New UN Security Council president calls for renewed focus on Palestine

Juul played an instrumental role in the 1993 Oslo Accords peace initiative involving Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. (AFP/File)
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Updated 05 January 2022

New UN Security Council president calls for renewed focus on Palestine

  • Norway will elevate UN Security Council discussions of Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a ministerial level on January 19
  • This is part of efforts to highlight the need for the council to restore its focus on the decades-long conflict

NEW YORK: Norway will elevate UN Security Council discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a ministerial level on Jan. 19, in an effort to highlight the need for the council to restore its focus on this decades-long conflict.

That was the pledge by Mona Juul, Oslo’s permanent representative to the UN, who lamented the reduced international attention to the issue, which has been sidelined as a result of multiple other conflicts raging across the Middle East.

“The people of Israel and Palestine do not deserve that,” she said on Tuesday during a press conference to discuss her country’s priorities as it assumes the presidency of the Security Council for January. “Thirty years after the Madrid conference, the Israeli-Palestinian issue deserves more attention.

“It’s critical to enhance the council’s focus and the need to find a political solution to this protracted conflict and make sure we avoid further actions that undermine the prospect of the two-state solution.”

Juul reiterated her country’s opposition to any unilateral action in the conflict, specifically referencing Israel’s settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories but adding that “it takes two to tango.”

She said: “We need to make sure that there is a Palestinian Authority that can speak with one voice and come to the table with a mandate to make peace as well.”

Juul played an instrumental role in the 1993 Oslo Accords peace initiative involving Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. While working as an official in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she came up with the idea that a mediated meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders could lead to a mutual understanding.

The Norwegian envoy was portrayed by actress Ruth Wilson in “Oslo,” an HBO film about the accords that was released in May last year.

“The main thing that made (the Oslo Accords) work was that you had two courageous leaders on both sides that decided — (in view of) the status quo and the situation of the PLO sitting in Tunis, and the government that was fighting against stone-throwing Palestinians in the first intifada — that it is better to meet at the table and at least start an incremental process toward a full-fledged peace agreement,” said Juul.

Although these incremental steps were not implemented, “a lot of things took place, not least of which is the fact that Israel recognized the PLO, and the Palestinian Authority was established in parts of Palestine and it is actually still working,” she added.

“Of course, it depends on leaders. You need a political will in order to make a compromise and a strength to do it, and also the two-state solution is a compromise solution and you have to have leaders that carry that compromise on both sides. That is not the case right now but that doesn’t mean we should give up. Time is running out but it is not too late.”

The Security Council this month welcomes five new members who began their rotating, two-year terms: the UAE, Gabon, Ghana, Albania and Brazil.

Norway intends to organize a so-called “mini-Oslo” forum for members of Security Council. who will be invited to meet in Oslo, in a closed setting, and discuss “how to do better when it comes to preventive diplomacy and conflict resolution,” Juul said.

As the this month’s president of the UN body tasked with maintaining international peace and security, she admitted that the picture currently looks bleak but added: “We have to be optimistic and still believe that both as a Security Council member but also as a country … we will never give up on working in order to try to help solve conflict through dialogue rather than violent and military means.

“There are examples that (show) it is still possible to forge dialogue and to bring people to the table but we know it costs a lot, requires a lot of resources and, not least, it requires unity at the (Security Council).

“On many issues we have that unity, on some, we don’t — but we will do our utmost to forge that unity.”


One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan

Updated 7 sec ago

One killed in renewed anti-coup protests in Sudan

KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces killed one protester on Saturday during renewed demonstrations against a military takeover that derailed a transition to civilian rule last year, medics said.
The victim, who was not identified, died as a result of “a bullet to the chest” in the capital’s twin city of Omdurman, the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said in a statement.
The latest death brings to 96 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests which have taken place regularly since the October 25 military putsch led by army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the committee said.
Saturday’s protests came after thousands took to the streets Thursday to oppose the power grab, mainly in Khartoum but also elsewhere, renewing demands for civilian rule.
About 100 people were injured during Thursday’s demonstrations, according to the doctors’ committee.
At the same time two leading anti-coup figures from Sudan’s Communist Party were arrested. They were released on Friday.
The United Nations, along with the African Union and regional bloc IGAD, have been pushing to facilitate Sudanese-led talks to resolve the crisis after the latest coup in the northeast African country, one of the world’s poorest.
But civilian forces have refused to enter negotiations involving the military, while Burhan has repeatedly threatened to expel UN envoy Volker Perthes, accusing him of “interference” in the country’s affairs.
In late March Perthes said Sudan was heading toward “an economic and security collapse” unless its civilian-led transition was restored.

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during raid in occupied West Bank

Updated 21 May 2022

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli forces during raid in occupied West Bank

  • Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks
  • Last week journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli firing while covering a raid

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli forces early Saturday during a raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
“A 17-year-old boy was killed, and an 18-year-old was critically wounded by the Israeli occupation’s bullets during its aggression on Jenin,” a statement by the health ministry said.
Jenin refugee camp has served as a flashpoint amid recent tensions following a wave of attacks in Israel in which 19 people were killed.
Thirteen Palestinians were injured last week during an operation by Israeli forces in the camp in which one Israeli commando and one Palestinian were also killed.
Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett named the Israeli commando as Noam Raz.
The Palestinian was later named as Daoud Al-Zubaidi, a brother of Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, who headed the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and briefly escaped from Israeli prison last year.
The raids came hours before violence erupted at the funeral of Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist who was killed last week while covering another Israeli raid on the camp.
As her funeral unfolded, Israeli police stormed the grounds of a Jerusalem hospital as the body of the slain journalist was being transported for burial, prompting an international outcry.


Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

Updated 21 May 2022

Tunisia heads for ‘new republic’ in dialogue without political parties

  • On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created "National Consultative Commission for a New Republic"
  • Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited "national dialogue"

TUNIS: Tunisia’s President Kais Saied on Friday appointed a loyalist law professor to head a committee charged with writing a constitution for a “new republic”, through a national dialogue that excludes political parties.
On July 25 last year, Saied sacked the government and suspended parliament, sidelining the political parties that have dominated Tunisian politics since the 2011 revolution that sparked the Arab Spring uprisings.
He has since vowed to scrap the country’s 2014 constitution and draft a replacement to be put to referendum in July, but has repeatedly inveighed against political parties despite calls for an inclusive dialogue.
On Friday the official gazette announced that law professor Sadeq Belaid would head the newly created “National Consultative Commission for a New Republic”, charged with drawing up a draft constitution.
Saied has also created three other committees to focus on socio-economic issues, the judiciary and on national dialogue.
While major organisations including the powerful UGTT trade union confederation are supposed to be involved, no political party is set to take part.
Saied announced in early May the establishment of a long-awaited “national dialogue” – at the same time attacking the political parties he accuses of having plundered the country.
Since his July power grab, many Tunisians have supported his moves against a political class seen as corrupt, but opponents have labelled his moves a coup and he has faced calls from home and abroad for a dialogue involving all of the country’s major actors.


Iran holds pro-government rallies after price protests turn political

Updated 20 May 2022

Iran holds pro-government rallies after price protests turn political

  • "The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumours that they spread and lies they tell," Guards commander Hossein Salami said
  • Iranian authorities say the unrest over rising food prices has been fomented by foreign enemies

DUBAI: Thousands of supporters of Iran’s clerical establishment, including 50,000 Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia members, rallied on Friday, state media reported, after protests against rising food prices turned political.
“The enemies mistakenly think the Iranian people will respond to ...the rumors that they spread and lies they tell,” Guards commander Hossein Salami said in televised remarks at the massive rally outside the capital Tehran, which marked a major victory in Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Iranian authorities say the unrest over rising food prices has been fomented by foreign enemies. On Friday, state television showed pro-government marchers chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in southwestern cities of Yasuj and Shahr-e Kord, scenes of recent protests.
Iranians took to the streets last week after a cut in food subsidies caused prices to soar by as much as 300 percent for some flour-based staples. The protests quickly turned political, with crowds calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, echoing unrest in 2019 which began over fuel prices hike.
The government acknowledged the protests but described them as small gatherings. State media reported last week the arrests of “dozens of rioters and provocateurs.”
Authorities have also arrested a number of labor union and rights activists, accusing them of contacts with foreigners, a leading rights group said on Friday.
“The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing popular social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.
Iran’s state television on Tuesday showed what it described as details of the arrest of two French citizens earlier this month, saying they were spies who had sought to stir up unrest.
France has condemned their detention as baseless and demanded their immediate release, in an incident likely to complicate ties between the countries as wider talks stall on reviving a nuclear deal.
In recent months, teachers across Iran have staged protests demanding better wages and working conditions. Dozens have been arrested.
Social media users inside Iran say Internet services have been disrupted since last week, seen as an apparent effort by authorities to stop use of social media to organize rallies and disseminate videos. Iranian officials denied any disruption to Internet access.


Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthi militia to free journalists on death row

Updated 20 May 2022

Amnesty urges Yemen’s Houthi militia to free journalists on death row

  • The four, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid and Akram al-Walidi were arrested in June 2015 in Sanaa
  • In April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced the four journalists to death on charges of "treason and spying for foreign states"

DUBAI: Amnesty International has urged Yemen’s Houthi militia to free four journalists facing the death penalty for “espionage” in the war-torn country, ahead of an appeal court hearing on Sunday.
The four, Abdul Khaleq Amran, Tawfiq Al-Mansouri, Harith Hamid and Akram Al-Walidi were arrested in June 2015 in Yemen’s Houthi-held capital Sanaa.
“Yemen’s Houthi de facto authorities must quash the death sentences and order the immediate release of four Yemeni journalists who are facing execution following a grossly unfair trial,” the rights group said in a statement on Friday.
In April 2020, a Houthi court sentenced the four journalists to death on charges of “treason and spying for foreign states.”
“This has been a sham of a trial since the beginning and has borne a terrible toll on the men and their families,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Lynn Maalouf, according to the statement.
One of the detained men, Mansouri, is in a “critical health condition” with heart and other ailments, Amnesty said.
“Pending their overdue release, the journalists must be provided with urgent medical care — the denial of medical treatment for the seriously ill is an act of cruelty which amounts to torture and other ill-treatment,” the statement said.
At the time of their trial, Amnesty criticized their sentencing on “trumped-up charges,” while Reporters Without Borders called the verdict “totally unacceptable.”
Their arrest was motivated by their reporting on “human rights violations committed by Houthis,” the International Federation of Journalists and the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate have said.
An appeal will be heard by the Specialized Criminal Appeals Division in Sanaa on Sunday.

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