Robert M. Danin

Middle East Matters

Danin analyzes critical developments and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

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Middle East Voices from the UN General Assembly

by Robert M. Danin
September 27, 2013

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2013 (Segar/Courtesy Reuters).


World leaders converged at the United Nations this week for the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly. The Middle East was well represented, with numerous heads of states and governments attending from across the region. Middle East Matters has excerpted remarks from Middle Eastern leaders who spoke from the General Assembly’s rostrum this week. The debate concludes next Tuesday.

President Abdullah Gul, Turkey:

On Syria:

“Were it not for the use of chemical weapons, would the international community have continued to turn a blind eye to the deaths of more than a hundred thousand people? For how long can we afford to evade our moral responsibility to the people being killed even as we speak? This conflict neither began with the use of chemical weapons nor will it end with an agreement to eliminate them. We therefore bluntly reject any position that is not troubled by the killing of innocent people in itself, but only by the means of such killing. Such an approach is immoral and totally unacceptable.”

On Syria and the United Nations Security Council:

“It is a disgrace that the United Nations Security Council has failed to uphold its primary responsibility in this case. It is deeply regrettable that political differences, balance-of-power politics, and geopolitical considerations have prevailed over the imperative to end this tragedy.”

King Abdullah II, Jordan:

On regional issues:

“Our region can be, must be, a House of Peace and Prosperity…But no house can be built when its city is burning.”

On Syria:

“The Syrian crisis is a global humanitarian and security disaster. Escalating violence threatens to hollow-out the rest of that country’s economic and political future.”

“The flow of Syrian refugees in Jordan already equals one-tenth of our own population. It could reach one million, some 20% of our population, by next year. These are not just numbers; they are people, who need food, water, shelter, sanitation, electricity, health care and more. Not even the strongest global economies could absorb this demand on infrastructure and resources, let alone a small economy and the fourth water-poorest country in the world.”

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar:

On Syria:

“The Syrian people has not risen up for putting the Syrian chemical weapons under the international supervision but for getting rid of despotism and corruption and to end the injustice it has been facing.”

On the United Nations Security Council:

“We all know that the responsibility for failure to impose the political settlement we all prefer for Syria is due basically to the inability of the Security Council to take the required decision to stop the bloodshed and continued intransigence of the Syrian regime and its refusal of all regional and international initiatives. From this perspective, the decision-making process at the Security Council has become in need of change since it lacks fairness and objectivity.”

On Palestine:

“The organizations of the international community have been established on the basis of granting the right of self-determination after the world wars. And it is unreasonable that they could not do anything about the last colonial issue of our world.”

President Hassan Rouhani, Iran:

On Iran’s nuclear program:

“Iran’s nuclear program…must pursue exclusively peaceful purposes. I declare here, openly and unambiguously, that, notwithstanding the positions of others, this has been, and will always be, the objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran’s security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran, insisting on the implementation of its rights and the imperative of international respect and cooperation in this exercise, is prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency.”

On sanctions and international engagement:

“Unjust sanctions…are intrinsically inhumane and against peace. And contrary to the claims of those who pursue and impose them, it is not the states and the political elite that are targeted, but rather, it is the common people who are victimized by these sanctions.”

“[T]hose who harp on the so called threat of Iran are either a threat against international peace and security themselves or promote such a threat. Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region.”

On Syria:

“Pursuit of expansionist strategies and objectives and attempts to change the regional balance through proxies cannot be camouflaged behind humanitarian rhetoric. The common objective of the international community should be a quick end to the killing of the innocent.”

President Michel Sleiman, Lebanon:

On Syria:

“As for the most pressing and biggest burden, which has begun to take an existential dimension, it derives from an unprecedented increase in the numbers of incoming refugees from Syria, way beyond Lebanon’s capacity of assimilation, exceeding one fourth of Lebanon’s population.”

“The Lebanese must also revert to their commitment to the ‘Baabda Declaration’ which sets out Lebanon’s disassociation from the negative fallout of the regional crises and the policy of axes…”

On Palestine:

“As for the main challenge, it still derives from the repercussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the persistence of the Israeli occupation and oppressive practices, as well as Israel’s attempt to establish more illegal settlements, and Judaize the city of Jerusalem (Al-Quds), and the failure of the international community to find a just and comprehensive solution for all the aspects of this conflict, especially with the subsequent Refugee problem in the neighboring host countries, in particular Lebanon, the enhanced sense of injustice and tendency for extremism and violence, and the resulting human and material losses that have hindered the projects of economic and social progress throughout the Arab nation.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah, Kuwait:

On Iran’s nuclear program:

“[T]he state of Kuwait supports the ongoing efforts to peacefully resolve this issue in a manner that will preserve the right of the Islamic Republic of Iran and all the countries in the region, to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the supervision and monitoring of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

On Palestine:

“We value in this respect the ongoing efforts of the United States of America to achieve a breakthrough in the peace process, hoping that persistent efforts and pressure on Israel will make it accept the resolutions of international legitimacy.”

