‘The spirit of brotherhood defines Pakistan’s approach towards Afghanistan’

May 15, 2019

 

As tensions rise between Saudi Arabia/US and Iran it is good to read that heads of two troubled states are agreeing to seek peace and economic progress towards regional prosperity

In January, Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani phoned Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to discuss recent efforts for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. Business Recorder reports that he expressed gratitude for Pakistan’s facilitation of these efforts, initiated by the US Special Representative for Peace and Reconciliation in Afghanistan, Ambassador Zamlay Khalilzad. He invited Imran Khan to visit Afghanistan at his earliest convenience. Khan reciprocated by inviting President Ghani to visit Pakistan.

In April, PM Khan (below) said “Afghanistan conflict has brought great suffering for both Afghanistan and Pakistan over last 40 years. Now, after a long wait, the Afghanistan Peace Process presents a historic opportunity for peace in the region and Pakistan is fully supporting the process including the next logical step of Intra Afghan Dialogue wherein Afghans will themselves decide upon the future of their country”.

Earlier this month the Times of Islamabad reported that according to a statement issued by the Foreign Office, Imran Khan has called Ashraf Ghani (right) and they agreed to work to realise the true economic potential of the two countries and assure the socio-economic development, alleviation of poverty and welfare of the two peoples. He stated that the spirit of brotherhood defined Pakistan’s approach towards Afghanistan. The prolonged Afghan conflict had damaged Afghanistan and adversely affected Pakistan over many decades.

Imran Khan presented his vision of a peaceful solution in Afghanistan, fully owned and led by the Afghans themselves and stressed that Pakistan will spare no effort to advance the common objectives of building peace in Afghanistan and having a fruitful bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The Gulf News adds that – according to the Foreign Office statement – during the conversation, the Afghan president accepted the invitation to visit Islamabad “for a comprehensive exchange of views on all issues of mutual interest.”

 

 

 

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Israel’s annexation of Judea and Samaria (West Bank): “reaching the point of no return”?

April 11, 2019

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A radio commentator recently said. “Annexation is the name of the game now” and an article by David Gardner (Financial Times), expands on this statement.

Gardner reports that following the US president’s recent statements, Benjamin Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 12 News at the weekend that he ‘will not uproot anyone [among the Jewish settlers], and will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians’. He said Israel would take the big clusters of Jewish settlements, mostly around Jerusalem and the settler outposts deep inside the West Bank, built illegally under international law.

See https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-the-settlers-who-didn-t-know-they-were-settlers-1.6157541

His biographer, Anshel Pfeffer, writing in the newspaper Haaretz, predicted the victory. Netanyahu, he wrote, “will do anything to stay in office. Stoke Israelis’ darkest fears, appeal to racist demons and undermine the pillars of Israel’s incomplete and limited democracy to fend off the charges of his rank corruption”.

Last year the central committee of Netanyahu’s Likud party — whose charter expressly repudiates a Palestinian state — voted unanimously to extend Israeli sovereignty and law to “all liberated areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]”.

Mr Netanyahu, elected despite impending corruption charges, is now forming a coalition with groups that advocate the paid “transfer” of Palestinians to neighbouring Arab countries.

President Donald Trump, after recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there, called last month for recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, annexed in 1981, though both decisions were declared illegal by the UN Security Council in resolutions 478 and 497. Gardner ends:

“This story, seen by Arabs as the colonisation of the Palestinians by Israel, is reaching the point of no return”.

He appears to reserve his pity for future generations of Israeli Jews condemned to ”the instability of living in a single state with Palestinian Arabs as second-class citizens — who would eventually outnumber them in the cramped and combustible space between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean”.

137 countries officially recognise the state of Palestine, according to the Palestinian mission to the United Nations. Currently, the UK – like the US – only recognises the state of Israel. Would a Labour government act on MP John McDonnell’s proposal to convene an international conference with the stated aim of creating a viable Palestinian and Israeli state?

 

 

 

 

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Trident: Bruce Kent and the Bishop of Chelmsford are ‘wise as serpents and (hopefully) as harmless as doves.’

April 8, 2019

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Renowned peace campaigner, Bruce Kent, has called on the Catholic bishops of England and Wales to condemn the Trident replacement plans.

Speaking to The Tablet at the 27th Ash Wednesday Witness at the Ministry of Defence, at the start of Lent, Mr Kent said: “It’s a time of penance, and prayer. And here is the most awful thing in the world, weapons that can destroy whole cities and thousands of people” (below) and that triggering a nuclear attack is “absolutely impossible, morally”.

He acknowledged that the bishops have condemned nuclear weapons in general, and singled out Archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon, for his stance on nuclear weapons. 

After urging the Bishops’ Conference to speak out about Trident replacement, that Christian CND has estimated will cost more than £200 billion, he continued: “Now that we’re going to spend £200 billion on more nuclear weapons, I would expect a statement from the bishops about the immorality of it. And I’m still waiting”.

