Posted on

China: US itself ‘closed door’ to trade talks with Beijing

BEIJING (Sputnik): A statement by the United States that Beijing is responsible for the failure of the China-US trade talks is untrue, Washington itself “closed the door” to dialogue, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said on Thursday.

According to the ministry’s spokesman, Gao Feng, “if one fully considers the development of the situation, it is the United States that has not kept its word and constantly changed its decisions, Washington has closed the door to bilateral negotiations.”

“We noted that the United States is carrying the policy of ‘psychological terror’ in trade by imposing tariffs against the entire world, while simultaneously expressing its grievances and [making] statements about its own innocence, trying to shift all the responsibility to others,” Gao added.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Chinese President Xi Jinping had no intention of following through on any of the trade reforms the two countries had discussed during several sessions of trade negotiations, adding that the talks have stalled at the moment.

On July 6, the US 25-percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods entered into force, prompting reciprocal action from Beijing.

The United States later threatened to impose 10 percent tariffs on another $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Posted on

Six EU states object to visa liberalization for Kosovo

BRUSSELS (Sputnik): At least six EU member states consider it premature to lift the visa regime for Kosovo residents, a diplomatic source in Brussels told Sputnik on Thursday.

“According to my information, in general, there is unanimity at the European Parliament, while at the Council six countries such as Spain, Greece, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Denmark, object to this,” the source said.

The European Commission confirmed on Wednesday that Kosovo had fulfilled all required benchmarks to move on with the liberalization of visa regime with the European Union.

It called on the European Parliament and the Council to approve the free movement for Kosovo citizens.

In June 2012, the European Commission delivered visa liberalization roadmap to Kosovo, stipulating a range of measures necessary to be taken by the self-proclaimed republic to advance toward visa suspension.

The commission’s requirements included document security, the fight against organized crime and border and migration management.


Posted on

Israel acts as US proxy in Syria with strikes on Iranian infrastructure

WASHINGTON (Sputnik): The recent increase in Israeli airstrikes on Iranian infrastructure in Syria reflects Israel’s emergence as a proxy for US efforts to halt Tehran’s military support for the Syrian government, according to a report on Thursday by the Soufan Group private intelligence organization.

“Israel’s use of air power in Syria has evolved from strikes on Iranian weapons shipments to large-scale strikes on bases and factories developed by Iran,” the report said.

By using its military power to prevent Iran from establishing an infrastructure in Syria, Israel is acting as a proxy for US efforts to roll back Iran’s regional influence, the report added.

As an example, the report cited an Israeli attack prior to the Trump-Putin summit on an Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force installation at Nayrab airfield near Aleppo, Israel’s deepest strike to date.

The report bases its overview on an assumption that both the US and Israel accept that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad will eventually regain control of most of the nation and that Russia will not attempt to prevent Israeli attacks on Iranian targets.

Iranian infrastructure in Syria includes drone bases, arms warehouses, and possibly factories to build rockets and Iran’s specialized anti-armor devices called explosively-formed projectiles, which have been used by Shia militias to attack US-made armored vehicles in Iraq.

Posted on

EU expresses concern over Israel’s new law

BRUSSELS (Reuters): The EU on Thursday said it was concerned about a new Israeli law which declares that only Jews have the right of self determination, and said it would complicate a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Israel passed the “nation-state” law earlier on Thursday after months of political argument. It was sharply criticised by the country’s Arab minority, who called it racist and verging on apartheid.

“We are concerned, we have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context,” a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told a news briefing. “We’ve been very clear when it comes to the two-state solution, we believe it is the only way forward.”

Posted on

Putin: Russia-US ties in many aspects much worse than during Cold War

MOSCOW (Sputnik): Russian President Putin has held a speech at a meeting of ambassadors and permanent representatives of Russia.

According to Vladimir Putin, though the US and Russia have embarked on the road of positive changes in the bilateral relations, the latter are much worse in many aspects than during the Cold War.

