No Palestinian State Can Be Established Without Gaza, Jerusalem As Capital



Abbas’ Adviser Says No Palestinian State Can Be Established Without Gaza, Jerusalem As Capital

Wednesday, 28 February, 2018 – 12:30
Nabil Shaath. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN – REUTERS)
Ramallah- Kifah Zboun

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor for International Affairs Nabil Shaath said that the Palestinian Authority has fully engaged in a confrontation with the United States, in the wake of its decision to consider Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Speaking during a gathering at the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo, Shaath said: “President Mahmoud Abbas is in a position of full confrontation with the United States and Israel in the wake of the Israeli government’s intransigence and the recent US Administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and transfer its embassy to it.”

“We will not establish our state but on our national soil. No state in Gaza, no state without Gaza, no state without Jerusalem as the capital, not a capital in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem is the capital,” Shaath stressed.

He criticized the absence of a unified Arab position to protect the Palestinian project, but said the world would change.

The Palestinian president’s advisor went on to say that within three years, “the world ruled by the United States will end and a multilateral leadership will be established.”

“We will be part of this new world,” he said.

Shaath’s remarks came in response to the United States, which announced earlier this month that it was about to offer the “deal of the century”, disregarding a plan by Abbas to hold an international peace conference to set up a multilateral mechanism for the peace process.

The Palestinians refuse to deal with the United States as the sole sponsor of the negotiations, saying they are ready to accept the US as part of a multilateral mechanism within an international quartet that would also include European and Arab states.

The relationship between the PA and Washington severely deteriorated after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decided to move the US embassy to it.

Mexico’s Ex-President Just Brutally Mocked Trump By Making His Own ‘MAGA’ Hats



Home  Uncategorized  Mexico’s Ex-President Just Brutally Mocked Trump By Making His Own ‘MAGA’ Hats

Mexico’s Ex-President Just Brutally Mocked Trump By Making His Own ‘MAGA’ Hats

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Showcasing an array of mock “MAGA” hats, former Mexican President Vincente Fox just doubled down on his attacks toward Trump in a hilarious new video.


This just in, folks: Vincente Fox is running for President of the United States.

Well, probably not. But Fox brought his Trump jabs to new heights in a video posted yesterday where he satirized the announcement of his candidacy.

Since Trump’s nomination, Fox has been a vocal critic of the orange goblin. In September 2016, Fox took swings at a Trump piñata at a taco truck during a visit to LA-based Spanish talk show El Show de Piolín.

“Empty, totally empty,” Fox said, reaching his hand inside the smashed Trumpian bust. “He doesn’t have a brain.”

Following the general election, Fox released a series of videos criticizing the conman-in-chief. Most of the originals shared a common theme: Mexico won’t pay for the wall.

While the message was little more than common sense for sane voters, Trump loyalists were appalled to learn that — gasp — they’d be forced to personally shell out the cash for border wall funding.

But given Trump’s unmatched ability to routinely make an ass of himself, Fox has no shortage of raw material. His most recent uploads poke fun at Trump’s hot temper, loud mouth, and lack of empathy following the president’s recent DACA decision.

“Donald, do you want to be a hero?” he asked in a June 2017 video. “Because you can. All you have to do is quit.”

Honestly, we’d be lucky if Fox pursued a presidential bid. But given the unlikelihood of such a scenario, we’ll remain content with his comedic approach to sensibility.

What’s Happening Now:

Seated at a desk in a mock-up presidential suite, Fox looked composed and confident as he eyed the camera — a refreshing contrast to Trump’s cringeworthy persona.

“It’s me, Vincente Fox,” he began, “with another message for last year’s rotting Halloween pumpkin.”

From there, Fox proudly announced his candidacy as a goat was escorted onstage, bearing the message “Vincente for Presidente!” The goat turned, displaying another message: “A taco truck on every corner!”

The amusing sign pays homage to bizarre comments made last year by “Latinos for Trump” founder Marco Gutierrez on MSNBC.

“My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems,” said Gutierrez. “If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”

Trump, of course, wouldn’t take issue with that. After all, he loves Latinos. Really. Believe me.

