Situation in Persian Gulf - Security Council Open VTC

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20-Oct-2020 03:19:56
Concerned about lasting conflicts, terrorism, sectarian tensions plaguing Persian Gulf, speakers in Security Council stress need for coherent approach to collective security.

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Calls for Yemen Ceasefire, Return to Iran Nuclear Programme among Main Points of Debate

Deeply concerned about long-term conflicts, terrorism and sectarian tension in the Persian Gulf, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, expert briefers and ministerial‑level representatives called for the entire region’s security to be addressed in a coherent manner during a Security Council video teleconference meeting today.

“The regional situation underscores the urgent need to work collectively to lower tensions and prevent conflict,” Mr. Guterres said as he opened the meeting entitled “Comprehensive review of the situation in the Persian Gulf region”, following a proposal by the Russian Federation, Council President for October, based on that country’s vision for collective security in the region outlined in its concept note (document S/2020/1013).

The meeting was presided over by Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Also briefing were Robert Malley, the President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, and Vitaly Naumkin, Director of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“Given the complex and multifaceted challenges in the Persian Gulf region, it is important to reflect more deeply on how the international community — particularly the Security Council — can work in unison to promote peace and security in this vital part of the world,” Mr. Guterres said.

He expressed deep concern, in that context, over the situation in Yemen, where he said six years of war have devastated the lives of millions, famine is looming, and trust in the region has been further underlined. He reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table to work out a political settlement to end the war.

In the wider region, he welcomed the response of several Gulf countries which expressed support for his call for a COVID‑19 global ceasefire and which dispatched humanitarian aid to affected countries. He added, however, that tensions are running high across the region and confidence is low, raising fears that any miscalculation could quickly escalate.

The first step in that regard is to identify viable confidence‑building measures that could address issues of mutual concern, he said, arguing that in the cold war it was possible to launch the Helsinki process independent of confrontation and deep divisions. He and several countries have suggested a similar platform for the Persian Gulf, but consensus on key actors has not yet been achieved. Confidence‑building measures involve cooperation in the fight against COVID‑19, promotion of economic recovery, ensuring unhindered maritime navigation and facilitating religious pilgrimages.

In the longer term, there is value in establishing a new regional security architecture to address the legitimate security concerns of all stakeholders, he said, pledging to stand ready to convene any forms of regional dialogue that may have the necessary consensus of all the relevant parties involved. He said he remains fully supportive of efforts such as those launched by Kuwait to resolve tensions between members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Emphasizing that the issue of nuclear non‑proliferation is critical to tensions in the region, he reiterated his support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear programme. He called for stakeholders in the region to move beyond destructive rivalries and create a climate conducive to dialogue in the interest of the people of the Persian Gulf.

In his briefing, Mr. Malley said his organization has recently been warning against risks of confrontation and proposing practical diplomatic ways to avert them. “The region‑wide conflict that now looms largest across the globe is a conflict nobody apparently wants – a conflict triggered by tensions in the Gulf region,” he said, spotlighting anxiety in the Strait of Hormuz, Iraq and Yemen. Such a conflict is far from inevitable, and so far all parties have largely shown the ability to calibrate their actions to avoid an escalation. However, several times over the last two years – most notably with the attacks on the Saudi Aramco facilities and the killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – a regional conflict has seemed possible.

While the parties eventually stepped back on each of those occasions, he warned that “we cannot be confident that all sides will always demonstrate such restraint”. A single attack by rocket, drone or limpet mine could set off a military escalation between the United States and Iran and their respective regional allies and proxies that could prove impossible to contain. Stressing that such a situation serves no parties’ interests, he said the reason it remains explosive is the “intense polarization that has infected the Gulf region”. Even perspectives on the sources of the tension are highly divergent, depending on whether one sits in Washington, D.C., Tehran, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Doha or elsewhere. Saudi Arabia and its allies view Iran as a “would‑be hegemon” and a growing threat with regional aspirations. Tehran, meanwhile, sees a region dominated by United States‑backed powers intent on isolating and weakening it.

