UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for political solutions in Afghanistan

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at a news conference ahead of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 13, 2017. (Source: REUTERS) Related News

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said that there can be no military solution to the problem in Afghanistan and it should work for creating political solution in the country. “I believe it is important in Afghanistan to invest in the conditions to create a political solution. I believe that is possible,” Guterres told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

He was responding to a question on resolving the lingering crisis in Afghanistan. “I don’t think there is a military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan, as I don’t think there is a military solution for practically any crisis in the world,” he said.

Guterres said he believes that investing in creating such a condition means the engagement in dialogue with the relevant parties. “Even when the US have announced their surge, they were also saying that they believe a political solution is necessary,” he said.

“So, it is clear for me that, independently of short-term measures that might be taken, the political solution is the long-term road that we need all to move on,” Guterres said.

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UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for political solution to Korean crisis

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at a news conference ahead of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 13, 2017. (Source: REUTERS) Related News

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for a political solution to the current situation in Korean peninsula, which has worsened in recent months in the wake of series of ballistic missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang. “The solution can only be political. Military action could cause devastation on a scale that would take generations to overcome,” Guterres told reporters at a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York.

Noting that nuclear and missile tests by the North Korea have created great instability and tension on the Korean peninsula, throughout the region and beyond, the UN Secretary General said unity in the Security Council is critical.

This week’s unanimous adoption of a new resolution by the Security Council sends a clear message that North Korea must comply fully with its international obligations, he said and called on all Member States to ensure the full implementation of this and other relevant Security Council resolutions. “But Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for diplomatic engagement – an opportunity that must be seized,” Guterres said.

Meanwhile in an interview to Atlantic Council, a top American think-tank, Nicholas Burns, a former top American diplomat said that the new sanctions imposed by UN Security Council on North Korea are not enough. “The sanctions are a step forward, but they are not significant enough. It is disappointing that Russia and China will not agree to tougher sanctions because that is what is required,” he said.

“We are in a new and dangerous phase of the crisis following the apparent hydrogen bomb test and also the ballistic missile firing by North Korea over Hokkaido,” Burns said.

“The world community has got to take stronger actions against North Korea to convince the North Koreans to freeze their nuclear program and agree to negotiations to try to diminish this crisis,” he said.

Noting that the Chinese have a direct interest here, he said, but they are hesitating in deepening their own leverage and coercion against North Korea. “It may be that China worries that a dissolution of the North Korean regime could lead to a flow of North Korean refugees into China, ” Burns said.

“It is certainly true that the Chinese worry that any kind of crisis that could weaken or destroy North Korea and could lead to the unification of the Korean Peninsula with its capital in Seoul—a country that is aligned with the United States—is not in China’s interests,” he said.

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Saudi Arabia seeks “compromise” not international inquiry on Yemen

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The time is not right for an independent international inquiry into human rights violations in Yemen, as demanded by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Geneva said on Wednesday.

The Netherlands and Canada are backing a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council mandating an internatonal inquiry, but Saudi Ambassador Abdulaziz Alwasil said that a national Yemeni commission was in a better position to investigate.

“We are working together to hopefully come to a compromise,” he told reporters.

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UN seeks ‘massive’ aid boost amid Rohingya crisis

Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy path after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Bangladesh. (Source: Reuters) Related News

Aid agencies have to step up operations “massively” in response to the arrival in Bangladesh of about 400,000 refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar, and the amount of money needed to help them has risen sharply, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.

The exodus of Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh began on August 25 after Rohingya militants attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp. The attacks triggered a sweeping military counter-offensive by security forces in Buddhist-majority Myanmar which the U.N. rights agency has accused of “textbook genocide”.

“We will all have to ramp up our response massively, from food to shelter,” George William Okoth-Obbo, assistant high commissioner for operations at the U.N. refugee agency, told Reuters during a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.

The United Nations said on Tuesday 370,000 people had crossed into Bangladesh but Okoth-Obbo estimated the figure was now 400,000. He declined to speculate on how many more might come. Bangladesh was already home to about 400,000 Rohingya, who fled earlier conflict in Myanmar including a similar security crackdown in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in response to militant attacks in October.

Many of the new arrivals are hungry and sick, without shelter or clean water in the middle of the rainy season. “We have an emergency within an emergency with conditions in existing camps,” he said, pointing to a mud-clogged road in the camp.

Last week, the United Nations appealed for $77 million to cope with the crisis but Okoth-Obbo said that would not now be enough. “The appeal that was issued of $77 million on behalf of the aid agencies was based on the situation as it was roughly about two weeks ago,” he said. “There were only 100,000 people then. We are already four times that figure now. The funds need clearly is going to continue.” He declined to say how much he thought was needed. He also declined to say if he thought aid agencies were getting proper access to the conflict zone in Myanmar, though he said it was important to ensure that people were safe where they were. “Of course, also that access is provided to all the responders to provide humanitarian assistance,” he added.

