Flynn, Kushner targeted many states in failed UN lobbying, say diplomats

Then National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, left, and Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, at the White House in Washington, in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2017
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Flynn, Kushner targeted many states in failed UN lobbying, say diplomats

UNITED NATIONS: Former US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted on Friday that he asked Russia to delay a UN vote seen as damaging to Israel, but diplomats said it was not the only country he and presidential adviser Jared Kushner lobbied.

In the hours before the vote by the 15-member UN Security Council on Dec. 23, Flynn also phoned the UN missions of Uruguay and Malaysia, and Kushner spoke with Kim Darroch, the British ambassador to the US, according to diplomats familiar with the conversations, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The lobbying took place before Republican President Donald Trump, who was known for his pro-Israel campaign rhetoric, took office on Jan. 20. It failed, with the Security Council adopting a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land Palestinians want for an independent state. The vote was 14 in favor and one abstention by the US.
The efforts made on Israel’s behalf capped several days of unusual diplomacy. In a surprise Dec. 21 move, Egypt had called for a vote the next day on the draft resolution, prompting both Trump and Israel to urge Washington to veto the text.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters that Israeli officials contacted Trump’s transition team at a “high level” to ask for help after failing to persuade Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration to veto the draft UN resolution.
According to court documents made public on Friday, a member of Trump’s presidential transition team, later identified by sources as Trump’s son-in-law Kushner, told Flynn on Dec. 22 to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to convince them to delay the vote or veto the resolution.
Flynn spoke with then-Russian Ambassador to the US Sergei Kislyak that day, and again the following day, according to the court documents.
Also on Dec. 22, Trump discussed the resolution with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Egypt withdrew the text from a council vote the same day.
The 1799 Logan Act bars unauthorized private US citizens, which Trump, Flynn, and Kushner all were at the time, from negotiating with foreign governments. However, only two Americans have ever been indicted for allegedly violating it — in 1802 and 1852 — and neither was convicted.
Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for Kushner, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Friday about Israel or other issues.

A second go-round
After Egypt withdrew the resolution, its co-sponsors, New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Senegal, put it forward again for a Dec. 23 vote.
In Washington, Kushner was in contact with Britain’s Darroch, and Flynn spoke with Kislyak — lobbying to delay the vote or veto the resolution.
A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the council’s five permanent members — China, Britain, France, Russia, and the US — to be adopted.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who died in February, signaled to colleagues behind closed doors on Dec. 23 that he was unhappy with the haste with which the draft resolution was being put to a vote, but he did not ask for the vote to be delayed, diplomats said.
Flynn also tried to speak to Malaysian UN Ambassador Ramlan Bin Ibrahim, but Ibrahim did not take the call. He also called the Uruguayan UN mission, eventually getting through to Deputy Ambassador Luis Bermudez — who was the charge d’affaires — minutes before the vote.


Reinstated Sri Lanka PM promises ‘new era’

Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated on Sunday, two months after his sacking. (AFP)
Updated 17 December 2018
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Reinstated Sri Lanka PM promises ‘new era’

  • Lawmakers clashed after shock decision from president
  • Peace not yet restored, says NGO

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s new prime minister, who was reinstated on Sunday after being sacked almost two months ago, pledged to learn from past failures and to improve people’s living conditions.
Ranil Wickremesinghe was dismissed by the president on Oct. 26, 2018, and replaced by his predecessor in a controversial power grab that triggered international condemnation and even fisticuffs in parliament.
Wickremesinghe made his first public appearance since being reinstalled at a rally in Colombo’s Galle Face Green, addressing thousands of people.
He told them: “We will take renewed efforts without any religious, racial prejudices. We will ameliorate the living conditions of the people.” 
He also said he planned to register a new political party on Friday, under the name of the National Democratic Front.
President Maithripala Sirisena said he respected parliamentary democracy and denied that his actions - including an attempt to dissolve parliament - were unconstitutional.
“I made a statement that I will not give Ranil Wickremesinghe the post of prime minister, even if a request is made by all the 225 Parliamentarians and it is my own personal political opinion, and my view is still the same, but I have decided to invite 
Ranil Wickremesinghe as I am a leader who respects parliamentary tradition and democracy.
“My recent moves including the dissolution of parliament, prorogue parliament, remove the prime minister and the appointment of a new prime minister, not according to his sole discretion, but after receiving the advice of legal experts, and those steps were taken for the betterment of the country and there was no intention to violate the constitution of the country.” 
Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka project director from the International Crisis Group, tweeted that the crisis would continue. 
"Peace is clearly not yet restored,” he said. “The next few months will almost certainly see the fights continue in new forms.”
But others were more optimistic. 
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz welcomed the weekend’s political developments, as did the Australian High Commission in Colombo and the European Union. 
“As steady friends of Sri Lanka, we welcome the peaceful and democratic resolution of the political crisis in accordance with the constitution,” the EU said Monday. “We commend the resilience of Sri Lanka's democratic institutions and will continue to support its efforts towards national reconciliation and prosperity for all.”
Wickremesinghe is expected to name his cabinet ministers on Tuesday.