Category Archives: United Nations

(GUA) UN ‘running out of cash’ and facing urgent cuts, warns chief

(GUA) Letter sent to member states by António Guterres reveals $139m deficit in core budget.

António Guterres
 António Guterres, seen here on a visit to the UN school in San Jose, Costa Rica, says the UN has ‘never faced such a difficult cash flow situation this early in the calendar year’. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

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) Portugal’s Antonio Vitorino elected as new IOM Director General

(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.

(BBG) UN Panel Blames Syrian Forces for Deadly Sarin Attack in April

(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
Security Council.
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) Rohingya crisis: ‘Last chance’ for Aung San Suu Kyi

(BBCRohingya stretch their hands to get aid supplies in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: 16 September 2017Image 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.”

Media captionAntonio Guterres told the BBC he feared an ‘absolutely horrible’ tragedy

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.

She will not be attending the UN General Assembly in New York, and has claimed that the crisis is being distorted by a “huge iceberg of misinformation”.

She said tensions were being fanned by fake news promoting the interests of terrorists.

Mr Guterres’ warning comes after Bangladesh said it was now limiting the movementof more than 400,000 Rohingya who have fled from Myanmar.

Bangladeshi police said Rohingya would not be allowed to travel anywhere outside of their allocated homes, not even to live with family or friends.

Transport operators and drivers have also been urged not to carry refugees, with landlords told not to rent out any property to them.

Media captionThe BBC’s Jonathan Head went on a government-organised trip to Rakhine state last week

Bangladesh also announced plans to build shelters for up to 400,000 people near the city of Cox’s Bazar.

Analysts say the government wants to stop the Rohingya from disappearing into the general population and to keep them visible, in the hope of returning them to Myanmar – or even a third country.

On 25 August, Rohingya militants attacked police posts in northern Rakhine, killing 12 security personnel.

map of Myanmar showing Rakhine region and neighbouring Bangladesh
Image captionThe violence has been concentrated in Myanmar’s Rakhine area

Rohingya who have fled Myanmar since then say the military responded with a brutal campaign, burning villages and attacking civilians in a bid to drive them out.

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants.

Media captionWatch: Who are the Rohingya?

But army chief Gen Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday that the Rohingya formed a Muslim group that has no roots in the country.

“They have demanded recognition as Rohingya, which has never been an ethnic group in Myanmar,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

Officials earlier suggested that not all who have fled to Bangladesh would be allowed to return.

Some who fled from Rakhine state told the BBC earlier this month about killings, rape and even massacres, while inside Rakhine, a BBC crew witnessed charred homes inside Rakhine.

Media captionThe BBC’s Fergal Keane spoke to Buddhists in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay

A new Human Rights Watch report released on Friday accused the Myanmar military of an “ethnic cleansing campaign” and detailed scores of villages targeted with arson attacks.

The full interview with Antonio Guterres will be broadcast on BBC World News on Monday, 18 September at 03:30, 08:30; 14:30 and 19:30 (all times GMT)

+++ (BBG) Moon Seeks Putin Help, Warns of ‘Uncontrollable’ North Korea

(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.

Markets React

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.

‘Uncontrollable Situation’

“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.

Border Post

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) U.S. envoy says North Korean leader ‘begging for war’ as U.N. mulls sanctions

(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.

MILITARY EXERCISES

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”.

SCEPTICISM

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) Conselho de Segurança da ONU condena lançamento de missil da Coreia do Norte

…Com o apoio da China…

(JNO 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) António Guterres defende reforma das Nações Unidas e multilateralismo

(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) Syria war: Anger after Russia vetoes resolution at UN

(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.

Syrian military oversees damage at ShayratImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe US retaliatory strike on Syria’s Shayrat airbase angered Russia

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.

The suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun last week left 89 people deadImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe suspected chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun shocked the international community

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) Russia and China veto UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria

(GUA) France, UK and US wanted sanctions over chemical weapon use – but Vladimir Putin rejects ‘totally inappropriate’ proposal

British ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft speaks in support of the resolution.
British ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft speaks in support of the resolution. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

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.

Nikki Haley and Volodymyr Yelchenko
 
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, greets outgoing security council president and Ukrainian ambassador to the UN, Volodymyr Yelchenko, before the meeting. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

“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”.

Physicians for Human Rights, an organisation that guides doctors in Syria on how to treat victims of chemical attacks, said the security council had “shown itself impotent to halt the terrible scourge of chemical weapons”.

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.”

Vladimir Safronkov, centre, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, keeps his hand lowered during the vote.
 
Vladimir Safronkov, centre, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, keeps his hand lowered during the vote. Photograph: Bebeto Matthews/AP

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.

(NYT) Trump Prepares Orders Aiming at Global Funding and Treaties

(NYT) WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing executive orders that would clear the way to drastically reduce the United States’ role in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as begin a process to review and potentially abrogate certain forms of multilateral treaties.

The first of the two draft orders, titled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations” and obtained by The New York Times, calls for terminating funding for any United Nations agency or other international body that meets any one of several criteria.

Those criteria include organizations that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority or Palestine Liberation Organization, or support programs that fund abortion or any activity that circumvents sanctions against Iran or North Korea. The draft order also calls for terminating funding for any organization that “is controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism” or is blamed for the persecution of marginalized groups or any other systematic violation of human rights.

The order calls for then enacting “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining United States funding toward international organizations.

