UN chief urges Syria to resolve gaps on chemical weapons

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during the opening of the COP24 summit on climate change in Katowice. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2018
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UN chief urges Syria to resolve gaps on chemical weapons

  • “The secretary-general has been a believer in the United Nations and a believer in the multinational system for a long time now,” said Dujarric

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres again urged Syria to resolve “gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies” in its declaration of chemical weapons after the global watchdog reported no progress on these outstanding issues.
The UN chief said in letter to the Security Council circulated Wednesday with the report from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that he is “deeply concerned about the continued alleged use of toxic chemicals as weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
OPCW chief Fernando Arias said in the report that Syria’s report still cannot be considered “accurate and complete” because of its failure to clear up “all of the identified gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies.”
He said OPCW investigators went to Syria in late September to investigate five alleged uses of chemical weapons in 2017.
Also on Wednesday, the UN spokesman said Guterres remains a “believer” in the UN despite US criticism that the world body had lost sight of its founding mission to advance peace.
In a major foreign policy address in Brussels, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a swipe at the UN and other multilateral organizations, suggesting they were outdated and catered to elites.
“The UN was founded as an organization that welcomed peace-loving nations. I ask: Today, does it continue to serve its mission faithfully?” Pompeo said in the address on Tuesday.
Asked about Pompeo’s remarks, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric acknowledged that there was a “lack of trust” in international organizations but that Guterres strongly defended multilateralism.
“The secretary-general has been a believer in the United Nations and a believer in the multinational system for a long time now,” said Dujarric.
He has been “very clear in addressing the lack of trust... that there exists in many international organizations,” he said.
In his remarks, Pompeo took aim at UN peacekeeping missions that “drag on for decades, no closer to peace,” and said UN climate deals were “viewed by some nations as simply a vehicle to redistribute wealth.”
“Anti-Israel has been institutionalized. Regional powers collude to vote the likes of Cuba and Venezuela onto the Human Rights Council.”
The renewed criticism followed the US administration’s decisions to quit the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and cut funding to UN agencies and UN peacekeeping missions.
On Thursday, the UN embarked on two major peace efforts, bringing warring parties in Yemen to the negotiating table in Sweden while talks on the decades-old conflict in Western Sahara opened in Geneva.
Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, who took the UN helm in January 2017, has pushed for reforms to make the global body more responsive to world crises.
The Socialist politician has had a surprisingly smooth relationship with the administration of President Donald Trump, despite its criticism of the UN.
By far the UN’s largest financial backer, the US provides for 20 percent of the operating budget and 28 percent of the separate peacekeeping budget.


Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze

Updated 48 min 54 sec ago
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Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze

  • Israel's security cabinet on Sunday approved the freezing of $138 million (122 million euros) over the PA's payments to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis
  • Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would not accept anything but full payment of the tax transfers owed by Israel

RAMALLAH: The Palestinian finance minister on Thursday announced salary cuts for civil servants, days after Israel said it would withhold tens of millions of dollars in tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel's security cabinet on Sunday approved the freezing of $138 million (122 million euros) over the PA's payments to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis.
Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the PA, says the payments encourage further violence.
The PA claims they are a form of welfare to families who have lost their main breadwinner.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Wednesday he would not accept anything but full payment of the tax transfers owed by Israel.
The PA, which is already running a deficit, will "pay the salaries of civil servants in time, but they will be reduced", said PA finance minister Shukri Bishara after a meeting with EU representatives in Ramallah.
The cuts will not apply to salaries "paid to pensioners and families of martyrs, wounded or prisoners", he added, adding that wages below 2,000 shekels ($550) would also not be affected.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes in their conflict with Israel. Palestinian leaders often venerate them as martyrs.
Under a 1994 agreement, Israel collects around $190 million each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.
The money it then transfers to the PA is the authority's most important source of revenue.
The Palestinians want EU countries to pressure the Israeli government to rescind its decision, said Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy of Abbas's Fatah party.
Palestinian leaders will take steps to "boycott Israeli goods", he said, adding they had already prepared "a list of Israeli products that have local (Palestinian) equivalents".