Rabat – The third session of the Morocco-US strategic dialogue will open next Thursday in Washington under the co-chairmanship of Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar and US Secretary of State John Kerry.The event is part of a process launched in September 2012 following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries providing for the strengthening of bilateral ties through mutually a mutually beneficial partnership.In this regard, the two countries agreed to hold an annual meeting co-chaired by the two countries’ diplomacy chiefs alternating between the capitals of Morocco and the US. The first session was held in Washington on September 13, 2012, while the second took place in Rabat on April 04, 2014.This bilateral strategic dialogue takes place at the level of four working committees focusing on political, economic, security, and educational issues.A fresh momentum was given to this strategic partnership following King Mohammed VI’s visit to Washington at the invitation of President Obama in November 2013. read more

Rabat – A meeting between the Israeli communication minister and the Polisario Front chief has been used by Israeli media, claiming that Morocco, who cut ties with Israel in 2001, felt its “friendship” with the Zionist state was being threatened.Earlier this week, the Times of Israel claimed that Morocco made a formal complaint to an Israeli embassy in Europe about a meeting between Israeli Minister of Communication Ayoub Kara and Polisario Front chief Brahim Ghali.In May, Kara and Ghali attended the swearing-in ceremony of the President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno. Kara met the Polisario chief and other members of Arab delegations at the ceremony and wrote about the meeting on social media, attempting to illustrate that Arab nations are normalizing ties with Israel. Israeli Channel 2 quoted Israel’s Foreign Minister as saying that Kara’s meeting were “not coordinated or approved by the Prime Minister’s Office,” in a response to the alleged “protests” from Morocco.Israel used the event to claim that Morocco is worried of potential support for Polisario. The Times of Israel even claimed that the kingdom is “one of the Arab world’s friendliest nations toward Israel.”In late May, Jerusalem Post made another claim when it said that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled to meet King Mohammed VI during the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit in Liberia.The Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs refuted the claim, explaining in a press statement that the King “wishes his first visit to a ECOWAS summit not take place in a context of tension and controversy.”The “accuracy” of the Israeli media and officials is highlighted by the fact that, to date, Kara and the Times of Israel continue to assert that the communications minister met with the Prime Minister of the so-called Sahrawi Republic, Abdelkader Taleb Omar, and not Ghali. This is despite the fact that the picture published by Kara and used by the Israeli publication shows the minister meeting with Ghali.Morocco cut relations with Israel in 2001 after the eruption of the second Intifada. Over the years, Israeli officials have no longer been admitted in the Royal Palace, unlike before when the kingdom was an unofficial key peace broker between Palestinians and Israelis.However, Israeli-Moroccan tourists have not been denied travel to Morocco, where they come to visit Jewish sites and mausoleums of Jewish saints.The kingdom used to be the Arab country with the biggest Jewish presence. Over a quarter of a million of Jews lived the country before a massive wave of migration led them to Israel, Europe, and North America.The picture of Kara and Ghali proved at least one thing: that Polisario’s attempts to build a reputation of being “anti-Israel”, including imitating the Palestinian flag, hold no weight. read more

