Posts Tagged ‘Trump’

Israel in rare overture to Palestinians ‘at Trump request’ — Improving the Palestinian economy and facilitating crossings are among the first steps

May 22, 2017


© POOL/AFP | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem May 21, 2017


Israeli ministers have approved measures aimed at improving the Palestinian economy and facilitating crossings, rare moves said to be at Donald Trump’s request hours ahead of the US president’s arrival.

An Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity that ministers were responding to a Trump request to present him with “confidence-building measures” ahead of his talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Tuesday.

In what the official described as a “gesture for Trump’s visit, which does not harm Israel’s interests”, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet on Sunday approved the enlargement of a Palestinian industrial zone on the edge of the southern West Bank.

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He said that the possibility of extending Israel Railways services to the northern West Bank city of Jenin would also be examined.

They also gave the nod to streamlining transit procedures at Shaar Ephraim, a busy crossing point in the northern part of the occupied West Bank for Palestinian labourers with permits to work in Israel.

The official said that opening hours for passage across the main Jordan River bridge linking the Palestinian territory and the neighbouring kingdom were to be extended to 24/7.

There would also be reforms to Palestinian land use in urban areas in the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

He did not elaborate but Israel’s Haaretz daily said the intention was to allow construction of “thousands of Palestinian homes” in the area where for years it has been almost impossible for Palestinians to get Israeli permits to build on their own land.

Haaretz said that at Sunday night’s meeting Education Minister Naftali Bennett and deputy foreign minister Ayelet Shaked, of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, “objected vehemently” to the building plans.

In an apparent attempt to calm opposition from within Netanyahu’s coalition government, seen as the most right-wing in the country’s history, the security cabinet also approved setting up a committee to work for retroactive legalisation of wildcat Israeli construction in the West Bank, the official said.

Israeli Intel Experts Alarmed by Trump Leak but Play Down Any Damage

May 17, 2017


MAY 17, 2017, 6:51 A.M. E.D.T.

JERUSALEM — Israeli intelligence experts are gravely concerned that U.S. President Donald Trump’s sharing of classified information with Russia may have compromised an Israeli agent, but don’t expect any long-term consequences for intelligence cooperation.

Trump has confirmed via Twitter that during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House last week he shared information related to a potential airline plot by Islamic State, thought to involve a laptop bomb.

The New York Times, citing a current and a former U.S. official, reported on Tuesday that the information Trump divulged came from an Israeli intelligence asset based in Islamic State-held territory in Syria.

Israeli officials have declined to confirm whether they were the source of the information Trump shared, but have been quick to say counter-terrorism coordination with the United States is strong.


Putin tells the West to ‘stop intimidating North Korea’

May 15, 2017

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North Korea Hwasong-12 missile launch May 14, 2017 — Landed in the Sea of Japan just 50 miles from the Russian port of Vladivostok

  • Putin spoke about latest North Korean missile test at Chinese economic summit
  • Said it is ‘unacceptable’ to intimidate regime as West called for fresh sanctions
  • Denied that test posed a threat to Russia despite missile landing near east coast 
  • Putin joined China and South Korea in calling for fresh talks with Kim Jong-un 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told world leaders to stop ‘intimidating’ North Korea following the dictatorship’s latest missile test.

Putin said attempts to bully Kim Jong-un‘s regime were ‘unacceptable’, though he admitted the missile test was equally wrong.

America and South Korea led calls for fresh sanctions after Kim tested a newly developed Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday, which the dictator claimed was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the US.

Vladimir Putin has said it is 'unacceptable' to try and intimidate North Korea after the dictatorship carried out a ballistic missile test on Sunday

Vladimir Putin has said it is ‘unacceptable’ to try and intimidate North Korea after the dictatorship carried out a ballistic missile test on Sunday

Putin speaks at an economic forum in China

Putin said the missile test had not posed a threat to Russia

Putin denied that the missile test had posed any threat to Russia, despite the projectile landing around 60 miles off the country’s east coast

Putin said peaceful dialogue with the North, a position supported by China's Xi Jinping (pictured right), is the only way to resolve the situation

Putin said peaceful dialogue with the North, a position supported by China’s Xi Jinping (pictured right), is the only way to resolve the situation

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North Korea — The Hwasong-12 type missile launched Sunday morning by the DPRK was among those paraded in Pyongyang last month

Putin said: ‘We are categorically against the expansion of the club of nuclear powers. We consider (the missile test) counter-productive, harmful and dangerous’.

