Russia moves to block Iran missile criticism in UN resolution on Yemen

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasilly Nebenzia talks with his US counterpart Nikki Haley before the start of a UN Security Council meeting concerning in Iran. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 26 February 2018
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Russia moves to block Iran missile criticism in UN resolution on Yemen

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Sunday was considering two draft resolutions on Yemen after Russia put forward a rival text aimed at blocking action against Iran over missiles sent to the country’s Houthi rebels.
The council is set to vote on Monday on renewing sanctions on Yemen for a year, but a British-drafted text also calls for “additional measures” in response to a UN report which found that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen.
The rival Russian-drafted text presented to the council on Saturday and seen by AFP would extend the sanctions regime on Yemen until February 2019 without any reference to the UN report’s findings on Iran and possible action targeting Tehran.
Diplomats said Russia could veto the British text, allowing for a vote on its own draft resolution.
Negotiations were continuing on Sunday.
The report by a UN panel of experts concluded that Iran was in violation of the 2015 arms embargo after determining that missiles fired by the Houthis at Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.
Russia maintains that the report’s findings are not conclusive enough to justify action against Iran.
Britain, backed by the United States and France, had initially sought to condemn Iran, but that was dropped in negotiations.
The last draft resolution expresses “particular concern” that “weapons of Iranian origin were introduced in Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo” and that Iran is in “non-compliance” with UN resolutions.
The council would express “its intention to take additional measures to address these violations,” according to the British-drafted text.
It adds that “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen” meets the criteria for imposing UN sanctions.
Iran has repeatedly denied arming the Houthis in Yemen, despite claims by the United States and Saudi Arabia that the evidence of an arms connection is irrefutable.
Russia, which has traditionally friendly relations with Iran, is providing military support along with Tehran to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday said the draft resolution should focus on renewing the mandate of sanctions monitors for Yemen instead of taking aim at Iran.
“It’s a resolution about the extension of the working group, not about Iran. So we should concentrate on extending the working group first,” he said.
While the report found that Tehran had violated the embargo by failing to block the shipments, the experts said they were unable to identify the supplier.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley is pushing for council action to rein in Iran and prevent the war in Yemen from escalating into a broader regional conflict.
In a New York Times editorial last week, Haley wrote that “the UN panel has given the world a chance to act before a missile hits a school or a hospital and leads to a dangerous military escalation that provokes a Saudi military response.”
A Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in a conflict that has led to what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Russia can block council action by using the veto power it enjoys as one of the five permanent Security Council members, along with Britain, China, France and the United States.


Turkey sends reinforcements to Syria’s Idlib

Updated 18 min 48 sec ago
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Turkey sends reinforcements to Syria’s Idlib

  • Around 35 military vehicles traveled south down the main highway near the town of Saraqib after midnight
  • The convoy was accompanied by pro-Ankara rebels of the National Liberation Front
SARAQIB, Syria: Turkish troop reinforcements entered Syria’s rebel bastion of Idlib on Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported, a week after a deal between Ankara and Moscow averted a government offensive.
Around 35 military vehicles traveled south down the main highway near the town of Saraqib after midnight.
The convoy was accompanied by pro-Ankara rebels of the National Liberation Front (NLF), who control part of the enclave on the Turkish border.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the forces deployed to several Turkish positions around the northwestern province.
Since last year, Turkish troops have manned 12 monitoring positions in the rebel zone under a de-escalation agreement between Turkey, Russia and fellow regime ally Iran.
Last week, Ankara and Moscow announced a new agreement for a demilitarized zone along the horse-shoe shaped front line between the rebels and government troops.
Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a jihadist alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls more than half of the rebel zone, while NLF fighters hold sway over most of the rest.
The agreement gives Turkey the responsibility to ensure that all fighters in the planned demilitarized zone hand over their heavy weapons by October 10 and that the more radical among them withdraw by October 15.
The agreement also provides for Turkish and Russian troops patrol the buffer zone.
Last week, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would have to send reinforcements to provide the numbers needed to conduct the patrols.
The Syrian civil war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since it erupted with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.