United Nations Security Council

Saudi Arabia rejects UN Security Council seat

Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected its freshly acquired seat on the U.N. Security Council, saying the 15-member body was incapable of resolving world conflicts such as the Syrian civil war.

The move came just hours after the kingdom was elected as one of the Security Council’s 10 nonpermanent members. Lithuania, Nigeria, Chile and Chad were also elected on Thursday. 

In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Foreign Ministry said the council has failed in its duties toward Syria, saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been able to “kill its people” without facing reprisal from the international community.

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

UN urges Mali rebel groups to sign peace deal

The UN Security Council on Wednesday urged Mali’s Tuareg rebel groups to sign on to a peace deal that it welcomed as an important step towards lasting peace in Mali. “We encourage the armed groups of the Coordination to initial the agreement,” said French Ambassador Francois Delattre, who chairs the 15-member council this month. “We welcome this draft peace agreement as an important step towards achieving a comprehensive and inclusive agreement towards lasting peace in Mali,” said Delattre, on behalf of the council. http://dlvr.it/8qsLcz

China’s top newspaper on Monday defended Beijing’s rejection of a U.N. resolution pressing Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to abandon power, saying Western campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq showed the error of forced regime change.

The commentary in the People’s Daily, the top newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, was Beijing’s clearest defense of its decision to join Moscow at the weekend in vetoing a draft United Nations resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to quit after months of bloodshed.

The commentary suggested that Chinese distrust of Western intervention lay behind the veto, which was described by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “travesty”.

Read more: China’s top paper defense veto of Syria resolution

It’s Time for a New United Nations

In March of 2011 and just hours before the United Nations Security Council vote, Libyan dictator Muammar Ghaddafi promised citizens of Benghazi—his own countrymen—that he was “coming tonight” and that would show them “no mercy and no pity.” Gaddafi’s brazen statement telegraphed an impending attack with a high possibility massive civilian casualties.

In the Security Council immediately following Gaddafi’s threats, Russia and China—two permanent members with noted authoritarian governments themselves—abstained from voting on resolution 1973, which authorized “all necessary measures to protect civilians… including Benghazi.” (Germany, Brazil, and India, then-rotating members of the Security Council, abstained as well for their own reasons.)

In hindsight, Russia seems to have regretted its abstention. In January 2012, speaking about the growing civil war in Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Australian TV that “the international community unfortunately did take sides in Libya and we would never allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar to what happened in Libya” in Syria.

That seems odd, because “what happened in Libya” was, on balance, a good thing: A sustained NATO air campaign unquestionably protected many more innocent civilians than it harmed and weakened Gaddafi’s forces en route to his downfall. What’s more, the Libya operation served as validation for those supporting the “responsibility to protect,” a 2006 Security Council mandate that called on parties involved in armed conflict to bear primary responsibility to protect civilians, approved by a unanimous 15-0 vote.

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Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The proposed deal between two of the leading power brokers in Syria’s devastating civil war was set out by Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, they said.

Russia has supported Assad with arms and diplomatic cover throughout the war and any change in Moscow’s stance would remove a major obstacle to action on Syria by the United Nations Security Council.

In return for their offerings, Saudi Arabia is reportedly asking for guarantees that Russia would not block any future UN Security Council resolution(s) regarding Syria. Prince Bandar is also believed to have offered to purchase up to $15 billion in weaponry from the Russian government in an effort to sweeten the deal. 

Four Ways the U.N. Has Messed Over Israel

Declaring Zionism to be racism and other exciting exploits over the years

From peacekeeping missions to food aid, the United Nations does many good things in the world. Its treatment of Israel, however, is not one of those things. In the words of Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee responsible for the Middle East, Israel is “the perennial punching bag at the United Nations.” It is subject to “a barrage of obsessive, unbalanced, and relentless criticism,” says Susan Rice, who served as President Obama’s ambassador to the U.N. for five years. It faces “an overwhelming sense of hostility,” adds Richard Grenell, who served as the spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N. for eight years under George W. Bush.

But maybe this is all hyperbole meant to placate pro-Israel audiences back home? Might U.N. criticism of Israel be in proportion to the problems arising from its policies? Surely other countries are treated similarly when their actions run afoul of the U.N.’s high moral standards. Well, not quite. As American University’s Kenneth Anderson, who served as anexpert on the 2004 congressional task force on U.N. reform, put it to me, “zealotry and bigotry and direction against Israel … bears no rational basis to what might be legitimate arguments over policy.” Here are four examples that prove his point:

Read More: Tablet Magazine

Open letter to the UN Security Council on Mali

Brussels  |   3 Jun 2014

Excellencies,

The recent clashes between the army and rebels in the Kidal region show that Mali’s crisis is unresolved. The violence is directly linked to the lack of progress in talks between northern groups and the government that have stalled mostly because the main actors have been reluctant to engage in meaningful dialogue, despite their pledge in last June’s Ouagadougou agreement. Multiple and confusing diplomatic initiatives have not helped. The UN mission (MINUSMA) has struggled to reconcile its mandate to facilitate talks with that of helping to restore state authority; some perceive it as pro-government and compromised. I urge the Security Council, with the support of its main partners in Mali, to establish a UN-led international mediation mechanism.

