China says U.N. council members think India, Pakistan should refrain from unilateral action in Kashmir

U.N. Security Council members believe India and Pakistan should refrain from taking unilateral action over the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, China’s U.N. envoy said on Friday after the council met on the issue for the first time in decades. The 15-member council met behind closed doors at the request of China and Pakistan after India removed the decades-old autonomy the Muslim-majority territory of Jammu and Kashmir enjoyed under the Indian constitution. China rarely requests Security Council meetings. India’s U.N. Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said the decision was an internal matter and that the country was committed to ensuring the situation remained “calm and peaceful.” China proposed that the Security Council issue a statement on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, but diplomats said the United States, France and Germany objected. Such statements are agreed by consensus. China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun summed up the council discussions, describing serious concern over the situation. No other Security Council members spoke publicly after the meeting. “They are also concerned about the human rights situation there and also it’s the general view of members that parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might further aggravate the tension there since the tension is already very tense and very dangerous,” Zhang said. Akbaruddin accused Zhang of trying to pass off his remarks as “the will of the international community.” In response to a question about human rights, Akbaruddin said: “If there are issues, they will be discussed, they will be addressed by our courts; we don’t need international busybodies to try and tell us how to run our lives. We are a billion-plus people.” The Himalayan region has long been a flashpoint in ties between India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear arms. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on the two countries to refrain from any steps that could affect Jammu and Kashmir’s special status. Telephone and internet links were cut and public assembly banned just before India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. The top state official said authorities would begin restoring some telephone lines in the region on Friday night. Zhang said “it’s obvious that the constitutional amendment by India has changed the status quo in Kashmir, causing tensions in the region” and called for the issue to be resolved through peaceful means according to the U.N. Charter, Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreements. Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi described her country’s push for Friday’s Security Council meeting as “the first and not the last step.” She said it was the first time in more than 50 years that the council had taken up the issue. “The fact that this meeting took place is testimony to the fact that this is an internationally recognised dispute,” she told reporters. “The people of Jammu and Kashmir may be locked up … but their voices were heard today at the United Nations.” The Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of mostly Muslim Kashmir. Another resolution also calls upon both sides to “refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.” U.N. peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a ceasefire between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. U.S. congresswoman Rashida Tlaib on Friday rejected an offer by Israel to let her travel to the West Bank, the latest twist in a dispute drawing Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu together against U.S. Democrats ahead of elections in both countries. Tlaib, a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives who has been critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, said she would not visit her family there because the Israeli government had imposed “oppressive conditions” to humiliate her. She had planned to make an official visit to Israel along with fellow Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under public pressure from Republican President Trump, on Thursday said he would not allow the pair to make their trip. On Friday, Israel said it would allow Tlaib to visit family in the Israel-occupied West Bank on humanitarian grounds. Israeli interior minister says U.S. Congresswoman Tlaib’s visit request was provocation to embarrass Israel U.S.’s Tlaib will not visit West Bank under Israel’s ‘oppressive conditions’ The Michigan congresswoman rejected the offer, however. “I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my city to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” Tlaib tweeted, using the word city to refer to her grandmother. “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in—fighting against racism, oppression & injustice,” she said. Israel’s Interior Ministry said it had received a letter from Tlaib on Thursday seeking permission to visit her family in the West Bank village of Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, and it granted her request. Tlaib did not outline what the conditions imposed on her visit were. Israeli media reported that she had agreed not to promote boycotts against Israel as part of her request to Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Trump criticized Tlaib for opting not to travel to Israel after she was permitted to visit only her grandmother. “As soon as she was granted permission, she grandstanded & loudly proclaimed she would not visit Israel,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Friday evening. “Could this possibly have been a setup? Israel acted appropriately!” Tlaib and Omar have voiced support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which opposes the Israeli occupation and policies toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. BDS backers can be denied entry to Israel by law. Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who approved Tlaib’s visit request, blasted her decision not to come. U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (R) stands with supporter Bridget Huff during a ‘Shabbat in the Park’ in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. August 16, 2019. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook “It turns out that it was a provocation to embarrass Israel. Her hatred for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother,” he wrote on Twitter. BAN OUTCRY The initial ban sparked an outcry among Democrats in the U.S. Congress, who have largely been strong supporters of Israel, raising concerns about straining the two nations’ relationship as Netanyahu aligns himself ever more closely with Trump. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have strongly backed U.S. aid to Israel, which totals $3.8 billion annually, but both called on Israel to reverse the ban on their fellow Democrats on Thursday. U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer, the second-most powerful Democrat in the House, said Israel’s demands for Tlaib to visit her grandmother were unacceptable. “Not only was this request disrespectful of Rep. Tlaib but of the United States Congress as well,” Hoyer said in a statement on Friday. “This matter is a self-inflicted wound by one of America’s closest allies, one of our closest friends, and a vibrant democracy.” The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful Jewish lobbying group, said while it did not support the two congresswomen’s views, they should be allowed to visit. Most Republicans in Congress have largely remained silent about the dispute. The fact that lawmakers are on a month-long recess has allowed them to avoid pointed questions. Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was critical of Israel’s move but also of the two congresswomen. “… Denying them entry into #Israel is a mistake,” Rubio wrote on Twitter. “Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state.” Slideshow (7 Images) Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress, and the Detroit-born Tlaib is also the first Palestinian-American congresswoman. Both are members of their party’s progressive wing and sharp critics of Trump and Israeli policy. Their official visit was to have included visits to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians envisage as part of an independent state along with Gaza. The moves by Trump and Netanyahu could help them whip up support in their conservative voter bases as each heads into election campaigns. Israel holds a national election on Sept. 17 and Trump faces re-election in November 2020. Trump has been attacking Tlaib and Omar, along with lawmakers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts – all women of colour known as the Squad – for weeks, accusing them of hostility to Israel in a barrage condemned by critics as racist. While most Democrats disagree with the views of Tlaib and Omar on Israel, Trump’s repeated attacks have rallied support. The president in turn has tried to paint that support as an endorsement of the two lawmakers’ position and sought to make them the face of the party. Tlaib and Omar represent districts in states Trump is aiming to win in his 2020 re-election campaign: Michigan, which he narrowly won in 2016, and Minnesota, which he narrowly lost. Tlaib “knows what she’s doing and she believes so strongly in justice in Palestine that she’s giving up her chance to see her grandmother,” says Frank Smith, 65, a retired auto worker in Detroit. “She must be doing something right because she’s driving Trump nuts.”  

2019-08-19 | News | English |