EU urges UN to back effort to save migrant lives

Updated 12 May 2015
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EU urges UN to back effort to save migrant lives

United Nations, United States: EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Monday appealed for international backing for Europe’s efforts to confront the Mediterranean migrant crisis and save lives.
Mogherini spoke at the UN Security Council as it prepares to endorse a controversial European Union plan that provides for military action to stem the tide of refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.
“Our first priority is to save lives and prevent further loss of lives at sea,” Mogherini told the 15-member council.
“We cannot do it alone. This has to be a common global effort,” she said.
“That is why we count on your support to save lives and dismantle criminal organizations that are exploiting people’s desperation.”
With more than 1,800 dead this year alone, 2015 is shaping up as the deadliest ever for refugees seeking to reach Europe through the Mediterranean.
Describing the migrant flow as an “unprecedented situation,” Mogherini said: “We need an exceptional response.”
Europe’s chief diplomat described the migrant crisis as “not only a humanitarian emergency but also a security crisis” involving smugglers who have seized on the chaos in Libya to set up operations.
The most controversial component of the EU plan would involve military action to destroy the boats used by migrant smugglers.
Security Council members Britain, France, Lithuania and Spain are working with Italy on a draft resolution that would allow for the “use of all necessary means to seize and dispose of the vessels, including the destruction and rendering inoperable and unusable,” diplomats said.
Russia has, however, poured cold water over the proposal to destroy vessels, arguing that smugglers rent boats from owners who are often unaware of the scheme.
“It’s just going too far,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said last week.
The resolution would be drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN charter which allows the use of force and would give an EU maritime force the right to act in Libyan territorial waters.
Libya has expressed reservations, however, and it remains an open question whether the rival governments ruling the country would give their consent.
In addressing the council, Mogherini offered assurances that a naval force would not seek to undermine Libya’s stability.
“We don’t and we won’t act against anyone but in partnership with all,” she said.
Human rights and aid organizations have also come out against military action, arguing that attention should focus instead on broadening legal avenues for migrants to reach Europe.
At a summit last month, EU leaders agreed they had to act in face of the mounting death toll, committing more money for search and rescue missions and to extend their scope.
They also tasked Mogherini with drawing up a list of military options, including action to capture and destroy the smugglers’ vessels.
The migrant issue is hugely sensitive as the EU agonizes over how best to respond, with euroskeptic and nationalist parties capitalizing on public unease over increased immigration.
On Wednesday, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker is due to present a new migration policy plan which includes a provision that distributes the migrant burden more fairly across the bloc.
Diplomatic sources said Juncker may also set at 20,000 an EU-wide quota for refugees despite Britain insisting this should be done only on a voluntary basis.
For some European governments, taking in more people only makes the problem worse, arguing that it attracts other migrants into risking their lives on the risky Mediterranean crossing.
“Juncker wants a required quota of refugees but this is practically seen as a declaration of war” by certain member states, one top European official said.
Germany, however, has argued for a humanitarian response to the disaster by spreading the refugees more fairly among member states.
In terms of the military response, diplomatic sources say current thinking would allow EU navies to board unflagged vessels in international waters in the Mediterranean to stop people traffickers, but they would not intervene before they left the Libyan coast, as the summit had suggested.
The Europeans believe they can act without a UN mandate against ships that fly no flag, which enjoy less protection under the law of the sea. But they would need the UN’s approval to go into Libyan territorial waters.


Venezuela’s rival factions take power struggle to UN after talks fail

Updated 19 September 2019

Venezuela’s rival factions take power struggle to UN after talks fail

  • Guaido is seeking to get more countries, especially the European Union, to implement sanctions on Venezuela
  • Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup

CARACAS/WASHINGTON: Venezuela’s rival political factions will take their power struggle to New York next week, where representatives of President Nicolas Maduro and opposition chief Juan Guaido will each try to convince a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations that their boss is the country’s legitimate head of state.
The United States and more than 50 other countries recognize Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, as the rightful president. Guaido in January invoked the constitution to assume a rival presidency to Maduro, arguing the socialist president’s May 2018 re-election was a sham.
But the 193-member UN General Assembly still recognizes Maduro, who retains the support of the UN Security Council’s veto-wielding permanent members Russia and China, setting the stage for the two sides to air their public grievances as they battle for international backing.
A round of negotiations brokered by Norway in recent months, aimed at peacefully resolving the crisis, has failed.
Guaido is seeking to get more countries, especially the European Union, to implement sanctions on Venezuela, as the United States has done.
Maduro, who has overseen a collapse of the OPEC nation’s once-prosperous economy and has been accused by the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights of rights violations, wants to heap pressure on the United States to lift sanctions on state oil company PDVSA and members of his inner circle.
Critics say his government’s decisions this week to free a jailed opposition lawmaker and reform Venezuela’s electoral body, long accused of bias, were aimed at improving Maduro’s image before the UN gathering.
“They want to use the UN meeting to wash their face, because they are not reaching any real solutions for the Venezuelan people,” Carlos Valero, an opposition lawmaker who sits on the National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee, said in an interview on Wednesday.
Maduro calls Guaido a US puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, and blames Washington’s sanctions for Venezuela’s economic woes. Maduro himself said he will not attend the UN gathering, but he tasked two cabinet members with presenting a petition condemning the sanctions to Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“The UN Secretary General and all the UN agencies should raise their voice to condemn the aggression Venezuela is being subjected to, to condemn the illegal blockade,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters in Geneva last Friday. “We believe that a lot more can be done from the United Nations.”
’Until Maduro is gone’
Guaido has not yet decided whether he will attend, according to his US envoy Carlos Vecchio. Julio Borges, an exiled opposition lawmaker recently named Guaido’s chief diplomat, will be in New York for side events aimed at spotlighting Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and Maduro’s alleged support for armed rebels in Colombia.
The events include a likely meeting of the signatories of the Rio Treaty, invoked earlier this month by a dozen members of the Organization of American States (OAS), including the United States. The treaty is a Cold War-era mutual defense pact that the countries said they had invoked in response to what they called Maduro’s threat to regional stability. The OAS, unlike the UN, recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
Maduro’s government denies supporting the Colombian rebels and says the Rio Treaty is a precursor to military intervention.
In April, US Vice President Mike Pence called on the UN to revoke the credentials of Maduro’s government and recognize Guaido, but Washington has taken no action to push the measure at the General Assembly. Diplomats said it was unlikely Washington would get the support needed.
Both Washington and Venezuela’s opposition are seeking to counter perceptions that their efforts to oust Maduro have stalled.
Though differences over Iran and Afghanistan policy were the main reasons for US President Donald Trump’s firing of his hawkish national security adviser John Bolton last week, Trump had also grown increasingly impatient with the failure of sanctions and diplomatic pressure to push Maduro from power.
Despite Trump’s vows that all options were on the table, he had resisted Bolton’s push for more military planning, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump’s aides have made clear that he is likely to impose further sanctions but the economic weapons at Washington’s disposal appear to be dwindling.
US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Tuesday that the United States continued to stand with Guaido and that sanctions “will not be lifted until Maduro is gone.”
“We look forward to coming together with regional partners to discuss the multilateral economic and political options we can employ to the threat to the security of the region that Maduro represents,” she said.