Biden and Zelensky will sign security agreement between US and Ukraine when they meet at G7

US President Joe Biden will meet again with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, followed by a joint press conference. (File/AFP)
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Updated 12 June 2024
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Biden and Zelensky will sign security agreement between US and Ukraine when they meet at G7

  • National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the agreement would not commit US troops directly to Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion
  • “We want to demonstrate that the US supports the people of Ukraine, that we stand with them and that we’ll continue to help address their security needs,” Sullivan said

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE: President Joe Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky will sign a bilateral security agreement between the US and Ukraine on Thursday when they meet on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Italy, aiming to send signal to Russia of American resolve to supporting Kyiv, the White House said as Biden was headed to Europe.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the agreement would not commit US troops directly to Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion — a red line drawn by Biden, who is fearful of being drawn into direct conflict between the nuclear-armed powers.
The announcement of the agreement comes as Biden heads to the summit of the world’s leading democracies with an urgency to get big things done, including turning frozen Russian assets into billions of dollars to help Ukraine as it fights off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war machine.
“We want to demonstrate that the US supports the people of Ukraine, that we stand with them and that we’ll continue to help address their security needs,” Sullivan said, adding “this agreement will show our resolve.”
This year’s meeting comes three years after Biden declared at his first such gathering that America was back as a global leader following the disruptions to Western alliances that occurred when Donald Trump was president. Now, there’s a chance this gathering could be the final G7 for Biden and other G7 leaders, depending on the results of elections this year.
Biden and his counterparts from Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan will use the summit to discuss challenges related to the spread of artificial intelligence, migration, the Russian military’s resurgence and China’s economic might, among other topics. Pope Francis, Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are joining the gathering at the Borgo Egnazia resort in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
The summit, which opens Thursday, will play out after far-right parties across the continent racked up gains of surprising scale in just-concluded European Union elections. Those victories, coupled with upcoming elections in the United Kingdom, France and the United States, have rattled the global political establishment and added weightiness to this year’s summit.
“You hear this a lot when you talk to US and European officials: If we can’t get this done now, whether it’s on China, whether it’s on the assets, we may not have another chance,” said Josh Lipsky, senior director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, an international affairs think tank. “We don’t know what the world will look like three months, six months, nine months from now.”
The G7 is an informal bloc of industrialized democracies that meets annually to discuss shared issues and concerns. Biden is set to arrive in Italy on Wednesday night, his second trip outside the US in as many weeks. The Democratic president was in France last week for a state visit in Paris and ceremonies in Normandy marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings in World War II.
While last week’s visit had a celebratory feel, this one will be dominated by pressing global issues, including how to keep financial support flowing to Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invasion. Biden’s trip also comes one day after his son Hunter was convicted on federal gun charges, a blow sure to weigh heavily on the president’s mind.
Despite pressing global challenges, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said there is still a sense of relief among world leaders in 2024 that “America was back,” referencing Biden’s 2021 speech at the G7 in Cornwall, England.
“Biden’s message then was that democracies need to step up and show they can deliver for their people,” Kirby said. “That’s true now more than ever.”
Kirby said the US was prepared to work with democratically elected officials in the EU no matter who they are, though some of those being elevated have expressed far less support for Ukraine than current leaders.
“We have every confidence that regardless of who fills the seats in the European Parliament, we’re going to continue to work closely with our EU partners on all the issues relative to our shared interests across the European continent,” Kirby said. “That includes supporting Ukraine.”
Biden and Zelensky, who met last week in Paris, will meet again Thursday on the sidelines of the summit to discuss continued support for the Eastern European nation, which is trying to fend off an intense Russian offensive in eastern areas of the country. They are expected to hold a joint news conference. Biden is also expected to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the pope and other leaders.
Biden, who has been adamant that “we will not walk away” from Ukraine, last week publicly apologized to Zelensky for a monthslong delay by Congress in authorizing additional American military assistance. The delay allowed Russia to make gains on the battlefield.
Sullivan called the security agreement a “bridge” to when Ukraine is invited to join the NATO alliance — a long-term priority of Zelensky’s that the allies have said will first require an end to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Biden’s back-to-back trips to France and Italy amount to a rare doubleheader of diplomacy in the midst of the presidential election. The president will skip a Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland this weekend to jet to Los Angeles for a campaign fundraiser with big names from Hollywood. Vice President Kamala Harris will represent the US at the conference.
Despite the delays in military aid, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced it would send Ukraine another Patriot missile system to help fend off Russian strikes, two US officials told The Associated Press. Biden approved the move, the officials told the AP, as Kyiv has desperately called for more air defenses in its battle against an intense Russian assault on the northeastern Kharkiv region.
Kirby said the US would use the G7 summit to announce fresh sanctions and export control actions targeting those who have helped Russia procure what it needs for the war. He said the new measures would make it harder for financiers to support Russia’s defense mechanism.
Ukraine and many of its supporters have called for the confiscation of $260 billion in Russian assets frozen outside the country after the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion. But European officials have resisted, citing legal and financial stability concerns. Most of the frozen assets are located in Europe.
A European plan to just use the interest on the Russian funds would provide only a trickle of money every year — about $2.5 billion to $3 billion at current interest rates, which would barely meet a month’s financing needs for the Ukrainian government.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said recently that G7 finance ministers have been discussing the possibility of extending a loan to Ukraine and using the windfall profits of assets seized in Europe to pay it off.
Kirby said the US was optimistic the group could agree on the matter.
Biden is also expected to discuss economic concerns brought on by Chinese manufacturing overcapacity, how to use artificial intelligence in a way that maximizes benefits but still manages national security risks, and global migration.
The US and other G7 nations are struggling to manage large influxes of migrants arriving for complicated reasons that include war, climate change and drought. Migration, and how nations cope with the growing numbers at their borders, has been a factor driving the far-right rise in some of Europe.


