Major US-led ME accords with Israel | Daily News


 

Major US-led ME accords with Israel

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up documents after participating in the signing of the Abraham Accords where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognize Israel. The Abraham Accords were signed at the White House in Washington, DC, on September 15, 2020. - AFP
(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up documents after participating in the signing of the Abraham Accords wh

Israel signed two normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain this week in what is seen as a historic move in Middle Eastern relations. Earlier only Jordan and Egypt had such relations with Israel.

The signing took place at the White House in Washington, with President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain.

President Trump hailed the occasion, claiming it will “change the course of history” and marks “the dawn of a new Middle East”.

“Together these agreements will serve as the foundation for a comprehensive peace across the entire region, something which nobody thought was possible, certainly not in this day and age,” Trump said. “These agreements prove that the nations of the region are breaking free from failed approaches of the past. Today’s signing sets history on a new course and there will be other countries very soon that will follow these great leaders.”

Netanyahu described the day as a “pivot of history, a new dawn of peace.”

‘“Since the moment of its birth, Israel has yearned for peace with our Palestinian neighbours and peace with the broader Arab world. For decades, that peace has proved elusive, despite so many well-intentioned plans. One after the other, they failed. Why did they fail? They failed because they did not strike the right balance between Israel’s vital security and national interests, and the Palestinians’ aspirations for self-determination,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

The UAE and Bahrain are close allies of the US, with each country hosting a significant US military presence. The US Air Force has deployed F-35 fighter jets to an air base in Abu Dhabi, while the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Central Command are based in Bahrain. That military presence has drawn the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain closer to the US, and because of the anti-Iran alliance, closer to Israel.

The last time such a ceremony took place in Washington was in 1994, when President Bill Clinton looked on as Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Jordanian King Hussein signed a declaration that paved the way for a peace deal months later.

For Trump, the timing was crucial. Less than two months before an election in which he trails in the polls, normalization agreements between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain are considered major foreign policy achievements.

The UAE has made clear that one of the benefits it sees from the normalization agreement with Israel is that it should be easier to acquire F-35s from the United States, a view also shared by Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner. That would give the Emiratis the latest fighter jet in the US inventory and a significant edge over any other military in the region, with the exception of Israel.

The UAE called for a suspension of Israel’s intended annexation of parts of the West Bank, and made it clear this was one of its conditions for normalizing relations. Though it’s unclear how long the suspension lasts, for the UAE, this kept alive the possibility of a two-state solution, which it says is the only possible end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at the White House, the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed thanked Israel for “halting” the planned annexation of Palestinian territories, saying it “reinforces our shared will to achieve a better future for generations to come.”

For both the UAE and Bahrain, the agreements also open up the possibility of purchasing Israeli high-tech, including military technology such as the Iron Dome missile defense system, as well as cooperation on economics, health, tourism and more.

Israel’s Netanyahu gets to show a major foreign policy achievement, one that only two other Israeli leaders have been able to achieve. Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979. Yitzhak Rabin signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994.

The White House ceremony also helped distract from Netanyahu’s domestic issues: a tattered economy dealing with 18% unemployment, a coronavirus crisis that has forced Israel into a second general lockdown, and his own trial on corruption charges. He has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.

For decades, Washington has been the key broker of peace in the Middle East and the crucial moderator in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It was President Jimmy Carter who stood between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, and Bill Clinton between Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein.

The Palestinians feel betrayed by current developments. The 2002 Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative called for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Arab states normalized relations with Israel. The Palestinians cut off contact with the White House after the Trump administration moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and took other pro-Israel steps.

While the Palestinians have the support of Iran, Turkey, and a few others, but its traditional Arab partners are moving closer to Israel. In a sign of that movement, the Arab League failed to pass a resolution backed by the Palestinians that would have condemned the UAE-Israel agreement.

Iran’s President Hasssan Rouhani has said the UAE and Bahrain would be responsible for any ‘consequences: resulting from their normalisation of relations with Israel. He said Israel is ‘committing more crimes in Palestine every day’.

UK - No Deal?

The United Kingdom is moving ahead with its legislation that would break international law, in the departure agreement with the European Union (EU).

The Internal Market Bill giving Boris Johnson’s government the power to override parts of the Brexit agreement with the EU was passed in its first reading in the Commons, with 340 votes for and 263 against.

Ministers say it contains vital safeguards to protect Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, if negotiations on a future trade deal break down. But critics, including a number of Tory MPs, warned it risks damaging the UK by breaching international law.

There’s increasing concern of a dangerous no-deal exit from the European Union, of the Good Friday Agreement with Ireland unraveling in Northern Ireland and of the U.K. needing to take back control of its sovereignty.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is fully supportive of the new legislation, the U.K. Internal Market Bill, which seeks to override key provisions in that deal over the future of Northern Ireland. Under the withdrawal deal with the EU, Johnson agreed to keep Northern Ireland aligned to EU rules and regulations, an arrangement seen as critical to keeping an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, an EU member.

