It has been a tumultuous two years since the last such meeting in Vienna. Despite continuous calls from the Arab people for freedom, opportunity, dignity, equality and human rights, many of these legitimate aspirations have yet to come to fruition. We have a collective obligation to help societies move further down the path to a democratic and fully inclusive transition.
I am disheartened that the conflict in Syria is now raging into its fourth year. Syrians continue to endure appalling suffering and gross violations of human rights. The region is becoming embroiled in conflict, as the burden of the Syrian war is taking an unbearably heavy toll on Syria’s neighbours. It is imperative that all regional actors work with the Syrian parties and the United Nations to make a strategic choice in favour of a peaceful, political solution.
The rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Iraq is deeply alarming. Iraq’s leaders must rise above political differences and reach agreement on a framework of cooperation on the basis of the Constitution, and in line with international humanitarian law and human rights standards. The international community, including regional countries, must stand in solidarity with Iraq at this critical time.
With respect to the Middle East peace process, I regret that the recent intensive diplomatic efforts, which the LAS fully supported, have not yet yielded a positive outcome. The current pause offers an opportunity to evaluate options to preserve the prospect for a two-State solution. There is no substitute to negotiations to achieve this vision.
There is no contradiction between Palestinian reconciliation and peace negotiations. Palestinian unity is essential for the viability of any peace agreement, and the United Nations has consistently supported such efforts, provided that they take place in the framework of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) commitments and in accordance with all previous agreements.
I welcome the recent formation of a Government of national consensus headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. It is of critical importance forall Palestinian parties to support the new Government and refrain from actions that would undermine these efforts.
We must also improve the daily lives of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. I count on all members of the LAS to lend their generous support to this enormous task. I also reiterate my joint appeal with Secretary-General El-Araby to ensure that UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) receives the funds it needs to alleviate the plight of Palestine refugees.
The security situation in Somalia remains precarious. The country’s humanitarian needs also remain acute. The risk of a famine similar to 2011 is real, and the humanitarian appeal is only 19 per cent funded. Failure to address these gaps will undermine the gains of the last two years.
The LAS continues to be an important partner in Sudan. In South Kordofan and Blue Nile State, the UN, the African Union and the LAS led the tripartite humanitarian initiative in 2012. As preparations for the National Dialogue progress, we must encourage an inclusive and credible process that will comprehensively address political grievances and pave the way for lasting peace.
The LAS is also providing crucial support for the UN and African Union’s efforts to facilitate a negotiated political settlement in Darfur and the “Two Areas”.
As the Arab region continues to tackle these and other challenges, the UN is committed to working with the LAS to promote development and peace. We stand ready to expand our partnership, including through training and capacity-building support. I also welcome our new work on electoral matters.
I trust that this meeting will provide an opportunity to deepen our collaboration. I offer best wishes for a productive gathering.