Consensus on G20 joint statement lauded after initial doubts over Ukraine war wording

Special Consensus on G20 joint statement lauded after initial doubts over Ukraine war wording
Leaders of the G20 member states gathered in the Indian capital New Delhi on Saturday to discuss pressing challenges facing the global economy at a time when the group is deeply divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine. (AFP)
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Updated 10 September 2023
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Consensus on G20 joint statement lauded after initial doubts over Ukraine war wording

Consensus on G20 joint statement lauded after initial doubts over Ukraine war wording
  • African Union joins G20, only the second regional bloc to become a permanent member
  • India’s Modi calls on G20 leaders to overcome ‘global trust deficit’ and to ‘walk together’

NEW DELHI: The Group of 20 biggest economies reached consensus on a leaders’ declaration, India’s prime minister announced on Saturday, the first day of the bloc’s annual summit taking place in New Delhi.

Leaders of the G20 member states, alongside invited countries and international organizations, have gathered in the Indian capital to discuss pressing challenges facing the global economy at a time when the group is deeply divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Western nations have been pushing for a stronger collective stance condemning Moscow’s actions, while others have called for a greater focus on broader economic issues.

The announcement of the leaders’ declaration, which was expected at the end of the two-day summit, came after delegates from the world’s most powerful countries reportedly reached a compromise on the language used in reference to the war.

 

 

“On the back of the hard work of all the teams, we have reached a consensus on the G20 Leaders Summit Declaration,” Narendra Modi told the G20 leaders in attendance. “I announce the adoption of this declaration.”

The 37-page declaration addressed the war in Ukraine immediately after the preamble, and reiterated that the G20 was “not the platform to resolve geopolitical and security issues.”

“We acknowledge that these issues can have significant consequences for the global economy,” the statement read.

“We highlighted the human suffering and negative added impacts of the war in Ukraine with regard to global food and energy security, supply chains, macro-financial stability, inflation and growth, which has complicated the policy environment for countries … There were different views and assessments of the situation.”

The language differed from the one used during the G20 summit in Bali last year, where the declaration said “most members strongly condemned the war.” Draft communiques with such reference to Ukraine this year have reportedly been rejected by Russia and China.

This year’s leaders’ declaration also called for an end to military attacks on infrastructure that could affect food and energy security, while calling “on all states to uphold the principles of international law including territorial integrity and sovereignty, international humanitarian law, and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability.”

It added: “We will unite in our endeavor to address the adverse impact of the war on the global economy and welcome all relevant and constructive initiatives that support a comprehensive, just, and durable peace in Ukraine … Today’s era must not be of war.”

The document’s early adoption was viewed as another important breakthrough, not only for the G20, but also for India, which holds this year’s presidency.

“Despite the fact that there was intense speculation about the inability to reach consensus on the Delhi declaration, India has managed to come out with a joint and consensus-based document,” Harsh V. Pant, vice president of the Observer Research in New Delhi, told Arab News.

“It signifies India’s leadership in bringing different contending parties together and in framing the language of the document in a manner that appeals to both sides or all sides when it comes to this issue.”

Consensus was achieved in part thanks to its language, which tied together international law and the territorial integrity of states with the developmental challenges brought about by the Ukraine war in various parts of the world, he said.

“That also allowed the contending parties to continue with the document because, if they did not agree to the document, they would have been seen as spoilers, because India was framing it through the lens of the Global South.”

Under India’s presidency, Modi has been building momentum to give a greater voice and focus to the Global South, a term that broadly comprises low-income nations in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and developing nations in Asia and Oceania.

In a strong step in that direction, the G20 on Saturday welcomed the African Union to join, making it only the second regional bloc to become a permanent member after the EU. The AU’s newly minted membership was also seen as a major achievement for India.

“From the very beginning, India was saying that we need to make multilateral institutions more diverse, more inclusive, and without Africa’s representation as part of the G20, it looked incomplete,” Pant said.

