wiki globe

Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Israel rejects ‘preconditions’ for direct peace talks

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday ruled out any “preconditions” ahead of an expected invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that may be based on a complete settlement halt.


His remarks during a landmark visit to Greece came as Washington appeared to be closing in on the relaunch of direct talks after months of shuttle diplomacy that have failed to convince the Palestinians to enter face-to-face talks.


“I hope to resume direct talks with the Palestinians without preconditions,” Netanyahu said in Athens.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here addressing the press in Athens, ruled out any preconditions ahead of an expected invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that may be based on a complete settlement halt

Earlier an official speaking on condition of anonymity had told AFP in Jerusalem “Israel is ready to start direct negotiations immediately, but without any preconditions.”


“The Palestinians, who have lost valuable time by refusing to revive these direct contacts, will present all the topics they want to discuss at the negotiating table,” added the official.


The diplomatic Quartet — European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States — was expected in the coming days to issue a statement inviting both sides to resume direct talks suspended since 2008.


The Palestinians said it would be modelled on a Quartet statement issued in Moscow in March that called on Israel to halt settlement construction and for the direct talks to lead to a final peace deal in two years.


Israeli media reported a forum of seven top cabinet members had decided to reject the Quartet statement, which could call on Israel to renew a limited 10-month West Bank settlement freeze, set to expire in September.


“The Quartet declaration should allow the Palestinians to descend the tree they have climbed by refusing negotiations, but it must not be binding on Israel,” Israeli media outlets quoted an unnamed minister as saying.


The minister said Israel would reject the appeal from the Quartet but accept a parallel invitation issued by Washington that would be “more balanced.”


Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat charged that Netanyahu’s right-wing government was not serious about peace.


“The announcement by the Israeli government rejecting the statement of the international Quartet before it is even issued shows that Israel is persisting in its rejection of a serious peace process,” Erakat told AFP.


“(This) clearly proves that this government has other interests besides peace and stability in the region,” he added.


Erakat also rejected Israel’s decision on Sunday to deploy 23 caravans in eight West Bank settlements to serve as classrooms, saying it was “placing additional obstacles” in the way of US efforts to revive the peace process.


Netanyahu arrived in Greece on Monday, the first Israeli prime minister to visit a country that has traditionally been pro-Arab and did not recognise Israel’s existence until 1991.


Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks with the Palestinians but has refused to completely halt settlement activity, which it considers a “precondition,” but which the Palestinians say was part of previous agreements.


The presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, has been one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.


The Palestinians rejected the partial freeze on settlements as insufficient because it did not include east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

US envoy George Mitchell has been shuttling between the two sides for months to relaunch direct peace talks. In May Israel and the Palestinians began indirect US-brokered negotiations.

The last round of direct talks collapsed when Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in December 2008 in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.

Source: SGGP

Israel rejects ‘preconditions’ for direct peace talks

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli officials on Monday rejected any “preconditions” ahead of an expected international invitation to direct peace talks with the Palestinians that would call for a complete settlement freeze.


Their remarks came as Washington appeared to be closing in on the relaunch of direct negotiations after months of shuttle diplomacy that have thus far failed to convince the Palestinians to enter face-to-face talks.

AFP/File – A man carries an injured child into Al-Shifa hospital following Israeli air strikes in Gaza City in July

“Israel is ready to start direct negotiations immediately, but without any preconditions,” an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.


“The Palestinians, who have lost valuable time by refusing to revive these direct contacts, will present all the topics they want to discuss at the negotiating table,” he added.


The diplomatic Quartet — comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia — was expected to issue a statement inviting both sides to relaunch direct talks which were suspended in late 2008.


The Palestinians have said it will be modelled on a Quartet statement issued in Moscow in March that called on Israel to halt settlement construction and for the direct talks to lead to a final peace deal in two years.


They have resisted months of US pressure to relaunch the talks, arguing that Israel’s rightwing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not serious about withdrawing from lands occupied by Israel in 1967.