Making matters worse, he said, has been the absence of any institutional mechanism to air the parties’ grievances and attempt to narrow gaps. No meaningful channel of communication exists between the United States and Iran and no official one exists between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “Nor is there a single regional organization that embraces all Gulf actors that could serve as a framework for confidence‑building and de‑escalation measures,” he said, warning that the frameworks that do currently exist tend only to fuel tensions. Efforts by the United States, Saudi Arabia and others that focus exclusively on aggressively pushing back against Iran are likely to prompt the country’s leadership to double down on its current approach.

In particular, he cautioned that the “maximum pressure” campaign undertaken by Washington, D.C. with the support and encouragement of most of its Gulf partners - coupled with the almost unfettered supply of conventional weapons - inevitably leads Iran to intensify use of its own asymmetric tools. Underlining the importance of diplomacy, he praised the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a deal that reduced tensions and could have paved the way for broader diplomacy. He voiced regret that the United States decided to withdraw from it, while applauding European States’ efforts to keep it alive.

Stressing that the talks leading to the Plan of Action succeeded not due to mutual trust, but because they were multilateral and combined mutual pressure with realistic goals, he said those same strategies are outlined in the International Crisis Group’s recent report, titled “The Middle East Between Collective Security and Collective Breakdown”. Among other things, it calls for an informal dialogue platform to de‑escalate tensions with facilitation roles for European and other partner countries. In their talks, the Gulf parties could address matters of shared concern, such as cross‑border adverse effects of climate change, deteriorating water quality, disaster preparedness, the spread of COVID‑19 and maritime security. The United Nations, through its multitude of technical agencies, could support such initiatives. Eventually, the parties could explore ways of fostering a durable cooperative regional security framework, while taking important steps to resolve conflicts from Syria to Libya to Yemen. He also appealed to China to release his International Crisis Group colleague, Michael Kovrig, who has been detained for nearly two years.

In a final briefing, Mr. Naumkin said that in the geopolitically and geo‑economically strategic Persian Gulf subregion, emergence of a security dilemma is inevitable as is the desire of States to seek absolute power amid an unpredictable and rapidly changing situation. Mutual accusations of destabilizing activity by the regions’ players, their deep mistrust of each other and ignorance of neighbours’ concerns has fuelled instability. The Plan of Action has served as an important deterrent in recent years.

The recent entry into the security sphere of Turkey and Israel - the latter due to its normalization of relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - has been welcomed by some States but met with fear by others, he said. The region has also seen the growth of numerous non‑State armed groups, which have gained extensive experience in the use of both non‑traditional and modern means of combat and demonstrated the ability to learn quickly. There is a clear reluctance of traditional external security providers, including those with military bases there and trusted local political elites, to intervene in crisis situations.

The Russian proposal on collective security in the Persian Gulf emphasizes that increasingly common challenges can only be addressed through solidarity and collective efforts, without confrontation and demonization, and taking into consideration local players’ concerns and respect for their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence, he said. But until now unilateral steps have prevailed over collective measures. Reversing this trend is vital but it will not be easy. Recalling the Helsinki process that successfully brought together opposing blocs of States to create the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), he said this European experience offers insights. Elements of some confidence‑building measures developed at that time, including with the active and creative participation of Soviet diplomats, especially in the military sphere, could be still useful during dialogue between the Gulf States.

During informal consultations in Moscow a few months ago, different approaches were expressed as possible first steps to create a collective security system in the subregion, he said. They include establishment of a multilateral dialogue among all regional countries with the participation of key global actors, building mutual understanding between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and creating a system of numerous bilateral contacts that would compensate for the lack of diplomatic relations between the neighbouring States. Russian diplomacy does not impose on anyone a detailed plan for creating a system that Gulf States themselves must develop, he pointed out. The concept proposed by the Russian Federation is open for discussion. One initial step could be to create a new dialogue format at first or working out a system of “baskets” for discussing cooperation and security issues, he said, adding: “Maybe this is the beginning of the dialogue process, albeit at an informal level.”

In the debate that followed those briefings, representatives of Council members, countries in the region and regional organizations agreed that the tensions in the region should be addressed holistically, while also speaking of the urgent need for peaceful solutions to crises in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

Many speakers endorsed development of a new Gulf security architecture with ownership of the region’s States and accompaniment by the United Nations and international partners. Other speakers said that the greatest priority is a unified approach by the Council to ensure implementation of its resolutions, with the United States stating that Iran fuelled much of the region’s conflict.

