UN Security Council Calls For Reversal Of Taliban Policies On Women

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN Security Council on Tuesday called on the Taliban to “swiftly reverse” policies restricting human rights and freedoms for Afghan women, in a unanimously adopted statement.

The move comes just days after female TV presenters were ordered to cover up fully, including their faces, the latest in a slew of Taliban restrictions on civil society, many of which are focused on women and girls.

In the text drafted by Norway, the council’s 15 member states said they were particularly concerned with the Taliban’s “imposition of restrictions that limit access to education, employment, freedom of movement, and women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in public life.”

The council said it called on the Taliban “to swiftly reverse the policies and practices which are currently restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls.”

It demanded the Taliban re-open schools for all female students without further delay and expressed “deep concern” over the announcement that women must cover their faces in public, including on television broadcasts.

According to diplomats, negotiations on the text, which lasted nearly two weeks, hit road bumps when China and Russia objected to a focus on human rights.

Consequently, the document also includes paragraphs expressing “deep concern regarding the volatile situation in Afghanistan” in terms of humanitarian, political, economic, social and security issues.

In particular, the text cites drug trafficking and terrorist attacks targeting civilians, in addition to the need to restore the country’s financial and banking systems.

AFP

 

US Urges India To Reverse Ban On Wheat Exports

File photo: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about Ukraine during his visit to Nadi, Fiji on February 12, 2022. (Photo by KEVIN LAMARQUE / POOL / AFP)

 

The United States hopes India will reverse its ban on wheat exports, Washington’s top diplomat to the United Nations said Monday, warning the move would worsen global shortages of the commodity.

“We’re encouraging countries not to restrict exports because we think any restrictions on exports will exacerbate the food shortages,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during a ministerial gathering on food security ahead of a meeting of the UN Security Council.

The UN meeting — to be chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken — will include Vellamvelly Muraleedharan, India’s minister of state for external affairs.

India holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

“We hope that (India) can, as they hear the concerns being raised by other countries, that they would reconsider that position,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

India, the world’s second-largest producer of wheat, on Saturday announced it would ban exports without special authorisation from the government in the face of falling production caused primarily by an extreme heatwave.

New Delhi — which had previously pledged to supply wheat to countries once dependent on exports from Ukraine — said it wanted to ensure “food security” for India’s 1.4 billion people.

Blinken is on Wednesday set to hold another UN meeting also related to food security.

That session aims to “bring countries together to look at what countries might be able to help fill the gap” in wheat supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — two major exporters of the commodity, said Thomas-Greenfield.

The talks would also identify “countries who need the support from countries who can fill the gap,” she added.

The United States could be included in these countries, she said, adding that discussions were already underway with American farmers on the topic.

Wheat prices hit a record high in the European market Monday in the wake of India’s decision.

AFP

Unanimous UN Security Council Declaration Backs ‘Peaceful’ Ukraine Solution

 Members of the United Nations (U.N.), Security Council attend a meeting about the ongoing situation in Ukraine on May 05, 2022 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
Members of the United Nations (U.N.), Security Council attend a meeting about the ongoing situation in Ukraine on May 05, 2022 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

 

The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously adopted its first declaration on Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, backing the Secretary-General’s efforts to find a “peaceful solution” to the war.

The declaration, drafted by Norway and Mexico and obtained by AFP, stopped short of supporting a mediation effort by Antonio Guterres, as was laid out in an earlier version of the text.

“The Security Council expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine,” the text adopted Friday said.

READ ALSO: Russia Continues ‘Assault’ On Mariupol’s Azovstal Plant

The 15-member council also “recalls that all Member States have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.”

The text ends by asking Guterres to submit a report to the council after the adoption of the declaration.

The declaration is the first show of unity from the Security Council since the beginning of the Ukraine war.

Shortly after the text was adopted, Russia vetoed a resolution condemning the invasion and asking Moscow to move its army back to Russian soil.

The UN has been pushed to the sidelines since Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbor on February 24. The global body, tasked with ensuring world peace, has not yet established itself as a possible mediator for a peaceful resolution of the war.

Until now, the UN has intervened in Ukraine and the surrounding countries in a mainly humanitarian role.

UN Security Council To Meet On Controversial Ethiopia Dam

United nations

 

The United Nations Security Council is set to meet Thursday on Ethiopia’s mega-dam project, which has sparked fears in downstream Sudan and Egypt over their water supplies, diplomats said.

Both nations have been pushing Ethiopia to ink a binding deal over the filling and operation of its Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile that broke ground in 2011.

Addis Ababa, which said it last year reached its first target in the years-long filling of the dam, has announced it will proceed in July with or without a deal.

The public session was requested by Tunisia on Egypt and Sudan’s behalf, according to a diplomatic source.

France’s ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, said last week that the council itself can do little apart from bringing the sides together.

“We can open the door, invite the three countries at the table, bring them to express their concerns, encourage them to get back to the negotiations and find a solution,” he told reporters.

