Joe Biden invites Taiwan to democracy summit alongside 110 countries

Joe Biden invites Taiwan to democracy summit alongside 110 countries
US president Joe Biden’s invitation is a major coup for Taipei at a time when Beijing is ramping up its campaign to keep Taiwan locked out of international bodies. (AFP)
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Updated 24 November 2021

Joe Biden invites Taiwan to democracy summit alongside 110 countries

Joe Biden invites Taiwan to democracy summit alongside 110 countries
  • China says it ‘firmly opposes’ the inclusion of an island it regards as ‘an inalienable part of Chinese territory’
  • The global conference, which takes place online on December 9 and 10, is a campaign pledge by the US president

WASHINGTON: Joe Biden has invited Taiwan to a virtual summit on democracy alongside more than 100 countries – a move that sparked indignation from authoritarian China, which is not on the list.
Taiwan thanked Biden for the invitation and said the gathering would be a rare opportunity for the self-ruled democracy to burnish its credentials on the world stage.
“Through this summit, Taiwan can share its democratic success story,” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang told reporters.
China said it “firmly opposed” the inclusion of an island it regards as “an inalienable part of Chinese territory.” Beijing claims self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory to be re-taken one day, by force if necessary.
The global conference was a campaign pledge by the US president, who has placed the struggle between democracies and “autocratic governments” at the heart of his foreign policy.
The “Summit for Democracy” will take place online on December 9 and 10 ahead of an in-person meeting at its second edition next year.
The meeting was long advertised, but the guest list – published Tuesday on the State Department’s website – will be closely scrutinized.
Unsurprisingly, America’s main rivals China and Russia are not on it.
The invitation is a major coup for Taipei at a time when Beijing is ramping up its campaign to keep Taiwan locked out of international bodies.
Only 15 countries officially recognize Taipei over Beijing although many nations maintain de facto diplomatic relations with the island.
The US does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country but it holds it up as a rare model of progressive democracy in Asia and maintains it as a crucial regional ally.
China balks at any use of the word “Taiwan” or diplomatic gestures that might lend a sense of international legitimacy to the island.
“I agree Taiwan more than qualifies – but it does seem to be (the) only democratic govt invited that the US govt does not officially recognize. So its inclusion is a big deal,” tweeted Julian Ku, a Hofstra University law professor whose specialties include China.
India, often called “the world’s biggest democracy,” will be present despite increasing criticism from human rights defenders over democratic backsliding under Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
So too will Pakistan, despite its checkered relationship with Washington.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was dubbed an “autocrat” by Biden, did not make the list.
The city-state of Singapore and Bangladesh – one of the world’s most populous democracies – did not make the list either.
Biden also invited Brazil, which is led by controversial far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
In Europe, Poland is represented, despite recurring tensions with Brussels over respect for the rule of law, but Hungary’s far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban is not.
On the African side, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Niger are invited.
“For this kick-off Summit ... there’s a case for getting a broad set of actors into the room: it provides for a better exchange of ideas than setting a perfect bar for qualification,” Laleh Ispahani of the Open Society Foundations said.
Rather than using the summit as an anti-China meeting, Ispahani urged Biden to address “the serious decline of democracy around the world – including relatively robust models like the US.”
This summit is being organized as democracy has suffered setbacks in countries where the US had placed great hopes.
Sudan and Myanmar have experienced military coups, Ethiopia is in the midst of a conflict that could lead to its “implosion,” according to US diplomats, and the Taliban took power in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of US troops after two decades.


Sri Lanka focuses on economic diplomacy after the pandemic

Sri Lanka focuses on economic diplomacy after the pandemic
Updated 14 sec ago

Sri Lanka focuses on economic diplomacy after the pandemic

Sri Lanka focuses on economic diplomacy after the pandemic
  • The country’s economy has suffered the worst contraction in its post-independence history in the last two years

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is focusing on economic diplomacy, the new foreign minister has said in an interview with Arab News, as the country’s economy needs to rebound after two years of losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 caused the worst contraction in Sri Lanka’s post-independence history, as annual growth slid from 3.1 percent in 2018–19 to -3.6 percent in 2020. Revenue from tourism — one of the country’s main economic sectors — dropped by $3 billion over the first eight months of 2021, compared with the same period in 2018.
While the Sri Lankan economy is slowly picking up, economic diplomacy is going to be a key factor in its foreign policy.
“The country is returning to normalcy after the pandemic, we are reopening schools and foreign tourists have started coming
to Sri Lanka. We are asking our foreign missions to focus on economic diplomacy to dwell on investments, trade and tourism,” Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris said in the interview
earlier this week.
The minister, who took office three months ago, said Colombo does not have “exclusive relations with any particular country,” but expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for investing $1 billion in its infrastructure.
“We are thankful to Saudi Arabia for being a regular contributor to various infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka,” he said. “The projects included construction of the Epilepsy Hospital, National Trauma Center, Kinniya bridge — the longest bridge in the island — and the construction of roads, tanks and highways.”
Saudi Arabia has also been one of the key sources of remittance inflows from Sri Lankan expats.
“The Middle East is the home for 1.5 million migrant workers, which includes the largest concentration in the Kingdom,” Peiris said.
The UK Foreign Office said this week that the human rights situation in Sri Lanka has deteriorated in the first half of 2021, with an increased use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the minister said it was indeed time to amend the 42-year-old law.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act allows the detention of suspects for up to 18 months without charges. It also gives the Minister of Defense the power to restrict freedom of association and expression without the possibility of appeal.
“Since there is no provision to repeal this act, the parliament will consider amending some clauses to keep abreast of changes that have taken place in the recent times,” Peiris said. He said that if there have been rights violations, citizens are free to file their cases with the Supreme Court.
“We have fundamental rights jurisdiction in our Supreme Court,” he said. “Rule of law is well exercised and people go to courts whenever they feel that their rights are infringed.”