In a stunning reversal, Johnson now claims the protocol over Northern Ireland can be annulled and that the U.K. cannot be bound by the deal. He says the new legislation “clarifies” the U.K.’s position.

His stance has opened up a ferocious legal debate about the limits and boundaries of international laws and Parliament’s sovereignty. At the time when he negotiated the agreement, Johnson called the deal “oven ready” and he touted it as a “great deal” during a successful election last December which gave him a wide majority in the House of Commons and ended the hopes of those seeking to stop Brexit.

Now, evoking hardline pro-Brexit language, the Tory prime minister says the deal his government agreed to threatens to “carve up” the U.K. He even stated that the deal, if enacted, would threaten peace in Northern Ireland.

All five living former prime ministers have come out against the bill, arguing that it would damage the U.K.’s reputation as a paragon of the rule of law and jeopardize the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. They are John Major, David Cameron - Conservative, and Tony Blair and Gordon Brown - Labour.

The EU leaders are calling Johnson untrustworthy. Unless the Internal Market Bill is withdrawn, the EU is threatening to take legal action against the U.K. Regardless, Johnson’s move to torpedo the withdrawal agreement is seen as damaging the prospect for a trade agreement even though both sides say they want one to avoid economic disruptions and damage.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen stressed that both the EU and Britain negotiated and ratified their Brexit divorce deal and warned the UK that it “cannot be unilaterally changed, disregarded or dis-applied”. “This is a matter of law, trust and good faith... Trust is the foundation of any strong partnership,” she said, referring to the UK government’s stated intention to breach elements of the pact.

US presidential candidate Joe Biden also warned of the new bill’s implications for a future UK-US trade deal, adding to concerns among senior US politicians that changes associated with the Internal Market Bill will undermine the Good Friday Agreement, which many US leaders were associated with negotiating.

Japan - New PM

Japan’s parliament has elected Yoshihide Suga as the country’s new prime minister, following the resignation of Shinzo Abe.

A close ally of Mr. Abe, the new prime minister is expected to continue his predecessor’s policies. Mr. Suga easily won a poll for prime minister in the Diet, Japan’s lower house, receiving 314 out of 462 votes.

A veteran politician and long-time cabinet member he takes the lead at a difficult time for the world’s third-largest economy. Japan is struggling with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused the biggest economic slump on record following years of economic stagnations.

The country is also dealing with a rapidly aging society, with nearly a third of the population older than 65.

Mr. Suga has served for years as Chief Cabinet Secretary, the most senior role in government after the prime minister. He has already promised to carry on much of the previous administration’s agenda, including the economic reform programme dubbed Abenomics.

The son of a strawberry farmer, the veteran politician comes from a humble background that sets him apart from much of Japan’s political elite. The 71-year rose only slowly within the political ranks.

EU - Green Deal

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to relaunch Europe’s coronavirus-devastated economy through a Green New Deal, in her maiden State of the European Union address.

With wildfires, drought and collapsing glaciers wreaking havoc around the world, von der Leyen said decisive action to tackle climate change could create millions of extra jobs, aiding Europe’s economic recovery. She said the EU should set a target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, up from a current target of 40%. The upgrade would put the EU “firmly on track” for its plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

She acknowledged the proposal would divide the European Parliament and member states, who must approve the legally binding target but who disagree on how ambitious it should be. “I recognise that this increase from 40 to 55 is too much for some, and not enough for others,” von der Leyen told European lawmakers in Brussels.

The goal will require huge investments in transport, heavy industry and energy — where businesses will also face higher carbon costs under EU plans to revamp its carbon market. Von der Leyen said 30% of the bloc’s 750 billion euro coronavirus recovery package of grants and loans, which the EU as a whole will borrow, should be raised through green bonds.

But in July the EU agreed on a stimulus plan that paved the way for the European Commission to raise billions of euros on capital markets on behalf of them all, an unprecedented act of solidarity in almost seven decades of European integration.

She added: “This is the moment for Europe to lead the way from this fragility towards a new vitality.”

Belarus protests

The Belarus opposition activist Maria Kolesnikova has been officially charged with incitement to undermine national security. She is currently in jail in Minsk after ripping her passport last week to thwart an attempt to expel her to Ukraine. She is a strong critic of President Alexander Lukashenko and played a key role in the continuing mass demonstrations by protesters who accuse Lukashenko of rigging the recent election that saw his re-election, with 26 years in office.

With more than 400 protesters now in custody, more than 100,000 demonstrators calling for the authoritarian president of Belarus to resign, marched through the capital of Minsk on Sunday as the protests that have gripped the nation entered their sixth week.

The embattled President Lukashenko, held lengthy talks with his Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Monday, in a meeting seen as crucial to determining whether or not Lukashenko can survive a protest movement against him.

