Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

UN Security Council to Vote Monday on Call for Trump’s Jerusalem Move to Be Rescinded

December 17, 2017

The resolution, submitted by Egypt, would insist that decisions on Jerusalem’s status have no legal effect. Diplomats say the U.S. will veto it

Noa Landau 17.12.2017 20:51 Updated: 8:52 PM
Haaretz

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People hold Palestinian flags as they protest after Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, December 15, 2017.

People hold Palestinian flags as they protest after Friday prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, December 15, 2017. Ammar Awad / Reuters

The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Monday on a resolution drafted by Egypt against U.S. President Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

The draft UN resolution “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”

It “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem, pursuant to resolution 478 (1980) of the Security Council.” However, there is debate regarding the definition of “diplomatic missions,” and whether that relates to an embassy or a consulate as well. Diplomats say it has broad support but will likely be vetoed by Washington.

 

Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy this month, generating outrage from Palestinians and defying warnings of Middle East violence. Trump also plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

In opening remarks at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked U.S. President Donald Trump for what the prime minister called the president’s “determination and leadership in defending the truth on Israel” and for “rebuffing attempts to use the United Nations as a platform against Israel.”

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, denounced the draft resolution Saturday. “During a period in which the Jewish people is celebrating the liberation of Jerusalem nearly 2,000 years ago, the Palestinians continue to try to reinvent history,” he said, referring to the holiday of Hanukkah. “No vote or debate will change clear reality. Jerusalem is and has always been the capital of Israel. We will continue along with our allies to fight for the historical truth this time too.”

Reuters contributed to this report

Noa Landau
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.829596

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Libya strongman says UN-backed government’s mandate expired

December 17, 2017

AFP

© Tunisian Presidency/AFP | A handout picture released by the Tunisian Presidency Press Service shows Libyan General Khalifa Haftar speaking during his meeting with the Tunisian president on September 18, 2017 at Carthage Palace in Tunis

BENGHAZI (LIBYA) (AFP) – Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar insisted Sunday that the mandate of the country’s UN-backed government has run out after what he said was the expiration of a tattered 2015 political deal.The UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco on December 17, 2015 established Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) for a one-year period, renewable only once.

Despite that deal, Libya has remained divided between the GNA government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and a rival administration backed by Haftar in the east.

In a televised speech Haftar, who has never recognised the GNA’s authority, said the “expiry of the Libyan political accord” marked a “historic and dangerous turning point”.

“All bodies resulting from this agreement automatically lose their legitimacy, which has been contested from the first day they took office,” he said.

The United Nations Security Council on Thursday insisted the 2015 deal remains the “only viable framework” to prepare for elections next year.

The UN in September launched a fresh push to agree a new accord aimed at bringing stability to Libya, which has been in chaos since the 2011 ouster of long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

One of the main stumbling blocks is the inclusion in any potential government of Haftar, whose Libyan National Army dominates the country’s east.

In a statement on Sunday the UN’s special representative to Libya Ghassan Salame said Libyans were “fed up with violence” and hoped “for a political solution, for reconciliation and for harmony”.

“I urge all parties to heed their voices and refrain from any actions that could undermine the political process,” the statement said.

str-ila/del/hkb

U.N. council mulls call for U.S. Jerusalem decision to be withdrawn

December 16, 2017

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council is considering a draft resolution that would insist any decisions on the status of Jerusalem have no legal effect and must be rescinded after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized the city as Israel’s capital.

Worshippers chant as they hold Palestinian flags after Friday prayers on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, as Palestinians call for a "day of rage" in response to President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. (Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

Worshippers chant as they hold Palestinian flags after Friday prayers on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, as Palestinians call for a “day of rage” in response to President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters)

The one-page Egyptian-drafted text, which was circulated to the 15-member council on Saturday and seen by Reuters, does not specifically mention the United States or Trump. Diplomats say it has broad support but will likely be vetoed by Washington.

The council could vote early next week, diplomats said. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Britain, Russia or China to pass.

Trump abruptly reversed decades of U.S. policy this month when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, generating outrage from Palestinians. Trump also plans to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

After the decision, Arab foreign ministers agreed to seek a U.N. Security Council resolution. While the draft is unlikely to be adopted, it would further isolate Trump over the Jerusalem issue.