On relations with Iraq:

“Through communications at the highest level between the leaderships of both countries, our bilateral relations have developed positively and tangibly by overcoming past differences between the two countries, and looking forward to strengthen and develop future bilateral relations for the welfare and interest of the peoples of both countries.”

Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, Libya:

On Libya:

“The constituent body election law to draft a permanent constitution issued by the National Congress on July 20, 2013 is another step to accomplish the most important National agenda items, towards the formulation and adoption of a permanent constitution for Libya that would end a difficult transitional period the country is currently experiencing, with some security incidents and breaches occurring from time to time, that the official authorities are addressing with the available potentials.”

On Palestine:

“The time has now come for the international community to assume its responsibilities to end this tragedy as soon as possible, by taking urgent and decisive actions to ensure the full protection of the Palestinians, and to stop the daily suffering and relieve the injustice through comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue that would remove the occupation and enable the Palestinian people to restore their territory and establish their own independent Palestinian state with Al-Quds as its capital, and the return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes, according to the relevant international resolutions.”

On Syria:

“We reiterate our call to the UN Security Council to act in accordance with the concept of the Responsibility to Protect, in order to find a solution to the problem, through consensus among its members, to save the Syrian people from daily massacres and help in achieving their legitimate demands.”

President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine:

On Palestine:

“I am honored to address you today, and for the first time in the name of the State of Palestine, before the United Nations General Assembly, after your historic decision last 29 November to raise Palestine’s status to that of an observer State.”

“The objective of the negotiations is to secure a lasting peace accord that leads immediately to the establishment of the independence of a fully sovereign State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all of the Palestinian lands occupied in 1967, so that it may live in peace and security alongside the State of Israel, and the resolution of the plight of Palestine refugees in a just agreed upon solution according to United Nations resolution 194, as called for by the Arab Peace Initiative.”

“Here we reaffirm that we refuse to enter into a vortex of a new interim agreement that becomes eternalized, or to enter into transitional arrangements that will become a fixed rule rather than an urgent exception. Our objective is to achieve a permanent and comprehensive agreement and a peace treaty between the States of Palestine and Israel that resolves all outstanding issues and answers all questions, which allows us to officially declare and end of conflict and claims.”

“History teaches us – and it is the best teacher – that waging war, occupation, settlements and walls may provide temporary quiet and a momentary domination, but they certainly do not ensure real security nor guarantee a sustainable peace.”

“Let us work to make the culture of peace reign, to tear down walls, to build bridges instead of walls, to open wide roads for connection and communication. Let us sow the seeds of good neighborliness. Let us envision another future that the children of Palestine and of Israel enjoy with peace and security, and where they can dream and realize their dreams, a future that allows Muslims, Christians and Jews to freely reach places of worship; and a future in which Israel will gain the recognition of fifty-seven Arab and Muslim countries and where the States of Palestine and Israel will coexist in peace, in order to realize each people’s hopes for progress and prosperity.”

“The Palestinian people do not want to remain “out of place” in the words of Edward Said. Our people wait for a day when its cause ceases to be a fixed item on the agenda of the United Nations. Our people want to have freedom, God’s gift to humanity, and to enjoy the grace of living an ordinary life.”

Vice President Khudheir Mussa Al-Khuzaie, Iraq

On Syria:

“[W]e in Iraq, whose people suffered tremendously from the horrors of war caused by the recklessness and follies of the defunct Saddam regime, are deeply concerned by the worsening events and tense situation on our borders with Syria, a country with which we have over 600 km long borders. This is why we consider the Syrian conflict a serious threat to our security, stability and the integrity of our land and people.”

On regional issues:

“[N]o pre or post 2015 sustainable development is attainable with the existence of organized terrorism thriving on the bloodshed of innocent people as it claims their lives. This scourge has adopted extremism as its approach, death as its craft, violence as its means, hatred as its culture and senseless and indiscriminate murder as its hobby.”

On relations with Kuwait:

“Iraq suffered for more than two decades from international sanctions because of the invasion of the State of Kuwait by the former regime, however the new Iraq has managed, through its cooperation with the international community on the one hand and through the development of its brotherly relations with the neighboring State of Kuwait, to overcome the effects of the sanctions and work together with UN Security Council…”

“Today, we look forward together to build the present to be a springboard and a solid foundation for a prosperous future for the generations that will reflect its positive effects on the entire region.”


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