Timing is apt as Tunisia takes over presidency of UN Security Council

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Updated 05 January 2021

Timing is apt as Tunisia takes over presidency of UN Security Council

  • Nation’s fourth month-long stint heading the body includes packed agenda featuring several key Middle Eastern issues
  • The situations in Libya, Syria and Yemen will be addressed, along with the Palestinian issue

NEW YORK: As Tunisia assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of January, the timing could not be more apt. It comes as the North African nation celebrates the 10th anniversary of “the revolution of freedom and dignity,” in the words of Tarek Ladeb, the country’s permanent representative to the organization.
“The (Tunisian) Revolution laid the foundation for democracy, and added impetus to Tunis’s role on the international scene as an active advocate of the UN charter, with its chief principles of multilateralism and human rights,” he said on Monday as he outlined the council’s program for the month.
This month marks the fourth time Tunisia has assumed the presidency, which is held by members of the Security Council for a month at a time on a rotating basis. Ladeb vowed that the role would be carried out with “devotion (to) unity and consensus (and) a steadfast engagement of multilateralism.” In the same vein, he said he would work “to uphold the credibility of the Security Council, by enhancing its responsibility in the resolution and prevention of conflicts.”
The envoy lamented the “erosion of the council’s credibility, which was tarnished during the (past few) years due to a lack of implementation, and the ongoing violation, of its decisions.”
He added that he intends to redouble the efforts to fully implement Security Council Resolution 2532, which was adopted in July in support of a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in March for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not only is terrorism contributing to the escalation of conflicts and organized crime in many countries, said Ladeb, who also serves as chairman of the Security Council’s Counterterrorism Committee, but the world is facing new threats to peace and security. He warned, for example, that threats related to the pandemic, cyberattacks and climate change represent “multipliers of violence and danger in many regions.”
One of Tunisia’s main aims during its presidency will be to push for enhanced cooperation between the Security Council and regional and subregional organizations, such as the Arab League, he said.
In the Middle East, Syria will continue to be a key consideration for the council, with a particular focus this month on the use of chemical weapons, in addition to a meeting to discuss the political and humanitarian situations.
There will also be the latest monthly session on developments in Yemen, and a quarterly debate on the wider situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian issue.
Ladeb said that Libya is also high on Tunisia’s agenda for the Security Council. He added that he hopes to capitalize on the “positive” outcomes of the first Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which took place in Tunis in November, by establishing a mechanism to monitor the ceasefire in the country.
“Nominating a new (UN) special envoy for Libya is crucial now to sustain the political momentum and give a push to the political process and the settlement of the crisis,” said Ladeb.
“I think the secretary-general is thinking of suggesting a new name to replace (that of former UN Middle East envoy Nickolay) Mladenov, who couldn’t take (up the offer of) this position (as Libyan envoy) due to personal and family reasons, and the council will adopt it as soon as possible.
“Libya is (Tunisia’s) neighbor. We have a steadfast and principled position toward this crisis.”
Ladeb said the Palestinian cause, “which has been dealt heavy blows in 2020,” remains a top priority for Tunis, not only at the UN but in every forum around the world.
He vowed to create “momentum for the resumption of the peace process within the framework of international concerted efforts, mainly by the Middle East Quartet (the UN, the US, the EU and Russia) and the Security Council, paving the way for negotiations on internationally agreed terms of reference for peace.”
He reiterated that those terms must include the creation of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Iran is another issue that has been a constant on the Security Council’s agenda, especially in the five years since the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. More commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, it included an agreement by Tehran to limit its nuclear research in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
It was signed by the five permanent members of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, the UK and the US), plus Germany and the EU. President Donald trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and reimposed US sanctions against Tehran.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised a return by Washington to the JCPOA but hinted that negotiations will be required first to address Iran’s missiles program and its disruptive regional activities. The European signatories to the deal have also hinted as much.
Although the JCPOA is not scheduled to be part of the Security Council’s agenda for January, Ladeb said: “(The deal) has been a major diplomatic achievement that should be constantly supported and preserved. This agreement remains the best available vehicle for the imperative of achieving non-proliferation and ensuring stability in the region.
“A more constructive approach is needed in the coming weeks, through engagement in reviving the agreement in order to diffuse tensions and dispel this atmosphere of distrust in a way that helps in restoring cooperation.”
 


