United Nations Security Council paralysed with Russia’s and China’s vetoes

The delegations of Russia and China have vetoed a United Nations resolution to apply sanctions on Syrian government over the use of chemical weapons during the almost six-year war in the country.

The resolution, which was supported by dozens of states, makes clear the wide divisions that are still latent between Russia and the Trump administration, even when both countries promised to improve ties.

Britain and France proposed it some months ago and it has been the seventh Security Council resolution that the Russian delegation has vetoed in support of President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.

The American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, accused Russia and China of putting “their friends in the Assad regime ahead of our global security”. On the other hand, Vladimir Putin has reinforced his opposition, adding that penalties enforced by the Security Council will only obstruct Geneva’s diplomatic attempts to end hostilities in Syria.

10,000 people have been killed since the beginning of Yemen’s war

According to the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office, at least 10,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the war in Yemen in March 2015. The figure shows an urgent need to negotiate solutions from both sides in order to end almost two years of sharp conflict.

Yemen is already the poorest country in the Arab world. UN officials consider that almost 80% of the population, around 19 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid. Furthermore, another 3 million have been displaced.

However, the devastation of Yemen has been widely ignored by the international community, and thus the United Nations urges states to focus on the “huge humanitarian cost” of the war in this country.

A historic effort to put an end to the division of Cyprus

During the following weeks Greek and Turkish community leaders will carry on negotiations on reunification talks with the object of arranging the first multilateral conference since the partition of Cyprus 43 years ago. These talks are seen as a determining event in the laborious process of resolving such a diplomatic puzzle.

Nicos Anastasiades and Mustafa Akıncı will try to outline the essential features for a possible peace deal after more than 18 months of intense negotiations to settle inter-ethnic divisions. So far, issues of governance, political power-sharing, the economy and the European Union have also been discussed. Nevertheless, security will be the last point to be argued.

The commitment to a settlement from both leaders has helped to increase hopes. At a time where uncertainty is ruling in Europe, there is a belief that a peace agreement would bring stability to the region. Additionally, Antónito Guterres, the new United Nations Secretary General, called it a “historic opportunity”.

Evacuation from Eastern Aleppo now under delay

The evacuation of civilians and medical staff members from the besieged neighborhoods of the Syrian city of Aleppo has been delayed due to the last airstrikes. Thousands had been expecting to leave after a deal announced at the United Nations.

As reported in the agreement announced last Tuesday by Turkey, Russia and Syrian rebels, the last remaining fighters had to evacuate to rebel-held territory, and civilians had the chance to join them or to move to government-held areas. This meant the whole city of Aleppo would be now in the hands of forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

The evacuation plan has been arranged after two weeks of quick advances by the Syrian Army and its allies, who drove insurgents into an increasingly tinier part of eastern Aleppo with the help of heavy airstrikes.

However, due to the last shelling, buses that were supposed to evacuate some of the last civilians and activists left the city empty after waiting for several hours. The Russian Defense Ministry blamed the rebels for blocking the evacuation, affirming that they had “resumed the hostilities” at dawn.

All in all, there was no international monitoring and thus troubles while implementing the deal were not precisely surprising. United Nations officials stated the Syrian government had refused their reiterated demands to observe the process and demonstrated the lack of effective mechanisms to enforce the agreement.

António Guterres swears in as the new Secretary-General of the United Nations

The former Portuguese prime minister will replace Ban Ki-moon on the first of January and become the ninth United Nations Secretary-General. He will place development at the center of the organization’s work and hopes to be the leader of the changes the UN needs.

Guterres, a former Socialist prime minister of Portugal and the head of the United Nations refugee agency for 10 years, focused his speech mainly on the importance of preventing conflict. He also said he would make the United Nations more “nimble” and “efficient” and promised a deep management reform for the following years.

Most UN diplomats affirm Guterres’ greatest challenge will certainly be dealing with the Trump administration. In his speech on Monday he indicated he would be “gentle”, at least for now.

The truth is that he is now under pressure to recruit women to his administration. Many diplomats had been campaigning for a woman to lead the international organization for the first time in 70 years, and Mr. Guterres has assured gender parity in his leadership.

Moreover, the General Assembly made an emotive tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who leaves the office at the end of December after leading the United Nations for the past 10 years.

UN troops failed to protect civilians in South Sudan

Last Tuesday a report was issued into the performance of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where in July government soldiers went on a killing, raping and looting in the capital, Juba. UN troops failed to respond to the attacks in the Terrain Hotel, which included sexual violence by armed South Sudanese soldiers against civilians. Five United Nations staff members and more than a dozen other humanitarian workers were killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed a group of independent investigators so as to give light to UN troops’ intervention in the country. The report concluded that there has been “a lack of leadership on the part of key senior Mission personnel” which definitely culminated “in a chaotic and ineffective response to the violence.”

The investigation has found that the peacekeeping force, formed by troops from China, Ethiopia, Nepal and India, did not operate under a unified command. In fact, it received opposing orders, and the Chinese military abandoned its posts at least two times. Moreover, it has been discovered that rescuers never appeared even though several calls were done to the mission’s headquarters. Consequently, most of the victims were rescued by a private security company the following day.

A month after the attacks in Juba and as a consequence of the ineffective intervention of UN soldiers, the UN Security Council commanded thousands of additional troops in order to reinforce the South Sudan peacekeeping missions.