Armenia slams UN Security Council for failure to prevent Azerbaijan ‘invasion’ of Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia slams UN Security Council for failure to prevent Azerbaijan ‘invasion’ of Nagorno-Karabakh
Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh held their first direct peace talks on September 21, after Baku claimed to have regained control over the breakaway region in a lightning military operation (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 22 September 2023
Follow

Armenia slams UN Security Council for failure to prevent Azerbaijan ‘invasion’ of Nagorno-Karabakh

Armenia slams UN Security Council for failure to prevent Azerbaijan ‘invasion’ of Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan addresses a special council session two days after Azerbaijan launched a military offensive in the region
  • Baku describes the deployment as an “antiterrorist” operation after 2 civilians and 4 police officers were killed by landmines allegedly placed by Armenian armed forces

NEW YORK: Armenia’s foreign minister has condemned the UN Security Council for failing to prevent what he described as the beginning of ethnic cleansing of Armenian populations by Azerbaijani forces in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Ararat Mirzoyan’s comments came on Thursday as he addressed a special session of the Security Council, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, two days after Azerbaijan launched a military offensive in the region that its Defense Ministry described as an “antiterrorist” operation. It followed the deaths of two civilians and four police officers in incidents involving landmines allegedly placed by Armenian armed forces.

Challenging the assertion by Azerbaijani authorities that the aim of the operation is to combat terrorism, Mirzoyan said it was a “large-scale invasion … in blatant violation of international law” that has left hundreds of ethnic Armenians dead, injured or missing.

He added: “The intensity and cruelty of the offensive makes it clear that the intention is to finalize ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh. Outcomes of this large-scale military operation clearly revealed the atrocious nature.

“There were clear signs this was coming and we have been raising the alarm about it for a long time now, but the international community refused to take it seriously.”

Internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh is an ethnic Armenian enclave that has long sought independence from its parent state, sparking two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the 1990s.

Azerbaijan seemingly scored a decisive victory in the second of those conflicts, in 2020, when it regained control of the region, before a Russian-brokered ceasefire paused hostilities. In May this year, Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan conceded that Nagorno-Karabakh was part of Azerbaijan and recognized its sovereignty there.

In December last year, government-backed Azerbaijani protesters blocked the only road connecting the enclave with Armenia, preventing food and other essentials items from reaching the region and causing causing what the UN described as a humanitarian crisis.

In response to this, the International Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling ordering the government to “ensure unimpeded movement” on the roads.

Mirzoyan told the Security Council: “This council, as an august body meant to ensure the implementation of court orders, failed to react adequately when the International Court of Justice adopted legally binding orders and they were disrespected by Azerbaijan.

“When in April, Azerbaijan installed illegal checkpoints and later started to kidnap people, the international community again failed to undertake adequate measures. When Armenia raised the alarm, the international community reacted to our warnings with skepticism.”

Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, told council members that the Armenian perspective on events was in defiance of the UN’s own principles of respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The UK’s minister of state for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the UN at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Tariq Ahmad, called for a halt to all military action and a return to the negotiating table, and urged the UN to support efforts to address the immediate humanitarian needs in the region.

“While we fully recognize issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity, military might cannot be used to resolve tensions between communities,” he said. “Direct dialogue is the only way to find genuine, sustainable peace, genuine sustainable solutions.

“It is therefore now vital that talks resume with representatives of the Armenians on the basis of a credible plan to ensure the rights and security of everyone in the region, and to allow them to live in peace.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for strict observation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement. Miroslav Jenca, the assistant secretary-general for Europe, Central Asia and Americas at the UN Department of Political Affairs, highlighted the need to protect the civilian population of the region and said that ensuring their essential needs are met, including the preservation of their human rights, is the overriding priority.

“A genuine dialogue between the government of Azerbaijan and representatives of the region, together with full engagement in the normalization process by Armenia and Azerbaijan, are the only sustainable way forward,” Jenca said.


