Thank you, Mr. President, for your presence here today and for bringing us together on such a timely topic. Thanks also go to Secretary-General Ban for his thoughtful remarks. Secretary-General Ihsanoglu, it’s a particular pleasure to have you join us. I commend your pioneering leadership, including the ten-year program of action, which has modernized OIC activities from political and economic issues to human rights, science and innovation. I’m also pleased to greet Secretary-General-elect Madani and congratulate him on his election.
It is entirely fitting that the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s two largest intergovernmental organizations, should consult often, and work together whenever possible. The United States values the many contributions the OIC is making on matters of global importance, and appreciates the chance to discuss the prospects for even deeper cooperation. I note at the outset that OIC members are among the top troop contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions, and that they are playing a critical part in promoting international peace and security in many areas of conflict.
The OIC also provides humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, Somalia, and the Sahel region, as well as to other areas of urgent need. In doing so, it reinforces the work of many UN agencies, and helps to address concerns that are priorities on the Council agenda. In recognition of the central role played by the OIC as a representative forum for more than one and a half billion people, the United States Agency for International Development signed last year an agreement with the organization designed to increase cooperation on such humanitarian issues as famine in the Horn of Africa. In responding to emergency situations, coordination is essential, and so is a broad network of support. We hope to continue building on the OIC-USAID partnership in years to come.
We also recognize the OIC’s creation of an independent human rights commission, and its attention to child marriage, gender-related issues, and other pressing human rights concerns within OIC-member states. In the work of the Security Council, we have noted our appreciation for the OIC’s effort to foster a deeper sense of trust and cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbors, regional partners, and international organizations. Further, we have urged the authorities in Mali to work closely with the OIC, as well as with ECOWAS and the AU, in order to enhance the country’s capacity for effective mediation. And on Somalia, we have commended the OIC for its keen interest and steadfast backing for reconciliation and recovery.
The Untied States also recognizes that the OIC has become a strong and respected voice in the international community’s collective effort to counter violent extremism, which has caused suffering and strife on every continent. We particularly commend you, Secretary-General Ihsanoglu, for speaking out firmly against attacks on religious minorities and denouncing acts of terrorism. I note that the OIC recently co-hosted--with the Council’s counterterrorism committee--a meeting on implementing Resolution 1624, which is designed to curb actions that fuel hate and incite terror.
Mr. President, no issue has been a greater concern to the Council in the last few years than the ongoing crisis in Syria. My government welcomes the joint Arab League-OIC statement expressing support for a Geneva II conference, and a peaceful solution to the crisis, based on the Geneva Communiqué of June 30, 2012. This is in keeping with the Council’s own position as reflected in Resolution 2118. We also appreciate the Secretary-General’s strong and timely condemnation of the August 21st chemical weapons attack in Syria. More recent statements have endorsed the international plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program, and called for accountability for those responsible for the use of such arms. Further, I’d like to highlight the OIC’s continuing campaign to increase international contributions aimed at meeting the immense humanitarian needs resulting from the Syrian civil war. These needs are growing at an exponential rate, and my government encourages all to increase support for UN humanitarian appeals.
Turning to Middle East peace efforts, I note that this past February in Cairo, the OIC reiterated its support for a just, peaceful and comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. It is significant that the OIC, with its 57 members, has endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative as the basis for Middle East negotiations. The support of the Islamic world for a comprehensive and negotiated peace can be vital contributor for the successful outcome of talks between the parties. We interpret this support as a recognition that everyone in the region and beyond has a stake in seeing that these negotiations go forward in a positive and productive manner.
In closing, Mr. President, I note that the relationship between the UN and the OIC is unique, not only because of the OIC’s size and reach, but because the OIC is an organization centered around one of the world’s largest religious faiths. The United States welcomes the perspective of the OIC as a distinctive and leading voice in the Muslim world, and looks forward to continuing to work together and with the UN Security Council, as appropriate, to address challenges to international peace and security.
Thank you, Mr. President.