SPOKESMAN’S MORNING HEADLINES FOR THURSDAY, 24 AUGUST 2017

 TOPICS FOR URGENT ATTENTION

MYANMAR: Myanmar should respond to a crisis over its Muslim Rohingya community in a “calibrated” way without excessive force, a panel led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan said on Thursday, adding that radicalization was a danger if problems were not addressed. (Reuters) Myanmar must scrap restrictions on movement and citizenship for its persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority if it wants to avoid fuelling extremism and bring peace to Rakhine state, a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan said on Thursday. Rights groups hailed the report as a milestone for the Rohingya because the government of Aung San Suu Kyi has previously vowed to abide by its findings. (Al Jazeera)

Approximately 87,000 Undocumented Myanmar Nationals have so far entered Bangladesh following an outbreak of violence on October 9 last year in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. (Daily Star, Bangladesh)

ISRAEL/PALESTINE: The US-Israel relationship is “stronger than ever,” US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top advisor said Thursday in Tel Aviv at the top of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Trump “is very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in the area, and we really appreciate the commitment of the prime minister in engaging very thoughtfully and respectfully in the way the president has asked,” Kushner said. (Jerusalem Post)

The Palestinian Authority says the meeting with visiting US officials in Ramallah later today is “important and crucial,” according to Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the stagnated Israeli-Palestinian peace talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ahead of today’s meetings. (Wafa, Palestine)

White House adviser Jared Kushner leads a delegation to try to advance talks between Israelis and Palestinians, but the two sides are stuck over the basic question of statehood. (WSJ)

YEMEN: The UN is investigating reports of a Saudi-led air strike on a hotel near the Yemeni capital as the death toll rose to at least 41 people, including women and children. (Al Jazeera)

The two factions in Yemen whose war with a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has caused the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world today have fallen out with each other further complicating attempts to end the crisis (Times, London). Former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh rallied thousands of supporters in the capital Sanaa on Thursday in a show of force amid an unusual public rift within the alliance fighting a Saudi-led coalition for control of the country. (Reuters)

IRAQ: Iraqi forces made fresh gains on Wednesday in an offensive to dislodge Islamic State from the city of Tal Afar, a militant stronghold in the northwest of the country, the military said. (Reuters)

If Iraqi Kurds vote for independence next month, Iran and Turkey could launch an invasion, while Israel and the U.S. may be forced to sit on the sidelines to protect ties with Ankara. (Haaretz, Israel, analysis)

SYRIA: Thousands of civilians are currently stuck in Raqqa due to the offensive deployed by the US-led coalition in June, according to a report by Amnesty International. The human rights organization is calling for the creation of safe escape routes. (VRT NWS, Brussels)

Russia and Turkey have agreed to step up efforts to establish the fourth de-escalation zone in Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported on Wednesday following consultations between Russian Presidential Envoy for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal. (RIA Novosti, Russia)

IRAN: Iran could be in a position to create highly enriched uranium within five days if the US ends a major agreement on nuclear proliferation, the country’s atomic programme head has warned. Mr Salehi said “If we make the determination, we are able to resume 20% enrichment in at most five days,” (Independent, London).

GULF: Qatar has announced that its ambassador to Tehran will be returning to Iran around 20 months after he was recalled following demonstrations held in front of Saudi embassy in Tehran. (Press TV, Iran) The move risks inflaming Qatar diplomatic standoff with a Saudi-led bloc of Arab nations. (WSJ) Chad has cut its diplomatic ties with Qatar, a Foreign Ministry statement announced Wednesday. The Central African country cited national and regional security concerns as reasons behind the move. (Anadolu, Turkey)

Saudi Arabia has firmly shut the door to the Qatari authorities’ overwhelming desire to ban its nationals from visiting holy sites. Riyadh is aware that since the beginning of the crisis in June, Doha has been looking for excuses to prevent its citizens from performing the fifth pillar of Islam. (Ashraq Al-Awsat, UK) 

Qatari Minister of State for Defense Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah on Wednesday said his country was interested in Russian air-defense systems. (Anadolu, Turkey)

LEBANON: The Lebanese Army needs to liberate Martbia, Siraj Hiqab Al-Shir and Al-Shahut in the barrens of Ras Baalbek and Al-Qaa to declare victory over Daesh, a Lebanese military source said. (Arab News, KSA)

LIBYA: At least 11 people were beheaded Wednesday after an attack on a checkpoint controlled by Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar south of Tripoli, a spokesman for his forces said. (AFP)

