British MEP loses Brexit visa role over Gibraltar row

Claude Moraes. (twitter)
Updated 02 April 2019
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British MEP loses Brexit visa role over Gibraltar row

  • Spain has a long-standing claim on the rocky territory on its southern shore, while the British government insists it be treated as part of the “UK family” in Brexit talks

BRUSSELS: A British member of the European Parliament lost his role negotiating a post-Brexit visa law on Monday, amid a dispute over a draft that refers to Gibraltar as a colony.
As chairman of the parliament’s civil liberties and justice committee, Claude Moraes had been guiding negotiations on a draft law to issue visa waivers to Britons once their country leaves the European Union.
“Coordinators met earlier today and decided to change the rapporteur on the Brexit visa related file,” Moraes, a member of Britain’s Labour Party, confirmed, adding that Bulgarian member Sergei Stanishev will take charge.
Diplomats told AFP that EU member states had pushed for Moraes to be bumped from the visa law talks because he was reluctant to accept a draft referring to Gibraltar as “a colony of the British crown.”
A parliamentary official told AFP that EU leaders had decided Moraes had a “conflict of interest” and that speaker Antonio Tajani had informed him of this, without explicitly asking him to step down.
But some of Moraes’ colleagues denounced the intervention, suggesting that the lawmaker had been forced aside.
Czech liberal and committee colleague Petr Jezek said the parliament had “shot itself in the foot” by removing a member who had been faithfully representing the body’s position on the law.
And a Conservative British MEP, Daniel Dalton said Moraes had “been forced out for rightly opposing Spanish attempts to describe Gibraltar as a colony in the text. Gibraltar is British.”
Spain has a long-standing claim on the rocky territory on its southern shore, while the British government insists it be treated as part of the “UK family” in Brexit talks.
In November, the European Commission suggested that after Britain leaves the bloc — as it currently plans to do on April 12 — Britons who want to make short stays on the continent would receive a visa waiver.
Negotiations on the text of a law have bogged down, however, because of Spain’s insistence that it reflect Gibraltar’s status as what the United Nations terms a “non self-governing” territory.
MEPs want to adopt the proposed law next Thursday, but the text must first be agreed with the Commission, which is the EU executive, and the European Council, which represents member states, including Spain.


US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

Updated 19 April 2019
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US envoy ‘disappointed’ by collapse of inter-Afghan peace meeting

  • A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend
  • The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group

KABUL: The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan expressed disappointment on Friday after the collapse of a planned meeting between the Taliban and a group of Afghan politicians in Qatar that exposed some of the deep divisions hampering efforts to end the war.
A 250-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures had been due to meet Taliban officials in Doha at the weekend. The event was abruptly canceled on Thursday amid arguments over the size and status of the group, which included some government officials attending in a personal capacity.
“I’m disappointed Qatar’s intra-Afghan initiative has been delayed,” Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, said on Twitter. “I urge all sides to seize the moment and put things back on track by agreeing to a participant list that speaks for all Afghans.”
The collapse of the meeting before it had even started, described as a “fiasco” by one senior Western official, laid bare the tensions that have hampered moves toward opening formal peace negotiations.
Khalilzad, a veteran Afghan-born diplomat, has held a series of meetings with Taliban representatives but the insurgents have so far refused to talk to the Western-backed government in Kabul, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.
The Doha meeting was intended to prepare the ground for possible future talks by building familiarity among Taliban officials and representatives of the Afghan state created after the US-led campaign that toppled the Taliban government in 2001. A similar encounter was held in Moscow in February.
President Ashraf Ghani’s office blamed Qatari authorities for the cancelation, saying they had authorized a list of participants that differed from the one proposed by Kabul, “which meant disrespect for the national will of the Afghans.”
“This act is not acceptable for the people of Afghanistan,” it said in a statement on Friday.
Sultan Barakat, director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies in Qatar, which had been facilitating the meeting, said there was no disagreement about the agenda.
“Rather, there is insufficient agreement around participation and representation to enable the conference to be a success,” he tweeted.
Preparations had already been undermined by disagreements on the government side about who should attend, as well as by suspicions among rival politicians ahead of presidential elections scheduled for September.
The Taliban derided the agreed list of 250 participants as a “wedding party.” Some senior opposition figures who had been included refused to attend.
The Taliban also objected to Ghani’s comments to a meeting of delegates that they would be representing the Afghan nation and the Afghan government, a statement that went against the insurgents’ refusal to deal with the Kabul administration.