Israeli PM vows more Ukraine talks, even if prospects ‘not great’

Israeli PM vows more Ukraine talks, even if prospects ‘not great’
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AFP)
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Updated 06 March 2022

Israeli PM vows more Ukraine talks, even if prospects ‘not great’

Israeli PM vows more Ukraine talks, even if prospects ‘not great’
  • PM Naftali Bennett met for three hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday
  • PM Bennett has also held three phone calls in 24 hours with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky

JERUSALEM: Israel’s premier said Sunday his country had a “moral obligation” to help stem fighting in Ukraine even if chances of success were “not great,” after shuttle diplomacy that saw him visit the Kremlin.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met for three hours with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Saturday, before flying to Berlin to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Bennett, acting after Kyiv asked him to launch a dialogue with Moscow in the wake of Russia’s invasion, has also held three phone calls in 24 hours with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Speaking before his weekly cabinet meeting, Bennett said he could “not expand further” on his talks, but that Israel would press on with its diplomatic efforts “as needed.”
“Even if the chance is not great — as soon as there is even a small opening, and we have access to all sides and the capability — I see this as our moral obligation to make every effort,” he said.
Bennett has so far walked a cautious line on the Ukraine conflict, seeking to preserve delicate security cooperation with Russia, which has a large military presence in Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria.
Bennett has not joined Western leaders — notably key ally the United States — in forcefully condemning the Russian invasion, instead stressing Israel’s strong relations with Moscow and Kyiv.
Israel said Bennett’s trip was coordinated with Washington and major European powers, but Israeli media have reported that American officials have expressed doubts that Bennett can influence Putin’s actions.
Bennett’s sit-down with Putin was the first by a foreign leader since Russian forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
They also discussed the fate of the Jews in Ukraine and Russia.
Israel’s Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said Sunday that Israel is preparing for an estimated 100,000 people from both countries to move to Israel, under laws that allow people with verifiable Jewish lineage to become Israeli citizens.
A group of 300 Ukrainian Jews were due to land Sunday.
Shaked also said that since the outbreak of the conflict, 2,034 Ukranian refugees had entered Israel, 90 percent of whom do not qualify for the “law of return” that applies to those with Jewish lineage.
Bennett and Putin also discussed ongoing talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Israel staunchly opposes.
On Saturday, Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog said they had agreed an approach for resolving issues crucial to restoring the nuclear pact, which was derailed after the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018 and then ramped up sanctions on Tehran.
Those issues centered on outstanding questions the International Atomic Energy Agency has about the past presence of nuclear material at undeclared sites in Iran.
Shortly before news of Bennett’s Moscow trip emerged, Russia said it would seek guarantees from the US before it backs a renewed Iran deal, potentially scuppering hopes of an imminent agreement.
Russia is a party to the Iran talks but is itself heavily sanctioned over its invasion of Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had requested that the US give it written guarantees that Ukraine-related sanctions “will not in any way harm our rights to free, fully-fledged trade and economic and investment cooperation, military-technical cooperation with Iran.”
There has been no comment by Israel on a link between Bennett’s Russia-Ukraine diplomacy and any efforts by the Jewish state to oppose a new Iran deal.
Speaking Sunday, Bennett praised IAEA chief Rafael Grossi for not agreeing “to close the open files” on Iran’s past nuclear activity, as Tehran has demanded.
“The disadvantages of the (Iran nuclear) agreement far outweigh its advantages,” Bennett said.
Nadav Eyal, a commentator in Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper, warned that Bennett had undertaken a “very high-stakes gamble,” and that “if it emerges that Putin only used Bennett and deceived him,” the Israeli premier could face “major political ridicule.”


