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Entries in United Nations (9)


Israel-Palestine Latest: The East Jerusalem Demolition/Settlements Argument

Following this week's "redevelopment" plan --- the demolition of 22 houses in East Jerusalem's Silwan neighborhood --- Israel's Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahronovitch told the Knesset on Wednesday that Israeli police expects "widespread disturbances" in and around the area.

The UN later  Wednesday called Israel's plan to demolish Arab homes "unhelpful" and "contrary to international law".

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the decision by the Jerusalem municipality to advance planning for house demolitions and further settlement activity in the area of Silwan," UN Chief Ban Ki-moon's press office said.

Gaza Latest (25 June): Iranian Flotilla “Cancelled”; US Says Aid Ships “Irresponsible”; Europe Calls for End to Blockade
Middle East Inside Line: Coalition Changes in Israel?; Netanyahu’s War for Legitimacy; Israel Warns Lebanon

On Thursday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called on Israel to halt the development of new settlements in occupied territories and East Jerusalem.

However, as the end of the current freeze on settlement constructions in the West Bank approaches, the Likud Central Committee voted on Thursday to resume building both in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

There is one twist in the story: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not participate in the meeting, thus escaping for the moment criticism from Washington (for endorsing the renewal) or from the Israeli public (for opposing it).

September will be a decisive month on the issue. Until then, Netanyahu may be looking for the conditions to turn indirect discussions into direct talks, moving the burden of responsibility from settlements to Palestinian participation in negotiations.

Kyrgyzstan Latest: Appeal for Aid; "Outside Elements" Fomenting Violence? (Al Jazeera)

Al Jazeera English reports this morning:

The United Nations has appealed for $71 million in humanitarian aid for Kyrgyzstan, where more than 400,000 people have been displaced by deadly fighting.

The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the appeal would provide aid to nearly 1.1 million people affected by the violence in the south of the Central Asian nation.

Fighting between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks has killed at least 200 people since it erupted a little over a week ago.

"I have been shocked by the extent of the violence and appalled by the deaths and injuries, widespread arson, sexual violence, looting of state, commercial and private property and destruction of infrastructure," John Holmes, the OCHA head, said on Friday.

"I therefore urge all donors and supporters to ensure that this flash appeal for Kyrgyzstan receives a generous and rapid response."

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, has said there are shortages of food, water and electricity in the violence-hit areas.

"Hospitals and other institutions are running low on medical supplies," he said.

An appeal for neighbouring Uzbekistan, where about 100,000 refugees have taken shelter, would be launched next week, Ban said.

'"utside elements" blamed

For his part, Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan's president, accused "outside" elements of instigating the violence, saying neither ethnic Uzbeks nor Kyrgyz were responsible for starting it.

"Neither Uzbeks nor Kyrgyz are to blame for this," he was quoted as saying by the official Uza news agency on Saturday.

"These disruptive actions were organised and managed from outside.

"Forces that organised this subversive act tried to drag Uzbekistan into this standoff."

Kyrgyzstan's interim leadership has blamed Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the country's deposed president, of masterminding the violence.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, echoed those allegations, saying Bakiyev may be to blame.

"Certainly, the ouster of President Bakiyev some months ago left behind those who were still his loyalists and very much against the provisional government," she said in remarks posted on the state department website on Saturday.

"There certainly have been allegations of instigation that have to be taken seriously."

Bakiyev, now in exile in Belarus, has strongly denied any involvement in the events.

Roza Otunbayeva, the interim leader, has said the real death toll from the clashes could be up to 10 times higher than the official figure because many bodies had been buried unregistered.

Wearing a bullet-proof vest and ringed by security, Otunbayeva visited the devastated city of Osh on Friday.

Number-one complaint

Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher, who was travelling with her, said that she was surrounded by a shouting mob at the end of her visit and had to be escorted into a building by her bodyguards.

"The number-one complaint people had when they saw the interim president was 'What took you so long to get down here?'," he said.

Otunbayeva defended her government from criticism that it has been unable to contain the ethnic bloodshed and to cope with the escalating humanitarian crisis.

"Leave us some hope! Stop saying that we are not working," she said. "Our forces say that they are coping.

Also on Friday, Otunbayeva announced that Russia would help the country in restoring security.

"Russian troops will guard some strategic sites ... to ensure security for these sites," she said.