“We need a positive agenda aimed at working together to find common ground. We have talked about this, of course, at a meeting with US President Donald Trump [in Helsinki]. Even with all the difference in views, we agreed that Russian-American relations are in an extremely unsatisfactory state, in many respects even worse than during the Cold War,” Putin said. The president noted that it was impossible to solve the problems in a few hours.

“No one expected it, nevertheless, I believe that the path to positive changes has been paved,” Putin said. The president further said that Moscow was ready to partnership relations with all countries and international organizations.

“Our citizens want to see Russia as a strong, independent, peace-loving state. We are open to partnership, mutually beneficial and constructive relations with all countries and regional associations,” Putin said at a meeting with Russian ambassadors and envoys.

The Russian president noted that Russia’s diplomatic missions around the world were working professionally and smoothly.

“Our policy on ensuring global security and stability, countering new challenges and threats is certainly in demand around the world,” Putin stressed. According to Putin, Russia should develop relations with the European Union despite existing difficulties.

“We should seek to develop relations with the European Union which, despite current problems, remains one of our key trade partners. We share many economic interests with the European Union,” Putin said.Russia should develop new markets and overcome obstacles that impede the work of Russian companies abroad, Putin said, adding that Russia should not only enter top five of largest economies in the world but ensure high living standards, including through foreign policy.

“In the years to come, Russia should not only firmly enter top five of the largest economies in the world, but also significantly improve the living standards of our citizens. To achieve these strategic goals, we must make full use of opportunities in the area of foreign policy,” Putin said at a meeting with Russian ambassadors and envoys.

The Russian president noted that Russia had to develop new markets and overcome obstacles to the activities of its companies abroad.

The Russian president praised efforts made by US President Donald Trump in settling the North Korean issue and expressed hope that positive trends would lead to tangible results. “We expect that the positive trends that have been set, including thanks to the contribution of President Trump, will be further developed”, Putin said at the meeting.

According to Russia’s head of state, it’s necessary to prevent the uncontrollable growth of tensions in Iran, following the US exit from the JCPOA.

“This document plays a crucial role for the global non-proliferation regime. The task now is to preserve this key agreement and prevent an uncontrolled increase in tensions in the Middle East,” Putin said at a meeting with Russian ambassadors and envoys. Speaking about Ukraine, Putin said the risk for the escalation of the situation in the country’s east remained in place. “Serious risks — risks of aggravation of the situation — remain in the southeast of Ukraine. The reasons, in fact, are the same — the failure of the current Ukrainian authorities to comply with their commitments, the refusal to resolve the conflict peacefully. Over and over again, they demonstrate blatant neglect of agreements, unwillingness to hold dialogue with their citizens,” Putin said.

The Russian president noted further that Russia will react proportionally to the aggressive steps taken by NATO, those who want to include Ukraine or Georgia in the alliance should think about the consequences of such an irresponsible policy.

“We will react proportionally to such aggressive steps that pose a direct threat to Russia. Our colleagues, who… try to include, say, Ukraine or Georgia in the military orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy,” Putin said.


Posted on

Israel adopts divisive Jewish nation-state law

Monitoring Desk

JERUSALEM: The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) on Thursday approved a controversial “national law”, which Arab assembly members have blasted as “anti-democratic” and “extremist” in nature.

The law was approved — in both its second and third readings — by a vote of 62 to 55 in a tumultuous Knesset session in which Arab lawmakers slammed what they described as “Israeli racism against the Arab minority”.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the law “officially defines Israel as the ‘national homeland of the Jewish people’.”

It further states that a “united Jerusalem” is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country’s official language, stripping Arabic of its earlier designation as an official language but recognizing its “special status”.

The legislation’s most controversial article, however, which would have paved the way for the creation of “Jewish-only” communities in Israel, was removed from the draft before the vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hailed the legislation, describing its adoption by the Knesset as a “defining moment for Zionism and Israel”.

“One hundred and twenty-two years after [Zionist leader Theodore] Herzl articulated his vision, we have, with this law, determined the basic principle of our existence,” he said.

Netanyahu went on to describe Israel as the only country in the Middle East that “respects and honors the rights of its people”.