Israeli media reported that a forum of seven top cabinet members have decided to reject the Quartet statement, which may call on Israel to extend a limited West Bank settlement freeze, set to expire in September, for another 10 months.


“The Quartet declaration should allow the Palestinians to descend the tree they have climbed by refusing negotiations, but it must not be binding on Israel,” several Israeli media outlets quoted an unnamed minister as saying.


The minister was quoted as saying that Netanyahu’s government would reject the appeal from the Quartet but accept a parallel invitation issued by Washington that would be “more balanced.”


Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat charged that Netanyahu’s government was not serious about peace.


“The announcement by the Israeli government rejecting the statement of the international Quartet before it is even issued shows that Israel is persisting in its rejection of a serious peace process,” Erakat told AFP.


“(This) clearly proves that this government has other interests besides peace and stability in the region,” he added.


Erakat also rejected Israel’s decision on Sunday to deploy 23 caravans in eight West Bank settlements to serve as classrooms, saying it was “placing additional obstacles” in the way of US efforts to revive the peace process.


Israel has repeatedly called for direct talks but has refused to completely halt settlement activity, which it considers a “precondition,” but which the Palestinians say was part of previous agreements.


The presence of some 500,000 Israelis in more than 120 settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank, including east Jerusalem, has been one of the most contentious issues in the decades-old conflict.


The Palestinians rejected the partial freeze on settlements as insufficient because it did not include mostly-Arab east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967 and annexed to its capital in a move not recognised by the international community.


The Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.


The United States has been struggling for the past 18 months to relaunch the peace process, viewing it as a key foreign policy goal that would help improve relations with the Muslim world.


The two sides began indirect US-brokered talks in May, after the last round of direct talks collapsed when Israel launched a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in December 2008 in a bid to halt rocket fire from the enclave ruled by the militant Hamas movement.


Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state, has warned Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas against holding any negotiations with Israel, including in a weekend statement co-signed by 10 other hardline groups based in Syria.

d
Source: SGGP

Naval exercises threat to global peace: N.Korea

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 at 11:17 am

HANOI (AFP) – Planned naval exercises between South Korea and the United States are a threat to global peace, and new sanctions reinforce a “hostile” policy towards Pyongyang, North Korea said Thursday.


“Such movements pose a great threat not only to the peace and security of the Korean peninsula but also to global peace and security,” said Ri Tong Il, spokesman for the North Korean delegation at regional security talks in Hanoi.

Ri Tong Il is interviewed at the main venue of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Hanoi on July 22, 2010. AFP

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his South Korean counterpart Kim Tae-Young announced the drills on Tuesday, saying they were designed “to send a clear message to North Korea that its aggressive behavior must stop”.


The manoeuvres begin on Sunday with tensions rising over the sinking in March of the South Korean warship Cheonan.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Seoul before heading to Vietnam for Friday’s ASEAN Regional Forum security talks, announced new sanctions against Pyongyang on Wednesday.


“If the US is truly interested in the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, it must take the lead in creating an atmosphere (for dialogue) rather than hurting such an atmosphere by staging military exercises or imposing sanctions,” Ri said.


“The sanctions are a clear expression of an amplified and intensified hostile policy against the DPRK,” he added, referring to North Korea by its formal initials.


Washington has made a major show of support for its ally Seoul.


Ri said the US moves violated the spirit of a July 9 United Nations Security Council statement on the Cheonan sinking.


The UN condemned the attack as a threat to regional peace and called for “appropriate and peaceful measures” against those responsible.


The UN expressed deep concern at the findings of the multinational investigation team, but noted the North’s denial of responsibility and did not apportion blame.


Clinton said the new sanctions were directed at North Korea’s “destabilising, illicit and provocative policies”.


Ri spoke to reporters after North Korea’s Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun met Yang Jiechi, the foreign minister of China.