The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the draft. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has praised Trump’s decision as “the just and right thing to do.”

A Palestinian demonstrator stands near burning tires during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest near the West Bank city of Nablus December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

A Palestinian demonstrator stands near burning tires during clashes with Israeli troops at a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, near the West Bank city of Nablus December 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The draft U.N. resolution “affirms that any decisions and actions which purport to have altered, the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council.”

A Palestinian man with a knife and what looks like an explosive belt lies on the ground after being shot by Israeli border policemen near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 15, 2017. Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians and wounded 150 others with live fire on Friday, medical officials said, as protests over U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital entered a second week.

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

A Palestinian man with a knife and what looks like an explosive belt lies on the ground after being shot by Israeli border policemen near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 15, 2017. Israeli troops shot dead four Palestinians and wounded 150 others with live fire on Friday, medical officials said, as protests over U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital entered a second week. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

It “calls upon all States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem, pursuant to resolution 478 (1980) of the Security Council.”

Israel considers the city its eternal and indivisible capital and wants all embassies based there. Palestinians want the capital of an independent Palestinian state to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.

The draft council resolution “demands that all states comply with Security Council resolutions regarding the Holy City of Jerusalem, and not to recognize any actions or measures contrary to those resolutions.”

A U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in December last year “underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.”

That resolution was approved with 14 votes in favor and an abstention by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Grant McCool and Alistair Bell

Tillerson at UN Security Council: ‘North Korea must earn its way back to the table’ — ‘China is helping. Russia is not helping’

December 15, 2017
Carole LANDRY

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AFP
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said North Korea must “earn its way back to the table” (AFP Photo/EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – North Korea must “earn its way back” to the negotiating table, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the UN Security Council on Friday, backtracking on an earlier offer of unconditional talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Tillerson said a “sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin,” though he insisted the lines of communication remain open.

Earlier this week, Tillerson set off speculation that Washington was seeking a diplomatic opening for negotiations with North Korea when he offered to hold “talks with no preconditions.”

The White House however said there was no change in US policy and Tillerson did not repeat the offer at the council meeting.

“North Korea must earn its way back to the table,” he said. “The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved.”

“We will, in the meantime, keep our channels of communication open.”

Tillerson repeated that “we do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea.”

“The United States will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression, but our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution.”

– ‘China is helping. Russia is not helping’ –

North Korea’s UN ambassador Ja Song-Nam made a rare appearance at the council meeting chaired by Japan, which announced new targeted sanctions on Chinese entities, among others.

Singling out China, Pyongyang’s sole ally, and Russia, Tillerson urged Beijing and Moscow to take unilateral steps that go beyond the current tough UN sanctions resolutions.

“Continuing to allow North Korean laborers to toil in slave-like conditions inside Russia in exchange for wages used to fund nuclear weapons programs calls into question Russia’s dedication as a partner for peace,” he said.

The United States has called on China to cut off oil supplies to North Korea, a move that would deal a crippling blow to its economy.

In Washington, US President Donald Trump criticized Russia for not doing enough to pressure North Korea to change course.

“China is helping. Russia is not helping. We would like to have Russia’s help,” said Trump, who discussed North Korea by phone with President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

– Avoiding catastrophe –

Pyongyang has carried out its sixth nuclear test and conducted a series of missile launches including its first tests of two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) this year.

In his address to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged diplomatic engagement with North Korea and said the United Nations could play a role to promote contacts.

“We must do everything we can to reach that objective — and avoid a level of danger that would be unpredictable in its trajectory and catastrophic in its consequences,” said Guterres.

The UN’s political affairs chief, Jeffrey Feltman, returned at the weekend from talks in Pyongyang — the first visit to the North by a high-ranking UN official since 2011.

While Feltman received no firm commitment from North Korea to open talks, he has said the visit is “just the beginning” of his push for “talks about talks.”

Since late 2016, the council has slapped three rounds of sanctions aimed at choking off revenue to Pyongyang’s weapons program, which the United Nations has described as the most dangerous security issue in the world today.

China and Russia argue that sanctions alone will not compel North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to change course and want to step up diplomatic efforts to achieve a solution.