Iran, in turn, pointed to the United States and other external actors as agents of conflict. Some speakers said that a just resolution to the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict is key. Many called for saving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iran nuclear programme as an example of a major diplomatic accomplishment in the region.

Mr. Lavrov, Security Council President, speaking in his national capacity, said that given the multiplicity of conflicts and threats in the Persian Gulf, the region must remain a constant focus. The Council must discuss what can be tangibly done to bring the situation back from the brink and promote stability and peaceful coexistence. Given the number of conflicts with a religious component, the practice of blackmail against certain countries, the demonizing of some countries and provocative actions, the collective efforts of regional States and their international partners is critical to reduce tensions. Such work must be pursued based on respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries in the region.

The Joint Plan of Action, he emphasized, was a major accomplishment in pulling back from conflict in the region and strengthening the non‑proliferation regime. That accomplishment must be saved and strengthened. As a next step in regional diplomacy, he said he has proposed a summit of the five permanent Council members along with Germany and Iraq, among other stakeholders, with a unified agenda created in conjunction with all stakeholders. The Russian Federation, he recalled, had proposed the development of a mechanism for collective security for the region, but the modalities must be determined through dialogue, for which today’s meeting provides an opening. Whatever the mechanism for cooperation, the region’s countries need to foster it among themselves and outside actors, including regional organizations, must encourage an atmosphere in which this is possible. The good offices of the Secretary‑General will also be critical in the effort, which must be pursued based on international law and impartiality. No State’s national interest should dominate nor be ignored, he stressed.

Wang Yi, State Councilor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said the Gulf region remains a focal point of the world’s attention and requires a serious examination of the root causes of its tensions. Calling for adherence to the Charter of the United Nations and international norms – including full respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity – he rejected the implementation of unilateral sanctions and double standards. “No country can choose its neighbours,” he said, noting that many ethnic groups share the Gulf region and should seek a common ground, rising above their differences and creating the conditions needed for security. While non‑regional countries may offer constructive help, they “should not overstep”.

Noting that most Council members remain committed to an objective and fair position on the Iranian nuclear issue, he expressed support for resolution 2231 (2015) and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, voicing his hope that all parties will take a responsible approach to that matter. China, like other actors, supports the creation of a new platform for multilateral dialogue for Gulf countries – based on the principle of equality – aimed at fostering discussion and shaping a new consensus. For its part, the Council should support such dialogue and ensure the irreversibility of its outcomes, he said.

Kalla Ankourao, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Niger, said the Gulf countries enjoy the most significant reserves of the world’s oil and gas and share a common history. The divergences among them today are a result of the influence of outside actors. Citing an “ever more worrying arms race” that is currently escalating across the region, he drew a link between the need to resolve the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict and the maintenance of broader peace and security. Similarly, there can be no military solution to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Nationally owned peace processes – supported by the international community – are required. On the Iranian nuclear issue, he joined others in expressing support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015). “There is no alternative to multilateralism and to dialogue” in situations that involve multiple national interests. In that vein, he echoed calls for the establishment of a platform for regional dialogue, backed by support from the Council. Noting that Niger will soon begin its term as Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), he pledged to continue to support diplomatic efforts in the Gulf region – particularly amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Naledi Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said that as the custodian of international peace and security, the Council should support any initiative by Gulf States towards collectively addressing security and instability in the region. Such initiatives will not only lead to the restoration of peace and stability in the Gulf region, but also the broader Middle East. It will allow for Gulf countries to work together to address broader issues, including countering terrorism and promoting sustainable development. Regional and intergovernmental organizations remain critical partners in resolving conflict and should remain impartial in the pursuit of the peaceful resolution of conflicts. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action demonstrates how diplomacy and negotiations can resolve challenges between States, prior to these evolving into full scale conflict, she said.

Dang Minh Khoi, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, said that although the idea of a collective security arrangement in the Persian Gulf has been floated for years, the changing regional political landscape makes the time ripe to further explore and turn it into concrete action. Such a mechanism should be tailored to regional circumstances and anchored in the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, particularly those of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, non‑use of force and peaceful settlement of disputes. Dialogue on common regional security interests can pave the way and play a significant role in reducing tensions and building trust. In addition, the role of regional organizations is indispensable for a comprehensive security approach, he said, noting that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plays a central role in regional security, having helped to transform the zone from a region of hostilities into a cohesive, integrated and people‑centred community.

