UN General Assembly Debate – Day 3 Wrap

Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider, Acting Head of State of Libya

Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider, Acting Head of State of Libya (UN Photo)

Sept. 30, 2015 –  The president of Libya’s House of Representatives told the General Assembly on Wednesday that the proliferation of weapons and spread of armed groups, resulting in criminality and terrorism – and exploitation of this chaos by those with personal interests – has severely undermined the central authority.

Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider said the Islamic State terrorist group wants to take over the country and exploit its resources as it seeks to spread its “law of the jungle” from Mauritania to Bangladesh. He said the terrorists and militias who have taken over the capital Tripoli and are fighting to take over Benghazi, are tools of foreign governments. Gwaider also said the Security Council is taking a contradictory stance by refusing to ease an arms embargo on Libya, a move which he said would enable the internationally-recognized Libyan authorities to fight terrorism, and stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the country.

Also speaking on Wednesday was the prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, who noted that his country is located “at the crossroads between the Middle East, Europe and Africa.”

He spoke of Malta’s role in the current Mediterranean refugee crisis, saying, “We are the only country in Europe, and probably in the world, that dedicates 100 percent of its limited military resources to saving people at sea.” Muscat said this year has broken all records for people attempting to flee persecution and that the scale of the situation demanded a global response. “The first priority must remain the saving of lives,” he said. “This is our moral duty as human beings.”

He added that solving the conflict in Syria will not solve the refugee crisis, mentioning the high number of people fleeing Somalia and Eritrea and those that will be forced to flee because of climate change.

Speaking at a Security Council meeting on Thursday convened by Russia on solving conflicts in the Middle East, Brazil’s minister for External Affairs, Mauro Vieira, said, “It should be noted that the common trait to all those situations is the international community’s failure in dealing with the underlying causes of conflicts.”

“As long as we disregard poverty and the fragility of national institutions as drivers of armed conflict, there will no lasting solution in sight,” he said.

Vieira added that military interventions have also undermined state institutions leading to their ultimate collapse. “We have seen time and again the harmful effects of bending the rules and invoking exceptional rights in order to justify military interventions.”

“Military interventions led only to weak national institutions, increased sectarianism, power vacuums and arms proliferation, paving the way for the rise of radical groups such as the Islamic State,” Vieria told the Council. “Those groups thrive in the absence of the State and benefit from the flow of weapons to non-State actors,” he said, and called on the Security Council to “learn from past mistakes.”

On the refugee crisis, he said that Brazil had given 7,700 visas to Syrians affected by the crisis, and that it will continue to host more, noting that Brazil is home to the largest Syrian diaspora in the world, estimated at some 4 million.

UN Guards Raise the Palestinian Flag at UNHQ on Sept. 30 (UN Photo)

UN Guards Raise the Palestinian Flag at UNHQ on Sept. 30 (UN Photo)

Also on Thursday the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time on UN grounds as a result of a Sept. 10th General Assembly resolution allowing the flags of non-member observer states to be flown at UN headquarters and other United Nations offices around the world.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the ceremony that, “The symbolism of raising your flag at the United Nations reflects the commitment of the Palestinian Authority to pursue the long-held dream of the Palestinian people for their own state.”

Ban added that, “We can be under no illusion that this ceremony represents the end goal.”

“Achieving Palestinian statehood requires decisive action to advance national unity,” he said, not least having a central governing authority for the West Bank and Gaza and peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UN chief also noted the central role of the United Nations in resolving the Palestinian question, with Security Council and General Assembly resolutions on the issue dating back to 1947.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

UN Stonewalling on Decision to List IDF as Child Violators

"Palestinian man with child during Operation Protective Edge" by Basel Yazouri -  Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Palestinian_man_with_child_during_Operation_Protective_Edge.jpg#/media/File:Palestinian_man_with_child_during_Operation_Protective_Edge.jpg

“Palestinian man with child during Operation Protective Edge” by Basel Yazouri – License: Creative Commons

April 7, 2015 – Ban Ki-moon’s office says he is still preparing his annual report on children and armed conflict but is so far unwilling to say whether the secretary-general will name the Israeli Defence Forces in his list of groups that have committed grave violations against children.

Ban has been urged to include the IDF in the annex of the annual report, which lists state and non-state forces that have committed grave violations against children, over its conduct during the six-week summer conflict in Gaza that the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says resulted in the deaths of 551 Palestinian children.

A source told UN Tribune that a meeting was scheduled for April 6 in New York involving Ban and the UN’s special representative for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, during which a decision on listing the IDF would be made. A spokesperson for Zerrougui’s office said the meeting did not take place.