The order establishes a committee to recommend where those funding cuts should be made. It asks the committee to look specifically at United States funding for peacekeeping operations; the International Criminal Court; development aid to countries that “oppose important United States policies”; and the United Nations Population Fund, which oversees maternal and reproductive health programs.

If President Trump signs the order and its provisions are carried out, the cuts could severely curtail the work of United Nations agencies, which rely on billions of dollars in annual United States contributions for missions that include caring for refugees.

The second executive order, “Moratorium on New Multilateral Treaties,” calls for a review of all current and pending treaties with more than one other nation. It asks for recommendations on which negotiations or treaties the United States should leave.

The order says this review applies only to multilateral treaties that are not “directly related to national security, extradition or international trade,” but it is unclear what falls outside these restrictions.

For example, the Paris climate agreement or other environmental treaties deal with trade issues but could potentially fall under this order.

An explanatory statement that accompanies the draft order mentions two United Nations treaties for review: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Taken together, the orders suggest that Mr. Trump intends to pursue hiscampaign promises of withdrawing the United States from international organizations. He has expressed heavy skepticism of multilateral agreements such as the Paris climate agreement and of the United Nations.

The draft orders, which are only a few pages each, leave several unanswered questions. For example, it is unclear whether they call for cutting 40 percent of United States contributions to each international agency separately, or to the overall federal funding budget.

The orders call for reviewing any funding that could go toward the International Criminal Court, though the United States currently provides no funding to that body. They also call for terminating funding to United Nations bodies that include full Palestinian membership, though this is already United States law. Under former President Barack Obama, the United States cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization when it accepted Palestinians as full members.

The United States provides about a quarter of all funding to United Nations peacekeeping operations, of which there are more than a dozen, in Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. At least one of these, the operation in southern Lebanon, directly serves Israeli interests by protecting the country’s northern border, though the draft order characterizes the funding cuts as serving Israeli interests.

(EurActiv) Guterres, Juncker head to Geneva for Cyprus talks

(EurActiv)

New UN chief Antonio Guterres will attend talks in Geneva today (12 January) aimed at ending decades of stalemate in a divided Cyprus, in his first foreign trip since taking office on 1 January. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will also be there.

Foreign ministers from Cyprus’s so-called guarantor powers – Britain, Greece and Turkey – will travel to Switzerland for a conference on security, which follows three days of peace talks with the goal of creating a two-zone federation.

UN envoy Espen Barth Eide said yesterday that the two sides are very close to agreeing on what overall percentage of the island each will control.Turkish Cypriot leaders have agreed in principle to return some of the land they have controlled since the 1974 invasion by Turkish troops, which came in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece.

Cyprus talks on track ahead of , says@UN_CYPRUS envoy @EspenBarthEide http://bit.ly/2jws8ZM 

Photo published for Cyprus talks ‘on track’ ahead of international conference – UN envoy

Cyprus talks ‘on track’ ahead of international conference – UN envoy

As the United Nations-facilitated talks on Cyprus went into their third day in Geneva ahead of an international conference tomorrow, the UN adviser on the issue has said the discussions are “on…

un.org

One of the chief difficulties lies in how the boundaries are redrawn, including around the town of Morphou on the northern coast.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades has warned that there can be no deal without a full return of Morphou, while some in the Turkish Cypriot camp have declared its return a non-starter.

The security conference comes after rival Cypriot delegations on Wednesday (11 January) met to present maps detailing their visions for how internal boundaries should be drawn.
“It is a very important moment… Historic,” Eide said.Eide told reporters in Geneva that the exchange would take place behind closed doors with cartographers from both sides present.

View image on Twitter

“This is the best chance we have” to resolve Cyprus issue – SASG@EspenBarthEide

The conference will be the first time since the eastern Mediterranean island was divided that Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders will have presented maps describing the borders of a reunified country, Eide said.

This is the third time the Cypriot leaders have met in Switzerland since November, but the two previous rounds were inconclusive.

There were no plans for the maps swapped Wednesday to be disclosed publicly, with the UN hoping that both sides eventually agree on a compromise version.‘The very last chance’

On Tuesday (10 January) the two sides also tackled the island’s relations with the European Union as well as a future system of government.

While Cyprus has been an EU member since 2004, Anastasiades’s internationally recognised government exercises no control over the northern Turkish-ruled part of the island, and EU legislation is suspended there until a settlement is reached.

Eide made it clear that the UN process was designed to forge a unified Cyprus that would be a full EU member.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will also be in Geneva on Thursday, said he was making the trip due to the stakes of the meeting.

“I really think that, without overdramatising what is happening in Geneva, that this is the very last chance to see (a solution for) the island being imposed in a normal way,” he said in Valletta at the start of Malta’s six-month EU presidency.

“The time has come to reunite the island.” @JunckerEU will fly to Geneva tomorrow to discuss the reunification.

.@JunckerEU on : “when it’s about peace, one needs to take risks. Not taking risks, is the biggest risk”

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini is already in Geneva.

In Geneva for . EU supports this historic opportunity to settle the issue after 40 years, in the heart of Europe & Mediterranean

Eide has struck an optimistic note during three days of intra-Cypriot talks this week.

“We are roughly where we want to be at this stage,” he said Wednesday.
There are also still significant differences over security, with Anastasiades wanting Turkish troops to leave the island but Akıncı determined to keep a military presence.But the sides appear to remain far apart on how many Greek Cypriots should be able to return to homes they fled in 1974, with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akıncı determined to minimise the number of Turkish Cypriots who would be displaced for a second time.