Myanmar has restricted most aid agency access to the north of Rakhine. Some officials have accused aid agencies of supporting the insurgents. Okoth-Obbo said he agreed with the Bangladeshi position that the most important solution was for the refugees to be able to return home in safety.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday the refugees would all have to go home and Myanmar should set up safe zones to enable them to do so. “Under difficult circumstances this country has kept its borders open,” Okoth-Obbo said of Bangladesh. “All of us should support that and ensure that the response is strong.”

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UN Security Council to vote Monday on weakened North Korea sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a celebration for nuclear scientists and engineers who contributed to a hydrogen bomb test. (Source: Reuters) Related News

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote on Monday to impose new sanctions on North Korea over its largest nuclear bomb test, after the United States watered-down the text of a resolution to appease China and Russia. A week ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called for the “strongest possible” sanctions on North Korea and had sought an oil embargo on Pyongyang. But after negotiations in recent days, mainly among the council’s veto powers – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – the revised draft appears to resemble another incremental increase in sanctions on Pyongyang.

Compared to the initial U.S.-draft, given to all 15 council members on Wednesday, the new text would still impose a ban on North Korea’s textile exports, but it no longer blacklists leader Kim Jong Un or the country’s national airline. And instead of cutting off Pyongyang’s oil supply, the council would only cap crude oil exports to the country at the current level. When asked if the changes would be enough to win over Russia and North Korean ally China, British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said on Monday: “Yes. I hope so.”
“There is a significant prize in keeping the whole of the Security Council united,” he told reporters. “The version on the table is strong, it is robust.”

A Security Council resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes to pass. The council has unanimously adopted eight resolutions since 2006 gradually ratcheting up sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. In negotiations on the latest resolution, diplomats said Russia had questioned what leverage the Security Council would have left if North Korea continued to conduct nuclear and missile testing.


U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed not to allow North Korea to develop a nuclear missile capable of hitting the mainland United States. North Korea was condemned globally for its latest nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it said was of an advanced hydrogen bomb.
Pyongyang warned the United States on Monday that it would pay a “due price” for spearheading efforts on U.N. sanctions. “The world will witness how the DPRK tames the U.S. gangsters by taking a series of actions tougher than they have ever envisaged,” the North’s foreign ministry said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The tensions have weighed on global markets, but on Monday there was some relief among investors that North Korea did not conduct a further missile test this weekend when it celebrated its founding anniversary. European Council on Foreign Relations U.N. expert Richard Gowan said the United States had “rather predictably been mugged by reality” during the most recent negotiations” on sanctions though it was arguable that the high U.S. bar had pushed China and Russia to agree more limited sanctions “relatively quickly.”

“China and Russia were never going to accept the severe package of sanctions tabled by Haley,” he said. “This sort of lengthy, incremental diplomatic bargaining may be the best it can hope for. The alternative is, after all, a slide towards war.”

Traditionally, the United States has discreetly negotiated with China on any North Korea sanctions before expanding talks to the full council once the five veto powers have agreed. More recently this has typically taken one to three months. But after the latest nuclear test, Haley took a more public approach, announcing that she would circulate a draft resolution to all council members and that she intended to call for a vote on Sept. 11. “It’s a deliberate strategy by the U.S. to prevent China taking a couple of months to engage and then water stuff down,” said a Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Instead of an oil embargo, the revised draft seeks a ban on condensates and natural gas liquids, a cap of two million barrels a year on refined petroleum products, and a cap crude oil exports to North Korea at current levels. Chinese officials have privately expressed fears that an oil embargo could risk triggering massive instability in its neighbor. China supplies most of North Korea’s crude. According to South Korean data, Beijing supplies roughly 500,000 tonnes of crude oil annually. It also exports 200,000 tonnes of oil products, according to U.N. data.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stressed the need for consensus over North Korea and maintaining peace.
“I have said before that China agrees that the U.N. Security Council should make a further response and necessary actions with respect to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test,” he told reporters. The draft drops a bid to remove an exception for transshipments of Russian coal via the North Korean port of Rajin. The text also no longer authorizes states to use “all necessary measures” to intercept and inspect ships that have been blacklisted by the council.

The new draft resolution steps up restrictions over the employment of North Korean laborers abroad, but stops short of a complete ban that was initially proposed by the United States. It also expands a recent ban on joint ventures with North Korea. Russia and China have been critical that there is too much focus on pressuring North Korea with sanctions and not enough debate about kick-starting talks with Pyongyang. There is new political language in the final draft urging “further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement.”

Richard Nephew, a former U.S. government sanctions expert and a contributor to 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, said there were “fundamentally different views on the DPRK” at the Security Council. “We lack vision to incorporate sanctions into a broader strategy and this is hurting our ability to get really tough sanctions or use them appropriately. This must change if we are to avoid just using sanctions for sanctions’ sake,” he said.

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