Russia forces UN to nix support for LGBT rights from tribute to outgoing leader

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council eliminated a reference to one of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s key achievements — support for gay rights — in a statement Wednesday paying tribute to the outgoing U.N. chief.

Council diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private, said Russia insisted on getting rid of the reference to LGBT rights.

Ban and many Western countries have worked to improve the rights of the LGBT community in recent years but have repeatedly run into opposition from some member states, especially countries in the Middle East and Africa as well as Russia and China.

The original statement, obtained by The Associated Press, said it was thanks to Ban “that women, young people, and the LGBT community have been heard and assisted, and today their voices sound louder and stronger in (U.N.) headquarters and around the world.”

But the statement read at Wednesday’s council tribute to Ban made no reference to the LGBT community, instead saying it was thanks to the secretary-general “that the most vulnerable or marginalized have been increasingly heard and assisted by the United Nations.”

A brief resolution adopted by the council by acclamation on Wednesday acknowledges Ban’s “exceptional efforts to solve international problems in economic, social, environmental and cultural fields, as well as his endeavors to meet humanitarian needs and to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.”

Spain’s U.N. Ambassador Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, the current council president, then read the council statement, highlighting Ban’s “two remarkable successes:” the new U.N. goals for 2030 and last December’s agreement to combat climate change. It also cited his efforts to promote human rights and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.

Ban, who hands the reins of the U.N. to Antonio Guterres on Jan. 1 after 10 years as secretary-general, responded by urging the Security Council to take early action to prevent conflicts.

Above all, he pleaded for council unity, saying where unity is lacking such as in resolving the dispute over Western Sahara, “the consequences can be profound” — and in the case of conflict-torn South Sudan “even catastrophic.”

“My deepest regret on leaving office is the continuing nightmare in Syria,” Ban said, again pleading with the deeply divided council which has failed to act to try to end the more than five-year conflict to protect Syrian civilians.

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