But, he added: ‘We must stop intimidating North Korea and find a peaceful solution to this problem.’

Speaking at a Chinese economic summit, Put also denied that the test had posed any threat to Russia, despite the weapon landing 60 miles off his nation’s east coast.

The Russian premier said peaceful talks must be held to resolve escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Putin joins China and new South Korean president Moon Jae-in in calling for talks with the North.

If discussions could be arranged, it would mark the first significant development in diplomacy with North Korea since the nation pulled out of six-party talks in 2009.

President Trump said earlier this month that he would be willing to participate in talks ‘under the right circumstances’, though his administration said that possibility was slim after the missile launch.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told ABC’s ‘This Week’ that ‘having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he’s absolutely not going to do it.’

North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday (pictured), believed to be the longest-range weapon ever developed by the regime

North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-12 ballistic missile on Sunday (pictured), believed to be the longest-range weapon ever developed by the regime

Kim Jong-un was pictured celebrating with his officials after the launch, and vowed to carry out more missile tests and nuclear detonations

Kim Jong-un was pictured celebrating with his officials after the launch, and vowed to carry out more missile tests and nuclear detonations

Experts believe the North’s new missile is the longest-range weapon ever successfully tested by the isolated nation.

After being fired from a launch pad in the Kusong region early on Sunday, the projectile travelled around 500 miles before dropping into the Sea of Japan.

Analysts say the missile was fired at an upward trajectory to artificially limit its range during the test. Fired in a straighter line, they estimate it would have a range of at least 2,500 miles.

While that is significantly longer than the rage of its other missiles, it still falls around 3,000 miles short of the US mainland.

Kim Jong-un personally oversaw the missile launch on Sunday, and was pictured celebrating with his officials afterward.

The ruler also pledged further missile tests and nuclear detonations, despite repeated warnings by President Trump.

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 (Published May 05, 2017)

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When Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a “midget” submarine earlier this week, Pentagon officials saw more evidence of North Korean influence in the Islamic Republic – with intelligence reports saying the submarine was based on a Pyongyang design, the same type that sank a South Korean warship in 2010.

Donald Trump Considering “Massive” White House Staff Shake Up; Could Fire Priebus, Bannon, Spicer, and Others

May 14, 2017



At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me.

Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.

“He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone,” said one of the confidants.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer could be replaced.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer could be replaced. PHOTO: ANDREW HARRER/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The conversations intensified this week as the aftermath of the Comey firing pushed the White House from chaos into crisis. Trump’s friends are telling him that many of his top aides don’t know how to work with him, and point out that his approval ratings aren’t rising, but the leaks are.

“The advice he’s getting is to go big — that he has nothing to lose,” the confidant said. “The question now is how big and how bold. I’m not sure he knows the answer to that yet.”

If Trump follows through, his innermost White House circle would shrink from a loop to a straight line of mid-30s family members with scant governing experience: Jared and Ivanka. So while the fighting and leaking might ease, the problems may not because it’s the president, not the staff, calling the shots.

One note of caution: Trump often talks about firing people when things go south and does not follow through on it. So it’s possible these conversations are his way of venting, and seeking reassurance.

And it all could take a while: Trump heads out on his first international trip at the end of the week. Also, there’s an internal argument for minimizing drama by cutting people out of the information flow rather than firing them. So the existing structure may get “one more college try,” a trusted adviser said.,

Friends say that if Trump goes with a grand shakeup, his implicit message would be: “I get it. I’m moving on. I get that I can do a better job.” A top aide added: “He’s never going to say he did a bad job.”