Italy, France deepen strategic ties as Merkel’s exit tests Europe

Italy, France deepen strategic ties as Merkel’s exit tests Europe
Updated 3 min 48 sec ago

Italy, France deepen strategic ties as Merkel’s exit tests Europe

Italy, France deepen strategic ties as Merkel’s exit tests Europe
  • Draghi: France and Italy are further consolidating our diplomatic, commercial, political and cultural ties
  • The new Berlin administration is expected to be more inward looking

ROME: Italy and France signed a treaty on Friday to strengthen bilateral ties and reinforce their coordination within Europe, at a time when EU diplomacy is being tested by the departure of Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and French President Emmanuel Macron put their names to the new pact in Rome’s Quirinale Palace. Afterwards, twin formations of planes trailing smoke in the colors of the two nations, sped through a stormy sky.
“The treaty ... marks an historic moment in relations between our two countries. France and Italy are further consolidating our diplomatic, commercial, political and cultural ties,” Draghi told reporters.
The signing ceremony came days after a new coalition pact was agreed in Germany, ending 16 years of rule by Merkel, who was the undisputed leader of Europe and forged especially close ties with successive
French leaders.
The new Berlin administration is expected to be more inward looking, especially at the start of its mandate, and both Paris and Rome are keen to deepen relations in a period clouded by economic uncertainty, the pandemic, a more assertive Russia, a rising China and a more disengaged US.
Macron said the Quirinale Treaty, named for the Roman residence of the Italian president, did not challenge French relations with Germany, but was complementary and aimed at boosting all of Europe.
Among the goals laid out in the 15-page document was a pledge to reinforce military connections, even at an industrial level, and work in tandem to enhance Europe’s defense capabilities.
“The objective we are following ... is to have a stronger and more sovereign Europe ... A Europe that knows how to protect its borders and defend itself,” Macron said.
The treaty was originally envisaged in 2017, but negotiations ground to a halt in 2018 when a populist government took office in Rome and clashed repeatedly with Macron over immigration.
There has been a renaissance this year following the appointment of Draghi to lead an Italian unity government, and the two men have met repeatedly in recent months, working closely on areas that were previous flashpoints, such as efforts to end years of conflict in Libya.
The Quirinale Treaty, loosely modelled on a 1963 Franco-German pact, will lead to Paris and Rome seeking common ground ahead of EU summits, just as France already coordinates key European policy moves with Germany.
Draghi said the two nations would launch “new forms of cooperation” in energy, technology, research and innovation. He added that at least once every quarter, an Italian minister would attend a French Cabinet meeting, and vice versa.
France and Italy also committed to working together in the space sector, and would facilitate “reciprocal investment” and define “common strategies in international markets.”
French companies have invested heavily in Italy in recent years, but Italian politicians have accused Paris of being less forthcoming when Italian businesses seek cross-border deals. Earlier this year, state-owned shipmaker Fincantieri’s bid to take over its French peer Chantiers de l’Atlantique collapsed, thwarted by EU competition issues.
Italian officials suspected Paris actively sought to undermine the deal behind the scenes.


UK bans Hamas in its entirety as ‘terrorist group’

Palestinian students supporting the Hamas movement take part in an election campaign near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/File Photo)
Palestinian students supporting the Hamas movement take part in an election campaign near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 26 November 2021

UK bans Hamas in its entirety as ‘terrorist group’

Palestinian students supporting the Hamas movement take part in an election campaign near the West Bank city of Ramallah. (AFP/File Photo)

LONDON: Britain on Friday designated all of Hamas an “Islamist terrorist group,” warning that its members and those who support the group could face stiff jail terms.

The Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the group that rules the Gaza Strip, has been banned in Britain since 2001 but the interior ministry extended the ban to its political entities.

London said last week it was no longer possible to make a distinction, assessing that Hamas “commits, participates in, prepares for and promotes and encourages terrorism.”

“The Islamist terrorist group Hamas has today become a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK in its entirety following parliament's approval,” the Home Office said.

