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Jordan on slippery slope in Syria war

Summary
Jordanian officials worry that allowing the transport of weapons to Syrian rebels across Jordanian territory could make it a target of retaliation, while opening up its borders to foreign fighters.

From al-monitor

Author Osama Al Sharif
Posted February 18, 2014

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan’s news media regarded King Abdullah’s meeting with US President Barack Obama on Feb. 14 at the Sunnylands estate in southern California a success.

Abdullah announced that the United States would renew a five-year aid package — worth $660 million annually — in addition to guaranteeing $1 billion in loans aimed at supporting Jordan’s frail economy. The two leaders discussed the Syrian crisis and the prospects of US efforts to conclude peace between Israel and the Palestinians, two issues that affect Jordan directly.

The meeting coincided with news from Geneva that the second round of peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition, under UN auspices, had failed. Speaking to reporters in the presence of Abdullah, Obama announced that he would be seeking “a more aggressive” and “immediate” stance on Syria, especially in delivering humanitarian aid. US Secretary of State John Kerry declared earlier that the president wanted to review fresh options on Syria and senior administration officials told reporters covering the king’s visit that all options remain on the table short of putting American boots on the ground.

These options remain undecided but observers here believe that the United States is considering supplying lethal arms to the Syrian rebels and that Jordan will soon find itself involved in this operation. On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal, quoting an unidentified Arab official and opposition sources, reported that Saudi Arabia would deliver Chinese man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADs, and anti-tank guided missiles from Russia to the rebels. It said that such weapons were already in warehouses in Jordan and Turkey.

And popular columnist Abdel Bari Atwan wrote this week that former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford had asked the Syrian National Council to “heat up” the southern front in Daraa to increase pressure on the Assad regime. Atwan wrote that opening up the southern front, most of which is under the control of the Free Syrian Army, would certainly drag Jordan into the Syria crisis.

Since the collapse of the Geneva talks last week, the Syrian regime has widened the scope of its military operations, launching a sustained attack in the Qalamoun Mountains, north of Damascus, to occupy the strategic town of Yabrud. Kerry accused the Russians of enabling the Syrian government’s “pursuit of a military path.” The Russians retorted by blaming the opposition for the failure in Geneva. It is clear that the coming weeks will witness an increase in military confrontations.

Jordan had always denied reports that it had facilitated the passage of fighters and arms through its borders with Syria. The Syrian regime had warned Jordan not to get involved or bow to US and Saudi pressures. But since the summit in California, Jordanian officials have refused to comment on news that arms would be sent across the borders to Syrian rebels.

In fact, on Feb. 17 the government announced that the armed forces had prevented fighters from crossing from Syria to Jordan, wounding at least three. Jordan’s Salafists claimed that the army is not allowing Jordanian citizens, fighting in Syria, to return to Jordan.

It is not clear how Jordan will react to a Saudi or US request to deliver arms to Syrian rebels in Daraa. If the southern front did heat up, it would be a serious development for Jordan. The kingdom already hosts over 600,000 Syrian refugees, mostly from southern Syria. If fresh fighting flared up in that region, it would create new waves of refugees. But more important, it would bring the fighting closer to Jordan’s borders.

Jordan has tried to distance itself from calls for regime change in Syria. In California, Abdullah underlined the need for a political solution in Syria without going into details. Jordan has kept the Syrian Embassy open in Amman while officials have deliberately avoided meeting the head of the Syrian National Council, Ahmad al-Jarba, publicly. Unconfirmed reports spoke of occasional intelligence cooperation between Amman and Damascus over the passage of arms and fighters.

Officials here would neither confirm nor deny Jordan’s participation last week in a secret meeting of top intelligence chiefs from regional and Western countries. The meeting in Washington, reported by The New York Times, included intelligence officials from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France and the United Arab Emirates, and several others from the 11-nation group known as the Friends of Syria. The purpose of the meeting, the newspaper said, was to discuss “how to best provide that new lethal aid to rebel groups.”

Jordan’s role in facilitating arms delivery through its borders is an open issue. Officials here insist that Jordan will have no such role, but if the southern front does explode then things could change on the ground. Abdullah has described Jordan as an oasis of stability in the region. So far it has avoided getting sucked into the Syrian crisis and averted any spillover. Obama’s fresh options on Syria, which include sending arms to the rebels, could end all that.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/jordan-syria-war-slippery-slope.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=1f1e05ec4f-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-1f1e05ec4f-93145129#ixzz2tpCkRCTZ

Turkey defers to Baghdad on oil from Iraqi Kurdistan

With hundred of thousands of barrels of its oil stuck in the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, unable to be sold on the world market because of its continuing row with Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is discovering just how landlocked and boxed in it is in terms of utilizing the vast oil reserves under its control.

Summary
Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has been conducting shuttle diplomacy between Baghdad and Ankara to facilitate an agreement.

From al-monitor

Author Semih Idiz
Posted February 18, 2014
Translator(s)Ezgi Akin

KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani shuttled between Istanbul and Baghdad again in the last few days in a fresh attempt at overcoming the problem, but with little apparent success. Baghdad appears determined to stick to its guns and prevent the KRG from selling oil from northern Iraq unilaterally, saying this violates Iraq’s constitution.

Baghdad also has support from Washington, where administration officials fear the energy cooperation between Turkey and the KRG will increase the risk of splitting up Iraq — already in the throes of sectarian strife — and are consequently putting pressure on Ankara over its energy dealings with the Iraqi Kurds.

Iraq’s constitution says oil revenues, regardless of where the reserves are located in the country, have to go through Baghdad and allocates the autonomous Kurdish region 17% of total revenues.

Nouri al-Maliki’s government argues that the KRG can only export its oil after an agreement is reached between Erbil and Baghdad on how to proceed in this matter.

Baghdad has also threatened to cut the KRG out of its share of Iraq’s vast oil revenues, should it go ahead and sell its oil unilaterally.

Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi told Reuters in January that the government would take legal action against Turkey and consider canceling all contracts with Turkish firms if Ankara enabled the exporting of KRG oil before an agreement between Erbil and Baghdad is reached.

Such an agreement, though, has been elusive because of Kurdish claims of sole ownership over oil reserves discovered in northern Iraq after the region gained political autonomy from Baghdad following the US invasion in 2003.

KRG officials are disappointed that a comprehensive package of agreements they signed with Turkey in November 2013 has not become fully operational yet.

The package includes an agreement on multibillion-dollar oil pipelines connecting northern Iraq with Turkey, which would enable the KRG to eventually export up to 2 million barrels of oil per day when fully implemented, making it an important regional energy player independent of the central government.

Currently the KRG is using the existing pipeline from Kirkuk — which technically remains under Baghdad’s control — to Ceyhan where Turkey has a storage capacity of 2.5 million barrels set aside for Kurdish oil. As of December, when the KRG’s connection to the Kirkuk pipeline was opened, the 425,000 barrels of Kurdish oil has been stored in Ceyhan waiting to be sold on world markets.