China, India call for negotiated way out of Ukraine war

China, India call for negotiated way out of Ukraine war
Updated 6 sec ago

China, India call for negotiated way out of Ukraine war

China, India call for negotiated way out of Ukraine war
  • India, unlike China, has a warm relationship with the United States but it has historic ties with Russia, its traditional defense supplier
  • China’s reaction to Russia is being closely watched for clues on its approach to Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its territory

UNITED NATIONS, United States: China and India on Saturday called at the United Nations for a negotiated end to the Ukraine war, stopping short of robust support for traditional ally Russia.
After a week of pressure at the United Nations General Assembly, Russia’s foreign minister took the General Assembly rostrum to deliver a fiery rebuke to Western nations for what he termed a “grotesque” campaign against Russians.
But no major nation has rallied behind Russia, including China, which just days before the February invasion of Ukraine had vowed an “unbreakable” bond with President Vladimir Putin.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on both Russia and Ukraine to “keep the crisis from spilling over” and from affecting developing countries.
“China supports all efforts conducive to the peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis. The pressing priority is to facilitate talks for peace,” Wang said.
“The fundamental solution is to address the legitimate security concerns of all parties and build a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture.”
During his visit to the United Nations, Wang met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in their first talks since the war began.
Earlier this month Putin acknowledged Chinese “concerns” about Ukraine during a meeting with his counterpart Xi Jinping.

US officials have been heartened by what they see as China’s lack of concrete backing for the war and say that Beijing has declined requests to send military equipment, forcing Russia to rely on North Korea and Iran as its own supplies dwindle.
China’s reaction to Russia is being closely watched for clues on its approach to Taiwan, a self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its territory.
Wang held firm that China would take “forceful steps” against any interference, insisting that efforts to prevent “reunification” with Taiwan would be “crushed by the wheels of history.”
India, unlike China, has a warm relationship with the United States but it has historic ties with Russia, its traditional defense supplier.
“As the Ukraine conflict continues to rage, we are often asked whose side we are on,” said India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
“Our answer, each time, is straight and honest — India is on the side of peace and will remain firmly there,” he said.
“We are on the side that calls for dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a news conference declined to answer whether there has been any pressure from China. In his speech, he sought to cast blame squarely on the West.
“The official Russophobia in the West is unprecedented. Now the scope is grotesque,” Lavrov told the General Assembly.
“They are not shying away from declaring the intent to inflict not only military defeat on our country but also to destroy and fracture Russia.”
The United States, he said, since the end of the Cold War has acted as if it is “an envoy of God on Earth, with the sacred right to act with impunity wherever and whenever they want,” Lavrov said.
He also blasted the European Union as an “authoritarian, harsh, dictatorial entity” and said the bloc’s leadership forced one member state’s leader — Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades — to cancel a planned meeting with him.
Lavrov criticized the West for not engaging with Russia, saying, “we have never stepped away from maintaining contact.”
Western powers are looking at further sanctions after Putin called up reservists and made a veiled threat to use nuclear weapons, and have vowed not to recognize results of referendums on Russian annexation being held in occupied territories.
They have welcomed Lavrov’s isolation, noting how he only showed up at a Security Council session on Thursday to deliver remarks and not to listen to others.
Russia enjoyed one rare voice of support Saturday at the General Assembly. Mali’s interim Prime Minister Col. Abdoulaye Maiga, appointed by coup leaders, hailed the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation” with Moscow.
The junta has welcomed Russia’s Wagner Group security firm, despite Western allegations of rights abuses, as France pulled out troops who had been struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency.
 

 


N.Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris visit

N.Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris visit
Updated 31 min 22 sec ago

N.Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris visit

N.Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of US VP Harris visit
  • US Vice President Harris is set to visit the region next week and meet with leaders of Japan and South Korea

