UN chief



Jerusalem cannot be expected to sit idly by as Iran entrenches itself in Syria and Lebanon and declares with Hezbollah that they are planning a two-front war against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday.

“Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment and it wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts [in] its declared goal to eradicate Israel,” Netanyahu said before his meeting in Jerusalem with Guterres. “It is also building sites to produce precision- guided missiles toward that end in both Syria and in Lebanon. This is something Israel cannot accept. This is something the UN should not accept.”

During the meeting, Netanyahu said: “It is our right not to allow this noose to tighten around Israel.”

Diplomatic sources said Israel sees Guterres’s first visit here since taking office in January as a good opportunity to present its case before having to take action in Syria or Lebanon, well aware that any action it takes will lead for calls of condemnation in the UN Security Council.

During a day packed with meetings with the country’s senior political and military officials, Guterres was shown intelligence information on Hezbollah’s build-up in southern Lebanon.

Israel’s leaders, from President Reuven Rivlin and Netanyahu down through Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and new Zionist Union head Avi Gabbay, bombarded Guterres with a litany of complaints about the organization he heads.

For his part, Guterres said Israel should expect impartiality from the UN secretary-general, and he will strive to be an “honest broker.”

He stressed during the day, on a number of different occasions, that calling for the destruction of Israel is modern antisemitism.

But, he said during a meeting with Rivlin, “you also understand that I sometimes disagree with positions of the government of Israel or any other government, and that is absolutely normal in a society where many of your citizens have exactly the same expressions of opinion.”

Netanyahu welcomed Guterres by saying that he has demonstrated a desire to turn a new page in relations between Israel and the UN, but then lashed into the organization’s “absurd obsession with Israel,” and its “flagrantly discriminatory tactics.”

The UN mandate is to advance peace, security and international cooperation, but it “has failed when it comes to Israel to live up to its mandate,” he said.

Netanyahu said UNESCO is mandated with preserving world heritage, but denies the Jewish people’s 3,000- year connection to Jerusalem. And the UN is mandated to pursue peace, “but allows Palestinian hate speech to flourish in its institutions.”

Also, he said, the institution is mandated to stand up for human rights, “but it allows in its various forms the worst human rights violators to take up the cudgel and to accuse Israel of violating human rights.”

Netanyahu said the most pressing problem Israel faces now is Hezbollah and Syria.

Referring to Security Council Resolution 1701, which set the terms for the end of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Netanyahu said the UN was mandated with preventing weapons shipments to Hezbollah, but that UNIFIL has not even reported one of the “tens of thousands of weapons smuggling into Lebanon for Hezbollah, contrary to 1701.”

Guterres responded: “I will do everything in my capacity to make sure that UNIFIL fully meets its mandate.”

UNIFIL’s mandate is up for renewal next week, and both Israel and the US are pressing for its mandate to be strengthened in order to more effectively combat or at least report on Hezbollah’s weapons build-up.

France, on the other hand, has raised its voice against changing the mandate.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley took UNIFIL Irish commander Maj.-Gen. Michael Beary to task on Friday.

“Gen. Beary says there are no Hezbollah weapons,” she said. “That’s an embarrassing lack of understanding on what’s going on around him.”

In addition to meeting Rivlin and Netanyahu, Guterres also met with Liberman, and the Zionist Union delegation that included Gabbay, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and MK Tzipi Livni.

He also met with head of Military Intelligence, Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, and Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories.

In addition, Guterres met the families of the Israelis held by Hamas in Gaza, and was urged throughout the day to use his influence to bring about their release. Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called the meeting “emotional.”

Guterres is scheduled to go to Gaza on Wednesday, but will not be meeting any Hamas representatives there.

On Tuesday he will go to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian Authority leaders.

Soon after arriving Sunday evening, Guterres met with US negotiator Jason Greenblatt and discussed the diplomatic process as will as the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Guterres began the day Monday with a visit to Yad Vashem, which he said serves as a reminder “that we need to be in the first line of fighting against antisemitism and also fighting against all other forms of bigotry, be it racism, xenophobia or even anti-Muslim hatred, and to promote understanding and to promote dialogue.”

