EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges

Update EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges
“Recognizing the Palestinian state is not a gift to Hamas, quite the contrary,” he said. “The Palestinian authority is not Hamas, on the contrary they are deeply confronted.”.(AFP)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges

EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges
  • The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others

MADRID: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Friday urged Israel “not to intimidate” or “threaten” the judges of the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister.
“I ask everyone, starting with the Israeli government, but also certain European governments, not to intimidate the judges, not to threaten them,” Borrell said during an interview with Spanish public television TVE, calling for “respect for the International Criminal Court.”
What the court’s prosecutor “has done in presenting a case should not be considered as an anti-Semitic attitude,” the former Spanish foreign minister added.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Monday that he requested arrest warrants for as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as top Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Mohamed Deif, on suspicions of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
While he said the Palestinian militant chiefs could be culpable of “extermination,” “rape and other acts of sexual violence” and “taking hostages as a war crime,” he accused the Israelis of “starvation,” “wilful killing,” and “extermination and/or murder.”
Netanyahu said he rejected “with disgust ... the comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” and Biden also stressed that “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”
The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there. However the court has no mechanism to enforce its orders.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday said that recognizing a Palestinian state was not a gift to Hamas.
Ireland, Norway and Spain said on Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, to help secure a halt to Israel’s Gaza offensive after the Hamas attack on Oct.7 and revive peace talks that stalled a decade ago.
“Recognizing the Palestinian state is not a gift to Hamas, quite the contrary,” he said. “The Palestinian authority is not Hamas, on the contrary they are deeply confronted.”
He added the EU already talked, financed and met the Palestinian authority.
“Every time someone makes the decision to support a Palestinian state, ... the reaction of Israel is to transform it in an antisemitic attack,” he added.


Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine

Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine
Updated 1 min 12 sec ago
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Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine

Ukraine conference draft communique calls out Russia’s war on Ukraine
  • Absence of China, Russia seen limiting potential impact
  • Putin outlines conditions to end war on eve of gathering

BUERGENSTOCK, Switzerland: A draft communique for a summit of world leaders convened to pursue a pathway for peace in Ukraine makes reference to Russia’s “war” against Kyiv and urges that Ukraine’s territorial integrity be respected, according to a copy of the document seen by Reuters.
The final communique is due to be issued on Sunday at the conclusion of the two-day conference at the Buergenstock resort in central Switzerland. The draft was dated June 13.
The Swiss government has said it hopes the final summit declaration will be supported unanimously by participants. The document tracked certain changes made to the draft.
The document also calls for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to be restored to Ukrainian control and for Kyiv’s access to its Azov sea ports to be safeguarded.

More than 90 countries are taking part in the conference, but China’s absence in particular dimmed hopes the summit would show Russia as globally isolated, while recent military reverses have put Kyiv on the back foot.

China has shunned the summit and it was dismissed as a waste of time by Russia, which pushed its own rival ceasefire plans from afar.

The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has also diverted the world’s attention from Ukraine.
The talks focused on broader concerns triggered by the war, such as food and nuclear security. But Turkiye and Saudi Arabia, both mooted hosts for another such event, said meaningful progress required Russia’s participation.
A draft of a final summit declaration, seen by Reuters, blames Russia’s “war” in Ukraine for causing “large-scale human suffering and destruction” and urges Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be respected.
The document, dated June 13, also calls for Kyiv to regain control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and access to its sea ports. The draft had deleted an earlier reference to Russian “aggression” where “war” is cited.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky trumpeted the summit’s attendance as a success and predicted “history being made.”
“Today is the day when the world begins to bring a just peace closer,” he told leaders assembled around a giant rectangular table.
US President Joe Biden sent his deputy Kamala Harris to represent him — a decision that had riled Kyiv.
Harris announced more than $1.5 billion in energy and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, where infrastructure has been pounded by Russian airstrikes since the 2022 full-scale invasion.
On the eve of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would end the war if Kyiv agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over four provinces claimed by Moscow. The conditions apparently reflected Moscow’s growing confidence its forces have the upper hand.
But they were swiftly rejected by Ukraine and its allies.
“He’s calling for surrender,” Harris said, adding: “Let nothing about the end of this war be decided without Ukraine.”
“Freezing the conflict today, with foreign troops occupying Ukrainian land, is not the answer. It is a recipe for future wars of aggression,” added European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

