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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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India-Pak set to fight it out over Kashmir at UNHRC session

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India and Pakistan are set to battle it out over Kashmir during the ongoing 42nd UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session here on Tuesday. Both the countries have deployed their big guns for the “diplomatic offensive.”

The Indian delegation is led by Ajay Bisaria, the India High Commissioner to Pakistan who was sent back after Pakistan unilaterally downgraded ties, and Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary East. The delegation had recently met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and briefed her about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir since after the abrogation of Article 370.

On Monday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi embarked on a three-day visit to Geneva. He is expected to lead the Pakistani charge over Kashmir issue at the UNHRC session. On Monday, Qureshi in a tweet said Pakistan will speak “definitively” at UNHRC sessions over the Kashmir issue.

 

“Pakistan will speak definitively at the UNHRC Session in Geneva on the continued Indian atrocities in #Kashmir. As High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said: The People of Kashmir must be consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes,” he said in a tweet. During her address to the Human Rights Council, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday said that she was “deeply concerned” over the “impact of recent actions” by the Indian government on the “human rights of Kashmiris” including the detention of political leaders and activists in Jammu and Kashmir.. (ANI)

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Trump cancels peace talks with Taliban after Kabul bombing

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Washington/Islamabad, September 8: US President Donald Trump on Saturday said he cancelled peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders after the insurgent group said it was behind an attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier and 11 other people.

Trump said he had planned a secret meeting with the Taliban’s “major leaders” on Sunday at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he also planned to meet with Afghanistan’s President.

But Trump said he immediately called the talks off when the insurgents said they were behind the attack.

 

“If they cannot agree to a ceasefire during these very important peace talks, and would even kill 12 innocent people, then they probably don’t have the power to negotiate a meaningful agreement anyway,” Trump said on Twitter.

Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since 2001, launched fresh assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e-Khumri over the past week and carried out two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.

One of the blasts, a suicide attack in Kabul on Thursday, took the life of US Army Sergeant 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico, bringing the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 16.

A spike in attacks by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan has been “particularly unhelpful” to peace efforts there, a senior US military commander said on Saturday as he visited neighbouring Pakistan, where many Taliban militants are based.

US Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees American troops in the region, declined to comment on the diplomatic negotiations themselves.

Earlier this week, US and Taliban negotiators struck a draft peace deal which could lead to a drawdown in US troops from America’s longest war. But a wave of Taliban violence has cast a long shadow over the deal.

“It is particularly unhelpful at this moment in Afghanistan’s history for the Taliban to ramp up violence,” McKenzie, head of US Central Command, told reporters travelling with him.

McKenzie said for the peace process to move forward, “all parties should be committed to an eventual political settlement” which, in turn, should result in reduced violence.

“If we can’t get that going in, then it is difficult to see the parties are going to be able to carry out the terms of the agreement, whatever they might or might not be,” McKenzie said.

Under the draft accord, thousands of U.S. troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.

However, a full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on subsequent “intra Afghan” talks. The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire and instead stepped up operations across the country.

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333 Pak Twitter accounts suspended over Kashmir content

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Islamabad, Sep 5 : Pakistan has admitted that 333 Twitter accounts have been suspended for writing on Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.

The handles were suspended by Twitter following the objection by the Indian authorities in view of false and provocative content being disseminated through the accounts.

The Pakis­tan Telecommuni­cation Authority (PTA) raised the issue of suspension of tweets and blocking of Twitter accounts with the Twitter administration on Wednesday, reported Dawn news.

 

The PTA has termed the Twitter administration’s approach as biased. According to the statement issued by the regulator, it has also requested Pakistani social media users to report any Twitter account suspension on the pretext of posting Kashmir content to the PTA.

The PTA has already received 333 such complaints which were sent then to Twitter to be restored, however, only 67 accounts were restored, reported Dwn news.

The PTA said Twitter has not responded officially nor given any reason for the suspension of these accounts.

The regulator said it is already making efforts to engage with Twitter to ensure freedom of expression for social media users in Pakistan.

It said it has invited Twitter’s administration for a meeting in Pakistan or anywhere they prefer in order to have meaningful discussions and devise a workable arrangement. But Twitter is yet to respond, PTA said.

Dawn reported in August that some 200 Twitter accounts were suspended for apparently posting about Kashmir. The claim came from journalists, activists, government officials and fans of the military tweeting.

Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor had then said the authorities had taken up with Twitter and Facebook regarding the suspension of Pakistani social media accounts.

Under The Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016, PTA is the sole body that can officially block access to unlawful online content on the internet and take it up with relevant platforms in cases where the PTA is unable to block them because of technical grounds.

The telecom sector regulator has also asked the users of the microblogging site to register their concerns about the suspension of their tweets or blocking of their accounts at the email address [email protected] (IANS)

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