(AJ) Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps says tanker was captured ‘for failing to respect international maritime rules’.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said its forces have captured a British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz for allegedly violating international laws, amid rising tensions in the Gulf.
The Stena Impero tanker “was confiscated by the Revolutionary Guards at the request of Hormozgan Ports and Maritime Organisation when passing through the Strait of Hormuz, for failing to respect international maritime rules,” the IRGC’s official website Sepahnews announced.
The tanker “was led to the shore and handed over to the organisation to go through the legal procedure and required investigations,” it said.
The vessel was seized by “small crafts and a helicopter” at 7:30pm local time (15:00GMT), the owner of the vessel, Stena Bulk, and Northern Marine Management said, adding that they are “presently unable to contact the vessel”.
Tanker tracking service Marine Traffic showed that the UK-flagged, Swedish-owned Stena Impero last signalled its location near the Island of Larak in the highly sensitive waterway at 9pm local time (16:30 GMT).
There are 23 crew members on board, the company’s statement added.
“We are urgently seeking further information and assessing the situation following reports of an incident in the Gulf,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.
Second vessel seized
The British Foreign Office confirmed a second naval vessel, a Liberian-flagged vessel, had been seized in the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian authorities.
Later on Friday, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported that the Liberian-flagged Mesdar tanker was briefly held and given a notice to comply with environmental regulations before being allowed to continue on its way.
“I’m extremely concerned by the seizure of two naval vessels by Iranian authorities in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
“I will shortly attend a COBR (national security) meeting to review what we know and what we can do to swiftly secure the release of the two vessels.
“These seizures are unacceptable. It is essential that freedom of navigation is maintained and that all ships can move safely and freely in the region.”
There was no immediate confirmation from Iran that its forces had seized a second vessel.
The developments came a day after the IRGC said it had seized a foreign tanker accused of smuggling oil with a crew of 12 on Sunday.
The Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, the world’s most important waterways for the transport of oil, has become a hotspot for tensions with Iran amid a spate of incidents there.
Relations between Britain and Iran and the United States and Iran have soured in particular.
Earlier this month, British Royal Marines seized an Iranian oil tanker off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar for allegedly violating sanctions against Syria.
On Friday, Gibraltar’s Supreme Court extended for 30 days the detention of the seized Iranian supertanker, Panama-flagged Grace 1, which was intercepted off the southern tip of Spain on July 4.
Richard Weitz, a security analyst at Wikistrat, a global risk consultancy group, said Friday’s incident was a “reciprocal action” by Iran.
“This was anticipated,” he told Al Jazeera from Washington, DC. “This is just the latest in a series of these subconventional forms of provocative moves.”
(NYT) Venezuela’s Special Action Forces carrying out a security operation in Caracas in April.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
GENEVA — Venezuelan special forces have carried out thousands of extrajudicial killings in the past 18 months and then manipulated crime scenes to make it look as if the victims had been resisting arrest, the United Nations said on Thursday in a report detailing wide-ranging government abuses targeting political opponents.
Special Action Forces described by witnesses as “death squads” killed 5,287 people in 2018 and another 1,569 by mid-May of this year, in what are officially termed by the Venezuelan government “Operations for the Liberation of the People,” United Nations investigators reported.
Laying out a detailed description of a lawless system of oppression, the report says the actual number of deaths could be much higher. It cites accounts by independent groups who report more than 9,000 killings for “resistance to authority” over the same period.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these killings constitute extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces,” the investigators said.
The report, which the United Nation human rights chief Michelle Bachelet will present to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, delivers a scathing critique of President Nicolás Maduro’s embattled government and its handling of Venezuela’s deepening political and economic crisis.
Since 2016, the report says, the government has pursued a strategy “aimed at neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government.”
Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry rejected the findings on Thursday, saying the report offered a “distorted vision” that ignored most of the information presented by the government to United Nations researchers.The officers frisked a group of men during one operation in Caracas.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“The analysis is not objective, nor impartial,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, listing what it said were numerous errors. “The negative points are privileged in the extreme and the advances or measures adapted in the area of human rights are ignored or minimized.”
The Special Action Forces, known locally by their Spanish acronym FAES, are nominally tasked with combating drug trafficking and crime, but United Nations human rights officials said they were concerned the government was using these and other security forces “as an instrument to instill fear in the population and to maintain social control.”
Families of 20 young men who were killed in the last year described a pattern of violence in which the FAES units arrived in pickup trucks without license plates, dressed in black and with their faces covered by balaclavas.
They broke into houses, seized belongings and molested women, forcing some to strip naked. Then “they would separate young men from other family members before shooting them,” the investigators reported.
In every case described to the investigators, attackers manipulated the crime scene. “They would plant arms and drugs and fire their weapons against the walls or in the air to suggest a confrontation and to show the victim had resisted authority,” the report says.
The investigators said they had also documented the execution of six young men carried out during one of the house raids, the killings done as a reprisal for their participation in anti-government demonstrations.
Five special forces members were convicted of attempted murder and other offenses in 2018, and another 388 members were under investigation for abuses, according to the report. But few victims, it says, have access to justice or any redress.
The report also describes routine abuse by security and intelligence services of people detained for political reasons. In most of the cases, men and women were subjected to one or more forms of torture, including electric shock, suffocation with plastic bags, water boarding, beating and sexual violence. Women were dragged by their hair and threatened with rape, the report says.
The detentions often had no legal basis, according to the report, which says that more than 2,000 people were arrested for political reasons in the first five months of the year and more than 720 were still detained at the end of May.A member of the Special Action Forces taking part in a security operation.CreditYuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Human rights activists welcomed the spotlight the report is turning onto government repression and abuses. “The government’s reaction shows it hits the right points,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch.
But Ms. Taraciuk expressed disappointment that the report stops short of urging the United Nations to set up a commission of inquiry. It calls instead for the government to set up an independent investigation, with some unspecified international participation.
“You cannot ask Venezuelan courts, which have no independence, to investigate the executive,” she said.
