Troubled G7 leaders focus on Ukraine war, China in Italian summit

Troubled G7 leaders focus on Ukraine war, China in Italian summit
Police patrols outside the press center facilities, ahead of the G7 summit of world leaders in the city of Bari, Italy, June 12, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Troubled G7 leaders focus on Ukraine war, China in Italian summit

Troubled G7 leaders focus on Ukraine war, China in Italian summit
  • Determined to claim the initiative, the G7 leaders look likely to announce they have agreed on plans to issue $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from frozen Russian assets to back the multi-year debt package

BARI, Italy: Group of Seven (G7) leaders start their annual summit on Thursday looking to double down on support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and offer a united face in confronting China’s political and economic ambitions.
With the Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence (AI) also on a packed agenda, the June 13-15 summit in southern Italy would be taxing for leaders at the best of times, but most of them are also bowed down by their own domestic woes.
US President Joe Biden, facing a tough re-election bid in November, arrived in Italy the day after his son Hunter Biden was convicted of lying about his drug use to illegally buy a gun.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appears destined to lose power in a July 4 election, the leaders of France and Germany are reeling from political defeats, and opinion polls are bleak for the prime ministers of Canada and Japan.
Only the host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is riding high after triumphing in Italy’s European election last weekend, but achieving meaningful results in the luxury Borgo Egnazia hotel resort will be a tall order.
Determined to claim the initiative, the G7 leaders look likely to announce they have agreed on plans to issue $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from frozen Russian assets to back the multi-year debt package.
However officials acknowledge the plan is complex, meaning any deal will only be in principle, with legal experts still having to thrash out the details that will need the backing of European nations, particularly Belgium, which is not in the G7.
For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit and is due to sign a new, long-term security accord with Biden.
“By signing this we’ll also be sending Russia a signal of our resolve. If (Russian President) Vladimir Putin thinks he can outlast the coalition supporting Ukraine, he’s wrong,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

CONFRONTING CHINA
Underscoring US determination to punish Moscow for its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Washington on Wednesday dramatically broadened sanctions on Moscow, including by targeting China-based companies selling semiconductors to Moscow.
By announcing new restrictions on Chinese firms on the eve of the G7 meeting, Biden is no doubt hoping to persuade Western allies to show greater resolve in confronting Beijing over its support for Russia and its industrial over-capacity.
The European Commission told automakers on Wednesday it would impose extra duties of up to 38.1 percent on imported Chinese electric cars from July, less than a month after Washington quadrupled duties for Chinese EVs to 100 percent.
While G7 leaders are expected to express concern over high Chinese production levels, which they say disrupt global supply chains and market stability, EU diplomats warn that Europe is anxious to avoid a full-blown trade war with Beijing.
Eager not to appear like an elitist fortress, the G7 has thrown open its doors to a large number of outsiders this year, including Pope Francis, who is expected to give a keynote speech on Friday on both the risks and potential of AI.
Among those who have also been invited to Puglia are the leaders of some of the biggest regional powers across the globe such as India, Brazil, Argentina, Turkiye, Algeria and Kenya.
Although the summit is scheduled to run until Saturday, many G7 chiefs will leave on Friday night, including Biden, meaning the final day has been earmarked for bilateral meetings for those staying on and a final news conference from Meloni.


US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’
Updated 17 sec ago
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US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

US official says migrant deportations from Panama ‘imminent’

PANAMA CITY: Deportation flights from Panama for undocumented US-bound migrants who have crossed the lawless Darien jungle from South America are expected to start imminently, a US official said Tuesday.

Washington this month pledged $6 million in funding for migrant repatriations from the Central American nation in the hope of reducing irregular crossings at its own southern border.

The program was expected to use “large numbers” of charter and commercial flights to send back migrants who cross the Darien Gap, said Marlen Pineiro, an official at the US Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re still negotiating (with Panama), but the focus of this program is deportations and expulsions,” she said at a news conference in Panama City.

