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
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.


India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

Updated 5 min 36 sec ago
0

India scion Priyanka Gandhi lambasts Modi on home turf

  • Priyanka Gandhi wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency

VARANASI, INDIA: The newest star in India's Nehru-Gandhi dynasty wrapped up a pre-election boat tour along the Ganges river on Wednesday, disembarking in Narendra Modi's home constituency to attack the prime minister's record.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, sister of Rahul Gandhi who wants to unseat Modi in elections starting on April 11, announced her long-awaited entry into politics in January, bolstering the hopes of the opposition Congress party, which has been dominated by her family for generations.
Their father was Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated in 1991, their grandmother Indira Gandhi, killed by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, and their great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister.
Arriving after her three-day cruise in Varanasi, the northern holy city famous for its riverside cremations where Modi stood for election in 2014, Priyanka said people must stand up against his "anti-people" policies.
"You can bring about a change. You must raise your voice for a new government who will make policies for you and understand your problems," the 47-year-old said.
"The farmers of this country are suffering. He is neck-deep in debt and is committing suicide. He does not get seeds and fertilisers on time, he is not getting the right price for his produce," she added.
The opposition has been targeting Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over a lack of jobs, slowing growth and the desperate situation of farmers in the lead-up to the gargantuan election which ends May 19.
The centre-left Congress party, which has ruled India for about half a century since the country became independent in 1947, was thrashed by the BJP five years ago, with Modi promising to create jobs, stamp out corruption, and bring "Achhe Din" ("Good Days").
Modi's party however has been boosted after India and arch-rival Pakistan lurched alarmingly close to war last month following a suicide bombing in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian troops.
Priyanka, who for years resisted calls to enter politics, launched her campaign in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Monday, hopping on to a motorboat on the Ganges river, which is considered sacred by the country's majority Hindu community.
The state is a part of the Hindi "cow belt" heartland of some 475 million people — nearly as many as the United States, Canada and Mexico combined — where the BJP has its core support base.