Ah, yes, overpriced Manhattan meals. Now that’s authentic Spanish cuisine.

Fox, who was born in Mexico City, hysterically addressed concerns about his eligibility for presidency.

“If that worn-out baseball glove tightly gripping a turd can be president, then, amigos, anyone can!” he said of Trump.

He went on to bash the criminal-in-chief’s gross exaggeration of the 2017 inaugural crowd, ill-chosen cabinet picks, and unjustifiable support for alt-right neo-Nazi extremists.

“Donald, what the f*** is wrong with you?” he screamed.

Ridiculing conservative desires to build a wall, Fox promised to meet their demands, wielding a picture of a bricked-in Trump Tower.

“Believe me, Mexico will be happy to pay for this one,” he said.

But the real hilarity ensued at the video’s conclusion, when Fox displayed an assortment of MAGA-inspired hats.

“Always ask before grabbing a pussy,” he remarked, reading the ballcap’s text with a smirk as he placed it on his head.

The other hats, which included jabs like “65 million is more than 62 million,” “Putin is not my papi,” and “Not afraid of stairs” poked fun at a just a few of Trump’s many public gaffes.

Twitter users responded in kind.

If you haven’t seen the Vincente Fox video yet, you really should. 

I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. This is ninja-level Trump trolling by @VicenteFoxQue

The full video is worth the watch — words truly don’t do it justice.

And while you’re at it, watch the others, too. I laughed so hard my sides hurt.

“Russia Has Never Denied Israels Rights To Jerusalem, The Temple Mount Or The Western Wall”


Moscow has never denied Israel’s rights to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall, Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev said in advance of his visit to the Jewish state later this week.

“These rights are clear and it would be absurd to deny them,” he told Channel 2 anchorwoman Yonit Levy.

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He spoke warmly of Russia’s ties with Israel, despite Moscow’s votes against the Jewish state at the United Nations and its delivery of the S-300 missiles to Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu Dimitry Medvedev. (Photo credit: RIA NOVOSTI / REUTERS)

Levy quizzed him about those controversial issues as well as his support for Syrian President Basher Assad and charges that his country had intervened in the US elections.

How does Russia explain its support of the UNESCO vote “to disregard the historic connection between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem,” Levy asked Medvedev.

The issue had been blown out of proportion, he responded speaking in Russian, with a Hebrew translation by Channel 2.

There have been some ten votes by UNESCO Boards and Committees on such Jerusalem resolutions, Medvedev said.

“There is nothing new here,” he said, as he dismissed the significance of UNESCO texts that refer to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Al Haram Al Sharif.

“Our country has never denied the rights of Israel or the Jewish people to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount or the Western Wall,” Medvedev said.

“Therefore there is no need to politicize this decision,” Medvedev said, adding that such resolutions, were “not directed against Israel.”

Similarly, he said, there was nothing contradictory in Russia’s sale and shipment of the advanced S-300 advanced surface to air missile defense system to Iran.

Israel had opposed such sales because they significantly upgrade Iran’s ability to defend its nuclear sites against any attacks. It is particularly concerned because it does not believe that the Iran deal, put in place in 2015, will limit Tehran’s capacity to develop nuclear weapons.

Medvedev told Channel 2 that prior to the Iran deal, Russia respected the sanctions against Tehran and refrained from delivering the S-300. Now that the deal is in place and the sanctions were lifted, there was no reason not to complete the sale, he said.

Moving over to Syria, he referred to President Bashar Assad as the country’s only legitimate leader and added that Israel’s leadership preferred his rule to the prospect of a divided country under terrorist leadership.

“I know him (Assad) personally. There are those who love him and those who don’t. At present Assad is the only legitimate authority operating in Syria. Any regime change would have to occur legitimately,” Medvedev said.

“I remember that during my meetings with Israeli leaders, they told me they were not completely for Assad, but that there has to be someone in charge of the situation, rather than an uncontrolled break up of the country into enclaves ruled by terrorists,” Medvedev said.

