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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a swipe at the UN and other multilateral organizations, suggesting they were outdated and catered to elites.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.


Israel army says delegation heading to Russia over Lebanon ops

Updated 11 December 2018
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Israel army says delegation heading to Russia over Lebanon ops

  • The Kremlin said on Saturday that Netanyahu had called Putin to discuss the operation against alleged Hezbollah tunnels
JERUSALEM: An Israeli army delegation will head to Moscow on Tuesday to brief their Russian counterparts on operations to destroy Hezbollah tunnels from Lebanon, the military said.
“An Israeli army delegation composed of senior officers and led by the head of army operations, General Aharon Haliva, will fly to Moscow on Tuesday,” the military said in a statement.
“During the day-long visit, the delegation will brief their Russian counterparts on Operation Northern Shield and other operational issues,” said the statement issued on Monday.
The announcement came after a telephone call between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Israel on Wednesday launched an operation — dubbed Northern Shield — aimed at destroying alleged Hezbollah “attack tunnels” infiltrating its territory from Lebanon.
Ties between Israel and Russia have been strained since the accidental downing of one of Moscow’s transport planes on September 17 by Syrian ground batteries killed 15 service personnel.
Moscow pinned responsibility for the incident on Israel, saying its fighter jet used the larger Russian plane for cover, an allegation Israel disputed.
Russia subsequently upgraded Syrian air defenses with the delivery of the advanced S-300 system.
The Kremlin said on Saturday that Netanyahu had called Putin to discuss the operation against alleged Hezbollah tunnels.
During the conversation, Putin stressed “the need to ensure stability along the dividing line between Israel and Lebanon,” according to Russia’s embassy in Israel.
Netanyahu for his part reaffirmed Israel’s policy of preventing the establishment of an Iranian presence in Syria and to “act against the aggression of Iran and Hezbollah.”
Israel occupied parts of Lebanon for 22 years until 2000, and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement claimed credit for its withdrawal following persistent guerrilla attacks.
The two countries are still technically at war but the border has remained relatively calm in recent years.
Russia is fighting on the same side as Iran and Hezbollah in support of President Bashar Assad in Syria.