Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state

Update Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state
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Above, a protester holds a Palestinian flag atop scaffoldings of a building during a demonstration in Paris, on May 27, 2024. (AFP)
Update Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state
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Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is pictured as he delivers a speech on TV over the recognition of Palestinian statehood by Spain in Madrid on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
Update Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state
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Above, protesters in front of the foreign affairs ministry in Madrid on May 27, 2024. The Spanish Cabinet will recognize a Palestinian state at its Tuesday morning meeting. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2024
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Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state

Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state
  • While some 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state none of the major Western powers has done so

BARCELONA: Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three western European nations to add international pressure on Israel to soften its devastating response to last year’s Hamas-led attack. Tel Aviv slammed the diplomatic move that will have no immediate impact on its grinding war in Gaza.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told his nation in a televised address from Madrid that “this is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz quickly lashed out at Spain on X, saying Sanchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Ireland and Norway soon joined Spain in formalizing a decision they had jointly announced the previous week.

The Palestinian flag was raised in Dublin outside Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.

“This is an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said before his Cabinet meets to formally sign off on the decision.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that “for more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognizes Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

While some 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — none of the major Western powers has done so. Still, the adherence of three European countries to the group represents a victory for Palestinian efforts in the world of public opinion, and will likely put pressure on EU heavyweights France and Germany to rethink their position.

Relations between the EU and Israel have nosedived with the diplomatic recognitions by two EU members, and Madrid insisting on Monday that the EU should take measures against Israel for its continued deadly attacks in southern Gaza’s city of Rafah.

After Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said “for the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I have seen a significant discussion on sanctions” for Israel.

Harris, the Irish leader, insisted Tuesday the EU should consider economic sanctions for Israel, saying “Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more.”

Norway, which is not an EU member but often aligns its foreign policy with the bloc, handed diplomatic papers to the Palestinian government over the weekend ahead of its formal recognition.

At the same time, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell threw his weight behind the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor is seeking an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others, including leaders of the Hamas militant group.

The formal declaration and resulting diplomatic dispute come over seven months into an assault waged by Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. Israel’s air and land attacks have killed 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Last week’s joint announcement by Spain, Ireland and Norway triggered an angry response from Israeli authorities, which summoned the countries’ ambassadors in Tel Aviv to the Foreign Ministry, where they were filmed while being shown videos of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and abductions.

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Robert Golob said Monday his government will decide on the recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday and forward its decision to parliament for final approval.

The United States and Britain, among others, back the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a negotiated settlement. Netanyahu’s government says the conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations.

In his speech on Tuesday, Sanchez said that the recognition of a Palestinian state was “a decision that we do not adopt against anyone, least of all against Israel, a friendly people whom we respect, whom we appreciate and with whom we want to have the best possible relationship.”

The Socialist leader has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries, including stops in Oslo and Dublin, to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state. He called for a permanent cease-fire, for stepping up humanitarian aid into Gaza and for the release of hostages still held by Hamas.

Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, will meet with the Arab Contact Group in Spain’s capital on Wednesday, including Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan.

Sanchez said that his intention was to back the beleaguered Palestinian Authority, which lost effective political control of Gaza to Hamas. He laid out his vision for a state ruled by the Palestinian Authority that must connect the West Bank and Gaza via a corridor with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, cooperates with Israel on security matters and favors a negotiated two-state solution. Its forces were driven out of Gaza by Hamas when the militants seized power there in 2007.

The Palestinians have long sought an independent state in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The idea of a land corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank through Israel was discussed in previous rounds of peace talks, but no serious or substantive peace negotiations have been held in over 15 years.

“We will not recognize changes in the 1967 border lines other than those agreed to by the parties,” Sanchez added.

“Furthermore, this decision reflects our absolute rejection of Hamas, a terrorist organization who is against the two-state solution,” Sanchez said. “From the outset, Spain has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. This clear condemnation is the resounding expression of our steadfast commitment in the fight against terrorism. I would like to underline that starting tomorrow we would focus all our efforts to implement the two state solution and make it a reality.”

Ireland’s government said that it will appoint an ambassador and create a full embassy in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Israel, which rejects the possibility of Palestinian statehood, recalled its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain after they announced the decision last week.

Norway’s Barth Eide added Tuesday that “it is regrettable that the Israeli government shows no signs of engaging constructively.”

“The recognition is a strong expression of support for moderate forces in both countries,” Norway’s top diplomat said.


Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November

Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November
Updated 6 sec ago
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Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November

Trump endorses Ten Commandments in schools, implores evangelical Christians to vote in November
  • “Has anyone read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’? ... It’s just incredible,” said Trump, who was convicted of a felony last month
  • According to AP VoteCast, about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in 2020

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump told a group of evangelicals they “cannot afford to sit on the sidelines” of the 2024 election, imploring them at one point to “go and vote, Christians, please!“
Trump also endorsed displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and elsewhere while speaking to a group of politically influential evangelical Christians in Washington on Saturday. He drew cheers as he invoked a new law signed in Louisiana this week requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom.
“Has anyone read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It’s just incredible,” Trump said at the gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. “They don’t want it to go up. It’s a crazy world.’’
Trump a day earlier posted an endorsement of the new law on his social media network, saying: “I LOVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, AND MANY OTHER PLACES, FOR THAT MATTER. READ IT — HOW CAN WE, AS A NATION, GO WRONG???”
The former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee backed the move as he seeks to galvanize his supporters on the religious right, which has fiercely backed him after initially being suspicious of the twice-divorced New York City tabloid celebrity when he first ran for president in 2016.
That support has continued despite his conviction in the first of four criminal cases he faces, in which a jury last month found him guilty of falsifying business records for what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Daniels claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier, which he denies.
Trump’s stated opposition to signing a nationwide ban on abortion and his reluctance to detail some of his views on the issue are at odds with many members of the evangelical movement, a key part of Trump’s base that’s expected to help him turn out voters in his November rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden.
But while many members of the movement would like to see him do more to restrict abortion, they cheer him as the greatest champion for the cause because of his role in appointing US Supreme Court justices who overturned national abortion rights in 2022.
Trump highlighted that Saturday, saying, “We did something that was amazing,” but the issue would be left to people to decide in the states.
“Every voter has to go with your heart and do what’s right, but we also have to get elected,” he said.
While he still takes credit for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, Trump has also warned abortion can be tricky politically for Republicans. For months, he deferred questions about his position on a national ban.
Last year, when Trump addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition, he said there was “a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life” but didn’t offer any details beyond that.
In April of this year, Trump said he believed the issue should now be left to the states. He later stated in an interview that he would not sign a nationwide ban on abortion if it was passed by Congress. He has still declined to detail his position on women’s access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, according to polling last year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Attendees at the evangelical gathering on Saturday said that while they’d like to see a national abortion ban, Trump isn’t losing any of their deep support.
“I would prefer if he would sign a national ban,” said Jerri Dickinson, a 78-year-old retired social worker and Faith & Freedom member from New Jersey. “I understand though, that as in accordance with the Constitution, that decision should be left up to the states.”
Dickinson said she can’t stand the abortion law in her state, which does not set limits on the procedure based on gestational age. But she said outside of preferring a national ban, leaving the issue to the state “is the best alternative.”
According to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate, about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in 2020, and nearly 4 in 10 Trump voters identified as white evangelical Christians. White evangelical Christians made up about 20 percent of the overall electorate that year.
Beyond just offering their own support in the general election, the Faith & Freedom Coalition plans to help get out the vote for Trump and other Republicans, aiming to use volunteers and paid workers to knock on millions of doors in battleground states.
Trump also rallied voters in Philadelphia on Saturday with a speech heavily focused on violent crime, telling supporters at an arena that he would grant police officers immunity from prosecution.
“Under Crooked Joe, the City of Brotherly Love is being ravaged by bloodshed and crime,” he said. “We will surge federal law enforcement resources to the places that need them most.”
Statistics from the Philadelphia city controller say there were 410 homicides in 2023, a 20 percent drop compared to 2022.
Tyler Cecconi, 25, of Richmond, Virginia, said he was glad that Trump is stepping out of his comfort zone and going to places that may not be red. At the venue, a digital banner read “Philadelphia is Trump Country.”
“He’s showing the people that regardless if you vote for him or not, or if it’s a blue county or a red county, it doesn’t matter to him,” Cecconi said. “A president is for everybody in this country.”
The GOP Senate candidate of Pennsylvania, Dave McCormick, attended the rally and appeared on stage to talk to voters about the economy and immigration.
“This economy is not working for most Pennsylvanians, and it’s not working for most Americans,” McCormick said.
At both events, Trump returned several times to the subject of the US-Mexico border and when describing migrants crossing it as “tough,” he said that he told his friend Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to enlist them in a new version of the sport.
“’Why don’t you set up a migrant league and have your regular league of fighters. And then you have the champion of your league, these are the greatest fighters in the world, fighting the champion of the migrants,’” Trump described saying to White. “I think the migrant guy might win, that’s how tough they are. He didn’t like that idea too much.”
Biden’s campaign responded to Trump’s remarks by saying it was “fitting” that Trump, convicted of a felony, spent time at a religious conference making threats about immigration and “bragging about ripping away Americans’ freedoms.”
“Trump’s incoherent, unhinged tirade showed voters in his own words that he is a threat to our freedoms and is too dangerous to be let anywhere near the White House again,” campaign spokesperson Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.
 


Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say

Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say
Updated 34 min 52 sec ago
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Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say

Ukraine launches tens of drones on Russian territory, Russian officials say
  • According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in either region, the governors said

KYIV: Ukraine launched tens of drones overnight targeting several Russian regions but with no reported damage, Russian officials said on Sunday.
At least 23 drones were destroyed over Russia’s western region of Bryansk, which borders Ukraine, the governor of the region, Alexander Bogomaz, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia’s air defense systems also destroyed drones over the Smolensk region, Vasily Anokhin, governor of the region in Russia’s west, said on Telegram. It was not immediately clear how many drones were downed.
According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or destruction in either region, the governors said.
An air raid alert was announced for the Lipetsk region several hundred kilometers south of Moscow, the region’s governor said on Telegram.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.
Kyiv has often said its strikes inside Russia territory are meant to undermine Moscow’s war effort and are in response to Russia’s relentless air attacks on Ukraine’s energy, military and transport infrastructure.

 


UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate
Updated 23 June 2024
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UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate

UK minister compares election betting scandal to Partygate
  • Political bets are allowed in the UK, including on the date of elections, but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law

LONDON: A senior British minister compared the latest scandal involving Tory candidates accused of betting on the election date to Partygate, a series of Covid-era parties that brought down Boris Johnson.
Housing minister Michael Gove compared the betting allegations to the Partygate scandal in an interview with the Times newspaper on Saturday.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us... That’s the most potentially damaging thing,” said Gove, who is standing down this election after 14 years as an MP.
“That was damaging at the time of Partygate and is damaging here,” he added.
Prime minister Johnson was forced from office in 2022 following public anger at the revelations of parties held in Downing Street when the rest of the country was under lockdown during the pandemic.
Now another senior Conservative Party figure has been caught up in the latest scandal.
The party’s chief data officer, Nick Mason, has taken a leave of absence, following claims he placed bets on the timing of the election, the PA news agency reported Saturday.
Mason is being investigated by betting regulators, accused of placing dozens of bets on the election date according to the Times. He is the fourth Tory figure to be implicated in the affair.
The party’s campaign director stepped aside following reports on Thursday that he and his wife, a Tory candidate in the July 4 election, were under investigation by the Gambling Commission.
The scandal broke a week earlier, when Tory candidate and Sunak’s ministerial aide Craig Williams said he was being probed for staking a bet on the snap election date before it was called.
On Wednesday, London police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s security detail had been arrested for allegedly placing a bet on the date.
Sunak has said he is “incredibly angry” over the revelations.
“If anyone is found to have broken the rules, not only should they face the full consequences of the law, I will make sure that they are booted out of the Conservative Party,” he said earlier this week.
Political bets are allowed in the UK, including on the date of elections, but using insider knowledge to do so is against the law.
The inquiries heap further misery on Sunak, whose party has trailed Labour by about 20 points in the polls for nearly two years, making it odds-on to be dumped out of office after 14 years.
Gove said that those involved in the betting scandal were “sucking the oxygen out of the campaign.”
Comparing it to Partygate again, he added: “A few individuals end up creating an incredibly damaging atmosphere for the party.
“So it’s both bad in itself, but also destructive to the efforts of all of those good people who are currently fighting hard for the Conservative vote.”


France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
Updated 23 June 2024
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France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris

France charges two Moldovans over coffin graffiti in Paris
  • A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti

PARIS: French prosecutors on Saturday charged two Moldovans suspected of painting coffins and a slogan urging an end to Ukraine war on the facade of a prominent Paris newspaper, a judicial source said.
It was just the latest in a series of such acts in the capital in recent weeks.
French officials have repeatedly warned of the risks of disinformation and other attacks by Russia over France’s support for Kyiv.
Tension between Paris and Moscow has increased since President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this year he had not ruled out sending troops to Ukraine.
The two men, who carried Moldovan passports, were arrested overnight Thursday-Friday after six red coffins and the phrase “Stop the Death, Mriya, Ukraine” were painted on the building of right-wing daily Le Figaro.
Mriya means “dream” in Ukrainian.
They are being held on charges of destruction of property and participating in “an effort to demoralize the army to harm national defense in peacetime,” the source said.
Six similar coffins were found early Thursday on the facade of the Agence France-Presse headquarters in central Paris, not far from the Figaro offices.
A source close to the case said the two Moldovans claimed to have been paid around 100 euros to paint the graffiti.
A separate investigations has been opened after graffiti showing French Mirage fighter jets in the form of coffins were found last Tuesday in three districts of Paris. They included the phrase “Mirages for Ukraine.”
Similar graffiti was discovered on the walls of the AFP building Monday.
Macron announced in early June that France would send Mirage-2000 fighter jets to Ukraine and train their Ukrainian pilots as part of a new military cooperation with Kyiv.
On June 8, French police said they were holding three young Moldovans suspected of being behind inscriptions of coffins in Paris with the slogan “French soldiers in Ukraine.”
They were later charged with property damage and released.
Moldova’s Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi posted on X, formerly Twitter: “We regret and firmly condemn the incident.”
He said the “vandalism” was “part of hybrid tactics to harm our international image.”
Popsoi reiterated his comment on Saturday, denouncing an “instigation to hate.”
“We call on Moldovan citizens to be vigilant and not to allow themselves to be manipulated to the detriment of our country.”


Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election
Updated 23 June 2024
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Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election

Campaigning opens in Rwanda presidential election
  • The election commission also barred Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, saying she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required and had not met the threshold of acquiring 600 supporting signatures from citizens

KIGALI: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame defended his country’s democratic credentials as campaigning opened on Saturday for the July 15 presidential election, with the incumbent widely expected to extend his 24-year iron-fisted rule over the Great Lakes nation.
Nine million Rwandans are registered to vote in the poll concurrently with legislative elections.
Kagame has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler since the end of the 1994 genocide.
President since 2000, the 66-year-old will face the same rivals as he did in 2017: the leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party, Frank Habineza, and former journalist Philippe Mpayimana, who is running as an independent.
Rwandan courts rejected appeals from top opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that effectively barred them from contesting.
The election commission also barred Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, saying she had failed to provide a criminal record statement as required and had not met the threshold of acquiring 600 supporting signatures from citizens.
The daughter of industrialist Assinapol Rwigara, a former major donor to Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front party who fell out with its leaders, the 42-year-old was arrested and disqualified from running in 2017 over allegations of forgery before being acquitted.
Speaking at a rally attended by thousands of supporters, many of whom were ferried by bus to the venue, Kagame defended Rwanda’s record on democracy in an apparent swipe at allegations of stifling opposition.
“People usually disagree on democracy or understand it differently. But for us, we have our understanding of it. Democracy means choice, choosing what is good for you and what you want,” he told a cheering crowd in the northern town of Musanze.
“Nothing is better than being Rwandan, but even better, nothing is better than being your leader ... I came here to thank you, not to ask for your votes.”
Elected by parliament in 2000 after the resignation of former president Pasteur Bizimungu, Kagame won three elections, with more than 90 percent of the ballot in 2003, 2010, and 2017, taking home nearly 99 percent of votes in the most recent poll.
He has been praised for Rwanda’s economic recovery after the genocide but faces criticism over rights abuses and political repression.
In a statement published last week, Human Rights Watch accused the government of a long-running crackdown on the opposition, media, and civil society.
“The threat of physical harm, arbitrary judicial proceedings, and long prison sentences, which can often lead to torture, have effectively deterred many Rwandans from engaging in opposition activities and demanding accountability from their political leaders,” said Clementine de Montjoye, senior Africa researcher at HRW.
In 2015, Kagame presided over controversial constitutional amendments, potentially allowing him to rule until 2034.
These shortened presidential terms from seven to five years and reset the clock for Kagame, allowing him to rule in a transitional capacity from 2017 to 2024 and then for two five-year terms until 2034.
The legislative elections will feature more than 500 candidates, with voters electing 53 out of 80 lawmakers.
The 27 remaining seats in the parliament are reserved for independent candidates, including 24 women, two young representatives, and one disabled person.
Currently, Kagame’s party and its allies hold 49 of the 53 seats in the lower house.
Opposition challenger Habineza’s Democratic Green Party has two seats, as does the Social Party Imberakuri.
The women lawmakers are elected by municipal and regional councilors, the youth representatives by the National Youth Council and the disabled candidate chosen by the Federation of Associations of the Disabled.