Biden welcomed Starmer’s desire for closer EU ties, UK government says

Biden welcomed Starmer’s desire for closer EU ties, UK government says
Starmer met Biden in the White House’s Oval Office on Wednesday (X/@POTUS)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Biden welcomed Starmer’s desire for closer EU ties, UK government says

Biden welcomed Starmer’s desire for closer EU ties, UK government says
  • Starmer met Biden in the White House’s Oval Office on Wednesday where the two men discussed UK and US ties

US President Joe Biden told Britain’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer that he welcomed his desire for closer ties with European counterparts, according to a UK government statement on Thursday.
Starmer met Biden in the White House’s Oval Office on Wednesday where the two men discussed UK and US ties, the conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, and England’s soccer win in the semifinals of Euro 2024.
“The President welcomed the prime minister’s recent comments on establishing closer relationships with our European counterparts, as well as the UK’s commitment to AUKUS,” the British government said in a statement, referring to the security pact between Britain, the US and Australia.
“They reflected that at a time when we face growing challenges across the world, we are at our strongest when we unite and work together.”
Starmer was in Washington for the NATO summit, where he also met European leaders including Germany’s Olaf Scholz.
Starmer has said he wants Britain to reset relations with the European Union to improve cooperation in areas such as security and trade, seeking to dampen the rancour that stemmed from Britain’s 2016 referendum to leave the bloc.
However he has ruled out any move to rejoin the European Union’s single market or customs union.
The two leaders also agreed they must do whatever it takes to support Ukraine in its war with Russia, and discussed their joint desire for a ceasefire in Gaza to get hostages out, aid in and make progress toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics
Updated 24 sec ago
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Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

Macron says Israeli athletes ‘welcome’ for Paris Olympics

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that Israeli athletes were “welcome” for the Paris Olympics, rejecting calls from some left-wing French MPs and the Palestinian Olympic Committee for a boycott.

“Israeli athletes are welcome in our country. They must be able to compete under their colors because the Olympic movement has decided it,” he told France 2 television in an interview, adding that it was “France’s responsibility to provide them with security.”

“I condemn in the strongest possible way all those who create risks for these athletes and implicitly threaten them,” he said.

He added that Israel had “the right to defend itself” but called the continuing bombardment of Gaza — where 39,090 people have died, according to the latest estimate from the Hamas-run health ministry — “unacceptable.”

“France was one of the first countries in Europe to call for a ceasefire,” he added.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has confirmed he will attend the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, and Macron said Prime Minister Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu would also be “welcome” but was not expected because he is in the United States.

Discussing the opening ceremony for the Paris Games as helicopters could be heard in the background hovering over the capital, Macron said that “we will all see on Friday night why it was worth the hassle.”

Much of central Paris is off-limits ahead of the ceremony along the river Seine, with 45,000 members of the security forces set to be on duty as well as 10,000 soldiers to prevent any incident that would ruin the show.

“There is a security challenge and it’s true for all capitals which organize the Games,” Macron said. “It’s true for the opening ceremony. It will be true for the whole of the Games.”

“We need to come together as France that is welcoming the world,” added the centrist, who called snap elections in June that have led to political deadlock in parliament.

Asked about the artists set to perform on Friday evening, he said it would be “fantastic news” if Quebec-born singer Celine Dion could take part, but he declined to confirm her presence.

Dion has been spotted in Paris, while video of Lady Gaga in the City of Light has also fueled rumors that she might be one of the top international performers.


Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister

Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister
Updated 52 min 53 sec ago
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Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister

Macron rejects left-wing alliance’s effort to name a prime minister
  • France’s leftist New Popular Front coalition, which won the largest number of seats in parliament in elections this month proposed financial crime specialist Lucie Castets
  • When asked about Castets, who is unknown to the public, Macron told France 2: “The issue is: Which majority can emerge at the (National) Assembly?“

