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Fighting terrorism in the Middle East includes the need to strengthen the forces of moderation in the region

11/09/2017 Leave a comment

dp1_-_sc_at_icts_17th_world_summit_on_counterterrorism_-_11_sept_2017It was an honour to speak at the 17th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism that was organised by the Interdisciplinary Centre (IDC) in Herzliya. In my remarks I thanked Prof Reichman, President and Founder of the IDC and Prof Ganor, Founder and Executive Director of the IDC for organising the event.

It was quite symbolic that we met on September 11th. I opened by saying that

I was also humbled to speak before an audience in which there are many who sadly remember and have lived through many other terrorist attacks. Israel is a country that has lived with terror for decades. Decades in which most families have been hurt by violence and terror. Decades in which most families have remembered the losses, the sadness, the fear and the trauma that terror causes.

I spoke at the forum also as someone who has sadly lived with that phenomena for most of my life. The first car bomb was at the age of seven. In Iraq I had lost friends and colleagues. My own country has experienced its most recent terror attack in 2012 when Hezbullah killed five Israelis and one Bulgarian in a bus bombing.

In the last couple of years, as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, I can attest to how vastly destructive the impact of terrorism is, not just on human beings but also on the prospects of peace.

Sadly, in this part of the world, extremists have chosen terrorism as their most prominent tool to destroy political processes, to destroy the prospects of peace. That is why standing up firmly to terror must be an integral part of any peace effort, not just in words but also in deeds.

Just as we often speak of the need to promote peace through sustainable development and economic opportunity, so we must insulate efforts to achieve peace in the region from the risks that terror and violence bring.

In the Middle East of today, we face a reality in which terrorist threats are interconnected. To tackle them we need a broad approach that extends well beyond the borders of any one country and go beyond the region as a whole.

Today’s reality demands a new international approach on how we deal with the new threats that the Middle East and North Africa face. I spoke about three processes that together unfortunately create the perfect storm that we see unfolding right now in the Middle East, before making some suggestions of how to deal with these challenges.

Firstly, we see a process of collapsing states that lack democratic legitimacy, that lack strong institutions, or the ability to deliver services to their people. In Syria a president stood up against his own people. In Iraq, a collapsed state was replaced by ethnic and sectarian divisions.

When such states are unable to meet the legitimate demands of their people for representation, economic and social development, security or human dignity, they create space for radical groups and extremists.

In late 2013, the Iraqi people in the Anbar province and elsewhere took to the streets demanding jobs, dignity and fair economic and social opportunities. They were not met with dialogue but with guns. Soon their protests that had turned into sit-ins that were infiltrated by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and ISIL and by the spring of 2014. Their agenda was hijacked by radical extremists with a destructive agenda.

Had the government reacted differently, perhaps that would not have happened.

At the same time, we see across the Middle East the implosion of marginalized communities. Groups that are impoverished, or have been disenfranchised, or feel marginalized or discriminated against quickly collapse under the pressure of radical extremists; And become breeding grounds for terror, mass atrocities and violence.

Almost two years before Mosul fell to the hands of ISIL, all the signs were there; and the United Nations had been warning the world. For years the people in Mosul lived in fear of the central government. They felt that their dignity was not respected. Their lacked economic opportunities, institutions were corrupt and ineffective. People felt marginalized. In the period before the fall of Mosul to the hands of DAESH, practically every single elected representative was killed, maimed, kidnapped or kicked out by the terror organizations.

Terror struck in waves; first it struck elected officials, then it struck civilians, then it struck religious communities, and last but not least, it struck schools.

In the last couple of months before the fall of Mosul, we had a surge of terror attacks in which suicide bombers attacked schools. This destroyed the social structures of society.

As states collapse, as social structures implode, the international community lacks the tools to deal with the trans-border threats that face the region today. Our instruments were designed to deal primarily with state-to-state conflicts. They would have helped us deal with a war between Iraq and Syria, but how do we deal with a war inside Iraq and inside Syria that risks to spread and engulf everyone around them?

These are some of the challenges that today we need to find the answers to and to deal with at an international, regional and national level.

We in the United Nations, together with our many partners around the world, are investing great attention and resources in trying to fix our own approaches so that we have a better understanding of what needs to be done.

We are investing not just in providing humanitarian relief to suffering communities but also working to help still-functioning states and as-yet-unbroken communities in the region protect themselves from the vulnerabilities of what is happening around us.

It is very important that we take the necessary actions to prevent further conflict.

