Philippines plans to withdraw from from International Criminal Court



Philippines plans to withdraw from International Criminal Court amid crimes against humanity investigation

  • In a lengthy statement released Wednesday, the Filipino strongman leader decried what he believed to be an “outrageous” attack on his character by United Nations (UN) officials.
  • Duterte has been accused of facilitating extrajudicial killings and other rights abuses during a campaign to stamp out illegal drugs in the Asian country.
  • Police are thought to have killed more than 4,100 people since Duterte took office in May 2016 and rights groups allege approximately 8,000 others have been murdered during the country’s war on drugs.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walks past honor guards as he arrives at Manila international airport in Manila on May 24, 2017, after returning from a visit to Russia. Duterte threatened on May 24 to impose martial law in Mindanao to combat the rising threat of terrorism, after Islamist militants beheaded a policeman and took Catholic hostages while rampaging through a southern city.

NOEL CELIS / AFP / Getty Images
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte walks past honor guards as he arrives at Manila international airport in Manila on May 24, 2017, after returning from a visit to Russia. Duterte threatened on May 24 to impose martial law in Mindanao to combat the rising threat of terrorism, after Islamist militants beheaded a policeman and took Catholic hostages while rampaging through a southern city.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte intends to pull his country out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), shortly after the judicial body launched a crimes against humanity investigation into his controversial war on drugs.

In a lengthy statement released Wednesday, the Filipino strongman leader decried what he believed to be an “outrageous” attack on his character by United Nations (UN) officials. Duterte has been accused of facilitating extrajudicial killings and other rights abuses during a campaign to stamp out illegal drugs in the Asian country.

Last month, the ICC said it was investigating allegations the Philippines president had committed crimes against humanity.

Duterte initially welcomed the move, suggesting it would provide him with an opportunity to clear his name of any apparent wrongdoing. However, in a dramatic U-turn, he has since decided the judicial body has demonstrated a “brazen ignorance of the law.” He also said the ICC was “useless” and “hypocritical.”

Duterte should ‘see a psychiatrist’

Police are thought to have killed more than 4,100 people since Duterte took office in May 2016 and rights groups allege approximately 8,000 others have been murdered during the country’s war on drugs. The Philippines has consistently said its legal processes are functional and independent, while the country’s police deny allegations of murder and cover-ups.

Duterte’s contentious bid to clamp down on illegal drugs has long been a source of international alarm, with several countries and UN officials condemning the campaign.

On Friday, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights said the maverick former mayor was in need of a psychiatric evaluation. Speaking at a news conference, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Duterte’s attacks on human rights activists were “unacceptable” and should not continue “unanswered.”

According to the ICC’s guidelines, a pledge to withdraw from its organization would only become effective one year after the initial notification. The Philippines is currently under the jurisdiction of the ICC as a result of it being a member, while withdrawing from the group does nothing to change its jurisdiction retroactively.

Israel is 11th happiest nation in the world; US slides to 18th



Israel is 11th happiest nation in the world; US slides to 18th

Jewish state maintains its high ranking on list of 156 countries for fifth successive year, but gets less praise for attitude to migrants; Finland tops list, PA is at 104

People watch the annual Air Force flyover on Israel's 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

People watch the annual Air Force flyover on Israel’s 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has retained its spot as the 11th happiest country in the world for the fifth year running, according to the United Nations’ annual “World Happiness Report,” published Wednesday.

The “Palestinian Territories” came in 104th place, Lebanon in 88th, Jordan in 90th and Syria in 150th in the listing of 156 countries.

The report, which also for the first time evaluated 117 countries by the happiness and well-being of their immigrants, notes that Jews who immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union have much better lives than before they immigrated, even though they still have problems. It ranks Israel 12th on its list for “happiness for the foreign born.”

However, it also places Israel, which turns 70 in May, among the countries that are less tolerant of migrants, and that do not accept migrants openly.

Israel’s overall No. 11 position was helped by its health system; the report placed the Jewish state in sixth position for improvement in life expectancy, after Japan, Iceland, Italy, Switzerland and Canada.

