UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan hopes that greater acceptance for the Taliban government will lead to their representation in the United Nations.
On Wednesday, the UN Credentials Committee deferred its decision on allowing the Taliban to represent Afghanistan in the world body. The committee also stopped Myanmar’s military junta from representing the country in the UN.
“Under the circumstances, the decision to defer consideration of the credentials was expected,” said Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram. “Once there is a wider consensus on official acceptance of the new Afghan government, its credentials will be accepted.”
Sweden’s UN Ambassador Anna Karin Enestrom, who heads the credentials committee, confirmed on Thursday that Kabul’s new rulers will not have representation in the UN yet. “The committee has decided to defer its decision of the credentials in these two situations (Afghanistan and Myanmar),” she said.
The Taliban seized Kabul on Aug 15 and in September they asked the UN to let their representative speak at the 76th session of the General Assembly, which began on Sept 14, 2021.
The Credential Committee, however, could not meet before the end of the session and, therefore, the Taliban’s request was not considered.
This left Ghulam Isaczai of the ousted regime as the official representative to the UN, despite Taliban protestations that he “no longer represents Afghanistan”.
The current members of the Credentials Committee include the Bahamas, Bhutan, Chile, China, Namibia, Russia, Sierra Leone, Sweden and the United States. Normally, the committee takes its decisions by consensus.
The deferral indicates that both Afghanistan and Myanmar would remain out of the UN system through much of 2022.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, however, said it was an ‘unfair decision’ and urged the UN to reconsider it.
“The Credentials Committee decided yesterday that for now, the seat of Afghanistan at the UN be not given to the new government in Afghanistan,” he said in a tweet posted on Thursday.
“This decision is not based on legal rules and justice because they have deprived the people of Afghanistan of their legitimate right,” he added.
“We hope that this right is handed over to the representative of the government of Afghanistan in the near future so that we can be in a position to resolve issues of the people of Afghanistan effectively and efficiently and maintain positive interaction with the world.”
To gain UN acceptance, the Taliban need the support of some powerful nations, like the United States, but so far most of the 193 UN members are reluctant to do so.
Human rights groups also oppose granting recognition to the Taliban regime.
Some Taliban leaders are still on UN sanctions lists.
The parents of a 15-year-old who shot dead four students at a US high school with a gun bought by his father have been arrested after being charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to US media reports.
The whereabouts of James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, had remained unknown for much of Friday, prompting authorities in Oakland County, Michigan to consider them fugitives. But police found them in an industrial building in Detroit — 40 miles from the scene of the shooting in Oxford — a block away from where their suspected vehicle had been found, Detroit police spokesperson Rudy Harper told CNN. The Crumbleys’ lawyers Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman had previously told AFP that after leaving town on the night of the shooting “for their own safety,” the parents would be “returning to the area to be arraigned.
Yet local law enforcement officials told CNN the parents withdrew $4,000 from a money machine near Oxford on Friday and turned their phones off, heightening the mystery over their disappearance.
Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald, in a rare move by law enforcement, had announced that each of the parents faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
“These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and also send the message that gun owners have a responsibility,” McDonald said at a press conference.
While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30.
As the manhunt escalated, US Marshals on Friday issued $10,000 rewards for information leading to the arrest of either parent and County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the pair “cannot run from their part in this tragedy.
Four students, aged 14 to 17, were killed in the shooting at Oxford High School north of Detroit and six more were wounded, along with a teacher.
Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with state murder and terror charges.
While school shootings carried out by teens occur frequently in the United States, it is unusual for parents to face charges. Four days before the shooting, James Crumbley bought the 9mm Sig Sauer semi-automatic handgun used by his son.
Ethan was with his father at the time of the purchase at a local firearms store and the teen posted a picture of the gun on his Instagram account, writing “just got my new beauty today” along with a heart emoji.
According to police, Ethan Crumbley recorded a video on his cell phone the night before the attack saying he was planning a shooting at the school the next day, but it was not posted online. That same day, a teacher at the school had observed Ethan Crumbley searching for ammunition on his cell phone during class and reported it to school officials.