Pak refused to comment, and security guards shoved and manhandled a crowd of cameramen and reporters who surrounded him.


Yang also said nothing after the meeting.


The US called Wednesday for Beijing to look at additional steps to pressure North Korea.


Meanwhile, North Korea’s military will hold more talks Friday at the border truce village of Panmunjom with the US-led United Nations Command about the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Command said.


The UN Command, which enforces the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war, said in a statement the colonel-level talks first held last week would resume at 10 am (0100 GMT).


At the previous meeting, the North demanded the right to send a high-level team to the South to inspect evidence dredged from the seabed, including what Seoul and other investigators say is part of a North Korean torpedo.


The South has already rejected the demand, saying the UN Command should handle the case as a serious breach of the armistice.


The colonel-level talks are intended to prepare for discussions between generals from the two sides.


But the North last week said US forces should press Seoul to accept its investigation team before any higher-level talks are held.

d
Source: SGGP

Obama hopes for direct Mideast peace talks by September

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2010 at 4:14 am

 US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he hoped for direct Middle East peace talks to start before the end of September, as he and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied reports of a rift.


The two leaders sat close together in the Oval Office and staged a prolonged handshake for the cameras, seeking to put to rest a tense, behind closed-doors White House encounter in March.


“I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace,” Obama said, and strongly disputed a question which suggested the bond between Israel and the United States had frayed.


“The fact of the matter is, is that I’ve trusted Prime Minister Netanyahu since I met him before I was elected president and have said so both publicly and privately.”


The talks went ahead amid intense interest on a partial Israeli freeze on settlement building which is due to expire at the end of September.

US President Barack Obama (R) addresses the press alongside Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC

Obama finessed the issue by saying he hoped progress towards direct negotiations from indirect US-brokered proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians would render that deadline irrelevant.


“My hope is that once direct talks have begun, well before the moratorium has expired, that that will create a climate in which everybody feels a greater investment in success,” he said.


Netanyahu says he is ready to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at any time, but the Palestinians have yet to commit to direct talks, accusing Israel of undermining the atmosphere with continuing settlement activity.


He said he and Obama had discussed “concrete” steps that could be taken now.


“When I say ‘the next few weeks,’ that’s what I mean. The president means that too.”


The challenge now will be to get the Palestinians to accept the time frame that Obama has in mind. The initial reaction from the Palestinians hinted at the difficulty of an ambitious timeline.


Abbas “insists on the necessity of progress in indirect negotiations on core issues (borders, security) before going to direct negotiations,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP by telephone.


The Israeli leader is under extreme pressure from his right-wing coalition not to cave in to any US pressure to extend the moratorium, announced in November after Obama pushed for concessions to the Palestinians.


Obama’s comments may be a sign he has concluded that Netanyahu’s tricky political position will prevent an extension.


Netanyahu warned that the prime threat facing Israel was Iran’s nuclear program, and praised new US sanctions against Tehran as having “teeth” while calling for “much tougher” action from other nations.


And he said suggestions that Israel and the United States were drifting apart were not just “premature” but “flat wrong.”


Obama also reassured Netanyahu that his administration had made “no change” to its policy regarding Israel’s undeclared nuclear arsenal, amid concern among Israelis over his campaign for a nuclear free world.


Obama and Netanyahu appeared friendly towards one another, but their stern expressions at times reflected the grave nature of their talks. Both sides however seemed to want to put their spat into the past.

Netanyahu said it was “about time” that Obama visited Israel. “I’m ready,” Obama said, without mentioning a date.

In March, Netanyahu was denied even a photo-op with Obama as a row raged over settlement expansion. This time, reporters were invited to watch the US leader see the premier to his limousine and give him a wave goodbye.

Cementing the friendly tone, US First Lady Michelle Obama invited Netanyahu’s wife Sara for afternoon tea.

Obama and Netanyahu were meeting for the first time since Israel’s raid on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza in May, which killed nine Turks, and triggered a regional diplomatic crisis.

