US steps up push to blacklist Jaish chief Masood Azhar at UN
The US, Britain and France initiated a renewed effort at the UN Security Council to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist on Wednedsay — a move that China strongly objected to, indicating the growing chasm between the two sides on the issue.
The US circulated a resolution, drafted with backing from the UK and France, among the 15 members of the Security Council to sanction Azhar, whose group claimed the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 that triggered a stand-off between India and Pakistan. It was not immediately clear when the resolution could be put to a vote after informal discussions.
Soon after the suicide bombing killed 40 Indian troopers, the US and Britain had backed a proposal spearheaded by France to sanction Azhar through the UN Sanctions Committee. Such a listing requires consensus among all 15 members of the committee, and China placed a so-called technical hold on the move on March 13.
People familiar with developments in New Delhi said the draft resolution at the Security Council was aimed at bypassing China’s block at the Sanctions Committee and also forcing an open debate within the Security Council. Discussions and votes will take place in public view and China will have to explain any veto.
While a decision at the Sanctions Committee depends on consensus, the passage of a resolution at the Security Council requires nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the five permanent members — China, Russia, the US, France and Britain.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a media briefing in Beijing that Washington’s move would complicate the issue.
“This is not in line with the resolution of the issue through dialogue and negotiations. This has reduced the authority of the [Sanctions] Committee as the main anti-terrorism body of the UN Security Council and this is not conducive to solidarity and only complicates the issue,” he said.
“We urge the US to act cautiously and avoid forcefully moving forward this draft resolution,” he added.
Wednesday’s move reflects the frustration and disappointment among India’s international interlocutors and partners over China’s persistent blocking of efforts at the Sanctions Committee to blacklist Azhar, the people said. It is also a way of expressing solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism, they added.
Members of the Sanctions Committee have a 10-day period to object to a proposal but there is no similar provision at the Security Council. Though there are no timelines, UN diplomats said it “will definitely not be nine months”, the time China can take under the Sanctions Committee’s rules to either lift its hold, block the proposal or let it go through.
The draft resolution is part of a “clinically” framed process to escalate the listing of Azhar at the Security Council, UN diplomats close to the process said. It is also the “first step” of “other actions” the US, Britain and France said they will initiate if China doesn’t allow the listing through talks in search of a compromise.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo made a reference to China’s block on the proposal to designate Azhar while criticising China’s treatment of its Muslim minority.
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“The world cannot afford China’s shameful hypocrisy toward Muslims. On one hand, China abuses more than a million Muslims at home, but on the other it protects violent Islamic terrorist groups from sanctions at the UN,” Pompeo tweeted without naming JeM or Azhar.
Geng, however, reiterated China’s position that more time is needed to examine the proposal at the Sanctions Committee. “Since China needs more time to conduct in-depth and comprehensive review, we put a technical hold to the relevant listing on March 13,” he said.
The listing of Azhar involves a series of complex factors and China has been working to find a proper solution through dialogue, he said. The Security Council, he added, should act prudently and play a constructive role in creating the time and space for dialogue and negotiations on the issue.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal told a news briefing in Islamabad that “it was not feasible to involve the Security Council” on the issue of listing Azhar.
“We regret that a resolution has been circulated in the Security Council at a time when the matter was under consideration by the 1267 Sanctions Committee. Such efforts to circumvent the established mechanism for this purpose will only weaken the 1267 regime,” he said.
The draft resolution uses publicly available material, which cannot be disputed or re-litigated, such as the Security Council’s 2001 listing of JeM that described the Pakistan-based group as being founded by Azhar after his release from an Indian prison 1999 in exchange for 155 passengers of a hijacked Indian airliner.
The draft cites the February 21 statement of the Security Council that denounced the Pulwama attack, such as the phrase condemning “in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly suicide bombing” and the need to “to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice”.
A UN diplomat said the idea was to put forward language already approved by China, which cleared the 2001 listing of JeM and the February 21 statement.
The listing of Azhar will subject him to a travel ban, an asset freeze and an arms embargo. China has so far blocked four attempted to blacklist Azhar at the Sanctions Committee since 2009.
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