The Latest: 19 countries pledge $1.8 billion for refugee aid

AP News
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Posted: Sep 29, 2015 10:33 PM
The Latest: 19 countries pledge $1.8 billion for refugee aid

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The latest developments from the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders at which they're tackling major crises like the refugee issue and crises in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere:

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10 p.m.

Nineteen countries are donating $1.8 billion to the top U.N. aid organizations to help alleviate the suffering of migrants and refugees in camps near Mideast areas of turmoil.

The initiative organized by Germany was announced Tuesday by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Antonio Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Thanking donor countries, Guterres said U.N. aid agencies "were financially broke" because of the growing burdens caused by the conflicts in the Mideast. The aid will primarily help refugees in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The donors include the U.S. and other members of the G-7 group of leading industrial states, other European countries and wealthy Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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8:15 p.m.

Australia's foreign minister says her country does "not believe any transition option should be rejected" for Syria.

Julie Bishop told a U.N. gathering of world leaders Tuesday evening that Australia believes "all permutations of a political solution should be assessed with clear-eyed realism."

The future of Syrian President Bashar Assad is at the heart of a deep divide between the United States and Russia.

Australia is part of a U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

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7:05 p.m.

Japan's prime minister says his nation needs to attend to its own demographic challenges posed by falling birth rates and an aging population before opening its doors to refugees.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced at the U.N. General Assembly that Japan is ramping up assistance in response to the exodus of refugees to Europe from the Middle East and Africa.

He said Japan is providing $1.5 billion in emergency aid for refugees and for stabilization of communities facing upheaval.

But speaking to reporters later Tuesday he poured cold water on the idea of Japan opening its doors to those fleeing.

He said Japan first needed to attend to domestic challenges, by promoting the role of women in Japan, conditions for the elderly and by raising the birth rate.

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6:40 p.m.

Yemen's president says the devastation in Aden and elsewhere in his country "could be qualified as genocide."

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi addressed a U.N. gathering of world leaders Tuesday after coming from Yemen's strategic southern city, where he says he has transferred his government after Aden was "liberated."

Hadi arrived in the port city a week ago after nearly six months of exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia. He fled to there as Iran-supported Houthi rebels swept from the north to seize the capital, Sanaa, and other areas.

A Saudi-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis, and international concerns are rising about the number of civilians killed.

Hadi made no mention of a Saudi-led airstrike Monday on a wedding party that medical officials said killed 131 people.

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6:20 p.m.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister says there is a military option in Syria that will end with the removal from power of President Bashar Assad if the preferred political option doesn't lead to his departure.

Adel Al-Jubeir told a small group of journalists Tuesday that the military option could be lengthier and more destructive, but the choice is entirely up to Assad and whether he accepts a political solution agreed to by key nations in 2012. That deal would have him hand power to a transition government.

He would not say what Western and Arab opponents of Assad's regime may or may not do to counter the new military buildup in Syria by Russia, Assad's close ally along with Iran, adding, "we're not talking about" it.

But he said that the Free Syrian Army and moderate opposition forces are fighting against Assad and getting support from a number of countries and that "will be intensified."

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4:20 p.m.

Hungary's foreign minister is proposing a global quota system for migrants now flooding Europe and says the country will lobby for it at an upcoming meeting of ministers on the sidelines of the U.N. summit.

Hungary itself is being criticized by other European Union countries for opposing country quotas within the European Uion. But Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Tuesday that globally dividing up those fleeing the world's conflict regions made sense, particularly in drawing in those he said were in some way to blame for the turmoil.

Szijjarto's comments appeared to allude at least in part to the United States, suggesting that its Middle East policies created the conductions for the rise of Islamic extremism sweeping parts of that region and North Africa.

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415 p.m.

EU Council President Donald Tusk is sharply criticizing rich countries that have blasted European nations for not taking in more Syrian refugees while not accepting them themselves.

That's "hypocrisy," Tusk told a U.N. gathering of world leaders Tuesday.

He said: "Many countries represented here deal with this problem in a much simpler way; namely by not allowing migrants and refugees to enter their territories at all."

Tusk said there are "other places comparable to us in terms of wealth," without naming wealthy Gulf countries, which have faced recent criticism over their refugee policies during the growing Syria crisis.

But he says refugees aren't fleeing there because they also value "tolerance, openness, respect for diversity, freedom, human rights and the Geneva Convention."

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4 p.m.

The top diplomat of the Maldives says an explosion on the boat of the island nation's leader was likely a targeted attack.

Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon told The Associated Press it remained unclear who was behind the blast that struck Monday when the boat carrying President Yameen Abdul Gayoom and his wife back from Saudi Arabia after performing hajj reached the main jetty in the capital Male.

