26 September 2012
Security Council
SC/10775

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6841st Meeting (PM)


Security Council Presidential Statement Strongly Supports Arab League Contribution


To Collective Efforts for Peaceful Settlement of Middle East Conflicts


Israeli-Palestinian Question Remains Central

Despite Transformations in Arab World, Ministers Tell High-Level Meeting


The Security Council voiced its strong support today for the contribution of the League of Arab States to collective efforts for the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the Middle East, and welcomed the intensification of its cooperation with the United Nations in the wake of recent transformations, during a high-level meeting on peace and security in the region.


A presidential statement read out by Guido Westerwelle, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said:  “The Security Council welcomes the intensifying cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States in the wake of these transformations which reflect the legitimate aspiration of all peoples in the region of freedom, political participation and economic and social well-being in a pluralistic society.”


Reaffirming its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, the 15-member body reiterated its strong commitment to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, and to seeking a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  It also reaffirmed the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative, and expressed its determination to further enhance cooperation between the United Nations and the League.


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Council’s discussions, especially in a time of inspirational change when old orders had crumbled and new ones were struggling to emerge.  He urged the League and the Council to explore a range of areas for collaboration, reminding Council members that, at the present tumultuous time, people were looking to the two organizations to be on their side in the fight for justice and dignity.  “Our relationship need not be limited to action on immediate crises,” he said, underlining the importance of ensuring the success of the transitions that had been set in motion.


Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby agreed.  “Dealing with the region cannot be limited to a region of conflict and threats,” he said, adding:  ”The challenges in the region are not just military.”  Expressing regret that Council resolutions on Palestine had been adopted for more than six decades without being implemented, he stressed that a just and durable solution would only be achieved through their complete and faithful implementation.  Also disappointed with the Council’s inaction on the Syrian crisis, he warned that further complacency would see the situation spiral into a catastrophe.


When the floor opened for discussion, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States, said democracies made the most capable partners, adding that those emerging in the Middle East and North America democracies should be a cause for great satisfaction and hope.  They needed champions, not fair-weather friends, she said.


Summing up a common theme, William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, said history had shown that Governments that drew their legitimacy from the consent of their peoples were best placed to deliver lasting peace.  The Arab Spring was a huge opportunity to build peace and prosperity for the region and the world, he emphasized.


Laurent Fabius, France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressed shock at the Council’s inability to act on the Syrian crisis, cautioning that if that situation continued there was a high risk that the country would explode, “quite literally”, and be left vulnerable for extremism to take hold.  “What the world is asking us for is to be up to the job and provide a response to this,” he said.


Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa’s Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, said the Council should be consistent in its collaboration with the League, rather than cooperating selectively on issues that served the national interests of its members.  The underlying causes of uprisings, including long-standing conflicts, must be addressed in a coordinated manner, she stressed, pointing out, however, that she had not seen such coordination on the Middle East.


Council members also voiced overwhelming support for the League’s leading role in addressing some of the region’s most delicate challenges, and expressed outrage over a number of issues, including the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, recent anti-Muslim actions, the violent reaction to them, including attacks on diplomatic missions, and the escalating violence in Syria.


“It is necessary to put a barrier in the way of those who insult the feelings of the believers and set people of different religions against each other,” said Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.  “It is equally unacceptable to respond to provocations with terror, which cannot have any justification, especially when diplomats and United Nations personnel are attacked.”


Many speakers said the spotlight on the Arab Spring should not bypass the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Yang Jiechi, China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, encapsulated many such views when he said the question of Palestine remained at the core of regional tensions, and that re-launching direct peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinian sides was essential.


Also speaking today were the Foreign Ministers of Morocco, Guatemala, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Togo, India, Pakistan and Portugal.


The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 5:40 p.m.


Presidential Statement


The full text of Presidential Statement S/2012/20 reads as follows:


“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.


“The Security Council reiterates that cooperation with regional and subregional organizations in matters relating to the maintenance of peace and security and consistent with Chapter VIII of the Charter, can improve collective security.


“The Security Council recalls all its previous resolutions and statements of its President which underscore the importance of developing effective partnerships between the United Nations and regional organizations in accordance with the Charter and the relevant statutes of regional and subregional organizations.


