Unilateral sanctions contrary to Millennium Development Goals - Lavrov

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has cautioned the UN General Assembly against the heavy-handed use of sanctions.

He said economic penalties must not harm those the UN’s Millennium Goals program is designed to protect.

Meanwhile, the Middle-East Quartet has met behind closed doors to follow up on last week’s direct peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Holding talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the Middle-East Quartet, which consists of Russia, the US, the EU and the UN, has urged Israel to extend its freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank and Gaza. The deadline for the moratorium is considered to be September 26, even though Israeli military orders actually name the day to be October 4.

The issue is key, as Palestinians have said that Israel can forget about continuing direct talks if they do not extend this freeze after the deadline expires. And Israel has already said it is refusing to extend the moratorium.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals summit has also been taking place at the UN headquarters in New York, where leaders and top officials from almost 200 countries gathered to discuss the goals they have been able to meet during the last ten years. Back in 2000, world leaders agreed on a set of eight target goals which they hoped to meet by the year 2015, which means in five years the leaders will be again meeting to discuss which of these target goals they were able to reach. And these include ending poverty and hunger in the world by trying to cut in half the number of people who live on an income of less than one dollar a day.

And so far, results have been mixed, especially considering the difficult economic situations that many countries are now faced with.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave a speech at the summit in which he outlined how Russia had donated as much as US$800 million to developing nations in the last year alone. An interesting and important point that he spoke of was his calling upon countries not to ask other nations to impose unilateral economic sanctions against other nations.

“We're concerned about the unilateral measures of restraint, forcibly introduced by some states against developing countries, exceeding what’s in the UN Security Council Charter,” Lavrov said.

“We're sure this practice contradicts the efforts of the Millennium Development Goals and has to be stopped.

“Sometimes to resolve the issues, set in the UN Charter, the world community has to resort to such measures, like economic sanctions,” the Russian Foreign Minister added.

Meanwhile, a number of protests have taken place in New York. The largest is expected to be on Thursday when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the UN General Assembly.

Many more speeches and events are taking place throughout the week – among them, a meeting of the five permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany, to discuss Iran.