By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
DJIBOUTI -- After an absence of ten years, Dr Odeen Ishmael, Guyana’s de facto envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), delivered a comprehensive foreign policy statement that touched on volatile political, social and economic issues on behalf of his country at the 39th OIC Foreign Ministers conference in Djibouti on Friday, where he was welcomed by a number of delegates.
Guyana has not delivered a speech at an OIC foreign minister’s meeting since 2002. At the end of his speech, the chairman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Djibouti, thanked Guyana for its long-standing support of Palestine and praised both Guyana and Suriname for their positive participation in the work of the OIC.
In his address to OIC foreign ministers, Ishmael urged the OIC to support the UN resolution on the establishment of the new global human order, which dovetails with the theme of the 39th CFM conference -- "Session of Solidarity for Sustainable Development." The new global human order was an initiative by former president of Guyana, Dr Cheddi Jagan.
“The new global human order is a comprehensive plan to address debt problem and the fashioning of a new development assistance policy; the sustainable development of natural resources including mineral deposits; the strengthening and if necessary the reshaping of global institutions,” Ishmael told the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations, which has membership of 57 states, spread over four continents.
In addressing the explosive issue of Syria, Ishmael reiterated Guyana’s call for a political settlement to the crisis. Guyana stood firm in its call for a negotiated settlement. The ambassador’s statement fell short of calling for regime change, nor is Guyana willing to recognize the Syrian opposition.
Ishmael warned the OIC of unknown and possible terrorist elements in the Syrian opposition that could end up destabilizing the region on the long run.
He said, “It is vital that they should make a more concerted effort to encourage a peaceful political solution to the conflict. Just aiming for a military solution will definitely have long term negative repercussions for Syria, for the region, and for this organisation.”
On the issue of Palestine, Ishmael reminded the body of Guyana’s historical role in support of Palestinian statehood.
He said, “Guyana is one of the only two countries in the Americas that are members of the UN Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people. Guyana, like so many other countries, has also given official recognition to the state of Palestine based on its pre-June 1967 borders.”
Ishmael also articulated Guyana’s concern of Muslim persecution in Myanmar and urged the United Nations to address the issue. Guyana also condemned the occupation of Northern Mali by Tourig extremists. The Cypriot issue was also raised and Guyana reiterated its support of the sovereignty of Cyprus.
On the subject of Jammu and Kashmir, Ishmael said, “As a friend of both Pakistan and India, from where many of our citizens originated, Guyana encourages the continued search for a definitive solution through peaceful dialogue.”
He also welcomed the political settlement between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Muslims of Mindanao state.
Ishmael also addressed Guyana’s outstanding arrears to the OIC, which he expects to be settled soon. The issue was discussed in September at a meeting between Guyana and the OIC secretary general, Dr Ihsanoglu. Ishmael hopes that the issue will be resolved shortly.
In the same vein, he reasserted his country’s support of humanitarian assistance to member states.
“In this respect Guyana donated funds to facilitate relief to people affected floods in Pakistan two years ago. And more recently, in response to a call from the OIC, Guyana has donated US$100,000 in support of the efforts to provide humanitarian aid to people affected by the severe famine in Southern Somalia and in other parts of the horn of Africa.”
Ishmael also expressed alarm and condemned terrorism by extremist groups who depict themselves as Muslims, especially in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
In strong condemnation, he said, “We are utterly revolted by their horrible acts of sheer brutality and murder.”
At the same time, he urged the OIC to pay more attention to the growing discrimination of Muslims in the Americas “official and non-official circles.”
Several issues continue to dominate the 39th CFM’s agenda – the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar, Islamophobia, Syria, the Palestinians’ aspirations of statehood, the insurgency in Mali, poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, and the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Gaza strip.