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Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India, presents credential to UN General Secretary

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New Delhi: Syed Akbaruddin, on Monday, presented his credentials to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as the 21st Permanent Representative of India to the world body.

Mr Ban welcomed him, saying that he appreciated India’s significant role at the United Nations as a long-trusted partner of the multilateral system.

Reiterating India’s commitment to the UN, Akbaruddin assured Ban his fullest support to help fulfill the priorities and aims Ban had set for this year, including the quest for peaceful political solutions for international problems and working towards the developmental goals of Agenda 2030.

Akbaruddin brings to the crucial diplomatic posting at the heart of the 193-member organisation a trove of rich experience and contacts from his stints at an international body, as the organiser of the recent India-Africa Summit and from serving as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s de facto spokesperson during his many foreign tours.

Akbaruddin, India’s 21st permanent representative at the UN, has succeeded Asoke Kumar Mukerji who retired at the end of last year.

This is the second turn at the UN for Akbaruddin after joining the Indian Foreign Service in 1985.

From 1995 to 1998, Mr Akbaruddin served as the first secretary in India’s UN Mission where he focused on Security Council reform, a matter that assumes urgency in his current role as the long-delayed process is finally gaining traction.

Another major area where his contribution has been remarkable in 1990s assignment was peacekeeping, which continues to be a crucial contribution to the UN by India.

Currently, 7,798 Indians are serving in UN peacekeeping operations. India has been the biggest contributor to UN peacekeeping, having sent more than 180,000 Indian troops to 48 of the 69 UN missions so far.

Akbaruddin also brings an insider’s insight into the workings of international organisations from his work at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna from 2006 to 2011. He worked at the IAEA as the head of external relations and as the special assistant to the director-general.

Recently at External Affairs Ministry, he was the Chief Coordinator of the India-Africa Forum Summit held last October in New Delhi with the participation of all 54 African nations. Africa being the largest single group at the UN, this experience gave him a rich Rolodex of contacts.

Before that he was the External Affairs Ministry’ official spokesperson from 2012 to 2015 when he attended several multilateral and bilateral meetings at the ministerial and prime ministerial levels. Since Modi does not have a prime ministerial spokesperson, Akbaruddin also served as his spokesperson during Modi’s hectic itinerary of international visits.

Akbaruddin’s diplomatic postings include Counsellor at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad and various positions in missions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.(IANS)

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2015 Agreement to Bring Peace to Ukraine’s East Remains Unimplemented

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems.

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FILE - A Russia-backed rebel guards the position after sunset near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 2, 2015. Hostilities in eastern Ukraine have abated after February's peace agreement, but the truce has been frequently violated. VOA

A 2015 agreement to bring peace to Ukraine’s volatile east remains largely unimplemented and civilians are paying the highest price, with more than 3,300 killed and 3.5 million needing humanitarian aid this year, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014 and support for separatist rebels in the east triggered a conflict with Ukrainian government forces that the U.N. says has also injured up to 9,000 civilians and displaced 1.5 million people.

Assistant Secretary-General Miroslav Jenca told the Security Council that negotiations “appear to have lost momentum,” with Russia and Ukraine unable or unwilling to agree on key steps forward or too distracted to focus on implementing the 2015 agreement.

UN, Russia
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia addresses the United Nations Security Council, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 17, 2018. VOA

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia and Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko blamed each other for the failure to implement the agreement signed in the Belarus capital, Minsk.

Jenca, who is in charge of European affairs, stressed that the conflict in eastern Ukraine is not dormant. “It is a conflict in the heart of Europe which continues to claim victims,” he said.

Jenca said the main parties have committed to over a dozen cease-fires since the start of the conflict, but “each one was regrettably, short-lived.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation’s monitoring mission in Ukraine reports that the military positions of both sides are coming closer to each other in the “gray areas” near the so-called “contact line,” he said. “The use of heavy weapons and their deployment in the proximity of the contact line is a reality.”

United Nations
Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Syria, April 25, 2018, at United Nations headquarters. VOA

Ursula Mueller, the U.N.’s deputy humanitarian chief, said the conflict is causing severe humanitarian problems, noting that many of the 3.5 million people who need aid are elderly, women and children.

“Many are struggling to access schools, hospitals and other essential services,” she said. “Many have lost their jobs, homes, family members and friends.”

Mueller said the U.N. has appealed for $162 million this year to aid 2.3 million people.

Ertugrul Apakan
Ertugrul Apakan, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, addresses a news conference at OSCE’s headquarters in Vienna, Feb. 5, 2015. VOA

Ertugrul Apakan, chief of the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, told the council by video that many people use checkpoints in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk to receive pensions and see families separated by the conflict. Since December, he said, there have been “14 cases of people who died from natural causes while waiting at the checkpoints.”

Mueller said most of those who died this year were elderly. People wait for several hours in freezing temperatures to cross the contact line, and she urged better conditions and additional crossing points, especially in Luhansk where there is only one.

Before the meeting, eight former and current European Union members of the Security Council issued a joint statement urging humanitarian access to areas not under Ukrainian government control.

They called on Russia “to immediately stop fueling the conflict by providing financial and military support” to the separatists and reiterated their opposition to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea. Nonetheless, they said, they “remain convinced that a peaceful resolution of the conflict is possible.”

Nebenzia said Russia called the council meeting to discuss implementation of the 2015 agreement, declaring that the situation in southeastern Ukraine “remains explosive” with positions now “too close to each other at some locations.” He said Ukraine “comprehensively and consciously ignores and sabotages the Minsk agreements and our Western partners cover up for all of its unlawful acts.”

Russia, United Nations
Ukrainian Ambassador the the United Nations Volodymyr Yelchenko speaks during a security council meeting about the escalating tensions between the Ukraine and Russia at United Nations headquarters, Nov. 26, 2018. VOA

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Ukraine’s Yelchenko countered that “it is only Russia and its ongoing military activity in the occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as well as in Crimea that constitute for now an unsurmountable obstacle for the peaceful resolution of the conflict.” (VOA)