Israel on Monday gave the go-ahead for the international community to import construction materials into Gaza for projects under international supervision.

Obama commended Netanyahu for the move.

“We’ve seen real progress on the ground. I think it’s been acknowledged that it has moved more quickly and more effectively than many people anticipated.”

Both sides appeared to have decided to keep any disputes behind closed doors.

“There are going to be times where, you know, he and I are having robust discussions about what kind of choices need to be made,” Obama said.

“But the underlying approach never changes, and that is, the United States is committed to Israel’s security.”

Source: SGGP

Queen Elizabeth II calls for world peace at UN

In Uncategorized on July 7, 2010 at 4:12 am

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II pleaded for world peace in her first visit in five decades to the UN headquarters during a whirlwind tour of a sweltering New York.


After addressing the world body she went to Ground Zero, where she laid a wreath in tribute to the nearly 3,000 people killed when Islamist hijackers slammed two airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.


At the UN General Assembly, Elizabeth II noted she’d last visited there 53 years earlier, when the United Nations was in its infancy.


Praising the “remarkable” achievements of the UN since then, she said that “the waging of peace is the hardest form of leadership of all.”

Queen Elizabeth II addresses the United Nations General Assembly July 6, 2010 in New York City.

New challenges of “terrorism” and “climate change” were adding to the huge tests facing the world body, she said.


“When people in 53 years from now look back on us, they will doubtless view many of our practices as old-fashioned. But it is my hope that, when judged by future generations, our willingness to take a lead… will stand the test of time.”


The 84-year-old monarch, who was last in the Big Apple in 1976 and at the UN in 1957, wore a two piece white ensemble with blue and beige print and a matching silk hat as she arrived with husband Prince Philip for the one-day visit, which followed a nine-day stay in Canada.


She was at the UN as queen of 16 states and head of the British Commonwealth.


From there she went to Ground Zero where she was met by an honor guard and local officials including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Following the ceremony she met with relatives of victims.


Paula Berry, who lost her husband on 9/11, told NY1 television the queen “was conveying a message to us.”


Berry said she’d repeatedly told her young children that 9/11 had been “a world event and this really reinforces that message.”


After opening Manhattan’s British Memorial Garden, dedicated to the 67 British victims of 9/11, Elizabeth II was flying home.


New York is accustomed to celebrities and heads of state, but the queen’s visit provided welcome distraction from a record heatwave.


The National Weather Service measured 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.45 Celsius) in Central Park in mid-Manhattan, easily breaking the 101 degrees record set for July 6 back in 1999. Heat warnings were posted throughout the region.


The Daily News tabloid published tips on etiquette, instructing readers not to bow if they meet the queen, since they are not subjects, but neither to try offering her a New York-style “fistbump or high-five.”


Readers were also advised to steer clear in conversation from mentions of Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Prince Andrew who was caught attempting to sell access to her ex-husband in a media sting in May, then admitting that she was suffering from money and drink problems.


“Chat instead about dogs and horses; the queen likes them,” the News suggested.


Commuter freesheet AM New York, meanwhile, warned the monarch might not like New York’s fierce temperatures. “God Save the Queen (and us!)” the front page joked. “Her Majesty visits Baked Apple.”

The royal couple’s Canada trip took them to a horse race, a visit to the factory making BlackBerry smart phones and Canada Day celebrations.

There was drama on Monday when a power outage plunged Toronto into chaos just ahead of a state dinner. Thousands of people were stranded in office buildings or stuck on roads snarled by the sudden absence of traffic lights.

The British head of state’s tour comes at a time when Buckingham Palace is feeling some of the same budget crunch pressuring the rest of the country.

Britain’s finance minister George Osborne announced a shake-up in royal funding in June.

He also said that the 7.9 million pounds (9.5 million euros, 11.6 million dollars) royal operating budget will remain frozen, as it has been for the last 20 years, despite media reports that royal officials are requesting an increase.