Middle East terrorism, he said, is threatening his country from within.

“There are thousands of Russians fighting on behalf of ISIS and other Islamic Jihadist groups,” Medvedev said. “When they return they are experienced murders and terrorists. After their time fighting in Syria we don’t want them to organize something similar [within Russia],” he said.

Levy asked how the presence of the Russian air force in Syria impacted Israel’s ability to prevent the flow of weapons to Hezbollah.

Medvedev said that it was operating from the assumption that “all sides would not take steps to aggravate the conflict.”

With regard to the United States, he charged that it had not kept its commitments in Syria and that the relationship between Washington and Moscow was at a very low point.

Medvedev chuckled when Levy asked him if Russia had interfered with the US elections.

He quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he stated that “the United States is not a banana republic.”

The US, he said, was a large and strong country and could not be influenced in that way. “It doesn’t matter who will be elected, but what policy they will execute,” he said.

“Its clear [that either candidate] will act in the best national interest of the US,” Medvedev said.

He called Republican candidate Donald Trump brilliant and said he had never met him. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said, was professional and known to him from the times he met with her when she was US Secretary of State from 2009-2012.

Russia expects to have a “normal” and “productive” relationship with whichever of the two candidates wins the White House, Medvedev said.

With regard to the Russian initiative to hold a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Presdient Mahmoud Abbas, Medvedev said that Moscow was not looking to replace the United States or anyone else when it comes to the peace process.

On the other hand, he said, there are very discouraging signs with regard to that conflict and there have been no advancements to speak of on the Israeli-Palestinian track over the last few years.

“It’s very sad,” he said.

The Three Way Relationship Between Mainland China, The Nation Of Taiwan And The U.S.


Office of the President, Republic of China (Taiwan)/Wikimedia Commons

The narrow Taiwan Strait separates the socialist mainland China and the democratic island of Taiwan, both physically and politically.

But the cross-strait relations have never been simply about these two actors. The U.S. has been an intrinsic part of this unresolved diplomatic dilemma since 1949.

However, all three players in this triangular relationship are going through leadership adjustments, which started last year when Taiwan elected Tsai Ing-wen as its president, followed by Donald Trump becoming president of the U.S. in January.

But what about China? The ruling Communist Party will hold its 19th National Congress later this year, possibly in September or October. The Communist Party is expected to elect new central committee members, which forms the country’s top leadership. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is expected to remain president.

In light of these leadership changes, it is time to examine what they might mean for cross-strait relations.

The National Chengchi University in Taiwan and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies — an American think tank — recently held a daylong event called “Cross-Strait Relations Re-examined: Toward a New Normal?” to discuss the new situations affecting the triangular relations. Participants included officials who represent the U.S. in Taiwan, Taiwan’s representatives in the U.S., and Taiwan government officials, as well as scholars and researchers.

The History of the China-Taiwan Conflict

Taiwan has been virtually independent since 1949, when the Nationalist government of China was defeated by Chinese Communist forces led by Mao Zedong in the Chinese civil war, which was fought between 1945 to 1949.

At the conclusion of the civil war, the Nationalist forces, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to the island of Taiwan and established its Republic of China government there, still claiming to be the legitimate government of all of China, including the mainland.

The Communist forces, in control of mainland China, established the People’s Republic of China, which also claimed to be the legitimate government of China, including the island of Taiwan.

Over the latter half of the 20th century, Taiwan’s economy and democracy saw tremendous development. Robust exports of electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery have contributed to Taiwan’s dynamic economy.

In the “Freedom in the World 2017 Report” by Freedom House, Taiwan scored 91 (even higher than U.S., which rated an 89) for being one of the areas with the most political rights and civil liberties.

But the island has been facing growing isolation from the international community, especially since the United Nations expelled Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China, and gave its seat in the U.N. to mainland China in 1971. Currently, only 20 countries still retain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The U.S. has official diplomatic relations with mainland China, but it keeps robust unofficial ties with the government in Taiwan. Such triangular relations were made possible because of a series of agreements and communiqués U.S. has made with both sides since 1979.