Tillerson appeared to dismiss concerns that UN sanctions are having an impact on North Korea’s humanitarian crisis, saying Pyongyang “hypocritically spends billions” on its military programs “while its own people suffer great poverty.”

In Tokyo, the government said it had added 19 more entities to its sanctions blacklists including seven from China, one from Singapore and two from Namibia.

“The international community must continue to coordinate and apply pressure until North Korea changes its policies and seeks negotiations,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

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Washington (CNN)  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the UN Security Council on Friday that North Korea must cease all threatening behavior before talks with the US can begin, omitting to mention his earlier offer of talks without preconditions.

Tillerson earlier in the week said he was willing to start talks with Pyongyang without preconditions, appearing to reveal another rift between the State Department and the White House, where staffers said they were caught off guard by his offer.
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“As I said earlier this week, a sustained cessation of North Korea’s threatening behavior must occur before talks can begin,” Tillerson told the UN meeting, which was convened to discuss Pyongyang’s denuclearization, adding that “North Korea must earn its way back to the table.”
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The top US diplomat said that the US, “will in the meantime keep our channels of communication open.” And he acknowledged the presence of a high level North Korea representative in the room. “I, too, welcome the attendance of the representative of North Korea so that we have the opportunity to speak directly to their representative as well,” he said.
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But he did not say a line that had appeared in his prepared comments, distributed by the State Department on embargo earlier in the day. Tillerson had been set to say that, “apart from that step, there are no preconditions for talks, nor will we accept pre-conditions from North Korea or others.”
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Asked about the omission, the State Department’s Undersecretary of Public Affairs Steve Goldstein said that, “nobody took that out for him. The Secretary doesn’t speak word for word from prepared remarks and works to deliver the words that will be the most impactful to the audience he is addressing.”
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Tillerson did double down on the administration’s tough talk, even as other countries warned that US rhetoric and actions are part of the problem.
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“We have been clear that all options remain on the table in the defense of our nation, but we do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea,” Tillerson said. “The United States will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression, but our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution.”
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But Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya said, “it should be clear to everybody that the DPRK is hardly going to refrain from its nuclear missile program while it feels a direct threat to its security.”
Referring to joint military drills the US conducts with South Korea, Nebenzya said, “indeed this is how Pyongyang evaluates the regular widescale maneuvers and exercises by the United States and its allies in the region.”
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“In the conditions of such tension, one ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to lamentable consequences,” the Russian said, warning of a “policy of mutual pressure and intimidation.”
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He challenged Tillerson, questioning the US commitment to finding a peaceful resolution. He noted that after about two months of quiet on North Korea’s part, the US held massive military drills with South Korea and then announced it was placing Pyongyang on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
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“All of these steps force us to wonder about the sincerity of statements that suggest that there is a preference for a peaceful approach to resolving the crisis in DPRK,” Nebenzya said.
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China’s ambassador echoed Russia’s rebukes. “The current situation on the peninsula is not caused by any one party alone and it’s unfair to impose on any one partner the responsibility” for resolving it, said China’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Amb. Wu Haitao. He called for dialogue, an end to US military exercises, and an end to “mutual blaming.”
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Tillerson rejected the argument that the US bore any blame, saying, “there is but one party that has carried out illegal detonation of illegal devices, there is but one party that launches intercontinental ballistic missiles … that is the Kim regime in North Korea.”
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“They alone are responsible for these tensions, they alone must take responsibility for these tensions, and they alone can solve these tensions,” Tillerson said.
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Tillerson made clear that there would be no let-up in his campaign to squeeze North Korea and steadily choke off its diplomatic channels and means of financial support. That campaign, he said, must be given time to succeed.
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“North Korea’s growing capabilities reflect a direct threat to our security and the security of the entire world,” Tillerson said. “We do not regard this claim as an empty threat. In the face of such a threat, inaction is unacceptable for any nation.”
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The US is even more determined to continue its peaceful pressure campaign, Tillerson said, with the goal of “setting the conditions for North Korea to engage in serious negotiations toward the complete, verifiable, and irreversible abandonment of its nuclear weapons programs.”
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U.S. shows components proving Iran provided missiles fired at Saudi Arabia

December 15, 2017
Drone planes and boats from Iran shown as proof of illicit spread of arms to “terrorists.”