The report comes two weeks after Ms. Bachelet visited Venezuela. Its hard-hitting tone was especially eye-opening, given her political background. In her second term as Chile’s left-leaning president from 2014 to 2018, she was among the few South American leaders who refused to openly criticize Mr. Maduro’s growing authoritarianism.
The Venezuelan government had tried to use Ms. Bachelet’s visit to bolster Mr. Maduro’s international legitimacy. More than 50 nations, including the United States, have stopped recognizing himas Venezuela’s legitimate leader, calling his re-election last year fraudulent.
Ms. Bachelet’s team was given unusual access inside Venezuela, unlike that given to her predecessor or to other United Nations agencies. Mr. Maduro heavily publicized his meeting with Ms. Bachelet and promised to consider allowing her to open a full-time office in the country. The government also agreed to allow two United Nations human rights staff members to work in the country and said it would give them full access to detention centers.
But any hopes that her visit paved the way for a government change of course on human rights were quickly dampened by the news days later of the death in custody of a Navy captain, Rafael Acosta, who was detained the day Ms. Bachelet’s visit ended. His lawyer said he had been in good health at the time of his arrest, but he died in a military hospital a week later showing visible signs beatings.
Ms. Bachelet expressed her shock at Captain Acosta’s death and called for an investigation, but human rights groups said it showed the limited outcome from her visit.
“This case shows that the government of Venezuela is not taking her seriously,” Ms. Taraciuk said.
The British government defended the memos, saying they met Downing Street’s expectations of “honest, unvarnished assessment[s].”By Anya van Wagtendonk Jul 7, 2019, 12:44pm EDTSHARE
Britain’s ambassador to the United States called President Donald Trump “uniquely dysfunctional” and expressed grave concerns about American economic and foreign policy in a series of cables that were leaked to the British tabloid the Daily Mail and published on Saturday.
The leaked cables, prepared by Sir Kim Darroch (who has served as ambassador from Britain to the US since January 2016), cover the entirety of the Trump presidency, even touching on an official state visit to the UK less than a month ago, when the Trump and his family attended a banquet at Buckingham Palace and afternoon tea with Prince Charles and Camilla, and laid a wreath at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
Despite the widespread and colorful protests that took place during that visit, Darroch wrote afterwards that the UK might now be “flavour of the month” in Trump’s eyes. But these leaks may challenge whatever goodwill emerged from the US president’s visit.
In the documents, Darroch describes “vicious infighting and chaos” within the Trump administration, and said that collusion between Trump and “dodgy Russians” was possible.
He also warned that an “America First”-style foreign policy could undermine international trade agreements, and warned negotiations over Brexit could introduce further conflict into the two countries’ diplomatic relations.
Trump has endorsed Brexit in the past, and recommended the UK “walk away” from the EU without a deal ahead of his state visit. After it leaves the European Union, the UK will need to renegotiate a number of its trade agreements, and could look to strengthen its trade ties with the US. Darroch wrote doing so could be easier said than done due to the Trump administration’s stances on a variety of issues.
“As we advance our agenda of deepening and strengthening trading arrangements, divergences of approach on climate change, media freedoms, and the death penalty may come to the fore,” the ambassador wrote.
Darroch also criticized Trump’s foreign policy more generally, and cited the administration’s stance on Iran as being of concern.
He wrote of Trump’s last minute decision to call off a military strike against Iran, expressing frustration at the confusion that rippled across the diplomatic community during the incident. He also cautioned his government to be wary of believing Trump’s rationale for canceling the strike (the president said he decided against the attack after learning there would be civilian casualties).
“His claim, however, that he changed his mind because of 150 predicted casualties doesn’t stand up; he would certainly have heard this figure in his initial briefing,” Darroch wrote. “It’s more likely that he was never fully on board and that he was worried about how this apparent reversal of his 2016 campaign promises would look [during the 2020 election].”
Darroch also warned that the US president could still choose to strike Iran: “Just one more Iranian attack somewhere in the region could trigger yet another Trump U-turn.”
This is something Trump has made clear himself; during an interview with Meet the Press in late June, the president said, “If they do something else, it’ll be double.” During the same interview, Trump also said, “I’m not looking for war and if there is, it’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”
Overall, Darroch described the president as “clumsy and inept,” and wrote, “I don’t think this Administration will ever look competent.”
In spite of the concerns Darroch raised, he also assessed Trump as someone whom the UK can expect to complete his first term in full, writing that despite controversies, Trump will always “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”
This is not the first time that a communication from Darroch regarding the president has leaked. In a telegram sent shortly before Trump’s election, but published shortly afterwards, Darroch suggested to British Prime Minister Theresa May that the president-elect could be “open to outside influence” from Britain.
In a statement issued in response to these most recent leaks, Britain’s Foreign Office defended their diplomat.
“The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country,” the statement read in part. “Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the government. But we pay them to be candid. Just as the U.S. ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities.”
Donald Trump has had a long, complicated relationship with the UK
Leaders from the United States and United Kingdom have long referred to a “special relationship” existing between the two nations. Winston Churchill famously upheld this idea during the years immediately following World War II, insisting that a similar war could only be avoided by maintaining close ties between Britain and the United States.
But Donald Trump has repeatedly complicated that relationship by squabbling with various political figures in Britain and inserting himself into that country’s political process. En route to the state visit, for example, he responded to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s criticism of his trip by tweeting Khan was “a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me.”
The tweet came after years of the two men trading barbs, as Vox’s Alex Ward has described: Khan has called Trump “ill-informed” and his Muslim ban “ignorant;” Trump has accused Khan of being blasé about terrorism and crime.
The president also criticized Meghan Markle, the American actress who recently married into the royal family, in the lead up to his state visit. As Vox’s Gabriela Resto-Montero reported:
Although the royal family stays away from commenting on politics, particularly foreign politics, Markle was critical of Trump during the 2016 election, back when she was a private American citizen.
The president took to Twitter to claim he’d never made that statement; however, as NBC News reports, audio seems to suggest he did, in fact, say those words about the duchess.
Beyond insulting the country’s politicians and public figures, Trump has inserted himself into the UK’s political process in a manner US president typically avoid.