“I don’t want to give a date yet, but I think we’re going to start imminently,” Pineiro added.

The Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama has become a key corridor for migrants traveling overland from South America through Central America and Mexico to the United States.

Despite the dangers posed by treacherous terrain and violent criminal gangs, more than half a million undocumented migrants — mostly Venezuelans — crossed the Darien last year.

Transit countries such as Panama and Mexico have come under increased pressure from Washington to tackle the highly contentious migration issue in a US election year.

Jose Raul Mulino, Panama’s new president, vowed during his election campaign to deport migrants and close the key route.

After he was sworn in on July 1, the conservative lawyer said his country would no longer be a “transit” point for undocumented migrants.

However, he appeared to soften his tone last week, saying, “We cannot forcibly repatriate” migrants.


Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
Updated 2 min 3 sec ago
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Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American

Kentucky man charged with federal hate crime for threats to Palestinian American
  • CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago

WASHINGTON: A Kentucky man was arrested and charged with a federal hate crime for threatening a Palestinian American man with a loaded gun, the US Justice Department said on Monday, in a step welcomed by advocates documenting rising Islamophobia.
The Justice Department said the incident occurred at the end of March, without giving further details. It identified the suspect as Melvin P. Litteral III and the victim only by his initials, O.S.
The indictment also included a weapons charge. Litteral could not immediately be contacted.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT
Human rights advocates have noted a rise in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian bias and antisemitism in the US since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands and caused a humanitarian crisis.
The Council on American Islamic Relations advocacy group welcomed the indictment. CAIR says complaints of anti-Muslim US incidents totaled 8,061 in 2023, the highest since it began records nearly 30 years ago.

KEY QUOTE
“Melvin P. Litteral III used force or the threat of force to intimidate and interfere with the victim – a Palestinian American man and practicing Muslim identified in the indictment by the initials O.S. – because of O.S.’s race, color, religion and/or national origin, and because O.S. was enjoying the goods, services and facilities of a local restaurant,” the Justice Department said.

CONTEXT
Other recent alarming US incidents include the fatal October stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American child in Illinois, the February stabbing of a Palestinian-American man in Texas, the November shooting of three students of Palestinian descent in Vermont and the attempted drowning of a 3-year-old Palestinian-American girl in May.
A former Cornell University student pleaded guilty in April to posting online threats, including of death and violence, against Jewish students on campus. There have been allegations of alarming antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric in some protests and counterprotests over the war and the dire situation of Palestinians in Gaza and the fate of Israeli hostages held there.

 

 

 


Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group
Updated 11 min 14 sec ago
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Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group

Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary convicted of directing a terrorist group
  • Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023


LONDON: Radical British preacher Anjem Choudary was found guilty Tuesday by a London jury of directing a terrorist group.
Choudary, 57, was convicted in Woolwich Crown Court of membership in a banned organization, the radical Muslim group Al-MuHajjiroun, or ALM, and for drumming up support for the group.
ALM was outlawed by the British government in 2010 as a group involved in committing, preparing for or promoting terrorism.
“ALM’s tentacles have spread across the world and have had a massive impact on public safety and security,” Metropolitan Police Cmdr. Dominic Murphy said. “There are individuals that have conducted terrorist attacks or traveled for terrorist purposes as a result of Anjem Choudary’s radicalizing impact upon them.”
Prosecutor Tom Little, who described Choudary as having a “warped and twisted mindset,” said that he had stepped in to lead ALM after Omar Bakri Muhammad, the group’s founder, was imprisoned in Lebanon between 2014 and March 2023.
Choudary, who was previously convicted of supporting the Daesh group, denied at trial that he promoted ALM through his lectures, saying ALM no longer exists.
Prosecutors said the group has operated under many names, including the New York-based Islamic Thinkers Society, which Choudary has spoken to.
The Islamic Thinkers Society was ALM’s US branch, said New York Police Deputy Commissioner Rebecca Weiner, who called the case historic.
“It is usually the foot soldiers, the individuals who are brought into the network who go on to commit the attacks who are brought to justice,” Weiner said. “And it’s rarely the leader, which is what makes this a particularly important moment.”
Choudary was convicted with one of his followers, Khaled Hussein, who prosecutors said was a dedicated supporter of the group.
Hussein, 29, of Edmonton, Canada, was convicted of membership in a proscribed organization.
The two were arrested a year ago after Hussein landed at Heathrow Airport.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 30.