The source said UN staff working on the ground in Gaza have urged the inclusion of Israel in the annual report but have been subject to intimidation from inside the Israeli government.

At stake, the source added, is Ban’s Human Rights Up Front initiative which was launched after the UN’s systematic failure during the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka. The initiative aims to support United Nations staff who warn of human rights abuses and tasks the UN system “with using all the resources at its disposal, including its moral authority” to promote and encourage human rights especially with regard to protecting civilians.

While the United States has steadfastly lobbied the UN on Israel’s behalf in the past, which included the US mission to the United Nations overseeing Ban’s release of details of a 2009 UN inquiry into Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza, recent statements from the White House indicate that Washington’s appetite to shield Israel from rebuke at the United Nations is waning.

Ban would also be expected to list Hamas in his annual report for its indiscriminate rocket fire into civilian areas of southern Israel endangering the lives of Israeli children as well as for using schools and hospitals to store and launch rockets.

Last year’s annual report on children and armed conflict listed 59 parties in 15 countries including eight state armed forces and 51 other armed groups that have committed any of the six categories of grave violations identified by the United Nations.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Foreign Min of New UNSC Member Spain is Visiting Gaza

SPAINPAL
Jan. 13, 2015 – Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo has arrived in Gaza as part of a Middle East tour that also saw him visit Jordan, a fellow non-permanent Security Council member.

Garcia-Margallo arrived in Gaza from the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing after visits to Amman and Ramallah. He was to be accompanied by the commissioner-general of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, according to the Spanish foreign ministry.

Spain began a two-year term on the Security Council on Jan. 1, winning one of the two available seats in the Western Europe & Others Group vacated by Australia and Luxembourg.

The Spanish parliament on Nov. 18, in a non-binding vote, called for recognizing Palestine as a state.

A Security Council resolution that calls for Israel’s withdrawal from territory it occupied since 1967 is expected to put to a vote sometime early this year, after the same measure was defeated in a 8-2-5 vote on Dec. 30 last year.

Garcia-Margallo is expected to visit areas devastated by this past summer’s war during his visit to Gaza. In Ramallah, he signed a cooperation agreement with his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Al-Malaki, which sees Spain donate $33 million to the Palestinian Authority for 2015-17.

He will hold meetings with Israeli officials on Wednesday.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Palestine Accession to ICC Effective April 1

150px-International_Criminal_Court_logo.svg

Jan 7, 2015, Palestine will become the 123rd member of the International Criminal Court on April 1st, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban, in his capacity as the UN depository of treaties, said in a statement on Tuesday that the State of Palestine had acceded to the Rome Statute, which governs the Court, and this would become effective in April. Palestine handed over the required documentation on Jan 1 and the court’s jurisdiction becomes effective 60 days the first day of the following month.

In a submission on Jan 2, Palestine granted the Court jurisdiction over crimes committed in their territory since June 2014. That would include the war in Gaza this past summer.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 03.21.40

2014 Ends with Security Council Defeat of Palestinian Resolution

SC vote on Palistine
Jan 5, 2015 – The last act of the 2014 Security Council was to defeat a draft resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from territory it occupied since 1967.

Eight countries supported the text which was put to a vote on Dec. 30 – Argentina, Chad, China, Chile, France, Jordan, Luxembourg and Russia – while five abstained – Britain, Lithuania, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Korea. The United States and Australia voted against the text.

That the draft did not secure the requisite nine votes needed for adoption meant the United States was not forced to use its veto for the 43rd time in defense of Israel. But it was Samantha Power’s first no vote in the Council since assuming the post of US envoy to the UN in August 2013.

It was also Australia’s fist no vote in the Council in its two-year term which ended on Dec. 31st.

The vote exposed the lack of unity among EU countries on the Palestinian question with France and Luxembourg voting for the draft while Britain and Lithuania abstained. There was also disunity among UN regional groups, with the exception of Latin America where both Council members from the region – Argentina and Chile – supported the text.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said he plans to re-submit the resolution. Two of the countries who ended their non-permanent term on the Security Council on Dec. 31 supported the resolution – Argentina and Luxembourg, two more abstained, Rwanda and South Korea, while Australia voted against it.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 15.42.17

Security Council membership in 2015

Of the five new countries joining the Council for 2015/16, Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela are almost certainties to support the draft resolution and while the positions of New Zealand and Spain are unclear, neither is thought to oppose the resolution.