On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump came out strongly for Brexit, saying things like: “I know Great Britain very well. I know, you know, the country very well. I have a lot of investments there. I would say that they’re better off without it. But I want them to make their own decision.”
He has continued his advocacy for the UK’s divorce from the European Union as president, often without adding qualifiers such as “I want them to make their own decision.” He addressed the British people in an interview with the Sunday Times ahead of his state visit and said: “If you don’t get the deal you want, if you don’t get a fair deal, then you walk away.”
The president is also linked to right-wing politicians in Britain, and has seemingly endorsed two of them: Boris Johnson, a Brexit supporter and Theresa May’s former foreign secretary, and Brexiteer and current leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage.
In a 2018 interview with British tabloid The Sun, Trump heavily criticized May’s handling of Brexit, and said Johnson would make “a great prime minister.” The comments came as May was busy defending the decision to invite the president for a state visit. In recent weeks, Johnson has taken the lead in the race to replace May; while Trump has not officially endorsed Johnson’s candidacy, the British politician said Trump called him during the UK visit and “wished me well.”
Trump has advocated for putting Farage in charge of future Brexit negotiations, telling the Sunday Times, “I like Nigel a lot. He has a lot to offer, he is a very smart person. They won’t bring him in but think how well they would do if they did. They just haven’t figured that out yet.”
The president has also publicly lobbied for Farage to be given another job: Ambassador Darroch’s. Shortly after his election, he tweeted that Farage should become ambassador to the US. In response, Darroch’s predecessor, Peter Westmacott, told the Guardian: “Ambassadors need to be acceptable to host governments, not chosen by them.”
WASHINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) – The U.S. Trade Representative’s office on Monday released a $4 billion list of additional products that could be hit with tariffs in an ongoing dispute with the European Union over its subsidies on civil aircraft.
The list, which includes a range of European foods and liquor, adds to products valued at $21 billion that USTR had identified in April as facing possible tariffs.
USTR said it was adding to its initial list in response to public comments and following additional analysis, but gave no further explanation.
This year, the world commemorates the anniversaries of two key events in the development of the global monetary system. The first is the creation of the International Monetary Fund at the Bretton Woods conference 75 years ago. The second is the advent, 50 years ago, of the Special Drawing Right (SDR), the IMF’s global reserve asset.
When it introduced the SDR, the Fund hoped to make it “the principal reserve asset in the international monetary system.” This remains an unfulfilled ambition; indeed, the SDR is one of the most underused instruments of international cooperation. Nonetheless, better late than never: turning the SDR into a true global currency would yield several benefits for the world’s economy and monetary system.
The idea of a global currency is not new. Prior to the Bretton Woods negotiations, John Maynard Keynes suggested the “bancor” as the unit of account of his proposed International Clearing Union. In the 1960s, under the leadership of the Belgian-American economist Robert Triffin, other proposals emerged to address the growing problems created by the dual dollar-gold system that had been established at Bretton Woods. The system finally collapsed in 1971. As a result of those discussions, the IMF approved the SDR in 1967, and included it in its Articles of Agreement two years later.
Although the IMF’s issuance of SDRs resembles the creation of national money by central banks, the SDR fulfills only some of the functions of money. True, SDRs are a reserve asset, and thus a store of value. They are also the IMF’s unit of account. But only central banks – mainly in developing countries, though also in developed economies – and a few international institutions use SDRs as a means of exchange to pay each other.
The SDR has a number of basic advantages, not least that the IMF can use it as an instrument of international monetary policy in a global economic crisis. In 2009, for example, the IMF issued $250 billion in SDRs to help combat the downturn, following a proposal by the G20.
Most importantly, SDRs could also become the basic instrument to finance IMF programs. Until now, the Fund has relied mainly on quota (capital) increases and borrowing from member countries. But quotas have tended to lag behind global economic growth; the last increase was approved in 2010, but the US Congress agreed to it only in 2015. And loans from member countries, the IMF’s main source of new funds (particularly during crises), are not true multilateral instruments.
The best alternative would be to turn the IMF into an institution fully financed and managed in its own global currency – a proposal made several decades ago by Jacques Polak, then the Fund’s leading economist. One simple option would be to consider the SDRs that countries hold but have not used as “deposits” at the IMF, which the Fund can use to finance its lending to countries. This would require a change in the Articles of Agreement, because SDRs currently are not held in regular IMF accounts.
The Fund could then issue SDRs regularly or, better still, during crises, as in 2009. In the long term, the amount issued must be related to the demand for foreign-exchange reserves. Various economists and the IMF itself have estimated that the Fund could issue $200-300 billion in SDRs per year. Moreover, this would spread the financial benefits (seigniorage) of issuing the global currency across all countries. At present, these benefits accrue only to issuers of national or regional currencies that are used internationally – particularly the US dollar and the euro.
More active use of SDRs would also make the international monetary system more independent of US monetary policy. One of the major problems of the global monetary system is that the policy objectives of the US, as the issuer of the world’s main reserve currency, are not always consistent with overall stability in the system.
In any case, different national and regional currencies could continue to circulate alongside growing SDR reserves. And a new IMF “substitution account” would allow central banks to exchange their reserves for SDRs, as the US first proposed back in the 1970s.
SDRs could also potentially be used in private transactions and to denominate national bonds. But, as the IMF pointed out in its report to the Board in 2018, these “market SDRs,” which would turn the unit into fully-fledged money, are not essential for the reforms proposed here. Nor would SDRs need to be used as a unit of account outside the Fund.
The anniversaries of the IMF and the SDR in 2019 are causes for celebration. But they also represent an ideal opportunity to transform the SDR into a true global currency that would strengthen the international monetary system. Policymakers should seize it.
France and Germany are to share the rotating presidency of the UN security council (UNSC). Unlike France, Germany serves as a non-permanent member of the UNSC. German foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday the country planned on using its role to “strengthen long-term conflict prevention.” France previously rejected German appeals to convert its permanent UNSC seat into an EU one.