SEOUL: North Korea fired a ballistic missile toward the sea off its east coast on Sunday, ahead of planned military drills by South Korean and US forces involving an aircraft carrier and a visit to the region by US Vice President Kamala Harris.
South Korea’s military said it was a single, short-range ballistic missile fired from near the Taechon area of North Pyongyan Province just before 7 a.m.
Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan estimated it reached maximum altitude at 50 km and may have flown on an irregular trajectory. Hamada said it fell outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and there were no reports of problems with shipping or air traffic.
Many of the short-range missiles tested by North Korea in recent years have been designed to evade missile defenses by maneuvering during flight and flying on a lower, “depressed” trajectory, experts have said.
“If you include launches of cruise missiles this is the nineteenth launch, which is an unprecedented pace. North Korea’s action represent a threat to the peace and security of our country, the region and the international community and to do this as the Ukraine invasion unfolds is unforgivable,” Hamada said, adding that Japan had delivered a protest through North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.
The US Indo-pacific Command said it was aware of the launch and consulting closely with allies, in a statement released after the launch, while reaffirming US commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan.
“While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launch highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s unlawful Weapons of Mass Destruction and ballistic missile programs.”
The launch comes after the arrival of the nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in South Korea to participate in joint drills with South Korean forces, and ahead of a planned visit to Seoul this week by Harris.
It was the first time the North carried out such a launch after firing eight short-range ballistic missiles in one day in early June, which led the United States to call for more sanctions for violating UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korea rejects UN resolutions as an infringement of its sovereign right to self defense and space exploration, and has criticized previous joint drills by the United States and South Korea as proof of their hostile policies.
The drills have also been criticized by Russia and China, which have called on all sides not to take steps that raise tensions in the region, and have called for an easing of sanctions.
After North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests earlier this year, including its intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time since 2017, the United States and South Korea said they would boost joint drills and military displays of power to deter Pyongyang.
“Defense exercises are not going to prevent North Korean missile tests,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an international affairs professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
But US-South Korea security cooperation helps to deter a North Korean attack and counter Pyongyang’s coercion, and the allies should not let provocations stop them from conducting military training and exchanges needed to maintain the alliance, he added.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Saturday North Korea may also be preparing to test a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), citing the South’s military. 


As Ukraine worries UN, some leaders rue what’s pushed aside

As Ukraine worries UN, some leaders rue what’s pushed aside
Updated 25 September 2022

As Ukraine worries UN, some leaders rue what’s pushed aside

As Ukraine worries UN, some leaders rue what’s pushed aside
  • The ongoing war in Ukraine is making it more difficult to tackle the perennial issues that feature each year in the deliberations of this assembly. President Muhammadu Buhari

NEW YORK: In speech after speech, world leaders dwelled on the topic consuming this year’s UN General Assembly meeting: Russia’s war in Ukraine.
A few, like Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, prodded the world not to forget everything else.
He, too, was quick to bring up the biggest military confrontation in Europe since World War II.
But he was not there to discuss the conflict itself, nor its disruption of food, fuel and fertilizer markets.
“The ongoing war in Ukraine is making it more difficult,” Buhari lamented, “to tackle the perennial issues that feature each year in the deliberations of this assembly.”

The ongoing war in Ukraine is making it more difficult to tackle the perennial issues that feature each year in the deliberations of this assembly.

President Muhammadu Buhari

He went on to name a few: Inequality, nuclear disarmament, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who have been living in limbo for years in Bangladesh.
In an environment where words are parsed, confrontations are calibrated and worry is acute that the war and its wider effects could worsen, no one dismissed the importance of the conflict.
But comments such as Buhari’s quietly spoke to a certain unease, sometimes bordering on frustration, about the international community’s absorption in Ukraine.
Those murmurs are audible enough that the United States’ UN ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made a point of previewing Washington’s plans to address climate change, food insecurity, health and other issues during the diplomatic community’s premier annual gathering.
“Other countries have expressed a concern that as we focus on Ukraine, we are not paying attention to what is happening in other crises around the world,” she said, vowing that it wasn’t so.
Still, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken complained at a Security Council meeting days later that Russia’s invasion is distracting the UN from working on other important matters.
In many years at the assembly, there’s a hot spot or news development that takes up a lot of diplomatic oxygen. As former UN official Jan Egeland puts it, “the world manages to focus on one crisis at a time.”
“But I cannot, in these many years as a humanitarian worker or a diplomat, remember any time when the focus was so strongly on one conflict only while the world was falling apart elsewhere,” Egeland, now secretary-general of an international aid group called the Norwegian Refugee Council, said in a phone interview.
Certainly, no one was surprised by the attention devoted to a conflict with Cold War echoes. The urgency only intensified during the weeklong meeting as Russia mobilized some of its military reserves.
Ukraine is undeniably a dominant concern for the European Union. But foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted the bloc hasn’t lost sight of other problems.
“It’s not a question of choosing between Ukraine and the others. We can do all at the same time,” he said on the eve of the assembly.
Jordan’s King Abdullahbriefly mentioned the war’s effects on food supplies, then moved on to sustainable economic growth, Syrian refugees and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Andrzej Duda of Poland — on Ukraine’s doorstep — stressed in his speech that “we mustn’t show any ‘war fatigue’” regarding the conflict.
But he also noted that a recent trip to Africa left him pondering how the West has treated other conflicts.
Over seven months of war, there have been pointed observations from some quarters about how quickly and extensively wealthy and powerful nations mobilized money, military aid, General Assembly votes to support Ukraine and offer refuge to its residents, compared to the global response to some other conflicts.
South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor last month told reporters that while the war is awful, “we should be equally concerned at what is happening to the people of Palestine as we are with what is happening to the people of Ukraine.”
At the General Assembly, she added that, from South Africa’s vantage point, “our greatest global challenges are poverty, inequality, joblessness and a feeling of being entirely ignored and excluded.”
Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Kausea Natano, said in an interview on the assembly’s sidelines that the war shouldn’t “be an excuse” for countries to ignore their financial commitments to a top priority for his island nation: fighting climate change.
Part of Bolivian President Luis Arce’s speech compared the untold billions of dollars spent on fighting in Ukraine in a matter of months to the $11 billion committed to the UN-sponsored Green Climate Fund over more than a decade.
To be sure, most leaders made time for issues beyond Ukraine in their allotted, if not always enforced, 15 minutes at the mic. And some mentioned the war only in passing, or not at all.
Colombian President Gustavo Petro devoted his time to lambasting capitalism, consumerism and the US-led war on drugs, particularly its focus on coca plant eradication.

