Salaaam aleikum. It is a great pleasure for me to visit Kuwait again. I thank the Emir, the Government and the people of Kuwait for their warm welcome and hospitality.
I am here for the second time this year to strengthen the partnership between the United Nations and Kuwait, and also to demonstrate my commitment to the normalization of the relationship between Kuwait and Iraq.
I have had very useful and productives meetings with the Emir, in the presence of his highness the Crown Prince and also the Prime Minister, and I have also just finished a constructive extra meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister over dinner.
I thanked the leadership of Kuwait for its continued support to the operations of the United Nations, including hosting the United Nations Kuwait Joint Support Office for the UN Missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will be officially opened on 10 December, and the provision of a state-of-the-art UN House for the UN country team working in Kuwait.
Kuwait is a respected member of the UN community of nations and an important contributor to our work in peace and security, and development and human rights and humanitarian assistance.
Kuwait is making a difference across the region and around the world. I especially commend its valuable activities through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Development and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
Thanks to these contributions, more workers are building roads, more communities are enjoying clean water and more children are in school.
As democracy advances across the region, I count on Kuwait to address the aspirations of the country’s people and advance towards greater openness and freedom for all.
Nurturing democratic institutions and protecting fundamental freedoms, including for women, youth and foreign workers, is essential to fostering sustainable development.
In this context, Kuwait’s recent Parliamentary elections demonstrated progress for women’s empowerment, with three female candidates elected to parliament. I commended this achievement in the field of women’s empowerment and expressed my hope that more women will come to play an important role in Kuwaiti society.
I strongly believe that elections in any country should be fully participatory and inclusive of all citizens. I encourage all to engage in inclusive dialogue and act in the best interests of the Kuwaiti people.
On relations between Kuwait and Iraq, I have been encouraged by recent progress, including the exchange of high-level visits and the holding of the second meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee.
Kuwait and Iraq are now on the path to normal, stable relations with each other and greater stability in the region.
I am committed to normalization and to ensuring that Iraq fulfils all of its outstanding international obligations regarding Kuwait as the Security Council has mandated.
There is an historic opportunity now. Tomorrow I will visit Iraq and share the same message I bring today: it is time to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two neighbours.
On Syria, I remain deeply concerned about the continuing conflict, which threatens to spill over and destabilize the region.
The Middle East peace process is also worrisome. I have appealed to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show the courage to return to meaningful negotiations that will resolve the core issues of the conflict and end the occupation that started in 1967.
Thank you very much. I will now take your questions.
Q: [two-part question in Arabic, concerning Lakhdar Brahimi’s diplomatic efforts on Syria and the UN’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.]
SG: Thank you. For your first question, on the situation in Syria, I fully share your concerns about the continuing violence and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Syria. This is not only your concern, but this is a concern of all the people in the world, particularly the people in Syria. The situation has been continuing during the last 21 months, killing more than 40,000 people. This is a totally unacceptable situation. We cannot let the situation continue like this. The Joint Special Representative, Dr. Lakhdar Brahimi, has been actively, very seriously engaged with the parties concerned, particularly with the members of the Security Council, countries in this region and key partners, key stakeholders on this situation. Unfortunately, the parties to this crisis, both the Syrian Government and the opposition parties, seem to be just continuing to believe that the military option may prevail. I again repeatedly say that the military option cannot be the solution to this. The violence must stop, first and foremost, immediately, without any condition. So many people have been killed. So many people have been displaced and are suffering from this humanitarian crisis. Therefore, I am urging again that the parties immediately stop the violence and those countries that may have influence on both parties should exert their utmost efforts to influence them to stop, and those countries that may be providing military equipment and other assistance should stop, so that this military operation cannot go on any further. On this basis, all the remaining problems should be resolved through political dialogue, through a political process reflecting and respecting the wishes and genuine aspirations of the Syrian people. This process must be Syrian-led and Syrian-owned. The UN and the League of Arab States Joint Special Representative will continue to fulfil his role and mandate as Joint Special Representative to make peace.
And I am also very much concerned about the humanitarian situation. About three million people have been displaced inside Syria and half a million people have become refugees in four neighbouring countries. Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, I am going to visit the refugee camps to send [a message about] the strong solidarity of the United Nations and the international community to those people who are suffering from this crisis and also try to raise the level of our support, humanitarian support. I have asked his highness the Emir and the Deputy Prime Minister to grant them generous humanitarian assistance. I have thanked his highness the Emir for his generous support to Syrian refugees, in the amount of $20 million. I would expect that the Kuwaiti Government would continue to provide such support. Again, this is a very serious crisis. We must stop this in the name of humanity and for those people.
On this question of Palestine, which has been granted non-Member observer status by the General Assembly on 29 [November], I think this is a very important development of the situation. At the same time, as the Secretary-General and as a member of the Quartet, I believe that, while this is an important elevation of their status, there is no alternative to the peaceful resolution of this process through dialogue. They have agreed on a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and security. That is the ultimate vision and goal: that we have to support their aspirations. At the same time, I have asked his highness the Emir and the Deputy Prime Minister and the leadership of Kuwait to support the Palestinian people, because they are suffering seriously from a lack of financial resources and other means of providing support to their own people. I am again very much grateful to many Arab countries, including Kuwait, who have been rendering such generous support. I wish that, with the empowerment of President Mahmoud Abbas as the leader of Palestine, they will be able to realize, as soon as possible, a viable and independent State. This is an aspiration long overdue and the United Nations will continue to work with the parties concerned to help them realise this dream. Thank you very much.
Q: I have two questions for you, your Excellency. What about UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]? Why is it not active in our region here? It is active all over the world but in our region, it’s not active. And the other one is about Yemen.
SG: UNDP, I believe, has been active in this region. Particularly in this part of the world, where you have rich natural resources and capacity, there may be some different ways of working by the UN country teams here. We will continue to work very closely with the governments concerned, what would be their priority for social and economic development. At the same time, you should remember that, through the UNDP Human Development Index report, we have been contributing greatly to social and economic development as well as to human dignity and human rights issues. This has contributed a great deal to the overall development of this region. But as I said, since Kuwait and many GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries, you are very well-to-do countries at this time, UNDP’s role and the UN country team’s role should be different from their work for other countries. That is what I am asking them to first of all respect the national priorities, how the United Nations can help them do better; that is one thing.
On Yemen, as you may remember just a couple of weeks ago, I was in Yemen to join this celebration of the first year, the first anniversary of this historic transition agreement, which fell on 23 November. This is a very important development, as well as a good example of how transition from an oppressive regime toward a democratic system, regime, can make a smooth transition. And the United Nations has been playing a very important role during a couple of years, helping the Yemeni people to realise this very historic transition. Now they have this new democratic system, but this process is still fragile; the important thing from now on is that the international community, particularly countries in this region, should help them, so they can have all socio-economic support, in addition to political support. The United Nations will continuously engage through my Special Adviser, Mr [Jamal] Benomar. He has still been working, playing a very important role. The United Nations is very proud of this achievement. This is what we expect, that those countries that have transformed themselves towards greater democratic systems should work together with the United Nations and other international community members. Thank you.