Russia demands UN Security Council condemn Syria missile attack

Russia has called an emergency Security Council meeting to file a motion condemning the missile attack on Syria. Only two other countries backed its efforts though.

hoto taken on April 14, 2018 shows an emergency meeting of the Security Council to discuss the situation after airstrikes in Syria by the United States, France and Britain, at the UN headquarters in New York.

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday rejected a Russian resolution to condemn Western strikes on Syria.

Moscow called the emergency Council meeting after the US, France and the UK fired scores of cruise missiles at what they said were chemical weapons facilities in Syria in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Damascus last week.

Read more: Airstrikes in Syria: What you need to know

Watch video02:01

Syria: US-led airstrikes on chemical weapons facilities

How the meeting went

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged restraint and to avoid any escalation.
  • Guterres renewed his call for an investigation to identify the perpetrators of the chemical attack.
  • Russia filed a draft resolution condemning the missile attack as a violation of international law and the UN Charter, and demanding the US and its allies cease aggression against Syria.
  • Only Russia, China and Bolivia voted in favor. Eight countries voted against the draft. Four abstained.

Read more: Russia condemns US airstrikes on Syria as world reacts

Watch video01:38

Russia accuses Britain of staging gas attack in Syria

Britain defends strikes

British ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce said “it was both right and legal to take military action together with our closest allies to alleviate further humanitarian suffering.”

US ambassador Nikki Haley said: “If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded.”

Read more: Why Syria is not the Cuban missile crisis of 2018

World closes ranks: Russia and Syria have found little support for their position, with the 29 NATO states unanimous in their approval of the strikes given Russia’s blocking of investigative efforts.

The chemical attack: Dozens of people were reportedly killed and many more injured in a suspected chemical weapons attack in the city of Dhouma last week. Various groups alleged that either chlorine, a nerve agent, or both were used in the attack.

Allegations of blame: Western allies accused the Russian-backed Syrian regime of being behind the attack. Russia and Syria deny this, saying the incident was either fabricated or was a false-flag attack.

Retaliatory attacks: In response, the US, France and the UK launched attacks early Saturday morning against three sites near Damascus and Homs that were allegedly used for the research, development production, testing and storage of chemical weapons.

aw/tj (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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Russia accuses UK and allies of concocting the attack on Skripal at UN Security Council

Russia has told the United Nations Security Council that British intelligence services probably poisoned Sergei Skripal. The US accused Russia of peddling conspiracy theories and said it stood behind the UK.

Watch video05:07

Diplomatic Baggage

Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya, accused the UK of being responsible for the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a blistering address to the UN Security Council on Thursday.

His speech covered a series of discrepancies he saw in the British response to the Salisbury attack.

Read more: Skripal poisoning: Russian ambassador demands transparency in OPCW probe

Watch video00:35

‘Yakovenko: ’15 countries voted against transparency’

Coordinated plot

“Since the British authorities dare to state with a ‘high degree of probability’ that Russia is behind the Salisbury incident, we also, with a ‘high degree of probability’ assume that the intelligence agencies of certain countries are behind this mega provocation,” Nebenzya said.

“It is more than likely that this very questionable case is a fabrication.”

“It’s some sort of theater of the absurd. Couldn’t you come up with a better fake story?” Nebenzya added.

Read more: What does the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW do?

Britain possesses Novichok

Nebenzya said the UK had admitted it was in possession of the nerve agent.

“Novichok is not copyrighted by Russia in spite of the obviously Russian name. It was a name that was invented in the west for a line of toxic substances, which is nothing new for experts and scientists. They were developed in many countries including in the US and in Great Britain.”

“Boris Johnson confirmed to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that they have this substance in their hands.”

He said Porton Down scientist Gary Aitkenhead had revealed that his lab had samples of Novichok when he told Sky News that the substance could not “leave the four walls of our facilities.”

“What was this that couldn’t leave the laboratory? And does the OPCW know about his substance,” he asked.

Read more: Boris Johnson accused of making misleading Russia Novichok claim in DW interview

Watch video01:30

Diplomats leave Moscow embassy

Unanswered questions

He said the British investigation had leapt to conclusions and left many questions unanswered.

“I don’t think that the British investigative bodies are grateful to the British government for their hasty and unequivocal conclusions. Your politicians never thought about this, they had no idea that their hyped up statements might boomerang and hit them.”

He listed a series of unanswered questions that he said cast doubt on the British conclusions, including: “Where were the Skripals for four hours with their phones switched off? How were the samples taken and who can confirm their reliability? Why weren’t relatives asked for their approval to take blood samples? How did the antidote against an unknown chemical substance appear so quickly and was it injected?”