The U.S. acknowledged the People’s Republic of China as the “sole legal government of China,” instead of the Republic of China government in Taiwan, in order to establish official diplomatic relations with the mainland.

But at the same time, the U.S. also ensured the “continuation of commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan” through the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

For China, “there’s only one China” is a precondition for the U.S.-China diplomatic relationship. But there are significant differences between China version and the U.S. version of its relationship.

It is because of this deliberate ambiguity, the two largest economies in the world were able to move forward from this historical, unsettled dilemma concerning Taiwan.

For the island, the U.S. is its most important protector as well as a vital trade partner. The U.S. has been selling arms to Taiwan so it can modernize and upgrade its defensive power.

Also, the U.S. and Taiwan have become each other’s 10th- and second-largest trading partners, according to James Moriarty, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan. The institute serves as the U.S.’s de facto embassy in Taiwan.

“The United States and Taiwan have built a comprehensive, durable, and mutually beneficial partnership, grounded in our shared interests and values. We maintain close economic, security, and people-to-people ties, and share a mutual respect for democracy and human rights. It should be no surprise, then, that the United States considers Taiwan a vital and reliable partner in Asia,” ambassador Moriarty said.

What Is Happening Now

The Trump administration seems to be taking a more-positive approach to its island partner.

Last December, then President-elect Trump placed a phone call to the president of Taiwan. This marked the first known direct contact between the presidents of U.S. and Taiwan since 1979 when the U.S. cut official ties to Taiwan and established relations with China.

Last month, at the risk of damage to the U.S.-China relationship, Trump green-lighted the sale of a $1.4 billion arms package to Taiwan, which was the first U.S. arms sale to the island under the new administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also reaffirmed that the U.S. is “completely committed” to the Taiwan Relations Act and to “fulfilling all of our commitments to Taiwan” under the act.

“I think the most recent decision by the U.S. government for the major arms sale package is necessary and on merit, not some kind of leverages or bargaining chips,” said Stanley Kao, Taiwan’s representative in the U.S. “That’s another powerful testimony to this long-lasting friendship and partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan.”

“Over the decades, we were able to negotiate because U.S. provides oxygen. The oxygen is giving Taiwan a sense of confidence and security,” said Joanne Chang, a research fellow at Academia Sinica — the national academy of Taiwan, and a panelist at the recent CSIS event. “So we continue and appreciate that U.S. provides oxygen — the Taiwan Relations Act and also continuing to support Taiwan diplomatically and its participation in important international organizations.”

But on the Taiwan side, the past year has been a difficult time for the newly elected President Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party, which defeated the long-ruling Nationalist party, the Kuomintang, in the island’s 2016 elections.

Tsai and her party have taken a strong position against Beijing. And although Tsai has repeatedly voiced her intention to keep the status quo of the cross-strait relations after she swore into office, China has been accused of using its international power to punish Taiwan and limit its international participation.

Lin Cheng-yi, deputy minister of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said in his remark at CSIS:

“With the zero-sum thinking of a world power and an approach of marginalizing and belittling Taiwan, mainland China has viewed the functioning of democracy and pluralistic lifestyles, systems, and values in Taiwan with negative thinking and politicized interpretations. This displays a superficial understanding of pluralism and democracy in Taiwan.

Representative Kao also responded to these obstructions in his remark:

“I think our government will continue to run a steady, a steadfast non-proactive cause and our commitment. And our goodwill remains unchanged. But making no mistake, Taiwan is a full-phase democracy with strong public opinion. We will not bow to pressure and, of course, to be taken for granted.

“At the same time, we are so very proud to see this robust U.S.-Taiwan relation continue to move strong and onward.”

Looking Ahead

Although much remains unknown about what will happen with China’s leadership later this year, many experts attending the CSIS conference recommend Taiwan and U.S. remain mutual partners and find ways to strengthen the partnership.

“The U.S. obviously has a responsibility, in my view, to maintain a robust trade dialogue with Taiwan,” said Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, which is a nonprofit organization that fosters trade and business relations between the two countries.

