Merkel said to kickstart German coalition talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting members of three smaller political parties to sound out their red lines. (Michael Kappeler/dpa via AP)
Updated 29 October 2017
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Merkel said to kickstart German coalition talks

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to meet with possible coalition partners on Sunday to kickstart the process of forming a government after talks got off to a rocky start last week, media reported.
Merkel, whose conservative alliance came first but lost seats in the Sept. 24 national election, is trying to forge a three-way coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and environmental Greens that is untested at a national level.
The process is proving tricky, with disputes about climate and immigration policy played out in German media over the weekend after what one negotiator described as a “big clash” between participants on Thursday.
Bild am Sonntag newspaper said Merkel would try to “rescue” the talks by meeting with Horst Seehofer, who heads the conservative Bavarian CSU party, two officials from the Greens and FDP leader Christian Lindner at an undisclosed location.
The political mood remained stormy.
Bild am Sonntag said Lindner, for instance, had argued that he should be allowed to bring a second FDP official to the high-level meeting since the Greens were also bringing both Cem Ozdemir and Katrin Goering-Eckardt.
The exploratory talks are due to continue Monday after the three sides failed to reach agreement on immigration and climate issues during an 11-hour session on Thursday.
The possible partners in a so-called Jamaica coalition — a name chosen because the parties’ black, yellow and green colors mirror those of the Jamaican flag — are at odds over ending coal production to lower carbon dioxide emissions and migrant caps.
Many conservatives want to take a harder line on immigration, blaming their election setback on Merkel’s decision to allow in more than a million migrants in 2015 and 2016. They want to limit refugee numbers, but the Greens reject such a cap.
Other issues such as pensions and labor regulations — which could be on the agenda on Monday — appear less contentious.
The three blocs are also moving toward agreement on the issue of legalizing marijuana through licensed distributors, such as pharmacies, the Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.
Fritz Becker, head of the German pharmacists association, said his group was ready to take on the job, and had let the parties know its position.
Better to legalize marijuana with “consultation about risks and side effects, good customer service and clean merchandise,” he told the newspaper.
Alexander Lambsdorff, deputy leader of the FDP parliamentary group, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that exploratory talks on forming a coalition were in “a difficult phase” but said that was not unexpected at such an early stage in the negotiations.
“Of course there will still be different interpretations and the occasional rumble,” he said.
He said the FDP and Greens had “no choice but to talk to each other” given the current circumstances in the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament.
“In the end, everyone will have to see if they can support the result. No one will be served if a coalition emerges that is at odds for four years,” he told the newspaper.
The Social Democrats, junior partner to the conservatives over the last four years, have vowed to stay in opposition.


Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel

Updated 16 January 2019
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Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel

  • Malaysia is a strong supporter of the Palestinian plight
  • The government said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in July that serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the government will not budge over a ban on Israeli athletes in a para swimming competition and has decided that the country will not host any events in the future involving Israel.
Malaysia, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, is among the predominantly Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The government has said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in eastern Sarawak state in July, which serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the Cabinet affirmed last week that no Israeli delegates can enter Malaysia for sporting or other events in solidarity with the Palestinians.
“The Cabinet has also decided that Malaysia will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives. This is to me, a decision to reflect the government’s firm stance over the Israeli issue,” Saifuddin said after meeting a coalition of Muslim groups. The groups submitted a memorandum urging the government to stick to the ban and not to repeat mistakes in the past of allowing Israel delegates into the country.
Saifuddin said the Palestinian cause was not just a religious issue but also a human right violation.
“It’s about fighting on behalf of the oppressed,” he said.
Israel’s Paralympic Committee did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment on Malaysia’s move.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the International Paralympic Committee can withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the July 29-Aug 4 championship involving athletes from some 70 countries if they wish to do so. The committee has said it was disappointed with Mahathir’s comments but hopes to find a solution to the issue.
This isn’t the first time Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event. In 2015, two Israeli windsurfers had to withdraw from a competition on the resort island of Langkawi after they were refused visas to enter. The following year, Malaysia decided not to host a 2017 conference of the world football governing body FIFA because an Israeli delegation was scheduled to participate.
But earlier this year, the government allowed a high-level Israeli delegation to attend a UN conference in Kuala Lumpur, sparking widespread anger among Muslim groups.
Some 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. Many have taken to the streets in the past to support the Palestinian cause.