UN Security Council To Discuss Kashmir On Friday

UN Security Council meeting on September 26, 2018 in New York/ AFP


The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to hold a rare meeting on Kashmir after India stripped the region of its autonomy, sparking a row with Pakistan, diplomats told AFP Thursday.

The meeting will take place behind closed doors on Friday morning, the diplomats said.

Poland, which currently holds the council’s rotating presidency, has listed the matter for discussion at 10:00 am (1400 GMT), the diplomats added.

It is extremely rare for the Security Council to discuss Kashmir, which has been divided between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.

The last time there was a full Security Council meeting on the Himalayan region was in 1965.

Friday’s discussion is not considered a full security meeting but rather referred to as closed-door consultations, which are becoming increasingly more common, diplomats said.

Parts of Kashmir that India controls have been under lockdown since August 4, with freedom of movement restricted and phones and the internet cut.

A day later, New Delhi scrapped Article 370 in the Indian constitution that had granted Kashmir special autonomy, splitting the state of Jammu and Kashmir in two and downgrading their status to union territories.

In a speech marking Indian Independence Day Thursday Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the decision was one of several “path-breaking” moves by his newly re-elected administration.

He said “fresh thinking” was needed after seven decades of failure to ensure harmony in the picturesque but tragic former kingdom, where tens of thousands have died in the past 30 years.

Pakistan observed “Black Day” on Thursday to coincide with India’s independence day celebrations.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has warned of possible “ethnic cleansing” in Kashmir, replaced his Twitter profile photo with a black circle.

Kashmir has been the spark for two major wars and countless clashes between the two nuclear-armed arch-rivals, most recently in February when they conducted tit-for-tat air strikes.


Migrants’ Death: UN Security Council To Hold Urgent Libya Talks

UN Security Council meeting in New York on the sidelines/ AFP


The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss an air strike on a detention centre in Libya that killed scores of migrants, diplomats said.

The meeting — to be held behind closed doors from 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) — will include a briefing from representatives of the UN refugee agency and the UN political affairs department.

Council members will hear a briefing from representatives of the UN refugee agency and the UN political affairs department.

At least 44 people were killed when the strike hit the Tajoura detention center east of Tripoli late Tuesday and more than 130 were severely injured, the UN said.

Tajoura held at least 600 refugees and migrants, including women and children. UN agencies said they expected the death toll from the attack to rise.

Tensions have soared in Libya since forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar, who holds sway in the east of the country, launched an offensive in April to seize Tripoli, held by a UN-recognized government and various militias.

World powers have been divided on how to respond to Haftar’s military campaign, with the United States and Russia refusing to back UN calls for a ceasefire.

The Tripoli government has blamed Haftar for the attack on the detention center.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame has called for an independent investigation and warned that the attack may constitute a war crime.


Six Killed In Libya As UN Debates Ceasefire Demand

The UN Security Council meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 13, 2018.


Rocket fire on the Libyan capital Tripoli, which the UN-recognised government blamed on military strongman Khalifa Haftar, killed six people ahead of a Security Council meeting on Wednesday over a ceasefire.

Diplomats have long complained that Libyan peace efforts have been stymied by major powers backing the rival sides, with Haftar ally Russia quibbling over the proposed wording of the ceasefire demand even as the bombardment of Tripoli intensifies.

Three of the six killed in the rocket fire on the south Tripoli neighbourhoods of Abu Salim and Al-Antisar late on Tuesday were women, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA.

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Abu Salim mayor Abdelrahman al-Hamdi confirmed the death toll and said 35 other people were wounded.

AFP journalists heard seven loud explosions as rockets also hit the city centre, the first since Haftar’s Libyan National Army militia launched an offensive on April 4 to capture the capital from the government and its militia allies.

The LNA blamed the rocket fire on the “terrorist militias” whose grip on the capital it says it is fighting to end.

The bombardment came as diplomats at the UN Security Council began negotiations on a British-drafted resolution that would demand an immediate ceasefire in Libya.

The proposed text seen by AFP warns that the offensive by Haftar’s LNA “threatens the stability of Libya and prospects for a United Nations-facilitated political dialogue and a comprehensive political solution to the crisis.”

 No Haftar criticism 

After Britain circulated the text late Monday, the first round of negotiations was held during which Russia raised objections to references criticising Haftar, diplomats said.

“They were very clear. No reference anywhere,” a council diplomat said.

