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US-led strikes on Syria justified: Israeli official

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Retaliatory airstrikes led by the US on Syria are justified because of the “murderous actions” said an Israeli official of the Damascus government today.

The official who denied disclosing his identity said, “ Last year (US) President Donald Trump said that the use of chemical weapons would violate a red line. This night, under America’s guidance, the United States, France and Britain acted accordingly (because) Syria continues to carry out its murderous actions”.

He further added, “Syria also serves as a base to carry out such action, namely on behalf of Iran, endangering its territory, its forces and its leadership”.

The public radio stated that Israel had been earlier apprised quite ahead of time of the air strikes that were today done by the United States, Britain and France.

Tensions seem to have been intense between Israel and Iran that is a chief backer of the Syrian regime that provides military advisors and “volunteer” ground forces to Damascus.

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Crimes against Rohingya in Myanmar is genocide: US House

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The atrocities have driven more than 7,00,000 Rohingya from their homes to Bangladesh, bringing the total Rohingya refugee population there to nearly 10 lakh.

 

Washington| In an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 394-1, the US House of Representatives on Thursday, in a non-binding resolution, declared the crime against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as a genocide.

Such a move by the US House of Representatives comes months after the State Department released a report on alleged widespread acts of violence against the Rohingya in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar, which the lawmakers rued had failed to label these atrocities as genocide.

The atrocities have driven more than 7,00,000 Rohingya from their homes to Bangladesh, bringing the total Rohingya refugee population there to nearly 10 lakh.

“The United States has a moral obligation to call these crimes genocide. Failing to do so gives the perpetrators cover and hinders efforts to bring those accountable to justice. With this resolution, the House fulfills its part of that duty,” Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

“The measure also accomplishes a number of other important goals: It provides a thorough accounting of the crisis, calls out the complicit Burmese government, urges the Secretary of State to join us in formally declaring genocide and promotes multilateral agreement on that declaration,” Royce said.

Following the resolution, Royce urged the US government to put more pressure on the Burmese government.

“We want the pressure to be felt and this message to be heard in Burma that the United States is going on record (on) the finding of genocide so that these atrocities stop,” he said.

“It’s not only sanctions but also increasing the pressure internally. One of the things we have to do is use social media, radio, television to tell the people inside the country what is actually happening. Because their government is giving them disinformation,” Royce said.

The Burma Task Force welcomed the House resolution.

“The House of Representatives has now officially adopted the position that the ongoing policies of mass violence and displacement against the Rohingya by the Myanmar government constitute genocide, bringing the US closer to the emerging international consensus on the issue,” it said.

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European Union leaders agree to step up planning for no-deal Brexit

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British Prime Minister Theresa May had come to Brussels hoping for concessions that would help her sell her Brexit deal to skeptical MPs back home.

 

Brussels| EU leaders agreed Thursday to step up preparations for Britain crashing out of the bloc next March without a deal, with the European Commission to publish a plan next week.

At a summit in Brussels, the leaders of the 27 EU member states called for work on “contingency preparedness” — Brussels jargon for no-deal planning — to be intensified.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he would publish the no-deal planning details on December 19, urging Britain to clarify what it wants from the EU.

“Because we are in a debate that is sometimes nebulous and imprecise, I would like some clarifications,” Juncker said after summit talks.

“As we do not know what the collective reactions will be — of the 27 or of the UK — the commission will publish on December 19 all the information that is generally useful for the preparation of no deal.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May had come to Brussels hoping for concessions that would help her sell her Brexit deal to skeptical MPs back home. But the summit statement on Brexit gave her meager pickings, insisting bluntly that the withdrawal agreement struck last month after lengthy negotiations “is not open for renegotiation”.

The final five-point statement issued after talks among the EU 27 that followed a question-and-answer session with May offered the British PM considerably less than earlier drafts.

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EU leaders rebuff May’s plea over Brexit deal

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European leaders have said they will not accept a time limit, and after May left, agreed on a statement that the Brexit deal “is not open for renegotiation”.

 

Brussels| European Union (EU) leaders rebuffed a plea by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday to help her sell her Brexit deal to parliament, warning she must set out exactly what she wants and announcing that they would step up contingency plans in case the deal collapses.

The British prime minister came to a Brussels summit a day after seeing off a challenge to her leadership by her own Conservative MPs, but still facing huge opposition to the divorce deal with the EU.

She told the other 27 leaders the agreement could still pass the House of Commons next month if they helped her reassure lawmakers over a controversial “backstop” clause on Ireland, a British official said.

But European sources said the atmosphere in the room was tense, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders repeatedly interrupting May to ask exactly what she wanted.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters afterward: “Our UK friends need to say what they want instead of asking us what we want.” He added: “Theresa May has led a courageous fight, but unfortunately, we are not seeing the results.”

May floated the idea of setting a target date to agree on a free trade deal with the EU if one had not been agreed by the end of a post-Brexit transition period, to avoid Britain falling into the backstop.

Many of her MPs fear the arrangement for Britain to enter a temporary customs union with the EU to avoid border checks with Ireland could become permanent.

But European leaders have said they will not accept a time limit, and after May left, agreed on a statement that the Brexit deal “is not open for renegotiation”.

With May having promised to have something to offer the MPs before they finally vote on the Brexit deal by January 21, Juncker said she would have to come up with proposals in the next few weeks if she wanted Europe’s support.

However, he said he would publish further plans on Wednesday to protect European businesses and citizens in case the deal fails and Britain exits on March 29 with no new arrangements in place.

May told EU leaders they must help her “change the perception that the backstop could be a trap from which the UK cannot escape”, adding: “Until we do, the deal — our deal — is at risk.”

“With the right assurances, this deal can be passed. Indeed it is the only deal that is capable of getting through my parliament,” she told them.

But while an early draft of the summit conclusions had said the EU “stands ready to examine whether any further assurances can be provided” on the backstop, this was removed from the final published version.

Juncker did offer one olive branch, promising that talks on the future trading relationship — a deal which would undermine the need for the backstop — would start as soon as MPs and the European Parliament approved the Brexit deal.

The summit statement also confirmed the backstop would only “apply temporarily” and that EU member would work to “conclude expeditiously” the new trade deal.

But this is not the legally binding promise sought by Brexiteers and the Northern Irish party that props up May’s government — without which they have warned they will not support the deal.

May arrived in Brussels wounded by a confidence vote in her party on Wednesday night, which she won but in which more than one-third of her MPs voted against her.

The move was sparked by her decision to delay a parliamentary vote on the Brexit deal planned for Tuesday, amid fears of a crushing defeat. It has been delayed to next month.

But ahead of the confidence vote, May was forced to confirm that she would not fight the next general election planned for 2022.

Instead, she said her focus was on salvaging her plan for an orderly Brexit.

Before the EU leaders savaged her plan, she had admitted she did not expect “an immediate breakthrough”.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who earlier met with May on the sidelines of the summit, stressed again the backstop must be part of the deal.

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