Urgent need for ‘restraint and genuine dialogue’ in Middle East to avoid major confrontation

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Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, Maria Luiza Viotti, said that “restraint and genuine dialogue are urgently needed”, in order to avoid a major confrontation, which would have disastrous consequences, even well beyond the region.

Describing the situation in the Middle East as “troubling and complex”, and characterized by protracted conflicts and geopolitical tensions,  Viotti referred specifically to the series of recent incidents in the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, which include the diversion of a British-flagged oil tanker by Iran, the destruction of both US and Iranian drones, and the UK decision to provide a naval escort for tankers.

Tensions in the Strait have been raised to dangerous levels, she said, adding that the rights and duties related to navigation must be respected in accordance with international law.

Viotti also reiterated the United Nations’ support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), frequently referred to as the Iran nuclear deal which, she said, remains “the only agreed international framework to address Iran’s nuclear programme.”

Turning to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, the longest standing issue on the UN peace and security agenda, Viotti said that a just solution, acceptable to both sides, is essential for the future of the whole Middle East region.

The Under Secretary-General underscored the readiness of the UN to support efforts towards a two-State solution, which would allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in two democratic states side by side, in peace, and within secure and internationally recognized borders.

Putting the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the UN’s blueprint to preserve the planet, and raise quality of life for all – into action as soon as possible, said  Viotti, is intrinsically linked to conflict resolution and prevention.

Singling out gender equality, the UN official said that, whilst there have been some notable gains in the region in recent years, equal opportunities remain limited, with gender-based violence widespread.

Viotti concluded by laying out the many ways in which the UN is addressing the numerous challenges in the Middle East, such as preventive diplomacy and mediation, providing humanitarian assistance, and supporting sustainable development initiatives.

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