Hammond-Chambers also urges the Trump administration to consider Taiwan as an important partner when tailoring his so-called “fair trade agreements.”

“Taiwan should be on top of the list,” he said.

While Trump’s trade representative has reportedly voiced the intention to forge stronger ties with Taiwan, Trump has also been quite outspoken himself about making the future U.S. trade agreements balanced, fair as well as free, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

Taiwan’s restrictions on the importation of U.S. beef and pork are long-standing issues on the bargaining table.

For the Taiwan government, Hammond-Chambers also provided suggestions, one of which is to buy more U.S. energy:

“Taiwan purchases oil from Qatar, a leading sponsor of global terror. It purchases its coal from China. This to me is a mistake. I would suggest President Tsai and her government to consider switching those vendors to the United States, a reliable strategic partner, a reliable strategic source of energy and more importantly, it would address the political issues they are wrestling with the Trump’s administration, which is the trade imbalance.”

Echoing Hammond-Chambers, Scott Kennedy, the deputy director of the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS, suggested that Taiwan itself should be more proactive in controlling its own economic fate, with or without furthering trade deals with the U.S.

“Don’t wait for Washington to be ready. Washington has a lot on its plate,” Kennedy said.

Amid Historically Low Turnout, Puerto Ricans Vote for Statehood


JUN 11 2017, 6:00 PM ET

Amid Historically Low Turnout, Puerto Ricans Vote for Statehood

Amid historically low turnout, residents of Puerto Rico voted Sunday for statehood in a non-binding vote, but almost eight out of ten voters did not participate.

Puerto Rican resident Maria Quinones votes during the fifth referendum on the island’s status, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, June 11, 2017. Carlos Giusti / AP

As of 5:30pET, the island’s election commission (CEE in Spanish) had reported that about 23 percent of the island’s eligible voters had cast ballots, about 500,000 votes. About 97 percent of the votes were for statehood.

The island’s’ governor, Ricardo Rosselló from the New Progressive Party (PNP in Spanish) and his government had been pushing for a “yes” for statehood as the best way to grapple with Puerto Rico’s crippling $73 billion debt.

But the island’s other two main political parties had pushed for a boycott of the plebiscite, and it showed in the numbers. About 1.3 percent voted for the current commonwealth status and about 1.5 percent voted for independence.

The president of the Popular Democratic Party, (PPD in Spanish), which favors the current commonwealth status, said after the vote that “statehooders shot themselves in the foot.”

“Eight out of ten voters went to the beach, went to the river, went to go eat, went to go hang out, went to church, but they sure didn’t go out to vote,” said PPD president Héctor Ferrer at a San Juan press conference. “Governor Rossello is now going to go to Washington and say this (statehood) is what people wanted. But we’re going too to say no, that’s not true and the numbers speak for themselves.”

In this Oct. 2, 2012 photo, U.S. And Puerto Rico’s flags fly as tourists walk along the dock where a cruise ship anchors in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. AP

Puerto Rico historically has had high turnout in most elections. This one was unusually low. In the last plebiscite held in 2012, more than 1.9 million voted, and 800,000 chose statehood. In 1993, nearly 2 million Puerto Ricans voted.

But following the results, Gov. Roselló said “An overwhelming majority voted for statehood. Today we are sending a strong and clear message for equal rights as American citizens. This was a democratic process and statehood got a historic 97 percent of the vote. The federal government cannot ignore the results of this plebiscite and the will of our people,” said the governor. “It would be quite ironic to demand democracy in other parts of the world but not in their own backyard. This is our home.”

RELATED: Puerto Rico Holds Vote Sunday on Statehood Amid Criticism Over Timing, Costs

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico does not elect members of Congress. But the island’s representative in Congress, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, is pro-statehood, and she said Sunday in San Juan that she is creating a “Friends of Puerto Rico Caucus” in Washington to advocate for statehood and push the process along once the results are certified.

“As Resident Commissioner I will take this to Congress and defend it,” said González. “I am taking it not just to Congress but to other forums, such as the Organization of American States,” she told reporters.

