Cyprus Annan and Papadopoulos meet on strategies toward reunification

“They agreed that the resumption of the negotiating process, within the framework of the Secretary-General’s Good Offices, must be timely and based on careful preparation,” a UN spokesperson said today.The spokesperson said that they also agreed to continue their dialogue in order to accelerate the search for a fair solution to the problem, and Mr. Annan noted that he had received assurances from the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mehmet Ali Talat, that he shared the same aspirations.In January, in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Annan met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to review the latter’s proposal for ending the long stalemate.The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) has been operating since 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities and one of its roles is to monitor ceasefire lines that extend some 180 kilometres across the island.In December, the Security Council extended UNFICYP’s mandate until the middle of June, following Mr. Annan’s report on the country that noted the situation in Cyprus was calm but “progress toward a political solution remains negligible at best.”Official contacts between the two parties have not resumed since the April 2004 referendum on a comprehensive settlement plan failed. About 65 per cent of Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the plan, while 76 per cent of Greek Cypriots voted against it. read more

Sounding alarm on widening crisis in Yemen UN rights office says civilians

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the indiscriminate shelling in Taiz is only the latest incident impacting the area.“We are concerned at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, which is being greatly exacerbated by checkpoints which were set up by the Popular Committees affiliated with the Houthis on the periphery of Taiz city in April. These checkpoints have been tightening their restrictions on the movement of the civilian population,” OHCHR Spokesperson Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva.He further added that the members of the Houthi-affiliated Committees have taken control of the eastern route into Taiz and have blocked main supply routes from Sana’a, Aden, Ibb, Lahj and Hudaydah. Mr. Colville detailed eyewitness accounts of the attacks, which began at around 4:15 in the evening, when shells fired from Houthis-controlled Al-Hawban area targeted a number of residential areas in the Al-Dhaboaha neighbourhood, hitting the Al-Mutahideen Clinic and five neighbouring homes.Additionally, he said that the second round of shelling resumed later that night and that an estimated 18 shells were fired in same Al-Hawban area, targeting residential neighbourhoods in the city centre.He further added that at least one shell hit the Hayel Saeed school, at least one shell landed near a mosque in Al-Awadhi Street, two shells struck a residential area near the fish market, and more shells hit shops in the city’s central market. A total of at least seven shells also struck the Al-Akhwah and the Al-Rawdha neighbourhoods. Mr. Colville said that the civilians are currently struggling to meet even their basic needs such as potable water and added that the prices of water have increased by 300 per cent in the last week. He also said that reports received by OHCHR indicate that members of the Popular Committees Affiliated with the Houthis and armed forces loyal to former President Saleh have prevented local traders and residents from crossing check points with water, fruit and vegetables and other essential goods.Mr. Colville further said that the health system in Taiz is almost collapsing. “At present, there are a total of six public and private hospitals that are partially functional in Taiz. Following the closure of Yemen International Hospital, the largest hospital in the city, smaller private hospitals with limited capacity have been overwhelmed with casualties caused by the fighting,” he said.Lastly, Mr. Colville added that the on-going armed conflict in Yemen is taking a terrible toll on civilians as nearly 7,566 civilian casualties have been recorded this year, including 2,577 killed and 5,078 wounded. read more