The sources say Trump feels ill-served by not just his staff but also by several of his Cabinet officials. Trump has two complaints about Cabinet members: Either they’re tooting their own horns too much, or they’re insufficiently effusive in praising him as a brilliant diplomat, etc. Among the cross-currents:

  • His friend Wilbur Ross at Commerce this week took what was perceived as a victory lap on a China trade announcement that does little new in actuality.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a big announcement about increasing prison sentences, at the same time that Jared is working on criminal-justice reform.
  • HHS Secretary Tom Price shares the blame for the glacial pace of health-care legislation.

No Cabinet member is expected to go this soon, but a West Wing shuffle looks likely. One obstacle to recruiting new top aides is finding people who would have real clout with a president not prone to enforced order.

One of the few top officials winning Trump’s praise is SecState Rex Tillerson, who’s on “Meet The Press” this morning (taped yesterday in Texas) defending his boss.

This story was first published in Axios AM, our early morning guide to important news in business, politics, tech and media. Sign up here.


China urges restraint over North Korea missile test even as Pyongyang remains defiant

May 14, 2017

Missile launched on day of China’s ‘Belt and Road’ summit reflects Pyongyang’s determination to push on with its nuclear ambitions, analysts say

By Liu Zhen
South China Morning Post

Sunday, 14 May, 2017, 4:16pm
Passengers watch a news report on North Korea’s missile test at a railway station in Seoul on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

China called on Sunday for restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test on Sunday, warning against raising tensions over the Korean Peninsula.

In his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, President Xi Jinping said the North Korean nuclear issue should be resolved through political means.

“The two countries, which have been committed to seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict and the Korean Peninsular nuclear issue, have played the role of ‘ballast stone’ in safeguarding regional and global peace and stability,” Xinhua cited Xi as saying.

Observers said the test early on Sunday proved that recent positive signs were not lasting for long, and Pyongyang was buying time for its nuclear ambition.

 South Korea’s new president Moon Jae-in reacts to North Korea’s ballistic missile launch on Sunday South Korea. Photo: Bloomberg

The missile was fired at 4.27am HK time, flew for about 30 minutes and reached an altitude of more than 2,000km before it landed in the Sea of Japan.

It took place just a couple of hours before China kicked off its biggest diplomatic event of the year, the Belt and Road Forum, when President Xi Jinping laid out his grand vision of boosting connectivity with nations from Asia to Europe and beyond.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said China opposed the missile test as it violated United Nations Security Council resolutions, and called on all parties to exercise restraint and do nothing to further worsen regional tensions.

Pyongyang’s chief nuclear negotiator Choe Son-hui said North Korea was ready to hold talks with the United States “if the conditions are mature”. A North Korean delegation is also attending the belt and road summit, where Pyongyang is expected to ask Beijing to tone down economic sanctions against the regime.

The forum also raises the possibility of officials from North Korea, China, United States, Russia, South Korea and Japan holding informal discussions on the sidelines of the event.

Sun Xingjie, a Korean affairs specialist at Jilin University, said the timing of the missile test reflected

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s determination to push ahead with his nuclear and missile programme.

“Shallow appeasement cannot bring peace,” Sun said, adding that as Kim saw signs that the situation in the peninsula were calming down, he seized the chance to the push forward his tests.

“It is actually perfect timing. Xi Jinping’s top priority these days is hosting the OBOR summit, and Donald Trump is bothered by the FBI chief saga … nobody has kept an eye on Kim,” Sun said.

“Even if the delegation of six nations met in Beijing there would be no common ground to start talks,” Sun added. “If the other countries fail to act in concert, North Korea will probably keep using this tactic, pretending to be talking while carrying out more tests.”

 A news bulletin on a television screen at a subway station in Seoul shows footage of North Korea’s ballistic missile launch on Sunday. Photo: Bloomberg

Pyongyang’s latest provocation was unlikely to reignite a military confrontation, said Cai Jian, deputy head of Korean Studies at Fudan University.