Nicole Christianson, a 26-year-old sales rep, was tired of writing big checks for tiny apartments. And she wanted to do more with her cash than stash it in a savings account.One night, she and her husband Thure, 28, took a look at their newly combined finances and uncovered a pleasant surprise: Together, they had saved enough for a 5 per cent down payment on the affordable fixer-upper right across the street from their Milwaukee apartment. They closed in December 2017, and Nicole Christianson says they’re happy to finally be “making something that’s ours.”MILLENNIALS’ HOMEOWNERSHIP GOALSMany in Christianson’s age group are chasing that feeling. Eighty-two per cent of young adults say owning a home is a priority, according to NerdWallet’s 2018 Home Buyer Report. If they can make it happen, most will be first-time homebuyers , but that ‘if’ looms large.Millennials (those born from 1981 to 1997) are buying houses at lower rates than when previous generations were the same age, and it’s not hard to see why. Saving up for a down payment and qualifying for a mortgage can feel like pipe dreams for young adults grappling with student debt, underemployment and high rent costs.Still, millennials are a optimistic lot, and research shows there are big rewards in store for those who find a way to buy their first home sooner rather than later.HOW BUYING YOUNG CAN PAY OFF LATEROf today’s older adults, those who bought their first home from ages 25 to 34 accumulated the most housing wealth by their 60s — a median of around $150,000, according to a report by the Urban Institute , a non-profit research organization.In contrast, the median housing wealth for those in their early 60s who bought later (ages 35 to 44), was about half as much, at $76,000. Homeowners who bought after they were 45 had about $44,000 in housing wealth by their 60s.“Housing wealth” is another term for equity, which is the difference between the home’s market value and an owner’s mortgage balance. Equity becomes profit when a home is sold or refinanced, and it’s more likely to grow the longer one owns the home.The takeaway for millennials? Buy a home as early as you can feasibly do so, says Laurie Goodman, vice-president of housing finance policy at the Urban Institute.Paying rent to yourself is a top perk of homeownership, Goodman says. “It’s also forced savings in the sense that you’re paying down a mortgage each month. Yes, you could put away the same amount of money in a savings plan, but people don’t.”Thinking about homeownership as part of retirement planning is important for millennials, says Jung Hyun Choi, a research associate at the Urban Institute.“People are living longer and job stability has declined,” she says. These circumstances make housing wealth even more essential.LOANS AND PROGRAMS THAT BOOST AFFORDABILITYCertain mortgage options can reduce the upfront costs of buying a home, allowing younger borrowers to qualify with far less than the traditional 20 per cent down payment.“We wanted to go with a VA lender,” says Marissa Avila, 33, a self-employed small-business consultant in Norfolk, Virginia. Her husband Greg, 36, is in the Navy, so they were eligible for a loan guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA loan helped the Avilas buy their colonial-style house with no down payment.Low down payment loans aren’t just for borrowers in uniform: Some conventional loans require just 3 per cent down, the minimum for a Federal Housing Administration mortgage is 3.5 per cent and eligible borrowers can get a Department of Agriculture, or USDA, loan with nothing down.Goodman recommends first-time homebuyers investigate down payment assistance programs. State housing agencies often offer mortgage, down payment and closing-cost assistance. These programs may allow millennials to buy a home sooner than if they try to build savings, she says.Talking to a lender can be a good first step if you’re not sure that you’re ready, Avila says.“The worst that someone is going to say is ‘No, you need to save a little bit more money,’ and then you know where you stand,” she says. “It’s so much easier once you finally start that conversation.”___________________________________This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: bbuczynski@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @bethbuczynski.RELATED LINKS:NerdWallet: 17 tips for first-time home buyers https://nerd.me/tips-first-time-home-buyersUrban Institute report https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/buy-young-earn-more-buying-house-age-35-gives-homeowners-more-bang-their-buckBeth Buczynski, The Associated Press read more

