US asks Europe to secure Strait of Hormuz, combat Iran aggression

The US has formally asked Germany to join France and the UK in a mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait of Hormuz. The UK sent its Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region on July 29. (AFP photo/Crown copyright 2019)
Updated 30 July 2019

US asks Europe to secure Strait of Hormuz, combat Iran aggression

  • The comments confirmed by embassy spokesman
  • The UK sent its Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan to the region on July 29

BERLIN: The US has formally asked Germany to join France and Britain in a mission to secure the Strait of Hormuz and to combat Iranian aggression, the US Embassy in Berlin said on Tuesday.

At a time of heightened tension between the United States and Iran, Washington has proposed stepping up efforts to safeguard the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, through which about a fifth of the world's oil passes.

“We’ve formally asked Germany to join France and the UK to help secure the Straits of Hormuz and combat Iranian aggression. Members of the German government have been clear that freedom of navigation should be protected... Our question is, protected by whom,” said an Embassy spokeswoman.

The comments, initially reported by Germany's DPA news agency, were confirmed by an Embassy spokesman.

Ties between Iran and the United States have deteriorated since Washington pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran last year and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. Recent attacks on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz have further soured relations.

There is considerable opposition among Germany's Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition, to getting involved in a US-led mission.

“The German government has already rejected participation in the US military mission, Operation Sentinel, to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz,” said Nils Schmid, a foreign affairs spokesman for the SPD parliamentary party.

“It should stay like that. Otherwise, there is a risk of being pulled into a war against Iran on the side of the United States,” he added in an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.