Secretary-General António Guterres Calls Stronger Cooperation ‘Pivotal’ in Shared Mission to Prevent, Resolve Conflict
With Middle East crises occupying a significant portion of its agenda, the Security Council today expressed its intention to promote closer cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States in the fields of conflict early warning, prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and sustaining peace.
In a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2019/5) issued by Kuwait, Council President for June, the 15-member organ also encouraged the holding of an annual briefing by the League’s Secretary-General and an annual informal meeting between the Security Council and the Council of the League of Arab States.
Further to the statement, the Security Council encouraged consideration of the proposal by the League’s Council of Ministers to establish a consultative framework between the League and the United Nations to enhance collaboration in maintaining peace and security in the Arab region. It also emphasized the importance of intensifying coordination between their special envoys in addressing regional crises, with a view to reaching a more comprehensive understanding.
The Council also welcomed the upcoming opening of the United Nations liaison office at the League’s headquarters in Cairo this month, encouraging its maximum use by the secretariats of the two entities.
“From day one, I have prioritized cooperation with regional organizations to prevent conflict and sustain peace,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, stressing that stronger ties with the League is pivotal. Referring to numerous regional challenges — including in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Sudan and the Occupied Palestinian Territory — he said partnerships are essential to advance a global order based on international law.
The two organizations share a common mission, he said: to prevent and resolve conflict, act in a spirit of solidarity and work together to expand economic opportunity, advance respect for human rights and build political inclusion.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said security in the region is a prerequisite for international security, expressing the desire to establish a broad and solid platform for cooperation with the United Nations, similar to the Organization’s arrangements with other regional bodies. Welcoming the establishment of a United Nations liaison office at the League’s headquarters, he said the scope of cooperation should include early warning, mediation and post‑conflict peacebuilding. Stressing that the Council’s internal dynamics on crises in the Arab region provide no excuse for inaction, he said advancing partnership can help both organizations better discharge their duty to maintain peace and security.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates exchanged views on how regional organizations can offer front‑line defence for the United Nations’ conflict prevention and resolution efforts, with several advocating stronger cooperation with the League.
Kuwait’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said the goal of today’s meeting was to reaffirm the principles enshrined in Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter and help the Council seek peaceful solutions to conflicts in the Arab world. In 2012, the Council adopted a presidential statement in support of the League’s contribution to collective efforts to peacefully settle conflicts in the Middle East. However, the level of cooperation has failed to match expectation, with a number of Arab issues remaining on the Council’s agenda.
Poland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said he sees added value in stronger cooperation between the United Nations and the League. Mediation to manage crises requires strong commitment, including from regional organizations, he said, stressing that only by working together can States enhance their capacity to prevent crises.
“Neighbours know best,” said Indonesia’s delegate, underlining the importance for the United Nations to cooperate with regional and subregional organizations. “The League of Arab States is best placed to envision conflict‑specific solutions,” given its unique knowledge, he said, expressing support for regular briefings and informal meetings with the Council, as well as for the new liaison office in Cairo.
Equatorial Guinea’s delegate said the League’s specialized knowledge allows it to intelligently address the cultural components which have been factors in conflict. Recalling that most League members also belong to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) or the African Union, he urged it to work with other regional organizations, ensure coordination and avoid duplicating efforts.
Belgium’s delegate supported the idea of regular Council meetings with the League, as is already the case with the European Union and the African Union. Stressing the importance of joint analysis and early warning mechanisms, she welcomed the announcement of a United Nations liaison office in Cairo.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Dominican Republic, South Africa, United States, France, China, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Peru, Germany and Côte d’Ivoire.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, since his first day in office, he has prioritized cooperation with regional organizations to prevent conflict and sustain peace, because no single organization or country alone can address the world’s complex challenges. “Global problems require global solutions. That is why partnerships remain essential to maximize our impact on people’s lives and advance a global order based on international law,” he said, stressing that cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States is pivotal. The two organizations share a common mission: to prevent conflict, resolve disputes and act in a spirit of solidarity and unity, and work together to expand economic opportunity, advance respect for all human rights and build political inclusion.
