UN chief expresses hope that Saudi-Iranian talks will help ease regional tensions
NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday expressed hope that talks underway between authorities in Saudi Arabia and Iran will help to ease tensions in the Gulf region.
“I hope that the dialogue that started between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and other forms of dialogue in the region, will produce results and will allow a reduction of the tension in the Gulf,” he told Arab News.
It came as he reflected on the role the Kingdom, the UAE other Gulf nations can play in tackling global crises — including food insecurity, climate-related emergencies and energy shortages — and regional conflicts such as those in Syria, Yemen, Libya and between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I am sure that (Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the entire Gulf Cooperation Council) will be quite active in relation to the promotion of peaceful solutions in their neighborhood: In Syria, Libya, Yemen or in any other country that is close to them,” said Guterres.
“I think the people of Syria, the people of Libya, the people of Yemen have already suffered too much. And my appeal is for everybody to come together to solve those problems.”
The UN chief also said he hopes that “GCC countries, which have a huge capacity for production, will contribute to (resolving) the energy crisis in the world.”
Turning to the latest developments in Libya, Guterres said that the supposed ceasefire there “is not in sight.”
He added: “It’s difficult to know what is the biggest challenge that requires action. We must preserve peace between (the rival authorities in the) east and west but that also means preserving peace in relation to the recent confrontations that happened in Tripoli.
“With the militias supporting either (Government of National Unity Prime Minister Abdul Hamid) Dbeibah or (Government of National Stability leader Fathi) Bashaga, we need hostilities (to stop.) That is fundamental.”
Guterres said that legitimacy remains a problem in Libya and he called for a quick agreement between the House of Representatives in the east of the country and the High Council of State that would allow the implementation of legal changes required for national elections to take place.
He urged external actors involved in Libya to “fully support the process of reconciliation” and back the political process that could lead to the election of a “legitimate government that everybody accepts.”
Speaking on Wednesday during a news conference to mark the start of the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly the previous day, Guterres, who had just returned from a visit to flood-ravaged Pakistan, prefaced his remarks with a striking message denouncing the “sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis” and urging the international community to take more-aggressive action to mitigate its effects.
Describing the ongoing “climate carnage” in Pakistan, which has so far resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 people and caused damaged estimated at more than $30 billion, Guterres said his trip to the stricken country was a “window into the future.”
He added: “A future of permanent and ubiquitous climate chaos on an unimaginable scale: Devastating loss of life, enormous human suffering, and massive damage to infrastructure and livelihoods.
“What is happening in Pakistan demonstrates the sheer inadequacy of the global response to the climate crisis, and the betrayal and injustice at the heart of it. It is simply heartbreaking.
“No picture can convey the scope of this catastrophe. The flooded area is three times the size of my entire country, Portugal.”
Guterres once again pointed out that although the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause the planet to heat up and its glaciers to melt are overwhelmingly produced by the world’s richest nations, it is poorer countries such as Pakistan that bear the brunt of resultant extreme-weather events and the death and destruction they bring.
“Whether it’s Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, small islands or the least-developed countries, the world’s most vulnerable — who did nothing to cause this crisis — are paying a horrific price for decades of intransigence by big emitters,” he said.
“G20 countries are responsible for 80 percent of emissions. If one-third of G20 countries was underwater today, as it could be tomorrow, perhaps they would find it easier to agree on drastic cuts to emissions.”
He warned that continued inaction now will cause occurrences of devastating weather events to multiply in the future. The repercussions, including instability and global mass migration, will be felt “for years to come,” he added
“My message to world leaders gathering here is clear: Lower the temperature — now. Don’t flood the world today; don’t drown it tomorrow,” said Guterres.
Geopolitical divides have never been so extreme, he added, and are paralyzing efforts to address global challenges.
“Our world is blighted by war, battered by climate chaos, scarred by hate and shamed by poverty, hunger and inequality,” Guterres said.
The human solidarity enshrined in the words of the UN charter is “being devoured by the acids of nationalism and self-interest, shocking disregard for the poorest and most vulnerable in our world, (and) by politicians who play to people’s worst instincts, for partisan gain.”
He concluded by reiterating the importance of offering hope to people.
“This year’s general debate must be about providing hope and overcoming the divisions that are dramatically impacting the world,” Guterres said.
“That hope can only come through the dialogue and debate that are the beating heart of the United Nations and that must prevail … against all divisions.”