“China has made clear a military solution is not possible,” he said. “And, in the short term, North Korea’s missile capability is still some distance from Washington’s red line – where it presents a real threat to US territory.”

The US Pacific Command said it was assessing what type of missile was tested on Sunday but noted it was “not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile”.

“Basically, Pyongyang wanted to grab as many chips as possible before sitting down at the negotiating table,” Cai said.

China was also unlikely to upgrade its current sanctions on Pyongyang as long as there was no sixth nuclear test, Cai added.

“Missile tests are fundamentally different from a nuclear test, and China will only stick to the United Nations resolution,” he said.


G7 vows cyber action as partners warm to team Trump

May 13, 2017


© AFP / by Angus MACKINNON | US Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin snaps a picture with his smartphone at the end of a G7 summit of finance ministers where they pledged to combat cyber crime


G7 finance chiefs vowed Saturday to unite against cyber crime as they wrapped up talks marked by signs of a thaw in the frosty relations between the US administration and its main partners.

The focus on cyber crime followed a globe-spanning wave of cyber attacks that hit computer systems in nearly 100 countries on Friday, notably disrupting Britain’s health service and bringing production at carmaker Renault to a standstill in France.

The ministers said in a statement that cyber incidents represent a growing threat to their economies and that tackling them should be a priority.

“We know nothing about it but of course we want to know how they hacked into very secure systems,” said Ignazio Visco, governor of the Bank of Italy.

“At the moment it seems not to have created any problems for the financial system.”

Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan joked that the attacks had been perfectly timed.

“We tried to convince everyone we organised it to show how important the Italian agenda is,” he quipped at the end of two days of discussions in a Norman fortress on Italy’s southern Adriatic coast.

The isue has been on the agenda of the G7 for some time, with the primary focus on the potential threat of hackers being able to infiltrate the computer systems that run the international banking system, capital and equity markets.

– Trump tax cuts –

In concrete terms, the ministers mandated experts to continue their work on assessing the nature of the threat. Padoan said progress would be reviewed again when G7 leaders, including Donald Trump and new French President Emmanuel Macron, meet in Sicily at the end of this month.

Differences between the Trump administration and the rest of the G7 on free trade, the importance of multilateral institutions and climate change were again sidestepped, as they were at the G20 meeting in Germany earlier in the year.

But participants in the talks said relations with the US team led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, making his G7 debut, were improving as familiarity breeds mutual confidence.

“With Steven Mnuchin, our relations are improving every time we meet,” Padoan said.

“Of course there are differences and divergences … but we are working well together on common areas of concern and joint measures.”

Mnuchin said he “couldn’t be happier with the last two days.”

He felt people were becoming “more comfortable” with the goals of the new administration and said there had been much interest in Trump’s plans to slash taxes.

Padoan said Mnuchin had told them tax reform would be “neither short nor simple” in light of opposition in Congress.

“People have a level of understanding of Trump’s policies,” Mnuchin said. “On the trade side, our objective is to grow exports, to give more opportunities to American workers to make things and sell them.”

– ‘Trade not free, fair’ –

Officials from the big European economies, Canada and Japan remain concerned about a lack of visibility over how Trump plans to implement his ‘America First’ agenda.

On that score, several senior European officials said they had been reassured by news of a new US-China trade deal, which they interpreted as a sign of flexibility and pragmatism on the part of the new administration, potentially suggesting fears of a new era of protectionism had been overstated.

“It is an encouraging sign,” Padoan said.

In his first comment on the trade deal’s substance, Mnuchin hailed the opening of China’s beef market as “a big deal for US farmers.”

“We don’t want to be protectionist but we reserve the right to be. We believe trade is not free and fair.”

On the global economy, the ministers noted that recovery was gaining momentum but that output remains below potential in many countries “with the balance of risks tilted to the downside”.

There were also important discussions on the sidelines of the meeting about debt relief for Greece.

Talks between the leadership of the IMF and Eurozone lenders did not wrap up a deal to proceed with a new bailout package for the debt-plagued country.

