Equatorial Guinea this week submitted a draft resolution to its fellow UN Security Council members on reinforcing efforts to combat mercenaries fighting in central Africa.
The draft, obtained Tuesday by AFP, does not name any specific countries, but instead calls on all member states to stamp out the practice of hiring foreign fighters.
It asks them to “introduce legislative measures to ensure that their nationals do not participate in the recruitment, gathering, financing, training, protection or transit of foreign mercenaries or combatants.”
It also asks that they refrain from the “planning of activities to destabilize the situation in a state or undermine or totally or partially compromise the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent states.”
Several UN missions were surprised at the filing of the draft, as Equatorial Guinea’s two-year term on the Security Council as a non-permanent member ends on December 31.
One diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity that a vote on the measure was not a sure thing.
The draft is focused on central Africa — a region that includes Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Chad and other countries.
Russian mercenaries have been active in the area in the past, and Moscow has recently been accused of involving itself in the deployment of armed fighters in Libya and Mali.
Russia denies the claims.
The draft resolution says that the United Nations is “alarmed by the danger that mercenary activities represent for international peace and security… especially for central African states.”
It “urges all central African states to take the necessary measures, cooperate with each other and exercise maximum vigilance against the threat posed by mercenaries.”
They see the Eastern part of the disputed city as the capital of their future state and have said Washington’s pro-Israel bias meant the US could no longer be the main mediator in a stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
The council also discussed, at the request of Kuwait and Indonesia, Israel’s decision to withhold tax transfers from the Palestinian Authority over its payments to prisoners jailed for attacks on Israelis.
“This is Palestinian money. They shouldn’t withhold it,” said the Kuwaiti ambassador.
Diplomats said the United States was a lone voice in defence of Israel at the closed-door council meeting, with the Europeans and others arguing that the payments should resume.
Greenblatt did not answer questions from reporters after the meeting.
The UN Security Council on Wednesday criticised slow progress in talks between Burundi’s government and the opposition despite President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision not to seek re-election in 2020.
In a unanimous statement, the council welcomed Nkurunziza’s announcement but added that “additional progress will be necessary for credible elections” to be held in two years.
The East African (EAC) bloc of countries is seeking to broker a political deal between the government and the opposition to end the crisis that erupted in 2015 when Nkurunziza decided to seek a third term.
Nkurunziza’s decision to run for re-election plunged Burundi into violence that left 1,200 people dead and drove 400,000 from to their homes. The International Criminal Court last year opened an investigation for grave crimes committed in Burundi.
Council members expressed “deep concern over the slow progress” in the dialogue and stressed that “it is crucial that all parties, most especially the government of Burundi, commit to the EAC-led process and reach an agreement well ahead of the 2020 elections.”
The government has refused to hold talks with some opposition groups that it brands terrorists.
The elections must be “free, fair, transparent, peacefully and fully inclusive, with the participation of all political parties,” and ensure the full participation of women, said the council statement.
Nkurunziza has been accused of sliding towards authoritarianism since he came to power in 2005 at the end of Burundi’s brutal civil war.
The UN Security Council on Friday backed a United States-drafted resolution that urges Morocco and the Polisario Front to prepare for talks on settling the decades-old conflict over Western Sahara.
The council renewed for six months the mandate of a UN mission that has been monitoring a ceasefire in Western Sahara since 1991 and spelled out steps for a return to negotiations.
China, Russia and Ethiopia abstained from the vote, but it passed with support from all 12 other countries in the council.
“The expectation is clear,” US political coordinator Amy Tachco told the council after the vote. “It is time to see progress toward a political solution and after 27 years, to stop perpetuating the status quo.”
Morocco and the Polisario fought for control of Western Sahara from 1975 to 1991, but diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been deadlocked since the last round of UN-sponsored talks in 2008.
The adoption followed a week of contentious negotiations during which Russia and Ethiopia complained that the proposed measure appeared to favor Morocco’s stance.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council that the resolution was “unbalanced” adding: “let’s not decide in the place of the sides what the outcome will be” of a new round of talks.
Morocco maintains that negotiations on a settlement should focus on its proposal for autonomy for Western Sahara and rejects the Polisario’s insistence on an independence referendum.
Tachco told the council that Morocco’s autonomy proposal is “one potential approach to satisfy the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara to run their own affairs with peace and dignity.”
Need for compromise
While the resolution does not set a timetable for relaunching talks, it stresses “the need to make progress toward a realistic, practicable and enduring political solution to the question of Western Sahara based on compromise”.
Following complaints, the United States agreed to extend the MINURSO mission until October instead of a full year, giving the council an opportunity to review the situation in six months and decide on next steps.
The resolution renews a call for the Polisario to withdraw from Guerguerat, an area in a buffer zone in the southwest near the Mauritanian border, and to refrain from relocating offices to Bir Lahlou, in the northwest.
