(CNN) US President Donald Trump has “lit the wick of the war” against North Korea, a Russian state news agency quoted North Korea’s foreign minister as saying on Wednesday.
(CNN) US President Donald Trump has “lit the wick of the war” against North Korea, a Russian state news agency quoted North Korea’s foreign minister as saying on Wednesday.
Mexico City — Cuba’s foreign minister on Monday delivered a searing rebuke of President Trump’s new policy toward the island nation by calling it a “grotesque spectacle” and vowed that his country “will never negotiate under pressure or under threat.”
The remarks by the foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, at a news conference in Vienna, was the Havana government’s first official response to Mr. Trump’s announcement last week that he was scaling President Barack Obama’s initiatives to improve relations with Cuba and would reinstate some travel and commercial restrictions.
“Without doubt, the politics of Mr. Trump mark a step backwards in bilateral relations, and this has been recognized by countless voices inside and outside of the United States, who have roundly rejected the announced changes,” Mr. Rodríguez said.
Mr. Trump said the reversal was meant to apply pressure on Cuba’s Communist government by starving it of much-needed foreign currency. The hope, shared by Cuban-Americans who harbor a deep resentment of the Castro government, is to encourage a more democratic state that upholds human rights and holds free fair elections.
Under the new restrictions, Americans will no longer be able to travel to Cuba on their own, and educational tours will be subject to strict new rules and audits.
American companies and individuals will also be barred from doing business with any firm controlled by the Cuban military or its intelligence or security services. Much of the tourist industry is controlled by the military.
Mr. Trump stopped well short of severing diplomatic relations between the two nations, which were restored in 2015, after more than half a century. The embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open, and flights as well as cruise ships will continue to land and dock in Cuba.
But the move to inhibit the flow of American tourism and investment will certainly have an effect on the Cuban economy — as well as the entrepreneurs making livings in the tourism industry. Mr. Rodríguez said that kind of pressure had not succeeded in the past and would not work now.
“The measures announced will not accomplish their declared objectives, to the contrary,” he said. “These measures do not recognize the overwhelming majority opinion of the Cuban people that want to have a better relationship with the American people.”
They will have an economic impact not only in the state-owned companies, but also the cooperatives and private business owners,” he added.
Since relations have been restored and Americans have been allowed to visit, Cuba’s private sector has flourished, with new restaurants and private homes being rented on Airbnb.
Among Mr. Trump’s demands of the Cuban government was to extradite Americans fugitives living in Cuba who are wanted for crimes committed in the United States. Mr. Rodríguez threw cold water on that prospect.
“Cuba will not make concessions that harm its sovereignty,” Mr. Rodríguez said, according to The Associated Press. “We have never done that in the history of the revolution.”
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said he is optimistic that Arabs and Israelis can reach a peace deal in 2017.
Speaking four days after US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a White House press conference about the possibilities of a regional peace agreement, Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference on Sunday that the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian accord were clear, and that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would work to bring it to fruition.
“I believe progress can be made in the Arab Israel conflict, if there is a will to do so,” he said. “We know what the settlement looks like, if there is just the political will to do so. And my country stands ready with other Arab countries to work to see how we can promote that.”
He said the new US administration made him optimistic that this and other regional challenges could be resolved.
“We see a president who’s pragmatic and practical, a businessman, problem-solver, a man who’s not an ideologue,” Jubeir said of Trump. “He wants America to play a role in the world. Our view is that when America disengages, it creates tremendous danger in the worlds, because it leaves vacuums, and into those vacuums evil forces flow.”
Saudi Arabia shared common goals with Trump, he added. “He believes in destroying Islamic State; so do we,” Jubeir said. “He believes in containing Iran; so do we. He believes in working with traditional allies; so do we.”
In his talk, one of a series of speeches Sunday under the heading “Old Problems, New Middle East?” Jubeir reminded European colleagues who are nervous about the Trump administration that when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 there was also a lot of concern in Europe, yet Reagan brought stability to the region and ended the Cold War.
The biggest challenge facing the region is Iran, he said, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. “Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world,” the Saudi minister said. “It’s determined to upend the order in Middle East … [and] until and unless Iran changes its behavior it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.”
Jubeir said that “Iran is the only one in the Middle East that hasn’t been targeted by Islamic State and al-Qaeda,” implying that there was a relationship between the regime and the terror groups.
The foreign minister also claimed that the the Iranians took advantage of the good will of the P5+1 nations negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal. They “stepped up the tempo of their mischief” while the negotiations were taking place, he said, and continue to do so today.
