Timing is apt as Tunisia takes over presidency of UN Security Council

Timing is apt as Tunisia takes over presidency of UN Security Council
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Updated 05 January 2021

Timing is apt as Tunisia takes over presidency of UN Security Council

Timing is apt as Tunisia takes over presidency of UN Security Council
  • Nation’s fourth month-long stint heading the body includes packed agenda featuring several key Middle Eastern issues
  • The situations in Libya, Syria and Yemen will be addressed, along with the Palestinian issue

NEW YORK: As Tunisia assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of January, the timing could not be more apt. It comes as the North African nation celebrates the 10th anniversary of “the revolution of freedom and dignity,” in the words of Tarek Ladeb, the country’s permanent representative to the organization.
“The (Tunisian) Revolution laid the foundation for democracy, and added impetus to Tunis’s role on the international scene as an active advocate of the UN charter, with its chief principles of multilateralism and human rights,” he said on Monday as he outlined the council’s program for the month.
This month marks the fourth time Tunisia has assumed the presidency, which is held by members of the Security Council for a month at a time on a rotating basis. Ladeb vowed that the role would be carried out with “devotion (to) unity and consensus (and) a steadfast engagement of multilateralism.” In the same vein, he said he would work “to uphold the credibility of the Security Council, by enhancing its responsibility in the resolution and prevention of conflicts.”
The envoy lamented the “erosion of the council’s credibility, which was tarnished during the (past few) years due to a lack of implementation, and the ongoing violation, of its decisions.”
He added that he intends to redouble the efforts to fully implement Security Council Resolution 2532, which was adopted in July in support of a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in March for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only is terrorism contributing to the escalation of conflicts and organized crime in many countries, said Ladeb, who also serves as chairman of the Security Council’s Counterterrorism Committee, but the world is facing new threats to peace and security. He warned, for example, that threats related to the pandemic, cyberattacks and climate change represent “multipliers of violence and danger in many regions.”
One of Tunisia’s main aims during its presidency will be to push for enhanced cooperation between the Security Council and regional and subregional organizations, such as the Arab League, he said.
In the Middle East, Syria will continue to be a key consideration for the council, with a particular focus this month on the use of chemical weapons, in addition to a meeting to discuss the political and humanitarian situations.
There will also be the latest monthly session on developments in Yemen, and a quarterly debate on the wider situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue.
Ladeb said that Libya is also high on Tunisia’s agenda for the Security Council. He added that he hopes to capitalize on the “positive” outcomes of the first Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which took place in Tunis in November, by establishing a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire in the country.
“Nominating a new (UN) special envoy for Libya is crucial now to sustain the political momentum and give a push to the political process and the settlement of the crisis,” said Ladeb.
“I think the secretary-general is thinking of suggesting a new name to replace (that of former UN Middle East envoy Nickolay) Mladenov, who couldn’t take (up the offer of) this position (as Libyan envoy) due to personal and family reasons, and the council will adopt it as soon as possible.
“Libya is (Tunisia’s) neighbor. We have a steadfast and principled position toward this crisis.”
Ladeb said the Palestinian cause, “which has been dealt heavy blows in 2020,” remains a top priority for Tunis, not only at the UN but in every forum around the world.
He vowed to create “momentum for the resumption of the peace process within the framework of international concerted efforts, mainly by the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the US, the EU and Russia) and the Security Council, paving the way for negotiations on internationally agreed terms of reference for peace.”
He reiterated that those terms must include the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Iran is another issue that has been a constant on the Security Council’s agenda, especially in the five years since the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. More commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, it included an agreement by Tehran to limit its nuclear research in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
It was signed by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US), plus Germany and the EU. President Donald trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions against Tehran.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised a return by Washington to the JCPOA but hinted that negotiations will be required first to address Iran’s missiles program and its disruptive regional activities. The European signatories to the deal have also hinted as much.
Although the JCPOA is not scheduled to be part of the Security Council’s agenda for January, Ladeb said: “(The deal) has been a major diplomatic achievement that should be constantly supported and preserved. This agreement remains the best available vehicle for the imperative of achieving non-proliferation and ensuring stability in the region.
“A more constructive approach is needed in the coming weeks, through engagement in reviving the agreement in order to diffuse tensions and dispel this atmosphere of distrust in a way that helps in restoring cooperation.”

