Turkey applies to UN to register maritime pact with Libya

By Tugrul Cam

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey has applied to the UN to register the pact signed with Libya that sets out the countries’ maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara applied to the body to register the memorandum on Wednesday, said diplomatic sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media

According to Article 102 of the UN Charter: “Every treaty and every international agreement entered into by any Member of the United Nations … shall as soon as possible be registered with the Secretariat and published by it."

The pact with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) was signed on Nov. 27 and passed by Turkey's parliament on Dec. 5.

It went into effect as of Dec. 8 after the two countries published it in their respective official gazettes.

The memorandum setting both countries' marine jurisdictions rejects unilateral and illegal activities by other regional countries and international firms and aims to protect the rights of both countries.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mediterranean region is estimated to hold millions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic meters of natural gas worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Turkey has urged regional countries to take an equality-based approach to these resources, but its calls have largely fallen on deaf ears.

Ankara continues its drilling and discovery operations in the region under the protection of the country's navy.

Since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya to which military commander Khalifa Haftar is affiliated and the Government of National Accord, which enjoys UN recognition.

Alaturka Gazetesi

UN demands urgent action against hunger in Asia-Pacific

By Zehra Nur Duz

ANKARA (AA) – Nearly half-a-billion of the world’s undernourished people live in the Asia-Pacific region, UN agencies said on Wednesday.

“Three million undernourished people in Asia and the Pacific must be lifted out of hunger each month from now on, if the region is to meet the Sustainable Development 2 Zero Hunger goal by the end of 2030,” said a report by UN.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released on Wednesday a report — titled Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition.

It called for urgent actions to tackle hunger and malnutrition, and to put nutrition at the center of social protection programs.

The report released latest figures on hunger, child undernutrition, overweight, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies.

"The prevalence of stunting and wasting in the region remains high, with stunting rates exceeding 20 percent in a majority of the region's countries," it said.

An estimated 77.2 million children under five years of age were stunted in 2018, and 32.5 million suffered from wasting, according to the report.

The UN agencies expressed hope that these findings released by the report will guide member countries to take “innovative and effective actions” for food security and nutrition across the region.

Alaturka Gazetesi

Pakistani premier urges UN action on Kashmir

By Aamir Latif

KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – Reiterating Islamabad's demand for international intervention in Indian-administered Kashmir, Pakistani prime minister on Tuesday appealed to the "world's conscience" to act against the "illegal annexation" of the valley with New Delhi.

On the World Human Rights Day, Khan condemned the "gross" human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, especially after New Delhi's controversial revocation of the valley's long-standing special rights last August, which sparked worldwide criticism.

Human Rights Day has been observed every year on Dec. 10 since 1948, when nations in the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"On Human Rights day we must appeal to the world's conscience, to upholders of international law & to the UNSC [UN Security Council] to act against the illegal annexation of IOJK [Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir] by the Indian Occupation govt.," Khan said on twitter.

Condemning the Indian government's "siege" of Kashmir, he demanded "an end to the gross abuse & atrocities being inflicted on Kashmiri men, women & children by Indian Occupation forces in violation of all Int Humanitarian & Human Rights Laws."

"We salute & stand resolutely with the brave Kashmiris struggling for their right of self determination," Khan added.

Meanwhile, the day is being observed as a "black day" by several groups in the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir, against New Delhi's controversial move.

Long-fraught ties between the two nuclear rivals have plummeted to a new low following the India move of scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which is divided between the two neighbors in parts with both claiming it in full.

Many fear this step was an attempt to change the demography of the Muslim-majority state.

Since partition in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir, in addition to a three-week long Kargil skirmish in 1999.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

Alaturka Gazetesi

UPDATE – Uncertainty shrouds Syria constitutional talks


By Bayram Altug and Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – The Syrian Constitutional Committee's third round of meetings will need co-chairs representing the "Syria’s government and its opponents" to agree on the agenda, a UN spokesperson has said.

"For the Committee to carry out its work under the Rules of Procedure, agreed by the Government and the SNC (Syrian Negotiations Commission), the co-chairs have to agree and put forward their agenda,” the spokesperson for UN Special Representative for Syria Gerd Pedersen said.

"If that agenda can be agreed, then the committee can convene if that is convenient to both sides. The UN special envoy continues his consultations to facilitate the process," she said in an interview with Anadolu Agency.

The Constitutional Committee has co-chairs, Ahmad Kuzbari from the Bashar al-Assad regime and Hadi Albahra from the opposition chosen from among the committee's 150 members.

The committee's second round of talks on Nov. 25-29 in Geneva, Switzerland ended with the 45-member drafting committee failing to meet due to an uncompromising attitude of the Syrian regime's delegation.

Uncertainty remains as to when the third round of negotiations will begin.

After the first round of talks, which were deemed positive, opponents had reported that the third round would be held on Dec. 16.

But Fenton told reporters that the committee is unlikely to meet this month.

Turkey, Russia, and Iran had met 14 times in the Kazakhstan capital Nur Sultan.

Pedersen is likely to participate in talks in the Kazakhstan capital.