(AdelaideNow) Iran has been appointed a seat on the UN Women’s Rights Committee in the same week an Iranian women’s rights lawyer was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Sky News host James Morrow says it’s a ‘disgrace’ that Australians don’t fire up against dictatorships like Iran who abuse women using patriarchy and religion. Broadcaster Jane Marwick says the silence around these issues is ‘absolutely deafening’ and believes the United Nations should be fighting for the freedom of women.
A group of roughly three dozen scientists and other energy experts are claiming a seminal United Nations report on climate change is biased against nuclear power.
Why it matters: A global entity like the UN climate panel can have a big impact on the acceptance of nuclear power, as calls to address climate change intensify and the challenges facing the nuclear industry grow around the world.
The big picture: Nuclear power, which provides 30% of the world’s zero-carbon electricity, is facing international skepticism over past accidents and public fear about its radioactive waste.
In the U.S., numerous plants are poised to shut down earlier than their licenses allow — and some already have —due primarily to market and policy hurdles.
Natural gas has largely made up the difference after these plants have shut down, so greenhouse gas emissions ticked up in some parts of the U.S.
The details: A letter being sent to leaders of G-20 nations claims the recent report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change includes “misinformation about nuclear energy, contrasts nuclear negatively to renewables, and in some cases suggests an equivalency with fossil fuels.”
“While IPCC authors note that public fears of nuclear are an obstacle to its diffusion, in several instances they reinforce unfounded fears,” the letter states.
The signatories include:
Tom Wigley, a climate scientist at the University of Adelaide in Australia
Kerry Emanuel, atmospheric science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
David Lea, professor of earth science at the University of California
What they’re saying: Emanuel told Axios the IPCC’s latest report contains a number of factual errors and displays a bias against nuclear power that many environmental groups struggle with.
“The IPCC says, correctly, that even 1.5 degrees of warming is dangerous, especially for the developing world. We agree with that, on the other hand it throws cold water on what empirically is the fastest way to mitigate emissions we know about today.”
— Kerry Emanuel
He cited a statement in Chapter 5 of the report that says replacing fossil fuel power plants with nuclear energy has mixed effects for human health — despite the millions of premature deaths that occur worldwide from coal-fired electricity, for example.
Jonathan Lynn, an IPCC spokesman, rejected the accusation that the panel has it in for nuclear power, telling Axios: “We completely reject the idea we are biased about nuclear power or anything else.”
Jim Skea, a climate researcher who worked on the IPCC study, said “most” low-carbon scenarios the organization laid out assume the share of nuclear power will increase worldwide.
Between the lines: Opposition to nuclear power from environmentalists, policy leaders and the general public likely hampers nuclear power’s growth, but it’s hard to really know how much would change if the opposition lessened or dissolved altogether.
This energy resource faces a lot of challenges independent of its criticism, including high upfront capital costs competing with increasingly cheap wind and solar energy, along with natural gas.
The UN general assembly in New York, the world’s largest diplomatic event, turned into a show of EU solidarity with Russia and China against the US on Tuesday (25 September).
The development, which came about over Iran, symbolised a world-turned-upside-down by US leader Donald Trump’s unilateralism.
It left Mike Pompeo, Trump’s foreign policy chief, “disturbed and indeed deeply disappointed”.
“This is one of the of the most counterproductive measures imaginable for regional and global peace and security,” he told press, after seven decades in which the US and EU had stood together against common adversaries, such as Russia, in the so-called “transatlantic relationship”.
The measures Pompeo referred to were the creation of a “Special Purpose Vehicle [SPV]” to enable the EU and others to buy Iranian oil in a way that skirted Trump’s new sanctions on Iran.
“Everything that Ms Mogherini has said is extremely positive,” Vladimir Yermakov, a senior Russian diplomat, told press, referring to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
He spoke after Mogherini chaired a meeting with the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Iran, France, Germany, and the UK in New York earlier the same day.
“EU member states will set up a legal entity [the SPV] to facilitate legitimate financial transactions with Iran and this will allow European companies to continue to trade with Iran in accordance with European Union law and could be open to other partners in the world,” she told press alongside Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in the margins of the UN assembly.
EU technical experts would shortly meet to flesh out details, she said.
“Do you have any better alternative than talks in times of conflict and crisis in the world? Is there a better alternative than diplomacy and dialogue? Is war a better alternative?”, she told US broadcaster CNN in an interview on Tuesday.
The EU, Russia, and China “deeply regret” Trump’s decision, they added in a statement.
His sanctions went against “multilateral diplomacy endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council,” they added.
The EU-led group, called the “E3+2 and Iran”, had, together with the pre-Trump US administration in 2015, when it used to be called the “E3+3 and Iran”, agreed to lift sanctions on Tehran in return for its freeze of uranium enrichment.
But Trump, in May, tore up the accord on grounds it was not strong enough.
The threat of US sanctions has seen EU firms such as French and German car makers Daimler, Peugeot, and Renault, German engineering company Siemens, and French energy firm Total walk away from new ventures in Iran.
But “we [the EU] cannot accept that the US decided the regions with which European companies can or cannot do business,” Belgian prime minister Charles Michel said after meeting Iranian president Hassan Rohani in New York.
“We’re working hard on this [the SPV] with our European partners,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.
The EU-US rift on Iran comes after Trump started a trade war with Europe and China, threatened to pull the US out of Nato, and pulled America out of a global deal on climate change – the Paris accord.
It comes after he also threatened to fine Austrian, Dutch, German, and French firms if they co-financed a new Russia-Germany gas pipeline called Nord Stream 2.
The French leader, Emmanuel Macron, attacked Trump for fomenting “nationalism” and “protectionism” in his UN speech on Tuesday.
“We’re being pushed around by the unilateral decisions of our US allies,” in an approach that led to “isolation and conflict … to the detriment of everyone”, Macron said.
“Even those who contest the reality” of climate change “are suffering its consequences like everyone else,” he added.
For his part, Trump, in his UN speech, threatened Iran with military force and redoubled his attack on Nord Stream 2.
“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” he said.
He also praised Poland for “standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty” one day after the European Commission, on Monday, took Poland to the EU’s highest court for political meddling in its judiciary in violation of EU values and laws.