Rabat – Morocco has made a lot of progress to maintain peace. The Kingdom is one of the most peaceful countries in North Africa and the Middle East, according to the Global Peace Index 2018.Morocco has moved up 4 places since 2017 and 19 places since 2016. With a score of 1,979, Morocco ranks 71st out of 163, in the report published June 6 by the Institute of Economics and Peace.The country is more peaceful than its neighbors Tunisia (78), Algeria (109), Mauritania (127), and Libya, which ranks 157th, among the countries with the lowest level of peace. As for the MENA region, Morocco is fourth, behind Qatar (56), the United Arab Emirates (45), and Kuwait (42).Each year the acts of violence perpetrated on the national territory cost nearly 6 percent of the GDP in Morocco, 8 percent in Tunisia, and 11 percent in Algeria. Mauritania has reached 12 percent, and Libya has the highest percentage with 26 percent of GDP.The report notes slight improvement in the Middle East and North Africa region’s overall score. “However, despite ongoing armed conflict and instability in the region, it did become marginally more peaceful over the last year. The bulk of the improvement occurred on the safety and security domain, particularly in terrorism impact and the number of refugees fleeing conflict.”“The scores in both Iraq and Syria improved: although the conflict is no less bitter, the diminishing geographic reach of ISIL and other rebel groups means that overall levels of violence have diminished,” added the report.Internationally speaking, Iceland is still the most peaceful country in the world, followed by New Zealand and Austria.States at the bottom of the ranks are ravaged by war. Thus, Syria is considered the least peaceful country in the world (163), preceded by Afghanistan (162) and South Sudan (161).The ranking of regions was unchanged from 2017, with Europe as the most peaceful region and the Middle East and North Africa as the least peaceful. read more

Rabat – The national carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) issued a statement on Monday, saying that its AT 788 flight to Casablanca from Paris experienced a “disruption” and delay on June 29 due to the “aggressive and threatening behavior” of one passenger toward a flight attendant on the previous flight. In its statement, which was received by Morocco World News, RAM said that en route to Paris, a passenger had “physically and verbally assaulted” the flight attendant before attempting to access the cockpit.In response, the flight captain applied the “alert procedure” for this type of situation in order to ensure the safety of passengers and the airplane crew. The flight landed at the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport on time and the passengers were evacuated under the supervision of the authorities, RAM added.The flight captain, two witnesses and the flight attendants have all filed complaints against the passenger to the French authorities.The incident resulted in 1 hour and 55 minute delay of the AT789 return flight.Denouncing the alleged behavior of the passenger, RAM said that “the safety of passengers and aircrew is a non-negotiable priority abroad all flights of Royal Air Maroc.”The statement added that the “company wishes to recall that its services remain uncompromising vis-a-vis these inadmissible acts.” read more

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May is making a last-minute push to win support for her European Union divorce deal, with attention focused on wooing Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.The DUP’s 10 lawmakers are pivotal to May’s effort to overturn two overwhelming defeats in Parliament, because their support could influence hard-line members of May’s Conservative Party. Opposition has focused on the so-called backstop, designed to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.But May suffered a setback Monday when former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson refused to support her deal.Johnson used his column in the Daily Telegraph to say that further changes are needed to the backstop, claiming it left the U.K. vulnerable to “an indefinite means of blackmail” by Brussels.The Associated Press read more

BRUSSELS — European Union leaders are pushing back a decision on the bloc’s efforts to end most emissions of greenhouse gases.Leaders meeting in Brussels agreed Friday to discuss the EU’s long-term plans for tackling climate change at their next summit in June, ahead of a U.N. gathering on the issue in the fall.Much of the two-day EU summit this week was taken up with haggling over the EU’s future relationship with Britain.Some countries, including France and the Netherlands, had proposed that leaders agree on “an ambitious long-term strategy by 2020 striving for climate neutrality by 2050” in line with the 2015 Paris climate accord’s goal of keeping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).But Germany and some eastern European countries opposed an explicit reference to the year 2050 for curbing emissions.The Associated Press read more

Rabat – Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigations (BCIJ) dismantled on Monday, June 3, a three-member terrorist cell in Morocco operating in Moroccan cities of Errachidia and Tinghir, in the region of Drâa-Tafilalet.  According to the  BCIJ statement, the three members had links to the terrorist organization of the Islamic State (ISIS). The “extremists,” according to the statement are aged between 26 and 28. They were planning to carry out terrorist attacks across the country, said the statement. Read also: Moroccan Police Seize 568,000 of Ecstasy Tablets in TangierPreliminary investigations show that the cell was propagating extremist rhetoric.The BCIJ added that they were involved in preaching activities, seeking to recruit new members, and mobilize them for potential future attacks.The suspects were placed in custody for further investigation. The latest raid was in last April, when Moroccan authorities arrested a suspect in the city of Dakhla for his connection to a six-member terrorist cell that operated in Salé, Rabat’s twin city, which police dismantled the same day. read more