MOROCCO: Hundreds of people staged an angry protest Wednesday in the Moroccan city of Casablanca against sexual harassment after footage of a woman being assaulted on a bus caused outrage across the North African country. (The Citizen, South Africa)

MALI: Rival armed groups in northern Mali agreed to the return of a state governor to the desert city of Kidal for the first time in years as part of a ceasefire deal signed on Wednesday after weeks of fighting. (Reuters)

ANGOLA: Angola’s ruling party said Thursday it won a majority in the country’s election with five million votes counted so far, opening the way for the defense minister to succeed President Jose Eduardo dos Santos after his 38-year rule. (LUSA, Portugal) International observers highlighted the civism and orderly manner shown by voters Wednesday at the polling stations in Angola’s Luanda province, under the general election held on August 23 countrywide.

Some voters in the provinces of Moxico, Lunda Norte and Benguela will only be able to vote on Saturday, 26 August due to climactic situations, the spokeswoman of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), Julia Ferreira said on Thursday. (Angolan News Agency)

 KENYA: A secessionist narrative to split Kenya into Jubilee- and National Super Alliance (NASA)-controlled regions is sweeping the country as the Opposition talks tough that mass action is on the cards. A petition, its promoters undisclosed, is already being signed online. The intention is to table it for consideration in the African Union’s judicial arm, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights. (The Star and Daily Nation, Nairobi)

The Government Wednesday declared it would enforce the ban on plastic bags from Tuesday and asked Kenyans to embrace alternatives that include bags made from sisal, paper, cloth, papyrus, and gunny bags. (The Standard, Nairobi)

SOUTH SUDAN: A 5-year-old girl has been killed in South Sudan when a World Food Program-contracted aircraft struck a house while attempting to land in bad weather in the capital, Juba. The UN agency has expressed its condolences to the family and says it will provide “all possible support to them in this terrible tragedy.” Four other people, including two children, were injured in Tuesday’s accident. (News24, South Africa)

SOUTH AFRICA/ZIMBABWE: It seems South Africans will have to wait a little longer to find out why Grace Mugabe was granted diplomatic immunity. The Department of International Relations said it had escalated the matter to Parliament. (eNCA, South Africa)

NIGERIA: Nigeria’s weekly cabinet meeting was abruptly called off on Wednesday without official explanation, again raising concerns about whether the country’s 74-year-old president, Muhammadu Buhari, could withstand the rigors of holding office. (Anadolu, Turkey)

CAMBODIA: Cambodia has hit back at criticism over its decision to expel a US-funded pro-democracy group, accusing Washington of political interference and describing American democracy as “bloody and brutal”. (Guardian, London)

INDONESIA: Indonesia is staging its second annual Islamic Finance Conference in Yogyakarta, with the main agenda of using sharia financing to fight poverty and inequality. (Jakarta Post)

Russian Ambassador to Indonesia Mikhail Galuzin quipped the US in response to Jakarta Sukhoi aircraft purchase, emphasizing that Kremlin will work with any country regardless of its foreign policies, contrary to Washington’s approach until now. (Tempo, Jakarta)

PHILIPPINES: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday backed police on the front lines of a war on drugs that he said would not cease, but warned officers their duty was to arrest suspects and kill only if their lives were in danger. (Reuters)

The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group said Wednesday it had lost 10 fighters in battles to stop a “growing force” of radical militants who support the Islamic State group. (AFP)

THAILAND: Dozens of big signs with the message “no disunity, no fracture” appeared in the Thai capital on Thursday (Aug 24), a day before a much-anticipated court ruling in a case against ousted, former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. (AFP)

KOREAN PENINSULA: Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Thursday that he is ready to make concerted efforts with his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, to properly address the differences between the two countries. (Global Times, China)

Washington’s decision to slap sanctions on some Russian individuals and entities over their alleged support for the North Korean regime is an illegal step that will not help improve relations between Russia and the US, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told reporters on Wednesday. The diplomat referred to the existing UN mechanism on the North Korean sanctions, adding that the US should have applied to the relevant committee of the UN Security Council, if it feels that the sanctions should be expanded. (Izvestia, Moscow)

The United Nations Security Council has been unable to broker a political compromise between the US and North Korea, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in an interview with the Chinese and Japanese media. “What needs to be done to lay the groundwork for finding a political compromise is a separate issue,” he said, stressing that sanctions applied without a dialogue will not go a long way in achieving the desired goal. (RIA Novosti, Russia; TASS, Russia)

Large-scale US-South Korea military drills dubbed Ulchi – Freedom Guardian do not contribute to de-escalating tension on the Korean peninsula, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. “We urge all the sides to exercise extreme caution,” the spokeswoman added. (RIA Novosti, Russia)

