US vetoes widely backed Palestinian bid for full UN membership

US vetoes widely backed Palestinian bid for full UN membership
The UN Security Council votes on a resolution allowing Palestinian UN membership at United Nations headquarters in New York, on April 18, 2024, during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. (AFP)
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Updated 19 April 2024
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US vetoes widely backed Palestinian bid for full UN membership

US vetoes widely backed Palestinian bid for full UN membership
  • 12 members of the Security Council vote in favor of the resolution, with the UK and Switzerland abstaining
  • The representative of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tells council his people long to live in freedom, security and peace ‘in an independent state’

NEW YORK CITY: The US on Thursday vetoed a draft resolution, drawn up by Algeria, that proposed the State of Palestine be granted full membership of the UN, thereby effectively blocking the Security Council from recognizing Palestine as a state.

Twelve members of the 15-member council voted in favor of the resolution, with the UK and Switzerland abstaining and the US voting against it. To pass, a council resolution requires at least nine votes in favor and no use of the power of veto by any of the five permanent council members: the US, the UK, France, Russia and China.

A spokesperson for the US State Department said on Thursday: “Premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people.

“There are unresolved questions as to whether the applicant can meet the criteria to be considered as a state. We have long called on the Palestinian Authority to undertake necessary reforms to establish the attributes of readiness for statehood.

“Hamas, which is (a) terrorist organization currently exerting power and influence in Gaza, would be an integral part of the envisioned state, in this resolution. And for that reason, the United States is voting no on this proposed Security Council resolution.”

Robert Wood, the deputy representative of the US to the UN, had also reiterated that under his nation’s laws, full recognition by the UN of a Palestinian state would require that “funding would be cut off to the UN system, so we’re bound by US law.”

Prior to a previous meeting of the Security Council this month, Wood restated Washington’s long-held position that full Palestinian membership of the UN “is a decision that should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians … They need to work out an agreement and that’s how full membership should come about.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted an application for UN membership in 2011. It was not considered by the Security Council but the following year the General Assembly granted the “State of Palestine” the more limited status of non-member observer state.

Algeria’s concise draft resolution text adhered to the typical format for Security Council resolutions suggesting a state be granted UN membership. It proposed that the Security Council, having examined the application by the State of Palestine for admission to the UN, recommend to the General Assembly that the State of Palestine be admitted as a full member.

The vote on Thursday followed a long day of high-level debate in the council chamber about the issue. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the meeting by warning that the Middle East was “on a precipice,” and calling for “maximum restraint.”

He added that it is “high time to end the bloody cycle of retaliation. It is time to stop.”

He reiterated his condemnation of Iran’s attack on Israel this week, and of the latter’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus this month.

“In Gaza, seven months of Israeli military operations have created a humanitarian hellscape,” said Guterres.

“Tens of thousands of people have been killed. Two million Palestinians have endured death, destruction and the denial of lifesaving humanitarian aid. They are now staring down starvation.

“An Israeli operation in Rafah would compound this humanitarian catastrophe,” he added, referring to threats by Israeli authorities of a ground offensive in the city in southern Gaza, which has become the last refuge for more than a million Palestinians displaced by fighting in other parts of the territory.

Ending the hostilities in Gaza would significantly help to defuse rising tensions across the region, Guterres said as he repeated his calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages being held in the territory.

Ziad Abu Amr, the representative of the Palestinian president, said his people long to practice their right to self-determination and to live in freedom, security and peace “in an independent state similar to other countries around the world.”

Addressing the US directly, he added: “To those who say that recognizing the Palestinian state must happen through negotiations and not through a UN resolution, we wonder once again, how was the State of Israel established? How was it recognized? Wasn’t that through a UN resolution, which is Resolution 181?

“It is high time for the Security Council to shoulder its historic responsibility and give justice to the Palestinian people by adopting a resolution to accept Palestine as a full member of the United Nations.”

Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, called on the Security Council to “accept the state of Palestine as a full-fledged member of the United Nations.”

He added: “Do so to uphold justice, to make peace triumphant, to reject injustice, to cry out against falsehood. Do not leave the future of the region in the hands of the most extremist elements of the Israeli government.”

Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, said: “The minimum we’re compelled to do, based on all moral imperatives, is to satisfy Palestine’s aspiration for UN membership.

“We’re convinced that recognition of Palestine, on a status on a par with Israel, will help the long-term settlement of the Palestine-Israeli conflict.”

Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares Bueno, said his country has joined the 139 others that have already officially recognized the State of Palestine, and supports its admission to the UN.

“Spain will recognize the State of Palestine because the people of Palestine cannot be condemned to be a people of refugees,” he said. “Also because this is the way to peace in the Middle East, and because this is good for the security of Israel.

“Spain will recognize a Palestinian state because they have a right to a future with hope, just as the Israeli people have a right to a future in peace and security, and following so many decades of pain.”

Brazil’s foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, told council members that the “time has come for the international community to finally welcome the fully sovereign and independent state of Palestine as a new member of the United Nations.”

China’s ambassador to the UN, Fu Cong, called on members of the council “to take a responsible attitude in light of history and cast a favorable vote to support Palestine joining the UN family as a full member.”

Algeria’s foreign minister, Ahmad Attaf, said that full membership of the UN for Palestine is a “historical right,” and failure to grant it will guarantee the Arab-Israeli conflict is prolonged.

The UK’s representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said that recognition of a Palestinian state “cannot come at the start of the process but it does not have to be the very end of the process.”

She added: “Our long-standing position has been that we will recognize a Palestinian state at a time that is most conducive to the peace process. That pathway will start with fixing the immediate crisis in Gaza.”


Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
Updated 19 June 2024
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Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short

Trump holds rally in Wisconsin city where his promises of new jobs fell short
  • Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created

RACINE, Wisconsin: Donald Trump holds a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, where he will slam Democratic President Joe Biden’s handling of the economy, even as a major local factory that Trump broke ground on six years ago has proven to be a flop.
The Republican former president was in this largely working-class, lakeside city in 2018 to celebrate what was expected to be a $10 billion investment by Taiwanese technology group Foxconn. During his 2017 to 2021 term, Trump touted the facility, designed to produce TVs, as an example of how his “America First” policies had rejuvenated American manufacturing.
But while Foxconn originally forecast 13,000 new jobs at the factory, the company now expects to create only about 1,500 positions. Vacant fields west of downtown Racine, threaded by empty roadways, serve as a local symbol of unmet promises.
The company, which did not respond to a request for comment, previously said that it changed its plans due to a reduction in projected demand for the factory’s products.
“I think people look at it as a joke,” said Nancy Anderson, a 67-year-old retired teacher, while having breakfast at a local cafe.
Trump is expected to speak to supporters at a lakeside park at 3 p.m. local time (2000 GMT). Among the topics he will address, according to the campaign, is how high inflation under Biden has hurt Wisconsin residents.
Foxconn’s underwhelming debut has opened up a line of attack for local and national Democrats who say Trump failed to live up to his economic promises. They are hoping that message resonates in Wisconsin, one of just a handful of states expected to be competitive in the Nov. 5 election.
According to an average of surveys maintained by polling website FiveThirtyEight, Trump leads Biden in Wisconsin by 0.2 percentage points, despite having lost the state in 2020.
The two candidates are competing furiously for every vote. Biden was in Racine last month to tout the construction of a $3.3 billion Microsoft data center in a location where Foxconn was supposed to build part of its manufacturing campus.
“Foxconn turned out to be just that — a con,” Biden told supporters at Gateway Technical College’s Sturtevant campus.
Still, Trump has a solid base of support, with many voters willing to move past Foxconn and some officials publicly saying they are happy that any jobs at all were created.
Anthony Eckman, a 28-year-old who is unemployed, said he was disappointed when a warehouse position he planned to apply for at Foxconn failed to materialize.
But he said his personal finances have worsened under Biden, and he will likely vote for Trump this year, despite sitting out the last election.
“I wish we had better candidates this year, but Biden showed no signs of improving this country in my opinion,” Eckman said. “I think I’m gonna be voting for Trump this year.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Racine is about 40 miles south of Milwaukee, and it is considered politically competitive even by Wisconsin standards. Trump beat the Democratic nominee in both 2016 and 2020 by about 4 percentage points, while former Democratic President Barack Obama narrowly won the county in 2008 and 2012.
Last week, Trump called Milwaukee, where the Republican National Convention will take place next month, a “horrible city” during a meeting with Republicans in the US House of Representatives.
His campaign said he was referring to violent crime and alleged election security issues in the city when he made that comment.


Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour

Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour
Updated 18 June 2024
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Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour

Billionaire UK political donor switches allegiance to back Labour
  • Opinion polls consistently put Labour on course for a victory that would end 14 years of Conservative government

LONDON: Billionaire John Caudwell, one of the governing Conservative Party’s biggest donors before Britain’s last national election in 2019, said on Tuesday he would instead be backing Keir Starmer’s Labour Party at the upcoming July 4 vote.
“I can declare publicly that I will vote for Labour, and I encourage everybody to do the same,” Caudwell said in a statement.
“We need a very strong Labour Government that can take extremely bold decisions and you can rest assured that I will be doing my best to influence them wherever I can, in putting the great back in Britain.”
Opinion polls consistently put Labour on course for a victory that would end 14 years of Conservative government. A poll published by Ipsos on Tuesday estimated Labour could win 453 seats to the Conservatives’ 115, giving them a huge parliamentary majority of 256.
Caudwell made nearly 1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) in 2006 when he sold his mobile phone retailer Phones 4u.
He said he had been despairing about the Conservatives’ performance in government for “many years.”
Previously, in an interview with Reuters, Caudwell had expressed frustration at the Conservatives but described Labour as untested.
On Tuesday he cited current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s handling of the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic — when he was finance minister — and what he said was a lowering of ethical standards under former leader Boris Johnson. He described Liz Truss’s brief spell in charge, which spooked financial markets, as a “debacle.”
Caudwell said he liked the focus on accelerating economic growth in Labour’s manifesto: “As I have always said, the government must be much more commercially minded to grow GDP in order to finance the public services that benefit all of society without increasing taxes.”
Labour leader Starmer welcomed the endorsement.
“I’m delighted that John, someone with such a successful track-record in business, has today thrown his support behind the changed Labour Party that I lead,” he said.
“The message is clear: business backs change and economic stability with Labour, and rejects 5 more years of chaos and decline with the Tories.”


Macron calls for lifting of barricades in New Caledonia

Macron calls for lifting of barricades in New Caledonia
Updated 18 June 2024
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Macron calls for lifting of barricades in New Caledonia

Macron calls for lifting of barricades in New Caledonia
  • Riots broke out in mid-May after anger over voting reform spilled into weeks of deadly protests

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron Tuesday called on residents of the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia to dismantle barricades after weeks of unrest, adding the situation remained “unacceptable.”
In a public appeal, Macron called for “the firm and definitive lifting of all blockades” and “the condemnation of violence.”
New Caledonia, which is located between Australia and Fiji, has been ruled from Paris since the 19th century but many indigenous Kanaks want greater autonomy or independence.
Riots broke out in mid-May after anger over voting reform spilled into weeks of deadly protests.
French authorities insist Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia, is back under their control, although barricades remain and pro-independence demonstrators have said they are determined to stay in the streets.
In a sign of a slow return to normality after five weeks of unrest, schools reopened on Monday, as did Noumea’s international airport.
Last week Macron announced that the controversial voting reform would be “suspended” in light of upcoming snap parliamentary polls in France.
In the letter published by local media in New Caledonia, Macron called for dialogue and patience.
Caledonian pro-independence movements had already considered reform dead given Macron’s call for snap elections.
Macron has called the snap parliamentary elections three years early in a dramatic gamble to shake up politics in France after the far right trounced his centrist camp in EU elections.
With the first round of voting set to take place on June 30, polls have underlined fears that his alliance risks being squeezed by new coalitions on the left and right.

 


Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes

Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes
Updated 18 June 2024
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Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes

Kenya police arrest demonstrators as hundreds protest tax hikes
  • Tax hikes last year led to several opposition protests which sometimes degenerated into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators

NAIROBI: Kenyan police fired tear gas and arrested at least a dozen demonstrators on Tuesday as hundreds of people gathered near parliament to protest tax hikes, according to journalists at the scene.
The East African economic powerhouse has struggled with a cost-of-living crisis, which critics say will only worsen under the levies laid out in a bill due to be debated in parliament on Tuesday afternoon.
Kenya’s government on Tuesday walked back plans to impose multiple tax hikes, the presidency said, announcing amendments to the controversial bill.

BACKGROUND

Kenya’s government has walked back plans to impose multiple tax hikes, the presidency said, announcing amendments to the controversial bill.

