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UAE calls for building bridges in Middle East and fighting terrorism


At UN General Assembly, Minister of State for International Co-operation Reem Al Hashimy decries Houthis’ attack on UAE and Saudi Arabia

Strengthening stability, ending double standards in implementing international law, and easing Middle East conflicts were the core themes the UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation, Reem Al Hashimy, addressed in her speech to the UN General Assembly.

Ms Al Hashimy said the UAE’s priorities focused on peace and partnerships.

“At the precipice of a new era for the world order, the UAE has chosen [to embrace] peace, recovery and prosperity within an international system that is supported by an open and robust network of partnerships,” she said.

The speech to the 77th UNGA comes as the UAE sits on the Security Council for a two-year term and will serve as its President in June 2023.

It is also the first time a woman has delivered a speech for the UAE at the UN General Assembly.

“We will launch new pathways for co-operation in fields of economics, sustainable development, advanced technology, and scientific research,” Ms Al Hashimy said.

“This is the underlying premise that guides my country’s foreign policy, governs our bilateral and multilateral engagements, and inspires our membership throughout our Security Council term.”

While echoing concerns over the increasing level of polarisation in today’s international system and the growing number of conflicts and crises, she spoke of the benefits of the current world order.

“These issues call into question the effectiveness of the current world order,” Ms Al Hashimy said.

“However, it is this very system, built out of the ruins of the Second World War, that has significantly contributed to strengthened international security and stability.”

She urged using UNGA capabilities to chart a better future and a fairer, non-selective implementation of international law.

“International law must be applied consistently without double standards or selectivity,” Ms Al Hashimy said.

“This is imperative for the stability and security of an international system — a system that is based on respect for sovereignty, independence and the territorial integrity of states.”

In that context, she called on Iran to end its occupation of three UAE islands — Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs — and allow restoration of UAE’s sovereignty there, “which is proven by history and international law”.

“Despite the UAE’s sincere calls to peacefully resolve this conflict over the past five decades, we stress here that Iran has not responded,” she said.

“We will never relent in voicing our claim to these islands, either through direct negotiations or through the International Court of Justice, as is our legitimate right.”

Regionally, Ms Al Hashimy said that “the Arab world and Africa have been hit the hardest” by different crises.

“As a direct result, we have learnt difficult yet critical lessons: we must prioritise diplomatic solutions, dialogue and de-escalation in order to settle tensions, prevent conflicts from emerging and combat extremist ideologies.”

She said regional initiatives “aimed at bridge-building are clear benefits of overcoming historic differences and building new partnerships across areas of co-operation in critical sectors, such as health, education and industry, as well as in strengthening the role of women.”

On specific issues and conflicts, Ms Al Hashimy reaffirmed the UAE’s call for establishing a Palestinian state along the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“We welcome the point made by the Prime Minister [Yair Lapid] of the state of Israel in his statement from this podium regarding support for the vision of the two-state solution,” she said.

Mr Lapid spoke of his support for a two-state solution in his speech to the UNGA on Thursday.

On the risk of nuclear proliferation in the region, Ms Al Hashimy called for “a world free of weapons of mass destruction, particularly in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula”.

But she said “it is not possible to talk of a secure and stable international order in the absence of a firm international resolve to reject terrorism in all its forms, and manifestations and a commitment to hold the perpetrators and financiers of terrorism accountable”.

Ms Al Hashimy spoke of the increase in the flow of weapons and fighters into conflict zones, and the “emergence of groups with high combat and military capabilities, who subsequently return, unregulated, to their countries of origin in absence of established mechanisms”.

This situation is exacerbated by “terrorists’ use of missiles and drones to launch cross-border attacks”, she said.

“It is also imperative to adopt international rules and regulations to effectively prevent terrorists from obtaining advanced weapons and technology.”

Ms Al Hashimy mentioned the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates by name when illustrating this threat.

“This threat manifested itself clearly in the Houthi terrorist group’s heinous and hostile attacks this year against the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, as well as against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” she said.

She called for greater tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the face of increasing attempts to spread hate speech around the world.

The speech came two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, which established peace between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco.

Ms Al Hashimy said the immediate results of the signing were regional integration.

“This year several initiatives took place to promote developmental and economic integration and co-operation across the region,” she said.

“We have witnessed the rise of a community for progress in the Middle East, which will reinforce joint co-operation around the most pressing global priorities.”

In her address, Ms Al Hashimy encouraged greater strides toward green energy and battling the climate crisis.

“We must take advantage of available opportunities to create practical, rational and deliberate solutions for the climate crisis, including during the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [Cop27] to be held in the Arab republic of Egypt next November,” she said.