UN-Arab League cooperation essential for tackling regional crises, says UN chief

Ahmed Abul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (UN photo)
Short Url
Updated 24 March 2022

UN-Arab League cooperation essential for tackling regional crises, says UN chief

  • Security Council discusses merits of enhanced relationship in efforts to address humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen, and broader challenges across Arab world
  • Arab League secretary-general said international community has been “merely managing” long-running conflicts instead of actively working to resolve them

NEW YORK: The UN and the Arab League remain united in their pursuit of multilateral solutions to “cascading” challenges facing the Arab world, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

Stronger cooperation between the two organizations is essential for the enhancement of multilateralism, he added. He pointed out that the war in Ukraine and its profound ramifications around the globe have revealed the need for such cooperation to be all the more urgent, as many Arab countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, import at least half of the wheat they require from Ukraine or Russia.

Since the war began on Feb. 24, food and fuel prices have soared as supplies were disrupted, which is “hitting the poorest the hardest and planting the seeds for political instability and unrest across the globe,” Guterres added.

He was speaking at a ministerial-level meeting of the UN Security Council. It was convened by the UAE, which holds the presidency of the council for the month of March, to discuss ways to improve partnerships and strengthen and institutionalize cooperation between the UN and the Arab League in areas such as conflict prevention, diplomacy, peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and to promote the role of women and youth in efforts to maintain regional and international peace and security.

The meeting was chaired by Khalifa Shaheen Almarar, minister of state at the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Guterres highlighted the existing aspects of cooperation between the UN and the Arab League relating to conflicts and crises in the Middle East. He welcomed the latter organization’s “constructive engagement” with efforts to safeguard the unity and “hard-won” stability of Libya since the ceasefire agreement of October 2020, and said he counts on it continuing to prioritize the need for an agreement on a comprehensive political process in the country.

Guterres also said that the two organizations remain firmly united in their support for the Syrian people, “who feel abandoned by the world as they enter the 11th year of a war that has subjected them to human rights violations on a massive and systematic scale and left the country in ruins.”

He reiterated that the only way to break the deadlock in Syria and alleviate the suffering of the people there lies in a “credible” political process that includes the implementation of Security Council resolutions.

Turning to the situation in Lebanon, Guterres said the UN is grateful for the work of the Arab League in urging authorities in the country to address the crisis there through a process that includes meaningful reforms, timely elections, constructive engagement with the International Monetary Fund and the full implementation of applicable Security Council resolutions.

He also welcomed the enhancement of strategic cooperation between members of the Iraqi government and the Arab League, including a mission to observe and monitor Iraq’s parliamentary elections in October last year.

A strengthening of regional cooperation is also critical in Yemen, Guterres said. Without efforts to agree a ceasefire, defuse tensions and advance an inclusive political process in the country, unceasing hostilities threaten to cause the already dire humanitarian situation to deteriorate further and dim the hopes of peace, he added.

The UN chief expressed disappointment at the results of a recent pledging event for Yemen, during which less than a third of the funds needed to address the humanitarian crisis in the country were received.

“I cannot overstate the severity of the suffering of the people of Yemen,” Guterres said. “I appeal to the generosity of members of the Arab League at this critical time.”

During the meeting the Security Council adopted a presidential statement, drafted by the UAE, welcoming the close cooperation between the UN and the Arab League and reiterating the intention to enhance their collaboration in a number of areas, including maritime safety and security, counterterrorism, respect for international law, poverty eradication, water security, and desertification and drought management in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The statement also affirmed the role of the youth population in efforts to maintain international peace and security, including the prevention and resolution of conflicts in MENA.

Ahmed Abul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, warned that the international order is again at a “most serious,” critical juncture as a result of the war in Ukraine.

“It is a deplorable situation,” he said and expressed hope that the international community can work to end the bloodshed, while honoring the security requirements of all those involved in line with the UN’s charter and principles.

However, he also said that he hopes the situation in Ukraine will not affect the ability of the Security Council to focus on other crises.

“The crises of the Arab world must not be forgotten,” Abul Gheit said. “These crises will not resolve themselves.”

