Russia, China seek chemical weapons probe in Iraq

Soldiers take part in a military exercise simulating a chemical weapons attack. (AFP)
Updated 25 March 2017
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Russia, China seek chemical weapons probe in Iraq

UNITED NATIONS: Russia and China on Friday proposed that a UN panel investigating chemical weapons use in Syria be extended to Iraq, a proposal Britain immediately rejected.
The two countries raised the prospect of broadening the scope of the Joint Investigative Mechanism during a council discussion about the battle of Mosul, where Iraqi forces are fighting Daesh militants.
Security Council members expressed “unanimous concern” about the latest information concerning Daesh’s use of chemical weapons, according to British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who chaired the talks.
Russia and China then presented a draft resolution that “seeks to expand the work of the Joint Investigative Mechanism to Iraq,” Rycroft said, adding that Britain opposes the measure.
“The UK pointed out that there were many differences between the situation in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Unlike the Syrian government, the Iraqi government “is fully cooperating with the OPCW,” Rycroft added, referring to the intergovernmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which works with the UN to implement the Joint Investigative Mechanism.
“There are no allegations” the Iraqi government is using chemical weapons, he said.
The council took no decision over the draft on Friday, Rycroft said. He did not indicate whether Russia and China would submit their resolution to a vote in the future.
The dispute highlighted a fundamental disagreement over Syria between Western countries and Russia.
The Joint Investigative Mechanism — which Moscow helped establish as a Security Council member — found that the Syrian government, a Russian ally, had used chemical weapons at least three times.
But in February, Russia and China vetoed a draft resolution that would have sanctioned the Syrian government for its use of chemical weapons.


Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. (AFP)
Updated 19 December 2018
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Calm in Hodeidah as observers move in to monitor cease-fire

  • “Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said
  • The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday

JEDDAH: Truce monitoring observers will be deployed in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Wednesday as the first 24 hours of a UN-brokered cease-fire passed without incident.

The Redeployment Coordination Committee comprises members of the Yemeni government supported by the Saudi-led coalition, and Houthi militias backed by Iran, and is overseen by the UN. 

The head of the committee will report to the UN Security Council every week.

Deployment of the observers is the latest stage in a peace deal reached after talks last week in Sweden. Both sides in the conflict agreed to a cease-fire in Hodeidah and the withdrawal of their forces within 21 days.

“Both parties said publicly they are abiding by the cease-fire,” a UN official said on Tuesday.

Local authorities and police will run the city and its three port facilities under UN supervision, and the two sides are barred from bringing in reinforcements.

UN envoy Martin Griffith said the committee was expected to start its work swiftly “to translate the momentum built up in Sweden into achievements on the ground.”

The truce in Hodeidah officially began at midnight on Monday. Sporadic clashes continued until about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, but residents said there was calm after that. 

“We are hopeful that things will go back to the way they were and that there will be no aggression, no airstrikes and lasting security,” said one, Amani Mohammed.

Another resident, Mohammed Al-Saikel, said he was optimistic the cease-fire would pave the way for a broader truce. “We are hopeful about this cease-fire in Hodeidah and one for Yemen in general,” he said. “We will reach out in peace to whoever does the same.”

The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to submit proposals by the end of the month on how to monitor the cease-fire.

The resolution, submitted by the UK, “calls on all parties to the conflict to take further steps to facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian supplies including food, fuel, medicine and other essential imports and humanitarian personnel into and across the country.”