After the second unsuccessful round of talks in Geneva, Pedersen said: "We have just finished the second session of the Constitutional Committee. It was not possible to convene a small board of 45, because an agreement on agenda items could not be achieved."

He did not mention when the third round of the committee would begin.

The Syrian Constitutional Committee — comprising opposition, civil society, and regime members — began its work on Nov. 20 in Geneva with the UN facilitation.

The committee is mandated within the context of a UN-facilitated Geneva process, to prepare and draft for popular approval of constitutional reforms paving the way for a political settlement in Syria.

On Nov. 25, the Assad regime delegation left on the first day of the second round of talks.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and millions more displaced by the conflict.

Alaturka Gazetesi

UN rights chief alarmed at violations in Iran

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed alarm at the “continuing lack of transparency about casualties and the treatment” of some 7,000 detainees in Iran.

In a media briefing, Rupert Colville, UN rights office spokesman, said at least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested in 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces since mass protests broke out on Nov. 15.

“The high commissioner is extremely concerned about the conditions under which they are being held, including their physical treatment, violations of their right to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offenses that carry the death penalty,” said Colville.

He said the UN rights office has information suggesting that at least 208 people, including 13 women and 12 children, have been killed so far in the protests.

“There are also reports, which we have so far been unable to verify, suggesting more than twice that number were killed,” Colville added.

Bachelet said that with the high number of reported deaths, “it is essential the authorities act with far greater transparency.”

“They must undertake prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all violations that have taken place, including the killing of protesters and reported deaths and ill-treatment in custody,” she added.

The UN rights chief also said that those responsible for the deaths must be held accountable.

“There appear to be multiple violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified and is obliged to uphold,” said Bachelet.


Erosion, poor land practices greatest threats to soil

By Dilara Zengin and Tuba Sahin

ANKARA (AA) – Today, the world's soil suffers most from erosion and poor land use — the greatest threats to its productive top layer, according to a representative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

"Soil affects our everyday lives, from the food we eat and where we live to the natural functions and ecological services that it provides", FAO Turkey representative Viorel Gutu told Anadolu Agency.

Ahead of World Soil Day 2019 on Dec. 5, Gutu said the campaign, Stop soil erosion, Save our future, is envisaged to raise awareness on the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being.

This year's theme will address increasing challenges in soil management, and seek to promote soil health by encouraging governments, organizations, communities and individuals around the world to engage proactively in improving the well being of soil.

"Today, intensive agricultural practices and the over-application of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides lead to the leaching of essential nutrients and excessive amounts of salts or heavy metals in the soil, which can reduce or even prevent plant growth," said Gutu.

He highlighted that soil productivity could also fall when compressed by the weight of agricultural machinery or grazing livestock.

Pointing to the importance of soil for food security, Gutu noted an estimated 95% of food is directly or indirectly produced on the soil.

"Healthy soils supply the essential nutrients, water, oxygen and root support that our food-producing plants need to grow and flourish," he said.

He touched on the FAO's work in Turkey, saying that the first national strategy for sustainable soil management was developed by the country's agriculture and forestry minister and the UN body.

The ministry and FAO also performed together to establish a Safeguards Information System under a program for technical cooperation to help facilitate the positive effects of conservation efforts and minimize risks.

This was also one of the main contributions of the FAO to the development of a new "national agricultural strategy", he noted.

Under the first phase of a partnership program between the FAO and Turkey, the organization and ministry designed a soil carbon mapping project to collect and publish data on the physical and chemical properties of the various soils across the country.

The data, which utilized over 12,000 soil samples from 30 "agricultural basins", can be used to assess levels of land degradation, desertification or soil contamination in areas of interest and can be accessed online.


Record numbers to require humanitarian assistance: UN

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – One in every 45 people on the planet needs food, shelter, healthcare, emergency education, protection or other essential assistance, the UN said Wednesday in an annual report.

The Global Humanitarian Overview 2020 is based on needs in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and Yemen.

“In 2019, many more people needed assistance than a year ago. The reason is that because more people were affected by conflict and by climate change than we had thought,” UN Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said at the report’s launch in Geneva.

The UN said a record 168 million people worldwide would need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2020.

Lowcock also noted that armed conflicts are killing or maiming a record number of children.

"Climate change, conflict and economic instability are devastating millions of lives,” he said, noting that along with crumbling economies, they had pushed millions to the brink of survival.

At the same launch, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released its US$4.2 billion 2020 emergency appeal to reach 59 million children with life-saving support in 64 countries across the globe.

The five largest individual UNICEF appeals are for Syrian refugees and host communities in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey ($864.1 million); Yemen ($535 million); Syria ($294.8 million); the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($262.7 million); and South Sudan ($180.5 million).

UNICEF said it is the biggest request of donors yet, representing 3.5 times the funds requested in 2010.


Trial of Daesh fighters in home countries 'only option'

By Betul Yuruk

NEW YORK (AA) – The prosecution of foreign Daesh/ISIS fighters in their countries of origin is the “only option,” said a UN human rights expert, citing the lack of fair trials in the countries where they are being held.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency at UN headquarters, Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said there are currently no conditions in Iraq or Syria for the delivery of justice and fair trials cannot be guaranteed there.