View image on Twitter

Why the world is watching the Cyprus unification talks and what’s different this time http://bloom.bg/2jagOTI 

(GUA) Will António Guterres be the UN’s best ever secretary general?

(GUA) Cultured and consensual, the Portuguese politician has had the perfect preparation for the United Nations’ top job.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres will take over on 1 January. Photograph: Mario Cruz/EPA 

When António Guterres resigned halfway through his second term as Portuguese prime minister in 2002 because his minority government was floundering, he did something unusual for a man who had seen the highest reaches of power.

Several times a week, he went to slum neighbourhoods on the edge of Lisbon to give free maths tuition to children.

“He never allowed a journalist to go with him or let himself be filmed or photographed, and he never let journalists talk to any of his students,” said Ricardo Costa, editor-in-chief of the Portuguese SIC News, who covered Guterres’s political career. The former prime minister told his surprised students that what he was doing was personal and not for show.

The Portuguese socialist, who becomes the next UN secretary general on Sunday, is an intellectual who grew up under Portugal’s dictatorship and came of age with the 1974 revolution that ended 48 years of authoritarian rule.

Crucial to understanding Guterres, 67, is his Christian faith: his progressive Catholicism always informed his brand of social democratic politics.

In the heady days of Portugal’s revolution, it was rare to be a practising Catholic in a new Socialist party where many members had Marxist backgrounds. But Guterres, a star engineering student who grew a moustache in honour of the Chilean left’s Salvador Allende, would eventually become a modernising leader, arguing that his mission was social justice and equality.

On the Portuguese left, faith was a delicate issue that required discretion. Under Guterres, the country held a referendum in 1998 on a proposal to liberalise the strict abortion laws. Socialist MPs had a free vote and, as prime minister, Guterres chose not to officially campaign. But it was publicly known that he opposed changing the law, which irked many in his party. The no vote against liberalising the abortion law narrowly won, but turnout was so low that the result was not binding. Abortion laws were finally relaxed in 2007 after a second referendum.

Born in Lisbon, Guterres spent stretches of his childhood with relatives in the countryside, where he saw the poverty of rural life under the dictatorship, and later volunteered with Catholic student groups on social projects in the capital.

In 1976, the young engineering lecturer was elected a Socialist MP in Portugal’s first democratic vote since the revolution. In parliament, he was a fearsome orator. Such was his talent for verbally destroying political opponents, he became known as “the talking pickaxe”.

Tony Blair and António Guterres
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Tony Blair shares a laugh with António Guterres at the start of the Congress of the Socialist International in Paris in November 1999. Photograph: Laurent Rebours/AP

Guterres became prime minister in 1995. His campaign slogan was “heart and reason”, a cry for more humanism and social politics. Three years earlier he had taken over the Socialist party and modernised it, although he remained to the left of contemporaries such as Tony Blair. For years he led the Socialist Internationalinternational grouping of leftwing parties.

With Portugal’s rapid economic growth and nearly full employment, Guterres was able to set up a guaranteed minimum income and nursery schooling for all. But he had failed to win an absolute majority and was condemned to preside over a tricky minority government. He had to rely on his skill for consensus, always having to negotiate with the opposition parties if he wanted to get anything passed – something he later argued was perfect training for running the UN.

“He was a skilful person – very smart, very quick to understand the other point of view and very focused on having solutions – that’s why it worked,” said António Vitorino, Guterres’s deputy prime minister and defence minister.

Guterres was furiously hardworking. But behind this was a backdrop of family tragedy. His wife, Luísa Guimarães e Melo, a psychiatrist with whom he had two children, had been critically ill for most of his time in government and was undergoing treatment at a London hospital.

“It was one of the hardest moments of his political life,” Vitorino said. “Every Friday morning, he took a plane to London, spent the weekend there in a very desperate situation and then on Monday morning he was back at work. I was his deputy prime minister, I was amazed. I could never have done what he was doing.”

In 1998, Guterres’s wife died. The following year, he threw himself into the general elections. He had hoped to win an outright majority but the Socialists ended up one MP short and began a second minority government. This time, a slowdown in the economy made things harder.

Guterres, privately growing disillusioned with internal party politics, turned increasingly to his interest in international diplomacy. He had already won praise for his role in resolving the crisis in Timor-Leste, a former Portuguese colony, which had erupted into violence in 1999 after a referendum vote in favour of independence from Indonesia. Guterres led diplomatic efforts to convince the UN to intervene to restore peace.

In 2000, when Portugal took the rotating presidency of the European Union, its success was attributed to Guterres’s ability to get big leaders to agree and smaller leaders to be heard.

António Guterres accepts roses from a supporter  in Lisbon
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António Guterres is cheered after his party won Portugal’s general elections in October 1999. Photograph: Armando Franca/AP

“He did something very original: he looked at what every country wanted and set up an agenda that could be interesting for everyone,” said Francisco Seixas da Costa, a Portuguese diplomat who served as Guterres’s European affairs secretary. “Small countries disappear in the decision-making process so we tried to listen to their interests.”

Guterres managed to talk down powerful leaders at loggerheads. “At the European council, I remember a conflict between Jacques Chirac and Helmut Kohl over one issue,” Seixas da Costa said. “Guterres asked for the floor. I was sitting next to him, I was afraid it might be naive. But he took the floor and made a proposal that covered both their interests, and it was a success. It worked. He had a fantastic capacity to moderate and create links and bridges.”