In the meantime, the KRG has been trucking small amounts of crude oil to Turkey for domestic consumption, but this is considered to be negligible compared with the potential that exists if the proposed system of pipelines is fully up and running.

There has been little love lost between the predominantly Sunni government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the predominantly Shiite Maliki government because of Turkey’s cooperation with the KRG in the energy field, as well as sectarian-based differences over Syria.

Ankara nevertheless appears reluctant to aggravate the situation with Iraq further given the increasing instability and turmoil in the region due to the Syria crisis, which has also left the two countries facing similar threats, especially from radical jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

There is also the estimated trade of about $12 billion annually between Turkey and Iraq that experts say has to be factored in by Ankara. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the Iraqi capital in November for talks designed to smooth the path for a rapprochement between the sides and to lay the groundwork for a visit by Erdogan to Baghdad and Maliki to Ankara.

Those visits have yet to occur, however, and this may be an indication that differences remain which still have to be ironed out. Meanwhile, Iraqi officials are said to be still suspicious of Turkey’s intentions.

“Turkey must now choose either to turn its back on Baghdad and go ahead with its deal with the Kurds, or suspend direct exports from the region until an agreement is reached between the central government and Erbil,” Reuters quoted an unnamed Iraqi official as saying in January.

“Unfortunately, facts on the ground show that Ankara eventually will go ahead with its deals with the Kurds at the expense of its relations with Baghdad,” the official added.

Iraqi suspicions increased after media reports in Turkey indicated that the first batch of KRG oil in Ceyhan, worth $90 million, had been sold through the Trans Petroleum Co. in Singapore without approval from Baghdad.

Ankara, however, has denied these reports. “Even if a barrel of oil had passed through Ceyhan, Baghdad would have been informed of this and a daily receipt would have been given to the central government noting how much of a sale was made,” Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told members of the Petroleum Platform Association in the city of Kayseri on Feb. 17.

“This is Iraq’s oil, not Turkey’s. Thus, Baghdad will be informed, because it is an issue related to Iraq’s income. So far, there has not been any oil that has gone through Ceyhan, but this does not mean it won’t be transferred in the future. We’ll share all information with Baghdad,” Yildiz added.

Barzani arrived in Istanbul on Feb. 14, where he held talks with Erdogan and Yildiz to see how the problem could be overcome. Two days later, he was in Baghdad for talks on the topic, which reportedly produced little, if any, results.

The KRG and the central government have failed to resolve their differences despite a US-sponsored “seven-point agreement” signed between Barzani and Maliki in April 2013.

Tellingly, though, the sides were not prepared to give the impression of a breakdown in talks after Barzani’s failed mission to Baghdad this week. “Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani emphasized the importance of reaching an agreement over the outstanding issues between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq,” a statement from Maliki’s office in Baghdad said later, indicating that the talks would go on.

Meanwhile, there are those who argue that the KRG and Baghdad are actually making progress. Reuters quoted Mehmet Sepil, the president of Anglo-Turkish firm Genel Energy, on Feb. 6 as saying, “We have never been this close to a deal.” Sepil added, “The issues that caused an impasse have been identified. There’s been quite a bit of progress made.”

While the KRG and Baghdad remain locked in tough negotiations, the Kurdish media are reporting that the KRG is ultimately relying on the presence in northern Iraq of giant international oil companies, including ExxonMobil of the United States, Total of France and Gazprom Neft of Russia, to alter the picture to the KRG’s advantage.

“These companies are so powerful that they can change national policies,” the English-language edition of the Kurdish daily Rudaw reported on Feb. 17, also indicating that “from the very beginning of the row (with Baghdad) it has been obvious that, one way or another, Kurdish oil will flow overseas.”

The Financial Times, in a report on Jan. 26 bound to have displeased the Kurdish leadership, indicated, however, that although Kurdish crude is now flowing to Ceyhan, where it is being stored, major oil companies are shying away from responding to the KRG’s call for bids for this oil.

“We will not be involved in KRG tenders until we have a much better understanding of the ramifications for our relationship with Iraq,” the paper quoted an unnamed senior executive from what it said was one of the world’s largest energy companies.

It’s “obvious that, one way or another, Kurdish oil will flow overseas,” as Rudaw put it, but it seems that this will not be exclusively on Kurdish terms if the emerging picture is anything to go by.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/turkey-baghdad-oil-kurdistan-region-iraq.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=1f1e05ec4f-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-1f1e05ec4f-93145129#ixzz2tp8sMNg8

Campaigners welcome Hamid Karzai’s intervention on domestic abuse law

Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul
theguardian.com, Tuesday 18 February 2014

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has blocked a law that would silence victims of domestic violence, forced marriage and child abuse and demanded major revisions after a campaign by Afghan activists and western diplomats.

The legislation bans relatives from testifying against each other, and in a country where forensic evidence is relatively undeveloped, that would effectively halt prosecution in even the most vicious cases of violence against women, including those mutilated by their husbands or attacked by brothers and fathers.

The provision was inserted into a new criminal prosecution code, much needed and years in the making, at the last minute. It was steered through parliament by a prominent opponent of women’s rights, and conservative MPs resisted efforts to moderate the strict controls.

They apparently also had backing from some sections of government; early on Monday, a justice ministry official told the Guardian that western embassies had simply “misunderstood” the law, and that the expected confusion be resolved soon and without any changes needed.

But just a few hours later, a cabinet meeting chaired by Karzai ordered alterations to the brief section of the law causing the problems, his spokeswoman Adela Raz said. “At the meeting, His Excellency the President, and the cabinet, decided that article 26 needs to be amended.”

She declined to say how the law would be altered, but the public repudiation of what would have been a devastating step backwards for Afghan women was welcomed by activists and diplomats. They had mounted a vigorous lobbying campaign, both in public and behind the scenes, since the legislation first came to light earlier this month.

“Who says advocacy and lobbying does not work? It does and we have seen results!” campaigner Samira Hamidi said, celebrating on Twitter. The European Union welcomed Karzai’s decision to “stop [a] setback for women’s rights”.

The United States, which had previously issued only a brief statement of concern about the law, welcomed Karzai’s decision as a “response to the concerns expressed by many Afghans and their international partners”.

Five years ago, after a similar campaign against a family law that appeared to allow marital rape, the Afghan president ripped up the legislation and shepherded a more moderate version through the houses of parliament.

Raz denied that the president, currently at odds with the US over issues from the election to the long-term presence of foreign troops, had been slow to respond to the latest law in response to foreign or domestic pressure. The draft had been held up by bureaucracy, and Karzai demanded changes as soon as it reached his desk, she said.

“As soon as it arrived, it was brought to the cabinet as any law would be for discussion, and like anyone else who is concerned about women’s rights, they responded,” she said, adding that Karzai had a track record of supporting women. “In the past you have seen that the president is someone who has made sure women’s rights are protected according to the laws of the country.”

