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Speedboat Taking Migrants to Greece Partially Sinks; 1 Dead

A speedboat that appeared to have been smuggling migrants to the Greek island of Rhodes from nearby Turkey partially sank before reaching land, leaving one person dead, Greece’s coast guard said on Monday.
The coast guard said it received information about the speedboat near the northwestern coast of Rhodes on Monday morning. Thirteen people who had been on board were found safe on the nearby shore, while the body of one man was recovered.
The survivors told authorities that a total of 14 people had been on board the speedboat. However, coast guard patrol boats were searching the area in case of others who might have been on board.
Greece remains one of the most popular routes into the European Union for people fleeing conflict and poverty in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

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Biden Expected to Pick Foreign Affairs Veteran as Secretary of State Nominee

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is reported to have selected one of his closest foreign affairs advisers, Antony Blinken, to be secretary of state in his new administration, as the projected winner of the U.S. election appears set to re-engage the United States in an array of global alliances that President Donald Trump had abandoned.
 
The 58-year-old Blinken is a veteran of U.S. foreign affairs decision-making for two decades, and according to multiple news accounts, agrees with Biden on the need for the U.S. to play a leading role again in world affairs, a change from Trump’s “America First” credo that at times left the United States at odds with other long-time Western allies.
 
In his first days in office after the January 20 inauguration, Biden plans to overturn Trump policies and rejoin the Paris climate agreement, stop the U.S. exit from the World Health Organization and attempt to again join other nations in the international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons development.
 
Blinken served first under former President Bill Clinton, then later as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under former Democratic President Barack Obama when Biden was vice president. And while Republican former President George W, Bush was in power, Blinken was the Democratic staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
 
In addition to Blinken’s nomination, which must be approved by the Senate, Biden transition officials told news media that the incoming U.S. leader plans to name two other foreign policy veterans to key positions — Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as his nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.FILE – Then-Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, right, testifies during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 9, 2014.Sullivan is another Biden foreign policy adviser. Thomas-Greenfield, an African American, is a former career Foreign Service officer and would hold one of the most high-profile diplomatic posts in the new administration.
 
Biden is expected to officially make the three appointments on Tuesday and could also announce other Cabinet-level nominations even as Trump continues to contest Biden’s election as the country’s 46th chief executive.  
 
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Monday are meeting virtually from Wilmington, Delaware, with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The non-partisan organization includes the mayors of more than 1,400 cities, each with a population of 30,000 or more.
 
The conference has pushed for more federal aid to state and local governments as the number of coronavirus cases surges in the U.S. But negotiations for more relief have stalled between Congress and the White House. Biden has called for a new aid deal before he takes office but prospects for its passage by the end of December are uncertain.
 Trump insists he won election
Trump is continuing to claim he won the election despite Biden’s unofficial 306-232 majority vote in the Electoral College. The electoral vote determines U.S. presidential elections, not the national popular vote, although Biden leads there, too, by more than 6 million votes.  
 
Trump’s legal fight against the election results has been fruitless so far, with his campaign losing or withdrawing 34 lawsuits claiming vote and vote-counting fraud in key battleground states Biden was projected to win to claim a four-year term in the White House.  
 
Trump is pursuing other lawsuits and appeals of decisions he has lost, attempting to upend Biden’s win.
 
Trump’s legal team filed an appeal Sunday after its latest courtroom defeat late Saturday in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes Biden won by an 81,000-vote margin.
 
U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann declared that the Trump campaign had presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” in its effort to throw out millions of votes in Pennsylvania and hand the state’s electoral votes to Trump.FILE – A canvas observer photographs Lehigh County provisional ballots during vote counting in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Nov. 6, 2020.“In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state,” Brann wrote.
 
After a hand recount of 5 million votes, the southern state of Georgia on Friday certified Biden’s victory there, while Pennsylvania and the midwestern state of Michigan could do the same on Monday. The Trump campaign has since requested another recount of the votes in Georgia.  
 
Despite his legal setbacks, Trump has refused to authorize his administration to cooperate with Biden on his transition to office.   
 Transition stalled
On Sunday, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain rebuked Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration, for so far refusing to ascertain that Biden is the apparent election winner so that federal funding can be made available for the transfer in control of the government and Biden aides can talk with officials at numerous agencies.  
 
“I hope that the administrator of the GSA will do her job,” Klain said on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to Murphy. 
 

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Biden, New Zealand’s Ardern Discuss COVID-19, Other Issues in Congratulatory Call

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has spoken by phone with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, adding to the list of world leaders who have congratulated him on his election even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede and challenges the outcome.
The Biden-Harris transition issued a statement late Sunday, saying Biden thanked the prime minister for her congratulations, offered his own on her re-election and expressed his intent to strengthen the U.S.-New Zealand partnership. Ardern was re-elected in October.
The statement also said Biden looks forward to working closely with Ardern on common challenges, including containing COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reinforcing multilateralism, strengthening democracy, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Ardern later said she offered to share her nation’s expertise on dealing with the coronavirus. Trump has refused to authorize his administration to cooperate with Biden as the former vice president transitions to power.
Speaking to reporters in Wellington after the call, Ardern described the conversation as warm and said Biden spoke very favorably about how New Zealand was handling the pandemic.
New Zealand is widely heralded as one of the most successful countries in suppressing the infection. It has recorded just over 2,000 cases and 25 deaths, a feat achieved through strict lockdowns and closing of its borders.
Ardern said Biden wanted to pursue the discussion on New Zealand’s response further. But she cautioned that replicating the nation’s model everywhere may not be possible.   
She said, “While New Zealand has a number of natural advantages that have assisted us in managing the virus, I do absolutely believe that international cooperation continues to be key to getting the virus under control and we are happy to work with any country to share our knowledge and data if it’s helpful.”  
Ardern said she and Biden also discussed trade issues.
In the statement released by the Biden team, he praised Ardern’s “extraordinary leadership” following a 2019 mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques, and as a working mother and role model.

