UN chief and top US diplomat meet on global hot spots

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed global hot spots Friday, while America’s top diplomat again expressed “outrage” at the U.N.’s publication of companies it says are operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank in violation of Palestinian human rights.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric made no mention of the U.N. human rights office’s list of more than 100 companies released Feb. 12. But State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo made clear the U.S. “will continue to engage U.N. officials and member states on this matter, will not tolerate the reckless mistreatment of U.S. companies, and will respond to actions harmful to our business community.”

The list included well known U.S.-based global companies, among them Airbnb, Motorola and General Mills.

Although the United Nations says Israeli settlements violate international law, the U.N. human rights office said only that the companies are complicit in violating Palestinian human rights by operating in the settlements.

The more than 40-minute meeting between Guterres and Pompeo took place in the secretary-general’s 38th floor office. Pompeo refused to answer shouted questions from reporters as he entered and left U.N. headquarters.

On the issue of Syria, where Russia and Turkey agreed to a cease-fire in northwest Idlib that began at midnight Thursday, the State Department said Pompeo and Guterres “discussed the importance of an enduring ceasefire."

Ortagus said they also discussed “continuing U.N. authorized cross-border aid deliveries,” which have been a lifeline for Syrians, especially in Idlib.

In January, Russia scored a victory for its ally Syria by using its veto threat to force the Security Council to adopt a resolution significantly reducing the delivery of cross-border humanitarian aid, which cut off critical medical assistance to over 1 million Syrians in the northeast.

As for Afghanistan, the United States is currently seeking Security Council support for its agreement with the Taliban aimed at ending America’s longest war and bringing U.S. troops home.

The U.N. is also engaged in trying to end conflicts in Yemen and Libya and in trying to tackle terrorism in the Sahel.

At the meeting with Pompeo, the secretary-general “expressed appreciation for the continued engagement of the United States in the United Nations” and raised “questions related to the implementation of the host country agreement,” Dujarric said.

Under the 1947 agreement between the United States and the United Nations, U.S. federal, state and local authorities “shall not impose any impediments to transit to or from” U.N. headquarters for representatives of U.N. member nations, with few exceptions. When visas are required by the U.S., the agreement says “they shall be granted without charge and as promptly as possible.”

In the past year, Russia, Iran and others have protested that the U.S. held up visas, preventing their officials from attending U.N. meetings.