Russia had previously refused Otunbayeva's request to dispatch military forces to help quell unrest, although the country did send humanitarian aid.

Witnesses and experts say that while many Kyrgyz were killed in the unrest, most victims appear to have been ethnic Uzbeks, a community of traditional farmers and traders who speak a different Turkic language.

Middle East Inside Line: US & EU Back Israel on "Eased Blockade", Lebanon-Israeli Crisis?, Egypt's Manoeuvre, and More... 

Two Powers Welcome Israel's Decision: The Obama Administration and the European Union have applauded West Jerusalem's announcement that it will ease its land blockade of the Gaza Strip. The White House called the decision a "step in the right direction". US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the Obama administration was interested in seeing an "expansion of the scope and types of goods into Gaza...while addressing, obviously, Israel's legitimate security needs."

Gaza Latest: Varied Reactions to Israel’s “Eased” Blockade

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, added:
Israel must make sure that many, many more goods can get in to Gaza. I look with great interest at what the Israeli cabinet is saying. This is an in-principle statement ... obviously the detail is what matters.

Former Spanish PM Sees Eye to Eye with Israel: Spain had summoned Israel's ambassador following the flotilla crisis. However, former Prime Minister José María Aznar announced that he plans to promote a new initiative called "Friends For Israel" comprised of journalists, philosophers, politicians, writers, and other figures.

According to Aznar, there is radical Islam on one side and Israel that is providing the Judeo-Christian-rooted West with its Jewish elements. Therefore he says, this initiative must defend Israel's right to exist, as "if Israel goes down, we all go down." He added:
Israel is our first line of defense in a turbulent region that is constantly at risk of descending into chaos... To abandon Israel to its fate, at this moment of all moments, would merely serve to illustrate how far we have sunk and how inexorable our decline now appears.

The real threats to regional stability are to be found in the rise of a radical Islamism which sees Israel’s destruction as the fulfillment of its religious destiny and, simultaneously in the case of Iran, as an expression of its ambitions for regional hegemony. Both phenomena are threats that affect not only Israel, but also the wider West and the world at large.

Aznar also criticized Turkey:
In the wake of the recent incident on board a ship full of anti-Israeli activists in the Mediterranean, it is hard to think of a more unpopular cause to champion. In an ideal world, no state, let alone a recent ally of Israel such as Turkey, would have sponsored and organized a flotilla whose sole purpose was to create an impossible situation for Israel: making it choose between giving up its security policy and the naval blockade, or risking the wrath of the world.

Lebanon-Israel Crisis Approaching?: Lebanon aid ship Miriam is set to sail to Gaza on Sunday. Israeli officials accused Hezbollah of being behind the mission; Hezbollah rejected the claim.

In response, Israel told the United Nations on Friday that this could "affect the peace and security of the region" and said it reserved its right to use "all necessary means" to stop the ships. Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, wrote:
It appears that a small number of ships plan to depart from Lebanon and sail to the Gaza Strip which is under the control of the Hamas terrorist regime while those who organize this action claim that they wish to break the blockade on Gaza and to bring humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, the true nature of the actions remains dubious.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials added the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid (IHH), the funders of the Freedom Flotilla, to its terror watch list.

Egypt Rejects Israel Demand on Iran Aid Ships: Cairo newspaper A-Dar reported Friday that Israel issued a request to Egypt to prevent aid ships from Iran reaching Gaza via the Suez Canal. However, Egyptian officials declined Israel's request on the grounds of the "requirements of international law" which makes it "not possible to prevent the passage of any ship through the canal".

Gaza Latest: Varied Reactions to Israel's "Eased" Blockade 

Contrasting messages over Gaza: In an interview with the BBC, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that the attack of Israel's "pyromaniac government" on the Gaza aid flotilla increased the chances of war in the Middle East. However, the Quartet of the US, European Union, the UN, and Russia have welcomed Israel's decision to ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip on Thursday.

"The Secretary-General[Ban-Ki-Moon] is encouraged that the Israeli Government is reviewing its policy towards Gaza, and he hopes that today's decision by the Israeli security cabinet is a real step towards meeting needs in Gaza," said Martin Nesirky, the UN spokesman.

Gaza: Israel Facing Criticism in European Parliament
Turkey Inside Line: Ankara’s Attack in Iraq; Relations with Israel

Quartet Representative Tony Blair added: "I welcome the Government of Israel’s decision to liberalize the policy on Gaza."

However, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were critical of Israel's decision. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Israel's decision to allow more goods into the Gaza Strip was designed to "beautify" the blockade and mislead public opinion. He added:
The Palestinians are not asking for additional goods to be allowed into the Gaza Strip. Rather, they are demanding the complete lifting of the blockade and the reopening of all the border crossings, as well as freedom of movement for all people.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erakat wrote to his e-mail list that ‘‘the Israeli security cabinet vote to ease its land blockade of the Gaza Strip is not sufficient’’ and continued:
With this decision, Israel attempts to make it appear that it has eased its four-year blockade and its even longer-standing access and movement restrictions imposed on the population of Gaza. In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians continues unabated.

The facts are that a siege against 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip continues. Either Israel lifts the siege completely or it continues to violate international law and basic morality.

Israel has used a so-called “white” list of only 114 items allowed into the Gaza Strip. Palestinian basic needs requires at least 8,000 basic items that continue to be prohibited. These include essential materials for rebuilding and for waste-water treatment for the most basic living standards.

He added, “During the first three months of 2007 36,000 trucks entered the Gaza Strip compared to 3,600 trucks that have been permitted to enter during the first three months of 2010. Today, 90% of the Gaza Strip’s civilian population relies on the World Food Organization and the United Nations Relief Works Agency.’’

US envoy George Mitchell held separate meetings with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Thursday as part of his fourth round of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians. He told both leaders not to let day-to-day problems divert talks.

Diplomatic circles from Israel stated that the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, would have been forced to withdraw, following the flotilla crisis, if there had been direct negotiations. They also stated that Palestinian officials would be placed at border crossings into Gaza so Hamas would not be given credit for the easing of the blockade.

Gaza Latest (16 June): The Blockade and the Proximity Talks

On Tuesday, Tony Blair, the envoy to the Middle East of the Quartet (US-UN-European Union-Russia), hailed the Israeli cabinet’s expected approval of a plan to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow more aid into the territory as “a very important step”. He said: "It will allow us to keep weapons and weapon materials out of Gaza, but on the other hand to help the Palestinian population there."

According to the plan, there are three elements: the formulation of a blacklist of goods and supplies that will not be allowed into Gaza, particularly items that could be put to use in manufacturing weapons; Israel’s acquiescence to the entry of building materials for UN-sponsored construction projects; and Israel’s agreement to consider stationing EU  as well as Palestinian Authority monitors at border crossings to inspect incoming goods.

For the time being, it is still not certain whether construction materials for houses damaged or ruined following Israel's Operation Cast Lead in December 2008/January 2009 will be allowed.

In contrast, speaking at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shin Bet security service director Yuval Diskin took a tough line. First, he said that Hamas was buying up land in East Jerusalem. Then he warned Knesset that lifting the naval blockade on Gaza would be a "dangerous development for Israel". He continued:
It would be a huge security breach, even if ships are inspected along the way in international ports en route to Gaza.

Diskin is not the only person warning against concession. On the same day, a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah said that the flotilla incident two weeks ago had played into the hands of Hamas. He said:
The [Israeli] assault on the aid ships on May 31 has boosted Hamas... It came as gift from heaven to Hamas...

We want to see the blockade on the Gaza Strip lifted. But at the same time we must be careful not to allow Hamas to reap the fruits and consolidate its control over the Gaza Strip.

This is not the end of the story.... PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who met separately in Sharm e-Sheikh on Tuesday with Amr Moussa and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, reportedly relayed to them his deep concern over attempts to recognize Hamas’s authority in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, late Tuesday evening, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that the Terkel Committee, which is looking into the raid, would convene on Wednesday for what was called an “introductory meeting”.

All of this occurs amidst the next move for the now-overshadowed "proximity talks". U.S. Mideast special envoy George Mitchell is arriving Israel on Wednesday night to start discussions with Israeli officials on Thursday. He is expected to meet Palestinians on Friday and to fly to Cairo on the weekend.

On Tuesday, in advacne of September's end of the 10-month freeze on settlement construction, Cabinet Minister Dan Meridor said that Israel should refrain from building in areas that will be annexed to the Palestinian Authority in the future. He added:
The freeze will be over in three months, and from then on we will not be committed to it: it's a matter of where it is wise and logical for us to build.