The conflict in Ukraine provides a new prism through which to view the continuing suffering of the Palestinians, for example, he said as he stressed that the international order “cannot be based on double standards.”

Abul Gheit lamented the political impasse in Syria and the continuing repercussions for millions of Syrians. He also called for the withdrawal of foreign militias and fighters from Libya, saying that such interventions are complicating efforts to hold democratic elections in the North African country.

In Yemen, Abul Gheit said the Houthis refuse to engage with efforts to reach a political settlement and continue to threaten Saudi Arabia and the UAE with attacks using drones and ballistic missiles. He again welcomed the recent adoption of Security Council Resolution 2624, which extended sanctions against the Iran-backed Houthis and categorized them as “terrorists” for the first time.

He said Iran’s disruptive interventions in the region continue and its missile program is a “legitimate concern for the Arab League.” The organization seeks good relations with Iran, after Tehran ends its interference in regional and international affairs, but “this goal is still not within reach,” he added.

Emirati minister of state Almarar said Wednesday’s meeting was particularly important given that most of the issues on the Security Council agenda are Arab issues.

“As a result of the international community merely managing these crises rather than resolving them, several of these issues have been on the council’s agenda for decades,” Almarar said.

“The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other crises in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia have taken a high economic and humanitarian toll on the region.”

He said that these Arab crises, which have taken on cross-border and international dimensions, require efforts to address them on both the regional and international levels.

“The League of Arab States has a long history … extending back 77 years since it’s founding in 1945,” said Almarar. “It also possesses a deep knowledge of regional challenges, as well as the concerns of its member states, which enables it to play a leading role in supporting the implementation of the Security Council’s core mandate to maintain international peace and security.”

He called for enhanced cooperation between the UN and the Arab League, including the institutionalization of the relationship between them.


Moroccan youth address risks of climate change and water scarcity 

Updated 01 June 2023

Moroccan youth address risks of climate change and water scarcity 

WASHINGTON: Moroccan youth are working to address their country’s dire environmental future amid drastic climate change, water scarcity and food production issues.

Morocco is one of many countries that have been wrestling with the consequences of climate change and water scarcity, which has the potential to impact population stability and the country’s resources. 

In a session organized by the Middle East Institute in Washington DC on Wednesday, several Moroccan youths addressed the serious environmental challenges their communities are facing. They discussed ways to decrease the impact of climate change in Morocco.

They said climate change had a direct impact on water scarcity, energy, agricultural production and education, and argued that these issues were connected.

Fatna Ikrame El Fanne, an environmental engineer and climate activist, said that the Moroccan government had recently started paying attention to the issue. She said that several water-related strategies were in place to deal with water scarcity and management.

“In recent years, the Moroccan government has enacted a number of policies that are aimed at improving water management and availability within the country,” she said.

She said that the government had put together several long-term strategies — among them an integrated water resources management and efficiency road map, in addition to enacting a national water law that provided a legal framework for water governance, rights and protections.

Ikrame said that the idea behind these governmental measures was to encourage conservation and the sustainable use of water.

Wissal Ben Moussa, an engineer in agro-food industries and agroecology specialist, said that because of its geographical location, Morocco had an ecosystem that was prone to desertification and aridification.

She said that the country’s ecosystem has been severely impacted by climate change, which had increased water scarcity through less rainfall, an increase in water evaporation and rising temperatures. 

These factors, she said, had a direct impact on agriculture and food productivity. 

“In the coastal areas, we see sea level rises, sea water temperatures rise, which has a direct effect on biodiversity and marine life and the whole eco system,” she said.

“Climate change is impacting our unique and very fragile ecosystem in the forests, wetlands, the mountainous regions and more specifically in the southern regions or Morocco, which are already semi-arid and becoming more and more arid.” 

Hasnae Bakhouch, a UN Women Young Peacebuilder and environmental activist, said that water scarcity was impacting women in rural areas because they carried out many household and farming responsibilities. She said that lack of adequate infrastructure in rural areas created added risks for women trying to find water for their families.

