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At UN, Of Palestine & Iran Deal, Saudis on Book & Parachutists

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 23 -- The quarterly Middle East open debate of the UN Security Council ended with replies by Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Israel again, whose representative Israel Nitzan said, in Arabic, Talk is cheap. (He lived in Egypt, as another Security Council member told Inner City Press.)

  Iran said that Israel had been using the Iranian nuclear program controversy as a smoke-screen to distract from Palestine. Saudi Arabia said Israel "wrote the book" about harming civilians (some say if so, maybe Saudi Arabia has read it, for its campaign in Yemen.)

 Malaysia strongly denied Israel's allegation that Hamas parachutists trained in Malaysia. Inner City Press has been directed to the "IDF Blog" for this, and we may have more on this. For now, here is IDF Blog post, and here a Malaysian publication calling out IDF Blog for saying a Malaysian mall was in Gaza. What's in a mall?

  When it was over, New Zealand's Foreign Minister Murray McCully returned to the Security Council president's office and met with at least one major Asian state.

  Talk turned to breathless over-reporting of Obama moving out of the ostensibly (only) now bugged Waldorff Astoria, and to John Kerry's trip to New York on July 24 to try to sell the Iran Deal at CFR and organizations named at the June 22 Time Square rally.

  In UN-world, New Zealand's July 30 debate on Small Island Developing states is on the horizon, with hopes it will not rain that day. Things ended with a whimper and not a bang in the Security Council. But it was only Thursday. Watch this site.

 Earlier on July 23 the UN's Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said or read in the Security Council:

  “The Israeli - Palestinian conflict is increasingly entangled in the tectonic shifts of the Middle East. Given the region's massive transformation, it is imperative, perhaps more than ever before, that a permanent settlement be found, based on the concept of two states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.

  “Despite continuing security coordination in the West Bank, today the two sides are further apart from that goal than ever. Support for the two-state solution among both Palestinians and Israelis is fading away. The current situation on the ground is not sustainable as the two-state solution continues to be under threat including from settlement construction, security incidents, occupation-related violence, and lack of Palestinian unity.

  “While settlement expansion had slowed of late, planning for related infrastructure has not ceased. I am concerned by reports about the imminent approval of new residential units in the occupied West Bank. Such a decision will inevitably damage the prospects for peace and increase the risk for political escalation. I urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider this action. Settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the very essence of the viability of a future Palestinian state.

  “Meanwhile the Palestinian people rightly expect their leaders to act to advance unity and empower their government to take control of the border crossings in Gaza, implement civil service integration, pay public sector salaries and ensure that the governance framework between the West Bank and Gaza is integrated under a single authority. These efforts will pave the way for much delayed elections to take place. I call on all Palestinian groups to avoid in-fighting and find common ground, on the basis of non-violence and reconciliation, to achieve national unity which is critical for a two-state solution.

  “Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas recently spoke and reaffirmed their desire for peace. This is a welcome sign. But, words need to be translated into concrete and sustained actions on the ground. Measures undertaken to improve the situation must not be considered an end unto themselves but part of a broader political framework with the goal of achieving a final status agreement. Now is the time to act decisively to reverse the growing perception that the two-state solution is on life-support, slowly dying a death 'by a thousand cuts.'"

On July 20 after the UN Security Council held a closed "Arria formula" meeting about Gaza, there was supposed to be a 1:30 pm press conference with three of the people who spoke in the meeting: Sara Roy of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, Vance Culbert of the Norwegian Refugee Council and Tania Hary of Gisha, the  Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli NGO.

  But on the morning of July 20 while the Security Council met on and approval the Iran nuclear deal, the UN announced that the press conference on Gaza was canceled.

  Inner City Press went down to Conference Room 3 in the UN basement and asked, when the meeting ended, why there would be no press conference on Gaza. Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour, then the ambassadors of Jordan and Malaysia, indicated they would come up in front of the Security Council and do a question and answer stakeout. Periscope video for now here.

  But up at stakeout, while the UN Television cameras were still there (presumably for a 3 pm meeting about Ukraine), there were no UNTV personnel. Inner City Press for the Free UN Coalition for Access went into the UN Spokesperson's office and told a representative that three ambassadors -- Jordan, Malaysia and Palestine - wanted to speak at the stakeout and to send UNTV staff. There was a nod.

  But for twenty minutes, the UN sent no one. In the interim, the Ambassadors of Jordan and Malaysia apologized and left. Riyad Mansour remained and spoke to Inner City Press (broadcasting live on Periscope, here), the New York Post and Kurdish Rudaw media (in Arabic). Sara Roy also left.