“This is why, in my view, the only option at the moment is for the trials to be held elsewhere. The countries of origin of foreign fighters are the most logical places,” said Callamard, adding the region lacks a process that meets global standards for transitional justice.

“Of course, we could imagine an ad hoc tribunal and hybrid tribunal of an international nature. This is going to take a long time to put in place," she added.

Some 2,000 foreign fighters, including their spouses and children, are currently at camps in northeastern Syria, 800 of whom are believed to be from European countries.

Among them, Callamard said, are those who “had nothing to do with the fight, who may have been there as a companion, wife or husband of a fighter.”

She said those individuals should be checked and returned to their countries of origin.

“The orphans should be returned as a matter of priority,” said Callamard. “There is no reason why those orphans should still be left in camps in northeast Syria when their grandparents are expecting and asking for them back in their countries of origin.”

– Violation of rights

Turning to the stripping of foreign fighters’ citizenship by their home countries, Callamard called the move a violation of rights and international law.

“A large number of international obligations are being violated when foreign fighters are stripped of their nationalities,” she said.

Callamard said she has long advocated for returning foreign fighters to be held accountable and tried in their countries of origin, adding she is aware of the difficulties of prosecuting them in their home countries.

“I know it is not easy. I know there are many difficulties and many fears associated with that, including fears that they could use their return as a platform for further propaganda and radicalization,” she said. “I am fully aware of those problems.”

She said the international community should be prepared to build or strengthen democratic institutions to handle that challenge.

“There is no easy solution… Just because we are not living in the northeast of Syria, it is not going to go away…At some point, we have to confront it,” she concluded.

The U.S. has repeatedly called on European countries to take back their nationals who fought for Daesh/ISIS and prosecute them, but they have refused to do so.

*Servet Gunerigok in Washington contributed to the story

Alaturka Gazetesi

UN envoy to meet Turkish, Russian, Iranian foreign ministers

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) – The UN special envoy to Syria is set to meet in Geneva this week with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia, and Iran — the partners in the Astana peace process — on the eve of the first meeting of Syria’s new Constitutional Committee.

Geir Pedersen told a press conference he would meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Tuesday evening, before the committee’s inaugural meeting on Wednesday.

On Sept. 28 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the formation of a body to write a new constitution for Syria following more than eight years of war that have devastated the country and its people.

Pedersen said the official opening of the 150-strong Constitutional Committee meetings will take place at the UN’s Geneva office, calling it a “door opener for a broader political process.”

"The agreement to form the Constitutional Committee is the first political agreement between the Syrian government [Assad regime] and the opposition," he said.

"We are quite aware of the fact that the Constitutional Committee alone cannot solve the conflicts in Syria, it will not solve it. It can only be a step in the process.”

The committee is made up of 50 members of the Syrian regime, 50 opposition members, and 50 members of civil society.

Only UN officials and the Syrian people will be present at the launch of the committee, said Pedersen.

The committee will seek to gain consensus on issues, but if not would do this with 75% support, he added.

In 2017, the Astana peace process to end the Syrian conflict was spearheaded by Turkey, Russia, and Iran in Kazakh capital Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, and since then has seen over a dozen meetings.

Turkey has long pushed for the formation of a Constitutional Committee for Syria to find a political solution to the Syrian civil war, which has raged since 2011 and sent over 3.6 million refugees to Turkey, more than any other country in the world.

Alaturka Gazetesi

International scrutiny needed on Khashoggi: UN official

By Betul Yuruk

UNITED NATIONS (AA) – A UN rapporteur said on Sunday she was "disappointed" that the UN secretary-general did not demand a criminal investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"I am disappointed that he [Antonio Guterres] has not taken the opportunity that I provided him with to move us a little bit further in the road towards accountability," Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told Anadolu Agency at the UN headquarters in New York on Sunday.

"The Secretary General has not been very courageous, but […] the rest of the international community has not been particularly courageous either on that particular issue,” Callamard said.

"There has been a kind of coalition of the willing not to do anything," she added.

While noting that Turkey could have made a formal request to the secretary general, Callamard said: "It's an international issue not just a Turkey issue."

She stressed that a single country should not have to "stand up" to Saudi Arabia, saying other countries could have aligned themselves with Turkey and made a demand to the secretary general, but that none did.

"Everyone seems to be hiding behind each other," she added.

– Khashoggi killing not domestic matter of crime

Callamard highlighted that Saudi Arabia had declared very early that this was a "domestic matter" and that they would resist and refuse any kind of international scrutiny.

"The killing of Khashoggi was the least domestic killing that I can think of," said Callamard.

She underlined that the assassination took place outside Saudi Arabia and involved at least five or six violations of international law.

Stressing that there's nothing domestic about the killing, Callamard said international scrutiny was "absolutely required".

A Saudi hit squad killed and dismembered Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2, 2018. His body was never recovered.

In a report in May, Callamard had concluded it was a "deliberate, premeditated execution," and called for Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman to be investigated. Saudi officials describe the incident as a rogue operation that did not involve the prince.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz.