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7527th Meeting (AM)

All United Nations Tools Must Be Used to Reverse Downward Spiral of Instability in Middle East, North Africa, Secretary-General Tells Security Council


Rampant instability and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa could only be stemmed through a united, comprehensive approach that addressed root causes, speakers stressed to the Security Council today in an all-day high-level open debate presided over by the Russian Foreign Minister with a briefing by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“We must work together to stop this downward spiral, using all United Nations tools,” Mr. Ban said, as he opened the meeting, which also included the participation of the United States Secretary of State and scores of other foreign ministers, with more than 75 high-ranking officials taking the floor in total.

A concept note for the meeting, prepared by the Russian presidency of the Council (document S/2015/678), cited the deteriorating situations in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen and the lack of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  It urged that a common understanding be worked out of “both the causes of the current profound security crisis in the region and of the political and other factors aggravating the crisis”, for the purpose of generating internationally agreed measures to stop escalation of conflict and terrorist activity.

Mr. Ban, in his opening, noted that the United Nations was currently developing a plan of action to prevent violent extremism and stem related conflicts, while avoiding steps that bred the resentment on which extremism fed.  The plan would set out support to Member States through a holistic approach encompassing peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian action.

“The people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve our full support in meeting these tests and steering the region towards a path of freedom, safety and dignity for all,” he said.

Following those remarks, the Russian Foreign Minister made a statement in his national capacity, arguing that the rapidly deteriorating situation in the region and subsequent mass migration made it clear that new, united strategies were needed to defeat terrorism, taking into account the lessons learned after what he called previous “reckless actions” of international intervention.

In Syria, he said, those who were fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), including the Government, should be supported in their effort, with due consideration for Syrian sovereignty and robust support to a political process of reconciliation and understanding.  In that context, he reported that his country had been requested by the Syrian Government to provide military assistance to fight ISIL, which would be limited to air action and related engagement.

Other speakers in the debate that ensued concurred that ISIL and other violent extremists posed grave dangers, not only to the region, but the entire globe.  Noting the opportunities provided to terrorists by the ongoing conflict in Syria and the resulting mass flow of migrants, most called for effective action to support a Syrian-led political solution consistent with the Geneva Communiqué.

Many expressed doubts, however, about working with the current Syrian Government towards that end, saying that its actions were causing massive civilian casualties.  The French representative, calling for swift, and if possible united, action against ISIL in Syria and Iraq, stressed that all attacks against civilians and the moderate opposition must end during the quest for peace; abetting those who used barrel bombs would only fuel support for ISIL.

The Secretaries of State of the United States and the United Kingdom, stating that the Syrian crisis had begun with the repression of peaceful protesters and subsequent abuse of civilians, asserted that ISIL could not be defeated if President Bashar al-Assad remained in power.  Both pledged to speak with the Russian Federation to prevent confusion in air operations, but cautioned against any the targeting of moderate groups.

Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, however, virulently criticized the foreign interventions that had led to regime change in the region, pointing to disastrous consequences in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere, and said that hegemonic power centres were again fomenting lies to destroy the Syrian State and allow terrorism to reign on its territory.  Similarly, Syria’s representative said fighting terrorism required cooperation with his Government, stressing that military actions outside such cooperation violated the United Nations Charter and international legal norms.

Many speakers today spoke on the need to combat the ideology of terrorism and the recruitment of foreign fighters.  “The fight against terrorism cannot be won by force for punitive measures alone,” Malaysia’s Foreign Minister said, speaking of individuals from his country who had been attracted to fighting abroad, as well as the country’s efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religious doctrine.  Many spoke about eliminating what they saw were the root causes of radicalization, including widespread youth unemployment and marginalization of minorities.

Some speakers spoke at length about the Israeli-Palestinian situation as a driver of terrorism, saying that the lack of progress in the peace process, the long-term occupation of Palestinian land and tensions over the holy sites were rallying issues for extremism.  Israel’s representative, however, said his country had been beset by terrorism since its inception and called for renewed clarity and determination by democracies to prevail against the scourge.

Also speaking today, including at the ministerial level, were representatives of China, Jordan, Chad, Spain, Lithuania, New Zealand, Angola, Chile, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait (on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference Ministerial Council), Syria, Germany, Egypt, Serbia, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Italy, Libya, Qatar, Croatia, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Slovakia, Belgium, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Greece, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Algeria, Uruguay, Indonesia, Norway, Guatemala, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Sweden, Austria, Belarus, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Australia, Iceland, Ukraine, Pakistan, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, India, Morocco, Japan, South Africa and the Republic of Korea.

Also speaking were senior officials from the European Union, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Gulf Cooperation Council and the Holy See.

The representatives of Iran and Syria took the floor for a second time.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 6:36 p.m.


Council President SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, speaking in his national capacity, said that the rapid deterioration of security in the Middle East and North Africa made it clear that new strategies were needed that considered all factors.  Previous responses by the international community since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring, including what he called “reckless actions”, had not stopped the unravelling.  The lessons of such failures must be learned and applied.  Describing the rapid spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and subsequent mass migration, he said that the main threat in Syria was terrorist aggression.  Those who could and were standing up against it must be bolstered through the military expertise of the international community.

He called for robust, united support for the political process in Syria and strengthening the State through national reconciliation and understanding.   Given the gravity of the situation, united anti-terrorist activity on the basis of international law must start now.  His country had been asked by the Syrian authorities to assist them in their fight against terrorism; such assistance would be limited to air actions and other kinds of support.  Prioritizing the end to terrorist financing, he called for stringent implementation of the relevant Council resolutions through strengthened regional structures and national accountability.  ISIL should be treated as a separate entity in all mechanisms of the Security Council, with a single database that tracked their cadres.  All initiatives must be based on international law without violating the sovereignty of Governments, he said, adding that all such attempts in the past had been counterproductive.  He looked forward to a frank discussion of the matter today.

WANG YI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, expressed hope that the international community and the region’s peoples would jointly build a Middle East of peace, tolerance and self-advancement.  As the region was an important platform for West-East exchange, he called for inclusiveness and broadmindedness.  The Middle East’s future must be determined by regional countries.  Those outside could provide help but should avoid interfering in internal affairs or imposing models.  On the Syrian crisis, the international community should not intervene arbitrarily.  Rather, it should step up humanitarian assistance.  More efforts by European Union States to ease the refugee crisis were needed.

He said political settlement was the only way forward.  Parties must find a middle way that suited Syria’s national conditions and accommodated all parties’ interests. He called on the parties to consider a Geneva III conference on Syria and push for the start of a political transition that did not have predetermined results.  On the Israel-Palestine conflict, he supported the early restoration of Palestinians’ rights and peaceful coexistence of two States.  The international community should help re-start talks among all parties.  He called for counter-terrorism cooperation under a United Nations framework that involved combating cybersecurity, blocking the flow of terrorist funding and strengthening intelligence exchange.