In a bid to quell tensions in the buffer zone, the council requested that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres step in to “interview the parties” to discuss the military agreements underpinning the ceasefire.
Guterres last year appointed former German president and ex-International Monetary Fund director Horst Koehler to be his new envoy for Western Sahara with a mandate to restart negotiations.
Koehler is expected to embark on a new regional tour soon to press for negotiations, which some diplomats say could happen later this year.
The Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), declared by the Polisario in 1976, is a full member of the African Union.
The mostly desert territory has rich fishing grounds off its coast and may have untapped offshore oil deposits.
Russia on Saturday failed to win UN backing for a condemnation of military strikes launched by the United States, Britain and France on Syria in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack.
A Russian-drafted resolution won three votes at the Security Council, far below the nine votes required for adoption. Eight countries voted against and four abstained.
The Russian measure would have condemned the “aggression” against Syria and demanded that the three allies refrain from any further strike.
The vote was held after the United States warned that it was “locked and loaded,” ready to launch more military strikes on Syria if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces carry out a new chemical weapons attack.
Britain argued that the strikes were “both right and legal” to alleviate humanitarian suffering from repeated use of toxic gas in attacks in Syria’s seven-year war.
The United States, Britain and France launched air strikes in response to a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma a week ago that killed at least 40 people.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the West of “hooliganism” and demanded that it “immediately end its actions against Syria and refrain from them in the future.”
“You are not only placing yourselves above international law, but you are trying to re-write international law,” Nebenzia said after the vote.
China and Bolivia supported the Russian measure, while the three allies along with Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, Kuwait and Ivory Coast opposed it. Peru, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Equatorial Guinea abstained.
Most serious threat
Air strikes by the allies on Saturday hit three targets that Western officials said were linked to chemical weapons development in the Damascus and Homs areas.
Addressing told the council, Haley said the United States was confident that the military strikes had crippled Syria’s chemical weapons program.
“We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said.
Moving to return to diplomacy, France said it was working with the United States and Britain on a draft resolution that would address chemical weapons use, the humanitarian crisis and the future of the peace process in Syria.
The measure would provide for the creation of an inquiry to identify perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks, allow access for aid convoys and re-launch stalled peace talks in Geneva, French diplomats said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who delayed a trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the Syria crisis, said he had asked special envoy Staffan de Mistura to return to New York as soon as possible to chart a way forward.
Addressing the council, Guterres urged all countries to uphold international law and warned that “Syria today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security.”
The United States, Britain and France have argued that military action was necessary after Assad’s forces had used toxic gases multiple times in violation of international law.
Russia has countered that the US-led action was aimed at overthrowing Assad and keeping Moscow’s influence in check.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday urged countries to uphold international law as the Security Council met to discuss military strikes carried out by the United States, France and Britain on Syria.
Russia circulated a draft resolution calling for condemnation of the military action, but Britain’s ambassador said the strikes were “both right and legal” to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria.
The United States, Britain and France took military action in response to an alleged chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma a week ago that killed at least 40 people.
Addressing the council, Guterres said: “At this critical juncture, I call on all member states to act consistently with the charter of the United Nations and with international law, including the norms against chemical weapons.”
Air strikes by the three allies on Saturday hit three targets that Western officials said were linked to chemical weapons development in the Damascus and Homs areas.
Britain’s UN ambassador Karen Pierce defended military action against Syria, saying it was “both right and legal” to launch strikes to alleviate humanitarian suffering.
The United States, Britain and France have argued that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used toxic gases multiple times in violation of international law.
Guterres renewed his call for an investigation to identify the perpetrators of chemical weapons attacks after Russia this week vetoed a US proposal to create such a mechanism.
After a two-hour delay, UN Security Council ambassadors took their seats on Saturday ahead of a vote on demanding a 30-day ceasefire in Syria.
The council has been negotiating a draft resolution for two weeks that would demand a ceasefire “without delay” to allow immediate deliveries of humanitarian aid and medical evacuations.
Russia Backs Move
With Russia’s backing, the UN Security Council on Saturday unanimously demanded the 30-day ceasefire.
“We are late to respond to this crisis, very late,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote, accusing Russia of stalling the vote.
More than 500 people, including more than 120 children, have been killed in seven days of relentless airstrikes in Eastern Ghouta, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as “hell on earth.”
The resolution demands a cessation of hostilities “without delay” throughout Syria to allow the “safe, unimpeded and sustained” deliveries of aid and evacuations of the sick and wounded.
To win Russia’s approval, language specifying that the ceasefire would start 72 hours after the adoption of the draft was scrapped, replaced by “without delay,” and the term “immediate” was also dropped in reference to the aid deliveries and evacuations.
