European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, March 14, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 March 2018
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European Parliament in ‘secret’ talks with North Korea

STRASBOURG: A European Parliament delegation said Wednesday it has been conducting secret talks with North Korea over the last three years to try to persuade Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.
The group led by British MEP Nirj Deva has met senior North Korean officials, including ministers, 14 times and plans another meeting in Brussels in the near future.
News of the below-the-radar diplomacy effort comes after the surprise announcement that US President Donald Trump plans a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, part of fast-paced developments following an Olympic detente.
Deva said he and his colleagues on the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula had been “relentlessly advocating the case for dialogue without preconditions” to end the increasingly tense nuclear standoff with the North.
“I did much of the advocacy in secrecy with my colleagues. It is only now that I am revealing our efforts to a wider audience in the light of the proposed talks,” Deva said.
The group also met senior officials in the US, China, Japan and South Korea, Deva said, for dialogue aimed at achieving a “verifiable denuclearised Korean peninsula.”
“We met in secret with senior North Koreans on 14 occasions. We understood their concerns and they understand ours,” he told a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The MEPs held regular clandestine meetings with the North Koreans in Brussels, Deva said, listening to their concerns and trying to convince them of the risks of nuclear war.
“We told them in no uncertain terms that if they carry on with the missile program and the nuclear bomb program they will only lead to an inevitable conclusion which is unthinkable,” Deva said.
EU diplomacy is normally carried out by the bloc’s dedicated foreign affairs department, which has diplomatic missions all around the world.
Deva said his delegation had a role to play in developing “confidence building measures” to support the planned US-North Korea dialogue.
And Deva said that from his meetings he believed the tough sanctions the EU has in place against North Korea had been an important factor in driving Pyongyang to agree to talks.
“Part of the reason that this happened was the sanctions started to bite poor people — not the elite,” he said.
The sudden announcement of the summit between Kim and Trump and Pyongyang’s reported willingness to discuss ending its nuclear program have raised hopes of detente after months of tension.
As well as the Kim-Trump meeting, North and South Korea are also planning a summit next month.
Paul Ruebig, an Austrian MEP who is deputy chair of the committee and took part in the secret meetings, called for the UN to take part in the summits to give them a global scope.


Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

Updated 16 July 2019
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Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan opened its airspace to civil aviation on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with neighboring India.
“With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a so-called Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) published on the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s website.
The move by Pakistan, which lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor, offers a welcome break for international airlines after the airspace restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
India’s ministry of civil aviation said that after the lifting of the NOTAMS, there were no further restrictions on airspace in either country.
“Flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” it said.
Pakistan closed its airspace in February after an attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to an armed standoff between the two nuclear-armed powers.
Both countries carried out aerial attacks over the other’s territory and warplanes fought a brief dogfight over the skies of the disputed Kashmir region during which an Indian fighter jet was shot down.
Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed once the immediate crisis passed but restrictions continued to affect many international carriers using Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan’s announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until Oct. 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace.