Karin Kneissl, Austria’s foreign minister, addressed the United Nations General Assembly members on September 29 and took everyone by surprise when she began speaking in Arabic.
The first three minutes of her speech were completely in Arabic, followed by a transition into French, Spanish and finally English.
The minister mentioned in her speech that one of the reasons she's able to address the General Assembly members in Arabic is because it's one of the six official languages of the United Nations. She added, “I studied Arabic in the UN in Vienna. It is a beautiful language; it is part of the ancient Arab civilization.”
During her speech, she spoke of the refugees in war-torn countries such as Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen and encouraged listeners to use their political power to uplift and bring attention to the region. “In this world, we have a voice, and we have to use this voice to express the voice of those outside these halls … and especially in the Middle East,” she said.
The Vienna-born minister has studied across several universities in the region and has also served in the Austrian Foreign Service, specifically at the Middle Eastern desk. Watch her speech in its entirety below.