Wednesday, January 22, 2020
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GENEVA – The number of people displaced worldwide has hit a new record, with 65.3 million people forced from their home as of the end of 2015, the UN said on Monday.

“This is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed,” the UN refugee agency said.

The figures, released on World Refugee Day, underscore twin pressures fuelling an unprecedented global displacement crisis.

As conflict and persecution force growing numbers of people to flee, anti-migrant political sentiment has strained the will to resettle refugees, according to UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said.

“The willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today,” he said in a statement.

The number of people displaced globally rose by 5.8 million through 2015, according to the UN figures.

Counting Earth’s population at 7.349 billion, the UN said that one out of every 113 people on the planet was now either internally displaced or a refugee.

That marks “a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent”, the agency said, noting that the number of people displaced is now higher than the populations of Britain or France.

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected “international dictates” as France’s top diplomat visited, with Paris advocating a UN resolution laying out parameters for peace talks.

With negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians stalled for more than a year, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Netanyahu on Sunday.

The separate meetings in Ramallah and Jerusalem were part of a regional tour by Fabius aimed at reviving peace talks.

France has argued in favour of a UN resolution that would guide negotiations leading to an independent Palestinian state and which could include a timeframe for talks.

Ahead of Fabius’s arrival in Jerusalem, Netanyahu hit out at international diplomatic efforts to impose proposals which he said neglected to address vital Israeli security concerns, saying his government would reject “international dictates”.

In a joint news conference with Fabius after their meeting, Netanyahu said “peace will only come from direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions”.

“It will not come from UN resolutions that are sought to be imposed from the outside,” he said.

Netanyahu said a Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state as well as “iron-clad security arrangements on the ground in which Israel can defend itself” were requirements for peace.

Fabius sought to respond to such concerns, saying negotiations would ultimately be left to the Israelis and Palestinians, but that it did not prevent international support in the process.

“We must both guarantee Israel’s security and at the same time give Palestinians the right to have a state,” Fabius told journalists earlier at a joint news conference with Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki in Ramallah.

Malki welcomed France’s efforts, but said he doubted a deal was possible with the current rightwing Israeli government, which he labelled “extremist”.

In Cairo on Saturday, Fabius warned that continued Israeli settlement building on land the Palestinians want for a future state would damage chances of a final deal.

– Lone-wolf attacks –

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been comatose since a major US push for a final deal ended in failure in April 2014.

Israel says the process failed because the Palestinians refused to accept a US framework document outlining the way forward.

But the Palestinians blame the collapse on Israel’s settlement building and the government’s refusal to release veteran prisoners.

The relationship between the two sides remains severely strained, prompting the Palestinians to boost efforts on the international stage to seek their promised state.

Such efforts have included a push to open criminal proceedings against Israel before the International Criminal Court.

Tensions have been high, and on Sunday a Palestinian stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli border policeman outside Jerusalem’s Old City, with the officer managing to shoot his attacker, leaving him in critical condition.

It was the latest in a string of so-called lone-wolf attacks by Palestinians.

– After Iran talks? –

The United States has consistently defended Israel before the UN Security Council, and any French resolution must be accepted by Washington to avoid a veto.

President Barack Obama’s administration, however, has signalled that it could be swayed given Netanyahu’s recent comments regarding a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu sparked international concern when he ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state while campaigning for the March 17 general election, though he later backtracked.

France could unilaterally recognise a Palestinian state should the peace process remain moribund, a possibility that could pile further pressure on Israel.

France’s diplomatic efforts come against the backdrop of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, with Israel firmly opposing the deal currently on the table.

Iran and the P5+1 powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — agreed in April on the main outlines of what would be a historic agreement scaling down Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The world powers and Iran set themselves a deadline of June 30 to finalise what would be a highly complex accord.

Some have argued that a window of opportunity may arise after the conclusion of the Iran talks for France to submit a resolution at the United Nations.

They say that Washington would be unlikely to support moves beforehand that could impact negatively on the nuclear negotiations.

MONROVIA – The three west African countries worst hit by the Ebola epidemic should be leading the response against the killer virus, the UN’s new mission chief on the disease said, condemning “a problem of coordination” in the fightback.