Bakhouch said that children also lacked adequate health care due to the impact of climate change in the regions.

“The whole system needs to be fixed,” she said.

Dubai ruler approves futuristic masterplan for Palm Jebel Ali

Updated 01 June 2023

Dubai ruler approves futuristic masterplan for Palm Jebel Ali

  • Part of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, Palm Jebel Ali is one of a series of projects being undertaken by Dubai-based real estate developer Nakheel

DUBAI: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, has approved a new futuristic development masterplan for Palm Jebel Ali, state news agency WAM reported on Wednesday.

Part of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, Palm Jebel Ali is one of a series of projects being undertaken by Dubai-based real estate developer Nakheel.

Sheikh Mohammed said that Dubai would continue to innovate and deliver world-class lifestyle destinations that enhanced its status as the world’s best city to live, work and visit.

“We have vast ambitions for the future and we are confident that we can transform our grand vision for development into reality,” he said. “Palm Jebel Ali will further strengthen our urban infrastructure and consolidate the city’s emergence as one of the world’s leading metropolises. This new groundbreaking project reflects our strategic development plan centered on raising the quality of life and happiness of residents.

“Dubai has entered a new phase of development driven by innovation and creativity. By taking advantage of the opportunities arising from the evolving global environment, Dubai’s competitiveness and reputation as a thriving global business and tourism hub continue are set to grow further. We remain committed to shaping a brighter future both for our people and the world.

“The urban expansion that Palm Jebel Ali represents is a testament to Dubai’s economic dynamism. It also signifies Dubai’s exceptional outlook as a hub for talent and investment. The project will contribute to Dubai’s sustainable development by opening new avenues for growth in several sectors,” he said.

Palm Jebel Ali would raise the global benchmark in waterfront living and offer a range of luxury lifestyle amenities for residents, families and visitors, supporting the objective of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to consolidate Dubai’s status as one of the world’s top cities for business and tourism, WAM said.

The project also marks the beginning of a new growth corridor in the Jebel Ali area, underlining the expansion of the emirate.

Spanning an area of 13.4 sq km and occupying an area twice the size of Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali will feature extensive green spaces and distinctive waterfront experiences. The project will add about 110 km of coastline to Dubai that will provide about 35,000 families with luxury beachside living.

It will feature more than 80 hotels and resorts, and a wide choice of entertainment and leisure facilities that will contribute to Dubai’s tourism sector, while distinguishing the archipelago as an aspirational residential destination in the city.

Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Shaibani said: “We are honored to embark on a pathbreaking journey with the new masterplan of Palm Jebel Ali, which is unprecedented in magnitude and scale. The megaproject is inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and will mark a new milestone in the continued growth of the city.

“Palm Jebel Ali will capture the spirit, energy and life of Dubai as a thriving, prosperous and sustainable waterfront community and a world-class lifestyle destination, and secure Dubai’s reputation globally as an innovator in waterfront developments, besides creating exceptional value for investors.”

In line with the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, Palm Jebel Ali will support the emirate’s vision to deliver the highest standards of urban infrastructure and facilities, increase beach destinations as well as support sustainable development and facilitate the expansion of the population, estimated to reach about 5.8 million by 2040.

Setting a model in contemporary urban planning practices, the island will feature mixed-use walkable neighborhoods, incorporate smart city technologies and sustainability practices, as well as provide a range of mobility options for residents, visitors and communities, WAM reported.

Palm Jebel Ali has been designed with sustainability in mind. The plans include renewable energy resources being incorporated into its infrastructure design, allowing it to become almost completely self-sufficient in power generation once complete. As much as 30 percent of Palm Jebel Ali’s energy requirements will be obtained from renewable sources.

Jordan, UK ministers discuss boosting bilateral relations

Updated 01 June 2023

Jordan, UK ministers discuss boosting bilateral relations

  • Ahmad emphasized his country’s enthusiasm for the expansion of bilateral cooperation while expressing “great” appreciation for Jordan’s efforts to assist refugees

AMMAN: Ahmed Safadi, Jordan’s lower house speaker, on Wednesday met Tariq Ahmad, UK’s minister of state for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, and the UN, to help boost bilateral relations in parliamentary fields, the Jordan News Agency reported.