Gayoom was unhurt. His wife and an aide suffered minor injuries, while a bodyguard was more seriously hurt.

She said an attempt on the life of the leader of the country was unprecedented. She declined to speculate whether it could have been related to domestic politics or religious extremism.

Maumoon spoke Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

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3:50 p.m.

The European Union's top diplomat has emerged from a high-level U.N. meeting on Syria's humanitarian crisis to tell reporters that she sees possible "political space for new initiatives in the coming weeks."

Federica Mogherini said she couldn't give details. The U.N.'s special envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was seen leaving the meeting that Mogherini said also addressed the "political track."

She also said that Iran, which was invited to Tuesday's meeting, did not attend.

Mogherini said others at the meeting spoke about a political transition in Syria, or, "as some put it, changes in the democratic life of Syria."

She said different narratives and different words have been used at this week's U.N. gathering of world leaders on Syria, but "I see possible common ground."

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3:25 p.m.

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says it's "intolerable" that Europe is building walls against migrants and is urging its leaders to tear down the barriers and focus on countering the fear and violence that is driving thousands to seek safety on the continent.

Renzi told the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting on Tuesday that the problem of migration is not a problem of numbers, "it's a problem of fear." And he said "fear is the playground of terrorism."

Renzi said the new Europe was born to replace fear with peace, and for a long time it has pursued that goal.

But he said the building of walls is not only intolerable but it negates that foundation.

The Italian leader praised Italy's maritime rescue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, mainly from Libya.

He said Italy is ready to take a leadership role in stabilizing Libya — which currently has two rival governments — if efforts to form a national unity government succeed.

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3:10 p.m.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is calling on Russia to play a constructive role in restoring peace in war-ravaged Syria.

The NATO chief told The Associated Press at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that the alliance welcomes Russia's plans to combat the Islamic State group in Syria.

Support for President Bashar Assad's regime, however, is not "a constructive contribution to finding a political solution," he said.

In his address Monday to the U.N. General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the world to stick with Assad, saying it was a "huge mistake" not to engage the Syrian military in the fight against Islamic State militants.

When asked if Putin's speech conveyed hope that peace in Ukraine is within reach, Stoltenberg said it provided no new signals, but there were positive signs that the cease-fire in the east of the country had mainly held.

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2:30 p.m.

A dozen U.N. agencies have issued an unprecedented joint call for countries to end violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Tuesday's statement comes as world leaders gather to address an annual U.N. meeting.

The agencies for human rights, refugees, children, health, food and more say they are "seriously concerned" that millions of people around the world face widespread human rights violations.

The call comes shortly before the U.N. secretary-general convenes a meeting on including LGBT individuals in an ambitious new set of global development goals for the next 15 years.

The statement says violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals have far-reaching effects on society and even economic growth. And it urges the 76 states with laws that criminalize same-sex acts between consenting adults to repeal them.

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2:05 p.m.

Japan says it is providing $1.5 billion for assistance of refugees and stabilization of communities facing upheaval in the Middle East and Africa.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the aid Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly.

Abe said Japan is providing $810 million this year for emergency assistance of refugees and internally displaced persons from Syria and Iraq, triple what it gave last year.

He said Japan is preparing about $750 million more "to help build peace" Middle East and Africa, including aid for water supply and sewage systems in Iraq.

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1 p.m.

The Ukrainian president is issuing a strong condemnation of Russia's aggression against his country, urging the international community to restrain Moscow's veto power in the U.N. Security Council.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Petro Poroshenko said Russia wants to rebuild its former empire by creating "belts of instability" and financing "terrorists" in Ukraine's Crimea and eastern Donbas region.

He asked how Russia could hope to create a coalition against Mideast terrorism "if you inspire terrorism right in front of your door?"

The president supported the initiative of his French counterpart Francois Hollande to restrain the veto right of the U.N. Security Council permanent members "in case of mass atrocities."

Russian-backed separatists have been fighting government troops in eastern Ukraine since April 2014, and at least 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

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12:40 p.m.

The leader of Guyana has charged that Venezuela was being a bully as the two countries bring their long-running border dispute to the United Nations.

President David Granger says Venezuela has "pursued a path of intimidation and aggression" as it presses its claim to an area of jungle and rivers that amounts to about 40 percent of Guyana's territory.

Granger said the claims by the larger and more powerful Venezuela have prevented Guyana from seeking to exploit the area known as the Essequibo for its potential mineral and oil resources.

The Guyanese president spoke Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly meeting and appealed to the world body to mediate the dispute.

Leaders of the two countries discussed the issue Sunday on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

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12:30 p.m.

Cuba's foreign minister says the pace of normalizing relations with the United States will depend on President Barack Obama using his executive powers to substantially modify the decades-old U.S. economic embargo and the U.S. entirely lifting it.