Whatever his personal views, Karzai has presided over a strengthening of factions opposed to women’s rights during his latest term in office. In the last year alone parliament has blocked a law to curb violence against women and cut the quota for women on provincial councils, while the justice ministry has floated a proposal to bring back stoning as a punishment for adultery.

Activists also say the change to the law as currently planned would still leave women more vulnerable than they are now. It allows relatives to testify against each other if they wish but does not grant any legal rights to call them to the stand. An amended draft in circulation now says that relatives of the accused have a right “not to answer questions”, according to an international diplomat following the case.

Protections in most countries exempt only husbands and wives from a legal obligation to testify against each other, while the new Afghan law covers a very wide range of relatives, from a mother’s great-uncle to a brother’s grandchildren. Especially in close-knit villages, this could potentially allow dozens of key witnesses to avoid giving evidence.

“We are cautiously optimistic after hearing statements from the palace,” said Heather Barr, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, which first raised concerns about the law. “We need to see the exact language before we can know whether it will really fix the problem.

“President Karzai’s decision today is an indication that this kind of international reaction still makes a difference, and we would beg diplomats not to sit by next time there is an attack on women’s rights, because there will be one,” she added.

However, along with the demands to protect modest gains in women’s rights since the fall of the Taliban, there is also some pressure for a fast resolution of the current standoff, because Afghanistan is in desperate need of a new criminal prosecution code.

Stephen Hawking – “What’s happening in Syria is an abomination”

“We must use our human intelligence to end this war. As a father, I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and say: no more.”

by Stephen Hawking

theguardian.com, Monday 17 February 2014 18.00 AEST

‘Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent.’

The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that the universe had existed for ever. The reason humanity was not more developed, he believed, was that floods or other natural disasters repeatedly set civilisation back to the beginning.

Today, humans are developing ever faster. Our knowledge is growing exponentially and, with it, our technology. But humans still have the instincts, and in particular the aggressive impulses, that we had in caveman days. Aggression has had definite advantages for survival, but when modern technology meets ancient aggression the entire human race and much of the rest of life on Earth is at risk.

Today in Syria we see modern technology in the form of bombs, chemicals and other weapons being used to further so-called intelligent political ends. But it does not feel intelligent to watch as more than 100,000 people are killed or while children are targeted. It feels downright stupid, and worse, to prevent humanitarian supplies from reaching clinics where, as Save the Children will document in a forthcoming report, children are having limbs amputated for lack of basic facilities, and newborn babies are dying in incubators for lack of power.

What’s happening in Syria is an abomination, one that the world is watching coldly from a distance. Where is our emotional intelligence, our sense of collective justice?

When I discuss intelligent life in the universe, I take this to include the human race, even though much of its behaviour throughout history appears not to have been calculated to aid the survival of the species. And while it is not clear that, unlike aggression, intelligence has any long-term survival value, our very human brand of intelligence denotes an ability to reason and plan for not only our own but also our collective futures.

We must work together to end this war and to protect the children of Syria. The international community has watched from the sidelines for three years as this conflict rages, engulfing all hope. As a father and grandfather I watch the suffering of Syria’s children and must now say: no more.

I often wonder what we must look like to other beings watching from deep space. As we look out at the universe, we are looking back in time, because light leaving distant objects reaches us much, much later. What does the light emitting from Earth today show? When people see our past, will we be proud of what they are shown – how we, as brothers, treat each other? How we allow our brothers to treat our children?

We now know that Aristotle was wrong: the universe has not existed for ever. It began about 14bn years ago. But he was right that great disasters represent major steps backward for civilisation. The war in Syria may not represent the end of humanity, but every injustice committed is a chip in the facade of what holds us together. The universal principle of justice may not be rooted in physics but it is no less fundamental to our existence. For without it, before long, human beings will surely cease to exist.

• A version of this article appeared in the Washington Post

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And now for inspiring… One Billion Rising is making Valentine’s Day meaningful with these actions to empower women against domestic violence. Ahhooo.

Former Israeli official: Demand for recognition as Jewish state ‘nonsense’

From

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Former Mossad Chief Meir Dagan has dismissed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, calling it “nonsense”.

Dagan stated that ‘If we look at the UN resolution on [partition and] the establishment of the state of Israel in 1947, it clearly says that Israel is a Jewish state. So, now we are demanding such recognition from the Palestinian state? We seek recognition of the character of our country from a country that does not even exist?’

According to the Israeli news website Walla!, Dagan said during a closed lecture in Tel-Aviv that “asking the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state is nonsense.”

Dagan noted that: “If we look at the UN resolution on [partition and] the establishment of the state of Israel in 1947, it clearly says that Israel is a Jewish state.”

He continued: “So, now we are demanding such recognition from the Palestinian state? We seek recognition of the character of our country from a country that does not even exist?”

Instead of calling for this recognition, Dagan pointed out that it would be better for Israel to refuse the right of return for Palestinian refugees and insist that they receive citizenship in the states where they are living now, from Lebanon to the Gulf countries. Unlike recognition, he argued, the Palestinian refugees pose a real danger to the Jewish state.

Regarding Jerusalem, Dagan noted that it is not a Palestinian issue, but an Islamic one. Thus, he argued that Israel has “to include Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Morocco in any talks” about the fate of the holy city, because “if Israel reaches a deal with these countries about Jerusalem, Abu-Mazen will be able to take difficult decisions about it,” referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Dagan also warned that Israel needs an agreement with the Palestinians not for the interests of Palestinians, “but for Israel’s interests.”

South African Parliamentary Conference backs boycott of Israel

From

Monday, 10 February 2014

South Africa’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee held a “Solidarity Conference in Support of the Peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba” on Thursday, 6th February. The session was opened by an icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, Ahmed Kathrada. He was followed to the podium by South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations, Marius Fransman; the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations, Mr Tisetso Magama, MP; and the Ambassadors of Cuba, Palestine and Western Sahara.

The Palestine solidarity human rights organisation, BDS South Africa, welcomed the resolutions and recommendations of the conference. In particular, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign group was pleased to see the recommendation to forward the 2009 Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report, which found Israel guilty of Apartheid, to international bodies including the International Parliamentary Union, the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the African Union.

The parliamentary conference was attended by MPs as well as a wide range of civil society organisations including representatives from South Africa’s largest trade union, COSATU; the South African Communist Party (SACP); the African National Congress (ANC); the African National Congress Youth League (ANC Youth League); the Congress of the People (COPE); the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF); the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP); the Friends of Cuba Society (FOCUS); the Western Sahara Solidarity Forum; Kairos Southern Africa; the Media Review Network (MRN); African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP); BDS South Africa and some members of the South African Jewish community who identify with the struggles of Palestine, Cuba and Western Sahara.

“The solidarity conference is a first of its kind in parliament,” explained Mr Magama. “It is a culmination of extensive work carried out… in response to the call by President Zuma in his successive State of the Nation addresses since 2010, with a message that solidarity should feature as a strong element of South Africa’s internationalism… The primary focus of the conference is to make the people of South Africa aware of the common challenges facing the peoples of Cuba, Palestine and Western Sahara relating to the denial of human rights.”