But a green light for the 86-billion-euro package, the third international rescue of the Greek economy since 2010, is now expected to be issued on May 22, potentially bringing an end to the painful cycle of austerity Greece has endured for a decade.


US and China announce deal aimed at reducing trade gap

May 12, 2017

AFP, Reuters and The Associated Press

© JIM WATSON, AFP file US President Donald Trump (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) shaking hands during dinner at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida on April 7, 2017

Beijing and Washington on Friday unveiled a trade deal aimed at reducing the US trade deficit with China, as the Kushner family’s real estate company abandoned a controversial business proposal targeting Chinese investors.

The trade deal would give US beef, natural gas and certain financial services access to China‘s massive market of 1.37 billion people. In exchange, the US would lift barriers to Chinese cooked chicken products.

The deal seems to be part of warming trade relations between the US and China. Despite President Donald Trump’s aggressive rhetoric against China throughout the US presidential campaign, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a 100-day action plan on economic cooperation last month.

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the two countries “enjoy very close economic cooperation”.

“The two sides decided to press ahead with this economic plan and … much progress has been made in a short amount of time,” Geng told reporters during a regular press conference on Friday.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters at the White House that Friday’s deal will help reduce the US trade deficit with China, which reached nearly $350 billion last year.

Ross called the agreement a “herculean accomplishment” and “more than has been done in the whole history of US-China relations on trade.”

Meaty details

Under the agreement, China will authorise US beef imports by July 16 while the United States will lift barriers on Chinese cooked poultry exports “as soon as possible”.

China banned US beef following a case of mad cow disease in the United States in 2003.

Beef is rising in popularity in China. The country’s residents are projected to eat roughly 8 billion kilograms of the meat this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service. That’s up more than 40 percent in the past five years.

The deal also has implications for US natural gas and financial services. Chinese companies would be allowed to buy liquefied natural gas from the US, while US firms providing credit rating services and electronic payment services would gain greater access to Chinese markets.

‘Paltry trade benefits’

However, experts said the deal would fail to substantially reduce the US trade deficit with China, which is by far the biggest imbalance America has with any country.

A report by Capital Economics consultancy expected “paltry trade benefits” from the deal because it would amount to “just a few billion dollars.”

The agreement “won’t make any meaningful difference to the bilateral trade imbalance, which could still trigger a flare-up of tensions between the two sides in the future,” it said.

Kushner family withdraws from investment-visa swap

But trade with China hit a snag for one particular company Friday.

The real estate company owned by the family of US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser withdrew from a controversial sales pitch to Chinese investors involving US visas.

Nicole Kushner Meyer, the sister of White House aide Jared Kushner, had headlined events in Beijing and Shanghai last weekend that encouraged Chinese businessman to invest more than $150 million in a US luxury apartment complex.

In exchange, investors would be eligible for the US’s EB-5 visa program that offers US residency in exchange for at least $500,000 investment in a US business that must also create at least 10 American jobs.

Meyer’s participation raised conflict-of-interest concerns after it emerged that she had mentioned her brother’s name during the sales pitch for the investment-visa exchange.

Kushner, who is married to the president’s daughter Ivanka, resigned as chief executive of Kushner Companies in January in order to begin his job as White House adviser. His work involves serving as a liaison between the administration and Beijing.

The Meyer and the Kushner family company will not attend a series of events advertising the investment program this weekend, James Yolles, spokesman for the firm, said.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, and AP)

Trump-Russia inquiry needs a special prosecutor – but probably won’t get one

May 11, 2017

Concerns about independence grow after statement by Mitch McConnell suggests only option to lead inquiry is special counsel – in this case, the man who wrote the letter leading to Comey’s dismissal

President Donald Trump's (left) decision to fire FBI Director James Comey (right) on Tuesday in the midst of the bureau's investigation into his campaign's possible ties to Russia outraged Democrats and liberal-leaning pundits who warned of a constitutional crisis

Following the Trump administration’s shock decision to sack FBI director James Comey on Tuesday, demands for the appointment of a special prosecutor to lead an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election have intensified.

