Statement by Ambassador Mohammed Ali Odeen Ishmael, head of the delegation of Guyana, at the 39th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
Djibouti, 15-17 November 2012

Posted November 16th. 2012

Mr. Chairman,
Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs,
Distinguished Secretary-General,
Ambassadors, Members of Delegations, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . .


It is indeed a great honour for me to represent Guyana at this thirty-ninth session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC. I wish to first of all express my sincere appreciation for the warm welcome accorded to me here in the Republic of Djibouti. I am confident that this meeting will produce fruitful results in keeping with its objectives.

We are meeting at a crucial period in the history of this organisation. Certainly, the tragic situation affecting Syria and its overflow into its regional neighbours is a source of immense suffering which is generating newer and even more grievous problems for the region.

My country views with grave concern this horrible situation in the Syria and the increasingly heavy toll it is taking on the people, along with the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law which have been perpetrated by all sides to the conflict.

In view of the evolving situation on the ground, there is urgent need for a political settlement and for an effective response by the international community within the framework of the United Nations Charter and international law to restore peace and stability. The Syrian situation has become increasingly militarised and the presence of terrorist elements has been recognised as contributing to the intensification of the conflict.

Further, there is the increased division within the international community which, no doubt, is responsible for the inability of the UN Security Council to agree on an appropriate response to the escalating conflict. Unification of the position of the international community will certainly enable a viable political solution involving a comprehensive approach addressing all sides to the conflict.

Firm support must also be given to the on-going efforts of the Arab League's mediator, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, as he carries out his most challenging task in coordination with the United Nations.

Significantly, there are growing calls to encourage cohesion among the opposition, which seems to have many factions with varying objectives. Many of these factions are also unknown to the international community and are involved in human rights violations, thus contributing to the escalation of the conflict. Such a situation cannot encourage confidence. Only a united political opposition body with the political determination can be able to negotiate a political solution for the country.

While various members states in the international community takes sides in this conflict and instigate one side against the other, it is vital that they should make a more concerted effort to encourage a peaceful political solution to the conflict. Just aiming for a military solution will definitely have long term negative repercussions for Syria, for the region, and for this Organisation.

Mr. Chairman… Turning to the Palestinian question, this meeting must be reminded that Guyana is one of the only two countries in the Americas that are members of the UN Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people. Guyana, like so many other countries, has also given official recognition to the State of Palestine based on its pre-June 1967 borders.

As a member of the UN Committee, Guyana continuously renews its commitment to supporting all efforts towards a peaceful and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the promotion of sustained peace in the region.

Guyana has also consistently issued statements reiterating its strong support for the Palestinian people in their just struggle for the full realisation of their inalienable rights including the right to return to their homeland and to peacefully exist in an independent state, the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, and the immediate halt to Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Further, Guyana has supported the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, and last September the Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs delivered a statement on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, through which it emphasised that the international community's collective energies must be directed towards finding a solution to the conflict and bringing an end to the plight of the Palestine refugees.

Mr. Chairman. . . A situation of turmoil continues to exist in parts of the African continent even as those countries that experienced the so-called Arab spring now continue to adjust to democratic governance. Unfortunately, Mali has suffered from recent reversals, but there is now some optimism that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with support from the UN and other regional states can help to take back the northern part of the country from the extremist elements and re-establish full sovereignty to the Malian state while ensuring that no further damage to cultural heritage sites occurs.

Mr. Chairman. . . My country is also very worried over the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. It is unfortunate that this very large population is regarded as non-citizens in their land of birth. OIC member-states with their joint political and economic clout can surely exert greater influence to ease the sufferings of these unfortunate people. At the same time the entire international community, and the United Nations itself, have to take a firm stand to stop the persecution of these people and restore their dignity as a people with a national homeland.

Over the years, the OIC has continued to deal with what is known as the Jammu-Kashmir issue. This has been the source of tensions which currently exist in Indo-Pakistan relations. As a country which is committed to the peaceful settlement of disputes and as a friend of both Pakistan and India, from where many of our citizens originated, Guyana encourages the continued search for a definitive solution through peaceful dialogue.