Sudan and Egypt have written to the council to urge it to take up the matter in recent weeks.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said in his note that negotiations are at an impasse and he accused Ethiopia of adopting “a policy of intransigence that undermined our collective endeavors to reach an agreement.”

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding, but fears its own dams would be harmed without agreement on its operation.

AFP

New Resolution On Pandemic Truce Presented To UN Security Council

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

Germany and Estonia submitted Tuesday a resolution to the UN Security Council on a ceasefire in various conflicts around the world during the coronavirus pandemic, to replace one drafted by France and Tunisia that the United States has blocked.

Encompassing five major points — compared to the previous draft’s nine — the proposal by the two non-permanent members of the Security Council and seen by AFP “demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations on its agenda.”

Such a move is intended to help some 20 countries in crisis or at war battle the coronavirus, but it is unclear if concrete steps on the ground have been taking.

The resolution borrows from the French-Tunisian proposal, using language agreed upon by the 15 Council members during negotiations that have been ongoing since March or that had been used in previous resolutions, such as making ceasefire exceptions to battle jihadist groups.

As in the French-Tunisian resolution, the new proposal calls for a “humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” in order to allow for the delivery of aid to the hardest-hit communities.

A date has not yet been set for the vote, but it could happen quickly if none of the five permanent Council members threatens to use its veto, as when Washington criticized the mention of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the French-Tunisian resolution.

The German-Estonian text makes no mention of the WHO, so the uncertainty resides with China, which until the last minute insisted on a reference to the UN health group, even an implicit one.

READ ALSO: Europe Steps Up Reopening, Unveils Plans For Summer Travel

The new resolution was proposed Tuesday during a teleconference held behind closed doors and organized by Estonia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council. The resolution was submitted in the afternoon.

One of the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said China declared in the meeting that it backed swift action in the council.

– Compromise –

At the end of last week, Beijing and Washington both denied responsibility for the breakdown of negotiations led by Paris and Tunis.

The US stunned the Council on Friday by blocking the resolution from going forward, stating that Washington “cannot support the current draft.”

The reversal came a day after Washington had agreed to the text, negotiators said on condition of anonymity.

The US State Department said the Security Council “should either proceed with a resolution limited to support for a ceasefire, or a broadened resolution” that addressed the issues of transparency and responsibility. The State Department also accused Beijing of blocking any efforts to reach consensus since March.

Washington had threatened to use its veto if there were any explicit reference to the World Health Organization, which President Donald Trump has accused of downplaying the seriousness of the virus outbreak that began in China.

Diplomats say that at the same time Beijing had brandished its own veto if the global health body were not mentioned, before ultimately accepting an implicit reference.

“We must find a way out from this deadlock,” Estonia’s ambassador to the UN, Sven Jurgenson, told AFP.

“It is (a) real shame that we, the Security Council, have not been able to fulfill our responsibility on this matter,” he said, adding he hoped to quickly come to an agreement.

For two months, “despite the differences in positions and perceptions that still hinder consensus, discussions among member states have been important and constructive,” Tunisia’s UN Ambassador Kais Kabtani told AFP.

“Tunisia never gave up hope in achieving compromise and winning approval for the first Security Council resolution since COVID-19 started ravaging the globe,” he said.

One diplomat, speaking anonymously, said it was time to turn the page after the first resolution failed.

Another diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity, added it was necessary to get the ball rolling again.

But after two months of silence from the Security Council, the damage is done, he said, noting it was unfortunate that the human tragedy caused by the pandemic did not rapidly rally support for the UN chief’s call for a ceasefire in various conflicts around the world.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal on March 23 was somewhat heeded in some countries, but violence has since resumed or intensified, particularly in Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.

AFP

COVID-19: UN Security Council To Meet Over Pandemic

UN Council Must Prevent Syria 'Spiralling Out Of Control' - Guterres
File photo: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP

 

After weeks of disagreement — especially between the United States and China — the UN Security Council will meet Thursday to discuss the coronavirus pandemic for the first time.

Led by Germany, nine of the council’s 10 non-permanent members requested the closed-door meeting — a video conference to maintain social distancing — last week, fed up with the body’s inaction over the unprecedented global crisis.

Talks are moving in the right direction, diplomats said, and Washington is no longer insisting UN language refer to the virus as coming from China, which had infuriated Beijing.

READ ALSO: ‘Don’t Politicise This Virus’: WHO Urges Unity After Trump Attack

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to focus on efforts to fight the pandemic, peacekeeping missions and fostering unity between the non-permanent members and the five permanent ones.

There are two competing texts up for debate.

One, spearheaded by Tunisia on behalf of the 10 non-permanent members and obtained by AFP, calls for “an urgent, coordinated and united international action to curb the impact of COVID-19” and urges an immediate global ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.

That draft resolution has been in development since March 30, though a vote on it is not yet scheduled.

The second text, proposed by France, focuses on Guterres’s call last month to cease all hostilities around the world as part of a “humanitarian pause” to fight the pandemic.