During a tour of the Tripoli neighbourhoods worst hit by the rocket fire on Tuesday night, unity government head Fayez al-Sarraj said the Security Council must hold Haftar to account for his forces’ “savagery and barbarism”.

“It’s the legal and humanitarian responsibility of the Security Council and the international community to hold this criminal responsible for his actions,” Sarraj said in footage of the tour released by his office.

He said his government would seek Haftar’s prosecution for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“We are going to hand all the documentation to the ICC tomorrow (Wednesday) for prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.

At least 189 people have been killed, 816 wounded and more than 18,000 displaced since Haftar ordered his forces to march on Tripoli, according to the World Health Organization.

Britain was hoping to bring the ceasefire resolution to a vote at the Security Council before Friday, but diplomats pointed to Russia’s objections as a hurdle.

The proposed measure echoed a call by UN chief Antonio Guterres, who was in Libya to advance prospects for a political solution when Haftar launched his offensive.

 Proxy war 

Haftar, seen by his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as a bulwark against Islamists, has declared he wants to seize the capital.

He backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that is refusing to recognise the authority of the Tripoli government.

The draft resolution calls on all sides in Libya “immediately to recommit” to UN peace efforts and urges all member states “to use their influence over the parties” to see that the resolution is respected.

Resolutions adopted by the council are legally binding.

Diplomats have long complained that foreign powers backing rival sides in Libya threatened to turn the conflict into a proxy war.

Saudi Arabia is also seen as a key Haftar supporter, while Qatar — which has tense relations with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi — has called for stronger enforcement of the UN arms embargo to keep weapons out of Haftar’s hands.

Russia and France, two veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, have praised Haftar’s battlefield successes in defeating Libyan militias aligned with the Islamic State group in the south of the country.

Haftar’s offensive on the capital forced the United Nations to postpone a national conference that was to draw up a roadmap to elections, meant to turn the page on years of chaos since the 2011 ouster of Moamer Kadhafi.

Guterres has said serious negotiations on Libya’s future cannot resume without a ceasefire.


UN Council To Meet Wednesday On Venezuela

UN Security Council Meets On Syria Strikes
The UN Security Council meets at UN Headquarters in New York.  HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP


The UN Security Council will meet Wednesday at Washington’s request to discuss the worsening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, diplomats said.

The United States requested the meeting on Thursday amid growing alarm over the impact of a political standoff in Venezuela on families and children.

An internal UN report seen by AFP last week said seven million people — about 24 percent of Venezuela’s population — are in need of humanitarian aid, lacking access to food and medical care.

President Nicolas Maduro has blamed US sanctions for Venezuela’s economic problems but opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself interim leader, says government corruption and mismanagement are at fault.

Guaido is recognized by the United States and about 50 other governments.

The meeting to be held in open session is scheduled for around 11 am (1500 GMT).


UN To Lift Sanctions On Eritrea

File photo of Members of the Security Council photo: Don EMMERT / AFP

The UN Security Council will on Wednesday vote to lift sanctions on Eritrea following a landmark peace deal with Ethiopia and a thaw with Djibouti that have buoyed hopes for positive change in the Horn of Africa.

Diplomats say they expect the council to unanimously adopt a British-drafted resolution that would lift the arms embargo and all travel bans, asset freezes and targeted sanctions on Eritrea.

The council slapped sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 for its alleged support of Al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia, a claim Asmara has long denied.

The draft resolution acknowledges that UN monitors have “not found conclusive evidence that Eritrea supports Al-Shabaab” and declares that the sanctions and arms embargo will end on the day of the adoption of the measure.

Eritrea and Ethiopia signed a peace deal in July that ended two decades of hostility and led to friendlier relations with Djibouti, shoring up prospects for stability in the Horn of Africa.

The draft resolution calls on Eritrea and Djibouti to continue efforts to settle a 2008 border dispute and asks Asmara to release information concerning Djiboutian soldiers missing in clashes a decade ago.

At France’s request, the council will hear a report every six months on Eritrea’s efforts to normalize relations with Djibouti, where France, the United States, and China all have military bases.

 Look to the future 

Ethiopian Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie said the end of sanctions will “definitely open up a lot of possibilities for Eritrea,” drawing foreign investors and bringing Asmara back into the international fold.

“The decision will give an impetus for us to look to what the future can offer to the people of the region while at the same time send a message for us to engage in solving current problems and challenges,” the ambassador told AFP.

