UN-Arab League cooperation essential for tackling regional crises, says UN chief

Special Ahmed Abul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (UN photo)
Ahmed Abul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (UN photo)
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Updated 24 March 2022

UN-Arab League cooperation essential for tackling regional crises, says UN chief

UN-Arab League cooperation essential for tackling regional crises, says UN chief
  • Security Council discusses merits of enhanced relationship in efforts to address humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen, and broader challenges across Arab world
  • Arab League secretary-general said international community has been “merely managing” long-running conflicts instead of actively working to resolve them

NEW YORK: The UN and the Arab League remain united in their pursuit of multilateral solutions to “cascading” challenges facing the Arab world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Stronger cooperation between the two organizations is essential for the enhancement of multilateralism, he added. He pointed out that the war in Ukraine and its profound ramifications around the globe have revealed the need for such cooperation to be all the more urgent, as many Arab countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, import at least half of the wheat they require from Ukraine or Russia.

Since the war began on Feb. 24, food and fuel prices have soared as supplies were disrupted, which is “hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest across the globe,” Guterres added.

He was speaking at a ministerial-level meeting of the UN Security Council. It was convened by the UAE, which holds the presidency of the council for the month of March, to discuss ways to improve partnerships and strengthen and institutionalize cooperation between the UN and the Arab League in areas such as conflict prevention, diplomacy, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and to promote the role of women and youth in efforts to maintain regional and international peace and security.

The meeting was chaired by Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, minister of state at the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Guterres highlighted the existing aspects of cooperation between the UN and the Arab League relating to conflicts and crises in the Middle East. He welcomed the latter organization’s “constructive engagement” with efforts to safeguard the unity and “hard-won” stability of Libya since the ceasefire agreement of October 2020, and said he counts on it continuing to prioritize the need for an agreement on a comprehensive political process in the country.

Guterres also said that the two organizations remain firmly united in their support for the Syrian people, “who feel abandoned by the world as they enter the 11th year of a war that has subjected them to human rights violations on a massive and systematic scale and left the country in ruins.”

He reiterated that the only way to break the deadlock in Syria and alleviate the suffering of the people there lies in a “credible” political process that includes the implementation of Security Council resolutions.

Turning to the situation in Lebanon, Guterres said the UN is grateful for the work of the Arab League in urging authorities in the country to address the crisis there through a process that includes meaningful reforms, timely elections, constructive engagement with the International Monetary Fund and the full implementation of applicable Security Council resolutions.

He also welcomed the enhancement of strategic cooperation between members of the Iraqi government and the Arab League, including a mission to observe and monitor Iraq’s parliamentary elections in October last year.

A strengthening of regional cooperation is also critical in Yemen, Guterres said. Without efforts to agree a ceasefire, defuse tensions and advance an inclusive political process in the country, unceasing hostilities threaten to cause the already dire humanitarian situation to deteriorate further and dim the hopes of peace, he added.

The UN chief expressed disappointment at the results of a recent pledging event for Yemen, during which less than a third of the funds needed to address the humanitarian crisis in the country were received.

“I cannot overstate the severity of the suffering of the people of Yemen,” Guterres said. “I appeal to the generosity of members of the Arab League at this critical time.”

During the meeting the Security Council adopted a presidential statement, drafted by the UAE, welcoming the close cooperation between the UN and the Arab League and reiterating the intention to enhance their collaboration in a number of areas, including maritime safety and security, counterterrorism, respect for international law, poverty eradication, water security, and desertification and drought management in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The statement also affirmed the role of the youth population in efforts to maintain international peace and security, including the prevention and resolution of conflicts in MENA.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, warned that the international order is again at a “most serious,” critical juncture as a result of the war in Ukraine.

“It is a deplorable situation,” he said and expressed hope that the international community can work to end the bloodshed, while honoring the security requirements of all those involved in line with the UN’s charter and principles.

However, he also said that he hopes the situation in Ukraine will not affect the ability of the Security Council to focus on other crises.

“The crises of the Arab world must not be forgotten,” Abul Gheit said. “These crises will not resolve themselves.”

The conflict in Ukraine provides a new prism through which to view the continuing suffering of the Palestinians, for example, he said as he stressed that the international order “cannot be based on double standards.”

Abul Gheit lamented the political impasse in Syria and the continuing repercussions for millions of Syrians. He also called for the withdrawal of foreign militias and fighters from Libya, saying that such interventions are complicating efforts to hold democratic elections in the North African country.

In Yemen, Abul Gheit said the Houthis refuse to engage with efforts to reach a political settlement and continue to threaten Saudi Arabia and the UAE with attacks using drones and ballistic missiles. He again welcomed the recent adoption of Security Council Resolution 2624, which extended sanctions against the Iran-backed Houthis and categorized them as “terrorists” for the first time.

He said Iran’s disruptive interventions in the region continue and its missile program is a “legitimate concern for the Arab League.” The organization seeks good relations with Iran, after Tehran ends its interference in regional and international affairs, but “this goal is still not within reach,” he added.

