Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘terrorism’ in top UN court

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) holds a public hearing in the case of Ukraine against the Russian Federation, in The Hague on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 06 March 2017

Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘terrorism’ in top UN court

THE HAGUE: Ukraine urged the UN’s top court on Monday to help bring stability to its war-torn east, seeking to convince judges that Russia is “sponsoring terrorism” in Kiev’s conflict with separatist pro-Russian rebels.
“Today I stand before the court to ask for the protection of the basic human rights of the Ukrainian people,” Kiev’s Deputy Foreign Minister Olena Zerkal told the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“Thousands of innocent Ukrainians have already suffered deadly attacks,” she said.
Nearly three years of conflict have claimed about 10,000 lives in eastern Ukraine — and led to Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea in 2014 — pushing ties between Moscow and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.
“Today I stand before the world to seek protection for the Ukraine from the Russian Federation,” Zerkal added, saying all Kiev was seeking was “a measure of stability and calm in an unpredictable and dangerous situation.”
Ukraine’s representatives are asking the ICJ to impose emergency measures ordering Russia to stop its alleged funnelling of money, weapons and personnel into the east, and to halt what it called “discrimination” against minorities in Russian-occupied Crimea.
It is also seeking compensation for attacks on civilians during the conflict.
Moscow has long denied arming the rebels and has said the case is motivated only “by political interests.”
It has also claimed that Kiev has “shown a lack of will to hold a concrete dialogue.”
Ukraine lodged its case against its former Soviet master at the ICJ in mid-January, saying it had protested for several years against Moscow’s alleged financing of separatist rebels battling Ukrainian government forces.
Kiev says Moscow has “largely failed” to respond to its efforts to resolve the dispute and that “further negotiations would be futile.”
Ukraine now “respectfully requests the court to adjudge and declare that the Russian Federation bears international responsibility by virtue of its sponsorship of terrorism... for the acts of terrorism committed by its proxies in Ukraine,” it said in papers before the court.
“Russia must stop the flow of weapons and assistance across its borders to groups that launch terrorist attacks against civilians,” said Harold Hongju Koh, another of Kiev’s representatives.
Ukraine was facing a “human rights emergency,” he said, adding that, “in Crimea, Russia must cease its campaign of cultural erasure.”
Since Russia insists it has not violated any conventions if it “will not refrain, it must be because its behavior is neither innocent, nor legal,” added Koh, a professor in international law.
Rare talks between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin over last month proved “fruitless,” the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement Thursday.
Poroshenko hailed the start of the four days of hearings Monday, calling it “a historic moment” on his Facebook page.
“The truth is stronger than weapons!” he wrote.
The hearings come after an upsurge in the violence, which killed 35 people in early February, centered-around the government-held town of Avdiivka near the rebel bastion of Donetsk.
Moscow also “brazenly defied” the UN Charter by seizing Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea, Kiev said in its filing, accusing Russia of discriminating against Crimean minorities such as Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians.
Ukraine is seeking “full reparations for... acts of terrorism the Russian Federation has caused, facilitated or supported,” it said, including the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by a missile over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014.
Russia will make its case on Tuesday, with about 35 Russian officials attending the hearings due to end on Thursday.
The ICJ was set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between countries.
While UN member nations are bound to abide by the tribunal’s decisions, the court’s ruling is unlikely to have much concrete effect on the ground, experts said.

Pakistan willing to use ‘little influence’ it has with Afghan Taliban to help peace talks

Updated 13 December 2018

Pakistan willing to use ‘little influence’ it has with Afghan Taliban to help peace talks

  • Islamabad says ready to host direct negotiations between Kabul and Taliban
  • Pakistan foreign minister headed to Afghanistan for high-level talks on Dec. 15

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is willing to use its “little influence” with the Afghan Taliban to resurrect faltering peace talks between the Kabul government and the insurgency, foreign office officials said, just days before Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is scheduled to visit Kabul to meet with top civilian and military leaders.

US officials have long pushed Pakistan to use its influence with Taliban leaders, who Washington says are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table and end a 17-year war. Islamabad vehemently denies it is covertly sheltering Taliban leaders.

“We can facilitate the peace process by using our little influence over the Afghan Taliban,” a foreign office official with knowledge of the talks told Arab News on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the issue.

“Pakistan is willing to bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table but obviously is not in a position to forge a peace agreement with them. The modalities and all other relevant things are to be decided by the US as it is the major stakeholder,” he said.

However, he said that the Taliban seemed “least interested” in engaging with the Afghan government at a time when the next presidential elections were scheduled to be held in April next year. He said the US and Afghanistan had to mutually decide if they wanted to delay the presidential elections so the present dispensation could better engage with the Taliban or if they wanted a new government with a full five-year mandate to broker a peace deal.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump asked for Pakistan’s help with Afghan peace talks in a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“The peace process has started and the good thing is that the US has finally agreed to find a negotiated settlement to the Afghan conflict,” foreign office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal told Arab News. “Pakistan is ready to play its role and our foreign minister will convey this to the Afghan leadership.”

Addressing a ceremony in Multan last week, Foreign Minister Qureshi said it was a testament to the robustness of Pakistan’s foreign policy that the US had asked for assistance in resolving the Afghan conflict, adding that he would visit Kabul on Dec. 15 to hold talks with the “Afghan leadership on political reconciliation and durable peace in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan is committed to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, the minister added.

During last week’s visit to Pakistan of the US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, Islamabad had expressed its willingness to host direct talks between representatives of the Afghan government and leaders of the Taliban if all stakeholders, including the US, agreed on a common agenda for the meeting.

“We have conveyed this to the US during the recent visit of Zalmay Khalilzad, but obviously nothing is final at this stage as different options for peace in Afghanistan are being explored,” the foreign office official said.

Last month, Khalilzad said that he hoped a peace deal would be reached by April 2019. But Afghan Taliban militants have repeatedly said that they have not accepted any deadline and that a three-day meeting in Qatar between their leaders and Khalilzad in October ended with no agreement.

In July 2015, Pakistan arranged the first official meeting of representatives of the Kabul government and the Taliban in Murree, a hill resort near Islamabad. Observers from the US and China also attended the talks. The process was, however, scuttled after the death of Taliban chief Mullah Omar, throwing fledgling efforts to negotiate into disarray.

Last week, the Afghan president constituted a 12-member committee to hold direct talks with the Taliban, but they have yet to get a nod from the militants.

Rahimullah Yousufzai, an expert on Taliban affairs, said that Pakistan can help to arrange meetings of the Taliban with the US and the Afghan government by using its influence but “there is still a long way to go.”

“The Taliban are seeking a schedule of withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and until the US agrees to that, there are little chances of moving ahead,” he told Arab News, adding that Pakistan could facilitate negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban as it had in the past but “nothing more than that.”

“Taliban’s international recognition has increased manifold in the past years and they are now least dependent on Pakistan’s help,” Yousafzai said.

A senior security official privy to talks said that no peace deal was possible without the ownership of the process by the Afghan people: “Right now, the biggest question is, do the Afghan people even accept this process?”