  Inner City Press asked Riyad Mansour if he expected any UN Security Council draft to emerge from the meeting; he said to wait for the Council's open debate on the Middle East in three days' time.

  Mansour noted that Security Council's unity in approving the Iran nuclear deal, and said that in the Arria formula meeting on Gaza the Ambassadors of Russia and Spain noted this as well. He said that in the room he'd seen representatives of both Egypt and Israel.

  Inner City Press also asked Mansour about the International Criminal Court. He noted that the ICC has in essence re-opened the case of the Marvi Marmara ships, at the request of Cosmoros and Turkey. Video here. Twenty minutes after the request to the UN, no one came to enable this to be on UNTV as other states at the UN are. We'll have more on this.

There is a lot of talk about the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, but it's funding appeals are not met. And so on June 29, 2015,  this statement from its spokesperson:

"Today UNRWA announced that 85 per cent of all 137 international personnel on short term contracts will be separated in a phased process which will last until the end of September. 35 per cent of the 137 internationals will see their contracts end in the coming four weeks. Another 50 per cent will end by 30 September without further extension or renewal. UNRWA is taking this measure to reduce costs as much as possible without reducing services to refugees. 
"UNRWA has a deficit to the end of the year of 101 million USD and we will continue with our robust efforts in resource mobilization. As things currently stand, with stringent austerity measures already in place beyond today’s announcement, the Agency should be able to continue with life-saving services to the end of the year. These include our health programs, relief and social services, sanitation and emergency projects for which we have funds.  UNRWA’s school system for half a million children across the Middle East in Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria are essential but some difficult decisions may be needed in coming weeks if the deficit is not filled."

  We'll have more on this. Back on April 6 amid news that ISIS has taken over most of the UN's Yarmouk camp for Palestinian refugees in Syria, the UN Security Council scheduled an urgent meeting on April 6 at 11:30 am, to get a briefing by video from Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA.

   Inner City Press arrived early, and saw going into the Council the UN's head of Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman. The State of Palestine's Permanent Observer to the UN Riyad Mansour spoke outside the Security Council, saying “we are concerned about the safety and well-being of our people,  About 2000 were able to run to safety away from the camp on their own. We hope that the Security Council will adopt a position to secure a safety passage through UN agencies to save and protect the 16,000 now in the refugee camp and we hope that all countries will help in securing this objective of safety passage, security passage and for the refugees to be safe.”

  Inner City Press asked Mansour whether he expects a Security Council resolution on the question of Palestine this month. He answered -- video here -- always ready, but that the key is the political will to implement such a resolution. He said that the independence of Palestine would eliminate sixty to seventy percent of extremist recruitment in the Middle East.

  Later, Inner City Press asked UNRWA's Krähenbühl if UNRWA is in contact with ISIS (no) and who he thinks might influence them. His reply -- video here -- cited the “broad spectrum” including of religious leaders.

 Inner City Press asked where the displaced refugees have gone. He said there are an additional 44,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, not all from Yarmouk. Overall, he said that of 560,000 Palestinians in Syria before, now 460 to 470,000 remain, with half of them having been displaced.

  The Security Council agreed to what's called “Elements to the Press,” which the Council's president for April Dina Kawar of Jordan read out; here's the hard copy, which Inner City Press tweeted in real time:

"The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern regarding the grave situation in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria.

The members condemned in the strongest terms the grave crimes committed by Daesh and Jabhet al Nusra against 18,000 civilians in the camp and emphasized the need that such crimes do not go unpunished.

The members called for the protection of civilians in the camp, for ensuring humanitarian access to the area including by providing life-saving assistance, and ensure safe passage and evacuation of the civilians.

The members welcomed UNRWA's efforts in protecting and assisting Palestinian refugees and the need for providing UNRWA with the necessary resources to carry out its mandate in Syria, provide providing the necessary life-saving assistance and evacuate civilians.

 The members reminded all parties of their obligations to work toward the safety, security and protections of the civilians in the camp.

The members called on all parties to immediately implement the relevant Security Council resolutions including SCRs 2139, 2165 and 2191 and in line with the international humanitarian law.

The members recalled SCR 2139 which inter alia calls upon all parties to lift the siege of populated areas, demands all parties allow delivery of humanitarian access and enable rapid, safe and unhindered evacuation of civilians.

The members will look into further measures that can be taken to help in providing the necessary protection and assistance."


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