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Newsline: Saudi envoy blasts UN expert’s report on Khashoggi killing

A top Saudi diplomat lashed out at an independent U.N. expert’s searing report alleging that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it was based on “prejudice and pre-fabricated ideas.” (https://www.yahoo.com/news/saudi-envoy-blasts-un-experts-150646625.html) In what amounted to a face-off at the U.N’s top human rights body, Ambassador Abdulaziz Alwasil insisted that special rapporteur Agnes Callamard had failed to follow proper procedures and used flawed sourcing in her 101-page report made public last week. “Accusations have been launched, and fingers have been pointed — (she is) supporting herself on non-credible articles or sources,” he told the Human Rights Council, in Arabic through a U.N. interpreter. Callamard, sitting at the council podium to present her report, retorted that her methodology had respected precedent and insisted her report wasn’t based on media reports. She also said she hadn’t received any responses in writing from Saudi authorities to her report. The report by Callamard, an independent expert on extrajudicial and arbitrary killings, alleged that Saudi Arabia bears responsibility for The Washington Post columnist’s grisly apparent dismemberment by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October. It said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible role in the killing should be examined, and Callamard used June 25 presentation to push for further investigation. Among diplomats speaking out, European Union ambassador Walter Stevens called on Saudi Arabia “to disclose all information available,” and “fully cooperate” with investigations into the killing, and Ralf Schroeder of Germany said “nothing can justify this killing, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.” Russia’s representative, Yaroslav Eremin, questioned the focus on journalists, dissenters and others, wondering aloud if the lives of regular citizens were “less valuable.” Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri of Bahrain rallied to the defense of its big Arab neighbor, insisting Saudi Arabia had shown “full transparency from the outset.”


Newsline: Iran’s U.N. ambassador rules out talks with US

Iran’s U.N. ambassador warned on June 24 that the situation in the Persian Gulf is “very dangerous” and called talks with the U.S. impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation, while the U.S. envoy said the Trump administration’s aim is to get Tehran back to negotiations. Recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. drone played out in comments before and after a closed U.N. Security Council meeting called by the United States that provided sharply different views of the current situation. It took place hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian military figures with financial sanctions. (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/irans-un-ambassador-rules-out-talks-with-trump-administration-2019-06-24) Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi called the new sanctions another indication of “U.S. hostility” toward the Iranian people. He said the Trump administration should de-escalate tensions by stopping “its military adventurism” in the region, withdrawing its “naval armada” and moving away from “economic warfare against the Iranian people.” Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen outlined the U.S. case for blaming Iran for tanker attacks May 12 and June 13 and for shooting down a $100 million U.S. drone in international airspace June 20. Iran denies it attacked the tankers and says the drone was in its airspace.

Newsline: Trump’s UN ambassador pick grilled on her 300 absences as Canada envoy

United Nations ambassador nominee Kelly Craft appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing on June 19, and while she praised the UN as a “vital institution,” much of the hearing was spent examining her record as the US’s top diplomat in Canada. (https://www.vox.com/world/2019/6/19/18691820/kelly-craft-united-nations-ambassador-senate-confirmation-hearing) Craft has served as the US ambassador to Canada since September 2017. But Politico reported that she was “frequently absent” from her diplomatic post in Ottawa. Flight records obtained by Politico showed Craft took 128 flights between the US and Canada in a 15-month period, which comes out to about a flight per week. Democrats pressed Craft on her absences, with Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), saying State Department records show Craft had been absent for more than 300 days between October 23, 2017, and June 19, 2019. “That’s an extraordinary number of absences,” Menendez said, using a calendar marked in red to note the number of days Craft was reportedly away from Canada. Menendez said those days were listed as official travel, but Craft was in Kentucky — her home state — on some of those days. He asked Craft to turn over additional records to address the discrepancies.

Newsline: US Officials Walk Out of UN Forum in Protest as Maduro’s Ambassador Takes Chair

U.S. officials walked out of a United Nations arms forum on May 28 in a protest against Venezuela assuming the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which is decided on a rotating basis. (https://www.theepochtimes.com/us-officials-walk-out-of-un-forum-in-protest-as-maduros-ambassador-takes-chair_2940734.html) The Trump administration, in the meantime, has continued to step up sanctions against Nicolás Maduro. The United States hasn’t ruled out military action to remove what it and dozens of other nations believe was a rigged 2018 election. As Venezuela took up the one-month presidency of the Geneva talks, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood left the session and announced a “boycott” while Maduro Ambassador Jorge Valero chairs the forum. In 2018, the United States similarly protested when Syria took the chair.

Newsline: US diplomat to succeed ousted UN envoy for Somalia

A former US special representative to Somalia who also served as Washington’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo has been tapped to be the next United Nations envoy to Somalia, replacing an emissary who was expelled four months ago. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in a letter released on May 30 that he plans to appoint James Swan as his envoy for Somalia. (https://www.france24.com/en/20190530-us-diplomat-succeed-ousted-un-envoy-somalia) Swan, who was also a US deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa and ambassador to Djibouti, will replace Nicholas Haysom, who was declared persona non grata by Somalia’s government in January after he raised human rights concerns. Swan’s appointment is expected to be supported by the council, diplomats said. Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was told to leave Somalia after he questioned the government’s decision to arrest an Al-Shabaab defector who was running in elections. He served in the post for three months.

Newsline: A diplomat on the Ebola frontline in DR Congo

As the DR Congo faces the second largest recorded Ebola outbreak, an Irish Diplomat speaks about working on the frontlines of an epidemic in Sierra Leone. This week the head of the U.N. health agency said that the risk that the Ebola virus will spread in Congo remains “very high.” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking at the start of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly. He said the outbreak was “one of the most complex health emergencies they had ever faced.” (https://www.vaticannews.va/en/world/news/2019-05/a-diplomat-on-the-ebola-frontline.html) The current Ebola crisis has been confirmed to have claimed well over 1,000 lives in Eastern Congo, an area wracked by violence by armed groups. Rewind back to 2014 and it was the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia that were in the grip of a devastating Ebola outbreak that was the worst in history, killing around 11,312 people.

Newsline: US investigates spam barrage on UN diplomat

U.S. officials have opened an investigation after a female diplomat faced a barrage of anti-abortion text messages from an advocacy group, disrupting a major UN summit on women’s rights. Koki Muli Grignon, Kenya’s deputy ambassador to the UN, received about 3,000 anti-abortion text messages in 12 languages during meetings at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March. She was vice-chair of the conference, but the messages forced Muli Grignon to suspend the negotiations and leave the UN building in New York City to get a new phone number. “It was totally impossible to work,” Muli Grignon told CBC News of the incident. ”The UN should be a safe space — nobody should be intimidated.” (https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/un-kenya-abuse-women-diplomacy-us-abortion-1.5122382) Campaigners say the incident is part of a broader trend, where groups opposed to abortion rights and other women’s reproductive health services, are targeting the UN.