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The United Nations is “united in grief” in the aftermath of an Ethiopian plane crash that killed at least 21 staff workers from at least five UN agencies, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres says.
The crash of the Ethiopian Airlines jet, shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, has been a catastrophe for the world’s humanitarian community. In addition to the 21 victims from UN agencies, many other workers from private relief agencies were among the 157 passengers and crew who were killed in the crash.
Flights between Addis Ababa and Nairobi are often filled with staff from humanitarian organizations, since both cities are major hubs and regional centres for UN agencies, private relief groups, diplomatic offices and other international missions.
Jessica Hyba, a longtime worker at the UN refugee agency UNHCR and previously at CARE Canada, was one of 18 Canadians who died in the crash. She had been the senior external relations officer at the Mogadishu office of UNHCR and was among three workers at the agency who died.
Among the other relief agencies whose staff died in the plane crash were CARE, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, the Red Cross of Norway, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Italian humanitarian agency Africa Tremila, and a number of human rights and civil society organizations.
Many were attending the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, which began on Monday morning with a moment of silence for the victims as the assembly’s flags were lowered to half-mast.
Danielle Moore, a 24-year-old Canadian who worked for a Winnipeg charitable organization, was travelling to Nairobi to attend the UN Environment Assembly when she died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash.
“The global tragedy has hit close to home, and the UN is united in grief,” Mr. Guterres said at the opening of a UN women’s conference in New York on Monday.
He said the UN victims “all had one thing in common: the spirit to serve the world and to make it a better place for all.”
Among the UN agencies that lost staff in the crash are the World Food Program, UNHCR, the UN Environment Program, the International Telecommunications Union, and the International Organization for Migration.
Seven staff workers of the World Food Program were among those who died. “Each of these WFP colleagues were willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones to help make the world a better place to live,” WFP executive director David Beasley said in a statement. “That was their calling, as it is for the rest of the WFP family.”
Catholic Relief Services said four of its staff members were killed in the crash. The four were Ethiopians who were travelling to Nairobi to attend training.
Caring for Saudi teen’s safety, Canada refugee agency hires guard Amid threats to the safety of Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed, who was granted asylum in Canada, the Toronto agency that is helping her has hired a security guard to ensure “she is never alone” as she starts a normal life, its executive director said on Tuesday.
Mohammed, 18, made international headlines after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand’s capital Bangkok to avoid being sent home to her family due to fears of being harmed or killed. The family denies any abuse.
The teen has received multiple threats online that have made her fear for her safety, said Mario Calla, executive director of Costi, a refugee agency contracted by the Canadian government to help her settle in Toronto.
Costi has hired a security guard and plans to “make sure she is never alone,” Calla told reporters. “It’s hard to say how serious these threats are. We’re taking them seriously.”
Mohammed, who has renounced her family name al-Qunun, gave a public statement in Toronto on Tuesday that was read on her behalf in English by a settlement worker.
“I understand that everyone here and around the world wishes me well and would like to continue to hear about how I am doing, but … I would like to start living a normal private life, just like any other young woman living in Canada,” she said in the statement read by Saba Abbas.
Mohammed thanked the Canadian and Thai governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for making her move to Canada possible.
“I am one of the lucky ones,” she said. “I know that there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not do anything to change their reality.”
The 18-year-old left Bangkok airport for Canada, officials confirmed, after her ordeal went viral on social media.
An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family saying she feared for her life has been granted asylum in Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, as Thai officials confirmed the teen was en route to Toronto.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that Canada had accepted a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take in Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who grabbed international attention earlier this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.
“Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world, and I can confirm that we have accepted the UN’s request,” Trudeau told reporters.
Alqunun had arrived in Bangkok on January 5 and was initially denied entry, but she soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
Following a 48-hour standoff at Bangkok airport, some of it barricaded in a transit lounge hotel room, she was allowed to enter Thailand and was then processed as a refugee by the UNHCR.
The UNHCR welcomed Canada’s decision and also acknowledged Thailand had given Alqunun a temporary refuge.READ MORE
“Ms Alqunun’s plight has captured the world’s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement.
Alqunun has accused her family of abuse and has refused to meet her father and brother who arrived in Bangkok to take her back to Saudi Arabia.
“It was her wish to go to Canada,” Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters. “She still refuses to meet with her father and brother, and they are going to be travelling back tonight as well … They are disappointed.”
Her case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male “guardian” to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.
A Korean Air flight carrying Alqunun left Bangkok for Seoul on Friday night at 11:37pm local time (16:37 GMT), an airport official told Reuters news agency.
Alqunun was expected to board a connecting flight to Toronto from Seoul’s Incheon airport before arriving in Canada on Saturday morning.
Trudeau brushed off a question as to whether Canada’s move might make it harder to repair ties with Saudi Arabia.
“Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” he said.
Amid increasing domestic political pressure, Trudeau said last month that his Liberal government was looking for a way out of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Riyadh.
Alqunun’s flight has emerged at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.
Canada has repeatedly said Khashoggi’s murder was unacceptable and has demanded a full explanation.
