International efforts to combat ISIS dominated the recent debate in New York when world leaders converged for the UN General Assembly’s sixty-ninth session. Middle East Matters has excerpted passages from regional leaders, all of whom spoke about the ISIS challenge, though in markedly different ways. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this summer’s fighting also featured heavily, with most speeches specifically calling for the Gaza strip to be rebuilt.
Also noteworthy was what wasn’t mentioned. Niether Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi nor Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem said a word about Gaza. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani chose not to name ISIS explicitly, though he implied that the Assad regime was to blame for the region’s ills. Here’s what some of them had to say:
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt
“The formation of a new government approved by the Parliament in the brotherly country of Iraq is a significant development that restores hope in the possibility of an improvement in the situation there, and in the success of the internal and external attempts to achieve stability, restore the areas that fell under the control ofthe terrorist organization ‘ISIS’, maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq, end the bloodshed, and realize the aspirations and hopes of the Iraqis, as well as their efforts to bring back security and stability in their country.”
“Despite the multitude of crises threatening our region, some of which I alluded to, the Palestinian issue remains a top priority for Egypt. Palestinians still aspire to establish their independent state on the occupied territories in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the basis of the principles upon which the peace process was established since the nineteen seventies following an Egyptian initiative. These principles are not up for negotiation, otherwise the basis of a comprehensive peace in the region would erode, and the values of justice and humanity would vanish. The continued deprivation of the Palestinian people of their rights is undoubtedly exploited by some to inflame other crises, achieve hidden goals, fragment Arab unity, and impose control on Palestinians under the guise of realizing their aspirations.”
On Egypt’s internal situation
“The world is starting to grasp the reality of what happened in Egypt, and to understand the circumstances that drove Egyptians to intuitively take to the streets to rebel against the forces of extremism and darkness, which once in power, undermined the foundations of the democratic process and national institutions, and sought to impose a state of polarization to break the unity ofthe people.”
President Hassan Rouhani, Iran
“I deeply regret to say that terrorism has become globalized: "From New York to Mosul, from Damascus to Baghdad, from the Easternmost to the Westernmost parts of the world, from Al-Qaeda to Daesh". The extremists of the world have found each other and have put out the call: "extremists of the world unite". But are we united against the extremists?!”
“The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle-East, Central Asia, and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists.”
“Had we had greater cooperation and coordination in the Middle East, thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza would not have been fallen victim to Zionist regime’s aggression.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel
"Last week, many of the countries represented here rightly applauded President Obama for leading the effort to confront ISIS. And yet weeks before, some of the same countries, the same countries that now support confront ISIS, opposed Israel for confronting Hamas. They evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree."
“So, when it comes to their ultimate goals, Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas”.
“But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance- where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated, and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice: convert or die.”
On Israeli-Palestinian peace
“Many have long assumed that an Israeli-Palestinian peace can help facilitate a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab World. But these days I think it may work the other way around: Namely that a broader rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world may help facilitate an Israeli-Palestinian peace. And therefore, to achieve that peace, we must look not only to Jerusalem and Ramallah, but also to
Cairo, to Amman, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and elsewhere […]”
"The Nazis believed in a master race. The militant Islamists believe in a master faith. They just disagree about who among them will be the master...of the master faith. That’s what they truly disagree about. Therefore, the question before us is whether militant Islam will have the power to realize its unbridled ambitions. There is one place where that could soon happen: The Islamic State of Iran."
"Imagine how much more dangerous the Islamic State, ISIS, would be if it possessed chemical weapons. Now imagine how much more dangerous the Islamic state of Iran would be if it possessed nuclear weapons."
His Majesty King Abdullah II, Jordan
“The teachings of true Islam are clear: sectarian conflict and strife are utterly condemned. Islam prohibits violence against Christians and other communities that make up each country. Let me say once again: Arab Christians are an integral part of my region’s past, present, and future.”
“We cannot address the future of my region without addressing its central conflict: the denial of Palestinian rights and statehood.”
“A first, imperative step is to mobilise international efforts to rebuild Gaza. As we do so, we must also marshal the united, global response needed to achieve a once-and-for-all, lasting settlement.”
“The heavy flow of Syrian refugees continues. My country is sheltering nearly 1.4 million Syrians. We are now the world’s third largest host of refugees. This is placing an overwhelming burden on Jordan’s people, infrastructure and already limited resources.”
