NEW YORK: The UAE on Monday issued a forceful rejection of external involvement in Arab affairs, and pledged to counter the “scourge” of violent extremism wherever it appears.
Speaking on the final day of the UN General Assembly, Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, also said the Middle East must be a region free from weapons of mass destruction.
“In order to succeed in our efforts to end the cycle of conflict in the Arab region, crude regional interferences in Arab affairs — especially in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq — must be halted,” he added.
“The illegal interferences have obstructed political processes, exacerbated humanitarian crises, and undermined regional and international stability.”
These regional problems, as well as transnational challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, require a coordinated and cooperative approach from Arab countries and the international community, he said.
“We need wise leadership to advance multilateralism, and to develop a united international position to address all common global challenges. It’s also imperative to have a genuine political will to overcome this difficult historical juncture, which requires putting differences aside and strengthening relations between states,” he added.
“As a priority, we must generate international momentum to prevent conflicts and avert political crises before they escalate.” Among those conflicts that require concerted action, he said, is the war in Yemen.
“We’ve seen genuine initiatives in this direction, the latest of which was presented by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen. For these efforts to be successful, all parties must demonstrate commitment and determination,” he added, noting however that “the Houthi militias continue their provocative and aggressive actions.”
Almarar also called for an independent Palestinian state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and urged Israel to stop building settlements on Palestinian land.
However, he praised the era of reconciliation that the Abraham Accords, which established relations between the UAE and other Arab countries on one side and Israel on the other, have ushered in.
Struck a year ago, those agreements “stimulate economic growth and advance prosperity and stability in the region, especially for the younger generations, who deserve to look to the future with optimism and hope,” he said.
The youth are threatened by the advance of extremist groups in the region, he warned. “Groups such as the Houthis, Daesh, Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah continue their recruitment of new generations of young people,” he said. “As such, we won’t relent in our efforts to counter these scourges wherever they exist.”
Energy supplies, freedom of navigation and trade routes must also be protected, said Almarar, adding that the Middle East should be a region “free of weapons of mass destruction.”
In that regard, he said, reaching an understanding with Iran that effectively addresses the concerns of regional states is imperative, particularly because of the country’s advanced weapons programs.
“We can’t ignore Iran’s development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as its interference in the region,” he added.
“Therefore, any future agreement with Iran should address the shortcomings of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action … and must involve the countries of the region.”
Three islands that Iran occupied illegally in 1971, he added, must also be returned to his country. “The UAE will never cease to demand its legitimate sovereignty over these islands,” he said.
Almarar also pledged to continue to work to fight climate change, which “remains one of the most pressing challenges.”
The UAE, he said, looks forward to the COP26 climate conference, hosted by the UK in Glasgow later this year, which will be vital in developing a “global response” to the challenge.
“The UAE seeks to work with its partners to find solutions and explore opportunities that reduce the effects of climate change, including seeking to host the COP28,” he added.