UN Secretary-General Guterres has been very much focused on developing a new vision for the Organization; one which prioritizes prevention over response. As part of his efforts to focus on preventing violence, conflict and mass atrocities, he has also established a UN Office for Counter-Terrorism.

My colleague, Jehangir Khan later spoke more specifically to these developments.

I focused on five objectives related to how we deal with terror in the international community that warrant some discussion.

Firstly, is the moral foundation for our work — zero tolerance for the justification or legitimization of terror. In Israel, this is particularly pertinent discussion. It is however a very valid discussion well beyond the borders of your state.

We must constantly reaffirm and strengthen the clear international consensus against terror. Let me quote a UN General Assembly Resolution (49/60), adopted in 1994: “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them”.

So first we need to condemn terror, then secondly we have an obligation to promote inclusive political solutions to conflicts.

Experience in this part of the world has shown us that if you create hope, and then take hope away, most of the time you end up with violence. This is particularly pertinent to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Today, we live in a historical period in which the hope for peace and for a solution to the conflict is well beyond the reach of political leaders on all sides.

Terrorism strives where there is division and suffocates when the core grievances that people have are addressed.

This is one of the reasons why in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is important to create the hope for peace by recreating a political horizon to address the final status issues. Such a political process needs to be accompanied by economic and social measures that improve the lives of Palestinians and a regional framework that insulates the process from those who will seek to destroy it.

The third objective that we must focus on is the need to address the political and socio-economic factors that breed violent extremism. Across the region, this means investing in development, upholding human rights and strengthening the resilience of communities against extremism.

Fourth, we need to focus on the coordinated fight against the drivers and enablers of terrorism at an international level. We need to strengthen the international response to incitement and radical propaganda; focus on illicit weapons smuggling and production; the financial flows to terror groups; the movement of foreign fighters; and the question of accountability for states in upholding their international obligations.

Last but not least, we also have a political objective that I believe is very important and that is to strengthening the forces of moderation in the Middle East. Over the last year or so, we have seen a growing understanding among leaders in some countries of the Arab world of the need to focus on this priority and this a welcome development.

These are just some of the priorities that I suggested we should look at in our international efforts to address the threat of terrorism, particularly here in the Middle East. Much more can be said and certainly much more can be done.

In closing, I reminded everyone that sadly terrorists have a doubly de-humanizing impact on all. On the one hand, they brand entire populations as legitimate targets. On the other, they stigmatize their own ethnic or religious groups as potential terrorists. We should not allow them to win by caving into this bias. The negative action of one terrorist today still resonates widely, while the actions of many individuals who work every day to prevent violence remain unnoticed.

I expressed my hope that this conference will be able to speak to how we challenge this visibility bias and the de-humanizing effect of terror.

But I also encouraged participants not to shy away from the political task that we have before us — how to strengthen the forces of moderation and how do we increase the residence of communities so that we can together stand against violent extremism and terror.

Events in #Jerusalem could have catastrophic consequences across the #MiddleEast #UN

25/07/2017 7 comments

FullSizeRenderI spoke to the media after the extraordinary UN Secuirty Council discussion on the situation in Jerusalem. Here is what I said:

“I want to start by thanking the Chinese Presidency of the Security Council for accepting the request by Egypt, Sweden and France to have a discussion on the situation in Jerusalem before the open debate tomorrow. Allow me to say a few words about what I presented today to the Security Council.

Let me begin by once again calling on all parties to

refrain from provocative actions, show restraint, and find a solution.

It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week as the dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayers without a resolution.

I asked Security Council Member States to use their influence with all sides in order to encourage them to de-escalate, to ensure that while security is provided for worshippers and visitors to the holy sites in Jerusalem, the status quo that has been established since 1967 is preserved for all.

It is critically important that

the status quo be preserved in Jerusalem,

and I want to welcome once again the assurances that Prime Minister Netanyahu has provided that Israel has no interest in changing it.

I encourage Israel to continue its intense contacts with Jordan, in light with the Hashemite Kingdom’s special and historic role in Jerusalem, to find a solution to the crisis.

I asked the Member States of the Security Council to unequivocally

condemn the violence of the last few days.

We have seen Palestinians being killed in clashes with Israeli security forces. We have seen an Israeli family being slaughtered in a terrorist attack in a settlement in the West Bank. All incidents deserve the full condemnation of the international community and our thoughts and prayers must go out to their families of the victims.

