Australia reaffirms Israel decision despite backlash

Morrison’s embattled coalition slipped into a minority government after losing the Sydney by-election in October. (File/Reuters)
Updated 16 December 2018
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Australia reaffirms Israel decision despite backlash

  • Australia followed US President Donald Trump’s lead to recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital
  • Muslim countries including Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed opposition to the move

SYDNEY: Australia’s conservative prime minister on Sunday stood by his decision to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, despite criticism from neighboring Muslim countries.
Canberra became one of a handful of governments to follow US President Donald Trump’s lead and recognize the contested city as Israel’s capital, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced Saturday.
But a contentious embassy shift from Tel Aviv — a proposal made during a crucial Sydney by-election that critics said was timed to attract Jewish voters — will not occur until a peace settlement is achieved.
Australia’s Muslim-majority neighbor Malaysia said Sunday it “strongly opposes” the decision to recognize west Jerusalem.
The announcement was “premature and a humiliation to the Palestinians and their struggle for the right to self-determination,” the government said in a statement advocating a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Australia’s immediate neighbor Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, was angered by the embassy move proposal in the run-up to the by-election, and said Saturday it “notes” the decision.
Citing Jakarta’s response, Morrison said Sunday that the international reaction had been “measured” and that his decision would progress a two-state solution.
“I think the responses that we have seen from countries so far has been measured,” Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
“Australia would continue to respect a two-state outcome that remained our goal as strongly as ever.”
Israel’s embassy in Canberra on Sunday said the decision was a “step in the right direction.”
Both Israel and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.
Most foreign nations avoided moving embassies there to prevent inflaming peace talks on the city’s final status — until Trump unilaterally moved the US embassy earlier this year.
Morrison’s embattled coalition slipped into a minority government after losing the Sydney by-election in October, which followed the Liberal party’s ousting of the local member and then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 53 min 28 sec ago
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”