Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, Maria Luiza Viotti, said on Tuesday that “restraint and genuine dialogue are urgently needed”, in order to avoid a major confrontation, which would have disastrous consequences, even well beyond the region.
Describing the situation in the Middle East as “troubling and complex”, and characterized by protracted conflicts and geopolitical tensions, Ms. Viotti referred specifically to the series of recent incidents in the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, which include the diversion of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iran, the destruction of both US and Iranian drones, and the UK decision to provide a naval escort for tankers.
Tensions in the Strait have been raised to dangerous levels, she said, adding that the rights and duties related to navigation must be respected in accordance with international law.
Ms. Viotti also reiterated the United Nations’ support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), frequently referred to as the Iran nuclear deal which, she said, remains “the only agreed international framework to address Iran’s nuclear programme.”
A just Israel-Palestine ‘essential for the future of the whole region’
Turning to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the longest standing issue on the UN peace and security agenda, Ms. Viotti said that a just solution, acceptable to both sides, is essential for the future of the whole Middle East region.
The Under Secretary-General underscored the readiness of the UN to support efforts towards a two-State solution, which would allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in two democratic states side by side, in peace, and within secure and internationally-recognized borders.
2030 Agenda ‘intrinsically linked’ to conflict resolution
Putting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the UN’s blueprint to preserve the planet, and raise quality of life for all – into action as soon as possible, said Ms, Viotti, is intrinsically linked to conflict resolution and prevention.
Singling out gender equality, the UN official said that, whilst there have been some notable gains in the region in recent years, equal opportunities remain limited, with gender-based violence widespread.
Ms. Viotti concluded by laying out the many ways in which the UN is addressing the numerous challenges in the Middle East, such as preventive diplomacy and mediation, providing humanitarian assistance, and supporting sustainable development initiatives.
US, Iran, trade accusations
Addressing the meeting on behalf of the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that greater cooperation in the Middle East “is needed more than ever”. You can find a full account of his address, and other Member States’ contributions, here, from our UN Meetings Coverage team.
Iran nuclear deal: a summary
- What is the Iran nuclear deal? The 2015 “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” (JCPOA), sets out rules for monitoring Iran’s nuclear programme, and paves the way for the lifting of UN sanctions.
- Which countries are involved? Iran, the five members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, UK, US), plus Germany, together with the European Union.
- What is the UN’s involvement? A UN Security Council resolution to ensure the enforcement of the JCPOA, and guarantee that the UN’s atomic energy agency, the IAEA, continues to have regular access to and more information on Iran’s nuclear programme, was adopted in 2015.
- Why is the deal at risk? The current US Administration pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions. In July 2019, Iran reportedly breached its uranium stockpile limit, and announced its intention to continue enriching uranium, posing a more serious proliferation risk.