Global protests held in support of Palestinians

Global protests held in support of Palestinians
Updated 6 min 48 sec ago

Global protests held in support of Palestinians

Global protests held in support of Palestinians
  • Demos in France, UK, Spain, Australia, Iraq demand end to ‘genocide’

PARIS: Police officers used tear gas and water cannons in Paris on Saturday to try and disperse a pro-Palestinian rally held despite a ban by authorities, who fear a flare-up of anti-Semitic violence during the worst fighting between Israel and Hamas in years.

Thousands of people converged in the heavily immigrant Barbes neighborhood in the north of the capital, defying orders issued by loudspeakers that the march was illegal.

Officers blocked off wide boulevards as well as narrow streets where some of the protesters were forced to retreat, while knots of residents and passersby watched or recorded the scene with their phones.

Some threw stones or tried to set up roadblocks with construction barriers, but for the most part police pursued groups across the district while preventing any march toward the Place de la Bastille as planned.

“You want to prohibit me from showing solidarity with my people, even as my village is being bombed?” Mohammed, 23 and wearing a “Free Palestine” T-shirt, said.

The march was banned on Thursday over concerns of a repeat of fierce clashes that erupted at a similar Paris march during the last war in 2014, when protesters took aim at synagogues and other Israeli and Jewish targets.

“We all remember that extremely troubling protest where terrible phrases like ‘death to Jews’ were yelled,” Mayor Anne Hidalgo said, welcoming a “wise” decision to ban the march.

But Walid Atallah, president of the Association of Palestinians in Ile-de-France, the region encompassing Paris, accused the government of inflaming tensions with the ban.

“If there were genuine risks of public disorder, of serious problems, they would have prohibited it right away,” he told a press conference ahead of the march.

“They banned it at the last minute — it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Similar protests in Germany and Denmark this week have degenerated into clashes leading to several arrests.

The protest had originally been called to mark the Nakba, as Palestinians call the “catastrophe” of Israel’s creation in 1948, which turned hundreds of thousands into refugees.

But a Paris court upheld the ban Friday, saying the “international and domestic context” justified fears of unrest “that could be as serious or even worse than in 2014.”

Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin also called for similar bans in other cities if necessary, and officials prohibited marches in Nice, where around 150 people gathered nonetheless, and in some Paris suburbs.

“We don’t want scenes of violence, we don’t want to import a conflict onto French soil, we don’t want eruptions of hate on our streets,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Saturday in Marseille.

But no incidents were reported as thousands of people gathered for protests and marches in several other cities including Montpellier, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

The ban has caused a split among French politicians, with President Emmanuel Macron’s center-right party and the right-wing opposition supporting the move, but leftists calling it an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression.

Thousands of protesters in London and Madrid marched in support of Palestinians on Saturday.

In London, several thousand protesters carrying placards reading “Stop Bombing Gaza” and chanting “Free Palestine” converged on Marble Arch, near the British capital’s Hyde Park, to march toward the Israeli Embassy.

In Madrid, some 2,500 people, many of them young people wrapped in Palestinian flags, marched to the Puerta del Sol plaza in the city center.

“This is not a war, it’s genocide,” They chanted.

“They are massacring us,” said Amira Sheikh-Ali, a 37-year-old of Palestinian origin.

“We’re in a situation when the Nakba is continuing in the middle of the 21st century,” she said.

“We want to ask Spain and the European authorities not to collaborate with Israel, because with their silence, they are collaborating,” said Ikhlass Abousousiane, a 25-year-old nurse of Moroccan origin.

In Sydney, protesters gathered at Town Hall to march through the streets, chanting slogans such as “Free, free Palestine” and “Free, free Gaza.”

“I see an uprising,” said one protester in Sydney, Walla Abu-Eid. “I see people who are no longer going to remain silent. People who are fed up, people who are responding to oppression and violence by standing up for themselves.”

In Melbourne, protesters gathered at the State Library of Victoria and then marched to Parliament House, many carrying “Free Palestine” posters.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in cities across Iraq to stand in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza and Jerusalem.

The demonstrators on Saturday waved Palestinian flags and banners across five provinces in rallies called for by influential Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. Al-Sadr called on followers to take to the streets and support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Protesters gathered in Baghdad, and the southern provinces of Babylon, Dhi Qar, Diwanieh and Basra in a show of support. In Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, demonstrators carried a Palestinian flag several feet long. Many also held up photos of Al-Sadr.

