UN, US sign agreement on Haiti relief cooperation
UN and U.S. signed an agreement clarifying the world body's responsibility for coordinating the international relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
United Nations and the United States signed an agreement on Friday clarifying the world body's responsibility for coordinating the international relief efforts in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
The agreement comes after U.N. officials, aid workers and diplomats had complained privately about tensions between the United Nations and U.S. military in the early days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, as governments scrambled to get urgently needed aid to the poor Caribbean nation.
"This agreement formalizes the working relationship between the United States and the United Nations on the ground in Haiti, and ensures that this cooperation will continue in the challenging days and weeks ahead," U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said in a statement.
With an enlarged maximum strength of 12,651 troops and police, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is responsible for helping Haitian authorities maintain "a secure and stable environment," the agreement says.
"The United Nations is coordinating the international response to the Haitian earthquake," it says.
But it makes clear that the Haitian government has primary responsibility for the response to the earthquake, security and in leading the recovery and reconstruction process.
The agreement also says the U.S. military, which has over 13,000 military personnel on the ground or offshore in Haiti, will not don blue helmets but operate under U.S. command.
It says the U.S. government commits to supporting relief work the United Nations says should have priority.
On Wednesday, the French group Doctors without Borders, one of the world's top humanitarian aid agencies, accused the United States of mishandling aid operations in Haiti and causing severe delays to doctors trying to bring vital help to victims of the earthquake.
Francoise Saulnier, head of group's legal department said days had been lost because the main airport in Port-au-Prince, now under U.S. control, had been blocked by military traffic.
U.N. officials and Western diplomats later played down the tensions, saying such conflicts were inevitable in the chaos following a disaster of the scale of the Haitian earthquake.
Edmond Mulet, acting head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti, said on Friday that coordination in delivering aid in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere had improved and was getting better every day.
Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the General Assembly that 70 U.N. staff had died in the earthquake, making it the greatest loss of life as a result of a single incident in the world body's 65-year history.
Up to 1.5 million Haitians lost their homes in the earthquake, which devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince, and killed up to 200,000.
Reuters Last Mod: 22 Ocak 2010, 22:21