Trump backs out of mediating Kashmir crisis

Indian PM Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump shake hands during a meeting in Biarritz, France on Monday on the third day of the annual G7 Summit. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2019

Trump backs out of mediating Kashmir crisis

  • US president says India, Pakistan can resolve situation ‘mutually’

NEW DELHI: US President Donald Trump said on Monday he would not mediate in the Kashmir crisis, despite having offered to do so several times in the past, saying India and Pakistan could sort it out “mutually.”

India and Pakistan both lay claim to Kashmir, which they administer in part, and the territory lies at the heart of decades of hostility between them. 

The most recent flashpoint occurred earlier this month, when India revoked the special status of its portion and brought it under direct rule.

But, ahead of a meeting between Trump and Indian Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the G7 Summit being held in France, the US leader seemed more nonchalant about the Kashmir standoff, which he had previously described as “explosive.”

“The US is good friends with both India and Pakistan. I think India and Pakistan can discuss among themselves and sort it (Kashmir) out mutually,” said Trump on Monday.

Modi said that all issues between the neighbors were bilateral and that India did not want to “give any pain” to a third country.

HIGHLIGHTS

• US President Donald Trump had offered to mediate in the crisis several times in the past.

• India says all issues between the two countries are bilateral and there is no need for any third-party mediation.

• India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken a different tack and lobbied for foreign assistance, saying Modi had made the “biggest mistake” by annexing Kashmir, and even likened the Indian leader’s ideology to Nazism.

Harsh V. Pant, from the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, said Trump’s push on Kashmir was understandable because he needed Pakistan’s help in “normalizing Afghanistan.”

“With Trump the Kashmir issue is very transactional,” Pant told Arab News. 

“He is inserting himself in Kashmir because he wants Pakistan on board for his Afghanistan endgame. By abrogating Article 370 India made a major policy change that has not taken place in the last 70 years. International players asking questions on that decision is a normal thing, not an internationalization of the issue. Internationalization would have been when the UN comes out with a formal statement or Trump says that the situation is getting out of hand and Washington wants to do this or that.”

Amnesty International said life had been “derailed” for people in Jammu and Kashmir. 

“Depriving an entire population of their right to freedom of expression, opinion and movement for an indefinite period runs squarely counter to international norms and standards. Worse, it gives the government of India a near-total control over the information coming out of the region,” said Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International India.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir.


Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

Updated 12 November 2019

Court says EU states must label Israeli settlement products

  • Consumers will be able to make choices based on ethical considerations and those relating to the observance of international law
  • The ECJ ruling effectively backs the EU guidelines issued in 2015 on labelling goods from Israeli-occupied areas

BRUSSELS: The European Union’s top court ruled Tuesday that EU countries must identify products made in Israeli settlements on their labels, in a decision that was welcomed by rights groups but sparked anger in Israel.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labels must provide an “indication of that provenance” so that consumers can make “informed choices” when they shop.
The EU rejects Israeli settlement expansion, saying it undermines the hopes for a two-state solution by gobbling up lands claimed by the Palestinians. Israel says the labeling is unfair and discriminatory and says other countries involved in disputes over land are not similarly sanctioned.
The volume of settlement goods coming into Europe, including olive oil, fruit and wine but also industrial products, is relatively small compared to the political significance of the court ruling. It is estimated to affect about 1% of imports from Israel, which amount to about 15 billion euros ($16.5 billion) a year.
The EU wants any produce made in the settlements to be easily identifiable to shoppers and insists that it must not carry the generic “Made in Israel” tag.
Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and began settling both areas shortly afterward. The Palestinians claim both areas as parts of a future state, a position that has global support.
The international community opposes settlement construction and they are consider illegal under international law. Their continued growth is seen to undermine the establishment of an independent Palestine alongside Israel. Today, nearly 700,000 Israelis live in the two areas, almost 10% of the country’s Jewish population.
The ECJ underlined that settlements “give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that State outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.”
It said any failure to identify the point of origin of produce meant that “consumers have no way of knowing, in the absence of any information capable of enlightening them in that respect, that a foodstuff comes from a locality or a set of localities constituting a settlement established in one of those territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law.”
It’s not entirely clear, however, how the ruling will be enforced because the real origin of the produce is not always easy to identify, experts say.
The European Commission said it’s up to individual EU countries to ensure that labels are correct, but that the origin of settlement produce must be made known in a way that is “not misleading to the consumer.”

An Israeli settler prepares olive oil containers at the Achia Olive press factory in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank. (File AFP)

Human Rights Watch welcomed the ruling. The rights watchdog’s EU Director, Lotte Leicht, said it’s “an important step toward EU member states upholding their duty not to participate in the fiction that illegal settlements are part of Israel.”
Oxfam’s director in the Palestinian territories, Shane Stevenson, said settlements “are violating the rights and freedoms of Palestinians” and that “consumers have a right to know the origin of the products they purchase, and the impact these purchases have on people’s lives.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry rejected the ruling, saying it set a “double standard” that unfairly singles out Israel when there are dozens of territorial disputes worldwide.
“The European Court of Justice’s ruling is unacceptable both morally and in principle,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz. “I intend to work with European foreign ministers to prevent the implementation of this gravely flawed policy.”
The head of the local settler council, Israel Ganz, said the ruling is part of “a double standard that discriminates against Jews living and working in their homeland of thousands of years. This decision will directly hurt the Arab population working at these factories, and manufacturing these products.”
Ganz said he did not expect sales to be hurt as settlement products are of “high standards.”
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official, welcomed the ruling as a “first step” and encouraged Europe to ban settlement products altogether. “If they do not allow these illegal products to enter European soil, then that would really serve the cause of justice,” she said.
The case came to court after an Israeli winery based in a settlement near Jerusalem contested France’s application of a previous ECJ court ruling on the labeling. That ruling had backed the use of origin-identifying tags but did not make them legally binding.
The winery’s director, Yaakov Berg, said “the Winery is proud of its contribution to combating this decision and intends to continue the struggle. We are happy to see the support of all the relevant people in Israel and the United States.”
EU Commission Spokeswoman Mina Andreeva noted that Israel has a special trading relationship with the EU, with products originating in its internationally recognized borders benefiting from preferential tariff treatment.
“This situation will remain unchanged,” she said. “The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel.”
How to do business in or with the Israeli settlements has been a tricky issue for companies before. Airbnb stopped listings there last year, before reversing its decision .