NASSER JUDEH, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Expatriates Affairs of Jordan, said the root causes of the Middle East situation included ongoing conflicts that had been magnified in the context of the Arab Spring.  Some countries faced the cumulative effects of social and economic deprivation.  He called on Israel to stop its violations and respect the sanctity of holy places in Occupied Jerusalem.  Palestinians had been deprived their rights to establish a State on their territory, which had sparked the instability that, today, had morphed into various forms of terrorism.  The only way forward was a two-State solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian State along 1967 borders.  Restoring stability required a comprehensive political process.

On the situations in Syria and Iraq, he said sectarian marginalization had allowed ISIL to expand.  On Yemen, there was no alternative to a political solution.  Jordan rejected the idea of a Sunni-Shiite conflict, he said, stressing that the humanitarian dimension of open conflicts was increasing.  Jordan hosted 1.4 million Syrian citizens, as well as large numbers of refugees from other countries.  Council resolutions on combating terrorism, including resolution 2170 (2014), should be implemented.  “We should seek to win over minds and hearts,” he said.

LAURENT FABIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, said that in the face of barbarism by Da’esh, the Council had been “the Council of impotence”.  France sought peace and security, a requirement that would determine its choices in Syria and Iraq.  Noting that France was part of the coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq, he said that group was still a major threat.  In Syria, ISIL had prospered with the complicity with the Syrian regime, whose “scorched earth” policy had alienated the majority of its population.  While the international military response should be strengthened, the solution must be a political one.

“We must hit ISIL wherever we can,” he said, adding, “We will do so.”  Others were welcome to join on three conditions, the first being that there was clarity as to whom was being fought:  ISIL, not civilians or moderate opposition forces, who were defending their vision of a unified democratic Syria that respected all communities.  The second condition was an end to violence against civilians and the flood of refugees.  It was said that 80 per cent of refugees had fled due to indiscriminate bombing by the regime.  The Council must ban the use in Syria of barrel bombs and chlorine gas.  The third condition was that the conflict be addressed at its roots, requiring a political transition.  Broad negotiations, under the aegis of the Special Envoy and control of a contact group that comprised the permanent Council members and key regional partners, were needed.  France was ready to act with its traditional partners, as well as the Russian Federation and others, on the basis of those conditions.

MOUSSA FAKI MAHAMAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs and African Integration of Chad, concurred that full consideration of the causes of violent extremism was critically needed.  Enumerating plausible root causes, he said that the situation was often aggravated by foreign intervention.  In Libya, the African Union had pleaded for a peaceful resolution of the situation, but military action that toppled the regime made the situation much worse.  Such mistakes were exacerbated by many other weaknesses in the international community in conflict prevention and control of arms flows.  A two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be reached, along with an end to counterproductive Israeli practices.  In Syria, renewed momentum to promote direct dialogue between the parties was critical.  He urged the international community to come together with regional organizations under the leading role of the Security Council to end the “existential threat” of terrorism.

JOSÉ MANUEL GARCÍA MARGALLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, recounting his country’s long experience with terrorism, said a firm stance was needed:  “We don’t negotiate with terrorists, we destroy them.”  It was necessary to expose the real face of those criminals and hold them accountable for their crimes.  The massive flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa meant action was needed now.  Spain was assisting the Iraqi Government to train forces that could combat ISIL, had convened forums to end the recruitment of foreign fighters and was working with Governments in the Sahel, among other activities.  As terrorism must be fought within the rule of law, he noted an initiative to create an international criminal court that concentrated on terrorist crimes.  He also spoke of efforts under the Madrid Club and the Alliance of Civilizations to combat terrorism.  He called for addressing root causes, attention to social media and unity in the fight against that scourge.

LINAS LINKEVIČIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said Syrians comprised 70 per cent of those trying to cross the Mediterranean.  While it was a glaring failure of the Syrian Government to protect its population, the Council should have acted early and forcefully on the crisis in Syria.  Instead, it was paralysed by a succession of vetoes aimed at protecting the perpetrators, and, in that connection, he welcomed France’s initiative on veto restraint.  The European Union had proposed tackling the causes that made people become refugees.  In that context, he recalled the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea, which had caused massive displacement.  The Council had an impressive normative base for combating terrorism and there should be no gaps in its implementation.  Tackling terrorism involved addressing its underlying causes, as well as the injustices that made people vulnerable to incitement.  He also urged a focus on accountability.

DELCY RODRÍGUEZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said there was a moral debt to be paid to Palestinians.  The conflict had been provoked by Israel’s occupation of Palestinian Territory, which complicated the broader situation in the Middle East.  A two-State solution could not be achieved when terrorists were massacring Palestinians; there must be two equal, sovereign States.  Israel promoted terrorism, which affected Israelis themselves.  She urged examining power centres that controlled the media and other actors, as well as the economic models that had led to poverty, asking whether the Arab Spring had brought greater happiness and democracy.  The outcomes in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan had in essence been their destruction.  Venezuela’s President had called for a new geopolitical system that would guarantee peace.  She urged respect for the principles of self-determination, sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as combating terrorism at its root causes.  International law must be applied over the will of violent groups, illegal occupation of States and those perpetuating violence.

MURRAY MCCULLY, Minister for Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, said the failure today to even agree on a presidential statement was symbolic of the dysfunction and mistrust characterizing the Council’s performance on Syria and too many of the conflicts raging in the region.  The 250,000 dead and 12 million displaced in Syria should tell the Council that it must end that dysfunction.  The path forward was evident.  The situation and the actors must be taken as they were and a transition process must be collectively imposed.  At the same time, the principles of justice and international law must be upheld and impunity ruled out for those responsible for mass atrocities.  The Council and key actors must unite behind a process that married the pragmatism needed to stop the conflict with the principled solutions that would enable Syria and other countries in the region to start rebuilding.

GEORGES REBELO PINTO CHIKOTI, Minister for External Relations of Angola, said that the answer to extremism was complex and varied from country to country, but marginalization of populations and foreign interference were common factors.  Extremism could only be combated by discrediting its ideological basis and fostering inclusion and respect for human rights.  In the Middle East and North Africa, the raging conflicts must be ended.  Revolutionary change during the Arab Spring had led to disintegration of national structures and, therefore, gradual change with due respect for Government institutions was seen as preferable.  Terrorists thrived in situations of chaos.  Educational reform was also needed to engender a new generation of independence-minded citizens; an international mechanism was also needed to foster such reform while respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity.  The Security Council, in that effort, should reaffirm principles of peaceful settlement of disputes.

DATO’ SRI ANIFAH AMAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, said revisiting the underlying causes connected to conflicts in the region was timely as the affected countries and societies were perhaps worse today than when those conflicts began.  Malaysia reiterated its fullest condemnation of all acts, methods and practices of terrorism and strongly rejected the association of terrorism with any race, culture or religion.  Political and security vacuums in countries were exploited by terrorist groups to increase recruitment, expand territorial control and smuggle weapons.  The presence of terrorist groups had depended on sectarian divisions, thereby exacerbating political and social instability.  Violations of human rights and the dire humanitarian predicament in the affected countries provided a compelling narrative of recruitment.