Thirty-five Democrats in US Congress have called on Biden to drop out

Updated 10 sec ago
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Thirty-five Democrats in US Congress have called on Biden to drop out

WASHINGTON: Thirty-five congressional Democrats have publicly called on Democratic President Joe Biden to end his re-election bid after the 81-year-old incumbent’s halting debate performance against Republican rival Donald Trump.
They represent more than one in eight Democrats in Congress, where Biden’s party controls 213 seats in the House of Representatives and 51 in the Senate.
Here is a list of the Democratic US lawmakers who have publicly and directly called for Biden to not run again.
Senators
Sherrod Brown (Ohio)
Martin Heinrich (New Mexico)
Jon Tester (Montana)
Peter Welch (Vermont)
Representatives
Mark Takano (California’s 39th district)
Earl Blumenauer (Oregon’s 3rd district)
Ed Case (Hawaii’s 1st district)
Sean Casten (Illinois’ 6th district)
Jim Costa (California’s 21st district)
Angie Craig (Minnesota’s 2nd district)
Lloyd Doggett (Texas’ 37th district)
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (Illinois’ 4th district)
Raul Grijalva (Arizona’s 7th district)
Jim Himes (Connecticut’s 4th district)
Jared Huffman (California’s 2nd district)
Greg Landsman (Ohio’s 1st district)
Mike Levin (California’s 49th district)
Zoe Lofgren (California’s 18th district)
Seth Moulton (Massachusetts’ 6th district)
Betty McCollum (Minnesota’s 4th district)
Morgan McGarvey (Kentucky’s 3rd district)
Scott Peters (California’s 50th district)
Brittany Pettersen (Colorado’s 7th district)
Mark Pocan (Wisconsin’s 2nd district)
Mike Quigley (Illinois’ 5th district)
Pat Ryan (New York’s 18th district)
Adam Schiff (California’s 30th district)
Brad Schneider (Illinois’ 10th district)
Hillary Scholten (Michigan’s 3rd district)
Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey’s 11th district)
Adam Smith (Washington’s 9th district)
Eric Sorensen (Illinois’ 17th district)
Greg Stanton (Arizona’s 4th district)
Gabe Vasquez (New Mexico’s 2nd district)
Marc Veasey (Texas’ 33rd district)

More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza

Updated 20 July 2024
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More than 1,200 UK cyclists ride to raise awareness, funds for Gaza

  • Rides will run across London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and South Wales

LONDON: For three weeks, more than 1,200 people will be cycling in cities across the UK, calling on the newly-elected Labour government to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and to end arms sales to Israel.
The Big Ride was founded in 2015 by activists seeking to combine a passion for cycling with solidarity for Palestine.
This year’s events start on Saturday and run until Aug. 10 in London, Belfast, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, and South Wales.
The grassroots organization will also be raising funds for Palestinian charities, including the Middle East Children’s Alliance, The Amos Trust, and the Gaza Sunbirds para cycling team, which continue their work in Gaza amidst the ongoing conflict.
Ellen Logan, one of the organizers of The Big Ride, said: “For years we’ve witnessed the daily oppression of the Palestinian people — discrimination, subjugation, and inhumanity. And now we’ve spent the last 10 months watching a live-streamed genocide. Everyone should be outraged and campaigning for an end to this violence.”
Logan added: “We use our bikes and freedoms to raise awareness and provide crucial aid for children and disabled cyclists on the ground in Gaza.”
A recent letter published in British medical journal, The Lancet, estimated the actual death toll in Gaza could be as high as 186,000.
British actress Maxine Peake, who is participating in the cycling event, said: “The Big Ride for Palestine has been raising awareness of this for nearly 10 years now. This year, more riders than ever have signed up, so please join a Big Ride near you.”
 


Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

Updated 20 July 2024
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Bangladeshi military enforces ‘unprecedented’ curfew as protest deaths mount

  • Supreme Court hearing on contentious job quotas expected on Sunday
  • At least 103 people dead, including 44 killed in Dhaka on Friday alone

DHAKA: The Bangladeshi military was deployed to the streets to impose a nationwide curfew on Saturday, after more than 100 people were killed in clashes between police and students protesting government job quotas.