Source: SGGP

Taliban militants target Afghan peace talks

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2010 at 2:09 am

KABUL (AFP) – A Taliban suicide squad armed with rockets on Wednesday targeted a landmark Afghan peace conference hosted by President Hamid Karzai in a bid to seek a consensus on how to end nearly nine years of war.

Afghan policemen arrive at a checkpoint near a sign promoting the ‘peace jirga’ in Kabul. AFP photo

At least five explosions, believed to be caused by rockets, and gunfire erupted near the giant air-conditioned tent where 1,600 delegates from across the country and Western diplomats attended the opening of the “peace jirga”.


One of the jirga organisers said suicide bombers dressed in women’s burqas targeted the event, which was being protected by 12,000 security personnel, but that the attack was unsuccessful.


“Three suicide bombers wearing burqas entered a house which was under construction. They fired one RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) towards the tent,” Ghulam Farooq Wardak told delegates.


“Thank God, two of them were killed, paying for their crimes. The third has been captured,” he said.


The Taliban claimed it had dispatched four suicide bombers armed with guns and rockets who were threatening the jirga from a nearby rooftop.


Two blasts were heard as Karzai delivered his opening address in which he condemned the Taliban for bringing suffering and oppression, while a third took place later about 200 metres (yards) away from the venue, AFP reporters said.


Karzai left the jirga on schedule after his address, driven away in his customary armoured convoy.


Intensifying gunfire rattled the vicinity of the tent in the southeastern Kabul suburbs, where the interior ministry said that Afghan police had surrounded a “terror” cell holed up in a house nearby.


“There is terrorist activity going on in a house in Afshar. The house has been surrounded by police,” said interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary.


Sayed Kabiri, chief doctor at a Kabul hospital, said two people had been admitted with injuries caused by the rocket attacks.


The Taliban’s nine-year insurgency against Karzai’s government and 130,000 US-led foreign troops is now at its deadliest and the group last month vowed to unleash a new campaign of attacks on diplomats, lawmakers and foreign forces.


The militant group — which is opposed to peace talks until the US-led troops leave Afghanistan — had dismissed the conference as a propaganda stunt.


“We have four suicide attackers placed on the top of a tall building near the jirga tent. They are threatening the jirga tent,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.


“They are using rockets, they have small arms and have strapped explosives to their bodies,” he said.


Karzai had appealed to the jirga delegates to advise him on how to bring the poverty-stricken country, blighted by three decades of war, out of the latest conflict and encourage the Taliban to disarm.


“We need a national consultation, a peace consultation all over Afghanistan,” Karzai said.


“The Afghan nation is looking at you. They await your decisions, your advice so that you can show the Afghan nation the way to reach peace, to rescue Afghanistan from this suffering and pain.”


The meeting is the third such conference uniting Afghanistan’s complex mix of ethnic, tribal, religious, geographical and gender interests since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.


Hundreds of bearded men in tribal dress and turbans sat in rows and the estimated 300 women delegates were mostly seated in a separate section.


Critics have warned that the outcome is likely to prove limited and ordinary Afghans have been divided about the possible results.


Karzai’s Western allies, led by the United States, have expressed support for the jirga as a milestone in Afghanistan’s political maturity.


Western public appetite is waning for a war that has killed almost 1,800 foreign troops and shows no sign of abating.


The number of US and NATO troops will peak at 150,000 by August as part of a strategy designed to reverse Taliban momentum and boost government authority in southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces.


US President Barack Obama has said he wants to start drawing down troops from mid-2011.


After the election of a chairman and two deputies, delegates will be divided into 28 groups, each with a spokesman to present their ideas to the general forum.


The jirga is expected to end on Friday with a declaration on what steps should be taken to end the insurgency, what groups should be included in the process and how they should be approached.

d
Source: SGGP

China wants peace on the Korean peninsula: Wen Jiabao

In Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm

China’s Premier Wen Jiabao said Saturday that his country wanted to see peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, as tensions mounted over the sinking of a South Korean warship.