FRANKFURT — German prosecutors have indicted former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn and four others on charges of fraud and unfair competition, saying he failed to prevent manipulation of engine software that let Volkswagen cars cheat on diesel emission tests.Prosecutors in Braunschweig said Monday that Winterkorn knew about the deceptive software since 2014.The prosecutors’ statement said that the defendants faced from six months to 10 years imprisonment if convicted, and that bonuses earned due to sales based on the deception could be forfeited.The Associated Press read more

NEW YORK — The day of reckoning has arrived for the German con artist who passed herself off as a wealthy heiress and swindled tens of thousands of dollars from New York banks and hotels.Anna Sorokin is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in state court following her conviction last month on multiple counts of grand larceny and theft of services.Her defence attorney, Todd Spodek, has said Sorokin faces up to 15 years in prison on the most serious charge. She has been in custody since her October 2017 arrest.Sorokin went by Anna Delvey when she defrauded financial institutions and Manhattan celebrity circles into believing she had a fortune of about $67 million (60 million euros) overseas that could cover her jet-setting lifestyle, high-end clothing and lavish hotel stays. The 28-year-old falsely claimed her father was a diplomat or an oil baron, and falsified bank records and forged her identity to further the scam.Her ruse included an application for a $22 million loan to fund a private arts club, complete with exhibitions, installations and pop-up shops, prosecutors said. She was denied that loan but persuaded one bank to lend her $100,000 that she failed to repay.In all, prosecutors accused her of stealing some $275,000, including a $35,400 bill she failed to pay for a plane she chartered to and from the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.But jurors acquitted her of two counts, including an allegation that she promised a friend an all-expenses paid trip to Morocco and then stuck her with the $62,000 bill. She was also found not guilty of one of the most serious charges in the indictment: attempting to steal more than $1 million from City National Bank.Manhattan jurors did convict Sorokin of four counts of theft of services, three counts of grand larceny and one count of attempted grand larceny following a monthlong trial that drew international attention and tabloid headlines about Sorkin’s courtroom fashion.Spodek, the defence attorney, argued that Sorokin had been “buying time” and planned to settle her debts. He said she lacked criminal intent and was an ambitious entrepreneur.Jim Mustian, The Associated Press read more

EDMONTON — Two federal cabinet ministers are making appearances in Alberta today following the Trudeau government’s controversial second approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is set to visit Trans Mountain Corp.’s terminal in Edmonton, while Finance Minister Bill Morneau will address an Economic Club of Canada breakfast in Calgary.The appearances in oil-rich Alberta come a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave approval to build the stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to an export terminal near Vancouver.In a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Trudeau attempted to strike a balance between finding new markets for Canadian oil and his party’s own branding as protectors of the environment.The decision to approve the project a second time came nine months after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed Ottawa’s initial approval, citing incomplete consultations with Indigenous communities and a faulty environmental review.WATCH: Federal Court of Appeal quashes Trans Mountain approval Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was among those applauding the federal government’s decision on Tuesday, while expressing skepticism the project will actually be completed.“This second approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t a victory to celebrate. It’s just another step in a process that has frankly taken too long,” Kenney said.READ MORE: Alberta lauds re-approval of Trans Mountain expansionConservative Leader Andrew Scheer also scoffed at the idea the pipeline would ever be built, and cast doubts on Trudeau’s sincerity about supporting the energy industry.“He hasn’t done anything,” Scheer said. “Show me the pipeline. Where is it?”On the other end of the political spectrum, Green party Leader Elizabeth May and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh were unequivocal in their opposition to Trudeau’s decision.That’s what we said in #GPC press release denouncing the cynicism of investing billions of $$ of our money in fossil fuel expansion and then claiming “profits” will go to clean energy – someday. We have to keep fighting this insanity. #StopTMX #climate #ClimateEmergency https://t.co/x4GbL8XFEo— Elizabeth May (@ElizabethMay) June 19, 2019The project has also caused major friction between British Columbia and Alberta. Trudeau called both Kenney and B.C. Premier John Horgan to inform them of the decision Tuesday.Horgan said Tuesday he reiterated his concerns about the potential of a marine spill. The Canadian Press read more