Noting that there is an expectation from the peoples in the region and around the world for a new social contract for education, jobs, opportunities for young people, equality for women, respect for human rights and a fair share in national wealth, he said there is also the impulse for a more inclusive vision rooted in cooperation, respect and dignity. “Within the challenges facing the region lies the opportunity to build on the words and intentions of the charters of our two organizations for action that will bring real change to the peoples of the Arab world and beyond,” he said.
Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said the two organizations are collectively committed to the vision of two States, based on relevant United Nations resolutions, long-held principles, previous agreements and international law. In Syria, the support and active engagement of the international community, including Arab League members, will be essential to bring about an inclusive and credible political solution, based on Security Council resolution 2254 (2015) in its entirety, including the convening of a constitutional committee that is credible, inclusive and balanced. Regarding Libya, he expressed appreciation to the League for its continued support to the efforts of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and his Special Representative there, including through the Libya Quartet. There is no military solution, he said, stressing the need to work towards a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table.
Iraq needs continued, sustained support from the region and the international community to help rebuild the country and overcome the trauma and impact of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said. Iraq’s Arab neighbours have a critical role to play. The League is vital in supporting Lebanon’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. In Yemen, every effort is being made to address the extraordinary suffering on the ground in what remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In Somalia, the international community must remain united to support political progress and the development of security institutions. The League is a key partner — both as an organization and through its individual members — for political support and economic development. Sudan is going through a delicate transition. The United Nations is working with regional partners, especially the African Union, in supporting this process with the objective of enabling the Sudanese parties to reach agreement on an inclusive, civilian-led transitional authority.
The United Nations’ engagement with the League includes biennial General Cooperation meetings, sectoral meetings, capacity-building exercises and staff exchanges, he said, announcing that the Organization’s liaison office at the League’s headquarters in Cairo will become operational this month. He said he fully expects this liaison office, the first funded by the United Nations regular budget, will improve the effectiveness of cooperation between the two organizations. “I intend to continue this fruitful engagement and deepen our collaboration to advance the vision set out in the United Nations Charter, in the interest of the peoples we collectively serve,” he concluded.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said the Arab region is rife with conflicts and deep crises, some difficult to resolve, but all having a negative impact on generations of Arab people. Most are on the Council’s agenda, but in some cases, the Council has regrettably failed to adopt a clear position on them. After nine years, there is still no political solution in sight in Syria. The people of Yemen are victims of a humanitarian crisis attributable to an outlaw faction. Military hostilities in Libya threaten its social fabric and unity. In Somalia, the League is working with others to solidify stability and restore peace in the Horn of Africa. He added that he could not neglect the centrality of the Palestinian question in the minds and conscience of the Arab people. Israel’s ongoing occupation fuels radicalization in the Middle East and beyond, he said, emphasizing that the region will never enjoy stability without an end to the occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian State and a just resolution to the conflict with Israel.
He added that Arab countries are facing unprecedented regional and international interferences that challenge State authority, alongside the growing threat of terrorist groups. Worrying developments include the targeting of oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf on 12 June and ballistic missiles fired into the heart of Saudi Arabia two days ago. Such dangerous developments must compel the Council to act against those responsible. He underscored the League’s determination to play a more robust rule in maintaining international peace and security and defending the security of its member States, always in line with the Charter of the United Nations and international law. That was reflected in the League’s special summit in May where its leaders condemned attacks on Saudi oil installations and on vessels off the United Arab Emirates, and also expressed solidarity vis-à-vis Iran. Maintaining security in the Arab region is a prerequisite for international security and threats will entail serious consequences, he warned. Subversive activities are no longer acceptable and taking cover behind proxies is a tactic rejected by all.
