Foreign minister reaffirms UAE’s commitment to combating ISIL

Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on Iraq on Friday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan warned that the US-led counterterrorism campaign must not marginalise Sunni Arabs and needs to guard against external forces with a subversive agenda.
The UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan speaks to the UN Security Council on September 19 at the United Nations headquarters. Julie Jacobson / AP Photo
The UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan speaks to the UN Security Council on September 19 at the United Nations headquarters. Julie Jacobson / AP Photo

NEW YORK // The Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, reiterated the UAE’s support for international efforts to combat ISIL but warned that the US-led coalition must ensure that Iraq’s Sunni Arabs are not marginalised in the process.

Speaking during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in Iraq on Friday, Sheikh Abdullah added that the coalition’s focus only on ISIL would not be enough to defeat Islamist militancy. “Such action should lead to an overall comprehensive strategy for the danger posed by terrorism... not limited to that terrorist group (ISIL), but [extending] to cover the ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Libya, North Africa, and the Sahara region,” he said.

The UN estimates that 8,500 people have been killed in the violence in Iraq since January, and over 16,000 injured, UN special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said at the Security Council meeting.

The Security Council session came before this week’s UN General Assembly, where the United States will work to gain more countries’ support for the fight against ISIL, and US president Barack Obama will lead a session on the international threat posed by foreign fighters loyal to the group.

Sheikh Abdullah said that ISIL’s ability to attract thousands of foreign fighters, many from Europe, North America and Asia, showed that the threat it poses is global. He said there was a need for long-term international partnerships to combat the root causes of terrorism.

The threat posed by the group has brought regional adversaries closer together, but their conflicting interests and distrust remain, and the process remains delicate.

US secretary of state John Kerry, who chaired the meeting, appeared to move back from the US position on Iranian involvement in the anti-ISIL coalition, telling the Security Council: “There is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran.”

Gulf Arab countries, and Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia in particular, have been suspicious of Iranian involvement against ISIL. Iran has supported Shiite militias that have been accused of the torture and killing of Iraqi Sunni Arab civilians.

They also blame Iran for the growth of ISIL, which they see as a result of a strategy by Tehran’s ally, Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, to fight more moderate Syrian rebels while allowing extremists to flourish, all in a bid to force the international community to back Damascus.

Tehran was excluded from an international conference on countering ISIL, held in Paris earlier this month, as well as a meeting of GCC countries in Jeddah that was attended by the Iraqi foreign minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, a former prime minister thought to be close to Tehran.

The US has indicated that it is prepared to strike ISIL militants in their bases in Syria, and last week Congress approved $500 million (Dh1.8bn) to fund a US military plan to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels. Damascus and its main backers against the rebels, Moscow and Tehran, oppose unilateral US action inside Syria.

The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, told the Security Council that any attacks within Syria’s borders without Mr Al Assad’s cooperation would be “considered illegal”.

In a sign of how complex the situation within the anti-ISIL coalition is, Mr Jaafari appeared to contradict the Iranian and Russian position on Syria, saying, “this major threat should be removed not only from Iraq but from any other country”.

Sheikh Abdullah said that while the UAE will continue to support the political process in Baghdad, a political stalemate must be avoided and that ISIL could only be defeated if Sunnis play a key role in the country’s political future.

He also praised Iraqi Kurdish forces in their fight against the extremist group and said he hoped that the Kurdistan region of Iraq will continue to be an integral part of the country.

tkhan@thenational.ae

Published: September 20, 2014 04:00 AM

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