25 March 2014

Secretary-General's message to 25th ordinary session of the Council of the League of Arab States [delivered by Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States for Syria]

I congratulate His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah and the Government of Kuwait for hosting this Summit.  This is testament to Kuwait’s standing in the region and beyond, and its important role in addressing issues  of regional and international concern.

It has been more than three years since the desperate act of a young man in Tunisia triggered a remarkable series of events that spread rapidly throughout the Arab world.  People spoke with one voice for freedom, dignity and human rights.  The message was clear.  People were calling for change. 

The Middle East is now a more complex place than it has been for a very long time, hence the importance of your deliberations.

In Syria, the crisis is now in its fourth year.  Syrians continue to endure appalling suffering, including gross violations of human rights.  Hundreds of people are dying every day.  Millions have been displaced.

I would like to express my deep appreciation for the countries that are offering hospitality to more than 2.5 million refugees and bearing the high social, political, security and material cost of an increasingly worsening humanitarian situation.
It is our collective responsibility to help end this tragedy.  I welcome recent efforts to improve humanitarian access.  But this crisis can only be resolved through a political solution.

We must work together to revive the political process launched this January.  I appeal to the members of the League of Arab States, working with the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations, to take clear steps to re-energize Geneva II.

It is particularly essential that the regional actors are unified in encouraging all parties to return to the negotiating table.

Let me emphasize, there is no military solution to this conflict.  I reiterate my strong call for an end to the flow of arms to all parties.

The burden of the Syrian conflict is acutely felt by the country’s neighbours.  The whole region is in danger of becoming embroiled in the conflict.  Lebanon is particularly vulnerable.  I welcome the unity of the international community in supporting Lebanon’s security and stability, including the role of the League of Arab States and the International Support Group for Lebanon.

Another issue of major concern is Palestinian-Israeli relations.  I continue to urge both parties to make the necessary compromises to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

The Palestinians have a legitimate right to an independent and viable State.  Israel has a legitimate right to live in peace and security within internationally recognized and secure borders.

However, continued Israeli settlement activities are a violation of international law, and pose a serious threat to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  We must act decisively to salvage the two-State solution by creating the conditions for meaningful negotiations that will resolve the core issues of the conflict and end the occupation that started in 1967.

Tunisia is a clear example of the power of consensus-building, commitment to dialogue and willingness to reach compromises to advance the national interest.  The adoption of Tunisia's Constitution on 26 January 2014 represented a major milestone for the country's transition. 

Yemen’s all-inclusive National Dialogue Conference of 25 January 2014 also demonstrates that genuine dialogue and compromise are the best ways to achieve positive change.  The agreed vision to build a new federal and democratic Yemen is a hard-won achievement.  However, many political, security and humanitarian challenges remain for the success of Yemen’s transition.  The United Nations will remain fully engaged with its partners to assist the people of Yemen to build a more secure, just and prosperous future for all. 

Recent developments in Libya underscore the urgent need for the country’s political forces to firmly commit themselves to the democratic process.  The United Nations remains committed to assisting the Libyan authorities to rebuild their state following more than four decades of authoritarian rule.

Despite the political and security challenges that Iraq faces, I am encouraged by the determination to hold parliamentary elections on schedule.

For Somalia, 2014 will be a decisive year.  The Federal Government and its international partners need to remain steadfast and united to safeguard hard-won political and security gains.

Egypt has not gone unscathed, and is faced with political turmoil and security challenges.  I condemn recent deadly terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of numerous security service personnel and civilians.  Durable democratic peace is critical for the people of Egypt and all of North Africa and the Middle East.

In Darfur, the security and humanitarian situation remains highly unstable.  Recent fighting has displaced almost 100,000 people from their homes.  The operating environment remains very challenging for UNAMID and other humanitarian actors to reach affected populations.  It is essential that implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur is accelerated and that we intensify efforts to encourage the Government of Sudan to address the root causes of conflict and end it.

In closing, allow me to express my satisfaction with how cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States is developing at all levels.  The United Nations and the League have worked well together to promote development and the peaceful resolution of conflict. 

I count on your support in strengthening this cooperation, in particular in the areas of mediation and electoral support. 

Please accept my best wishes for a successful and productive meeting