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Trump says Netanyahu win gives US peace plan ‘better chance’

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Washington: President Donald Trump has said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory improved the chances of a forthcoming US peace plan, despite deep skepticism from the Palestinians.

Trump, who had enthusiastically backed the right-wing premier’s bid for a fifth mandate, said that he telephoned Netanyahu to offer congratulations as results gave Netanyahu a narrow parliamentary majority.

“The fact that Bibi won, I think we’ll see some pretty good action in terms of peace,” Trump told reporters, using Netanyahu’s nickname. “Everybody said you can’t have peace in the Middle East with Israel and Palestinians. I think we have a chance and I think we now have a better chance,” he added.

 

Centrist challenger Benny Gantz, a former military chief, conceded defeat with Netanyahu poised to form a coalition of hawkish and religious parties to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Trump had welcomed Netanyahu to the White House just two weeks before the election to offer his latest landmark gesture of support – US recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967.

Palestinian leaders are deeply skeptical of the US peace plan and have ruled out Trump as an honest broker after he recognized bitterly contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The peace plan is being developed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew whose close family ties to Netanyahu have heightened Palestinian suspicions on whether the US administration can serve as an honest broker.

US officials have only revealed vague outlines of what the plan might propose, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has suggested it could break abruptly with precedent. In two days of testimony before Senate committees, Pompeo declined to say whether the United States stood by its longstanding support for an independent Palestinian state.

“For decades now, there have been all these wonderful experts that have tried to resolve this crisis in the Middle East, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, and they have each failed,” Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

“So the old set of ideas isn’t worth retreading. They have simply not succeeded,” he said. Pressed by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine – who described himself as “kind of shocked” that Pompeo would not reaffirm US support for a two-state solution — the top US diplomat said the United States wanted “good things” for the Palestinians but that a solution had to be acceptable to both sides.

“I would argue that millions of man-hours have been spent to try and build out a two-state solution. It hasn’t worked to date. It may work this afternoon, but it hasn’t worked yet,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo said the peace plan would come out “before too long” and also include ideas aimed at Gulf Arab states, which have found increasing common ground with Israel in their hostility to Iran. Pompeo repeatedly declined to weigh in on Netanyahu’s election-eve vow to annex Jewish settlements built in the Israeli-occupied West Bank – a move that would seek to formalise Israeli control over parts of the supposedly future Palestinian state.

Such a move would previously have been almost unthinkable, leaving Israel diplomatically isolated. But some analysts believe that Washington’s relatively less controversial Golan Heights recognition may have paved the way.

In another sign of Israel’s current feeling of strength, Netanyahu insisted last week that he would refuse removal of any Jewish settlements built inside occupied Palestinian land as part of any peace plan.

Netanyahu said he told Trump “there shouldn’t be the removal of even one settlement.” Since taking office, Trump has also closed the Palestinians’ office in Washington, pulled the United States from UN bodies accused of anti-Israel bias and cut off funding for the UN agency that provides schooling and other services to Palestinian refugees.

While Trump has rallied behind Netanyahu, the Israeli leader has seen growing disdain among Democrats. Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate for president, called Netanyahu “a racist” for his alliance with a far-right party and for warning about voting by Israel’s Arab citizens.

Candidate Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, has called Netanyahu “extreme right-wing” and said Trump needed to show “good faith” in brokering a peace deal.


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International

Pakistan exporting ‘terror’, stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains: India at UNSC

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UNITED NATIONS: India lashed out at Pakistan for raising the issue of women’s rights in Kashmir in the UN Security Council, saying the country represents a system that has been exporting militancy and “regressive” extremist ideologies and “stifling” women’s voices for narrow political gains.

India’s strong response came after Pakistan’s outgoing UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi commented on the situation in Kashmir, revocation of Article 370 and women’s rights in the Valley during the debate on October 29.