 


German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
Updated 24 July 2024
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German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria

German court rules in migration case that there’s no general danger now to all civilians in Syria
  • Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years

BERLIN: A German court has ruled that there is no longer a general danger to all civilians from the long-running conflict in Syria, rejecting a claim to protected status by a Syrian man who had been convicted in Austria for involvement in smuggling people into Europe.
The ruling by the top administrative court of North Rhine-Westphalia state, Germany’s most populous, was announced Monday. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said Tuesday it was “a decision that one can understand, if one assumes that there are now regions in this country that are very dangerous but also other areas where there isn’t necessary a danger to life.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what consequences if any the ruling would have for German authorities’ practice in handling claims for protection from Syrians, who so far largely have been deemed to face such a threat. It could still be appealed.
The court in the western city of Muenster ruled in the case of a man from Hasaka province in northeastern Syria who arrived in Germany in 2014.
German authorities denied him protected status because he had previously been involved in smuggling people from Turkiye to Europe, an offense for which he was given a several-year sentence in Austria. But a court obliged them to recognize him as a refugee.
The Muenster court reversed that ruling on appeal. The presiding judge said the man didn’t face political persecution in Syria and his previous offenses barred him from being given refugee or other protected status, the court said in a statement.
It also found that he didn’t qualify for a lesser degree of protection in part because there is no longer a “serious individual threat to the life or physical integrity of civilians as a result of arbitrary violence in the context of a domestic conflict in Hasaka province, but also generally in Syria.” The court contended that fighting and attacks in the region no longer reach a level at which civilians face a high probability of being killed and wounded.
A German group that supports asylum-seekers criticized the ruling. Wiebke Judith, a spokesperson for Pro Asyl, argued that it ignores the reality in Syria, German news agency dpa reported.
Germany has been a major destination for Syrians fleeing the country’s 13-year civil war. Attitudes toward migrants have hardened in recent years.
Last month, Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed to resume deporting criminals from Afghanistan and Syria, though it remains unclear how that would happen.

 


US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
Updated 24 July 2024
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US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law

US banks to begin reporting Russian assets for eventual forfeiture under new law
  • If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said

NEW YORK: The Treasury Department ordered the nation’s banking industry to start disclosing its holdings of Russian assets on Tuesday, with the goal of eventually seizing those billions of dollars in assets and selling them to aid the devastated Ukrainian economy.
The disclosure is required under a new law passed by Congress earlier this year known as the REPO Act, which gives the US government the authority to seize Russian state assets held by US banks, with the goal of eventually selling them and giving those funds to Ukraine. While the vast bulk of Russian assets are held in Europe, it is estimated that the US banking system holds as much as $6 billion in Russian assets in trust.
Banks will need to report Russian assets on their books no later than Aug. 2 to the Office of Foreign Assets Control. If a bank discovers any new Russian assets on their books after the deadline, those assets need to be reported within 10 days, the Treasury Department said.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has killed tens of thousands but has also caused significant devastation to Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure. The World Bank estimated in February that Ukraine will need $486 billion for recovery and reconstruction, a figure that has only risen as the war has continued.
The US, Canada, France, Germany Italy, the UK and Japan — commonly known as the G7 — froze roughly $300 billion worth of Russian assets at the start of the war. These assets included hard currency, as well as gold and investments in publicly and privately-held companies. But there has been little conversation until this year about what to do with those frozen assets, until the idea of forfeiture and liquidation was included in the REPO Act.