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China, Russia revive push to lift U.N. sanctions on North Korea

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November 1, 2021

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – China and Russia are pushing the U.N. Security Council to ease sanctions on North Korea by reviving a 2019 attempt to remove a ban on Pyongyang’s exports of statues, seafood and textiles and expanding it to include lifting a refined petroleum imports cap.

In a reworked draft resolution, seen by Reuters on Monday, China and Russia want the 15-member council to remove those sanctions “with the intent of enhancing the livelihood of the civilian population” in the isolated Asian state.

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North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The draft resolution also includes other measures first proposed by Russia and China nearly two years ago, including lifting a ban on North Koreans working abroad and exempting inter-Korean rail and road cooperation projects from sanctions.

Several U.N. diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the refreshed draft resolution would find little support. In 2019 Russia and China held two informal rounds of talks on the draft resolution, but never formally tabled it for a vote.

Diplomats said on Monday that China and Russia have not yet scheduled any talks on their new draft resolution. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Britain, Russia or China to pass.

The U.N. missions of Russia and China did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new text, which diplomats said was circulated to council members on Friday.

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“It has been always China’s will that we should also address the humanitarian dimension caused by the sanctions imposed by the Security Council,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun told reporters last month, adding again that the 2019 draft resolution “remains on the table.”

‘DIFFICULT SITUATION’

A spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations declined to comment on private council discussions, but added that all U.N. members should be focused on addressing those who are violating the sanctions already in place.

“The Security Council has repeatedly affirmed that it is prepared to modify, suspend, or lift the measures as may be needed in light of the DPRK’s compliance,” the spokesperson said. “Yet the DPRK has taken no steps to comply with the Security Council’s demands regarding its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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The U.N. Security Council does already allow for humanitarian exemptions. A U.N. rights investigator last month called for sanctions to be eased as North Korea’s most vulnerable risk starvation after it slipped deeper into isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The sanctions on industries that Russia and China have proposed lifting previously earned North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars. They were put in place in 2016 and 2017 to try to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea continued developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs during the first half of 2021 in violation of U.N. sanctions and despite the country’s worsening economic situation, U.N. sanctions monitors reported in August.

The country has long suffered from food insecurity, with observers saying that mismanagement of the economy is exacerbated by sanctions and now the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted unprecedented border lockdowns there.

The new draft resolution would have the council acknowledge “the difficult situation of economy and livelihood of the DPRK in recent years, underscoring the necessity to respect the legitimate security concerns of the DPRK, and ensure the welfare, inherent dignity, and rights of people in the DPRK.”

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(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Pullin)

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World

Three missionaries released in Haiti following October kidnapping

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December 7, 2021

By Katharine Jackson

(Reuters) – Three missionaries who were kidnapped in Haiti in October have been released, the U.S. State Department and the Ohio-based missionary group that organized the group’s trip to the Caribbean nation said on Monday.

“We are thankful to God that three more hostages were released last night. Those who were released are safe and seem to be in good spirits,” Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries said in a statement.

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U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday confirmed the release, adding that the United States is continuing to work to secure the release of the others.

Haitian National Police spokesman Garry Desrosiers said the three were released on Sunday night. He declined to give additional details, citing the security of the remaining hostages.

Sixteen Americans and one Canadian, including five children, were abducted after visiting an orphanage. The incident has highlighted Haiti’s dire kidnapping problem, which has worsened in recent months amid economic troubles and political upheaval.

Two other ministry group members were released last month.

(Reporting by Katharine Jackson in Washington; Additional reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Editing by Susan Heavey and Matthew Lewis)

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Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defence minister

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December 7, 2021

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.

Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.

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Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.

But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.

Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.

Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.

About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to U.N. figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli air strike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.

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Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm’s way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza. 

    Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defence forces and Palestinian armed groups.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague with additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Mark Heinrich)

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Global finance system partly to blame for inequality – World Bank’s Malpass

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December 7, 2021

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass on Monday said fiscal and monetary policies were operating in “uncharted territory” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and may be contributing to a sharp rise in global inequality and poverty.

Malpass told a roundtable hosted by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang the number of people in extreme poverty had increased by over 100 million since the beginning of the pandemic even as global spending has increased to an all-time record.

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Advanced economies have rebounded, while the poorest countries had seen only a weak rebound, or none at all, he said. This was causing “tragic reversals” in median incomes, women’s empowerment and nutrition, he said, and inflation, supply chain bottlenecks, and high energy prices were aggravating these trends.

“Part of the inequality problem is global finance itself and the unequal structure of the stimulus,” Malpass said, noting that prevailing sovereign debt, fiscal and monetary policies were adding to inequality.

Malpass said monetary policy in the advanced economies had long focused on reserve requirement ratios and limited growth in bank reserves to achieve stability in currencies and prices, an approach still used by China.

Other major central banks had switched to a “post-monetarism system” of using very large amounts of excess bank reserves to purchase and hold long-duration bonds and other assets, which he said provided price support for a highly select group of assets.

That approach, he said, excluded small businesses and developing countries, while restraining policy through regulation of liquidity and bank capitalization ratios.

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Fiscal policy was also channeling resources to narrow groups within major borrowers, while leaving others behind, and sovereign debt policies were contributing to inequality.

Malpass repeated his call for greater transparency in debt contracts and a freeze in debt payments for countries with unsustainable debt. He said creditors should move away from collateral and escrow arrangements.

“As one of the largest creditors of developing countries, China’s active participation and strong voice in debt reduction efforts are very much needed and would benefit all participants by encouraging sustainable investment and debt,” he said.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio)

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