The curfew follows a communications blackout that has left the country of 170 million cut off from the world. Television channels were off air and most local news websites were down as the government shut internet services a day earlier.

“Army members will operate in aid to the civil administration under the guidance of district administrators and city commissioners,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Kamal told Arab News.

In the capital, the military joined riot police and thousands of Border Guard personnel after the Dhaka Metropolitan Police banned all gatherings amid increasing numbers of casualties.

Students have been demonstrating since the beginning of July against a rule that reserves a bulk of government jobs for the descendants of those who fought in the country’s 1971 liberation war.

At least 103 people have been killed in the past five days and thousands injured, according to a count based on reports in the local media. On Friday alone, at least 44 people were killed in Dhaka, which saw intense clashes between protesters, government supporters and security forces.

Air Commodore (Rtd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury, a security analyst, told Arab News that the nationwide military-backed curfew and the amount of violence across the country were “something unprecedented.”

He was referring to reports that numerous administration offices were set on fire and government vehicles vandalized on Friday. On Thursday, the headquarters of a state-owned television station was set ablaze.

“We have not seen such vandalism earlier in the country where many significant government establishments were vandalized and set on fire,” Choudhury said.

The government abolished the controversial quota system after student protests in 2018, but the High Court reinstated it in June, triggering protests.

An appeal hearing is expected at the Supreme Court on Sunday morning.

Under the quota system, 56 percent of public service jobs are reserved for specific groups, including women, marginalized communities and children and grandchildren of freedom fighters — for whom the government earmarks 30 percent of the posts.

These quotas, which reserve hundreds of thousands of government jobs, hit young people directly.

The country’s unemployment rate is the highest among people aged between 15 and 29 — more than a fourth of Bangladesh’s population — who constitute 83 percent of the total unemployed.


Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

Updated 20 July 2024
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Trump to hold first campaign rally after assassination attempt

  • Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention

GRAND RAPIDS:Donald Trump will hold his first campaign rally on Saturday since he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt one week ago and fresh from his nominating convention where his takeover of the Republican Party was cemented.
Trump will appear in Grand Rapids, in the battleground state of Michigan, along with his new vice presidential pick, Ohio US Senator J.D. Vance. It will be their first campaign event together as the now official Republican presidential ticket.
Republican Party officials said during Trump’s nominating convention in Milwaukee this week that his brush with death last Saturday had changed him, and that when he made his acceptance speech on Thursday night he would call for national unity.
While Trump began the address with a call for unity and national healing, much of his speech was his well-known list of grievances and attacks on opponents.
It is unclear what type of a speech Trump will deliver on Saturday, but his diehard supporters typically flock to such events to hear Trump’s more traditional inflammatory rhetoric.
Trump and Vance will take the stage in Grand Rapids with the Republican Party unified behind them after this week’s nominating convention. In contrast, the Democrats are in turmoil and it is no longer certain that President Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee facing Trump in the Nov. 5 election.
Biden is facing mounting calls from many elected officials in his own party to step aside as the party’s White House candidate and to end his re-election bid, after his poor debate performance against Trump last month.
Biden is trailing in opinion polls and is behind in every swing state against Trump. Many Democrats fear he may have virtually no path to victory and that the party needs a new presidential candidate to take on Trump.
The rally in Grand Rapids will be in an indoor arena, unlike the event in Butler, Pennsylvania last weekend, which was outdoors. At that event, the gunman was able to scale the roof of a building outside the Secret Service perimeter before opening fire on Trump, clipping his ear, killing a rally-goer and wounding several others.
The US Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Trump, declined to comment on security for the Grand Rapids event. An investigation is under way into the security failures at the Butler rally.
“The Secret Service does not discuss the means and methods used for our protective operations,” the agency said in a statement.
Trump gave a detailed account of his narrow brush with death in his convention speech on Thursday, telling the audience that he was only talking to them “by the grace of Almighty God.”


Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

Updated 20 July 2024
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Senegal detains boat carrying 200 migrants

DAKAR: Senegal’s army said Saturday that it had intercepted a boat carrying over 200 migrants trying to reach Europe, after nearly 90 died when attempting the dangerous Atlantic crossing earlier this month.
The boat intercepted by the patrol boat in fishing waters near Lompoul in northwest Senegal on Friday was carrying 202 people, including five women and a minor, the army posted on X.
In early July, a boat carrying around 170 people who set off from Senegal capsized off the coast of Mauritania, killing nearly 90 people.
The disaster prompted Senegal’s President Ousmane Sonko to urge people not to risk the Atlantic Ocean’s currents in overcrowded vessels that often are not seaworthy.
But the route is increasingly used as authorities step up surveillance in the Mediterranean.
“I once again make a plea to the young: your solution is not to be found in boats,” Sonko told a crowd of youths in Saint-Louis.
“The future of the world is in Africa... the only continent that still has the significant scope for progress and growth.”
According to the Spanish NGO Caminando Fronteras, more than 5,000 people died trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of this year, representing the highest daily average toll since it began keeping records in 2007.