The United Nations’ special Middle East envoy called on Israel to drop plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, joining a growing international chorus of opposition.
Envoy Nickolay Mladenov also called on the Palestinians to resume talks with the so-called Quartet, comprised of the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations.
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“Israel must abandon threats of annexation,” Mladenov said during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday.
“I call on my colleagues in the Middle East Quartet to work with the UN and quickly come forward with a proposal that will enable the Quartet to take up its mediation role and work jointly with countries in the region to advance the prospect of peace,” he added.
The unusually direct statement came a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced an end to the Palestinians’ security arrangements with the US and Israel, which has vowed to annex territories in the occupied West Bank.
“The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones,” Abbas said at an emergency meeting for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah on Tuesday.
The Palestinians have rejected a Middle East plan by US President Donald Trump’s administration that was proposed in January and that would see the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley.
Mladenov said he would speak on Thursday with Palestinian leaders about the practical consequences of their announcement, which were not spelled out by Abbas.
“The continuing threat of annexation by Israel of parts of the West Bank would constitute a most serious violation of international law,” Mladenov warned.
It would “deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace and our broader efforts to maintain international peace and security,” he said.
US calls for negotiations
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, said a solution could only result from the two parties sitting down at the same negotiating table.
“What is needed right now, if we hope to take even a first step in the right direction, is for the parties to sit down with one another,” she said.
“This council cannot dictate the end of this conflict. We can only encourage the parties to sit down to determine how they wish to make progress.”
The US diplomat once again called on the Palestinians to seize the opportunity offered by a US Middle East plan that it has previously rejected.
Meanwhile, France’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that Paris was working with European partners to come up with a joint action plan for prevention or reprisal should Israel go ahead with its annexations threats.
“For the past few days we have held several video conferences with European colleagues … with a view to deciding on a joint preventive action and eventually a reprisal if such a decision were taken,” Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a parliament hearing.
In a joint statement, France, Belgium, Germany and Estonia reaffirmed they “will not recognise any changes to the 1967 borders, unless agreed by Israelis and Palestinians”.
“We strongly urge Israel to refrain from any unilateral decision that would lead to the annexation of any occupied Palestinian territory and would be, as such, contrary to international law,” they said, reaffirming their support for a two-state solution as the only one capable of bringing peace to the region.
At the same time, the Vatican said Israel’s possible annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank was concerning and could further compromise peace talks.
Respect for international law and UN resolutions was an “indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side”, the Vatican said following talks between chief foreign policy official Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
“The Holy See is following the situation closely and expresses concern about any future actions that could further compromise dialogue,” the Vatican said in a statement.
It added that the Roman Catholic city-state hoped a resolution could soon be found through direct talks “so that peace may finally reign in the Holy Land, so beloved by Jews and Christians and Muslims”.
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US envoy in Qatar: Gulf dispute ‘gone on too long’ |NationalTribune.com
The three-year blockade of Qatar by neighbouring Arab nations has gone on for too long and threatens regional security and prosperity, a US envoy has said. US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on Sunday acknowledged the challenge ahead of ending the crisis that has torn apart the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – with the United…
The three-year blockade of Qatar by neighbouring Arab nations has gone on for too long and threatens regional security and prosperity, a US envoy has said.
US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on Sunday acknowledged the challenge ahead of ending the crisis that has torn apart the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain part of the siege.
Egypt also joined the blockade, which saw nations close their airspace and borders to Qatar in June 2017.
Kuwait and Oman, the two other nations in the GCC, have sought dialogue between the countries since, with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah leading those efforts.
The United States has so far unsuccessfully tried to mediate the dispute, which Washington sees as a threat to efforts to contain Iran.
“The dispute has continued for too long,” Hook told reporters from Doha after meeting with Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
“Bringing an end to this dispute really will advance the collective interests of all the parties to this conflict.”
Diplomats and Gulf sources have told the Reuters news agency the US has been trying to convince Saudi Arabia and its allies to reopen their airspace, but mediation efforts since the start of 2020 have yet to bear fruit.
Hook said he planned to travel on Monday to Kuwait City to meet with officials there and discuss the issue.
“I’ve seen some steps backwards over the last couple of years,” Hook said. “We’ve reached points where I think both sides were optimistic and we’ve reached points where both sides were pessimistic.
“I think our role and the role of Kuwait is to do what we can to foster dialogue, to help them make progress.”
The four countries cut ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017, just after a summit in Saudi Arabia in which Gulf leaders met US President Donald Trump. They accuse Qatar of supporting “extremist groups” in the region, charges denied by Doha.
Included in their demands are closing a Turkish military base in Qatar and shutting down Al Jazeera Media Network.
The quartet has also pointed to Qatar’s close relationship with Iran, with which it shares a massive offshore gas field that provides the peninsular nation with its vast wealth. Qatar restored full diplomatic ties with Iran amid the dispute.
Hook said the hospitalisation of the 91-year-old Kuwaiti ruler would “not have any negative effect on diplomatic efforts” to end the blockade. Sheikh Sabah, who is in the US receiving medical treatment, has long tried to end the siege.
The US envoy said he believed Sheikh Sabah, a long-serving diplomat, would want Kuwaiti efforts to continue.
Iran arms embargo
Hook is in the Middle East to urge the extension of a United Nations arms embargo on Iran. Washington is trying to extend the embargo warning failure would “intensify” regional conflicts.
“I’ve spoken with leaders here in the Gulf and around the world – no one believes that Iran should be able to freely buy and sell conventional weapons such as fighter jets … and various kinds of missiles,” said Hook.