– Outrage

Following the vote, Arab lawmakers tore up copies of the bill while vocally criticizing its adoption, after which they were removed from the assembly.

As he was leaving, Arab MP Ahmad Tibi, addressing Netanyahu, yelled: “You are afraid of our Arabic language — that’s why you passed this racist law!”

Netanyahu swiftly retorted: “How dare you talk this way about the only democracy in the Middle East?”

Standing outside the assembly, Tibi described the legislation as the “final nail in the coffin of Israeli democracy”.

Arab lawmaker Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Knesset’s Joint Arab List, released a statement in which he said: “Israel has declared it does not want us here.

It has passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

But, he added, “We refuse to be second-class citizens; we will not allow the majority to humiliate and destroy us.”

“Netanyahu’s regime is digging a pit of fear, racism and authoritarianism,” Odeh asserted. “But they can never erase us from the homeland.”

Speaking to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, MP Avi Dichter of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, who sponsored the bill, answered the bill’s Arab critics: “The most you can do is live among us as a national minority that enjoys equal individual rights — but not equality as a national minority.”

According to Israel’s official statistics bureau, the self-proclaimed Jewish state’s total population stood at some 8.5 million as of the end of last year, roughly 20 percent of whom were Arab.

– Condemnation

Some Israeli politicians, too, voiced open condemnation of the legislation.

Tamar Zandberg, chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz Party, described the law as “shameful”.

“Zionism is no longer a national movement, but a forceful nationalism that humiliates the minority and establishes racial supremacy,” she said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) likewise condemned the bill and its passage.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat described it as “the consolidation and extension of [Israel’s] racist colonial legacy based on ethnic cleansing”.

“With this law,” Erekat said, “Israel has isolated itself from the international community.”

PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi, for her part, said in a statement that the national law “gives license to apartheid, discrimination, ethnic cleansing and sectarianism at the expense of the Palestinian people”.

She added: “Such racist and prejudicial legislation is illegal by all standards of international law, democracy, humanity, justice, tolerance and inclusion.”

Gaza-based resistance movement Hamas, meanwhile, said the legislation’s adoption “officially legitimizes Israeli racism”.

“This law targets the existence of Palestinians — and their historical rights — in their own land,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

He added: “These extremist laws could not have been adopted [by the Knesset] if the world was not silent in the face of Israel’s ongoing crimes and unlimited U.S. support for Israel’s racist and extremist policies.” AA



Posted on

Juncker slams Trump’s trade ‘provocations’, warns against attempts to divide EU

BRUSSELS (Sputnik): The transatlantic relationship between the US and Europe been seriously strained in recent weeks amid an escalating trade conflict between the US and European countries.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has announced temporary protective measures on the import of 23 categories of steel products into the EU, justifying the move by citing the consequences of US tariffs on European steel and aluminum introduced last month.

“We will continue to respond in a tit-for-tat manner to those provocations which may be introduced against us,” Juncker said, speaking to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

The official stressed that he “would like to make clear to the president of the United States” that “when it comes to trade, the EU forms an indivisible unit.” “So all efforts to divide Europeans are in vain,” Juncker added.

The EU’s so-called interim measures on 23 steel products include a 25 percent tariff on imports higher than the average over the past three years. The measures will step into effect Thursday and remain in place for up to 200 days.

In March, President Trump introduced 25 percent import duties on steel and 10 percent duties on aluminum.

Exemptions for the European Union, Canada and Mexico were scrapped in June, prompting Western allies to respond with billions in trade restrictions on US goods. Brussels slapped billions of dollars worth of tariffs on US jeans, motorcycles and whiskey.

President Trump threatened to strike back with a 20 percent tariff on European cars. US-EU relations have also suffered amid Washington’s threats against European companies doing business with Tehran following the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Juncker will visit Washington on July 25 to try to resolve the widening trade dispute. “It seems to me all these efforts to have bilateral ties, which must take place between our partners and the commission and therefore the EU, must be better explained,” he said Wednesday. “I go there calmly,” he stressed.


