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China faces ‘tentative’ ultimatum on blacklisting Masood Azhar

The United States, France and the United Kingdom are reported to have posted a deadline for China to lift its hold on their proposal for a UN Security Council body to blacklist Masood Azhar, founder of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has claimed responsibility for the Pulwama terror attack in February.

The three powers want China to allow the UNSC designation of Azhar “tentatively” by April 23, or they will move to the next step by moving a formal resolution for discussion, vote and passage at the UNSC, according to a report in The Times of India, which could not be verified independently.

In response to a request for comment, the United States said, “We decline to comment”. A response was awaited from the permanent mission of France, which had taken the lead in introducing the fourth proposal yet to designate the JeM terrorist. The US and the UK jointly sponsored the proposal.

Moved before the 1267 sanctions committee of the UN Security Council after Pulwama, the proposal stalled after a technical hold was put on it by China, which blocked all three previous attempts acting on behalf of Azhar’s host country Pakistan. Under the rules, China could keep the hold in place for six months and then three more.

But, out of patience, the US, the UK and France are determined to force China’s hand this time by going around the sanctions committee, whose opaque operational rules of confidentiality and anonymity allowed China to block the designation without explaining its reasons or taking responsibility for it.

The three powers moved a draft resolution before the Security Council late last month to trigger “informal discussions” on the designation with the understanding amongst themselves that China cannot be allowed to take forever to decide. It had a choice now: relent, or protect a terrorist from designation in full view of the world.

Beijing bristled at being pushed and complained the three powers were setting a bad precedent by going around the sanction committee. But it was met with even more determination and resolve.

The United States said it was prepared to “utilize all available resources” to blacklist Azhar.

Discussions have been on since. And Beijing has claimed it is working hard to resolve the issue. Some progress has been reported indeed but the US, the UK and France and India, which is not a member of the UNSC, are unwilling to let Beijing “run the clock” on it, as it has done before.

The next stage of the plan put into motion by the three powers after China put the hold early March was to move a formal resolution before the

and seek an open debate and vote, in a rare move to blacklist a man whose outfit was designated a terrorist organization in 2001.

There has been no reaction from China yet to the reported ultimatum.

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