“The Security Council expresses its appreciation for the briefings of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby.


“The Security Council recognizes and further encourages efforts by the League of Arab States to contribute to collective endeavours to settle conflicts in the Middle Eastpeacefully, as well as to promoting international responses to the transformations experienced in the region, while reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of regional countries and to the purposes and principles of the Charter.


“The Security Council welcomes the intensifying cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States in the wake of these transformations which reflect the legitimate aspirations of all peoples in the region for freedom, political participation and economic and social well-being in a pluralistic society.


“The Security Council reiterates its commitment to a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to seek a comprehensive resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and reaffirms the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative.  The Security Council also recalls its previous relevant resolutions.


“The Security Council, recalling its resolutions 2042 (2012) and 2043 (2012), welcomes the appointment of the Joint Special Representative for Syria of the United Nations and the League of Arab States as an important step forward in the cooperation between both organizations and expresses its support for his efforts in continuing the Secretary-General’s good offices in this regard.


“The Security Council commends the members of the League of Arab States for their ongoing commitment to international peacekeeping and peacebuilding, including through the contribution of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.


“The Security Council takes note of the general meeting on cooperation between the Secretariats of the United Nations and the League of Arab States and their specialized organizations, held in Vienna from 10-12 July 2012.


“The Security Council acknowledges the intention expressed by representatives of both organizations to cooperate across a broad agenda of mutual concern, formulating adequate joint responses, where appropriate, to humanitarian crises, promoting human rights, freedom of expression, food security, environment protection, and the fight against terrorism and the illicit trafficking of drugs and arms, while reiterating the need to ensure that all UN efforts to restore peace and security also respect and promote the rule of law.


“The Security Council recalls its press statements of 12 and 14 September regarding recent attacks on diplomatic personnel and premises and reaffirms that such acts are unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed.  The Security Council stresses the importance of respect and understanding for religious and cultural diversity throughout the world.  The Security Council underlines the common commitment of both the United Nations and the League of Arab States to foster a global dialogue for the promotion of tolerance and peace, and calls for enhanced cooperation in light of recent events to promote better understanding across countries, cultures and civilizations.


“The Security Council recognizes the importance of strengthening cooperation on capacity-building with the League of Arab States in the maintenance of international peace and security.


“The Security Council expresses its determination to take effective steps to further enhance cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, in accordance with Chapter VIII of the Charter.


“The Security Council requests the Secretary-General to report, as appropriate, on further ways of strengthening institutional relations and cooperation between the two organizations.”


Background


The Security Council had before it a letter dated 6 September 2012 from the Permanent Representative of Germany addressed to the Secretary-General (document S/2012/686), which contains the concept paper for the high-level meeting on peace and security in the Middle East.


Outlining recent developments in the region, the paper highlights common challenges facing the Council and the League of Arab States, including the situations in Libya, Yemen and Syria, in addition to the Israeli-Palestinian question.  It states that the legitimate aspirations of the region’s peoples to greater democracy, economic freedom and human rights engender new opportunities and responsibilities for both the Council and the Arab League.


The paper recognizes that in meeting those challenges, the League has assumed a leading unifying role with regard to regional peace and security, and has become the key interlocutor between the region and the world.  The Council should work with the League in exerting a positive influence on regional processes in order to prevent them from degenerating into disputes.  The paper invites participants in today’s meeting to explore the strategic aspects of cooperation between the two organizations.


Statements


Council President GUIDO WESTERWELLE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said dramatic changes had taken place in the Middle East since his country’s assumption of the presidency at the beginning of the month.  Referring to talk of the Arab Spring, he said “we would be better to speak of Arab seasons”, since the movement for change had not followed the same pattern in each country, yet the process of change continued.  Regarding the turmoil that had unfolded recently in response to a video, he said that, while he could understand that believers had been deeply offended, there was no justification for violence and murder.  “We are seeing not a confrontation of religions, but rather a clash within societies,” he said, adding that it was between the open-minded and the closed-minded, the reasonable and the fundamentalist.


