UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question

UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question
Shahid called on member states to make every effort to join forces to resolve the conflict in line with international human rights and humanitarian laws, and the UN charter. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 December 2021

UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question

UN warned its credibility is at stake over the Palestinian question
  • General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid reiterated that a two-state solution is the only way forward and said ‘we cannot give up hope’
  • His comments came days after the 74 th anniversary of Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states

NEW YORK: There is more at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than peace and security in the Middle East, according to Abdulla Shahid, the president of the UN General Assembly.

The reputation of the global community and its ability to work together to resolve international disputes, in keeping with the founding vision of the UN, is also on the line, he warned.

“That is why we cannot give up hope,” said Shahid as he called on member states to make every effort to join forces to resolve the conflict in line with international human rights and humanitarian laws, and the UN charter.

“We must maintain the credibility of this great institution and push for positive dialogue and engagement between the parties involved.”

Speaking on Wednesday during a plenary meeting of the General Assembly to discuss the Palestinian question and the situation in the wider Middle East, Shahid described as “disheartening” the lack of progress on an issue that has been on the UN agenda since the organization’s earliest years.

The situations in Palestine and the wider region are “deeply intertwined,” he said.

“We have seen time and time again how the spillover effects of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute undermine the stability of the broader region,” he added.

“As long as the Palestinian people are deprived of statehood, as long as illegal settlements continue to be built on land that Palestinians are justly entitled to, as long as Palestinian families are forced to flee the violence and injustices against them and they cannot return home, anger and bitterness will fester.

“This will contribute to a cycle of violence that has gone on for far, far too long.”

The plenary session came days after the 74th anniversary of resolution 181, which was passed by the General Assembly on Nov. 29, 1947. It called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with the city of Jerusalem a separate entity to be governed by an international regime.

Facilitating a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders is the “most important thing” the world can do to help resolve the conflict, said Shahid, who called for an acceleration of the multilateral political process to find a just and peaceful settlement.

Turning to key issues affecting Palestinians, he said it is time for the international community to back its words with actions in terms of humanitarian assistance, support for efforts to resolve the conflict, and upholding the dignity of Palestinians.

“Year after year we speak of the appalling humanitarian crisis in Palestine, especially the Gaza strip,” Shahid said. “But words are insufficient. Words cannot substitute for the lack of running water, electricity, proper sanitation, and decent living conditions that millions of Palestinians endure.

“Words can express how COVID-19 has exacerbated these challenges but they cannot resolve them. Words cannot save Palestinian people suffering from decades of occupation, arbitrary arrests and the use of excessive force against them. Words cannot restore their demolished homes or halt the proliferation of illegal settlements on their land.”

More than half of the five million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. That number rises to 80 percent in Gaza, where residents “cry out for access to even basic amenities and services,”  Shahid said.

The many Palestinian refugees across the Middle East are also in jeopardy, he added, highlighting the large shortfall in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. He called on the international community to ensure it provides enough financial support to maintain the life-saving work of the agency.

“Let us all come together as an international community and reiterate our commitment to protect the rights of the Palestinian people,” said Shahid.

“Let us grant them what they have been justly demanding for so long: dignity, statehood and respect.”


Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison
Updated 7 sec ago

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release — but Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disdains Kavala, accusing him of being the ‘Turkish leg’ of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros
ISTANBUL: A Turkish court ruled Monday that prominent Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala should stay in prison, despite his more than four years in pre-trial detention.
The hearing took place as a Council of Europe deadline that could trigger infringement procedures looms. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release. But Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so.
Kavala, who is in Silivri prison on the outskirts of Istanbul, did not participate in the hearing in line with an October statement that he would no longer attend trials via video conference because he didn’t have faith the court would deliver a fair trial.