“We all know what the worth of British intelligence is based on the experience of Tony Blair.”

Read more: EU stands behind Russian culpability in Skripal poisoning

Playing with fire

He warned Britain that it had poisoned Russia’s international relations without proper evidence.

“We have told our British colleagues that you are playing with fire and you’ll be sorry.”

UK, US respond

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said London would not “take any lectures on morality or on our responsibilities from a country that, as this council debated yesterday, has done so much to block the proper investigation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

Britain’s actions “stand up to any scrutiny” and pledged to keep the 15-member body updated on the inquiry.

“We have nothing to hide … but I do fear that Russia might have something to fear,” Pierce said.

Meanwhile, the US accused Russia of peddling conspiracy theories and reaffirmed its support for Britain.

“The fact that a permanent member of this council was behind an incident like this is appalling,” said deputy US ambassador to the UN Kelley Currie.

She said the US stood beside the UK over the matter.

aw/bw

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Israel suspends UN migrant deal after protests

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said thousands of migrants would be resettled in Germany, Canada and Italy as part of a UN-backed deal. But he put the agreement on hold hours after his announcement.

Benjamin Netanyahu (Reuters/R. Zvulun)

Israel on Monday suspended a deal with the United Nations to send some 16,000 African asylum seekers to Western countries, mere hours after it had announced the agreement.

The deal with the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) would have seen at least 16,250 of 37,000 migrants relocated to “Western countries” later identified as Germany, Canada and Italy. The remaining migrants would have been allowed to stay for up to five years.

African migrants protest in Israel, January 26 2017African asylum seekers have long protested Israel’s plans to deport them

But Netanyahu wrote in a message on his Facebook page on Monday evening that he would freeze the deal until further review, adding that his decision was in response to the agreement’s critics.

Division and confusion

The deal’s announcement immediately sparked condemnation on social and mainstream media, with some critics accusing Netanyahu of caving into left-wing demands.

Several right-wing ministers in Netanyahu’s Cabinet also said they opposed the accord, adding that Netanyahu’s office had not told them about it before the agreement was announced.

Germany and Italy had also cast doubt on the deal after they separately said they were not aware of any relocation agreement.

Netanyahu’s office said the accord would replace a separate heavily criticized plan to deport the migrants to an unnamed African country.

Dilemma

The country founded as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution and conflict has faced the moral dilemma of dealing with the migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, whom it says entered the country irregularly.

Listen to audio06:20

WorldLink: Israel’s ‘cash or custody’ scheme

The issue has pitted right-wing nationalists, who argue that the presence of Christian and Muslim immigrants are a threat to the country’s identity as a Jewish state, against progressives and Holocaust survivors who say Israel’s history means it ought to take in refugees fleeing conflict and starvation.

Netanyahu, for his part, has referred to the asylum seekers as “illegal infiltrators.”

Protests

In February, about 20,000 male migrants were handed notices that said they had two months or leave the country or risk facing prison time.

In a move sharply criticized by the UN, some of them were offered incentives of $3,500 (€2,800) and a plane ticket to an undisclosed “safe country,” which, according to Israeli media, was Rwanda.

The plan sparked protests in Tel Aviv, where thousands of African refugees have settled in a cluster of neighborhoods known as “Little Africa.”

amp, es/se (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

UN says Syrian actions in Eastern Ghouta may amount to crimes against humanity

The United Nations has warned that the perpetrators of war crimes in Syria will be held accountable. It said dossiers were being compiled to prosecute those responsible for attacks on Syrian civilians.

Civilians digging through rubble in Eastern Ghouta, Syria (picture-alliance/AP Photo/Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warned Syria that potential war crimes were being comitted in Eastern Ghouta, speaking at an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday,

What we are seeing in Eastern Ghouta and elsewhere in Syria are likely war crimes and potentially crimes against humanity,” he said. “Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court. Attempts to thwart justice and shield these criminals are disgraceful.”

He warned that those responsible for the attacks were being identified and that the UN was compiling dossiers on their activities for future prosecution, noting: “The wheels of justice may be slow, but they do grind.”

Syrian government forces, with the backing of Russia, have been conducting airstrikes on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta for the past 12 days. Those attacks have killed hundreds of civilians in the city of 400,000. Eastern Ghouta is the last rebel-held enclave near the Syrian capital.

