Malaysiakini News

M'sia's outgoing UN envoy: UNSC vote against Israeli settlements 'crowning experience'

Manik Mehta, Bernama  |  Published:  |  Modified:

Malaysian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ramlan Ibrahim, who returns home on Christmas Day after a two-year stint in New York, has described Friday's Security Council's vote calling on Israel to stop the illegal construction of settlements as "my crowning experience".

Ramlan, whose tenure in New York coincides with Malaysia's two-year non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) ending Dec 31, said he was elated over the anti-settlement vote.

This was clearly a diplomatic success story for Malaysia - and for Ramlan - who together with three other non-permanent members New Zealand, Senegal and Venezuela, had put the text of a draft resolution to the vote yesterday in a largely tense and unexpected climax to the chain of events.

The text, which after the voting came to be known as Security Council Resolution 2334, was to have been originally presented on Thursday when Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, who left Thursday evening, was also present in New York.

That text was postponed amid rumours that it may even be dropped given the opposition from United States president-elect Donald Trump.

Eighteen members of the Security Council - including the four permanent members China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom - voted in favour of the resolution while the US abstained, and Israel voted against it.

The resolution was adopted amid a burst of applause. The resolution has stunned Trump circles who had expected the US to veto.

Late until yesterday, the US media was discussing with foreign policy experts the repercussions of the passage of Resolution 2334 in the Security Council.

"I could not have asked for anything better as a farewell gift," Ramlan said of the resolution while discussing Malaysia’s role at the UN in an interview with Bernama in his office after the Security Council voting.

"The collective efforts of Malaysia and the other council members finally paid off."

During his "memorable posting" in New York, Ramlan pursued the priorities which the Malaysian government had set for its work at the Security Council.

Malaysia resorted to using moderation as an approach to conflict resolution and mediation as a tool for peaceful settlement of disputes, besides enhancing UN's peacekeeping operations, supporting peace-building in countries emerging from conflict and encouraging the continued discussion on Security Council reform.

Malaysia used this approach to tackle 'hard issues' which it raised: the downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17, the Palestinian humanitarian issues, counter-terrorism and children in armed conflict were some of the priority issues it had tried to tackle.

Ramlan recalled that these issues got a strong impetus during Malaysia's presidency of the UNSC, first, in June 2015 and, later, in August 2016.

The UNSC presidency had afforded Malaysia the opportunity to organise, for example, a high-level open debate in June 2015 on children and armed conflict.

Malaysia succeeded in having its resolution - it sought increased accountability from perpetrators of abduction of children in situations of armed conflict - unanimously adopted by the Security Council and co-sponsored by 56 UN members.

Ramlan pointed out that this could be one of Malaysia's lasting contributions to the UN system on the protection of children in conflict situations.

Malaysia, Ramlan said, had also organised in August 2016 a high-level open debate on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The debate increased awareness of the consequences of the WMD falling into the hands of terrorists and criminals, and the need for UN members to work together to prevent this from happening.

Malaysia actively highlighted the Palestinian's plight, chairing Arria-formula meetings - these meetings have an informal character and are named after former Venezuelan ambassador Diego Arria who had introduced this form of discussions - on the situation in Gaza, protection for the people of Palestine, and illegal Israeli settlements.

"We succeeded in highlighting the plight of the Palestinians by bringing in Israeli NGOs at Arria meetings to present the problems caused by Israeli settlements. The Arria meetings were successful, as we saw today, with the adoption of Resolution 2334," Ramlan said.

However, a move to set up an international tribunal to bring to justice those responsible for the downing of the MH17 flight, was not successful - the move was vetoed in the Security Council.

Ramlan maintained that the two-year council membership had also elevated Malaysia in the eyes of the world.

"Our engagement in the Security Council has been widely appreciated because of our stance and because of our active role in Africa. We've been very clear in making a pitch for peaceful dialogue and in addressing humanitarian crises in affected regions such as Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and others," he said.

The envoy also saw a changing environment at the UN which is facing calls for change and reform as member states are now discussing how to institute reforms.

"We're also, naturally, interested (in UN reforms) and have been actively participating in this process," Ramlan added.

- Bernama

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