After his visit to Yad Vashem, Guterres – a former Portuguese prime minister – planted an olive tree in the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem forest.

Guterres’s maternal family name is Oliveira, which means “olive tree” in Portuguese. He said during the ceremony that when he was born, his grandfather planted an olive tree in his honor. “That tree remains standing, meaning we have many things in common,” he said.

In the late afternoon, Guterres joined Netanyahu at the Israel Museum to see an exhibition on Israeli innovation.


UN chief: Syria probe must continue despite prosecutor’s resignation

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday said a UN commission probing war crimes in Syria should continue its work, despite the resignation of prosecutor Carla Del Ponte from the panel.

Del Ponte quit in protest at the lack of followup action from the UN Security Council to a dozen reports it has produced on serious human rights abuses and war crimes during the six-year conflict.

Guterres regrets Del Ponte’s decision to resign, but stresses the “importance of accountability for crimes against civilians during the conflict,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

“He supports the continued work of the commission as an important and integral part of the accountability process,” he added.

Del Ponte had been working on the commission since September 2012.

The 70-year-old Swiss national has also worked to uncover war crimes in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia.

This file photo taken on March 17, 2015, shows member of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Carla del Ponte, attending a press conference in Geneva. (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Established by the UN Human Rights Council, the commission is tasked with reporting on serious rights violations and war crimes in Syria, where more than 330,000 people been killed since the start of the war in March 2011.

The commission has repeatedly urged the Security Council to ask the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in Syria.

A bid by the council in 2014 to refer Syria to the ICC was blocked by China and Russia, Syria’s ally.

“I cannot remain on this commission that does absolutely nothing,” Del Ponte told the Swiss newspaper Blick, accusing members of the Security Council “of not wanting to establish justice.”

“At first, there was good and bad — the opposition on the side of good and the government in the bad role,” she said.

Today, “everyone in Syria is on the bad side. The (Bashar) Assad government has perpetrated horrible crimes against humanity and used chemical weapons. And the opposition is now made up of extremists and terrorists.”

She added that she had never seen such crimes committed elsewhere, not in the former Yugoslavia or Rwanda.

Frustrated by the Security Council’s inaction on Syria, the UN General Assembly last year set up an international panel to help collect evidence to be used in future cases of war crimes prosecution.

Catherine Marchi-Uhel, a French judge who has tried international cases in Kosovo, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia, is to begin work as the head of the new panel in Geneva on Tuesday.

UN chief: Denial of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism (LOL….)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told officials from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that “denial of Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitism,” the organization said.

Guterres told senior members of the NGO at his offices at UN headquarters in New York that he rejects campaigns to erase Jewish history in the Holy Land. “History must be respected. Jerusalem is a holy city for three religions,” Guterres said, according to a press release on the meeting issued by the center on Tuesday.

The UN’s cultural organization UNESCO recently passed several resolutions that ignored Jewish ties to Jerusalem. Guterres has spoken out against that characterization in the past.

Guterres and the heads of the Jewish human rights group discussed various issues including challenges to achieving Mideast peace, global terrorism, the UN’s role in countering anti-Semitism in Europe, and Israel’s treatment by UN agencies.

Rabbi Marvin Hier speaking at the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s 2015 National Tribute Dinner in Beverly Hills, Calif., March 24, 2015. (JTA/Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the center, called on Guterres to move to declare terrorism a crime against humanity.

“There needs to be real consequences for perpetrators and supporters of terrorist acts like the recent suicide bombing carnage at a concert in Manchester,” Hier said. “England and the UN must declare that this scourge is a crime against humanity.”

Guterres said he would seek to reform UN agencies to better deal with the issue, acknowledging that the current model of 38 separate entities working on the matter was inefficient.