“Bringing the African Union on par with the EU and placing them together on this platform will be remembered as India’s big accomplishment.”

The AU, a body made up of some 55 member states, has long called for African representation among the G20, which previously comprised 19 countries and the EU, representing about 85 percent of global GDP and two-thirds of the world population.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the African Union Commission, took to social media to celebrate the bloc’s entry into the G20.

“I welcome the African Union’s entry into the G20 as a full member,” Mahamat wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“This membership, for which we have long been advocating, will provide a propitious framework for amplifying advocacy in favor of the continent and its effective contribution to meeting global challenges.”




The G20 welcomed the African Union to join, making it only the second regional bloc to become a permanent member after the EU. (Supplied)

Bringing the AU into the G20 was in line with India’s “move to act as the voice of the Global South,” Rezaul H Laskar, a senior Indian journalist and strategic affairs expert, told Arab News.

“I think it’s a very significant decision because the AU is, after all, a bloc with 55 countries. There are a lot of countries over there which need to have a greater say in the global governance architecture.”

Laskar said that it was “a very significant decision and it was good to see the African Union president (Azali Assoumani, president of Comoros) being invited to take his place even at the start of the discussions.”

India made big waves on the first day of the summit despite the absence of at least a fifth of G20 heads of state and government. The leaders of Russia, China and Mexico opted not to attend, while Spain’s President Pedro Sanchez was not able to to make it after contracting COVID-19.

Marking the opening of India’s first G20 summit, Modi called on members to overcome a crisis of trust in the world.

“After COVID-19, a huge crisis of lack of trust has come in the world. Conflict has deepened this trust deficit,” he said.

“Today, as the president of the G20, India invites the entire world to come together and, first and foremost, transform this global trust deficit into global trust and confidence. This is a time for all of us to walk together.”

 


US university pulls student speech after Jewish groups object

A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
Updated 6 sec ago
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US university pulls student speech after Jewish groups object

A man looks at his cellphone while walking at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

LOS ANGELES: A top US university has canceled its plans for a graduation speech by a Muslim student over what it says are safety concerns, after pro-Israel groups criticized her selection.
The decision by the University of Southern California is the latest controversy to roil American higher education since the conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted in October.
Asna Tabassum, who has been attacked online for “antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric,” had been selected as class valedictorian — an honorary role whose holder traditionally gives an address in front of up to 65,000 people.
But on Monday the university’s provost, Andrew Guzman, announced the May 10 ceremony would go ahead without the speech.
“Unfortunately, over the past several days, discussion relating to the selection of our valedictorian has taken on an alarming tenor,” Guzman said in a statement.
“The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security.”
Guzman’s statement gave no specifics, but the Los Angeles Times quoted Erroll Southers, the university’s associate senior vice president for safety and risk assurance, as saying the institution had received threats by email, phone and letter.
Individuals “say they will come to the campus,” he said.
Tabassum criticized the decision, which she said was the result of the university “succumbing to a campaign of hate meant to silence my voice.”
“Although this should have been a time of celebration for my family, friends, professors, and classmates, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian voices have subjected me to a campaign of racist hatred because of my uncompromising belief in human rights for all,” she said in a statement.
The Hamas attack that started the war on October 7 resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The fallout from the conflict has been felt around the world, and is particularly intense on US college campuses, where both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups say they are being victimized and silenced.
On Wednesday the president of the prestigious Columbia University in New York will become the latest campus leader to face questions from US lawmakers about whether her institution is doing enough to combat anti-Semitism in the student body.
 