Russia’s strategic bombers briefly violated South Korea’s air defense identification zone (KADIZ) on Wednesday, prompting the country’s fighter jets to scramble to a nearby area, an official said. (Yonhap)

DPR KOREA: With photographs obliquely showing a new rocket design, North Korea has sent a message that it is working on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) more powerful than any it has previously tested, weapons experts said on Thursday. (Reuters)

CHINA/US: China sharpened its rhetoric over the Trump administration efforts to investigate its trade practices on Thursday, vowing to use “all means necessary” to defend the country and its companies. (Washington Post)

China’s anti-dumping probes against U.S. products were legal procedures, a spokesperson with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said Thursday. In response to a question whether China’s probes were counter-measures to a U.S. investigation into China’s intellectual property practices, MOC spokesperson Gao Feng told a press briefing that both probes were legal. (Xinhua)

But the reality is that China can choose whether and how to retaliate against the US given how Chinese companies are hurt. The Chinese government has the obligation to speak for the country’s legitimate companies. Washington had better restrain itself. (Global Times, China, ed)

A powerful typhoon barreled into Hong Kong on Wednesday, forcing offices and schools to close and leaving flooded streets, shattered windows and hundreds of canceled flights in its wake. Weather authorities raised the No.10 hurricane signal, the highest level, for the first time in five years. (AP) Chaos and confusion gripped Macau on Thursday after one of the strongest typhoons on record hit the territory, killing at least nine people, and leaving more than half the city still without water and power, and casinos relying on back-up generators. (Straits Times, Singapore)

INDIA/CHINA: India is intensifying a crackdown on Chinese technology companies with a government official saying security testing of China’s UC Browser is being done to see if it is leaking data. (Bloomberg)

INDIA: Indian citizens have a fundamental right to privacy, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. The ruling has implications for the government’s vast biometric Aadhaar ID scheme, covering access to benefits, bank accounts and payment of taxes. (The Indian Express)

JAPAN: Japan’s defense ministry is set to ask for record defense spending of 5.26 trillion yen ($48.12 billion) for the year starting April 1, as it upgrades ballistic missile defenses against possible North Korean military action, according to a draft document seen by Reuters. (Reuters)

MONGOLIA: A bloc of lawmakers from Mongolia’s ruling political party called on the prime minister to resign Wednesday, accusing him of abusing his position by allegedly handing government contracts for roads and other projects to politically connected businesses. (AP)

AFGHANISTAN: The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said on Thursday President Donald Trump’s new strategy is a sign of a long-term commitment to what is already America’s longest war and called on Taliban insurgents to agree to peace talks. (Reuters) Days after President Trump’s announcement of a new strategy for Afghanistan, the top American officials in Kabul said Thursday that a promised increase in United States military personnel and air power was already underway in the country. (NYT)

Russia regrets that the new US Afghanistan Strategy aims for a military solution and does not reflect the threat that the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terror group poses, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. (TASS, Russia)

RUSSIA: Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the cold war, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions. Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower. (Guardian, London)

Russia’s ambassador to Sudan, Mirgayas Shirinskiy, was found dead at his residence in Khartoum on Wednesday, according to Russian Foreign Ministry. It remains unclear what caused the 62-year-old diplomat to die. However, the ministry said in a statement that the circumstances of Shirinskiy’s death will be released immediately as soon as they have detailed information. (Anadolu, Turkey)

RUSSIA/JAPAN:  Russia is seriously concerned that Japan may deploy the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile-defense system on its soil to counter North Korea’s missile threats, RIA news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Wednesday. (Reuters)

UKRAINE: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on a visit to Ukraine on Thursday said Washington would continue to put pressure on Russia over what he called its aggressive behavior, but stopped short of promising to provide lethal weapons to Kiev. (Reuters) Washington is considering a possibility of supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis said after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv on Thursday. (Interfax, Ukraine)

Kiev’s call to send an armed UN peacekeeping contingent to Ukraine’s southeast is another attempt to avoid the Minsk deal implementation, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday. (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Moscow)

POLAND: Poland has asked the European Commission to withdraw its legal proceedings against Warsaw over its migrant relocation quotas and said it was ready to fight its case in court, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. (Reuters)

FRANCE: The start of the new political season will be risky for the new government. While Emmanuel Macron and Edouard Philippe have seen their popularity falling sharply since the beginning of the summer, they are about to present two highly sensitive issues : the labour code reform and the preparation of the budget for 2018. (Le Monde)