“The governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are the ones who are driving… this is about their people, this is about the fate of their countries, we should acknowledge that national leadership,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the new head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

“There is a problem of coordination,” he said on his first visit to Monrovia, warning of “too many cooks in the kitchen” with good intentions.

The Ebola crisis has claimed 8,235 lives over the past year, almost all of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Liberia, long the hardest-hit country, has however seen a steep drop in new infections in recent weeks.

But Ahmed warned “there is still a lot to be done in order to declare Liberia Ebola free”.

“It is always in this moment of optimism that you can see some degree of complacency,” he said.

In Sierra Leone, which has overtaken Liberia as the country with the most infections, authorities on Wednesday announced another door-to-door campaign in the west of the country to raise awareness of the haemorrhagic fever.

The country’s chief medical officer Brima Kargbo told AFP that a similar campaign over two weeks in December had been a success, leading to 266 new Ebola cases being discovered.

In Guinea meanwhile, Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou and his counterpart from Benin, Thomas Yayi Boni, carried out a joint visit to show their “solidarity” with the nation where the outbreak began in December 2013.

Regime hears harsh words

Posted by pakin On November - 14 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

The chief of the United Nations criticised martial law restrictions directly to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated his call made last month at Milan for the military to restore civilian leadership.

The dual criticisms from UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and Mr Abe came during a politically bad week for Gen Prayut at the Apec summit in Beijing and the current Asean summit at Nay Pyi Daw.

On Wednesday, French ambassador Thierry Viteau told the Bangkok Post that the European Union had clamped travel restrictions on top officers of the military junta.

That came a day after Gen Prayut revealed that both US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had “expressed concern” about the continuing military leadership.

Mr Ban expressed concern over the ongoing implementation of martial law in a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and urged a prompt return “to civilian rule and constitutional order” in Thailand

In a meeting at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Myanmar capital of Nay Pyi Taw on Wednesday night, Gen Prayut explained his reasons for seizing power in May’s military coup, saying it was done to ensure public safety because internal conflicts had led to the use of military-grade weapons and violence had been escalating, government spokesman Yongyuth Mayalarp said.

The UN said in a statement that Mr Ban “acknowledged the prime minister’s point that Thailand had returned to stability”, but expressed concern at the continuation of martial law.

Mr Yongyuth quoted Gen Prayut as telling the UN chief that his government intended to restore order, peace and public safety in the country and was using normal administrative regulations and reforming the country and its democracy.

Gen Prayut assured Mr Ban that Thailand has continuously adhered to its international obligations, Mr Yongyuth added.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Abe called on Gen Prayut to restore a civilian-led government during the meeting Thursday.

Gen Prayut explained his government’s efforts to return to a civilian-led government and told Mr Abe that Thailand looks forward to further economic cooperation with Japan.

Mr Abe also asked Gen Prayut to completely scrap an import ban on Japanese food products that was imposed for fear of radiation-induced health risks following the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Gen Prayut was quoted as saying Thailand has already eased restrictions.

The Japanese leader expressed Tokyo’s interest in more infrastructure projects in Thailand such as a high-speed train system, Kyodo News Agency reported.

Mr Viteau, the French envoy, said that official visits to and from Thailand have been suspended since June following a meeting of EU foreign ministers. An exception was made last month to allow Prime Minister Prayut to attend the Asia-Europe summit in Milan.

Mr Viteau said he had told Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn that consultations on the new constitution should be as inclusive as possible.

Democratic principles are universal, he said. Thailand should be able to draw inspiration from Western models to set up a new constitution and new institutions.

The French ambassador said cooperation between European embassies in Bangkok and the government carries on as normal despite the travel restrictions on senior military officers of the coup regime.

In Beijing on Tuesday, Gen Prayut told the official Thai news agency that both Mr Obama and Mr Putin had confronted him over the coup.

He said he briefed world leaders on recent political developments, and asked them for time to implement reforms before they make any judgements on his administration.

“I thanked US President Barack Obama for his concern about Thailand and I told him my government would do its best (for national reform),” Gen Prayut said. “I told Russian President Vladimir Putin that order had been restored in Thailand.”

“I told all the leaders that Thailand was relatively peaceful now,” he said.

“The leaders asked about the situation in the country and I replied the political atmosphere was improving but we need more time to implement reforms.”