In the UN Disarmament and International Security committee, 123 countries voted in favor of a ban on nuclear weapons, 38 opposed the motion, and another 16 abstained.
The complete resolution can be found here. A meeting is to be held at the UN in New York in March of 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument prohibiting nuclear weapons leading towards their total elimination. There was strong opposition from nuclear-armed countries and their supporters. Those supporters include Australia, Canada, and NATO countries in Europe. Sweden and Malta voted in favor of the resolution. Of nuclear nations, all voted No including Israel except for China which abstained and North Korea which voted yes. The role call of votes can be seen here. Most smaller countries voted for the resolution. Many enemies agreed in supporting the motion including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Many other Gulf States also supported the resolution. As mentioned earlier even North Korea was in support of the resolution. The Guardian reports incorrectly that it opposed the treaty. The motion will now go to a full vote in the General Assembly some time in December.
Australia has been outspoken in support of the vote against the proposal even as the treaty is becoming more popular among many countries. Australia has pressed for a "building blocks" approach that involves engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the 15,000 global stock of nuclear weapons. Australia, as well as others, depend upon US nuclear power as a defense. Richard Sadleir, assistant secretary in the Australian Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade said:“We do not support a ban treaty. A ban treaty that does not include the nuclear weapons states, those states which possess nuclear weapons, and is disconnected from the rest of the security environment, would be counterproductive and not lead to reductions in nuclear arsenals."
Professor Tilman Ruff of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons called the vote a historic step ending two decades of paralysis on the issue of multilateral disarmament. Ruff said:"The numbers are especially encouraging given the ferocious pressure on countries to vote no by the nuclear-armed states, who see that this will fundamentally challenge their continued possession of nuclear weapons. The treaty will fill the legal gap by which the most destructive of all weapons – nuclear weapons – are the only weapon of mass destruction to not yet be outlawed by international treaty.”Ruff accused Australia of doing US dirty work. He found it inconceivable that Australia which has signed every treaty banning unacceptable weapons would not sign on to a ban on nuclear weapons.
Critics argue that without the participation of states that actually have nuclear weapons the treaty would not just be useless but counterproductive. The response of ban supporters is that the treaty would create moral suasion such as has happened with the cluster and landmine conventions which many powerful countries reject. It also provides an international norm prohibiting nuclear weapons development, possession and use. Many non-nuclear states are simply fed up with the lack of action of nuclear powers on the issue.The nuclear states want to keep their weapons and many are spending huge sums modernising them rather than reducing their number. The nuclear states favor the non-proliferation treaty that keeps them in a monopoly position with respect to the weapons. An outright ban would negate that advantage. Yet that is the policy that more and more nations support.
The Turkish military claimed that its planes had targeted Syrian Kurds in northwestern Syria according to the official news agency Anadolu. The jets hit 18 targets in a region north of the city of Aleppo.
The agency quoted an army report claiming that between 160 and 200 fighters from the Kurdish YPG , the People's Protection Units, had been killed in raids that took place Wednesday night. However, a leader of Syrian-Kurdish fighters said that while jets and Turkish artillery were attacking that there were no more than 10 casualties. The monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that just 9 YPG fighters were confirmed dead and another 26 injured in a total of 20 raids.The Anadolu agency said that nine buildings including YPG headquarters, meeting places, shelters and weapons buildings were destroyed plus 4 vehicles. Al Jazeera was unable to obtain independent verification of the casualty figures. While the agency reported that Turkish-backed rebels had been attacked by the YPG, the Observatory had no record of any such incident, Another report by RT said that the Turkish military jusified the raids as a response to five shells that had been fired from the Kurdish-held region of Afrin. Although the shells did not cause casualties or damage, the resultant strikes were in line with Turkish rules of engagement.
The attacks are bound to increase tension between the US and Turkey as the US considers the YPG a key player in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Turkey launched a ground operation against both the Islamic State in Syria and the YPG in August. It insists that the Kurds not advance west of the Euphrates river. Turkey considers the YPG be simply an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that it considers a terrorist group and which has carried out deadly attacks in Turkey during the last year.
It remains to be seen what the US will say about these attacks.President Recep Erdogan said Wednesday that Turkey would go wherever terrorist organisations were and deal with them and not wait for them to come and attack Turkey. Turkey has been acting more aggressively beyond its borders of late. It has insisted that it should be part of the offensive against Mosul and will not withdraw its troops from Iraq as demanded by Baghdad. However, it has been excluded from the Mosul offensive.
President Mansour Hadi of Yemen has agreed to a 72 hour ceasefire in the Yemen civil war. He also said the ceasefire could be extended under certain conditions.
The announcement was made by Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhtafi on his official Facebook account:"The President agreed to a 72 hrs ceasefire to be extended if the other party adheres to it, activates the DCC (De-escalation and Coordination Committee) and lifts the siege of Taiz," The DCC is a UN-backed military commission that monitors ceasefires in Yemen. A start date for the truce has not been announced but Hadi is to meet with Ismail Cheikh Ahmed, the UN special envoy to Yemen, on Thursday to set a date.
Hadi's government has been asking that there be humanitarian access to the city of Taiz. The rebel Houthis largely encircle the city with government forces having control of only one of four access routes. The Houthis took the capital, Sanaa, back in 2014 with the help of forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Although the Houthis have lost much of the south including the port of Aden, they hold most of the north and areas along the Red Sea coast.
