With the leaders of Egypt, Yemen or Lebanon in New York, this ‘Fragments of the East’ takes stock of the issues that concerned the region during the United Nations General Assembly. Although António Guterres appealed in his speech “to the suffering” in Syria, “the tensions” in Iraq or the hunger in an Afghanistan whose economy and human rights are “in ruins”, the Iranian nuclear agreement and the unequal conflict between Israel and Palestine They stole the spotlight.
From Arabic Ahlan wa sahlan (أهلا وسهلا) welcome to ‘Fragments of the Orient’. A summary that every Saturday will bring you closer to the most outstanding events of the Middle East region and its surrounding countries. This week’s synthesis is somewhat special, as it is framed in the 77th UN General Assembly.
1) Iran, on two fronts: between the nuclear agreement and the death of Mahsa Amini
It was indisputable that the war between Russia and Ukraine would be followed by the nuclear pact with Iran, one of the most urgent issues of the Assembly. However, although it did not lose importance, the social outbreak after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini opened another front of criticism of the Islamic Republic.
Ten experts from the multilateral organization, as well as UN Women, repudiated the death of the young woman (who had been detained by the ‘morality police’ – the Gasht-e Ershad– due to not wearing the veil correctly) and considered that Amini “is yet another victim of the continuous repression and systematic discrimination against women in Iran”.
Although he avoided referring to the case, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi rejected what he described as “double standards” when his country is questioned for violating human rights, but, according to him, other violations are not attacked with the same firmness. In it, he made references to the discovery of the bodies of indigenous women in Canada, the oppression of the Palestinian people or the arrests of immigrants in the United States.
Regarding the 2015 nuclear agreement, whose negotiations to revive it are at a standstill, Raisi charged the United States for having “trampled on” it in 2018 (Donald Trump abandoned it) and demanded “guarantees” that, if it is resumed, the negotiated. In a subsequent press conference, the Iranian leader made the resumption of the pact conditional on the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA) closing the ongoing investigations and on Washington committing not to ‘trample on’ it again.
While US President Joe Biden reiterated his willingness to return to the agreement but made it clear that “we will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Israel did spend most of his speech denouncing its historic enemy.
Prime Minister Yair Lapid considered that Iran “is a murderous dictatorship that is doing everything possible to get a nuclear weapon” and that, if it succeeds, it will use it against Israel. Hence, for the Israeli head of government, the only alternative is to present Tehran with “a credible military threat.” “Then, and only then, will a stronger and more durable agreement be negotiated with them,” he said.
2) While Israel made peace a “condition”, Palestine is still “waiting” for it
Neither the Israeli intervention nor the Palestinian intervention veered from their usual stance on the conflict. Namely, Israel often claims to defend itself against anti-Semitism and “terrorism” in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza; and Palestine denounces the Israeli occupation and its systematic violation of Palestinian rights.
What was different from other years was that, while the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas used “Israel” as a subject for more than thirty minutes of speech, the Hebrew State left its neighbor for last, which reduced it to the “destructive” acts of the Hamas group. If we follow the words of acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Palestine is not today among “the two great threats” that plague Israel, since they are nuclear weapons and “the loss of truth, lies.”
“There is no state that suffers more from this disinformation campaign,” Lapid pointed out, adding that “the question is not why they do it (politicians, other countries, the media), but why do you listen to it?”
Despite this, and with an electoral tone, the premier spoke for the first time since his ascension of “a two-state agreement”, with the “condition that Palestine is a peaceful state”: “Stop launching missiles against our children ( …) lay down your arms and there will be peace”.
The last Israeli leader to invoke a two-state solution was Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017. But the formula, used by the international community, did not serve Abbas then or now, who the next day replied to Israel that “(the Palestinians) tried everything to convince him to come back to the table, but he refused”: “We don’t have a partner to talk to”, but “the relationship is one of occupying power and occupied nation; Israel has not left us territory for an independent State to build and live together in peace”.
“Of course (reviving the agreement) is a positive thing. But the real test is that the Israeli government returns to the dialogue table immediately. It cannot negotiate with me,” Abbas said, “and at the same time kill and continue with the settlements.”
Before the Assembly, the president of the Palestinian Authority began his statement by stating that “Israel has not hesitated to violate our territory” and ended it “pleading and reiterating” full membership for Palestine in international organizations, since no measure of the UN on Palestine has entered into force.