Laughing at Trump
Trump’s speech prompted laughter in the UN chamber when he claimed he had achieved more in the past two years than any other US president in history.
“I didn’t expect that,” he said.
“Confronting multilateralism is not a sign of strength,” Iran’s Rohani told the UN in his speech.
“Rather, it’s a symptom of weakness of intellect. It betrays an inability in understanding a complex and interconnected world,” Rohani said.
(GUA) Letter sent to member states by António Guterres reveals $139m deficit in core budget.
António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has warned that the organisation is facing an unprecedented shortage of funding for its core budget and will need to make urgent cuts unless member states pay up.
The alarm was raised in letters, seen by the Guardian and other news organisations, sent by Guterres to member states and staff.
Guterres told member states that the UN’s core budget was in the red more deeply and earlier in its financial year than it had ever previously experienced.
He added that, as of 30 June, core funding had a deficit of $139m (£106m), and said the UN had “never faced such a difficult cash flow situation this early in the calendar year”.
In a second letter sent to staff, seen by the Guardian, Guterres underlined the UN’s precarious finances.
“Caused primarily by the delayed contributions of member states to the regular budget, this new cash shortfall is unlike those we have experienced previously,” he wrote, warning the funding crisis posed a risk both to the organisation’s operations and “reputation”.
“Our cash flow has never been this low so early in the calendar year, and the broader trend is also concerning: we are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer,” wrote Guterres.
“An organisation such as ours should not have to suffer repeated brushes with bankruptcy. But surely, the greater pain is felt by those we serve when we cannot, for want of modest funds, answer their call for help. Guterres wrote.
The UN general assembly budget committee agreed in December on a $5.4bn core UN budget for 2018-19, which US ambassador Nikki Haley said was a cut of $285m from 2016-17. UN peacekeeping is funded separately.
According to the UN, 112 out of 193 member states have so far paid their share of the core budget. The US, which is responsible for 22% of the budget, traditionally pays later because of its budget year.
The countries that have so far failed to pay include the US, Argentina, Syria, Venezuela and Belarus.
By July last year, 116 countries had paid, compared with 98 in 2016. China, France, Russia and Britain – the permanent members of the UN security council along with the US – are all paid up for 2018.
Guterres told staff he was concerned with a broader trend. “We are running out of cash sooner and staying in the red longer,” he said, adding that the UN would take measures to reduce expenses with a focus on non-staff costs.
Haley came to the UN in January last year pushing for reform of the world body in a bid to cut costs.
“The inefficiency and overspending of the United Nations are well known. We will no longer let the generosity of the American people be taken advantage of or remain unchecked,” she said in December, when the core budget was agreed.
Under UN rules, if a country is in arrears by an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for the previous two years, it can lose its general assembly vote unless able to show that its inability to pay is beyond its control.
Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Somalia are significantly in arrears but have been allowed to retain their vote. Only Libya is unable to vote.
(Xinhua) Member states of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday elected Portugal’s Antonio Manuel de Carvalho Ferreira Vitorino as the IOM’s next Director General.
IOM’s current Director General, William Lacy Swing, will be stepping down after completing the second of two five-year terms.
Vitorino, 61, is expected to begin his directorship on Oct. 1 of 2018.
He was elected to Portugal’s Parliament in 1980. In 1983 he became Secretary of State for Parliamentary Affairs. He subsequently served as Minister for National Defense and Deputy Prime Minister within the government of Antonio Guterres, now the United Nations’ Secretary General.
From 1999 to 2004, Vitorino served as the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs. He has been President of the think tank Notre Europe since June 2011.
Antonio Vitorino earned a degree from the University of Lisbon’s School of Law in 1981, as well as a Master’s Degree in Legal and Political Science.
Established in 1951, International Organization for Migration has over 10,000 staff and over 400 offices in more than 150 countries.
IOM is the UN Migration Agency and is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration.
(Bloomberg) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s
government was behind a deadly chemical attack that killed
scores of civilians in a rebel-held village last April, an
investigative panel said in a report to the United Nations
The April 4 attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun killed
more than 80 people and injured almost 300 others, according to
a report Thursday by a panel of investigators known as the Joint
Investigative Mechanism. In June, investigators from the
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said the
attack probably involved the use of sarin, a lethal nerve agent,
or similar toxic weapons. But that agency isn’t authorized to
conclude who’s responsible for the use of banned chemicals.
After the attack, as images of dying children gasping for
air circulated in the media, the U.S. placed blame on the Syrian
military while also accusing Russia, which backs Assad’s
government, of pushing a “false narrative” that rebel forces
were behind the incident. In an early test of his
administration, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered dozens of
cruise missile strikes on the Shayrat airfield from which the
jet fighters had launched.
The attack on the town crossed “many, many lines, beyond
red lines,” Trump said at the time.
Assad’s government has repeatedly denied the charges.
“Time and again, we see independent confirmation of
chemical weapons use by the Assad regime,” U.S. Ambassador to
the UN Nikki Haley said in a statement after the report was
circulated. “The Security Council must send a clear message that
the use of chemical weapons by anyone will not be tolerated.”
The use of chemical weapons would also mean Syria violated
a deal to destroy such weapons, an accord brokered by the Obama
administration and Russia after an August 2013 sarin attack
killed more than 1,000 people in a Damascus suburb.
(BBC) Image captionMore than 400,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has “a last chance” to halt an army offensive that has forced hundreds of thousands of the mainly Muslim Rohingya to flee abroad, the UN head has said.
Antonio Guterres told the BBC unless she acted now, “the tragedy will be absolutely horrible”.
The UN has warned the offensive could amount to ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar says it is responding to deadly militant attacks in northern Rakhine state and denies targeting civilians.
The country’s army chief, General Min Aung Hlaing, on Sunday accused the Rohingya of trying to build a stronghold in the state.
In an interview with the BBC’s HARDtalk programme ahead of this week’s UN General Assembly, Mr Guterres said Aung San Suu Kyi had a last chance to stop the offensive during her address to the nation on Tuesday.