The presentation comes as the secretary general of the United Nations is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s lack of compliance with UN Security Council resolutions. Haley says the report “describes violation after violation of weapons transfers and ballistic missile activity. Aid from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to dangerous militias and terror groups is increasing… Its ballistic missiles and advanced weapons are turning up in war zones across the region. It’s hard to find a conflict or a terrorist group in the Middle East that does not have Iran’s fingerprints all over it.”

And those fingerprints, according to the display presented for the press today in the hangar, are all over the two ballistic missiles and other weapons. The components all bear marks tying them to manufacturers in Iran. This is proof, according to a DOD report, that Iran is illicitly shipping highly destructive weapons to anti-government forces in Yemen for use against Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf as part of its efforts “to sow instability and promote violence throughout the region.”

Haley said that the US government had invited representatives from other nations, including “the entire UN Security Council,” to see the evidence on display. “And we are inviting all members of Congress to view it. This evidence is part of what has led the US intelligence community to conclude, unequivocally, that these weapons were supplied by the Iranian regime. The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had ‘Made in Iran’ stickers all over it.”

The ballistic missile fragments were, according to DOD analysis, pieces of two Iranian Qiam missiles. The first targeted the Yanbu terminal—a major Red Sea oil facility on Saudi Arabia’s west coast. It was launched July 24 and was not intercepted by Saudi missile defenses. It caused a major fire near the terminal, though there was little detail given at the time by Saudi Arabia about the damage done. The second, launched on November 5, was aimed at King Khalid International Airport near Riyadh; the Saudi Arabian government claimed to have intercepted the missile with its Patriot missile batteries, but other reports suggest that the Patriot system may have hit the falling booster of the missile after it had separated from the warhead.

Image result for Mohammad Ali Jafari, photos

Mohammad Ali Jafari

Saudi Arabian officials have suggested they may consider the attack on the airport as an “act of war” by Iran. President Donald Trump has blamed Iran for the Riyadh attack, but Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, disputes the claim.

Video of the November 5 ballistic missile launch by Houthi forces toward Riyadh.

Ansar Allah—the Houthi insurgent group­—claimed that the missiles were a domestic version of the Iranian-built Qiam, a variant of the Russian R-17M (“Scud-C”) ballistic missile. The Qiam is essentially a Scud-C without control fins. But Defense Department experts displayed components from the missiles with manufacturer stamps that show they were of Iranian origin, as were the other weapons on display.

Iran is one of the few nations with an active missile development program that is not a member of The Hague Code of Conduct Against Missile Proliferation, an export control regime that prohibits the export of ballistic missile systems. (There are 138 member states, including the US.) But that’s not uncommon for the region—Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are all non-signatories as well.

However, Iran has been specifically sanctioned by the UN Security Council for its illegal exportation of ballistic missile systems because of its nuclear program. Iran’s ballistic missile development program is considered by some Security Council member states (including the US, Japan, and Sweden) to be against the spirit of the Security Council’s resolution 2231, which specifically calls out nuclear weapons development to be “destabilizing.” Russia and China have largely shrugged off the continued development, arguing that it’s not a violation unless the missiles are designed specifically to deliver nuclear warheads. The resolution does not prevent Iran from other missile and space development.

Suicide drones and robo-boats

Other evidence presented by the DOD included Iranian uncrewed vehicles designed to act as weapons. One, the Qasef-1 uncrewed air vehicle, is a surveillance drone that “can be used as a one-way attack drone,” said Defense Department spokesperson Laura Seal, “diving on targets Kamikaze-style and detonating its warhead upon impact. It is a member of the Ababil UAV family, designed and produced by the Iranian government.”

The other autonomous weapon of Iranian origin presented was the Shark-33 “explosive boat”—or rather, several components of it. The Shark is a high-speed small boat that carries an anti-ship payload.

“There are more than half a dozen pieces of evidence demonstrating that these components are directly traceable to Iran,” Seal said. “What makes the Shark 33 so dangerous isn’t just that it can explode. It has a guidance system allowing it to track and hit a moving target without an operator on board, so the boat can be deployed to blow up a ship without sending someone on a suicide mission. The computer and sensors serve as that unmanned guidance system for the Shark 33—and they are supplied by Iran.”

