Sep 26, 2015 9:00 PM

The Latest: Yemen says war wipes out decades of development

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) Latest developments at the United Nations summit on the adoption of an ambitious blueprint to eradicate extreme poverty and other global goals. (All times local).


8:30 p.m.

Yemen's foreign minister says that less than a year of fighting in his country has wiped out decades of development, while the U.N. chief in a meeting with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister has called for an immediate cease-fire in the Yemen conflict.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin told at U.N. gathering of world leaders that Houthi rebels who seized large parts of the Arab world's poorest country have not abided by U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted earlier this year. One resolution demanded that the Houthis immediately give up control of government institutions.

A Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States has carried out months of airstrikes that have drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups, who say many civilians have been killed. Meanwhile, a coalition blockade has kept most aid from reaching a country that even before the fighting imported 90 percent of its food and fuel.

Ban Ki-moon in his meeting with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir again called for "increased humanitarian access."


5:35 p.m.

U.N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is urging Hungary to respect the human rights of migrants while saying he understands the difficulties linked to the recent daily influx of tens of thousands of people.

A U.N. statement says Ban expressed his concerns in a meeting Saturday with Hungarian President Janos Ader. They met on the sidelines of a U.N. summit on new global development goals.

The statement says Ban "understood the challenges faced by Hungary" but stressed "the importance of respecting dignity and human rights."

Hungary has been accused by other European Union countries of badly mismanaging the influx of mainly Syrian refugees coming from Serbia on their way to western Europe. The fence it built along its border with Serbia has come under particular criticism, along with the use of water cannon and tear gas against those trying to cross into the country.


5:05 p.m.

The United States and human rights organizations are sharply criticizing China's repression and imprisonment of women's rights activists in advance of a high-level U.N. meeting Sunday co-chaired by China's President Xi Jinping.

The session will promote women's equality.

China hosted the last major U.N. women's conference in Beijing in 1995 and Xi has been proclaiming the importance of women's human rights, but Amnesty International's Roseann Rife said this is "hypocritical" when his government continues to jail women fighting for these rights.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power has put the photos of 20 jailed women's activists who she said should be at Sunday's meeting in the window of the U.S. Mission across the street from U.N. headquarters. Three of the group are from China.

U.N. Women, the group co-chairing Sunday's meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing conference, said more than 70 world leaders are expected to make "concrete commitments and firm pledges" to overcome gaps in gender equality.


4:50 p.m.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is offering further details on China's assistance for the developing world, saying it will provide assistance on 600 major overseas projects over the next five years.

Xi also said China would provide 270,000 scholarships for students from the developing world to come to China for higher education or vocational education, while offering training for 500,000 more students in their home countries. China has long offered such scholarships as a means of winning friends and diplomatic support in the developing world.

Speaking at a forum on "South-South cooperation" on the margins of U.N. development summit, Xi said projects would be funded in agriculture, poverty reduction, trade, environmental protection, health care and education.

He said "cooperation and unity with the developing world remains the unshakeable foundation of China's foreign relations"

Despite having the world's second largest economy, China portrays itself as the leading developing nation.


3:55 p.m.

France's foreign minister says this week's U.N. general assembly is "the home stretch" for upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris at the end of the year.

Laurent Fabius told reporters on the sidelines of a U.N. meeting on development goals that 2015 "must be a turning point" in global efforts to fight global warming. Paris is hosting a summit Nov. 30-Dec. 11 aimed at world leaders signing on to binding targets to keep increases below 2 degrees Celsius.

Fabius said 80 countries so far have submitted national plans, and more were expected to do so in coming days.

A summit in Copenhagen in 2009 was a failure, Fabius said, because leaders were involved too late. Fabius said this time French summit organizers are engaged in "enormous upstream work" to avoid a similar failure.

Fabius said French President Francois Hollande on Sunday will invite leaders meeting at the U.N. to speak on the first day of the Paris conference and announce new financial contributions France is prepared for the fight against climate change.


3:20 p.m.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg believes the site will help the international community implement a sweeping new sustainable development agenda.

Zuckerberg said Facebook is partnering with the U.N. agency for refugees to bring the Internet to refugee camps. "Connectivity will help refugees better access support from the aid community and maintain their links to families," he said.

Addressing the U.N. Private Sector Forum, he said wide Internet access "needs to be at the heart of the global development strategy" to address new challenges and needs of the new generation.

In the long term, Zuckerberg said, Facebook will help U.N. agencies develop tools to track progress toward implementing the development goals.

"Data can help us make smarter decisions but only if you can interpret it quickly and with confidence, so we want to help the U.N. make decisions that will advance our goals."


2:45 p.m.

Countries have seized on a record gathering of world leaders to debate how to choose the next leader of the United Nations and whether that person should be a woman. Momentum has been growing for the first female U.N. chief after eight men have served.

Britain's U.N. deputy ambassador Peter Wilson on Saturday repeated his government's belief that it's time for a woman, but he pushed back against a proposal that the secretary-general serve a single, longer term. By tradition the U.N. chief serves up to two five-year terms.

"A single term can also mean you're a lame duck," Wilson said.

The U.N. Security Council's five permanent members essentially choose the U.N. chief behind closed doors. Other member states want more of a say.

Russia argues that it's Eastern Europe's turn to provide a secretary-general, but former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the deputy chair of a group of global leaders called The Elders, said that "we cannot afford to limit our search to one single region of the world."


145 p.m.

Jordan is making an impassioned plea for the world's countries to take in more Syrian refugees as the small country is overwhelmed by those fleeing the conflict.

In his address to a global summit at the United Nations, Minister Imad Najib Fakhoury says Jordan's efforts are akin to the United States having to absorb 64 million more people, or the European Union 100 million, or Japan 25 million, or China 280 million.

And the examples continued. Jordan's delegation said its Syrian refugee burden is similar to Brazil taking in another 40 million people, or South Africa another 11 million or so.

Jordan hosts about 630,000 Syrian refugees, approximately 10 percent of its population.

The minister said the burden has been "devastating" to Jordan's development efforts.


1:20 p.m.

The leaders of India, Brazil, Germany and Japan are expressing concern about the failure to reform the Security Council and calling again for permanent seats on the U.N.'s most powerful body.

The four regional leaders said in a joint statement Saturday that "a more representative, legitimate and effective" council is needed more than ever to address spiraling global crises and conflicts.

Since 1979, the U.N. has been discussing an expansion of the 15-member council to reflect the changing world in the 21st century. The current system is a reflection of the global power structure after World War II when the United Nations was founded.

Every proposed change has been rejected, primarily because of rivalries between countries and regions and concerns over self-interest above a better functioning U.N.

The four leaders pledged to work with all U.N. member states to accelerate "early and meaningful" council reform and "concrete outcomes" during the General Assembly session which ends in September 2016.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on the sidelines of a U.N. summit that adopted new development goals for the next 15 years.


12:50 p.m.

Lebanon's prime minister tells the United Nations that the Syrian refugee crisis is costing his tiny country one-third of its gross domestic product and strangling development.

Tammam Salam says the Syrian civil war and fleeing refugees "is one of the greatest development challenges" facing Lebanon. The Mediterranean country has become home to more than 1.2 million Syrian refugees about a third of Lebanon's native population.

Salam spoke at the U.N. summit gathering after adoption of sweeping new global development goals.

Lebanon "is bearing the brunt of the mass displacement" of Syrians, Salam said in a stark report on the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon's health care, education, sanitation and security resources.

More than 4 million Syrians have fled to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt since the conflict in their homeland erupted in 2011.


11:50 a.m.

The U.N. humanitarian chief says appeals for help have grown by more than 600 percent in the past decade and have now reached nearly $20 billion.

Stephen O'Brien told a side event on humanitarian financing at the U.N. summit that adopted new development goals for the next 15 years that humanitarian aid was originally supposed to be temporary "a first aid box."

But he said aid in many cases has been delivered for years without addressing the underlying causes.

"We're here today to talk about a system which is not broken but it is broke," O'Brien said, adding the current system must change if new development agenda to is to be achieved.

He said most humanitarian aid this year will go to just five protracted emergencies Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Congo.


11:30 am.

The U.N. secretary-general has urged Iran's president to help pursue political solutions to the grinding conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

A statement from Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Saturday says Ban encouraged President Hassan Rouhani to "contribute to a political settlement of the crises in the region, particularly with regard to Syria and Yemen."

The two leaders met shortly before Rouhani addressed a summit of world leaders that have gathered to launch ambitious development goals.

The Iran nuclear deal has raised expectations that Tehran might engage more on other crucial issues. Iran is a top ally of Syria's government, and it supports Shiite Houthi rebels who have held parts of Yemen for months.

Rouhani in his speech said Iran is "eager to cooperate with our neighbors" on development issues.


11:05 a.m.


Chinese President Xi Jinping is pledging billions in development aid to the world's poorest nations and says China will forgive the debts due this year of those worst-off.

Speaking at the U.N. summit on new development goals, Xi said China will commit an initial $2 billion to establish an assistance fund to meet post-2015 goals in areas such as education, health care and economic development. He said China would seek to increase the fund to $12 billion by 2030.

Xi said China would write-off intergovernmental interest-free loans owed to China by the least-developed, small island nations and most heavily debt-burdened countries due this year.

He said China "will continue to increase investment in the least developed countries," and support global institutions, including the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that is due to launch by the end of the year.


10:45 a.m.

Cuban President Raul Castro says the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between his country and the United States constitutes "major progress," but the U.S. economic blockade against Cuba is the "main obstacle" to his country's development.

Castro's speech to a gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday was his first appearance before the world body. He spoke to a summit that adopted a sweeping agenda for global development includes the goal of eliminating poverty in 15 years.

The General Assembly will vote as early as next month to demand the American embargo's end. But this time, U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the United States could abstain instead of voting against the resolution.

Castro says the embargo "is rejected by 188 U.N. member states."


9:55 a.m.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is expressing regret over the "heart-rending" trampling to death of hundreds of Muslim pilgrims near a Saudi Arabia holy site this week and calling for a swift investigation into it and similar incidents.

The crush killed more than 700 people and was the worst hajj disaster in a quarter-century.

Rouhani addressed the U.N. General Assembly during a development summit Saturday and in advance of his address on Monday to world leaders, including President Barack Obama.

Rouhani also linked violence against man and violence against nature, saying that "terrorists, in fact, tend to grow and thrive in lands deprived and damaged by environmental disasters and easily pour across borders like haze."

He said the recent Iran nuclear deal has created "suitable conditions for regional and international cooperation."


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