New Zealand at OIC summit: Mosque gunman faces life prison in isolation

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New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaks during a press conference following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. (AFP)
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New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters speaks during a press conference following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019. (AFP)
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OIC Secretary-General Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen speaks during a press conference following an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. (AFP)
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) poses for a group photo alongside New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters (2nd R), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen (2nd L), Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (L) and other delegates during an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, on March 22, 2019, to discuss the March 15 deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2019

New Zealand at OIC summit: Mosque gunman faces life prison in isolation

  • The OIC, in a declaration, urged all countries to refrain from statements and policies that associate Islam with terror and extremism
  • It also demanded that March 15 — the day of the Christchurch attack — be marked as the International Day of Solidarity Against Islamophobia

ISTANBUL: New Zealand's deputy prime minister said the gunman accused of killing 50 people in two mosques in the South Pacific nation would spend the rest of his life in isolation in prison and called for solidarity to eradicate "hate-filled ideologies."
Winston Peters was speaking at an emergency session of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation's executive committee called by Turkey to combat prejudice against Muslims in the wake of the attack.
Peters' attendance comes amid controversy sparked by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who, at election campaign rallies, has been screening video clips of the attack, despite efforts by New Zealand to prevent the video's spread. Erdogan also drew Australia's ire for comments suggesting that Australians and New Zealanders with anti-Muslim sentiments would be sent back in coffins like their ancestors who fought against Turks in the World War I Battle of Gallipoli.
Peters took a conciliatory tone on Friday, welcoming comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said at a news conference at the end of the OIC meeting, that Australians and New Zealanders visiting Turkey would be greeted at Gallipoli remembrance ceremonies next month with the same welcoming hospitality "as they always were."
Peters said: "We are returning home to New Zealand with a grateful assurance that our people will come here to commemorate Anzac and will be as welcome as they always were."
Peters said, however, that he didn't discuss Erdogan's use of the footage with Turkey's foreign minister or president though it was widely expected that he'd raise the issue.
"I did not see any sound, peaceful purposes in raising it," Peters said, adding that they had received "very assuring information" from the Turkish presidency.
Speaking at the emergency session, Peters told representatives of Muslim nations: "no punishment can match the depravity of his crime but the families of the fallen will have justice." He also screened moving photographs of New Zealanders mourning the victims.  
Brenton Harrison Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian, was arrested and charged with murder. Tarrant livestreamed the attack and released a manifesto describing his white supremacist views and how he planned the shootings.
The OIC, in a declaration, urged all countries to refrain from statements and policies that associate Islam with terror and extremism. It also demanded that March 15 — the day of the Christchurch attack — be marked as the International Day of Solidarity Against Islamophobia.
Addressing the OIC meeting Friday, Erdogan praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying her "reaction, the empathy displayed and her solidarity with Muslims" should serve as an example to all leaders.
Erdogan slammed populist politicians who he said encouraged attacks on Muslims and refugees.
"Politicians who pave themselves the road to power by alienating Muslims and creating enemies out of refugees, must pull themselves together."
He also called for neo-Nazi groups to be considered terrorists.
He said: "If we don't show our reaction in a strong manner, the neo-Nazi virus will engulf the body even more. If we don't raise our voices, Western governments will not disrupt their comfort."  


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 22 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”