“I believe that Iran knows where the red lines are if the red lines are drawn clearly, and I believe that the world has to make it clear to the Iranians that there is certain behavior that will not be tolerated, and that there will be consequences,” Jubeir told the conference. “And those consequences have to be in tune with the financial side.”
Jubeir said that extending a hand to Iran would not work. “For 35 years, we have offered Iran our friendship and support,” he said, “and got nothing but death and destruction.”
A report earlier on Sunday claimed that Netanyahu rejected a regional peace plan for the renewal of negotiations toward a two-state solution and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state a year ago.
The proposal was the result of months of negotiations led by then-US secretary of state John Kerry and culminated in a secret meeting on February 21, 2016, between Netanyahu, Kerry, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Jordan’s King Abdullah, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.
Ireland consistently ponders the question of recognizing Palestine as a state, its Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, in response to media reports that Israel fears such a step could be imminent.
“I am actively keeping under consideration, on a continuous basis, the question of whether recognition by Ireland in the near future of a state of Palestine might be a helpful step in relation to the Middle East peace process,” Foreign Minister Charles Flanagan said of his government’s long-held position.
Ireland is part of the European Union, which holds that recognition of a Palestinian state should come only after a final-status agreement for the creation of two states is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
Seven of its member states that had belonged to the former Soviet bloc recognized Palestine as a state in 1988, long before joining the EU. In 2014, Sweden became the first country which – as a member of the EU – recognized Palestine as a state.
In the face of accelerated Israeli settlement activity, the Palestinian Authority has renewed its campaign to sway European countries to follow Sweden’s example without waiting for the creation of a two-state solution.
The Foreign Ministry said that, already in May 2016, the Irish government spoke of the importance of recognizing Palestine and of the importance of the EU role in halting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Ireland’s “program of government states: “We will continuerole for the EU in the Middle East Peace Process, having regard to the stalled nature of the process at present, and honor our commitment to recognize the State of Palestine as part of a lasting settlement of the conflict.”
On Thursday, during a heated back-bench debate at the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, parliamentarians also called for their country to accept Palestinian statehood. In a short speech at the end of the debate, Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood indicated that the time was not right for his country to take this step.
“Recognition of Palestine – we need the Palestinians to do more, to prevent the incitement of violence. President Abbas condemned certain aspects of it, but we are still seeing schools and squares being named after terrorists.(BDS in Ireland: Shops nix Israeli goods, but fine with N. Korean, Iranian products)
These are not the confidence- building measures that we need to see. There is no relationship with Hamas at all,” Ellwood told the House of Commons.
“These are the steps that will allow us to move forward, so there can be a recognition in the long term of the state of Palestine. But they are not there yet,” Ellwood said.
He also condemned Israeli settlement activity and spoke against the Knesset’s passage of the of the settlements law that retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler homes private Palestinian property. A “dangerous threshold was crossed,” he said.
Ellwood defended his country’s December vote at the UN Security Council in favor of Resolution 2334 that condemned Israeli settlement activity.
MP John Howell from the Conservative Party took issue with the focus on settlements as a stumbling block to peace. “Why are we picking on settlements, when there is a whole range of issues,” Howell said.
The UN Security Council resolution, he said, is part of the internationalization of the peace, when what is needed is for Israelis and Palestinians to hold direct talks without preconditions.
Unfortunately, he said, the Palestinians “come up with preconditions each and every time and it usually involves the release of more terrorists.”
He detailed the steps Israel had taken against settlement activity, including a 10-month moratorium on settler housing starts that ran from November 2009 to September 2010. He also pointed to the 2008 Annapolis process in which Israel offered to withdraw from 94% of the West Bank.
“At the moment, all Israel has received is a denial of its right to exist and an intensification of violence,” he said.
The PA, he warned, is scared to hold elections, because it fears it will be replaced by ISIS.
MP Simon Danczuk of the Labour Party said that Israel’s “perpetual land grabs are immoral and illegal and a barrier to peace.
Why should the Palestinians believe that Israel is committed to peace when they see these homes go up?” he asked.
MP Helen Goodman of Labour urged the United Kingdom to impose “personal sanctions” on those people who promote and benefit from the settlements.
In the last afternoon, the House of Commons passed a resolution that condemned settlement activity.
In Belgium, Abbas spoke against Israeli settlement activity when he met with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel. He had held a similar conversation just two days earlier with French President François Hollande.
“What Israel did in passing a law in the Knesset a few days ago legalizes the theft of private Palestinian land owned by Palestinians for the benefit of settlers,” Abbas said, referring to the settlement regulation law passed on Monday.
