Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's message to the ministerial conference of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), as delivered today in Islamabad, Pakistan, by Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Political Issues:
I am pleased to send my greetings to the ministerial meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This gathering comes at a crucial juncture for your member countries, as well as the international community at large. Instability in Islamic States - from Afghanistan and Iraq to Sudan and Somalia - carries profound implications for international peace and security. Addressing this challenge requires our sustained and collective response.
My recent trips to the Middle East gave me the opportunity to experience first-hand the realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I came away deeply troubled by the network of checkpoints, by settlements and by the construction of the barrier on a route that deviates from the "Green Line". Through my visit, I also came to better understand the security concerns facing Israelis.
I continue to urge both parties to demonstrate a true commitment to peace through a negotiated two-State solution. I believe Israel has to live up to its obligations, just as the Palestinians must make good on their responsibilities.
I was, however, encouraged by signs of greater Arab engagement in the peace process through the Arab Peace Initiative. I also view the Palestinian National Unity Government as a positive development, and encourage it to continue its efforts to overcome internal Palestinian discord and move towards acceptance of Quartet principles. I hope the international community, including the members of the OIC, will remain constructively engaged in this process.
The distressing situation in Iraq also demands broad-based international engagement. I remain committed to having the United Nations do more for the country, particularly in areas where the Organization has a comparative advantage, such as political facilitation and humanitarian assistance. There is need for genuine and concerted efforts to promote national reconciliation, reduce sectarian tension and strengthen national unity. Dialogue within Iraq must lead the way, but regional and international support is vital. I urge you all to do your part in denouncing sectarian violence in the region and encouraging national dialogue within Iraq.
The recent launch, in Sharm el-Sheikh, of the International Compact with Iraq provides an important opportunity to build a mutually reinforcing relationship of support between Iraq and the international community. The launch was followed by an expanded meeting of the foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbours. This encouraging development can also help strengthen dialogue and cooperation between Iraq, countries in the region and the international community.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran's nuclear programme remains another area of common concern. In March, the Security Council unanimously adopted a second resolution urging Iran to suspend uranium enrichment activities.
For my part, I have urged Iran to fully comply with Council resolutions. Tehran must urgently take all steps necessary to restore the international community's trust that its nuclear programme is peaceful in nature. At the same time, we have to look for a negotiated solution to this issue, and I strongly support the ongoing efforts by European Union High Representative Javier Solana, and others, in this regard.
Instability in Afghanistan, especially in the south and south-east, is also high on my agenda. It is quite clear that a sustainable peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved through military means alone. The Afghan Government requires continued support from the international community. Regional cooperation, in particular, remains paramount, since only a collaborative approach can counter the threat posed by insurgent elements that move back and forth between Afghanistan and its neighbours. The OIC can play a crucial role in fostering such cooperation, and thereby bringing security to Afghanistan.
Beyond Afghanistan and the Middle East, I remain extremely concerned about events in Darfur. The situation there has reached a crossroads. Agreement on the UN's heavy support package was confirmed by the Government of Sudan on 16 April. We now need urgent contributions of military enabling units and air assets. I urge the Islamic Conference to use all its influence to ensure President Bashir implements his commitments, and to obtain his agreement on an AU-UN hybrid operation as soon as possible.
I would like to stress that a stronger peacekeeping presence is only one part of the solution. The crisis in Darfur requires a political settlement. The AU and the UN have taken the lead in mediation efforts, but support from the OIC and its member States remains critical to our success.
The OIC's influence can advance the search for peace in Somalia, as well. The United Nations has already welcomed the Transitional Federal Government's intention to convene a national reconciliation congress. I hope that the OIC will now extend its vigorous support to ongoing reconciliation efforts. In this regard, I appreciate the 26 February meeting of the OIC Contact Group on Somalia. I am also encouraged that the OIC is exploring ways to support peacekeeping, peacebuilding and reconstruction in Somalia. As you do so, the United Nations will continue to work closely with the OIC and other partners to move the Somali peace process forward.
The OIC, as a leading multilateral institution, is well placed to play a leading role in addressing all these challenges. I would especially like to commend the excellent cooperation between the Untied Nations and the OIC. Our engagement on matters of peace and security holds tremendous promise. At the same time, joint UN-OIC economic, cultural and social projects are already yielding significant dividends for OIC member States. I look forward to strengthening these ties even further in the months and years to come.
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