UN Tribune
January 20, 2014
Ban Ki-moon Disinvites Iran to Geneva II Talks

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Jan 20, 2014 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has rescinded his invitation to Iran to participate in the Geneva II Syria talks on Wednesday.

In New York, Ban’s spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, reading from a prepared statement, said Monday: “In a series of meetings and telephone conversations, senior Iranian officials assured the Secretary-General that Iran understood and supported the basis and goal of the Conference, including the Geneva Communiqué.

"The Secretary-General is deeply disappointed by Iranian public statements today that are not at all consistent with that stated commitment.  He continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva Communiqué.  Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, he has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran’s participation."

The text of the Geneva Communiqué, which calls for a transitional government with full executive powers, is here.

(photo/UN photo)

              
                                     
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Filed under: Iran Syria Geneva2 UN 
January 20, 2014
Iran’s UN Envoy Says Will Not Participate in Geneva Talks With Preconditions

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Jan. 20, 2014 - Tehran’s envoy to the United Nations in New York on Monday stated that Iran will not participate in the Geneva II Syria talks if it has to accept the Geneva communique.

Here is the response by the mission’s spokesperson, Alireza Miryousefi:

Regarding to the inquiry of the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning the participation of Iran’s Geneva II Conference, the response of permanent representative of Islamic Republic of Iran to the UN, Amb. Khazaee is as follows: The Islamic Republic of Iran appreciates the efforts of the UN Secretary General and his special envoy, Mr. Brahimi in finding a political solution for Syrian crisis. Iran has always been supportive of finding a political solution for this crisis.  

"However the Islamic Republic of Iran does not accept any preconditions for its participation in Geneva II conference. If the participation of Iran is conditioned to accept Geneva I communique, Iran will not participate in Geneva II conference."

The text of the Geneva Communiqué, which was agreed on at a similar but smaller conference in June 2012, is here.

              
                                     
January 15, 2014
Top 15 Donors at Pledging Conference for Syria

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Jan. 15, 2014 - Host country Kuwait topped the list of donors at the pledging conference for Syria with the Gulf country announcing a $500 million contribution.

The United States followed with a $380 million donation. The European Commission pledged $225 million; United Kingdom, $164 million; Japan, $120 million; Germany, $110 million; Norway, $75 million; Saudi Arabia and Qatar both pledged $60 million.

Rounding out the top 15 donors at the conference in Kuwait City were Italy, $51 million; Denmark, $37 million; Sweden, $35 million; Switzerland $33 million; France, $27 million; and Ireland, $27 million.

A total of $2.4 billion was pledged towards a total of $6.5 billion required to support nine million Syrians in need of assistance inside and outside of Syria in 2014.

UN Security Council permanent members China and Russia were not among the 37 countries that made pledges. Nor was Canada, traditionally a strong donor. The United Arab Emirates was also absent, as too was Bahrain.

Iraq was the fourth largest Arab country donor, pledging $13 million.

Among emerging donor countries, South Korea announced a $5 million contribution; Mexico $3 million and India, $2 million.

Non-traditional donors making pledges included Estonia, $552,000; Romania, $100,000 and Botswana, $50,000, according to figures provided by UN OCHA.

A full list of the countries that pledged funds is below.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

List of Humanitarian Assistance Pledges at the Second International Donors Conference for Syria 

              
                                     
January 6, 2014
Thirty Countries to Get Invites for Geneva Conference on Syria But Not Yet Iran

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UPDATED: Jan 19, 2013: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to the Geneva II talks, saying on Sunday that Tehran must be part of the solution and indicating that it supports the Geneva 1 communique which called for a transitional government with full executive powers. “They (Iran) said that they are committed to play a very constructive and important positive role. And they said that they welcome the Geneva Communique,” Ban said. “So based on my conversations, several times with Iranian delegations, then I am convinced that they will be in support of this Geneva Communique and they will play a very important and positive constructive role 

In addition to Iran, Ban has invited nine more countries to the talks bringing the total number of countries participating to 40. The new invitees, in addition to Iran, are Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Mexico and South Korea.

Jan. 6, 2013 - The UN is inviting thirty countries to participate in the Geneva II conference on Syria but opposition from the US is holding up a decision on Iran’s participation.

