Europe

Austrian foreign minister delivers UN speech in Arabic

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Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl surprised the attendees at the United Nations General Assembly by delivering her speech in four languages, including Arabic.

The foreign affairs minister for Austria, Karin Kneissl, received plaudits from the United Nations General Assembly last week after addressing international issues in Arabic, French, Spanish and English.

Ms Kneissl began her 20-minute speech in Arabic, one of the six languages of the UN, and touched on climate change, conflicts in Syria and Yemen, nuclear proliferation and the suffering of refugees across the globe.

“As the minister of foreign affairs of Austria, I am able to address you in Arabic,” the foreign minister told the UN in Arabic.

“Why do I do that? Arabic is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. I studied Arabic in the UN in Vienna. It is a beautiful language; it is part of the ancient Arab civilization. I also studied in Lebanon during the years of war and learned how people continue with their lives against all odds. This is the secret of life.”

The General Assembly showed their appreciation of Ms Kneissl, applauding her as she switched from French to Spanish to English.

During her speech, Ms Kneissl said she hoped politicians and world leaders would start engaging in dialogue, rather than broad statements that limits dialogue.

"Unfortunately, we diplomats are often unable to ensure the voices of those in the darkness and misery are heard," she said.

"Our diplomatic practices, all too often, give priority to fine statements over genuine action. I would even venture to say we accept a dialogue of the death when we limit ourselves to a ritual of simply reading out prepared statements. This way of thinking shows we have lost contact with reality.

"We no longer understand the meaning of a genuine exchange of views. When we speak are we really discussing anything? Are we even able to still look at each other in the eyes?"

The foreign affairs minister concluded: "With this speech, I have tried to depart a little bit from the usual United Nations discourse."

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