The negotiations that started a year ago with signing of the Ouagadougou agreement are in jeopardy. Crisis Group’s January report, Mali: Reform or Relapse, warned that deadlock would have major security consequences. The provisional ceasefire reached in May under auspices of the African Union’s president, with the aid of the UN Secretary-General’s special representative, is fragile. Unless talks are revived promptly, new clashes will occur, undermining the substantial international efforts since MINUSMA’s deployment last July.

The Malian authorities and the northern-based movements have mostly used the dialogue to voice grievances, not resolve differences. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s government considers the “northern question” a matter of national pride and has stalled to avoid serious concessions. The three main rebel groups – MNLA, HCUA and the Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad – are fragmented, unable to offer realistic or coherent claims.

Regional and other international actors share responsibility. They have been unable to reconcile diverse, often competing interests to promote a common vision of a solution. Initiatives have often been uncoordinated. Mediation needs new impetus to re-launch talks.

For months, MINUSMA has played a vital role in calming tensions between the army and the northern movements, but without political progress, this can only delay new violence. The mission has struggled to facilitate implementation of the Ouagadougou agreement, in part due to perceptions about its neutrality. Resolution 2100 (25 April 2013) calls for it to both “restore the authority and the sovereignty of the Malian State throughout its national territory” and “to facilitate progress towards an inclusive national dialogue”, which by its nature involves bringing in the very armed groups that challenge the state’s authority in the north.

Building the capacity of Malian institutions is of course important. But the mandate’s tension raises competing expectations from the parties. Some members of the northern movements believe the mission backs the government, citing inter alia its provision of armoured vehicles to the defence ministry and that talks have been held almost solely in Bamako. They requested MINUSMA support for talks to be more balanced. The government believes the mission should focus primarily on helping the state recover its full sovereignty, as requested by the prime minister in his 29 April speech to the National Assembly.

The 30 May, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit asked the Burkina Faso and Nigeria presidents to renew mediation efforts, but these have been dormant for months and are unlikely to revive the talks. Mali accuses Burkina Faso of harbouring the MNLA’s political wing; ECOWAS is a key regional institution but does not include countries with influence in the north, such as Mauritania and Algeria. It is thus crucial to establish an international mediation mechanism that is coherent, backed by the region and other major powers and empowered to broker compromises. This new initiative should be UN-led.

The Security Council could consider two options. Neither will be easy, given politics in the region and beyond, but existing arrangements are proving insufficient.

The first would be to strengthen MINUSMA’s political mandate and have it mediate, not just facilitate. The Secretary-General’s special representative would become a full-time mediator. This would allow the UN to use its good offices and, together with Mali’s partners, press parties to resolve deadlocks. To achieve this, the Council must resolve the tension in the mandate by shifting it away from state building. An emphasis on state building might be necessary again in the future – and the gap would need to be filled by others now — but for the moment talks must be the priority.

The second would be to appoint an envoy of the Secretary-General, with African Union and ECOWAS agreement, independent of MINUSMA. The parties could express preferences from a list of names with high-level West Africa experience. The envoy would be an official mediator to whose team MINUSMA would give logistical help while continuing its state building role. This would require greater effort to build consensus, internally and regionally, but might be more likely to break the deadlock.

Whatever the preferred option, the mediator will need the support of Mali’s main partners. They should form a contact group whose membership should be relatively restricted, to ease coordination. It must include France and Algeria, who, working together, have enough influence to bring all the parties to the negotiating table. Algeria’s pivotal role in the region should be recognised, but it must exercise its influence within a multilateral framework.

The mediator, consulting with the main parties and the contact group, should quickly revive the Ouagadougou agreement’s negotiation framework. The current stalemate is not the result of flaws in that agreement but of parties’ refusal to implement it and insufficient pressure on them from Mali’s regional and other partners. The monitoring and evaluation committee established by the agreement has not met since October. It should be resuscitated and, chaired by the mediator, convene monthly to allow international actors to coordinate their efforts. The parties should urgently agree on and commit to a detailed schedule of such sessions.

As the Council prepares to renew MINUSMA’s mandate, it should draw the right conclusions from the challenges the mission faces. In appointing a new UN-led mediation mechanism, whether within the mission or external to it, it has another opportunity to help Malians reach a sustainable solution; it should not assume such an opportunity will come again soon.

Sincerely,

Louise Arbour 

President and CEO, International Crisis Group

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu’s reasoning makes as little sense as his overall strategy.

Netanyahu is determined to scuttle the imminent deal between Iran and the P5+1 countries over Iran’s development of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. (BTW, P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France—plus Germany.) Netanyahu argues that by signing a 10-year deal, the United States and the other countries are giving Iran de facto permission to construct nuclear weapons when the agreement ends. Netanyahu is convinced that once Iran has a nuclear capability, the first thing it will do is use it on Israel.

