Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes

Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s youth and sports minister. (Reuters/File)
Updated 28 January 2019

Malaysia defies games ban over Israeli athletes

  • Malaysia defended its decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country
  • Malaysia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since its establishment in 1948

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is standing firm on its ban on Israeli athletes despite the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) stripping it of the right to host the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. 
On Sunday, only hours after the IPC decision, Malaysia defended its decision to bar Israeli athletes from entering the country. 
“We will not compromise,” said Syed Saddiq, Malaysia’s youth and sports minister. 
“If hosting an international sporting event is more important than standing up for our Palestinian brothers and sisters who get murdered, maimed and tortured by the Netanyahu regime, that means Malaysia has truly loss its moral compass,” he said.
However, analysts warned that the loss of the titles, due to be held in Kuching, in Borneo, from July 29 to Aug. 4, could have severe political and economic costs following accusations of discrimination by the international community.
Dr. Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia expert at John Cabot University, told Arab News: “The Malaysian government has chosen to ban Paralympic athletes who have trained for years and have nothing to do with government policy to make its own political statement.”
Malaysian businesses and investments could pay a heavy price for the decision, she said.
The IPC decision means 64 countries and almost 1,700 athletes and officials will no longer be heading to Kuching.
Two major local airlines, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, are likely to face losses, while hotels and the tourism industry also will be hit.
Muslims make up more than half Malaysia’s 31 million population. Malaysia has had no diplomatic ties with Israel since its establishment in 1948. 
Earlier, IPC President Andrew Parsons said in a statement that athletes should compete in an environment that is “free from discrimination.”
Participation in the world championships is essential since it acts as a qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The IPC has “no alternative” and is now “looking for a new host” for the event, Parsons said.
He said the decision by the new political leadership in Malaysia was made for “political reasons.”
“Politics and sport are never a good mix, and we are disappointed that Israeli athletes would not have been allowed to compete in Malaysia,” he said.
The Malaysian Paralympic Council said it stood behind the government’s decision but respected the IPC’s response. 
“The IPC has the right to terminate the organizing agreement,” the council said.


Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

Updated 2 min 10 sec ago

Macron spearheads pressure on Bolsonaro over Amazon fires

  • With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda
  • Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a colonialist mentality, prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming

PARIS: France’s Emmanuel Macron led a growing wave of international pressure on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the fires raging in the Amazon rainforest Friday, telling him Paris would block efforts to seal a major trade deal.
With global leaders gearing up for the G7 summit, which opens Saturday in the western French resort of Biarritz, Macron drew Bolsonaro’s ire by saying the wildfires would be high on the agenda and pledging that delegates would hammer out “concrete measures” to tackle them.
Bolsonaro had earlier blasted Macron for a “colonialist mentality,” prompting the French president hit back, accusing his Brazilian counterpart of lying in pledges to fight global warming.
“Given the attitude of Brazil over the last weeks, the president can only conclude that President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka (G20) summit” in June, a French presidential official said.
As a result, France would oppose a trade deal between the EU and South America’s Mercosur nations, effectively killing any chance of it being ratified, he said.
Moves to prioritize the Amazon wildfires on the G7 agenda won backing from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting that the fires were “heartbreaking” and offering help to put them out.
But in a sign of EU disagreement, Germany said Macron’s proposal to block the Mercosur deal was “not the right response.”
“Failing to conclude the Mercosur agreement would not contribute to reducing the clearing of the rainforest in Brazil,” a German government spokesman told AFP.
So far this year, there have been 76,720 forest fires in Brazil — the highest number since 2013, official figures show, with more than half in the Amazon rainforest.
“The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” Macron tweeted late on Thursday, suggesting it be high on the summit agenda.
But Bolsonaro blasted the move to make it a G7 item without any participation by Brazil, saying it reflected a “colonialist mentality.”
The leaders of France, the US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan already face a litany of issues in Biarritz, which is on a security lockdown for the summit.
Macron met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier Friday for last-minute talks trying to soothe tensions between Tehran and Washington.
A nuclear deal between Western powers and Iran all but collapsed after Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew US support in May 2018, reimposing economic sanctions on Tehran.
“We’re at a critical moment,” Macron warned on Wednesday, acknowledging that Iran is “laying out a strategy” for exiting the 2015 deal.
“President Macron made some suggestions last week to President (Hassan) Rouhani and we believe they are moving in the right direction, although we are not definitely there yet,” Zarif told AFP in an interview.
He said he had a “good discussion” with the French leader, who would now hold talks with other European leaders to seek a way forward.
Macron’s diplomacy is a delicate task, with France seeking to roll back some of the US measures imposed as part of Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran, which insists its nuclear program is peaceful.
French diplomats have raised the idea of US waivers on sanctions affecting Iranian oil exports to India and China, or a new credit line for Tehran that could help the struggling economy.
That prompted Trump to accuse Macron of sending Tehran “mixed signals” in his attempt to broker fresh talks between the longtime adversaries.
But Trump appears to be the outlier among America’s G7 partners on Iran, despite speculation that Johnson, who claims a close personal rapport with the US leader, might be more amenable to endorsing his stance.
On Friday, a British diplomatic source said the UK would continue to back the 2015 nuclear deal, which it helped broker, as the “best way” of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Iran is just one of a host of issues over which G7 members are at loggerheads, upending a formerly cosy club of rich nations.
Trump will arrive in the glitzy beachside resort on Saturday already riled by a new French law increasing taxes on US Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. He is also threatening tariffs on the European automobile sector.
Just before the summit, China fired the latest salvo in its trade war the US, announcing new tariffs on $75 billion of American imports.
But in a sign of the summit’s lowered ambitions, French officials have scrapped the idea of a joint declaration at the end, breaking a longstanding G7 tradition.