Read more: Opinion: Hell on Earth rages in Syria’s eastern Ghouta, while the world watches

Watch video01:35

US calls Syria humanitarian corridors a ‘joke’

‘Selective and biased’

Speaking in Geneva, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations Hussam Aala accused Zeid of being “selective and biased” in his comments, adding that the entire debate was “politicized.” He claimed that the Syrian army was doing everything possible to protect civilians and had opened “humanitarian corridors for the passage of civilians to separate them from the terrorists.”

On February 24, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously in support of a 30-day ceasefire across Syria, nevertheless, airstrikes have continued to pound the city. Two days after the Security Council resolution was passed, Russia announced that it would enact daily, five-hour “humanitarian pauses.”

‘We need longer pauses’

Speaking with DW TV, special advisor to the UN special envoy for Syria, Jan Egeland, said, “We need longer pauses.” He added that the five-hour pauses also had to be respected by rebels within the city.

Criticizing the fact that Russian-backed government forces were simply conducting airstrikes in areas outside Eastern Ghouta for short periods and then resuming them within as soon as the five hours had passed, Egeland said that if the pauses were not lengthened, “we cannot deliver aid in, we cannot take medical evacuations out and we cannot really ensure that civilians are safe if they want to leave the area.”

Watch video04:24

NRC’s Egeland talks about the situation in Syria

No humanitarian access

Humanitarian organizations have been unable to provide medical treatment and food to Eastern Ghouta’s 400,000 residents, many of whom have been trapped in basements across the bombed-out city fearing for their lives. Food is extremely scarce and malnutrition a major problem. Those residents who grow their own food in the area have also been unable to reach their parcels due to the heavy daily bombardments.

Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria’s eastern Ghouta?

And the death toll rises by the hour

More than 650 people have been killed since government forces began bombing Eastern Ghouta on February 18. At least 103 have been killed since Russia declared its humanitarian pauses. Eastern Ghouta has been under siege from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for the last four years.

Syria’s civil war, which has been raging since 2011, has become increasing entangled with a number of parties involved on many sides. More than 340,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced since hostilities began and there are no indications that the fighting will stop any time soon.

js/aw (AP,dpa, Reuters)

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UN calls for global disarmament amid surging arms sales

With global arms sales rising, the UN chief has urged more “direction to the global disarmament agenda.” He warned that initiatives have been abandoned while “military power is glorified.”

Confiscated weapons in Argentina

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced a “new initiative” to encourage global disarmament at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Arms sales have increased after years of decline, according to a report on the global arms industry published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) last year.

Read more: UN’s Arms Trade Treaty ‘too weak to make a difference’

Arms trade thriving

  • Guterres said that “global arms trade is thriving in a way not seen since the Cold War.”
  • Initiatives aimed at decreasing the size of militaries across the world have “been abandoned,” he noted, while “military power is glorified.”
  • He warned of new threats likely to emerge from technological developments, including lethal autonomous weapons.
  • He called for “greater impetus and direction to the global disarmament agenda,” saying Japanese diplomat Izumi Nakamitsu will consult with UN member states on a wider strategy.

Read more: ‘Killer robots’: autonomous weapons pose moral dilemma

Infographic showing share of global arms sales in 2016

Why are arms sales growing: The SIPRI report showed that growth was linked, in part, to increased production from armaments groups, particularly in the US. In Germany, arms manufacturers witnessed greater demand for their products in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

What is the UN doing about it: Since 2013, more than 100 countries have signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty, which aimed to regulate the trade of conventional weapons. However, human rights groups and arms monitors have criticized the implementation of the treaty, citing a lack of transparency and weak oversight. For example, Germany sold weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE until last month despite their involvement in a gruesome war in Yemen.

Read more: German arms exports: What you need to know

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.ls/aw (Reuters, AFP)

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Palestinian leader Abbas calls for Middle East peace conference, sidelining US role

In a rare UN speech, Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international mechamism to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Palestinian leader slammed the US, which he said could no longer be the sole peace mediator.

Watch video00:51

Abbas calls for Middle East peace conference

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called for an international conference on Middle East peace in mid-2018 followed by UN recognition of a State of Palestine.

In a rare speech at a monthly UN Security Council meeting on Middle East issues, Abbas called for an end to the United States’ traditional role as the main mediator between Israel and Palestine.

“It has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict,” Abbas said. “It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference.”

The Palestinians are furious at US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and accuse Washington of being biased towards the Jewish state. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Abbas also lashed out at US threats to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington and the decision to cut to US funding of UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees.

Watch video02:49

US aid cut to Palestinians – DW talks to UNRWA director Pierre Krähenbühl

Settlements

Abbas blamed the failure of peace efforts on Israeli settlements and occupation, saying it was “acting as a state above the law.”