Speaking in his national capacity, he said freedom and responsibility were two sides of the same coin, adding that, more than ever, his country stood with those working for peace.  Germany believed in the historic opportunities that changes in the Arab world were opening, and its offer to help provide jobs and growth still stood.  The Arab League had assumed the lead role on regional peace and security, having taken a clear stance on the situations in Syria and Libya.  The international community must unite to stop the violence and help initiate a political transition process, he said, expressing Germany’s appreciation of the League’s leadership in efforts to halt the killing in Syria.


The unfolding changes had made the need for peace more urgent, he said, emphasizing that negotiations were the way to achieve a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  States must ensure that the peace process remained an international priority by endorsing the Saudi peace initiative.  The Arab League had made an offer of critical importance, and its commitment to the United Nations Charter was a basis for greater cooperation, he said, urging a focus on conflict prevention and solutions.  “We need practical progress,” he added, suggesting more frequent briefings by League representatives.  He also welcomed the idea of a United Nations office in Cairo to improve the regional body’s cooperation with the United Nations.


BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the Council was meeting at a time of inspirational change in the Middle East and North Africa.  Old orders had crumbled and new ones were struggling to emerge.  It was also a time of violence, with the peace process stalemated and the window for a two-State solution having narrowed.  The Arab Peace Initiative was an important part of the framework for achieving a long-overdue agreement, he said, adding that he was counting on the League to provide financial support for the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and urging its member States to do more in that regard.


Turning to Syria, he said the conflict there threatened regional and international peace and security, and a human tragedy was unfolding, both in full view and under the rubble of entire neighbourhoods.  All actors with influence should underscore that there was no military solution to the situation, he said, noting that tensions had been further inflamed over nuclear issues.  The Council should insist on peaceful solutions that respected the Charter and international law, he said, recalling, in addition, that a recent act of hatred towards one religion had sparked violence.


Against that backdrop, he welcomed today’s discussion, saying that Chapter VIII of the Charter provided vast opportunities for regional organizations, and that the Council recognized their vital role in enhancing peace and stability.  For its part, the League had acquired a new sense of purpose, having been among the first to acknowledge the roots of the Tunisian revolution in social disparities, and to condemn atrocities by the former Libyan regime.  Together, the United Nations and the Arab League had helped ensure the transparency of elections in both countries.


He went on to point out that League members had served in the Military Observer Mission in Syria, and that the two organizations had jointly appointed a Special Representative to seek a political solution in that country.  “These mediation efforts need support from the Council,” he stressed, outlining four areas for continued focus and underlining the need first to improve the exchange of information.  First, dialogue between the two Secretariats must be focused and frequent, he said, citing a proposal to place the Office of the Joint Special Representative in Cairo.  Second, conflict prevention should be at the centre of the agenda, he said, adding that the United Nations continued to strengthen its ability to act early.


The two bodies should also explore other areas for collaboration, as the Middle East held potential for sustainable energy, he continued.  “Our relationship need not be limited to action on immediate crises.”  Finally, he underlined the importance of ensuring the success of the transitions that had been set in motion.  Outsiders could share their experiences, but the major work must be done by — and in — each society.  At the present tumultuous time, people were looking to the two organizations to be on their side in the fight for justice and dignity, he said.


NABIL ELARABY, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said there was a clear need for dialogue between the League and the Council, noting that the latter’s non-implementation of resolutions was a source of tensions, both regionally and internationally.  Council resolutions on Palestine had been adopted for more than six decades without being implemented, he added, stressing that a just and durable solution would only be achieved through their complete and faithful implementation.  It was time to review the calculations upon which those issues were tackled, on the basis of conflict management rather than conflict resolution.  That would require avoiding double standards, he said, pointing out that besides two resolutions adopted in the 1940s, more than 200 had been adopted without reference to Chapter 7 of the Charter, on action with respect to threats to peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.


Turning to Syria, he said that serious and tragic situation was causing increasing numbers of deaths, sounding a warning that the crisis would soon become a catastrophe.  The Council had been called upon to maintain international peace and security by implementing the plan set out by former Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan, and to lay the foundation for the beginning of a democratic Syria.  The first step was to stop the bloodshed, yet the Council had failed to achieve that objective due to disagreement, and the killing continued unabated, he said, emphasizing that the Council must strongly support Lakhdar Brahimi in his role as Joint Special Representative.


As for the recent violence over the anti-Islam film, he rejected the violent reactions, condemning the attacks on foreign diplomatic premises and the consequent deaths.  Offending religion and faith was a threat to security, he said, adding that while freedom of expression must be respected, it had no relation with incitement to hatred and violence.  The League called for an international legal framework to confront insults to religion and ensure respect for faiths and their symbols.  “We must work together towards a dialogue that increases understanding between cultures and civilizations and encourages tolerance,” he said.


Concerning other challenges for the League and the Council, he said there was a need for reconstruction in Yemen and Libya, as well for rebuilding the State.  In Somalia, the League was pleased that the stage had been set for the creation of permanent institutions.  As for Sudan and South Sudan, he said tensions should not be allowed to return between them, noting that the League, alongside the African Union and with the Council’s support, was addressing the crisis in Blue Nile and South Kordofan States.  As for disarmament, he said the upcoming Helsinki meeting on establishing a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East required the Council’s full support.


“Dealing with the region cannot be limited to conflicts and threats,” he said.  “It could also be a region of hope.  The challenges in the region are not just military.”  Addressing all those issues required greater cooperation with the Council, he said, before listing a number of proposals, including one recommending regular meetings between the League and the Council.  He also proposed raising the status of the cooperation meetings between the two organizations, so they could institute truly implementable programmes.  Hopefully, the Middle East would turn from a region of conflict and crisis into one of security and stability that could return to its historic status as a source of knowledge and a beacon of human civilization, he said.


SAAD-EDDINE EL OTHMANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco, said the region was the cradle of civilization and had enriched human heritage.  At the centre of the current situation, however, the Palestinian issue was a source of continuing tension as Israel’s intransigence made a solution to the conflict impossible.  It was essential to understand the claims and aspirations of people in the region wishing to exercise their rights, he said, adding that the Palestinian question needed more attention now than ever before.  Unfortunately Israel continued its systematic defiance of resolutions, including on its settlement-construction policy, which was a major obstacle to the peace process.  The international community’s response had not ended Palestinian suffering, and despite efforts to move towards peace, the settlement-building continued, he said.


Urging the international community to take prompt action to protect the cultural heritage of Jerusalem, he also cited Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip and other violations, calling upon that country to respect international agreements.  As for Syria, he condemned the regime’s violence against civilians, saying it must end so that a political process could begin with the aim of achieving the aspirations of Syrians without foreign military intervention.  There was a dire need for a settlement, he emphasized.  The region faced many other challenges to which the Council must respond.  “There is no doubt that acts which do harm to Islam and any kind of disdain for religion and incitement of hatred takes us further away from dialogue,” he said, condemning the attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, in which three people had been killed.  “Cooperation between the League and the United Nations is very important and we hope this cooperation will develop and become more in-depth.”


LAURENT FABIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said hope remained in the region two years after the Arab Spring.  However, there was concern today that certain groups were attempting to bring about a confrontation between Islam and the West.  Faced with such challenges, the world must be united.  “We are on the same side as the Arab world to give hope to the young people,” he said.  “We must show solidarity with the best parts of these movements and we must have high expectations.”  However, it was shocking that the Council had been unable to act on Syria, he said.  If the situation continued, there was a high risk that the country would “explode, quite literally”, in which case there would be no solution to the situation.


At the same time, there was also a risk that extremism would take hold, he warned, pointing out that extremist groups had crossed into Syrian territory.  He said he did not know anyone in the Council who would support President Bashar al-Assad in the long-term, yet he was still there.  “What the world is asking us for is to be up to the job and provide a response to this.”  France had been helping, including by sending humanitarian aid, he said.  Finally, he said he wished to see a resumption of talks on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, pointing out, however, that the problem was getting the parties to agree.  Today, given developments on the ground, the search for a solution may be endangered, he warned, again praising the League on its efforts to solve that crisis.  There could be no lasting peace without justice, he reiterated.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Secretary of State of the United States, said today’s meeting followed two weeks of violent protests that had rocked the region, exploiting deep rifts in the new democracies.  Rejecting the “false choice” between democracy and stability, she said democracies made the most capable partners, and the emerging democracies should be a cause for great satisfaction and hope.  They needed champions, not fair-weather friends.  She recalled that, in her meetings with the leaders of Libya, Yemen and others this week, she had expressed her country’s support for their respective journeys on the democratic path.  Security concerns must be the starting point on that road, and the nations gathered today had a stake in seeing the new democracies succeed, she said, adding that they had a duty to help the latter find the way forward.


