Divided UN council heads to Sweden for farmhouse retreat

After a week of bitter acrimony over Syria, UN Security Council ambassadors are heading to a farmhouse in southern Sweden for a retreat that could help them recover some common ground. (AFP)
Updated 19 April 2018
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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.


Two Eurofighters crash over eastern Germany, pilots eject: German Air Force

Updated 7 min ago
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Two Eurofighters crash over eastern Germany, pilots eject: German Air Force

BERLIN: Two Eurofighter warplanes crashed in northeastern Germany after a mid-air collision on Monday, the German air force said, adding that both pilots had managed to use their ejector seats.
The jets, belonging to the German armed forces, crashed near the Laage military base in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the air force added on its Twitter account.
“Together with a third Eurofighter they were flying an Air Combat Mission,” the German force tweeted. “The pilot of the third Eurofighter observed the collision and reported that two parachutes descended to the ground.”
Ostseewelle radio, which first reported the crash, posted a video https://www.ostseewelle.de/nachrichten/eurofighter-in-mueritzregion-kollidiert sent in by one of its readers which it said showed two plumes of smoke rising from separate crash sites at some distance from each other.
Focus magazine said one of the pilots of the Eurofighters — made by Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo — had been found living while the other was yet to be located.