The full list of recommendations and resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary conference on the issue of Palestine follows below.

SOUTH AFRICAN PARLIAMENT’S INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS CONFERENCE

RESOLUTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON PALESTINE

06 February 2014

1. South Africa has a legal obligation under the Rome Statute to set up a special court to deal with war crimes, this needs to be urgently setup. South Africa must expeditiously deal with the “Gaza Docket” and deal with South Africans serving in the Israeli Defence Force;

2. The 2009 Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report that found Israel guilty of Apartheid should be adopted by South Africa’s Parliament and by the South African government. The HSRC report must also be referred to international bodies including the International Parliamentary Union, the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and the African Union.

3. South Africa has a legal obligation and must stop all financial transactions with Israeli settlement companies as well as banks and companies involved in the Israeli settlements. This would be in line with developments in Europe and other countries.

4. On the global arena South Africa must lobby for the financial and other support of the Palestinians for socioeconomic development after the end of the illegal Israeli occupation.

5. The South African government must support Palestinian students, as a concrete act of solidarity, similar to how India, Cuba and other countries supported South Africa during the 1980s.

6. Entrance into South Africa for Palestinians must be made easier.

7. The Palestinian health system must be supported beyond people capacity. Infrastructure in Gaza, West Bank and refugee camps must be supported.

8. Conference supports the Robben Island Declaration for the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and all Palestinian Political prisoners.

9. Conference supports the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) issued by the majority of Palestinians. Complete military, financial and political sanctions must be applied against Israel until it complies with all applicable UN resolutions and international law and ends its occupation.

10. All South African political parties must clearly communicate their stance on the plight of the Palestinian people and make it timeously known in the build-up to 2014 elections.

11. Witness and solidarity visits to Palestine should be encouraged, for example, through the World Council of Churches EAPPI programme.

12. South Africa should build and strengthen an international diplomatic block in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

13. The South African government and parliament must campaign for Israel to be suspended from the SWIFT banking network.

14. Palestinian reconciliation efforts must be encouraged and supported.

15. Our government and parliament must table the above at the AU, UN and IPU.

International Women’s Day Delegation to Gaza 2014

Ed. note; While CODEPINK still does International Solidarity with a simplistic bring our dollars home approach, all publicity is good publicity on this front and a delegation to Gaza this March could as they say be very interesting.

END

A call for Delegates.

Answering a call from the women of Gaza, CODEPINK is forming a US delegation of 15 women who will join with a larger international women’s coalition traveling to Gaza for International Women’s Day 2014.

The purpose of the delegation is show solidarity with the women of Gaza, to bring attention to the unbearable suffering caused by the Israeli blockade, to educate people back in our home countries, to push for opening the Gaza borders and to bring solar lamps to help with the electricity shortage.

We will meet in Cairo on March 5. We will attempt to enter Gaza on March 6 and return from Gaza on March 12, 2014. Due to the political and security issues in Egypt, there are no guarantees that we will be able to get into Gaza. If we get to Gaza, we will spend our time meeting with women’s groups, human rights leaders, fisherfolk, farmers, UN representatives, youth activists and journalists. If we do not get into Gaza, we will make your time in Cairo very worthwhile.

Sushil Koirala set to become Nepal Prime Minister

From the Hindu

by Damakant Jayshi

Kathmandu, February 9, 2014

Reconciling their differences over power-sharing that was beginning to deepen the political impasse, the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML signed a seven-point agreement on Sunday paving the way for Sushil Koirala as the new Prime Minister.

Soon after, NC President Koirala filed his nomination in the Parliament for Monday’s election and thanked the UML for its support. “The responsibility to draft a democratic Constitution is on the shoulders of the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML,” Mr. Koirala told media persons after filing his nomination.

“We will prepare the draft of the Constitution in six months and promulgate in a year.”

With this expression of support, Mr. Koirala is assured of getting elected unopposed. He would still need to enter the election process as per the Interim Constitution, since the election is being held under majority provision.

NC vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel is set to propose his name and the CPN-UML’s newly elected Parliamentary Party leader K.P. Oli would second the proposal.

As per the agreement between the two parties, there would be no election for the post of President and Vice-President for now, a demand that UML had insisted upon until the last moment.

The election for these two posts — and for the Prime Minister and Speaker of the House — would be held after the Constitution is made public (in a year) but before it comes into effect.

However, the NC agreed to the UML’s suggestion of having the President and the Vice-President endorsed by the Parliament. The parties agreed to amend the Interim Constitution incorporating this provision.

They also agreed to draft the Constitution according to the spirit of all the agreements reached in the past — right from the 12-point agreement reached in New Delhi in 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Interim Constitution and the mandate expressed by the people in the November election.

As a sop to Unified CPN (Maoist) and Madhesi parties, the deal says it would own the agreements reached by the last Constituent Assembly, a move likely to be challenged by the fourth largest party, the RPP (Nepal). The pro-monarchy party has opposed any adoption of pacts of the last CA, arguing that it would be a violation of the mandate of the recent election.

The NC also agreed to support the UML nominee as chairman of the Constituent Assembly (who will also function as Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament).

This point was added to an earlier draft agreement.

Within a week of government formation, the Cabinet would announce a common minimum programme and a code of conduct for cabinet members.

The deal was signed after the CPN-UML decided on Sunday to support an NC-led government.

The highest decision-making body of the CPN-UML, the standing committee, took the decision to support Mr. Koirala.

“The UML has decided to support an NC-led government,” CPN-UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal told mediapersons after the meeting of the party’s Standing Committee.

Keywords: Nepali Congress, Sushil Koirala, Nepal politics, Jhala Nath Khanal
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Six hundred Syrians flee besieged Old Homs in aid convoy

By Dominic Evans

BEIRUT Sun Feb 9, 2014 3:14pm EST

(Reuters) – Six hundred people left the besieged ruins of rebel-held central Homs on Sunday, escaping more than a year of hunger and deprivation caused by one of the most protracted blockades of Syria’s devastating conflict.

The evacuees, mainly women, children and old men, were brought out by the United Nations and Syrian Red Crescent on the third day of an operation during which the aid convoys came under fire and were briefly trapped themselves in the city.

siege ofHoms

Video footage from inside Homs showed scores of residents, carrying a few bags of possessions, rushing across an open expanse of no-man’s land towards 10 white vehicles with U.N. markings. Gunshots could be heard as they raced to the cars.

“The last vehicle has arrived and the total is 611 people,” Homs governor Talal Barazi told regional Arab broadcaster Al Mayadeen at a meeting point for evacuees outside the city.

The Red Crescent confirmed that around 600 people were evacuated and said 60 food parcels and more than a ton of flour were delivered to the Old City.