“If she does not reverse the situation now, then I think the tragedy will be absolutely horrible, and unfortunately then I don’t see how this can be reversed in the future.”
The secretary general reiterated that the Rohingya should be allowed to return home.
He also said it was clear that Myanmar’s military “still have the upper hand” in the country, putting pressure “to do what is being done on the ground” in Rakhine.
Aung San Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent many years under house arrest in the junta-run Myanmar (Burma) – is now facing growing criticism over the Rohingya issue.
(BBG) U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke again about how to resolve the North Korean crisis as the U.S. seeks support for more stringent UN sanctions at a Security Council meeting next week.
“We will not be putting up with what’s happening in North Korea,” Trump told reporters Wednesday after the conversation. The two leaders had a “very, very frank and very strong call,” he added. Asked about possible U.S. military action, the president said, “That’s not our first choice, but we’ll see what happens.”
Xi reiterated China’s commitment to a denuclearized Korean peninsula while Trump emphasized Beijing’s role in influencing Kim, according to a summary of the call published in Chinese state-run media. The report didn’t say any breakthrough was achieved ahead of a Security Council session the U.S. has requested for Sept. 11.
The call between the U.S. and Chinese leaders came after Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day expressed concern that halting oil supplies to North Korea would hurt its people. Putin’s comments followed a request from South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he support more stringent United Nations sanctions.
“Stopping oil supply to North Korea is inevitable,” Moon’s spokesman Yoon Young-chan quoted him as saying. “I’m asking for Russia’s cooperation.”
Putin explained at length to Moon that sanctions won’t work on North Korea and that halting its oil supply would damage hospitals, his foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said after the meeting, echoing the Russian leader’s earlier remarks that such action would be “useless and ineffective.” On Tuesday, Putin told reporters that Russia’s trade with North Korea is “almost zero,” and that its quarterly exports of 40,000 tons of oil to the country are “as good as nothing” relative to its global sales.
Even so, Ushakov said the talks had led to more “elements of commonality.”
The two leaders’ interaction raises questions over how far the Security Council will go in punishing Kim Jong Un’s regime after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday. Russia and China both hold vetoes and have opposed doing anything that could lead to the collapse of Kim’s regime.
Trump has vowed to escalate sanctions also has warned North Korea of “fire and fury” if it continues threatening America. He has also threatened to cut off trade with all countries that do business with North Korea. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner.
Stocks fell in most Asian markets on Wednesday, and almost every sector of the Stoxx Europe 600 Index retreated, as nations grapple with how to deal with North Korea’s escalating provocations. The yen was near its strongest level for the year.
In a conversation with Putin on Monday, Moon had said it was time for the UN to seriously consider blocking North Korea’s foreign currency sources by cutting off crude oil supplies and banning its overseas labor.
“If we fail to stop North Korea’s provocations now, it could sink into an uncontrollable situation,” Moon said in remarks before the meeting with Putin. “I want to seek a fundamental solution to resolve the North Korea nuclear problem here.”
Putin called for all sides to calm down.
“There’s no point in giving into emotions and backing North Korea into a corner,” Putin said. “More than ever now we need to show restraint and avoid any steps that could escalate tensions.”
“They’ll eat grass, but they won’t abandon their program unless they feel secure,” Putin told reporters Tuesday at an emerging markets summit in Xiamen, China, which was hosted by Xi.
North Korea has reportedly been preparing another launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could come before it marks the anniversary of its founding on Sept. 9. Kim claimed on Sunday that he could fit a warhead onto an ICBM capable of striking the continental U.S.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also plans to visit Vladivostok for talks with Moon and Putin. He told reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday that he wants North Korea to understand it has “no bright future” if it continues on its current path. Putin’s foreign policy aide Ushakov expressed hope that progress could be made at the talks.
China has been considering closing a customs post along its border with North Korea, according to the Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that says it gathers information from informants inside the isolated nation. The Quanhe customs house in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, near the Russian border, is the second-biggest of nine posts between China and North Korea.
South Korea is watching closely for any radiation leaks after North Korea detonated its nuclear device, Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said in a briefing Wednesday. The nation’s nuclear safety commission said it hadn’t detected any so far.
Additional launchers for the U.S. missile shield known as Thaad will be installed in South Korea on Thursday afternoon, Yonhap News reported, citing activists at the site. Moon had previously sought to delay its deployment.
The deployment of Thaad “does not help addressing the security concerns of relevant countries,” Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, said at a briefing in Beijing on Wednesday. “It will only severely undermine the strategic balance in the region, jeopardize strategic and security interests of the regional countries, including China, aggravate the tension and confrontation, and further complicate the Peninsular issue.”
Weapons in Japan?
In Tokyo, ruling party heavyweight Shigeru Ishiba said Wednesday on a TV show that Japan should review its policy of not allowing the U.S. to bring atomic weapons into its territory, according to Kyodo News. This would strengthen the deterrence provided by the alliance with the U.S. in the face of the North Korean threat, the lawmaker said.
After Ishiba’s remarks, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said that Japan would retain its nuclear weapons ban. He said earlier Japan was also gathering information on North Korea’s electromagnetic pulse attack development.
Hours after detonating the device, North Korea’s state-run news agency called it a “thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP attack according to strategic goals.”
Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that the explosion on Sunday was 10 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in the final days of World War II.
(Reuters) The United States on Monday said countries trading with North Korea were aiding its “dangerous nuclear intentions” as the United Nations Security Council mulled tough new sanctions and the isolated regime showed signs of planning more missile tests.
South Korea said it was talking to Washington about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean peninsula following the North’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed in a telephone call to scrap a warhead weight limit on South Korea’s missiles, South Korea’s presidential office said, enabling it to strike North Korea with greater force in the event of a military conflict.
At a Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” and urged the 15-member group to impose the “strongest possible” sanctions to deter him.
“War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory,” Haley said.
“The United States will look at every country that does business with North Korea as a country that is giving aid to their reckless and dangerous nuclear intentions,” she said.
Haley said the United States will circulate a new Security Council resolution on North Korea this week and wants a vote on it next Monday.