In 2002, halfway through his second term as prime minister, Guterres abruptly resigned after the Socialists suffered a drubbing in local elections. He famously said he wanted to avoid the country falling into a “political swamp” and that he had discovered “politics has its limits”.

At the time he was unpopular, criticised for too much compromise and too much dialogue. But over the years since his departure, polls showed he was increasingly liked and seen as fair, serious and honest – a possible contender for Portuguese president, although he never wanted to return to national politics, preferring, he said, to make a difference on the world stage.

His decade serving as UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) from 2005 to 2015 was seen in Portugal as an obvious fit for his personality: socially engaged but seeking common ground.

Guterres – who speaks Portuguese, English, French and Spanish and is now remarried to Catarina Vaz Pinto, who works at Lisbon city hall – was known in political circles for enthusiastic, cultured conversations on everything from ancient Greece to Middle Eastern culture, opera to geography.

Whenever he had free time during visits to Washington as UNHCR chief, he would get the organisation’s regional representative, Michel Gabaudan, to take him to Politics & Prose or another of the city’s bookshops.

“He’s an avid reader of history, and his pleasure was, if we had an hour, to go to a bookshop, so we would have access to books in English that weren’t easy to get in Geneva,” said Gabaudan, now president of Refugees International. “I’m sure this immense knowledge of past and ancient history did inform his political judgment.”

Guterres also took a broad approach to the UNHCR’s responsibilities. The organisation grew dramatically under his management, and not just because the number of the world’s refugees soared in the 21st century. He broadened the categories of people the UNHCR would seek to protect, including internally displaced people and migrants forced from their homes by natural disasters and climate change. He preferred the all-encompassing phrase “people on the move”.

He managed to persuade donors to fund the expansion by retaining their confidence that the money was well spent, and to do that he cut overheads.

Guterres, then UN high commissioner for refugees, visits Ikafe camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda.
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Guterres, then UN high commissioner for refugees, visits Ikafe camp for Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda in June 2005. Photograph: Radu Sigheti/Reuters

“Like all UN organisations, as the organisation had grown up, it had become a little bit top-heavy and one of his first actions was really to slim down headquarters fairly substantially. He sent people back to the field and he put some of the services in much cheaper places than Geneva,” Gabaudan said.

“He never thought the details of finance were just for the technicians. I saw him looking at spreadsheets faster than his financial officer, spotting the line or column where we had a problem. So he was really as much hands-on about how the organisation worked as he was the top political figure and spokesman for refugees.”

When Justin Forsyth was chief executive of Save the Children UK, he travelled with Guterres to refugee camps in Lebanon, and recalled Guterres meeting a group of children. “The thing that struck me was him cross-legged on the floor of a tent talking to children. He really listens and he asks questions and he’s very moved by what he hears. He gets his hands dirty,” said Forsyth, the new deputy executive director of Unicef, the UN children’s charity.

Guterres’s tenure as high commissioner has attracted some criticism. Some former officials said he should have spoken out more strongly in defence of refugee rights enshrined in the 1951 refugee convention. “His record is very mixed, particularly on protection. His tenure was a rough time for the protection of refugees,” a former senior UN official said. He pointed to Thailand forcibly repatriating ethnic Uighurs to China despite the risk they would face persecution.

He argued that a tripartite agreement the UNHCR made with Kenya and Somalia on the voluntary return of Somali refugees had paved the way for the reported forced repatriations now under way in Kenya aimed at emptying its biggest camp, at Dadaab.

The former official said the EU’s deal with Turkey to repatriate refugees, also widely seen as a violation of basic principles of refugee protection, was largely negotiated while Guterres was at the helm, even if it was only signed in March this year, three months after he left.

“His style is to make general statements on the issue but not to directly challenge governments on their actions,” the former official said. “It raises concerns on what he would be like as secretary general.”

Jeff Crisp, who was head of UNHCR policy development and evaluation under Guterres and is now a research associate at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre, said not all the criticisms could be pointed at the secretary general designate.

He said the UNHCR did push back against infringements of refugee rights by European states and had been strongly critical of the EU-Turkey deal. And he argued the tendency to address abuses by authoritarian states by behind-the-scenes persuasion had historically been the “institutional approach” taken by the UNHCR, before and after Guterres.

“I think you have to understand that UNHCR’s public criticism of states is very carefully calibrated and in general the more liberal a state is, the more publicly the UNHCR will criticise it,” Crisp said.

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and Guterres speak during a meeting at La Moncloa palace in Madrid.
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Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and Guterres speak during a meeting in Madrid. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Adaptable, consensual, affable, intellectual, Guterres is perhaps better qualified than any of his nine predecessors for the world’s most demanding job. But one of his deftest skills he learned not from the hurly burly of Portuguese politics, nor from the harrowing years at the UNHCR, but from his first wife.

At a Guardian event last June in which he debated with rivals for the secretary general job, he said her psychoanalytical insights were highly valuable. “She taught me something that was extremely useful for all my political activities. When two people are together, they are not two but six. What each one is, what each one thinks he or she is and what each one thinks the other is,” he said.

“And what is true for people is also true for countries and organisations. One of the roles of the secretary general when dealing with the different key actors in each scenario is to bring these six into two. That the misunderstandings disappear and the false perceptions disappear. Perceptions are essential in politics.”