Israeli settlement activity, he said, “is an assault against our people, a violation of international law, and a wanton challenge to international law, which has been expressed through UNSC Resolution 2334. We will confront [these acts] in all international bodies and we will continue our work with international courts to protect our existence and survival on Palestine’s land.
“We call on the international community including Belgium and all European states to help us implement UNSC Resolution 2334 before too much time passes.
We need to not allow for the reinforcement racist discrimination: ‘Apartheid,’” Abbas said.
He also spoke by telephone with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who is in Washington meeting with officials.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to travel to Washington next week to meet with US President Donald Trump, during which West Bank settlement activity is expected to be part of their discussions.
On Thursday, the former residents of the Amona outpost called on Netanyahu to approve the new settlement he promised them prior to their evacuation on February 1 and 2. Trump has been largely silent on the issue of West Bank settlement activity, but two weeks ago, the White House issued a statement asking Israel to refrain from unilateral action such as the creation of settlements.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Thursday indirectly condemned plans by US President-elect Donald Trump to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
A statement issued after a meeting in Kuala Lumpur didn’t mention the United States or Trump by name, but said the OIC rejected any actions that could undermine the ability of Palestinians to claim part of Jerusalem in a future state.
It called on governments to desist from any activities that might encourage Israel to “pursue its illegal occupation and annexation of ….east Jerusalem, including any such encouragement through the transfer of their diplomatic missions to the city.”
The statement invited its 57 member states “to take the necessary steps and measures” in response to any such hostile position, but didn’t elaborate.
Trump has vowed to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, a politically charged act that would anger Palestinians who want East Jerusalem, home to key Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites, as the capital of a future state.
The move would also distance the US from much of the international community, including its closest allies in Western Europe and the Arab world.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and extended its sovereignty to it in a move that is not internationally recognized. It claims the entire city as its capital.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shook up his Cabinet on Tuesday, less than two weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.
Trudeau named Chrystia Freeland as Canada’s new foreign minister amid worries Trump will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Freeland, 48, will replace Stephane Dion, who was dropped from the Cabinet.
Dion was scheduled to visit Israel in January. It was not immediately clear if Freeland will visit Israel in January in place of Dion.
During his tenure, Dion made a number of statements that were ill-received in Israel, such as that Canada would strive for a more balanced policy regarding the Middle East, including active outreach to the Arab world.
“Israel is a friend, it is an ally but for us to be an effective ally we need also to strengthen our relationship with the other legitimate partners in the region,” he said in an interview.
Ottawa strives to be more balanced, “more open” and more “efficient” in its foreign policy, he told Radio Canada last year in a separate interview. Siding with Israel only, as the previous governments under prime minister Stephen Harper did, is ultimately in nobody’s interest, he argued.
Along with Trudeau, Dion also helped oversee Canada’s removal of some sanctions against Iran, saying “Canada’s severing of ties with Iran had no positive consequences for anyone: not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for Israel, and not for global security.”
Following his election in October 2015, Trudeau told Netanyahu in a telephone conversation that “there would be a shift in tone” from the unabashedly pro-Israel rhetoric of Harper, but said “Canada would continue to be a friend of Israel’s” and support the Jewish State.
Prior to her appointment as foreign minister on Tuesday, Freeland was trade minister when she oversaw last year’s ratification of the Canada-European Union free trade agreement after initial concerns Europe wouldn’t approve it. NAFTA is Canada’s largest and most important economic pact and Freeland will remain the point person on trade with the US.
Trudeau noted that Canada is among a few nations promoting free trade.
“President-elect Trump very much takes a trade and job lens to his engagements in the world in international diplomacy,” Trudeau said. “It makes sense for the person who is responsible for foreign relations with the United States to also have the ability and the responsibility to engage with issues such as NAFTA and the broad range of trade issues that we’ll be facing with our friends and neighbors south of the border.”
Freeland, a former journalist and author of Ukrainian descent, is barred from Russia, something she has called an honor. Russia banned her in 2014 as part of a series of retaliatory sanctions against 13 Canadian officials. She had lived in Russia and has been a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, someone Trump has praised.
“That’s a question for Moscow,” Freeland said when asked if she will be able to travel to Russia.
Trudeau said: “Her ability to deal with multiple situations around the world was well demonstrated in her tremendous success in her negotiating the Canada-Europe trade agreement. As to how she gets along with Russia, she speaks fluent Russian.”
She speaks five languages in all.