“China is persistent in supporting peace and stability on the Korean peninsula,” Wen was quoted telling South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-Chan.


“We reject any act that would harm peace and stability,” he said, according to Chung’s spokesman.

South Korean Navy Patrol Combat Corvettes stage an anti-submarine exercise off the western coast on May 27, 2010.

Wen was also quoted as saying that China, as a responsible member in the international community, attached importance to the outcome of a multinational investigation led by South Korea into the sinking.


That investigation has held North Korea responsible for the attack on March 26, saying that the South Korean corvette, the Cheonan, was destroyed by North Korean a torpedo, killing 46 sailors.


South Korea and its allies have since announced reprisals, prompting threats of war from the North, but China has so far refrained from publicly blaming North Korea for the attack.


At an earlier meeting with South Korea’s President Lee Myung-Bak, Wen said that China would “review the results of international probes closely and consider reactions from countries concerned seriously.


“It will then take its position on this issue in an objective and fair manner. According to the investigation results, China will not protect anyone,” Wen told the South Korean president.


Wen met Chung before flying to the southern resort island of Jeju for a three-way summit also attended by Lee and Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.


The two-day talks until Sunday are likely to focus on the sinking of the Cheonan, with Lee was expected to press Seoul’s case — backed by Tokyo — for the North to be punished for sinking the Cheonan.


South Korea, with the backing of the United States and Japan, is seeking China’s support to sanction — or, at least, to censure — North Korea in the United Nations Security Council.


China, a veto-wielding member of the council, is the North’s sole major ally and economic lifeline.

Source: SGGP

Rocky start to new Middle East peace talks

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2010 at 4:51 am

Cracks quickly appeared in a newly relaunched peace process on Sunday just hours after the start of US-mediated indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks, as Washington warned both sides not to jeopardise the process.


Underscoring the deep mistrust between Israel and the Palestinians, the United States announced the start of the talks, after months of arduous shuttle diplomacy and false starts, with a caution to both sides they would be held accountable if they did anything to “seriously undermine trust.”


As if to highlight the fragile state, the US announcement describing confidence building measures already supposedly taken sparked the first spat.


“Both parties are taking some steps to help create an atmosphere that is conducive to successful talks, including president (Mahmud) Abbas’ statement that he will work against incitement of any sort and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that there will be no construction at the Ramat Shlomo project for two years,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) meets with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

An Israeli official immediately denied Netanyahu had given any such promise.


“The prime minister has clarified, over the whole process, that building and planning in Jerusalem will continue as usual, exactly as it has under all governments of Israel in the last 43 years, and no Israeli commitments have been given on this issue,” an official close to Netanyahu said in a statement.


The Israeli official said that while no commitments have been given, Netanyahu had informed the US that under normal planning procedures it would take several years before any construction would start.


“In reality, the planning for Ramat Shlomo will take at least another year and actual building will only start in a few years,” the official said on condition of anonymity.


Proximity talks were originally due to start in March but the Palestinians withdrew after Israel publicised plans to build the 1,600-home Ramat Shlomo project in annexed east Jerusalem.


The Palestinians quickly accused Israel of trying to undermine the process.


“The Israeli statement is an attempt to embarrass or challenge the US administration,” Abbas aide Nimr Hammad told AFP.


“The Israeli government must choose between peace and settlements,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.


Netanyahu’s statement on why no construction will take place at Ramat Shlomo over the next two years also indicated the hurdles he will face in making real concessions to the Palestinians because of his hard-line coalition.


Right wing parties were quick to accuse Netanyahu of betraying his electorate.


“The announcement from the US that Netanyahu promised to freeze the Ramat Shlomo building for two years proves that Netanyahu lied and continues to deceive his supporters by announcing that building will continue in Jerusalem,” lawmaker Aryeh Eldad of the hawkish Jewish Home party said.