DOD officials say that the Shark-33 was used to attack a Saudi naval vessel, the frigate HMS al Madinah, off Yemen in February, blowing a six-and-a-half-foot hole in its side and killing two crew members. It had previously been thought that the Houthis had made the attack with an anti-ship missile.

Listing image by Department of Defense

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/12/dod-shows-components-proving-iran-provided-missiles-fired-at-saudi-arabia/

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‘Golden opportunity missed’ at Syria peace talks: UN mediator

December 14, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Nina LARSON | UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura gives a press conference after the eighth round of UN-brokered talks broke down in Geneva

GENEVA (AFP) – The latest round of Syria peace talks in Geneva was a “golden opportunity missed”, the country’s UN mediator lamented Thursday, accusing the Syrian government of not really seeking dialogue.UN envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters that “negotiations did not take place”, blaming in particular the government delegation’s apparent lack of interest in discussing anything besides the fight against “terrorism”.

His statement came at the end of the eighth round of indirect talks in Geneva between delegations representing Damascus and the opposition in Syria’s brutal, nearly seven-year war.

Seven previous rounds of talks mediated by De Mistura have also gone nowhere — and rival sides have not yet met face-to-face.

The UN mediator, who describes himself as a “chronic optimist” and highlights incremental progress where others see stalemate, had voiced hope that the eighth round that opened on November 28, would mark the first “real negotiation”.

– ‘Disappointed’ –

But as the round fizzled out Thursday, he acknowledged he was “disappointed.”

“In spite of lots of efforts of my whole team, we did not have real negotiations. We did however have bilateral discussions,” he told reporters.

While the opposition, which was united in one delegation for the first time, had seriously engaged in all subjects on the table, he said “the government engaged sadly only on one subject… terrorism.”

Asked about the next steps, De Mistura said he would discuss the matter with UN chief Antonio Guterres and the UN Security Council, but that he hoped to organise a new round of talks next month.

A parallel process organised by Moscow and including fellow government ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey, is set to resume next week in Astana, Kazakhstan.

The Kremlin also hopes to convene a political congress in the Black Sea resort of Sochi which would bring together regime officials and the opposition to reinvigorate a hobbled peace process.

The opposition and Western diplomats are concerned that the Sochi meeting might be part of an effort by Moscow to circumvent the UN talks and impose a solution favourable to Assad.

De Mistura said he did not yet have enough information about the Sochi event to voice an opinion.

But he warned that “if the government is not willing to meet anyone who seems to have any type of different opinion and is not willing to discuss constitution and elections… I would be very concerned if I were those organising Sochi or any other initiatives.”

Earlier Thursday, the Syrian government’s top negotiator, Bashar al-Jaafari, meanwhile harshly criticised De Mistura, insisting he had “undermined” his position as mediator.

Speaking to reporters, Jaafari voiced outrage over an interview the mediator had with Swiss television late Wednesday, in which he appealed to Moscow to push for new Syrian elections.

“His statement undermined his mandate as a facilitator of the talks, which will affect the entire Geneva process,” Jaafari said.

Jaafari emphasised that while Syria’s government may have “allies, friends and people who fight with us on the ground,” it enjoys “the highest possible degree of sovereignty”.

“Therefore nobody can influence us,” he said, insisting that “what the envoy mistakenly said as a linguistic slip … does not reflect the relationship between us and Moscow.”

More than 340,000 people have been killed since the conflict broke out in March 2011 when protests against Assad’s rule sparked a brutal crackdown.

by Nina LARSON
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Putin must nudge Syria into U.N. peace deal, mediator says — Defiant Syrian envoy blames West, Saudis and UN — Talks end

December 14, 2017

Reuters

GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura urged Russia on Wednesday to convince its ally the Syrian government of the need to clinch a peace deal to end the nearly seven-year-old war.

Image result for Staffan de Mistura, photos

UN Special Envoy to the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura

De Mistura, speaking on Swiss television station RTS, said failure to make peace quickly through United Nations mediation could lead to “a fragmentation of Syria”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin during a surprise visit on Monday to Russia’s Hmeymim air base in Syria, declared that the work of Russian forces was largely done in backing the Assad government against militants, following the defeat of “the most battle-hardened group of international terrorists.”