Several thousand people marched in Sydney and hundreds in Melbourne on Saturday, protesting against Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery
Updated 41 min 35 sec ago

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery

Warning against dragging Lebanon into ‘total chaos’ amid hopes for economic recovery
  • Lebanese Army guard Israel border after man killed by Israeli bullets
  • Post-Eid total lockdown lifted after two days

BEIRUT: Political and economic figures have expressed their opposition to dragging Lebanon into a regional conflict amid the Palestine-Israel crisis and violent clashes.

The Vice President of the General Labor Confederation Hassan Fakih warned against “taking the country into total chaos that will wipe out what is left of Lebanon.”

His comments come as people returned on Saturday to queueing at gas stations and searching for missing medicines in pharmacies.

Sales of meat have dipped after the price of a kilogram of unsubsidized beef exceeded LBP120,000 ($80).

Fakih said that “matters in Lebanon have reached an unbearable level, as the economic situation has become a real threat to all classes of people.”

He added that the people “have crossed the poverty threshold as a result of the policies adopted by the political system that has been running the country for many years.”

The Lebanese economy is trying to recover from the double losses that it has incurred as a result of measures brought in to control the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the devastating economic situation.

Hopes have been raised for economic improvements following a remarkable decline in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese Army on Saturday prevented non-Lebanese residents from crossing to the southern border area amid calls made by Palestinian factions to refugees to protest against the Israeli attacks in the occupied territories.

Hezbollah operatives in civilian clothes participated in the prevention measures in the border area, especially in points close to the Blue Line facing Israeli settlements, indicating that the party has no intention of escalating the situation in Lebanon.

These measures come the day after the killing of Lebanese citizen Mohammed Tahhan, 21, by an Israeli soldier.

One of the activists in the Tyre area who accompanied the protesters to the barbed fence told Arab News: “A group of protesters carrying Palestinian flags and Hezbollah banners tried to cross the barbed wire from the Lebanese side opposite the Mutla settlement on Friday.

“Tahhan stepped forward and broke an Israeli security camera. The Israelis fired at Tahhan, killing him with a bullet in the side.”

Hezbollah mourned Tahhan and participated in his funeral on Saturday in the southern town of Adloun and wrapped his body in the party’s banner.

However, the activist, who knows the Tahhan family, said: “The young man is a leftist and his family members are communists, and they face their plight with silence.”

There were unconfirmed reports that Hezbollah asked a Palestinian faction in Lebanon to claim responsibility for the launch of Grad rockets on Thursday night from southern Lebanon to occupied Palestine, but the faction refused.

On Saturday, the Lebanese Army ramped up security measures on the coastline leading to the south. The soldiers set up checkpoints and checked the identities of those traveling to the border area.

Only Lebanese citizens were allowed to cross, while non-Lebanese needed special permits.

The army closed all roads leading to the Marjayoun area, opposite the settlement of Mutla, in occupied Palestine.

Soldiers prevented four Palestinians who tried to infiltrate the barbed wire fence on Saturday.

Activist Ali al-Amin, who opposes Hezbollah, told Arab News: “The party does not tolerate any Israeli escalation toward Lebanon due to internal and regional conditions, and thus its options are limited.

“If it is true that the Palestinians rejected Hezbollah’s request to take responsibility for the rocket fire, this means that the party’s ability and influence to move the street in Lebanon has diminished. Hezbollah cannot make any mistakes because its cost in light of internal and regional developments is not yet clear.”

Israeli military spokesman Avichai Adraee justified the shooting at the Lebanese and Palestinian protesters and the killing of Tahhan.

The spokesman said: “The suspects acted in an orderly manner and left behind them suspected explosive devices and acted in a manner that revealed their intention to infiltrate into Israel and commit a sabotage operation in Israel.”

Adraee held Lebanon “responsible for what is happening inside Lebanon and anything that starts from it, and it will bear responsibility for any attempt to harm the citizens of Israel.”

Hussein Ezz El-Din, an activist from Tire, said hundreds of Palestinian youths “tried on Saturday to cross the main road to the border area, and some of them came from camps in the far north to protest in front of the border. But a security cordon formed by the army and other security elements affiliated with Hezbollah prevented crossing the street to the Blue Line.”

Ezz El-Din added: “The people in the southern border region are divided into two parts. A section is affiliated with the axis of resistance and is trying, through the events that are taking place, to look for a new victory.

“There is also an axis that is not affiliated with either Hezbollah or any other party, which is apprehensive and adheres to the national interest.”

He added: “Those who are not affiliated with any party have not answered the call to go to the borders to protest despite their full sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

“Some of them even believe that going to the Syrian borders to protest there against smuggling operations is more beneficial to Lebanon and its interests than going to the southern borders because it is nothing more than propaganda.”