He went on to discuss the League’s desire to establish a broad and solid platform for cooperation with the United Nations, similar to arrangements that the Organization has with other regional bodies. Fruitful cooperation between the League and the Council should be underpinned by permanent arrangements for the frank exchange of information. There is a parallel need to advance the level of coordination between the League and the Special Representatives and Special Envoys of the Secretary-General active in the region. He welcomed the establishment of a United Nations liaison office in Cairo, where the League has its headquarters. The cooperation that the League aspires to have with the Council and United Nations agencies should include, among other things, early warning, mediation and post-conflict peacebuilding efforts. The League also welcomes institutional support from the Organization that would help strengthen its capabilities.
He went on to warn against the dangers of maintaining the status quo regarding the Palestinian situation, especially given Israel’s continuing oppressive practices and attempts to legitimize the occupation while casting doubt on the just cause of Palestinian refugees. Warning against attempts to resolve the Palestinian question outside the framework of international law, or creating alternative economic or development tracks, he called on the Council to assume its responsibilities without selectivity or double standards, afford protection to the Palestinian people and compel Israel to uphold its obligations. The League is aware of the Council’s internal dynamics, or lack thereof, vis-à-vis the many conflicts and crises in the Arab region, and it is confident it appreciates the complications within the Arab system. But, that is no excuse for inaction or an abdication of the Council’s obligation to uphold international law. Advancing partnership can help both organizations to assume their responsibilities and better discharge their duty to maintain peace and security, in the letter and spirit of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter.
SABAH KHALED AL-HAMAD AL-SABAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait and Council President for June, speaking in his national capacity, said that the goal of his delegation’s initiative to convene today’s meeting was to reaffirm the principles regarding regional arrangements enshrined in Chapter VIII of the Charter. This would help the Council in its search for peaceful solutions to the conflicts in the Arab world. The meeting, the first of its kind, is a beginning of a new partnership between the United Nations and the Arab League, whose ties go back to the 1950s. He particularly welcomed the upcoming opening of the United Nations liaison office in Cairo later this month, which is expected to make cooperation between the two organizations more effective. In 2012, the Council adopted a presidential statement in support of the League’s contribution to collective efforts to peacefully settle conflicts in the Middle East. However, the level of cooperation has failed to match the level of expectation. A number of Arab issues remain on the Council’s agenda. On a positive note, the two organizations held their first consultative meeting at the level of permanent representatives and discussed common interests, he said, expressing hope that such meetings will continue into the future. As an outcome of today’s meeting, his delegation will issue a presidential statement to carry this agenda forward.
JACEK CZAPUTOWICZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that he recently visited the League’s headquarters in Cairo and learned about regional attitudes towards development. Poland sees added value in stronger cooperation between the United Nations and the League. Today’s debate is timely as the Arab world faces numerous challenges, among them terrorism, radicalization, climate change and multiple humanitarian concerns. Their suffering must end and stability must be brought to the region. Recognizing the need for greater synergy of efforts by regional and subregional organizations, he highlighted the role of other regional organizations, such as the African Union and the European Union, as well as other important contributors, like the United States. Mediation to manage crises requires strong commitment, including from regional organizations. Only by working together, can States enhance their capacity to prevent crises. Highlighting the convening of a Middle East security conference in Warsaw, he stressed the need for greater cohesion among major stakeholders, including the United States. Poland sees benefit in enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and the League to a new level and welcomes the upcoming opening of the former’s liaison office in Cairo.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) said that the best results are achieved through cooperation and inclusive dialogue. The Middle East faces major challenges that represent a significant portion of the Council’s agenda, including the Israel-Palestine issue and the situation in Syria. His delegation values contributions from regional organizations, including on water, human rights, sexual violence, migration and counter-terrorism. His Government supports the holding of regular meetings and coordinated action between the two organizations and welcomes the opening of the United Nations liaison office in Cairo. His delegation was encouraged by today’s meeting and urges effective follow-up towards greater collaboration in the future.