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UN condemns attacks on Saudi oil facilities
16 September 2019, 8:40 PM

The United Nations Secretary General has condemned attacks on oil facilities in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, causing a spike in global oil prices and concerns of a further military escalation in the region.

United States President Donald Trump earlier warned that they were “locked and loaded” while his Secretary of State blamed Iran for the attack – an accusation Tehran has rejected.

Houthi Forces – also known as Ansar Allah and fighting in neighbouring Yemen against a Saudi-led coalition – have claimed responsibility for the attacks and are threatening more attacks on Saudi infrastructure.

The drone attacks are reported to have knocked out half of Saudi Arabia oil production – the most severe blow against the Kingdom in the over four years of their involvement in Yemen’s civil war.

The UN Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, was addressing the Council via videolink from Geneva.

“This is frankly terrifying and is an eventuality which runs completely counter to the many and detailed conversations I have had in recent weeks in favour of a series of steps to be taken by the parties towards de-escalation. It is not entirely clear who was behind the attack, but the fact that Ansar Allah has claimed responsibility is bad enough. And whatever we will discover of the attack, it is a sure sign that Yemen seems to be moving even further away from the peace we all seek. Everyday the war goes on, the greater the threat to regional stability. We need to take a bold move.”

President Trump didn’t mention Iran by name in his tweet, deferring to a Saudi investigation to establish responsibility, but warned the United States was locked and loaded.

His newly-arrived United States Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, says, “The United States condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms standing firmly with our Saudi friends. We must all be clear-eyed about this event – a direct assault on the world energy supply. Claims of responsibility have been made but as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has clearly stated, there is no evidence that the attacks came from Yemen. Emerging information indicates that responsibility lies with Iran.”

A spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry rejected the accusation of blame while Iraq has denied that its territory was used to launch the attacks.

South Africa’s Ambassador Jerry Matjila cautioned that only a political solution and not a military one, was needed in Yemen – calling for a de-escalation.

“We condemn the attack on the Saudi Arabia oil facilities, and we call on the countries in the region to (de-)escalate the tensions that might damage the security and stability of the Gulf region and the global energy supply and security as well as security of maritime trade.”

The United Kingdom’s Ambassador Karen Pierce has called the attacks reckless and totally unjustifiable, but has indicated that they were still assessing responsibility.

“It is only sheer luck that no one was killed and not by any design of the perpetrators. Threatening civilian areas and commercial infrastructure is a violation of international law, as well as being dangerous and provocative and I’m sure that all members of the Council will want to join in condemning these attacks today as a clear threat to regional and international peace and security. But also as an effort to disrupt global oil supplies. At the moment, we’re still assessing what happened and who is responsible for the attacks. Once this has been established, we will discuss with our partners how to proceed in a responsible manner. We hope (for) a united international response to these awful attacks.”

China, for its part, has called on the parties to the conflict to resolve their differences through dialogue and negotiation and to avoid any further escalation.

 

UN regrets US asylum decision
14 September 2019, 6:39 AM

The United Nations Refugee Agency has criticized a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States allowing the administration of president Donald Trump to bar migrants, mainly from Central America, from seeking asylum in the country.

Earlier this week, the country’s highest court issued an unsigned brief that the administration may fully enforce a new rule that would curtail asylum applications by immigrants at the US-Mexico border while the underlying legality of the rule moves through the country’s lower court.

The UN said it regretted the decision.

The Supreme Court has allowed – for now – a rule that broadly blocks migrants who have travelled through a third country – say Honduras or Guatemala – from seeking asylum in the United States without first having applied for asylum in those transit countries and been denied.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees believes the move will hurt people fleeing violence and persecution who are entitled to protection.

Spokesperson Andrej Mahecic says: “We have taken note of the order from the US Supreme Court allowing this policy to be implemented while challenges to move it forward in lower courts. We have stated our views on this policy clearly and publicly and may I remind you of our statement on 15 July, there was a press release on this matter. And we regret the impact that implementation will have on asylum-seekers. We reiterate that any person fleeing violence or persecution must be able to access full and effective asylum procedures and international protection.”

The Agency is particularly concerned with the fate of Central Americans, including families and unaccompanied children, who are on the move in need of safety.