’Nothing more to say’: Trump cancels plan to testify in NY fraud trial

’Nothing more to say’: Trump cancels plan to testify in NY fraud trial
Updated 11 December 2023
Follow

’Nothing more to say’: Trump cancels plan to testify in NY fraud trial

’Nothing more to say’: Trump cancels plan to testify in NY fraud trial
  • The trial concerns several other crimes, including insurance fraud, and the financial penalty sought by the Attorney General’s office of $250 million

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump changed his mind about testifying in his own defense in his New York fraud case on Monday, he said, announcing that he will not take the stand as expected because he has “nothing more to say.”
The 77-year-old posted the surprise statement on Truth Social on Sunday, adding that he has “already testified to everything” in the ongoing trial against him, his eldest sons Don Jr and Eric, and other Trump Organization executives.
Trump was questioned last month by the prosecution, which has accused him and the other defendants of exaggerating the value of their real estate assets by billions of dollars to obtain more favorable bank loans and insurance terms.
For four hours on November 6, Trump sparred with prosecutors — with his acrimonious answers at times earning rebukes from Judge Arthur Engoron, who warned the current Republican front-runner that “this is not a political rally.”
On Sunday, Trump said that he had already testified “very successfully & conclusively” in the case.
The Trump real estate empire has been put in jeopardy by the civil suit, brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James and one of a slew of serious legal actions facing Trump ahead of next year’s presidential vote.
Even before opening arguments, Engoron ruled that James’s office had already shown “conclusive evidence” that Trump had overstated his net worth on financial documents by between $812 million and $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.
As a result, the judge ordered the liquidation of the companies managing the assets in question, such as the Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street skyscrapers in Manhattan — a decision currently under appeal.
The trial concerns several other crimes, including insurance fraud, and the financial penalty sought by the Attorney General’s office of $250 million.
Unlike some of Trump’s legal battles — including the criminal case against him accusing him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election — the suit brought by James, a Democrat, carries no risk of jail time.
Since the start of the trial, which opened October 2, the billionaire Republican has denounced the proceedings as a partisan “witch hunt.”
At one point during his previous testimony, a visibly angry Engoron told Trump’s lawyer, Christopher Kise, to “control your client.”
Engoron has also slapped Trump with $15,000 in fines for violating a partial gag order, imposed after he insulted the judge’s law clerk on social media.
For their part, Trump’s lawyers have argued that the banks the Trump Organization sent its financial statements did their own proper due diligence and were not financially harmed by the Trump team’s estimates — even bringing out current and former employees of Deutsche Bank, one the banks he’s accused of defrauding, to testify to that effect.
The trial is set to continue without Trump’s testimony, with a ruling expected by the end of January.
 

 


UK creates unit to clamp down on companies evading Russian sanctions

UK creates unit to clamp down on companies evading Russian sanctions
Updated 11 December 2023
Follow

UK creates unit to clamp down on companies evading Russian sanctions

UK creates unit to clamp down on companies evading Russian sanctions
  • Britain warned last week that Russia was trying to circumvent sanctions
  • It announced 46 new measures against individuals and groups from other countries it said were involved in Russia’s military supply chains

LONDON: The British government said on Monday it was creating an enforcement unit to increase its power to crack down on companies evading Russian sanctions.

The Office of Trade Sanctions Implementation (OTSI) will be responsible for the civil enforcement of trade sanctions, investigating potential breaches, issuing penalties and referring cases for criminal enforcement.
It will also help businesses comply with sanctions, the government’s Department for Business and Trade said, and its remit will include activity by any UK national or UK-registered company that may be avoiding sanctions by sending products through other countries.
The unit will launch early next year and work alongside the existing Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in our commitment to stopping (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine. That means clamping down on sanctions evaders and starving Russia of the technologies and revenues it needs to continue its illegal invasion,” Britain’s Industry and Economic Security Minister Nusrat Ghani said.
“Today’s announcement will help us do that, and send a clear message to those breaking the rules that there is nowhere to hide.”
Britain warned last week that Russia was trying to circumvent sanctions and announced 46 new measures against individuals and groups from other countries it said were involved in Russia’s military supply chains.
This included businesses operating in China, Turkiye, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.
Britain said 20 billion pounds ($25.07 billion) of UK-Russia goods trade has now been sanctioned, with imports from Russia down 94 percent in the year to February 2023, compared to the previous year.


