New York

26 September 2012

Secretary-General's remarks at High-Level Meeting of the Security Council on Peace and Security in the Middle East [on the role of the League of Arab States) [as delivered]

We meet at a time of historic and often inspirational change in the Middle East and North Africa.

Several momentous transitions in the Arab World are under way -- moving ahead with difficulty but in the clear direction of the freedoms that had been denied for so long.

Yet as old orders crumble and new ones struggle to emerge, this is also a time of widespread apprehension and tragic violence.

The peace process between Israelis and Palestinians remains stalemated, as the window for a two-state solution narrows dangerously. The Arab League’s Arab Peace Initiative remains an important part of the framework aimed at ending the occupation and achieving a long overdue agreement.  I count on the continued generosity of the League’s members in providing financial support for the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA at this time of need, and I urge your members and other members of the international community to do more in both regards.

In Syria, the conflict has become a threat to regional and international peace and security.  A human tragedy is unfolding -- in full view but also in the darkness of prisons, under the rubble of entire neighborhoods and in the traumatized minds of children. I appeal to all with influence to persuade the parties that there is no military solution to this crisis.

Tensions in the region are also inflamed over nuclear issues.  Members of this Council should do their part to discourage any escalation, and to insist on peaceful solutions that respect the UN Charter and international law. 

There has also been unrest linked to an act of hatred toward one religion that has caused both understandable offence and unacceptable violence.

Against this complex backdrop, I welcome this high-level discussion on the partnership between the League and this Council. 

Chapter VIII of the UN Charter provides vast opportunities for regional organizations. The Security Council long ago recognized the vital role they can play in consolidating peace agreements and enhancing peace and stability.

With a new political era at hand in the Arab world, the Arab League has acquired a new sense of purpose.

The League was among the first organizations to publicly acknowledge that the Tunisian revolution was rooted in economic and social disparities and the aspiration for greater freedom and justice.

The League was also among the first organizations to condemn the atrocities committed by the former Libyan regime, and [to] urge the international community to take action. 

Both the United Nations and the League worked to help ensure the transparency of landmark elections in Tunisia and Libya.

Our joint role has been most prominent in Syria.  Members of the Arab League made significant contributions to the United Nations military observer mission.  And of course, we have jointly appointed first a Joint Special Envoy, Kofi Annan, and now a Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, as our emissaries in the search for a political solution.  These mediation efforts need solid and concrete support from the Council.

Looking ahead, I see four areas that merit special attention.

First, let us improve the exchange of information.  Dialogue between our Secretariats should be focused and frequent.  Another avenue for enhanced contacts may prove to be the placement of the Office of the Joint Special Representative for Syria and his Deputy in Cairo, a possibility that is being explored.

Second, we should put conflict prevention at the centre of our agenda. The United Nations continues to strengthen its ability to act early while helping regional organizations build capacity for facilitation, mediation and dialogue.

Third, let us explore new areas for collaboration.  The Middle East holds vast potential for the development of sustainable energy; let us explore what more we can do in the context of my Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Our relationship need not be limited to political action on the immediate crises of the day. 

Fourth, let us ensure the success of the transitions that have been set in motion.  We must continue to be ready to provide concrete assistance, if and when requested. Outsiders can share their experience and encourage progress -- humbly, patiently and respectfully.  But the major work has to be done by and in each society.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this tumultuous time for the Arab region, people are looking to our Organizations to be on their side in the fight for justice, dignity and opportunity.  The League of Arab States is a trusted partner of the United Nations.  I look forward to working even more closely together to realize the aspirations of people across the arc of your membership.

Thank you.