‘UN Security Council must prioritize Arab and global crises, not only Ukraine’ says league secretary general

‘UN Security Council must prioritize Arab and global crises, not only Ukraine’ says league secretary general
UN official Rosemary DiCarlo noted about the role of Arab countries that would be ‘key’ to end the conflict in Sudan. (AFP)
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Updated 09 June 2023

‘UN Security Council must prioritize Arab and global crises, not only Ukraine’ says league secretary general

‘UN Security Council must prioritize Arab and global crises, not only Ukraine’ says league secretary general
  • Nuclear war a real threat, says Arab League’s SG Aboul Gheit
  • Lack of aid to ‘suffering millions’ discussed at UAE-organized event

NEW YORK: The League of Arab States on Thursday called on the UN Security Council not to let the Ukraine war take priority over other global conflicts and their ensuing humanitarian crises, especially in the Arab region including Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Sudan.

The league’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told council members that the world was at a “very critical juncture,” which has seen heightened tensions and the polarization of major powers. This has pushed the world “to the precipice of a nuclear confrontation,” with the mitigating effects of collective action increasingly unlikely.

Aboul Gheit said this has resulted in an inadequate response to modern challenges including counterterrorism, climate change, disruptions caused by technological advances, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Aboul Gheit’s remarks came at a council meeting organized by the UAE, the Security Council’s president for the month of June, to discuss ways to enhance joint action by the UN and Arab League on various issues including regional security and humanitarian challenges.

The UAE’s concept note for the meeting emphasized that such challenges, including ongoing conflicts in Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen — and the Israeli-Palestinian situation — “have led to unimaginable suffering for millions of people.

“In addition, countries such as Lebanon and Somalia are facing deep economic crises, high unemployment and spiraling inflation, thereby exacerbating fragilities and humanitarian needs.”

The note said that the earthquakes that hit Syria and Turkiye earlier this year have compounded the suffering in the region, resulting in widespread destruction of homes and infrastructure, a high death toll and the displacement of millions.

“While the humanitarian response was substantial, it faced considerable
obstacles, in particular in coordinating assistance from various donors.”

Aboul Gheit said “the prevailing tension at the pinnacle of the international order diminishes any opportunities to address regional conflicts. It also comes at the expense of the global attention that should be paid to humanitarian and relief aid.”

Sudan has for two months been witnessing an “unprecedented situation in its contemporary history with Khartoum turning into a battlefield,” where death, displacement, looting and dismantling of state institutions continue, said Aboul Gheit.

“The League of Arab States senses the seriousness of this situation both on Sudan and its neighboring countries and (it) is actively working in coordination with other regional organizations, especially the African Union, towards achieving a total cessation of hostilities (and) creating an environment conducive to the resumption of political action.”

He urged member states to help keep “a unified Sudan as our aim without any threats to its territorial integrity and without weakening its national institutions.”

Palestinians also continue to suffer from persisting occupation, and “heightened oppression and violence on the part of the Israeli government” whose practices and “extreme ideologies reflect an unprecedented turn to the right.

“This is a government that chooses annexation and settlement instead of peace,” Aboul Gheit told world ambassadors.

“This government, every single day, applies policies and practices that are totally divorced from international law, undermining any future prospect for the two-state solution.

“What is most concerning today is the feeling of despondency and despair currently felt by the Palestinian people as they have lost all hope in giving impetus to the political settlement process.”

He called on the council to renew its commitment to a two-state solution, one of the “mainstays” of the Arab League, as the “only path, and I do repeat the only path for sustainable peace.”

Syria’s return to the Arab League should serve as a step toward tackling its decade-long crisis, said Aboul Gheit.

“Maybe this step would also compel us all to actively work towards a political settlement in Syria according to Security Council Resolution 2254.”

He expressed hope that Arab countries hosting Syrian refugees would be able to “reach a solution for the voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees by creating the environment conducive for this return.”

In Yemen, notwithstanding the Houthis’ breaches, the truce has contributed considerably to de-escalating tensions, said Aboul Gheit.

Despite the ongoing “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis in the country, a political solution remains possible, “especially if enough efforts were made on the part of the Houthis,” said Aboul Gheit. He added that the rapprochement agreement last March between Saudi Arabia and Iran “opens new prospects that should be optimized to achieve de-escalation and maybe even settlement in Yemen.”

He voiced the Arab League’s support for UN efforts in Libya and reiterated that elections there are the only path toward a sustainable solution for the protracted crisis in the country.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said that in recent years “multilateralism has come under great strain. Trust in institutions and processes has been sorely tested. Defiance of international law and the norms that bind us is making international and regional cooperation to maintain peace and security ever more difficult.”

