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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-01-29

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Friday, 29 January, 1999


This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.

HEADLINES

  • Security Council strongly urges Ethiopia and Eritrea to refrain from armed conflict over border dispute.
  • Security Council urges parties in Kosovo to immediately cease all acts of violence and provocations.
  • Fighting causes new displacement of people in Kosovo, says UN refugee agency.
  • Negotiations to resolve conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia deadlocked, says parliamentarian.
  • Secretary-General recommends extension of mandate of UN observer mission in Western Sahara until 28 February.
  • UN security team to check conditions in beleaguered capital of Sierra Leone.
  • Sierra Leone crisis is organized and financed by external forces, says Government Minister.
  • UN refugee agency reports violence in camps in Kenya and increase of Congolese refugees in Tanzania.
  • Genocide suspect asks tribunal for Rwanda for lenient sentence.
  • Special Rapporteur on mercenaries and British Government condemn mercenary activities.
  • UN atomic energy agency calls for member states' cooperation to tackle the year 2000 computer problems.
  • UN environment agency appoints new head for convention to protect wildlife.
  • Solid progress made in talks on a proposed treaty to deal with toxic chemicals and pesticides.


Expressing concern over the risk of armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the escalating arms build-up along their common border, the Security Council on Friday strongly urged the two countries to maintain their commitment to a peaceful resolution.

In unanimously adopting resolution 1226 (1999), the Council also called on the two countries, "in the strongest terms" to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any military action. It called on them to work for a reduction in tensions by adopting policies to restore confidence between their governments and peoples, including measures to improve the humanitarian situation and respect for human rights.

The Council noted that armed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea would have a devastating effect on the peoples of the two countries and the region as a whole. It expressed its strong support for the mediation efforts of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and for the Framework Agreement as approved by the Central Organ Summit of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution on 17 December 1998. The Council also endorsed the decision of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, to the region in support of OAU efforts.

The Security Council stressed the primary importance of the acceptance of the OAU Framework Agreement and called for cooperation with the OAU and full implementation of the agreement without delay. The Council welcomed the acceptance by Ethiopia of the accord and Eritrea's engagement with the OAU process, noting the fact that the OAU had responded to Eritrea's request for clarifications of the Framework Agreement. In this regard, the Security Council strongly urged Eritrea to accept the agreement as the basis for a peaceful resolution of its border dispute with Ethiopia.


The Security Council on Friday once again called on the parties in Kosovo, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to immediately cease all acts of violence and provocations.

In a statement read out by the Council President, Ambassador Celso Amorim of Brazil, the Security Council expressed its deep concern at the escalating violence in Kosovo and underlined the risk of further deterioration in the humanitarian situation if steps were not taken by the parties to reduce tensions. The Council reiterated its concern about attacks on civilians and stressed the need for a full and unhindered investigation of such actions.

The Security Council welcomed and supported the decisions of the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group -- France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America -- following their meeting in London today aimed at reaching a political settlement between the parties and establish a framework and timetable for that purpose. The Council demanded that the parties should accept their responsibilities and comply fully with these decisions and requirements as well as with its relevant resolutions.

The Council reiterated its full support for international efforts, including those of the Contact Group and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Kosovo Verification Mission to reduce tensions in Kosovo and facilitate a political settlement on the basis of substantial autonomy and equality for all citizens and the recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Kosovo Albanians and other communities in the province. It reaffirmed its commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


Fighting in the Kosovo province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was causing new displacements of people "virtually every day," the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.

UNHCR said that the humanitarian situation in the province was deteriorating rapidly as a government offensive against the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Podujevo region went into its second straight day on Thursday, prompting residents to flee villages engulfed in the conflict.

The UN agency said that a team which visited the area, was told that 1,600 people had fled more than half a dozen small villages, southwest of Podujevo. UNHCR added that most of the displaced people were sheltered in houses, some filled with as many as 80 people. Another 400 internally displaced persons were reported to be at Donji Dubnica in Vucitrn, the agency said.

UNHCR said that some 17,000 newly internally displaced persons had been reported to be among the 30,000 people who had been on the move since the government went on the offensive in late December in the municipalities of Podujevo, Mitrovica, Stimlje, Suva Reka and Decani.


Negotiations to resolve the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, were deadlocked and a more radical solution was needed, said a parliamentary delegate from Georgia on Friday.

Londer Tsaava, who introduced himself at a press conference at UN headquarters as "Prime Minister of the legitimate government of Abkhazia in exile," said he was visiting the United Nations as part of a delegation of Georgian parliamentarians and other public officials.

For the past five or six years, the Abkhazian separatist regime had conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing and was now obstructing the peace process, he said. The Russian Federation was not fulfilling its role as facilitator of the peace process and its passivity essentially promoted Abkhazian policies. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping forces had not fulfilled their obligations and sometimes acted in concert with Abkhazian separatists against the civilian population, he said.