(NYT) Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements

(NYT)

Housing construction last week on the outskirts of Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem. CreditJim Hollander/European Pressphoto Agency

JERUSALEM — Undeterred by a resounding defeat at the United Nations, Israel’s government said Monday that it would move ahead with thousands of new homes in East Jerusalem and warned nations against further action, declaring that Israel does not “turn the other cheek.”

Just a few days after the United Nations Security Council voted tocondemn Israeli settlements, Jerusalem’s municipal government signaled that it would not back down: The city intends to approve 600 housing units in the predominantly Palestinian eastern section of town on Wednesday in what a top official called a first installment on 5,600 new homes.

The defiant posture reflected a bristling anger among Israel’s pro-settlement political leaders, who not only blamed the United States for failing to block the Council resolution, but also claimed to have secret intelligence showing that President Obama’s team had orchestrated it. American officials strongly denied the claim, but the sides seem poised for more weeks of conflict until Mr. Obama hands over the presidency to Donald J. Trump.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at Security Council countries by curbing diplomatic contacts, recalling envoys, cutting off aid and summoning the American ambassador for a scolding. He canceled a planned visit this week by Ukraine’s prime minister even as he expressed concern on Monday that Mr. Obama was planning more action at the United Nations before his term ends next month.

The prime minister defended his retaliation. “Israel is a country with national pride, and we do not turn the other cheek,” he said. “This is a responsible, measured and vigorous response, the natural response of a healthy people that is making it clear to the nations of the world that what was done at the U.N. is unacceptable to us.”

The Security Council resolution that passed Friday condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a “flagrant violation under international law” and an obstacle to peace. The Council approved it 14 to 0, with the United States abstaining instead of using its unilateral veto, as it has in the past.

Mr. Trump publicly pressed for a veto of the resolution and has chosen a settlement advocate as his administration’s ambassador to Israel. He turned to Twitter on Monday night to air complaints that the United Nations “is just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”

Palestinian leaders made clear that they would use the resolution in international bodies to press their case against Israel. With the imprimatur of a United Nations finding of illegality, they said, they will campaign to require that other countries not just label products made in the settlements, but ban them.

“Now we can talk about the boycott of all settlements, the companies that work with them, et cetera, and actually take legal action against them if they continue to work with them,” Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news media.

He outlined other steps the Palestinians could now take, using the resolution to press the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli leaders, file lawsuits on behalf of specific Palestinians displaced by settlements and urge the international authorities to determine whether Israel is violating the Geneva Conventions.

“We are looking to devise a comprehensive vision, and hopefully 2017 will be the year when the Israeli occupation ends,” Mr. Malki said.

Israeli officials said such pronouncements showed that the resolution actually undermined chances for a negotiated settlement because the Palestinians now have less incentive to come to the table. By declaring Israeli settlements illegal, they said, the United Nations essentially took away the one chip that Israel had to trade, meaning land.

“The Palestinians are waging a diplomatic and legal war against Israel. That’s the strategy,” Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said in a phone interview. “Their strategy is not to negotiate an agreement with Israel because a deal is give and take. They want take and take.”

Israel’s settlement project, once a scattering of houses across the so-called Green Line marking the borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, has grown substantially over the years. In 2009, the year Mr. Obama took office, 297,000 people lived in West Bank settlements and 193,737 in East Jerusalem. That increased to 386,000 in the West Bank by the end of last year and 208,000 in East Jerusalem by the end of 2014, according to Peace Now, a group that opposes settlements.

Israeli officials note that when Mr. Netanyahu acquiesced to a 10-month settlement freeze sought by Mr. Obama in 2009, the Palestinians still did not agree to negotiate until just before time ran out. But the addition of more than 100,000 settlers during Mr. Obama’s tenure convinced him that it was time to change his approach at the United Nations, aides said.

The 618 housing units to be granted building permits in East Jerusalem on Wednesday have been in the works for a while, and the planning committee meeting agenda was set before the United Nations acted. But the committee chairman said he was determined to go forward with units totaling 5,600.

“I won’t get worked up over the U.N. or any other organization that might try to dictate to us what to do in Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Meir Turgeman, the planning committee chairman, told the newspaper Israel Hayom. “I hope that the government and the new administration in the United States will give us momentum to continue.”

Although he did not specify which projects he had in mind, Ir Amim, a private group tracking settlements in East Jerusalem, said he was probably referring to projects in Gilo and Givat Hamatos. Betty Herschman, the group’s director of international relations and advocacy, said it was “defiance demonstrated after Trump’s election, now reinforced by the U.N. resolution.”

Anat Ben Nun, the director of development and external relations for Peace Now, said such construction was problematic. “Netanyahu’s attempt to avenge the U.N.S.C. resolution through approval of plans beyond the Green Line will only harm Israelis and Palestinians by making it more difficult to arrive at a two-state solution,” she said.

Israeli leaders said they had no reason to stop building. The Security Council resolution “was absurd and totally removed from reality,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents West Bank settlers. “Israeli building policies are set in Jerusalem, not New York.”

For the fourth day, Israeli officials accused Mr. Obama’s team of ambushing them at the United Nations. While the White House denied it, Israeli officials pointed to a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and his New Zealand counterpart a month before the Council vote discussing a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New Zealand was a sponsor of Friday’s measure.

