Top US, Mexico diplomats meet in Washington amid migrant crisis

A girl cries as a group of Central American migrants surrender to US Border Patrol agents after jumping over the metal barrier separating Playas de Tijuana in Mexico from the United States, on December 2, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2018

Top US, Mexico diplomats meet in Washington amid migrant crisis

  • The talks came one day after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office as Mexico’s new president
  • officials in the Mexican border city of Tijuana shut down a makeshift shelter in a sports complex housing migrants, citing unsanitary conditions, and moved them to a different facility

WASHINGTON: Mexico’s new Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday for what he called a “friendly” meeting amid tensions over the migrant crisis at the border.
The talks came one day after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office as Mexico’s new president.
“Friendly conversation as a first approach toward a long standing understanding between Mexico and the USA,” Ebrard said on Twitter.
“I thank him for his attitude and respect toward the new administration of President Lopez Obrador.”
Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO for short, is a leftist who was sworn in on Saturday, five months after a landslide election win.
On Sunday, Pompeo and Ebrard discussed a “shared commitment to address our common challenges and opportunities for the future,” according to State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
The two countries are grappling with how to handle the thousands of Central American migrants who are camped at the common border — in the short and long terms.
President Donald Trump is pressuring Lopez Obrador to accept a deal to keep asylum-seeking migrants in Mexico while their claims are processed in the United States.
Last week, Ebrard said he would like to see a sort of “Marshall Plan” to foster development in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, akin to what the United States did to help rebuild Europe after World War II.
Ebrard said such a plan would help shrink the number of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries and heading to the United States.
On Sunday, officials in the Mexican border city of Tijuana shut down a makeshift shelter in a sports complex housing migrants, citing unsanitary conditions, and moved them to a different facility.
Of the original 6,000 migrants who had massed in the city, only about 2,000 went to the new center, a city official told AFP.
Cold temperatures and driving rain made conditions in the open-air shelter too difficult.
Another 500 remained near the original site, fearing the move was a precursor to being deported, and were sleeping in the streets, the official said.
The whereabouts of the rest were not known.
The migrants, most of them from gang-plagued Honduras, had traveled for weeks hoping to reach the United States.
A week ago, US authorities fired tear gas and rubber bullets at about 500 migrants including women and children who had tried to breach the US-Mexico border.
The confrontation prompted hundreds of migrants to either head home or seek to remain in Mexico.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.