President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestine
“Confronting the terrorism that plagues our region by groups - such as "ISIL" and others that have no basis whatsoever in the tolerant Islamic religion or with humanity and are committing brutal and heinous atrocities - requires much morethan military confrontation. […] It requires, in this context and as a priority, bringing an end to the Israeli occupation of our country, which constitutes in its practices and perpetuation, an abhorrent form of state terrorism anda breeding ground for incitement, tension and hatred.”
"This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment, in a manner that makes it inconceivable that anyone today can claim that they did not realize the magnitude and horror of the crime."
“We reaffirm here that the primary prerequisite for the success of all these plans and efforts is an end to the ongoing Israeli blockade that has for years suffocated the Gaza Strip and turned it into the largest prison in the world for nearly two million Palestinian citizens. At the same time, we affirm our commitment and the necessity to consolidate the cease-fire through negotiations under the auspices of Egypt.”
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Qatar
“It has been proven beyond doubt, that terrorism can only be defeated in its social environment. If societies are to stand with us in the fight against terrorism, we need to be fair with them and not push them to choose between terrorism and tyranny, or between terrorism and sectarian discrimination.”
“This is what the majority of the Syrian people must be persuaded of after being soaked in blood spilled by the Syrian regime for daring to demand freedom and dignity.”
“The damages caused by the repeated Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip over the past years, the unjust siege imposed on it, and the destruction it caused in its infrastructure, make it imperative for the international community to compel Israel to implement the resolutions of the international legitimacy, fulfill its obligations and expedite the removal of obstacles in order to lift the blocade and achieve the reconstruction process.”
“The international community’s response to the aspirations of the Palestinian people to freedom and national independence is a prerequisite to confirm the justice of international legitimacy, especially since the question of Palestine is the last remaining issue on the decolonization agenda.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid Al-Moualem, Syria
“You are witnessing today what the ISIS, the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world at all in terms of funding and brutality is doing to Syrians and Iraqis of all spectra and religions. This terrorist organization is enslaving women, raping them and selling them in slave markets; it is cutting heads and limbs, and it is teaching children slaughter and murder, besides destroying historical and cultural monuments, as well as Islamic and Christian Symbols.”
“Has not the moment of truth arrived for us all to admit that ISIS, Al-Nusrah Front and the rest of Al-Qaeda affiliates, will not be limited within the borders of Syria and Iraq, but will spread to every spot it can reach, starting with Europe and America?”
“Let us together stop this ideology and its exporters, let us, simultaneously, exert pressure on the countries that joined the coalition led by the United States to stop their support of armed terrorist groups”.
“Syria confirms, also, that the Palestinian issue is the central issue of the Syrian people, which supports the inalienable and legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people, particularly, the right to return and self-determination, and to establish its independent state on its land, with Jerusalem as its capital.”
On the internal political situation in Syria
“Now, after the presidential elections, we would like to tell everyone that who wants and looks forward to a political solution in Syria that they must firstly respect the Syrian people’s will, which was manifested explicitly, clearly, strongly and most loudly. They chose their President, for the first time in Syria’s modern history, in multi-party elections, with international monitors from several countries that witnessed the integrity, transparency and the enthusiasm of the people to participate in these elections.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates
“With the increased incidence of terrorism and extremism in our region, most notably perpetrated by ISIS, the international community must be aware that the threats posed by these terrorist and extremist groups are expanding beyond our region to threaten the rest of the civilized world.”
“The UAE strongly condemns Israel’s aggression against Gaza, especially the destruction inflicted upon its population and civilian facilities, including the United Nations’ facilities, and we demand a thorough, transparent and independent investigation be conducted, in order to determine the legal responsibility for these damages.”
“This hope is driven by the remarkable progress achieved by the new government in Egypt and its good governance in implementing its political roadmap. Despite the challenges facing Egypt, the signs of normalcy in public life and the revived economy and culture are promising.”
“Therefore, the UAE regrets the statements of some countries and their unacceptable questioning of the legitimacy of the Egyptian government. The present Egyptian government was freely elected by its people, who believe in their ability to fulfill their aspirations. Questioning the Egyptian people’s will and their right to choose their representatives is an interference in the internal affairs of Egypt and undermines its stability. Accordingly, I would like to emphasize that the stability of our region depends on the stability of Egypt.”