Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state

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Above, a protester holds a Palestinian flag atop scaffoldings of a building during a demonstration in Paris, on May 27, 2024. (AFP)
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Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is pictured as he delivers a speech on TV over the recognition of Palestinian statehood by Spain in Madrid on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
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Above, protesters in front of the foreign affairs ministry in Madrid on May 27, 2024. The Spanish Cabinet will recognize a Palestinian state at its Tuesday morning meeting. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2024
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Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognize a Palestinian state

  • While some 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state none of the major Western powers has done so

BARCELONA: Spain, Norway and Ireland formally recognized a Palestinian state on Tuesday in a coordinated effort by the three western European nations to add international pressure on Israel to soften its devastating response to last year’s Hamas-led attack. Tel Aviv slammed the diplomatic move that will have no immediate impact on its grinding war in Gaza.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told his nation in a televised address from Madrid that “this is a historic decision that has a single goal, and that is to help Israelis and Palestinians achieve peace.”

Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz quickly lashed out at Spain on X, saying Sanchez’s government was “being complicit in inciting genocide against Jews and war crimes.”

Ireland and Norway soon joined Spain in formalizing a decision they had jointly announced the previous week.

The Palestinian flag was raised in Dublin outside Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament.

“This is an important moment and I think it sends a signal to the world that there are practical actions you can take as a country to help keep the hope and destination of a two-state solution alive at a time when others are trying to sadly bomb it into oblivion,” Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said before his Cabinet meets to formally sign off on the decision.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement that “for more than 30 years, Norway has been one of the strongest advocates for a Palestinian state. Today, when Norway officially recognizes Palestine as a state, is a milestone in the relationship between Norway and Palestine.”

While some 140 countries have recognized a Palestinian state — more than two-thirds of the United Nations — none of the major Western powers has done so. Still, the adherence of three European countries to the group represents a victory for Palestinian efforts in the world of public opinion, and will likely put pressure on EU heavyweights France and Germany to rethink their position.

Relations between the EU and Israel have nosedived with the diplomatic recognitions by two EU members, and Madrid insisting on Monday that the EU should take measures against Israel for its continued deadly attacks in southern Gaza’s city of Rafah.

After Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said “for the first time at an EU meeting, in a real way, I have seen a significant discussion on sanctions” for Israel.

Harris, the Irish leader, insisted Tuesday the EU should consider economic sanctions for Israel, saying “Europe could be doing a hell of a lot more.”

Norway, which is not an EU member but often aligns its foreign policy with the bloc, handed diplomatic papers to the Palestinian government over the weekend ahead of its formal recognition.

At the same time, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell threw his weight behind the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor is seeking an arrest warrant against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others, including leaders of the Hamas militant group.

The formal declaration and resulting diplomatic dispute come over seven months into an assault waged by Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack in which militants stormed across the Gaza border into Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage. Israel’s air and land attacks have killed 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Last week’s joint announcement by Spain, Ireland and Norway triggered an angry response from Israeli authorities, which summoned the countries’ ambassadors in Tel Aviv to the Foreign Ministry, where they were filmed while being shown videos of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and abductions.

Slovenia’s Prime Minister Robert Golob said Monday his government will decide on the recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday and forward its decision to parliament for final approval.

The United States and Britain, among others, back the idea of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel but say it should come as part of a negotiated settlement. Netanyahu’s government says the conflict can only be resolved through direct negotiations.

In his speech on Tuesday, Sanchez said that the recognition of a Palestinian state was “a decision that we do not adopt against anyone, least of all against Israel, a friendly people whom we respect, whom we appreciate and with whom we want to have the best possible relationship.”

The Socialist leader has spent months touring European and Middle Eastern countries, including stops in Oslo and Dublin, to garner support for the recognition of a Palestinian state. He called for a permanent cease-fire, for stepping up humanitarian aid into Gaza and for the release of hostages still held by Hamas.

Spain’s foreign minister, Jose Manuel Albares, will meet with the Arab Contact Group in Spain’s capital on Wednesday, including Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan.

Sanchez said that his intention was to back the beleaguered Palestinian Authority, which lost effective political control of Gaza to Hamas. He laid out his vision for a state ruled by the Palestinian Authority that must connect the West Bank and Gaza via a corridor with east Jerusalem as its capital.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, cooperates with Israel on security matters and favors a negotiated two-state solution. Its forces were driven out of Gaza by Hamas when the militants seized power there in 2007.

The Palestinians have long sought an independent state in Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The idea of a land corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank through Israel was discussed in previous rounds of peace talks, but no serious or substantive peace negotiations have been held in over 15 years.

“We will not recognize changes in the 1967 border lines other than those agreed to by the parties,” Sanchez added.