“If we don’t get a special prosecutor, every American will rightfully suspect that the decision to fire #Comey was part of a cover-up,” Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, tweeted shortly after Comey was fired.

But options for placing an independent official in charge of such an investigation are limited, and narrowed even further on Wednesday morning after the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, made clear he did not support Schumer’s demands.

McConnell told the Senate that such an appointment would “only serve to impede the current work being done” by congressional committees and law enforcement already investigating, probably taking two of three possible options off the table. Congress could have passed legislation to appoint an independent prosecutor to a new investigation, or it could have created a special congressional committee to start up a new probe. After McConnell’s remarks, both seem unlikely.

What seems like the only remaining option – the appointment of a special counsel – now lies solely in the hands of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the same man, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who authored the letter that led to Comey’s sacking in the first place.

After the Watergate scandal, legislation governing the appointment of independent counsel was passed which allowed the attorney general to request a panel of three judges to appoint a special counsel, and then allowed that special counsel the ability to continue any investigation until they deemed it complete. This was introduced in part to prevent a future president from sacking a special prosecutor, as Richard Nixon had done in 1973.

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 Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn

But in 1999 this legislation was allowed to lapse by the Clinton administration.

The system now is far less independent. Any federal special counsel is appointed by the attorney general, who then retains the ability to decide whether criminal charges are pursued after the investigation concludes. Given that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has already recused himself from any investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, the official who would be placed in charge of appointing such a special prosecutor would be Rosenstein.

While Democrats have started to demand Rosenstein be removed from such duties, due to his involvement in Comey’s sacking, career DoJ officials including former acting attorney general Sally Yates had earlier expressed confidence in his impartiality.

Former assistant attorney general Laurie Robinson also expressed confidence in Rosenstein’s judgement in an interview with the Guardian on Wednesday.

“My guess is that he has been a bit surprised by the tremendous reaction, as the White House apparently was, to Comey’s firing and that he is going to see that they’re going to have to take strong steps to ensure the aggressive follow-through on this investigation,” said Robinson, who served under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

She added that it would be logical for Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor under these exceptional circumstances for one specific reason: “The appearance of justice is a very important factor, and the appearance of justice would tend to speak in favour of appointing a special counsel.”

Nonetheless, even before Trump moved to sack Comey, the investigation already being run by the DoJ appeared to be taking steps toward prosecutions.

Late on Tuesday, CNN reported that federal prosecutors had issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of Michael Flynn, Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser, seeking business records. Grand juries examine potential criminal misconduct and determine whether charges should be brought, and operate in secrecy.

The subpoenas were reportedly issued by the US attorney’s office for the eastern district of Virginia. Comey told Congress last week that the FBI was coordinating its Trump-Russia inquiries with that US attorney’s office and the national security division at DoJ headquarters.

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Abbas says ready to meet Israel PM as part of Trump peace efforts — Day after Netanyahu trashes new Hamas doctrine

May 9, 2017


© AFP / by Sarah Benhaida | Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas makes a statement with US President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 3, 2017

RAMALLAH (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) – Mahmud Abbas said Tuesday Donald Trump was expected to visit the Palestinian territories “soon” and that he was ready to meet Israel’s prime minister as part of the US president’s peace efforts.

Trump is expected in Israel later this month as part of his first foreign trip and the Palestinian president said “we are looking forward to his visit soon to Bethlehem” in the occupied West Bank, with speculation it will occur on May 23.

“We told him that we were ready to collaborate with him and meet the Israeli PM (Benjamin Netanyahu) under his auspices to build peace,” Abbas told reporters during talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Abbas met Trump in Washington last week for their first face-to-face talks.

Trump announced last week that his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — the spiritual centres of Islam, Judaism and Catholicism.

The stop in Israel is expected on May 22, though it has not been officially confirmed.

A senior Trump aide last week did not rule out the possibility of a presidential visit to the West Bank, but said that it was likely to be contingent on security and Abbas taking concrete steps toward peace.

