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
0

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.”


More than 100 separatists detained in Kashmir raids in pre-election crackdown

Updated 2 min 32 sec ago
0

More than 100 separatists detained in Kashmir raids in pre-election crackdown

  • The move comes days after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian security personnel
  • The attack was claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed
SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: More than 100 separatists in Kashmir were detained in overnight raids, police officials said on Saturday, as part of a crackdown on groups that might cause trouble ahead of nationwide elections set to be held by May.
The move comes days after a suicide car bombing killed at least 40 Indian security personnel on Feb. 14. The Indian government has warned that it will use all options in its power to avenge the attack claimed by Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
“The arrival of more troops and the arrests of leaders and activists of separatist groups is part of an election exercise undertaken to ensure free and fair elections,” said one senior police official in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is set to seek re-election in nationwide polls that are due to be held by May.
“Anti-election campaigns will not be allowed and separatists will be detained to ensure free, fair and transparent elections in the state,” the police official said.
Last week’s attack has also raised tensions between nuclear-armed neighbors India and Pakistan, that both claim Kashmir in full but rule it in part. India blames Pakistan for harboring militant groups operating in Kashmir. Pakistan has repeatedly denied the allegation.
Following the attack, India retaliated by removing any trade privileges offered to Pakistan, and it is now preparing to send as many as ten thousand additional troops to the contested area, according to a letter from the country’s home ministry seen by Reuters.
“India will exercise all instruments at its command, whether it is diplomatic or otherwise,” India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi late on Friday. “This isn’t a one-week battle. It’s to be undertaken in various forms.”
Islamabad in turn has warned it would respond with “full force” if attacked.
The overnight arrests in the state included those of many senior members of Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), an Islamic organization that wants Kashmir to be independent from India.
The arrests led to violent scenes in parts of Kashmir, with stone-throwing protesters met by police firing tear gas.
JeI’s leader, Dr. Abdul Hamid Fayaz and Yasin Malik, the head of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that wants independence from both India and Pakistan, were among those detained.
A spokesman for India’s home ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the arrests or troop deployments.
Next week India’s Supreme Court is also expected to hear a petition attempting to remove an article in the country’s constitution that prevents non-residents from moving to Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian state that contains Muslim-majority Kashmir. If passed it could further escalate tensions in the region.
A spokesman for JeI said the arrests of its members were a “well designed ploy,” ahead of any such ruling.