Tillerson softens blow of Jerusalem decision

Security Council warns of tensions on Trump’s Jerusalem move

Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) have criticised Washington’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and warned that it would raise tensions in the area even as Washington stood alone steadfastly defending its decision. The political conflict over Jerusalem could turn into an unrelenting religious conflict, France’s Permanent Representative Francois Delattre told an emergency meeting on Friday. Citing several Council resolutions, he said that any unilateral changes to the city’s status would be null and void. The international community would only recognise modifications of the 1967 borders accepted by both sides, he said in a statement that reflected the broad convergence of views of both US allies and others in the Council. One of the Council resolutions adopted in 1980 specifically asks member countries not to put their diplomatic missions in the “Holy City” considered sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims. In contrast to the UN, where even Washington’s allies crticised President Donald Trump’s decision announced on Wednesday, there was a broad consensus in the US reflected in a law passed by Congress in 1995 move the embassy to Jerusalem. About 1,000 Palestine supporters protested in New York’s Times Square on Friday evening. Separated by police barriers across the avenue, a smaller group held a counter demonstration supporting Trump. US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley reiterated the Trump administration’s commitment to a peace process and to a two-state solution. “The US has not taken a position on boundaries or borders… The specific dimensions of sovereignty over Jerusalem are still to be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians in negotiations.” Haley said that it was “simple common sense” to move Washington’s embassy to Jerusalem because “in virtually every country in the world, US embassies are located in the host country’s capital city”. British Permanent Representative Matthew Ryrcroft said that Jerusalem should be the joint capital of Israeli and Palestinian states and the US decision was unhelpful. He said that the expansion of Israeli settlements, particularly in East Jerusalem, terrorism and incitement to violence were barriers to a lasting solution to the conflict there. China’s Deputy Permanent Representative Wu Haitao said that any unilateral actions on Jerusalem’s status could trigger new confrontations. Earlier while briefing the Council, UN’s Middle East Peace Process Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov noted that Trump had said final status issues, including the boundaries, remains to be determined. “It is up to all of us in the international community, as much as it is up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders, to urgently advance a just and lasting resolution to this conflict,” he said, warning of the risks of “being engulfed in the vortex of religious radicalism”. (IANS) // ]]>

General Assembly chief reboots UNSC reforms

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Georgia has supported increasing the number of permanent members of the Council, which India wants. UAE has expressed support for India gaining a permanent seat on the Council. While their national stands is not supposed to colour their role as IGN co-chairs, not having someone from a country opposed to expanding the Council could be seen as a plus.

India wants reform process open to ‘world scrutiny’

Frustrated by the secretive machinations that have crippled the UN Security Council reform process, India has called for “opening it up to world scrutiny” so everyone can see what is behind its failure to even taking the “first concrete steps towards real negotiations”. “Transparency in the working of diplomats is a useful adaptation that we can consider in this changing world as a pathway to progress,” India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the General Assembly session on Security Council reforms. He noted that even after almost a decade, UN members have not been able to agree on even a document that would be the basis of negotiating reforms. “We need to consider options of opening the process, so that others are aware of what is it that stops the current discussions from even beginning on the path of a negotiating text,” he said. Taking a dig at the failure of UN diplomatic corps in proceeding with the reforms, Akbaruddin said: “Diplomacy, in the modern era, seems to have become too important to be left to the diplomats.” “Modern challenges take the concerted efforts not just of governments, but also of whole societies, and so wider society could be more involved in the diplomatic process,” he added. In a precedent for opening up a traditionally highly secretive process — for the first time the Secretary-General’s election was held in 2016 with a degree of transparency never seen before. The candidates participated in town hall-style meetings where they answered questions form civil society groups and people around the world on their agendas. Akbaruddin, though, did not name any countries or groups responsible for holding up the negotiations to expand the Security Council, which last underwent changes in 1965. An Italian-led group that includes Pakistan, Uniting for Consensus (UfC), opposes adding permanent members to the Security Council and has strategically tried to block the adoption of a negotiating text, taking a self-contradictory position that there needs to be a consensus on reforms before there is a basic document for holding negotiations on reforms. Speaking on behalf of the UfC, Italy’s Deputy Permanent Representative Inigo Lambertini reiterated the group’s opposition to adding any permanent members to the existing five — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US. “We fail to see how a new Council could possibly be more effective, more responsive to international crises, and better able to cope with today’s global challenges through the addition of new vetoes.” India had previously agreed to forgo veto power, at least initially, if it becomes a permanent member, so that does not become a sticking point. Another UfC member, Pakistan, was more forthright in opposing the negotiating text. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi said that using a negotiating text “will not bridge our differences, it will accentuate them”. Akbaruddin linked the logjam in the reform process to the “recession of multilateralism”. “If this is the ‘new normal’, it does not bode well for multilateralism,” he said. “Never have the normative foundations of multilateral cooperation shown up to be weaker than in this instance.” As for the Security Council, he said: “There is no more vivid reflection of this deepening crisis of multilateralism than the dysfunctional Security Council, which no longer reflects contemporary realities and hence confronts a crisis of legitimacy and credibility.” “No reform of the UN’s peace and security architecture will be complete, without the reform of the Security Council,” he said. “An unreformed Council could, in fact, undermine progress that may be made in other areas of this continuum.” (IANS) // ]]>