Lebanon to take stance on US maritime proposal after tripartite consultations: President

Updated 03 October 2022

Lebanon to take stance on US maritime proposal after tripartite consultations: President

BEIRUT: Lebanon will take a stance on a US proposal to demarcate a contentious maritime border with Israel after consultations among the country’s top three officials, Lebanese President Michel Aoun tweeted on Monday.
Aoun is set to meet with Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on Monday afternoon to discuss a proposal drafted by Amos Hochstein, the US official mediating indirect talks over the last year.
“Lebanon will set its position on Hochstein’s proposal in consultation with the heads of parliament and government. There will be no partnership with the Israeli side,” Aoun said.
Hoping to defuse one source of conflict between the hostile countries and prod them toward accommodation, Hochstein last week submitted a new proposal to Lebanon that would pave the way for offshore energy exploration.
The details of the 10-page draft have been kept under wraps but Lebanese officials have been optimistic. Even Iran-backed Hezbollah deemed the proposal’s submission “a very important step” on Saturday while its ally Berri described it as “positive.”
Deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab — the main Lebanese point-person for the talks — told parliamentarians on Monday that Lebanon would propose “amendments” to the latest draft.
“The devil is in the details,” said Bou Saab.
The latest draft appears to float an arrangement whereby gas would be produced by a company under a Lebanese license in the disputed Qana prospect, with Israel receiving a share of revenues.
While no company has been officially named, Lebanese officials have publicly suggested a role for TotalEnergies SE and a top Israeli official was meeting company representatives in Paris on Monday, according to a source briefed on the matter.
Israel’s energy ministry confirmed that its director-general Lior Schillat, who also heads Israel’s negotiating team, was in Paris for discussions on Monday.
TotalEnergies declined to comment.
Israel has said its own legal experts are also reviewing the draft before it can be approved.
Israeli media reported that the cabinet will meet on Thursday to approve the deal, but no session is formally scheduled.
A senior Israeli official told Reuters that it was not yet clear when the government would take that step, as it awaited word of Lebanon’s response.
“If they come back with changes — other than small, technical things — it may not be done by Thursday,” the official said.


Rights group: Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial

Updated 03 October 2022

Rights group: Israel holding 800 Palestinians without trial

  • The number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily this year
  • Israel says it uses administrative detention to impede attacks and restrain dangerous militants

JERUSALEM: Israel is holding nearly 800 Palestinians without trial or charge, the highest number since 2008, an Israeli rights group said Sunday.
The group, HaMoked, which regularly gathers figures from Israeli prison authorities, said that 798 Palestinians are currently being held in so-called administrative detention, a practice where the prisoners can be held for months, do not know the charges against them and are not granted access to the evidence against them.
The group said the number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily this year, as Israel conducts nightly arrest raids in the occupied West Bank in response to a spate of attacks against Israelis earlier this year.
Israel says it uses administrative detention to impede attacks and restrain dangerous militants without revealing sensitive intelligence. Rights groups and Palestinians say it is an abusive system that denies freedom without due process, leaving some Palestinians for months or even years behind bars with no evidence against them made accessible. Some resort to life-threatening hunger strikes to draw attention to their detention, which often drives up tensions between Israel and Palestinians.
“Administrative detention should be an exceptional measure but Israel makes wholesale use of this detention without trial,” said Jessica Montell, HaMoked’s executive director. “This has to stop. If Israel cannot bring them to trial, it must release all administrative detainees.”
HaMoked said the figure was a new peak in a growing wave of administrative detentions which began last spring following a series of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis that killed 19 people. Those attacks sparked the Israeli raids that have killed some 100 Palestinians, many of them said to be militants or local youths out to protest the incursion into their cities or towns, but civilians have also died in the violence.
The Israeli military says some 1,500 Palestinians have been arrested during that time including those held in administrative detention. It says the raids are necessary to dismantle militant networks and thwart attacks against Israelis. Palestinians say the raids are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military rule over territories they want for a future state.
The raids have been met by an uptick in shooting attacks in the West Bank. On Sunday, the military said an Israeli soldier and a motorist were lightly wounded in two separate incidents.
The last time Israel held as many administrative detainees, in May 2008, also coincided with an increase in Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service did not respond to a request for comment.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has since established some 130 settlements there, home to 500,000 settlers. The Palestinians want the territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for their hoped-for independent state.


Iran’s Khamenei says protests were ‘planned’, blames US

Updated 03 October 2022

Iran’s Khamenei says protests were ‘planned’, blames US

  • Concern grew over violence at Sharif University of Technology, where riot police confronted students
  • Footage shows shooting and screaming being heard as large numbers of people run down a street at night

DUBAI/PARIS: Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday protests over the death of a woman in police custody were planned and not staged by “ordinary Iranians,” in his first comments on unrest that has swept the country since Sept. 17.
In comments reported by state media, Khamenei said the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini “deeply broke my heart,” calling it a “bitter incident.”
But he said “some people had caused insecurity in the streets,” saying there had been planned “riots.” 

“This rioting was planned,” he told a cadre of police students in Tehran. “I say clearly that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”
He added of the protests: “Such actions are not normal, are unnatural.” 
He expressed strong backing for the security forces, saying they had faced injustice during the protests. 