 


Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman

Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman
Updated 25 September 2022

Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman

Pakistani women MPs, activists condemn ‘brutal killing’ of Iranian woman
  • Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody ignites rage against Tehran regime

KARACHI: Leading Pakistani women politicians and rights activists on Saturday joined the growing global outcry over the death of Iranian Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being detained by Iran’s so-called morality police for disobeying the country’s strict dress code.  

At least 35 people have been killed during widespread protests across Iran in the past week, according to Iranian state media, amid mounting anger over allegations that Amini, 22, was the victim of police brutality.  

Amini was arrested in Tehran on Sept. 13 for allegedly wearing a hijab in an “improper” manner. She was taken to a detention center where she collapsed shortly afterwards.

Her death three days later sparked large demonstrations and acts of defiance against the Tehran regime.

FASTFACT

In Iran, women are required to follow a strict dress code which includes wearing a headscarf over their heads and putting on long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures. The laws are based on Iran’s interpretation of Islamic law.

In several clips that have gone viral on social media, women can be seen cutting their hair publicly and burning headscarves, an open challenge to Iranian authorities.  

Protesters are demanding an end to what they say is police brutality, as well as moral policing, and say that women should have the right to dress as they please.

The Gasht-e Ershad (Guidance Patrols) is a special police unit in Iran tasked with enforcing the Islamic dress code in public.

Pakistani women politicians reacted angrily to Amini’s death, calling for an impartial investigation into the case and demanding more freedom for women in Iran.  

“It’s really sad and if what is being reported is true, it’s a shocking and blatant violation of fundamental rights,” Shazia Marri, Pakistan’s federal minister for poverty alleviation, told Arab News on Saturday.  

“It’s a complete travesty of justice and highly condemnable. Everyone must have a right to choose,” she added.

Iranian police said that Amini’s death was caused by a heart attack, and denied reports that officers had struck her with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles.  

Sharmila Sahibah Faruqui, a lawmaker of Pakistan’s provincial Sindh Assembly, told Arab News that it is “heartbreaking to see how Mahsa Amini was brutally killed by law enforcement authorities for not wearing a hijab.”  

She added: “The voices of women must not be oppressed by the state. Women must be empowered, not silenced.”

Sehar Kamran, a former Pakistani senator, said that “Iran must ensure that a few individuals do not smear the name of law and Islam, and should bring the culprits to justice.”

She added: “The onus lies on Iranian authorities to ensure justice so that such events do not occur in the future.”  

