Taking stock of 2017, Malaysia’s permanent representative to the United Nations says that 2017 was a ‘satisfying” year, peaking in the UN General Assembly voting on December 22 rejecting US President Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In an interview with Bernama in his office at Malaysia’s permanent mission in New York, Datuk Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob, Malaysia’s permanent representative to the UN, said that President Trump’s announcement of changing Jerusalem’s status to Israel’s capital went against Security Council resolution 2334 of December 2016, which had condemned Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.
“Our position on the Palestinian issue is a principled one,” Shahrul Ikram noted. “What the General Assembly has asked for is that the US respect the Security Council resolution (2334),” he said, adding that although the General Assembly resolution was not legally binding, it was a ‘moral victory’ for Palestine.
Besides the Jerusalem voting, Malaysia had also worked actively in 2017 on the passing of the resolution banning nuclear weapons.
“Our foreign minister (Datuk Seri Anifah Aman) was in New York for the signing of the Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in September 2017 at the General Assembly,” he said.
For Malaysia, 2017 was ‘highly successful’ for another reason: it was the year when Malaysia’s initiative on moderation was adopted as a resolution at the UN.
The Malaysian initiative aims at fighting the spread of extremism and radicalism by adopting moderation. “I would also like to acknowledge that the resolution was the culmination of hard work done by the mission’s staff and also by the strong support we received back home,” Shahrul Ikram said.
Moderation has been staunchly advocated by Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak.
The resolution also declares 2019 as the International Year of Moderation, and gives weight to the voices of moderation, emphasizing the importance of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation among the international community. Malaysia’s moderation initiative has also been supported by the ASEAN community as well as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
“Moderation is about tolerance, about talking to each other. Moderation is important because it is a key element of any kind of mediation in a conflict situation.
“Through moderation, we can move towards conflict resolution. Malaysia’s diplomacy succeeded in getting 2019 declared as the year of moderation,” Shahrul Ikram said, noting that Malaysia will be highlighting moderation through events not only in New York but also in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres just three days back appointed Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia as new executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).
The appointment was made following her election by the UN General Assembly. Maimunah succeeds Joan Clos of Spain as UN-Habitat head, is currently mayor of the City Council of Penang Island.
Malaysia will also chair in 2018 the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) which is related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 and focuses specifically on managing forests sustainably, halting and reversing land and natural habitat degradation, successfully combating desertification and stopping biodiversity loss; all these efforts are aimed to ensure that the benefits of land-based ecosystems, including sustainable livelihoods, will benefit future generations.
The President of the General Assembly (PGA), Miroslav Lajc stated two days ago that reforming the UN will be one of the priorities in 2018.
Commenting on UN reforms, Shahrul Ikram said that Malaysia supported “general reform of the UN. We are waiting for a special report on reform which is supposed to be released soon”.