Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected. (AP)
Updated 30 August 2018
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Embassy move to Jerusalem rejected as Philippine president set for Israel visit

  • Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2
  • The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah

MANILA: Claims that President Rodrigo Duterte will discuss moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem when he visits Israel in September have been rejected by the Philippines Foreign Affairs Department.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ernesto Abella told a press conference in Malacanang on Thursday that discussions on the embassy’s future are “definitely not on the agenda.”
Duterte will begin a four-day state visit to Israel on Sept. 2 at the invitation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Philippines leader will also visit Jordan from Sept. 6-8 following an invitation by King Abdullah. Both visits will be a first by a sitting Philippine president.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said earlier that the firebrand leader’s trip to Israel “could be controversial.”
But Abella, reiterating the Duterte government’s stance that the Philippines is “a friend to all and enemy to none,” expressed confidence that the president’s trip will not affect the country’s relations with nations that fail to recognize Israel as a state.
Nevertheless, the government is “aware of certain sensitivities,” he said.
“We have multilateral relations and, as we pointed out, we are friends to all and enemies to none. This should not serve as an obstacle with our bilateral relationships with each of these nations,” Abella said.
“There are certain sensitivities that we are aware of considering we have other partners in the Middle East area ... But I believe we have reached a stage of maturity in our relations that they understand ... that we’re in relationship with other nations such as Israel. So, it is important that we strike a balance,” he said.
“I believe the president has proven in many ways that it is possible to have this kind of independent foreign policy while satisfying the demands and needs of each particular relation,” Abella said.
In a recent interview, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said: “We live in a modern and mature world. Israel knows that we’re very close to many Arab countries, we’re very close to Malaysia and Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, which has an Islamic majority. Similarly, these countries also know that we are friends with Israel.
“Are there any repercussions by just visiting? I say we’re all mature enough to know that we can be friends even with countries that have issues with each other. What is important is that we strengthen our bilateral relationship with all the countries in the world that want closer relationship with us.”
Asked if the issue of moving the Philippine Embassy to Jerusalem will be discussed during the president’s trip, Abella replied: “It’s not a topic of discussion.”
The visit will strengthen ties, and enhance economic cooperation and sharing of expertise, he said.
Duterte will hold separate meetings with Netanyahu and Israel President Reuven Rivlin.
Abella said agreements are expected to be signed between the Philippines and Israel on the employment of Filipino caregivers, scientific cooperation and investment.
The government is seeking improvements in deployment procedures and the elimination of excessive placement fees on Filipino workers bound for Israel, he said.
This year marks the 81st anniversary of the “open door” policy of the Philippines under then President Manuel Quezon, who offered shelter to more than a thousand Jews escaping the Holocaust in Europe, and the 61st anniversary of formal bilateral ties between the Philippines and Israel.
Duterte is expected to discuss broadening cooperation in key areas with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
Abella said that the visits will be a huge leap in the Philippines bilateral partnerships.
“Strengthening ties with these nations will promote economic growth, create new employment opportunities and enhance security,” he said.
An estimated 28,300 Filipinos now work in Israel, with 40,000 employed in Jordan.


At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

Updated 1 min 37 sec ago
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At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least one person is dead and multiple others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands.

Police have not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the shooting that left several people “heavily injured” - the shooter remains at large. Police have erected a white tent over an area where a body appears to be lying next to a tram where the shooting happened, AP reported.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökman Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

The Dutch anti-terror coordinator has raised the threat alert to its highest level around the central Dutch town of Utrecht following the shooting incident on a tram in the city, with the shooter still on the run.

Paramilitary police have increased security at airports, mosques and other vital public infrastructure. Police have also advised schools in the area to keep their doors closed.
Anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 
Dutch police say they are looking for a least one person who might have fled by car.

Spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the government is currently holding crisis talks.

Aalbersberg earlier said on Twitter that he was having “crisis consultations”, adding: “Terrorist motive not excluded. Information not yet full.”

 

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)