Tuesday 23 January 2018

Russia seeks tighter UN crackdown on terror financing

Russia wants to tighten the UN crackdown on terror group financing
Russia wants to tighten the UN crackdown on terror group financing

Russia is planning to circulate a draft United Nations resolution that will tighten the world body's crackdown on financing terrorist groups including the Islamic State (IS).

UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Security Council resolution would be a follow-up to the Russian-sponsored one adopted unanimously on February 12 which is aimed at halting illicit oil sales, trading in antiquities and ransom payments for hostages that are key methods used by extremist groups to finance terrorist operations.

"We're working on it," Mr Churkin said, adding that the resolution would be circulated "very soon. It's not a complicated thing".

Moscow gave copies of the draft to the United States, China and other council members late last week but the entire 15-member security council has not yet received it.

US ambassador Samantha Power said the Russian effort was focused on something the United States was also homing in on - the need to halt IS' ability to access funds "whether through oil sales or through moving money through the international financial system".

"So we have a shared objective there, and from a shared objective, hope springs eternal," she said.

As the security council president for December, Ms Power said members would also be discussing a new resolution on the sanctions regime against al Qaida and IS, so the council would be looking to see how the Russian draft and the new sanctions resolution overlapped, conflicted, or could come together.

The resolution adopted in February calls for sanctions on individuals and companies trading oil produced by IS and other terror groups.

It reaffirms that it is illegal to pay ransom to individuals and groups - such as IS and Jabhat al-Nusra - that are already subject to UN sanctions, and that all countries are required to freeze such funds.

It also requires all 193 UN member states to take "appropriate steps" to prevent the increasing trade in antiquities and other items of historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Syria.

A similar ban already existed for antiquities from Iraq.

:: IS has between 2,000 and 3,000 fighters in Libya and has demonstrated its intention to control more territory in the strategically located North African country, UN experts have said.

But their report to the security council added that the group was only one player among multiple warring factions,

The experts, monitoring UN sanctions against al Qaida and spin-off groups, said IS was benefiting from its "appeal" and notoriety in Iraq and Syria and posed "an evident short and long-term threat in Libya".

The group's central command views Libya "as the 'best' opportunity to expand its so-called caliphate" from Syria and Iraq, the report said.

But the 24-page report warned that the group "faces strong resistance from the population, as well as difficulties in building and maintaining local alliances" and stressed that its threat "needs to be realistically assessed".

Nonetheless, the experts said there was concern at the spread of IS in Libya, given the country's strategic location on the Mediterranean Sea and its use as a transit point in North Africa.

More territory would not only enable IS and al Qaida-linked groups to further influence ongoing conflicts in North Africa and the Sahel - the zone in Africa between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south - but give the extremists a new hub outside the Middle East, they said.

Eight independent experts were appointed by the UN secretary general to write the report, with expertise in counter-terror, financing of terrorism, arms embargoes, travel bans and related legal issues.

Oil-rich Libya slid into chaos following the 2011 toppling and killing of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi. It is divided between an elected parliament and government based in the eastern port city of Tobruk and an Islamist militia-backed government in the capital Tripoli - with militants from IS and al Qaida also exploiting the chaos.

Press Association

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