The international community and the United Nations must become more actively involved, he said. The resolution adopted on Thursday by the Security Council did not accurately reflect the dynamics of the conflict and the process for a political settlement. Bilateral discussions were disappointing and the means for reaching a peaceful resolution to the conflict had been exhausted, he added.

The United Nations should evaluate the situation in Abkhazia as ethnic cleansing, he said. The Russian Federation and the active involvement of the international community could help bring about a positive result. There was not enough pressure on the Abkhaz side to move the issues, he concluded.


Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended that the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO), be extended until 28 February.

MINURSO was established under the Settlement Plan of August 1988 to monitor a ceasefire and identify and register qualified voters for a referendum to decide whether the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara will gain full independence or become a part of Morocco.

In a report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says the Moroccan Government has decided to have discussions with his Special Representative and the Chairman of the Identification Commission on the voter identification and appeals protocol -- that were part of a package of measures presented to the parties by the UN last October. He hopes the consultations under way lead to a prompt resumption of identification and initiate the appeals process.

Mr. Annan also welcomes the Moroccan Government's decision to formalize the status of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) in the Territory. It is imperative that preparatory work for the return of refugees eligible to vote in the referendum, together with their immediate families, begin as soon as possible.

The Moroccan Government's decision to proceed with the signature of the status-of-forces agreement concerning MINURSO, will permit the orderly deployment of resources to carry out the Settlement plan and facilitate the Mission's day-to-day operations, he says.

The Secretary-General says he expects discussions under way to lead to an agreement on the identification, appeals and repatriation planning activities, as well as the implementation calendar. It should thus be possible to move towards the transition period, he says. If putting the package of measures into effect is still elusive by his next report, the Secretary-General would ask his Special Envoy to reassess the situation and the validity of MINURSO's mandate, he concludes.


A United Nations security assessment team is scheduled to travel to Freetown, Sierra Leone early next week at the request of the UN humanitarian coordinator who wants to see international aid workers return to the beleaguered city as soon as possible.

A mission fielded by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), returned from Sierra Leone on Thursday night and reported that the situation in the capital was very serious, particularly health and sanitation conditions.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, Francis Okelo, who has been at the center of diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict in Sierra Leone, was scheduled to meet in Conakry, Guinea, on Friday with troop contributors to the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group known as ECOMOG, whose forces are trying to restore stability in Sierra Leone.


Sierra Leone's Minister of Finance, Development, and Economic Planning James Jonah said on Friday the crisis in his country was driven by outside forces and was a regional, not an internal conflict.

During a press conference at UN headquarters, Mr. Jonah said the conflict was an attempt by a group of countries and individuals to deny the Sierra Leonean people the right to chose their own government. The recent invasion of Freetown had been organized, sustained and financed from outside, he said, but the operation had failed, even with all the resources put into it. The rebels had been pushed back from the capital and were now boxed in between troops from the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

Solutions often proposed to end the crisis were not the right ones, he said. There was no need for fresh talks with the rebels, because an existing agreement, the Abuja Accord, had been endorsed by the Security Council and regional African organizations. The Accord should be implemented genuinely and honestly, he added.

The Security Council and the international community must be more even- handed, he said. They could not deal with atrocities in Kosovo and then ignore the brutality and destruction in Sierra Leone. His country was in anguish and looked to the world for help, he added.


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday that more than 4,000 women and children in the Kakuma camp, in northwest Kenya, had taken temporary refuge in or near its compound in the camp following an outbreak of violence between Sudanese groups.

UNHCR said that the confrontation on Wednesday between Sudanese Dinka and Didinga communities living in the camp left five refugees dead and 51 hospitalized. It said that some of the wounded were taken to the hospital run by the Red Cross in Lokichokio and others to local facilities. UNHCR added that many houses belonging to the Didinga community were burned.

The UN refugee agency said that Kenyan police arrived quickly to restore order and that it was consulting with officials on ways to improve security at Kakuma, including the possibility of further separating the different refugee groups.

According to UNHCR, there had also been violent incidents in and around the Dadaab camps over the past week, apparently as a result of disputes over grazing and water. UNHCR said that there were three camps in the Dadaab area housing 110,000 mainly Somali refugees.

Meanwhile, UNHCR said that the flow of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Tanzania showed no sign of abating. The agency reported that more than 30,000 Congolese refugees had left South Kivu for Tanzania since the rebellion began last August, while other Congolese who wanted to flee remained behind due a lack of boats and the cost for transportation across Lake Tanganyika.


A former militia leader during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda on Friday pleaded with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to give him a lenient sentence for his role in the massacres.