Hier added that the terror group Hamas, with its genocidal charter and terrorist activities, was a central roadblock to peace progress. Guterres admitted that the UN had been used by Hamas in Gaza to a certain extent and expressed his “very strong commitment to not allowing UNWRA to be instrumentalized” by the group. Hamas had “succeeded in leveraging the UN in Gaza,” the Center quoted Guterres as saying.

“We are profoundly impressed by the scope of Secretary-General Guterres’s knowledge and interest on issues that impact world Jewry directly,” Hier said later. “As an NGO at the UN and UNESCO, the Wiesenthal Center is committed to support the Secretary-General’s efforts to ensure that all members, including the Jewish state, be treated as equals.”

UN Secretary General Guterres (center) with (L to R) Rabbi Meyer May (Executive Director of the Sjimon Wiesenthal Center), Rabbi Marvin Heir (Dean), Rabbi Abraham Cooper (Associate Dean) and Mark Weitzman (Director of Government Affairs and Chief Representative to the United Nations). (Courtesy)

On Sunday the UN said it had withdrawn support for a West Bank Palestinian women’s center named for a notorious terrorist, saying the move was “offensive” and glorified terrorism.

“The United Nations disassociated itself from the Center once it learned the offensive name chosen for it and will take measures to ensure that such incidents do not take place in the future,” said a statement from Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres.

The center was named after Dalal Mughrabi, who took part in the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre. Mughrabi and several other Fatah terrorists landed on a beach near Tel Aviv, hijacked a bus on Israel’s Coastal Road and killed 38 civilians, 13 of them children, and wounded over 70.

“The glorification of terrorism, or the perpetrators of heinous terrorist acts, is unacceptable under any circumstances,” the UN statement said. “The UN has repeatedly called for an end to incitement to violence and hatred as they present one of the obstacles to peace.”

“The United Nations support to this community ended last year and it has asked for the logo of UN Women to be removed immediately. Furthermore, the inauguration of the Center took place after the UN’s association with it,” the statement said.

The UN move came two days after Norway’s foreign minister condemned the PA for naming the center after Mughrabi, demanding the country’s name be removed from the building and that the funds Norway donated for its construction be returned.

Arabs protest to UN chief about withdrawal of Israel ‘apartheid’ report

UNITED NATIONS — An Arab delegation met with the UN secretary-general Wednesday to protest what Palestinian Authority Ambassador Riyad Mansour called the “bullying tactics and intimidation” that led to UN withdrawal of a report that accused Israel of establishing an “apartheid regime.”

Mansour said the meeting with UN chief Antonio Guterres “was not a pleasant experience for all of us,” following the secretary-general’s order to remove the report from the UN website and the resignation of senior UN official Rima Khalaf after she refused to withdraw it.

The report was swiftly condemned by US and Israeli officials, who reportedly called on the UN to reject it. Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it had been published without any prior consultations and did not reflect his views.

Mansour said he and the ambassadors of Oman and Iraq delivered a message to Guterres during what he also called a “very frank but warm discussion about a painful subject to all of us.”

“We care about the UN and the secretary-general, and we do not accept methods that are not in the culture of the United Nations,” Mansour said. “You know by that what I mean — some people who are trying to inject bullying tactics and intimidation.”

He stressed that “it is our collective responsibility to do everything we can to defend the UN and what it stands for.”

Mansour wouldn’t say who was doing the “bullying,” telling reporters: “You know who I mean.”

Khalaf, a UN undersecretary-general who headed the Beirut-based UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, resigned Friday after refusing Guterres’s request to take the report off its website.

Its authors concluded that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that systematically institutionalizes racial oppression and domination of the Palestinian people as a whole.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech during a press conference in Istanbul, February 10, 2017. (AFP/OZAN KOSE)

The Beirut-based commission slammed Israel’s Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country,” as a policy of “demographic engineering” meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.

The resignation of Khalaf, a Jordanian, and the removal of the report were welcomed by Israel and the United States, Israel’s closest ally.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement: “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the UN, it is appropriate that the person resign. UN agencies must do a better job of eliminating false and biased work, and I applaud the secretary-general’s decision to distance his good office from it.”

