I thank the Azerbaijani Presidency for tabling this timely briefing on cooperation between the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and welcome you to the Council. I also thank the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and OIC Secretary-General, Professor Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu for their contributions. I note that last year Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon became the first UN Secretary-General to visit OIC Headquarters. His presence here today is another reflection of his strong commitment to ensuring that the UN and the OIC cooperate closely together.
The United Kingdom is deeply committed to further strengthening our relationship with the OIC. We were pleased to appoint our first Special Representative to the OIC in 2011. We welcome the increased dialogue between the United Kingdom and the OIC under the tenure of His Excellency Prof. Ihsanoglu, including our constructive dialogue on promoting freedom of religion or belief and combating religious intolerance throughout the world. And we are committed to deepening this relationship under the bilateral Framework Agreement that was signed between the United Kingdom and the OIC in 2012.
These sessions in which the Security Council engages with regional and other outside organisations are a vital part of our work. They enable the Council to be outward facing, to hear the important perspective of non-UN organisations and to identify ways in which our efforts to enhance peace and security throughout the world can mutually reinforce each other.
It is in that spirit that I welcome today’s briefing. The OIC consisting of 57 Member States across four different continents has a unique perspective to offer us. Its Charter, stressing the determination of its Member States to contribute to international peace and security and to promote friendly relations and good neighbourliness, clearly chimes with the purpose and objectives of the Security Council.
The OIC can play an important role in bringing the voices of its membership to bear on issues which concern us all – Muslims and non-Muslim alike. The adoption of the OIC’s ten year action plan in 2005 has given a clear sense of direction for the organisation and we commend the OIC’s commitment to peacekeeping and conflict resolution.
We also acknowledge the important stance which the OIC has taken in relation to challenges in respect of international peace and security faced by many Muslim majority countries.
The suspension of Syria’s membership of the OIC in August 2012 sent a clear message on behalf of the Islamic world that the actions of Bashar al-Assad’s Government were unacceptable and could not be tolerated. In the build-up to the Geneva II conference and the start of peace talks between the Syrian Opposition and the Syrian government we welcome the OIC’s support for a negotiated political settlement. A solution to the Syrian conflict can only be achieved through a political dialogue. And for the sake of the millions suffering as a result of the conflict, the international community must keep striving towards this aim.
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains crucial to long term security in the Middle East. We welcome the leadership shown by the United States on this issue and the parties’ commitment to intensify negotiations in the coming weeks. Difficult choices lie ahead and bold leadership will be required on both sides. The international community has a vital role to play in supporting these efforts to achieve the lasting peace that the people of the region need and deserve.
As his tenure comes to an end, we pay tribute to the role played by Secretary General Professor Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu and we look forward to working with his successor H.E Iyad Madani when he takes office in 2014. We are delighted that he has been able to join us today for this briefing and we are confident that the cooperation between the OIC and the UN Security Council will continue to strengthen during his future term in office.
Let me end by welcoming the Presidential Statement that we have adopted today. That statement invites the Secretary-General to include in his regular reports on UN cooperation with regional and other organisations ideas on how cooperation between the UN and the OIC can be intensified. And we look forward to receiving those suggestions. And we look forward to future reports on how the OIC is developing its activities in support of the objectives of the United Nations.