But she added that “in such a fraught context, it is heartening that the relationship between the United Nations and the League of Arab States remains robust.”

DiCarlo said that the role of Arab countries would be “key” to end the conflict in Sudan, as she commended for their peace efforts the Arab league, the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and other partners.

The UN official said that the Jeddah Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia and the US on May 20, “gave rise to much hope (but) unfortunately, the parties have failed to implement (it).

“Furthermore, the Sudanese Armed Forces announced the suspension of their participation in the talks, citing the Rapid Support Forces’ violations of the ceasefire.

“It is critical that the parties remain committed to the ceasefire agreement. But this will not be enough. We need a permanent cessation of hostilities and, eventually, a resumption of the political process.”

DiCarlo also echoed Aboul Gheit’s call for a renewed commitment to a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also commended the Arab League’s efforts in trying to reach a solution for the Libyan crisis.

Turning to Syria, DiCarlo noted the Arab meetings in Amman and Jeddah, and the resolution adopted at the Jeddah Summit, “which reflected the importance of Security Council Resolution 2254 (2015), the only internationally agreed roadmap to resolve the Syrian conflict.”

She said that “if the renewed regional attention on Syria is translated into action, we could see momentum build toward a negotiated political settlement of the conflict,” adding that “addressing the fate of the detained, the disappeared and the missing is essential to move closer towards sustainable peace.”

She called on all parties to “take meaningful steps to this end,” and urged member states to support the establishment of a body dedicated to clarifying the fate of the missing.

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request
Updated 17 min 50 sec ago

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden gathered other world powers Tuesday to coordinate on Ukraine as it battles Russia in a war now almost 20 months long — a deliberate show of US support at a time when the future of its aid is entangled with a volatile faction of House Republicans who want to cut off money to Kyiv.

The phone call — convened by the United States and joined by key allies in Europe as well as the leaders of Canada and Japan — was held three days after Biden signed legislation hastily sent to him by Congress that kept the federal government funded but left off billions in funding for Ukraine’s war effort that the White House had vigorously backed.

All the countries that participated in the call stressed that their backing of Ukraine remains unchanged, and no one questioned whether US support of Kyiv was in doubt, according to the White House. But the administration sternly warned Tuesday that Congress must not let the flow of aid be disrupted, lest Russian President Vladimir Putin exploit any lapses to his advantage.

“Time is not our friend,” said John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House. He warned that any gaps in US support “will make Putin believe he can wait us out.”

Kirby said the current tranche of congressionally-approved US aid would be enough to help Ukraine for another “couple of weeks” or a “couple of months,” although the precise estimate would hinge on current battlefield conditions.

The outlook for the future of Ukraine aid has been murky at best after Biden on Saturday signed a bill to fund US government operations through mid-November that ignored the billions in additional funds for Kyiv requested by Biden in late August. The president, as well as congressional Democratic leaders, had stressed after the vote that they had expected then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to follow through on his public commitment to Ukraine aid even as Republican resistance to it continues.

Biden went as far as to imply that e had a deal with McCarthy to move Ukraine aid once the government was funded, although the speaker has denied that is the case and the White House has refused to elaborate on the president’s remarks. Meanwhile, McCarthy signaled over the weekend that he supports linking new Ukraine funding to security improvements at the US border with Mexico. Kirby said Tuesday that the White House supports both issues on their own merits but not tied together.

McCarthy was ejected from his own job on Tuesday in dramatic fashion on the House floor. Even as the White House said it was staying out of his fight to keep the speaker’s gavel, Kirby emphasized that other House GOP leaders support Ukraine aid, not just McCarthy himself.

In Poland, President Andrzej Duda said after the call that Biden had assured the group of continued US support for Ukraine and of his strong conviction that Congress will not walk away.

“Everyone took the floor. The main subject was Ukraine, the situation in Ukraine,” Duda said at a news conference in Kielce, Poland. “President Joe Biden began with telling us about the situation in the US and what is the real political situation around Ukraine. He assured us that there is backing for the continuing support for Ukraine, first of all for the military support.

He said that he will get that backing in the Congress.”

Duda said Biden assured the leaders that support for Ukraine in the US Congress is much broader than media reports suggest. He said Biden called on the participants to continue their support for Ukraine and that everyone assured him that they would.

Kirby added that the other leaders weren’t concerned about whether US would stop backing Ukraine: “They understand what’s going up on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Others on the call included the leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, Britain, the European Commission and the European Council. France’s foreign minister also participated, the White House said. French President Emmanuel Macron was not available due to scheduling issues, according to a US administration official.

The group also discussed how to provide Ukraine with the weapons support and strengthen its air defenses, as well as shoring up its energy infrastructure as the nation girds for a cold winter. The leaders also strategized on how to marshal private donations to aid Ukraine’s economic recovery, according to a White House readout of the call.