He said that the war must be won, not through force of arms, but through a triumph of mind, heart and will.  In that context, Malaysia’s legislation to prevent terrorism focused on rehabilitation and de-radicalization.  The international community could effectively address the threat posed by terrorism only if it was prepared to take a self-critical and unbiased look at the root causes.  The world must not allow the plight of the long-suffering Palestinians living under occupation to be cynically exploited by terrorist groups.  In order to continue playing a constructive and positive role in the region’s conflicts, the Council must find the will to overcome differences and speak in one voice.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State of the United States, recounting action in the Security Council on terrorism over the years, said that there was no disagreement on goals; the question was means.  Ending terrorist financing, combating terrorists’ ideology and use of social media, settlement of conflicts and stopping flows of foreign fighters were part of agreed tactics.  Urgent actions must be taken on immediate threats, and longer-term efforts must be taken to end radicalization.  Unless young people found opportunities, they were vulnerable to recruitment.  Corruption must be ended.  He pledged United States’ cooperation with other countries and civil societies in such efforts.  Meanwhile, humanitarian and military action must be stepped up.  In Syria, he supported all genuine efforts to defeat ISIL, including Russian initiatives.  His country was prepared to hold talks so that Russian efforts did not conflict with the global anti-ISIL coalition, which had been operating for over a year with more than 3,000 sorties against ISIL targets.

“But we must not be confused in our efforts to defeat ISIL with support for Assad,” he said, maintaining that ISIL could not be defeated as long as Mr. Assad remained in power.  He maintained that the fight began when peaceful protesters, looking for a better future, were beaten by Mr. Assad’s “thugs”.  Mr. Assad would never be accepted by those whom he had harmed, he added, calling on the Syrian President to help end the war and decline to be part of a future Syrian Government.  He stressed that Mr. Assad was not a key to stopping ISIL, maintaining that he had been concentrating his firepower on moderates while allowing the extremists to take over broad swathes of land.  He called for intensified international efforts to bring about a broadly supported political initiative that led to a transition in Syria, consistent with the Geneva Communiqué.

PHILIP HAMMOND, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom, said that as part of the anti-ISIL coalition, his country had conducted air strikes in Iraq.  He acknowledged Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan for hosting Syrian refugees, saying the United Kingdom had had provided £1.1 billion in aid to alleviate crisis and neighbouring countries.  The Assad regime had led Syria into the crisis, with its brutal repression of peaceful protestors and attacks against civilians.  “We reject those who say the poison of Assad is the cure for the cancer of ISIL,” he said.  Syrian forces killed more civilians each month than any other actor, as it was focused on destroying moderate opposition groups and civilian centres.  Any alignment with the Syrian President would only strengthen ISIL.

Syria, he said, could be an effective partner only with a representative Government that worked with the international community to counter ISIL.  The Syrian President should step aside so a political transition could allow Syrians to unite against Islamist extremism.  Others should support the Special Envoy in negotiating such a transition.  The Russian Federation had assumed a heavy responsibility by publicly propping up the Syrian President.  The world would expect it to use its influence to stop the use of barrel bombs and prevent any use of chemicals as weapons by the regime.  Support of the regime was incompatible with war against ISIL.  He urged the Russian Federation to confirm that this morning’s military action only targeted ISIL and Al-Qaida affiliates, and not moderate opponents of the Assad regime.

HERALDO MUÑOZ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, said the situation in the region was a source of legitimate concern to the international community.  The action of armed and terrorist groups was aggravating instability and multiple tensions in communities, which needed strengthened coexistence.  Cohesion, inclusiveness and acceptance of differences were the common property of mankind and it was essential to apply them in efforts to bring confidence, peace and stability to the region.  Recent experience had shown that the use of force could reduce the military capacity of terrorist groups but could not prevent the dissemination of ideas to attract new supporters and inspire violent ambitions in persons vulnerable to extremist messages.

It was thus essential, he said, to replace the ideology of terror by a partnership of shared values, with preventive and multidimensional approaches at the local, national and global levels.  That central idea had been accepted by the Council’s ministerial meeting in Madrid in July in the context of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.  As President of the Council in January, Chile had stressed the link between inclusive development and international peace and security because the underlying causes of the crises were connected with various forms of socio-economic, gender, ethnic, tribal, religious or ideological exclusion.  The Council must be part of a collective effort to urgently address those failures.

U. JOY OGWU (Nigeria), calling for the resumption of negotiations for a two-State solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said that the lack of progress there had exacerbated the rise of terrorism in the Middle East and Africa.  She called for decisive action to neutralize those terrorist groups and to end the threat of foreign terrorist fighters.  Intelligence sharing and capacity-building for Member States were an important part of that effort.  No new resolutions were needed, but serious implementation was critical, and she called for that to begin now.

IBRAHIM AL-ESHAIKER AL-JAAFARI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iraq, stressed the importance of resolve and unity among the international community in the fight against terrorism, and the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions, particularly concerning terrorist financing.  He stressed that despite many challenges, his Government was working hard to relieve the conditions of the displaced and other victims of terrorism in his country, while it endeavoured to conduct military operations to stop ISIL, with the support of an international coalition.  He expressed thanks to that coalition.  He also underlined the importance of national unity in the context of that struggle.  He called for greater action to stop terrorists from coming to his region; they were now arriving from more than 100 countries.  A comprehensive approach that incorporated efforts by regional organizations was needed.

SHEIKH SABAH KHALED AL-HAMAD AL SABAH, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kuwait, speaking on behalf of the Ministerial Council of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said settlement of conflicts and addressing the terrorism threat in the Middle East and North Africa topped the list of priorities.  The region faced enormous and unprecedented security risks and conflicts that had dangerous consequences, amid a remarkable decrease in levels of economic and social growth.  The majority of the 60 million people requiring humanitarian assistance around the world were from the region.  The tragic circumstances there had provided fertile ground for terrorists and extremist groups to commit the most horrible crimes.  Although some claim to have been inspired by religion, there was no place for such heinous acts in the Islamic faith.  Terrorism had no religion and was not tied to any country, race or culture.  Therefore, it could not be combated through confrontation or conflict with a great religion like Islam.

In order to combat terrorism, he said, the OIC had built partnerships with international and regional organizations, Sheikh Sabah said.  The failure of the international community, represented by the Security Council, to resolve conflicts and grave crises in the region had contributed to the exacerbation of the suffering.  As time passed, those crises became intertwined, difficult and complicated.  The most outstanding example of failure was the Palestinian question, the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  The Council must assume its responsibilities, as stipulated by the Charter, and work on implementing its resolutions in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.

WALID AL-MOUALLEM, Vice Prime Minister, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of Syria, questioned what the Council had achieved in combating terrorism in Iraq and Syria, in implementing its resolutions, especially 2170 (2014), 2178 (2014) and 2199 (2015), and in dealing with countries that funded, armed, trained and provided a haven for ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and others.  The United States led a coalition in the framework of a strategy to eliminate “Da’esh/ISIS” in Iraq and contain it in Syria.  Those groups had increased in power, arms, funds and ferocity, due to the protection, assistance and funding from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Western countries “known to you”.