China and Russia
China said it would boycott the event after Russia was frozen out of the process, with the US suggesting Beijing’s decision was taken at Moscow’s behest.
“Putin has no interest in a genuine peace,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“He has launched a sustained diplomatic campaign against this summit ordering countries to stay away, spinning a phoney narrative about his willingness to negotiate.”
Avoiding some of the most difficult issues, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz compared the summit to “a small plant that needs watering, nurturing and delicate care” that would yield results further down the line.
But countries including Turkiye, Saudi Arabia and Kenya noted Russia’s absence as a hurdle.
“I must also note that this summit could have been more result-oriented if the other party to the conflict, Russia, was present in the room,” said Turkiye’s foreign minister, Hakan Fidan.
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said credible talks would involve “difficult compromise.”
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer saw an opportunity to start building a broader global consensus to pressure Russia.
“It’s like we’re in a Western echo chamber. That is: all Western European countries, the USA, we agree on what we want to happen with Ukraine,” Nehammer said. “But that alone is not enough.”
Calls for Russia to be at the table will only get stronger over time, said Bob Deen, senior research fellow at the Netherlands-based Clingendael Institute think-tank.
“There is a risk that if Ukraine waits too long, it might end up with rival formats popping up. It may risk losing the initiative,” Deen told a forum on the summit’s sidelines.
Supporters of Ukraine marked the talks with a series of events in the nearby city of Lucerne to draw attention to the war’s humanitarian costs.
Dozens of Ukrainian refugees from choirs around Switzerland converged in a public square to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Earlier about 250 people gathered in the center of the city, many wrapped in Ukrainian flags, wearing traditional clothes and carrying pictures of missing brothers, husbands or sons as they shared their stories.
“I’m clinging to the idea that my husband is still alive,” said Svitlana Bilous, the wife of a soldier who has been missing for more than 14 months. “That’s what keeps me going.”


Italian activist freed from Hungary returns home after being elected to European Parliament

Italian activist freed from Hungary returns home after being elected to European Parliament
Updated 16 June 2024
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Italian activist freed from Hungary returns home after being elected to European Parliament

Italian activist freed from Hungary returns home after being elected to European Parliament
  • Salis became a hot-button political issue in Italy after images emerged of her handcuffed and shackled in a Hungarian courtroom where she faced trial

ROME: Italian anti-fascist activist Ilaria Salis returned to her parents’ house in the northern Italian city of Monza on Saturday evening, after being freed from house arrest in Budapest the day before.
“A nightmare is over,” her father Roberto Salis told journalists waiting for her at her home.
“Now we must ensure that this accusation for which Ilaria believes she is innocent is dropped,” he added.
Ilaria Salis was released after being elected as a new member of the European Parliament for the Italian Green and Left Alliance earlier this month.
The 39-year-old activist was elected during her time under house arrest in Hungary, where she is on trial and faces charges for allegedly assaulting far-right demonstrators.
European Parliament lawmakers enjoy substantial legal immunity from prosecution, even if the allegations relate to crimes committed prior to their election.
More than 170,000 voters in Italy wrote Salis’ name onto the ballot in a bid to bring her home from Hungary, where she has been detained for more than a year.
Salis became a hot-button political issue in Italy after images emerged of her handcuffed and shackled in a Hungarian courtroom where she faced trial.
The Italian activist was charged in Hungary with attempted murder after being part of a group of anti-fascists accused of assaulting individuals they believed were linked to the far-right Day of Honor last year.
The event, held annually on Feb. 11, sees far-right activists mark the failed attempt by Nazi and allied Hungarian soldiers to break out of Budapest during the Red Army’s siege in 1945.
The alleged victims of the attack reportedly didn’t complain to police.
Before the European Parliament election earlier this month, Salis’ father repeatedly voiced concerns over his daughter’s trial, saying she faced up to 24 years in jail. The Hungarian prosecutor had asked for a prison term of 11 years.


