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Iran nuclear deal still best way to ensure peace

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The UN regrets that the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is in doubt, but notwithstanding current challenges, that landmark deal is still the best way to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme proceeds along a peaceful path, the UN’s top political official said on Tuesday.

Rosemary DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told the Security Council that the 2015 agreement – which the Council endorsed through resolution 2231 – remains crucial to the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture and to regional and international security.

“It is therefore regrettable that the future of this agreement is in doubt”, she said, pointing to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018, the re-imposition of US sanctions and Washington’s decision not to extend waivers for oil trading with Iran.

Limits surpassed

She equally regretted that Iran, in response to the US withdrawal, has – under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring – surpassed limits stipulated in the Plan of Action on uranium enrichment, its stockpiles of heavy water and low-enriched uranium, and nuclear research and development activities.

She appealed to Iran to resume full implementation of the JCPOA, and to address concerns raised by other countries regarding its actions inconsistent with restrictions set out in Annex B of resolution 2231.

Ms. DiCarlo addressed a videoconference meeting of the Council as its 15 members took up the Secretary-General’s ninth report on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015) ahead of the scheduled expiration of a UN arms embargo on Iran on 18 October.

Iran implicated in Saudi attacks

Among other things, she said that, based on technical findings, and taking into account information provided by Iran, the Secretariat assessed that cruise missiles and delta-wing drones, or parts thereof, used in attacks on Saudi Arabia in 2019 were of Iranian origin.

She also said that the Secretariat has received information from Australia, Israel and Saudi Arabia regarding the alleged transfer of arms and related material from Iran, and that it will report back to the Council, if appropriate, in due course.

“Notwithstanding the current challenges to the JCPOA, it remains the best way to ensure the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme,” the Under-Secretary-General said.  “Its full implementation, as well as faithful adherence to resolution 2231, is also fundamental to regional stability,” she said.

US calls for arms embargo extension

In the debate that followed, US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo – describing Iran as “the world’s most heinous terrorist regime” – said that Washington’s “overwhelming preference” is to work with the Council to extend that embargo that the Council put into place in 2017 through resolution 1747 (2007).

“Don’t just take it from me or from the United States…From Israel to the Gulf, countries in the Middle East – who are most exposed to Iran’s predations – are speaking with a single voice: Extend the arms embargo”, he said.

“This Council has a responsibility to listen to them.”

He warned that if the embargo is allowed to run out, Iran will be free to acquire Russian fighter jets, strengthen its submarine fleet, share new military technology with its Middle East proxies and hold a sword of Damocles over the region’s economic stability.

“We’ve imposed arms restrictions on Tehran in various forms for 13 years, and with good reason, and to substantial effect”, the Secretary of State said.

Don’t give in to US ‘intimidation’ Iran urges

Iran’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, responded that if the Council falters, it will be a “generational setback” for multilateralism and the rule of law in the face of a US campaign of intimidation against international institutions.

Pointing to successive IAEA monitoring reports that found Iran in compliance with the Plan of Action, he said that Tehran has fulfilled all of its commitments in good faith, while Washington and its “enablers” have pressured the Secretariat into a one-sided interpretation of resolution 2231.

The international community in general, and the Council in particular, face a choice – to uphold respect for the rule of law or to return to the rule of the jungle by surrendering to the whims of an outlaw bully, he said.

He added that it is long overdue for the international community and the Council to hold the US accountable for its wrongful acts, including three wars in as many decades in the Middle East and economic terrorism against the Iranian nation.

Iran prefers constructive engagement, but it does not depend on others for its security, stability and prosperity, he said, adding that more than four decades of US pressure have failed to bring Iranians to their knees.

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Health & Wellness

Over 500,000 people have been inoculated against COVID-19 in Moscow

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The number of people who wish to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Moscow has reached half a million, and over 500,000 of them have already received their first jab. Every day between 12,000 and 20,000 residents of the city sign up for vaccination.

Vaccines are being administered in 100 vaccination points in city polyclinics and 20 popular public places, where mobile teams have been deployed. The list of categories of citizens entitled to vaccination is constantly expanding and the city’s vaccination campaign is picking up pace.

The list of categories of citizens prioritized for vaccination also includes Muscovites over the age of 60 years old (who form the largest risk group and are most vulnerable to COVID-19). More than 9,000 residents of 33 retirement homes have already been vaccinated. In addition, vaccination is recommended for people with chronic diseases who need to stay at home, as well as college and university students over 18 years of age.

A convenient online vaccination appointments system has been set up specially for Muscovites in the mos.ru portal. It can be accessed by going to ‘Doctor’s Appointment’ in the list of services and selecting ‘Vaccination Against COVID-19’.

In addition, vaccine appointments can be made via the My Moscow mobile app, the Moscow Gosuslugi government services website and the emais.info medical services portal, as well as by calling a vaccination center. The vaccine is administered in two doses, with appointments for the second injection being made automatically.

Many large employers are requesting on-site vaccination of their staff, and this network will be gradually expanded. Naturally, the throughput capacity of such organizations and, most importantly, the employers’ wishes are being taken into account.

Detailed information on the vaccination program has also been posted in the portal’s special project.

