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Head of Security Council reform process replaced ahead of renewed negotiations

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United Nations: As the General Assembly prepares for intensified talks on Security Council reforms next month, the Jamaican diplomat who brokered a major breakthrough in the stalled process has been replaced as head of the politically complex negotiations.

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft announced the appointment of Luxembourg’s Permanent Representative Sylvie Lucas to replace Jamaica’s Permanent Representative Courtenay Rattray in a letter to permanent representatives Friday. His letter endorsed the general direction of the negotiating process and encouraged members to continue with it and “build on the momentum and progress” made in the last General Assembly session.

Lykketoft’s letter made no mention of Rattray, who took over as head of the reform process known as the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) last year and broke decades of stalemate to produce a document with which the negotiations could go forward.

Sources at the UN who follow the reform process said that the Jamaican government had asked Rattray to step down asserting that he was overextending the nation’s limited diplomatic resources.

However, according to sources from the region with knowledge of the inner workings of Jamaican politics, China had pressured Jamaica into pulling him out of the IGN because of his efficiency in moving the reform process forward. China used some infrastructure projects as a lever, according to the sources.

Beijing strongly opposes Security Council reforms that could potentially bring in India and Japan as permanent members.

China, however, may not have gained by displacing Rattray because it does not have much leverage with Luxembourg, which supports the expansion of the Security Council.

Lucas has long experience in the UN system and a knowledge of its working. She has been the permanent representative since 2008 and did a five-year stint as the deputy permanent representative in the 1990s.

She has held one of the rotating presidencies of the Security Council when Luxembourg was an elected member in 2013 and 2014 and served as a president of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). A diplomat who has dealt with her at the UN described her a “tough” negotiator and a tireless advocate for issues of women and security.

When the negotiating text for reforms came up before the General Assembly on Sept. 14, China folded when it saw that the overwhelming majority of UN members were for it and allowed its adoption unanimously. This was first major breakthrough in moving the reform process forward

The current round of reform negotiations was mandated by the General Assembly in 2008 but it was caught in a Catch-22 trap as discussions could not take place meaningfully without a text for the framework of discussions leading to a consensus or a decision, while those opposed to reforms blocked it saying there couldn’t be such a document unless there was a consensus first.

The opponents of the negotiating text included a caucus of 13 countries that called themselves Uniting for Change (UfC). Italy led the group, which included Pakistan.

Rattray, who was appointed the chair of the IGN by the president of the last session of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, polled the members of the UN on their views of Security Council reform. And against stiff opposition from some he produced the negotiating text that was adopted, effectively ending the stalemate and setting the stage for negotiations to resume next month.

Ahead of next month’s renewed IGN talks, Lykketoft has called for a General Assembly plenary debate Friday on equitable representation on the Security Council and increasing its membership.

Lykketoft wrote to member delegations, “I am confident that the forthcoming negotiations will build on the momentum and the progress made during the 69th session.”

He added, “I encourage Member States to continue moving this process forward pursuant to decision” by the General Assembly adopting the negotiating text, and the positions of and proposals made by members that was circulated by Kutesa.

(Arul Louis,IANS)

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Echo Input- New Device by Amazon Now Available in India

The device adds to the Echo Dot, Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Spot and Echo Sub family of Amazon products

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Google , US, Alexa, Amazon, Drones, e-commerce
The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

Amazon on Thursday announced the availability of its new device — Echo Input — that would enable users to add Alexa support to their existing speakers via an audio cable or Bluetooth, for Rs 2,999 in India.

The device features a four-microphone arrangement to allow users to talk to Alexa from across the room using the Alexa app that is available on both, iOS and Android, the company said in a statement.

Using the device, users would be able to add their speakers to a new or existing multi-room music group and adjust volume parameters using voice commands.

Amazon, online retailer, Drones
The Amazon warehouse in San Fernando de Henares is seen during a 3-day walkout to demand better wages and working conditions, on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. VOA

“With Echo Input, we are giving users even more options to choose the best Echo device for their needs and adding it to your existing speakers is the easiest way to begin your voice-first experience with Alexa,” said Jayshree Gururaj, Director, Amazon Devices.

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The device adds to the Echo Dot, Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Spot and Echo Sub family of Amazon products.

The company also announced that in addition to Amazon Prime Music, Saavn and TuneIn, users can listen to music from Hungama and Gaana as well, which are now available on Alexa starting Thursday.  (IANS)