Barazi and Red Crescent officials said they were working to extend the operation beyond Sunday, the final day of a fragile and frequently violated three-day ceasefire in the city.

homs_map976x617_2.gif cachebuster=cb00000002 map clickable

Some of those who came out were men of fighting age who were not originally eligible to leave, Barazi said, but they had agreed to hand themselves over to police and judicial authorities and could win their freedom through amnesty.

Authorities suspect all men of fighting age to be part of rebel forces fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad’s authorities and rebel fighters have traded accusations of responsibility for attacks on Saturday which stranded the joint United Nations and Red Crescent team in central Old Homs for several hours after dark on Saturday.

The convoy was targeted as the relief workers were handing over food and medical supplies in the district where the United Nations says 2,500 people had been stranded by an ever-tightening military siege since the mid-2012.

The Red Crescent said one driver was lightly wounded but the rest of the team eventually left safely.

Video footage released by activists showed the team, led by U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria Yacoub el Hillo, taking refuge on Saturday in a basement while explosions rocked the rubble-strewn, devastated streets above them.

In another video filmed inside Homs on Saturday, Hillo said the aid supplies, including food parcels, medicines and hygiene kits, were just a drop in the ocean when set against the conditions endured by people trapped for months on end.

“When I look around me and see the level of need, and suffering of all – especially the children, the women and the elderly – let me say that even though it’s a significant amount of medical and nutritional aid, it’s still just a drop,” he said. “But let’s start with this drop.”

On Friday, the first of the planned three-day humanitarian operation in Homs, 83 women, children and elderly men were evacuated, significantly fewer than the 200 which the city governor had predicted.

Many showed signs of malnutrition, the United Nations said.

BARREL BOMBS IN ALEPPO

Syria’s conflict has killed 130,000 people, driven millions from their homes and devastated whole city districts – particularly in Homs, a centre of protest when the 2011 uprising against 40 years of Assad family rule first erupted.

The evacuation of civilians and delivery of aid was the first concrete, though modest, result of talks launched two weeks ago in Switzerland to try to end the civil war.

At the Geneva peace talks, which resume on Monday, international mediator Lakhdar Brahimi has been pushing for agreement on aid deliveries and prisoner releases, hoping progress on those issues could build momentum to address the far more contentious question of political transition.

The view from the Syria talks.

The view from the Syria talks.

Assad’s government has rejected out of hand any surrender of power in Geneva, and on the ground his forces have made gains while rival rebel forces battle each other in the north and east of the country.

If anything the scale of violence – including internecine rebel fighting, clashes with Assad’s forces and government bombardment – has escalated since the delegates held their first face-to-face meeting just over a fortnight ago.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad monitoring group, said that 304 people were killed across the country on Saturday, including more than 100 civilians.

And in a sign of deep skepticism towards peace talks shared by the opposing parties inside Syria, neither the authorities nor the activists in Homs credited the Geneva talks for the weekend evacuations and aid deliveries.

Homs governor Barazi said the operation had been planned months ago but had been hit by delays, while several Homs activists – angered by a second day of bombardment which killed five people – bitterly criticized the Geneva negotiations.

“Today we have five martyrs and yesterday we had five,” one activist said, pointing to a row of corpses being prepared for wrapping in burial shrouds. “Every day the world sees this regime’s crimes and it remains silent.”

On Sunday, activists reported at least 11 people were killed in the northern city of Aleppo when helicopters dropped barrel bombs on rebel-held neighborhoods.

Video footage purporting to show the aftermath of one such attack in the Haidariya district showed at least nine corpses, including one child, scattered across a wide highway, flooded by a broken water pipe.

Cars were still on fire and black smoke rose from the flames. Wounded men were carried into ambulances and one man could be seen carrying a severed leg from the scene, as women screamed in grief.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Karzai to Ratify anti-woman laws

President Karzai is about to ratify a law that would prevent relatives testifying against men accused of domestic violence.

A law that would permit Afghan men to hurt and rape female relatives.

by ManizhaNaderi

theguardian.com,

Thursday 6 February 2014

Gulnaz, 19, was raped by a cousin but found guilty of adultery and jailed for 12 years. Her daughter was born on the floor of her prison cell.

It is hard sometimes to describe the enormous efforts taken by the Afghan political elite and conservative lawmakers to roll back hard won progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan. Here we have yet another frightening example: a new law, passed by both houses of the Afghan parliament and waiting for President Hamid Karzai’s ratification, would prohibit the questioning of relatives of an accused perpetrator of a crime, effectively eliminating victim testimony in cases of domestic violence.

In article 26 of the proposed change in the criminal prosecution code, those prohibited from testifying would include: husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and descendants of those relatives up to the second generation. Doctors and psychiatrists would also be banned from giving evidence.

This proposed law is particularly troubling in a country where violence against women is endemic and, most commonly, is at the hands of a relative. In a 2008 study, Global Rights found that 87% of Afghan women will experience some form of violence in their lifetime; 62% experience multiple forms of violence, including forced marriage and sexual violence.

Women for Afghan Women (WAW) can attest to these findings. Over 90% of the nearly 10,000 women and girls we have served since 2007 have been victims of domestic violence. Our clients have been raped, sold, beaten, starved and mutilated – primarily at the hands of a family member, or in some cases, multiple family members.

Should Karzai sign this law into effect, justice for these women would be virtually impossible. Not only would they be barred from testifying against family members who committed crimes against them, any family member who witnessed the crime would be barred as well.

Under the proposals, WAW clients, such as 15-year-old Sahar Gul who was kept in a basement and tortured by her in-laws, would have been robbed, not only of justice, but of the opportunity to reclaim her power and testify against her tormentors. Furthermore, the doctors who treated her bloodied, malnourished, and burned body would also be barred from testifying. Sahar Gul’s in-laws are serving a five-year prison sentence for torturing her. Had the new measure been law in 2012, her in-laws would likely be free to torture and abuse more women.

Other clients, such as 16-year-old Naziba who was raped by her father, would be left with no other option but to live with the abuse. At Naziba’s rape trial, her mother and uncles courageously testified against her father, and he is now serving a 12-year prison sentence. If Naziba’s relatives had been barred from testifying on her behalf, Naziba’s father might still be raping her today.

The timing of this proposed change to the law is important: a recent report by UN Women found that reported cases of violence against women was up 28% in the past year. This finding is significant because it illustrates that Afghan women are beginning to understand their rights and demand access to them.

Since 2007, our organisation has worked hard to build coalitions with local police departments, government ministries and court officials. As a result of our advocacy, these agencies are referring more and more victims to our services, instead of sending them back home or imprisoning them for running away. In some provinces, such as Kabul, the police are our biggest ally – they refer more women than any other agency. This gives us hope, illustrating that there has been a shift in attitude and perception about violence against women, not only among Afghan women, but at an institutional level as well.

However, should Karzai ratify this law, I fear that women would stop coming forward because prosecutions would be nearly impossible to secure. As an organisation that has been working tirelessly to obtain justice for women and girls who have suffered so much and so needlessly, our hands would be tied. There would be little we could do.

