitarian response is just the first of a three-phased response to the tragedy.
“The second — recovery and reconstruction — will cost billions of dollars and require a mix of public and private finance,” he said. ”The third element is responding to the Lebanon’s pre-existing socioeconomic crisis which is already exacerbated by COVID-19.”
Lowcock, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, stressed the Beirut explosion last Tuesday “will have repercussions far beyond those we see in front of us now.”
He urged donors, international financial institutions and the wider international community to “come together and put their shoulder to the wheel,” stressing that the Lebanese people will be served best by a collective response.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told UN member nations the voices of Lebanon’s angry people “must be heard.”
“It is important that a credible and transparent investigation determine the cause of the explosion and bring about the accountability demanded by the Lebanese people,” he said. “It is also important that reforms be implemented so as to address the needs of the Lebanese people for the longer term.”
Guterres also pledged that “the United Nations will stand with Lebanon to help alleviate the immediate suffering and support its recovery.”