“As everyone today focuses on collective action, one delegation rhetorically regurgitates about women’s rights in my country,” First Secretary in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Paulomi Tripathi said Monday at a Security Council open debate on Women, Peace and Security.

 

Without naming Pakistan, Tripathi said the delegation “represents a system that has been exporting terrorism and regressive extremist ideologies, and stifling women’s voices for narrow political gains. This has devastated lives of generations of women and their families, in our region and beyond.”

Alluding to Islamabad’s habit of raking up the Kashmir issue at various UN forums and committees, Tripathi said the country habitually makes baseless allegations without any relevance to the agenda under consideration and this has “become a staple for this delegation.”

She referred to Lodhi’s comments on Jammu and Kashmir during the October 29 debate as well as during a previous debate on the “Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”.

Asserting that India firmly rejects the baseless allegations, Tripathi said “the Council has not paid attention to such deceitful narratives in the past, and we are confident that the Council will continue to do so, to ensure that its agenda is not used as a ploy for furthering territorial ambitions.”

In her remarks to the debate, Tripathi underscored that violence against women and girls perpetrated by terrorists remain rampant and subjugation of women in public and in private spheres continue across situations that are on the agenda of the Council.

“It is important that the Council strives to effectively integrate women, peace and security considerations into sanctions regimes, including by listing terrorist entities involved in violence against women in armed conflicts,” she said.

Further, Tripathi highlighted the positive impacts of greater participation of women in UN peacekeeping but voiced concern that women make up only 4.2 per cent of military personnel in UN peacekeeping missions.

“We ought to encourage participation of all women units to achieve the set targets in this regard,” she said.

Tripathi pointed out that a trend in which in order to accommodate those who cannot fulfill the commitments of providing all women units to peacekeeping missions, mixed units are being given preference by diluting the policy frameworks.

“If this continues, we possibly cannot achieve the set targets,” she said as she added that India remains committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers and has deployed a Female Engagement Team in UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) earlier this year.

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Rajnath Singh arrives in Moscow to boost defence cooperation with Russia

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Moscow: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday arrived in Moscow on a three-day visit to Russia where he will discuss modalities pertaining to defence co-production between the two countries.

During his visit, the Defence Minister will co-chair the 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC) here.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defence, Singh is expected to hold extensive discussions with Defence Minister of Russia General Sergei Shoigu covering all areas of military-to-military cooperation and defence industrial cooperation.

 

He will also inaugurate, along with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, ‘India-Russia Defence Industry Cooperation Conference’.

The Conference will discuss ways to promote defence industrial cooperation between India and Russia, technology transfer and investment in India in the defence industry under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to visit St Petersburg where he will place a wreath at the Piskarevsky Memorial Cemetery honouring the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during the Second World War.

Last week, Singh had travelled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where he represented India at the Council of Heads of Government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

India and Uzbekistan signed three MoUs pertaining to military education and military medicine.

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UN chief continues to call for Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres continues to call for the Kashmir issue to be resolved through dialogue, saying any solution should be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people living in the Valley, his spokesperson has said.

Guterres will engage whenever he can with the two nations on the issue, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said at the daily press briefing here Thursday.

“The Secretary-General… has discussed the issue of Kashmir with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the Prime Minister of India, during the General Assembly and before,” he said.

 

Responding to a question on the situation in Kashmir, Dujarric said the UN chief has called and will continue to call for “the situation to be resolved through dialogue and that any solution be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people who live in Kashmir. So, that continues to be his position”.

Last month, the UN chief said that dialogue between India and Pakistan is an “absolute essential element” for resolving the Kashmir issue and his good offices are available if both sides ask for it while calling for the full respect of human rights.

India has always maintained that Jammu and Kashmir is its integral part and ruled out any third party mediation, including either from the UN or the US, saying it is a bilateral issue with Pakistan. The Secretary General has also repeatedly asserted that his good offices are available only if both sides ask for it.

On August 5, India withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. Several security restrictions were imposed in Kashmir as well as Jammu following the decision.

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