That one has so far only had input from the permanent members, which diplomats from non-permanent countries told AFP has been “very frustrating.”

Efforts to convene a meeting have been stymied by the hospitalization of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chinese reticence to participate without first setting a clear agenda.

Richard Gowen, a specialist at the International Crisis Group, told AFP: “It is important to recognize that the main driving force behind the cooperation of the 10 non-permanent members is the bad behavior of the five permanent members.”

Several of these non-permanent workers “waged a fierce campaign to win their seat” on the Council and “are dumbfounded by the bickering between China and the United States” that prevent the body from “agreeing on the great crisis of our time.”

A Western ambassador, speaking anonymously, said the two blocs needed each other.

“The permanent cannot pass a text without the voices of the non-permanent, the non-permanent cannot impose a text on the permanent because they have a veto. We must necessarily agree and we will try to ‘hear’,” they said.

In the Security Council, at least nine votes out of 15 are necessary to adopt a resolution, without a veto of one of the five permanent members.

 

Equatorial Guinea Seeks To End Hire Of War Mercenaries In Central Africa

US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, chairs a UN Security Council meeting on “Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” December 11, 2019, at UN Headquarters in New York. Eskinder DEBEBE / UNITED NATIONS / AFP

 

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.”

 

AFP

UN Ends 15-Year Peacekeeping Operations In Haiti

In this file photo taken on September 8, 2008, an Argentinian peacekeeper stands as a helicopter takes off from the flooded city of Gonaives some 200 kilometres north of Port-au-Prince. The UN Security Council ended 15 years of peacekeeping operations in Haiti on October 15, 2019, voicing regret that the country is still saddled with huge economic, political and social woes. PHOTO: YURI CORTEZ / AFP

 

The UN Security Council ended 15 years of peacekeeping operations in Haiti on Tuesday, voicing regret that the country is still saddled with huge economic, political and social woes.

The United Nations first sent peacekeepers to Haiti after then-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown by the army in 2004 under the pressure of a popular uprising.

In 2017 those soldiers were replaced by a UN police mission whose numbers dropped gradually from 1,300 to 600 and are now to be replaced by a scaled-down political mission.

Haiti today remains the poorest country in the Americas, plagued by political instability.

Over the past year, it has sunk deeper into political crisis amid anti-corruption protests demanding President Jovenel Moise’s resignation — which he said on Tuesday he would not do.

“It would be irresponsible of me if today I got up, took out a letter of resignation, signed it and left, leaving the country like that,” he said at a press conference.

On Tuesday the US ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, described Haiti as at a crossroads.

“We urge Haiti’s political, economic, and civil society stakeholders to work peacefully to address the most pressing economic and social challenges facing the country,” she said.

Craft recalled that the United States is Haiti’s main bilateral benefactor, providing $5.2 billion in aid since a devastating earthquake hit the country in 2010.

Since coming to power in February 2017, Moise has faced the anger of an opposition movement that refuses to recognize his victory in an election widely seen as dubious.

Anger mounted in late August due to a national fuel shortage, and protests turned violent.

Haiti has just a caretaker government, and legislative elections that were supposed to be held this month have been postponed indefinitely.

Moise is seeking dialogue with the opposition but the latter has refused so far.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sounded pessimistic about Haiti in a report released Tuesday.

“The protracted multidimensional crisis with which it has been contending since July 2018 shows little sign of abatement or resolution,” Guterres wrote.

“I urge all actors to set aside their differences and particular interests to work together to overcome the increasingly preoccupying situation,” he added.

AFP

Trump’s Mideast Envoy Meets UN Council

File: US President Donald Trump.
/ AFP

 

President Donald Trump’s Middle East advisor Jason Greenblatt met with the UN Security Council on Friday but gave no details of a much-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, diplomats said.

“There were no details,” Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi told reporters after the closed-door meeting. “There was a discussion from our side about the plan.”

The plan is expected to be released after the Israeli elections in April, but the Palestinians have already rejected it as biased in favour of Israel.

The Palestinians have refused to talk to the Trump administration since the US president recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

READ ALSO: Finnish PM Sipila Resigns Over Failed Reforms

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.

AFP

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections

UN Pushes Burundi To Reach Agreement On 2020 Elections
(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 1, 2015, Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza (2ndL) arrives in a car for celebrations marking the country’s 53rd Independence Anniversary at Prince Rwagasore Stadium in Bujumbura. Marco LONGARI / AFP

 

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.

AFP

UN Security Council Backs Western Sahara Talks

 

(File) A meeting of the UN Security Council at the United Nations Headquarters in New York
HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP

 

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.

AFP

UN Security Council Rejects Russia’s Resolution Condemning Strikes On Syria

 

UN Security Council Rejects Russia's Resolution Condemning Strikes On Syria
The UN Security Council holds a vote on Russian proposed draft resolution that would “condemn the aggression against Syria by the U.S. and its allies” during a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting concerning the situation in Syria, at United Nations headquarters, April 14, Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP

 

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.

AFP