Ultimately, it is up to the U.S. Congress to decide whether to take up the issue of Puerto Rico’s status.

Emilio Martínez, a retiree and statehood supporter, told NBC Latino that he was glad that he was able to vote. “If you don’t vote, you don’t participate and you don’t have a say. There weren’t too many people voting when I went this morning, but I live in a town outside of San Juan controlled by one of the opposition parties and they had urged people to boycott the plebiscite, so many people stayed away. But that doesn’t matter to me. Voting is our right and I am exercising my right,” said Martínez.

“And this is just the beginning of a process to tell the United States how we feel and that we want to be a part of the States,” Martínez said. “We deserve to be treated equally like any other U.S. citizen. But nothing happens overnight. This is just the beginning.”

Federico de Jesús, with FDJ Solutions in Washington is a former Obama and Puerto Rico government official who says the plebiscite was unnecessary and costly.

Image: Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello greets supporters at a polling station
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello, center, greets supporters at a polling station, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on Sunday, June 11, 2017. Thais Llorca / EPA

“This vote was a waste or precious resources at a time of severe fiscal constraints. Congress laid out a process through a provision in a 2014 law that said that if Puerto Rico wanted the federal government to pay attention to another status referendum, it had to follow certain rules. The current government of the Island entered the process and when it took longer than they wanted they decided to ignore the U.S. Justice Department’s plea for more time to evaluate the validity of the ballot language – which had already been rejected once before by DOJ. This begs the question: why would Congress act upon the results of a referendum that ignored the rules it required in federal law to address this issue? Sadly, today’s vote will thus go down in history as yet another non-binding glorified poll with no real effect on resolving Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States.”

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Iran’s Supreme ‘Liar’ Ali Khamenei Criticizes Officials’ Fears from ‘Enemy Warnings’



Khamenei Criticizes Officials’ Fears from ‘Enemy Warnings’

London- Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei indirectly criticized some political parties for reiterating slogans to distance the country from war.

Khamenei addressed a gathering of top military and army staff, telling them a country would be in its worst situation if its officials fear the slightest of enemy’s threats.

“If they fear them, they have actually opened up a way for the enemy’s invasion and aggression.”

Khamenei went on to note, “if one wishes to be scared, it is alright, as long as the fear is not extended to be on behalf of the nation, because the Iranian people are courageously standing against all threats.”

“Tasks should be done with wisdom, logic and prudence — there is no doubt about that — but they should also be done courageously,” Khamenei said.

“Fearing or worrying, or becoming affected by the threats, frowns, and mistreatment that arise from the world’s superpowers, is just the beginning of a country’s misery.”

“Those who follow western media see how the enemies are trying to disrupt the elections in some way, but the Iranian nation will remain vigilant and wise to these hostile moves and the election will hopefully be held with a high turnout in a secure, passionate and lively atmosphere,” he said.

Khamenei further stressed that an election held with such parameters in mind will bring great immunity to the country.

“I place stress on the people’s living conditions; I put stress on the living conditions of the employees of various sectors; and the living conditions of the staff belonging to the armed forces: These issues should seriously be followed up. This is a duty of the officials,” he said.

He also warned that Iran’s adversaries target weak points of the Iranian economy and stressed the need to strengthen the country’s “resistance economy.”

Khamenei further stated: “The enemies–whether the United States or greater than the United States–cannot do a single thing against the Iranian regime that is linked to its people, a regime that has admiration for its people and the people admire it back.”

Egypt frees U.S. charity worker held for three years in pretrial detention


Egypt frees U.S. charity worker held for three years in pretrial detention

April 16 at 11:19 AM
An Egyptian court on Saturday acquitted a U.S. charity worker who had spent almost three years in pretrial detention for her work with a charity helping street children.Police arrested Aya Hijazi, her husband and six others in May 2014 on charges of abusing children in her care and engaging in human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual exploitation and torture.

Human rights groups said the charges were fabricated. Her detention came as part of a broader crackdown that has neutered independent civil society in Egypt.