Mr. Dermer, the ambassador, said Israel had other, nonpublic information proving the Obama administration’s involvement but provided no evidence and would not elaborate beyond saying it would be provided to Mr. Trump’s team when he takes office.

“They not only did not get up and stop it, they were behind it from the beginning,” Mr. Dermer said. “This is why the prime minister is so angry. We’re going to stand up against it.”

Israeli officials worried that Mr. Kerry would use a coming speech or a conference in France to outline an American peace plan that would be hostile to Israel’s interests. Mr. Kerry’s office had no comment.

The fury of Mr. Netanyahu’s response has generated debate at home. Mitchell Barak, a political consultant, said the political left considered the resolution “an epic foreign policy and diplomatic debacle” by Mr. Netanyahu.

But to his base, the Security Council action confirmed what they believed all along, that Mr. Obama is inherently anti-Israel, and so the prime minister comes across as a champion beset by enemies. “For them,” Mr. Barak said, “Netanyahu emerges from this unscathed, as the lone wolf in a lion’s den of hatred.”

+++ (BBG) Obama Staged ‘Shameful Ambush’ of Israel, Netanyahu Says

(BBG) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stepped up his broadside at the U.S. government after the UN Security Council declared Israel’s settlements illegal, saying President Barack Obama’s administration “initiated and stood behind” the resolution.

Netanyahu said Obama broke a long-standing U.S. commitment not to allow the UN to impose conditions on Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. Resolution 2334, which passed Friday by a 14-0 vote with theU.S. abstaining, demands that Israel cease construction in all areas it captured in the 1967 Middle East war and describes the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian territory.

“We will do all we can to make sure Israel won’t be harmed by this shameful resolution,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, calling the bill “unbalanced and extremely hostile to the State of Israel.”

The resolution calls on member states to differentiate between territories inside and outside the pre-1967 lines in their dealings with Israel. While the immediate practical impact is unclear — the resolution is declaratory but not binding on member states — it could strengthen the movement to boycott or sanction Israel and open the door for more lawsuits against Israel in international bodies. The EU already requires goods produced in Israeli settlements to be labelled distinctly from those made in Israel, allowing consumers to avoid them more easily.

Fraying Ties

The U.S. abstention highlighted the increasingly strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. The Security Council vote came in the waning weeks of Obama’s presidency, as Israel looks forward to warmer relations with President-elect Donald Trump, who had pressured Obama to veto the resolution in an unusual breach of transition protocol.

“The big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace. Too bad, but we will get it done anyway!” Trump told his 17.9 million Twitter followers Saturday.

Obama was highly critical of Israel’s West Bank settlements from the moment he entered office, demanding a construction freeze as a precondition for peace talks with the Palestinians. The two leaders then clashed publicly over the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, with Netanyahu denouncing it in a speech to Congress that wasn’t coordinated with theWhite House and that soured relations further.

The Obama administration has denied Friday’s vote breached any U.S. commitments to Israel, saying it’s in keeping with U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defended the move to abstain, saying Friday that “one cannot champion” both settlements and the two-state solution.

Under terms of the agreements that have directed Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts for more than two decades, borders and settlements are issues for the two sides to negotiate between themselves in a final peace deal. Israel says the UN vote will convince Palestinians they can get what they want without having to negotiate, making them more intransigent.

The resolution “doesn’t bring peace closer. It pushes it further away,” Netanyahu said Saturday at a ceremony marking the beginning of Hannukah.

Palestinian leaders welcomed the measure’s passage. The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a statement in Arabic that the move is “a big blow for the Israeli political policy, a condemnation of settlements and consensus by the international community and a support for the two-state solution.” Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad also praised the vote.

Domestic Storm

The domestic fallout of the vote was unclear. Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, which opposes a Palestinian state, said Israel should annex portions of the West Bank in response.

A controversial initiative to authorize West Bank outposts — postponed until after Trump takes office next month — could be revived following the UN move, the Times of Israel reported. The bill would legalize some 4,000 housing units in the West Bank.

The opposition took a different lesson from the vote. Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog criticized the UN vote and called it the most difficult blow Israel had suffered in decades, but also presented it as a repudiation of Netanyahu’s policies.

“If Netanyahu has any shred of responsibility, he should give up the keys and understand that he can know longer manage the affairs of state,” Herzog said in a post on his Facebook page. “The only way to stop this dangerous descent that he’s brought us to is with elections and a united struggle to topple Netanyahu.”

Quick Retaliation

Netanyahu said countries that worked to pass the resolution would pay a diplomatic and economic price. Israel moved quickly to recall its ambassadors from New Zealand and Senegal, two co-sponsors of the resolution with which Israel has diplomatic ties, ended aid programs to Senegal, and canceled a planned visit by Ukraine’s prime minister. Netanyahu also said Saturday he would cut off 30 million shekels ($7.9 million) in funding to UN institutions.

Under the resolution, he said, Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall would be considered “occupied territory,” which he termed “absurd.” Netanyahu said friends of Israel in the U.S. and the incoming Trump administration would fight anti-Israel efforts at the UN. Trump tweeted on Friday that “as to the UN, things will be different after Jan. 20,” the day he takes office.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said countries that voted for the resolution were summoned Sunday for reprimands, and Ynet reported U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro would also be summoned this week. Later in the day, Netanyahu announced that government ministers would not meet with ministers of countries that voted for the resolution or fly to those countries.

(AlJazeera) Israel summons 14 ambassadors after UN settlement vote

(AlJazeera) Civilian coordination with Palestinians also cut in retaliation to UN resolution, Defence Minister Lieberman announces.

