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High Commissioner's Middle East visit

Briefing notes

High Commissioner's Middle East visit

6 February 2007

The High Commissioner António Guterres is in Kuwait today on the second-leg of his weeklong Middle East mission. He is currently meeting the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and earlier today met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The High Commissioner started his visit to the region in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the weekend. Later today he is expected to travel to Jordan and on Thursday and Friday is scheduled to visit Syria.

In Riyadh, Guterres met King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and other top Saudi Arabian officials and discussed the need for strengthened partnerships and closer ties with UNHCR.

In his meetings, Guterres emphasised the suffering faced by hundreds of thousands of people displaced in and around Iraq, as well as the increased pressure on countries like Syria and Jordan, which together host more than one million Iraqis. He stressed that the support of the international community was vital and urged Saudi Arabia to take an active part in a UNHCR conference on the Iraqi humanitarian crisis due to be held in Geneva in mid-April. He also stressed the plight of some 15,000 Palestinians in Iraq, calling on the Saudi leaders to use their influence to help find a solution for this tragedy.

UNHCR in early January issued a US$60 million appeal to fund its work for uprooted Iraqis within their country and in neighbouring states, and for non-Iraqi refugees in Iraq.

The Saudi leaders welcomed Guterres' proposals and assured him of Saudi Arabia's commitment to providing humanitarian support and its desire to enhance partnerships with UNHCR.

Before leaving for Kuwait, Guterres also discussed increased partnerships with top officials of the Gulf Cooperation Council and encouraged his Saudi counterparts to consider establishing a programme to send young Saudis to work for UNHCR and gain experience in the humanitarian field.

Five million refugees cared for by UNHCR originate from Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member or observer states, and most of them are cared for in OIC countries.