Russia moves to block Iran missile criticism in UN resolution on Yemen

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasilly Nebenzia talks with his US counterpart Nikki Haley before the start of a UN Security Council meeting concerning in Iran. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 26 February 2018

Russia moves to block Iran missile criticism in UN resolution on Yemen

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Sunday was considering two draft resolutions on Yemen after Russia put forward a rival text aimed at blocking action against Iran over missiles sent to the country’s Houthi rebels.
The council is set to vote on Monday on renewing sanctions on Yemen for a year, but a British-drafted text also calls for “additional measures” in response to a UN report which found that Iran had violated the arms embargo on Yemen.
The rival Russian-drafted text presented to the council on Saturday and seen by AFP would extend the sanctions regime on Yemen until February 2019 without any reference to the UN report’s findings on Iran and possible action targeting Tehran.
Diplomats said Russia could veto the British text, allowing for a vote on its own draft resolution.
Negotiations were continuing on Sunday.
The report by a UN panel of experts concluded that Iran was in violation of the 2015 arms embargo after determining that missiles fired by the Houthis at Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.
Russia maintains that the report’s findings are not conclusive enough to justify action against Iran.
Britain, backed by the United States and France, had initially sought to condemn Iran, but that was dropped in negotiations.
The last draft resolution expresses “particular concern” that “weapons of Iranian origin were introduced in Yemen after the imposition of the targeted arms embargo” and that Iran is in “non-compliance” with UN resolutions.
The council would express “its intention to take additional measures to address these violations,” according to the British-drafted text.
It adds that “any activity related to the use of ballistic missiles in Yemen” meets the criteria for imposing UN sanctions.
Iran has repeatedly denied arming the Houthis in Yemen, despite claims by the United States and Saudi Arabia that the evidence of an arms connection is irrefutable.
Russia, which has traditionally friendly relations with Iran, is providing military support along with Tehran to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday said the draft resolution should focus on renewing the mandate of sanctions monitors for Yemen instead of taking aim at Iran.
“It’s a resolution about the extension of the working group, not about Iran. So we should concentrate on extending the working group first,” he said.
While the report found that Tehran had violated the embargo by failing to block the shipments, the experts said they were unable to identify the supplier.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley is pushing for council action to rein in Iran and prevent the war in Yemen from escalating into a broader regional conflict.
In a New York Times editorial last week, Haley wrote that “the UN panel has given the world a chance to act before a missile hits a school or a hospital and leads to a dangerous military escalation that provokes a Saudi military response.”
A Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in a conflict that has led to what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Russia can block council action by using the veto power it enjoys as one of the five permanent Security Council members, along with Britain, China, France and the United States.


Israeli Cabinet postpones vote on West Bank annexation

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago

Israeli Cabinet postpones vote on West Bank annexation

  • A Cabinet vote on annexing territories on Sunday was not technically feasible because of various preparations
  • Hard-line Israeli nationalists have called for the immediate annexation of West Bank settlements
JERUSALEM: A senior Israeli minister said on Wednesday that a Cabinet vote to endorse annexation of parts of the West Bank will not take place early next week, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge a day earlier to act quickly after the US released a peace plan rejected by the Palestinians.
Netanyahu said he would ask the Cabinet to advance the extension of Israeli sovereignty over most Jewish settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, a move that would likely spark international outrage and complicate the White House’s efforts to build support for the plan.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told Israel Radio that a Cabinet vote on annexing territories on Sunday was not technically feasible because of various preparations, including “bringing the proposal before the attorney general and letting him consider the matter.”
Hard-line Israeli nationalists have called for the immediate annexation of West Bank settlements ahead of the country’s third parliamentary elections in under a year, scheduled for March 2.
They have eagerly embraced the part of President Donald Trump’s peace plan that would allow Israel to annex territory but have rejected its call for a Palestinian state in parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians angrily rejected the Trump plan which largely adopts the Israeli position on all the thorniest issues of the decades-old conflict, from borders and the status of Jerusalem to security measures and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Levin, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the Palestinian state envisioned by the Trump peace plan is “roughly the same Palestinian Authority that exists today, with authority to manage civil affairs,” but lacking “substantive powers” like border control or a military.
Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands,” reaffirming its commitment to an independent Palestinian state formed on the basis of the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal under international law.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted Wednesday that “that which is postponed to after the elections will never happen.”
“If we postpone or reduce the extension of sovereignty (in the West Bank), then the opportunity of the century will turn into the loss of the century,” said Bennett, a hawkish Netanyahu ally with the New Right party.
Nahum Barnea, a veteran Israeli columnist, stridently criticized the Trump plan in Wednesday’s Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, saying it would create a Palestinian state “more meager than Andorra, more fractured than the Virgin Islands.”
He cautioned that annexation would lead to “a reality of two legal systems for two populations in the same territory — one ruling, the second occupied. In other words, an Apartheid state.”