His mother was contacted by the school but did not respond to voicemail or email messages.
McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley did exchange a text message about the incident with her son that day, writing: “lol I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.
The parents were summoned to the school on the day of the shooting after a teacher was “alarmed” by a note she found on Ethan Crumbley’s desk, McDonald said. It featured a drawing of a gun and the words “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.
It also had a picture of a bullet, a person who had been shot and the words “my life is useless” and “the world is dead,” she said. The parents were shown the drawing at a meeting with school officials and advised that they needed to get the boy into counselling within 48 hours.
McDonald said they resisted taking their son home and he returned to class.
He later entered a bathroom, emerged with the gun, which he had concealed in his backpack, and opened fire.
“The notion that a parent could read those words and also know that their son had access to a deadly weapon that they gave him is unconscionable and I think it’s criminal,” McDonald said. “I am angry,” she said. “I’m angry as a mother. I’m angry as the prosecutor. I’m angry as a person that lives in this county. We need to do better in this country.
Ethan Crumbley fired at least 30 rounds, reloading as fellow students fled. McDonald said Jennifer Crumbley, when she heard about the shooting, had texted her son, saying: “Ethan don’t do it. James Crumbley drove home and called the emergency line 911 to report that a gun was missing from his house and that he believed his son may be the shooter, McDonald said.
STOCKHOLM: Momentum was building on Thursday for direct talks between US President Joe Biden and Russian leader Vladimir Putin as both sides sought to avoid a “nightmare” confrontation over Ukraine.
The Russian and US foreign ministers came face to face in Sweden to discuss recent allegations raised by Kiev and its Western allies that Russia could invade ex-Soviet Ukraine this winter.
Western powers have been sounding the alarm for weeks about Russia massing troops along the border with Ukraine, further stoking tensions in an area where a long-running conflict has already left 13,000 dead.
Moscow, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists fighting Kiev, has strongly denied it is plotting an attack and blames Nato for fuelling tensions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday called for “long-term security guarantees” on his country’s borders to halt Nato’s eastward expansion after meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
As Lavrov warned that the “nightmare scenario of a military confrontation was returning” in Europe, Blinken said it was “likely the presidents will speak directly in the near future”.
Russia also said that it hopes for “contact” between Putin and Biden in the coming days.
“The date has not yet been agreed. There are difficulties in aligning the calendars of the two leaders, but contact is very necessary, our problems are multiplying,” said Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
“There is no movement on bilateral affairs, which are more and more reaching an acute crisis phase. There is no mutual understanding about how to de-escalate the situation in Europe,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
“The situation in Europe is very alarming,” he added.
“It’s clear that this will be one of the main topics of discussion at the presidential level.”
Attending a meeting in Stockholm of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Lavrov accused Nato of inching its military infrastructure closer to Russia’s borders.
Blinken said the US had “deep concerns about Russia’s plans for renewed aggression against Ukraine,” and warned Moscow of “serious consequences” if Russia “decides to pursue confrontation”.
But the top US diplomat also struck a conciliatory note, saying the US was ready to “facilitate” the “full implementation” of the Minsk peace accords.
The Minsk deal was reached after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and aimed at resolving the conflict with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine but was never enforced.
“The best way to avert a crisis is through diplomacy,” Blinken said.
DUBAI: Ehab Fouad was a teenager when he marched in the parade marking the birth of the United Arab Emirates, that has gone from desert outpost to regional powerhouse in 50 years. The retired civil engineer, now 64, vividly recalls December 2, 1971, when he proudly held aloft the photo of the oil-rich Gulf state’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and saw its new flag for the first time.
Fouad, who strode directly behind the flag-bearer, tears up when he remembers the Abu Dhabi parade and reflects on the decades that followed. “Fifty years later, I feel special,” said the Egyptian father of one. “It was a remarkable journey for me, and a remarkable journey for this country,” said Fouad, who lives with his family in Dubai, one of the country’s seven emirates.