 


US to query Israel about 6-year-old’s killing in Gaza, State Dept says

This undated image made available on Sunday Feb. 11, 2024, shows Hind Rajab. (AP)
This undated image made available on Sunday Feb. 11, 2024, shows Hind Rajab. (AP)
Updated 8 min 2 sec ago
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US to query Israel about 6-year-old’s killing in Gaza, State Dept says

This undated image made available on Sunday Feb. 11, 2024, shows Hind Rajab. (AP)
  • Israel has killed at least 33,843 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory
  • “We’re going to go back to the government of Israel and ask them for further information,” Miller said at a press briefing, calling Hind Rajab’s death “an unspeakable tragedy, something that never should have occurred and never should occur”

WASHINGTON: The US State Department will ask Israel for more information about the January death of 6-year-old Palestinian Hind Rajab in Gaza, spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Tuesday, calling for a full investigation into the matter after a Washington Post report cast doubt on Israel’s earlier explanation.
The terrified girl trapped in a car in Gaza with her dead family had begged for help in a phone call to rescuers, in which gunfire could be heard as she described Israeli forces drawing near.

Wreckage of an ambulance used by two workers who were killed while they went to save Palestinian girl Hind Rajab, 6, who begged Gaza rescuers to send help while being trapped by Israeli military fire, after Hind’s body was found in a car along with the bodies of five of her family members, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, is seen in Gaza City, February 10, 2024. (REUTERS)

Relatives found her body 12 days later along with those of her aunt, uncle and their three children in their car near an ambulance and two dead ambulance workers who had tried to save her.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that an investigation had found Israeli armored vehicles were present in the area, contrary to the Israeli Defense Forces’ claim that a preliminary investigation had found its forces were not within firing range of the car in which she was trapped.
“We’re going to go back to the government of Israel and ask them for further information,” Miller said at a press briefing, calling Hind Rajab’s death “an unspeakable tragedy, something that never should have occurred and never should occur.”
“We would still welcome a full investigation into this matter and how it occurred in the first place,” Miller added.
Israel’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
US officials have said they are reviewing incidents of civilian harm in Israel’s six-month-old war in Gaza as part of processes meant to ensure US-provided weapons are not used in breaches of international humanitarian law.
Miller said in Hind Rajab’s case, rather than the United States conducting its own review, it had asked Israel what its own investigation had found.
“That’s what we’ll be going back to them to do with the new details that were raised by the Washington Post,” Miller said.

 


UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership

UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership
Updated 45 min 17 sec ago
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UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership

UN committee unable to agree on Palestinian bid for full membership
  • An application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council, where Israel ally the United States can block it

UNITED NATIONS: A United Nations Security Council committee considering an application by the Palestinian Authority to become a full UN member “was unable to make a unanimous recommendation” on whether it met the criteria, according to the committee report seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
The Palestinian Authority is still expected to push the 15-member Security Council to vote — as early as this week — on a draft resolution recommending it become a full member of the world body, diplomats said.
Such membership would effectively recognize a Palestinian state. The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the 193-member UN General Assembly in 2012.
But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council, where Israel ally the United States can block it, and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.
The United States said earlier this month that establishing an independent Palestinian state should happen through direct negotiations between the parties and not at the United Nations.
The UN Security Council has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in 1967.
Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s.
The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Security Council committee on the admission of new members — made up of all 15 council members — agreed to its report on Tuesday after meeting twice last week to discuss the Palestinian application.
“Regarding the issue of whether the application met all the criteria for membership ... the Committee was unable to make a unanimous recommendation to the Security Council,” the report said, adding that “differing views were expressed.”
UN membership is open to “peace-loving states” that accept the obligations in the founding UN Charter and are able and willing to carry them out.


Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances

Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances
Updated 16 April 2024
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Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances

Assange extradition moves closer as US provides UK court with assurances
  • Extradition sought over release of classified information
  • Australia has urged US to drop charges against Assange

LONDON: The United States has provided assurances requested by the High Court in London which could finally pave the way for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited from Britain.
Last month, the High Court ruled that, without certain US guarantees, Assange, 52, would be allowed to launch a new appeal against being extradited to face 18 charges, all bar one under the Espionage Act, over WikiLeaks’ release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.
Those assurances — that in a US trial he could seek a First Amendment right to free speech and that there was no prospect of new charges which could see the death penalty being imposed — have now been submitted by a deadline which fell on Tuesday.
The document, seen by Reuters, states that Assange “will have the ability to raise and seek to rely upon at trial the rights and protections given under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.” However it adds that a decision on the “applicability of the First Amendment is exclusively within the purview of the US courts.”
The document also says that a sentence of death will neither be sought nor imposed.
“These assurances are binding on any and all present or subsequent individuals to whom authority has been delegated to decide the matters,” it said.
There will now be a further court hearing in London on May 20, but his lawyers have previously described US assurances given in other cases as not “worth the paper they’re written on,” echoing similar criticism from human rights group Amnesty International.

’EXTREME DISTRESS’
Assange’s wife Stella, whom he married while in prison in London, said the guarantees did not satisfy their concerns, describing them as “blatant weasel words.”
“The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty,” she said in a statement.
“The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism.”
There was no immediate comment from the US Department of Justice or a High Court spokesperson.
Last week, US President Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the prosecution, which Assange’s US lawyer described as “encouraging.”
It was not clear what influence, if any, Biden could exert on a criminal case, but the Wall Street Journal has also reported that discussions are underway about a potential plea bargaining deal.
Assange, who is an Australian citizen, has spent more than 13 years in various legal battles in the English courts since he was first arrested in November 2010.
To his many supporters, he is an anti-establishment hero who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing and details of alleged war crimes in secret, classified files.
The US authorities argue he is not being prosecuted for the publication of the leaked materials, but for the criminal act of conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to unlawfully obtain them.
“The Biden administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late,” Stella Assange said.


Muslim school student loses UK court bid over prayer rituals ban

Michaela Community School is a state-funded but independently run school located in northwest London. (Shutterstock)
Michaela Community School is a state-funded but independently run school located in northwest London. (Shutterstock)
Updated 16 April 2024
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Muslim school student loses UK court bid over prayer rituals ban

Michaela Community School is a state-funded but independently run school located in northwest London. (Shutterstock)
  • The High Court in London hearing the case was told the ban introduced last year stemmed from several dozen students beginning to pray in the school’s yard

LONDON: A Muslim pupil lost a UK court challenge Tuesday against a top London school’s ban on prayer rituals, in a case about freedom of religion in schools that captured national attention.
The student, who cannot be named, took legal action against Michaela Community School in northwest London, claiming the policy was discriminatory and “uniquely” affected her faith due to its ritualized nature.
She argued the school’s prohibition of on-site prayer unlawfully breached her right to religious freedom and was “the kind of discrimination which makes religious minorities feel alienated from society.”
The school — state-funded but independently run and renowned for its academic achievement record and strict rules — countered that the policy imposed last year was justified.
The High Court in London hearing the case was told the ban introduced last year stemmed from several dozen students beginning to pray in the school’s yard, using blazers to kneel on, the BBC reported.
It then imposed the new rules due to concerns about a “culture shift” toward “segregation between religious groups and intimidation within the group of Muslim pupils,” the court reportedly heard.
In a written ruling, judge Thomas Linden dismissed the pupil’s arguments, ruling that by enrolling at the school she had effectively accepted being subject to restrictions on manifesting her faith.
He concluded that the prayer ritual policy was “proportionate” and that its aims and ability to achieve them “outweighs” any “adverse effects” on the rights of Muslim pupils at the school.
Responding to the decision Katharine Birbalsingh, headteacher of Michaela Community School, said “a school should be free to do what is right for the pupils it serves.”
“The court’s decision is therefore a victory for all schools,” she added on X (formerly Twitter).
“Schools should not be forced by one child and her mother to change its approach simply because they have decided they don’t like something at the school.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan also welcomed the ruling, saying “headteachers are best placed to make decisions in their school.”
“Michaela is an outstanding school and I hope this judgment gives all school leaders the confidence to make the right decisions for their pupils.”