The Arab League is holding an emergency meeting in Egypt’s capital, Cairo, to discuss US President Donald Trump’s plan for the Middle East that was unveiled last week.
The meeting on Saturday was requested by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), who asked Arab nations to take a clear stance against Trump’s so-called “deal of the century”.
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The plan presented on Tuesday was negotiated with Israel and had no input from Palestinians, who had cut off all ties with the Trump administration after its 2017 decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It envisions the Israeli annexation of large swathes of the occupied West Bank, including illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley, giving Israel a permanent eastern border along the Jordan River.
“They told me Trump wants to send me the deal of the century to read, I said I would not,” Abbas told the meeting of Arab League foreign ministers on Saturday.
“Trump asked that I speak to him over the phone, so I said ‘no’, and that he wants to send me a letter, so I refused to receive it.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for the emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt [Mohamed Abd el-Ghany/Reuters]
Abbas has said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
Trump’s plan also proposes making Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem, the capital of a future Palestinian state, which was also instantly rejected by Palestinians.
The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said on Wednesday that an initial study of the plan’s political framework showed that it “ignored legitimate Palestinian rights in the territories”.
He said the Palestinian response would be key in shaping a “collective Arab position” on the plan, which he noted was a “non-binding US vision”.
Majdi al-Khaldi, a diplomatic adviser to Abbas, said the meeting in Cairo aims at issuing a “clear declaration” rejecting Trump’s plan.
Al-Khaldi, who accompanies Abbas on his trips to world capitals, said the Palestinian leader would meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to discuss measures to “protect the Palestinian people’s rights”.
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In a tacit sign of support for the US initiative, ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attended the unveiling of the plan in Washington, whereTrump made the announcement alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Arab states that are close US allies, said they appreciated Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.
Egypt urged in a statement Israelis and Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. It said it favours a solution that restores all the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people through establishing an “independent and sovereign state on the occupied Palestinian territories”.
Jordan warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem. Qatar said it welcomed efforts to broker “longstanding and just peace” but warned that was unattainable without concessions to the Palestinians.
Analysts said the “divided” reaction from Arab states to Trump’s plan was no surprise, noting that the main reason for support – whether strong or subtle – was to guarantee Washington’s backing against a common regional enemy, Iran.
“The US-Iran brief military confrontation in January has convinced some Gulf countries that Washington is their only protector,” Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian author and journalist, told Al Jazeera.
“Some Arabs have completely forsaken Palestine and are embracing Israel to fend against an imaginary Iranian threat,” Baroud said.
Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, which traditionally championed Palestinian cause, have cosied up to Israel in recent years as they see Iran as a bigger regional threat.
“I think that what has been done is these people have adopted the approach that my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” Diana Buttu, analyst and former legal adviser to Palestinian peace negotiators, told Al Jazeera.
“And it shouldn’t have to neutralise Iran, or deal with Iran … It would come at the expense of the Palestinians,” she said.
Taiwan holds live-fire drill during war games as tensions rise |NationalTribune.com
Taiwan’s army is carrying out a live-fire drill in the central city of Taichung on Thursday, as part of a major military exercise against the backdrop of rising tensions with China across the strait and in the South China Sea. President Tsai Ing-wen was expected to witness the drill, which is based on the scenario…
Taiwan’s army is carrying out a live-fire drill in the central city of Taichung on Thursday, as part of a major military exercise against the backdrop of rising tensions with China across the strait and in the South China Sea.
President Tsai Ing-wen was expected to witness the drill, which is based on the scenario of an invasion by the Chinese military. The five-day war games will end on Friday.
The annual Han Kuang military exercise was postponed from earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, Taiwan has successfully contained the spread of the disease and has declared the island virus free.
On Wednesday, a live torpedo was fired from a Taiwan Navy submarine, the first time in 13 years that such weapons were deployed during the annual exercise.
Taiwan’s state-backed Central News Agency (CNA) reported that the “heavyweight” surface and underwater target torpedo was fired from an electric submarine and hit its target.
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The last time a Taiwan Navy submarine fired a live torpedo during the annual military exercises was in 2007.
The annual exercises, which involve all branches of Taiwan’s military and reserve forces, have been held since the early 1980s to test Taiwan’s combat readiness in the event of an attack by China.
During the exercises on Wednesday, the military reported that two Chinese reconnaissance vessels were seen off the east coast of Taiwan, according to CNA.
The report said that a Taiwan Navy warship was immediately dispatched “to monitor and deter” the two vessels, which “eventually sailed away”.
The annual drill comes as Taiwan has accused Chinese military aircraft of “frequent incursions” into the island’s air defence zone over the past few months.
In April, a Chinese naval flotilla led by the country’s first aircraft carrier passed near Taiwan.
China claims the democratic island as its own territory, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by China.
In May, Beijing threatened to “resolutely smash” Taiwan in case of any moves for independence.
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Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with US-made weapons, and President Tsai has made boosting the island’s defences a priority since she first won office in 2016. She was re-elected by a landslide in January.
However, Taiwan faces an increasingly formidable and far larger Chinese military, which has been undergoing its own modernisation programme, adding stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.
The exercises are also taking place at a time of increased tensions between China and the United States in the South China Sea.
The US currently has two warships, the USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, sailing in the disputed regional waters on freedom of navigation operations.
On Monday, the US announced that it rejected China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, drawing an angry response from Beijing, which said Washington was trying to inflame tensions in the disputed waters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the world would “not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire”.
Pope holds dramatic solitary service for relief from coronavirus
Pope Francis has held a dramatic, solitary prayer service in St Peter’s Square of the Vatican, urging the world to see the coronavirus pandemic as a test of solidarity and a reminder of basic values. Speaking into an eerily empty square before delivering an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing,…
Pope Francis has held a dramatic, solitary prayer service in St Peter’s Square of the Vatican, urging the world to see the coronavirus pandemic as a test of solidarity and a reminder of basic values.
Speaking into an eerily empty square before delivering an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing, the pontiff said on Friday that the health crisis put everyone “in the same boat”.
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“It has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air … We find ourselves afraid and lost,” he said.
The Vatican called the service “An Extraordinary Prayer in the Time of Pandemic”, a sombre echo of an announcement by Italian officials minutes earlier that the coronavirus death toll in the country had surged past 9,000.
Francis walked alone in the rain to a white canopy on the steps of the basilica and spoke sitting alone before a square where he normally draws tens of thousands of people, but which is now closed because of the pandemic.
Pope delivers an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing [Yara Nardi/Pool/Reuters]
“We have realised that we are in the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other,” he said.
Francis said the virus had exposed people’s vulnerability “to those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules”.
He praised doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, transport workers, police and volunteers, saying they, and not the world’s rich and famous, were “writing the decisive events of our time”.
The leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics said God was asking everyone to “reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering”.
He prayed before a wooden crucifix which is normally kept in a Rome church and brought to the Vatican for the special service.
According to tradition, a plague that hit Rome in 1522 began subsiding after the crucifix was taken around the streets of the Italian capital for 16 days in 1522.
Pope Francis is the leader of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]
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