The Washington Free Beacon: Election of Syria, Venezuela to Leadership Posts on UN Committee Sparks Outrage
The Washington Free Beacon, an online news site that reports on public policy, government affairs and international security, reported on the hypocritical election of Syria and Venezuela to leadership positions on the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization, and B'nai B'rith International's outrage on the issue.
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A Jewish human rights group criticized the election of Syria and Venezuela to leadership posts on a United Nations committee focused on human rights, calling it evidence of the “hypocrisy of the U.N. system.”
B’nai B’rith International circulated a press release Friday expressing outrage after Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Rafael Darío Ramirez Carreño and Syria’s U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari were named to leadership positions on the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization.
“B’nai B’rith International is outraged at the election of Syria and Venezuela to key leadership positions on a committee focused on eliminating the ‘subjugation, domination, and exploitation’ of global populations,” the human rights group said.
“The Syrian regime denies the rights of its own people, year after year subjecting them to brutal conditions as it continues to unleash a war against its own population. Human rights violations in Venezuela are well-documented and abhorrent.”
“The election of these two nations, notorious and unrelenting human rights abusers, once again demonstrates the hypocrisy of the U.N. system,” the group said.
Carreño was elected chair of the committee during the opening of its 2016 session on Thursday. The committee also reelected Ja’afari as its rapporteur.
Ban Ki-Moon, the U.N. secretary-general, “commended” the leadership of the committee during the opening of its 2016 session on Thursday.
“I am pleased to send warm greetings to all participants at this session of the Special Committee on Decolonization. I commend the leadership of all those committed to bringing new energy to its work,” the secretary-general said in a statement.
U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based watchdog monitoring human rights at the United Nations, has also criticized the decision to elect Syria and Venezuela to leadership positions on the committee.
JBS News Update covered the B'nai B'rith International trip to Israel with several members of European Parliament. In the news report, JBS quoted President Gary P. Saltzman on the importance of the visit, saying: “This mission provided an informative and vital experience that permitted members of the European Parliament to recognize that Israel is a dynamic and diverse country with a thriving economy.”
Click below to watch. The story starts at the 3:13 mark.
The Jerusalem Post reports on a conference that B’nai B’rith International cosponsored with the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. At the event at Bar-llan University in Israel, leaders from both groups addressed strategic challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Click here to read the full story on JPost.com
The past month has been characterized by an unprecedented and noteworthy flurry of diplomatic activity between Jerusalem, Athens and Nicosia that suggests the emergence of a new geopolitical bloc in the region.
In late January, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon paid an official visit to Athens, hosted by his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos. (This was the second official visit of an Israeli defense minister. In late 2012, Ehud Barak visited Athens.) The same week, a government-to-government conference was held in Jerusalem between the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Tsipras arrived with a large delegation of 10 ministers. This was the second government-to-government meeting of the two countries (the first was held in October 2013 with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras), and the second visit of Tsipras to Israel within two months.
Greek Defense Minister Kammenos last week addressed a conference on “Strategic Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean” cosponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and B’nai B’rith International.
The following day, a trilateral summit was held in Nicosia with Netanyahu, Tsipras, and President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. The summit was followed by a significant joint declaration.
This sharp uptick of diplomatic activity is not taking place in a vacuum. Each participant has his own aims and calculations in mind, and in the background loom their countries’ respective relationships with Turkey.
Ya’alon’s visit to Greece serves to illustrate the intensive security and military relationship between Israel and Greece that began several years ago. This involves frequent joint air force exercises (with other countries occasionally participating), as well as joint maneuvers of the two navies. Israeli military planes have been forbidden to fly over Turkey ever since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, so they use Greek airspace on their flights to Europe and the United States instead. An Israeli military attaché has been stationed in Athens since the summer of 2014, and he is also accredited to Cyprus.
Strikingly, Ya’alon did not hesitate while in Athens to publicly accuse Turkey of supporting terrorism rather than fighting it, specifically alleging that Turkey buys oil from Islamic State. This statement, made at a press conference in the presence of Greek Defense Minister Kammenos, was no doubt music to Greek ears. Kammenos heads a small right-wing party, The Independent Greeks, which is a coalition partner of Prime Minister Tsipras. Kammenos, who visited Israel last July, will return to Israel this week.
Kammenos last week addressed a conference on “Strategic Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean” cosponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and B’nai B’rith International.
The Nicosia Summit, which Prime Minister Netanyahu characterized as historic, was the climax of these activities.
It was followed by a joint declaration that proclaimed the tripartite cooperation to be “non-exclusive.” In other words, the tripartite agreement is open to additional countries, such as Egypt and perhaps even Turkey. Hinting at Turkey, the leaders of Greece and Cyprus stressed that the pact “is not directed against any other party.”
