Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for using all the tools available to the United Nations to help steer the Middle East and North Africa towards a path of freedom, safety and dignity, citing in particular the obligation of the international community to ensure a peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria and accountability for serious crimes committed there.
“Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen are our common concern, and their resolution is our shared responsibility,” Mr. Ban told a ministerial-level meeting of the Security Council on the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region.
He said the region is in the midst of some of the deadliest conflicts and worst humanitarian emergencies ever, with terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Al-Qaida affiliates “elevating the horror and complicating the search for solutions.”
While each is very different, the crises and conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen all expose similar horrors, Mr. Ban said.
“Syria has proven to be the most intractable,” he stated. “It has generated one peril after another: the use of chemical weapons, the rise of ISIL and other extremist groups, the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War and the displacement of 8 million people inside the country.”
He appealed to the Council to strongly support the efforts of his Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura, to promote a comprehensive and credible political transition based on the 2012 Geneva Communiqué, which sets out a clear roadmap for a democratic transition and remains the basis for any peaceful settlement.
Mr. Ban went on to note that conflicts, governance failures and systematic violations of human rights are affecting not only the Middle East and North Africa, but the world at large. “Women and girls are facing systematic brutality. Young people are having their futures taken away from them before they have barely had a chance to dream,” he noted.
“We must work together to stop this downward spiral, using all UN tools. The people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve our full support in meeting these tests and steering the region towards a path of freedom, safety and dignity for all.”
On the subject of terrorism, Mr. Ban said “it is not enough to counter terrorism; we must also prevent violent extremism, while taking care not to take steps that only breed the resentment and alienation on which violent extremism feeds.”
To that end, he said, the UN is working with partners to expand capacity-building assistance to Member States, including to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and to address the related ills of illicit drug-trafficking and cybercrime.
“During the course of this General Assembly, I will present to the Member States a comprehensive plan of action outlining ways we can work together in this endeavour,” he said.
Today’s Security Council meeting was chaired by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of Russia, who holds the rotating Council presidency for the month of September.