UN refugee agency says Australia has shirked its international obligations

UNHCR’s spokesman Kris Janowski told a press briefing in Geneva that it will be asking Indonesia for immediate access to the 14 people, whose boat was towed back to Indonesia by Australia’s navy.A representative from UNHCR today handed a note to Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry urging the country not to deport the group of likely asylum seekers.Mr. Janowski said UNHCR was very concerned by Australia’s decision on Saturday to deny the boat people the opportunity to land on Melville Island, off Australia’s northern coast.Media reports since the weekend say the group are Kurds from Turkey who had made their way to Indonesia before trying to reach Australia by boat.He said that by sending them back to Indonesia, which has not signed the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, Australia – which is a member of UNHCR’s Executive Committee, its governing body – had shirked its obligations under international law. Mr. Janowski said UNHCR was also perturbed by Australia’s decision to refuse the agency any access to the boat people to discuss possible solutions to where they should go.“These people had already entered Australian territory and should have been given access to a fair asylum procedure – a fundamental principle of international law,” he said.“Instead they were sent back to a country which has no asylum procedure in place and where there is no possibility of being granted durable asylum.” read more

UN and Middle East partners express grave concern over escalating IsraeliPalestinian tensions

“The Quartet expresses grave concern over the continuing escalation of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians,” said a statement statement issued in Vienna, Austria. “The Quartet condemns all acts of terror and violence against civilians.”“Underscoring the urgent need to restore calm the Quartet reiterates its call for maximum restraint and avoidance of provocative rhetoric and actions,” the statement said.The statement was issued after a meeting of the representatives of the diplomatic grouping – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State John Kerry, European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon represented by his Special Coordinator on the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov.Meanwhile, at UN Headquarters, Mr. Ban, just back from the Middle East, joined their discussions by video conference and highlighted that the Quartet remains committed to working with all relevant parties – on the ground, regionally and internationally – to create the conditions for a return to “meaningful bilateral negotiations.”Today’s Quartet statement encouraged “Israel to work together with Jordan to uphold the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem in both word and practice, recognizing the special role of Jordan as per its peace treaty with Israel.”It said Envoys of the Quartet will travel to the region in the coming period and engage directly with the parties to encourage them to take concrete actions, consistent with prior agreements, that demonstrate their genuine commitment to pursuing a two-state solution. “Recalling its previous statements and relevant UN Security Council resolutions and recognizing that security measures alone cannot stop the cycle of violence, the Quartet calls for significant steps to be taken, consistent with the transition contemplated by prior agreements, in order to restore confidence and hope in the viability of a negotiated two-state solution that resolves the final status issues, including that of Jerusalem, and ends the occupation that began in 1967,” today’s statement noted.The Quartet also reaffirmed its “strong commitment to act in coordination with regional and international stakeholders in an effort to stabilize the situation and to assure and actively support a just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” read more