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.


Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

Updated 20 January 2019
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Boat with migrants rescued off Libya looks for port to dock

  • Sea-Watch 3 asked where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard

ROME: A private rescue boat with dozens of migrants aboard sought permission for a second day to enter a safe port Sunday, but said so far its queries to several nations haven’t succeeded. Another vessel crowded with migrants and taking on water, meanwhile, put out an urgent, separate appeal for help in the southern Mediterranean.
Sea-Watch 3, run by a German NGO, said Sunday it has contacted Italy, Malta, Libya as well as the Netherlands, since the boat is Dutch-flagged, asking where it can bring the 47 migrants it had taken aboard. Sea-Watch tweeted that Libyan officials had hung up when it asked for a port assignment.
An Italian state TV reporter aboard Sea-Watch 3 said the rescue took place Saturday about 50 kilometers (30 miles) off the coast west of Tripoli in Libya’s search-and-rescue area. Libya-based human traffickers launch flimsy or rickety boats, crowded with migrants hoping to reach Europe and its opportunities for better lives.
Separately, Sea-Watch tweeted Sunday afternoon that it had been urgently contacted by a boat with 100 migrants aboard that said it was taking on water, 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) from the current location at sea of Sea-Watch 3.
The distressed vessel reported navigational problems and had among the migrants a child “unconscious or deceased,” Sea-Watch said. Subsequent communication said the boat was “taking in water” and asked Sea-Watch to call for help, “regardless of what this would mean concerning a possible return to Libya,” Sea-Watch said.
The aid group later said Malta on the phone confirmed “that they will come back to us” regarding the distress call, but it wasn’t immediately clear what kind of assistance the Maltese might give.
Migrants dread the prospect of being returned to Libya, where they have reported torture including beatings and rapes in overcrowded detention centers.
The governments of Malta and Italy have been refusing to allow private rescue boats rescuing migrants to dock. Both contend that in recent years they have taken in many migrants rescued at sea and that fellow European Union nations must agree to take their share of these asylum-seekers.
Earlier this month, Malta transferred to land 49 migrants who had been aboard Sea-Watch 3 as long as 19 days but refused the boat port entry. They were allowed to set foot on the southern Mediterranean island only after an EU-brokered deal found several countries willing to take them as well as other migrants, who had been rescued at sea earlier in separate operations by Malta.