World Happiness Index 2018 (World Happiness Report)

In the US, by contrast, life expectancy was 4.3 lower than the average of these top five countries, and that gap “likely widened further in 2016 in view of the absolute decline in US life expectancy.”

On tolerance towards newcomers, the document found that while the least accepting countries were those in Europe that have been directly affected by the recent migrant crisis, four were in the Middle East and North Africa — among them Israel, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. The others were in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand and Mongolia.

Surveying 156 countries on the basis of factors such as citizens’ freedom, gross domestic product, expenditure on health and lack of corruption, the annual survey placed Scandinavian countries at the top. Fans of skiing, saunas and Santa Claus would not be surprised to hear Finland is the happiest place to live.

A child looks at a large snowman in Santa Claus Village, around 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of Rovaniemi in Finland on Tuesday Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/James Brooks)

Europe’s Nordic nations, none particularly diverse, have dominated the index since it first was produced in 2012. In reaching No. 1, Finland nudged neighboring Norway into second place.

Rounding out the Top 10 are Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. The United States fell to 18th place from 14th last year, and the UK was at 19.

Relatively homogenous, Finland has about 300,000 foreigners and residents with foreign roots, out of its 5.5 million people. Its largest immigrant groups come from other European nations, but there also are communities from Afghanistan, China, Iraq and Somalia.

John Helliwell, a co-editor of the World Happiness Report and professor emeritus of economics at the University of British Columbia, noted all the top-10 nations scored highest in overall happiness and the happiness of immigrants. He said a society’s happiness seems contagious.

“The most striking finding of the report is the remarkable consistency between the happiness of immigrants and the locally born,” Helliwell said. “Those who move to happier countries gain, while those who move to less happy countries lose.”

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute, said the five Nordic countries that reliably rank high in the index “are doing something right in terms of creating good conditions for good lives,” something newcomers have noticed.

He said the happiness revealed in the survey derives from healthy amounts of both personal freedom and social security that outweigh residents having to pay “some of the highest taxes in the world.”

“Briefly put, (Nordic countries) are good at converting wealth into well-being,” Wiking said. The finding on the happiness of immigrants “shows the conditions that we live under matter greatly to our quality of life, that happiness is not only a matter of choice.”

The United States was 11th in the first index and has never been in the Top 10. To explain its fall to 18th, the report’s authors cited several factors.

“The US is in the midst of a complex and worsening public health crisis, involving epidemics of obesity, opioid addiction, and major depressive disorder that are all remarkable by global standards,” the report said.

It added that the “sociopolitical system” in the United States produces more income inequality — a major contributing factor to unhappiness — than other countries with comparatively high incomes.

The United States also has seen declining “trust, generosity and social support, and those are some of the factors that explain why some countries are happier than others,” Wiking said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to Israel’s consistently high scores on the global Happiness Index as evidence that Israelis, particularly young Israelis, were aware of his contributions to the country.

Speaking to Fox News talk-radio host Mark Levin during an official trip to the US, Netanyahu — embroiled in a series of corruption investigations — said, “And people say, well, ‘How can that be? Must be a fluke,’ but [Israel’s ranking] keeps going up and they say, ‘How can it be? It’s a country in this horrible neighborhood, you’ve got terrorism, you’ve got radical Islam, you’ve got challenges,’ but it comes up ahead of most countries in the world,” said Netanyahu.

“They say, ‘Yeah, but that’s the old timers, they are already fixed, their lives are okay, but that’s the old people, what about the young people? You know where they [the youth] come up [on the index]? Number five! Which means they have a real confidence in the future, and that’s because I think they appreciate and… I know that’s what drives me and animates me: How to ensure that the Jewish state has a permanent future of security and prosperity… and peace if we can get it. The people of Israel I think do identify that.

“So the answer is I think they do understand. All of them? No. Most of them, yes.”


Hamas denies it built tunnel under UN schools in Gaza



Hamas denies it built tunnel under UN schools in Gaza

Hamas has a network of tunnels, two of which have just been discovered under schools, that have been used in the past as firing positions, shelter from Israeli attack, storage for weapons and at times to enter Israel and capture soldiers.

Hamas has a network of tunnels, two of which have just been discovered under schools, that have been used in the past as firing positions, shelter from Israeli attack, storage for weapons and at times to enter Israel and capture soldiers.

Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has denied that it or any other militant group built a tunnel under two UN schools in Gaza after its discovery drew a strong UN protest.

Over the years, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have built a labyrinth of tunnels, some passing under the border into Israel which they used to launch attacks during their last conflict in 2014.

On June 1, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) found “part of a tunnel that passes under two adjacent agency schools in the Maghazi camp” during construction work, spokesman Christopher Gunness said on Friday.

Hamas late Friday “strongly condemned” the UNRWA statement, saying it would be exploited by Israel to “justify its crimes”.

Hamas had clarified the issue “with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location,” the movement said, adding that it respected UNRWA’s work.

Gunness said that the tunnel “has no entry or exit points on the premises nor is it connected to the schools or other buildings in any way”.

“UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” he said.

Gunness said the agency had “robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza”.

He said UNRWA will seal the tunnel, which was discovered while the schools were empty during the summer holiday.

Attack tunnels were a key weapon for Hamas during the 2014 Gaza war.

Hamas also built a vast network of tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt to smuggle goods and allegedly weapons.

The Israeli army found and destroyed several tunnels during the 2014 war.

Israel and Hamas have fought three wars in the Gaza Strip since the group wrested control of the territory from the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in 2007.

Syrian Aid: What The U.N. And the U.S. Should Have Been Doing All Along

Syrian Aid

(10-01-13)   (02-19-18)

What the U.N. And The U.S. Should Have Been Doing All Along

As most people in the world who have radio’s or television reception knows, there is a very bloody civil war going on in the country of Syria for about two and a half years now. The United Nations tells us that during this war about 100,000 civilians have been killed with at least one million people displaced. Displaced in this case means that these people have been not only uprooted from their homes, these are people who have left the borders of their country hoping for safety in one of their neighboring countries. Wars are never a pretty thing for a land of for the people of the land to have to endure, but, unfortunately sometimes people are forced to defend themselves. Picking up arms toward another person is always a personal demon that each person has to face within their own soul.


In Syria the city of Aleppo was the industrial hub of the country as well as the countries largest city. I have seen online many pictures of this city as it looks today. This city is one that has been one of the major battlegrounds of the fighting between the Presidents military forces and the people trying to defeat him. This city is now in horrible physical condition from large bombing campaigns just like many smaller cities and towns across their country. If you get a chance Google stories and pictures of what is happening in Syria. Like in most any military conflict the loss of physical and human destruction is heart wrenching. When you are looking at pictures of all of these bombed out businesses and homes I have a question for you that I want you to think about. I will use Aleppo as my example for my question. Looking at the destruction how is it possible for the people of the country to produce anything with so much danger constantly all around them?


Let each of us try to put ourselves into the story-line which is the Syria of today. When war is going on around you, even if you consider yourself and your family as non-combatant, what quality of life do you think you are capable of having? Do you think life as you have known it will not change just because you tell all warring sides that you are neutral? Even if you are lucky enough not to have had your place of employment bombed yet, nor had combatants come to your place of employment and kill everyone, do you think you are going to feel safe going into work each day? Do you think that your coworkers are going to take the chance of putting themselves into a crowded situation which makes them a bigger body count for the combatants? When almost all if not all commerce production is stopped because of a war, there is no GDP for the country which in this case is hurting the government side in this conflict. But, if the people have no jobs to go to, thus having no income, plus the fact that there aren’t any needed daily goods in which to buy, the populous itself is now drawn into the reality of this war even if they completely don’t want to be. I am not just speaking of items that are non essentials like wallpaper and couches. With the situation the Syrian people are in, they can’t even get enough food to keep from starving. No one in this war zone can possibly lay their head down for a nap without fear they may be attacked at any moment. That is if they are lucky enough to have a roof over their head in some place that has not been boomed out yet. Please also consider that the people of Syria are now facing their third winter in this civil war with all their basic needs absent.


