Overcoming Obstacles Requires Breaking Circle of Division, Working Together towards More Peaceful Future, Secretary-General Tells Arab States Summit (2024)

Following are UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ remarks at the Summit of the League of Arab States, in Manama today:

As salaam alaikum.

I was born in Lisbon — a city that for centuries was part of Al-Andalus. This was at a time when Cordoba was the centre of culture and civilization of the Iberian Peninsula, just as Baghdad was the centre of culture and civilization of the world — reaching out from the Chinese border to the Atlantic coast. History moved on. And a number of transformations — cultural, economic, technological and military — changed the world to the detriment of the Arab people.

The majority of Arab countries were colonized. It took decades of struggle for liberation — sometimes bloody wars — often with long periods of exploitation — and a legacy of lines arbitrarily drawn in the sand.

But, today, once again, the world is changing and I see enormous potential in the Arab region. You have the resources. You have the culture. You have the people. But there is one core condition for success in today’s world: unity.

Time and again, history has shown that divisions allow outsiders to intervene — promoting conflicts, stoking sectarian tensions and inadvertently fueling terrorism. These are obstacles to peaceful development and the well-being of your peoples.

Overcoming those obstacles requires breaking the vicious circle of division and foreign manipulation — and moving forward together to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for the people of the Arab world and beyond.

We gather as hearts are breaking for Palestinians in Gaza. The war in Gaza is an open wound that threatens to infect the entire region. In its speed and scale, it is the deadliest conflict in my time as Secretary-General — for civilians, aid workers, journalists and our own UN colleagues.

Of course, nothing can justify the abhorrent 7October terror attacks by Hamas. I reiterate my call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. And nothing can justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. Yet the toll on civilians continues to escalate.

Entire families wiped out. Children traumatized and injured for life. People denied access to the very basics for human survival. A looming famine.

Any assault on Rafah is unacceptable. It would inflict another surge of pain and misery when we need a surge in life-saving aid.It is time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) remains the backbone of our operations in Gaza and a lifeline for Palestine refugees across the region. It needs full support and funding.

I am also deeply troubled by tensions in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, with a spike in illegal Israeli settlements, settler violence, excessive use of force by Israeli Defense Forces, demolitions and evictions.

The only permanent way to end the cycle of violence and instability is through a two-State solution, Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States. The demographic and historical character of Jerusalem must be preserved, and the status quo at the holy sites must be upheld, in line with the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Turning to Sudan, a devastating war has thrown half the country’s population into a humanitarian freefall. One year on, thousands have been killed, and 18million people are staring down the terrifying threat of famine.

I urge the international community to intensify its push for peace and call on the warring parties to agree on a lasting ceasefire. This should be followed by a political process that includes women’s and youth groups.I pledge the full support of the United Nations.

We must also protect the fragile political processes in Libya and Yemen.

As High Commissioner for Refugees, I witnessed the enormous generosity of the Syrian people. I am pained to see Syria now, with so much suffering and with parts of its territory occupied with several external actors involved. I call on all Syrians to come together in a spirit of reconciliation, honouring the diversity of the Syrian people and respecting the human rights of all.

We face other serious global crises.The climate emergency; rising inequalities, poverty and hunger; crushing debt; and new technology — including artificial intelligence — that is running ahead of governance and guardrails. We need deep reforms to the global multilateral system — from the Security Council to the international financial architecture — so they are truly universal and representative of today’s realities.

The upcoming Summit of the Future is a pivotal opportunity to create momentum for a more networked and inclusive multilateralism. I look forward to welcoming you to the Summit in New York in September.

There is no better moment for the Arab region to come together. Unity and solidarity throughout the Arab world would amplify the vital voice of the region and further boost your influence on the global stage. It can help this region find peace, make the most of its enormous potential and further contribute to the global good. In all this work, you can count on the United Nations, and on me personally, for our support and partnership.

Overcoming Obstacles Requires Breaking Circle of Division, Working Together towards More Peaceful Future, Secretary-General Tells Arab States Summit (2024)


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