China, a top trading partner with North Korea, and Russia called for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
“China will never allow chaos and war on the (Korean) Peninsula,” said Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, urging North Korea to stop taking actions that were “wrong” and not in its own interests.
Russia said peace in the region was in jeopardy.
“Sanctions alone will not help solve the issue,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.
North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Typically, China and Russia only view a test of a long-range missile or a nuclear weapon as a trigger for further possible U.N. sanctions.
Trump had asked to be briefed on all available military options, according to his defence chief.
Officials said activity around missile launch sites suggested North Korea planned more missile tests.
“We have continued to see signs of possibly more ballistic missile launches. We also forecast North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Jang Kyoung-soo, acting deputy minister of national defence policy, told a parliament hearing on Monday.
North Korea tested two ICBMs in July that could fly about 10,000 km (6,200 miles), putting many parts of the U.S. mainland within range and prompting a new round of tough international sanctions.
South Korea’s air force and army conducted exercises involving long-range air-to-surface and ballistic missiles on Monday following the North’s nuclear test on Sunday, its joint chiefs of staff said in a statement.
In addition to the drill, South Korea will cooperate with the United States and seek to deploy “strategic assets like aircraft carriers and strategic bombers”, Jang said.
South Korea’s defence ministry also said it would deploy the four remaining launchers of a new U.S. missile defence system after the completion of an environmental assessment by the government.
The rollout of the controversial Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system at a site south of the South Korean capital, Seoul, which is vehemently opposed by neighbouring China and Russia, had been delayed since June.
At the Security Council, neither Russia nor China mentioned their long-held opposition to THAAD or the prospect of further U.N. sanctions in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear test.
North Korea said it tested an advanced hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile on Sunday, prompting a warning from U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis of a “massive” military response from the United States if it or its allies were threatened.
Trump has previously vowed to stop North Korea developing nuclear weapons and said he would unleash “fire and fury” if it threatened U.S. territory.
Despite the tough talk, the immediate focus of the international response was on tougher economic sanctions.
Diplomats have said the Security Council could now consider banning North Korean textile exports and its national airline, stop supplies of oil to the government and military, prevent North Koreans from working abroad and add top officials to a blacklist to subject them to an asset freeze and travel ban.
Asked about Trump’s threat to punish countries that trade with North Korea, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China has dedicated itself to resolving the North Korean issue via talks, and China’s efforts had been recognised.
“What we absolutely cannot accept is that on the one hand (we are) making arduous efforts to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, and on the other hand (our) interests are being sanctioned or harmed. This is both not objective and not fair,” he told a regular briefing.
On possible new U.N. sanctions, and whether China would support cutting off oil, Geng said it would depend on the outcome of Security Council discussions.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said in an editorial that North Korea was “playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship” and it should wake up to the fact that such a tactic “can never bring security it pursues”.
While South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Monday to work with the United States to pursue stronger sanctions, Russia voiced scepticism.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said sanctions on North Korea had reached the limit of their impact. Any more would be aimed at breaking its economy, so a decision to impose further constraints would become dramatically harder, he told a BRICS summit in China.
South Korea says the aim of stronger sanctions is to draw North Korea into dialogue. But, in a series of tweets on Sunday, Trump also appeared to rebuke South Korea for that approach.
“South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” Trump said on Twitter.
Still, Trump’s response was more orderly and less haphazard than he had offered after North Korea’s previous hostile actions.
His handling of its latest nuclear test reflected a more traditional approach to crisis management, which U.S. officials said illustrated the influence of Mattis and the new White House chief of staff, retired Marine Corps General John Kelly.
Japanese and South Korean stock markets both closed down about 1 percent on Monday, while safe-haven assets including gold and sovereign bonds ticked higher, but trade was cautious. U.S. stock markets were closed for the Labor Day holiday.
“Assuming the worst on the Korean peninsula has not proven to be a winning trading strategy this year,” said Sean Callow, a senior foreign exchange strategist at Westpac Bank.
“Investors seem reluctant to price in anything more severe than trade sanctions, and the absence of another ‘fire and fury’ Trump tweet has helped encourage markets to respond warily.”
South Korea’s finance minister vowed to support financial markets if instability showed signs of spreading to the real economy.
(JN) O Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas condenou esta segunda-feira o último lançamento de um míssil feito pela Coreia do Norte no domingo e pediu sanções ao “comportamento altamente desestabilizador” de Pyongyang.
Numa declaração unânime, apoiada inclusivamente pela China, aliada da Coreia do Norte, o Conselho pede a Pyongyang que mostre de imediato o seu “empenho sincero na desnuclearização através de acções concretas”.
A declaração surge um dia depois de o regime da Coreia do Norte ter feito um teste de míssil balístico descrito pelo regime comunista como sendo “capaz de transportar uma grande e poderosa ogiva nuclear”.
Os 15 membros do Conselho também pediram a Pyongyang para não fazer novos testes de mísseis nucleares e balísticos.
A adopção da declaração, proposta por Washington, acontece na véspera de uma reunião do Conselho à porta fechada, novamente pedida pelos Estados Unidos e pelo Japão, para discutir a questão.
A Coreia do Norte, que tem como objectivo lançar um ataque nuclear em solo norte-americano, já é alvo de numerosas sanções do Conselho de Segurança da ONU.
Na declaração, o Conselho compromete-se a por em prática as medidas impostas contra a Coreia do Norte e apela “firmemente” a outros países para fazerem o mesmo.
E expressa a “profunda preocupação ” com o comportamento “altamente desestabilizador, e a atitude de desafio flagrante e provocante” de Pyongyang no que diz respeito ao Conselho de Segurança.
(JE) O secretário-geral da ONU nota atualmente uma desconfiança do público para com o sistema político e organizações multilaterais como a ONU.
United Nations Secretary-General-designate Mr. Antonio Guterres of Portugal speaks to members of the media after being sworn in at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
O secretário-geral da Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU), António Guterres, defendeu a reforma da organização à qual preside, segundo a ONU News. Durante um evento organizado pela organização, em Londres, o diplomata português defendeu que, para resgatar o multilateralismo, é preciso haver um forte compromisso com a reforma de organizações internacionais.
