Swaziland faces a struggle to get permission to sell 330 kg rhino horn for about $10 million from a U.N. conference on the global wildlife trade which began in Johannesburg on Saturday but hopes to stoke a debate about regulated trade. The African Kingdom of Swaziland, a poor, landlocked African country that is home to elephants, rhinos and other big animals, wants to use the money earned to pay for the conservation of its wildlife, a key tourism earner. However, the global sale of rhino horn has been banned since the late 1970s and Swaziland's proposal requires the support of two thirds of member states of the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). "I don't think we have a hope in hell. But we've at least opened the debate," Ted Reilly, the chief executive of Swaziland's Big Game Parks, told Reuters. The CITES meeting comes against the backdrop of a surge in elephant and rhino poaching in Africa, lending a sense of urgency to this round of … [Read more...] about Swaziland’s rhino horn sale bid seen doomed at U.N. meeting on wildlife trade
Senior international envoys began gathering in New York on Thursday to seek UN backing for an ambitious US and Russian plan to seek a negotiated ceasefire in Syria's brutal civil war. US Secretary of State John Kerry has already travelled to Moscow this week to assure Bashar al-Assad's key Russian ally that Washington is not seeking "regime change" in Syria. On Thursday, he was to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in New York to reassure Assad's most implacable foe that the United States is not going soft on the Syrian strongman. Kerry's high-stakes diplomatic balancing act aims to keep both Moscow and Riyadh on board as the 17-nation International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) battles to cobble together peace talks. Washington and UN Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura want Assad's regime and the armed opposition groups ranged against him to send delegates to peace talks some time on or after January 1. If a ceasefire can be reached in Syria's four-and-a-half-year-old civil war, … [Read more...] about U.S., Russia bring ambitious Syria peace plan to U.N.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry begins a visit to East Asia on Sunday in which he plans to press China to put more curbs on North Korea after its nuclear test and to urge Southeast Asia to show unity in response to China's claims in the South China Sea. Kerry starts what will be a three-day stay in the region in Laos, the 2016 chair the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), after attending the Davos summit in Switzerland and a stop in Saudi Arabia. He will head to Cambodia on Monday night and then on to Beijing for talks on Wednesday with the leadership there. In Beijing, Kerry is expected to stress the need for a united front in response to this month's North Korean nuclear test through additional U.N. sanctions and for a tough unilateral response from China, North Korea's main ally and neighbor, a senior official of the U.S. state Department said. "It is very important to present a united front ... but that united front has to be a firm one, not a flaccid one," … [Read more...] about Kerry to press China over N. Korea, urge ASEAN unity over South China Sea
A United Nations envoy halted his attempts to conduct Syrian peace talks on Wednesday after the army, backed by Russian air strikes, advanced against rebel forces north of Aleppo, choking opposition supply lines from Turkey to the city. Another senior U.N. official said the Russian escalation was the main reason for the suspension of the peace talks, which have made little progress since beginning earlier this week. Staffan de Mistura announced a three-week pause in the Geneva talks, the first attempt to negotiate an end to Syria's war in two years, saying they needed immediate help from the rival sides' international backers, principally the United States and Russia. "I have indicated from the first day that I won't talk for the sake of talking," the envoy, who has described the negotiations as Syria's last hope, told reporters. A senior U.N. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that De Mistura halted the talks after Russia's military escalation undermined the negotiating … [Read more...] about U.N. halts Syria talks as government closes in on Aleppo
The United States criticized a planned visit to North Korea by Google chairman Eric Schmidt, calling it ill-timed in the wake of Pyongyang's widely condemned rocket launch last month. Schmidt -- whose company has an unofficial motto of "Don't Be Evil" -- is planning to visit the isolated nation with former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a veteran troubleshooter on North Korea. Richardson has been to North Korea a number of times in the past 20 years and has been involved in negotiating the release of US citizens detained in the country. News of the visit, described as "private' by both Washington and Seoul, comes just weeks after Pyongyang confirmed the arrest of a US citizen of Korean descent and said he would be prosecuted for unspecified crimes. Pyongyang has in the past agreed to hand over detainees to high-profile delegations led by the likes of former US president Bill Clinton, and some observers suggested it may have requested Schmidt's participation in this … [Read more...] about US criticizes Google chairman’s N. Korea visit