UN chief heads to Arab summit after row over Israel 'apartheid' report

UNITED NATIONS, UNITED STATES- UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres travels to Jordan next week to attend an Arab summit following a row over the release of a UN report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state.
Guterres arrives in Amman on Monday for talks with King Abdullah II and to visit a refugee camp ahead of the Arab League's annual summit near the Dead Sea on Wednesday, said a UN spokesman on Wednesday.

Last week, Jordanian diplomat Rima Khalaf resigned in protest after Guterres asked her to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians.
Khalaf was head of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a Beirut-based UN body comprised of 18 Arab countries, that released the controversial report.
The United States had expressed outrage over the report's findings and demanded that it be scrapped, but Guterres' spokesman has denied that the request to Khalaf to withdraw the study was made under US pressure.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the report had been taken off the ESCWA website at Guterres' request because it was done without consultations with the UN secretariat.
Guterres will hold a round of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the Arab summit that are expected to focus on the wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Easing tensions over settlements -
During a meeting Wednesday with the UN chief, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said a group of Arab ambassadors expressed their dismay at "some people who are trying to inject bullying tactics and intimidation" at the United Nations, in a veiled reference to the United States.
But Mansour said the Arab group had agreed with Guterres to "move on."
Guterres' envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, on Friday will present the first report to the Security Council on implementation of the controversial resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements construction.
Mladenov will give an oral report, despite objections from the Palestinians who requested a written document to ensure the findings can be used as a reference.
A Security Council diplomat said the UN envoy will seek with his report to "dampen down the excitement about settlements" to avoid "a spike in tension between the UN and the US".
The council adopted the resolution in December after the United States refrained from using a veto to block the measure in a break from its usual practice of shielding its Middle East ally.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley has branded as a "terrible mistake" the decision by the previous US administration not to use its veto to block the settlements resolution.

Wednesday, March 22nd 2017

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