On April 5th, The Times reported that senior clergy are calling on Westminster Abbey to cancel a ceremony to honour Trident submarine crews, planned for May 3, to mark 50 years of Britain’s “continuous at-sea deterrent”, because it appears to “celebrate” nuclear weapons.

Today Dr Julian Lewis, MP, Chairman, defence committee, countered one assertion in a letter:

“Far from being “designed to indiscriminately kill and destroy thousands of innocent civilians”, as (the Bishop of Colchester) asserts, these weapons have been created — and for 50 years successfully deployed by the Royal Navy — to eliminate any realistic possibility of hostile powers threatening to kill millions of British civilians with impunity”. He did not cite the Bishop of Chelmsford’s more accurate reference to an affirmation in July last year by the church’s General Synod, that (emphasis added):

“(N)uclear weapons, through their indiscriminate and destructive potential, present a distinct category of weaponry that requires Christians to work tirelessly for their elimination”.

Lambeth Palace said that there were no plans for the Bishop to the Armed Forces or the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend the invitation-only ceremony, which will be attended by Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, Earl Howe, the defence minister, and Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the First Sea Lord.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, also said that he did not doubt Westminster Abbey’s good intentions in celebrating those men and women who serve in the Royal Navy on these nuclear submarines, but saw this service as appearing also to celebrate the weapons, adding:

“I hope the abbey will include other voices in this service which can bear witness to the horror of nuclear weapons and the growing consensus . . . to work for their elimination.”

 

 

 

 

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Cross-party coalition of Scots urges Britain to uphold the rule of law and recognise the state of Palestine

March 30, 2019

 

Thousands of Palestinians gathered today in several locations across the Gaza Strip

They were marking the one-year anniversary of the weekly border protests, coinciding with the annual commemoration of Land Day which Palestinians worldwide have commemorated since 1976, when Israeli security forces shot dead six Israeli Arabs who were protesting against the expropriation of Arab-owned farm land in northern Israel to build Jewish settlements.

The Times reports that a letter signed by Scots, including MPs, MSPs and peers from all parties, said the “dismally familiar pattern” of rockets and reprisals must be broken.

It added: “Two million people are imprisoned in Gaza, an integral part of Palestine. The UN says Gaza will not be ‘a liveable place’ by next year. It is unbearable now”.

It was signed by:

  • Lord Ancram
  • MP Alistair Carmichael
  • Lord Purvis
  • Lord Bruce
  • MP Ian Murray
  • MSP Claudia Beamish
  • MSP Pauline McNeill
  • Baroness Kennedy.
  • MP Tommy Sheppard
  • MP Philippa Whitford
  • MSP Sandra White
  • MSP Ross Greer
  • Rev Iain Cunningham
  • Sir William Patey
  • Professor Graham Watt

Egyptian diplomacy:

Haaretz reports that, according to Palestinian sources, factions in Gaza have reached understandings with Israel ahead of the protests, following talks with a delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials. This included an agreement on the part of Hamas to prevent protesters from approaching the fence separating Israel from Gaza, while Israel responds with restraint to minimize civilian injuries.

Israel has offered to:

  • re-open border crossings into Gaza,
  • expand the fishing zone in the waters off the coast of the enclave
  • ease restrictions on the entry of goods.
  • And permit the entry of money from Qatar to provide fuel for Gaza

As the letter ended: “There is a better way than waiting for President Trump’s ‘deal’, a way that does not subordinate the right to self-determination of one people to the security and territorial ambitions of another. We back the Balfour Project’s call for an independent Palestinian state. Israelis need to co-exist securely with their Palestinian neighbours, not deny legitimate free movement. Britain must take a lead. We urge the government to recognise the state of Palestine alongside Israel and uphold the rule of law, embodied most recently in UN security council resolution 2334”.

 

 

 

 

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‘Special relationship’ led to cycle of revenge and counter-revenge

March 22, 2019

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Documents newly released and placed in the National Archives in Kew, show the prime minister was deeply troubled by UC President Reagan’s request to allow the US to use RAF bases to launch a raid on Libya.

The Times reports that the US president wanted to respond to an attack on a nightclub used by US servicemen, writing: “Because the evidence we have on direct Libyan involvement in the Berlin bombing is so convincing, and our information on their future plans is so threatening, I have reluctantly taken the decision to use US forces to exact a response.”

Margaret Thatcher outlined her concerns in a series of letters:

“Dear Ron . . . as you know my instinct is always to stand beside the United States, but what you say in your message causes me very considerable anxiety. My worry is that this risks getting us into a cycle of revenge and counter-revenge in which many more innocent lives will be lost . . . “.

“Given all we know of Gaddafi’s nature, a military attack on Libya seems all too likely to lead him to step up terrorist attacks against civilian targets, resulting in the death of more innocent victims — some of them yours and some of them mine . . .”

Referring to the conflict in Northern Ireland, she wrote: “I have to live with the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic across which terrorists come daily. We have lost 2,500 of our people in the last ten years, but we have never crossed that border to exact revenge.”

