Iran and Turkey are ‘serial infringers’ of UN weapons embargoes

Prince Turki Al Faisal says there is worldwide responsibility to uphold ban on armaments

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Interview with Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud at St. Regis Hotel, corniche Abu Dhabi.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Mina Aldroubi’s story
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The region will bear the brunt of the divisions among international powers over proposals to maintain restraints on Turkey and Iran, a leading Saudi Arabian statesman said.

Prince Turki Al Faisal, the former Saudi Arabia ambassador to the US, told The National  that UN and international action was needed to address contraventions of international law.

With the UN Security Council deadlocked, the international embargo on Iran importing weapons is set to lapse within weeks.

Prince Turki said there should be a worldwide consensus that this did not happen.

Iran has been the major breaker of all the various United Nations Security Council resolutions on Yemen

“I think there should be worldwide responsibility," he said.

"Iran has been the major breaker of all the various UN Security Council resolutions on Yemen, which were supposed to stop the influx of arms into the country.

"Yet they continue to send arms, other material and even money to the Houthis. And so, yes, I think it is important that a very firm arms embargo should be in place.

“Yet I know that America has had a difficult time pushing that line at the UN Security Council.”

As European foreign ministers gathered to consider the challenges posed by Turkish manoeuvres in the Eastern Mediterranean, Prince Turki spoke of the consequences of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's action in Libya, in particular.

Turkey is ‘the major infringer’

“There is another example of arms embargo breakers in action,” he said.

“Turkey has been doing that although the United Nations is passing its resolutions, preventing the export of arms to to Libya.

“Turkey is the major infringer. On that embargo on the Eastern Mediterranean, I think the Europeans have their hands full in trying to deal with the Turkish situation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves as he attends a State Medal of Commendation ceremony at Bestepe National Congress and Culture Center in Ankara on September 17, 2020.  / AFP / Adem ALTAN

"We've seen President [Emanuel] Macron threatening sanctions; whether it would come to it or not is the question.

"We still have to wait and see what other European countries are willing to go along with that.

“It’s not just the Arab world – I think the whole world is concerned about that. As you know, Libya has become a hotbed for terrorists as well.

"So if that issue is not checked, then we are all in the same boat. There has to be a global response to this threat.”

Prince Turki served as head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence and chairs the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies think tank in Riyadh.

He is also joint chairman of the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi’s e-Policy Circles, which is hosting a weekly series of high-level discussions on security and diplomatic challenges facing the region.

One of the opportunities under discussion at those meetings has been the Saudi Arabian engagement with Iraq as Baghdad tries to steer a new course under recently installed prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

“I think Mr Kadhimi has been sincerely trying to steer Iraq into a more amenable position towards returning to the Arab world, and shedding some of the strictures and chains that have been placed on previous Iraqi governments by their connection with Iran.”

Raghida Dergham, the founder of the e-Policy Circles and columnist for The National,  said the shutdown caused by the pandemic has not blunted the appetite for a region-centred platform to examine how global issues are shaping local policies.

“From the establishment of Pharaonic Egypt, the Middle East has been the hub of competition from around the world,” Prince Turki said.

“If you go through, as I mentioned, Pharaonic Egypt, if you go through the Assyrians the Akkadians, Persians, Greeks and the Romans, they’ve all had their input into the Middle East and it’s not surprising that that continues to be the case.

“We are in the middle of it. And so we have to be aware of our interests and engage with those who share with us the search for stability and security, and oppose those who want to incite instability and insecurity."