21 May 2007An independent human rights expert who reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council has called on United States authorities to promote and enforce nation-wide policies that protect the rights and welfare of migrants. “An over-reliance on, and delegation of authority to local level law enforcement may compromise the ability of the US Government to effectively address issues affecting migrants, and to comply with its human rights obligations under International Law,” Jorge Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants said in a preliminary statement, after visiting the country from 30 April to 17 May. He said his visit shed light on a range of concerns regarding the rights of migrants, including arbitrary detention, separation of families, substandard conditions of detention, procedural violations in criminal and administrative law proceedings, racial and ethnic discrimination, arbitrary and collective expulsions and violations of children’s and women’s rights. Mr. Bustamante expressed particular concern over the fact that there is no centralized system in the US to obtain information regarding those arrested by immigration officials or where individuals are detained. “Families may spend prolonged periods without information as to the whereabouts of detained relatives,” he said in his statement. “Transfers of individuals in custody also may occur without notice to families or attorneys and may result in detention in remote locations, far from families and access to legal support.” To remedy these problems, he suggested that the US ensure that domestic laws and immigration enforcement activities are consistent with its international obligations to protect the rights of migrant workers. He said those rights are spelled out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture and All Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CAT), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). He also urged that the country sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. While in the US, the Special Rapporteur travelled to the border areas in California and Arizona, witnessing firsthand the operations of the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He also met with migrants in South Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, New York and Washington DC, and had the opportunity to speak with civil society representatives working on the human rights of migrants at various levels. In Arizona, Mr. Bustamante was able to visit the Florence Detention Center, but he was disappointed that his scheduled and approved visits to the Hutto Detention Center in Texas and the Monmouth Detention Center in New Jersey were cancelled with no explanation. read more

12 June 2007The Sudanese Government today announced its acceptance of the proposal for a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation to be deployed to the violence-wracked Darfur region after the UN and AU issued clarifications about the mandate, structure, components and tasks of the force. The agreement was reached during two days of high-level technical consultations between the UN, the AU and the Sudanese Government that wrapped up today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.In the conclusions issued following the consultations, the Sudanese Government said it accepted the joint proposals on a hybrid force “in view of the explanations and clarifications provided by the AU and the UN.”Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today’s positive conclusions and is looking forward to expeditiously implementing the hybrid force, his spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.Asked whether Sudan’s acceptance of the hybrid force was unconditional, Ms. Montas noted Khartoum’s call for African troops and added that the UN had always planned to deploy a large number of African troops to the region, although this depended on availability.She also said that some issues raised about land, water and deployment still needed to be hammered out with the Sudanese Government.The UN and AU have outlined two options for the size of the force’s military component: under one plan, there would be 19,555 troops and under the other there would be 17,605 troops. The police component would require 3,772 officers.The hybrid operation is the third phase of a three-step process to replace the existing but under-resourced AU Mission in the Sudan (AMIS), which has been unable to end the fighting in Darfur.More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others displaced from their homes since clashes erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups.The planned hybrid force “would contribute considerably to the stabilization of the situation in Darfur in its political, humanitarian and security dimensions,” according to the conclusions, with the participants stressing that both the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council must adopt the necessary decisions and resolutions to authorize the implementation and operation of such a force.The UN, AU and Sudan also underlined the need for an immediate comprehensive ceasefire, accompanied by an inclusive political process, as well as for troop-contributing countries and donors to step up and ensure the hybrid force can be implemented quickly.Also today, a high-level committee comprising representatives of the UN, the Sudanese Government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the European Commission, met in Khartoum to discuss the latest progress on the humanitarian front in Darfur.The participants welcomed the recent steps taken to streamline customs and immigration problems for aid workers, as well as in the recruitment of international staff and the establishment of a database to monitor implementation of a recent joint communiqué affecting their work. read more