“The Finance Bill has been amended to remove the proposed 16 per cent VAT on bread, transportation of sugar, financial services, foreign exchange transactions as well as the 2.5 per cent Motor Vehicle Tax,” the presidency said in a statement.
The new taxes contained in the finance bill were expected to help the cash-strapped administration generate some 346.7 billion shillings ($2.7 billion) to boost revenue and cut government borrowing.
In addition to the proposed motor vehicle tax, the amendments will also do away with increased taxes on financial and mobile services.
“We are going to end up with a product in parliament that came from the executive and has been interrogated by the legislature. Through public participation, the people of Kenya have had a say,” President William Ruto told his party’s lawmakers.
Parliament must pass the final version of the bill before June 30.
Tax hikes last year led to several opposition protests which sometimes degenerated into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators.
Hundreds of black-clad protesters marched toward parliament in Nairobi’s business district, but were kept back by police officers lobbing tear gas at the crowds.
“I am tired. The prices of everything have gone up. Life is no longer affordable,” said 29-year-old Rara Eisa.
Eisa, who said she had never protested before Tuesday, described the hikes as oppressive.
“They are not lenient in any way,” she said.
Student Paloma Njoroge, 22, who was protesting, rejected pro-government claims that the demonstrations amounted to “social media activism that yields nothing.”
“I have my bottle of water and running shoes. They have to feel our disgust,” she said.
Dubbed “Occupy Parliament,” news of the protest was shared online after an activist leaked MPs’ contact details, urging people to bombard them with calls and messages to shoot down a bill proposing the new hikes.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission urged police to “stop the arrests.”
“Our constitution grants us the right to protest. Still, if the arrests persist, we won’t be deterred,” KHRC said on X, formerly Twitter.
Ruto came to power in 2022 on a promise to revive the economy and put money in the pockets of the downtrodden, but his policies have sparked widespread discontent.
Last year’s tax hikes led to opposition protests, sometimes degenerating into deadly street clashes between police and demonstrators.
While Kenya is among the most dynamic economies in East Africa, roughly a third of the 51.5 million population lives in poverty.

 


Australia lacks ‘political will’ to repatriate women and kids from Syrian camps, court says

Australia lacks ‘political will’ to repatriate women and kids from Syrian camps, court says
Updated 18 June 2024
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Australia lacks ‘political will’ to repatriate women and kids from Syrian camps, court says

Australia lacks ‘political will’ to repatriate women and kids from Syrian camps, court says
  • Federal judges reject case presented by Save the Children, on the grounds that there is no legal obligation on the government to bring citizens home
  • The judgment means they might wait years to be released from what home affairs minister has acknowledged is a ‘dangerous and damaging detention’

SYDNEY: About 40 Australian women and children could be stuck in Syrian detention camps for years, after a court on Tuesday dismissed a legal challenge calling for their government to bring them home.
Federal court judges rejected the case, brought by Save the Children, on the grounds that there is no legal obligation on Australian authorities to bring its citizens home.
However, they noted in their ruling that if the federal government had “the political will” to repatriate the 10 women and 30 children from Syria “it would be a relatively straightforward exercise.”
Instead, the judgment means they might wait years to be released from what Australia’s home affairs minister has acknowledged is a “dangerous and damaging detention,” The Guardian newspaper reported.
They are the wives, widows and children of slain or jailed Daesh fighters. None of them have been charged with any crimes or face arrest but they have been held in Al-Roj and Al-Hol camps for years. The Red Cross said several of the children were born inside the camps and know no life outside of them. They live in “dire” conditions; illness and malnutrition are rife and security is “extremely volatile.”
Chief Justice Debra Mortimer, and justices Geoffrey Kennett and Christopher Horan, accepted evidence that many countries, including Australia, have successfully repatriated citizens from the detention camps, with assistance from Kurdish authorities.
“If the Commonwealth has the political will to bring the … women and children back to Australia, on the evidence before the court, it would be a relatively straightforward exercise,” they said, adding that it had been “amply proven” that authorities had the “means” to end the detention of the women and children.
“But that is distinct from a finding that the Commonwealth exercises control over them and their custody,” they said.
Mat Tinkler, the CEO of Save the Children Australia, said: “Our commitment to helping bring the remaining children back to Australia, where they belong, remains unshakable regardless of today’s outcome.
“These are innocent Australian kids who have experienced immense trauma and suffering but are left to languish in desert camps, where they are rapidly losing hope.
“What I find difficult to comprehend is that the Australian government could end their suffering right now by bringing them home and providing the chance for a real life but our political leaders are choosing not to act.”