“Our concern is with the people – families, unaccompanied children and other individuals – moving through Mexico today from Central America and elsewhere that are in urgent need of a safe haven. It is imperative that those people be identified quickly and afforded the safety and assistance that they need and they deserve including the right to seek asylum. The Supreme Court does not address the substance of the policy in question. It was issued with specific reference to the proceedings that are in progress in lower courts and that will continue to move forward. We trust that the US courts will make the final determination on the merit of the case that reflects consciousness of the protection risks involved.”

The International Organisation for Migration says close to 40 000 migrants are believed to be at the border area between Mexico and the United States.

The issue was also raised with the UN Chief Antonio Guterres.

“As you know, in the United Nations, the authority in refugees is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I was United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for 10 years. And it happens that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees already pronounced himself today on that. I want to say that I fully support the pronouncement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.”

The Supreme Court decision temporarily undid a lower court ruling that blocked the implementation of the new asylum policy affecting mainly people from central America but also asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and South America who arrive at the southern border.

The High Court’s decision allows the administration to move ahead with the policy while the substance of the issue continues to be litigated in the lower courts.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
UNWomen call for action against gender violence
13 September 2019, 5:49 AM

The Executive Director of UNWomen has issued a call to action on all United Nations member states, particularly on the question of violence perpetrated by men against women, often resulting in death.

Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was speaking at an informal plenary of the General Assembly in New York under the banner “Joining forces to Achieve Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment” as momentum builds towards the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration next year.

“This call for action is very timely because it will enable us next year to bring together many of you who are in this room with whom we’ll be celebrating the 25 years of implanting the Beijing declaration.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka says, “When we meet next year the most important outcome will be the re-creating and the revitalization of the new cohort of gender activists that will take us forward in the next five years, the next 10 years, probably after 15 years we should have sorted this thing out people. So we need however to invest significantly in the team of activists across the world that will do the work.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka has lamented the fact that women were largely carrying the burden of redress by themselves and urged greater action and participation of men.

“We also are defining activists for gender equality not just as women, we’re calling on men, we’re calling on the private sector, we’re calling on young people because this problem of gender inequality is not a women’s problem, it is women sorting out the mess of men. And it is not fair that it is the women that must carry the burden, we want to stop talking about ending violence against women but talk more about addressing the men who kill women because we need to keep the face of the perpetrator in the centre of the argument so that people can see where the problem is and together as men and women we can address the problem,” adds Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Rwanda to house refugees, asylum-seekers from Libya
10 September 2019, 9:22 PM

Rwanda has agreed to take 500 refugees and asylum-seekers trapped in detention centres in Libya. This after a deal was between the United Nation’s Refugee Agency and the Africa Union.

The deal comes after multiple reports revealed dire conditions under which mainly African migrants were being detained in the country.

Many of the detainees are intercepted as they try to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

The Secretary General’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

“ The government of Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum seekers currently held in detention centres in Libya, the first to be evacuated are scheduled to be a group of 500 people or mostly from the Horn of Africa. This group will include children and youth at risk and evacuation flights are expected to begin in the coming weeks. According to estimates, there are about 4700 refugees held in dire conditions inside detention centres in Libya,” explained Dujarric.

“After their arrival in Rwanda, the UN refugee agency will coordinate to look for longer-term solutions of the evacuees. As part of the agreement the AU will provide assistance with evacuations, strategic political support with training and coordination and help. mobilise resources.

UNHCR (The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ) will provide protection services, necessary humanitarian assistance including food, water, accommodation, education and healthcare. The Agency urges the international community to contribute resources to help implement the agreement,” says Dujarric.

Trump fires third National Security Advisor
10 September 2019, 8:26 PM

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that has asked for and received the resignation of his National Security Advisor John Bolton. President Trump says there were disagreements in his administration over many of Bolton’s suggestions.

This is the third National Security Advisor to be shown the door since Trump took office in January of 2017.

The tweet from President Trump announcing his departure comes after the White House press office indicated that Bolton was scheduled to appear later Tuesday at a press briefing alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Bolton also tweeted later that he’d offered to resign last night but that President Trump responded that they’d talk more the next day.

That talk appears not to have taken place given the President’s tweet about his departure. Sharp disagreements with the outgoing National Security Advisor over the handling of talks with North Korea and the Taliban in Afghanistan appear to have played a role. Trump has indicated he would name a new national security advisor next week.

Previous NSAs Michael Flynn and HR Macmaster too did not last long before being relieved of their positions earlier in the administration.

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