Plans by the United Nations to set up a preventive diplomacy centre in Central Asia represent a milestone in the world body’s efforts to bring peace and stability to the region, Turkmenistan’s President told the General Assembly today.Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov said his country was certain that the work of the centre – which is expected to be established in Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, later this year – could be “a strong positive force in resolving the problems our region faces.”Vowing to “do everything necessary to make the centre’s work effective and fruitful,” the President told the annual high-level debate that cooperation with the UN was the critical element in Turkmenistan’s wider foreign policy.“This is most apparent in regional matters, where it is the participation of the United Nations and its specialized agencies that promotes convergence of approaches of States to issues, [and the] creation of a favourable political, diplomatic and legal environment for their resolution by joint effort.”The principles enshrined in the UN Charter “should continue to serve as the moral and legal pillar of the international order,” and all UN reforms should take account of this, he said.Mr. Berdimukhamedov also called for the Security Council’s structure to change and for better and closer relations between the Council and the General Assembly. 26 September 2007Plans by the United Nations to set up a preventive diplomacy centre in Central Asia represent a milestone in the world body’s efforts to bring peace and stability to the region, Turkmenistan’s President told the General Assembly today. read more

Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) met with both victims of Cyclone Nargis and with Government officials during her visit to discuss how to help relief and recovery programmes, especially in the Ayeyarwady Delta region.“What we need is a seamless global lifeline of relief supplies,” Ms. Sheeran said. “Progress has been made, but urgent work remains on the critical last leg.”WFP still needs nearly two-thirds of the $70 million it requested to pay for food assistance operations, while its logistics operation has a shortfall of $32 million.“There is so much work to be done which requires sustained support by the international community,” the Executive Director stressed. “With current contributions, we will run out of food by mid-July.”UN humanitarian officials estimate that more than 77,000 people have been killed and 55,000 others are missing since Cyclone Nargis struck on 2 May. As many as 500,000 to 600,000 people, mainly in the delta, have had to be relocated.During her talks, Ms. Sheeran thanked Myanmar officials for granting visas to WFP’s international staff, but also urged an end to the bureaucracy delaying the deployment of the workers into the delta. While access has improved, she said Government procedures for clearing the deployment of workers remained a constraint.WFP says that it has so far handed out a first ration of rice to about 575,000 people, but added that many people have not been reached and others now need a second round of food.Ms. Sheeran said that she was encouraged by the start of a new WFP project in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, which provides cash to 200,000 people whose lives have been uprooted by Cyclone Nargis. Under the project WFP and four aid partners provide about 50 cents – equivalent to the cost of a food basket in the local markets – per person each day for four weeks.“WFP is committed to being resourceful and finding better ways to reach a large number of people who are struggling to put their lives back together. This project allows us to focus our food delivery efforts on the delta, where most food stocks have been destroyed and markets are not functioning properly.” 1 June 2008The head of the United Nations food agency today called for greater support for its growing relief operations in Myanmar in the wake of last month’s devastating cyclone after wrapping up a two-day visit to the country’s hardest-hit areas. read more

18 June 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the announced cessation of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. “The Secretary-General hopes that these efforts will both provide security and an easing of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and end rocket and mortar attacks against Israeli targets,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He also hopes that this cessation of violence will lead to a controlled and sustained opening of the Gaza crossings for humanitarian and commercial purposes. The Secretary-General looks forward to all sides acting with care and responsibility in ensuring that this cessation of violence endures.”Mr. Ban also congratulated Egypt on its “persistent efforts to achieve calm through this agreement.” read more