The acquittal comes about two weeks after President Trump met Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi in Washington, the strongman’s first visit to the United States since he came to power in a 2013 military coup.

On Saturday, the Cairo Criminal Court dropped all charges against Hijazi and her co-defendants and ordered their release. As Judge Mohamed el-Feqqi read his verdict aloud, the courtroom erupted. Dressed in white prison uniforms, Hijazi and her husband, Mohammed Hassanein, embraced inside the defendants’ cage as friends and family cried, cheered and chanted for joy.

“They were singing, ‘The sun of freedom has risen,’ ” said Tarek Hussein, an activist who attended the hearing.

Hijazi, an Egyptian American, and Hassanein, an Egyptian citizen, are co-founders of the Belady Foundation, which provided services for Cairo street children. Police raided the organization’s premises in May 2014, also detaining a cook, an artist who shared the premises and the children present at the time.

A forensic report by the public prosecutor later found no evidence that any of the foundation’s children had been sexually abused.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and several U.S. lawmakers have spoked out about the case.

Lawyers said Saturday that the state’s witnesses had offered contradictory and inadequate evidence against the defendants. “Even the child and his mother testified at court in defense of Aya and the others,” said Taher Abol Nasr, Hijazi’s attorney.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been detained or forcibly disappeared by security forces since Sissi led a putsch against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in summer 2013.

State officials depict the crackdown as part of a war against Islamist extremists who threaten to destroy the country. Human rights groups and activists say the dragnet has extended to dissidents of all political persuasions.

The Trump administration has proposed massive cuts to U.S. foreign aid, but the White House has said it expects that the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Egypt will continue.

“You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me,” Trump told Sissi during their meeting at the Oval Office.

Non-governmental organizations in Egypt have faced growing pressure since late 2011, when authorities raided 17 pro-democracy and rights groups, accusing them of joining an international conspiracy against Egypt.

During Sissi’s presidency, that pressure has accelerated, and representatives of many of the country’s leading human rights groups have been arrested, subjected to travel bans or had their assets frozen.

“Aya Hijazi, her husband, and their colleagues are finally free, but the system that subjected them to a travesty of justice for nearly three years remains unchanged,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Shouting above the din from his courtroom cage Saturday, Hassanein vowed to continue their charity work. “We promised the children they won’t return to the streets again, and this promise was hindered for three years. We will return and meet that promise,” he said.

Loveluck reported from Beirut.

South Korea Actively Considering Filing A Complaint With The WTO Against China


South Korea’s government will consider filing a complaint to the World Trade Organization against what they described as China’s trade retaliation after Seoul agreed to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system, the ruling party said on Tuesday.

Beijing is widely believed in South Korea to be retaliating against some of its companies and cancelling performances by Korean artists after South Korea’s decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

“We will actively consider whether China’s action is in violation of the South Korea-China free trade deal, while stepping up efforts to minimize damage on South Korean industries,” Lee Hyun-jae, chairman of the Liberty Korea Party’s policy committee, said after meeting senior government officials.

China rejected applications by some Korean carriers, including Jeju Air (089590.KS), to add charter flights between the two countries in March, Yonhap News Agency said on Tuesday, in what is seen as China’s latest retaliation against South Korean firms. Their applications for charter flights to China were rejected for January and February, with no reason given, Yonhap said.

The Chinese government last week ordered tour operators in China to stop selling trips to South Korea, days after the Seoul government secured land for the THAAD system from Lotte Group.

Lee said on Tuesday the government had since agreed to provide an additional 50 billion won ($43.3 million) worth of “special loans” to tourism companies that are experiencing business difficulties.

Chinese authorities have also closed nearly two dozen of Lotte Group’s retail stores following inspections, Lotte said on Monday.

China objects to the THAAD deployment, saying its territory is the target of the system’s far-reaching radar. South Korea and the United States have said the missile system is aimed only at curbing North Korean provocations.

