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UNSC reform negotiations not 'begun in earnest': UNGA President

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United Nations, April 10 (IANS) The negotiations for reforming the UN Security Council have not “begun in earnest” and the process is stuck in “informal discussions,” according to General Assembly President Dennis Francis.

“Under the ambit of the IGN what is taking place are informal discussions that predate the commencement of formal negotiations,” he said on Tuesday referring to the Intergovernmental Negotiations process for reforms.

He would not set a time frame for the negotiations, saying, “The member states themselves will determine the timing of the commencement of formal negotiations, but we are not yet there.”

Francis was asked at his news conference about the veto-mired Security Council’s inability to deal with the Ukraine and Gaza crises and if it was directly connected to the failure of the reform process.

He said that the assertion that the reform negotiations were a failure “is not quite accurate because the IGN process has not failed”.

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“It’s a members-driven process. This is a member-driven organisation. They have not yet made that determination (about moving to earnest negotiations). They will when they think the time and context is right,” he said.

“What is taking place now, is a sort of introductory preliminary discussion, not negotiations regarding the various models that are on the table in terms of the reform process and what the Security Council can and might look like if any particular one of these models are chosen,” he said.

The Council’s basic architecture is built around the primacy of the five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US, with veto powers reflecting the post-World War II scenario.

The veto powers have blocked Council action on several important issues.

A majority of countries from the Global South have demanded giving them an equal voice by expanding the ranks of permanent members.

India and several countries have repeatedly demanded the adoption of a negotiating text that would set the agenda and identify the points for discussion to move the reforms forward.

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But it has been blocked by a small coterie of nations that style themselves Uniting for Consensus and is led by Italy and includes Pakistan as a vociferous member.

Setting a Catch-22 scenario, they demand that there could be no negotiating text unless there is a consensus — which cannot be achieved without serious negotiations based on a text.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed at @arulouis)

–IANS

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Israel thins out forces in Rafah, Givati brigade left

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Jerusalem, May 26 (IANS) The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) thinned out forces in eastern parts of the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, and the Givati infantry brigade left for Israel from the area where it had been operating since the operation a few weeks ago, Israel’s Ynet news website reported on Sunday.

The move comes shortly after Israel announced that it had agreed to renew talks with Hamas on a hostage deal soon, with the mediation of Egypt, Qatar and the US, Xinhua news agency reported.

Israel launched a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip to retaliate against a Hamas rampage through the southern Israeli border on October 7, 2023, during which about 1,200 people were killed and over 250 were taken hostage.

The Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 35,900 people in the Gaza Strip, health authorities in the Palestinian enclave said in a press statement on Saturday.

–IANS

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Nearly 1 million evacuated as Cyclone Remal approaches Bangladesh

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Dhaka, May 26 (IANS) Bangladesh has begun evacuating millions of people ahead of Cyclone Remal, which is expected to bring winds as fast as 130 kmph when it makes landfall.

The cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal is poised to cross the country’s coastlines between Sunday evening and midnight, Xinhua news agency reported.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department on Sunday warned of the danger of flooding, landslides and a storm surge.

The great danger signal No. 10 has been sounded for the country’s coastal districts and seaports, where fishing boats, trawlers and maritime vessels have been advised to remain in shelter till further notice.

At 9.00 a.m. local time Sunday, the cyclone was centred 295 km south of Bangladesh’s Mongla port in the southern Khulna region and 380 km southwest of Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh, said the bulletin signed by Kh Hafizur Rahman, a meteorologist at BMD.

Bangladeshi State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief, Md Mohibur Rahman, told Xinhua that at least 8,00,000 people from the ten most vulnerable districts have already been evacuated to shelters.

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He said Bangladesh’s navy, coast guard, police, voluntary organisations and political parties were supporting the ongoing massive evacuation efforts.

Television footage showed widespread flooding in the low-lying areas of coastal districts.

Due to the peripheral effect of the severe cyclone and steep pressure gradient, the low-lying areas of the coastal districts of Khulna and Chattogram are likely to be inundated by a wind-driven surge of 8-12 feet height above normal astronomical tide, reads the bulletin.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority has suspended operations of all types of river vessels on all inner routes. Authorities of Chattogram Seaport have ordered to stop unloading of cargo at the outer anchorage and asked all the vessels anchored there to go to the deep sea.

Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram has suspended its flight operation for eight hours from Sunday afternoon.

In 2007, Cyclone Sidr hit the country’s southwestern coastal belt, leaving more than 4,000 people dead or missing.

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–IANS

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UN official: Death toll in Papua New Guinea landslide estimated to surpass 670

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Sydney, May 26 (IANS) The death toll from a massive landslide in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was estimated to surpass 670, an official from the International Organisation for Migration told the media on Sunday.

According to Serhan Aktoprak, the chief of the UN migration agency’s mission in the Pacific island country, the scale of the impact was much greater than initially thought.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Aktoprak said that more than 150 houses might be buried under the debris six to eight metres deep, and over 670 people could have lost their lives.

The area surrounding the disaster zone in Enga province also remained dangerous, with incessant rockfalls and continuous landslides prompting the evacuation of about 1,250 survivors, the official noted.

At around 3:00 a.m. local time on Friday, a massive landslide battered a remote region in Enga province, located over 600 km northwest of PNG’s capital, Port Moresby.

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The UN office in PNG issued a statement on Saturday, offering its deepest condolences to the victims and their families in the Lagaip Porgera District of Enga province.

“While the total number of casualties is yet to be determined, preliminary reporting indicates the death toll may be significant. Search and rescue efforts are underway, although continuous landslides and falling boulders are affecting these efforts,” said a spokesperson.

–IANS

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10 members of a family killed in flooding in Afghanistan

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Islamabad, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Ten members of a family were killed overnight in a village in the capital of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province due to heavy rainfall and flooding, local officials said on Sunday.

Rescue teams are searching for the remaining victims after four bodies were recovered, the head of the information and culture department, Zabihullah Amiri, said in a statement. There are no reports of survivors from the family.

Flooding has deepened Afghanistan’s already dire humanitarian crisis, adding to the death toll caused by multiple natural disasters in recent years.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement that floods in the past few weeks have affected at least 80,000 people in the country.

This month, Afghan authorities reported more than 400 deaths due to flash floods across different provinces. Baghlan province, in the north, was hit the hardest.

Extreme weather events such as flash floods and droughts are on the rise in Afghanistan. Experts blame the climate crisis for this. The country remains among the world’s top 10 climate-impacted nations, despite having a negligible carbon footprint.

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After decades of wars and conflicts, Afghanistan is ill-prepared to cope with the consequences of climate change.

The country is still reeling from the multiple earthquakes earlier this year and severe flooding in March.

–IANS/DPA

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Ukraine reports renewed Russian attacks in country's west

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Kyiv, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Russia subjected Ukraine to a massive drone and missile attack overnight, according to Kyiv’s military.

The Ukrainian air force said missiles, including Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, rockets and drones, were fired at western Ukraine.

Explosions were reported from the Khmelnytskyi region, where the Starokostiantyniv Air Force Base is also located.

According to the regional administration, a residential building was hit in the Vinnytsia region. Three people were injured in the attack, Governor Serhiy Borzov wrote on Telegram.

The Lviv region on the border with Poland was also attacked, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi wrote on Telegram.

An explosion was also heard near the capital, Kyiv, reported the public broadcaster Suspilne. Air raid warnings sounded across the country.

The heavy nighttime air raid was preceded by the launch of Tu-95 strategic bombers in Russia, which fire cruise missiles. Later, MiG-31 fighter jets, which are the carrier systems for the Kinzhal, also took off.

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The country has been fending off a full-scale Russian invasion since February 2022.

–IANS/DPA

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