UK polls point to ‘electoral extinction’ for Prime Minister Sunak’s Conservatives

UK polls point to ‘electoral extinction’ for Prime Minister Sunak’s Conservatives
Updated 16 June 2024
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UK polls point to ‘electoral extinction’ for Prime Minister Sunak’s Conservatives

UK polls point to ‘electoral extinction’ for Prime Minister Sunak’s Conservatives
  • “Our research suggests that this election could be nothing short of electoral extinction for the Conservative Party,” Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, said

LONDON: Three British opinion polls released late on Saturday presented a grim picture for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party, and one pollster warned that the party faced “electoral extinction” in July 4’s election.
The polls come just over halfway through the election campaign, after a week in which both the Conservatives and Labour set out their manifestos, and shortly before voters begin to receive postal ballots.
Sunak surprised many in his own party by announcing an early election on May 22, against widespread expectations that he would wait until later in the year to allow more time for living standards to recover after the highest inflation in 40 years.
Market research company Savanta found 46 percent support for Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, up 2 points on the previous poll five days earlier, while support for the Conservatives dropped 4 points to 21 percent. The poll was conducted from June 12 to June 14 for the Sunday Telegraph.
Labour’s 25-point lead was the largest since the premiership of Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, whose tax cut plans prompted investors to dump British government bonds, pushing up interest rates and forcing a Bank of England intervention.
“Our research suggests that this election could be nothing short of electoral extinction for the Conservative Party,” Chris Hopkins, political research director at Savanta, said.
A separate poll by Survation, published by the Sunday Times, predicted the Conservatives could end up with just 72 seats in the 650-member House of Commons — the lowest in their nearly 200-year history — while Labour would win 456 seats.
The poll was conducted from May 31 to June 13.
In percentage terms, the Survation poll had Labour on 40 percent and the Conservatives on 24 percent, while former Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party — a right-wing challenger to the Conservatives — was on 12 percent.
A third poll, by Opinium for Sunday’s Observer and conducted from June 12 to June 14, also showed Labour on 40 percent, the Conservatives on 23 percent and Reform on 14 percent, with the two largest parties yielding ground to smaller rivals.


Britain’s ‘impossible’ refugee visa rules leave children stranded in war zones, charity says

Britain’s ‘impossible’ refugee visa rules leave children stranded in war zones, charity says
Updated 15 June 2024
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Britain’s ‘impossible’ refugee visa rules leave children stranded in war zones, charity says

Britain’s ‘impossible’ refugee visa rules leave children stranded in war zones, charity says
  • Organization points to ‘catastrophic failure’ of system 

LONDON: Children are being left stranded in war zones due to the “impossible” bureaucratic requirements for one of Britain’s few legal routes for asylum-seekers, a charity has told The Guardian.

The UK government has said that the family reunion process allows refugees to safely reunite with loved ones in the country.

However, a new report from the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, a charity that helps vulnerable migrants, reveals that the scheme is “not fit for purpose” and has abandoned applicants, putting them at risk of trafficking, or even death.

RAMFEL reported that when the conflict in Sudan erupted in April 2023, it was assisting 14 people, all of whom were eligible to travel to the UK under the scheme.

More than a year later, eight people remain trapped there, “facing extreme risks.” Several of the children previously fled Eritrea, where men, women, and children face forced mass conscription.

In some cases, teenagers have fled Sudan via irregular routes. One boy was detained in Libya, and another unaccompanied child was trafficked to South Sudan and raped.