In the middle, he named the six NGOs that Israel branded as terrorists and raided and closed down in August, as well as the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, assassinated in May; he cited the “massacres” committed by Israel, with images of the bombing in Gaza in May 2021; and denounced the attack on sacred places, “the freedom of settlers who kill Palestinians in broad daylight” and “the double standards” with which Israel is judged, despite applying “an apartheid system.” On popular discontent towards the Palestinian Authority, however, he did not comment.
3) Like the war in Ukraine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was on everyone’s lips
In their turn on the podium, several leaders addressed Israel and Palestine from different perspectives. Except that, beyond the support for the ‘Palestinian cause’ from traditionalists such as Qatar, Oman or Lebanon, there were two Latin American leaders who included it in their speeches: Gabriel Boricfrom Chile, and peter castlefrom Peru.
For Chile – which boasts the largest Palestinian community outside the Arab world – it is not an alien matter. But Boric came to the Assembly after having refused to accept the credentials of the new Israeli ambassador, in rejection of the murder of a 17-year-old in the West Bank. In this scenario, the Chilean president tried a gesture for both sides.
Boric asked “not to naturalize the permanent violations of human rights against the Palestinian people” and to allow them to establish “their own free and sovereign state”, although at the same time he said that Israel’s legitimate right to live within borders must be guaranteed. sure.”
Castillo appealed to almost the same thing: he criticized the Israeli occupation and demanded “an independent and viable Palestine, and an Israel with secure borders.” But in addition, he added the announcement of the opening of a diplomatic representation of Peru in Ramallah.
The Latin-Palestinian link was completed with the talks of the Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard with the Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, and the Nicaraguan and Palestinian Foreign Ministers, Denis Moncada and Riyadh Al-Malki.
Two other meetings, although behind the scenes, had the conflict at their center: on the one hand, a ministerial meeting of Saudi Arabia, the European Union and the Arab League to celebrate 20 years of the Arab Peace Initiative; and on the other, the meeting of the diplomatic heads of Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan and the European Unionin which they reiterated the request for a negotiation for a “lasting peace”, based on “the two-state solution”.
Finally, Jerusalem starred in two events. In the dialogue between Yair Lapid and his British counterpart, Liz Trusswho admitted that he is considering moving the UK embassy to Jerusalem – emulating Donald Trump -, which de facto it would imply breaking with the international consensus and recognizing the Holy City as the Israeli capital.
He also referred to her Jordanian King Abdullah IIwhich again warned of the deterioration of the status quo that governs the city and warned about the “threat” suffered by the Christian churches in Jerusalem.
4) Egypt warns about the damage that the climate crisis causes to the island states
On the margins of the General Assembly, the Egyptian foreign minister and president of the next COP27, Sameh Shoukry, led a dialogue with representatives of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), in which he highlighted the importance of addressing how the climate crisis affects to these nations during the upcoming Climate Change Conference, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh from November 6 to 18.
“Climate change is causing increasing loss and damage in small island developing countries through repeated waves of severe weather conditions in the form of storms, hurricanes, floods and droughts that result in serious human and economic losses,” Shoukry said. , in the meeting with the representatives of the coalition, made up of 39 global states.
Given this scenario, the head of Egyptian diplomacy expressed the need to improve coordination to mitigate the losses that these islands suffer due to the effects of the climate emergency.
Egypt’s role as host of COP27 is under scrutiny due to human rights violations in the country and the crackdown on critical voices. Facing a summit where it is still unclear whether protests will be allowed, Amnesty International accused on september 21 the Egyptian government to “continue suffocating freedoms” and valued that granting the climate summit was a “reward for a repressive power”.
Hence, the head of the NGO, Agnès Callamard, urged the international community to pressure Cairo to put “an end to abuses and impunity, beginning with the release of thousands of critics and opponents arbitrarily detained in Egyptian prisons” .
Y the image of the week at the UN on the region was the Israel-Turkey meeting, which had not taken place since 2008. Within the framework of the full restoration of diplomatic relations (interrupted in 2018), Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shook hands and discussed terrorism, economic and energy cooperation, and regional developments.
The resumption of ties, which allowed the resumption of flights between the two countries, will be completed with the appointment of ambassadors: Israel has already appointed Irit Lillian, while Turkey is expected to do the same in the coming weeks.
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