Eritrea and Somalia strongly supported calls to end sanctions, and negotiations over the past two weeks focused on addressing concerns about Djibouti.

“There were concerns by Djibouti,” the ambassador said, “but these concerns are not insurmountable. We strongly believe that the leaders of these two countries are willing to deal with the issues.”

In his address to the General Assembly in September, Eritrea’s Foreign Minister Osman Mohammed Saleh slammed the sanctions as “unwarranted,” saying they had caused “considerable economic damage” and hardship for Eritreans.

Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, and war broke out later that decade over a border dispute.

A 2002 UN-backed boundary demarcation was meant to settle the dispute for good, but Ethiopia refused to abide by it.

A turnaround began in June when Ethiopia announced it would hand back to Eritrea disputed areas including the flashpoint town of Badme, where the first shots of the border war were fired.

The leaders of Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia met last week in northern Ethiopia to push for regional economic development.

The draft resolution, however, maintains an arms embargo on Somalia, imposed in 1992.


President Buhari Meets With Security Chiefs, CDS Absent

President Buhari Meets With Security Chiefs


President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday met with the security chiefs in Abuja.

The President presided over the Security Council meeting held at the Presidential Villa.

Briefing State House correspondents on its outcomes, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said the meeting focused on security issues, especially as they concern election violence.

He assured Nigerians that the security agencies would remain unbiased and work hard to ensure the general elections in 2019 are free and fair.

The police boss disclosed that the Council also noted with concern the proliferation and stockpiling of weapons by some disgruntled elements in parts of the country.

He added that the meeting discussed the attempt by some notable personalities to put pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through demonstrations.

The security chiefs were led to the meeting by the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd).

However, the Chief of Defence Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, was absent.

Security chiefs who attended the meeting include the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas.

Also present are the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, and the Director-General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mr Yusuf Bichi, among others.

Government officials also in attendance are the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Mr Boss Mustapha; and the National Security Adviser,  Major General Babagana Monguno.


Russia Comes Under Fire At UN Over MH17 Downing

UN Security Council Meets On Syria Strikes
The UN Security Council meets at UN Headquarters in New York.                   HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP


Russia on Tuesday rejected calls at the United Nations to accept responsibility for the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine after an investigation found that a Russian army missile was used in the attack.

At a Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok called on Moscow to accept the findings that the airliner was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile provided by a brigade based in the Russian city of Kursk.

“The language of ultimatums is not something that anyone will be allowed to use when speaking to Russia,” Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council meeting.

“We cannot accept the unfounded conclusion of the JIT”, the Dutch-led Joint investigation Team, he added.

All 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when the missile slammed into the plane as it flew over territory held by pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

Responding to Nebenzia, the Dutch foreign minister said his arguments were “nothing new” and again urged Russia to work with the Netherlands and Australia to identify the perpetrators.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley voiced strong support for the Dutch and Australian call on Russia to acknowledge its role in the tragedy and help bring to account those responsible for the shooting down.

“Despite its transparent denials, there is no doubt Russia is driving the Ukrainian conflict,” said Haley.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since the Moscow-backed insurgency broke out in April 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told the council that Russia’s rejection of the findings “did not surprise me at all.”

“We have no doubt that the downing of MH17 flight is a terrorist act,” he said.

Ukraine will present documents to the International Court of Justice next month showing that Russia is violating anti-terrorism agreements, he said.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz renewed his call for a peacekeeping mission to be deployed to east Ukraine and urged Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a UN special envoy for Ukraine.

Diplomats say Russia, a veto-wielding power at the council, has blocked attempts to step up UN involvement in efforts to end the conflict.


Russia To Meet With UN Security Council Over Syria

FILE COPY Russian President Vladimir Putin                                       Alexey NIKOLSKY / Sputnik / AFP


Russia has requested that the UN Security Council meet on Friday to discuss the threat of US-led military action in Syria, diplomats said.

The request came after Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the priority was to avert US-led strikes on Syria that could lead to a dangerous confrontation between Washington and Moscow.


United States Asks Security Council To Probe Alleged Syria Attacks

FILE COPY United States’ President, Donald Trump. Photo Credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP


Washington circulated a draft resolution to the council that would establish the UN panel to identify those responsible for poisonous chemicals attacks, according to the text obtained by AFP.

Nine countries including the United States have called for an emergency meeting on Syria that will begin at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT) to discuss a response to the attack in Douma.

