(New York) – The United Arab Emirates has called for pursuing a comprehensive approach that addresses the different dimensions of the threats in the region.
This came in a statement by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, before the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, 29 September 2018.
Sheikh Abdullah said that the region is facing four challenges: the first is foreign interference in the Arab world, particularly Iran, which has “reached an unprecedented level. We could not afford to remain mere spectators when these threats reached Yemen and the brotherly nation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which continues to be subjected to a barrage of Iranian ballistic missiles.”
“The second challenge the region is facing is the spread of extremism and terrorism and the exploitation of modern technology by extremist and terrorist groups to disseminate their dangerous ideologies,” he added.
The third challenge is the prolonged crises in the region, while the deterioration of economic, social, and humanitarian conditions is the fourth and main challenge that the region is facing, Sheikh Abdullah noted.
The Foreign Minister blamed the Houthi’s failure to attend peace talks in Geneva for the worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen, despite the UAE aid efforts.
Condemning Iran’s support to terrorist groups in the Arab world, Sheikh Abdullah said, “We cannot continue to rely on other states to solve issues in our country.”
As well as obstructing humanitarian assistance, the Houthis are receiving arms from Iran, planting landmines and recruiting children to fight, Sheikh Abdullah said.
He reiterated the vital role of the United Nations in “supporting political processes, strengthening dialogue, and building confidence among governments to maintain international peace and security, especially in light of the worrying uncertainty that currently defines the international order.”
Sheikh Abdullah reaffirmed the UAE demand for its legitimate right to sovereignty over its three islands: Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa, which Iran has been occupying for 47 years in flagrant violation of international law and the UN Charter.
The UAE’s Foreign Minister stressed the role the country is playing in counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and pioneering Artificial Intelligence and space technologies.
Following is Sheikh Abdullah’s statement: “Madam President. At the outset I would like to congratulate you on the presidency of the General Assembly session this year and thank your predecessor for his effective leadership during the previous session. I would also like to express my country’s appreciation of the considerable efforts made by the Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres.
This year, the United Arab Emirates is celebrating the centennial of the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the Union and the leader whose enlightened vision and noble values transformed my country into a successful political, economic, and social model. As we celebrate the centennial of the birth of our founding leader, we realize that we are not isolated from our surroundings and that our success has increased our humanitarian and overall responsibilities as an Arab country towards a region that faces numerous challenges.
In the last few years, we have witnessed major changes in the international order – the consequences of which are becoming more apparent day after day, most notably the rise of armed terrorist groups that rely on extremist ideologies and aim to destabilize and control countries. What is even more dangerous is the support that rogue states provide to these groups.
Amid these dangerous challenges, which affect the security and stability of every state, especially in our region, it has become imperative for the UAE to be more active in maintaining regional security through strengthening partnerships to address current challenges.
We realise that we cannot continue to rely on other states to solve the crises in our region. No single country, regardless of its capabilities, can alone restore security and stability because the nature of the transnational challenges we face requires collective responsibility.
In our endeavor to achieve regional security and stability, we follow a comprehensive approach that addresses the different dimensions of the threats in our region, which are reflected in the following four principal challenges: The first challenge is foreign interference in the affairs of the Arab world, where certain regional countries, particularly Iran, seek to undermine the security of the region by spreading chaos, violence, and sectarianism. Iran’s interference in Arab affairs has reached an unprecedented level. We could not afford to remain mere spectators when these threats reached Yemen and the brotherly nation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which continues to be subjected to a barrage of Iranian ballistic missiles. The security of countries in the region is interdependent, and our security is tied to the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Therefore, we responded as part of the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen in order to put an end to the Houthi coup and to address Iran’s nefarious interference.
In this context, it is critical to differentiate between the behavior of illegitimate armed groups that are committing serious violations and criminal and subversive acts in Yemen – as the Houthis are doing – and the legitimate measures taken by the Coalition that was formed at the request of the legitimate Yemeni government. The Coalition’s goal is to reestablish stability by taking measured steps that consider humanitarian aspects and are in accordance with Security Council resolutions.
Madam President, Despite the Coalition’s tireless efforts to restore stability in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of its people, the Houthis’ intransigence regarding serious peace initiatives – as proved by their absence from the recent Geneva talks – has exacerbated the humanitarian situation in Yemen. In particular, the Houthis continue to obstruct humanitarian assistance and are receiving Iranian arms, planting landmines, and recruiting children. In light of these serious developments, the forces of the Coalition to Support Legitimacy launched their military operations to liberate Hodeida from the grip of the Houthis to achieve a strategic shift that would enhance the prospects of reaching a political solution. In conjunction with the operations of the Coalition in Hodeida and other areas in Yemen, the humanitarian aspects have always been considered. Hence, the Hodeida operation was planned and implemented bearing in mind the work of relief organizations and the humanitarian needs of the local population, in accordance with our obligations under international humanitarian law. We have also strengthened and expanded the UAE’s humanitarian aid, emergency relief, and development assistance.
