Sharm El Sheikh

28 March 2015

Remarks at the 26th Ordinary Session of the Council of the League of Arab States

Ban Ki-moon

Your Excellency Mr. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of Egypt,
Your Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait,
Your Majesties,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency Dr. Nabil el-Araby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States,

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Government of Egypt for inviting me to address this Summit of the League of Arab States at this pivotal time.

I sincerely hope that under the able leadership of President el-Sisi will address many challenges and issues of this region.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to his Highness the Amir of Kuwait for his leadership during this past year as the President of the League of Arab States.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Four years ago, a generation of Arabs rose against tyranny. Last year, this effort bore fruit in Tunisia.

Tunisia became a model for the region and beyond. Yet the recent terrorist attack in Tunis highlights how extremists are targeting innocents and the fragile democratic process itself.

Today, war and violence in the region, reprehensible acts of terrorism, and the seemingly endless Israeli occupation of Palestine are causing enormous suffering. The impact of all these threats transcends the Arab world. They pose a direct challenge to international peace and security.

To counter these trends, we must address the root causes that fuel extremism and violence. Even when security measures are needed, reliance on military approaches alone will not solve these problems.

And security responses must be done in a way that protects human rights and dignity.

Fighting extremism while committing abuses is not only wrong, it is counter-productive.

Wherever this is tried, we find that the appeal for extremism actually increases. Without good governance, the rule of law, respect for women’s rights and all human rights, long-term political stability will remain a mirage.

Your Majesties,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Nowhere are the problems of governance and radicalism more pressing than in Syria.

The Syrian people have now entered the fifth year of a war that has ripped their country to shreds.

Speaking today to the distinguished leadership of the Arab world, I confess to you my anger and my shame.

Anger at observing the Syrian government, extremist and terrorist groups and terrorists relentlessly destroy their country.

Shame at sharing in the collective failure of international and regional communities to decisively act to stop the carnage that has afflicted the Arab brothers and sisters of Syria.

The crisis risks spreading as fast as our credibility risks shrinking.

The Syrian people are being betrayed and this cannot continue.

I am instructing my Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, to intensify our political efforts and to consult widely with Security Council members as well as throughout the region, including with the Syrian parties themselves.

Specifically, he and his team will work to operationalize and flesh out elements in the Geneva communique.

I plead that we collectively move forward in implementing the Geneva Communique.
As we discuss how to do that, I count on your full and urgent support.

Following this Summit, I will attend the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria.

I thank His Highness the Amir of Kuwait for his compassionate leadership in convening that vital gathering. I also thank you for your generous contributions. I urge you to do even more to respond to the suffering and misery resulting from the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Lebanon remains unique in the face of the continuing impact of the Syrian conflict, including the growing threat by Daesh and others.

Yet, Lebanon continues to stand as an example of co-existence. I urge Lebanese political leaders to overcome their political differences and elect a President to fill the leadership vacuum which has stretched for over a year.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Seven months after the end of yet another war with Israel, Gaza remains a tinderbox – and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Neither blockade nor military action has made either side safer. I call on donors to make good on the pledges they made in Cairo last October. Help bring Gaza back to life.

Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal and constitute a serious impediment to peace.

The Arab-Israeli peace process is further threatened by calls to discard or undermine the two-state solution endorsed by the international community and outlined in the visionary Arab Peace Initiative that you adopted in your 2002 summit.

Once again, I urge Israel to end what is now nearly half a century of occupation. I urge the Palestinians to overcome their divisions. And I call upon the friends and supporters of both to push for a just and lasting solution based on international law.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I know how worried all of you are about the unraveling situation in Yemen and the tremendous toll it is taking on an already suffering population.

This morning I have listened very carefully to the statements by His Majesty King Salman of Saudi Arabia and His Excellency President Hadi of Yemen.

I share those deep concerns. I have repeatedly condemned the attempts by the Houthis and former President Saleh to undermine political agreements by military force.

I take note that military action has been undertaken at the request of Yemen’s sovereign and legitimate leader, President Hadi.

I also recall the Security Council Presidential Statement of March 22 that encourages Yemenis to return as quickly as possible to an inclusive political process, conducted in good faith.

Negotiations facilitated by my Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, as endorsed by the Security Council, remain the only chance to prevent a long drawn out conflict. It is my fervent hope that at this League of Arab States summit, Arab leader will lay-down clear guidelines to peacefully resolve the crisis in Yemen.

Further to the west, it is crucial that we continue to encourage dialogue among the Libyan people. UN-facilitated talks between Libyan actors are continuing along multiple tracks, facilitated by my Special Representative Bernardino Leon. The preservation of Libya’s unity and territorial integrity is essential.

In Iraq, I encourage leaders to continue and deepen national reconciliation efforts. I appreciate the League’s support to the people and government of Iraq in their fight against Daesh. This support also benefits regional stability.

As for Somalia, I urge all partners to fully support the political progress in the country, while stepping up efforts to stabilize the areas recovered from Al-Shabaab control.

National dialogue is also critical in Sudan and I urge that the process take place in a credible and conducive environment.

The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur provides a good framework to address the root causes of the conflict. Implementation efforts must continue.

In closing, I am pleased by the ever-strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States.

This must be a year of global action for sustainable development and dignity for all. We will reach the target date of the Millennium Development Goals and have the chance to adopt a new generation of sustainable development goals in September and a meaningful, global climate agreement in December in Paris.

Next month, the President of the General Assembly and I will also bring together leaders from different faith communities to a special event at the United Nations to promote mutual understanding and reconciliation.

The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center will submit to the General Assembly in September a comprehensive plan to address extremism and terrorism. I thank His Majesty King Salman of Saudi Arabia for his generous support for this initiative.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we advance on the post-2015 development agenda, and work for peaceful resolutions to conflict, let us strengthen our bonds for the people of this region and the security
of our world.

Thank you.