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BRICS calls for peace, stability and prosperity in MENA region

2018-06-29 12:45

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Luwellyn Landers

Last week, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) deputy ministers/special envoys on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region met in Pretoria. The purpose was to exchange views on the current situation in preparation for the 10th BRICS Summit of Heads of State and Government, scheduled to take place from 25 to 27 July 2018 in Johannesburg.

This meeting of the deputy ministers and special envoys has established itself as an integral part of BRICS.

The Middle East and North Africa are regions that since ancient times have had rich civilisations, cultures and traditions, contributing positively to advancements in various facets of life, including science, arts, culture, politics, etc.

The MENA region is now at a critical juncture in its history, as its people struggle to contain and resolve persistent conflict, address the challenges of terrorism and extremism and develop democracy. The underlying causes of these conflicts are deeply complex.

Since the 2011 uprisings, conflicts of divergent origins across the Middle East and North Africa have intersected and spread into other regions. Some of these uprisings have managed to develop into peaceful transitions towards democracy. Others have remained within the range of civil conflicts. Two have become horrific civil wars; the unintended consequences of which have spread and affected the continental and international geopolitical sphere.

Underlying our deliberations was the commitment to the basic principle that international peace and security should be achieved and sustained solely in accordance with, and in full respect of international law, including the United Nations (UN) Charter, with the UN Security Council (SC) bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. No effort to undermine the multilateral system, however imperfect and unreformed it might be, should deter international cooperation at all levels to prevent and resolve conflict and to create the conditions for peace, stability, development and prosperity.

There is no place for unlawful resorting to force or external interference in any conflict. Ultimately, lasting peace can only be established through broad-based, inclusive national dialogue with due respect for the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of each of the countries of the MENA region. In our discussions, we reflected on specific country situations, namely: Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, and the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), among others.

We as the BRICS deputy ministers/special envoys remained concerned about the situation in Syria and reiterated our support for an inclusive "Syrian-led, Syrian-owned" political process, which safeguards the state sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, in pursuance of UNSC Resolution 2254 (2015). We also gave our support for the continuation of the important work done in the context of the Geneva Peace Talks. We furthermore welcomed key contributions of the Astana Process, which showed signs of positive developments on the ground in the last few months, in particular the creation of de-escalation zones and holding of the Congress of the Syrian National Dialogue in Sochi on 30 January 2018.

With regard to Libya, we expressed serious concern about the political and security situation in that country, highlighting the extremely negative consequences for the Middle East, North Africa and Sahel region. We noted that the military intervention in the country in 2011, led to instability, dire humanitarian consequences and the spread of terrorism, extremism and other criminal activities in the region and beyond.

Notwithstanding these challenges, we expressed our support for the continued efforts of the UN Special Representative for Libya, Ghassan Salame. We also reaffirmed our support for the regional role players such as the African Union High-Level Panel on Libya, chaired by Congo’s President, Denis Sassou-N’Guesso, to engage all Libyan stakeholders in a constructive dialogue in pursuance of the UN Action Plan for Libya, announced in September 2017.

On Iraq, we welcomed the parliamentary elections held in May this year, as well as the complete liberation of territories in the country previously occupied by ISIS. We hope that the holding of and the outcome of this elections will strengthen Iraq’s democratic institutions, broaden dialogue, strengthen negotiations and promote more peaceful political co-existence. The international community must continue to support the government and people of Iraq in their efforts to fight terrorism and extremism.

With respect to Yemen, we expressed grave concern about the ongoing conflict, which is having a disastrous impact on human security as well as regional stability. This conflict has already led to unspeakable suffering among the civilian population, including women, children and the elderly. It has also resulted in the wilful destruction of a significant part of its essential services and infrastructure, resulting in a major humanitarian crisis.

We have therefore as the BRICS deputy ministers/envoys on MENA have called for unhindered access for the provision of humanitarian assistance to all parts of Yemen in order to relieve the health, social and economic situation in this country. We also urge all parties to fully respect international law, to cease hostilities and to return to the UN brokered peace talks. Furthermore, the UN Special Representative Martin Griffiths’ efforts to restart talks among all Yemeni parties must be supported. The way forward to achieve peace, prosperity and security in Yemen is through an inclusive Yemeni-led dialogue towards the achievement of a political solution to the conflict.

In our deliberations on the MEPP, we were gravely concerned that, for years now, there had neither been peace nor a real process. The recent killings of over 100 Palestinians and thousands more injured in Gaza by Israeli troops have led to the situation becoming even graver with dire humanitarian consequences for the Palestinians, not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also within Israel itself. The decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem has further aggravated the situation.

In this regard, we were unanimous in our resolve that the conflicts elsewhere in the MENA should not be used as pretext to delay the resolution of the long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We reiterated the need for renewed diplomatic efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is important if we are to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East with a view to creating an independent, viable, territorially contiguous Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel.

The media statement we adopted at the end of our meeting highlighted all these serious realities we face and specified how we as BRICS countries intend to contribute to resolving them. We will continue to hold regular consultations on the MENA until there is lasting peace, stability and prosperity in the MENA region.

- Luwellyn Landers is Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

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Read more on:    brics  |  peace  |  middle east conflict
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