UN chief Antonio Guterres said Tuesday that “a long-sought step forward” has been taken on the political path out of the Syrian crisis.
“As I announced yesterday, an agreement has been reached with all parties for a credible, balanced and inclusive Syrian-owned and Syrian-led Constitutional Committee,” Guterres said during a speech at the General Debate at the UN headquarters in New York.
The UN looks forward to convening the committee in Geneva in coming weeks, Guterres said, after his special envoy recently left Damascus and finalized details with the Syrian government and the opposition.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Hundreds of thousands of people have since been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN figures.
Guterres said conflicts are still persisting, terrorism spreading, the risk of a new arms race growing and so many situations remain unresolved across the global landscape.
New unilateral actions threaten a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, and a world away, 4 million people have fled Venezuela because of political and economic instability — one of the largest displacements in the world, he said.
Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as President Nicolas Maduro and the opposition leader Juan Guaido engaged in a power battle, while country’s economy has been in precipitous decline following a global downturn in the price of crude oil, the country’s main export.
Nearly 5,000 people leave Venezuela every day due to instability and uncertainty amid the economic and political crisis, and 3 million Venezuelans have left since 2015, according to the UN refugee agency.
Tensions are also elevated in South Asia, “where differences need to be addressed through dialogue” while the world is facing an alarming possibility of armed conflict in the Gulf, “the consequences of which the world cannot afford,” he stated.
Tensions between the U.S. and Iran escalated after two oil tankers were attacked in June in the Strait of Hormuz. The U.S. held Iran responsible for the attacks and also accused Tehran of destroying navigation devices in waters, both accusations denied by Iran.
Iran shot down a U.S. drone days later, claiming it had violated Iran’s airspace. The U.S. claimed the drone had been over international waters.
The relationship between the two countries have grown more tense since 2018, when the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from a nuclear deal with Tehran, despite international opposition.
“I hope equally that it will still be possible to preserve the progress on nuclear non-proliferation represented by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA],” Guterres said, referencing the deal.
Iran insists that Europe must provide it additional economic support if they want to save the JCPOA, after the U.S. pull-out.
“Outside interferences, often in violation of Security Council resolutions, make peace processes more difficult,” Guterres said.
Guterres also said that the recent attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities was totally unacceptable.
Saudi Arabia’s oil production was down by 5.7 million barrels per day because of drone attacks against two major oil facilities in the Kingdom. Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility but the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. have blamed Iran. Tehran has denied the charges.
Stressing the importance of a strong UN in “an ever divided world,” he concluded and said: “Let us restore trust, rebuild hope and move ahead, together.”
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