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Palestine moves to join International Criminal Court, numerous global treaties

INTERNATIONAL – Palestinian Authority officials today presented to the United Nations documents for accession to 16 international conventions and treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world body has confirmed.

The documents – for accession to conventions and treaties for which the UN Secretary-General performs depositary functions – are being reviewed with a view to determining the appropriate next steps, according to a note issued to the media by a UN spokesperson.

The original versions of the documents were delivered yesterday to the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, James Rawley, in Ramallah.

“This is a very significant step […] to seek justice through a legal option,” Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, told reporters in New York after he transmitted copies of the documents to the UN Secretariat.

“It is a peaceful option. It is a civilized option. It is an option that anyone who upholds the law should not be afraid of. It is an option we are seeking in order to seek justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying Power…”

The Palestinian Government has confirmed that it will seek retroactive action against Israel at the ICC, which is based in The Hague, for alleged crimes committed by Israel in Gaza last summer. Nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis died during the 50-day conflict that ended in August.

Mr. Mansour said the request was made to the ICC on Thursday. “We delivered last night a letter to the Office of the Registrar in The Hague requesting retroactivity with regard to the crimes committed during the last war in Gaza and reserving our right for other retroactive crimes committed by Israel.”


St. Maarten named in usa today's 10 best readers choice awards for "Best Romantic Caribbean Island"

PHILIPSBURG – The romantic island of St. Maarten/St. Martin ( has been named in the Top 10 of the "Best Romantic Caribbean Island" by USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards.  The full list of winners can be seen here: Maarten/

“St. Maarten is an island that is as unique as it is beautiful and our selection by USA Today readers as one of the top ten romantic islands in the Caribbean affirms our haven as an idyllic paradise for couples,” said  Gus Priest, interim director of tourism for the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.

Couples visiting St. Maarten/St. Martin enjoy a natural, picturesque backdrop of swaying palm trees, turquoise blue water and white-sand beaches. The destination offers countless activities and attractions for romantic outings including sunset catamaran cruises, horseback riding, beach-side couples massages, intimate meals and more.

When romance means wedding bells, those wishing to get married in St. Maarten/St. Martin can engage the services of on-island wedding planners, who can assist with making the necessary arrangements for a ceremony, and caterers who can plan the perfect reception for the couple. Many of the destination's hotels and resorts offer complete wedding packages inclusive of an abundance of special amenities for the big day.

St. Maarten/St. Martin is home to 37 square miles of breath-taking beaches and boasts numerous historical and romance-oriented attractions. During the day, water sport enthusiasts can take full advantage of the island’s scuba diving and snorkelling facilities, while the capital of Philipsburg offers duty-free shopping with a lovely city atmosphere, 14 world-class, Vegas-style casinos and many nightclubs that provide endless entertainment.

With the widest variety of dining experiences of any other island in the Caribbean, the Dutch nation of St. Maarten and the French overseas collectivity of St. Martin offer a wide range of  cuisines served in  365 restaurants – one for every day of the year.

For more information on St. Maarten, visit the official site of the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France, creating a European-influenced vibe with a Caribbean flair.  As “the culinary capital of the Caribbean,” St. Maarten offers an eclectic array of cuisine fusion for food lovers with more than 365 restaurants, one for each day of the year to satisfy the tastes of every palate and pocketbook.

Accommodations are varied and include elegant private villas, family oriented resorts, quaint cottages and luxury spa resorts.  Air service is available to Princess Juliana International Airport from numerous U.S. and Canadian cities as well as from Europe, South America and the Caribbean.

Find St. Maarten on Facebook at and on Twitter at  For more information, visit


World wood production up for fourth year; paper stagnant as electronic publishing grows

INTERNATIONAL - Continuing steady growth in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year, global wood production has fully recovered from the economic downturn of 2008-2009, though production of pulp and paper stagnated largely due to a decline in consumption in China, data released by the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Agency (FAO) revealed.

FAO alsoreportedthat after 38 years of uninterrupted growth, production of paper and consumption of pulp and wastepaper - the two main products used to manufacture paper - declined by 1 per cent in China in 2013. The downturn in the world's largest producer and consumer of paper, due to the growth of electronic publishing, was largely responsible for the stagnation in global pulp and paper production in 2013.

“The developments in Chinese paper consumption are worth noting for the future,” said Adrian Whiteman, FAO Senior Forest Economist. “If people in China are switching to electronic media as so many of us have in the West, this will be the end of one of the few remaining centres of growth in printing and writing paper consumption.”

Despite the downturn in paper, China’s importance as a producer and consumer of other forest products continues to grow, according to the FAOstatistics. In 2013, the country overtook other major producers in different product groups, passing Canada in sawn wood production and the United States in timber consumption. China's imports of industrial round wood and sawn wood also surged by 18 percent and reached record levels in 2013.

The FAO study found strong global growth in sawn wood production, though sawn wood remained the only product group still to reach pre-recession levels of production. Total sawn wood production in 2013 was 421 million cubic metres, representing an increase of 4.6 percent compared to 2012 and of 22 percent since 2009.

Wood-based panel production worldwide hit a new record high in 2013, having been the only product category that did not contract during the recent recession. Wood pellet production also soared to an all-time high in 2013, mainly driven by bioenergy policies and consumption targets in Europe.

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