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks to reporters after a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, Thursday, February 16, 2017 at UN headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

But Palestinians praised the report’s findings and expressed regret that it was taken off the website.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas informed Khalaf by phone that she would receive the Palestine Medal of the Highest Honor in recognition of her “courage and support” for the Palestinian people, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Sunday.

Mansour said even though the report had been taken off the UN website “I think it is in the hands of maybe hundreds of thousands of people anyway” because of publicity about its withdrawal.”

“Many people who were not even interested in the report are now interested and asking for copies, and it is provided to them,” he said.

Over the weekend, Palestinian leaders condemned the UN for scrapping the ESCWA report, and accused Guterres of giving in to politically motivated intimidation.

“Instead of succumbing to political blackmail or allowing itself to be censured or intimidated by external parties, the UN should condemn the acts described in the report and hold Israel responsible,” PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said on Saturday according to the Wafa news agency.

Israel’s UN envoy Danny Danon welcomed Guterres’s actions and Khalaf’s resignation.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)

Danon said Guterres’s move was “an important step in stopping discrimination against Israel.” In a statement, Danon said “Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN. It is time to put an end to practice in which UN officials use their position to advance their anti-Israel agenda.” He added that “over the years Khalaf has worked to harm Israel and advocate for the BDS movement. Her removal from the UN is long overdue.”

The report was compiled by Richard Falk, a Princeton professor emeritus with a long track record of vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric, who previously was the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine, and by Virginia Tilley, an American political scientist who authored the book “The One-State Solution,” in 2005.

Haley described Falk as “a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories.”

UN chief orders report accusing Israel of ‘apartheid’ pulled from web

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requested the removal of a report accusing Israel of apartheid from the website of the UN body that published it, Reuters reported Friday, citing an unnamed official in the international body.

Guterres had previously distanced himself from the report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), which is comprised of 18 Arab countries.

The report was still available online Friday morning US-time, but was later removed.

The United States on Wednesday had demanded that the report be withdrawn altogether.

“The United States is outraged by the report,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement. “The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

Based in Beirut, ESCWA lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.

“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” said Haley.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres shaking hands with new US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the United Nations in New York, January 27, 2017. (AFP/Bryan R. Smith)

Haley has accused the United Nations of being biased against Israel and has vowed as President Donald Trump’s envoy to staunchly defend Israel at the world body.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric has said “the report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general” and was done without consultations with the UN secretariat.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon slammed the commission on Wednesday for releasing the report which accuses Israel of establishing “an apartheid regime that oppresses and dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”

Danon said the “attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie.”

Rima Khalaf (YouTube Screen Shot)

“It comes as no surprise that an organization headed by an individual who has called for boycotts against Israel, and compared our democracy to the most terrible regimes of the twentieth century, would publish such a report. We call on the Secretary-General to disassociate the UN from this biased and deceitful report,” he said in reference to ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian national.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, speaks to the UN Security Council after it passed an anti-settlement resolution, December 23, 2016 (UN Screenshot)

The report published Wednesday, titled “Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid,” says that “available evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid as legally defined in instruments of international law.”

The Beirut-based commission slammed Israel’s Law of Return, “conferring on Jews worldwide the right to enter Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship regardless of their countries of origin and whether or not they can show links to Israel-Palestine, while withholding any comparable right from Palestinians, including those with documented ancestral homes in the country,” as a policy of “demographic engineering” meant to uphold Israel’s status as the Jewish state.

The report further accuses Israel of “practices” that have fragmented Palestinians, arguing that it is the “principal method by which Israel imposes an apartheid regime.”

“This fragmentation operates to stabilize the Israeli regime of racial domination over the Palestinians and to weaken the will and capacity of the Palestinian people to mount a unified and effective resistance,” the report reads.

