UN council regrets Somalia’s decision to expel envoy

Nicholas Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government’s arrest of an Al-Shabab defector who ran for election. (AP)
Updated 06 January 2019
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UN council regrets Somalia’s decision to expel envoy

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to replace Nicholas Haysom
  • The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Saturday expressed regret after Somalia expelled a UN envoy but added that it expected “full cooperation” between Somalia and the United Nations.
The council released the unanimous statement after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to replace Nicholas Haysom, who was declared persona non grata by the Mogadishu government on January 1.
Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government’s arrest of an Al-Shabab defector who ran for election.
The British-drafted statement expressed “regret” for the decision and expressed full support for the UN mission to Somalia.
Council members reiterated “their expectation of full cooperation between Somalia and the United Nations,” it added.
The council met behind closed doors on Friday to discuss a response to Somalia’s decision but China asked for more time to consider the text, diplomats said.
China presented amendments on Saturday to stress that the council respects Somalia’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity,” diplomats said.
The council statement said 2019 will be a “critical year for Somalia” and called on its leaders “to work together to advance political and security reforms.”
On Friday, Guterres’ spokesman said the UN chief “deeply regrets” the decision to expel Haysom but that he nevertheless intends to appoint a new envoy.
Guterres spoke twice by phone with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to urge him to reverse the decision but the Somali president told him on Friday that Haysom would not be welcomed back, diplomats said.
Haysom, who took up the post of UN envoy in October, warned the council during a meeting on Thursday of a risk of conflict during elections in Somalia’s federal states due to tensions with the central authorities.
The arrest of Muktar Robow could discourage other Al-Shabab militants “who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path,” said Haysom.
Robow, who defected from the Islamist Al-Shabab group in 2017, was arrested last month and flown to the capital Mogadishu after announcing his bid for the state presidency in South West State.
The arrest sparked protests in the southwestern town of Baidoa on December 13-15 that were violently suppressed by Somalia’s security forces, leaving at least 15 dead.
In a letter sent to the government, Haysom requested an investigation of the protest violence and information on the legal basis for arresting Robow.
The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions in the Horn of Africa nation, which were ruined by decades of civil war.


Britain and EU spar over Brexit as clock ticks down

Updated 21 September 2019

Britain and EU spar over Brexit as clock ticks down

  • Britain says a deal is possible
  • Ireland says not close to a deal

LONDON/BRUSSELS : Britain said on Friday a Brexit deal with the European Union could be reached at a summit next month, but EU member Ireland said the sides were far from agreement and London had not yet made serious proposals.
Three years after Britons voted to leave the EU, hopes of a breakthrough over the terms of its departure have been stoked in recent days by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the shape of a deal is emerging and European Commission President Juncker saying agreement is possible.
But diplomats say the two sides are split over London’s desire to remove the Irish border “backstop” from the divorce deal struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and then work out a replacement in coming years.
The backstop is an insurance policy to keep the 500-km (300-mile) border between Ireland, which will remain in the EU, and the British province of Northern Ireland open after Brexit.
“We both want to see a deal,” British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said after talks in Brussels with EU negotiator Michel Barnier. “The meeting overran, which signals we were getting into the detail.”
“There is a still a lot of work to do but there is a common purpose to secure a deal,” Barclay said, adding that Juncker and Johnson also both wanted a deal.
Leaving the EU would be Britain’s biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years and deprive the 28-nation bloc of one of its biggest economies. The EU has set a deadline for a deal to be reached by Oct. 31.
British parliament has rejected the deal May agreed with the EU. Johnson has said he wants to secure an amended deal at an EU summit on Oct. 17-18 but that Britain will leave the bloc if that is not possible. He will meet European Council Donald Tusk at the United Nations in New York next week.
Ireland is crucial to any Brexit solution. Unless the Irish border backstop is removed or amended, Johnson will not be able to win parliamentary approval but Ireland and the EU are unwilling to sign a deal without a solution to the border.
The EU fears a hard border could cause unrest in Northern Ireland and undermine the fragile peace provided by a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland, and the British security forces and pro-British “unionists.”
The Withdrawal Agreement that was agreed with the EU last November says the United Kingdom will remain in a customs union “unless and until” alternative arrangements are found to avoid the return of border controls in Ireland.
The British government, worried the backstop will trap it in the EU’s orbit for years to come, wants to remove it and find a solution before December 2020, when a planned transition period ends.
The British pound fell from a two-month high after the Financial Times reported Johnson had told colleagues he did not expect to reach a full “legally operable” deal next month.
One EU official said Britain’s proposals are not enough to replace the backstop.
“As it stands, it is unacceptable,” the official said. “If they don’t really change their approach, we are at an impasse.”
The European Commission said in a memo that Britain’s plans “fall short of satisfying all the objectives” of finding an alternative to the backstop, Sky News reported.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the mood music had improved and that both sides wanted a deal but that they were not close to an agreement.
“There is certainly a lot of commentary now and some of it is spin I think, in the context of where we are,” he told the BBC. “We need to be honest with people and say that we’re not close to that deal right now.”
“Everybody needs a dose of reality here, there is still quite a wide gap between what the British government have been talking about in terms of the solutions that they are proposing, and I think what Ireland and the EU will be able to support.”
Britain said on Thursday it had shared documents with Brussels setting out ideas for a Brexit deal, but an EU diplomat described them as a “smokescreen” that would not prevent a disorderly exit on the Oct. 31 departure date.
Coveney, Ireland’s second most powerful politician, said a no-deal could lead to civil unrest.
“Trade across 300 road crossings that has created a normality and a peace that is settled on the island of Ireland for the last 20 years, that now faces significant disruption,” he said. “That is what we’re fighting for here.