Bruno Rodriguez told a press conference after Obama held talks with Cuban President Raul Castro on Tuesday that the U.S. president's executive decisions adopted so far" have a very limited value, a very limited scope."

He said Obama's executive powers "are very broad, and they deal with tens of areas" — and Cuba expects the president to adopt measures to substantially modify the embargo.

Rodriguez said there was an "an opportunity of making significant advances in the normalization of bilateral relations during Obama's administration."

Rodriguez read a statement on the Obama-Castro meeting which said the Cuban leader reiterated that for the two countries to have normal relations, "the blockade that has caused damages and hardships to the Cuban people and affects the interests of American citizens should be lifted."

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12:01 p.m.

A high-level meeting on Yemen during a U.N. global gathering repeats an urgent call for humanitarian aid access but makes no mention of the latest civilian deaths or who might be to blame.

Tuesday's statement calls the humanitarian situation in the Arab world's poorest country "appalling." The meeting, chaired by Britain, the U.N. humanitarian chief and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, noted that "civilian suffering has reached unprecedented levels," with thousands killed.

It calls on "all parties to the conflict" to bear their responsibilities but does not go as far as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who on Monday said "most of the casualties are being caused by airstrikes."

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike on Monday hit a wedding party in Yemen, and medical officials Tuesday said the death toll has risen to 131 — making it the deadliest incident in the civil war.

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11:50 a.m.

The United States is treating Kosovo as a state during President Barack Obama's high-level meeting on countering extremism.

A seating chart for Tuesday's meeting shows Kosovo among the states attending the meeting, even though it is not a U.N. member state.

Kosovo came under U.N. and NATO administration after a 1999 NATO-led air war halted a crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists, but its final status was left in question.

Kosovo's predominantly ethnic Albanian leadership declared independence from Serbia in 2008 and has been recognized by 111 countries.

Serbia rejects its secession, and its close ally Russia has blocked Kosovo from becoming a U.N. member.

Both Russia and Serbia also attended Obama's meeting.

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11:30 a.m.

The French foreign minister is reaffirming his country's intention to continue carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Speaking with journalists on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Laurent Fabius said that France gives "a clear promise" to deflect the threat posed by Islamic State militants by targeting their positions in Syria.

Six French jet fighters targeted and destroyed an Islamic State training camp in eastern Syria in a five-hour operation on Sunday. The multiple airstrikes were the first in Syria by France as it expands its mission against IS, until now centered in Iraq.

"We do it efficiently, which is different from others, who only talk about fighting ISIL," Fabius said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "We have to fight them not only in the media, but also on the ground."

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11:15 a.m.

President Barack Obama says Nigeria, Tunisia and Malaysia are the newest members of the U.S.-led international coalition to defeat the Islamic State militant group.

Obama made the announcement while leading a special United Nations summit on countering violent extremism.

More than 60 countries, including Arab nations, are working together and launching military airstrikes in an attempt to wipe out IS, which has taken control of large regions in Iraq and Syria.

Obama says defeating the Islamic State will take time, but that the militants ultimately will lose because they have nothing to offer but suffering and death.

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11 a.m.

Key officials at the United Nations General Assembly are urging the Somalia army and African Union forces to maintain offensive operations against al-Shabab Islamic extremists retake priority areas of the strife-torn country.

A communique issued Tuesday from their meeting on the sidelines of the assembly's annual ministerial meeting called for stepped up support for the military operations which should also aim to degrade al-Shabab's military capabilities, secure main supply routes, and create space to build a peaceful nation.

The meeting — co-chaired by Somalia's president and the heads of the United Nations, the African Union Commission, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Arab League — "recognized that military efforts alone will not restore security."

They called for a comprehensive approach to counter violent extremism in Somalia and the surrounding region.

The participants expressed alarm at the fragile humanitarian situation in Somalia where almost three million people are dependent on aid to meet their basic needs. At the same time, they commended Somalia for welcoming refugees and returnees from Yemen where a separate conflict is raging.

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10 a.m.

The U.N. secretary-general has scolded South Sudan's president as the world watches whether the latest shaky peace deal in his country will hold, saying, "I hope you will not betray and disappoint us."

Ban Ki-moon spoke at a high-level meeting on the conflict in the world's youngest country during a U.N. gathering of world leaders.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who annoyed the international community by skipping a similar U.N. meeting last year, spoke Tuesday via videoconference from his country.

Kiir said "we have already made considerable progress in implementing the agreement" that he signed with several reservations late last month.

Kiir signed under heavy pressure from the United States, which had championed the country's fight for independence from Sudan.

Kiir accused the opposition of continuing to violate a cease-fire.