Australia plans to halve migrant intake, tighten student visa rules

Passengers check in at the refurbished Sydney International Airport Terminal. (AFP file photo)
Passengers check in at the refurbished Sydney International Airport Terminal. (AFP file photo)
Updated 11 December 2023
Follow

Australia plans to halve migrant intake, tighten student visa rules

Passengers check in at the refurbished Sydney International Airport Terminal. (AFP file photo)
  • Australia boosted its annual migration numbers last year to help key businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic brought tighter border controls, and kept foreign students and workers out of the country for nearly two years

SYDNEY: Australia on Monday said it would tighten visa rules for international students and low-skilled workers that could halve its migrant intake over the next two years as the government looks to overhaul what it said was a “broken” migration system.
The decision comes after net immigration was expected to have peaked at a record 510,000 in 2022-23. Official data showed it was forecast to fall to about a quarter of a million in 2024-25 and 2025-26, roughly in line with pre-COVID levels.
“We’ve worked around the clock to strike the best balance in Australia’s migration system,” Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said in a statement ahead of the formal release of the government’s new migration strategy later on Monday.
“The government’s targeted reforms are already putting downward pressure on net overseas migration, and will further contribute to this expected decline,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil said the increase in net overseas migration in 2022-23 was mostly driven by international students.
Australia boosted its annual migration numbers last year to help key businesses recruit staff to fill shortages after the COVID-19 pandemic brought tighter border controls, and kept foreign students and workers out of the country for nearly two years.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over the weekend said Australia’s migration numbers needed to be wound back to a “sustainable level,” adding that “the system is broken.”
Long reliant on immigration to supply what is now one of the tightest labor markets in the world, Australia’s Labor government has pushed to speed up the entry of highly skilled workers and smooth their path to permanent residency.
Under the new policies, international students would need higher ratings on English tests. It will also end settings that allowed students to prolong their stay in Australia.
A new specialist visa for highly skilled workers will be set up with the processing time cut to one week, helping businesses recruit top migrants amid tough competition with other developed economies.

 

 


Zelensky to meet with Biden, Republicans as war funding dries up

Zelensky to meet with Biden, Republicans as war funding dries up
Updated 11 December 2023
Follow

Zelensky to meet with Biden, Republicans as war funding dries up

Zelensky to meet with Biden, Republicans as war funding dries up
  • Republican senators last week blocked $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package

WASHINGTON: Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky will travel to Washington Tuesday to meet President Joe Biden and plead his case before Republicans balking at sending more money for his fight against Russia, amid warnings aid will run out in weeks.
In a flurry of diplomatic activity after the White House announced Zelensky’s visit, an aide for Mike Johnson said the new Republican speaker for the House of Representatives — who has been trying to tie Ukraine aid to funding for US border security — will also meet with the Ukrainian leader Tuesday.
And a Senate official said Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell likewise invited Zelensky to speak at an all-Senators meeting Tuesday morning — one week after several Republicans angrily walked out of a classified Ukraine briefing that he had been due to address via video.
Biden and Zelensky “will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs” as it fights off a Russian invasion, and “the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
The Ukrainian presidency said the meeting will focus on key issues such as “joint projects on the production of weapons and air defense systems, as well as the coordination of efforts between our countries in the coming year.”
Republican senators last week blocked $106 billion in emergency aid primarily for Ukraine and Israel after conservatives balked at the exclusion of immigration reforms they had demanded as part of the package.
It was a setback for Biden, who had urged lawmakers to approve the funds, warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not stop with victory in Ukraine and could even attack a NATO nation.

