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US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Akbaruddin discuss India-US Cooperation

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FILE - United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley attends a meeting of the Security Council at U.N. headquarters in New York, Feb. 7, 2017. VOA

United Nations April 27, 2017: The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, the first Indian American to hold a cabinet rank, visited India’s UN Mission on Thursday for a wide-ranging discussion with Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin.

“We shared perspectives on how India-US can work together at the UN in line with our growing ties,” Akbaruddin told IANS after the meeting.

Haley described their meeting in a tweet as “great”. “We discussed India’s economy, peacekeeping reform and the partnership between India and the US.”

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A US Mission statement added that they also discussed “India’s economic and anti-corruption reforms that have helped businesses and spurred growth” and “the close ties between the two countries and opportunities to further the partnership between the US and India at the UN.”

Permanent Representative to the UN has a cabinet rank in the US government and Haley has emerged as a powerful and outspoken voice on foreign policy in the US, even as she deviated from some of the early positions of President Donald Trump.

However, the differences have virtually disappeared as Trump moved closer to her stances due to realpolitik and Congressional pressures. For example, Trump has embraced her hardline on Russia after chemical attacks allegedly carried out by Syria.

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A critic of how the UN works, Haley has been insistent on reforming it, especially the peacekeeping operations as a cut in US contributions to the world body looms.

“I know for a fact that Nikki feels very, very strongly about taking on problems that really people steered away from,” Trump said on Monday during a White House lunch for Permanent Representatives of members of the Security Council.

Trump thanked Haley for her “outstanding leadership” and said she was doing a “fantastic job.”

It was not known if the Security Council reforms with a permanent seat for India — a priority for New Delhi — came up during the conversation with Akbaruddin.

President Barack Obama has backed India’s quest, but the Trump administration has not publicly endorsed it and Haley has only said that she was open to the idea.

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Asked about it at a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations here in March, she admitted candidly, “First of all, I’m in learning mode. And as I look at that, I know there is conversations of reform of Security Council.”

She then added: “I’m open to hearing anyone on what they have to say and looking at it and going further.”

With the US contributing 28.36 per cent of the peacekeeping budget, Washington is giving priority to reforming the operations.

Historically India has been the largest troop-contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations and 7,678 are serving now.

India has also been advocating reforming the peacekeeping operations, especially how the mandates are set by the Security Council, often without consulting the troop-contributors.

As Governor of South Carolina, Haley showed interest in India’s economy and its potential and led a trade delegation in 2014 to India seeking investments and stronger commercial ties with her state.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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)