Another experienced hand, John McCallum, who oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees as immigration minister, is retiring from Parliament to become ambassador to China as Trudeau embarks on a free trade agreement with that Asian country.
McCallum is the former chief economist for Canada’s largest bank and his wife is of Chinese origin. He also represents a district near Toronto that is 40 percent Chinese origin.
Ahmed Hussen, a Somali refugee, was named Canada’s new immigration minister. Hussen came to Canada as a teenager from war-torn Somalia. A lawyer and community activist, he became the first Somali-Canadian to be elected to Parliament in 2015.
The Cabinet makeover was Trudeau’s first since becoming prime minister in late 2015. He made a splash then when he named a Cabinet that was 50 percent women. He now has 15 women ministers and 14 men.
News of the shuffle leaked Monday just as Trudeau’s office confirmed that his two top aides, Chief of Staff Katie Telford and Principal Secretary Gerald Butts, have been meeting with some of Trump’s senior advisers seeking to build bridges to the incoming administration. Freeland, who was head of the Cabinet committee on Canada-US relations, has been involved in the meetings.
“We’ve been laying the groundwork for some personal relationships,” Freeland said. “Being able to call each other on the phone and send emails, that is something that is really important for the Canadian government.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a staunch proponent of the Iran nuclear deal, has slammed Israel in a series of tweets and statements since last Friday’s Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
In a statement issued to Germany’s largest circulation daily, Bild, after the UN resolution, the Foreign Ministry claimed that “a democratic Israel is only achievable through a two-state-solution.”
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The statement prompted the editor-in-chief of Bild’s digital outlet, veteran journalist Julian Reichelt, to express astonishment at the harsh wording.
In response to Reichelt’s criticism, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffan Seibert wrote on his Twitter feed: “Israel is a Jewish democratic state.”
Steinmeier, a Social Democratic politician who is jockeying to be the next president of Germany, later said on Twitter: “Israeli settlements in occupied territories jeopardize possibility of peace process.”
The same English-language tweet was issued again. The flurry of messages attacking Israel appeared on the German- and English-language Twitter feeds of the Berlin-based Foreign Ministry.
Steinmeier also endorsed US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Wednesday speech, writing that the “speech is a warning and a reminder that the #2StateSolution must not become an empty phrase. #MiddleEast.”
The foreign minister added on Twitter that “since he came into office, John Kerry has tirelessly worked toward a peaceful solution for the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.”
Steinmeier had lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2015 for his “very coarse” criticism of the Iran nuclear deal. Steinmeier, in an unusual attack on an US presidential candidate, slammed Donald Trump as a “hate preacher.”
Prof. Gerald Steinberg, who teaches political studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, “In many ways, the Obama-Kerry perception of the conflict has been shaped by European conventional wisdom. So it is not surprising to see European leaders embracing Kerry’s speech. In Germany, Foreign Minister Steinmeier has been particularly critical of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu (taking Germany farther away from its post-Holocaust role).”
Steinberg, who is president of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, added, “Steinmeier, like powerful German NGOs such as Brot fur die Welt, [‘Bread for the World’] echoes the Palestinian victimization narrative. In addition, Steinmeier’s personal attacks on Netanyahu reflect German eagerness to do business with Iran, which was facilitated by Kerry.”
Writing in the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel on Thursday, Volker Beck, a leading Green Party lawmaker and head of the German-Israel Parliament Group in the Bundestag, said, “No, settlement construction is not the most difficult problem on the way to a two-state solution. It is one of many.”
Beck voiced understanding for the outrage in Israel to the UN resolution. Beck termed the measure “counterproductive,” adding that the decisive factor is the “security question,” because after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the US- and EU-designated terrorist organization Hamas, which controls the Palestinian enclave, fired many missiles at Israel.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister condemned the US Senate’s extension of a piece of anti-Iran legislation, state TV reported Saturday.
On Thursday the Senate voted to extend the Iran Sanctions Act by 10 years. The measure will now be sent to outgoing President Barack Obama to sign. Iran’s state television quoted Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying that the extension “shows the lack of credibility of the US government.”
On Friday, Bahram Ghasemi, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, issued a statement condemning the extension of sanctions against Iran and said the act is a clear violation of the landmark nuclear deal reached between Iran and the world powers last year.
Ghasemi said, “The US president has agreed within the framework of the nuclear deal that he would use his authority to prevent the legislation and enforcement of any measures in violation of the deal, such as the recent act by the Congress.”
The nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers lifted a variety of international sanctions in exchange for limitations on the Iranian nuclear program. Lawmakers say the Iran Sanctions Act, which is set to expire December 31 if it is not extended, gives the United States the clout to punish Iran should it fail to live up to the terms of the nuclear deal.
Ali Akbar Salehi, chief of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said on Friday that Iran will carefully consider how to respond. “We will definitely make no emotional decisions but will make a decision based on prudence, vigilance and wisdom,” he said.
Earlier in November, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, warned that, “Definitely, the Islamic Republic of Iran will react” if the US sanctions were renewed.
State TV also reported quoted Iranian president Hassan Rouhani as saying that all signatories to the nuclear deal need to honor their commitments.
“The deal is a product of seven countries, and one country must not be allowed to undermine the deal based on its own desire,” Rouhani said in a meeting with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Lavrentiev.
Controversy erupted in Moscow Friday afternoon after a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson suggested that the recent US presidential election was influenced by a “Jewish conspiracy,” according to the BBC.
During an interview with a Russian television chat show, Maria Zakharova quipped that the best template to gauge America’s political landscape was the New York Jewish community.
“If you want to know what will happen in America, who do you need to talk to? You have to talk to the Jews, of course. It goes without saying.”
At this, the live studio audience applauded loudly, according to the BBC.
Zakharova added that she had formulated the claim while visiting New York during an official visit with a Russian delegation in September.
“I have a lot of friends and acquaintances there, of course I was interested to find out: how are the elections going, what are the American people’s expectations?”
The Russian state employee than attempted to mimic a Jewish accent and said Russian Jews had told her: “Marochka, understand this – we’ll donate to Clinton, of course. But we’ll give the Republicans twice that amount.’ Enough said! That settled it for me – the picture was clear,” adding that “if you want to know the future, don’t read the mainstream newspapers – our people in Brighton [Beach] will tell you everything.”
In response, several political figures came out against Zakharova’s statements, including Russian opposition activist Roman Dobrokhotov, who wrote on Twitter (in Russian) that the spokeswoman had “explained Trump’s victory as a Jewish conspiracy,” the BBC reported.
Former US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul also took to social media, writing: “Wow. And this is the woman who criticizes me for not being diplomatic.”
NEW YORK — The director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry met on Wednesday with the Foreign Minister of South Africa, who three years ago declared that officials from her country do not engage with Israel.
Dore Gold’s meeting with Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who has been Pretoria’s minister of international relations and cooperation since 2009, took place at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the meeting took place but initially kept mum about its content. Gold tweeted a photo of him shaking hands with Nkoana-Mashabane, adding that he was “[e]xploring the ties between our nations.”
“We consider the very fact that this meeting was held an extraordinary achievement,” a senior Foreign Ministry official told The Times of Israel on Thursday.
During the meeting, Gold discussed the importance of South Africa-Israel relations, particularly in the context of Jerusalem’s renewed push to engage with all countries on the continent, the official added.
In 2013, Nkoana-Mashabane said that due to the Palestinians’ plight, South African officials refuse to engage with Israel.
“Ministers of South Africa do not visit Israel currently. Even the Jewish Board of Deputies that we engage with here, they know why our ministers are not going to Israel,” she said at the time.
Nkoana-Mashabane further said that South Africa has “agreed to slow down and curtail senior leadership contact with that regime until things begin to look better… The struggle of the people of Palestine is our struggle,” she declared.
Nkoana-Mashabane’s comments caused a stir, and the South African cabinet later asserted that it had not imposed “a ban on travel to Israel by government officials.”
Relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have long been fraught over the latter’s harsh criticism of Israeli policies and its staunch support for the Palestinians. Last year, the African National Congress — the country’s ruling party — hosted the leader of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, a move protested by Israel.
Earlier this year, Gold embarked on a three-day visit to South Africa, meeting with Jewish community leaders and government officials.
“The meetings were a very important start. To say that we’re about to have a completely different relationship is premature. But there was a readiness to hear our arguments,” Gold told The Times of Israel at the time. “There’s potential. Now, everything is in the follow-up.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with about a dozen leaders from African countries, part of a push to forge stronger trade and diplomatic ties with the continent. It is not clear whether South African officials will be present.
During his current trip to New York, Gold also meet with the foreign ministers of Tanzania, Malawi, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
South African President Jacob Zuma is currently in New York, where he addressed the UN General Assembly Wednesday. In his speech, he said that the lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “remains a major concern for us.” It is time for the UN to “carry out its historic mission” and help resolve the conflict, which he called one of the “longest outstanding decolonization and occupation issues.”