He said combating terrorism in Syria required cooperation with his Government, whose army was fighting the battle against terrorism alone.  Military actions by the United Kingdom and France on Syrian territory violated the United Nations Charter, international legal norms and Syrian sovereignty.  He supported the Russian President’s call for the creation of a regional and international coalition, of which Syria was an essential party.  He urged regional countries to implement Council resolutions on combating terrorism.  He urged the Council to stop the flow of terrorists into Syria.

FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said there was much the international community had failed to do in terms of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa.  However, as the nuclear deal with Iran demonstrated, even the most intractable crises could be resolved through the requisite political will.  Today’s debate highlighted differences, as well as convergences.  In Syria, there was a need to build a political process, and the Council needed to ensure that its resolutions were implemented.  Building on extensive consultations, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General had laid out a road map, which Germany wholeheartedly supported.  The international community needed to do the same.

SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that unity of will from the international community was required to resolve the crises gripping the region.  Egypt was interested in resolving regional conflicts in order to prevent the further erosion of State sovereignty.  He supported the Russian Federation’s position that there was a need to broadly evaluate the region’s conflicts in order to foster enduring solutions.  During 2011, some countries believed that the prevailing trend was a legitimate aspiration of the people and provided a moderate alternative to extremism.  However, events had taken a different turn.  Egyptian society, for example, refused to politicize religion.  Diversity in the Arab world must be respected in order to build cohesion and stability.  An independent Palestinian State, good governance, and provision of basic services could collectively provide the region the peace and security to which it aspired.

FEDERICA MOGHERINI, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that two top priorities for the international community were finding a political solution to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and to combat terrorist groups.  For too long, those two priorities had been seen as conflicting goals, which was a division that weakened actions on both tracks.  Those two goals could only go hand-in-hand.  It was necessary to respond to the symptoms of those crises, especially the influx of refugees from the region.  The international community needed to address the military threats posed by Da’esh and Al-Qaida.  The European Union was assisting partners to support security agencies in Iraq, and had launched the first concrete action together with United Nations mine action programme to remove mines in Iraqi regions freed from Da’esh.  It was only with a cooperative environment that peace could be built in Syria and Da’esh defeated.  Da’esh needed local allies, and where it found none, it was easier to eradicate.  It was politics that would lead to its defeat.  Inclusiveness and democracy brought stability, which was the most powerful weapon against terrorism.

IVICA DAČIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, said the political, social, economic, inter-ethnic and ideological tensions in the region presented a challenge for the entire international community.  The migrant wave from conflict-ridden areas had not bypassed Serbia, which the country could not be expected to bear alone.  Coordinated international action, and not partial and limited local steps, was the solution.  The international community needed to define the next steps to stabilize the conditions in the region according to the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law.  Stepped-up activities to promote the culture of peace, mutual understanding and confidence in the region must be accompanied by efforts to encourage concessions and compromise, an example Serbia had demonstrated very clearly.

M. JAVAD ZARIF, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said violent extremism, in today’s globalized world, continued to affect regions near and far.  No member of the international community could feel safe from the fallout from the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa.  Thwarting the threat required a serious, well-thought-out and coordinated effort.  It also required a new mindset away from the old paradigm of exclusion governed by a zero-sum mentality, which had only produced negative sum outcomes.

Iran’s President, in his recent address to the General Assembly, had proposed a comprehensive plan of action in order to translate the broad international consensus on the need to uproot violent extremism into targeted and effective action, he said.  The plan of action should aim to support a cultural and ideological front against extreme ideologies, address such contributing factors as dictatorship, poverty, corruption and discrimination, counter Islamophobia and engage all regional States and international actors.  It should also address the occupation of Palestine and Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people over so many decades.  He regretted that one or two neighbours of Iran had failed to recognize the scale of the threat and continued to behave irresponsibility.

FERIDUN HADI SINIRLIOĞLU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said that the brutal oppression of legitimate demands for democracy and other pressures combined to create a breeding ground for violent extremism and terrorism.  Those were not Middle Eastern and North African phenomena and should not be associated with any religion or geography.  Terrorism was a global and transnational scourge that needed to be address through multilateral and bilateral action.  Da’esh was an overriding security threat in Turkey, which did not spread organically like a cancer, but rather was aided by Assad’s totalitarian regime that employed any means available, including chemical weapons, to terrorize its own people into submission.  The international community and the United Nations Security Council needed to address the root causes of the problems in Syria through resolute action, and it must do all it could to downgrade and defeat terrorist organizations like Da’esh.  There was no room for moral relativism.  Created safe and protected areas could keep Syrians in Syria and pave the way for refugees’ return.

GEBRAN BASSIL, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said the fight against terrorism was an international one since the scourge was a menace to international peace and security.  The fight against terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa region could not be won without the cooperation of the countries of that region.  Lebanon was fully engaged in that fight against radicalism, and had mobilized troops and boots on the ground, as it was at the forefront of the battle.  Lebanon’s troops were engaged in daily fights, and intelligence services were tracking dormant and active terrorist cells inside the country.  It was fighting to protect the rights of minorities in the Middle East, which were at the foundation of the region’s identity.  Lebanon was also striving to safeguard collective values; its fall would mean the fall of the last bastion of diversity in the Middle East and would lead to the uncontrolled spread of terror into neighbouring Europe and the rest of the world.

PAOLO GENTILONI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, said the advent of Da’esh had brought the terrorist threat to new and unprecedented levels.  While important results had been achieved by the international coalition against that group, more effort was needed at the military and political levels.  In Syria, despite sporadic and limited ceasefires, the conflict was bound to continue until the international community fostered a lasting and inclusive political solution.  A Syria without a clear leadership and a way forward would be in no one’s interest.  While upholding Iraq’s efforts to increase and promote inclusivity, the international community needed to prevent any further expansion of Da’esh, most notably in Libya.  The eradication of extremism and terrorism required a global, multi-layered response combining both preventive and repressive measures.  Calling for an unbending commitment to countering Da’esh’s narrative, he said the preservation of the ethnic and religious fabric of the region was vital to strengthen the strategy to counter extremism.

MOHAMED EL HADI DAYRI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya, said there needed to be a comprehensive strategy to defeat Da’esh and other heinous terrorist groups.  ISIS was expanding and there was no effective movement to support the army and peoples of Libya to staunch the terrorism.  Scores of innocent civilians were being killed in Derna, Benghazi and Tripoli.  The Libyan army’s capacity needed to be bolstered, as it lacked the resources to ward off the increasing threats to the country and people.  The fear was that ISIS would expand further.  In view of the international community’s failure to act, the concerns of the brothers and sisters in Africa and in Europe were legitimate.  He shared the concerns over the proliferation of terrorism and its repercussions, like the Europeans who intended to combat the human traffickers sending thousands of Africans and Arabs to their deaths in the Mediterranean.

NABIL ELARABY, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said that the international community, in discussing terrorism, must not forget that there was also the terrorism of States, namely, the practices of Israel.  Palestine had been occupied since 1948.  The Security Council had called on Israel to withdraw from Egypt, Jordan and Syria; however, Israel had not withdrawn from Palestine, as well as some parts of Lebanese and Syrian territory, and had also tried to grab other Palestinian territories through actions considered illegal by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice.  He asked why the Council did not take action even while Israel attacked Christian and Muslim holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  One of the reasons for the current state of affairs was the use of the veto.  The Council had started working in 1946 and yet its rules of procedure were still provisional.  There was not a permanent standing set of standards, he said, urging the international community to face up to the challenges of the twenty-first century.

