UN terror treaty talks make headway

Bombings in Britain and Egypt and a week of informal talks have given new momentum to a long-stalled effort to draft a comprehensive UN treaty against terrorism, diplomats have said.

    Kofi Annan has urged the treaty to be completed by year's end

    "The talks were very positive. We have broken the ice," said Ambassador Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco, chairman of the UN General Assembly's treaty-writing legal committee on Friday.

    The panel, which ended five days of talks on Monday, has scheduled another week of informal talks in early September before its next working session on 10 October.
    The draft "comprehensive convention on international terrorism" aims to give nations new tools and a strong legal framework to fight terrorism collectively but has been stuck in the UN committee since India first proposed it in 1996.

    Each of the 191 UN nations has a seat on the panel.

    The dispute centres on how to define terrorism and whether Palestinian suicide bombings should be excluded from the pact.

    Arab contention

    After a recent wave of bombings, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan challenged the panel to complete work on the treaty by the end of this year.

    He has suggested a simple statement defining terrorism as any intentional maiming or killing of civilians, regardless of motive.

    Palestinians' right to resist foreign
    occupation has been an issue 

    Arab delegates until now have argued the UN Charter's assertion of a right to self-determination authorises national liberation movements - such as the Palestinians' - to fight foreign occupation, even with tactics such as bombings.

    But during this week's informal talks, some Arab and Western nations laid out a potential path to a compromise, exploring the possibility of adding language referring to the right of self-determination to the treaty's preamble rather than to its operative provisions.
    "While there was no breakthrough, there has been more progress this week than in the past three years," said one Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    "But at least some in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference remain fixed on having an exclusion for freedom fighters in the definition," this diplomat said.


    "Terrorism ... has inflicted so much damage and brought nothing but harm to the Muslim world and its standing..."


    Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, 
    OIC secretary-general

    After last weekend's deadly attacks in Egypt, drafters took heart from a statement issued by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC secretary-general, who urged a collective Muslim response to such bombings including the adoption of "new measures to eradicate this scourge".

    "Terrorism ... has inflicted so much damage and brought nothing but harm to the Muslim world and its standing, particularly by demonising the image and reputation of Muslims in the eyes of the world," Ihsanoglu said in the statement.

    In addition to the attacks in Egypt, which killed 64 people, London's mass transit system was hit by bombs that killed 56 people on 7 July and two weeks later suspected bombers failed in attempts to set off four more.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?