De Mistura, asked what signal Putin could give from his position of force, said: ”Convince the (Syrian) government that there is no time to lose…. You can think you win territory militarily but you have to win the peace.

Naser al-Hariri, Head of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), attends a round of negotiations with United Nations Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura (not pictured), during the Intra Syria talks, at the European headquarters of the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Xu Jinquan/Pool

“And to win the peace, you have to have the courage to push the government to accept that there has to be a new constitution and new elections, through the United Nations,” he said.

The nearly seven-year civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven more than 11 million from their homes. All previous diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have ended in failure over the opposition’s demand that President Bashar al-Assad leave power and his refusal to go.

The Kremlin first launched air strikes in Syria in September 2015 in its biggest Middle East intervention in decades, turning the tide of the conflict in Assad’s favor.

Now that it regards that mission complete, Putin wants to help broker a peace deal and is keen to organize a special event in Russia – a Syrian Congress on National Dialogue – that Moscow hopes will bring together the Syrian government and opposition and try to hammer out a new constitution.

But De Mistura made clear that peace negotiations must be through the United Nations in Geneva, as mandated by the U.N. Security Council, adding: “Otherwise it is not worth it…. This is a complicated war, it is only in Geneva through the U.N.”

The U.N. envoy has conducted shuttle diplomacy between the Syrian government delegation led by chief negotiator Bashar al-Ja‘afari and a unified opposition delegation.

”The opposition told me clearly when they arrived here, and again yesterday and this morning too, that they are ready to meet the government right away to have a hard, difficult discussion.

“The government is not ready, it has said it is not ready to meet the opposition. That is regrettable but diplomacy has many means,” de Mistura said.

A senior Western diplomat said that the government delegation had failed to engage with de Mistura on a new constitution and elections during a round of negotiations due to end on Thursday.

“Clearly they did not have any intention to engage in this political process. And clearly they are not under sufficient pressure to do so,” the diplomat told Reuters. “The clear impression is the regime wants to avoid the U.N.-led political process at any cost.”

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Peter Graff

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Image result for Bashar al-Ja'afari, photos

Bashar al-Ja’afari

Defiant Syrian envoy blames West, Saudis and UN as peace talks end

GENEVA, Dec 14 (Reuters) – Syrian government negotiator Bashar al-Ja’afari accused Western countries and Saudi Arabia of sabotage and blackmail at the end of a round of U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva on Thursday, and said Damascus did not want to see the political process fail.

“Nobody can exert pressure on us,” Ja’afari told reporters after a session with U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura, who he said had made an error by commenting in an interview on Russia’s influence, which could “derail his mandate”. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, writing by Tom Miles)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-5179731/Defiant-Syrian-envoy-blames-West-Saudis-UN-peace-talks-end.html#ixzz51FfYAiKd
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Erdogan and Abbas bark about Jerusalem, but their threats have no bite

December 14, 2017

Times of Israel

In Istanbul, Islamic leaders denounce Israel, vow drastic steps to enable Palestinian statehood, and declare an end to US peace-brokering. But they know there’s no alternative

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, flanked by Jordan's King Abdullah II, left and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, poses for photographs with other leaders during a photo-op prior to the opening session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, December 13, 2017. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, flanked by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, left and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, poses for photographs with other leaders during a photo-op prior to the opening session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, December 13, 2017. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

At the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s “Extraordinary Islamic Summit” Wednesday in Istanbul, many leaders from Arab and Muslim-majority countries spoke out harshly about the US administration’s recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But, despite their bluster, the forecast calls for mostly calm conditions. Many of the threats they issued are rendered meaningless by the rules of the UN or the dynamics of Middle East diplomacy; others have no teeth to begin with.

The summit’s host, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once again called Israel a “terror state,” denounced the US and issued a long list of pro-Palestinian statements. But he did not act on last week’s threat to sever ties with the Jewish state.

Another keynote speaker was Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who threatened to abrogate all peace agreements since Oslo and yet again declared that he no longer considers the US an honest broker in the peace process.