Posted on

EU fines Google $5B for illegal practices via Android

Monitoring Desk

BRUSSELS: The European Commission on Wednesday imposed a €4.34 billion ($5.06 billion) fine on Google for breaching the EU’s antitrust rules through Android.

For the last seven years Google has imposed illegal restrictions on device manufacturers and GSM operators who use its operating system — Android — to strengthen the dominance of its position in the search engine market, the commission said in a statement.

The commission added: “Google must now bring the conduct effectively to an end within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to 5 percent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.”

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that the Google case includes three types of restrictions to provide traffic to its search engine from Android devices.

“In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine,” she stressed. She said company policies have blocked rivals and denied a chance to innovation.

“They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” Vestager added. The commission said Google stipulates manufacturers must pre-install its search and browser applications to get the app store licenses, and it also made payments to manufacturers and GSM operators to pre-install its applications on devices.

“And [it] has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google,” the commission highlighted.

The Android mobile operating system, used by 80 percent of all smart mobile devices worldwide, was bought by Google in 2005. (AA)



Posted on

Iraqi president retires sitting members of parliament

Monitoring Desk

BAGHDAD: Iraqi President Fuad Masum on Wednesday issued a decree sending all 328 members of the country’s parliament into early retirement.

According to the presidential decree, the move is to be implemented by the current parliament speaker and minister of finance.

Under the terms of Iraq’s constitution, the current parliament’s mandate expired on June 30.

The assembly failed to extend its current term by modifying Iraq’s electoral laws to allow MPs to remain in place until a manual recount of parliamentary poll results — now underway — is completed. Results of the hard-fought May 12 election remain the subject of bitter dispute amid widespread allegations of voter fraud.

Once the recount is completed and Iraq’s Federal Court approves the new results, incoming members of parliament will hold a first session to elect a new assembly speaker and two deputies.

Within 30 days of the first parliamentary session, the assembly will elect — by a two-thirds majority — the country’s next president. The new president will then task the largest bloc in parliament with drawing up a new government to be referred back to parliament for approval within 30 days.

Earlier this month, Iraq’s official electoral commission began recounting the May 12 poll results amid widespread allegations of vote-rigging. (AA)


Posted on

Attack on Canadian Muslim being probed as hate crime

Monitoring Desk

TRENTON: A Muslim father remains in intensive care in a Toronto hospital after a horrific beating that police confirmed Wednesday is being investigated as a anti-Muslim hate crime.

Mohammed Abu Marzouk, 39, and his family – wife and four- and six-year-old daughters – were in their vehicle and about to return home from a picnic near a community center in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto, when two men walking by shouted an obscenity along with “terrorists.“

The pair began kicking the car. Marzouk got out and was attacked.

His wife Diana Attar begged for them to stop, then spotted a police car and ran to it for help.

When she returned, her husband was lying on the ground, bleeding profusely from his ear.

Marzouk was rushed to a Toronto trauma center where he was taken into surgery suffering from a brain hemorrhage and multiple fractures received in the Sunday beating. At first, police designed the beating as resulting from road rage, but upon further investigation authorities late Tuesday changed the incident to a hate crime.

“We were provided information that the initial incident started as a result of the road rage, a dispute that happened in the parking lot,” Peel Regional Police spokesperson Akhil Mooken said. “Witnesses subsequently came forward and talked to investigators and provided them with some statements that were made while the incident was unfolding by the two arrested and charged males.”

Two brothers aged 19 and 27 have been charged.

“They were calling them Arab terrorists, so clearly their religion, their ethnicity was playing a part in that,” said Ibrahim Hindy, imam of the Dar At-Tawheed mosque where the Marzouk family are members.

“We have to be concerned about hate against any community, but this is a significant issue that’s happening.”

Hindy pointed out that hate crimes reported to police in Mississauga substantially increased last year.

There were 158 cases in 2017, up from 59 in 2016. Of those, the highest number, 57, were directed toward Muslims.

“We as a society have to start recognizing the fact that hate is alive here,” he said.

Police have said the 2017 spike may be a result of more awareness of hate crimes and a resulting surge in the number reported to police, as well as an increase in far-right groups that espouse hate. (AA)