Anis Haroon, a member of the Women’s Action Forum in Pakistan, said that women’s rights have suffered in Iran due to compulsory dress codes, segregation and torture by the morality police.  

“The role of the morality police should end,” she said. “The state has no right to intervene in the private lives of people. Women of Iran should be allowed to live like free human beings under the rights granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” she said.  

Nighat Dad, a leading lawyer who runs the Digital Rights Foundation — a think tank tackling digital rights through a gender lens — said that Amini’s death has sparked resistance, “which the regime won’t be able to stop now.”

She told Arab News that men supporting these protests is a “testament to what the people of Iran basically want from the regime now.”

Women were now deciding for themselves whether to wear the hijab or not, Dad said.

“And it is actually their own choice. When we say ‘my body, my choice’ in Pakistan, that is exactly what we mean — that we should have control over our body, not other people controlling it,” she added.   

Dancer and activist Sheema Kermani accused Iran’s morality police of having committed grave human rights violations for decades.

She said that the Iranian state’s warnings to citizens and an Internet blackout are “ominous signs that reflect the intention of the totalitarian regime to use more brutal force against the protesters.”

She said: “We are proud of Iranian women for offering strong resistance despite being the most vulnerable group.”   

Nayab Gohar Jan, a Pakistan People’s Party activist, told Arab News that it is time for Iran to have serious conversations about women’s rights.

“Given the scale of protests across the country, it may also be time for Iranian authorities to open up dialogue on these issues,” she said.  

 


Philippines, US on track to deepen alliance as Marcos concludes American trip

President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP)
President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP)
Updated 24 September 2022

Philippines, US on track to deepen alliance as Marcos concludes American trip

President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, in New York. (AP)
  • Leader’s approach breaks from predecessor, who embraced Beijing-friendly direction
  • Deepening relations with Manila appears to be ‘high priority’ for Biden administration, expert says

MANILA: The Philippines is on track to deepen its alliance with the US, experts said this week, as the first meeting between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his US counterpart Joe Biden showed mutual intention to revive long-standing ties that were undermined during the previous Philippine presidency.

Marcos and Biden held their inaugural face-to-face talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, a few months after the son of the late dictator took office following a landslide victory in the Philippine elections.

Since becoming president, Marcos has held meetings with a number of top US officials, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a foreign policy shift from the days of former president Rodrigo Duterte, who oversaw a strategy to distance Manila from Washington and embrace a Beijing-friendly direction.

We are your partners, we are your allies, we are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the US our partner, our ally and our friend.

Marcos Jr., Phillipine president

“We are your partners, we are your allies, we are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the US our partner, our ally and our friend,” Marcos told Biden during their meeting.

Marcos, who is set to return to the Philippines on Saturday, said that he cannot envision his country without the US as a partner during an economic forum earlier in the week.

Biden had reaffirmed the US’ “ironclad commitment” to the defense of the Philippines during the occasion, the White House said in a statement, as they discussed various other issues, including tensions in the South China Sea and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“The relationship between the US and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots. We’ve had some rocky times but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship from our perspective,” Biden said.

Their meeting conveyed eagerness on both sides to strengthen ties, Southeast Asia expert Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C., told Arab News.

“The meeting certainly shows both sides are eager to deepen the relationship, and that doing so is a high priority for the Biden administration,” Poling said.

As the White House “doesn’t organize a ton of meetings like this” on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Poling said that “prioritizing this one sends its own message.

“The US-Philippines alliance is undergoing a process of modernization that started last year and is moving rather quickly,” he added.

Victor Andres Manhit, president of the Stratbase ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Manila, said the meeting showed how Manila is “strengthening and believes” in its partnership with Washington.

“Hopefully, this could be a fresh start in how to strengthen this alliance and turn this alliance beyond defense and security but really a consistent support from the US with regard to trade, investments that can generate jobs, that can then generate more growth for the Philippines,” Manhit told Arab News.

He added that strong relations between the two countries have “always been what the Filipinos want.”

Marcos said that the Philippines will be “a friend to all, and an enemy to none” during his first address to the nation in July, with his administration’s approach toward the US showing a marked contrast to his predecessor, who went to China in the early days of his presidency and announced a “separation” from Washington, its former colonial master.