While we counter the Houthis in the north of Yemen, my country will continue its advances against “Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula”. This terrorist group was severely impacted after the Coalition to Support Legitimacy depleted its forces, cut off its sources of financing, and liberated the territories that were under its control.
The mistrust in Iran’s intentions and the concerns over its nuclear ambitions are not only limited to our region. These concerns were also reflected in the decision taken by the United States to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement and re-impose its sanctions. Iran has never ceased its aggressive behavior in the region, nor abandoned its intention to develop weapons of mass destruction, even when the international community granted Iran the opportunity to rectify its policies and behavior. In this regard, we reiterate the importance of a united international position against Iran that addresses its development of ballistic missiles, its support to terrorist groups, and its use of proxy wars to undermine regional and international security.
The second challenge the region is facing is the spread of extremism and terrorism and the exploitation of modern technology by extremist and terrorist groups to disseminate their dangerous ideologies. Though we have made some promising advances against these extremist and terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and some cities were liberated in Libya, our fight will continue until this scourge is eliminated.
The situation is becoming more dangerous as some States establish media outlets that incite hatred and constitute platforms for extremist and terrorist groups. Those who disseminate this kind of extremist and terrorist ideology are equally responsible for the acts of violence committed under the name of these ideologies. Therefore, the UAE has been at the forefront of states combating extremism and terrorism – in both the ideological and security realms – and we have provided support to international forces such as the G5 Sahel Joint Force as part of our efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism wherever it exists. My country has also established specialized institutions to counter extremist narratives, promote tolerance, and disseminate, as a positive alternative, a culture of acceptance and an optimistic vision at national, regional, and international levels.
Convinced that lasting global peace can only be achieved by making peace between religions, the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies launched an international initiative to build an alliance among the Abrahamic religions and world philosophies. This alliance is based on the principles that go beyond the paradigm of religious argument and conflict and look towards a paradigm of mutual recognition and cooperation, guided by international covenants and the spirit of our noble values and shared virtues.
We stress here our unwavering and unequivocal rejection of both extremism and terrorism and emphasize that our policies to counter supporters of extremism, violence, or hatred make no distinction between a group and a state. To that end, the UAE along with its close allies – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the Arab Republic of Egypt – have taken sovereign measures towards Qatar. These measures are vital and decisive in confronting extremism and terrorism and are considered imperative to achieving a secure region.
The third challenge is the prolonged crises in the region, which are merely “managed” in the absence of political solutions. In this regard, the United Arab Emirates will constantly strive to support the existing political initiatives, including working with UN envoys.
In this context, the Palestinian issue continues to wait for the international community to reach a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution to end the suffering of our brothers in Palestine. We must underscore that the continuation of this human tragedy is exploited by extremist groups and rogue states.
Lastly, we believe that the deterioration of economic, social, and humanitarian conditions is one of the main challenges that the region is facing. The UAE’s successful model has led us to believe that wise leadership, determination to achieve prosperity, and a forward look to the future are key to building nations and protecting them from war. Therefore, my country’s foreign policy has developmental, humanitarian, and cultural dimensions to support the needs of peoples and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
At the core of the developmental dimension of our foreign policy is the strengthening of economic opportunities and the empowerment of women and youth in conflict-afflicted countries. We believe that rebuilding Iraq is a prime example of the importance of uniting international efforts to help countries recovering from conflicts. In this regard, the international community must support building peaceful and inclusive communities, including the protection of minorities and prevention of atrocities against them, as witnessed in the crimes committed against the Yazidis and Rohingyas. My country is also playing a vital role in providing humanitarian assistance to areas affected by conflicts and disasters around the world.
The UAE aspires to transform the region into a global center for technology, culture, and innovation after decades of crises. Thus, my country focuses on anticipating challenges and investing in frontier domains, especially artificial intelligence, space technology, and renewable energy. I would like to emphasize that empowering women and youth and investing in their unlimited skills contributes to building resilient and cohesive societies and, eventually, stable and safe countries.
Today our Arab region is in dire need of a comprehensive transformation in the region that brings it out of chaos into stability and from isolation and unilateralism into openness and planning for the future. We are cognizant that achieving this shift will not be easy and that our efforts in this direction will only succeed by intensifying collective action, and, most importantly, each state must fulfill its responsibilities to achieve this goal.