US signals a boost in ties with Palestinians ahead of Biden visit

US signals a boost in ties with Palestinians ahead of Biden visit
A US flag flies outside the then US consulate building in Jerusalem in this 2019 file photo. (AP)
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Updated 09 June 2022

US signals a boost in ties with Palestinians ahead of Biden visit

US signals a boost in ties with Palestinians ahead of Biden visit
  • The "Palestinian Affairs Unit" (PAU) was renamed the "US Office of Palestinian Affairs" (OPA) and will report directly to Washington "on substantive matters"
  • The OPA operates under the auspices of the US Embassy in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: The United States upgraded its diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, reversing a Trump administration move ahead of a planned visit by President Joe Biden.
The “Palestinian Affairs Unit” (PAU) was renamed the “US Office of Palestinian Affairs” (OPA) and will report directly to Washington “on substantive matters.” Prior to becoming the PAU, it had been the US consulate in Jerusalem and a focus of Palestinian statehood goals in the city.
Former President Donald Trump formally closed the consulate and redesignated it as the PAU within the US Embassy that was moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in 2018.
That move outraged Palestinians, who saw it as undermining their aspiration to have East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Israel, which captured East Jerusalem in 1967, calls Jerusalem its indivisible capital.
“The OPA operates under the auspices of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, and reports on substantive matters directly to the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau in the State Department,” a spokesperson for the mission said.
“The name change was done to better align with State Department nomenclature,” the spokesperson said. “The new OPA operating structure is designed to strengthen our diplomatic reporting and public diplomacy engagement.”
On Thursday, Palestinian officials hosted US State Department envoy Hady Amr in Ramallah, their seat of government in the occupied West Bank. They had no immediate comment at the end of the meeting.
A senior Palestinian official told Reuters that in a call with the US Secretary of State several days ago, President Mahmoud Abbas rejected any alternatives to the reopening of the US consulate in Jerusalem.
Under the Trump-era redesignation, the former consulate’s staff and functions remained largely identical, but were subordinate to the embassy rather than on a strict US-Palestinian bilateral track.
The former consulate building, which now houses the OPA, is in west Jerusalem.
The Biden administration has pledged to reopen the consulate, but Israel has said it would not consent to this and proposed that a consulate be opened in Ramallah instead.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined comment on Thursday’s redesignation of the Jerusalem mission.


Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM

Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM
Updated 11 sec ago

Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM

Bahrain’s Crown Prince discusses bilateral relations with Japan PM

DUBAI: Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa met with Japan’s Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio at Akasaka Palace in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The crown prince discussed the depth of Bahrain-Japan relations, emphasizing Bahrain’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations between the two nations.

Kishida and Prince Salman also agreed to explore opportunities that would aid the advancement of Bahrain and Japan’s strategic partnership in various fields.

The two leaders discussed the latest regional and international economic developments, and issues of common interest.

Bahrain’s PM attended ABE Shinzo’s state funeral on Tuesday and extended condolences to Abe’s wife, Akie Abe, and their family.

 

*This article was originally published on Arab News Japan.  


Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return
Updated 4 min 22 sec ago

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return

Kuwait goes to polls, yet again, as opposition groups return
  • Kuwait has held 18 elections since the parliamentary system was adopted in 1962
  • Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait will hold its most inclusive elections in a decade Thursday with some opposition groups ending a boycott after the oil-rich country’s royal rulers pledged not to interfere with parliament.
The polls are the sixth in 10 years, reflecting the repeated political crises that have gripped the only Gulf Arab state with a fully elected parliament.
The elections come after Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced the dissolution of parliament in June following disputes between lawmakers and the government, the fourth to be named in two years.
Several opposition MPs had been on strike in protest at delays to parliamentary sessions and the failure to form a new government. A core source of friction is MPs’ demand for ministers from the royal family to be held accountable for corruption.
Kuwait, which borders Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran and is one of the world’s biggest oil exporters, has held 18 elections since the parliamentary system was adopted in 1962.
But when he dissolved parliament, Sheikh Meshal promised there would be no interference by authorities in the election or the new parliament.
“We will not interfere in the people’s choices for their representatives, nor will we interfere with the choices of the next National Assembly in choosing its speaker or its committees,” the crown prince said.
“Parliament will be the master of its decisions, and we will not be supporting one faction at the expense of another. We will stand at the same distance from everyone.”
Opposition figures have stayed out of elections over the past 10 years, accusing executive authorities of meddling in the workings of parliament.
One of them, People’s Action Movement candidate Mohammad Musaed Al-Dossari, said he had been persuaded to stand again by the crown prince’s promises.
Sheikh Meshal’s speech “reassured” Kuwaitis and “encouraged the political groups and MPs who had been boycotting to return to run in the elections,” Al-Dossari said.
Thursday’s vote also comes after the country’s emir issued an amnesty last year for political opponents who had been tried on various charges.
Some 305 candidates, including 22 women, are competing for 50 seats in five constituencies. Parliament has been all-male since the only woman MP lost her seat in December 2020.
Women represent 51.2 percent of the 795,920 voters. About 70 percent of the population of around 4.2 million is made up of expatriates.
While the last elections were affected by anti-coronavirus measures, this time candidates have been able to open electoral offices and hold live hustings. Security services have stepped up their monitoring of vote-buying.
The election results are expected to be announced on Friday. The opposition, mostly Islamist politicians, won 24 seats out of 50 in the last polls.


Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone
Updated 31 min 56 sec ago

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone

Cleric’s supporters again storm Baghdad’s government zone
  • Al-Sadr’s bloc won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October but he has been unable to form a majority government

BAGHDAD: Supporters of Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr again stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone government area Wednesday as the Iraqi parliament holds session on the resignation of its speaker.
Associated Press journalists saw those supporting Sadr waving flags as security forces gathered around them.
Al-Sadr’s bloc won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October but he has been unable to form a majority government. His followers stormed the parliament in late July to prevent their rivals from Iran-backed Shiite groups from forming the government.
With ensuing rallies, clashes with security forces, counter-rallies and a sit-in outside parliament, the government formation process has stalled.
Al-Sadr has now been calling for the dissolution of parliament and early elections and has been in a power struggle with his Iran-backed rivals since the vote.


Kurdish officials: Iran launches new drone bombings in Iraq

Kurdish officials: Iran launches new drone bombings in Iraq
Updated 51 min 4 sec ago

Kurdish officials: Iran launches new drone bombings in Iraq

Kurdish officials: Iran launches new drone bombings in Iraq
  • The Iranian drone strikes targeted a military camp, homes, offices and other areas around Koya
  • Tehran did not immediately acknowledge the attack

KOYA, Iraq: Iran launched a new drone bombing campaign Wednesday targeting the bases of an Iranian-Kurdish opposition group in northern Iraq amid demonstrations engulfing the Islamic Republic, Kurdish officials said.
The strikes early Wednesday focused on Koya, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) east of Irbil, said Soran Nuri, a member of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan. The group, known by the acronym KDPI, is a leftist armed opposition force banned in Iran.
The Iranian drone strikes targeted a military camp, homes, offices and other areas around Koya, Nuri said. Nuri described the attack as ongoing.
An Associated Press journalist saw ambulances racing through Koya after the strikes.
Tehran did not immediately acknowledge the attack. On Saturday and Monday, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard unleashed a wave of drone and artillery strikes targeting Kurdish positions.
The attacks appear to be a response to the ongoing protests roiling Iran over the death of a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who was detained by the nation’s morality police.
The United Nations Secretary-General called on Iran early Wednesday to refrain from using “unnecessary or disproportionate force” against protesters as unrest over a young woman’s death in police custody spread across the country.
Antonio Guterres said through a spokesman that authorities should swiftly conduct an impartial investigation of the death of Mahsa Amini, which has sparked unrest across Iran’s provinces and the capital of Tehran.
“We are increasingly concerned about reports of rising fatalities, including women and children, related to the protests,” UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric in a statement. “We underline the need for prompt, impartial and effective investigation into Ms. Mahsa Amini’s death by an independent competent authority.”
Protests have spread across at least 46 cities, towns and villages in Iran. State TV reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began Sept. 17.
An Associated Press count of official statements by authorities tallied at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 demonstrators arrested.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, said it documented the arrests of at least 23 journalists as the clashes between security forces and protesters heated up.
CPJ in a Wednesday statement called on Iranian authorities to “immediately” release arrested journalists who covered Amini’s death and protests.
Dujarric added that Guterres stressed the need to respect human rights, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association during the meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on September 22nd.


Three killed in Israel Jenin raid: Palestinian ministry

Three killed in Israel Jenin raid: Palestinian ministry
Updated 47 min 21 sec ago

Three killed in Israel Jenin raid: Palestinian ministry

Three killed in Israel Jenin raid: Palestinian ministry
  • The Israeli army confirmed in a tweet that troops were “operating in Jenin”
  • The raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians, including fighters

RAMALLAH: Three Palestinians were killed Wednesday during an Israeli West Bank raid targeting alleged militants, including the brother of a man blamed for a deadly attack in Tel Aviv, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The Palestinian health ministry recorded three deaths during the raid in Jenin, including Abed Hazem, brother of Raad Hazem, named as the killer of three Israelis in a Tel Aviv shooting spree on April 7.
The Israeli army confirmed troops had shot dead “two suspects involved in a number of recent shooting attacks.”
The Israeli army confirmed in a tweet that troops were “operating in Jenin,” a militant stronghold that has suffered near daily violence. It did not immediately provide further details of the raid.
Since March, Israel has launched hundreds of operations in the northern West Bank, including Jenin and nearby Nablus, in pursuit of individuals it accuses of involvement in deadly attacks targeting Israelis.
The raids have sparked clashes that have killed dozens of Palestinians, including fighters.