I thank the Russian Federation for organizing this debate today, which has brought together the Security Council and some regional actors to discuss the situation in the Gulf. I highly appreciate the briefing of the Secretary General, as well as the presentations by Mr. Robert Malley and professor Vitaly Naumkin.
The security of the Gulf region is instrumental to the security of the entire Middle East – from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. We cannot talk about security in the Gulf without mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been at the root of a multitude of tensions in the region.
I am glad to say that some of those tensions were eased by the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain normalizing relations with Israel. This is a positive step towards achieving peace and stability in the Gulf. We acknowledge the constructive role that the United States has played in this regard.
We encourage regional actors to embrace this spirit of compromise, and continue to implement confidence-building measures that would contribute to the long-term stability of the region. However, one must not forget that the foundation for the settlement of conflicts is international law, to which all parties must adhere to, including the UN Charter and UNSC resolutions.
Mr. President – the current regional conflicts, such as the ones in Syria and Yemen, are not a consequence of cultural factors. Consolidation of regional relations around the idea of eliminating terrorism is fruitless. Estonia believes that religious extremism does not represent the Arab World or Muslim communities.
Instead, regional conflicts and the instability they cause are a result of denying individual freedoms and carrying out expansionist foreign policy. Saddam Hussein’s internal terror, crimes against Kurds, and attack on Kuwait in 1990 is an exemple par excellence.
Unfortunately, such suppressive politics continue, only the aggressor has changed. The recently published Arab Opinion Index revealed that every second Iraqi, and every third Saudi finds Teheran’s actions to be the most threatening to their security. No surprise there: Iran has hijacked oil tankers, sent arms to radical groups, and financed militants across the region. These acts have increased regional insecurity, and made it difficult to justify the expiry of the Iran arms embargo.
Still, the Security Council and the European Union put its faith in the JCPOA and Iran’s commitment not to develop a nuclear weapon. Estonia believes that the fulfilment of all nuclear-related commitments under the NPT, as well as the JCPOA, remain a fundamental precondition to regional and international peace and security.
Mr. President – there is a need for a systematic approach to establish a security system in the Gulf. This includes stopping the wars in Yemen and Syria; supporting Iraq in its recovery from ISIL violence; encouraging Israel and Palestine to start direct negotiations; and ending the blockade of Qatar with a political compromise.
The initiatives to ensure security and stability of the entire Middle East must come from the region itself. We believe that only a broader regional security dialogue between the countries in the region can lead to a long-term solution.
This will enable the full potential of the societies in the region, who are aspiring to touch the stars – and I mean it literally – as we have just recently witnessed the United Arab Emirates launching its first-ever space mission to Mars earlier this year.