Delivered by: Shahad Matar, Spokesperson and Alternate Political Coordinator
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I thank Assistant Secretary-General Ilze Brands Kehris for her briefing and we take note of Mr. Kipshidze’s briefing.
The UAE believes in the fundamental importance of promoting tolerance, peaceful co-existence and respect for cultures and religions. We have seen in our region the consequences of intolerance, extremism, and incitement to hate as well as violence based on religion or race.
In the context of today’s discussion, we have serious concerns about any reports of religious intolerance. As recognized by this Council in resolution 2686, intolerance can contribute to driving the outbreak, escalation, and recurrence of conflict. It is incumbent on all of us to speak out against it before and when conflict arises.
We are also concerned by the continuing damage inflicted on cultural sites in the course of the war in Ukraine. Since last February, UNESCO has verified damage to more than 300 cultural sites, including 124 religious sites, and 142 buildings of historical and artistic significance. Such destruction weakens key pillars of mutual understanding.
Cultural sites, such as historic sites and places of worship, are protected under international humanitarian law, including article 53 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. In resolution 2347, the Security Council further underlined that the destruction of cultural heritage, including religious sites, can exacerbate conflict and hamper post-conflict reconciliation.
Protection of cultural heritage sites during conflict, and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of such sites when peace is achieved, must remain a priority. Religious and cultural sites form centers of gravity for communities, particularly amid the upheaval of conflict. Moreover, the time will come when this conflict comes to an end and these sites will be important platforms for rebuilding and recovery.
Creating a culture of tolerance is a core element of conflict resolution and post-war healing and must be an important consideration for the parties to conflict as well as for the Security Council.
Religious leaders, as recognized by the Council, play a key role in building peaceful coexistence as well as conflict prevention and resolution. constructive engagement by religious leaders can strengthen resilience and build foundations for peace.
Acts of religious intolerance or destruction to sites only serve to escalate and prolong conflict.
We must, therefore, be unequivocal in our condemnation of such acts and focus our efforts on a return to peace and security in Ukraine.
For our part, the UAE remains resolute in its support of all serious efforts to achieve a just and sustainable peace that is based upon the principles of the UN Charter, respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity.
Thank you, Mr. President.