Spokesperson Farhan Haq announced on Monday that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was sending invitations to the list of countries agreed on Dec. 20 at a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry, his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and UN-Arab League Joint Special Representative on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Besides representatives of the Syrian government and opposition, the invitees include the permanent members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - as well as Algeria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.

High Representative of the EU, Cathy Ashton, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil ElAraby, and Organization for Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Iyad bin Amin Madani are also invited to the conference to be convened by Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 22 in Montreux.

At a Dec. 20, 2013 press conference in Geneva, Brahimi told reporters that the UN favored Iran’s participation “but our partners in the United States are still not convinced that Iran’s participation would be the right thing to do.”

John Kerry said on Sunday in Jerusalem that Iran needs to accept the Geneva I communiqué, which called for a transitional government with full executive powers, before it gets an invite.

The first Geneva conference was held in June 2012. An estimated 15,000 people had died in the Syrian conflict at that point. At least 100,000 more have been killed since.

The text of the Geneva I communiqué is here.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN photo/JC McIlwaine

              
                                     
January 2, 2014
China Says Abe’s War Shrine Visit Challenges Outcome of World War II

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Jan. 2, 2014 - China has accused Japan of seeking to clear the name of war criminals after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to a shrine that honors the country’s war dead including senior officials convicted of the gravest war crimes.

Beijing’s UN mission in New York sent an email to reporters on Thursday stating China’s position on Abe’s visit, describing it as “a brazen challenge to all the victimized people in the Japanese militarist war of aggression and to the outcome of World War II and the post-war order.”

"Abe’s action is leading Japan down an extremely dangerous path and has gravely undermined regional peace and security," the statement said.

It adds that the visit to the Yasukuni shrine “honors 14 Class-A war criminals of World War II as ‘heroes.’” Class A war criminals were those convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East of the planning, preparation, initiation, or waging of wars of aggression.

China, as one of the victors in World War II, was awarded one of the five permanent seats on the UN Security Council. Articles 53 and 107 of the UN Charter still refer to Japan and the other axis powers, Germany and Italy, as ‘enemy states.’

The full statement sent by China’s UN mission is below.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

(
image/wikimedia)

China’s position on Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. by Denis Fitzgerald

              
                                     
December 19, 2013
Syrian Government Policy of Enforced Disappearance a Crime Against Humanity: UN Investigators

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Dec. 19, 2013 - The Syrian government is continuing its policy of enforced disappearance that started in March 2011 when protests against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad erupted and the spread and pattern of this abuse amounts to a crime against humanity, UN investigators probing human rights violations in Syria concluded in their latest report.

Enforced disappearance has been used to silence the opposition, as a form of reprisal or punishment and as a tactic of war, the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry said in the report released on Thursday which covers March 2011 to Nov. 2013.

It cites instances of doctors being disappeared for providing medical services in oppositions controlled areas and injured civilians in FSA-controlled areas being disappeared when they seek treatment at government hospitals.

"The violation of enforced disappearance is often a gateway to the commission of other offences, most particularly torture," the report says.

It adds that there is a deliberate government policy of not providing information to family members of those detained and those inquiring are often themselves then detained.

"The truth regarding the fate of the many disappeared in Syria and the extent of the phenomenon of enforced disappearance will likely only fully be grasped in the aftermath of the conflict,” the report says. “The victims of this violation number far beyond the individuals disappeared. The families and loved ones of those disappeared endure a mental anguish that amounts to a further violation of their human rights.”

"T
here are reasonable grounds to believe that enforced disappearances were committed by Government forces, as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population, and therefore amount to a crime against humanity,” the report concludes.

The full report is here

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

              
                                     
December 12, 2013
UN Inspectors Confirm Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

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Dec 12, 2013 - UN inspectors investigating allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria issued their final report on Thursday confirming use of chemical weapons in Syria in one “clear and convincing” case and reported on four more cases where there is credible evidence that chemical attacks took place.

The team investigated seven sites and concluded that sarin gas was used in the Aug. 21 incident in Ghouta, ”against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale.” The inspectors had previously confirmed this on Sept. 16. In four more incidents, including an attack in Khan Al Asal in March, the investigators collected evidence that ‘suggests” is “credible” or is “consistent with” the use of chemical weapons.