FINLAND: Finnish civil organizations are criticizing Finland’s responses to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council’s recommendations to be weak and undetailed. The Human Rights Council has given 153 recommendations to Finland and from those Finland is going to abandon 36, which is a record amount. (Helsingin Sanomat, Helsinki)

EUROPE/IMMIGRANTS: The integration of Muslim immigrants is making some “real progress” in Germany, France, the UK, Switzerland and Austria, despite obstacles in education and the access to employment, according to a study from the German Institute Bertelsmann. (La Libre Belgique, Brussels)

Police using water canon and batons clashed on Thursday with refugees who had occupied a small Rome square in defiance of an order to leave a building where they had been squatting. (Reuters)

UNITED STATES: The chances of a government shutdown in the fall are growing. (The Hill, US) President Trump’s willingness to brave a government shutdown in order to get funding for his border wall roiled Capitol Hill, where Democrats on Wednesday called him reckless and redoubled their promise to resist anymore money for the president’s immigration crackdown plans. (Washington Times) President Trump has widened an extraordinary rift with his own party, as he threatened a government shutdown over his long-promised border wall and attacked key lawmakers whose votes he needs heading into a crucial legislative period. (NYT) Fitch Ratings warned that a failure to raise the U.S. debt limit in a “timely manner” would prompt a review of the U.S. sovereign credit rating, which is currently at AAA — the highest possible. (WSJ)

Within a 24-hour span, President Donald Trump delivered one speech in which he tore into the media and members of his own party, and a second in which he called for national unity and love. The about-face seemed to reflect the president’s real-time internal debate between calls for moderation and his inclination to let loose. (AP) But such contrasts have become a recurring motif of his presidency: Mr. Trump has toggled between Teleprompter Trump and Unplugged Trump every day since the deadly clashes in Virginia, leaving Washington and the rest of the nation with a chronic case of rhetorical whiplash. (NYT)

Confronted with a West Wing that treated policymaking as a free-for-all, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly is instituting a system used by previous administrations to limit internal competition —and to make himself the last word on the material that crosses the president’s desk. (Politico, US)

UN human rights experts have called on the United States and its leadership to “unequivocally and unconditionally” condemn racist speech and crimes, warning that a failure to do so could fuel further violent incidents. (Al Jazeera)

Central Banks from around the world gather in Jackson Hole. The symposium near the Rocky Mountains has been called a ‘summer camp for bankers’ or ‘woodstock for bankers’. The main goal is to reduce debts worldwide. (Volkskrant, Amsterdam) (De Standaard, Brussels)

VENEZUELA: Dismissed Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega said on Wednesday she had evidence that President Nicolas Maduro was involved in corruption with construction company Odebrecht. (Reuters)

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza today described as anti-integrationist the migration measure taken by Panama against Venezuela, according to which all Venezuelan citizens will have to apply for a visa to travel to that country. (Prensa Latina, Cuba)

GUATEMALA: Guatemala’s president is seeking the removal of of the head of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body. The president, Jimmy Morales, is facing a graft scandal involving his brother and a son. (National Public Radio, US) Morales will ask United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres to remove the head of a U.N.-backed investigative body probing the politician’s family for suspected graft, two government officials said on Wednesday. Stephane Dujarric, Guterres’ spokesman, told a regular briefing in New York that the U.N. had never received any complaints about Velasquez from Guatemala’s government or its judicial authorities. Guterres “heartily commends the work of commissioner Velasquez” and looked forward to supporting the Colombian “at the helm of the commission,” Dujarric said. (Reuters)

TERRORISM: According to a study of the American University of Maryland, the number of terrorist attacks last year dropped in comparison with 2015. There were 13,400 terrorist attacks, which killed 34,000 people in 108 countries.  9 out of 10 attacks occurred in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. 1 in every 3 of the deadly victims were the perpetrators of the attacks themselves. (VRT NWS, Brussels)

ENERGY: More than 70% of the countries in the world – including the UK, US, China and other major economies – could run entirely on energy created by wind, water and solar by 2050, according to a roadmap developed by scientists (Independent, London).

PEACEKEEPING: UN head Antonio Guterres has tapped Jane Connors to put victims first as she works to eliminate sexual exploitation committed by peacekeeping troops. The organization has faced allegations of systemic sexual violence. (DPA)

BRAVE NEW WORLD: Beef-and-poultry giant Cargill has taken a stake in a startup developing technology to grow meat from self-reproducing animal cells. (WSJ)

Disclaimer: These Headlines consist of selected excerpts from press articles for the information of UN and Mission personnel. The inclusion of headlines does not imply endorsement by the UN.  The Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
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