Richard Falk (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi/File)

The report was compiled by Richard Falk, a Princeton professor emeritus with a long track record of vehemently anti-Israel rhetoric who previously was the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Palestine, and by Virginia Tilley, an American political scientist who authored the book “The One-State Solution” in 2005.

Haley described Falk as “a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories.”





A network of humanitarian organizations urged the United Nations to add the IDF to the blacklist of countries and armed groups responsible for grave violations against children.

Formed in 2001, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict released its annual report ahead of the release of the United Nations’ annual report on children and armed conflict.

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The United Nations’ report, which contains the blacklist, is usually released in May or June.

Watchlist recommended that 11 parties be added to the blacklist, and that United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres collect further information on several others, including on the Popular Front of the Liberation of Palestine and the armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam, to determine whether or not they should be included in next year’s report.

The network’s explanation focused on the 2014 Operation Protective Edge, fought between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, stating that “attacks in Gaza have not ceased.”

The IDF was kept off the list in 2015 after lobbying by the US and Israel.

The section on Israeli offenses is nine pages long, while the sections on PFLP and Izzadin Kassam are one and three paragraphs long, respectively.

“In his 2016 annual report on children and armed conflict covering the period of January 1 to December 31, 2015, the secretary-general reported that 27 Palestinian children (23 boys and 4 girls) were killed in the West Bank, almost double the number killed in 2014,” the report said, adding that “the number of injuries to Palestinian children also increased, mostly due to clashes with Israeli forces and military-led operations.”

The report does not give the context of the recent wave of violence, where there were frequent stabbing, ramming and shooting attacks over the past two years, stating only that the “upsurge in violence” killed 32 Israelis and left 356 seriously wounded.

According to Watchlist, it has recommended listing the IDF since 2005 for “killing and maiming children and attacking schools and hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank.”

“The new secretary-general has an opportunity to send a clear message to all member states that a party to conflict is listed for one reason alone – a pattern of documented, United Nations-verified evidence of grave violations against children,” Dragica Mikavica, advocacy officer for the organization said.

“The secretary-general must use his unique voice to preserve the integrity of the Children and Armed Conflict agenda by publishing a complete and accurate list of parties to conflict that commit grave child rights violations,” she added.

They also recommended listing the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, armed opposition groups in southern Thailand for perpetrating attacks on schools and hospitals, India’s Communist Party/Maoist for recruiting and using children, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces for killing and maiming children and attacking schools and hospitals in Yemen.

According to the network’s statement, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen was taken off last year’s list by then-secretary-general Ban Ki-moon after the Saudis and their supporters threatened to withdraw hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to United Nations programs if they were not removed, “despite United Nations documentation of hundreds of child deaths in Yemen from Saudi Arabia-led coalition air strikes.”

Watchlist also urged the United Nations to collect further information on groups in Afghanistan, Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Syria (including the international coalition against the Islamic State), Philippines, Burundi and Ukraine for possible inclusion in next year’s report.

Top Jewish leader praises outgoing UN chief for admitting UN anti-Israel bias


World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder praised outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for publicly admitting that there is an anti-Israel bias at the international body.

Lauder in a statement issued on Monday welcomed the “long-awaited and impactful” pronouncement by Ban during his final address to the body on Friday, but criticized him for not calling out the bias over the course of his nearly 10-year term.


“Decades of political maneuverings have created a disproportionate volume of resolutions, reports and conferences criticizing Israel,” Ban said in his address on Friday to the UN Security Council. “In many cases, rather than helping the Palestinian cause, this reality has hampered the ability of the UN to fulfill its role effectively.”

Ban said that he decided to speak about Israel and the Palestinians for his last address because: “While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of the wars in the Middle East, its resolution can create momentum for peace throughout the region.”

He reiterated that the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza have been “under military occupation” since 1967.

“Palestinian frustration and grievances are growing under the weight of nearly half a century of humiliating occupation,” Ban said. “Leaders on both sides increasingly speak to their ever-more radicalized constituencies, rather than to each other.”