The US has urged the UN Security Council to extend the embargo which expires in October. The extension is opposed by veto-wielding Russia and China, which stand to gain major arms contracts from Iran.
“If the Security Council fails to extend the arms embargo by October 18, Iran will be able to freely buy and sell these weapons,” Hook said. “Imagine what the region will look like if this happens, conflicts in places like Syria and Yemen will certainly intensify.”
US arch foe Iran is a key player on the side of the Syrian government in the country’s conflict, and is aligned with Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting the government, supported by a coalition led by American ally Saudi Arabia.
Iran has vehemently opposed any extension of the arms embargo. Last month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the Trump administration “an outlaw bully” that is waging “economic terrorism” on his country.
If the US is unsuccessful in extending the weapons embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, from which Washington unilaterally withdrew in 2018.
UN Yemen envoy calls for probe into civilian deaths |NationalTribune.com
The United Nations envoy for Yemen has called for a transparent investigation into air strikes that killed at least 11 civilians in al-Jawf province, saying resurgent violence is complicating UN-led efforts to end the five-year war. Security is deteriorating anew as Yemen faces the coronavirus pandemic and what the UN describes as the world’s biggest…
The United Nations envoy for Yemen has called for a transparent investigation into air strikes that killed at least 11 civilians in al-Jawf province, saying resurgent violence is complicating UN-led efforts to end the five-year war.
Security is deteriorating anew as Yemen faces the coronavirus pandemic and what the UN describes as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with millions on the verge of famine.
The raids were the third such incident since June. The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group has said it is investigating reports of civilian deaths in Wednesday’s attack and in the Hajjah region earlier this week.
“We deplore yesterday’s air strikes in #AlJawf … A thorough & transparent investigation is required,” envoy Martin Griffiths tweeted, describing attacks on civilians as reprehensible.
The UN humanitarian coordination office in Yemen said at least 11 civilians were killed. The Houthi health ministry raised the death toll to 24 after initially saying nine people, including two children, were killed when coalition air raids hit homes.
The Houthis have recently stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities as well as military operations on the ground. The coalition has retaliated with air raids.
At al-Thawra hospital in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, where some of the injured were taken, a child writhed in bed with a chest drain and bandaged shoulder and legs.
A 15-day-old baby died from his wounds, hospital employee Ahmed Sanad, told Reuters news agency.
“For what sin is this child and a baby only days old bombed?” another employee, Ahmed al-Aawag, said.
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Removal from UN blacklist
The coalition, which receives weapons and intelligence from Western allies including the US and the UK, was last month removed from a UN blacklist several years after it was first accused of killing and injuring children in Yemen.
In a statement on Thursday, the Houthi health ministry condemned the attack in al-Jawf.
It stated that since the UN removed Saudi Arabia and its coalition from the blacklist, the coalition has increased its targeting of children and women in Yemen with airstrikes, Yemen’s Houthi-run Al Masirah media network reported.
The ministry condemned the UN’s removal of the Saudi Arabia alliance from the blacklist of violators, placing the legal and humanitarian responsibility of these crimes on the UN and US-Saudi alliance, Al Masirah reported.
The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people since the alliance intervened in Yemen in March 2015 shortly after the Houthis forced the Saudi-backed government from power in Sanaa.
Griffiths has been holding virtual talks between the warring parties to agree to a permanent ceasefire and confidence-building steps to restart peace negotiations last held in December 2018.
Outgoing UN envoy to Myanmar ‘utterly disappointed’ with Suu Kyi
The United Nations’ outgoing human rights envoy for Myanmar has told Al Jazeera that the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has failed to live up to her reputation as a humanitarian. Yanghee Lee’s time in the role has been especially dominated by Myanmar’s bloody crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017, when 750,000 people,…
The United Nations’ outgoing human rights envoy for Myanmar has told Al Jazeera that the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has failed to live up to her reputation as a humanitarian.
Yanghee Lee’s time in the role has been especially dominated by Myanmar’s bloody crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017, when 750,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, fled across the border to Bangladesh.
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Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely criticised for remaining mostly silent on accusations of anti-Rohingya violence, and Lee told Al Jazeera on Wednesday she believed the Myanmar leader’s inaction was “utterly disappointing”.
“We all knew that she was put on a pedestal or portrayed as the icon of democracy and human rights, but ever since [her party] has taken office [after a 2015 election] and ever since she took the office of the state councillor, all of her actions and her words, statements point otherwise,” said Lee, whose requests to enter Myanmar were repeatedly denied by the government.
“I would still like to believe that she can change how she’s been doing, but perhaps the world didn’t really know who she was,” she added.
Aung San Suu Kyi became a democracy icon during Myanmar’s decades of military dictatorship when she spent some 15 years under house arrest.
In December last year, the Nobel Peace Prize winner defended Myanmar’s military against allegations of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In her speech, during which she did not use the word Rohingya, Aung San Suu Kyi told the court that the 2017 exodus of hundreds of thousands of people to neighbouring Bangladesh was the unfortunate result of a battle with armed fighters.
The ICJ case, filed by The Gambia, accuses Myanmar of violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in relation to the 2017 crackdown. UN agencies and human rights groups have extensively documented atrocities.
The government and army have consistently denied the accusation.
Asked about the case, Lee said: “I can’t come out with a conclusion before the court (International Criminal Court) that is mandated to deal with genocide … but I say it bears the hallmarks of genocide.”
Al Jazeera News
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