Netanyahu attended the weekly cabinet meeting a day after the UN vote [Dan Balilty/Reuters]

Israel has summoned the ambassadors of United Nations Security Council member states that voted in favour of a resolution condemning settlement activity, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

By way of rebuke of the vote, Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman also announced on Sunday that Israel was cutting civilian coordination with Palestinians.

Foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said that the 14 envoys of UN Security Council members will visit the ministry in Jerusalem throughout the day.  The United States’ envoy was not summoned.

The council passed the measure on Friday after the US abstained, enabling the adoption of the first resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy.

The resolution demands “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem”.

It says settlements have “no legal validity” and are “dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had rejected the resolution as a ” shameful blow against Israel “, repeated on Sunday the Israeli claim that US president Barack Obama and secretary of state John Kerry were behind the resolution.

“We have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated the drafts and demanded to pass it,” Netanyahu said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“This is of course in total contradiction to the traditional American policy of not trying to impose conditions of a final resolution. And, of course, the explicit commitment of President Obama himself in 2011 to avoid such measures.”

While the resolution contains no sanctions, Israeli officials are concerned it could widen the possibility of prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

They are also worried it could encourage some countries to impose sanctions against Israeli settlers and goods produced in the settlements.

Earlier on Sunday, army radio reported that Lieberman ordered Israeli security establishment to cease to all cooperation on civilian matters with the Palestinians, while retaining security coordination.

Israeli officials refused to comment on the report.

The measures taken on Sunday join Netanyahu’s order to review engagements at the United Nations, including funding for UN agencies and the presence of its representatives in Israel.

Right-wing public security minister, Gilad Erdan, said on Saturday night that Israel should “announce a full annexation of settlement blocs” in response to the resolution.

Education minister Naftali Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home told army radio that his party would “soon propose a bill to annex Maale Adumim”, a settlement city east of Jerusalem.

(LUSA) ONU: Guterres agradece ao povo português valores que recebeu ao longo da vida

(LUSA) O dia do juramento do secretário-geral indigitado da ONU terminou com uma receção oferecida pelo Presidente da República, em Nova Iorque, onde teve um discurso mais pessoal e dirigido aos portugueses.

JUSTIN LANE/EPA

O secretário-geral designado das Nações Unidas, António Guterres, agradeceu na segunda-feira aos portugueses as lições de “solidariedade, tolerância e diálogo” que recebeu ao longo da vida, destacando a unidade política nacional à volta da sua campanha.

No final de um dia em que prestou juramento na sede das Nações Unidas como secretário-geral, e numa receção oferecida pelo Presidente da República português para cerca de 800 pessoas, António Guterres fez questão de fazer um discurso mais pessoal.

“Este é o momento em que desejo expressar a minha profunda gratidão para com o meu país”, afirmou.

Referindo-se ao primeiro-ministro, António Costa, como seu “querido amigo” e ao Presidente da República, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, como“velho amigo”, Guterres classificou-os como “os seus mais entusiasmados apoiantes” e agradeceu o apoio de todos os partidos políticos.

“Esta unidade, dos portugueses e do seu sistema político, é simbólica do tipo de unidade que gostava de ver na comunidade internacional”, disse.

O antigo primeiro-ministro socialista agradeceu ainda ao povo português pelo que aprendeu ao longo da vida sobre “os valores da solidariedade, tolerância e dialogo” e exemplificou com a relação entre o chefe de Estado e chefe de Governo, que segunda-feira estiveram presentes em Nova Iorque na cerimónia de juramento e, à noite, na receção.

“O primeiro-ministro e o Presidente da República pertencem a partidos diferentes, mas estão ambos aqui: mais do que as palavras, a sua linguagem corporal mostra como estão unidos”, destacou.

O futuro secretário-geral das Nações Unidas, que iniciará funções em 1 de janeiro, deixou ainda um elogio ao sistema político português, lembrando as eleições legislativas e presidenciais em que estes dois atores políticos foram eleitos.

“Ambos foram eleitos em eleições ferozes e muito disputadas. Mas nessas eleições, nenhuma força política, da esquerda ou direita, usou o medo ou o ódio para ganhar votos”, afirmou.

António Guterres expressou ainda o seu orgulho de que em Portugal “todos os partidos políticos, direita ou esquerda, tenham sido sempre capazes de expressar as suas opiniões sem usar como bodes expiatórios” os imigrantes.

“Seria muito fácil para qualquer partido político dizer: vote em nós, porque vamos livrar-nos dos imigrantes e, com base nisso, criar trabalhos para os portugueses (…). Temos visto este tipo de discurso em todo o lado. Tenho muito orgulho de vir de um pais que não usa este tipo de discurso para ganhar votos“, acrescentou.

“São estes valores de solidariedade, diálogo e tolerância, que agradeço muito ao meu povo me ter ensinado e que consegui preservar em todos estes anos que me trouxeram até este dia, aqui, convosco”, concluiu.

(JN) António Guterres toma hoje posse como secretário-geral das Nações Unidas

(JNAntónio Guterres vai tomar hoje posse como secretário-geral da ONU, numa cerimónia em que Portugal estará representado pelo Presidente da República, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, e pelo primeiro-ministro, António Costa.

