9602nd Meeting (PM)

Warning Middle East at Risk of Full-Scale Conflict, Secretary-General Urges All Parties to ‘Step Back from the Brink’, in Emergency Security Council Session

A day after Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles from its territory towards Israel - most intercepted - the people of the Middle East are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict, the UN chief told the Security Council today during an emergency meeting, as delegates urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

“Regional – and indeed global - peace and security are being undermined by the hour.  Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stressing:  “Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate.” 

He said the emergency session was held upon an urgent request by Israel following what it described in a letter as a direct attack launched by Iran of over 200 unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles towards Israel in clear violation of the United Nations Charter and international law.  In a separate letter, Iran stated that it had carried out a series of military strikes on Israeli military objectives in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defence as outlined in Article 51 of the Charter, and in response to the Israeli recurring military aggressions, particularly its armed attack on 1 April 2024 against Iranian diplomatic premises in Damascus.

The Secretary-General said that according to the latest reports several missiles reportedly struck within Israeli territory.  One damaged an Israeli military facility in the south of the country.  Overall, a few civilians were injured.  

He strongly condemned the serious escalation represented by the large-scale attack launched on Israel by Iran, noting that the UN Charter prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.  Moreover, in relation to the 1 April attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, he underscored that the principle of inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises and personnel must be respected in all cases, in accordance with international law.

“It’s time to step back from the brink,” he asserted, citing the vital need to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East and that acts of reprisal involving the use of force are barred under international law. 

He stressed the shared responsibility to actively engage all parties concerned to prevent further escalation, secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the unconditional release of all hostages, the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid, the cessation of hostilities in the occupied West Bank, de-escalation of the situation along the Blue Line, and re-establishment of safe navigation in the Red Sea.  “We have a shared responsibility to work for peace,” he said. 

When the floor opened for discussion, numerous delegates - among them, the representatives of the Republic of Korea, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Ecuador, Japan, Switzerland and Malta - warned against accelerating the spiral of violence in the region, calling on all parties to exercise utmost restraint. 

Condemning both Israel’s attack against the Iranian consulate and Tehran’s retaliatory strikes on Israel, Slovenia’s delegate underscored that the sequence of these events threatens to escalate into a broader conflict of “unpredictable scope”.  Echoing that sentiment, Guyana’s delegate said that “violence begets violence” and urged the parties to choose the path of peace and dialogue. 

The representative of the United States condemned in the strongest terms the “unprecedented” attack on Israel by Iran and its militant proxies, whose intent was “to cause significant damage and death”.  Iran’s reckless actions pose a threat to populations in Israel and other UN Member States in the region, including Jordan and Iraq.  The Council must not let Iran’s actions go unanswered, he asserted, adding that for far too long, Iran has flagrantly violated its international legal obligations by arming Hezbollah; arming, facilitating, and enabling Houthi attacks; and transferring drones to the Russian Federation.  Additionally, Iran was complicit in the 7 October attack on Israel as it has provided significant funding and training for the military wing of Hamas and, therefore, contributed to the current crisis in Gaza. 

He highlighted the collective responsibility to ensure Iran’s compliance with Council resolutions.  “In the coming days, and in consultation with other Member States, the United States will explore additional measures to hold Iran accountable here at the United Nations,” he pledged, expressing support for Israel’s right to self-defence. “If Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible,” he asserted, noting that Washington, D.C., is not seeking escalation and its actions have been “purely defensive in nature”.

Also condemning the unprecedented attack launched by Iran against Israel, the speaker for France said Tehran “crossed a new threshold in its destabilizing action, risking a military escalation”.  She welcomed that Israel was able to successfully repel the attack, therefore “avoiding the worse and sparing many civilians”.  France is fully mobilized to find a settlement to the crisis, she said, adding:  “We must leave no stone unturned in avoiding a new war in the Middle East.”

Her counterpart from the United Kingdom unequivocally condemned Iran’s attack against Israel, which “risked thousands of civilian casualties”.  The scale and nature of its “heinous assault” – the first direct attack from Tehran on Israeli soil - poses grave risks to the security and stability of citizens across the Middle East.  Highlighting Iran’s role in destabilizing the region, she said that it also bears responsibility for the actions of the groups it has long supported militarily, financially and politically.  “Through this attack, Iran has once again demonstrated that it is intent on sowing chaos in the region,” she said, stressing that her country will continue to stand up for Israel's security, and that of all its regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.  Commending London’s allies for deterring the Iranian threat, she urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

Meanwhile, the representative of the Russian Federation observed that while the Secretary-General instantly and publicly reacted and condemned Iran’s actions, he did not propose to brief the Council on 2 April when an emergency meeting was called on the Israeli strikes against the consular premises in Damascus.  He called on the UN Chief to be more active vis-à-vis “no less turbulent topics” in the Middle East, including Israel’s regular attacks against Syria and Lebanon.  Moscow proposed a draft press statement to denounce this atrocious act; however, Western countries – Washington, D.C, London and Paris - declined to confirm that the basic principles of international law on the inviolability of diplomatic and consular facilities apply equally to all States. 

