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UN diplomats: North Korean military hardware seized en route to Syria

Pyongyang accused of violating UN sanctions to export missile technology to Assad.

A North Korean consignment of hardware usable in missile development discovered in May was bound for Syria, UN Security Council diplomats told Reuters on Tuesday.

If confirmed, the shipment would be a direct violation of UN arms trading sanctions levelled against Pyongyang after successive nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

The consignment of 455 graphite cylinders – declared as lead piping – was seized by South Korean authorities who discovered the cargo aboard a Chinese ship anchored in the South Korean port of Busan.

The allegations – which were outlined in a classified UN report – held that the materiel could have been destined for the Bashar al-Assad regime for use in Syria’s missile programme.

An anonymous envoy privy to the report told Reuters:

It appears the cylinders were intended for Syria’s missile program.

Unlike North Korea, there is currently no UN arms embargo against Damascus, despite the EU and US trading sanctions imposed upon the Assad regime. 

Syria receives the bulk of its imported armoury from Russia and Iran.

According to AFP, the ship carrying to the cargo – the Xin Yan Tai – is registered to a Shanghai shipping company, which implicates China.  

However, a diplomat told Reuters that the ship's crew were likely to have been unaware of its exact contents of the consignment.

Meanwhile, Beijing has agreed to join South Korean authorities in investigating the circumstances surrounding the contraband. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters:

“China will handle behaviour that violates relevant UN Security Council resolutions and China’s laws and regulations according to the law.”

In a separate issue, the classified report – compiled by a panel of Security Council members – included confirmation from the Ukranian authorities of the arrests of two alleged North Korean arms agents. The men were arrested on accusation of attempting to steal ballistic missile technology from the former-Soviet state.

Alex Ward is a London-based freelance journalist who has previously worked for the Times & the Press Association. Twitter: @alexward3000

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Why did the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet win this year's Nobel Peace Prize?

Thanks to Tunisia, it is no longer possible to argue that the Middle East and North Africa are inherently undemocratic or prone to violence.

It is a fitting that in a tumultuous year for global peacemaking, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the little-known Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, a coalition made up of the union federation UGTT, the employers’ institute, the Tunisian human rights league and the order of lawyers . Over the past few years, the Quartet has been quietly shepherded in democracy to the country that lit the fuse of the Arab Spring. In part thanks to the efforts of this broad cross-section of civil society, Tunisia has stayed the course in transitioning from an authoritarian past to a democratic future, even in the face of terrorist violence and as other revolutions in the region have faltered.

The award comes at a time of escalating sectarian conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen. Islamic State’s campaign of terror has uprooted Iraqis and Syrians alike, driving desperate refugees into small boats to battle the waves of the Mediterranean. They join others fleeing to Europe from political and economic crises in Africa and Asia, forming a stream of humanity symbolising failures in leadership in three continents.

Among all this, it is not hard to identify why the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the world’s most coveted peace prize to the Tunisian Quartet.

First,Tunisia deserves to be celebrated for its momentous achievements in consolidating democracy. Unlike other countries in the region, it has trodden a path that is slow but solid, adopting a comprehensive and consensus-building approach to decision-making.

In this it provides a rare and extremely important example, not only for the region but also for the world. Thanks to Tunisia, it is no longer possible to argue that the Middle East and North Africa are inherently undemocratic or prone to violence.

Civil society steps up

Second, the role of civil society is fundamental for bringing about sustainable peace. Political leadership is important, but the scale of the challenge in transitional societies means that we cannot simply leave things to political leaders to sort out.

At local level especially, peace feels a lot more real when it comes with tangible improvements to quality of life. Citizens want to see the economy motoring again and to have confidence in the state’s institutions. They want to know that they can sleep soundly and safely, without fear of violence, persecution or poverty. Governments often lack the capacity and credibility to deliver these dividends alone. Civil society must step up to the plate – particularly the associations of trade, justice and human rights of which the Quartet is formed.

And third, the Quartet’s work relies heavily on forming constructive relationships across the political spectrum – from secularists to fundamentalists. It has walked a fine line, keeping disparate groups with diverging interests invested in an inclusive national process of dialogue. It has, in the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, laid the “groundwork for a national fraternity”.

Politicians are often the most cynical of creatures, yet the Quartet has managed to build a sense of collective endeavour among them. It has encouraged them to put the country’s best interest ahead of personal or sectarian interests, making this the guiding principle for decision-making.

Other bright spots

The transition in Tunisia is a work in progress and there will be more setbacks and successes. The country was left reeling from two terrorist attacks earlier this year, when 22 people were killed at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, and another 39 people died during an attack on a tourist resort in Sousse. But the message today is clear – Tunisia has made remarkable progress since 2010, despite the odds. This is in large part due to a credible and engaged civil society, a remarkable achievement in a new democracy. The country has forged a path of inclusive national dialogue from which many lessons can be learned.

Elsewhere this year, Myanmar goes to the polls in November – the country’s first free national ballot since 1990. Colombia is closer to lasting peace than ever, ending half a century of war that has taken 220,00 lives and uprooted six million people.

The US restored diplomatic relationships with Cuba, and also struck a landmark agreement with Iran over its nuclear programmes. And the UN has adopted the sustainable development goals, explicitly recognising peaceful and inclusive societies as a development priority for the first time. Behind every step forward there is an individual or institution worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, but only one can win and the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is a worthy laureate.

Laura Payne is a Research Fellow and Director of RISING Global Peace Forum, Coventry University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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