What I have described above is background information for those who have paid no attention to the events unfolding in Syria and their region of the world. Once again an Islamic country in the Mediterranean region is in flux. The American government usually is put into a position where many expect us to be the world’s policeman. As most of you know the government of Syria is being backed by Russia who is their biggest most powerful ally and they have a major naval base in Syria. Russia has blocked most western attempts to help those fighting against the Syrian President Mr. Al-Assad. The second biggest Syrian ally is Iran who has been helping backup the Syrian military by sending thousands of trained fighters from the Islamic militant group Hezbollah which Iran protects and trains within their own borders and within the nation of Lebanon.


Syria’s president and his family are believers in a sect of Shia Islam  known as Alawites but the majority of the Syrian people are also faithful to the Shia sect of Islam. This is why Iran is helping president Al-Assad, you see, Iran is the largest Shia based country in the world and in Islam the Sunni-Shia differences are massive, violence between these two sects have been simmering, sometimes boiling over into violent conflicts for about 1,400 years now. This is why Iran is helping the government forces and this religious divide is why majority Sunni countries like Saudi-Arabia are helping out the rebel forces that are fighting president Al-Assad’s forces. Russia’s backing of the Syrian government has nothing to do with religion though, their reasons are simply economic and military alliances.


Here in America our politicians have been debating about whether or not to send military help to the Syrian rebels. Lately discussions have been about such things as bombing certain government locations and/or putting a no fly zone in parts of the country to help the rebel groups. Part of the problems with the rebel groups is that it is very fractious with several main bodies and no real central command. There are many confirmed reports that many of the people fighting against the government are from very dangerous Sunni Islamic groups like Al-Qaeda which are groups of the same philosophy  that attacked America on 9-11-2001. So the question comes to light, do we, meaning the U.S. and the west European countries give weapons and training to groups that once that war is over would then use those same weapons against us?


Now, I will express to you what I totally believe that the U.S. and the west European powers as well as the U.N. should have been doing since shortly after this civil war broke out. First, militarily we should be completely hands off. What we as a Christian nation and people, as well as the governing body of the U.N. should have been doing to help the innocent Syrian people who have been trying to flee their country via  going to their neighboring countries trying to stay alive, is that we should have been helping these people from the beginning of this human disaster.


Syria’s neighbors badly need help from the outside world in the facilitation of a million plus people into their countries. What we need to be doing and should have been doing is to send these desolate human beings, our brothers and sisters of humanity, the basic staples they need for survival. What aid we should be offering and delivering is things like food, tents, clothes, and blankets, not weapons. The only time we should use any military force in this civil war would be if the Syrian government force attack these refugee camps and then only if the presiding country whose borders were breached asks for us to help.

South Korea’s President, Mr. Moon Is Being Played For A Fool!!!



As most folks know, the Winter Olympics are being staged in South Korea right now. South Korea’s President, Mr. Moon appears to be being ‘played’ for a fool by the Kim family of North Korea during these games. There is a small athletic delegation from the North that are participating as we speak. Among the non-athletes of the North’s delegation is the sister of Kim Jung Un, the mass murdering vicious Dictator self-proclaimed ‘Living God’. The out of touch with reality President of South Korea has welcomed the visitors from the North with open arms. Personally I do not have a problem with allowing the athletics from the North to participate, but it should be under their own flag. Mr. Moon decided that instead of South Korean athletics and the Country of South Korea using the South Korean Flag they are using a ‘unification’ flag and allowing the North Koreans to participate as part of a ‘one Korea’ team. Thus many athletics from the South who have spent many years working their selves half to death to make their Country’s Olympic Team got ‘bumped’ off the team so the unqualified North members could take their place. I say unqualified because to become a member of a country’s team you must have gone through many different qualifying events and either winning them or placing very, very high in those contest. The North’s athletics did none of these things, they were just handed the spots by the insistence of the South Korean President. Now if in team events ‘South Korea’ is able to win a metal, North Koreans also get that metal to take back home for Kim Jung Un to brag about.