The representative of the United States said that in recent months her country was able to foster regional cooperation in the Gulf and the greater Middle East through the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. In addition, the vision for peace in the Israeli‑Palestinian peace plan offered a legitimate platform for negotiation, for which outside interference, such as bad actors in the Persian Gulf, present obstacles. Peace in the Gulf and the wider region can only be achieved through a credible, united focus on international security. In that light, Iran must be recognized as the single greatest threat in the Gulf.

Turning to the Russian proposal for a collective security mechanism, she maintained that the solution is much easier: the Council must hold Iran to its international obligations. Not doing so has resulted in devastation in Yemen and Syria, where Iran is fuelling continued fighting; in Lebanon, in which it funnels sophisticated arms to Hezbollah; and in Iraq, in which it backs militias that terrorize civilians and attacks international actors. No initiative for peace in the Gulf can succeed without frank acknowledgment of Iran’s role and holding that country accountable. She stressed that, if the Council cannot do it, the United States would do it on its own through its “maximum pressure” strategy, while remaining open to dialogue on comprehensive solutions.

The speaker for Tunisia, pointing out the significance of the entire Middle East in international peace and security, said that the existence of high tensions threatens new crises even as conflicts continue. Given those complexities, the security and stability in the Persian Gulf could not be strengthened without a just resolution of the Palestinian‑Israeli conflict. Conflicts in Yemen and Syria also need to be resolved. An approach to lowering tensions that takes into account the interests of all stakeholders and all the region’s characteristics is needed. In addition, it must consider terrorism, piracy, the spread of COVID‑19 and other factors. The concept of collective security needs to be bolstered, as does conflict resolution through dialogue and other peaceful means. In that context, weapons of mass destruction, aggression and all other ills must be addressed. All regional States and international partners must carry out their obligations in order to foster cooperation to improve the situation, he said.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stated that conflicts in the Middle East have a spillover destabilizing effect on the Gulf region, as political instabilities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya have been a breeding ground for terrorist activities. Expressing support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and a two‑State solution based on the pre‑1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, she called on Israel to adhere to international law and Council resolution 2334 (2016). Turning to Yemen, she emphasized the need for mediation and negotiation over any form of militarism, with an inclusive, Yemeni‑led and Yemeni‑owned political process necessary to solve that crisis. She reaffirmed the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, encouraging the United States to “rejoin this critical agreement”.

The speaker for Estonia said the security of the Gulf region must involve addressing the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict, while the normalization of relations between the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel is a positive step towards achieving peace and stability. Regional conflicts in Syria and Yemen are not a consequence of cultural factors, and religious extremism does not represent the Arab World or Muslim communities. Rather, he said those tensions are a result of denying individual freedoms and carrying out expansionist foreign policy, citing the recently published Arab Opinion Index, which reveals that many in Iraq and Saudi Arabia find Tehran’s actions to be the most threatening to their security. Iran has hijacked oil tankers, sent arms to radical groups and financed militants, increasing regional insecurity and making it difficult to justify the expiry of the Iran arms embargo.

The representative of Germany reiterated his country’s position that a framework for peace and security in the Gulf region already exists – namely, international law. Regrettably, its principles are regularly violated, including on the ground in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and in Yemen. Human rights are violated daily in many countries in the region, particularly in Iran, where prisons are abhorrent, minorities are persecuted and officials regularly call for the destruction of Israel. Echoing calls for dialogue between the region’s various parties, he agreed with the strategy of beginning with small, confidence‑building steps and building to discussions of broader peace and security measures. Germany has long supported such dialogue platforms, he said, noting that it plans to host a conference on Yemen in the “P5+3 format” early in 2021.

The representative of France warned of serious risks of destabilization in the Gulf region - which is currently marked by tensions, terrorism and the flow of weapons – even as its people aspire to peace. Calling for the abandonment of polarization and the pooling of efforts to forge a stronger security architecture, he welcomed the Council’s virtually unanimous recent support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Iran should promptly end violations of its nuclear commitments and avoid actions that could further escalate tensions. He stressed that the recent expiration of the conventional arms embargo by no means indicates that all related restrictions are lifted; indeed, some arms restrictions will remain in force until 2023. The Council has strictly overseen weapons and missile transfers in the region and adopted general restrictions in line with resolution 1540 (2004).

