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The General Debate of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Sunday, 29 September 2019
His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan
United Nations

Peace be upon you all,

Mr. President,

At the outset, I would like to congratulate you on your presidency of this session. I would also like to thank Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa, for her distinguished leadership of the previous session, which demonstrated the achievements that women can accomplish when they assume leadership positions.

I am also pleased to pay tribute to Mr. Hazza Al Mansouri, the first Emirati astronaut to embark on a mission to the International Space Station. With this major step, the UAE is entering a new era in which it contributes alongside other countries in investing in space science and building a new generation in a world based on science, technology and enlightenment.

Mr. President,

In conjunction with the UAE Year of Tolerance 2019, His Holiness Pope Francis and Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, signed in Abu Dhabi the Human Fraternity document, which is a historic message of peace aimed at promoting tolerance and coexistence.

Building safe communities requires will, practical initiatives, and concerted effort to address the tensions caused by extremism.

The UAE has participated in regional and international efforts aimed at easing tensions and reaching political solutions to the crises in the Middle East, including Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Palestine. Thus, the UAE believes that strengthening multilateralism is the most effective approach to de-escalate these crises and to address transnational challenges, including extremism and terrorism, to achieve international peace and security. However, multilateralism has not succeeded in resolving existing crises or preventing new ones. Therefore, in order to achieve the goals for which the United Nations was established, we must examine why international efforts were obstructed and explore ways of enhancing the effectiveness of these efforts.

Our collective efforts have achieved remarkable successes in facing the challenges of the 21st century, particularly in the area of sustainable development. Unfortunately, efforts to bring about regional and global stability have been stalled, particularly in our region. Today, we are witnessing violations of states, and a normalization of interference in their internal affairs. As conflicts continue and new crises emerge, we are witnessing a growing presence of extremist and terrorist groups. These groups have developed their capabilities with support from rogue states that aim to de-stabilize and impose hegemony on the region.

Terrorist groups such as Da’esh, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda, and the Houthis were able to gain access to the weapons and funding necessary for implementing their agendas, which have exacerbated existing crises.

The continuous terrorist attacks against the brotherly nation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the strikes targeting its civilian and vital infrastructure, most recently in the heinous attacks against Aramco facilities, have been widely condemned. These attacks not only threaten the security of Saudi Arabia and the region, but also affect the stability of the global economy.

In this context, we emphasize the need to restore reason, protect maritime navigation and energy supplies, and to find sustainable solutions based on respect for the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.

Mr. President,

Despite the efforts of the international community, we have to admit that multilateralism has not responded to the challenges that emerged in the past decades. The main reasons for that include the weak enforcement of international law and Security Council resolutions, and the disregard for the role played by regional states and organizations in supporting political solutions. Despite the existence of international mechanisms for maintaining peace and security, the inability to take a firm stance against the aggressive policies of some states has led to the obstruction of international efforts.

Even when there was international consensus on the need to take collective measures to maintain peace and security, such as the need to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions by signing the nuclear agreement with Iran, such agreement could not achieve the expected change in Iran’s behavior or compel Iran to abide by international law and the principle of good neighborliness.  The nuclear agreement should have taken into consideration the views of the countries of this vital region who fully understand its history. The agreement should have also addressed all aspects of Iran’s behavior, including its interference in the internal affairs of states, its development of a ballistic missile program, and its provision of arms to terrorist groups. We are speaking here about a country that seeks to export its revolution.

We have an opportunity to achieve sustainable solutions that serve the interest of the region through the political initiative supported by the international community, by focusing on the following four areas:

First: Strengthening the implementation of international law and the Charter of the United Nations. These are the core pillars of preventing the collapse of international order and preserving relations among states. To achieve this goal, we need to support the capacity of states to abide by their legal obligations, and we need to hold accountable those states that violate their obligations.