Yesterday Mr. Ban transmitted a summary of the report prepared by the four-member Board to the Security Council, and is currently reviewing its recommendations.UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters that the Secretary-General and Mr. Peres also discussed Ghajar, a town that straddles across the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon, as well as the anti-racism Durban Review Conference held last month in Geneva. In a related development, Mr. Ban today called for Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, as he pledged his sustained commitment to helping achieve a negotiated political settlement of their long-running conflict.“Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be resumed on all core issues without exception,” he said in a message to the UN International Meeting in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace, held in Nicosia under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.In the message, delivered by Special Representative in Cyprus Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Mr. Ban stated that the parameters for peace remain unchanged: the establishment of two States living side by side in peace and security on the basis of the principle of land for peace and a just and comprehensive regional peace consistent with Security Council resolutions. The Secretary-General said he was “very disturbed” by the situation in Gaza, more than three months since the end of hostilities there. “Measures that increase hardship and suffering are unacceptable and must stop immediately,” he stressed. He called on Israel to provide adequate entry of fuel, cash and materials that were urgently needed to repair schools, clinics, sanitation networks and shelters. Much needs to be done to stabilize Gaza, he added, including a durable and fully respected cease fire, including open crossings; the prevention of illicit supply of weapons; and reunification of Gaza and the West Bank within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian authority.Voicing strong support for the continued efforts of Egypt to promote Palestinian reconciliation through dialogue, Mr. Ban urged participants in this process to redouble their efforts to overcome their differences.On the West Bank, he warned that the persistence of Israeli settlement activities would make it virtually impossible for peace talks to produce tangible results.Noting that the meeting was taking place as the international community strives to reinvigorate the political process towards Israeli-Palestinian peace, he expressed his strong support for a reinforced role for the Middle East Quartet – composed of the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States. He also commended President Barack Obama’s stated commitment to strengthening and deepening partnerships between the US, the parties and international partners to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab States. 6 May 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Israeli President Shimon Peres discussed the report of the United Nations Board of Inquiry into incidents affecting the world body’s personnel, premises and operations during the recent conflict in Gaza at a meeting today in New York. read more

The peace process in Burundi has witnessed significant progress in recent months but the country needs help to ensure successful elections next year and to tackle challenges such as human rights abuses, corruption and weak institutions, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report.“Next year is crucial,” Mr. Ban writes in his sixth report to the Security Council on the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), which is helping to promote peace and stability in the country following a brutal civil war. “Burundi must be assisted to ensure that the gains achieved so far are consolidated before, during and after the 2010 elections, so the country can continue on the path of national reconciliation, democratic and accountable governance, and development,” he adds.In 2005 more than 90 per cent of Burundians approved a new constitution and separate ballots were held for parliamentary seats and for the presidency. Next year voters will choose a president, parliamentary lawmakers and local representatives.Noting that it is primarily the responsibility of the Government and its national partners to create the “propitious” conditions for the elections, he commends political leaders for adopting an electoral code that enjoys wide consensus and is encouraged by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s assurance that the polls will be free, fair and peaceful. At the same time, he remains concerned about reports on restrictions to the freedom of assembly and expression of opposition parties imposed by local authorities, and by the reports on militant activities of youth groups allegedly associated with certain political parties that are generating fear and suspicion. “I call on the Government and the political leaders to remain vigilant and to take the necessary actions to put an end to these activities,” states Mr. Ban, who also voices deep concern about human rights abuses and “the prevailing climate of impunity,” including a number of serious crimes that remain unaddressed. He also cites the need for the Government to address corruption, improve governance and stem the proliferation of small arms among civilians, noting that professionalizing the police and strengthening the judiciary will be crucial for these efforts. Among the progress achieved in recent months, Mr. Ban notes that the Forces nationales de libération (FNL), the last rebel movement, disarmed and transformed itself into a political party, completing a major part of the last phase of the peace process.“I encouraged by the effective demobilization and reinsertion of FNL combatants, as well by the successful disengagement of adults and children associated with the movement,” he states, adding that the longer-term socio-economic reintegration of former combatants, returnees and other vulnerable groups remains a challenge. “Every effort must be made to ensure sustainable reintegration of these groups, in order to prevent them from becoming an added source of insecurity,” he adds.To assist the country in its efforts to restore peace and stability, Mr. Ban recommends a one-year renewal of the mandate of BINUB whose mandate expires on 31 December.“It is clear that so much has been achieved in Burundi in such a short time, considering where the country has come from,” says the Secretary-General. “Yet the situation remains fragile.” 3 December 2009The peace process in Burundi has witnessed significant progress in recent months but the country needs help to ensure successful elections next year and to tackle challenges such as human rights abuses, corruption and weak institutions, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report. read more