“Furthermore, this decision reflects our absolute rejection of Hamas, a terrorist organization who is against the two-state solution,” Sanchez said. “From the outset, Spain has strongly condemned the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. This clear condemnation is the resounding expression of our steadfast commitment in the fight against terrorism. I would like to underline that starting tomorrow we would focus all our efforts to implement the two state solution and make it a reality.”

Ireland’s government said that it will appoint an ambassador and create a full embassy in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Israel, which rejects the possibility of Palestinian statehood, recalled its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain after they announced the decision last week.

Norway’s Barth Eide added Tuesday that “it is regrettable that the Israeli government shows no signs of engaging constructively.”

“The recognition is a strong expression of support for moderate forces in both countries,” Norway’s top diplomat said.


Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack

Updated 5 sec ago
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Philippine captain vows to return to sea after Houthi attack

  • Tutor’s captain Christian Domarique: ‘We first need to rest because of the trauma’
  • Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile strike on the Liberia flagged, Greek-owned coal carrier Tutor
MANILA: The Philippine crew of a vessel attacked by Yemen’s Houthi militants was repatriated to the Philippines from Bahrain on Monday, with the ship’s captain vowing to return to the seas after the crew had recovered from the experience.
Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile strike on the Liberia flagged, Greek-owned, coal carrier Tutor near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on June 12. The ship was carrying 22 crew from the Philippines and one is still missing in the flooded engine room.
“We first need to rest because of the trauma,” the Tutor’s Captain Christian Domarique told a press conference at Manila airport. “We will recover for a few months before returning.”
Houthi attacks have struck three vessels crewed by Filipino seafarers since last year, killing two sailors, with 17 still being held captive by militants, government data showed.
A tearful Domarique thanked God, his company, and government agencies for assisting him and his fellow seafarers to get back to the Philippines.
The government has pledged financial and psychological assistance for the 21 crew members.
“The captain has good working years ahead of him so with the crew that is relatively young, they will still have more seafaring years ahead of them,” Hans Leo Cacdac, the Philippines’ migrant workers minister, told a press conference.
The vessel’s owner pledged to continue the search for the missing sailor alongside a salvaging operation to tow the stranded ship, Cacdac said, which on Friday was adrift in the Red Sea.
The Houthis, who have said their attacks are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, have disrupted global shipping, causing delays and costs to cascade through supply chains.
At least 65 countries and major energy and shipping companies — including Shell, BP, Maersk and Cosco — have been affected, according to a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.

Biden’s reelection team launches $50 million ad campaign targeting Trump before the first debate

Updated 3 min 45 sec ago
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Biden’s reelection team launches $50 million ad campaign targeting Trump before the first debate

  • The costly advertising push comes with Election Day still more than four and a half months away
  • The new ad campaign includes more than $1 million geared toward media reaching Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign said Monday it will spend $50 million through the end of June on a new ad campaign that includes efforts to spotlight Republican Donald Trump’s felony conviction.
The costly advertising push comes with Election Day still more than four and a half months away. But Biden’s campaign says it wants to more clearly define the choice between the two candidates ahead of the first debate between them in Atlanta on June 27.
A central part of Biden’s campaign strategy is highlighting Trump’s far-reaching policy proposals for a second term and firing up disaffected Democrats and independent voters. The campaign producing an ad that leans heavily into Trump’s conviction, and including it in such a large advertising buy, indicates a renewed effort to make Trump’s legal problems an election issue in ways Biden’s team previously resisted.
The new ad campaign includes more than $1 million geared toward media reaching Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters, and an ad highlighting Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts in a New York hush money case. That spot will air on general market television and connected TV on streaming devices and cell phones in battleground states, as well as on national cable.
In addition to Trump’s criminal conviction, the ad, titled “Character Matters,” notes the former president also was found liable for sexual assault and financial fraud in separate proceedings. Trump also faces felony charges in three separate criminal cases, none of which may go to trial before the November election.
“This election is between a convicted criminal who’s only out for himself and a president who’s fighting for your family,” intones the ad’s narrator over images of a Trump mug shot and Biden high-fiving supporters.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment Sunday night. But Trump has denied any wrongdoing and argued without evidence that Biden or Justice Department officials orchestrated the New York case against him for political reasons. He and his allies also have raised the prospect of prosecuting political opponents in revenge if he returns to the White House.


China says G7 statement ‘full of arrogance, prejudice and lies’

Updated 43 min 46 sec ago
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China says G7 statement ‘full of arrogance, prejudice and lies’

  • Summit statement said China was sending dual-use materials to Russia which were helping Moscow’s war in Ukraine
  • China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said the statement had ‘slandered and attacked China’

BEIJING: China hit back on Monday after G7 leaders warned Beijing to stop sending weapons components to Russia, saying their end-of-summit statement was “full of arrogance, prejudice and lies.”
When Group of Seven leaders met last week in Italy, souring trade relations with Beijing as well as tensions over Ukraine and the South China Sea were a focus of their discussions.
The statement released at the end of the summit said China was sending dual-use materials to Russia which were helping Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Using stronger language than at last year’s summit, the G7 statement also criticized China’s “militarization, and coercive and intimidation activities” in the South China Sea.
On Monday China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said the statement had “slandered and attacked China.”
It had “rehashed cliches that have no factual basis, no legal basis, and no moral justification, and are full of arrogance, prejudice and lies,” he said at a regular press briefing.