Kavala, 64, is accused of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate a coup attempt three years later and espionage. He denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole.
He was acquitted in February 2020 of charges in connection with the 2013 Gezi Park protests. As supporters awaited his release, Kavala was rearrested on new charges. The acquittal was later overturned and linked to charges relating to the 2016 coup attempt, which the Turkish government blames on the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies any ties to the coup.
That trial is now part of a merged case involving 51 other defendants, including fans of the Besiktas soccer club who were acquitted six years ago of charges related to the Gezi protests before that decision also was overturned. Kavala is the only jailed defendant.
Kavala’s lawyer, Koksal Bayraktar, had demanded his release.
“His continued imprisonment for 1,539 days is the continuation of lawlessness identified by the European Court of Human Rights,” Bayraktar said. “End this lawlessness today so our client gets his freedom.”
Taksim Solidarity, a group defending the small Gezi Park in central Istanbul, said before the third hearing that the peaceful 2013 protests, which were based on constitutional rights allowing citizens to demand democracy, couldn’t be tarnished through the judiciary.
In October, Kavala’s case also caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and 10 Western countries, including the United States, France and Germany, after they called for his release on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disdains Kavala, accusing him of being the “Turkish leg” of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros, whom Erdogan alleges has been behind insurrections in many countries. He threatened to expel Western envoys for meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs.
The European Court of Human Rights’ 2019 decision said Kavala’s imprisonment aimed to silence him and other human rights defenders and wasn’t supported by evidence of an offense.
The Council of Europe, a 47-member bloc that upholds human rights, notified Turkey in December that it intended to refer the case to the court to determine whether Turkey refused to abide by final judgments, which are binding. It called on Turkey to release Kavala immediately and conclude the criminal procedures without delay. It asked Turkey to submit its views by Jan. 19 before a Feb. 2 session of the council.
Kavala is the founder of a nonprofit organization, Anadolu Kultur, which focuses on cultural and artistic projects promoting peace and dialogue.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21.

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs
Updated 17 January 2022

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs

Egypt, Algeria discuss foreign interference in Libyan affairs
  • FMs call for exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory during talks held in Cairo
  • Meeting touched on several issues of mutual interest, including developments in Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara region

CAIRO: Egypt and Algeria agreed on the necessity of stopping any foreign interference in the affairs of Libya and the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan territory during talks held in Cairo between Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra.

Lamamra’s visit to Cairo, which began on Sunday, is the second in his capacity as a special envoy of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

Egypt is the third Arab stop in the Algerian foreign minister’s Arab tour, which he began in Saudi Arabia with the delivery of a written message from Tebboune to King Salman. Abu Dhabi was the second Arab capital Lamamra visited.

During the meeting, Ambassador Ahmed Hafez, the official spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, stated that the two ministers expressed pride in the relations between Egypt and Algeria and a desire to continue strengthening cooperation across various fields, including in economic and investment opportunities.

He added that the meeting touched on several issues of mutual interest, including developments in Sudan, Mali, and the Sahel and Sahara region. The two ministers stressed the need to coordinate within a framework of joint African action in a way that enhances efforts to achieve peace, security and prosperity on the continent, especially in light of the various security challenges.

They also stressed the importance of advancing Arab efforts in a similar way within the framework of the Arab League.


Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran

Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran
Updated 17 January 2022

Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran

Iran hostage crisis victim to hunger strike for release of others detained by Tehran
  • Barry Rosen was one of 52 Americans seized by extremists at US embassy in 1979
  • Iran has long used hostage-taking of dual nationals as a tool of its foreign affairs

LONDON: A man held as a hostage for over a year by Iranian extremists in the turmoil following Iran’s Islamic Revolution has pledged to initiate a hunger strike to demand the release of all existing hostages in Iran. 

Barry Rosen was one of 52 Americans held as hostages for 444 days by Iranian extremists who stormed the US Embassy in Tehran after a coalition of Islamists and other protestors deposed the Shah of Iran in 1979.

He announced Monday on Twitter that he will travel to Vienna and initiate a hunger strike aimed at pressuring the US into prioritizing the release of foreign hostages during ongoing talks with Tehran.

The Vienna talks are currently aimed primarily at curbing Iran’s nuclear arms program, but many, such as Rosen, have urged the US to broaden the scope of talks to curtailing Iran’s other belligerent behavior, such as its taking of foreign hostages.