Shalanda Young, head of the White House Office of Management and Budget reiterated that fear on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, warning that “our national security is also influenced” by Ukraine’s fate.
“What happens if Putin marches through Ukraine, what’s next? NATO countries, our sons and daughters, are at risk of being a part of a larger conflict,” she said.
But Republicans remained skeptical, with Senator JD Vance, a close ally of former US president Donald Trump, dismissing the idea of Putin putting NATO countries in the region at risk “preposterous.”
He told CNN on Sunday that he opposes a “blank check” for Ukraine.
“You need to articulate what the ambition is. What is $61 billion going to accomplish that $100 billion hasn’t?” Vance said.
“What’s in America’s best interest is to accept Ukraine is going to have to cede some territory to the Russians and we need to bring the war to a close.”
The funding row underscores signs that Western support for Ukraine is fraying just as Kyiv’s counteroffensive falters and Putin’s forces push for new gains.
Ukraine’s offensive has employed billions of dollars’ worth of Western weapons — but the front lines have barely shifted in more than a year and Russian attacks along the front have intensified.
The White House said Biden’s meeting will come at a vital moment, “as Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine.”
At the start of December, Putin signed a decree to boost Russian forces by 15 percent, increasing the army by some 170,000 people.
Moscow has recently given signs about a possible peace deal, although one involving a shrunken, neutral Ukraine that would be impossible to swallow for Zelensky.
The US State Department announced a stopgap $175 million tranche of new aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including prized HIMARS rockets, shells, missiles and ammunition.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Sunday that “Ukraine has done an extraordinary job” defending itself.
“The choice is very clear,” he said on ABC. “If we do this and help Ukraine sustain the achievements that it’s made, help ensure that Russia continues to suffer a strategic failure in in Ukraine. That’s one route to go.
“The other route to go is to do something that the only people who are rooting for it are in Moscow, and maybe in Tehran and Beijing, which is not to provide this assistance,” he said.
 

 


Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government

Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government
Updated 10 December 2023
Follow

Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government

Populist legacy will weigh on Poland’s next government
  • A coalition of pro-EU parties headed up by former European Council President Donald Tusk won a majority in parliamentary elections against the right-wing populist Law and Justice party

WARSAW: Expectations for Poland’s pro-EU government which is due to take power next week are sky-high but current ruling nationalists will still be a powerful and influential opposition, analysts say.

A coalition of pro-EU parties headed up by former European Council President Donald Tusk won a majority in parliamentary elections on Oct. 15 against the right-wing populist Law and Justice party, also known as PiS.

Tusk, who is also a former prime minister, will have his work cut out after eight years of PiS in power.

“There won’t be any miracles” as the new government faces daily battles with PiS which “will continue to fight,” Jaroslaw Kuisz, a political analyst, said.

“It will be like going through mud” and quick change is unlikely as PiS leaves “a judicial minefield,” he said.

PiS will be the biggest single party in the new parliament with 194 out of 460 seats in the lower house and has shown it intends to be a combative opposition.

The party also has allies in the presidency, the central bank and the supreme court, as well as several important judicial and financial state institutions.

It also dominates state media organizations, which have become a government mouthpiece during its rule.

Analysts speak of a “spider’s web” woven by PiS by putting allies in influential roles with mandates that will last long into the new government’s tenure.

President Andrzej Duda is due to step down ahead of a presidential election in 2025 but he could use blocking tactics between now and then, vetoing legislation brought to him by the pro-EU majority in parliament.

The head of state gave an insight into his intentions by initially nominating the PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to form a new government even though it was clear the party had no majority from the outset. He effectively gave PiS two more months in power.

Tusk has reacted angrily, saying on Friday that PiS has spent its last few weeks in power “wreaking havoc, destroying the Polish state.”

Kuisz said the party has used the time “to reinforce itself institutionally and financially.”

PiS has named two former ministers to head up important state financial institutions and new prosecutors.

The president has also approved 150 new judges nominated by a body that was criticized by the EU as being too much under the influence of PiS.

Controversial judicial reforms introduced by PiS have pushed Brussels to freeze billions of euros in funding destined for Warsaw which Tusk wants to unblock.