Enough of the Olympic’s part of this article, now down to the meat of what I am writing to you about tonight. Kim Jung Un’s sister at the direction of her brother has offered President Moon an invitation to visit him in North Korea. The North Korean delegation has been putting on what has been widely referred to as a ‘charm’ campaign this past two months. Mr. Kim of North Korea has widely made it known that he wants the two Korea’s to be ‘unified’, yet the unification is to be under his command with himself as the one and only Leader of the Korean Peninsula. Folks, this is something that the extreme majority of the citizens of South Korea do not want to ever see happen.


What is going on is very obvious. The UN has put a lot of sanctions on the Kim government because of their missile program and the firing of ICBM’s as well as their Nuclear Program that Mr. Kim says he will never ever give up. A ‘show’ of Mr. Kim’s intentions was obvious when the North Koreans asked the South Korean government to give them the fuel that would be needed for the ship the North Korean delegation was going to use to make the very, very short trip to the South. Kim is playing the poor, poor pitiful me song and dance trying to get pity from the South Koreans and from the UN. For years the people of North Korea have been starving to death as the very fat Kim Jung Un who just keeps getting fatter and fatter himself. If Kim Jung Un can get the very liberal President Moon to start sending food and oil to the North, that would be a huge win for Mr. Kim. If Mr. Kim can convince the very liberal and gullible President Moon to break the UN sanctions all together, then Russia and China would do the same. What if Mr. Kim can play sweet toward Mr. Moon and could convince him to throw the American military forces out of South Korea and to quit doing military exercises with the U.S. and to quit allowing U.S. ships to use South Korean Ports. It is obvious that the next thing would be the North Korean Army storming the South Korean’s thus unifying the Peninsula under Mr. Kim’s control. Of course this is if Mr. Kim cannot convince President Moon to do this voluntarily. Let’s all give this ongoing situation about  100 days, lets say until June 1st to see how this all shakes out. Another option of course would be if Mr. Kim gets President Moon up North and lets him know if the two Countries do not unite as one that he (Mr. Kim) will nuke the South ‘off the map’. Lets see what the History Books will be saying about this next 100 days. As a very dear old friend of mine used to say, “we shall see, what we shall see”.

Iran A Member Of The U.N.: Refuse Religious Freedom: Payback Time!


                                      IT’S PAYBACK TIME: TURNABOUT IS ONLY BEING FAIR 




Here is my solution to countries like Iran who persecute the people of every non-Islamic religion within their borders even though they as a U.N. member State are not allowed to do this. I know that my solution will never happen simply because almost all the U.N. Nations including the U.S. have no guts (at least the politicians don’t). Iran has jailed Christians in their ‘Revolutionary Court’ to between 10-15 years in prison for the ‘crimes of evangelizing and for having at home churches’. So, all U.N. Nations should take any Iranian citizen that is within their borders who dares to go to a Mosque, at home Mosque or who is caught teaching the Islamic faith in public and put them in prison if they are found guilty of these ‘crimes’! Turn about is fair isn’t it? The Iranian government must either abide by the U.N. laws or their citizens abroad should be treated exactly as they treat others. The only other ‘fair’ option is if Iran does not change their actions at once and free these people then the U.N. needs to ‘grow a set’ and throw Iran out of the U.N.!

UN Demands Iran’s Islamic Regime Give Christians a Fair Trial



UN Demands Iran’s Islamic Regime Give Christians a Fair Trial

(PHOTO: REUTERS/HEINZ-PETER BADER)An Iranian flag flutters in front of the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria, June 17, 2014.

Four U.N. human rights experts have issued a joint statement, urging Iran to ensure “a fair and transparent final hearing” at the country’s Revolutionary Court for three Iranian Christians who have been sentenced for “conducting evangelism” and “illegal house church activities,” among other charges.