While a cautious atmosphere prevailed on the southern border, Lebanon regained its near-normal life Saturday, in light of the lifting of the state of complete lockdown that lasted for two days due to the Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

Biden speaks to Netanyahu, Abbas after Israel flattens AP news office in Gaza

Biden speaks to Netanyahu, Abbas after Israel flattens AP news office in Gaza
Updated 15 May 2021

Biden speaks to Netanyahu, Abbas after Israel flattens AP news office in Gaza

Biden speaks to Netanyahu, Abbas after Israel flattens AP news office in Gaza
  • Abbas received an "important" phone call on Saturday from Biden
  • Netanyahu thanked Biden for the “unreserved support of the US for our right to defend ourselves”

DUBAI: President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have spoken about the situation with Gaza.
According to a statement from Netanyahu’s office, the Israeli leader updated Biden on the developments and actions that Israel has taken and intends to take. It says Netanyahu also thanked Biden for the “unreserved support of the United States for our right to defend ourselves.”
It says Netanyahu emphasized in the conversation that Israel is doing everything to avoid harming the uninvolved. The statement added “the proof of this is that in the towers where there are terrorist targets attacked by the IDF, they are evacuated from the uninvolved.”
The Biden-Netanyahu call came just hours after an Israeli airstrike on Saturday targeted and destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received an “important” phone call on Saturday from Biden, Abbas's spokesman said, the first call between the two leaders since Biden took office in January.

Biden told Abbas the United States "is making efforts with the concerned parties to reach the goal" of reducing violence in the region, a summary of the call published by WAFA said.
He also said the United States opposes the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah, the summary said, a case that helped ignite tension in the holy city and spark fighting between Israel and Gaza militants.

Morocco to send 40 tons of aid to Palestinians

Morocco to send 40 tons of aid to Palestinians
Updated 15 May 2021

Morocco to send 40 tons of aid to Palestinians

Morocco to send 40 tons of aid to Palestinians
  • Morocco denounced “the violent acts perpetrated in occupied Palestinian territories”
  • The country reiterated support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

RABAT: Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Friday ordered 40 tons of aid for Palestinians to be shipped to the West Bank and Gaza following recent violence.
The aid includes food, medicine and blankets and will be carried by military aircrafts, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Morocco also denounced “the violent acts perpetrated in occupied Palestinian territories,” and reiterated support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Morocco resumed ties with Israel in December as part of a deal brokered by the United States that also includes Washington’s recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Iran’s foreign minister cancels Austrian visit over Israeli flag

Iran’s foreign minister cancels Austrian visit over Israeli flag
Updated 15 May 2021

Iran’s foreign minister cancels Austrian visit over Israeli flag

Iran’s foreign minister cancels Austrian visit over Israeli flag
  • Mohammad Javad Zarif was supposed to meet Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg but had called off the trip

ZURICH: Iran’s foreign minister canceled a visit with his Austrian counterpart to show displeasure that Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s government had flown the Israeli flag in Vienna in a show of solidarity, the Austrian foreign ministry said on Saturday.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was supposed to meet Alexander Schallenberg but had called off the trip, a spokeswoman for Schallenberg said, confirming a report in newspaper Die Presse.
“We regret this and take note of it, but for us it is as clear as day that when Hamas fires more than 2,000 rockets at civilian targets in Israel then we will not remain silent,” the spokeswoman said.
Hamas is the Islamist group that runs Gaza. Israel has pummeled Gaza with air strikes and Palestinian militants have launched rocket barrages at Israel in the worst escalation of violence in years.
In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told the semi-official news agency ISNA: “Mr Zarif did not consider the trip beneficial in these circumstances, and therefore the travel arrangements were not finalized.”
The dispute comes during talks in Vienna to try to revive a 2015 accord with western powers in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions. Former US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, prompting Iran to begin violating its terms.
Kurz, who is firmly pro-Israel, had called flying the Israeli flag over the federal chancellery on Friday a mark of solidarity amid the violent clashes. But Abbas Araqchi, who heads the Iranian delegation at the Vienna talks, criticized the move.
“Vienna is the seat of (nuclear watchdog) IAEA & UN, and (Austria) so far been a great host for negotiations,” Araqchi wrote on Twitter. “Shocking & painful to see flag of the occupying regime, that brutally killed tens of innocent civilians, inc many children in just few days, over govt offices in Vienna. We stand with Palestine.”