The UK government has closed its visa application center in Khartoum but has not waived the requirement for applicants to register their fingerprints and biometric data in person.

“Visa application centers are open and operating in neighboring countries,” a Home Office letter, seen by The Guardian, reads.

“However, travel across Sudan is conducted at your own risk, and under your own discretion, considering whether it is safe to do so,” it added.

Eritrean refugee Yusef, who is living in the UK, shared his efforts to bring his two young brothers, now aged 17 and 14, to join him. They fled to Sudan alone after their mother died and their father was seized by Eritrean authorities.

He told The Guardian: “I made the (family reunion) application but the Home Office was saying that there was not a place to test them for tuberculosis or a visa center in Sudan. They said they couldn’t take them.”

His brothers fled north to Egypt, and Yusef said: “They don’t have anyone. How will they survive? If the police find them asleep, they will take them back to Eritrea and they will be put in prison. They are still in this situation and they’re very scared.”

In October of last year, the Home Office declined to consider a request to bypass biometric enrollment for the children. RAMFEL is currently attempting to have them registered in Cairo.

RAMFEL pointed to the Sudan conflict as an example of the “catastrophic failure” of the family reunion system. The process primarily aids children and spouses of UK residents and can only extend to siblings and other close relatives under a more restrictive scheme.

The charity argues that the flawed system is pushing more refugees toward irregular routes, leading to an increase in small boat crossings over the English Channel, which have reached record levels.

Nick Beales, head of campaigning at RAMFEL, said: “The UK’s family reunion system is not fit for purpose and this report shows that it does not act as an effective safe route for refugees seeking to come to the UK.

“For people in places such as Sudan and Gaza, they are prevented from even applying for family reunion due to the government’s inflexible and unreasonable insistence on them attending non-existing visa application centers.

“This leaves those in conflict zones, including unaccompanied children, with no choice but to take dangerous journeys in search of family reunification.”

RAMFEL called on the next government to create a process that allowed those with loved ones in the UK to swiftly and safely secure visas for legal travel to Britain.
 


Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit

Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit
Updated 15 June 2024
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Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit

Ukrainian refugees sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ near Swiss summit
  • Among the singers were around 50 Ukrainian refugees, some wearing embroidered national dress and crowns of flowers
  • “It’s about freedom. I haven’t learned German but I feel a lot of power and freedom and joy,” Anna Haidash, a refugee from Odesa, said

LUCERNE: Dozens of Ukrainian refugees from choirs around Switzerland converged in the city of Lucerne on Saturday near a global summit to sing Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” a choral work they say embodies their hopes for peace and freedom.
The singers gathered in a public square in Lucerne close to the mountaintop resort of Buergenstock where dozens of world leaders were meeting to try to build support for Ukraine’s peace proposals.
Among the singers were around 50 Ukrainian refugees, some wearing embroidered national dress and crowns of flowers, from five different choirs from around Switzerland. The country has accepted over 65,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
The rousing lyrics to “Ode to Joy” are by German poet Friedrich Schiller and laud the values of unity, hope and solidarity. “Ode to Joy” is also the anthem for the European Union to which Ukraine hopes to accede.
“It’s about freedom. I haven’t learned German but I feel a lot of power and freedom and joy,” Anna Haidash, a refugee from Odesa, told Reuters. “When you see all these people you feel you are not alone in this situation and in this song too.”
The choir, accompanied by a small orchestra, was surrounded by crowds of tourists next to Lucerne’s famous wooden Chapel Bridge and pro-Ukrainian protesters, some of whom joined in as they later sang the national anthem.
“They want to appeal to the world with Beethoven’s great music and reaffirm their wish of peace and freedom for their battered country on its way to Europe,” event organizer Daniela Majer said.
The melody has been used in the past as a protest anthem to celebrate resistance to oppression, for example during the Tiananmen Square protests in China and to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.