The U.N. special rapporteurs on the human rights situation in Iran, freedom of religion, minority issues and the right to health have expressed their concerns over last year’s sentencing of Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz, former Assyrian Pentecostal Church leader in Iran, and house church Christians Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, to between 10 and 15 years in prison for various charges.

The Revolutionary Court was due to hold a hearing in the case Sunday but it is not still known if the court ended the case, confirmed the sentences or referred it to the Supreme Court, according to Radio Free Europe.

The U.N. experts said the charges and sentences were “completely contrary” to Iran’s obligations under international law. “We are additionally concerned about the lack of health care made available to them while in detention and, in particular, about the current health condition of Mr. Asgari, who remains in prison.”

They noted, “Members of the Christian minority in Iran, particularly those who have converted to the faith, are facing severe discrimination and religious persecution.”

The independent U.N. experts urged “the government to immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief.”

Shamiram Isavi, the wife of Pastor Tamraz, was earlier this year sentenced to five years in prison, allegedly for endangering national security.

“As far as we know, and based on Mrs. Isavi’s own statements, no evidence has been presented in the case to show that she was engaged in spying or disturbing national security. She has denied all the charges,” Kiarash Alipour, a spokesman for Article 18, a U.K.-based organization focusing on Christians in Iran, told the Centre for Human Rights in Iran.

“Mrs. Isavi explained during the interrogation that when the Assyrian Pentecostal Church was shut down, she attended home churches and prayed with fellow Christians and discussed the Holy Book,” Alipour said. “It’s astonishing that a country’s national security could be threatened by a gathering of Christian believers.”

Officials claimed that Isavi was “acting against national security” through her efforts in organizing house churches, which is not allowed in Iran, as well as attending Christian seminars abroad.

Tamraz was arrested with Isavi and their son, Ramin, along with 12 other Christian converts, in December 2014 in Tehran.

In November, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called on Christian leaders to intervene for the release of a British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 38-year-old project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, being held in an Iranian prison.

PLO Secretary General Tells Nikki Haley To ‘Shut Up’



Erekat says US is pushing a Palestinian ‘coup,’ tells Nikki Haley to ‘shut up’

Top PLO official rails against the Trump administration for criticisms of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, but insists Palestinians are not looking for confrontation with US

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat in his Ramallah office, November 23, 2015. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat on Saturday accused the Trump administration of trying depose the Palestinian leadership in a “coup” and told the “impudent” US envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley she should “shut up” with her criticism of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Erekat, who has led the Palestinian peace negotiations and is secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, singled out Haley, who slammed Abbas for a recent speech that was full of anti-Semitic tropes.

Erekat said that Haley’s “impudence” has gone as far as calling for removing Abbas from power.

“She called for overthrowing the democratically elected Palestinian president,” Erekat complained in an interview with the Palestinian Al-Watan Voice news website.

“This is the president who led the peace process and promoted the principle of the two-state solution,” Erekat said, referring to Abbas. “Now this [US] ambassador is accusing him of lacking courage, and is calling for replacing him.”

Only the Palestinian people have that right, he said. “The Palestinian people are loyal to their martyrs, prisoners, wounded, struggles, steadfastness, and heroism. This is the reality. The Palestinians are the only ones who are entitled to hold their leaders accountable.”

Erekat was reacting to a speech given by Haley to the UN on January 25.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East on December 18, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP Photo/Kena Betancur)

“President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo Peace Accords dead. He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American President. He called for suspending recognition of Israel. He invoked an ugly and fictional past, reaching back to the 17th century to paint Israel as a colonialist project engineered by European powers,” Haley said.

“A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace,” she said.

“I ask here today, where is the Palestinian King Hussein? Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat,” she said, referring to the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders who made peace with Israel. “If President Abbas demonstrates he can be that type of leader, we would welcome it. His recent actions demonstrate the total opposite.”

Erekat insisted that Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, together with Haley’s remarks, amounted to an attempt to stage a “coup” against the “Palestinian political system.”

