NEW YORK/JEDDAH – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has highlighted the ongoing collaboration with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on a range of immediate challenges and long-term pursuits, including the crises in Iraq, Syria and the ongoing peace efforts in the Middle East.
Citing deep alarm about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq and the increasing sectarian tensions in the region which are creating a humanitarian crisis, Ban called for all sides to avoid revenge acts. “I call on Iraq's leaders to come together and agree on a national security plan to address the terrorist threat from ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant],” Ban said in a message.
The message was delivered in Saudi Arabia by Nickolay Mladenov, his special representative for Iraq and Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). In his message to the 41st Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, he also called for a set of inclusive political initiatives to address the concerns of all communities in Iraq.
“The UN stands ready to facilitate this process and the members of the OIC can play a key role in creating a positive and enabling environment for national dialogue,” Ban said. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has confirmed that Syrian refugees settled in the Iraqi town of Al Qa'im, north-west of Baghdad, are requesting the help of the UN agency to return to Syria.
UN assessments in Dohuk and Erbil reported that shelter continues to be the most pressing concern. UNHCR, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), continue to scale-up assistance to help displaced families in affected areas. In the north's Ninewa province, a humanitarian assessment found out that an estimated 9,620 families have been displaced, mainly to areas under Peshmerga (Kurdish Forces) control.
In his statement to the OIC, Ban covered other issues and expressed his deep appreciation to the countries hosting over 2.8 million Syrian refugees, with the conflict in Syria now in its fourth year. “The international community as a whole has so far failed the Syrian people in ending this war,” the UN secretary general said. The conflict cannot be resolved militarily. Starving Syrians into surrender or conquering territory through barrel bombs or terrorist attacks cannot be considered victory.
The Middle East peace effort has reached another impasse, Ban continued in his message, stressing that there is no substitute to negotiations to achieve the two-state solution. He urged parties to avoid further unilateral steps, including illegal settlements, and called for religious freedom and access to holy sites for worshippers of all faiths, in particular in Jerusalem.
Ban noted that the UN continues to support the interim national consensus government established within the framework of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's commitments and under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, and the reunification of the West Bank and Gaza under the legitimate Palestinian Authority as an 'indispensable part of a permanent settlement.'
In his message to the two-day session of the OIC Council, under the theme of exploring Islamic cooperation, Ban also noted with concern the displacement and relocation of Muslim communities in the Central African Republic (CAR), and the growing polarization between the Buddhist and Muslim communities in Myanmar.
Among other topics, Ban noted the stabilization efforts in Somalia, and warned that predictable and sustainable funding to the African Union forces and the Somali National Army, as well as addressing humanitarian needs, are critical to maintaining the gains of the last two years.