Reagan wrote:

“You should not underestimate the profound effect on the American people if our actions to put a halt to these crimes continue to receive only lukewarm support, or no support at all, from our closest allies whom we have committed ourselves to defend.”

She responded: “You can count on our unqualified support for action directed against specific Libyan targets demonstrably involved in the conduct and support of terrorist activities.”

Tragically, the so-called ‘Iron Lady’ gave way

Days before ordering airstrikes against Libya, which led to the deaths of more than 70 people in April 1986, she decided to allow the US to use RAF bases to launch a raid on Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. US F-111 jets launched raids on Tripoli and Benghazi from RAF bases in Suffolk and Oxfordshire.

*Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie in 1988 and a Libyan national, was convicted of the atrocity in 2001.

FT journalist Jim Pickard, though a persistent critic of Jeremy Corbyn, has pointed out that Corbyn has linked terror attacks to foreign wars and, since becoming Labour leader has apologised for the joint US-UK action on behalf of his party. He has opposed most western military interventions of modern times, including action in Afghanistan and Syria.

 

*This sentence corrected in April thanks to a vigilant Wimbledon reader.

 

 

 

 

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‘Statesmanlike’ words, a peace gesture intended to de-escalate tensions between India and Pakistan

February 28, 2019

Times journalist, Hugh Tomlinson, described Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan as ‘statesmanlike’, after he urged restraint and warned of the horrors of a miscalculation between two nations with about 140 nuclear warheads apiece. 

Earlier Pakistan asked India to provide evidence for the claims that its government  supports Kashmiri rebel groups. In a statement made on 21st February, Pakistan repeated an offer to help investigate the attack, to take action against anyone found to be using the Pakistani soil for attacks on India and hold a “dialogue” with India on all issues, including terrorism.

Addressing India directly in a televised statement yesterday, Mr Khan offered a way to avert a full-scale conflict: “All wars are miscalculated, and no one knows where they lead to. I ask India: with the weapons you have and the weapons we have, can we really afford a miscalculation?”

After a special address on Indian-Pakistani tensions in the Pakistani Parliament, he announced that his government will return Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, an Indian air force MiG-21 pilot, shot down over Pakistani controlled territory on Wednesday morning, to India as a “peace gesture” intended to de-escalate tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

“In our desire for peace, I announce that tomorrow, and as a first step to open negotiations, Pakistan will be releasing the Indian Air Force officer in our custody,” Mr Khan tweeted afterwards.

Sources, the Times, the FT and India’s Economic Times

 

 

 

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Korean update

January 30, 2019

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The last reference on this site was the cheering April declaration by the two Korean leaders that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula.

Read [FULL TEXT] Panmunjeon Declaration

In a September agreement, the Koreas pledged gradually to withdraw all guard posts within the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone. They also agreed to create buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries, as well as a no-fly zone above the border. South Korean President Moon Jae-in described the agreement as an important trust-building step that will reduce border tensions.

Associated Press reported in October that the North and South Korean militaries agreed to destroy 22 front-line guard posts by the end of November as they discussed their next steps in implementing the September agreement. In a statement released after the general-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom they agreed to conduct a November joint survey of a 70km waterway near their western border which will eventually be used by civilian vessels from both countries.

The Koreas and the U.S.-led U.N. Command completed removing firearms and troops from a jointly controlled area at the border village and have been clearing mines from front-line areas. They plan to start their first joint search for remains of soldiers killed during the 1950-53 Korean War in April. South Korea’s Defence Ministry issued a statement that the Koreas plan to jointly verify that all these measures have been carried out in December.

November: the road built across the military demarcation line inside the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea.

Seoul’s defence ministry announced that North and South Korea have connected a road across their shared border for the first time in 14 years, in the latest reconciliation gesture. The dirt road, which is wholly within the Demilitarized Zone that divides the peninsula, will be used for joint operations next year to recover remains from the 1950-53 Korean War as agreed at the Pyongyang summit between the South’s President Moon Jae-in and the North’s leader Kim Jong Un in September.

The BBC reported that in November, for the first time in more than a decade, a train travelled from South Korea across the heavily guarded border into North Korea.

When the leaders of North and South Korea had their historic meeting in April, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un asked for help with updating his country’s railways, which he said were in an “embarrassing” state.

South Korean engineers boarded the train in Dorasan, just north of Seoul, on Friday morning for the short journey to the Demilitarised Zone which has divided the Korean peninsula since the Korean War in the 1950s. They will live on the train for the next 18 days while inspecting 1,200km (745 miles) of track and railway infrastructure.

In December, the Koreas jointly verified the removal of the border Armed Guard Posts. Voice of America reports that a South Korean delegation left for North Korea on to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for reconnecting roads and railways across the divided peninsula despite stalled denuclearization talks. Joint railway and road inspections are to take place this month in preparation for this project.

In January, following a visit by Mr Kim’s top aide to Washington, the FT reported that the White House has confirmed that a second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump will take place at the end of February.

 

 

 

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