KHALID BIN MOHAMMED AL-ATTIYA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said the latest bombing campaigns in Syria were distressing, and he urged everyone to side with the people of that country.  While the peace and security operations of the United Nations had been successful in many areas, they had been non-existent or ineffective in others.  In the Middle East and North Africa in particular, the Council had often demonstrated weakness.  That, in turn, underlined the need to reform the Council.  The international community should revive the political process on the Palestinian-Israeli front if it wanted to reduce tensions in the region.  Political settlements in Syria and Yemen, too, would require a demonstration of greater political will on the part of the international community.

VESNA PUSIĆ, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, said that the challenges gripping the Middle East and North Africa required an exceptional, coordinated and comprehensive response, as well as strong leadership and partnership.  Such action should have a strong regional and country-specific dimension and outreach that would bring on board all international and regional players.  The current migration crisis seriously tested Europe, and her country had demonstrated its ability to face it.  The unprecedented crisis had shown how the world was intertwined; demonstrating once again that the answer had to be of the same character.

JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Luxembourg, said the terrorist groups in the region threatened the entire world through their destructive madness.  In order to effectively fight that threat, it was necessary to understand the root causes.  If Da’esh was to disappear today, more monstrous groups would likely emerge because the rise of terrorist groups could not be separated from the politics in the region.  In Syria, the world must fight terrorism without playing into the hands of the Assad regime.  Efforts at reconciliation and mediation must be supported more vigorously in Iraq, Yemen and Libya.  Investment in the well-being of youth must be prioritized in order to dispel the feelings of exclusion that fuelled terrorism.  The security of Israel would be strengthened by the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.  The past could not be changed, but lessons could be learned for the future.

IOANNIS KASOULIDES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, said the United Nations was and should remain at the apex of international order and legality.  No crisis could be resolved by a single Power or stakeholder.  While formulating policies to counter the terrorist threats, efforts must be made towards addressing socio-economic and political exclusion, youth unemployment and limited access to education.  The formation of a national unity government in Libya was overdue and it was important to foster a political transition process in Syria.  Da’esh posed a threat that affected all, which required more to be done on the issue of tracking and interrupting financial flows.

MIROSLAV LAJČÁK, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, described the rise of terror as perhaps the most serious, shocking, painful and shameful reality of the beginning of the twenty-first century.  Da’esh was a fake, disillusioned and dangerous alternative of governance, rooted in fear and violence.  Military suppression was only a fragment of the solution, the main part of which must be a commitment to better governance.  The international community could not focus on preventive measures in an environment of terror and fear.  Nor could it afford any new centres of instability in Middle East and North Africa.  All actors needed to use their influence to avoid escalations.  Any foreign involvement in favour of individual parties could break the fragile trust in the political track.  All relevant Council resolutions must be fully implemented in a timely manner, regardless of whether they were adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter.

IYAD AMEEN MADANI, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), associating with the statement by Kuwait delivered on behalf of the group’s ministerial council, stressed the need to honestly and properly diagnose the historical backgrounds and root causes of conflicts in the region.  The remnants of colonialism, ill-conceived cold war strategies, the consequences of the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people owing to an unjust and illegal occupation, and the invasion of Iraq had dangerous fallouts.  The multifaceted dimensions of the conflicts must be addressed.

Within that context, he said, the OIC had initiated specific projects that focused on understanding and addressing the political and socioeconomic environments that bred conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism and violent extremism.  It also focused on the need to counter all types of radical extremist discourses as well as the underlying causes of sectarian violence.  Today, the flag of Palestine flew high at the United Nations, reflecting the sentiment of the overwhelming majority of the international community in support of that just cause.

DIDIER REYNDERS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Belgium, said the international community was united in its resolve to defeat terrorism and must take concrete action in that regard.  The legitimate concerns of the populations must be taken into account and human rights upheld.  Countries showing exemplary generosity by hosting refugees must be supported.  Calling for a political settlement in Syria, he stressed the need for a reconciliation process in Iraq, Libya and Yemen.  The renewed tensions in Jerusalem underscored the need for revitalizing the political process between Palestine and Israel to ensure durable peace and stability in the region.

MAURO VIEIRA, Minister for External Relations of Brazil, reiterated his country’s repudiation of all forms of terrorism and extremism, appalled by the destruction of cultural and historic heritage in Syria, Iraq and Mali.  As long as the international community disregarded poverty and the fragility of national institutions as drivers of armed conflict, no solution would be found.  Military interventions only led to weak institutions, sectarianism, power vacuums and arms proliferation.  It was high time for the Council to focus on political dialogue and preventive action.  “What we really need is better diplomacy,” he said.  Brazil had issued more than 7,700 entry visas for Syrian residents affected by the crisis.  Israel and Palestine must resume talks under parameters that could lead to a two-State solution.  In Libya and Yemen, he urged avoiding the use of unilateral force and supported working with parties to promote dialogue.

ERLAN A. IDRISSOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan said that as the world continued to witness unprecedented crises of grave magnitude unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa, now was the time for joint action.  For decades, the situation in the region had been a major factor in the destabilization of global security.  Improvement in the current situation in the Middle East depended on resolution of the Palestinian issue.  Kazakhstan recognized the legitimate right of self-determination for the Palestinian people and strongly supported the creation of an independent State of Palestine within 1967 borders.  States must reject the unconstitutional and illegal use of military force, including external foreign military interventions, which only led to the destruction of Statehood.  The humanitarian disaster in Syria was no longer considered a regional issue, as the crisis had spread far beyond the Middle East.  Kazakhstan had hosted a meeting of Syrian opposition leaders in May to discuss possible solutions.  While recognizing terrorism as a global threat, he called for the establishment of a United Nations-led counter-terrorism coalition to develop a common mechanism to defeat that evil and bring perpetrators and their supporters to justice.

NIKOS KOTZIAS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said that hundreds of thousands of people had been driven from the Middle East and North Africa region, creating new pressures on societies and economies of neighbouring countries, as well as some far beyond the region itself.  Greece was situated at the crossroads of the refugee crisis and was also particularly concerned about the fate of the minority communities in Iraq and the region, including Christian communities, which, after two millenniums, were facing an existential threat due to the atrocities of ISIS.  That threat continued to undermine the stability and political dynamics of Iraq and Syria, leaving the security situation in the region very volatile, and waves of instability were also being felt farther afield.  It was crucial for the international community to work collectively to reach a long-due solution to the Syrian crisis through the immediate initiation of an inclusive political process.  The war needed to stop, and there needed to be an alliance for peace and the reconstruction of Syria.