We, along with other human rights activists, refuse to stand back and allow this to happen. The stakes are too high and the consequences too horrific to imagine.

Abolish Prisons?

Pussy Riot Disown Freed Bandmates in Open Letter

From

Six members of Russian punk rock activist group Pussy Riot have signed an open letter, published on their Livejournal page, insisting the recently released Maria Alyokhina (Masha) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (Nadia) are no longer members of the Pussy Riot collective.

The authors of the letter claim the two had forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group” because “they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons.” The letter was published just after Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were introduced onstage by Madonna at an Amnesty International concert in New York.

“It is no secret that Masha and Nadia are no longer members of the group, and will no longer take part in radical actionism,” read the letter. “Now they are engaged in a new project, as institutionalised advocates of prisoners’ rights.”

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova started the non-governmental human rights group Zona Prava (Justice Zone) after being released from prison last year. According to the open letter the pair have repeatedly told the media that they no longer belong to Pussy Riot, but their statements have so far been ignored.

“In almost every interview they repeat that they have left the group,” said the letter. “However, headlines are still full of the group’s name, all their public appearances are declared as performances of Pussy Riot.”

“Thus ignoring the fact that, at the pulpit of Christ the Saviour Cathedral, there were not two but five women in balaclavas, and that the performance in Red Square had eight participants,” they continued referencing the staged performances that landed Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova in prison.

The statement, which also suggests that Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are refusing to communicate with them, also expressed frustration with the way the pair were presented the Amnesty concert. They took particular offence with the event’s poster which showed a man in a balaclava with an electric guitar, under the name Pussy Riot, “while the organisers smartly called for people to buy expensive tickets,” they explained.

“The mixing of the rebel feminist punk image with the image of institutionalised defenders of prisoners’ rights, is harmful for us as [a] collective, as well as it is harmful for the new role that Nadia and Masha have taken on,” continued the letter.

The six members elected to stay anonymous, signing the letter as Garadja, Fara, Shaiba, Cat, Seraphima and Schumacher. They wished their former bandmates luck for the future. “Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow members, but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders.”

“We appreciate their choice and sincerely wish them well in their new career,” they insisted. Adding, “since Nadia and Masha have chosen not to be with us, please, respect their choice. Remember, we are no longer Nadia and Masha. They are no longer Pussy Riot.”
END

Debbie Kilroy

Seemingly an honourable if not amicable divorce over at Pussy Riot. Coincidentally, I have just read ‘Kilroy Was Here’ by Kris Olsson. (Bantam 2005) A story very similar to Masha and Nadia’s of ex-prisoners becoming prison reformers. They could do well to look at this biography and learn how Sisters Inside evolved and flourished under Kilroy’s strong leadership. Especially between the women inside the prison who she promised not to leave behind.

The Kilroy’s had fallen victim to Queensland’s Premier Bjelke Petersen’s ‘war on drugs’. Debbie had married the famous Aboriginal rugby player Joe Kilroy and both were targeted by Qld.Police in an entrapment sting linked to heroin trafficking. Both doing prison time in the 1980s, Debbie has since become renowned as a prison reformer, being awarded the OAM and working with people such as Aboriginal historian Jackie Huggins; Angela Davis; (Davis wrote the Foreword) and Rubin Hurricane Carter in their quest for justice and rehabilitation in prisons in Queensland and internationally.

Shortly after her incarceration, Kilroy was to witness the death of her best mate in a prison stabbing that saw Kilroy herself injured. Now Kilroy’s life was really on a knife edge as she rejoined the prison group with her attackers inside. Revenge hard on her tracks. Compassion prevailed and with a twist …or two along the way. I really recommend this story of forgiveness and redemption and political smarts.

Why is the PKK siding with the AKP in the AKP-Gulen conflict?

On Feb. 2, the Turkish daily Vatan published an interview with Cemil Bayik, one of the leading “commanders” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The interviewer, Rusen Cakir, is a prominent Turkish journalist known for his expertise on the Kurdish issue, political Islam and the current political battle between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gulen movement. No wonder Bayik addressed this hot topic in Turkish politics. At the PKK headquarters in northern Iraq’s Kandil Mountains, the guerrilla leader shared various views about Turkish politics, but the bottom line was the Vatan headline: “Behind the [Gulen] community, there is America; they want to get rid of Erdogan.”

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) may believe that the enemy of my friend is my enemy.

From

Author Mustafa Akyol Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ezgi Akin

This was perfectly in line with the AKP government’s explanations of the recent corruption probe: a foreign-backed conspiracy — if not “coup attempt” — by the pro-Gulen “parallel state” within the Turkish state. Bayik’s statement was, in other words, music to AKP ears.

In fact, it was not just Bayik but also the very leader of the PKK, the jailed Abdullah Ocalan, who recently took a stance supportive of the AKP against Gulen followers. From his prison cell on Imrali Island, he spoke against “those who want to set our country ablaze once again with the fire of a coup.” This was interpreted in the Turkish media as support for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. No wonder AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner, an Erdogan loyalist, publicly commended Ocalan for his stance.

But why is the PKK — a terrorist group, by Turkish and most international definitions — sympathetic to the AKP in Turkey’s new power struggle? And why does this matter?

The first question has a simple answer: The PKK sees the AKP government, especially Erdogan, as its partner for “peace.” The organization has fought the Turkish state relentlessly since 1984 with a guerilla war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives, but the “political solution” that liberals have been advocating became possible only under Erdogan. In late 2012, a “resolution process” began based on covert talks between the Turkish government and Ocalan, and the conflict has been silent ever since. Both sides complain that the other is too timid to take the promised steps, but both sides seem willing to keep the peace as well.

On the other hand, the Gulen movement is known to be skeptical of this peace process. In fact, the AKP has accused the Gulen movement’s “parallel state” within the police and judiciary of trying to “sabotage the peace process.” The “Turkish National Intelligence Organization crisis” of February 2012 is interpreted as one of the earliest signs of this intention. Since then, it has been whispered in Ankara, and lately exposed in the press, that the Gulen community is against peace with the PKK.

One wonders why. The movement is globally known for moderation and pacifism, and Fethullah Gulen publicly praised “peace” when the deal with the PKK first went public. However, journalists close to the movement have repeatedly raised concerns about how the AKP government is “fooled” by the PKK. (I wrote in May 2013 for Al-Monitor that “the Gulen movement is not against the peace process, but is skeptical of its success and critical of its methods.”) Since then, such criticisms of the peace process have only increased in the pro-Gulen media.

These days, the pro-Erdogan camp, in its usual conspiratorial tone, explains the uneasiness of the Gulen movement with the peace process as a sign of its “high treason.” Accordingly, the peace process disturbs “the powers that want to weaken Turkey,” and since the Gulen movement is a puppet for those evil powers, they treacherously sabotage what is good for Turkey. However, using Occam’s razor, one can find a simpler explanation: The Gulen movement considers the PKK a threat, specifically to the movement’s facilities in predominantly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, including a wide network of schools, dormitories and charities. The PKK has targeted these institutions over the years, saying they “steal Kurdish children” from being PKK militants and make them followers of the pro-Turkish teachings of Gulen.