Safadi spoke of the “deep-rooted” friendship between Jordan and the UK and emphasized the importance of joint cooperation to serve common interests to achieve regional security and stability and boost support for the Palestinian people’s right to establish an independent state.

Safadi said Jordan was taking “confident” steps toward enhancing its political, administrative, and economic systems, and that the country had undertaken a “comprehensive” national project to achieve its development goals.

Ahmad said that the UK placed “remarkable” importance on Jordan’s role in the region, highlighting Amman’s “central and important” role in achieving security and stability in the Middle East.

He also stressed his country’s support for Hashemite custodianship over Jerusalem’s holy sites, as well as Jordan’s vision based on the two-state solution to achieve comprehensive peace.

Ahmad emphasized his country’s enthusiasm for the expansion of bilateral cooperation while expressing “great” appreciation for Jordan’s efforts to assist refugees.

Lebanon judge questions central bank chief over Munich arrest warrant

Updated 31 May 2023

Lebanon judge questions central bank chief over Munich arrest warrant

  • Salameh has been the subject of a series of judicial probes both at home and abroad
  • Lebanese judge Imad Qabalan questioned Salameh over accusations of "money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and illicit enrichment"

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge questioned central bank chief Riad Salameh on Wednesday after Beirut received a second Interpol Red Notice targeting him, this time following an arrest warrant from Munich, a judicial official said.
Salameh has been the subject of a series of judicial probes both at home and abroad into the fortune he has amassed during some three decades in the job.
France earlier this month issued an arrest warrant for Salameh after he failed to appear for questioning in Paris.
On Wednesday, Lebanese judge Imad Qabalan questioned Salameh over accusations of “money laundering, fraud, embezzlement and illicit enrichment,” the judicial official said, requesting anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Two days earlier, Lebanon received an Interpol Red Notice pursuant to the arrest warrant issued in absentia by Munich’s public prosecutor, according to the judicial official.
Last week Qabalan had questioned Salameh, banned him from traveling, confiscated his French and Lebanese passports and released him pending investigation, after receiving the first Interpol Red Notice, issued following the French arrest warrant.
An Interpol Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant but asks authorities worldwide to provisionally detain people pending possible extradition or other legal actions.
Lebanon does not extradite its nationals but Salameh could go on trial in Lebanon if local judicial authorities decide the accusations against him are founded, an official previously told AFP.
Qabalan on Wednesday again banned Salameh from travel and released him pending investigation, the judicial official said.
He also requested Salameh’s file from the judiciary in Munich and noted that “only the Lebanese judiciary has the authority to try him,” the official added.
In March 2022, France, Germany and Luxembourg seized assets worth 120 million euros ($130 million) in a move linked to a probe into Salameh’s wealth.
In February, Lebanon charged Salameh with embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion as part of its own investigations.
The domestic probe was opened following a request for assistance from Switzerland’s public prosecutor looking into more than $300 million in fund movements by Salameh and his brother.
Salameh, who was questioned for more than an hour on Wednesday, again “denied all charges against him” and said wealth came from private sources, the official added.
Salameh continues to serve as central bank governor. His mandate ends in July.
Activists say the travel ban helps shield him from being brought to justice abroad — and from potentially bringing down others in the entrenched political class, which is widely blamed for endemic corruption in the crisis-hit country.
His brother Raja was due to appear for questioning in France on Wednesday, but his lawyer said he was unable to attend due to medical reasons and the judge postponed the session for two months, the official added.

Qatar prime minister, Taliban chief hold secret Afghan talks

Updated 31 May 2023

Qatar prime minister, Taliban chief hold secret Afghan talks

  • The meeting signals a new willingness by Afghanistan’s rulers to discuss ways to end their global isolation
  • Qatar has no formal ties with Afghanistan, its Kabul embassy is open and represents US interests there

WASHINGTON: The Qatari prime minister held secret talks with the supreme leader of the Taliban this month on resolving tension with the international community, a source briefed on the meeting said, signaling a new willingness by Afghanistan’s rulers to discuss ways to end their isolation.