The Turkish shadow hovered over all these activities. The media attention given to Israeli-Turkish negotiations toward rapprochement, and the strong American interest in that result, encouraged the Greeks and Cypriots to strengthen their cooperation with Israel. Despite claims by Greece that it has positive relations with Turkey and the negotiations between Greek and Turkish leaders in Cyprus, Turkey is still considered a potential enemy by both Athens and Nicosia. Compounding their historical animosity, the Greeks believe that Turkey purposely delivers to its shores hundreds of thousands of refugees in order to weaken it; and Cyprus has been partially occupied by Turkey since 1974.
The policy of Prime Minister Tsipras toward Israel is both impressive and surprising.
Tsipras, 41, heads the left-wing party Syriza, which has been very critical toward Israel in the past. But in the year since he first took office (he was elected twice, in two elections in 2015), Tsipras has demonstrated centrist policies in both domestic and foreign affairs.
The improvement in relations between Greece and Israel started in 2010 with socialist prime minister George Papandreou, continued in 2012 with conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras, and is being followed today by the leftist Tsipras. The Greek-Israeli relationship, which has flourished under a remarkable variety of political regimes, also enjoys broad support among the Greek public.
Ever since the dramatic upgrading of Greek-Israeli relations almost six years ago, Greece has been concerned that if Israel and Turkey normalize relations, Greece will pay a price. Israel has been consistent in its attempts, including at the recent meetings, to alleviate these concerns, stressing that its relationship with Greece is sound and will not be compromised by its contacts with Turkey.
For his part, Tsipras is trying to demonstrate that Greece has its own standing in the Eastern Mediterranean, even going so far as to announce his desire to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Cyprus obviously has its own fish to fry with Turkey, and is also interested in showing its independence in the region.
Israel has a strong defense and military relationship with Cyprus as well that started (surprisingly) during the tenure of communist president Demetris Christofias, and that continues at full speed under current conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades.
The US is inevitably involved in this complicated regional web. US Vice President Joe Biden visited Turkey recently, and also met Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos in late January. The White House officially announced that Biden telephoned Netanyahu in late January to discuss diplomatic efforts to reach a rapprochement agreement with Turkey, as well as the tripartite summit in Nicosia.
The Americans are interested in finding a solution to the Israeli-Turkish dispute, and they see Turkey as an important factor in resolving the Syrian crisis.
The joint statement published in Nicosia following the summit describes seven areas of cooperation: energy, tourism, research and technology, environment, water, immigration and the fight against terrorism. A trilateral committee is to be established, headed by the directors general of the three ministries of energy, to explore the possibility of erecting a pipeline that will transfer gas from Israel to Cyprus and Greece.
The three parties prefer to highlight energy cooperation rather than military ties, but there are more questions than answers regarding gas exports. Israel is uncertain how much gas it will eventually have, if it will be able to export it, to whom, or by what means. Talks with Greece and Cyprus about gas have been going on for several years without any real results. It is conceivable in principle to erect a pipeline connecting the three countries, but it would be very complicated from a technical standpoint, and would cost almost $ 10 billion dollars.
Complicating the issue further is the interest expressed by Turkish companies in Israeli gas. At this writing, the gas issue is still theoretical. It is impossible to predict how it will evolve, to whom Israel will decide to sell its surplus gas, or indeed if it will have any.
From an Israeli perspective, the recent developments with Greece and Cyprus constitute a win-win situation. The strengthening of ties with these countries creates a new geopolitical bloc that could, to some extent, stand up to Turkey.
This bloc has both military and political significance. Greece is ready right now to assist Israel within the European Union, as it proved recently when it led the opposition to labeling settlement products. This represents a sharp change in Greek policy within the EU. Cyprus almost automatically supports the Greek position, which gives the Greeks a double vote within EU institutions. Stronger Israeli relations with Greece and Cyprus may also serve to encourage Turkey to show more flexibility in negotiations regarding normalization of ties between Ankara and Jerusalem.
JBS News Update covers France’s announcement that it will recognize a “Palestinian State” if there is no progress soon in peace talks for a two-state solution. In the story a B'nai B'rith International statement is quoted in response saying, this move will “likely inhibit the pace of talks, rather than facilitate peace negotiations.”
JBS also highlights B’nai B’rith’s questioning of why the Palestinian Authority would partake in negotiations “when it knows already that it has French recognition? It suggests a baffling example of ‘backwards diplomacy.’”
Click below to watch starting at the 1:48 mark.
JBS News Update covered an arson attack that occurred at a temporary synagogue in the West Bank. Torah scrolls and prayer books were destroyed. B’nai B’rith International is quoted in the story stating the attack is “an outrageous act of hatred, intolerance and anti-Semitism.”
Click below to watch. The story starts at the 1:15 mark.
In the same segment JBS News Update included a story about a trip facilitated by B’nai B’rith International that led diplomats from around the globe posted at key agencies of the United Nations to Israel. B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman is quoted: “Nothing can dispel misunderstanding about Israel’s record as a dynamic, humane democracy in the face of adversity like actual exposure to the country, its leaders and people.”
You can click below to watch this story too. It starts at the 2:00 mark.
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