Foreigners make up 90 percent of the UAE’s population, which has grown to 10 million from around 300,000 when its emirates came together to form a federation, even if its tough laws make most of them ineligible for citizenship. Driven by major oil wealth, the former British protectorate has left behind its humble beginnings of tents and simple, mud-brick houses to become one of the biggest players in the Middle East, both economically and politically.
Dubai, a former pearling town and now a brash trade and financial centre, boasts a forest of skyscrapers including the world’s tallest building, the 830-metre Burj Khalifa. “Some people here used to build their houses from date tree branches, then mud bricks, and today it is all villas and towers,” Fouad said.
The late Sheikh Zayed “believed deeply in Arab nationalism, and worked to unite the seven emirates into a single federation”, said Elham Fakhro, senior Gulf analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. “It remains the only functional system of federalism in the Arab world.” Among the world’s top producers of crude, the UAE’s rapid growth since the 1970s is linked closely to its oil and gas wealth.
However, Dubai, with scant oil resources compared to the capital Abu Dhabi, has blossomed as a financial, transport, tourist and media hub. The Arab world’s second-biggest economy behind Saudi Arabia also wields growing political influence, filling a space ceded by traditional powers such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the UAE’s increasingly assertive foreign policy has included taking part in wars, such as Yemen, and mediating in several conflicts in the Middle East and Africa.
It is also a beacon for many Arab youth fleeing conflict-ridden countries. “The UAE has long been concerned about its relative vulnerability, in a region where it is surrounded by larger, more powerful states,” Fakhro said. “Its policy following independence was relatively neutral, but since the Arab Spring it has adopted a more activist foreign policy that aims to shape events in the region to its favor.”
The UAE, a staunch opponent of political Islam, has become something of a steward in the turbulent region. Last year, it took the surprise step of recognizing Zionist entity, breaking with decades of Arab consensus that eschewed ties with the Jewish state. “As a committed regional and international actor, we know we need to take on even more responsibility for the future direction of our region,” presidential adviser Anwar Gargash said. “We have had numerous vacuums over the last decade… We cannot stand by and watch these vacuums filled by malign actors.”
Accusations by human rights groups of violations during its intervention in Yemen’s conflict, and in prosecutions of dissidents, have not stopped the Emirates becoming a magnet for investment. The UAE has in recent years relaxed its laws to attract more investments, branding itself a “zero tax” haven. It lifted a cap on non-local ownership, allowed full foreign control of business ventures, and offered long-term “golden” visas to investors and “exceptional talents” such as artists, doctors, engineers and scientists.
Known in the 19th century as the Trucial States, named after a maritime truce, the seven emirates had been a British protectorate since 1892. But Sheikh Zayed, who ran oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the biggest and wealthiest of the emirates, saw an opportunity to slowly build a powerful state by joining its family-run neighbors under one flag. Today, golden jubilee celebrations will include an airshow, a floating theatrical performance on a mountain lake, parades, concerts and fireworks.
BRIDGETOWN: Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.
At the stroke of midnight, the new republic was born to cheers of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown. A 21-gun salute was fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played over a crowded Heroes Square.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood as Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared, a step which republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have the Queen as their sovereign.
“We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance,” Sandra Mason, the island’s first president, said.
“We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We the people are Barbados.”
Barbados casts the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still queen of 15 other realms including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.
“The creation of this republic offers a new beginning,” said Prince Charles. “From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history, people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”
In a message to the new president, the 95-year-old queen sent her congratulations to Barbadians who she said have held a special place in her heart.
“I send you and all Barbadians my warmest good wishes for your happiness, peace and prosperity in the future,” she said.
After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Barbadian singer Rihanna was declared a national hero by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement.
The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.
WASHINGTON: Families of the 9/11 victims want the entire $7 billion of Afghan assets — withheld at the US Federal Reserve — paid as compensation for the terrorist attacks that killed and injured thousands, the US media reported on Monday.
The New York Times reported that the Biden administration “is scheduled to tell a federal court on Friday what outcome would be in the US national interest,” — returning the money to Kabul or distributing it among the survivors and families of the 9/11 victims.