Jerusalem is perhaps one of the most critical cities in the world. It is an emotionally, religiously and historically charged place for billions of people. East Jerusalem is a final status issue that needs to be decided and negotiated between the two sides.

As the occupying power, Israel has a responsibility to uphold its obligations under International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law, and must show maximum restraint in order to avoid further loss of life and an escalation of the situation.

At the same time, the Palestinian leadership also has a responsibility to avoid provocative actions and statements that further aggravate an already tense environment. I am particularly concerned by some statements that have been made by some Palestinian factions that seek to fan the flames of violence and I call on all to condemn such statements and actions.

Ahead of tomorrow, I hope that all Member States, when they speak at the open debate will be careful

to avoid statements that further inflame the situation

and to call on all parties to de-escalate and find a solution that is based on the status quo and the need to ensure security for all worshippers and visitors to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

In closing let me say that nobody should be mistaken that these events can be localized. In fact, they may be taking place over a couple of hundreds square meters in Jerusalem, but they affect hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people around the world. They have the potential to have catastrophic consequences well beyond the walls of the old city, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself.

This crisis, in fact any such crisis, is a step backwards. It is a step away from what we need to focus on and that is how to bring the parties back to a political process in order to find a solution that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians; that is based on UN Security Council Resolutions and relevant international law; that is achieved through negotiations and that has the ultimate result of two states, which is what the international consensus on how to resolve this conflict requires.

It is critically important to also understand that these events take place at a time of political vacuum, at a time when the political perspective is still missing. This is why it is important for all of us to focus on restoring a political perspective, on helping bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conducive to negotiations on a final status arrangement, and to do that in a manner that avoids turning that national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one.

Tomorrow I will return to Jerusalem and continue our direct engagement with all stakeholders in order to facilitate a quick end to this crisis and a return to the situation which would allow the status quo to be observed, as well as for people to have safe and secure access to the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov (Special Coordinator) on the situation in the West Bank – Security Council Media Stakeout (24 July 2017)

#Opinion: Two-State Solution Slipping Away! Do Not Miss the Opportunity to Reverse the Negative Trends #Israel #Palestine @UNSCO_MEPP

03/07/2016 2 comments

The report published last week by the Quartet – the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations – presents an analysis that should come as no surprise to anyone. The negative trends on the ground continue to jeopardise prospects for peace and diminish the prospects for a two-state solution.

Palestinian frustration after half a century of occupation, dozens of failed peace efforts cannot be wished away; it cannot be vanquished by aggressive security measures, continued illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank, arrests or punitive home demolitions. Neither is it helped when Israeli ministers openly reject the very notion of a Palestinian state, call for the complete annexation of the West Bank or rush to approve more settlement construction.

But neither will the violence and terror we are witnessing again help bring about a Palestinian state. A peaceful future for both peoples cannot emerge on the back of statements that glorify terror and justify killing; mutual respect cannot come as a result of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings.

Most Palestinians have lived with the humiliation of occupation all their lives.

They do not need the Quartet to tell them about the devastating impact of the illegal settlement enterprise on their lives, their economy, and their legitimate aspirations for an independent, sovereign, viable state. For them, a nine-page report could never fully capture what it is like to live under a military rule which governs every aspect of their daily existence and which has the power of life and death over them and their children. The shooting of 15 year old Mahmoud Raafat Badran, on his way home from a swimming pool is the latest testament to this sad predicament. No army should kill children by mistake.

Equally so, Israelis know that continuing terrorist attacks, the incitement which encourages such acts, and the ongoing militant activity in Gaza are major obstacles not just to peace, but to rebuilding trust. The recent murder of Hallel Yaffa Ariel provided further testimony to that. Heroes do not kill sleeping children. Most Israelis have lived with such fears all their lives. It is also clear that the takeover of Gaza undermines the ability to achieve and implement a negotiated solution.

Given this stark reality, Palestinians and Israelis have reached a point where many on

both sides have lost faith in the other’s commitment to a future of two states

living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition. Many of them have also grown critical of the international community – some thinking it is not doing enough to resolve this conflict while others see it as overly involved with it.

 At the end of the day, the sad reality for peoples on both sides of the conflict is that the things which they hold most dear – statehood and security – are slipping further away.

 The report published by the Quartet sends two very clear messages. First, to those who hope that the international community would somehow abandon this conflict and let it descend in a deteriorating status quo to perpetual chaos, we say: no, you are wrong. The report reflects the determination of the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations not to look away, but to expose and draw attention to the problems in a more detailed and uncompromising manner than ever before and to hold the leaderships to account on their actions and inactions.