“Yemen is confronting a range of concurrent challenges which need urgent attention,” UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said at the end of a visit to the Middle Eastern country. “With international support and with commitment in Yemen to drive a reform agenda, a step change in development is possible.”Yesterday she met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh to discuss how the UN development system can play its part in supporting Yemen to overcome its development challenges and make progress on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that seek to slash hunger and poverty, maternal and infant mortality, a host of diseases and lack of access to education and health care, all by 2015.She noted the importance of broad participation in upcoming elections so that, as in 2006, they are widely agreed to be credible. Continued political dialogue is needed to achieve that outcome, she added, highlighting UNDP technical support to the national commission responsible for overseeing the conduct of the polls.Ms. Clark also met with the Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers and other ministers and officials, as well as with donors, the UN country team, women from many walks of life and civil society organizations.With respect to tensions in the north and the south of the country and general security issues, she said UNDP’s approach focuses on addressing the underlying drivers of tension and conflict, which include underdevelopment, and on promoting community-based dialogue and conflict resolution. There are an estimated 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen’s northern governorates from fighting between the Government and the Al-Houthi armed group.Ms. Clark also visited the island of Socotra, a UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site because of its rich biodiversity. She presented the Equator Prize to the community initiative in the Rosh Marine Protected Area for its work in combining biodiversity conservation with lifting community living standards. 25 January 2011The international community must translate its increased interest in helping Yemen tackle the challenges it faces into concrete steps that promote development in the impoverished country, a senior United Nations official said today. read more

9 March 2011The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners this week began an emergency distribution of food aid to an additional 50,000 people in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in response to the severe shortages caused by the prevailing drought. “WFP and its partners are doing all we can to feed the hungry – especially women and children – who have been forced from their homes by a combination of drought and conflict,” said Stefano Porretti, the WFP Country Director for Somalia. “They are caught in the middle, squeezed on all sides, and need our support.”The additional food distributions consist of high energy biscuits, fortified with vitamins and minerals. The food was delivered to residents of 20 camps in the outskirts of Mogadishu. The distribution followed an assessment of the needs of displaced families forced to move closer to the capital because of the drought. In total, WFP aims to provide food assistance to 1.2 million people in Somalia this year. The agency requires some $46 million to enable it to respond to the needs of those facing hardship for the next six months. It has already reduced the size of rations for vulnerable groups, including the internally displaced persons in Mogadishu, due to dwindling resources.The agency will also work with its partners to open new centres providing cooked meals in or near camps for the displaced. The new centres will be in addition to 20 feeding centres that WFP supports across Mogadishu, feeding a total of 85,000 people each day. The total number of people being fed by WFP in Mogadishu now stands at 240,000.WFP is providing food to 710,000 people in central and northern Somalia because of drought, conflict, rising food and fuel prices.An estimated 2.4 million people – 32 per cent of the country’s 7.2 million people – are in need of relief aid as a result of drought and two decades of conflict. read more