“Netanyahu is betraying his voters and the ideology with which he was elected.”


Jerusalem and Jewish settlements are among the thorniest issues in efforts to achieve a peace deal.


The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their promised future state, but Israel considers all of the Holy City to be its “eternal and indivisible” capital.

The Palestinians only agreed to consider fresh talks after receiving US assurances that the Jerusalem settlement expansion plan would be frozen.

The indirect talks, which both sides are hoping will revive the peace process after a 17-month break, are expected to cover all final-status issues, including borders, security and Jerusalem.

The way was opened for both sides to move ahead on Saturday when the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) gave its backing to the start of indirect talks with Israel.

The Palestinians reiterated there would be no direct contacts for now.

“There are no negotiations between us and the Israeli government,” Erakat said. “The discussions will be held with Mitchell and the Americans, and they will mediate between the two sides.”

Mitchell, who left for Washington shortly after the talks, will return to the region next week, but there is little expectation the process will produce tangible results other than a possible resumption of direct negotiations.

“If we didn’t have any hope, we wouldn’t have got involved in the (indirect) talks. But we don’t have any illusions,” a senior Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity, while stressing the difficulty of “obtaining anything from the Netanyahu government.”

Source: SGGP

Abbas gets green light to relaunch peace process with Israel

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2010 at 4:49 am

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) – Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Saturday was given a green light from the PLO to relaunch the Middle East peace process through US-brokered indirect negotiations with Israel.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the revival of the peace process after a 17-month hiatus and stressed his country’s support for “talks without conditions so as to advance rapidly to direct negotiations.”


The Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee at a meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah decided “to approve participation in indirect talks” with the Jewish state, Abbas adviser Yasser Abed Rabbo said.


A majority of delegates at the umbrella group’s meeting endorsed the “proximity talks,” Abed Rabbo said, although the PLO appeared split ahead of the gathering between Abbas’s dominant Fatah party and other factions.


The endorsement “aims at giving the peace process a serious chance” and is based on US “guarantees and assurances concerning (Jewish) settlements, the danger they represent and the need to halt them,” he said.


“The United States will adopt a firm position towards any provocation which could impact the peace process and the negotiations,” he added.


Abbas later held his second meeting in as many days with US President Barack Obama’s special Middle East envoy George Mitchell, who has been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (R) shakes hands with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah. AFP photo

The envoy was due to return to Ramallah on Sunday at 11 am (0800 GMT) for a final session before heading back to the United States.


“Senator Mitchell in person will tomorrow (Sunday) announce the American position and the date for the start of negotiations,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told reporters.


Mitchell is to orchestrate the planned four months of indirect talks in the form of shuttle diplomacy between Jerusalem, Ramallah and Washington.


Abbas had balked at resuming talks with Israel without the backing of the Arab League and the PLO, which appeared split ahead of Saturday’s meeting.


“We believe that American promises do not represent enough of a guarantee that the process will produce real results,” said Qais Abu Laila of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.


Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip since 2007 after ejecting forces loyal to Abbas, denounced the PLO decision, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum saying the umbrella group “has lost all legitimacy.”


“This decision constitutes a new encouragement for the occupier and its settlement policies, serving only its interests and those of the Americans,” Barhum said.


Barhum accused Abbas’s Palestinian Authority of taking “American money” to endorse the talks with Israel.


Gaza militants later fired a rocket into southern Israel, the Israeli military said. It exploded in a field without causing casualties or damage.


On Friday, Mitchell was told by Israeli President Shimon Peres that security must be a top issue in the talks, while the Palestinians have said they want the priority to be the borders of their promised future state.


Expectations of significant achievement remain low in both camps.


Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been blocked since December 2008 — just over a year after they restarted following a seven-year hiatus — when Israel launched a deadly offensive against Gaza to halt rocket attacks.


The Palestinians agreed in March to take part in proximity talks but then pulled out after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 homes in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.


After receiving US assurances that the Jerusalem settlement expansion plan would be put on hold, the Palestinians eventually agreed to consider a new attempt at proximity talks and secured Arab League support on May 1.


The Palestinians want east Jerusalem, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, as the capital of their promised state, but Israel considers all of the Holy City to be its “eternal and indivisible” capital.

d
Source: SGGP

Bangkok violence hits as government pushes peace plan

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2010 at 8:40 am

Two Thai policemen have been killed in attacks near anti-government protests, raising tensions Saturday as the government struggles to negotiate a peace “roadmap” to end a crippling political crisis.


Grenade blasts and a drive-by shooting targeted security forces facing off against “Red Shirts” protesters at their massive rally encampment in Bangkok’s main shopping district.


It was the latest outbreak of violence in a two-month confrontation that has also triggered deadly clashes and other explosions, which have left another 27 dead and nearly 1,000 injured.


“Two policemen have been killed in these incidents, I think that someone doesn’t want the protests to end,” said police operations centre spokesman Major General Prawut Thavornsiri.

Thai soldiers stand guard outside Lumpini park where a grenade attack near to the ‘Red Shirt’ anti-government protesters’ fortified camp took place, in Bangkok, on May 8

The grenades hit in the early hours of the morning at a security checkpoint in front of a city park that forms the edge of the heavy fortified protest camp, which is surrounded by makeshift barricades.


“Three M-79 grenades were fired at a security checkpoint manned by police and soldiers,” said Prawut.


A hospital official said a 35-year-old policeman died during surgery. The Bangkok Emergency Medical Service said five police and three soldiers were wounded in the blasts.


Earlier, one policeman was killed and four others — two police and two civilians — were injured when a man opened fire in the nearby Silom financial district, which is under heavy guard to prevent the protests spilling over.


“A man on a motorbike fired at police who were on patrol,” said police spokesman Lieutenant General Pongsapat Pongcharoen.


The latest attacks were near the site of a grenade blast on April 22 that killed a 26-year-old Thai woman and injured scores of other people, including foreigners.


Reds leaders on Saturday denied any involvement in the attacks and called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to withdraw the security forces, stationed in the Silom financial district, under a proposed reconciliation plan.


Red Shirts protesters still adhere to a policy of non-violence, we have nothing to do with the incidents last night,” Weng Tojirakarn, one of the movement’s leaders, told supporters from their rally stage.


“It shows that it does not benefit anyone to maintain the troops on Silom,” he said. “So if Abhisit wants to prove his sincerity he must lift the state of emergency and withdraw all the troops.”


The protest area has been guarded by riot police and troops since the Red Shirts occupied the area eight weeks ago, demanding elections to replace Abhisit’s government, which they say is the puppet of the nation’s elites.


Abhisit is now fighting to keep alive his reconciliation process, which envisages parliament being dissolved in September ahead of national polls the following month.


The plan has met growing opposition among rival protest movements, and the government and the Reds are struggling to bridge their differences over setting a specific date for the dissolution of the lower house.


“We have to seek cooperation from everybody to return Thailand to peace,” one of Abhisit’s deputies, Suthep Thaugsuban, told reporters Friday. “Everybody must avoid violence and help solve the problem.”


However, the Reds are insisting on a specific date for the dissolution before leaving their encampment, which they have fortified with barricades made from fuel-soaked tyres, bamboo stakes and razor wire.

The rival pro-establishment “Yellow Shirts” — who blockaded Bangkok‘s airports in 2008 in their own protests — have rejected Abhisit’s roadmap and election plan and called on the prime minister to resign.

And in another setback, a moderate pro-government group known as the “Multicoloureds”, whose rallies in the capital have also drawn thousands of supporters, called for the election date to be pushed back.

In a colour-coded crisis, Thailand is largely split between the mainly rural poor and urban working class Reds — who broadly support fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — and the elite-backed Yellows.

Source: SGGP