UN removes Saudi Arabia from blacklist
The Bangladesh government has sided with Saudi Arabia to request the UN to remove a Saudi-led coalition from a UN blacklist, as Dhaka and Riyadh are friends for long, former and current diplomats have said.
In its annual report on children in armed conflict published recently, the United Nations added the Saudi-led 10-nation coalition to its list of shame after concluding that it was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 children killed in Yemen last year.
On June 9, Ban Ki-moon had strongly criticised Saudi Arabia and its allies for putting “undue pressure” on the UN in order to seek their removal from the blacklist.
Later, Ban said he decided to temporarily take Saudi and some Arab monarchies off from the blacklist after they threatened to cut off funding to UN humanitarian programs.
Currently, Saudi Arabia hosts over 2 million Bangladeshi workers. It also has a strong influence over the Muslim world.
“Bangladesh and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been friends for long. We have strong engagement with the Kingdom at different levels,” said former ambassador Humayun Kabir.
“We have extended our support to Saudi Arabia considering our national interest and without compromising any international human rights standard.”
Former permanent representative to the UN AK Abdul Momen echoed Kabir. He said Bangladesh has stood beside its friend in its difficult time.
Talking to The Daily Star, a current diplomat, wishing not to be named, said Saudi Arabia this time has felt how badly it needs Bangladesh by its side.
Diplomatic sources said that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would have been affected had the coalition not been removed from the UN backlist.
Saudi Arabia was the 4th biggest donor to UNRWA after the United States, European Union and Britain, having supplied it nearly $100m last year.
The Saudi coalition members Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are also key donors for UNRWA, together supplying nearly $50m in 2015.
Saudi Arabia reacted angrily to the UN blacklist and demanded that the report be "corrected."
After Muslim allies of Saudi Arabia mount pressure on UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the UN on June 6 dropped Saudi Arabia from the blacklist.
Before that, Saudi Arabia and several Muslim countries had also threatened to cut Palestinian aid and funds to other UN programmes.
Spokesman for the UN secretary-general, Stéphane Dujarric, said Bangladesh, Jordan and United Arab Emirates contacted Ban's office to protest the listing of the coalition.
“There was a phone call, I believe, from the foreign minister of Bangladesh to the secretary-general expressing their concern at the placement of the Saudi-led coalition on the list,” he said at a press briefing on June 10 in UN headquarters, New York.
A highly-placed source at the foreign ministry yesterday told The Daily Star that the foreign minister contacted the UN chief's office before the reversal of the UN decision while on an official visit to Saudi Arabia with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on June 3-7.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International blasted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the decision, accusing him of caving in to Saudi pressure and damaging the world body's credibility, reported AFP.
The members of the Saudi-led coalition includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Senegal and Sudan.