His announcement that he would seek full membership for the “State of Palestine” at the United Nations made headlines worldwide. That plan is not new. He already went to the Security Council in 2011 — and failed.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at a press conference following a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on last week’s US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, on December 13, 2017, in Istanbul. (AFP PHOTO / YASIN AKGUL)

Abbas has intermittently revived the idea since then, most recently duringhis speech at the General Assembly in September. “We look to the Security Council to approve our application for full membership of the State of Palestine to the United Nations. All those who support the two-state solution should recognize the other state, the State of Palestine,” he declared.

Given the American move last week, Abbas saw fit to respond Wednesday with ferocious rhetoric, including announcing the return to seeking full UN membership for Palestine.

Other speakers in Istanbul echoed his sentiment.

 suggested that the matter of  could be raised at the forum of General Assembly and Security Council.
~ Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif

But anyone with the even the most rudimentary understanding of how the UN works knows it is an empty threat.

Before Palestine can become a full member of the club, it has to be nominated by the UN Security Council. Any Palestinian bid to join is sure to run headfirst into an American veto there. Barack Obama’s administration vetoed the Palestinians’ attempt in February 2011, and there can be no doubt that Donald Trump and Nikki Haley would do the same. (At the time, the 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by over 120 of the UN’s 192 members states.)

The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Wednesday night that the Palestinians intend to try to bar the US from voting on a resolution that would both condemn President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and simultaneously admit them as full members of the UN. They will reportedly argue that a country should be prevented from voting on a resolution that deals with its own behavior.

The last time this particular argument was successfully invoked at the Security Council was in 1960, when Argentina did not participate in a vote condemning Israel for abducting Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, according to the paper.

But that was 57 years ago, and Argentina was a non-permanent member of the Security Council at the time. There is no credible scenario in which the US could be prevented from blocking a resolution accepting Palestine as a full UN member state.

The General Assembly can pass very comforting resolutions, which the Palestinians can word in any way they want. But that won’t change their status

The Americans, by contrast, cannot veto resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly, where the Palestinians are guaranteed a majority. “But I don’t think the General Assembly can give them any more than they already have,” said Yigal Palmor, a former spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“The General Assembly can pass very comforting resolutions, which the Palestinians can word in any way they want. But that won’t change their status,” he said, referring to the fact that the body already bestowed “nonmember state status” upon Palestine in 2012.

Arguing that Washington is no longer “qualified” to mediate in the peace process, Abbas also demanded “to transfer the entire file of the conflict to the United Nations and to establish a new mechanism to adopt a new course to ensure the implementation of the resolutions of international legitimacy and achieving a comprehensive and just peace.”

It is unclear what exactly he was referring to, but once again: the UN has very little power to actually do anything without US consent. It can pass sharply worded resolutions in the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and elsewhere, but any concrete action with the potential to effect any concrete change would have to go through the Security Council, where the Trump administration is sure to veto anything it deems counterproductive.

In its “Final Communiqué,” the OIC summit declared the US administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital constituted a “clear desertion … of its role as peace broker.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan delivers the opening speech during an Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on last week’s US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in Istanbul on December 13, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / EMRAH YORULMAZ)

Citing the need to “internationalize peace,” the statement called on the international community to “promote a multilateral political process, to resume an internationally sponsored, credible process to achieve lasting peace based on the two-state solution.”

This demand, too, appears toothless. Yes, the Palestinians have decided to boycott US Vice President Mike Pence’s (now delayed) visit to the region. It’s a strong protest, but the powers that be in Washington won’t be too offended. They understand that after last week’s blow, the Palestinians cannot just sit still and say nothing.

Trump and his peace team are well aware that, for the time being, the Palestinians — and indeed the wider Islamic world — need to express outrage and indignation. But the Americans also believe that the Palestinians will eventually have to calm down and engage with the US — simply because there is no other game in town.

“The president remains as committed to peace as ever,” a senior White House official said Wednesday, responding to Abbas’s fiery speech earlier in the day. Washington “anticipated reactions like this,” the official added, insisting that the US will “continue to work on our plan for peace that we hope will offer the best outcome for both peoples and look forward to unveiling it when it is ready and the time is right.”

As long as the wound over Jerusalem is still fresh, no Islamic leader would admit the obvious: A peace process not led by the US is nothing but a pipe dream.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) holds a joint press conference with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Belgium, October 11, 2017.(Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Even the European Union, which forcefully rejected the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, made plain this week that Washington will remain at the center of any conceivable peace process.