Omar Serushago also tearfully asked for forgiveness for his crimes from the people of Rwanda, especially the Tutsi community which was the main target of the genocide. Holding the Bible and Koran books, Mr. Serushago, whose sentence is expected to be delivered on Friday next week, said he also prayed for the restoration of peace in Rwanda.

The prosecution asked the tribunal to sentence the accused to a prison term of not less than 25 years because the crimes committed were serious and he directly participated and played a role in their commission when he was a leader of the Interahamwe militia in Gisenyi. The prosecution added that Mr. Serushago was directly responsible for the death of 37 people in that area.

It said, however, that there were mitigating factors in the case which included Serushago's assistance to the tribunal in the Nairobi- Kigali operation in Kenya in mid 1997 which resulted in the arrest of 7 people. The court also heard that the accused had agreed to give evidence against other accused persons apart from the fact that he voluntarily surrendered in Cote d'Ivoire on 9 June 1998, promptly pleaded guilty and was remorseful.


The Special Rapporteur on the Question of Mercenaries, Enrique Bernales Ballesteros has said that the meetings he had with United Kingdom government officials revealed "a significant convergence" of views on the condemnation of mercenary activities.

In a press release issued in London on Friday, at the conclusion of his official visit to the United Kingdom, the Special Rapporteur, appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human rights, said that he and the British officials also agreed on the need to focus greater international attention on this "complex issue."

Mr. Ballesteros expressed his gratitude to the Government of the United Kingdom for the invitation to visit the country and for the substantive meetings he had with higher ranking officials. He also thanked academic institutions, specialized non-governmental organizations and a number of individuals who had received him and with whom he had been able to conduct a fruitful exchange of views.

In both his oral submission to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and in his forthcoming report to the General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur will reiterate his views on the need to regulate the activities of private companies involved in military and security matters and the domestic and international implications thereof.


The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), on Friday called on member States to cooperate with it in tackling the computer problems associated with the next millennium.

On the eve of a five-day seminar on the problem, which is scheduled to begin in Vienna, Austria next week, the IAEA said that the transition to the year 2000 (Y2K) posed major technical challenges for computer systems. According to the UN atomic agency, the successful implementation of safeguards and physical protection measures depended on computer-based systems. Member States and the IAEA needed to ensure that everything possible was being done to address the Y2K problems.

The IAEA said that it was well advanced in developing solutions for its extensive inventory of internal and jointly owned systems. It said that it was now reaching out to member States to share its experiences in this area. The IAEA said it would assist member States by compiling information and documents to provide guidance for the identification of Y2K problems together with the necessary remedial action and by offering a forum for information exchange on this issue.

As part of this process, the IAEA said, next week's seminar would be devoted to the Y2K issue as it affected nuclear safeguards and physical protection. The agency invited all member States to participate in the seminar by sending experts in Y2K issues.


The Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has appointed a new head of the Secretariat of the global treaty to protect wildlife.

UNEP's Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer on Friday announced the appointment of Willem Wouter Wijnstekers of the Netherlands as Secretary- General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Mr. Wijnstekers is actively involved in a number of CITES committees and boards and the author of several papers and publications on international environmental law, including the widely acclaimed The Evolution of CITES, A reference to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

CITES, which has a membership of 144 countries, was signed in 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. It was drawn up to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and to prevent international trade from threatening species with extinction. CITES members implement the convention by banning commercial international trade on an agreed list of endangered species and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered. According to UNEP, there are more than 30,000 species of plants and animals included in the Convention's three appendices.

The Geneva-based Secretariat of the Convention which is administered by UNEP helps the parties to implement the Convention by providing interpretation of its provisions and advice on its practical implementation. The Secretariat also helps to improve implementation of the Convention by conducting a number of projects such as training seminars and examining the status of species in trade to ensure that their exploitation remains within sustainable limits.


Talks on a proposed global treaty to deal with dangerous pesticides and toxic chemicals concluded on Friday in Nairobi after making solid progress, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The talks at UNEP headquarters were the second in a series of five anticipated negotiating sessions to reach a legally-binding agreement to eliminate or reduce emissions and discharges of persistent organic pollutants, known as POPs, by the year 2000.

Fuelling the negotiations is worldwide concern about the risk to human health and the environment posed by POPs, which include PCBs and DDT. One key issue is the growing number of obsolete and uncontrolled stockpiles of pesticides and toxic chemicals from decades ago. Another is to reduce reliance on DDT while fully protecting public health from malaria.

More than 350 delegates from 103 countries agreed on a draft text that would form the working basis for discussions on all substantive articles of the proposed treaty. The talks focused on provisions to reduce or eliminate 12 POPs and scientific criteria for identifying others. They also examined issues relating to implementation, including capacity building, technology transfer and financing, which are key to the ability of countries fulfilling their obligations under a future treaty.


For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


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