“Everyone was saying that this is the next step that will be necessary and for which preparations should begin now,” Duda said of the leaders’ discussion on helping to rebuild Ukraine.

As the White House made its case for continued aid to Ukraine, lawmakers and military veterans rallied outside the US Capitol to make their own call to keep up the funding. Many argued stopping US support to Ukraine would embolden Russia and other rivals to invade other democratic allies after Ukraine, and draw US forces into direct conflict.

Retired Brig. Gen. Mark Arnold, a veteran of the special forces, told the crowd that “the world is watching this debate about abandoning Ukraine.”

“Retreats to isolationism do not work,” Arnold said. China and Russia and other adversaries “will all rise in strength if Ukraine is defeated.”

The exclusion of money for Ukraine came little more than a week after lawmakers met in the Capitol with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He sought to assure them that his military was winning the war, but stressed that additional assistance would be crucial.

Voting in the House last week pointed to the potential trouble ahead. Nearly half of House Republicans voted to cut from a defense spending bill $300 million to train Ukrainian soldiers and buy weapons. The money later was approved separately, but opponents of Ukraine support celebrated their growing numbers.

The US has approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling about $113 billion, with some of that money going toward replenishment of US military equipment that was sent to the front lines. In August, Biden called on Congress to provide for an additional $24 billion.

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists
Updated 5 sec ago

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists

ROME: A bus carrying foreign tourists including Ukrainians crashed near the Italian city of Venice when it fell from an elevated street Tuesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring 18 others, authorities said.
Four of the injured were in serious condition following the accident in the Mestre borough, on the mainland opposite the historic old city of Venice, said Renato Boraso, a Venice city official. Two of the dead were children, Venice prefect Michele Di Bari said.
Boraso confirmed that some of the victims are Ukrainians, and said the bus was bringing tourists to a camping site.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the scene of the crash was “apocalyptic” and that he had already declared the “city’s mourning” for the “numerous victims” who were on the bus.
According to local media, the bus fell a few meters before crashing close to Mestre’s railway tracks, where it caught fire. Emergency crews were on the scene.
Premier Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deepest sorrow” after the crash.

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote
Updated 48 min 19 sec ago

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his job, as infighting among his fellow Republicans plunged Congress into further chaos just days after it narrowly averted a government shutdown.

The 216 to 210 vote marked the first time in history that the House removed its leader, driven by a relatively small group of right-wing Republicans.

The rebellion was led by Representative Matt Gaetz, a far-right Republican from Florida and McCarthy antagonist who accused the party leader of not doing enough to cut federal spending.

It was the latest moment of high drama in a year when the Republican-controlled House brought Washington to the brink of default and the edge of a partial government shutdown.

McCarthy’s party controls the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority, meaning that it can afford to lose no more than five votes if Democrats unite in opposition.

That happened on Tuesday, as eight Republicans voted with 208 Democrats to remove McCarthy from his post.

The vote left Congress in uncharted waters as it scrambles to update farm-subsidy and nutrition programs, pass government funding bills, and consider further aid to Ukraine.

It was unclear who would succeed McCarthy.

Other Republican leaders like Steve Scalize and Tom Emmer could possibly be candidates, though neither has publicly expressed interest. Another member of the Republican leadership team, Representative Patrick McHenry, was named to the post on a temporary basis.

The last two Republican speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, retired from Congress after clashing with members of their right wing.

In theory, lawmakers could vote to give McCarthy back the job. He did not respond to questions after the vote.

In debate on the House floor, Gaetz and a handful of allies criticized McCarthy for relying on Democratic votes to pass temporary funding that headed off a partial government shutdown.

“We need a speaker who will fight for something — anything — other than staying on as speaker,” said Republican Representative Bob Good.

McCarthy’s supporters, including some of the chamber’s most vocal conservatives, said he had successfully limited spending and advanced other conservative priorities even though Democrats control the White House and the Senate. They warned their gains would be at risk if they removed their leader.

“Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos, because that’s where we’re headed,” said Republican Representative Tom Cole.

Democrats said they would not help Republicans resolve their own problems. They broadly view McCarthy as untrustworthy after he broke an agreement on spending with Democratic President Joe Biden, and are angered by his decision to green-light an impeachment investigation of the president.

“Let them wallow in their pigsty of incompetence,” Representative Pramila Jayapal told reporters before the vote.

Gaetz was one of more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January. McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting. In order to win the job, McCarthy agreed to rules that made it easier to challenge his leadership.

McCarthy supporters have said Gaetz was motivated by a hunger for publicity, a chance to win higher office, or resentment over an ongoing ethics probe into possible sexual misconduct and illicit drug use. Representative Garret Graves pointed out that Gaetz has been fundraising off his effort to oust McCarthy. “It’s disgusting,” he said.

