From Iran, Palestine to Afghanistan, the Qatari leader stressed the need to tackle pressing issues.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani touched on global issues during his speech at the 76th General Assembly of the UN in New York on Tuesday.
The event, which coincided with the 50 year anniversary of Qatar joining the UN, saw Sheikh Tamim reveal plans to host a headquarter for the intergovernmental organisation in Doha.
At the beginning of his speech, Qatar’s ruler spoke about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, describing it as “a test” that revealed the weaknesses of the world’s collective security systems.
“Our meeting today under the title of ‘restoring hope ‘and our meeting in person, not remotely, signals the return to normalcy without abandoning means of protection and prevention following a difficult period that the world lived through,” said Sheikh Tamim.
He also said that the pandemic taught the world “the importance of balancing the concern for people’s health and maintaining the economic cycle to secure their livelihoods”.
“The State of Qatar has taken a balanced and effective approach to addressing the pandemic and its health and economic effects,” said Amir Tamim, while stressing the importance of equally distributing vaccines.
The Qatari leader also addressed the need for combating what he described as the “epidemic of fake news, conspiracy theories” as well as the questioning of vaccines.
The speech on Tuesday marked the first such event for Sheikh Tamim at General Assembly since the signing of the Al-Ula Declaration on 5 January, which put an end to the the three-year Gulf crisis that was triggered by an illegal air, land and sea blockade on Qatar by some of its neighbours.
“The Al Ula Accord embodied the principle of resolving differences through dialogue based on common interests and mutual respect,” he said, commenting on the agreement signed between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.
With the ongoing occupation of Palestine being at the heart of Qatar’s foreign policy, Sheikh Tamim called on the international community to work towards a just settlement in Jerusalem, while condemning Israel’s daily human rights violations against Palestinians.
“This year witnessed numerous Israeli violations in occupied East Jerusalem, repeated attacks on Islamic and Christian sanctities, especially the Holy Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, and the seizure of Palestinian homes in the context of the policies of Judaisation and settlement,” said the amir.
Sheikh Tamim also highlighted how forced displacements of Palestinians from neighbourhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan “confirm the centrality of the Palestinian cause”.
The international community “bears responsibility” to reach a just peaceful settlement in Palestine “by establishing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital alongside the State of Israel, ending the occupation of Arab lands, and a just solution to the refugee issue”.
“It appears from time to time that the Palestinian issue can be marginalised on the international agenda, or that a deeply rooted national issue can be circumvented by putting forward ideas such as improving the economic situation of the population under occupation instead of eliminating the occupation,” he said, commenting on the neglect of the Palestinian cause.
Qatar has been playing a critical role in Afghanistan, mainly by facilitating dialogue between all parties throughout the Afghan peace process and hosting historic talks between the US and the Taliban.
More recently, the Gulf country played a pivotal humanitarian role in evacuating Afghans and foreigners from the country following the Taliban’s takeover on 15 August.
Since then, Doha managed has managed to evacuate over 50,000 people from the war-torn country while working to ensure Kabul’s airport is functional again following the 31 August deadline to withdraw foreign troops.
Sheikh Tamim described the evacuations as “a humanitarian duty”, calling on the international community to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan while holding dialogue with the Taliban.
He also stressed the importance of dialogue, recalling the opening of a political office for the Taliban in Doha.
“First, the Afghan people of all sects, and secondly, the international community, have the responsibility to work in a systematic and persistent manner to achieve a comprehensive political settlement and pave the way for stability in this country that has long suffered from the scourge of wars,” said Sheikh Tamim.
The Qatari leader also reiterated his country’s position in protecting Afghan civilians, combating terrorism and achieving a comprehensive political solution in Afghanistan.
The end of the 20-year foreign invasion of Afghanistan, which came with the withdrawal of US and NATO troops, was met with global criticism due to a lack of a strategised exit plan.
Decades of war, which has done little to bring peace and stability to the country, ended with the Taliban in power once more.
“The issue in Afghanistan is not one of victory or defeat, but rather the issue of the failure to impose a political system from the outside. Regardless of the intentions and efforts that were made and the money invested, this experience collapsed in Afghanistan after 20 years,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Tapping into the worsening humanitarian and political situation in Syria, Sheikh Tamim addressed the importance of finding a just political solution to the country’s crises.
“A decade has passed since the crisis in Syria, which began with a peaceful uprising and turned into a humanitarian catastrophe due to the war that the regime waged on its own people and the armed extremist powers that used the situation,” said the Qatari official.
Since the re-election of President Bashar Al-Assad this year, Qatar has renewed its refusal to normalise with the regime as well as its rejection to allow its re-entry into the Arab League.
Commenting on the latest brutal attacks in Daraa in southwestern Syria, Qatar’s amir said it is “not permissible to neglect the Syrian issue nor should the international community turn its back on the suffering” of the people living under the ongoing crimes of the regime.
“There may come a day when we remember this neglect of human suffering from injustice with great regret,” noted Sheikh Tamim, adding that the crisis can be resolved with the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2254.
Libya has been mired in chaos since the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi – one of the Arab leaders that faced widespread protests during the 2011 Arab Spring.
The interim government was formed in March and is se to remain in position until the upcoming December elections.
Despite positive developments in the North African country, Qatar’s amir described them as “cautious optimism”, continuing to call on all Libyan parties to preserve political gains made in the country.
Since the Arab Spring, regional and international powers including the UAE, France and Russia have pumped funds into counter revolutionary forces in Libya in a bid to vie for power through rogue General Haftar – until pro-government forces pushed him out of Tripoli last year.
On Yemen, Sheikh Tamim echoed the importance of unity and the protection of human rights in the war-torn country.
“The only way out of the crisis is through negotiation between the Yemeni parties on the basis of the outcomes of the national dialogue, the Gulf initiative and relevant Security Council resolutions, especially Resolution 2216,” he said.
The Iran nuclear deal has also been among the most important files in Qatar’s foreign policy, with the Gulf state continuously reiterating the importance of returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following the US withdrawal in 2018.
“There is no solution to differences and differences in views with Iran except through rational dialogue on the basis of mutual respect, and this applies to the issue of returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran,” said Sheikh Tamim.
Qatar had previously said it will “spare no efforts” in ensuring the 2015 nuclear agreement is restored. Members of the accord are currently engaging in efforts to resume indirect Vienna talks between Iran and the US.
“I do not think that anyone has an alternative to this approach, including those who oppose returning to the agreement,” added Sheikh Tamim.
The Qatari amir diverted away from regional politics to end his speech, choosing instead to focus on climate change – a global threat that has been at the forefront of concern by major powers, including the United Nations.
Sheikh Tamim addressed the “disastrous effects” of climate change on current and future generations, saying he looks forward to the upcoming COP26 UN United Nations conference in Glasgow.
“We point out that the State of Qatar has placed climate change at the forefront of its priorities, and continues to take the necessary measures to develop technologies related to climate change and clean energy, and we will present it to the conference next November,” he added.