“This means that members of Hamas or those who invite support for the group could be jailed for up to 14 years.”

Israel has welcomed the move, which follows similar action by the United States and the European Union.

But Hamas itself has called the UK move “a crime against our Palestinian people and all their history of struggle.”


Cyprus arrests man in connection with alleged kidnap of Israeli boy -police

Cyprus arrests man in connection with alleged kidnap of Israeli boy -police
Updated 26 November 2021

Cyprus arrests man in connection with alleged kidnap of Israeli boy -police

Cyprus arrests man in connection with alleged kidnap of Israeli boy -police
  • Italian prosecutors believe Gabriel Abutbul Alon helped the grandfather of six-year-old Eitan Biran to take the boy back to Israel
  • Alon and Eitan's grandfather Shmuel Peleg are accused of having driven the boy from Italy to Switzerland

NICOSIA: A man has been arrested in Cyprus in connection with the alleged kidnapping of an Israeli boy who was the only survivor of a cable car disaster in Italy in May, police said, after Italian authorities issued an international warrant for him.
Italian prosecutors believe Gabriel Abutbul Alon helped the grandfather of six-year-old Eitan Biran to take the boy back to Israel in September without the consent of the paternal aunt he was living with.
The boy’s parents, younger brother and 11 other people died in the cable car crash in northern Italy.
Alon and Eitan’s grandfather Shmuel Peleg are accused of having driven the boy from Italy to Switzerland, where they chartered a private jet onward to Israel.
“The arrest occurred yesterday in Limassol ... on an Interpol warrant,” a Cyprus police source said.
Alon was taken on Friday to a district court, which said it would decide on Monday whether he should remain in custody. A lawyer for Alon could not be immediately reached for comment.
Shmuel Peleg’s decision to take the boy to Israel triggered a cross-border custody battle between him and the paternal aunt.
An Israeli tribunal upheld a petition to send him back to Italy, but its top court has halted procedures as it reviews a request to appeal against the decision.
The prosecutor’s office in the Italian city of Pavia was not immediately available to comment.


French fishermen block Calais port over fishing license row

French fishermen block Calais port over fishing license row
Updated 26 November 2021

French fishermen block Calais port over fishing license row

French fishermen block Calais port over fishing license row
  • In an effort to disrupt trade, several trawlers manouevered to force the DFDS and P&O ferries to reduce speed and hold outside the port
  • The blockade, which lasted 90 minutes, marked an escalation in the post-Brexit row between London and Paris over fishing rights in Britain's coastal waters

CALAIS, France: French fishermen blockaded the port of Calais on Friday, temporarily preventing two ferries carrying trucks and passengers from entering, in protest against the UK’s failure to issue more licenses to fish in British waters.
In an effort to disrupt trade, several trawlers manouevered to force the DFDS and P&O ferries to reduce speed and hold outside the port, a major entry point to the continental market for British goods.
The blockade, which lasted 90 minutes, marked an escalation in the post-Brexit row between London and Paris over fishing rights in Britain’s coastal waters.
Britain says any licenses that are being withheld lack the correct documentation to issue them.
The two ferries outside the port on Friday reduced their speed until their path was clear, the MarineTraffic app showed.
The protest then shifted to the Channel Tunnel where the fishermen held up goods moving to and from Britain through the Channel Tunnel rail link.
Dover — Calais is the shortest sea route between Britain and the European Union — just 23 miles (37 km) — and has been one of Britain’s main arteries for European trade since the Middle Ages.
Before Brexit and the pandemic, 1.8 million trucks per year were routed through Calais.
Earlier in the day, fishermen blocked a small British cargo, the Normandy Trader, from docking in the Brittany port of Saint-Malo. France says Jersey, a British Crown Dependency, has also failed to issue licenses due to its fishermen under a post-Brexit deal.
The one-hour Saint-Malo protest and the larger action further east along France’s coast risk reigniting a dispute between the two countries over a mutual licensing system for fishing vessels.
They are also embroiled in a row over cross-Channel migration.
With Britain’s exit from the European Union, the two sides agreed to set up a licensing system for granting fishing vessels access to each other’s waters.
Paris says London and the Channel Island of Jersey, a British crown dependency, are not honoring the agreement.
Britain says it is respecting the post-Brexit arrangements.
In October, France briefly seized a British scallop dredger off its northern coast for allegedly operating without a legitimate permit, and both countries have this year sent patrol vessels to waters off Jersey.
President Emmanuel Macron has accused Britain of pushing his country’s patience and said the government would not yield in the dispute.
Fishing rights dogged Brexit talks for years, not because of its economic importance but because of its political significance for both Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Separately, the French government said Britain’s Home Minister Priti Patel was no longer welcome at a Sunday meeting on immigration with other European officials following criticism of France by Johnson over its handling of cross-Channel migration.
The meeting is to address how to curb the flow of migrants after 27 people drowned trying to reach British shores on Wednesday.