UN council adopts 1st measure on people missing in conflict

The United Nations Security Council meeting. (AFP)
Updated 12 June 2019
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UN council adopts 1st measure on people missing in conflict

  • The government is still trying to learn the fate of 369 Kuwaitis missing since the 1991 Gulf War that liberated the country after Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in August 1990

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved its first-ever resolution focused on the countless thousands of people missing in conflicts, including over 45,000 registered in 2018 alone by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The Kuwait-drafted resolution urges all parties to conflicts to search for the missing, return remains and account for all the missing. It also calls on those involved to prevent people from being reported missing, including by facilitating family news and reunions, by registering details of detainees and prisoners of war and allowing them to correspond with their families.
The International Committee of the Red Cross was mandated by the 1949 Geneva Conventions to address and oversee the issue of missing persons in conflicts.
ICRC President Peter Maurer said after Tuesday’s vote that the organization has seen “an alarming increase in cases in recent years,” and the 2018 figure “is the tip of the iceberg and does not convey the true extent of the problem nor do justice to the suffering of each and every family.”
The Security Council resolution also expresses concern “about the dramatic increase in persons reported missing as a result of armed conflict,” and the consequences and impact on families.
Reena Ghelani, director of operations in the UN humanitarian office, told the council that people reported missing might be captured and held incommunicado by warring parties. They might also be victims of extrajudicial killings, civilians or combatants killed in fighting, or civilians including children, the elderly or disabled who fled violence or were left behind, she said.
“When the missing person is also the breadwinner, the impact on families can be economically devastating,” Ghelani said. “In some situations, relatives of missing persons find it hard to remarry, claim their inheritance, receive benefits and rebuild their lives in the face of legal and administrative obstacles.”
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, who presided over the meeting as this month’s Security Council president, said that “missing persons are the main victims or any war or conflict.”
And he said the resolution “tackles an issue that is close to the heart of the people of Kuwait.” His government is still trying to learn the fate of 369 Kuwaitis missing since the 1991 Gulf War that liberated the country after Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein invaded in August 1990.
Maurer told the Security Council by video from Geneva that what is “crystal clear” today is the need for “stronger political will and cooperation” by parties to conflicts.
Crucially, he said, “missing persons and their families are not bargaining chips” and cases must be handled without discrimination.
“Every minute the ICRC, together with National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, helps a family separated by conflict restore contact,” Maurer said. “Yet so much more can be done if parties to the conflict fulfil their obligations to search for missing persons and if they manage the dead systematically and with respect.”
Then, he said, “missing persons can be found, remains can be identified and answers can be given.”
The resolution urges parties to armed conflicts to establish a national information bureau or other mechanism at the start of hostilities to exchange information about detainees and civilians on opposing sides, with ICRC support “as a neutral intermediary where appropriate.”
It also underscores that accounting for missing persons can be part of peace negotiations and agreements.


China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

Updated 3 min 38 sec ago
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China’s Xi Jinping to visit North Korea this week ahead of G20

  • Xi JingPing will be in Pyongyang at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
  • Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year

BEIJING: Xi Jinping will make the first trip to North Korea by a Chinese president in 14 years this week, state media said Monday, as Beijing tightens relations with Pyongyang amid tensions with the United States.
Xi will visit Pyongyang on Thursday and Friday at the invitation of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Chinese broadcaster CCTV.
The timing is likely to raise eyebrows at the White House as it comes one week before the G20 summit in Japan, where US President Donald Trump expects to meet with Xi to discuss their protracted trade war.
Analysts say Xi could now use North Korea as leverage in talks with Trump.
China and North Korea have worked to improve relations in the past year after they deteriorated as Beijing backed a series of UN sanctions against its Cold War-era ally over its nuclear activities.
The North’s leader Kim Jong Un has traveled to China — his country’s sole major ally — four times in the past year to meet Xi.
But Xi had yet to reciprocate until now. It will be the first trip there by a Chinese president since Hu Jintao went in 2005.
“China-DPRK relations have opened a new chapter,” CCTV said, adding that Xi and Kim have reached a “series of important consensus” in past meetings.
Xi and Kim will “push for new progress” in a political resolution of the Korean peninsula issue, according to CCTV, which cited an unnamed official.
With Beijing and Washington at loggerheads over trade, China is keen to remind Trump of its influence in Pyongyang, with whom his nuclear negotiations — a point of pride for the US president, who faces an election next year — are also at a deadlock.
“The signal would be that China remains a critical stakeholder,” said Jingdong Yuan, a professor specializing in Asia-Pacific security and Chinese foreign policy at the University of Sydney.
“You cannot ignore China and China can play a very important role,” he told AFP. Xi could thus use the trip as a “bargaining chip” in the US-China trade war, he added.
According to an informed source in Pyongyang, Beijing was keen to arrange a visit to North Korea ahead of any encounter between Xi and Trump at the G20 summit — with logistics finalized only last month.
In recent days, hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the Friendship Tower in Pyongyang, pruning bushes and replanting flowerbeds on the approaches to the monument, which commemorates the millions of Chinese troops Mao Zedong sent to save the forces of Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, from defeat during the Korean War.
A detachment of soldiers in white jackets was also seen outside the Liberation War Museum — which includes a section on the Chinese contribution — potentially indicating that it may be on Xi’s itinerary.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it had learned about Xi’s travel plans last week.
“We hope that this visit will contribute to the early resumption of negotiations for the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula which will lead to the settlement of lasting peace on the Korean peninsula,” the Blue House said.
It will be Xi’s first trip to North Korea since taking power in 2012, though he visited the country as vice president in 2008.
In contrast, Kim Jong Un has gone to China multiple times over the past year — an unbalanced exchange that has not gone unnoticed in Pyongyang.
According to diplomatic sources in the North Korean capital, after Kim’s many trips to meet Xi, there were increasingly strong feelings in Pyongyang that the Chinese leader should reciprocate for reasons of saving face.
“From a North Korean perspective, it’s time for Chairman Xi to visit,” said John Delury, an expert on US-China relations and Korean Peninsula affairs at Yonsei University in Seoul.
“They do keep score and it’s like four to zero,” he recently told AFP. “So far, Xi has approached China-North Korea relations very much as a function of US-China relations and kind of calculated in terms of that.”
The visit also comes as negotiations between Trump and Kim have soured after a second summit in February broke up without a deal, failing to agree on what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
Since then, Kim has accused Washington of acting in “bad faith” and given it until the end of the year to change its approach.
Still, the nuclear situation is “under control for now,” said Delury.
“That creates a space, a window where Xi could make a visit without expecting like a missile test the day he leaves or something like that,” he said.