Gulen himself noted this tension recently in a rare interview, given to the BBC. Gulen said Ocalan was “uneasy with what we were doing with the Kurdish people” in reference to the extension of Hizmet schools deep in Kurdish territory. “They didn’t want our activities to prevent young people joining the militants in the mountains. Their politics is to keep enmity between Kurdish and Turkish people.”

This should explain why there is a conflict between the Gulen movement and the PKK, and why the latter supports the AKP, its “peace partner,” against the movement. How this will influence Turkish politics is a separate matter.

The PKK is loathed by the majority of Turkish society, so its support will not be of much help there for the government. Only the left-wing liberals who ardently support the peace process see it as a reason to stand by the AKP. However, the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) has 26 seats in parliament and some 6% to 8% of the votes, according to various polls. This political bloc may be an ally for Erdogan in the coming months, even in the presidential elections of next summer, where Erdogan, if he runs, will need the majority of all votes.

In short, the PKK has taken a clear side in the AKP-Gulen conflict in favor of the AKP, and this has an understandable logic. Instead of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic, it’s the other way around: “The enemy of my friend is my enemy.”

Mustafa Akyol
Columnist

Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse and a columnist for Turkish Hurriyet Daily News and Star. His articles have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He is the author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty. On Twitter: @AkyolinEnglish

Original Al-Monitor Translations
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Does Netanyahu have plans for settler withdrawal?

The reactions of the settlers and their political associates to rumors that US Secretary of State John Kerry will manage to push forward the two-state solution are reminiscent of the symptoms a junkie experiences in the first stages of withdrawal. Even before the US proposal document could become official, the Yesha Council, the settlement umbrella organization, produced a film slamming Kerry. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon labeled him “messianic” and “obsessive,” whereas Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of an “irrational loss of values.”

The settler movement is anxious about the possibility of the Israeli government making a deal that would force them to leave.

Author Akiva Eldar Posted February 3, 2014

Translator Ruti Sinai

From

Although the current Israeli government is the most right wing in the state’s history, the settlers are restless. Even before the ministers conducted a preliminary discussion about a document that has yet to be born, the settlement organizations are buying giant ads in newspapers, reminding their representatives in the Knesset and government of their oath of allegiance to the Greater Land of Israel or to the annexation of the territories.

Local council heads in the Samaria region launched a “Samaria on the Bar” campaign, fanning out over pubs in the center of the country to treat the young patrons to alcoholic beverages produced in the settlements. Between nibbling and imbibing, the clients are also treated to generous portions of Zionism, tinged with a touch of occupation.

It is therefore no wonder that reports to the effect that the document of principles being formulated by Kerry includes a proposal to vacate distant settlements is driving the settlers crazy. For decades they were told that they were the “salt of the earth,” “new pioneers” and “harbingers of salvation.” Now, suddenly, they are being treated like enemies of the state, threatened with a cutoff of funding and being uprooted from their homes.

Western states that for many years had made do with lip service against the settlement enterprise began boycotting their products. Even though Israeli administrations — all of them, without exception — encouraged them to settle throughout “Judea and Samaria,” opened legal loophole after legal loophole for them and invited them to take anything they wanted.

Even late founder of the leftist Meretz Party Shulamit Aloni, the hero of human rights and of the left who passed away Jan. 24, participated in a 1995 compromise that enabled the establishment of the Olive Hill neighborhood in the settlement of Efrat. In an interview with Hani Kim in Haaretz on Jan. 6, 1995, the late Knesset member Hanan Porat of the National Religious Party, one of the settlement movement leaders, boasted, “The construction on Olive Hill, with the approval of the ministerial committee of which Shulamit Aloni is a member, is very good news.”

That very week, she scolded Knesset member Ahmad Tibi for “stirring up” the Palestinians about the expropriation of land in the vicinity of Ariel for the sole purpose of building by-pass roads. Once she found out that the parcels were intended for building a road to the small settlement of Psagot, Aloni said that if this was true, she would retract her words. It was not the only occasion that Aloni was misled by the settlers and their supporters in the government, and she acknowledged this with regret.

Zehava Gal-On, who was then-secretary-general of the Ratz Party and is now chair of the Meretz Party, said that she was “stunned” by Aloni, then a member of then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet, who voted in favor of the construction of dozens of new houses in the settlement. Gal-On said, “If this were any other government, we would already be lying in the roads [in protest].” Her colleague at the time, Knesset member Avraham Poraz, claimed his party’s ministers were “humiliating themselves” by remaining in government.

During the term of the Rabin government, the construction in the West Bank of 9,850 housing units (launched during the previous administration’s term) was completed. At the time of the establishment of Rabin’s administration in 1992, before the Oslo Accord, the settlers numbered 100,500. In 1996, the year in which the Likud Party, headed by Netanyahu, returned to power, their numbers reached 141,500.

At a meeting with members of his Labor Party, Shimon Peres, then foreign minister, announced that he did not believe in any evacuation of settlements whatsoever, Kim wrote in the interview with Porat. During the seven years after the signing of the Oslo Accord until September 2000, when the second intifada broke out, the number of housing units in the territories grew by 54%. The sharpest increase — 4,800 housing projects — occurred in the year 2000, during the term of the Labor-Meretz government.

True, the settlers have enjoyed the bounty of the land for years, and their politicians are conducting a de-legitimization campaign against Israeli and Palestinian members of the peace camp. True, the settlers wish to impose their ideology and interests on an entire country, and they indulge the “price tag” criminals. But the responsibility for turning the settlers into lords of the land is, first and foremost, that of those governments and politicians who supplied them with more and more of the drug that addicts its users to the illusion that one can expand the settlement enterprise, deepen the occupation and at the same time conduct negotiations over the division of the land and maintain Israel’s international standing. The Babylonian Talmud has this to say about such cases: ”It is not the mouse which steals; it is the hole that steals.” (BT Gittin 45a) Meaning, the party guilty of the theft is the one who opened the hole in the wall, not the one who passes through it to eat the cheese.

The Israeli politicians who nurtured the settlements cannot shake off responsibility for the thousands of families who enjoyed the status of favorite sons. Neither are Western leaders, who did not set an appropriate consequence for ignoring the issue, entitled to shirk responsibility for the fate of the people who will be forced to pay the heaviest personal price for a diplomatic arrangement. Now, when the time has come to choose between an isolated Greater Land of Israel and a whole and accepted State of Israel, anyone who was complicit in the addiction process, directly or indirectly, must take part in the withdrawal process.

Experts from Retorno, an organization in Israel that treats drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, explained, “The addict is exposed to sensitive and dependent situations, and it is thus advisable that the withdrawal process be fully accompanied by professionals, by enveloping support and a continuous treatment process.” Retorno experts stress that the withdrawal process might be deeply-felt and gradual.