No discurso para uma plateia de cerca de duas mil pessoas, nas quais se inclui académicos e representantes de ONGs, o chefe da ONU afirmou que o mundo enfrenta atualmente três desafios principais: 1. a mudança na natureza dos conflitos; 2. a fragilidade dos ambientes político, económico e ecológico em muitas partes do mundo; e 3. a desconfiança e raiva entre os que foram esquecidos pela globalização.
De acordo com António Guterres, nota-se atualmente uma desconfiança do público para com o sistema político e organizações multilaterais como a ONU. Ele citou que “muitas pessoas duvidam que o multilateralismo é a solução para os problemas atuais”, achando que a melhor forma é permitir que cada país aja sozinho. No discurso, o antigo primeiro-ministro abordou ainda tópicos como mudança climática e direitos humanos.
Esta quinta-feira (11), também na capital britânica, o chefe da ONU participa da Conferência de Londres sobre a Somália, para apoiar as metas nacionais até 2020. O representante especial do secretário-geral no país africano, Michael Keating, revelou à ONU News que está confiante num compromisso internacional para apoiar o que chamou de “agenda ambiciosa do que as novas autoridades desejam alcançar” na Somália.
(BBC) Russia has vetoed a draft resolution at the UN Security Council that would have condemned last week’s alleged chemical attack in Syria and demanded that Damascus cooperate with investigators.
The resolution was presented by the US, UK and France, who reacted angrily to Russia’s decision.
It was the eighth time Russia has protected its ally at the council.
The suspected chemical attack on rebel-held Khan Sheikhun on 4 April killed more than 80 people.
Western allies blamed the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad and US President Donald Trump ordered missile strikes against a Syrian air force base in response.
The proposed resolution would have backed an investigation on the ground by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Syrian government would have been told to provide military information, including flight logs, from the day of the alleged attack, and provide access to air bases.
It denies it is responsible.
China – one of the five permanent Security Council members which hold veto power – abstained from the vote, as did Ethiopia and Kazakhstan. Ten other countries voted for the resolution, and Bolivia joined Russia in voting against it.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley condemned Russia’s action: “You are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death,” she said.
In Washington, at a news conference with the Nato secretary-general, President Trump was asked by the BBC’s Jon Sopel if he thought it was possible that Syrian forces could have launched the alleged attack without Russia knowing about it.
“I think it’s certainly possible. I think it’s probably unlikely,” he said. “I would like to think that they didn’t know, but certainly they could have. They were there.”
He also said it was “wonderful” that China abstained at the UN, but, mentioning that he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping the previous night, said he was “not surprised”.
China has vetoed six resolutions on Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
Earlier Russia’s President Vladimir Putin rejected allegations that Syria was behind the chemical attack, saying Syria had given up its chemical stockpile.
Mr Putin, speaking on Mir television, also said trust had “deteriorated” between the US and Russia under the Trump presidency.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed those comments, saying ties with Russia were at a low point and must improve.
After two hours of talks with Mr Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, he said that the “two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this relationship”.
After the UN vote, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Russia was “on the wrong side of the argument”, while French President Francois Hollande said it “bears a heavy responsibility” for continuing to protect Mr Assad and blocking a united international response.
But Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council the measure was “doomed” from the beginning.
“The outcome was pre-determined because we have consistently expressed our categorical disagreement with the content of the document,” he said.
Russia has called for an independent international investigation, and questioned how Western powers could have assigned responsibility for what happened so quickly.
(GUA) France, UK and US wanted sanctions over chemical weapon use – but Vladimir Putin rejects ‘totally inappropriate’ proposal
Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons during the six-year war.
It is Russia’s seventh veto to protect the Syrian government from UN security council action. The vote was one of the first confrontations at the UN between Russia and the US since Donald Trump took control of the White House in January, pledging to build closer ties with Moscow.
Russia and China are both permanent members of the UN security council. France, the UK and the US complete the five-nation lineup. Another 10 nations are non-permanent members, elected for two-year terms by the 193 states that are members of the UN’s general assembly.
Russian president Vladimir Putin described the draft resolution on Tuesday as “totally inappropriate”.
Russia argued that the resolution – drafted by Britain, France and the US – would harm UN-led peace talks between the warring Syrian parties in Geneva, which began last week.
Nine UN council members voted in favour of the resolution and Bolivia voted against, along with China and Russia. Egypt, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan abstained.
A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members in order to be adopted. Nikki Haley, US ambassador to theUnited Nations, criticised Moscow following the vote.
“It is a sad day on the security council when members start making excuses for other member states killing their own people,” she said. “The world is definitely a more dangerous place.”
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, described the statements made against Moscow as “outrageous” and warned: “God will judge you.”
The vetoes received widespread condemnation by rights groups. Sherine Tadros, of Amnesty International, said: “By vetoing this resolution, Russia and China have displayed a callous disregard for the lives of millions of Syrians.”
French UN ambassador François Delattre said the failure by the council to act would “send a message of impunity”.
Its statement added: “Shame on the Russian Federation, China and all those who enable the Syrian government’s attempts to escape accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Western powers put forward the resolution in response to the results of an investigation by the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The international inquiry found Syrian government forces were responsible for three chlorine gas attacks and that Islamic State militants had used mustard gas.
British UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the council before the vote: “This is about taking a stand when children are poisoned, it’s that simple.”
Chlorine’s use as a weapon is banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria joined in 2013.
If inhaled, chlorine gas turns to hydrochloric acid in the lungs and can kill by burning lungs and drowning victims in body fluids.
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s government has denied its forces have used chemical weapons. Russia has questioned the results of the UN/OPCW inquiry and has long said there was not enough proof for the security council to take any action.
The draft resolution would have banned the sale or supply of helicopters to the Syrian government because the UN/OPCW inquiry found Syrian government forces had used helicopters to drop barrel bombs containing chlorine gas.
It also proposed targeted sanctions – a travel ban and asset freeze – on 11 Syrian military commanders and officials, as well as on 10 government and related entities.