US denounces wealthy-nation discounts for UN peacekeeping

Washington has been trying to convince several countries to reduce their discounts in order to cover the $220 million annually which Washington no longer wants to pay. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 December 2018
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US denounces wealthy-nation discounts for UN peacekeeping

  • Peacekeeping financing is determined by a complicated formula that takes into account a country’s wealth, its standing as a permanent Security Council member and other factors
  • UN member states failed to reach a deal to make up for a $220 million budget black hole left by Washington’s downsizing of its peacekeeping contributions

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United States on Saturday denounced at the United Nations a system of discounts for the peacekeeping assessments of wealthy nations, and confirmed Washington will pay no more than 25 percent.
The comments came a day after UN member states failed to reach a deal to make up for a $220 million budget black hole left by Washington’s downsizing of its peacekeeping contributions.
The discounts demonstrate an “urgent need to reform,” said Cherith Norman Chalet, the US Ambassador for UN Management and Reform, referring to countries whose “per capita income is more than twice the average of the organization’s membership.”
She did not identify those countries.
Her comments came during the adoption of a resolution renewing until 2021 contributions to the UN operating budget, which is $5.4 billion for 2018-19, and to the peacekeeping budget of $6.6 billion annually.
The United States is the largest contributor, whose share is 22 percent of the operating budget and 28 percent for peacekeeping.
President Donald Trump announced in September, however, that Washington would pay no more than 25 percent for Blue Helmet operations.
Washington has been trying to convince several countries to reduce their discounts in order to cover the $220 million annually which Washington no longer wants to pay.
Peacekeeping financing is determined by a complicated formula that takes into account a country’s wealth, its standing as a permanent Security Council member and other factors.
“These discounts are without justification and have no basis in any methodology and should be eliminated,” Chalet said.
“Nearly half of member states receive an 80 percent discount to their assessments on the peacekeeping scale.”
Diplomats said that, in their quest for a better sharing of the financial burden, the US had approached Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Singapore, Brunei, Brazil, Mexico and India.
Those efforts were in vain.
Ambassador Nikki Haley, who leaves her post on December 31, could have been involved in the battle but surprisingly abandoned it, a diplomat said.
Overnight Thursday-Friday Washington finally joined a consensus to maintain the status quo on key budget issues for another three years, diplomats said, meaning the UN’s financial shortfall will continue to grow.
On Saturday the 193 member states formally confirmed the consensus.
But the financial dispute is not going away.
“The United States is going to attack mission after mission” to eliminate them or reduce the costs, the diplomat predicted.
A second diplomat said that even “without legal basis” Washington “will pay only 25 percent and accumulate the arrears.”
Chalet assured that “the United States takes its obligations to the United Nations seriously and its partnership with the organization and with other member states.”
However, she added that “lack of agreement on a 25 percent ceiling will cause the organization to continue to face a three percent shortfall in its peacekeeping budget as the United States will pay no more than 25 percent of peacekeeping expenses.”


UK court rejects case brought by mother of Daesh 'Beatle' held in Syria

Updated 51 min 23 sec ago
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UK court rejects case brought by mother of Daesh 'Beatle' held in Syria

  • El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year
  • United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way

LONDON: The mother of one of the British Daesh militants suspected of murdering western hostages, lost a legal challenge on Friday that it was wrong for Britain to assist a US investigation which could lead to them facing the death penalty.
Britons El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey — two of a notorious group of British fighters nicknamed “The Beatles” — are being held by Kurdish militia after being captured in Syria last year.
The United States wants to extradite them and Britain has said it will not stand in the way of any future US prosecution that would seek the death penalty, waiving a long-standing objection to executions.
Elsheikh’s mother, Maha El Gizouli, had sought a judicial review, saying it was unlawful for Britain’s interior minister to provide mutual legal assistance in a case which could lead to prosecutions for offenses which carried the death penalty.
Her lawyers said the minister’s actions were flawed, inconsistent with Britain’s unequivocal opposition to the death penalty and violated her son’s human rights. However, London’s High Court disagreed and dismissed her claim.
“My priority has always been to ensure we deliver justice for the victims’ families and that the individuals suspected of these sickening crimes face prosecution as quickly as possible,” Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.
“Our long-standing opposition to the death penalty has not changed. Any evidence shared with the US in this case must be for the express purpose of progressing a federal prosecution.”
The most notorious of the four of the so-called Beatles was Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John,” who is believed to have been killed in a US-British missile strike in 2015.
He became a public face of Daesh and appeared in videos showing the murders of US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley, US aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and other hostages.
“This group of terrorists is associated with some of the most barbaric crimes committed during the conflict in Syria,” Graeme Biggar, Director of National Security at Britain’s interior ministry, said in a written statement to the court.
Britain has said it does not want the men repatriated to the United Kingdom and their British citizenship has been withdrawn.
British prosecutors concluded they did not have the evidence to launch their own case against the men but US officials then expressed frustration with the British stance of seeking an assurance that US prosecutors would not call for the death penalty, court documents showed.
However, last June, British ministers and senior officials decided the best way of ensuring a prosecution and to protect US relations was to seek no such assurance in this case.
That decision provoked criticism from opposition lawmakers and from some in the government’s own party who accused ministers of secretly abandoning Britain’s opposition to the death penalty.