(Reporting by Daewoung Kim and Hyunjoo Jin, Additional reporting by Joyce Lee; Writing by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Paul Tait)

Iran Is Allowing Russian Bombers To Use Their Airspace And Military Base For Refueling


Iran allowing Syria-bound Russian planes to use airspace-report

Iran has again allowed Russian planes to use its airspace during recent operations in Syria, a senior Iranian security official was quoted as saying on Saturday.

In August, Russian aircraft for the first time used an Iranian air base to conduct strikes in Syria. The Russian military said its fighters had completed their tasks, but left open the possibility of using the Hamadan base again if circumstances warranted.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said then that Russia had stopped using the base for strikes in Syria, bringing an abrupt halt to the deployment that was criticized both by the United States and some Iranian lawmakers.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, on Saturday told the semi-official news agency Fars: “Their (Russians’) use of Iran’s air space has continued because we have a fully strategic cooperation with Russia.”

“In the recent cases, Russian fighter planes have only used Iran’s airspace and have not had refueling operations,” Shamkhani added.

The agency said Shamkhani was commenting on media reports that Russia’s Tupolev-22M long-range bombers had used Iranian airspace and a base in the country on their missions in Syria, where both Tehran and Moscow back President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

It was not immediately clear if the recent missions were linked to Russian air strikes on Thursday that accidentally killed three Turkish soldiers during an operation against Islamic State in Syria, according to the Turkish military.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Syrian Army, Opposition Confirm Nationwide Truce


Syria army, opposition confirm nationwide truce

WORLD Updated: Dec 29, 2016 21:19 IST

AFP, Damascus

Highlight Story

A boy walks his bike near stacked sandbags in al-Rai town, northern Aleppo province, Syria. (Reuters)

Syria’s army said Thursday it would halt all military operations from midnight under a truce deal brokered by Russia and Turkey and supported by a leading Syrian opposition body.The agreement was announced earlier by Russian President Vladimir Putin who said the Syrian regime and “main forces of the armed opposition” had signed on.“The general command of the armed forces announces a complete halt to all hostilities on Syrian territory from the zero hour of December 30th,” Syria’s army said in a statement carried on state television.

It said that the ceasefire excluded the Islamic State group and the former Al-Qaeda affiliate previously known as Al-Nusra Front, now rebranded the Fateh al-Sham Front.

The National Coalition, a leading Syrian political opposition group based in Turkey, confirmed its backing for the truce.

“The National Coalition expresses support for the agreement and urges all parties to abide by it,” spokesman Ahmed Ramadan told AFP.

He said key rebel groups including the powerful Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam factions had signed the ceasefire deal, though there was no immediate confirmation from rebel representatives.

“The agreement includes a ceasefire in all areas held by the moderate opposition, or by the moderate opposition and elements from Fateh al-Sham, such as Idlib province,” he told AFP.

Idlib, in northwest Syria, is controlled by an alliance of rebel groups led by Fateh al-Sham.

Read| Turkey, Russia to implement Syria ceasefire before New Year: Turkish minister

The group, in its previous incarnation as Al-Nusra, was designated a “terrorist” organisation by countries including the United States, as well as the United Nations.

The ceasefire agreement follows the recapture by Syria’s government of the country’s second city Aleppo from rebels, in the worst blow to opposition forces since the war began.

It will be the first nationwide halt in fighting since a week-long truce from September 12-19 that collapsed after several incidents of violence.

A previous truce was implemented in February. Both of those deals were organised by Russia and the United States.

The latest agreement is the first nationwide ceasefire brokered with the involvement of Turkey, a backer of the Syrian opposition.

Russia is a key supporter of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and began a military intervention in support of his government in September 2015.

Despite backing opposing sides in the conflict, and a souring of relations after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane last year, Ankara and Moscow have worked increasingly closely on Syria.

They jointly brokered a ceasefire for Aleppo this month that allowed the last remaining rebels and civilians in the city’s east to leave to opposition territory elsewhere.

More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with protests against Assad’s government.

Successive bids to reach a peace deal to end the conflict have failed, but Moscow has said it is planning to convene new negotiations in Kazakhstan.

And the army statement said the ceasefire was intended to “create conditions to support the political track” in resolving the conflict.

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