UN chief asks for maximum restraint in Gulf region

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday asked for maximum restraint in the Gulf region and for confidence-building measures to reduce tensions.

"Looking at the wider Persian Gulf region, it is clear that tensions are running high. Confidence is low," Guterres told the Security Council in a high-level debate on the situation in the Gulf region.

Some countries may feel that others are interfering in their own affairs or those of their neighbors. Some may hold the belief that their regional role is not recognized, he noted.

Since May 2019, a number of security incidents have raised tensions to new levels, heightening concerns of a larger conflict. These are a stark reminder that any miscalculation could quickly escalate, he warned.

"I reiterate my call to all concerned to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from actions that could have destabilizing effects. The regional situation underscores the urgent need to work collectively to lower tensions and prevent conflict."

The first step toward de-escalation is identifying viable confidence-building measures that could address issues of mutual concern, he said.

The experience of the Cold War shows that, despite confrontation and deep divisions of the time, it was possible to launch the Helsinki Process in 1975 to improve the detente between the Soviet bloc and the West, he said.

Several countries have made suggestions in this regard with respect to the situation in the Gulf region. It has not yet been possible to achieve consensus from all the key actors that need to be involved, he said. "But, remembering Helsinki, I hope it will be possible to establish a similar platform, starting with a number of confidence-building measures."

Confidence-building measures may include ways to combat COVID-19, promote economic recovery, ensure unhindered maritime navigation and facilitate religious pilgrimages, he said. "In the longer term, I see the value of establishing a new regional security architecture to address the legitimate security concerns of all stakeholders."

The United Nations, he said, will continue to help reduce tensions in the Gulf region, and support regional efforts in this regard.

"Consistent with the United Nations Charter and my own good offices role, I stand ready to convene any forms of regional dialogue that may have the necessary consensus of all the relevant parties involved."

In relation to regional stability, the issue of nuclear nonproliferation is critical, said Guterres. "Since the beginning, I have always seen the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as an important instrument against nuclear proliferation and for regional security," he said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Washington withdrew from the deal in May 2018.

"The enormity of the challenges ahead should not deter us," said Guterres. "Let us work to create a climate of trust and improve the prospects for regional dialogue. Let us move beyond destructive rivalries and recognize what unites us. Let us keep the interests of the region's people front and center -- their aspirations for freedoms, opportunities, better standards of life and peace. This, above all, should compel us to intensify our collective efforts." Enditem

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