In Tunisia, extremists sought to hijack progress, but people were working to lay the foundation for sustainable democracy, she said, adding that political will was needed to build strong institutions.  The United States was also committed to helping the Egyptian transition succeed.  Emphasizing that the choices of the largest Arab nation would echo far beyond its borders, she said Egypt had responsibilities to its people, and its neighbours, to share power broadly and to keep the faith with all Egyptians.  On Yemen, the United States was working through the Gulf Cooperation Council transition process, she said.  Providing security was a great challenge as Yemen had a fast-growing young population and faced the depletion of its oil and water supplies, as well as threats from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which must be met with an urgent response.


Turning to Syria, she said her country had committed more than $100 million to help its people.  There must be an end to the violence, and a move towards a transition that would not include President Assad.  The Arab League had condemned the violence and created a plan for a peaceful political transition that had been passed in the General Assembly, yet, the Council remained paralysed, she said, calling for a unified path forward.  The future of Israel and the Palestinians must belong to those who embraced peace, she stressed, noting that the United States was ready to work towards a just agreement on a secure State of Israel and an independent, prosperous State of Palestine.   As for Iran, it had neither cooperated fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nor resolved doubts about its nuclear programme.  It sponsored terrorism while the Iranian people suffered gross human rights violations at the hands of their own Government.  Cooperation between the Security Council and the Arab League must be more sustainable, she said, pledging that the United States would not walk away from the new democracies.


MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, noted that the Charter recognized the complementary role played by the United Nations and regional organizations.  While noting that political and strategic cooperation had been effective in Somalia and Sudan, she called for enhanced and more structured coordination, in line with Council resolution 2033 (2012).  Cooperation between regional organizations, such as the Arab League and the African Union, was equally important, she said, adding that she looked forward to the ministerial meeting between the latter’s Peace and Security Council and the former’s Peace and Security Council, on 27 September.


The Arab League was best placed to provide context-specific solutions to conflicts in the Middle East, she said, emphasizing that the United Nations must strengthen its engagement with the regional body and applauding the appointment of the new Joint Special Representative.  The Council should be consistent in its collaboration with the League, rather than cooperating selectively on issues that served the national interests of its members.  The underlying causes of uprisings, including long-standing conflicts, must be addressed in a coordinated manner, she stressed, pointing out, however, that she had not seen such coordination on the Middle East.  Cooperation on the peace process had been most disappointing, she added.


While the League had consistently tried to find a solution, the Council had yet to provide meaningful support to its efforts, relying instead on the Middle East Quartet, the efficacy of which was being questioned, she pointed out.  South Africa regretted the Council’s failure to admit Palestine to the United Nations as a member, despite the League’s endorsement, and urged the revival of its bid, with international support.  The League was well-placed to ensure that Palestine’s cause became a priority for the Council.  Condemning the violence in Syria amid continuing division in the Council, she urged the Council and the League to exert pressure on all sides for an immediate end to the violence, the establishment of a ceasefire, and compliance with the six-point plan.  South Africa supported a Syrian-led and owned political process that would yield a democratic and pluralistic society, she said, emphasizing that any solution must also preserve Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.


SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said the Arab world was living through radical and painful transformations, and expressed special concern over attempts to instigate inter-ethnic and inter-religious discord on a global scale.  “It is necessary to put a barrier in the way of those who insult the feelings of the believers and set people of different religions against each other,” he said.  “It is equally unacceptable to respond to provocations with terror, which cannot have any justification, especially when diplomats and United Nations personnel are attacked.”


Change was caused by people’s aspirations for a better life, justice and a desire to realize their political rights and freedoms, goals that the Russian Federation shared and understood, he said.  Developments in the Middle East and North Africa confirmed once again the need to respect the key principles of the United Nations Charter, above all respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, non-interference in their domestic affairs and non-use or threat of force.  The path to a solid solution to current challenges would be based on dialogue and reconciliation, he stressed.