Recalling the three European signatories’ condemnation of a 2019 attack on Saudi Aramco facilities, he joined other speakers in calling for expediting dialogue between the various parties. France, along with several other States, established a maritime surveillance initiative in the Strait of Hormuz, and remains committed to its work. Urging the parties to the war in Yemen to cease hostilities and engage with the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for that country, he went on to express his hope that Israel will abandon its plans for annexation in the West Bank, emphasizing that “trust is built step‑by‑step” through daily actions on the ground.

The representative of the Dominican Republic said that to achieve peace and development in the Gulf, the international community must redouble efforts so that good governance, zero tolerance of corruption and impunity, as well as unshakable respect for human rights and international humanitarian law are at the forefront. Illicit arms transfers and the proliferation of missiles in contravention of Security Council resolutions promotes violence and reduces the possibility for lasting solutions. Respecting maritime navigation rights is a determining factor for keeping the Gulf safe. Given that the Strait of Hormuz is vital to international trade, a crisis in this area could destabilize the global financial order. Expressing concern about the gradual reduction of nuclear commitments by Iran, he called upon that key geopolitical player to return to full compliance with the nuclear agreement and Council resolution 2231 (2015).

The speaker for Indonesia emphasized that a coordinated approach to conflict prevention and mediation is vital, including both the commitment from the region’s actors to avert any escalation and the United Nations integrated approach to prevention. All parties must continue supporting the full, effective implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and resolution 2231 (2015). Comprehensive measures are also needed to address the region’s political and socioeconomic issues. Indonesia remains committed to extending unequivocal solidarity and support to the Palestinian people in their quest to gain their rights, including the establishment of an independent State of Palestine, within pre‑1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The representative of Belgium said that it is indeed the Council’s responsibility to discuss how to reduce escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf and strengthen regional security. As a founding member of the European Union and OSCE, his country greatly values regional cooperation for peace and the accomplishment of common goals. Such arrangements have been proposed before, but it is time to implement concrete measures. As a first step, confidence‑building initiatives must be pursued, and regional ownership of all efforts to reduce tensions much be emphasized. As the Secretary‑General has said, the accompanying role of the United Nations is critical. Reiterating his country’s support for the Joint Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme, he regretted the United States’ withdrawal and the rising non‑compliance of Iran. Surveying the conflicts in the region, he called for peaceful resolutions based on implementation of United Nations resolutions.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that heightened tensions and insecurity are to no one’s benefit in the Gulf. In that light, he reiterated continued support to the Iran nuclear deal. However, Iran must fulfil its obligations and engage constructively with the dispute resolution mechanism. In addition, Iran’s supply of arms to groups in the region must stop. A sustainable way to inhibit such activity must be found following the expiration of the relevant Security Council sanctions. Restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme must be enforced.

Welcoming the normalization of relations of Israel with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and the suspension of plans to annex the West Bank, he hoped that other States will follow their example to build cooperation in the region and a climate conducive to a resolution of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict. He called for peaceful resolutions to conflict in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, pledging his country’s continued assistance to United Nations efforts in such situations, adding that the United Nations could serve as mediator for wider dialogue in the region. Candid conversations between all parties are needed, along with an incremental approach that recognizes complex factors. While welcoming Iran’s proposal that it take a leading role, he said given its involvement in the region that role is not appropriate. It is vital, however, to hear from all regional States on how collective dialogue can be achieved.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, recalled his participation in a 2019 Council meeting during which his country unveiled a Hormuz peace endeavour. Voicing his commitment to that framework, he spotlighted Council resolution 598 (1987), in which members committed to examine, in consultation with Iran and Iraq, measures to enhance the region’s security and stability. Regrettably, those commitments remain unimplemented, as the country continues to be the site of a terrifying build‑up of power by various international actors. Among the most serious challenges are the belief, prevalent among some, that one party can “purchase” security from another. Also dangerous is the pursuit of one country’s security at the expense of its neighbours, as well as the vast expansion of foreign military presence and arms sales. In that vein, he recalled that the United States has deployed nearly 50,000 troops in the Persian Gulf, with at least one aircraft carrier patrolling Iran’s waters at any given moment. From 2014 to 2018, the Gulf region accounted for nearly one quarter of the world’s total arms exports – most of which were sold by the United States.

