UN welcomes reopening of North Korea hotline with the South

People watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's speech, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)
Updated 03 January 2018
0

UN welcomes reopening of North Korea hotline with the South

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the reopening of a hotline between North and South Korea, as he voiced hope for more diplomatic initiatives to end the peninsula’s nuclear standoff.
North and South Korea had earlier on Wednesday reopened a communication channel, which had been closed since 2016. It followed an offer from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un to send a team to next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“It is always a positive development to have a dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea,” said UN spokesman Farhan Haq. Guterres “welcomes the reopening of the inter-Korean communication channel,” he added.
UN Security Council resolutions call for the de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula and “we hope that enhanced diplomatic initiatives will help to achieve that goal,” said Haq.
South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North on January 9 to discuss “matters of mutual interest” including the North’s Olympic participation.
Guterres’ support for inter-Korean dialogue stood in contrast to remarks from US Ambassador Nikki Haley, who on Tuesday dismissed the overtures between Pyongyang and Seoul as a “Band-Aid.”
The United States, backed by Japan, is pushing for sanctions and total isolation of Kim’s regime in response to a series of missile launches and nuclear tests.
Russia, and North Korea’s sole major ally China, have repeatedly called for talks to de-escalate tensions, but the United States has been adamant that Pyongyang must first freeze its military programs.
Haley warned on Tuesday that if Pyongyang carries out another missile test, it would face the likelihood of even more sanctions.
The Security Council adopted a new raft of sanctions on December 22 to restrict oil supplies to North Korea — the third set of measures imposed on Pyongyang in a year.


Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

Updated 19 April 2018
0

Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

  • 15 ambassadors will join Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
  • The three-day retreat will begin on Friday.

United Nations, United States: After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat to try to break the deadlock over how to end the war.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley and her Russian counterpart Vassily Nebenzia will be among the 15 ambassadors joining Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the secluded getaway in a country setting.
The three-day retreat beginning Friday comes after one of the council’s most divisive periods, with the United States and Russia split over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that lead to military action by Washington and its allies against Syria.
The council met five times on Syria last week including on Tuesday when Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution setting up a chemical weapons probe while two other proposed measures failed to pass.
The Russia-US rivalry prompted Guterres to declare that the Cold War was “back with a vengeance.”
Asked whether he expected awkward moments during the Swedish retreat, Nebenzia told reporters: “I will see how they feel about dealing with me after all that happened.”
“It’s not news to anyone that the council is divided on Syria,” said Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau. “There is some need for humility and patience at this moment.”
The council will be staying at Backakra, the summer residence of Dag Hammarskjold, who was the United Nations’ second secretary-general.
The residence located on the southern tip of Sweden, far from Stockholm, is a “fitting and inspiring venue” to reconnect with the power of diplomacy, said Skau.
“It’s a place to roll up our sleeves, take off our jackets and ties and come up with some real and meaningful ways forward,” he said.
The annual brainstorming session usually takes place in upstate New York, but Sweden, which is a non-permanent council member, offered to host this year’s gathering.
Guterres had told council members that the focus of the meeting would be his plan for a “surge of diplomacy” to address conflicts worldwide, but the council’s deadlock over Syria is emerging as the top priority.