A third Canadian has been detained in China following the arrest of a Chinese technology executive in Vancouver, a Canadian government official said on Wednesday amid a diplomatic dispute also involving the United States.
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, was arrested in Canada on December 1 at the request of the United States, which wants her extradited to face charges that she and her company misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran.
Nine days later, the Chinese secretly detained two Canadians on vague suspicions of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. Beijing didn’t allow Canadian officials to see Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat in China, for four days and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor for six days. Meng is out on bail in Canada.
But the third Canadian detained doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of the two previous ones, with no national security charges listed, Trudeau said. He raised the possibility of it being a visa issue.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged caution on Wednesday and said he would not be “stomping on a table” after China detained a third Canadian amid a diplomatic dispute over the arrest of a Chinese technology executive.
Leaders laud fallen soldiers on eve of armistice centennial
|AIWA! NO!|PARIS — Traveling from across the world to monuments honoring soldiers who fell 100 years ago, victors and vanquished alike marked those sacrifices Saturday ahead of Armistice Day and assessed alliances that have been redrawn dramatically since the dark days of World War I.
The leaders of former enemies France and Germany, in an intimate gesture that underscored their countries’ current roles as guarantors of peace in Europe, held their heads together at the site north of Paris where the defeated Germans and the Allies signed the agreement that ended the 1914-18 war.
After Chancellor Angela Merkel briefly snuggled her head into the neck of French President Emmanuel Macron, the two went inside a replica of the train car where the armistice was reached and put their names in a guestbook. Macron then took Merkel’s hand in his, again highlighting the changes on the continent where two world wars were fought in the 20th century.
“Our Europe has been at peace for 73 years. There is no precedent for it, and it is at peace because we willed it and first and foremost, because Germany and France wanted it,” he said.
Merkel was equally convinced of the power their friendship exudes.
“The will is there, and I say this for Germany with full conviction, to do everything to achieve a more peaceful order in the world even though we know we have very, very much work still ahead of us,” she said.
The open show of affection was a welcome antidote for Macron. Earlier Saturday, the French leader had a somewhat awkward meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. As Air Force One landed in Paris on Friday night, Trump wrote on Twitter he had been “very” insulted by comments Macron made in the days before that he considered anti-American.
A century ago, the entry of U.S. troops into World War I tipped the momentum toward its allies, including France and Britain. Even as he embarked on two days of observances for the Nov. 11, 1918 armistice, Trump said the United States now bears far too much of the burden to defend the West.
A flurry of Armistice-related diplomacy once again turned Paris, the jewel that Germany sought to take in 1914 but which the Allies successfully fought to defend, into the center of global attention Saturday as dozens of world leaders arrived in the French capital on the eve of the solemn centennial commemorations.
Merkel’s appearance in Compiegne marked how her nation’s bloodstained history with France has become a close alliance that is now the driving force behind the European Union.
In the four years of fighting, remembered for brutal trench warfare and the first use of gas, France, the British empire, Russia and the United States had the main armies opposing a German-led coalition that also included the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.
Almost 10 million soldiers died. France lost 1.4 million and Germany 2 million.
Yet, despite a war that was supposed to end all wars, World War II pitted both sides against each other once again in 1940.
Across the line that once marked the Western Front, leaders lauded the courage of soldiers who were killed during the unprecedented slaughter, before converging on Paris for a dinner.
The armistice entered into force on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, and on Sunday 69 world leaders will commemorate the centennial of the event at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, underneath the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris.
At dawn Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went to Vimy Ridge, the battlefield in northern France where Canada found its sense of self when it defeated German opposition against the odds.
Standing amid the white headstones against an ashen sky, Trudeau addressed the fallen, saying what Canada has achieved in the past century has been “a history built on your sacrifice. You stand for the values on which Canada was built.”
In southern Belgium’s Mons, Canadians were also lauding George Price, the last Commonwealth soldier to die in the war when he was shot by a German sniper two minutes before the armistice took effect.
Trump was looking beyond the tragedy of death and destruction, asking in a tweet: “Is there anything better to celebrate than the end of a war, in particular that one, which was one of the bloodiest and worst of all time?”
After his meeting with Macron, Trump had been scheduled to head to the battlefield of Belleau Wood, 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of the capital, where U.S. troops had their breakthrough battle by stopping a German push for Paris shortly after entering the war in 1917.
The battle of Belleau Wood proved America’s mettle to allies and foes alike, and by the time the war ended U.S. forces were at least an equal to any of the other major armies, which were exhausted and depleted.
However, Trump canceled his visit because of bad weather and immediately came in for criticism.
“It’s incredible that a president would travel to France for this significant anniversary – and then remain in his hotel room watching TV rather than pay in person his respects to the Americans who gave their lives in France for the victory gained 100 years ago tomorrow,” David Frum, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush, tweeted,
The White House sent a delegation that included chief of staff John Kelly in Trump’s place. Ben Rhodes, who served as deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, said the White House should have had a fallback plan for the president.
“There is always a rain option. Always,” Rhodes said.
Trump is scheduled to visit a different U.S. cemetery close to Paris on Sunday.