UN approves Martin Griffiths as envoy to Yemen

Martin Griffiths. (AFP)
Updated 17 February 2018
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UN approves Martin Griffiths as envoy to Yemen

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council has approved the appointment of Martin Griffiths of Britain as the new envoy for Yemen, the third mediator to take on the mission over the past seven years.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday informed the council of his intention to appoint Griffiths and no council member raised objections to the decision, diplomats said.

Extensive experience
Griffiths, who is executive director of the Brussels-based European Institute of Peace, “brings extensive experience in conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation and humanitarian affairs,” Guterres wrote in the letter.
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with 60 percent of the population — 17 million people — in need of food, 7 million of whom are at risk of famine.
Griffiths will replace Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania, who last month said he would not stay on as Yemen envoy beyond the end of his contract at the end of this month.
As UN envoy since April 2015, Cheikh Ahmed failed to make progress in diplomatic efforts to end the war between the Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government and Houthi militias who seized control of parts of the country in 2014.
His predecessor, Jamal Benomar, also quit after four years of efforts to establish a political transition fell apart.
Born in 1951, Griffiths was the founding director of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva, which specializes in political dialogue. He held that position from 1999 to 2010.
He has also worked in the British diplomatic service and for international agencies, such as UNICEF and the non-governmental organization Save the Children.

Peace mission
In 1994, he was appointed director of UN humanitarian affairs in Geneva, and in 1998 became deputy to the UN emergency relief coordinator in New York.
Griffiths will be taking on one of the world’s most challenging peace missions, with no end to the violence within sight.
More than 9,200 people have been killed, according to the World Health Organization.
A severe cholera outbreak has also killed 2,000 people and infected one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.


UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

Updated 18 August 2018
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UN chief proposes options to protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday presented four options aimed at boosting the protection of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, from sending UN rights monitors and unarmed observers to deploying a military or police force under UN mandate.
The proposals were contained in a report requested by the General Assembly in response to a surge of violence in Gaza, where 171 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since late March.
The UN chief stressed that for each of the options, cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians would be necessary. It remained unlikely however that Israel would agree to the proposals.
In the 14-page report, Guterres proposed:
• Providing a “more robust UN presence on the ground” with rights monitors and political officers to report on the situation.
• Pouring in more UN humanitarian and development aid to “ensure the well-being of the population.”
• Creating a civilian observer mission that would be present in sensitive areas such as checkpoints and near Israeli settlements, with a mandate to report on protection issues.
• Deploying an armed military or police force, under a UN mandate, to provide physical protection to Palestinian civilians.
A UN mandate for a protection force would require a decision from the Security Council, where the United States could use its veto power to block a measure opposed by Israel.
A small European-staffed observer mission was deployed in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994, but Israel has since rejected calls for an international presence in flashpoint areas.
In the report, Guterres said the United Nations was already undertaking many protection initiatives but that “these measures fall short” of the concerns raised in a General Assembly resolution adopted in June.
In that measure, the 193-nation assembly condemned Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and tasked Guterres with the drafting of proposals for “an international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians.
Guterres argued that a political solution to the conflict was needed to address the safety of Palestinians but that “until such a solution is achieved, member-states may further explore all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
“Such measures would also improve the security of Israeli civilians.”
On Friday, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians taking part in protests along the Gaza border and 270 other Palestinians were wounded.
Israel has defended its use of live ammunition in Gaza by invoking its right to self-defense. One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.
“The targeting of civilians, particularly children, is unacceptable,” Guterres said in the report, adding that “those responsible for violations of international humanitarian law must be held accountable.”
UN efforts to ensure the well-being of Palestinians must strengthened, he added, singling out the funding crisis at the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA as being “of particular concern.”
UNRWA is facing a major budget shortfall after President Donald Trump’s administration decided to withhold its contribution to the agency.
The report released to all UN member-states comes amid a vacuum in Middle East peace efforts as European and other big powers await a peace plan from the Trump administration that has been under discussion for months.
UN diplomats have recently begun questioning whether the US peace plan will ever materialize.
The United Nations has warned that a new war could explode in Gaza.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including its Hamas rulers, have fought three wars since 2008.