UN omits gay rights work from tribute to Ban Ki-moon as Russia grumbles
The UN Security Council on Wednesday dropped advancing gay rights from a tribute to secretary-general Ban Ki-moon after Russia raised objections, diplomats said.
A draft statement that mentioned Ban’s support for the LGBT community was changed to note instead that “the most vulnerable or marginalised have been increasingly heard and assisted” under his leadership.
Ban, the 72-year-old former South Korean foreign minister, steps down on December 31 after serving two terms as secretary-general of the United Nations.
He will be succeeded by Antonio Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal who served as UN refugee chief for a decade.
Ban has won praise from LGBT activists for his appeals to countries to decriminalize homosexuality.
The outgoing UN chief came under fire from many UN member-states including Russia when he decided in 2015 to extend benefits to the same-sex partners of UN employees.
In September, he hosted the first high-level meeting at the United Nations on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to push for an end to discrimination.
More than 70 countries still have laws on their books making homosexuality a crime.
The statement read by Spanish Ambassador Roman Oyarzun, who holds the council presidency this month, listed the Paris climate deal and the UN’s new sustainable development goals as Ban’s major achievements.
Addressing the council, Ban said his “deepest regret on leaving office is the continuing nightmare in Syria.”
He again appealed to the council to unite and take action to protect Syrian civilians as the city of Aleppo came under renewed shelling and air strikes in one of the fiercest battles of the five-year war.
Elisabeth Borne was appointed France's new prime minister on Monday to become the second woman to hold the post in the country. Borne, 61, succeeds Jean Castex, whose resignation was expected after President Emmanuel Macron's re-election last month. Macron and Borne are expected to appoint the full government in the coming days. Borne is the second woman to hold the position after Edith Cresson, who was prime minister in 1991-1992 under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.
At least 10 civilians were killed by Russian shelling of the city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine on Monday, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. The governor of the Luhansk region, Gaidai, had said earlier on Monday that heavy shelling had caused fires in residential areas.
Russia on Monday said there was an agreement to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. "An agreement has been reached on the removal of the wounded," news agency Reuters quoted the Russian defence ministry as saying in a statement. Russia attacked the port city of Mariupol – which it now claims to controls – for nearly two months.
The confirmed number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 336 days. It is roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined. It’s as if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out.
Sweden's Social Democrat minority government on Monday took the formal decision to apply for NATO membership, following in the footsteps of its neighbour Finland in a move that will redraw the geopolitical map of northern Europe. "There is a broad majority in Sweden's parliament for joining NATO," Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said following a debate on security policy in parliament. "The best thing for Sweden and the Swedish population is to join NATO."