The Sputnik V vaccine consists of two components requiring two injections, and provides a reliable immune response. Volunteers will first be injected with the first component of the vaccine, with a second vaccination following 21 days later. Only the first appointment needs to be booked, as the doctor will arrange the patient’s second visit on the day of their first vaccination. To ensure that people do not forget about their re-vaccination, they will receive an SMS message the day before it, reminding them of the date, time and clinic they need to attend.

The vaccination process takes at least an hour, including a 10-minute examination by a doctor before the vaccination and 15 minutes spent preparing the vaccine, which is stored in frozen state (with five doses in one vial) and thawed for five patients at once when they have been examined. Post-vaccination observation and examination take a further 30 minutes. Each patient receives a certificate recording the two injections and confirming that they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The vaccine was produced using a biotechnological process based on the most modern technological platform created by Russian scientists. It is safe because it does not contain the coronavirus. It is based on special structures (carrier vectors) created in the laboratory that contain only a part of the virus gene. Upon encountering the vaccine, the human immune system produces protective antibodies.

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Human Rights

Belarus human rights situation deteriorating further

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Large crowds have demonstrated their anger at the results of the presidential election in Belarus. Photo: Kseniya Halubovich

A “systematic crackdown” against dissent in Belarus is continuing, months since the country’s disputed presidential election last year, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has told the Human Rights Council.

In comments to the Geneva forum on Thursday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that curbs on demonstrators had got worse since last August’s poll returned President Alexander Lukashenko to office.

Those protests had led to “mass arbitrary arrests and detentions” of largely peaceful demonstrators, along with “hundreds of allegations of torture and ill-treatment”, Ms. Bachelet said, before noting that “not one of the hundreds of complaints for acts of torture and ill-treatment” had been investigated.

The High Commissioner highlighted concerns about Government proposals which would reportedly “enable harsher punishments” for those taking part in peaceful demonstrations from now on.

To date, nearly 250 people have received prison sentences on allegedly politically-motivated charges context of the 2020 presidential election, Ms. Bachelet said.

‘Unprecedented’ human rights crisis

The OHCHR report “covers serious violations” of rights between 1 May and 20 December last year. “The events that unfolded before and immediately after the election have led to a human rights crisis of unprecedented dimension in the country”, added Ms. Bachelet.

All of the violations detailed “committed with impunity, created an atmosphere of fear”, she said, noting the further deterioration since December.

She said journalists were being increasingly targeted, “and human rights defenders both institutionally and individually. Just last week, large-scale searches of human rights defenders, journalists, and organizations such as the Belarusian Association of Journalists and Viasna (A Minsk-based human rights centre) were conducted, reportedly in connection with criminal investigations for ‘mass disorder’”.

Release innocent protesters

She told the Council it was “essential for the future of the country that respect for human rights, and the broadest possible civic space, be established. All those who have been detained for peacefully exercising their rights should be released.”

The rights chief called for “thorough, effective, credible and transparent investigations” into all the allegations of serious violations, with perpetrators being brought to justice, as well as an “immediate end” to the Government policy of harassment and intimidation of civil society and media workers.

“I further recommend comprehensive reform of the national legal framework”, she concluded. “Our report includes specific recommendations, which address key systemic issues, including with respect to fair trials, due process and the independence of the judiciary.”

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Health & Wellness

Natalia Vodianova joins UNFPA to tackle stigma and advance women’s health

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Russian supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova has been appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA. Photo: UNFPA

The UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, UNFPA, on Wednesday appointed supermodel, philanthropist, and impact investor Natalia Vodianova as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, in an effort to empower women and girls, including fighting stigma surrounding menstruation.

“For too long, society’s approach to menstruation and women’s health has been defined by taboo and stigma”, said Ms. Vodianova, stressing that the situation “has undermined the most basic needs and rights of women.”

In her new role with UNFPA, officially known as the UN Population Fund, Ms. Vodianova will seek to help culturally redefine menstruation, as a normal bodily function.

On any given day, more than 800 million women and girls aged 15 to 49 are actively menstruating. In many countries, taboos surrounding the cycle leaves girls vulnerable and can even be life-threatening, says UNFPA, as they are excluded from public life, denied opportunities, sanitation and basic health needs.

Major mission

The agency said in a press release, that the issue has been starved of the attention it deserves, but in recent years that has started to change, and “achieving this, is central to UNFPA’s mandate”.

“It’s a tragic irony that something as universal as menstruation can make girls feel so isolated…We all have a role to play in breaking the taboos around menstruation”, said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, underscoring the significance of spotlighting the damage caused.

She added that the agency “is pleased to partner with such a powerful and committed advocate. Societies prosper when girls are confident, empowered and making their own decisions!”

Building on past momentum

Over the past three years, Ms. Vodianova has teamed up with UNFPA to launch a series of “Let’s Talk” events worldwide, which have mobilised policy makers, civil society and the private sector to help tackle shame, exclusion and discrimination, faced routinely by millions of women and girls.

Leaders from various sectors such as fashion, politics, sport, technology and media have also gathered in Turkey, Kenya, Switzerland, Belarus and India to advance women’s health.

Raised in poverty by a single mother in Russia, along with caring for a half-sister who has cerebral palsy and autism, Ms.Vodianova is a passionate advocate for human rights, including reproductive rights and the rights of people living with disabilities, UNFPA noted.

The agency said it was looking forward to working with her in her role as a bridge builder across the fashion and technology industries, where she’s an influential international voice, to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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