Emirati minister of state Almarar said Wednesday’s meeting was particularly important given that most of the issues on the Security Council agenda are Arab issues.

“As a result of the international community merely managing these crises rather than resolving them, several of these issues have been on the council’s agenda for decades,” Almarar said.

“The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other crises in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia have taken a high economic and humanitarian toll on the region.”

He said that these Arab crises, which have taken on cross-border and international dimensions, require efforts to address them on both the regional and international levels.

“The League of Arab States has a long history … extending back 77 years since it’s founding in 1945,” said Almarar. “It also possesses a deep knowledge of regional challenges, as well as the concerns of its member states, which enables it to play a leading role in supporting the implementation of the Security Council’s core mandate to maintain international peace and security.”

He called for enhanced cooperation between the UN and the Arab League, including the institutionalization of the relationship between them.


Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq

Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq
Updated 12 August 2022

Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq

Hundreds linked to Daesh transferred from Syria to Iraq
  • It is the fourth operation of its kind this year from the camp, which lies less than 10 kilometers from the Iraqi border
  • The men, women and children belonged to 150 families and left the camp on Thursday

BEIRUT: Syria’s autonomous Kurdish region transferred to the Iraqi government more than 600 relatives of Daesh group members who were detained at the notorious Al-Hol camp, a monitor said Friday.
It is the fourth operation of its kind this year from the camp, which lies less than 10 kilometers from the Iraqi border.
In the latest transfer, around “620 people, relatives of Daesh members, left Al-Hol,” coordinated between the camp administration and the Iraqi government, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.
The men, women and children belonged to 150 families and left the camp on Thursday, an official in the Kurdish administration told AFP.
Thousands of foreign extremists joined Daesh as fighters, often bringing their wives and children to live in the “caliphate” declared by the group across swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Kurdish-led forces backed by a US-led coalition dislodged the militants from their last scrap of territory in Syria in 2019.
Kurdish authorities have repeatedly called on countries to repatriate their citizens from crowded displaced camps, of which Al-Hol is Syria’s largest.
More than 100 people, including many women, were murdered in Al-Hol over an 18-month period, the UN said in June, calling for camp residents to be returned home.
But nations have mostly received them only sporadically, fearing security threats and a domestic political backlash.
The first repatriation of Iraqi families from Al-Hol, involving around 300 people, took place in May last year.
Iraq should repatriate 500 families in total from Al-Hol this year, the official Iraqi New Agency announced on Wednesday.
In addition to the returned family members, the Iraqi government also received this week about 50 Iraqi Daesh fighters and leaders who were detained by the Syrian Democratic Forces, according to the Observatory.
The SDF spearheaded the fight against Daesh in Syria with the support of the US-led coalition.
In early June, Iraq repatriated another 50 Iraqi Daesh fighters who were detained by Kurdish forces. They were among 3,500 Iraqis held in Syrian Kurdish prisons, a senior military official said at the time.
In April, a senior Iraqi security official said the Al-Hol camp is a security threat and should be dismantled.
It houses around 55,000 people, the UN reported in June.


Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force
Updated 12 August 2022

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force
  • Supporters of the populist leader have occupied the Iraqi parliament since July
  • Iran-aligned political groups were expected to hold their own demonstration later on Friday

BAGHDAD: Thousands of followers of Moqtada Al-Sadr held a mass prayer outside parliament in Baghdad on Friday in a show of support for the powerful Shiite cleric who has called for Iraq’s judiciary to dissolve parliament by the end of next week.
Supporters of the populist leader have occupied the Iraqi parliament since July after a 10-month political stalemate that followed elections last October. Sadr was the biggest winner but failed to form a government free of Iranian-backed parties.
He withdrew his lawmakers from parliament and is now preventing the chamber from electing a new government and is demanding early elections.
On Wednesday he said the judiciary must dissolve parliament by the end of next week. If not “the revolutionaries will take another stand,” he said without elaborating.
Outside parliament on Friday thousands of Sadr supporters gathered for prayer. Most were dressed in black to mark the Muslim month of Muharram and some wore white capes symbolizing burial shrouds and their willingness to die.
“You will not break Iraq as long as Sadr is here,” an imam told the crowd from a big red stage set up outside parliament. “There is no going back from this revolution ... and the people will not give up their demands.”
In the intense summer heat, men picked their way through the worshippers and sprayed them with cold water. Some carried portraits of Sadr and his father, also a prominent cleric, as well as Iraqi flags.
“We have revolted and there is no going back,” said Mohammed Elwan, 40, carrying a portrait of Sadr.
Hamid Hussain, a father of five, said: “I am here to call for an early election and make sure that all the corrupt faces are excluded from the upcoming elections...I became unemployed because of the corrupt parties.”
Sadr’s opponents also accuse him of corruption. They say his loyalists have run some of Iraq’s most corrupt and dysfunctional government departments.
Iran-aligned political groups were expected to hold their own demonstration later on Friday, the latest in a series of protest and counter-protest in recent days which have led to fears of unrest.
Sadr counts millions of Iraqis among his followers and has shown he can still stir up gatherings by hundreds of thousands of supporters, mostly working-class Shiite Muslims, if he needs to exert political pressure.
His father Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr was killed more than 20 years ago for his outspoken opposition Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was topped in a US-led invasion in 2003 Sadr began an insurgency against US troops.
His new foes, however, are fellow Shiite leaders and parties mostly aligned with Iran, as Sadr has positioned himself as a nationalist who rejects foreign interference. Those groups, like Sadr, are backed by heavily armed militias, but do not hold the same sway as he does over masses of fanatical followers.


UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future

UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future
Updated 12 August 2022

UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future

UAE minister says youth are main tool for building sustainable future

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Culture and Youth, Noura bint Mohammed al-Kaabi, said investing in young people, and empowering them to make a contribution to their countries and communities is the foundation of a nation’s development.
“Youth are the real capital and the main tool in our growth journey to build a sustainable future. In order to prepare them for future leadership positions, it is imperative to include them in key decision-making roles today," she said in a statement on the occasion of the International Youth Day, marked annually on Aug. 12.
The UAE government, she said, is keen to hear the voices of young people and empower them to achieve their goals. 
The National Strategy for Cultural and Creative Industries is one of the strategies which enables the UAE to invest in young talent and “helps nurture creativity and harness their energy to work towards a sustainable future,” according to state news agency WAM. 
The UAE has also launched initiatives and found specialised organisations that cater to young people's needs. 
This includes establishing the Federal Youth Authority (FYA) which implements 35 youth initiatives through 15 creative youth hubs across the country to engage the young population in various sectors of society.
The minister also said that the UAE also focuses on young people from all over the world. 
“This is the reason why Arab youth have chosen the UAE, for 10 consecutive years, as the best country to live and work. It goes to show that the country's strategy in attracting and caring for creative youth and providing them with a conducive environment is bearing fruit and enhancing the capabilities of the country and youth alike,” she said.


Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’

Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’
Updated 12 August 2022

Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’

Iran says EU proposal to revive nuclear deal could be ‘acceptable’
  • The EU earlier it had put forward “final” text following indirect talks between the US and Iranian officials in Vienna

DUBAI, Aug 12 : A European Union proposal to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal “can be acceptable if it provides assurances” on Tehran’s key demands, the state news agency IRNA said on Friday, quoting a senior Iranian diplomat.
The EU said on Monday it had put forward a “final” text following four days of indirect talks between the US and Iranian officials in Vienna.
A senior EU official said no more changes could be made to the text, which has been under negotiation for 15 months. He said he expected a final decision from the parties within a “very, very few weeks.”
IRNA quoted the unidentified Iranian diplomat as saying Tehran was reviewing the proposal. “Proposals by the EU can be acceptable if they provide Iran with assurance on the issues of safeguards, sanctions and guarantees,” the diplomat said.
The Islamic Republic has sought to obtain guarantees that no future US president would renege on the deal if it were revived, as then-President Donald Trump did in 2018 and restored harsh US sanctions on Iran.
However, President Joe Biden cannot provide such ironclad assurances because the deal is a political understanding rather than a legally binding treaty.
Washington has said it is ready to quickly reach an agreement to revive the deal on the basis of the EU proposals.
Iranian officials said they would convey their “additional views and considerations” to the EU, which coordinates the talks, after consultations in Tehran.
The 2015 pact seemed near revival in March. But 11 months of indirect talks between Tehran and the Biden administration in Vienna were thrown into disarray chiefly over Iran’s insistence that Washington remove its elite Revolutionary Guards Corps from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.
Under the 2015 agreement, Iran curbed its disputed uranium enrichment program, a possible pathway to nuclear weapons, in return for relief from US, EU and UN sanctions. Tehran says it wants nuclear power only for peaceful purposes.


UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies

UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies
Updated 12 August 2022

UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies

UAE aid ship arrives in Somalia to deliver food and relief supplies
  • The number of Somalians facing crisis hunger levels is expected to rise from 5 million to more than 7 million in the coming months

DUBAI: A UAE aid ship has docked in Somalia’s Mogadishu port to deliver 1,000 tons of food and relief supplies for approximately 2.5 million residents affected by drought.

Somalia is currently experiencing a two-year historic dry spell, a situation not seen in more than 40 years, and up to one million people have been displaced as the drought ravaged crops and livestock.

The number of Somalians facing crisis hunger levels is expected to rise from 5 million to more than 7 million in the coming months, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

The provision of relief aid comes from UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan’s earlier order for 35 million dirhams worth of urgent humanitarian aid be sent to families and those displaced in their areas and camps.

The aid reaffirms the UAE’s commitment to helping friendly countries and its efforts to develop its bilateral relations with Somalia, state news agency WAM earlier said.