Rejecting such hypocrisy and double standards, he stressed that the night of the 14 April “did not happen in a vacuum” – instead, the steps undertaken by Iran became a reaction to the Council’s “disgraceful inaction” regarding the egregious attack by Israel against Damascus.  Now, the spiral of bloodshed and confrontations must be stopped; otherwise, the region could be drawn into a vicious cycle of mutual attacks and violence.  In this regard, he noted the signal sent by Tehran that “they do not seek a further military escalation against Israel” and called on the latter to follow suit and reject the practice of provocations and the use of force in the Middle East.

China’s delegate described the 1 April attack on Iran's diplomatic premises in Syria as a grave violation of international law and a breach of the sovereignty of both countries.  He noted Iran’s statement that its military action was in response to Israel’s aggression against its diplomatic premises and “the matter can be deemed concluded”.  The ongoing situation - the latest spillover of the Gaza conflict - serves as another reminder that the Palestinian question remains central to the Middle East issue.  “If the flames of the Gaza conflict are allowed to continue raging, then the adverse spillover is set to spread further, making the region even more unstable,” he cautioned, stressing that countries in the Middle East cannot afford a larger conflict or war.

The representative of Israel said that Iran’s attack was launched from its soil as well as from Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.  He said that his country has repeatedly called on the Council to take concrete action against Tehran, warning that “its hegemonic ambitions of global domination must be stopped before it drives the world to the point of no return – […] a world war”.  Last night, the world witnessed unprecedented escalation, serving as the most evident proof of what happens when warnings are not heeded.  The direct Iranian attack against Israel – the first of its kind - is just “the most recent chapter in a blood-soaked saga”.  In this sense, Iran’s regime – “seeking death and destruction” - is no different than the Third Reich.  Tehran’s strategy has been crystal clear – arm, fund and train foreign terror proxies worldwide to carry out its murderous scheme of domination.  Yet, he pointed out that the world has been “deafeningly silent” for years. 

But today, publicly attacking Israel from its sovereign territory, the mask of its deniability has been removed, he continued.  “As Iran’s mask has fallen, the world’s complacency must also fall,” he said, adding that Tehran and its proxies must be shown that the world will no longer stand idle.  “Can you imagine if the attack was carried under the Iranian nuclear umbrella?” he asked, warning that Tehran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power.  Against this backdrop, he urged the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’s signatories to initiate the snapback mechanism today and impose all possible sanctions on Iran “before it’s too late”.  Hamas – with Iranian funding, weaponry and training – carried out the most brutal massacre of Jews since the Holocaust.  Noting that 99 per cent of Iran’s UAVs and missiles were intercepted by Israel and its allies, he declared:  “We will defend our future”. 

Iran’s delegate countered that his country’s operation was entirely in the exercise of its inherent right to self-defence.  “This concluded action was necessary and proportionate,” he said, adding that it was carried out carefully to only target military objectives, minimize the potential for escalation and prevent civilian harm.  He expressed regret that the United States, the United Kingdom and France have chosen to turn a blind eye to the Israeli armed attacks against its diplomatic premises in Syria.  Moreover, for over six months now, these countries have shielded Israel from any responsibility for the Gaza massacre.  “While they have denied Iran’s inherent right to self-defence against the Israeli armed attacks on our diplomatic premises, at the same time, they shamefully justified the Israeli massacre and genocide against the defenseless Palestinian people under the pretext of self-defence,” he observed.

Following Israel’s terrorist attack against Tehran’s diplomatic premises in Damascus, the Council has failed in its duty to maintain international peace and security, he said.  While determined to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity against any threat or acts of aggression, he stressed that Tehran “does not seek escalation or war in the region”.  Also, it has no intention of engaging in conflict with the United States in the region. However, he emphasized that if Washington, D.C., initiates military operations against Iran, his country will use its inherent right to respond proportionately.

Syria’s delegate said that yesterday, the region witnessed “an inevitable outcome of Israel’s repeated aggression and grave violations of international law” on his country’s territory.  Washington, D.C,’s blind and unlimited support has led Israel to believe that it is above international law.  Syria has repeatedly warned about the dangers of “the explosion that the Israeli occupation authorities are trying to spark to cover up for their military failure in Gaza and to find justifications for their genocide against the Palestinian people”.  Against this backdrop, he underscored the need to impose an immediate halt to the Israeli aggression on Gaza and countries in the region. 

He called for an end to Washington, D.C.,’ illegitimate military presence on Syria’s territory, “the systemic looting of its national wealth and the sponsoring of terrorist organizations and separatist militias”.  He also demanded the full and unconditional lifting of unilateral coercive measures - a form of “economic terrorism”.  The United States, the United Kingdom and France attacked Syria collectively and individually, based on a distorted interpretation of Article 51 of the UN Charter. Meanwhile, Iran’s response - an urgent necessity imposed by Israel’s persistent crimes - amounts to “a sound and practical exercise of the legitimate right of self-defence,” he said.

For information media. Not an official record.