He called on Israeli lawmakers to withdraw the controversial bill that would legalize Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank.

Lauder in his statement said that Ban’s term “has been replete with some of the most shocking and anti-Israel resolutions of our time, including repeated Human Rights Council decisions singling out Israel for crimes against humanity, while ignoring the fate of nationals in other parts of the world whose lives are constantly at risk due to the horror and terror of extremists in their midst, as well as UNESCO decisions that blatantly and aggressively deny Israel of its historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem and accuse Israel of aggression in its sovereign capacity. We believe that criticism of Israel can be sounded when due, but many of the resolutions of the last few years have been so clearly biased and damaging to Israel.”

While Lauder praised Ban’s final speech, he added: “It was incumbent upon Sec. Gen. Ban to issue statements such as these over the course of his near decade-long tenure, but it is encouraging to hear now, even in his waning hours in office, and we very much hope that the message will be absorbed by the bodies operating under the UN in the years to come.

Ban’s term is over at the end of the month. The new UN Secretary-General has been named as former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

UN chief: 130 million need assistance to survive

A record 130 million people depend on assistance to survive, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Friday, a staggering number that would comprise the tenth most populous nation on earth.

At an event in the UN General Assembly to mark World Humanitarian Day, “Arab Idol” winner Mohammed Assaf, Actress Natalie Dormer of “Game of Thrones” fame, “The Voice” winner Alisan Porter and former “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. joined hundreds of diplomats and guests to support stepped up global efforts to alleviate global suffering.

The General Assembly established World Humanitarian Day in 2008 to honor humanitarian aid workers who have been killed or injured in the course of their work. August 19 was chosen because it is the anniversary of 2003 bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad which killed 22 staff members including top UN envoy to Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said it is a day to remember sacrifices and courageous actions, to celebrate “our common humanity,” and to pay tribute to the thousands of humanitarian workers around the world “who risk their lives to deliver life-saving aid to people in need on the front lines of crisis and utter despair.”

Last year, Eliason said, 109 aid workers were killed, 110 were wounded and 68 were kidnapped, most in Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said “in crises around the world, from Syria to South Sudan, people are forced to make impossible choices — risking violence for food or risking drowning in search of a safe haven — choices that most of us can barely imagine.”

He urged people around the world “to show solidarity, use their voice and demand that world leaders take action.”

UN chief: Walls won’t solve Europe’s migrant crisis

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Friday building barriers won’t solve the migrant crisis in Europe.

The United Nations secretary-general told German daily Bild in an interview that “building walls, discriminating against people or sending them back is no answer to the problem.”

Ban praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “human political leadership” in dealing with the migrant crisis and urged other politicians to follow her example.

Turkish premier Ahmet Davutoglu warned EU leaders ahead of crunch talks Friday that Ankara’s offer to curb the refugee flow to Europe was strictly a humanitarian rather than a “bargaining” issue.

“For Turkey, the refugee issue is not an issue of bargaining but an issue of values, humanitarian values as well as European values,” Davutoglu said as he arrived for a summit in Brussels with the bloc’s 28 national leaders.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu speaks during a meeting with foreign media at the prime minister's office in Istanbul, December 9, 2015. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

“EU and Turkey we have the same goal, the same objective to help Syrian refugees especially and also to have a new future in our continent in a bright manner,” the premier said ahead of an initial meeting with EU Council President Donald Tusk.

European Union leaders agreed late Thursday on what was described as a common position but gave no new detail about the proposals, including a key provision that Turkey provide human rights guarantees for the migrants it takes back from Greece.

Europe is counting on the agreement to curb an unprecedented wave of migrants, 1.2 million of whom have arrived since the start of 2015, fueled by the war in Syria, but Turkey has made clear it will exact a heavy price for its consent.

Despite concerns in many EU states about Ankara’s rights record, it has demanded an acceleration of its long-stalled bid for EU membership, billions of euros in extra aid and visa-free travel.