The primary call of the UAE will remain for states to respect their legal obligations and abide by the principle of good neighborliness. For 48 years, the UAE has never ceased in its demand for its sovereignty and legitimate right over the three islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa that are occupied by Iran in flagrant violation of international law and the UN Charter. Historical records clearly prove the UAE’s ownership of these islands and prove that they have been under Arab rule since ancient times.

Therefore, I reiterate once again from this podium the UAE’s firm position on this issue and its legitimate sovereign right over these islands. We will never abandon our demand that Iran must return these islands to their owners.

My country has called on Iran to peacefully resolve this issue through direct negotiations, or through the International Court of Justice. However, these calls have not been answered.

Second: Enabling regional organizations to play a greater role in addressing regional tensions and achieving security and stability. It must be emphasized here that regional organizations are best positioned to develop effective solutions to the issues of their member states. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s hosting this year of the summits of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the League of Arab States is a successful example of coordination of regional and international positions to address the critical security situation in the region.

We also encourage the United Nations to consult more effectively with these organizations when discussing regional issues. The role played by the African Union in supporting peacekeeping operations and mediation is a successful model that we welcome and encourage others to follow.

Third: Enhancing the effectiveness of political action to ease tensions and resolve crises in order to fulfill peoples’ legitimate aspirations. Achieving this goal requires building confidence among states and strengthening mediation efforts, including the efforts of United Nations envoys. For these efforts to succeed, relevant parties must work within a comprehensive, transparent, and cooperative framework.

Therefore, the United Arab Emirates places great importance on political efforts as the primary option for de-escalating and addressing crises. When my country joined the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen, for example, we focused on restoring the role of the legitimate government of Yemen, rejecting the fait accompli that the rebels tried to impose, and supporting a political process that could lead to stability and peace. Despite the violations of the Houthis, my country will continue its efforts to achieve peace.

Similarly, my country believes that a political path is the best option to address regional issues.  In this regard, we express our appreciation for the efforts made by the United Nations, the international community, and friendly states. We particularly welcome the role of the Secretary-General in supporting the political track of the Question of the Moroccan Sahara, and we commend the tireless efforts made by the Kingdom of Morocco to find a political solution for this issue.

The chaos that enveloped the Arab world during the past decade has made us even more committed to finding political solutions and more appreciative of the importance of the stability of states and the security of the people.

The Palestinian cause will remain the central issue of the Arab world. Stability cannot be established in our region without reaching a just, lasting, and comprehensive solution that enables the Palestinian people to establish their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. The violations committed by the occupying power against the Palestinians, including the creation of new “facts on the ground” in Jerusalem, will enable extremist groups to exploit the suffering of the Palestinian people.

Finally, focusing on development and investment to achieve prosperity. The starting point should be to rebuild post-conflict countries, to support their national institutions, and to strengthen the rule of law in these countries. More broadly, we need to spread the values ​​of tolerance and pluralism, and address the roots of extremism. We also need to ensure that women and youth are contributing to these efforts, because their efforts will guarantee a brighter future for all.

We must not forget the suffering of millions of people around the world from wars and natural disasters. Alleviating the severe impact of these disasters requires intensified humanitarian efforts. In this regard, my country continues to spread its message of peace by assisting affected peoples, regardless of their race or religion. In addition, the UAE intensified its humanitarian and development assistance in response to the worsening crisis affecting the Yemeni people caused by the Houthis’ obstruction of access to assistance, and even their theft of assistance to finance their criminal acts. 

Mr. President,

We have long awaited stability in our region. But with hard work and unified global efforts, we will be able to achieve stability in the region. We believe that the coming years will be the beginning of a new era for our region, an era in which our region will become a global economic and cultural center where technology, science, renewable energy, and artificial intelligence will thrive. By hosting Expo 2020 and launching outer space projects, we seek to create a new environment for youth, in which they can aspire to a brighter future with open minds.

We, as individuals, governments, and peoples, have a choice: To either start the new decade by protecting the future of our region and the world, or we leave our world to terrorist groups and destructive extremist ideologies. We will continue to fight the latter with all our ability.

Thank you, Mr. President