Trump has been seeking ways to restart moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of a decades-old conflict that has bedevilled successive US leaders.

– Embassy move –

Abbas said Tuesday that “we told him again of our commitment to a peace based on justice, with international resolutions and the two-state solution as references.”

Trump has however sent mixed signals over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He backed away from the US commitment to the two-state solution — Israel and an independent Palestinian state side-by-side — when he met Netanyahu in February.

He said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see their country annex most of the occupied West Bank.

Trump also vowed during his campaign to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem, a prospect that alarmed Palestinians but which has been put on the back burner for now.

At the same time, he has urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

One of Trump’s top advisers, Jason Greenblatt, held wide-ranging talks with both Israelis and Palestinians during a visit in March.

by Sarah Benhaida



Putin sends three warships to Latvian waters in the Baltic Sea in latest challenge to NATO

May 9, 2017
  • Three Russian corvettes picked up four nautical miles from Latvia on Sunday 
  • Vessels were diverted from Victory Day parade in St Petersburg to Baltic Sea
  • They were detected a day before the arrival of US warship Carney in the region
  • Carney, armed with cruise missiles, forms part of NATO reassurance mission 

Three Russian warships have challenged NATO by entering Latvia’s exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea, according to armed forces officials in Riga.

Image result for Baltic Sea, latvia, map

The corvettes – Liven 551, Serpukhov 603 and Morshansk 824 – were detected only four nautical miles from Latvian territorial waters.

It was the latest in a series of moves by Vladimir Putin‘s naval forces seen as testing the response of the small Baltic state, a NATO and EU member.

Russia has sent three corvettes, including Liven 551 (pictured), into Latvian territorial waters in what is thought to be a test of the Baltic nation, which is a member of the EU and NATO

Russia has sent three corvettes, including Liven 551 (pictured), into Latvian territorial waters in what is thought to be a test of the Baltic nation, which is a member of the EU and NATO

Russian corvette Liven 551

Russian corvette Serpukhov 603

Liven 551 (left) was accompanied by Serpukhov 603 (right) when they were detected four nautical miles off the coast of Latvia in the Baltic Sea

Morshansk 824 (pictured right) completed the convoy which was detected in Latvian waters on Sunday, according to local news outlets

Morshansk 824 (pictured right) completed the convoy which was detected in Latvian waters on Sunday, according to local news outlets

The move on Sunday was linked today to the arrival in the Baltic Sea of US warship, USS Carney, with cruise missiles on board.

The three Russian vessels had been deployed to St Petersburg ahead of the country’s annual war commemoration on 9 May, known as Victory Day.

But they suddenly left again for deployment in the Baltic, according to news agency

A source confirmed to RIA Novosti news agency that the navy parade in St.Petersburg will take place as planned but fewer ships will participate in it.

But the source denied that the sudden departure of some vessels had something to do with the arrival of USS Carney.

USS Carney, which is due to arrive in the Baltics on Monday

Carney forms part of a NATO operation to reassure eastern European nations over the Russian threat

The vessels were picked up the day before USS Carney (left and right), a warship equipped with cruise missiles, was due to arrive in the region

Serpukhov 603 (pictured), Liven 551 and Morshansk 824 were all due to take part in a Victory Day parade in St Petersburg on May 9 but were diverted

Serpukhov 603 (pictured), Liven 551 and Morshansk 824 were all due to take part in a Victory Day parade in St Petersburg on May 9 but were diverted

Russian military sources refused to say why the vessels had been diverted, though said fewer would take part in the St Petersburg parade than planned (Liven 551, pictured)

Russian military sources refused to say why the vessels had been diverted, though said fewer would take part in the St Petersburg parade than planned (Liven 551, pictured)

The country’s major commemoration will be held on Red Square in Moscow presided over by Putin.

In late April, a Kilo-class Russian submarine was detected near Latvian territorial waters.

Earlier in the month warships also ventured close to the ex-Soviet state’s territorial waters.

In 2016 Russian military aircraft and naval vessels were spotted near Latvia’s border some 209 times.

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