Critics have also raised concerns that the deal could violate international law that forbids the mass deportation of refugees.

The migrant crisis has left Europe increasingly divided, with fears that its Schengen passport-free zone could collapse as states reintroduce border controls and concerns over the rise of populist parties on anti-immigration sentiment.

Some European leaders voiced concerns that the deal — under which the EU would take in one Syrian refugee from Turkish soil in exchange for every Syrian taken back by Turkey from Greece — would be illegal.

An EU-Turkey draft statement obtained by AFP refers to “Turkey’s commitment that migrants returned to Turkey will be protected in accordance with international standards.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech during a regional meeting of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on January 30, 2016 in Neubrandenburg, northeastern Germany. (AFP / dpa / Bernd SETTNIK)

The aim of the “one-for-one” deal is to encourage Syrians to apply for asylum in the EU while they are still on Turkish soil, instead of taking dangerous smugglers’ boats across the Aegean Sea.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Thursday the plan was “very complicated, will be very difficult to implement and is on the edge of international law”.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel voiced concerns over Turkey’s rights record and its conflict with Kurdish separatists, adding: “I can’t accept negotiations which sometimes look like they are a form of blackmail.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the deal was a “good opportunity to stop the business of human traffickers.”

Merkel however insisted on “preconditions” and clear plans to deal with the logistics of processing thousands of asylum seekers on the Greek islands and sending them back to Turkey.

A senior EU official described the proposal Tusk would present to Davutoglu as a “common position” that took into consideration “everyone’s red lines” for the negotiations.

Late on Thursday, Tusk presented changes to the deal to address some of the concerns — including the involvement of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in any returns and that women and children should form the bulk of those taken under the scheme — steering it towards a consensus.

As he boarded a plane in Ankara for Brussels on Thursday, Davutoglu said the proposed deal was “clear and honest” but added: “Turkey will never become an open prison for migrants.”

Besides Tusk, Davutoglu was meeting European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country holds the six-month EU rotating presidency, before EU leaders meet again for final consultations expected at 1200 GMT, EU officials said.

One major hurdle that appeared to have been overcome was opposition from Cyprus, rooted in long-standing tensions with Turkey over Ankara’s refusal to recognise its government on the divided island.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades indicated he could be ready to “compromise” on his objections to the EU opening new “chapters” in Turkey’s accession process, after earlier threatening to block the entire deal.

The deal also envisages major aid for Greece, where tens of thousands of refugees are trapped in dire conditions after Balkan countries shut their borders to stop them heading north to richer Germany and Scandinavia.

UN chief heckled at NY synagogue during Holocaust speech

UN Director General Ban Ki-moon was met with jeers and heckling Saturday at the Park East Synagogue in New York, where he delivered an address in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Congregants at the Manhattan synagogue accused the UN chief of justifying terror, with some saying his comments attributing a wave of near-daily Palestinian attacks to “frustration” was like rationalizing the 9/11 attacks, the Walla news site reported.

Two weeks ago, Ban’s comments — that “it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as a potent incubator of hate and extremism” — drew a furious response from Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused him of “stoking terror.” The UN has “lost its neutrality and its moral force, and these statements by the secretary-general do nothing to improve its situation,” he said in an angry video statement.

Ban subsequently reiterated his harsh criticism of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, but stressed that his words under no circumstances amounted to a justification for terror attacks.

Ban did not mention Israel in his speech on Saturday.

“The Holocaust was a colossal crime. Six million Jews were systematically rounded up and murdered. Millions of others were killed alongside them — prisoners of war, political dissidents, members of minority groups, such as Roma and Sinti, homosexuals and persons with disabilities,” he said.

“Today, I am deeply disturbed by the massacres in South Sudan, by the continued carnage in Syria, and by the atrocities being inflicted by Daesh and Boko Haram,” Ban continued. “In today’s climate of growing global fear and alienation, we must not lose sight of the fundamental truth that all humans are born with inalienable rights, dignity and worth.”

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