The full report is below.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

(photo/OPCW)

Final Report of UN Inspectors Investigating Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria.

              
                                     
December 6, 2013
Early UNSC Challenge for Newcomers Jordan and Lithuania, a Female Presidency Three-Peat and World Cup Draw Produces Council Battles

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Jordan’s FM Nasser Judeh congratulated following his country’s election to a two-year term on the Security Council. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Dec. 6, 2013 - Jordan’s election to a two-year term on the Security Council on Friday sees them with less than a month to get ready to assume the council’s presidency on January 1 when the Hashemite Kingdom, filling the spot vacated by Saudi Arabia in October, takes over the alphabetically rotating mantle from current holders France.

Jordan’s UN ambassador, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, served with the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s and was also a candidate for secretary-general in 2006.

Lithuania, the first Baltic country to be elected to a non-permanent seat on the 15-nation body, take over the reins on February 1.

The country’s UN ambassador, Raimonda Murmokaite, will preside over the beginning of an unprecedented three-month span when the council will be headed by female ambassadors. Her presidency will be followed by that of Luxembourg’s Sylvie Lucas in March who will be succeeded by Nigeria’s Joy Ugwu in April. Two other current council members are represented by female ambassadors, permanent member United States, represented by Samantha Power, and non-permanent member Argentina, represented by Maria Perceval.

Meanwhile, the 2014 World Cup draw on Friday saw eight current council members, along with the UK’s England, discover their fate in the group stages of the Brazil-hosted finals which begins in June. Non-permanent members Australia and Chile will battle in out in Group B alongside powerhouses Spain and the Netherlands, who contested the 2010 final.

Group F sees fellow non-permanent council members Argentina and Nigeria up against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the latter are also both on the Security Council’s agenda.

Russia finds itself pitted against another non-permanent member, South Korea in Group H, along with Algeria and Belgium. England face Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay in Group D, while France are up against Ecuador, Honduras and Switzerland in Group E and Group G sees the US face Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

              
                                     
November 27, 2013
Jump in New HIV Cases in Eastern Europe

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Nov. 27, 2013 - New diagnoses of the HIV virus are up nine percent in Eastern Europe, according to figures released by the World Health Organization on Thursday.

Of the 131,000 new cases of HIV reported in the European region in 2012, 102,000 occurred in Eastern Europe, with 76,000 of those cases reported in Russia, accounting for almost 60 percent of new infections, according to the data which was released ahead of World Aids Day on Dec. 1.

About 35 percent of HIV cases in Russia occur among injecting drug users while heterosexual transmission accounts for about 30 percent of cases. The exposure route of the remaining 35 percent is unknown but it is thought that most occur among men who have sex with men.

It was reported last month that a new virulent strain of HIV in Russia was spreading at a rapid rate and accounts for more than 50 percent of new infections.

The Moscow Times reported that Russian schools generally offer little or no sex education, which contributes to the high rate of infection. The paper added that Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s rights advocate, said in September that he opposed teaching teenagers about sexual health in school, saying that Russian literature is “the best sex education there is.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

              
                                     
November 10, 2013
Preliminary Evidence Suggests Polio in Syria Came from Pakistan

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Nov 10, 2013 - Foreign fighters appear to be the source of the outbreak of polio in Syria that risks infecting hundreds of thousands of children in the region.

Initial tests indicate that the poliovirus detected in Syria is of Pakistani origin, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Pakistan is one of only three countries - along with Afghanistan and Nigeria - where the virus remains endemic. The BBC reported in July that the Pakistan Taliban had set up a base inside Syria to join the fight against the Assad regime.

Syria had been polio free for fourteen years prior to the outbreak and the virus had not been detected in neighboring countries in the past decade but so far this year has been found in sewage samples in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

Polio affects the nervous system and can cause paralysis within hours. It usually affects children under five and is typically spread through contact with contaminated feces.

Children usually require four doses of the polio vaccine before school-age to provide lifelong protection against the virus.

As a result of the conflict, immunization rates have plummeted from 92 percent before the conflict to 67 percent as of 2012, according to UNICEF.

WHO and UNICEF aim to vaccinate 20 million children in Syria and neighboring countries in the coming months to prevent an epidemic.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter: @denisfitz

photo/UN Photo

              
                                     
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