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said cooperation between global and regional bodies is critical to deeply understanding regional challenges. For example, collaboration between the Security Council and African Union has been useful in finding common ground on peace and security issues in Africa. Welcoming improved and increased cooperation between the United Nations and League of Arab States, he said that a better relationship would help deal with conflicts in the Arab region. In working with the League, the Council should be consistent and not selectively cooperate on matters that serve only the national interests of some of its members. “The underlying causes of uprisings and long-standing conflicts have to be addressed in a coordinated manner,” he added. Turning to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, he pointed out that the League is “not even included as a member of the Middle East Quartet”. He urged the Council to consistently make use of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said his country supports continued cooperation between the League and the United Nations and appreciates the Organization for setting up a liaison office in Cairo. Thanking the League for its ongoing support for the Government in Yemen, he said the United States values its key support for the global coalition against ISIL/Da’esh. He also commended his country’s friends and allies in the League for not readmitting Syria or normalizing relations with the Assad regime in the absence of a political solution. Describing Iran as the most significant threat to regional peace and security, he welcomed the League’s statement on 31 May calling out that country for its behaviour. The United States is pressing the Iranian regime to end its role in regional conflicts and curtail its support for proxies, he said, emphasizing the need to confront Iran with a strong united front. Emphasizing that attacks on shipping by any party is unacceptable, he said with regard to the incidents of 12 June that the United States is providing assistance and continuing to assess the situation. Regarding the Palestinian question, he said his country will release its plan “when the time is right” and that it looks forward to discussing a more prosperous future for the Palestinians at the upcoming workshop in Bahrain.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the scope of political and security challenges in the Arab region justify dialogue and cooperation between the United Nations and the League. Underscoring the key role of regional institutions, he said the League’s work is more essential than ever when it comes to achieving consensus among Arab nations. Given a worrying rise of tensions in the Gulf, as demonstrated by the incident involving oil tankers in the Sea of Oman, he said restraint and de-escalation is more necessary than ever. The world cannot allow a major confrontation in the Gulf region, he said, stressing the need for regional dialogue. He welcomed Kuwait’s commitment to build bridges and keep channels of dialogue open, and underscored the fundamental importance of international law. Unilateral decisions that are incompatible with international law are doomed to failure and they weaken the international order. Reaffirming France’s commitment to the two-State solution, he said any efforts, including economic ones, must fall within the framework of Council resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), emphasizing that “neighbours know best”, underlined the importance of cooperation with regional and subregional organizations. In recent years, the League of Arab States has assumed a leading role in maintaining peace and security throughout its region, including by facilitating peaceful dispute settlement among its members. In addition, it has adopted a clear stance on conflicts and supported humanitarian action. “The League of Arab States is best placed to envision conflict-specific solutions,” given its unique knowledge, he said, expressing support for regular briefings and informal meetings with the Council, as well as for the new liaison office in Cairo. As tackling the causes of conflicts is imperative, he also voiced support for more economic and social development, strengthened information sharing, joint early warning efforts and a greater focus on prevention and mediation.
MA ZHAOXU (China) said his country supports deepening cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional groups. The League has long worked to promote peace and stability, helping to resolve hotspot issues. Making several proposals on cooperation between the two organizations, he said all parties must treat each other as equals, build a comprehensive security architecture and strengthen coordination in addressing hotspot issues. The United Nations should assist the League in enhancing its capability in such areas as conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The fight against terrorism and prevention of violent extremism must be pushed forward, with the League being an important partner in the implementation of the United Nations Global Strategy against Terrorism. He went on to recall a ministerial meeting in Beijing in 2018 during which the President of China announced a new era of cooperation with Arab States.
JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said he agreed with others that long‑term peace and prosperity is best achieved through coordinated efforts. Stronger cooperation will make it possible to confront urgent challenges that demand immediate international attention. He said the international community must support the demands of the Sudanese people for a better future. The United Kingdom utterly condemns the use of force on peaceful protesters and calls on those League members with influence in the Transitional Military Council to support African Union efforts leading to a swift transfer to civilian rule. Emphasizing that Council members cannot shirk their responsibilities with regards to Syria, he called for redoubled efforts towards negotiations. He reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to the two-State solution, called for all parties in Libya to commit to an immediate ceasefire, expressed support for the Special Envoy’s efforts in Yemen and voiced deep concern about reports of explosions and fires on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) expressed his support for the presidential statement prepared by Kuwait, stressing the need for Arab solutions to Arab problems. He said his delegation shared many assessments voiced in today’s briefings. Middle East issues are as important as those in Africa in the Council’s work. Foreign intervention in domestic affairs have led to crises in Syria and Libya. Efforts to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict have been undermined by unilateral moves. These numerous challenges point to the increasing relevance of the League in finding solutions. His delegation supports stronger cooperation between the United Nations and the League, including the establishment of a security architecture in the Persian Gulf. The international community must fully leverage the potential of cooperation between the United Nations and the League. The Russian Federation will also continue to strengthen its relations with the latter.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) welcomed the convening of today’s meeting, but expressed regret that regional crises persist, including in Syria, Yemen and Libya. It is important to strengthen multilateralism and cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, which can complement each other using their comparative advantages. Underscoring the role of the League in promoting stability in the Middle East, he called for more efforts to promote this association and welcomed the opening of the United Nations liaison office in Cairo. His delegation also welcomed the proposal to establish a consultative framework between the League and the United Nations to enhance collaboration in maintaining peace and security in the Arab region. Stronger cooperation is needed in civilian protection. The two organizations must pool their efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) recalled that, in 2012, his delegation chaired the Council and took up the issue of closer cooperation between the League and the United Nations to help resolve protracted conflicts in the Middle East. Greater cooperation between the two organizations can help prevent crises and address many other challenges. The conflict in Syria must be resolved based on Security Council resolution 2254 (2015). Turning to the most recent security incident in the Gulf of Oman, he said it constituted a serious threat to maritime traffic and added to existing tensions in the region. The long list of challenges points to the urgency with which the Council must respond. The League can provide a framework to overcome existing tensions, including in human rights protection and promotion, as his delegation stressed in its 2012 presidential statement. Highlighting the strategic European Union-Arab League partnership, he also expressed support for stronger United Nations-Arab League ties.
KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) said a regional approach to resolving disputes is essential to ensure better ownership of peace processes. Cooperation between organizations should be promoted. Given the complexity of today’s challenges, cooperation between the United Nations and the League should be strengthened, he said, welcoming that the presidential statement to be adopted at the end of today’s meeting will reaffirm that belief. Recalling a report of the Secretary‑General in 2018 that emphasized the Organization’s readiness to help the League build its conflict prevention and mediation capacity, he said support should also extend to development efforts that address the root causes of conflict. Côte d’Ivoire believes in the ability of the region, with its cultural riches and its resources, to achieve peace, and cooperation between the United Nations and the League is essential in that regard.
NARCISO SIPACO RIBALA (Equatorial Guinea), condemning the 12 June attacks on oil tankers, said his country is part of a region that puts high value on mechanisms which enable the United Nations and other organizations to address peace and security challenges together. The League has special knowledge that makes it possible to intelligently address many of the cultural components which have been factors in conflict. Recalling that most League members also belong to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) or the African Union, he urged the League to work with other regional organizations, ensure coordination and avoid duplicating efforts.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) said regional cooperation is a pillar of her country’s foreign policy, adding that the European Union met with the League earlier this year. The Arab world faces many challenges ranging from conflict to the preservation and management of water resources. Noting the serious incident in the Gulf of Oman and citing the League’s support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the two-State solution, she said the region is stronger when it speaks with one voice. Belgium supports the idea of regular Council meetings with the League, as is already the case with the European Union and the African Union. Stressing the importance of joint analysis and early warning mechanisms, she welcomed the announcement of the opening of a United Nations liaison office in Cairo, adding that cooperation should be guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, respect for human rights and significant participation by women and young people.