NEW YORK: The League of Arab States on Thursday called on the UN Security Council not to let the Ukraine war take priority over other global conflicts and their ensuing humanitarian crises, especially in the Arab region including Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Sudan.
The league’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told council members that the world was at a “very critical juncture,” which has seen heightened tensions and the polarization of major powers. This has pushed the world “to the precipice of a nuclear confrontation,” with the mitigating effects of collective action increasingly unlikely.
Aboul Gheit said this has resulted in an inadequate response to modern challenges including counterterrorism, climate change, disruptions caused by technological advances, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Aboul Gheit’s remarks came at a council meeting organized by the UAE, the Security Council’s president for the month of June, to discuss ways to enhance joint action by the UN and Arab League on various issues including regional security and humanitarian challenges.
The UAE’s concept note for the meeting emphasized that such challenges, including ongoing conflicts in Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — and the Israeli-Palestinian situation — “have led to unimaginable suffering for millions of people.
“In addition, countries such as Lebanon and Somalia are facing deep economic crises, high unemployment and spiraling inflation, thereby exacerbating fragilities and humanitarian needs.”
The note said that the earthquakes that hit Syria and Turkiye earlier this year have compounded the suffering in the region, resulting in widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure, a high death toll and the displacement of millions.
“While the humanitarian response was substantial, it faced considerable
obstacles, in particular in coordinating assistance from various donors.”
Aboul Gheit said “the prevailing tension at the pinnacle of the international order diminishes any opportunities to address regional conflicts. It also comes at the expense of the global attention that should be paid to humanitarian and relief aid.”
Sudan has for two months been witnessing an “unprecedented situation in its contemporary history with Khartoum turning into a battlefield,” where death, displacement, looting and dismantling of state institutions continue, said Aboul Gheit.
“The League of Arab States senses the seriousness of this situation both on Sudan and its neighboring countries and (it) is actively working in coordination with other regional organizations, especially the African Union, towards achieving a total cessation of hostilities (and) creating an environment conducive to the resumption of political action.”
He urged member states to help keep “a unified Sudan as our aim without any threats to its territorial integrity and without weakening its national institutions.”
Palestinians also continue to suffer from persisting occupation, and “heightened oppression and violence on the part of the Israeli government” whose practices and “extreme ideologies reflect an unprecedented turn to the right.
“This is a government that chooses annexation and settlement instead of peace,” Aboul Gheit told world ambassadors.
“This government, every single day, applies policies and practices that are totally divorced from international law, undermining any future prospect for the two-state solution.
“What is most concerning today is the feeling of despondency and despair currently felt by the Palestinian people as they have lost all hope in giving impetus to the political settlement process.”
He called on the council to renew its commitment to a two-state solution, one of the “mainstays” of the Arab League, as the “only path, and I do repeat the only path for sustainable peace.”
Syria’s return to the Arab League should serve as a step toward tackling its decade-long crisis, said Aboul Gheit.
“Maybe this step would also compel us all to actively work towards a political settlement in Syria according to Security Council Resolution 2254.”
He expressed hope that Arab countries hosting Syrian refugees would be able to “reach a solution for the voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees by creating the environment conducive for this return.”
In Yemen, notwithstanding the Houthis’ breaches, the truce has contributed considerably to de-escalating tensions, said Aboul Gheit.
Despite the ongoing “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in the country, a political solution remains possible, “especially if enough efforts were made on the part of the Houthis,” said Aboul Gheit. He added that the rapprochement agreement last March between Saudi Arabia and Iran “opens new prospects that should be optimized to achieve de-escalation and maybe even settlement in Yemen.”
He voiced the Arab League’s support for UN efforts in Libya and reiterated that elections there are the only path toward a sustainable solution for the protracted crisis in the country.
Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said that in recent years “multilateralism has come under great strain. Trust in institutions and processes has been sorely tested. Defiance of international law and the norms that bind us is making international and regional cooperation to maintain peace and security ever more difficult.”
But she added that “in such a fraught context, it is heartening that the relationship between the United Nations and the League of Arab States remains robust.”
DiCarlo said that the role of Arab countries would be “key” to end the conflict in Sudan, as she commended for their peace efforts the Arab league, the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and other partners.
The UN official said that the Jeddah Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US on May 20, “gave rise to much hope (but) unfortunately, the parties have failed to implement (it).
“Furthermore, the Sudanese Armed Forces announced the suspension of their participation in the talks, citing the Rapid Support Forces’ violations of the ceasefire.
“It is critical that the parties remain committed to the ceasefire agreement. But this will not be enough. We need a permanent cessation of hostilities and, eventually, a resumption of the political process.”
DiCarlo also echoed Aboul Gheit’s call for a renewed commitment to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also commended the Arab League’s efforts in trying to reach a solution for the Libyan crisis.
Turning to Syria, DiCarlo noted the Arab meetings in Amman and Jeddah, and the resolution adopted at the Jeddah Summit, “which reflected the importance of Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015), the only internationally agreed roadmap to resolve the Syrian conflict.”
She said that “if the renewed regional attention on Syria is translated into action, we could see momentum build toward a negotiated political settlement of the conflict,” adding that “addressing the fate of the detained, the disappeared and the missing is essential to move closer towards sustainable peace.”
She called on all parties to “take meaningful steps to this end,” and urged member states to support the establishment of a body dedicated to clarifying the fate of the missing.