In the same vein, Guyana notes the continued existence of the two de facto autonomous entities in Cyprus - the internationally recognised Cypriot government and the Turkish-Cypriot community in north Cyprus. As a peace-loving country of the United Nations, Guyana remains supportive of the sovereignty and integrity of Cyprus and looks forward to a peaceful resolution of the on-going division of Cyprus and it people.

Undoubtedly, with the existence of political will, peaceful resolutions can be reached in these cases. This has been in evidence quite recently in the Philippines where the central government and the rebel Muslim insurgency movement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, have reached a political agreement. Under this agreement, the insurgent group pledges to abandon its armed battle for independence and instead work on establishing an autonomous region in a mainly Muslim part of Mindanao, one of the island groups that form the predominantly Catholic country.

Mr. Chairman. . . As a major international organisation with global outreach, the OIC continues to place emphasis in the issues of international peace and security, including disarmament and terrorism. We are alarmed over the escalation of terrorism by extremist groups, portraying themselves as Muslims, in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and elsewhere, and we are utterly revolted by their horrible acts of sheer brutality and murder.

From Guyana's perspective, terrorism constitutes a threat to peace and security both nationally and internationally and serves to undermine sustainable development. This realisation has led Guyana to fully embrace the UN Global Counter Terrorism strategy adopted in 2006 aimed at enhancing national, regional and international efforts to combat this scourge

Illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons is intimately interwoven with the illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, and with trans-national organised crime. Guyana views the programme of action on small arms and light weapons as a vital multilateral instrument in addressing global challenges through a cohesive and coordinated approach by all UN member States.

Cognisant of our limited human and financial resources, we believe that by cooperation among the law enforcement, customs and border controls entities at the bilateral and regional levels, States can assist each other in their implementation of various programmes of action.

Mr. Chairman. . . Considering the state of the world today, we cannot remain indifferent to climate change and the problems associated with it. Thus, it is imperative that all countries must render support in all ways possible to local, regional and international efforts to combat climate change and to alleviate associated rising problems which negatively affect social and economic development.

In this respect, the international community must render active support to the UN resolution on the establishment of the New Global Human Order. The New Global Human Order is not merely a philosophical concept but a practical agenda for development. Its concrete proposals include a comprehensive and definitive solution to the debt problem; the fashioning of a new development assistance policy; the mobilisation of new and additional resources; the sustainable development of natural resources including mineral deposits, water and forests and other vegetation cover; the strengthening and if necessary the reshaping of global institutions; and the development of a more central role for the United Nations in global economic policy making.

Mr. Chairman . . . In September of this year the Secretary General discussed with a senior representative of the Guyana government the issue of Guyana outstanding financial arrears to the OIC. I wish at this meeting to inform that this matter is being given priority by the Guyana government and it is expected that this situation will be resolved very soon.

At the same time I must state that my government has not neglected its obligations to the OIC in the organisation's efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to member-states. In this respect Guyana donated funds to facilitate relief to people affected floods in Pakistan two years ago. And more recently, in response to a call from the OIC, Guyana has donated US$100,000 in support of the efforts to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by the severe famine in Southern Somalia and in other parts of the horn of Africa. Guyana will continue to heed the call of the OIC to support its on-going humanitarian programmes.

In closing, I wish to remind this meeting that Guyana and Suriname are the only two countries from the American continent that are members of the OIC. But we must also keep in mind that Islam is making relatively rapid growth in our part of the world. While Guyana and Suriname have substantial proportions of their populations adhering to the Muslim faith, we are also seeing a steady growth of Islam in the United States of America, Canada, and some parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. This ministerial meeting and the OIC have to be cognizant of this situation and must continue to expand programmes to embrace the expanding Muslim population in the continent of the Americas. This is especially important at this time when there is continuing prejudice expressed against Muslims by official and non-official circles in some countries in the Americas. The summit of Arab and South American countries - the most recent was held last month in Peru - certainly goes a long way to promote understanding at the political and economic levels and, at the same time, clear up some of the existing misconceptions of Muslims and their culture.

Thank you for the privilege of addressing this meeting. Wa Salaam.

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