Putin said Russia would offer a loan of $1.5bn to Belarus, which could help Lukashenko avoid an economic crisis in the short term. He stands ready to send Russian police into Belarus if the protests turn violent, stoking fears that Moscow could use the political dissent as an excuse to annex its neighbour as it did in Crimea in 2014.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who was defeated by Lukashenko in the now questioned election in August, and now in exile in neighbouring Lithuania, in a statement said: “I want to remind Vladimir Putin, whatever you agree on in Sochi will not have legal force, any agreements signed with the illegitimate Lukashenko will be revisited by the new government. Because the Belarusian people withdrew their trust and support for Lukashenko at the elections. I regret that you have decided on dialogue with a usurper, and not with the Belarusian people.”

India - China

India and China have agreed to “quickly disengage” from a standoff that has seen gunfire at a disputed border and accusations of kidnapping. Their foreign ministers said they would ease tensions.

Soldiers from both countries have periodically skirmished along the poorly demarcated border, called the Line of Actual Control. Both sides have accused each other of straying into their territory, and the clashes have sometimes turned deadly.

In a joint statement, the neighbours said the “current situation is not in the interest of either side”. “They agreed, therefore, that the border troops of both sides should continue their dialogue, quickly disengage, maintain proper distance and ease tensions,” said the statement, released by Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

They added that they would expedite new measures that would “maintain and enhance peace and tranquillity”, but did not explain further what these would entail.

India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh who addressed the Lok Sabha on the border tension with China, said India is “very serious about issues of sovereignty” and the country is “prepared for all outcomes” to ensure that it is maintained. India remains committed to resolving the current issues in our border areas through peaceful dialogue and consultations. The Chinese actions reflect a disregard of our various bilateral agreements. The amassing of the troops by China goes against the 1993 and 1996 Agreements, he said.

Venezuela

UN investigators have said the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has committed systematic human rights violations including killings and torture amounting to crimes against humanity.

The report says reasonable grounds existed to believe that Maduro and his interior and defence ministers ordered or contributed to the crimes documented in the report to silence opposition. Specifically they had information indicating Maduro ordered the director of the national intelligence service SEBIN to detain opponents “without judicial order”.

The report was based on more than 270 interviews with victims, witnesses, former officials and lawyers, and confidential documents.

Most unlawful executions by security forces and state agents have not been prosecuted in Venezuela, where the rule of law and democratic institutions have broken down, the investigators said. They said other national jurisdictions and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary examination into Venezuela in 2018, should consider prosecutions.

“The Mission found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations, some of which – including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture – amount to crimes against humanity,” panel chair Marta Valinas said.

US - Fire and rain

As the fires continue to blaze on the US West Coast the billowing wildfire smoke that has blanketed much of the West Coast with a caustic haze also begins settling into the atmosphere thousands of miles away in New York in the US.

While more favourable weather has allowed firefighters to make some progress against the devastating blazes in Oregon, the crisis was far from over: The largest fires were still mostly uncontained, the air has been some of the most polluted on the planet for a week, and the state was setting up a mobile morgue as crews continued to sift through the rubble for missing people.

In California, where 25 people have died this year and 3.2 million acres — a modern record — have burned, officials had both successes and setbacks: Firefighters there contained two fires, one in Yuba County and the other north of Willits, and were trying to suppress 33 new blazes as stiff winds in the northeast pushed fires into new territory. There was still no significant rain in sight, and lands parched by warm weather remain at risk of igniting.

At the North Complex Fire, which has burned more than 270,000 acres northeast of Sacramento, winds whipped the flames across a clearing that had been plowed by bulldozers.

Crews back in Los Angeles were working on Tuesday to beat back one wildfire that approached to within 500 feet of the famed Mt. Wilson Observatory, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

West Coast residents from San Francisco to Seattle and beyond have for days suffered from the smoke, which has sent air-quality readings soaring to hazardous levels, closed some schools and led officials to shut parks and beaches while pleading for people to stay indoors.

Meanwhile in the US East Coast Hurricane Sally was moving very slowly with 90-100 mph winds, bringing many hours of rain, wind and a storm surge for the central Gulf Coast, giving heavy rainfall through Friday.

COVID spread

The COVID 19 spread continued strong globally, with the number infected in India passing the five million mark midweek, with India being second to the US in the number of cases confirmed.

The death toll from Covid in India is much lower than other countries.

The midweek figures of the Covid spread shows 29,868,230 globally, with 940,716 dead. In the US it is 6,630,891 infected and 196, 802 dead, approaching 200,000 speedily. The figures for India are 5,118, 253 infected and 83,198 dead. Brazil had 4,419,083 infected and 134,106 dead.

As of Midweek, 2 675 637 cases have been reported in the EU and the UK: Spain -603 167, France -395,104, United Kingdom -374,228, Italy -289 990, Germany -263,663. The numbers of deaths are 184,154, with UK 41,664, Italy 35,633, France 30 999, Spain 30,004, Germany 9,368.