May 21, 2024

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‘Step back from the brink,’ to avert full-scale Middle East conflict, says UN chief

Berlin, Germany - November 04: Antonio Guterres, High Commissioner for Refugees of UNHCR, attends a press conference in german foreign office on November 04, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Michael Gottschalk/Photothek via Getty Images)

The people of the Middle East are facing a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict, António Guterres said on Sunday, urging “maximum restraint” across a region “on the brink”, hours after Iran launched attack drones and missiles against Israel overnight Saturday. 

“It is vital to avoid any action that could lead to major military confrontations on multiple fronts in the Middle East…Now is the time for maximum restraint,” the UN Secretary-General told delegates at the opening of an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council

Mr. Guterres explained that the emergency session was called by Israel following what it described in a letter as ‘a direct attack launched by Iran… of more than 200 UAVs, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles towards Israel in clear violation of international law.’

The UN chief added that in a separate letter, Iran stated that it had carried out a series of military strikes on Israeli military objectives ‘in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defence as outlined…in the UN Charter, and in response to…its armed attack on 1 April 2024 against Iranian diplomatic premises’ – in Damascus.

According to the latest reports, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles from its territory toward Israel, with most intercepted.

Several missiles reportedly struck within Israeli territory, one of which damaged an Israeli military facility in the south of the country.

“And overall, a few civilians were injured,” the Secretary-General reported, repeating his strong condemnation of the attacks and his call for an immediate cessation of these hostilities.

Recalling the international community’s shared responsibility to engage all parties to prevent further escalation, the Secretary-General added that there was a similar responsibility to secure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid.

There was a further shared responsibility to stop violence in the occupied West Bank, de-escalate the situation along the Blue Line, and re-establish safe navigation in the Red Sea.

“We have a shared responsibility to work for peace. Regional – and indeed global — peace and security are being undermined by the hour. Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” Mr. Guterres concluded.

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