Diplomats said they were confident that this would not open the door to postponing the ceasefire, as council members had made clear in negotiations that the truce must quickly come into force.
Guterres is to report to the council in 15 days on the ceasefire, diplomats said.
In another concession to Russia, the resolution said the ceasefire will not apply to operations against the Islamic State group or Al-Qaeda, along with “individuals, groups, undertakings and entities” associated with the terror groups.
That would allow the Syrian government offensive to continue against Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in Idlib, the last province in Syria outside the control of Damascus.
The text demands the lifting of all sieges including in Eastern Ghouta, Yarmouk, Foua and Kefraya and order all sides to “cease depriving civilians of food and medicine indispensable to their survival.”
The United Nations Security Council has called for immediate steps to end the violence in Myanmar.
Ahead of the Security Council meeting, on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged that Rohingya Muslims were being ethnically cleansed in Myanmar and called for a halt to a military campaign in Rakhine state.
Guterres described reports of security forces attacking civilians in Rakhine as “disturbing” and “completely unacceptable.”
“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and recognise the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” the secretary general said in a press conference.
Asked if he agreed the Rohingya population was being ethnically cleansed, he replied, “When one-third of the Rohingya population has got to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?”
The crackdown by Myanmar’s army, which followed attacks by Rohingya militants late last month, has prompted around 380,000 to flee across the border into neighboring Bangladesh.
Two leading human rights groups on Tuesday slammed the UN Security Council for inaction over the crisis in Myanmar, where 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee in a campaign described as ethnic cleansing.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International deplored the council’s failure to speak out and demand an end to the violence in western Rakhine state as the top UN body prepared to hold a closed-door session on Wednesday.
Britain and Sweden requested the meeting on Myanmar, two weeks after the council met, also behind closed doors. No formal statement was issued following that meeting on August 30.
“This is ethnic cleansing on a large scale, it seems, and the Security Council cannot open its doors and stand in front of the cameras? It’s appalling frankly,” HRW’s UN director Louis Charbonneau told reporters.
The exodus from Rakine state began after Rohingya militants attacked police posts on August 25, prompting a military backlash that has sent a third of the Muslim minority population fleeing for their lives.
Exhausted Rohingya refugees crossing into Bangladesh have given accounts of atrocities at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs who burned their villages to the ground.
“Without some sort of public proclamation by Security Council members, the message you are sending to the Myanmar government is deadly, and they will continue to do it,” said Sherine Tadros, head of Amnesty International’s UN office.
Other than condemning the violence, the council could adopt a resolution threatening sanctions against those responsible for the repression, said Human Rights Watch.
– Rakhine still burning –
Since the council last met on Myanmar, 310,000 Rohingyas have fled violence and been forced to become refugees, said HRW’s deputy UN director Akshaya Kumar.
Kumar quoted reports from HRW researchers in the field who said Rakhine state was “still on fire” with hundreds of destitute Rohingyas continuing to cross into Bangladesh.
At the meeting on Wednesday, China is expected to push back against appeals for UN involvement and declare its support for the Yangon government, which maintains its military operation is aimed at countering an insurgency.
Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took the rare step of writing a letter to the council urging members to send a message to Myanmar authorities to end the security operation.
Guterres spoke to Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week and is expected to once again make an appeal to end the crisis during a press conference at UN headquarters on Wednesday, his spokesman said.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said they were disappointed with Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate and once a darling of the rights movement who has been accused of turning a blind eye to the violence.
“Silence is not helping the fact that we have a growing xenophobic rhetoric and climate which is whirling around Yangon at the moment,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty’s crisis response director.
“We need to see leadership from her to actually de-escalate and not remain silent.”
The United Nations set up a fact-finding mission in March to investigate allegations of atrocities in Rakhine state, but the investigators have not been allowed into the country.
Myanmar’s second vice president, Henry van Thio, will attend next week’s gathering of world leaders at the United Nations and is due to deliver his address at the General Assembly on September 20.
The 193-member United Nations General Assembly has elected Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea to the U.N. Security Council.
The African countries were elected on Friday alongside Kuwait, Peru and Poland for a two-year term starting January 1, 2018.
While all the countries were running unopposed, they still needed more than two-thirds of the overall vote to win a seat.
Ivory Coast received 189 votes, Equatorial Guinea got 185, Kuwait received 188, Peru won 186, Poland got 190, and the Netherlands received 184 votes.
The Council is made up of 10 elected members, five voted on each year and five permanent veto-powers: the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia.
The Council is the only U.N. body that can make legally-binding decisions and has the power to impose sanctions and authorise the use of force.
To ensure geographical representation on the Council, there are five seats apportioned for African and Asian states; one for Eastern European states; two for the Latin American and Caribbean states, as well as two for Western European and other states.