Turning to Syria, he condemned all perpetrators of violations against human rights, emphasizing, however, that a significant share of responsibility for the continuing bloodshed rested on States that had instigated President Assad’s opponents to reject a ceasefire and dialogue while at the same time demanding the regime’s unconditional capitulation.  The recent Geneva Communiqué and Kofi Annan’s six-point plan would form the basis for a solution, he said, noting that the former had been supported by a consensus among the Council’s permanent members.  The Russian Federation welcomed all efforts that would end the violence and open negotiations.


Noting that new forms of interaction between his country and the region had been established, he said they included the Russian-Arab Business Council, adding that the Russian Federation was promoting equitable and mutually respectful dialogue on the whole range of regional problems.  The Russian Federation agreed with the League in recognizing that, despite the range of challenges, there should be a search for a solution to long-standing Israeli-Palestinian issues, and the Quartet should begin talks.  Regarding the recent violence, he underlined the need to continue fighting terrorism, but stressed that new threats should be prevented, particularly the radicalization of the public mood, the instigation of inter-religious clashes, and growing trafficking in drugs and weapons.  On disarmament, he said his country had been enthusiastic about the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free Middle East and would actively support the upcoming conference.


HAROLD CABALLEROS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said his Government had spoken multiple times in the Council about peace and security in the Middle East, and its positions on Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lebanon, Yemen and the Arab Spring were well-known.  Guatemala had expressed concern over the risks of nuclear-related developments in some countries of the region and felt IAEA had an essential role in eliminating them.  Applauding ongoing changes in the Middle East, he said they stemmed from the grass roots and were in pursuit of such universal goals as liberty, justice and dignity.


Guatemala wished to see more democratic, tolerant societies in the Middle East for those nations that sought more democratic and inclusive governance, he said, noting that Latin America had seen that freely-elected Governments tended to resolve their differences peacefully and through negotiations.  Another lesson was that the intensity of potential conflict diminished as economies offered more opportunities.  Guatemala valued the role of regional and subregional organizations, as Latin America had benefited from them in forging a regional economic space and creating a basis for political union.  He expressed support for the alliances that the Council had built with regional entities in the Middle East and Africa.


YANG JIECHI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said the Middle East faced unprecedented challenges, including terrorism, as well as traditional and non-traditional security issues.  Peace and stability was a shared aspiration of those in the region, he said, urging the parties concerned to strike the right balance between reform, stability and development.  The Palestinian issue remained at the core of regional tensions, and it was essential to re-launch peace talks between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, he said, adding that Israel should take the first step.  China also supported Palestine’s efforts towards statehood.


Turning to Syria, he said the international community must stay on the right track towards a political solution.  All parties in Syria should honestly implement Security Council resolutions and the six-point plan, and put an immediate end to violence.  China was ready to join the rest of the international community in resolving the crisis in a peaceful way.  On Iran, he expressed opposition to the possession of nuclear weapons by any country in the region.  Dialogue and cooperation was the only way to address the Iran nuclear issue, and a diplomatic solution should be found, he added.


Emphasizing that peace, stability and development in the Middle East would not be possible without regional organizations, he pointed out that the Charter encouraged the peaceful settlement of disputes by regional bodies.  In that regard, the League and the United Nations must step up their cooperation towards the common end of peace in the Middle East, he said.  The two organizations should safeguard the interests of all people in the region and aim at maintaining peace.  Closer cooperation should follow a holistic approach, including economic plans for future development.


ELMAR MAMMADYAROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said the transformation in the region had yielded encouraging trends towards ensuring respect for human rights and guaranteeing economic and social well-being for all.  Still, there was an obvious need for in-depth analysis of the root causes and eventual implications of the complex regional and global security architecture.  The primary role in maintaining adequate international reaction lay with international and regional organizations, particularly the League and the Council.


Against the background of regional fragility that went hand in hand with current challenges, he continued, mutually reinforcing cooperation between the two had become ever more essential for maintaining peace and security and working out sound strategies for helping States in transition.  The international community must remain consistent in its efforts to facilitate solutions to regional crises and conflicts, on the basis of the norms and principles of international law and Security Council resolutions.  While recognizing the historic opportunities brought about by the recent waves of transition, long-standing security problems must not be forgotten, he cautioned.  All stakeholders in the Middle East should take courageous steps towards a just and lasting settlement of the peace process, which was long overdue.  He concluded by condemning the recent escalation provoked by blasphemy against Islam, as well as all assaults against religion.


