Speaking at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York, the UN chief underscored the need for “real, visible, concrete steps” towards a two-State solution based on UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.
“Repeated bloody hostilities and decades of tensions and occupation have failed to provide a State for the Palestinians or security for Israelis,” he said.
“In the Middle East and around the world, we need peace in every sense,” he said. “Our world cannot afford to wait.”
Peace, the common thread
Recalling his address to the General Assembly yesterday, where he presented his priorities for 2024, the UN chief highlighted raging conflicts, geopolitical divisions and escalating polarization within communities and stressed that peace is the “common thread” connecting the multifaceted challenges faced globally.
“Yesterday, I presented a clear-eyed, sober assessment of the world. This is no time for pulling punches,” he said.
Addressing the several “existential challenges” facing the world – from nuclear danger to the climate emergency and the risks posed by unchecked artificial intelligence – requires much more to be done across the board.
“It will require a serious conversation between developed and developing countries, between rich and emerging economies, between north and south, east and west,” he stated.
The Secretary-General called for institutional reforms, starting with the overhaul of the Security Council and the Bretton Woods Institutions – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Acknowledging the shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world, he emphasized the need for renewed, inclusive mechanisms of multilateral governance to prevent multiplying risks.
Looking ahead, Mr. Guterres highlighted the upcoming Summit of the Future in September, noting the importance of the New Agenda for Peace, the SDG Stimulus and the UN’s Advisory Body on Artificial Intelligence.
He also emphasized the need of aligning institutions with the present times and preserving principles such as respect for the UN Charter, international law and international humanitarian law.
Situation in Gaza
In addressing immediate crises, Mr. Guterres expressed particular concern for ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and in Gaza, where “the situation just keeps getting worse” and UN humanitarian operations continue to face denials of access, delays and dangers – including live fire.
“Let’s be clear: Denial of humanitarian access means denial of humanitarian relief for civilians,” he stressed.
The Secretary-General also expressed deep concerns over reports that the Israeli military intends to focus next on Rafah.
“Half of Gaza’s population is now crammed into Rafah. They have nowhere to go. They have no homes – and they have no hope,” he said, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, unconditional release of hostages and concrete steps towards a two-State solution in line with UN resolutions and international law.
Peace is indispensable
Mr. Guterres concluded by stressing that peace, in every sense, is indispensable for the Middle East and the world.
He emphasized the urgency of action, asserting that the world cannot afford to wait for the necessary changes.
Wars in Sudan, Ukraine
Responding to a question on the situation in Sudan, where rival militaries have been embroiled in a bloody war since April, with devastating consequences for civilians, the Secretary-General said that there is no military solution to the conflict.
He added that the UN is working with the east African regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union (AU) and the Arab League on a regional approach to the crisis.
On a question on the war in Ukraine, which will mark its second anniversary on 24 February, Mr. Guterres said that the UN “will go on doing everything we can” for peace in the country, based on the UN Charter and on international law.
DPRK missile launches
In response to a question on missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and tensions in the region, the Secretary-General “strongly condemned” the violations of the sanctions as well as the country’s attempts to launch missiles or develop nuclear weapons.
It is “absolutely essential” that the DPRK abides by the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said, adding also that it is “unacceptable” that the Japanese hostages taken by the country have remained in captivity for decades, without any information.
Summit of the Future outcomes
Asked about his expectations for the Summit of the Future Mr. Guterres stated that the UN has presented its proposals and it is up to the Member States to take decisions.
“I would like for the Summit of the Future to approve the key aspects of the New Agenda for Peace”, he said, adding that he would like to see a more holistic form of prevention and important measures, such as for new kinds of weapons and nuclear disarmament.
He also expressed his hopes for some positive reforms of the Security Council, and “clear indication” about the need reform for the international financial architecture.
“What we want is to gain conscience that our institutions are outdated, and we need to have multilateralism that is much more inclusive and adapted to the realities of today,” he said.