Although the chances of the draft securing the nine votes needed for adoption increase with the composition of the new Council, the United States will more than likely use its veto to defeat the text.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo/UN Photo

Palestine Joins 15 International Conventions

Palestine_flag
May 12, 2014 – Palestine has ratified 14 UN conventions in the past month and has become a state party to the Geneva Conventions regulating the conduct of armed conflict.

According to a search of the UN Treaty database, Palestine submitted its ratification paperwork on April 2 for the 14 conventions listed below and letters from Ban Ki-moon, in his role as depository, show that most conventions went into effect on May 2 while others go into effect on July 2.

■ Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

■ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

■ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

■ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

■ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

■ United Nations Convention Against Torture

■ United Nations Convention Against Corruption

■ UN Genocide Convention

■ Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid

■ Convention on the Rights of the Child

■ Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict

■ Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties

■ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

■ Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations

Palestine also ratified the Geneva Conventions and associated protocols on April 2, according to the ICRC database.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

Ban Ki-Moon’s Letter on Palestine ratifying the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

Samantha Power Says No to Any Palestinian Push to Join UN Agencies

United States Permanent Representative of Briefs Press on Ukraine
April 2, 2014 – Samantha Power on Wednesday told members of the US Congress that she will firmly oppose any Palestinian bid to join UN and other international agencies and treaties.

The US envoy was speaking before the House Subcommittee that authorizes funds for UN activities on the same day that Palestine’s UN envoy, Riyad Mansour, said his country may seek to join more multilateral organizations including possibly acceding to the International Criminal Court.

“We are fighting every day — on numerous fronts — to end the bias against Israel that has long pervaded the UN system,” Power said in her testimony before the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. “This solemn commitment also extends to our firm opposition to any and all unilateral actions in the international arena, including on Palestinian statehood, that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only come about through a negotiated settlement.”

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced he was submitting applications to join 15 international organizations and treaties. He said the decision to do so was because Israel had not released the final batch of prisoners it agreed to release in a deal made nine months ago.

“When they violated that agreement, we were free to do whatever we feel that we need to do and what we did is legal,” Mansour said at UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday.

Palestine joined UNESCO in October 2011 in a move that was supported 107 of the organization’s member states including Security Council permanent members China, France and Russia. The United Kingdom abstained.

The US Congress immediately froze funds to the organization that supports literacy and free expression. As a result of not paying dues to UNESCO for two consecutive years, the US lost its voting rights in November last year.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Susan Rice Irked at ‘State of Palestine’ Nameplate in Security Council

image

Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki was the first Palestinian to address the Security Council since the Nov 29 Vote Recognizing the State of Palestine (photo credit: UN Photo) 

Jan. 23, 2013 – Palestinian Foreign Minister Riayd Al Maliki addressed the Security Council’s regular monthly Mideast meeting on Wednesday sitting behind a “State of Palestine” nameplate, provoking a stern response from US envoy Susan Rice

Since the Nov 29 General Assembly vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member observer state, the UN Secretariat has changed the designation of ‘Palestine’ to ‘State of Palestine,’ in line with the GA resolution.

In her remarks to the Council, Rice had this to say:

The United States does not consider UNGA resolution 67/19 as bestowing Palestinian “statehood” or recognition. Only direct negotiations to settle final status issues will lead to this outcome. Therefore, in our view, any reference to the “State of Palestine” in the United Nations, including the use of the term “State of Palestine” on the placard in the Security Council or the use of the term “State of Palestine” in the invitation to this meeting or other arrangements for participation in this meeting, do not reflect acquiescence that “Palestine” is a state. This statement of our position shall apply to Palestinian participation in meetings of United Nations Security Council or in other UN meetings, regardless of whether the United States specifically intervenes on this matter in the future.  

She also had tough words for Israel, whose envoy, Ron Prosor, told the Council – in reference to Israeli settlement plans – that “Jews have been building homes in Jerusalem since the time of King David 3,000 years ago” and that “the presence of Jewish homes in Jerusalem” is not a threat to peace.

Rice, who spoke after both Maliki and Prosor, said Israel’s current settlement plans “run counter to peace” and “would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

Meanwhile, the Holy See (Vatican) envoy, speaking at the same meeting, suggested that the solution to the Jerusalem issue is to have the city administered by a body similar to the UN Trusteeship Council (which suspended operations in 1994 following the independence of Palau).  

Archbishop Francis Assisi Chullikatt said that the only way to guarantee freedom of religion and access to holy sites “might be to involve the United Nations in the Holy City’s safekeeping and administration in some relevant and effective capacity.”

