Palestinians join two UN agencies, chemical weapons treaty

Palestine’s Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour addresses the United Nations Security Council, during a meeting to discuss the situation in the Middle East at the United Nations in New York. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Palestinians join two UN agencies, chemical weapons treaty

UNITED NATIONS: The Palestinians have joined two UN agencies and the global convention to halt the spread of chemical weapons, a UN envoy said Wednesday, despite a threat of US funding cuts.
At the United Nations, the Palestinians have the status of a non-member observer state that allows them to seek membership of agencies and become a party to international treaties.
The move will raise the Palestinian profile in international diplomacy and comes amid a rift with the administration of President Donald Trump over its decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East, told the Security Council that the Palestinians had joined the Geneva-based UN trade organization UNCTAD, Vienna-based industrial development agency UNIDO and the chemical weapons convention.
“On May 15, Palestine acceded to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Convention on the Prohibition, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons,” Mladenov said.
The envoy did not address whether the decision will have an impact on funding from the United States for these agencies and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
The OPCW, UNCTAD and UNIDO rely on voluntary contributions from UN member-states to fund its activities as well as its regular budget.
The United States withdrew some funding for UNESCO when the Palestinians joined the cultural and education agency in 2011 and last year pulled out of the agency altogether.
The Trump administration has also cut funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency that have left UNRWA struggling to fill a major gap in its education and health programs.
The OPCW announced in The Hague earlier that the state of Palestine will become the 193rd state to join the chemical weapons convention.
Only four countries — Israel, Egypt, North Korea and South Sudan — have yet to ratify the chemical weapons convention, which aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.
The Palestinians angered Israel when they became a state-party to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2015.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki this week met with the ICC chief prosecutor to push for an investigation of Israeli war crimes after more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, the worst violence since the 2014 war.


Saudi Arabia pledges $100m to help ‘stabilize’ Syria’s northeast

Updated 17 August 2018
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Saudi Arabia pledges $100m to help ‘stabilize’ Syria’s northeast

  • United States, which leads the anti-Daesh coalition, expressed its  thanks for the funds
  • The money will help ensure the militants cannot re-emerge as a threat

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has contributed $100 million to help reconstruct areas of north-eastern Syria formerly held by Daesh.

The Kingdom said the contribution would go toward a campaign by the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS to “stabilize” the former Daesh bastion and help ensure the militants cannot re-emerge as a threat.

The United States, which leads the coalition, expressed its  thanks and appreciation to Riyadh.

“This significant contribution is critical to stabilization and early recovery efforts,” a State Department spokeswoman said. “Saudi Arabia has been a leading partner in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS from the outset.”

The funds are the biggest single financial  contribution yet for reconstruction efforts in areas formerly controlled by the extremists.

The money would “save lives, help facilitate the return of displaced Syrians, and help ensure that Daesh cannot reemerge to threaten Syria, its neighbors, or plan attacks against the international community,” the Saudi Embassy in Washington said.

The contribution aims to support “stabilization projects” and “will play a critical role in the coalition’s efforts to revitalize communities, such as Raqqa, that have been devastated by Daesh terrorists.”

The statement said the money showed Saudi Arabia’s continued commitment to serve as a stabilizing force in the region.

The funds, part of a pledge made by Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir last month, will go towards projects to restore essential services in the areas of health, agriculture, electricity, water, education, and transportation.

The United Nations has said reconstruction in Syria would cost at least $250 billion. The Daesh takeover of large areas of territory in Syria and Iraq in 2014 led to huge levels of destruction. 

A conference on the reconstruction of Iraq held in Kuwait in February raised $30 billion in funding commitment. Saudi Arabia said at the event it would contribute $1.5 billion in financial and reconstruction support. 

Saudi Arabia also hosted the founding conference for the coalition in Jeddah in September 2014, and soon after flew the first air missions to bomb Daesh targets in Syria.