WILLIAM HAGUE, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, noted that the Arab Spring had taken a different path in each country, and his Government respected the right of each to choose its own path to reform.  However, the United Kingdom would also stand up for its belief in the universality of human rights and freedoms that were at the heart of democracy.  History had shown that Governments that drew their legitimacy from their people’s consent were best placed to deliver lasting peace.  The Arab Spring was a huge opportunity to build peace and prosperity in the region and the world, he said, adding that, alongside inclusive national structures, peace relied on effective regional institutions.


He said the Arab League had shown resolve in its pursuit of regional peace and stability, having been decisive in its position on a no-fly zone in Libya, as well as leadership in working to resolve the Syrian crisis.  The decision to appoint a Joint Special Representative for Syria was a sign of the growing positive cooperation between the League and the United Nations, and the United Kingdom supported efforts to strengthen that relationship.  The Council had failed to address the crisis in Syria, a terrible indictment of which was its having allowed more than 22,000 people to die before a passing any resolution to stem the violence.  It was long past time for the Council to use its collective weight to initiate an end to the violence, he stressed.


Turning to the Middle East peace process, he expressed concern about Israel’s continuing settlement activity and urged a resumption of direct negotiations.  An eventual settlement should give the Palestinians the State they deserved and Israel the security it required.  Change in the Middle East and North Africa had been led by their peoples and it was not for others to impose their own vision, he emphasized, noting, however, that the international community could assist in peaceful reform.  The United Kingdom was working to strengthen economic participation, he said, urging collective action to ensure that freedoms and rights were protected, and that the United Nations was the bridge for such cooperation.


MARÍA ÁNGELA HOLGUÍN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Colombia, hailed the work of regional organizations in seeking solutions to situations on the Council’s agenda.  The Council must promote close cooperation with them, prioritizing strategies aimed at conflict prevention, mediation and good offices.  Regional organizations had unique access to key actors and exceptional knowledge of diverse situations, she said, emphasizing the importance of guaranteeing that their efforts complemented the work of the Council.  “Cooperation between the Security Council and the League of Arab States can and must be strengthened to face the security challenges in the Middle East,” she declared.


See said the Syrian crisis threatened regional peace, and deplored the Council’s inability to stop the violence and facilitate a peaceful solution.  It had failed to carry out its responsibilities, she reiterated, expressing concern about the flow of refugees into neighbouring countries.  Colombia recognized the efforts of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, which had taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in recent months.  Calling for a redoubling of efforts to find a political solution, she urged all parties in Syria immediately to cease fire and end the violence.  Regional countries had met in recent weeks, and it was to be hoped that they would find “paths of reflection and dialogue” to end the violence and prioritize protection of the Syrian people.  Through such dialogue, an effective response to the legitimate aspirations of all actors involved could be found.


ELLIOT OHIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Togo, said the seriousness of conflicts in the Middle East called for resources and stronger cooperation.  The League’s advantage was in bringing States together on issues under the Council’s remit.  Cooperation had taken shape in various ways during the Syrian crisis, when the League’s initiatives had enjoyed support from the United Nations, particularly the Council.  The appointment of a Joint Special Representative, following Joint Special Envoy Annan’s resignation, reflected the readiness of the two Secretaries-General to work together in seeking a solution to the Syrian crisis, he said, stressing that their cooperation should extend to other regional conflicts, in which the League’s actions had not been visible.


Indeed, the League should be involved in all Middle East crises, as it could suggest solutions that accounted for historic, cultural and sociological ties, he continued.  The two organizations should pool their efforts on Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, as well as on the “nagging” question of Palestine.  Applauding the Arab Peace Initiative, he urged the parties to implement it.  It was necessary to ensure the consistency of the cooperative actions of the League and the Council, especially vis-à-vis strengthening the climate of confidence.  Cooperation could also take place by strengthening the mechanism by which both evaluated their partnership.  Establishing a liaison office between the League and the United Nations would improve information exchange, he said.