“The US Justice Department has been negotiating with lawyers for the 9/11 plaintiffs a potential deal to divide up the money, if the government supports their attempt to seize it,” the report added.
“The White House National Security Council has been working with agencies across the government to weigh the proposal.”
About 150 family members of Sept 11 victims went to the courts nearly 20 years ago to seek compensation for their losses. Almost 3,000 people were killed, and more than 5,000 were injured. The lawsuit named targets, like Al Qaeda and Taliban, who, they said, orchestrated the attack and therefore must pay the compensation as well.
A decade later, a court found the defendants liable by default and ordered them to pay damages now worth about $7 billion.
The judgment, however, seemed symbolic as the US invaded Afghanistan soon after the attacks, deposed the Taliban regime and decimated Al Qaeda.
On Aug 15 this year, the Taliban returned to power and claimed that about $7 billion of the Afghan central bank, frozen at the US Federal Reserve in New York, was rightfully theirs.
Governments around the world rushed to contain a new, heavily mutated Covid-19 strain on Sunday, with Israel slamming its borders shut to foreign nationals and Australia reporting its first cases of the variant.
The variant now known as Omicron has cast doubt on global efforts to fight the pandemic because of fears that it is highly infectious, forcing countries to reimpose measures many had hoped were a thing of the past.
Scientists are racing to determine the threat posed by the heavily mutated strain — particularly whether it can evade existing vaccines.
Several countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have also announced plans to restrict travel from southern Africa, where it was first detected.
Pakistan's National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday placed a complete ban on travel from six south African countries and Hong Kong in the wake of the discovery of the new variant.
The notification said travel had been restricted from South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia as well as Hong Kong.
These countries, the NCOC added, had been placed in category C — which includes nations from where people face restrictions and can only travel to Pakistan under specific NCOC guidelines — consequent to the emergence of the Omicron strain in South Africa and its spread to adjoining regions.
The strictest announcement, however, came from Israel, which said on Sunday it would close its borders to all foreigners in a bid to curb the spread of the variant — just four weeks after reopening to tourists after a prolonged closure due to Covid-19.
“We are raising a red flag,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said, adding that the country would order 10 million PCR test kits to stem the “very dangerous” strain.
Israeli citizens will be required to present a negative PCR test and quarantine for three days if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus and seven days if they have not, the prime minister's office said.
But the virus strain has already slipped through the net and has now been found everywhere from the Netherlands to Hong Kong and Australia, where authorities on Sunday said they had detected it for the first time in two passengers from southern Africa who were tested after flying into Sydney.
The arrival of the new variant comes just a month after Australia lifted a ban on citizens travelling overseas without permission, with the country's border also set to open to skilled workers and international students by the year's end.
Both cases were fully vaccinated, authorities said, and landed the same day that Canberra announced a sweeping ban on flights from nine southern African countries, including South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The speed at which governments slammed their borders shut took many by surprise, with travellers thronging Johannesburg international airport, desperate to squeeze onto the last flights to countries that had imposed sudden travel bans.
In the Netherlands, 61 passengers tested positive after arriving on two flights from South Africa in an ordeal one passenger described as “Dystopia Central Airline Hallway”.
New York Times global health reporter Stephanie Nolen said passengers, including babies and toddlers, were crammed together waiting to get tested, while “still 30 per cent of people are wearing no mask or only over mouth”.
Scientists in South Africa last week said that they had detected the new B.1.1.529 variant with at least 30 mutations, compared with three for Beta or two for Delta — the strain that hit the global recovery hard and sent millions worldwide back into lockdown.
The variant has also revived geopolitical fault lines exacerbated by the pandemic, with the US quick to hail South Africa's openness about the new strain — a thinly veiled jab at China's handling of information about the original outbreak.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday “praised South Africa's scientists for the quick identification of the Omicron variant and South Africa's government for its transparency in sharing this information, which should serve as a model for the world”, a State Department statement said.
But South Africa has complained it is being unfairly hit with “draconian” air travel bans for having first detected the strain, which the World Health Organisation has termed a “variant of concern”.
“Excellent science should be applauded and not punished,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.