As the world leaders returned to deliver their speeches and perceptions, delivering remarks both in person and virtually at the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that kicked off on Tuesday, a number of leaders took the initiative to discuss the most pressing issues in the Middle East – the war in Syria and Yemen, Iran’s nuclear deal – and the US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Apart from discussing the issues related to the handling of COVID-19, climate change, China’s dominance in the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea, a number of leaders took the central arena to discuss the chaos in the Middle East and its geopolitical implications.
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden, while addressing the UNGA, backed the two-state solution, adding that a sovereign and democratic Palestinian state is the best way to ensure the Jewish state’s future. It is completely opposite his predecessor Donald Trump’s stand on the issue.
Biden said, “We must seek a future of greater peace and security for all people of the Middle East… The commitment of the United States to Israel’s security is without question and our support for an independent Jewish state is unequivocal… But I continue to believe that a two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian state…We’re a long way from that goal at this moment but we should never allow ourselves to give up on the possibility of progress.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the world was in danger of increased geopolitical divisions that are undermining international cooperation, and called on countries to come together to end conflicts, including in the Middle East.
“In places like Yemen, Libya, and Syria, we must overcome stalemates and push for peace,” Guterres said during his speech at the UNGA on Tuesday morning.
On the issue of the two-state solution, Guterres urged “leaders to resume a meaningful dialogue recognising a two-state solution as the only pathway to a just and comprehensive peace”.
But in response to Israel’s ambassador to the UN, he said, “(The) current Israeli government thinks differently and believes that it’s not currently achievable.” In this view, the issue of the two-state solution that is being supported and backed by various countries including the US, seems to hang in uncertainty with the plights of Palestinians still uncertain.
The ruling Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who has been handling the back door negotiations between the Taliban and the US, has played a defining role in encouraging nations to get involved since the latter’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Speaking at the event in person, Qatar’s emir emphasised “the necessity of continuing dialogue with [the] Taliban because boycott only leads to polarisation and reactions, whereas dialogue could bring in positive results”.
No nation has recognised the Taliban government so far, some of whose senior cabinet members are on a UN sanctions list and have been designated as dangerous terrorists.
Sheikh Tamim, while underscoring the back door negotiations laid out by Qatar (Doha agreement) in achieving diplomatic victory over large scale destruction and war said, “We were confident that war offers no solution and that there would be dialogue in the end.”
While the Taliban recently announced the inclusion of minorities like the Hazara community into their cabinet, they are yet to elect any women and have largely ignored their rights by disallowing them from jobs and schools, and turning a blind eye to their earlier promises.
During his first speech at the UNGA, the newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi called for a resumption of nuclear talks with the world power and a removal of US sanctions that has largely constrained Iran’s economy.
“The Islamic Republic considers the useful talks whose ultimate outcome is the lifting of all oppressive [US] sanctions,” said Raisi in a pre-recorded message to the assembly. Blaming the former president Donald Trump for abandoning the nuclear deal along with putting sanctions, he said that these “were crimes against humanity during the coronavirus pandemic”.
After Iran reiterated that talks with world powers in Vienna are likely to resume in a few weeks, President Biden assured that the US was “prepared to return to full compliance if Iran does the same”. However, Raisi, who is himself facing severe US sanctions repeated that he does not believes in promises offered by US. UN News reported: “Turning to the threats posed by terrorism, Raisi warned that the ISIS/ISIL would not be the last wave of extremism and declared that terrorism has its roots in crises such as identity and economy: “the fact that modern lives have become devoid of meaning and spirituality as well as the spread of poverty, discrimination and oppression have helped the rise of terrorism”. He stressed that “the occupier Zionist regime” was the organizer of the biggest state terrorism whose agenda is to slaughter women and children in Gaza and the West Bank”.
Turkey, which hosts nearly four million refugees, more than any other country in the world, said that the country cannot shoulder the burden of the new migration wave amid an increasing number of Afghan people fleeing the Taliban rule. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, while addressing the UNGA, said, “We have tragically witnessed once again in Afghanistan how solutions that ignore reality and collide with the social fabric of the people ultimately fail. The Afghan people have been forced to face alone the consequences of instability that has been ongoing for more than 40 years.”
“As a country that has saved human dignity in Syria, we neither have the means nor the patience to face another migration wave,” said Erdoğan.
In order to prevent any new influx of refugees, Turkey has deployed additional reinforcements to its eastern border with Iran. Previously, he also urged the European countries to take responsibility for any new influx and said that Turkey will not become “Europe’s migrant storage unit”. Erdoğan also identified the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as “one of the most important problems that fuels instability and threatens peace and security in our region”.
It will be interesting to analyse how the situation on ground in the Middle East and in Afghanistan will really be affected after the end of the UN General Assembly’s 76th session this week, with the Taliban continuously working in the shadows.