There are three major holes in Bibi’s logic:

  1. From what we can tell, the agreement will likely halt Iran’s development of nuclear weapons for 10 years, postponing for a generation the possibility of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel.
  2. If, after the agreement ends, Iran begins an active program of nuclear weapons development, the United States and other nations can always renew the severe economic sanctions that have been crippling Iran for years.
  3. Tehran is less than 1,000 miles from Tel Aviv, close enough that any nuclear bomb exploded in Israel would poison the Iranian air and water for decades. Those who wonder whether the ultra-religious Muslims in Iran would care should ask the same question of the ultra-religious Christians in the United States, a supposedly secular nation whose secular leaders did drop the atom bomb—twice!

But as illogical as Netanyahu is thinking, his overall strategy is even more absurd. How will giving a speech in front of the U.S. Congress sink the talks? Most observers note that the speech represents a marriage of convenience between Republicans, who want to embarrass President Obama, and the Israeli Prime Minister, who thinks the speech will win him votes in the upcoming Israeli elections. In the short term, this strategy is risky, and in the long term it is doomed to failure. His planned speech gives the growing number of American Jews uncomfortable with Israel’s actions vis-à-vis the Palestinians another reason to unite, funnel money to Israeli progressives and jawbone their elected officials. It pisses off many in the United States, already uncomfortable with Netanyahu’s support of additional West Bank settlements. And it worsens his relationship with the head of the country that protects Israel and shtups it with $3.1 billion in military aid every year.

President Obama and others have objected to Netanyahu’s speech before Congress because it comes too close to the Israeli elections and therefore goes against the American tradition of not appearing to interfere in foreign elections. In breaking this tradition, with whom has Netanyahu gone to bed? The American right, which before Reagan had a long history of overt anti-Semitism and still has its share of racists and Jew-haters.

Joining with Republicans to embarrass a Democratic president really has to make a lot of Jewish Senators and Representatives who are Democrats pretty unhappy; even the most militaristic of them may now listen a little more carefully to the arguments of those who want to apply more pressure on Israel to stop building more settlements in the West Bank and finally negotiate a two-state solution. Of course Netanyahu’s insult to the president must please all those Jewish Republicans in Congress—oops, there’s only one!

We haven’t come to the big strategic question—how could Israel possibly be against rapprochement with Iran? What could Israel possibly lose by bringing Iran back into the stable of nations dedicated to peace? Who benefits from the current state of affairs in the Middle East? Of course the Israeli and Jewish equivalents of Islamic and Christian extremists get to keep the status quo, which is helpful to their side. And Israeli and American arms manufacturers certainly benefit from continued tensions, as they will be able to sell more guns, bullets, tanks and aircraft. The status quo suits these groups and their political factotum Netanyahu just fine.

Thus the only way to understand Netanyahu’s campaign to upset the negotiations with Iran as reasoned action is to conclude the he is an ardent supporter of the current instability in the Middle East. And that makes him a warmonger. We can only hope that Israeli voters realize Netanyahu’s way leads to more bloodshed and vote him out of office on March 17.

UN Security Council passes chemical weapons resolution on Syria

The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution Friday backing a plan to turn Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile over to international monitors. It was the first time the divided council has been able to unite and pass a resolution related to the Syrian conflict, which has torn the country for two and a half years.

U.S. officials are hailing the resolution as a victory, in the wake of three joint vetoes by Russia and China in the past two years. But the resolution – which President Barack Obama and other Western diplomats have called “binding” and “enforceable” – lacks the teeth that the Obama administration has repeatedly called for.

However, speaking in the Security Council chambers just after the vote, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that U.S. airstrikes are still an option. 

Read more at Al Jazeera America

Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Kerry seeks to avert UN Palestinian showdown

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he hoped to head off an end-of-year showdown at the United Nations over Palestinian statehood in meetings next week in Europe. The Palestinians are carrying out a major campaign aiming to submit to the UN Security Council a draft resolution setting out a two- or three-year timetable for an end to Israeli occupation. They have said they would like to see the text submitted before the end of the year, prompting a surprise meeting next Monday in Rome between Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Palestinians’ UN push comes amid tensions in the region and as a wave of European countries have seen parliamentary votes urging their governments to recognize a state of Palestine. http://dlvr.it/7pQD2r

Nigeria Takes New UN Security Council Seat

By SaharaReporters, New York

Nigeria on New Year’s Day returned to the United Nations Security Council, just two years after she last served as a member.

She is one of Africa’s two new members, the other being Chad. They will complete their current term on December 31, 2015. The third African member is Rwanda, which will complete her term at the end of this year.

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VIDEO: Syria Barrel Bombings Continue Despite Ban Says NGO

VIDEO: Syria Barrel Bombings Continue Despite Ban Says NGO

Human Rights Watch is calling for the United Nations Security Council to pass an arms embargo on the Syrian government to end barrel bombings of civilian areas. Mark Kelly reports. Image: AFP

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ISIS Trafficking Human Organs?

ISIS Trafficking Human Organs?

*** When depraved savagery knows no boundaries. ***

 By Arnold Ahlert  ~
If reports coming out of Iraq are accurate, the depraved savagery of ISIS has reached yet another new low. According to Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations Mohamed Alhakim, ISIS is harvesting human organs to finance its war operations – and has executed a dozen doctors for failing to go along with the program.

Alhaki…

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