Germany’s Merkel sends positive signal to British PM May on Brexit talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she believed negotiations between the EU and Britain were moving forward and dismissing the prospect of a breakdown. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2017
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Germany’s Merkel sends positive signal to British PM May on Brexit talks

BRUSSELS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered one of her most positive assessments of Brexit talks in months on Thursday, saying she believed negotiations between the EU and Britain were moving forward and dismissing the prospect of a breakdown.
Merkel made her comments after the first day of a EU summit at which British Prime Minister Theresa May appealed to her fellow leaders to help her silence critics at home and break a deadlock in the talks.
“In contrast to how it is portrayed in the British press, my impression is that these talks are moving forward step by step,” Merkel told reporters, dismissing suggestions from some in Britain that the talks should be broken off as “absurd.”
“I have absolutely no doubts that if we are all focused ... that we can get a good result. From my side there are no indications at all that we won’t succeed,” she said.
Arriving for a second day, others emphasized the positive too.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat called it May’s “best performance yet” and “a warm, candid and sincere appeal,” though Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern said “rhetorical progress” needed to be followed by “tangible conclusions.”
May made no comment as she arrived for a breakfast meeting with summit chair Donald Tusk. Near midnight, speaking at the end of a dinner of butternut gnocchi and pheasant, she had sought to calm fears Britain would use its departure in March 2019 to undercut the EU economy by lowering standards and taxes.
She asked EU leaders to respond in kind to her efforts to break the Brexit stalemate, making clear she was disappointed at their plan to announce on Friday that talks have not yet made enough progress to move on to a discussion of future trade ties.
The EU is seeking a clearer commitment from Britain that it will settle financial obligations linked to its exit. Leaders will on Friday set a target of December for London to improve its divorce settlement offer.
But they will also make a gesture by launching internal preparations for the next phase of the negotiations.
In choreography that contrasted with images of May standing isolated in Brussels at previous summits, Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron were filmed by television cameras engaging the British prime minister in an animated conversation at the start of the summit.
Merkel said the three had been discussing the need to safeguard the Iran nuclear deal after US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to “decertify” it.
May underlined the “difficult political background” she faces if she returns home empty-handed and said she had realized at the end of the summer what difficulties the talks were in.
“I took stock, listened to what the people in the UK were saying and what my friends and partners in Europe were saying and I made a step forward,” she was quoted as saying by a British official, referring to a speech she made in Florence on September 22.
Merkel repeatedly referred to the speech as an “important” signal from May.
There was no discussion after May spoke, according to an EU diplomat. Tusk said only that the leaders took note of her comments.
Weakened after losing her Conservatives’ majority in a June election and by failing to rally support at an ill-fated party conference, May needs to keep the talks on the road to silence the voices calling for her to walk away from the negotiations.
The talks have stalled largely over how much money Britain owes when it leaves the bloc, with EU leaders urging May on Thursday to give more detail on how she will settle the bill.
May instead proposed more moves to protect the rights of EU citizens in Britain — one of three issues the bloc says must be settled before moving to discuss a future trading relationship.
After May leaves the summit on Friday morning, the other 27 leaders are due to call on their staff to prepare for talks on a transition period that would smooth Britain’s exit in 2019.
That may be enough for May to stave off an attempt by several Brexit campaigners for her to walk away.
“There is increasingly a sense that we must work together to get to an outcome we can stand behind and defend to our people,” May told the other leaders, according to the British official.


Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

Updated 40 min 3 sec ago
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Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

  • Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq
  • The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community

IRBIL, Iraq: The children of Yazidi women raped by Daesh men will be welcomed into the minority faith, a community leader said Thursday, allowing women taken as slaves by the militant group to return to Iraq from Syria.
Eido Baba Sheikh, son of the Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh, said the children of the formerly enslaved women will be treated as members of the faith, resolving one of the most difficult questions facing the community since the Daesh group’s 2014 campaign to try to exterminate the minority. Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq.
But the community shunned the women returning from captivity with children, a reflection of the deeply held Yazidi traditions to view outsiders with suspicion as a response to centuries of persecution.
US-backed Kurdish forces defeated the last fragments of the Daesh group’s self-styled “caliphate” in Syria in March, raising the possibility that thousands of missing Yazidi women and children might be found and reunited with their families.
Still, some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Many of the children enslaved by militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to Daesh families for rearing. Boys were pressed into the militants’ cub scouts, given military training, and indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Officials at the Beit Yazidi foundation in Kurdish-administered northeast Syria said Yazidi women with children who could have returned to Iraq were choosing to stay in Syria, instead, in order not to be separated from their children.
Other women gave their young ones up for adoption to find acceptance among their community.
The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community, on Wednesday.
Murad Ismael, a founder of the global Yazidi charity Yazda, said it will nevertheless take time for the community in Iraq to accept the mothers and their children, because of the stigma of rape.
“It will take a couple of years for the community to digest this fully,” he said.
He said many women and children will have to seek resettlement in other countries, some to escape the stigma of their situation, and to find psychosocial services to heal after the trauma of slavery.
The community sent two representatives to search for Yazidi women and children in the camps in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians who survived the Daesh caliphate are waiting to be returned to their places of origin, said Eido Baba Sheikh.
He said it is believed that there could be Yazidi children among foreign or Daesh families in the camps, a result of the sale of Yazidis under the caliphate. Complicating the search will be that many of the children may have never learned to identify as Yazidis, or to speak Kurmanji, the language of the community. Women and older children may have started to identify with their captors, as well, confounding search efforts.
And though the community will recognize the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they will still face legal difficulties in Iraq, said Eido Baba Sheikh. Under the country’s family laws, a child is registered under the nationality and religion of their father, and it is unclear whether Iraq will allow Yazidi survivors to register their children as Iraqi Yazidis when there are questions about the children’s patrimony.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish regional government, asked for continued US support to allow Iraqis displaced by the war with IS to return to their homes, according to a State Department statement on a call between Barzani and Vice President Mike Pence.
Iraq’s Kurdish region hosts more than 1 million displaced people, including many of the 200,000 Yazidis forced to flee their homes when the Daesh militants attacked their communities in 2014.