At UN, diplomats are watching candidate Nikki Haley

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney listen as US President Donald Trump holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, US, January 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 13 January 2018
0

At UN, diplomats are watching candidate Nikki Haley

UNITED NATIONS: One year into the job, Nikki Haley stands out as the star of President Donald Trump’s administration, and diplomats say the UN ambassador is directing some of that star power into a likely White House bid.
Speculation about Haley’s presidential ambitious has picked up since she defended Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, staring down friends and foes alike at the world body.
The 45-year-old Republican resorted to a veto to block criticism from the UN Security Council and threatened reprisals against those who voted against Washington at the General Assembly.
The clash gave UN ambassadors a reality check: Haley, they say, is a politician, not a diplomat, and at the United Nations, she is playing to a domestic audience.
“She is not trying to win votes at the General Assembly. She is trying to win votes for 2020 or 2024,” a council diplomat said. “She is clearly using this position to run for something, that’s obvious.”
The former South Carolina governor arrived at the United Nations last year, promising a “new day” under Trump’s America First policy and vowing to “take names” of countries that don’t toe the line.
Seen at the outset as a foreign policy lightweight, Haley was quickly taken seriously because of her close ties to the unpredictable Trump.
Over the past year, she has pushed through three new sets of sanctions against North Korea, bringing China and Russia on side to tackle what Trump sees as his administration’s number one security threat.
Those sanctions won the unanimous backing of the council, where finding common ground with Haley is testing diplomatic skills.
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Haley is hawkish on Iran, fiercely pro-Israel and a strong advocate of cost-cutting at the United Nations.
That those three signature issues play well with the US Republican voter base is not lost on most diplomats.
“What matters above all are perceptions internally, in the US,” said another council diplomat, who like many declined to be quoted.
Haley was among the first administration officials to take a hard line on Russia, declaring that sanctions over Crimea would remain in place until Moscow gave the territory back to Ukraine.
Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko, who just wrapped up a two-year stint at the Security Council, says Haley is doing an “excellent job.”
“She may be less diplomatic sometimes than some could expect, but this is more an asset than a shortcoming,” he said.
For months, Haley had been tipped as a possible replacement to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom she has upstaged with her media appearances and statements that at times appear to break new ground.
In October, she put that speculation to rest, telling reporters that she wasn’t interested.
“I would not take it,” Haley told reporters on a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I want to be where I’m most effective.”
She is seen as a possible vice president to Mike Pence, should he take over the presidency.
Author Michael Wolff, whose book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” has become a national sensation, claims Haley has set her sights higher and is eyeing the presidency.
According to published excerpts, Haley began positioning herself as Trump’s heir after concluding in October that he was a one-term president.
Wolff quoted a senior White House staffer who described her “as ambitious as Lucifer” and another who offered the view that while being groomed by Trump, “she is so much smarter than him.”
Haley has brushed aside questions about her political ambitious, saying she is focused on the job at hand as she remains firmly in the limelight as the UN’s most-watched ambassador.


Passengers stranded as Cypriot airline goes bust

Updated 18 October 2018
0

Passengers stranded as Cypriot airline goes bust

  • Cobalt Air said it was canceling all flights from shortly before midnight “due to indefinite suspension of Cobalt’s operations”
  • Cobalt’s grounding comes just two weeks after Latvia-based Primera Air filed for bankruptcy and a month since Belgian airline Skyworks took the same course

LARNACA, Cyprus: Cyprus said Thursday it will pay to ensure hundreds of Cobalt Air passengers stranded on the holiday island can return home safely after the sudden collapse of the low-cost carrier.
In a surprise announcement posted on its website late Wednesday, the airline said it was canceling all flights from shortly before midnight “due to indefinite suspension of Cobalt’s operations.”
It warned customers its offices would no longer be staffed and urged them to seek refunds through their credit card company or travel agent.
Cobalt’s grounding comes just two weeks after Latvia-based Primera Air filed for bankruptcy and a month since Belgian airline Skyworks took the same course.
The airline was launched only two years ago, filling the void to become the Mediterranean island’s biggest carrier after state-owned Cyprus Airways went bankrupt in January 2015.
Employing many pilots from the defunct national carrier, it went on to operate 13-15 flights daily, taking up to 3,000 passengers to 23 destinations including Athens, Beirut, Heathrow, Paris and Tel Aviv.
But late on Wednesday night, its website was abruptly replaced with a single-page statement announcing the cancelation of all of its flights from 23:50 pm.
Its last flight was reportedly in the air on the way back to Larnaca from London at the time.
“As a result, future flights or services provided by Cobalt will be canceled and will no longer operate,” the statement said, without elaborating on the reasons.
The airline advised passengers with tickets against going to Larnaca International Airport or attempting to contact its offices “as no Cobalt flights will operate and no Cobalt staff will be present.”
“We sincerely apologize once again and would like to thank our very loyal customers for their support over the last two years of Cobalt operations.”
Nine flights had been scheduled to arrive and nine to depart from Larnaca airport on Thursday.
Hundreds of passengers were left stranded, although it was not immediately clear exactly how many.
Airport authorities said there was no panic in the departures hall, with passengers appearing to have stayed away after learning about the airline’s fate and the flight cancelations.
On Thursday the Cypriot transport minister emerged from an emergency meeting on the situation to say everything would be done to minimize the inconvenience for those stuck in Cyprus and abroad.
Vassiliki Anastassiadou said Cyprus would cover the cost for passengers to return home up until October 24, while adding that this did not absolve the airline of its liabilities toward customers.
“The cost of the tickets will be covered by the state for repatriation purposes only,” the minister told reporters.
“We... feel the need to help passengers trapped either in Cyprus or abroad who want to return to their place of residence.”
Two travel operators on the island had been instructed to manage the repatriations and issue tickets on other airlines.
Anastassiadou described the situation as “regrettable” as it comes at time Cyprus is enjoying a surge in its vital tourism sector with arrivals in 2018 expected to exceed last year’s high of 3.6 million.
The minister confirmed the airline was struggling but had informed authorities it was looking for funding.
“It seems they were not able to do this, but we had also given Cobalt a deadline of October 22 to present its financial situation,” she said.
Officials told the state-funded Cyprus News Agency that Cobalt had accumulated tens of millions of dollars in debt since its first commercial flight in July 2016.
Other reports put the debt at around 100 million euros ($115 million).
They said Cobalt had ceased operations after failing to reach a deal with a potential European investor to help it pay for leasing its six aircraft — two Airbus 319s and four Airbus 320s.
Reportedly, the company had only 15 million euros left in its accounts, which it needed to pay its 200-air crew and 50 ground staff.
There was speculation that it was facing cash-flow problems after two of its aircraft were grounded for two days.
Although Cobalt refused to comment on the rumors, sources within the company reportedly attributed the liquidity problems to difficulties faced by Chinese investors in exporting capital due to Chinese government restrictions.
The airline’s largest shareholder is AJ Cyprus, with 49 percent of the shares. AJ Cyprus is owned by China’s AVIC Joy Air.
Cyprus is a hugely popular holiday hotspot for Britons — with over a million flying to the island each year.