China asks UN Security Council for ban on small arms to Haiti

·3-min read

China has asked the UN Security Council to vote on banning small arms to Haiti, setting up a potential stand-off Friday with the United States whose revised draft resolution does not reflect Beijing's proposal.

Council members are considering renewing a United Nations political mission to Haiti which expires on Friday night, but whether Chinese diplomats will go as far as to veto the latest resolution remains to be seen.

Beijing has taken an increasingly prominent role in issues relating to Haiti at the UN in recent years -- primarily over Port-au-Prince recognition of self-ruled Taiwan, which China views as its own territory.

"The situation in Haiti can't be worse. As we conduct the negotiations here, the gang violence is escalating in Port-au-Prince," a spokeswoman for the Chinese mission to the UN said.

"An embargo of weapons against criminal gangs are the minimum the Council should do in response to the appalling situation," she added, echoing the Chinese proposal for Security Council member states to ban small arms.

But the revised text from the United States and Mexico finalized late Thursday and seen by AFP falls short of an embargo, instead calling "upon Member States to prohibit the transfer of small arms, light weapons, and ammunition to non-State actors engaged in or supporting gang violence."

Gang violence in the Caribbean nation has been soaring -- alongside fuel shortages and rising food prices -- with at least 89 people killed in Port-au-Prince alone this week. Aid agencies have said the region is dangerous to access.

Diplomatic sources said Thursday that China has also asked the Council to vote on sanctioning Haiti's gang leaders, and even sending a regional police force to the violence-plagued island.

The individual sanctions would include travel bans and asset freezes, according to a draft text also seen by AFP.

Countries that have diplomatic relations with China usually refrain from having official exchanges with Taiwan.

Beijing denies any link between its stance at the United Nations and the Taiwan issue, however.

A Chinese diplomatic source told AFP that it was necessary to push political authorities in Haiti to act, and to put those responsible for the violence on notice with legal sanctions.

The United States is not necessarily against such sanctions, but they must be the right fit, an American diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

It wouldn't make much sense to implement an arms embargo without a sanctions committee or a group of UN experts to oversee it, the diplomat said, adding that further information about the proposed sanctions against individuals was necessary to discuss the idea.

It would all "need more work," the source said.

Crushing poverty and widespread violence is causing many Haitians to flee to the Dominican Republic, with which Haiti shares a border, or to the United States.

The Security Council is debating whether to extend the special UN political mission to Haiti, known by its acronym BINUH, to 2023.

A vote had initially been scheduled for Wednesday, but with Council members debating China's proposal, it was pushed back to Friday.

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