“Nikki Haley needs to shut up and realize that the Palestinian leadership is not the problem,” the top PLO official added. “Instead, the problem is the Israeli occupation and the policies it continues to pursue. I’m not saying that we don’t make mistakes; every society and every government makes mistakes.”

Erekat said the goal of Israel and the US was to “undermine the Palestinian national project.”

“US and Israeli officials are saying that any Palestinian leader who insists on East Jerusalem becoming the capital of Palestine and is committed to the right of return, in accordance with United Nations resolution 194, should be removed from power and replaced,” he said.

The US and Israel are searching for Palestinian leaders who will accept the “liquidation of the Palestinian national project,”  Erekat said.

“The Palestinian leadership has told the Americans and Israelis that, even after 1,000 years, they will not find any Palestinian who will collaborate with their scheme,” Erekat said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (C-R) speaks during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on January 14, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Abbas Momani)

The Palestinians, Erekat stressed, are determined to pursue diplomatic efforts at the UN Security Council and other international forums in response to the policies of the Trump administration.

“We will take Trump’s decision [to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel] to the International Court of Justice and we will seek membership in more international agencies,” he said.

In the wake of the recognition, formally declared by President Donald Trump on December 6, the Palestinians have said the US cannot be an honest broker in the peace talks and have refused to meet with US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, who visited the region last month.

Nevertheless, Erekat insisted that the Palestinians were not looking for a fight with the US.

“We don’t seek a confrontation or a fight with the US administration,” Erekat said. “On the contrary — they are the ones taking several steps. The US administration is itself saying that it’s not an honest broker in the peace process. Therefore, we are seeking, together with international parties, to convene an international conference for peace.”


Trump threatens stop to Palestinian aid over Jerusalem row



Trump threatens stop to Palestinian aid over Jerusalem row

President Trump photographed outdoors in mid-sentenceImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMr Trump’s comments suggest he is planning to pull Palestinian aid funding

The US may stop aid payments to Palestinians who are “no long willing to talk peace”, President Trump said.

On Twitter, Mr Trump said the United States received “no appreciation or respect” in return for its aid.

He also said his controversial recognition of the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital took the hugely divisive issue “off the table” for new peace talks.

Palestinians had said the move showed the US could not be a neutral broker.

The decision in December was also overwhelmingly condemned at the United Nations, where 128 countries voted against Mr Trump’s fulfilment of a campaign promise.

What did President Trump say?

The US President was tweeting a follow-up to earlier comments about aid payments to Pakistan, in which he said the US has received only “lies and deceit” in exchange for billions of dollars in aid.

“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing,” the president began his tweet on Tuesday evening.

“As an example, we pay the Palestinians hundred of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel,” he said.

“We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more.

“But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

What have the Palestinians said to anger the US?

Media captionWhy the city of Jerusalem matters

Jerusalem is one of the world’s most contested sites.

Israel claims the whole of the city as its capital. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Mr Trump, however, decided to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite being warned it could cause unrest in the region.

He also said he would move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv, where all other nations have their consulates.

After the announcement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would no longer accept any proposals from Mr Trump’s government.

“The United States has proven to be a dishonest mediator in the peace process,” he said.

He also called Jerusalem the “eternal capital of the state of Palestine”.

What kind of aid does the US send to Palestinians?

Mr Trump’s tweets followed remarks from Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the United Nations, in which she said the US would stop contributing to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees.

The agency runs education, health, and social programmes. The United States is its largest governmental donor, handing over almost $370m (£270m) in 2016.

Speaking at a news conference, Ms Haley said: “The President has basically said that he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians are agreeing to come back to the negotiation table.”

Nikki Haley points to a reporter off-camera at a media briefing in the UN, New York CityImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe United Nations’ overwhelming condemnation was “not helpful”, Ms Haley said

She said the UN’s vote to condemn Mr Trump’s Jerusalem decision was “not helpful to the situation”.