“It has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation as per international law into a situation of permanent settlement colonization,” he said.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks mediated by the Obama administration broke down in 2014 primarily over Israel’s continued building of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN”s envoy, said the international community must press for “substantial Israeli policy changes” on settlements and said that “these are not negotiations between equals.”

settlements in the West Bank

Read more:  PLO recognition threat on Israel: Posturing or hard-line diplomacy?

Reducing US influence

Abbas said the conference should include the Palestinians, Israel, the five permanent UN Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and the United Nations.

Such an arrangement would reduce the weight of the United States’ influence. Israel wants direct negotiations with the Palestinians, which give it an upper hand.

The goal of the conference should be full UN membership for Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine and a new mechanism for a final peace settlement, Abbas said.

The Trump administration is talking up a Middle East peace plan, but has provided few details or explained how unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli’s despite overwhelming international opposition was supposed to advance a two state solution.

Read more: Mahmoud Abbas dismisses Donald Trump’s peace efforts as ‘slap of the century’ to Palestinians

The US response

In a snub, Abbas left the Security Council meeting before the US and Israeli ambassadors spoke.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the US was “ready to talk” as it finalizes a peace plan proposal.

“But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours,” she said to Abbas, who was not in the room.

On Jerusalem she said: “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: That decision will not change.”

Highlighting Palestinian perceptions of bias, she was joined by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Both are supporters of Israeli settlements.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said Abbas’ words and actions made it clear he was “no longer part of the solution. You are the problem.”

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cw/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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Donald Trump should apologize for remarks: African states

African UN ambassadors and the African Union have called for “a retraction and an apology” from US President Donald Trump after he reportedly described them as “s***hole” countries. Trump has denied using the phrase.

Flags of African Union members flying at a 2010 summit in Uganda (Getty Images/AFP/M. Turkia)

All 54 African ambassadors to the United Nations decried Donald Trump’s reported remarks as “outrageous, racist, and xenophobic” on Friday, a day after US media reported that Trump had referred to African states, Haiti, and El Salvador as “s***hole countries.”

The UN diplomats met for an emergency session before issuing a joint statement to demand a “retraction and an apology” from the US president.

“For once, we are all on the same page,” an ambassador told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The ambassadors also thanked American citizens “from all walks of life who have condemned the remarks.”

Read moreTrump denies slur against migrants from ‘s***hole’ countries

Donald Trump in profile during a press conferenceTrump suggested taking in more immigrants from countries like Norway

On Thursday, Trump was meeting lawmakers to discuss a proposal for an immigration plan when he reportedly grew agitated as the conversation turned to citizens of Haiti and El Salvador, and immigrants from the African continent.

“Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?” he asked, according to multiple sources present at the White House meeting.

Read more: Norwegians decline President Donald Trump’s offer to move to US

The reports prompted outrage and accusations of racism from people in the US and the rest of the world. Trump later denied using the vulgar phrase, but said he used “tough” language at the meeting.

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

Trump’s alleged comments were met with condemnation from the United Nations.

“If confirmed, these are shocking and shameful comments from the president of the United States. Sorry, but there is no other word one can use but ‘racist,'” said Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘s***holes’ whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome,” he added.

‘Particularly upsetting’

Trump’s alleged statement also prompted outrage from the African Union (AU), the organization that includes all the 54 African UN states plus Western Sahara, which is not recognized by the UN.

Read moreTrump blasts court for protecting DACA ‘Dreamers’

The AU representative said they were alarmed by Trump’s “very racist” comments.

“Given the historical reality of how African Americans arrived in the United States as slaves, and the United States being the biggest example of how a nation has been built by migration — for a statement like that to come is particularly upsetting,” said Ebba Kalondo, spokeswoman for AU chief Moussa Faki.

Botswana and Senegal have summoned US ambassadors in their respective countries in protest of Trump’s remarks.

‘Haitians don’t deserve such treatment’

Haiti, which on Friday marked the eighth anniversary of the disastrous earthquake which claimed around 220,000 lives, also summoned the US representative for an explanation.

Read moreUS supends policy protecting 200,000 Salvadoran immigrants

Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!

Haiti’s ambassador in Washington has also asked for an apology, as Trump reportedly specifically questioned the protections granted to Haitian immigrants after the earthquake.

“Haitians don’t deserve such treatment,” said Paul Altidor, the Haitian ambassador. “Haitians should not be seen as a bunch of immigrants who come to the United States to exploit US resources.”

The president of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, tweeted that Trump’s statement struck a blow “to the dignity of the Salvadoran people.”

El Salvador has also sent a formal letter of protest over Trump comments.

law,dj/jlw (AFP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW