Merkel, Irish PM say solution needed for Northern Ireland border issue

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar review the guard of honor at the chancellery in Berlin. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Merkel, Irish PM say solution needed for Northern Ireland border issue

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Tuesday that the Northern Ireland border issue must still be resolved, after a deal was reached on a Brexit transition phase.
“We heard yesterday with great joy that there was a consensus... between the EU and the UK on the transitional phase,” Merkel said two days ahead of a crunch EU summit on ties with post-Brexit Britain.
“But of course we know that there are still a lot of problems to resolve, especially the border issue in Northern Ireland, which is very sensitive and central,” she told a joint press conference in Berlin.
Britain and the EU on Monday reached a landmark deal on the transition phase from March 29, 2019 to December 31, 2020, under which Britain won’t take part in EU decision-making but will keep the benefits of the single market and customs union.
The EU insists that any divorce deal must ensure there is no “hard border” between EU-member Ireland and Northern Ireland, saying it could compromise the 1998 peace accord in the British province.
Under Monday’s deal, Britain agreed to the EU’s “backstop” plan for the status of the Irish border, under which Northern Ireland would remain part of the bloc’s customs union if there is no better idea.
Varadkar said that a hard border “can be avoided and will be avoided” and welcomed the fact that London had now accepted the backstop option.
He said the border issue would hinge on the future EU-UK trading relationship.
“If it is something that is very close to a customs union then I think that would solve a lot of the problems related to the Irish border,” he said.
“But if it is something much less and much weaker than that, then it would not.”
To bring clarity, said Varadkar, “we need more detailed written proposals from the UK government, and written in such a way that they can be made legally binding and work in the context of European law.”


US charges Chicago man with online recruiting for Daesh

Updated 20 October 2018
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US charges Chicago man with online recruiting for Daesh

  • The 34-year-old made an initial court appearance Friday and was ordered held in federal custody
  • The naturalized US citizen is allegedly a member of Khattab Media Foundation, an online group aligned with Daesh

CHICAGO: A US citizen of Iraqi descent has been charged in Chicago with online coordination with Daesh to recruit and encourage attacks, federal authorities said Friday.
Ashraf Al-Safoo was arrested Wednesday in the Midwestern city and charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization.
The 34-year-old made an initial court appearance Friday and was ordered held in federal custody.
Safoo is accused of disseminating “online propaganda promoting violence in support of (Daesh),” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.
The naturalized US citizen is allegedly a member of Khattab Media Foundation, an online group aligned with Daesh, authorities said.
He is accused of posting pro-Daesh “videos, articles, essays and infographics across multiple social media platforms, at the direction and in coordination with” the extremist group, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Much of the propaganda allegedly promoted violent jihad.
The government’s complaint made public Friday included posts Safoo is alleged to have written online calling on others to “roll up your sleeves” to create online content in support of Daesh.
“Participate in the war, and spread fear,” Safoo is accused of writing.