30 September 2015, New York – European Union Statement by High Representative/Vice President Mogherini at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and countering the terrorist threat in the region”
I thank you, Mr. President, for bringing this discussion within the United Nations framework. That is a step the European Union appreciates.
It is time for the international community and for all of us to take a step forward. It is time, we believe, to leave behind the divisions of the past. Today we are here to discuss two top priorities for all of us: the political solution of conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the fight against terrorist groups such as Daesh and Al-Qaida’s affiliates.
For too long these two priorities were perceived as conflicting goals. For too long we discussed whether to prioritize the political processes or the fight against Daesh and terrorism. These divisions over the years have weakened our action on both tracks. They weaken the international community. I believe we can now finally be ready to move on. I believe we are now finally ready to realize that these two goals can only go hand in hand and that they are, and have to be, our real focus while we mobilize at the same time all the humanitarian support needed to respond to the urgent needs of the symptoms of this crisis, starting from the humanitarian situation of the huge number of refugees that are hosted in the region and in Europe.
The two top priorities are fighting terrorism and finding political solutions to the main crisis — starting from the two key ones, the one in Libya and the one in Syria. It is absolutely necessary to address the military dimension of the threats posed by Daesh and Al-Qaida. The European Union in itself is not directly involved in the anti-Daesh military campaign. But, as members know, a number of our member States are; and the European Union itself as such is concretely working on some complementary dimensions of this collective effort, in full cooperation with our regional and international partners.
That means, for instance cutting off the supply lines of terrorist groups. We have provided more than 1,300 intelligence leads on foreign fighters and other terrorists in Syria and Iraq. We are assisting our partners on criminal justice issues and in improving their capacity to investigate and prosecute foreign fighters. We are supporting the different security agencies in Iraq to better share information and coordinate their efforts.
We are working on another crucial element, namely, stabilizing liberated areas. That also means building a future for the territories liberated from Daesh. The European Union has launched the first concrete action to remove mines and improvised explosive devices in the Iraqi regions freed from Daesh. Together with the United Nations Mine Action Service, the European Union is coordinating the work on booby traps.
Our action is aimed at helping people return to their homes once their homes are safe and at starting to rebuild their communities and countries. The European Union is engaged in very concrete terms on the ground, but we all know very well that, in this aspect of the fight, military power will not be enough to defeat Daesh. Military might alone will not solve the crisis, either in Syria or elsewhere. In Syria it is urgent to start the process leading to a peaceful, inclusive political transition.
International and regional Powers must take on their responsibility in that respect. Different regional and international actors have substantial influence on the Syrian parties. It is time now to bring them all to the table for serious, substantial negotiations inside the United Nations-led framework.
Let us focus on the way forward. Let us be united and concrete. If we, the international community, cannot manage to do it, and to do it in a united way, how can we think we can unite the region and the actors in Syria on a common agenda that can defeat Daesh and bring peace and democracy to the country? That is the question. That is why the European Union supports the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy. We are working together with Mr. Staffan de Mistura and his team in a very active way to start the process start and advance with strength and a sense of urgency. We actively support his work and actively support his proposal on the working groups and on a contact group on Syria.
All regional and international Powers should put their rivalries aside and find ways to cooperate on a common agenda built on a collective interest in security, peace and democracy. Only in a more cooperative regional environment can we hope to build peace in Syria and defeat Daesh. That is true for reconciliation processes not only in Syria but throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
In Iraq and in Libya we need a Government of national accord to start not within weeks but within days to stop the internal divisions, to fight Daesh and to begin rebuilding the country. Daesh has nothing to do with the history of Libya. It built its strengths on the civil war and the divisions among factions and militias. Unity among Libya’s actors and factions is the most effective and the only weapon against Daesh. Daesh needs to ally with local militias to keep control of the ground. Where it does not manage to find allies, Daesh is easier to eradicate. It is politics that holds the key to its defeat.
Conflicts only strengthen terrorist groups. That is what war does. Conflicts are powerful and probably the most powerful source of radicalization. Think of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, including the most recent flare-ups. That is why the European Union believes that relaunching the Middle East peace process and achieving results both for the Israelis and the Palestinian people could send a very powerful message of reconciliation to the whole region and far beyond that, to the world.
For those reasons, we have decided to work together with our partners in the Quartet to hold a principals’ meeting here today in New York and to invite Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States to work together in a regional framework. The whole region has an interest in this, and leverage to put an end — hopefully a happy one — to this conflict.
The key is political will and unity among the regional international players. But we know that the current crisis is not only political, it is also cultural. Over past years and decades too many forces have bet on the rise of sectarianism, with the disastrous results that we all see. That trend must be reversed. We need to help communities stick together, and not tear them apart. We need inclusive societies and democratic political processes. All communities and minorities must be granted security, freedom and the right to contribute to their country’s public life, if we want resilient and strong societies across the region.
Only democracy and inclusiveness bring about stability, and they are the most powerful weapons against terror. Too many times we are faced with a narrative opposing democracy and security. That is a false dilemma. We know that very well in Europe. A society can be stable and safe only when it is fully democratic.
The region and the world need a new order, and this crisis might be an opportunity. There might be differences among us. There have also been differences around this table this morning. But as Foreign Minister Steinmeir mentioned just a few interventions ago, there are also many things on which we can unite. We have differences also on how a new order in the region and in the world should look, but I believe there is something on which we can all agree. The only alternative to a new world order, and a new regional order, is chaos. That is the enemy we are fighting today — perennial conflict, constant instability, global disorder — our common enemy is chaos. At this seventieth anniversary of the foundation of the United Nations let us join forces, as we did successfully in the Iranian deal negotiations. Let us all choose cooperation over conflict. Finally, let us build a cooperative world order. Europe is ready.
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