Rescuers and medics in Douma say at least 48 people died after a “poisonous chlorine gas attack” late on Saturday in Douma, the last rebel-held pocket of Eastern Ghouta.

The proposed US measure was similar to one presented by the United States in March, which Russia then rejected, and it remained unlikely that the new text would win Moscow’s support.

The renewed US push to establish the United Nations Independent Mechanism of Investigation (UNIMI) comes after Russia killed off a previous UN-led probe in November by vetoing the renewal of its mandate.

Under the current draft resolution, UNIMI would be established for one year and work with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to identify perpetrators of the chemical attacks.

The council would ask UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to outline within 30 days the operation of the panel “based on the principles of impartiality, independence and professionalism,” according to the draft text.

In January, Russia presented its own draft resolution setting up a new panel, but Western powers said Moscow’s proposal would give the Syrian government an upper hand over any investigation of attacks on its territory.

As the United States pushed for a new UN inquiry, US Defence Secretary Jim Matthis warned that Washington does not “rule out anything”, suggesting military action was possible in response to the alleged chemical attack.

President Donald Trump — who last year launched a missile strike on a regime base after another alleged chemical attack — warned after the latest accusations that there would be a “big price to pay.”

Russia and Syria have denied using chemical weapons.


France, Britain Request Emergency UN Meeting On Syria

(FILE PHOTO) Members of the Security Council vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on a ceasefire in Syria.

France and Britain have requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the failure of the 30-day ceasefire to take hold in Syria, diplomats said Tuesday.

The council is expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss the air strikes and clashes in the Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta that have continued despite a ceasefire demanded by the top UN body ten days ago.

Backed by Russia, the council unanimously adopted on February 24 a resolution demanding the 30-day cessation of hostilities to allow deliveries of humanitarian aid and evacuations of the sick and wounded.

A first aid convoy reached Eastern Ghouta on Monday but the operation was cut short as air strikes pounded the enclave, killing at least 68 civilians, according to a human rights monitor.

Air strikes, and artillery and rocket fire on the last major rebel-held enclave near the capital Damascus have killed hundreds and devastated residential areas since they began on February 18.

The latest toll released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights brings to around 760 the number of civilians killed since the assault began, including at least 170 children.


Germany, France Urge Russia To Pressure Syria For ‘Immediate’ Ceasefire

Members of the Security Council vote during a United Nations Security Council meeting on a ceasefire in Syria February 24, 2018 in New York.


The leaders of Germany and France urged Russia Sunday to exert “maximum pressure” on Syria for an “immediate” implementation of a UN ceasefire in the war-ravaged country, Berlin said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron stressed in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin “that it is crucial that the (UN) resolution be implemented quickly and comprehensively,” Merkel’s office said in a statement.

“They call on Russia in this context to exercise maximum pressure on the Syrian regime to achieve an immediate suspension of air raids and fighting.”

The statement said Merkel, Macron and Putin had all welcomed the UN resolution on an at least 30-day ceasefire “particularly to allow humanitarian aid into and evacuations out of the war zone”.

Merkel and Macron stressed that a ceasefire could be “the basis to advance efforts toward a political solution in the context of the UN-led Geneva peace process”.

“Germany and France continue to be willing to work with Russia and other international partners toward this goal,” Merkel’s office added.

The leaders held talks after the UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously demanded a 30-day truce in Syria.

More than 500 civilians are thought to have died in a week of heavy bombardment by Syria’s regime of the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, just outside Damascus.

After the council vote, which had support from Moscow, Syrian warplanes backed by Russian air power launched new raids on Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based monitor said at least 41 civilians were killed in Saturday’s strikes, including eight children. Russia has denied taking part in the assault.

France and Germany have pushed for Russia to throw its weight behind the Syria ceasefire, which is mainly to allow aid to reach the besieged area and allow evacuations.


Congo Stability At Extreme Risk, UN Warns

Congo, UNThe United Nations says the Democratic Republic Of Congo is on the verge of descending into widespread violence.

While addressing the Security Council, UN envoy Maman Sidikou said threats to the 18,000 strong peacekeeping mission there, outstrips its capabilities.

The violent protests have broken out as a result of the postponement of the presidential polls.

The opposition accuses President Joseph Kabila of trying to cling to power beyond the end of his term, which is due to expire in December.

Dozens of people died in anti-government violence in the capital Kinshasa last month after the electoral commission said it could not hold polls in November.