António Guterres toma hoje posse como secretário-geral das Nações Unidas

A cerimónia acontece às 10:00 (17:00 de Lisboa) na sede da ONU, na sala da Assembleia Geral, perante representantes dos 193 Estados-membros, e é antecedida por uma homenagem ao secretário-geral cessante, Ban Ki-moon, que fará o seu último discurso como secretário-geral perante o plenário.

No discurso inaugural e depois de fazer o juramento sobre a Carta das Nações Unidas, o novo secretário-geral da ONU deverá traçar as linhas mestras do seu “programa de governo”, desde a resposta às crises globais até ao muito aguardado e muito adiado processo de reforma da pesada maquinaria institucional da organização de 71 anos.

Desde que foi aclamado pela Assembleia-geral da ONU em Outubro, António Guterres já tratou de visitar as capitais e de se reunir com os líderes dos cinco membros permanentes do Conselho de Segurança.

 

Um dos primeiros actos de António Guterres depois de tomar posse deverá ser o anúncio da nomeação do vice-secretário-geral e do seu chefe de gabinete, com analistas a anteciparem que os dois lugares-chave serão ocupados por mulheres. Guterres já afirmou que as questões de igualdade de género no interior da ONU vão merecer atenção particular no seu mandato.

 

A ministra do Ambiente da Nigéria, Amina Mohammed, é tida como a principal candidata ao cargo de vice-secretário-geral.

 

António Guterres, 67 anos, vai iniciar o seu mandato de cinco anos a 1 de Janeiro de 2017, três semanas antes da tomada de posse de Donald Trump como presidente dos Estados Unidos da América, em Washington.

(AP) New UN chief says better training needed for peacekeepers

(AP)

United Nation’s incoming secretary-general Antonio Guterres attends a meeting with Chinese Foreign.

BEIJING (AP) — The United Nations’ incoming secretary-general said Monday that he wants U.N. peacekeepers to be better trained and more respectful of human rights, amid pressure on the organization to address a series of sexual abuse allegations.

Antonio Guterres, who takes over from Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, also said the U.N. needs to be more nimble and less bureaucratic.

He spoke after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing. China is one of the U.N.’s largest financial backers, and Guterres said it could be an important peace broker in conflicts around the world.

Guterres told a news conference that he wants to make sure the different parts of the U.N. “work for the same purpose” without duplicating efforts. He said they also need to be subject to independent public evaluation.

The U.N.’s peacekeeping forces need to be better equipped and trained in order to avoid violating the rights of women and children, Guterres said. They also need to be able to better cooperate with regional organizations such as the African Union, he said.

The United Nations has been in the spotlight over allegations of child rape and other sexual abuses by its peacekeepers, particularly in Central African Republic and Congo.

Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal and head of the U.N.’s refugee relief agency, said the world faces challenges from enduring conflicts, climate change, population growth and water scarcity that are “making more and more people suffer in different parts of the world.”

“We see that economic progress and technological progress have not been able to reduce inequalities and inequality is becoming an important factor in instability in the world,” he said.

Wang said the 193-member U.N. needs to be more efficient in its governance and better able to respond to emergencies.

China is the biggest contributor of U.N. peacekeepers among the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council, having sent more than 30,000 on 29 separate missions.

President Xi Jinping said last year that China would also set up a permanent peacekeeping standby force of 8,000 troops to be deployed whenever necessary.

He also said China would provide $100 million in military assistance to the African Union over the next five years to support the establishment of an African standby peacekeeping force and to bolster the AU’s ability to respond to crises.

(EucActiv) New UN chief blames politicians for ignoring ‘losers of globalisation’

(EucActiv)

The incoming head of the United Nations António Guterres warned yesterday (22 November) that “losers of globalisation” in rich countries have felt ignored by establishment politicians, prompting them to turn to nationalist agendas, as in the US election and Brexit referendum.

Guterres, a former Portuguese socialist prime minister elected in October to take over as UN secretary general next year, told a conference in his native Lisbon that this trend had undermined the willingness to receive refugees in Europe this year.

He said the world must re-establish international protection for refugees coming from war zones such as Syria, but it would not be easy as developed countries were turning to nationalist agendas.

In a previous capacity as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres has praised Germany’s refugee policy and has called the EU asylum system “dysfunctional”.

Europe has struggled to handle a huge influx of refugees, many of whom displaced by the war in Syria. The United States has accepted only a very small number of refugees and may take in even fewer next year.

“In 2016, we have witnessed a dramatic deterioration of that international protection regime (for refugees),” Guterres said.

“This example started in the developed world, it started essentially in Europe, it is spreading now like a virus into other parts of the world.”

Guterres linked the growing resistance to accepting refugees to wider concerns about globalisation.

“I don’t think we can look strictly at the refugee issue, I think the problem is a broader problem,” he told the conference on Europe’s refugee crisis.

There was a consensus in the mid-1990s that globalisation would benefit all, he said.

“But a lot of people were left behind … In the developed world, (there are) those who have been losers in globalisation,” he said. “The recent analysis of the rust belt in the United States, I think, is a clear demonstration of that, when we speak about the elections.”

Donald Trump won this month’s election in the United States in part thanks to support from voters who have seen their jobs lost to countries with cheaper labour.

“So globalisation has not been as succesful as we had hoped and lots of people became not only angry with it, but feeling that political establishments and international organisations are not paying attention, were not taking care (of them),” he said.

This led to what he called “a kind of evolution” in which anti-establishment parties now tended to win elections and referendums tended to attract majorities against whatever was put to a vote.