EU leaders gather to discuss nominees for bloc’s top jobs

Updated 17 June 2024
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EU leaders gather to discuss nominees for bloc’s top jobs

  • The June 6-9 elections saw the European Parliament shift to the right
  • Under the EU’s treaties, their choice should take into account the results of the election

BRUSSELS: The 27 leaders of the European Union gather in Brussels on Monday evening to take stock of recent European election results and begin the fraught process of dividing up the bloc’s top jobs, but they will be playing their usual political game with a deck of reshuffled cards.
The June 6-9 elections saw the European Parliament shift to the right and dealt major blows to pro-European governing parties in Paris and Berlin. The Franco-German motor that usually propels EU politics along was weakened, and new dynamics could be on show at the informal dinner.
Under the EU’s complicated division of powers, the presidents and prime ministers get to nominate the next head of the bloc’s powerful executive branch, the European Commission, which is responsible for drawing up EU policy on everything from climate to the colossal shared budget.
Under the EU’s treaties, their choice should take into account the results of the election.
German conservative Ursula von der Leyen looks likely to stay on as president for another five years after a strong showing for her center-right European People’s Party parliamentary group.
In an interview with Germany’s Welt TV on Saturday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said “it is clear after the results of the elections that everything indicates that there can be a second term in office for Ursula von der Leyen.” He said he believes the top job nominations could be agreed “quickly.”
Von der Leyen, at the helm of the EU since 2019, led a huge drive during the pandemic to secure billions of COVID-19 vaccine doses, set up a historic post-pandemic economic recovery fund and, from 2022, drummed up support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and extended a hand to Kyiv to join the bloc.
But nothing is guaranteed. Von der Leyen’s presidential style has at times riled her commission colleagues, and she is deeply unpopular in some corners of the EU Parliament, where she will need the support of 361 of the 720 lawmakers to hold on to her job.
The other big posts up for grabs are that of European Council president, held by Belgian centrist Charles Michel, and EU foreign policy chief, occupied by Josep Borrell of Spain from the center-left. The council president’s job is to broker deals between the 27 member states, while the top diplomat represents the EU on the world stage.
In Brussels, names for the big posts have circulated for months. Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister António Costa is frequently mentioned to become council president. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, well known for her tough line on Russia, has been floated as the bloc’s potential top diplomat.
French President Emmanual Macron said the aim Monday is “to try to have a quick consensus. But perhaps we need to wait until June 27-28,” when the leaders meet again in Brussels for a formal EU summit.
“I don’t want to preempt things,” Macron said on Saturday. “These discussions are happening with 27 of us, so we have advanced, several of us have called each other, and I think it’s possible. I think it’s possible in the days to come, or in the week to come.’’
Von der Leyen’s own path to power in 2019 shows that the tussle over EU top jobs can be unpredictable. Then a German defense minister somewhat tainted by scandal in her ministry, von der Leyen was a relative unknown in Brussels when her name was raised by leaders in closed-door discussions.
Back then, the support of her close ally, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Macron helped her clinch the nomination. Given the current balance of power in Europe, it’s hard to imagine Macron and Scholz pulling a major surprise this time.
Scholz is licking his wounds after his Social Democrats took a drubbing, while Macron is tied up with the snap elections he called last week in a risky bid to see off the far right.
In a secret ballot in 2019, von der Leyen made it over the line with 383 votes, nail bitingly close to the threshold of 374. She was an unpopular nominee because she had not campaigned in elections as a lead candidate and was seen as being imposed on Parliament by the leaders.


Denmark aims to limit shadow fleet of Russian oil tankers

Updated 17 June 2024
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Denmark aims to limit shadow fleet of Russian oil tankers

  • Russia sends about a third of its seaborne oil exports, or 1.5 percent of global supply, through the Danish straits

COPENHAGEN: Denmark is considering ways to limit the passage of old tankers carrying Russian oil through the Baltic Sea, the Nordic country’s foreign minister said in a statement on Monday, in a move that could trigger confrontation with Moscow.
Russia sends about a third of its seaborne oil exports, or 1.5 percent of global supply, through the Danish straits that sit as a gateway to the Baltic Sea, so any attempt to halt supplies would send oil prices higher and hit the Kremlin’s finances.
Denmark has brought together a group of allied countries evaluating measures targeting the so-called shadow fleet of aging ships transporting the Russian oil, Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said.