RANJAN MATHAI, Foreign Secretary of India, said the Arab League, as the most important regional organization predating the United Nations, had a significant role in regional events.  Its cooperation with the United Nations had begun in the early 1950s, and both organizations had benefitted from the convergence of objectives in maintaining international peace and security.  Their enhanced institutional partnership in the fields of human development, capacity-building and the empowerment of women and youth had greatly benefitted countries in the region, and should be further enhanced to help them meet their peoples’ aspirations to play a greater role in shaping their own destiny.


He went on to emphasize that the Council’s cooperation with regional organizations should avoid selectivity, and that the goal of peaceful conflict resolution should determine the Council’s actions.  Both organizations should use all available diplomatic tools to help countries in transitioning to inclusive polities, while maintaining social cohesion.  As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said it could not be eclipsed by recent regional developments.  There could be no durable peace without a just, comprehensive settlement based on realizing the Palestinian right to a State with internationally recognized borders, living alongside Israel.  He urged the Council and the League urgently to facilitate the resumption of the peace process.


JALIL ABBAS JILANI, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, said his Government supported cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations on matters of peace and security, humanitarian assistance, development and human rights.  Regional bodies could play an important role in the peaceful settlement of disputes, as they understood better the complexities of each situation.  The Arab world was experiencing a period of uncertainty and reform, and as a vibrant democracy born out of struggle, Pakistan supported the legitimate aspirations of its peoples.  The decision for change should be channelled through peaceful means and led by the people themselves.  Coercive measures were seldom effective.  Dialogue must be maintained.


Palestinians were suffering under unlawful occupation and the Council must not remain silent about Israel’s defiance of the international will, notably its settlement policy and blockade of Gaza, he said.  Pressing the League to play its indisputable role in highlighting those injustices, he stressed that the Council must fully support its efforts, because without resolving such core issues, in line with Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, comprehensive peace would remain a “pipe dream”.  He condemned the release of a defamatory video as a disgraceful act meant to incite hatred against Muslims under the pretext of freedom of expression, and called for international measures, including legislation, against such actions, in line with human rights standards.


JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said there was no justification for violence against diplomatic missions, as had happened in Libya, and such actions must be condemned.  The Council should enhance its effectiveness by strengthening its partnerships with regional and subregional organizations, he said, adding that there were ample opportunities to do so with the Arab League in such areas as diplomacy, mediation, conflict resolution, or under Chapter VII of the Charter.  Cooperation between United Nations and the League could also expand into economic, social or humanitarian areas.


On Syria, he appealed to all sides to abide by international humanitarian law and respect human rights.  Further militarization of the conflict would threaten the country’s integrity and destabilize its neighbours, he cautioned, stressing that a political solution must be found.  The Joint Special Representative’s success of would depend on support from the Council and the League, which together must persuade the parties of the opportunity to end the violence.  To that end, the Council must sustain pressure on all sides, the Syrian authorities in particular, he said.


Turning to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said it would continue as long as the question of Palestine remained unresolved.  Existing instruments must be reviewed, replaced or adapted, he stressed, appealing to Israel to cease its settlement expansion.  He also pressed the Council and the League to renew their efforts to facilitate direct talks between the parties on the basis of Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.  Cooperation between the United Nations and the League could and should be deepened, he added.


Council President WESTERWELLE then read out the presidential statement (document S/PRST/2012/20).


Closing Remarks


The representative of Morocco thanked the President for his work on the presidential statement, saying it marked an additional milestone in strengthening relations between the United Nations and the Arab League.  Its last paragraph left the door open for further cooperation, he noted.


Mr. ELARABY voiced hope that the Council would consider basic matters rather than merely advancing “general statements”, stressing the importance of reaching the core of problems.  Resolving the Syria question hinged on building upon the agreements reached in Geneva on 30 June, he said, insisting:  “The Security Council has to act, and act according to Chapter VII.”  On Palestine, he said managing the conflict was no longer a solution, emphasizing:  “You have to end the conflict.”  The Quartet had pledged that something would happen by September, but nothing had happened, he noted, stressing that the Council must seize the matter.


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For information media • not an official record