“I can say very clearly that there is no initiative, no peace initiative, no attempt to restart peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians that can happen without an engagement from the United States,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini declared on Monday, immediately after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Brussels.

While she stressed that Washington cannot act alone, she added that Europe does “not want to see a discredited US administration when it comes to negotiations in the Middle East.”

France and Belgium reportedly plan to get the EU to issue a joint condemnation of Trump’s Jerusalem recognition, which would also express the hope that the city would become the joint capital of Israel and Palestine in the future. Given that such a resolution would require unanimous support from the union’s 28 member states — and Hungary already blocked such a move last week — chances of even this kind of statement passing are slim.

More important still is the fact that Israel will simply not agree to any peace process that is not under American tutelage.

The Palestinians can kick and shout and appeal to the Arab League and the United Nations, but if they want anything more than empty statements of support and comfort, they will have to engage constructively with the US administration.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/erdogan-and-abbas-bark-about-jerusalem-but-their-threats-have-no-bite/

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Syria’s Geneva Peace Talks Hijacked By Assad Forces: “The regime delegation is afraid to negotiate transition because it knows that leads to freedom.”

December 14, 2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin (2nd-R), his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad (2nd-L), Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (R), and Syrian Armed Forces’ chief of staff Ali Abdullah Ayyoub. (AFP)

JEDDAH: The goal of the Syrian regime’s delegation is to make Syria safe for Bashar Assad, while the opposition’s goal is to make the country safe for “our people to come home,” Yahya Al-Aridi, opposition spokesman at the Geneva peace talks, told Arab News on Wednesday.

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It followed reports that the regime delegation in Geneva is refusing to negotiate with the opposition directly and insisting on only discussing terrorism.
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The opposition has been calling for the “indirect” peace talks — with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura’s team shuttling between the delegations — to become direct.
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Asked why the regime is avoiding direct talks, Al-Aridi said: “The regime delegation is afraid to negotiate transition because it knows that leads to freedom.”
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Another opposition official in Geneva, Ahmad Ramadan, told The Associated Press that the regime delegation has also refused to discuss three of the four main topics proposed by de Mistura — a new constitution, governance, elections and combating terrorism.
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He said the regime is insisting only on discussing terrorism.
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Al-Aridi said the regime uses terrorism as an excuse for delay. “It claims to be fighting terrorism while bombing civilians. The way to rid our country of terrorism is to make Syria stable, with a constitution that sets the people free.”
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On the regime’s insistence that the opposition drop its demand for transition without Assad, Al-Aridi said: “The point of any negotiation is that different sides have different goals, not preconditions.”
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Bahia Al-Mardini, a UK-based Syrian journalist and human rights activist who fled regime persecution, told Arab News: “Many twists and turns are likely as the negotiations intensify, but we should remain optimistic about the prospect of a democratic transition for Syria.
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“After years of suffering, we live in hope that breakthroughs will come and ordinary Syrian people will be set free from the regime that they have been rejecting for years,” she said.
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Al-Mardini added: “For this to happen, it will require support from the international community to pressure the regime to engage seriously in the political process, so that we can end this war and begin building a new Syria where human rights and democracy are respected.”
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 http://www.arabnews.com/node/1208676/middle-east

Tillerson set to meet Trudeau for N. Korea crisis talks

December 11, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, looks at China’s President Xi Jinping walks to his seat during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool) The Associated Press

OTTAWA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next week for talks on how to address the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, an Ottawa source said on Monday.

Canada and the United States are due to co-host a meeting of foreign ministers in Vancouver in January to discuss North Korea.

During a day trip to Ottawa on Dec. 19 Tillerson will also meet Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the source, who requested anonymity because the meetings have not yet been formally announced.

North Korea has fired missiles over Japan as it pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of U.N. sanctions. Last week it said U.S. and South Korean military drills meant the outbreak of war was “an established fact”. [nL3N1OA05K]

No one in the offices of Trudeau and Freeland was immediately available for comment. The U.S. embassy in Ottawa declined to comment.

Freeland said last month that the Vancouver talks would show the unity of the international community in applying pressure on Pyongyang. [nL1N1NZ2GW]

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrew Hay