Emphasizing that those weapons have failed to make any single party in the region more secure, he thanked the majority of Council members for their efforts to prevent the United States from killing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “Iran does not intend to engage in an arms race in the region” despite the end of restrictions on arms sales, he affirmed. Warning against the ongoing illegitimate presence of the United States in the region, he said that, earlier this year, it resulted in President Donald Trump’s cowardly assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. “We need a fundamental paradigm shift in our region” that precludes interference by any outside State, he said, calling on all of Iran’s neighbours to exercise “strategic self‑restraint”, promote friendly relations, uphold national sovereignty, combat terrorism and ensure freedom of navigation and energy security. Underlining Iran’s commitment to a broad spectrum of future security and development agreements, he warned that - while most of the region’s countries prefer the path of dialogue – peace cannot be achieved while one or two continue to rely on an “alien vampire to cut their neighbour’s head”.

The representative of Qatar, affirming that diplomacy drives her country’s foreign policy, underlined Qatar’s desire for de‑escalation and its recognition that “what brings us together as a region … is much more than what divides us”. Settling differences under a collective dialogue framework is the only way forward, she said, describing that goal as the raison d’être of the Gulf Cooperation Council. For its part, Qatar has called for a set of rules that would govern the relationships between States of the region, including by establishing a collective framework for security and working to actively prevent new escalations. However, she said ending current crises – based on the principles of trust, good neighbourliness, international law and the protection of human rights – is a critical first step. Influential countries have a role to play in supporting such a process, she added.

Ahmed Berwary, Head of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, pointed out that his country defeated Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) thanks to international cooperation, with national security forces, the international coalition and other actors together removing the threat to global peace and security. Citing Iraq’s reconciliation with Kuwait and Iran as positive developments in the Gulf region, he expressed support for a move by the Gulf Cooperation Council to create common policy space. Furthermore, he called for a realistic and pragmatic approach towards stability, highlighting the need to address a lack of dialogue and mutual accusations and the importance of fostering understanding that all Gulf countries are co‑located in one geographic region and that security of one country guarantees security of all.

Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf, Secretary‑General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said over the past 40 years Gulf countries achieved remarkable economic and social development, including in the areas of education and health. The Gulf region is essential to international peace and stability but is experiencing turmoil due to Iran’s approach of violence and destabilization, including the use of drones and missiles. He urged Iran to comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and fully cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear programmes. Turning to the issue of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa islands, he urged Iran to respond to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s call to resolve the dispute through negotiations. Calling upon Iran to comply with such principles as good neighbourliness and non‑use of force, he said “the ball is in the Iranians’ court”.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary‑General of the League of Arab States, said that in 2019 States saw unprecedented escalations due to subversive military acts for which Iran was found to be responsible. Warning that such developments could lead the situation to spiral out of control, he declared: “No Arab country would want this outcome.” There exists a discrepancy on the very concept of security, with Arab States believing that it must be based on the principle of non‑interference in the affairs of States. Regrettably, it has been violated in recent years by both outside military forces and terrorist groups. Against that backdrop, the first step towards building confidence should be an honest discussion of security and its practical implications. While all States claim to respect the sovereignty of others, some nevertheless go on to violate it. Among other things, he called for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State and Israel’s full withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as an end to the use of force – and the threat thereof – by all players in the region.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, taking the floor again in response to several “baseless accusations” levelled against his country, said Tehran continues to play a critical role in the promotion of peace and security in the Gulf region. Stressing that its defensive requirements stem from its historic experiences - including the use of chemical weapons on its people and the bombing of its cities – he said it is now up to Iran to protect itself from similar attacks in the future. Those who continue to leverage huge military expenditures in the Gulf should realize that they have not made the region more secure, but only “turned it into a powder keg”. Meanwhile, some Gulf Cooperation Council countries use purchased weapons against innocent Yemenis, which is a clear instance of a war crime. He added that Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunb islands have always been Iranian and will always remain so.

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