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday his outgoing government will remain in place until mid-August while France hosts the Olympic Games, dismissing an effort by a left-wing alliance to name a prime minister.
France’s leftist New Popular Front coalition, which won the largest number of seats in parliament in elections this month proposed financial crime specialist Lucie Castets as its candidate for prime minister only an hour before Macron spoke in a TV interview.
But when asked about Castets, who is unknown to the public, Macron told France 2: “This is not the issue. The name is not the issue. The issue is: Which majority can emerge at the (National) Assembly?“
“Until mid-August, we’re in no position to change things, because it would create disorder,” Macron added.
The Olympic Games in Paris, which run from Friday to Aug. 11, are a major logistics and security challenge for France, with 35 venues and an estimated 10,500 athletes.
France has been in a state of parliamentary deadlock since the election. No party won an outright majority of seats in the lower house of parliament, which is instead fragmented broadly into three blocs.
The leftist coalition has sought to propose a new prime minister to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, but has ruled out striking deals with other political forces and does not have enough seats to form a majority government.
According to the French constitution, it is up to the president to name a prime minister, so the leftist coalition has no way to force Macron’s hand. Instead, the president urged political parties to work on forming a broader coalition.
Castets is a director of finance and purchasing at Paris city hall. She graduated from France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration school for civil servants in 2013, but she has no background in party politics.
The four parties in the leftist NPF — the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialists, the Greens and the Communists — have been arguing for weeks over who to propose as prime minister.
The outgoing government acts as caretaker, running day-to-day matters without being able to pass new legislation.


US invites Sudan’s warring parties for talks in Switzerland in August

US invites Sudan’s warring parties for talks in Switzerland in August
Updated 23 July 2024
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US invites Sudan’s warring parties for talks in Switzerland in August

US invites Sudan’s warring parties for talks in Switzerland in August
  • Antony Blinken: ‘The scale of death, suffering, and destruction in Sudan is devastating. This senseless conflict must end’
  • The war in Sudan has forced almost 10 million people from their homes, sparked warnings of famine and waves of ethnically-driven violence

WASHINGTON: The United States has invited the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces for US-mediated ceasefire talks starting on Aug. 14 in Switzerland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.
The talks will include the African Union, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations as observers, Blinken said in a statement.
“The scale of death, suffering, and destruction in Sudan is devastating. This senseless conflict must end,” Blinken said, calling on the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to attend the talks and approach them constructively.
The war in Sudan, which erupted in April 2023, has forced almost 10 million people from their homes, sparked warnings of famine and waves of ethnically-driven violence blamed largely on the RSF.
Talks in Jeddah between the army and RSF that were sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia broke down at the end of last year.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Tuesday that the goal of the talks in Switzerland was to build on work from Jeddah and try to move the talks to the next phase.
“We just want to get the parties back to the table, and what we determined is that bringing the parties, the host nations and the observers together is the best shot that we have right now at getting the nationwide cessation of violence,” Miller said.


Harris assails Trump, promises compassion over chaos in debut rally

Vice President Kamala Harris waves before boarding Air Force Two as she departs on campaign travel to Milwaukee, Wisc.
Vice President Kamala Harris waves before boarding Air Force Two as she departs on campaign travel to Milwaukee, Wisc.
Updated 23 July 2024
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Harris assails Trump, promises compassion over chaos in debut rally

Vice President Kamala Harris waves before boarding Air Force Two as she departs on campaign travel to Milwaukee, Wisc.
  • Harris led Trump 44 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in the national Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday
  • Her rise dramatically reshapes an election in which many voters were unhappy with their options

MILWAUKEE: Vice President Kamala Harris assailed Donald Trump on Tuesday at her first campaign rally since replacing President Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate, while a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed her taking a marginal lead over Trump, the Republican nominee.
“In this campaign, I promise you I will proudly put my record against his any day of the week,” she told a cheering crowd of several thousands at West Allis Central High School in a Milwaukee suburb in Wisconsin, a crucial battleground state in the Nov. 5 election.
“Do we want to live in a country of freedom, compassion and rule of law, or a country of chaos, fear and hate?” she asked.
Harris led Trump 44 percent to 42 percent among registered voters in the national Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday after Biden dropped out of the contest on Sunday and endorsed Harris as his successor.
Previous surveys taken before Biden’s exit found Harris and Trump tied at 44 percent a week ago and Trump ahead of her by a percentage point at the beginning of the month.
In all three cases, the difference was within the poll’s 3-point margin of error, but the results could signal some limited movement in Democrats’ direction — and may suggest that Harris’ elevation to the top of the ticket blunted whatever momentum Trump may have gained from last week’s Republican National Convention, also in Milwaukee.
Harris swiftly consolidated her party’s support after Biden, 81, abandoned his reelection campaign under pressure from members of his party who worried about his ability to beat Trump or to serve for another four-year term.
She wrapped up the nomination on Monday night by winning pledges from a majority of the delegates who at next month’s party convention will determine the nominee, the campaign said.
Most Democratic lawmakers have lined up behind her candidacy, including the party’s leaders in the Senate and House, Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries, who endorsed Harris on Tuesday at a joint press conference.
An unofficial survey of delegates by the Associated Press showed Harris with more than 2,500 delegates, well over the 1,976 needed for the nomination. Delegates could still change their minds, but no one else received any votes in the AP survey; 54 delegates said they were undecided.
Harris’ rise dramatically reshapes an election in which many voters were unhappy with their options.
Saddled with concerns that included his health and persistent high prices crimping Americans’ household finances, Biden had been losing ground against Trump in opinion polls, particularly in the competitive states that are likely to decide the election, including Wisconsin and the Sun Belt states of Arizona and Nevada.

