UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls on Myanmar to end violence, urges aid

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. (Source: Reuters) Related News

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on authorities in Myanmar to end violence against the majority-Buddhist country’s Rohingya Muslims and acknowledged the situation there is best described as ethnic cleansing. The humanitarian situation in Myanmar was “catastrophic,” Guterres said, and called on all countries to do what they could to supply aid.

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” Guterres said at a news conference.

Pressure has been mounting on Myanmar to end violence that has sent about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, with the United States calling for protection of civilians and Bangladesh urging safe zones to enable refugees to go home. Asked if the situation could be described as ethnic cleansing, Guterres replied: “Well I would answer your question with another question: When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, could you find a better word to describe it?”

The secretary-general also said he has spoken to , Myanmar’s national leader, several times. “This is a dramatic tragedy. People are dying and suffering at horrible numbers and we need to stop it. That is my main concern,” he said. Suu Kyi canceled a trip to the upcoming U.N. General Assembly to deal with the crisis, her office said on Wednesday.

The U.N. Security Council is to meet on Wednesday behind closed doors for the second time since the crisis erupted. British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he hoped there would be a public statement agreed by the council. The government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, says its security forces are fighting Rohingya militants behind a surge of violence in Rakhine state that began on Aug. 25, and they are doing all they can to avoid harming civilians.

The government says about 400 people have been killed in the fighting, the latest in the western state. The U.N.’s top human rights official earlier this week denounced Myanmar for conducting a “cruel military operation” against the Rohingya, branding it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

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UN chief asks nations to commit to Paris deal amid rising deaths due to floods

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Related News

Citing the “dramatic floods” in India and Nepal, UN chief has urged nations to commit to the historic Paris deal to address the threats posed by climate change as natural disasters become frequent and more devastating. Weeks of torrential monsoon rains and catastrophic flooding in India, Nepal and Bangladesh have devastated the lives of millions of children and families.

UNICEF estimates that almost 16 million children and their families are in urgent need of life-saving support. Since mid-August, there have been at least 1,288 reported deaths. “First of all, climate change today is undeniable. In the US, as in Portugal and other parts of the world, we are seeing heat waves, we are seeing dramatic floods – Sierra Leone, India, Nepal – we always had floods in the past but now natural disasters are becoming more frequent, more intense and with more devastating consequences,” Guterres said.

He said as deserts are progressing, glaciers diminishing and sea levels starting to rise, it is clearly a threat to humanity. “To fight it we have today an important instrument – the Paris Agreement. We need to make sure that all countries commit themselves to that [accord],” he said. Without naming the US, which has decided to pull out of the climate accord, Guterres said wherever countries are not able to commit to the climate deal at the government level, societies, the business communities and cities should lead the process.

The Paris climate deal aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by 2 degrees Celsius since the start of the industrial age. The US is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China. “…In this way, we can be able to meet the Paris Agreement, but with an increased ambition because Paris is not enough to be able to contain global warming at the level that is acceptable,” he added.

With the world facing the challenges of terrorism, extremism and the refugee crisis, Guterres said the UN must be an instrument for a surge in diplomacy for peace. He said nations must forget their and come together to put an end to these tragic series of crises, violence and conflicts. “Because these conflicts are also becoming more and more interlinked and more linked to global terrorism. So we need to fight terrorists where they are, but we need to address the root causes of terrorism,” he said.

Guterres asserted that there is need for nations to come together to solve conflicts and at the same time build cohesive societies where “people can feel they belong, where they don’t feel discriminated [against] and respect human rights, to make sure that terrorist organisations have more and more difficulties recruiting people”. “So we need – in sustainable development, in human rights and in a peace and security approach – to combine all the UN instruments in order to be able to defeat terrorism,” he added.

Earlier this week, Guterres had said that India, China and the US have experienced the most natural disasters since 1995 as he urged nations to get serious about keeping the ambition high on climate action.

“The United States, followed by China and India, have experienced the most disasters since 1995,” Guterres had said, adding that last year alone, 24.2 million people were displaced by sudden-onset disasters – three times as many as by conflict and violence. Guterres had said the UN stands ready to support relief efforts in any way possible. He added that the number of natural disasters has nearly quadrupled since 1970.

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UN chief visits Gaza; Hamas demands lifting of Israeli-Egyptian blockade

A military wing of Hamas during a rally at a refugee camp in Gaza Strip. (Source: AP) Related News

Gaza’s Islamic Hamas rulers welcomed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the isolated
territory on Wednesday by demanding he work to lift the Israeli- Egyptian blockade of the strip and save it from a humanitarian crisis.

In a statement issued upon Guterres’ arrival, Hamas also demanded he approve relief and development programs and pressure Israel about the Palestinian prisoners it holds.

Guterres is on his first visit to the region since taking office at the beginning of the year. His meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders are aimed at encouraging the resumption of peace talks.

Prior to arriving in Gaza, he took a helicopter tour of the Israel-Gaza border with Israeli officials, visited a tunnel Hamas dug into Israel to carry out attacks and met local residents living along the volatile front.

Guterres was accompanied by Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, and Aviv Kochavi, Israel’s deputy military chief. Danon warned Guterres that Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been exploiting international humanitarian aid to dig the tunnels aimed at harming Israel.

“Instead of working to ensure a better future for their children, Hamas has turned the residents of Gaza into hostages,” he said.

“At the same time, the Israeli residents of the border communities have stood strong in the face of terror threats, as they build prosperous communities and help further develop the region for the betterment of the next generation.”

Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, has ruled Gaza with an iron fist since seizing control of the coastal area in 2007.

It has since fought three wars with Israel, firing thousands of rockets into its territory and digging a network of elaborate offensive tunnels. Hamas has largely observed a truce with Israel since the last battle, in 2014, though more radical groups in the territory have carried out occasional attacks.

Egypt and Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza after the Hamas takeover that has crippled the local economy. In recent years, Egypt has also cracked down on the once-vibrant tunnel trade along the border. Israel began construction of an underground anti-tunnel barrier along the border last year.

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