The May 12 meeting in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar between Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Haibatullah Akhunzada is the first the reclusive Taliban chief is known to have held with a foreign leader.

US President Joe Biden’s administration was briefed on the talks and is “coordinating on all issues discussed” by the pair, including furthering dialogue with the Taliban, said the source.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said other issues Sheikh Mohammed raised with Haibatullah included the need to end a Taliban bans on girls’ education and women’s employment.

The meeting represents a diplomatic success for Qatar, which has criticized Taliban restrictions on women while using long-standing ties with the Islamist movement to push for deeper engagement with Kabul by the international community.

The United States has led demands for the Taliban to end the bans on girls’ schooling and women working, including for UN agencies and humanitarian groups, to restore their freedom of movement and bring Afghans from outside Taliban ranks into government.

The source’s comments suggested that Washington supported elevating what have been unproductive lower-level talks in the hope of a breakthrough that could end the world’s only bans of their kind and ease dire humanitarian and financial crises that have left tens of millions of Afghans hungry and jobless.

The White House declined to comment on the talks. The State Department and the Qatar embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment.

The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


The restrictions on women’s schooling and work have stymied humanitarian aid and are key reasons why no country has recognized Taliban rule since they seized power in August 2021, after the Western-backed government collapsed as the last US-led international troops departed following two decades of war.

The treatment by the Taliban of women and girls could amount to a crime against humanity, according to a UN report presented in March at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Taliban say they respect women’s rights in line with their interpretation of Islamic law and Afghan customs.

Haibatullah, a hard-line Islamist, has shown little willingness to compromise on his edicts.

His meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, however, suggests that he is open to exploring avenues for ending Afghanistan’s isolation and boosting relief programs as the country sinks into hunger and poverty.

“It was a very positive meeting,” said the source. Haibatullah was “very interested” in continuing a dialogue with the international community.

But eventual recognition by other countries of the Taliban administration, senior members of which remain under US and international sanctions, is far from assured given their treatment of women and poor human rights record.

Sheikh Mohammed raised with Haibatullah the need to lift the bans on women’s education and employment, including the bar on them working for UN agencies and other humanitarian groups, the source said.

The Taliban administration has been promising since January written guidelines allowing aid groups to operate with female staff.

The Taliban in March 2022 barred girls from high schools and extended the ban to universities in December.

They say they will reopen secondary schools to girls when “conditions” have been met, including devising an Islamic syllabus.


Sheikh Mohammed and Haibatullah also discussed efforts to remedy Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, the source said.

The United Nations says nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan’s 40 million people need help and it has warned that funding is drying up.

Sheikh Mohammed, the source said, raised with Haibatullah the “continued efforts on the ground” by the Taliban on counterterrorism, an apparent reference to Kabul’s drive to crush a Daesh affiliate.

The main ideological foe of the Taliban is based mostly in eastern Afghanistan but has targeted minorities and embassies in Kabul.

The US and its allies say the Taliban harbor members of Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban deny that.

Sheikh Mohammed, who also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister, met publicly in Kandahar with Mullah Hassan Akhund, the Taliban prime minister, on the same day he met the supreme leader. He was accompanied by Qatar’s intelligence chief.

Neither side, however, revealed the talks with Haibatullah.

He almost never leaves Kandahar but has been the paramount religious, political and military leader of the Taliban since 2016, guiding the movement to victory over the Western-backed Kabul government.

Qatar allowed the militants to open a political office in Doha in 2013 and facilitated their talks with Washington that led to the 2020 deal for a withdrawal of the US-led international force that they fought for 20 years.

While the tiny Gulf monarchy has no formal diplomatic ties with Afghanistan, its Kabul embassy is open and represents US interests there.

Qatar has long pressed the international community to agree a “roadmap” of steps for the Taliban to gain recognition, arguing that isolating Afghanistan could worsen regional security.