Previous ceasefires have failed. Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubeir said the Saudis would accept the ceasefire if the Houthis agreed to it. So far there has been no response from the Houthis.
Saudi-led airstrikes have been part of the campaign against the Houthis since March of last year. Several Gulf country allies have deployed troops to Yemen. The conflict has created a humanitarian disaster with an estimated 10,000 people having been killed, 3,800 of them being civilians according to UN estimates.
The United States Britain, and the UN have urged both parties to declare a ceasefire. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said in London Sunday: “This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table. We cannot emphasize enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen.” The Saudi-led coalition was recently found responsible for bombing a funeral that killed over a hundred people. At first, the Saudis denied making the strike but now are claiming it was based on false information.
The Taliban have launched a concerted attack on the city of Lashkar Gah the capital of the province of Helmand in Afghanistan. Taliban have surrounded the city for weeks.
The Afghan government has deployed 300 elite commandos to the city to stop the Taliban advance. Spokesperson for the province ,Omar Zwak, said the commandos were sent from Kabul and neighbouring provinces to begin a “clearance operation” in Lashkar Gah: “Soon the security forces will clear the whole city from Taliban." Officials in the city were less optimistic. Thousands of people have already fled the city but thousands more who fled to the city to escape the city now find themselves trapped. Lashkar Gah is a city of about 200,000 people. The Taliban have seized parts of the city. They are said to be within two kilometers of the governor's compound. The airport has been closed.
Across the city on Monday, Taliban attacked checkpoints. A suicide attack killed 14 people including 10 police officers. Provincial council chief Karim Atal said: "If we don't receive help from the central government, the province will collapse soon."
Last October, the Taliban briefly held the northern city of Kunduz but were eventually driven out. However, Kunduz too has recently been under attack again. A third city, Tarin Kowt, the capital of Oruzgan province is also under attack.
The attacks are happening as divisions are appearing within the Afghan government. Davood Moradian of the Afghan Institute of Strategic Studies said:“The national unity government has stagnated, and that stagnation has created a vacuum. The political basis of the government is shrinking on a daily basis, and I don’t see any chance of that being reversed. There are two forces that can fill that vacuum — one is the Taliban, and the other is President Karzai.”The attacks also follow upon a recent meeting in Brussels at which 70 nations pledged almost $20 billion (US) in aid to keep Afghanistan afloat until 2020.
The fighting in the countryside has sent at least 10,000 internally displaced Afghans to Kabul the capital and other places. BBC South Asia correspondent, Jill McGivering said if the city falls it will be a symbolic disaster:"For the past fifteen years, Lashkar Gah has been held up by the west as a safe, protected seat of government - a focus for international development, a weapon in the battle for hearts and minds. In terms of its propaganda value too, the government and its backers simply can't afford to lose it."
Morocco just finished elections for its 10th parliament since independence in 1956. The Islamic Justice and Development Party (PJD), the ruling party, won 125 seats. The PJD has been running a coalition government since 2011.
The Authenticity and Modernity Party (PAM) came second with 102 seats. Coming third was the Independence Party with 46 seats and then the National Rally of Independent (RNI) with 37 seats.The results show continued strong support for the PJD despite criticism from opponents that the party had not achieved any tangible results since coming to power. Out-going PJD PM, Abdelilah Benkirane, said: "This is a day of joy and a victory for democracy. The Moroccan people have rewarded PJD for the work we did in our previous term."PAM spokesperson Khaled Adnoun said he was pleased with the outcome even though they expected to win more seats. He ruled out any cooperation with the PJD. Critics claim that the PAM is too close to the king.
There are 395 seats in the House of Representatives. The voting system is set up in such a way that no party can win a majority. The PJD will need to form a coalition again with other parties to form a government. The PJD may need to reach out to as many as three other parties to form a majority coalition. According to the constitution, the PM is selected from the party which received the most votes in the election. King Mohammed VI is likely to ask the PJD to form a new coalition government. This will be the first time that a party will have been able to rule for two consecutive terms. The king devolved some powers onto the parliament five years ago to relieve pressure for democratic change.Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and the power of the king is predominant. The king appoints the PM, can remove the PM from office, and can dissolve parliament.
The lack of power of the parliament and the inability of the government to solve some of the country's problems is perhaps responsible for the low turnout of just over 43 percent. The average overall in municipal, regional, and national polls has been roughly 50 percent. A senior bank officer told Al Jazeera: "We need employment, decent accommodation, a good health system and better education. Corruption in the country, which remains widespread in both the public and business spheres, has to end as well." However, many expect the new government to help alleviate the situation in healthcare and education. The unemployment situation is particularly severe with more than 20 percent of young people without a job
.In the past, the PJD leader, Benkirane has tried to reduce the deficit and reduce subsidies. The party has also campaigned against corruption. While there has been strong reaction against Islamist parties after the Arab Spring especially in countries such as Egypt, the PJD has survived and even flourished in Morocco. The PJD did well even though there were accusations that the royal establishment was unfairly backing PAM in the organization of the poll. Officials denied the accusation. Many organizations boycott the elections because the king retains a great deal of political power. This includes the main Islamist opposiition group Justice and Spirituality and several left-wing organizations.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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