Gaetz has denied wrongdoing and said he is not motivated by a dislike of McCarthy.

“This isn’t a critique of the individual — it’s a critique of the job. The job hasn’t been done,” he said.

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas
Updated 03 October 2023

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas
  • The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation has been in turmoil, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence

The United Nations Security Council on Monday approved a Kenyan-led mission aiming to bring stability to Haiti, a year after leaders in the violence-ravaged Caribbean nation first pleaded for help.

The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation has been in turmoil, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, and the economy and public health system also in tatters.Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been calling since late 2022 for international support to back the police force, but much of the global community had been jaded by the failure of earlier interventions in Haiti.

Monday’s resolution passed with 13 votes in favor, with China and Russia abstaining. It was hailed by Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus as bringing a “glimmer of hope for people who have been suffering the consequences of a difficult political, socio-economic, security and humanitarian situation for too long.”

A breakthrough in plans for the force came in July, when Kenya volunteered to lead it and send 1,000 personnel.

“We must not fail the people of Haiti,” Kenyan President William Ruto declared in a statement Tuesday, saying they had “borne the brunt of colonial plunder and repression.”

“This mandate is not only about peace and security, but also about the rebuilding of Haiti — its politics, its economic development, and social stability,” Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said separately.

The resolution calls for the deployment of a “multinational security support mission” — not officially a UN force — with a “lead country” coordinating with the Haitian government.

The mission is initially approved for one year, with a review after nine months.

The force aims to provide “operational support to the Haitian National Police, including building its capacity through the planning and conduct of joint security support operations,” the resolution says.

The mission will also aim to create conditions to hold elections, which have not taken place in Haiti since 2016.

Guterres in a recent report said that the security situation in Haiti has only grown worse, with gang members both more numerous and better armed than the police.

Nearly 2,800 homicides were recorded in Haiti between October 2022 and June 2023, with 80 minors among the dead, the UN report said.

The US has been advocating a multinational force. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his department would continue working with Congress to provide $100 million in foreign assistance, and that the Pentagon is prepared to provide up to $100 million in enabling support.

But President Joe Biden has made clear he will not put American troops in harm’s way.

On Monday, the White House voiced its “gratitude” to Kenya for taking on leadership of the force, and to nations such as Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua for adding manpower.

“It is now crucial that we focus on making progress in mobilizing the international support necessary to deploy this mission,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

For the resolution to pass, China had to choose not to apply its veto. Haiti is one of a dwindling number of nations that recognizes Taiwan, which Beijing claims and has been seeking to isolate on the international stage.

China, in the run-up to the Security Council meeting, voiced doubts and pointed a finger at the United States, highlighting the role of weapons from Florida in aggravating the violence.

Under pressure from Beijing, the resolution expands an embargo on light weapons and ammunition.

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation
Updated 03 October 2023

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation
  • Niger junta denied it had accepted an offer by Algeria to act as a mediator to solve its political crisis

NIAMEY: At least 29 Niger soldiers were killed in an ambush by insurgents near the country’s border with Mali, the Defense Ministry said, the deadliest attack since the military seized power in a coup in July.

Separately, the Niger junta denied it had accepted an offer by Algeria to act as a mediator to solve its political crisis, even though Algeria had said on Monday it had received official notification of Niger’s acceptance.

Niger and its neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, also run by military governments that seized power in coups, are all battling militants linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh  who have killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people in the Sahel region. They signed a security pact last month promising to defend each other against rebels or aggressors.

The attack in Niger took place as soldiers were returning from operations against the militants. They were targeted by more than 100 assailants in vehicles and on motor-bikes using explosive devices and suicide bombers.

“The provisional toll of the attack is as follows: 29 soldiers fell in battle and two were wounded,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement read on Niger national television, adding that several dozen assailants were killed.

It did not specify which group was responsible or when exactly the ambush occurred, but said the military operation took place between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2.

Three days of national mourning have been declared.

The spate of coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger since 2020 was partly driven by frustrations among the military and citizens over insecurity. But the violence has increased just as the juntas are kicking out foreign troops that were previously helping fight the militants. United Nations peacekeepers are also leaving.

Insurgents, many with links to Islamic Daesh, have been particularly active along the Mali-Niger border since French and UN troops left southeast Mali, ending crucial air reconnaissance support. West Africa’s regional bloc and Western powers have called on Niger to rapidly restore constitutional rule. But the junta has been dragging its feet.

The junta said in a statement on Monday that it was surprised by the Algeria’s assertion that Niger had agreed for it to act as mediator, and that it rejected its conclusions.