In a video statement, Rosen said: “This week marks the 41st anniversary of my release from captivity. But the hostage crisis hasn’t ended for many others, Americans and Westerners, who are currently being held as bargaining chips in Iran.

“There are at least two dozen of them. It is clear to me that the release of hostages can only take place if the United States, and countries like the United States, put pressure on Iran,” said Rosen, who worked in the US press attaché during the 1979 hostage crisis.

He pledged to stage a hunger strike in Vienna.

“My message is simple: no deal with Iran unless the hostages are free,” said Rosen, adding that he will deliver the message to both the American and Iranian delegations in Vienna.

He said his hunger strike will take place despite concerns over his health due to his age because it is “the right thing for the hostages and their family.”

Iran has long been accused of detaining foreigners, particularly those with dual Iranian nationality, in order to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations later.

High-profile individuals currently detained include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national who has been held in Iran for nearly six years.

Her family believes she is being held as a hostage to use as a negotiation tool in a separate issue between London and Tehran that has been simmering for decades.

Rights group Amnesty International said that Nazanin continues to be used as a “bargaining chip” at the hands of an authority who has “played cruel political games with her life.”

In a separate statement, Amnesty also decried Tehran’s entire hostage-taking strategy.

“In recent years, the Iranian authorities have arrested and detained dozens of dual nationals, including prisoners of conscience such as journalists, academics and human rights defenders,” said the group.

But the approach has, in the past, paid off for Iran. During the Obama administration, the US transferred $1.7 billion in cash to Iran in exchange for the release of several Iranian-American citizens.

Many believe that Tehran is again hoping to use hostages as bargaining chips, this time to pressure the US and its Western partners into a more favorable deal in Vienna.


Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP

Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP
Updated 17 January 2022

Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP

Tear gas in Sudan as thousands protest coup: AFP
  • Sudanese security forces fire tear gas at thousands in Khartoum

KHARTOUM Thousands in Sudan took to the streets Monday to protest a military coup nearly three months ago, and were quickly met by tear gas fired by security forces, according to an AFP correspondent.
Security officers had deployed in large numbers as the demonstrators carrying the Sudanese flag gathered in the capital, Khartoum, as well as other cities.


Three killed, six wounded after fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi

Three people have been killed and six injured in a fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters/ File)
Three people have been killed and six injured in a fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters/ File)
Updated 17 January 2022

Three killed, six wounded after fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi

Three people have been killed and six injured in a fuel tanker explosion in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters/ File)
  • A fire also broke out at the construction site of the UAE capital’s new airport extension
  • Investigations indicate that fragments, possibly belonging to drones, may have caused explosion and fire

DUBAI: Three people – one Pakistani and two Indian - were killed and six others injured after three fuel tankers exploded in the industrial area of Musaffah ICAD 3 near an ADNOC storage unit in Abu Dhabi, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.

A fire also broke out at the construction site of the UAE capital’s new airport extension, which was potentially caused by drones, Abu Dhabi police said in a statement carried by WAM.

Ongoing investigations indicate that fragments, possibly belonging to drones, that fell in both locations may have caused the explosion and the fire.

“Initial investigations found parts of a small plane that could possibly be a drone at both sites that could have caused the explosion and the fire,” Abu Dhabi police said, adding there was no significant structural damage.

A spokesperson for Etihad Airways said a small number of flights were briefly disrupted at Abu Dhabi airport due to “precautionary measures,” but normal operations quickly resumed.

Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement later said it had carried out an attack on the UAE, Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia has led international condemnation of the incident, with the Kingdom calling it a “cowardly terrorist attack.”

The Indian embassy in Abu Dhabi later confirmed in a tweet that it was aware of the incident and was awaiting further details.

Earlier this month, a UAE-flagged cargo ship, “Rwabee,” was hijacked by the Houthis, in a plan the coalition has said was backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. 

The ship was on its way from Socotra Island in Yemen to the port of Jazan in Saudi Arabia, carrying medical equipment used in a field hospital on the island, the coalition added.