“The Palestinians now have to show their will that they want to come to the table. As of now, they’re not coming to the table but they asked for aid.

“We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure that they come to the table,” she said.

The withdrawal of aid is likely to have a significant impact on the UN agency’s work, as the US contributes almost 30% of its overall funding.

In 2016, the second-largest donor, the European Union, donated less than half as much as the US.

South Korea seizes ship it claims transferred oil to North Korea



South Korea seizes ship it claims transferred oil to North Korea

Seoul (CNN)South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-registered ship that allegedly transferred oil to a North Korean vessel in violation of United Nations sanctions.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry said the Lighthouse Winmore left the port of Yeosu in South Korea carrying refined oil which was then transferred to a North Korean ship in international waters on October 19.
The US Treasury Department released satellite imagery in November of two ships allegedly performing an illegal ship-to-ship transfer in international waters on the same day.

Satellite imagery the US says shows a ship-to-ship transfer, possibly of oil, between two vessels in an effort to evade sanctions on North Korea.

It identified one of the ships as a sanctioned North Korean vessel, the Rye Song Gang 1, but did not name the other. South Korean officials could not confirm Friday if the second ship was the Lighthouse Winmore.
“UN Security Council sanctions prohibit the transfer of anything to a North Korean ship,” a South Korean Foreign Ministry official told CNN, adding the Lighthouse Winmore was seized when it re-entered Yeosu on November 24.
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President Trump said Beijing had been “caught red-handed,” after the satellite images were republished in South Korean media earlier this week.
South Korea said the Lighthouse Winmore and its crew were still in South Korean custody and under investigation. There were 23 Chinese nationals and two Burmese nationals on board the ship, officials said, adding they would be permitted to leave only when the investigation was concluded.
China has denied breaching UN sanctions on North Korea.
The Lighthouse Winmore was one of 10 ships the US asked the UN to ban from international ports this month over its alleged dealings with North Korea, according to Reuters.
That move came after the UN blacklisted four ships in October, including one that was caught smuggling 30,000 North Korean-made rocket-propelled grenades in 2016.
According to South Korea, the Lighthouse Winmore was being leased by a Taiwanese company, the Billions Bunker Group, and was en route to Taiwan when it made a ship-to-ship transfer of its oil cargo to four ships, including one North Korean ship.
“This is one of the main ways in which North Korea uses an illegal network to circumvent UN Security Council sanctions,” the South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said. It is customary in South Korea that officials do not give their names.
The Hong Kong government said in a statement Friday it had noted media reports that the Lighthouse Winmore had been seized. “We are liaising with the Korean parties concerned to obtain further information about the incident, and will take appropriate actions as necessary,” the statement said.

‘Very disappointed’ in China

China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying on Friday reiterated that Beijing is enforcing all UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea, aimed at curbing Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons development.
In an interview with the New York Times published Thursday, Trump claimed “oil is going into North Korea” and appeared to blame China, saying if Beijing fails to put pressure on Pyongyang then the US may take punitive economic actions against Beijing.
“China on trade has ripped off this country more than any other element of the world in history has ripped off anything,” Trump said.
“If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do. China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more.”
He added: “China’s hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war.”

Trump: 'disappointed' China allowing oil into NK

Trump: ‘disappointed’ China allowing oil into NK
A senior US State Department official told CNN Thursday the US is “aware that certain vessels have engaged in UN-prohibited activities, including ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum and the transport of coal from North Korea.”
“We have evidence that some of the vessels engaged in these activities are owned by companies in several countries, including China,” the official said. “We condemn these acts and hope that any UNSC members, including China, work more closely together to shut down smuggling activities.”
Pyongyang has for years used deceptive shipping practices to help bring in revenue for the country’s regime, analysts say, and the US has called for more to be done to crackdown on ships transporting goods to and from North Korea.
UN Security Council resolutions passed this year stipulate “all Member States shall prohibit the entry into their ports of such designated vessels,” save for some circumstances, including in emergencies or if they are granted humanitarian exceptions by the UN.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the seizure as December 24.