KARL ERJAVEC, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, said terrorism and extremism in the region could not be tolerated regardless of their causes.  Women and children were particularly vulnerable to what often amounted to crimes against humanity.  Military means must be supported by political efforts to resolve conflicts through transparency and dialogue.  Prevention efforts presupposed the positive contribution of youth, who required investment in their education.  The international community must find ways to ensure accountability for those committing atrocities.  He supported referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court through the Security Council.  Resumption of political talks between Israel and the Palestinians was crucial to lasting peace and security in the region.

ABDULLAH GHOBASH, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said the security challenges in the Middle East and North Africa had grown both in scope and barbarity. Terrorist groups had taken advantage of the political vacuum in countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen.  His country believed that peace and security in the region could be bolstered by achieving a final, lasting and just settlement of the Palestinian cause, the major threat to peace and security in the region.  The political talks envisaged for Syria held promise and should be taken to their logical conclusion.  The Charter’s principle of respect for sovereignty and non-intervention must be upheld to foster a just world order, while global efforts must be pursued to resolve global challenges.

PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said countering terrorism in the Middle East was possible through concerted international action.  ISIS had built a network in Europe and had caused greater damage to the world’s cultural heritage than at any time since the Second World War.  Added to that were bad international decisions, which had placed the European Union under its biggest ever challenge.  The situation in the Middle East and North Africa should be stabilized through more effective action against ISIS, including by precluding it from gaining ground and subjecting it to International Criminal Court investigations.  Another task was to stop the war in Syria through political dialogue, which required pragmatic cooperation between the Russian Federation and the trans-Atlantic community.

DIDIER BURKHALTER, Chief of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, said that both logistical and financial resources were needed, depending on particular situations.  All regional and international actors shared in the responsibility to stabilize Syria, and must come to the table for discussion.  He welcomed diplomatic efforts to find an understanding and to eliminate maximalist positions and find compromise.  The only path to peace was inclusive dialogue.  That process would be difficult given the enormous sacrifices that must be made.  Parties to the conflict must make difficult choices to find compromise, as it would not be possible to reach a lasting political solution unless all worked towards peace, and the millions of women, children and men deserved those efforts and sincerity.  That was not only for Syria but to stabilize Iraq and resolve the conflicts in Libya and Yemen.  Switzerland could offer expertise and facilitate discussion in Geneva, if necessary, and support United Nations’ efforts.  He expressed concern over the various military actions in Syria, and called on the council to restore peace and security.

DANIEL MITOV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, said that without peace in the Middle East, violent extremists would take advantage of the situation.  As a partner in the coalition against ISIL, Bulgaria was working to degrade and ultimately defeat the threat that Da’esh posed to the world.  The United Nations could undertake further actions in stepping up international cooperation to counter terrorism, and Bulgaria looked forward to the Secretary-General’s action plan in that regard.  At the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, Bulgaria bore the consequences of the unprecedented migration pressure generated by the conflicts in the region and expansion of Da’esh.

KRISTIAN JENSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark said the discussion was a reminder that the threat of violence and extremism was real.  It was not only a threat to the Middle Eastern and North African countries, but was rather a global challenge.  Sovereignty and respect for human rights went hand in hand.  This morning, it was good to hear the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation say that his country would participate in defeating ISIL.  However, it was troubling to see who the Russia Federation had been militarily active against.  Rumours said that it had not been ISIL that had been hit.  The international community must focus on how to prevent the creation of terrorists in the first place, such as through jobs and democracy for all.  It must focus on applying early preventive efforts, while managing more imminent ones.  In Georgia and Tunisia, Denmark was launching an initiative to counter radicalism by focusing on youth, dialogue and preventive measures.  To reduce the appeal of ISIL to foreign fighters, Denmark was also working to document its violent crimes.

ABDELKADER MESSAHEL, Minister for Maghreb Affairs, the African Union and the League of Arab States of Algeria, said the political conflicts and crises in the Middle East and North Africa had resulted in the proliferation of violent and extremist groups.  The erosion of the State-facilitated illicit activities, which financed terrorism and extremism.  The long-running failure by the international community to facilitate enduring conflicts allowed terrorist groups to craft a narrative for recruitment.  The urgency of a political settlement in Syria had become clearer, while the Libyan parties needed to establish a government of national unity as soon as possible.

RODOLFO NIN NOVOA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay, said the growth of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa had acquired a transnational character, which called for concerted global action.  Such action needed to be in consonance with the Charter and provide solutions based on a holistic approach.  Dealing with challenges such as exclusion, lack of education and basic services would go a long way towards reducing and eventually eliminating the threat.  In light of ISIL’s barbarity, it was not possible to employ traditional means of peaceful resolution of disputes, but to pursue options compatible with international law.

RETNO L.P. MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said a political solution through diplomacy was the only way to resolve the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa.  It was important that such inclusive political and reconciliation processes have no pre-set or preconceived outcomes.  A myriad of issues had arisen as a result of continued conflicts in the region, such as the influx of irregular migrations, the rise of ISIS and the emergence of foreign terrorist fighters, which underlined the need to address the root causes.  Multi-stakeholder engagement to counter the terrorist ideology should empower the role of women and mothers, moderate forces and civil society.  The role of the United Nations should be strengthened by enhancing coordination among counter-terrorism bodies, as well as by synergies with initiatives outside the United Nations framework.

BØRGE BRENDE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, said that war and civil strife in the Middle East and North Africa were giving extremist groups the room to grow into a threat out of all proportion to their strength.  For that reason, his country was contributing to all five lines of effort set out by the coalition against ISIL.  At the same time, it recognized that all actors must avoid creating further complications on the ground, and that unemployment and humanitarian relief must be addressed.  In Syria, a political solution was urgently needed and would only come about if world leaders remained completely focused on supporting it.

CARLOS RAÚL MORALES, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said the consequences of the violence in the region had been disastrous for the civilian population, which required a redoubling of efforts to find viable solutions.  Having served on the Council, Guatemala had the opportunity to see first-hand how that body failed to tackle the roots of conflict, often due to political sensitivities of its members.  However, it had also seen situations where enough political will could be mustered to make necessary structural changes to counteract the scourges underpinning conflicts.

In the context of the Middle East and North Africa, he said the time had come to find that political will and thoroughly address the thorny issues that helped foster the terrorist threat, such as socio-economic exclusion, easy availability of weapons and violations of fundamental human rights.  Although the Council could strongly influence the course of events on the ground, ultimately, peace could only be preserved by the parties to a conflict.  It was not possible to combat terrorism solely with the use of military force.  The legitimacy and action of the United Nations was vital, as was ensuring accountability.

MARINA KALJURAND, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Estonia, expressing grave concern about the recent wave of terrorism and violent extremism, said the inclusion of the terms and requirements of resolution 2178 (2014) in her country’s national legislation was almost complete.  Yesterday’s summit of the international coalition to counter ISIL reflected the commitment to address the terrorist threat.  “We have to stop this aggressive and brutal movement,” she said, urging the effective use of resources and capabilities, and avoiding parallel tracks.  Eliminating terrorism required addressing tensions between non-extremist political, ethnic and religious groups.  The United Nations should maintain its approach to addressing terrorism, regardless of religious, political, historical or ethnic motivations.