Such a plan was originally envisioned in Resolution 181, which the General Assembly passed on Nov 29, 1947.

Denis Fitzgerald

Kosovo Next for UN Recognition?

image

Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian delegation celebrate Thursday’s historic UNGA vote recognizing Palestine as a state. (photo credit: UN photo)

Nov. 30, 2012 – Yesterday’s victory for Palestine at the UN will give hope to Kosovo that it too can soon join the United Nations as a non-member state.

To date, some 96 countries have recognized Kosovo as an independent state including 22 of the 27 EU member states. Pristina needs 97 votes in the General Assembly (simple majority) for admission as a non-member observer state.

Like the Palestinians, Kosovo’s road to full UN membership is blocked in the Security Council, with Russia sure to use its veto to prevent Pristina’s full-member state status 

Among the countries that have yet to recognize Kosovo are several member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, including Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan and Tunisia.

Morocco and Pakistan have expressed support for an independent Kosovo state but are concerned about the implications for their own territorial integrity due to the situations in Western Sahara and Kashmir.

Similarly, EU member states, Cyprus and Spain – who both voted in favor recognizing Palestine – have not recognized Kosovo. Both are also wary of the implications for their own territorial issues regarding Catalonia and Northern Cyprus.

It may well be the fledging governments in Libya and Tunisia who will bring Kosovo over the threshold with Tunis and Tripoli in the past year indicating support for recognizing an independent Kosovo, though neither has yet made a formal declaration.  

Should Kosovo seek a General Assembly vote before Sept 2013 then former Serb foreign minister Vuk Jeremic would preside over the session in his capacity as president of the 193-member assembly.

Denis Fitzgerald

(UN recognition of Kosovo as a state would also pave the way for its acceptance into football’s international governing body, FIFA. The country could then participate in international qualifying competitions for the quadrennial Euro and World Cup tournaments, a move that would be very welcome in football-mad Kosovo)

Iceland Takes on Israel and Iran at UNGA

image

Sept 29, 2012 – Saturday morning is far from top billing at the UNGA but Iceland’s Foreign Minister Össur Skarphÿinsson delivered one of the more creative speeches of the 67th General Assembly in his 9.30am slot. (photo by UN Photo)

In Skarphÿinsson’s own words:

“[T]he first letters of the themes I have broached here today – Palestine, Energy, the Arctic, Climate Change and the Economy, form the word we should all hold dearest here in this hall and towards each other, whatever our differences – P-E-A-C-E, Peace.”

Nice, though if he makes headlines it will likely be for the ‘I” part of his speech when he delivered tough messages to the Israeli and Iranian leaders.

“I listened to Mr. Netanyahu’s speech on Thursday, and I have a comment to make on behalf of the Icelandic people: Don’t bomb Iran. Don’t start another war in the Middle East. At the same time I say to President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership: Don’t build a bomb. Let diplomacy work, not rabblerousing or fearmongering. Let’s work for peace together.”

When he spoke last year, he told the Assembly that the Icelandic parliament would vote to recognize Palestine as a sovereign, independent state: “I’m happy to tell you today, that we have fulfilled that promise. What’s more, not a single member of the Icelandic Parliament voted against the recognition of Palestine,” Skarphÿinsson said Saturday.

He had strong words too on the Gaza blockade saying, “I have visited Gaza and I met with fishermen who are not allowed to go fishing in the waters off Gaza – and it hurts my heart, being an old fisherman myself. I met the children of Gaza whose lives are made impossible by poverty, violence and a blockade that by others than myself has been described as an open door prison.”

And on the West Bank barrier, invoking a politician of times past, Skarphÿinsson said: “I have seen for myself how the human rights of the people of the West Bank are violated every day by a man-made barrier cutting through their roads, their lands, their lives. When I was in Qalqilya the words of a former statesman we all know rung in my head. Mr. Netanyahu – tear down this wall!”

As for the U.N. Security Council: “We must reform it, so as to make it a tool, not a hindrance, for progress in situations such as in Syria this year, or – as we saw last year – concerning the Palestinian application.”

He finished by addressing the sparsely filled GA hall: “Thank you for your beautiful silence.”

– Denis Fitzgerald 

Full text (as prepared) and video of Skarphÿinsson address.

(His strong support of Palestinians was evident too in January 2009 when he refused to meet with Israel’s Minister for Education Yael Tamir who was touring Europe to explain Tel Aviv’s version of its invasion of Gaza, according to a classified U.S. cable released by Wikileaks).