Turmoil in Syria, Yemen, Iraq shaking foundations of Middle East, warns UN chief

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman receives UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at ASPA Summit. (SPA)

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman receives UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at ASPA Summit. (SPA)

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on the international community, especially Israel and the Palestinians, to translate into action the commitment to a two-state solution to solve one of the oldest conflicts of the Middle East region.

Ban, who delivered his speech at the inaugural ceremony of the 4th Summit of the Arab-South American Countries, also voiced his deep concerns over other regional disputes.

Thanking for support provided by the Kingdom to the UN agencies, the UN chief said: “It is time to solve the regional conflicts that are hampering all efforts to ensure peace and security in the region.” He expressed his concerns over the ongoing fragmentation in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, which are shaking the foundations of today’s Middle East.

In fact, the whole Middle East region has entered a fluid period of transition involving the growing power of non-state actors, including new extremist and terror groups, at a time of increased competition for influence among the key countries in the region. He reiterated his call for global support and described the Israel-Palestine conflict “disturbing.”

Referring to the growing cooperation between the Arab world and the South American countries, he said that the South American region is peaceful while the Arab world is “marred by tensions and conflicts.” He, however, acknowledged the ongoing rapid development in the Arab world, especially in fossil fuel, renewable and solar energy sectors.

Referring to the need for empowerment of women, he said that the track record of women empowerment in South American countries is impressive. “It is important to work on women emancipation as we can not leave half of our population underprivileged and unattended,” he said. “Ultimately, women’s empowerment yields strong economic returns for all,” he said.

“We must do more to remove the barriers women face in participating fully in the economy — such as lack of access to jobs, markets, credit and property,” he said.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Araby also called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and other bodies to make more efforts to halt the continuation of the current situation in Palestine. The violence erupted as a result of tensions over restrictions imposed by Israel against the entry of Palestinians to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in recent months.

He said that Palestinians are also angry at increasing violence by Israeli settlers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and their attacks on Palestinian properties, saying that the Tel Aviv regime seeks to change the status quo of the compound, which is the third holiest site in Islam.

Speaking in the capacity of the regional coordinator for South American nations, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira addressed the regional issues, saying that Brazil issued visas to more than 8,000 people fleeing the civil war in Syria, with more than 2,000 Syrian receiving refugee status so far. Brazil, he said, has been concerned about regional disputes, refugee crisis, Syria, Yemen and other issues.

“In fact, Brazil and the other South American nations want to show that they don’t stand indifferent to these issues and that they support the search for solutions,” he said. “Brazil respects and commits to help in any way it can to ensure peace and security in Syria.”

On the commercial front, Vieria said that the commercial exchange between the Arab states and UNASUR states have grown by 180 percent during the last 10 years.

In fact, South America’s bilateral trade with the Arab world reached $34.7 billion last year, an increase of 183 percent over 2005, when the first summit was held in Brasilia. It is important to mention here that Brazil is responsible for the majority of the transactions in 2014 with $24.8 billion in exports and imports from and to the Arab world.

The Brazilian diplomacy lists the progress in trade and opening of air routes between the two regions as examples of ASPA’s success. Hence, the meeting between leaders of both regions is seen as capable of generating new opportunities in this and in other sectors, such as, for instance, the diversification of markets in a moment of low demand for agricultural commodities and oil.


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