The complaint voiced recently by the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim, Benny Kasriel, to my colleague Mazal Mualem, that during the time of the Netanyahu government the pace of construction in his town was markedly slower than the wave of construction during the Rabin government — might indicate that this deep, slow and gradual process is already well-underway. “Absurdly,” as Kasriel said, maybe it should fall precisely on the leader of the Israeli right, Netanyahu, to lead the withdrawal process.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/settlers-lords-of-the-land-israeli-leadership-rabin-meretz.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOcCiegt

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Egypt, Sudan rhetoric escalates over disputed region

Author; Ayah Aman Posted February 3, 2014

Translator; Kamal Fayad

From

CAIRO — The Egyptian-Sudanese dispute concerning the sovereignty of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle continues to be a source of constant tension in relations between the two countries. The escalatory rhetoric has risen between officials from both countries, without any real diplomatic solutions on the horizon for this issue, which has been on hold since the reign of late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Sudan’s independence in 1956.

Egypt and Sudan have traded fiery statements over the disputed border region of the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle.

The debate between Egyptian and Sudanese officials was renewed this time around when Sudan’s Minister of State at the Presidency Al-Rashid Haroun announced on Jan. 6 that the Halayeb border region with Egypt was 100% Sudanese, and that discussions and understandings were possible with Cairo in this regard. Egypt, on the other hand, rejected this statement when its Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ambassador Badr Abdel Ati, issued a news release published by Egyptian media on Jan. 7, which read: “The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle is part of Egyptian territory and subject to Egyptian sovereignty. Cairo will not accept any compromise solutions because its position is clearly defined.”

In this regard, a diplomatic source with close ties to the Egyptian government told Al-Monitor: “The relationship with Sudan is marred by many unresolved issues, particularly the dispute over the Halayeb Shalateen Triangle, which remains unsettled despite all international legal or official efforts. Add to that Khartoum’s espoused stances, which might be detrimental to Egyptian interests, such as its support for the building of the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

The source, who wished to remain anonymous, explained, “This is not the right time for Cairo to deal with the disagreement over the Halayeb area with Sudan. The country is living in a state of security alert, with army troops concentrating their efforts to secure Egyptian borders, particularly in Sinai and the western border with Libya. This is a result of the fears that elements might infiltrate the country to harm Egyptian national security. The present transitional period also does not allow entering into a regional engagement with another country. But there are policies that the Egyptian government has adopted to exploit the Halayeb area for the benefit of the Egyptian economy, and to achieve real development there.”

On Nov. 27, 2013, the Egyptian cabinet formed a special committee tasked with the implementation of an urgent plan to develop the Halayeb and Shalateen area, through investments totaling 764 million Egyptian pounds ($110 million). These investments were used to complete road and water networks as well as housing projects for the settlement of the regions inhabitants. This move reflected the government’s interest in this region, considered to be one of the most important tourist and investment destinations in Egypt.

“Egypt considers the Halayeb and Shalateen region to be rich in resources, and of special strategic importance politically and economically,” said Council of Ministers spokesman, Hani Salah, speaking to Al-Monitor.

Salah added that the cabinet was considering signing agreements permitting the exploitation of the region’s gold and manganese deposits, as well as activating the Shalateen Mining Co. through coordinated efforts between the Ministry of Petroleum and the armed forces.

Deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s administration faced overwhelming popular disapproval when Sudanese officials were quoted as saying that it had expressed willingness to negotiate on restoring the Halayeb and Shalateen region to Sudan, during a visit by Morsi to Khartoum in May 2013. However, the Egyptian presidency denied those statements at the time.

With the backdrop of Egypt asserting its claim on the Halayeb region, and its attempts to exploit the natural resources and riches there, Sudan’s ambassador to Egypt, Kamaluddin Hassan, spoke with Al-Monitor about his country’s position on this issue.

“We must recognize that an ongoing problem exists between Egypt and Sudan concerning the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle. In fact, a conflict exists as a result of Cairo and Khartoum’s insistence on their respective viewpoints in this regard. We hope that this conflict would soon be resolved in a brotherly fashion between the two countries. But I also hope that this issue not be raised again in Egyptian media because doing so has caused a lot of damage to Egyptian-Sudanese relations, and Sudan is of the opinion that our interests are greater than to be confined into one specific area,” said Hassan.

Similarly, Egypt’s ambassador to Sudan, Abdel Ghaffar al-Deeb told Al-Monitor: “The political leaderships of both countries had previously agreed that the Halayeb and Shalateen region be an integrated area used for economic development, especially after Sudanese President [Omar] Hassan al-Bashir announced that Sudan did not intend for Halayeb to be the source of disagreement and conflict with Cairo.”

Groups of political activists, headed by former member of parliament Ahmad Raslan, formed a popular delegation that went to Halayeb city, where it held a town hall meeting to assert Halayeb and Shalateen’s Egyptian identity, chanting the slogan “Halayeb is Egyptian.”

The Egyptian government also opened seven electoral stations in Halayeb and Shalateen cities during the constitutional referendum Jan. 14-15. According to official estimates, the majority of the region’s inhabitants voted in favor of the new Egyptian constitution.

The history of the conflict

The Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle lies on the African side of the Red Sea, encompassing 20,580 square kilometers (7,946 square miles). Its three largest cities are Halayeb, Abu Ramad and Shalateeen, with Egypt imposing its full security control over the region in 2000.

The conflict between Egypt and Sudan over the Halayeb-Shalateen Triangle began in 1958, after Sudan gained its independence and decided to secede from Egypt. Subsequently, the Sudanese administration included the region in Sudan’s electoral districts. Friction endured between the two countries throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with the conflict primarily focusing on petroleum and gold resources. In addition, the Egyptian army made 39 raids inside Sudanese borders in 1995. The crisis emerged anew in 2010, when Sudan insisted that the region be considered part of its electoral districts.

Hani Raslan, an expert in Sudanese affairs at the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, spoke to Al-Monitor about this issue. “Sudan resorts to causing problems with Egypt every time it faces internal unification crises and every time it tries to prevent rifts from occurring inside the country. It would have been better if it had held on to larger and richer areas of land that became part of South Sudan when the latter seceded in 2010. Furthermore, the 1899 agreement states that the border line between Egypt and Sudan lies on the 22nd parallel north of the equator; yet Halayeb is located further north of that line,” said Raslan.

As of yet, neither Egypt nor Sudan announced the adoption of official measures to solve the ongoing conflict over the region. This comes at a time when the Egyptian government is fully exploiting the area’s resources and maintaining its security control over the region.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/egypt-sudan-halayeb-shalateen-border-region.html?utm_source=Al-Monitor+Newsletter+%5BEnglish%5D&utm_campaign=e0ae6ede91-January_9_20141_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28264b27a0-e0ae6ede91-93145129#ixzz2sOa42NKC