Second, to those who hope that the international community will enforce a solution on this conflict, we say: you, too, are wrong. No third party can decide for Israelis or Palestinians what compromises to make and what risks to take for peace. None of us can convince them to begin trusting each other. What the international community can and must do is to provide the parties with support and incentives to take the right path, the one towards peace, in line with commitments they have already made to each other and before the world. We must pledge to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) through negotiations in a manner that resolves all permanent status issues, meets Palestinian aspirations for statehood and Israeli security needs.

The report describes the Quartet’s view on the main obstacles blocking the path forward, and what needs to be done to overcome them. Both have been critical of the report.

But can anyone deny that violence is a problem for rebuilding trust? Who will make the argument that more cannot be done to end incitement?

Can anyone question the fact that illegal settlements, the taking of land for exclusive Israeli use and the prevention of Palestinian development in Area C of the occupied West Bank are not undermining the prospect for a two-state solution? Who will say that the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations are wrong when they call for these policies to stop?

Who can question the need to fully lift the closures on Gaza, end militant activity and reunite it under one single legitimate leadership?

This conflict is so complex and so long-standing, that any expectation of a quick fix that resolves all final status issues is at best naïve, and at worst a cynical strategy to avoid the painstaking work needed to rebuild trust and create conditions for a realistic, serious and ultimately successful negotiations that will end the occupation that began in 1967 and realize a two state solution. No one is talking about yet another new transitional agreement but rather about

implementing what both sides have already agreed upon

and changing reality on the ground to pave the road for the final deal.

The Quartet report sounds an alarm bell that we are on a dangerous slope towards a one state reality that is incompatible with the national aspirations of both peoples.

The international community stands ready to engage both with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the implementation of the report’s recommendations. We believe that if they take up this challenge, in cooperation with regional actors, Palestinians and Israelis will experience a positive change in their lives and sense renewed hope – a first and necessary step towards a future in which they can each live in freedom and dignity on their ancestral homeland, as good neighbours and masters of their own fate. I urge leaders on both sides not to miss this opportunity.


this opinion piece was published or quoted in the following media:

In Full/English

·         Israeli and Palestinian Media 

Ø     Jerusalem Post, 4 July, Link

Ø     Maan News Agency, 4 July, Link

·         Forum/Blogs

Ø     Naruto Café, 6 July, Link

Excerpts/English

·         Israeli and Palestinian Media 

Ø    Times of Israel, 4 July, Link

Ø    Arutz Sheva, 4 July, Link

Ø    Jerusalem Post, 4 July, Link

Ø    Maan News Agency, 5 July, Link

·         Regional Media

Ø    Press TV (Iran), 4 July, Link

Ø    Al-Bawaba, 4 July, Link

·      International

Ø    Reuters, 3 July, Link

Ø    Reuters, 4 July, Link

Ø    Reuters, 5 July, Link

Ø    Breitbart, 4 July, Link

Ø    Camera, 6 July, Link

Ø    Sputnik, 7 July, Link

Ø    Russia Today, 4 July, Link

Ø    The Nation (UAE), 4 July, Link

Ø    The Forward, 3 July, Link

Ø    EuroNews, 4 July, Link

Ø    Business Insider (UK), 3 July, Link

Ø    New Europe, 5 July, Link

Ø    Daily Mail, 3 July, Link

Ø    Germany Sun, 5 July, Link

Excerpts/Arabic

·         Palestinian Media

Ø     Al-Quds Newspaper, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Ayyam Newspaper, 4 July, Link

Ø     PalSawa, 3 July, Link

Ø     Palestine News Network (PNN), 4 July, Link

Ø     Amad, 3 July, Link

Ø     Shams News Agency, 4 July, Link

Ø     Panet, 5 July, Link

Ø     Arab48, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Hourriah, 9 July, Link

·         Regional Media 

Ø     Al-Arabiya, 3 July, Link

Ø     Sky News Arabic, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Hurra, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Mayadeen, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Bayan (UAE), 4 July, Link

Ø     Masr Al-Arabia, 4 July, Link

Ø     Lebanon Daily, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Rai, 5 July, Link

Ø     Al-Mydan, 4 July, Link

Ø     New Middle East, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Khaleej, 4 July, Link

Ø     Sana (Syria), 4 July, Link

·         International Media

Ø     Reuters, 3 July, Link

Ø     Russia Today, 4 July, Link