Earlier, Iranian students have clashed with security forces at a top Tehran university amid the wave of unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, state media and rights groups said Monday.
Kurdish Iranian Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on Sept. 16, days after she was detained for allegedly breaching rules forcing women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes, sparking Iran’s biggest wave of protests in almost three years.
Concern grew over violence at Sharif University of Technology overnight where, local media reported, riot police confronted hundreds of students, using tear gas and paintball and carrying weapons that shoot non-lethal steel pellets.
“Woman, life, liberty,” students shouted, as well as “students prefer death to humiliation,” the Iranian Mehr news agency reported, adding that the country’s science minister later came to speak to the students in an effort to calm the situation.
The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights posted video apparently showing Iranian police on motorcycles pursuing running students in an underground car park and, in a separate clip, taking away detainees whose heads were covered in black cloth bags.
In other footage, shooting and screaming can be heard as large numbers of people run down a street at night, in footage AFP has not independently verified.
“Security forces have attacked Sharif University in Tehran tonight. Shooting can be heard,” IHR said in a Twitter message Sunday.
In another video clip, a crowd of people can be heard chanting: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid! We are all together!” IHR said the footage was taken at Shariati metro station in the capital Tehran on Sunday.
The New York-based group Center for Human Rights in Iran said it was “extremely concerned by videos coming out of Sharif University and Tehran today showing violent repression of protests + detainees being hauled away with their heads completely covered in fabric.”
Mehr news agency said that “Sharif University of Technology announced that due to recent events and the need to protect students ... all classes will be held virtually from Monday.”
Since the unrest started on September 16, dozens of protesters have been killed and more than a thousand arrested. Members of the security forces have been among those killed.


Israel military kills 2 Palestinians during West Bank raid — ministry

Updated 03 October 2022

Israel military kills 2 Palestinians during West Bank raid — ministry

  • Palestinians and rights group often accuse Israeli soldiers of using excessive force against the Palestinian people
  • Palestinians see night raids as Israel’s way of deepening its occupation of lands they want for their hoped-for state

TEL AVIV: The Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank early Monday, Palestinian officials said.
The military alleged that the men tried to ram their car into soldiers, a claim that could not be independently verified. Palestinians and rights group often accuse Israeli troops of using excessive force against Palestinians, who live under a 55-year military occupation with no end in sight. Israel says it follows strict rules of engagement and opens fire in life-threatening situations.
The military said soldiers were attempting to arrest a suspect in the Jalazone refugee camp near the city of Ramallah when the two Palestinians allegedly attempted to run over soldiers with their car. The soldiers opened fire on the car, the military said.
The Palestinian Civil Affairs Authority, which coordinates on civilian issues with Israel, said the military shot and killed the two men. Their identities were not immediately known.
Israel has been carrying out nightly arrest raids in the West Bank since the spring, when a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people. Israel says its operations are aimed at dismantling militant infrastructure and preventing future attacks. The Palestinians see the nightly incursions into their cities, villages and towns as Israel’s way of deepening its occupation of lands they want for their hoped-for state.
The Israeli raids have killed some 100 Palestinians, making this year the deadliest since 2016. Israel says most of those killed have been militants but local youths protesting the incursions as well as some civilians have also been killed in the violence. Hundreds have been rounded up, with many placed in so-called administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold them without trial or charge.
The raids have driven up tensions in the West Bank, with an uptick in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israelis. They have also drawn into focus the growing disillusionment among young Palestinians over the tight security coordination between Israeli and the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority, who work together to apprehend militants.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in some 130 settlements and other outposts among nearly 3 Palestinians. The Palestinians want that territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, for their future state.


Israel military kills 2 Palestinians during West Bank raid: Ministry

Updated 03 October 2022

Israel military kills 2 Palestinians during West Bank raid: Ministry

  • The identities of the two men were not immediately known

TEL AVIV: The Israeli military shot and killed two Palestinians during a raid in the occupied West Bank early Monday, Palestinian officials said.
The military alleged that the men tried to ram their car into soldiers, a claim that could not be independently verified. Palestinians and rights group often accuse Israeli troops of using excessive force against Palestinians, who live under a 55-year military occupation with no end in sight. Israel says it follows strict rules of engagement and opens fire in life-threatening situations.
The military said soldiers were attempting to arrest a suspect in the Jalazone refugee camp near the city of Ramallah when the two Palestinians allegedly attempted to run over soldiers with their car. The soldiers opened fire on the car, the military said.
The Palestinian Civil Affairs Authority, which coordinates on civilian issues with Israel, said the military shot and killed the two men. Their identities were not immediately known.
Israel has been carrying out nightly arrest raids in the West Bank since the spring, when a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis killed 19 people. Israel says its operations are aimed at dismantling militant infrastructure and preventing future attacks. The Palestinians see the nightly incursions into their cities, villages and towns as Israel’s way of deepening its occupation of lands they want for their hoped-for state.
The Israeli raids have killed some 100 Palestinians, making this year the deadliest since 2016. Israel says most of those killed have been militants but local youths protesting the incursions as well as some civilians have also been killed in the violence. Hundreds have been rounded up, with many placed in so-called administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold them without trial or charge.
The raids have driven up tensions in the West Bank, with an uptick in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israelis. They have also drawn into focus the growing disillusionment among young Palestinians over the tight security coordination between Israeli and the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority, who work together to apprehend militants.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in some 130 settlements and other outposts among nearly 3 Palestinians. The Palestinians want that territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, for their future state.

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