TIMO SOINI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said that the current situation was unbearable in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa.  Millions of young people were unemployed and lacked future perspectives, which could lead to their exclusion from the economic, social and political life.  Unfortunately, terrorist organizations used discontent and marginalization for their benefit.  Democracy, human rights and inclusive economic development were fundamental elements in creating stable societies.  It was essential to use society’s full potential, especially when addressing difficult social problems, and he highlighted the importance of women’s full participation in decision-making.  Religious and traditional leaders were often influential representatives of local communities in questions related to peace and mediation, and for that reason Finland had sponsored the establishment of the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.  Decisive action should be taken against terrorist groups such as ISIL.  At the same time, the international community needed to ensure that all measures to counter terrorism complied with international law, human rights law, and refugee and international humanitarian law.

HENRYKA MOSCICKA-DENDYS, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland, said history taught that people would not consent to live under an authoritarian regime indefinitely, nor would they tolerate lawlessness, accept brutality, or give up ambitions for a better life.  Arab revolutions had not created a terrorist threat; however, they had created a political vacuum that offered permissive conditions for violent extremism and terrorism to gain ground.  Simply repeating the mantra to “find a political solution” would not help.  Nor would a security response by itself be sufficient to address the challenges posed by foreign fighters.  In elaborating peace solutions in the Middle East and North Africa, the international community should not forget about diversity, citizenship and equality.  There should be more emphasis on the prevention of terrorism by examining and addressing the conditions conducive to its spread.  Poland supported international efforts to fight terrorism and radicalization and valued close cooperation with the United Nations, the European Union and its strategic partners.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, associating with the European Union, called for an intensification of efforts to find political settlements to end the civil war in Syria.  The Council, she said, should endorse the establishment of an international contact group in support of Staffan de Mistura’s four working groups, with the participation of all key players.  She urged the Syrian Government to contribute to defeating ISIL and terrorism, by ending the attacks against civilians and committing to a genuine political transition.  On Iraq, she said her country would continue to participate in stabilization activities.  In the entire region, it was critical to counter the widespread and systematic violence against women and children, she stressed.

SEBASTIAN KURZ, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Austria, noting the immense scope of migration to Europe due to ISIL’s “barbaric acts”, said his country would continue to support the coalition against the group and provide humanitarian aid to those in need.  However, more must be done to stop ISIL.  The Security Council must unite around a mandate to fight ISIL and protect civilians.  He pledged his country’s support to all such efforts.  The agreement with Iran on its nuclear programme provided hope that negotiations could succeed.  A settlement was urgently needed for the sake of the people of the region and the whole world.

VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belarus, pointed to the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference as evidence of backward movement in ensuring security in the Middle East.  Some problems had been brought to the fore, while others had been “hushed up”.  A parallel reality had been created and the first casualty was the truth.  Imposing one’s views and discrediting legitimately elected Governments had worsened an already difficult regional situation.  Support for certain terrorist groups could only lead to negative consequences, and fragmenting counter-terrorism efforts would only aggravate the problem.  The only viable option was action based on Council decisions.  Belarus had worked to enhance peace in its region, as a party to regional counter-terrorism agreements.  Highlighting the importance of resolution 1540 (2004), he said Belarus in 2013 had held a workshop for the Commonwealth of Independent States to exchange information on that text.

AURELIA FRICK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that for decades, conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa had deeply affected the lives and livelihoods of the people.  In recent years, new waves of violence had contributed to a humanitarian crisis and displacement not seen since the Second World War.  The terrorist threats in and emanating from the area had reached unprecedented levels.  The reasons for the dramatic state of affairs were highly complex, she said, stressing that the war in Syria in particular could be seen as a failure of preventive diplomacy.  The agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme should pave the way for greater collaboration on other strategic issues affecting the region.  The conflicts in the region were set against complex historic backgrounds and geopolitical alliances, she said, urging Council members to pledge not to leave civilians under attack to their fate.  The conflicts were also marked by extreme levels of impunity, the fight against which should be made a building block of international efforts.

TZIPI HOTOVELY, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, said that her country had long been the subject of terror campaigns.  Now that the Middle East and North Africa were experiencing a broad expansion of terror, Israel was flanked by terror groups on all its frontiers:  Hizbullah and Jabhat al-Nusra in the north, ISIL-Sinai in the south, and Hamas in Gaza, which last year had launched thousands of missiles against civilian targets while tunnelling under the border.  Israel, she said, dealt with that huge security threat while scrupulously abiding by international humanitarian law, and Hamas turned those principles on their head through the use of human shields.  Unapologetic clarity was needed in the fight against terror.  Israel’s commitment to the rule of law and democracy allowed its foes to use its principles against it, but democracy would always prevail through a fierce conviction to do battle with any or all those who strove to defile the sanctity of human life.

ALBERT KOENDERS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, associating with the European Union, said terrorism, propelled into people’s lives by the power of social media and Internet networks, had no boundaries, moral or geographic.  Terrorist organizations were challenging the beliefs and values of all peoples.  The international community needed to act collectively against those who enslaved women and children, beheaded innocent civilians and destroyed cultural heritage.  The number of foreign terrorist fighters was rising and they came from a variety of backgrounds and countries.

Unlike the terrorists, he said, the international community acted in clear recognition of the moral and legal boundaries set by the rule of law and human rights.  It took due account of the dilemmas posed by the demands for security and privacy.  Finding the proper balance was not easy, but the Netherlands was convinced that the two were not mutually exclusive.  The United Nations could be effective when it came together in demonstration of political will.

PETER VARGHESE, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, said the causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and others in Libya and Yemen, were “diabolically” complex.  The need for an international response was most urgent in Iraq and Syria.  Australia was not immune to such problems, with some 120 Australian citizens having travelled to the Syria-Iraq conflict zone, many to fight for Da’esh.  As part of the international coalition, Australia had extended air operations to target Da’esh in Syria, building on its operations in Iraq and consistent with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.  The Russian Federation’s plan to carry out air strikes in Syria must focus on Da’esh.  He supported Iraq in seeking to deliver inclusive governance and advocated a political solution in Syria.

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GUNNAR BRAGI SVEINSSON, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, surveying the grave deterioration in the region, said that his country was determined to do its part in helping to address the humanitarian aspects of what he called a “man-made catastrophe”.  Aid could alleviate the desperation that drove so many people into the hands of traffickers.  He urged members of the Security Council to put differences aside and act in a united manner to help foster political solutions to the crises of the region.

ABDULAZIZ ABDULRAHMAN ALAMMAR, Permanent Observer of the Gulf Cooperation Council, called for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he maintained was fuelling terrorism in the region.  The Gulf States had provided billions in relief to Syrians and were committed to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  He called on the Security Council to help bring about a political solution.  In Yemen, a settlement was also urgently needed and should be based on the Gulf Council’s plan and Security Council resolutions.  Conflict and terror must end throughout the region.

PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, recalling Pope Francis’ address to the General Assembly on 25 September, reiterated his appeals for relief for those in the Middle East and Africa who were under the threat of death and the destruction of their cultural and religious heritage.  He called on the international community not to remain silent and inert before all the tragedies happening at present.  He echoed the pleas of Syrians for humanitarian assistance.  A negotiated settlement in Syria must be a top priority; flooding the area with weapons would not help.  Any solution must be based on the inviolable dignity of all persons regardless of religion or cultural differences.  It was intolerable to stand by as fellow humans were persecuted, exiled, killed, burned and beheaded solely because they held different beliefs or belonged to minority groups.

SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said that given the presence of militants and terrorists from the Russian Federation in Ukraine, some provisions of resolutions 2170 (2014) and 2178 (2014) were relevant to the situation in that country.  Deeply concerned about ISIL in the Middle East and North Africa, he condemned mass violence crimes by that group, particularly in Syria and Iraq.  The fight against such groups must be accompanied by a political transformation in Syria and democratization of its institutions.  Combatting the activities of individual terrorists and groups would be insufficient if the problem of sponsor States was not addressed.  There were disturbing attempts to tilt discussion on the Syrian crisis towards how to accommodate the Russian Federation’s interests in that country, rather than addressing the root causes of that dispute.

AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY, Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, said the Middle East Spring had become the autumn of despair.  The Palestine issue was the primary cause of instability in the Middle East.  He advocated the creation of a viable Palestinian State based on 1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.  On Syria, he urged uniting behind the Special Envoy’s mediation efforts.  In Yemen, the Government must be restored through negotiations, while a peace process must start, based on Council resolutions.  If the United Nations could not guarantee the right to self-determination, he asked, who would?

MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro, said mediation was an under-used conflict resolution tool, noting that his country would host a 2016 conference on mediation in the Mediterranean region.  The absence of a political solution and humanitarian response had had a devastating effect on Syrian refugees.  The Syrian crisis was the reason why mass atrocity cases must be tackled with more decisiveness by the Council.  On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, key actors should bring both sides back to the negotiation table.  The parameters of a peace package for a two-State solution were already in place.  In Libya and Yemen, stability required inclusive reconciliation Governments and strengthening the security sectors with international support.  To counter incitement to terrorism, he urged religious leaders to more forcefully denounce terrorist claims that abused the values of Islam.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia) said the root causes of conflict in the Middle East and North Africa included domination, exclusion and a lack of international law, citing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and aggression against the Al-Aqsa mosque.  The international community must immediately end Israeli occupation of Palestine and other Arab territories.  He supported the creation of a Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Peace in Syria required a broad coalition to address the deep causes of conflict.  The Assad regime could not be part of the war against terrorism because it represented terrorism.

He expressed deep concern about the Russian Federation’s military operations in Homs, where there were no Da’esh troops.  Those attacks had claimed civilian victims and he demanded that they end immediately and not be repeated.  Interference in State affairs, such as what Iran had done, were doomed to fail.  He supported measures adopted by the Iraqi Government to restore balance in political life.  In Yemen, Saudi Arabia had responded to the Government’s appeal.  Resolution of that conflict required dialogue among the various parties, in line with the Gulf Cooperation Council mechanism and Security Council resolution 2216 (2015).  It was reprehensible that Iran tried to politicize the incident during the Haj pilgrimage.  Saudi Arabia had always sought to ensure pilgrims’ safety, having thwarted Iranian sabotage attempts.

ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI (India) called for the Council to invest more in political efforts to resolve the multiple conflicts in the region under discussion, including the civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the intensified militia warfare in Libya and the worsening situation in Yemen.  The prerogative of national authorities to resolve internal crises should be respected as a cardinal principle.  Intervention, using humanitarian concerns as a pretext, ran the danger of exacerbating conflict.  Pledging his country’s full cooperation in efforts to counter terrorism, he called on the Council to be more transparent in that area.  In that context, he hoped that Council reform, to make it more effective and representative, would soon occur.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco), underlining the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully with respect for the sovereignty of nations, criticized Israeli practices in Jerusalem that did not respect the sensitivities of hundreds of millions of Muslims and reiterated support for the two-State solution.  Surveying the grave harm done by terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa, he said that despair was driving such terrorism as well as migration.  He denounced all terrorism as criminal, affirming Morocco’s engagement in the fight against it and describing initiatives to which the country subscribed.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan) stressed the need for not only confronting the challenges at hand in the region but also for addressing their underlying factors.  Japan had been swift and steadfast in its response to the current refugee crisis, providing $810 million in assistance this year to refugees and internally displaced persons of Syria and Iraq.  In addition, $2.5 million in assistance would be extended to European countries such as Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which also were receiving refugees.  Japan reaffirmed its unwavering commitment to tackle terrorism through a multifaceted approach that included the empowerment of individuals and the building of economic communities in line with the concept of human security.  He urged the Council to play an increasingly constructive role in achieving political solutions that the region ultimately needed.

KINGSLEY MAMABOLO (South Africa), noting that previous approaches to violence and terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa had not produced the desired results, said that on the contrary, interference by outside parties and the pursuit of regime change had, instead, played a significant role in perpetuating instability.  It was clear that the Council must be at the forefront of efforts to curb violent extremism and engage with all stakeholders, including regional organizations, and utilize local expertise.  He called on the Council to redouble its efforts to promote conditions for inclusive dialogue aimed at political solutions to all conflicts in the region, including the one between Israelis and Palestinians and those in Syria, Libya and Yemen.

HAHN CHOONGHEE (Republic of Korea) said that in the many worrisome and even terrifying developments in the Middle East and North Africa, key stakeholders needed to clarify common strategies and priorities.  It was time to move beyond differences on the Syrian conflict and ISIL.  Political transitions in Yemen and Libya should be inclusive, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must not be put on the back burner.  Welcoming the agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme, he said that the best weapon to fight terrorism should be the commitment to human rights, freedom and the rule of law.

Taking the floor a second time, Iran’s representative said comments by his counterpart from Israel were irrelevant to today’s debate.  Foreign occupation was the gravest form of terrorism.  There was no doubt that that regime was responsible for oppression, civilian deaths, genocide and war crimes, as well as for turning millions of Palestinians into refugees.  Its State terrorism had created deadly oppression around the world.

To comments by Saudi Arabia’s representative, he said aggression against Yemen had created a “bleeding sore” in the region, inflicting death on civilians and emboldening extremist groups.  Those unleashing their armies against innocent people in Yemen must realize that there was no way forward other than broad Yemeni dialogue.  The world had not forgotten that delegation’s complicity in Al-Qaida and the Taliban, as well as in Saddam Hussein’s crimes against the Iranian and Iraqi people.

On the hajj tragedy, he said Iran was not trying to politicize the issue.  “We are talking about the lives of hundreds of people who were the victims of incompetence by those in charge,” he said.  Many of the missing had not been identified and the return of bodies to their families had been delayed.  He asked public opinion to demand that Saudi Arabia fulfil its international obligations, and more importantly, that conditions be prepared for a professional investigation into the causes of that disaster and ways to prevent future ones.

The representative of Syria, responding to statements by the representative of Saudi Arabia, said that that country played a role in arming and facilitating terrorist groups.  Without that support, the terrorist threat to Syria would have been eliminated long ago.

For information media. Not an official record.