CAMPAIGN RESET
The Wisconsin event offered another opportunity for Harris, the first Black woman and Asian American to serve as vice president, to reset the Democrats’ campaign.
Harris has been raking in campaign contributions. Her campaign said on Monday she had raised $100 million since Sunday, topping the $95 million that the Biden campaign had in the bank at the end of June.
While a wave of senior Democrats have lined up behind Harris, the racial justice group Black Lives Matter on Tuesday challenged the party’s swift move.
It called for a national virtual snap primary ahead of the Aug. 19-22 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where the party will formally nominate its candidate.
“We call for the Rules Committee to create a process that allows for public participation in the nomination process, not just a nomination by party delegates,” Black Lives Matter said in a statement to Reuters.
RUST BELT PUSH
Biden said on X that he would deliver a speech on Wednesday night from the Oval Office explaining his decision to end his campaign. He was returning to Washington on Tuesday after spending several days in isolation at home with COVID-19. The president has tested negative and no longer has symptoms, the White House doctor said in a letter on Tuesday.
Biden’s dramatic exit followed Trump’s narrow survival of a July 13 assassination attempt that raised questions about security failures in the US Secret Service. The agency director, Kimberly Cheatle, resigned on Tuesday after numerous lawmakers called for her to step down.
Trump and his allies have tried to tether Harris to some of Biden’s more unpopular policies, including his administration’s handling of the surge of migrants at the southern border with Mexico.
“Kamala Harris’ dismal record is one of complete failure and utter incompetence. Her policies are Biden’s policies, and vice versa,” Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said.
Wisconsin is among a trio of Rust Belt states, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, that are critical for Democrats’ chances of defeating Trump.
“There are independents and young people who did not like their choices, and Harris has a chance to win them,” said Paul Kendrick, executive director of the Democratic group Rust Belt Rising.
Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, a Democrat, said Harris could also help bring back crucial Black voters.
“Many of them didn’t come along because they were distracted by his (Biden’s) age, distracted by his appearance,” he said.
Democratic National Committee chair Jaime Harrison, in an interview on NBC’s “Today” program, said the party had to move quickly to get the ticket on ballots in all 50 states, and that the vice presidential pick needed to be made by Aug. 7.
“This process is going to be fair, transparent, open but it’s going to be fast,” Harrison said.
Potential running mates include Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, according to people familiar with internal policy discussions.


Ukrainian drone damages ferry in Russian port, one person dead, says regional governor

Ukrainian drone damages ferry in Russian port, one person dead, says regional governor
Updated 23 July 2024
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Ukrainian drone damages ferry in Russian port, one person dead, says regional governor

Ukrainian drone damages ferry in Russian port, one person dead, says regional governor
  • A fire at the port resulting from the drone strike was later extinguished
  • Port Kavkaz is located on a spit of land opposite the Crimean Peninsula

MOSCOW: A Ukrainian drone attack damaged a ferry and killed one person in Port Kavkaz in Russia’s southern Krasnodar region, regional governor Veniamin Kondratyev said on Tuesday on the Telegram messaging app.
The Ukrainian military, also posting on Telegram, said the attack had “significantly damaged” the “Slavianin” which it described as the last railway ferry Russia had been using for military purposes in the region.
“The occupiers used this ferry to transport railway cars, vehicles, and containers for military purposes,” Ukraine’s General Staff said.
A fire at the port resulting from the drone strike was later extinguished, the RIA state news agency reported, citing an emergency services source.
Reuters could not immediately confirm accounts of the attack from either side.
Port Kavkaz is located on a spit of land opposite the Crimean Peninsula. Ferries based there help to connect Russia’s mainland with Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia also ships oil and grain exports from the port across the Black Sea. In May, the Ukrainian military said it had struck Port Kavkaz’s oil terminal with missiles.