Middle East Leaders at the 77th UN General Assembly

Middle East Leaders at the 77th UN General Assembly
Patrick Gruban via Wikimedia Commons


Vivien Fakhoury

Middle East and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

The United Nations General Assembly is an integral part of multilateral policymaking. From the 13th to 26th of September 2022, leaders from all over the world gathered for the 77th UNGA in New York to share their diverse opinions and find resolutions to our world’s problems - so what did the Middle East’s leaders have to say?

They shared the opinion that the Israel-Palestine conflict creates much insecurity and tension in the Middle East region. They avoided strong, lengthy statements on the matter, but nearly all support the two-state solution with an independent State of Palestine as of the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as capital. [1] Israel’s Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid, also supports the two-state solution. [2] Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas however, questioned how the two-state solution can be realized if Palestine has no land on which to build said state. He expressed disappointment at the international community’s failure to hold Israel accountable for not implementing any of the 947 UN Resolutions, [3] as well as their official recognition of Israel as a country, but no recognition of Palestine - a harsh double standard in his opinion. “You as General Assembly, you members of the Security Council, you advocates of human rights … what are we still waiting for?” [4] Given that Israel’s Lapid spoke before Palestine’s Abbas, the President’s speech served as a form of reply. President Abbas cited events such as the killing of American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, killing and detention of children, demolishing of homes, closing of six human rights organizations’ offices among others as indications that Israel’s actions disprove Lapid’s alleged commitment to peace. President Abbas reiterated what human rights organizations have reported - Israel is an apartheid state - “If you do not want to say it because it is not politically correct, I will say it.”  [5]

Prime Minister Lapid did not spend much time discussing the two-state solution, instead, his focus fell on other matters. According to Lapid, there are two major threats - the nuclear threat and the demise of truth. [6] Regarding the former threat, most leaders agreed that the region must be a zone free of a nuclear threat and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). [7] Iran’s President, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, whom Lapid’s statements were targeting, argued that the development of nuclear energy is for peaceful purposes. He criticized “double standards” claiming “Zionists” are “gifted” WMDs while Iran is sanctioned. In that regard, he cited reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency that mention that Iran upheld its part of the nuclear deal, which the United States unilaterally retreated from. [8] Lapid accused Iran of orchestrating a campaign of fake news and anti-Semitism, and speculated that Iran manufactures Israeli and American flags for the mere purpose of burning them in the town squares. According to him, “Their hate is a way of life,” and the only way to deal with Iran is through military threat. [9]

Iran’s Raisi and Palestine’s Abbas were not the only leaders who had a bone to pick with Israel’s Lapid. Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Fayssal Mekdad, demanded the end of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, [10] while Israel’s Lapid said “Come and visit us. You will discover that Israel is an incredible, cultural mosaic. From the white, snowy mountains of the Golan…” [11] Syria’s Mekdad additionally discussed the importance of rebuilding and returning Syrian refugees to their homes, and added that “the West” should stop setting obstacles. [12]

The Gulf Cooperation Council countries directed the attention towards a problem much closer to home - Yemen. They all praised the efforts that have been made so far, [13] as did Yemen’s Rashad Mohammed Al-Alimi, President of the Presidential Leadership Council. However, he expressed his disappointment that the initiatives were short-lived due to the Houthis’ actions, such as the invasion of the capital and the assassination of President Saleh. Yemen’s Al-Alimi asked for further humanitarian support and efforts to solve the Yemeni conflict. [14]

The Middle East’s leaders had a lot to say, about climate change and the upcoming COP27, combatting terrorism, democracy and national unity, Iran’s occupation of UAE islands, demarcation of Lebanon’s maritime border, Libya’s political and military situation, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the China-Taiwan situation but first and foremost the importance of international cooperation and solidarity. [15] “Let us not ignore the alarm bells around us, we must act” - Jordan’s King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein. [16]

Sources and Further Reading: 

[1] Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar explicitly expressed support for the two-state solution and an independent Palestinian state.

[2] United Nations. (2022, September 22). Israel - Prime Minister Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joCjTRCq9HI&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=187

[3] 754 GA Resolutions, 97 UN Security Council Resolutions, and 96 UN Human Rights Council Resolutions.

[4] United Nations. (2022, September 23). State of Palestine - President Addresses UN General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqUemsuPP8U&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=148

[5] Ibid.

[6] United Nations. (2022, September 22). Israel.

[7] Only Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, and Yemen mentioned this.

[8] United Nations. (2022, September 21). Iran - President Addresses General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bp770z04f4w&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=254

[9] United Nations. (2022, September 22). Israel.

[10] United Nations. (2022, September 26). Syria - Minister for Foreign Affairs Addresses UN General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_HYCHw5GYk&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=54

[11] United Nations. (2022, September 22). Israel.

[12] United Nations. (2022, September 26). Syria.

[13] United Nations. (2022, September 20). Qatar - Amir Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5EKH0O9c7M0&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=302; United Nations. (2022, September 23). Bahrain - Minister Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbVlb6J6VNk&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=161; United Nations. (2022, September 23). Kuwait - Prime Minister Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trUrqMRXHsE&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=170; United Nations. (2022, September 25). Saudi Arabia - Foreign Minister Addresses United Nations General Debate (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jl_YKPe7u7g&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=71; United Nations. (2022, September 25). United Arab Emirates - Minister Addresses UN General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIHApFKV7EA&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=57; United Nations. (2022, September 26). Oman - Representative Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kaazMR2zzk&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=27

[14] United Nations. (2022, September 22). Yemen - President Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD4i4CZJ1ho&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=200

[15] United Nations. (2022, September). Playlist: #UNGA77 - United Nations General Debate 2022. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c

[16] United Nations. (2022, September 20). Jordan - King Addresses United Nations General Debate, 77th Session (English). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDsT6IjA1bM&list=PLwoDFQJEq_0aGr-27o34bk-WYlAbNsD7c&index=312