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Latest High-Level US Visit to Asia Seen Locking in Trump’s Tough China Policy

U.S. national security advisor Robert O’Brien is visiting Vietnam and the Philippines this month to help bulk up international resistance against Chinese maritime expansion, a sore spot between the superpowers, in ways that outlast President Donald Trump’s term in office, analysts say.   O’Brien met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a November 20-22 trip. The national security advisor “reaffirmed U.S. support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that contributes to international security and respects the rule of law,” the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said in a statement.   U.S. officials often cite rule of law and security cooperation to contrast what they like about Southeast Asian states against Washington’s view of China as a country that does things its own way.  The U.S. official’s trip following a Vietnam U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo poses for a photo with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc after their meeting at the Government Office in Hanoi, Vietnam, Oct. 30, 2020.Vietnam and the Philippines have faced off over the years against Chinese fishing, energy exploration and military activities in the contested South China Sea. Both say China is operating in their exclusive economic zones, which extend 370 kilometers offshore.   “Hanoi and Manila are the only claimants to have ever really stood up to Beijing on the South China Sea, so it stands to reason these are the two countries O’Brien’s chosen to visit,” said Sean King, vice president of the Park Strategies political consultancy in New York. Pompeo set the tone for visits such as O’Brien’s in July by calling the Chinese maritime claims illegal and vowing support for countries that dispute sovereignty with China. Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam each call all or part of the South China Sea their own in the search for fish and undersea energy reserves.    Vietnam’s prime minister and his guest agreed to continue cooperating “in order to cope with common challenges, thus significantly contributing to peace” in Asia, the Communist Party of Vietnam’s news website Nhan Dan Online reported Sunday.   People in Vietnam saw the O’Brien visit as one in a series by American officials, but hope it helps lock in a U.S. foreign policy that continues after Joe Biden takes office as U.S. president, said Jack Nguyen, a partner with the business advisory firm Mazars in Ho Chi Minh City.   The visit had probably been on the books for a while and will inspire the U.S. Congress into next year rather than influencing Biden, said Nguyen Thanh Trung, Center for International Studies director at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City. Biden will focus on domestic U.S. issues rather than Asia at the start, he predicted. Congress has been aligned with Trump on Asia policy over the current presidential term. “I think [the impetus for the O’Brien trip] comes from the bipartisan policy on China and also on the South China Sea,” he said. “I think it mainly comes from the Congress rather than from the (Trump) Administration.”National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien speaks during a news conference on Sept. 21, 2020, at the U.S. State Department in Washington, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, right, listen.China has alarmed Southeast Asian claimants to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea by landfilling disputed islets for its own use, including military purposes.  Trump’s government regularly sends Navy vessels into the sea, sells arms to countries that have disputes with China and confers with pro-Western allies such as Australia and Japan on China matters. China cites historic documents to back its maritime claims and accuses the United States of trying to contain Chinese expansion.  Washington is separately vying with Beijing over trade and the sharing of technology — all hallmarks of the Trump years. Trump is due to leave office in January.  Vietnam has clashed with China at sea since the 1970s and and in April  a Chinese surveillance vessel caused a Vietnamese fishing boat to capsize. Despite the U.S.’s wartime history with Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, the two sides began collaborating more on defense in 2016.   Manila and Beijing got into a standoff in 2012 over the disputed sea’s Scarborough Shoal, where Chinese ships pushed Philippine vessels out of a rich fishing ground. Manila won world court arbitration four years later, but China snubbed the outcome and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks to Beijing today for development aid.    The Philippines has sent “contradictory messages on the South China Sea” though the population and military “remain pro-American”, King said. A U.S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement still hangs in the balance after Duterte’s government said earlier this year that Manila would cancel it – but announced this month a second six-month extension.    “Relations thus, need to be kept up and maintained,” King said. “After all, Manila’s a U.S. treaty ally.” The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs had not posted information on O’Brien’s visit as of mid-Monday. 

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Israel Media Report Netanyahu Met with Saudi Crown Prince

Israeli media reported Monday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret visit Sunday to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The reports said the Israel delegation also included Yossi Cohen, the chief of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency and cited flight tracking data showing a private jet traveling from Tel Aviv to Neom, Saudi Arabia and returning hours later.U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the country, in Riyadh, Nov. 22, 2020.Netanyahu’s office did not make any public comment about any such trip. The U.S. State Department did not include any mention of Netanyahu in its Sunday statement about Pompeo’s meeting with Mohammed bin Salman, which took place in Neom. “They discussed the need for Gulf unity to counter Iran’s aggressive behavior in the region and the need to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Yemen,” Principal Deputy Spokesperson Cale Brown said. Pompeo visited Israel last week and celebrated with Netanyahu the recent agreements Israel signed normalizing relations with Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. Pompeo has urged Saudi Arabia to normalize its ties with Israel as well. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia also share a strong interest in countering Iran. 

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French Ex-President Sarkozy Goes on Trial, Accused of Corruption

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy goes on trial Monday accused of trying to bribe a judge and of influence-peddling, one of several criminal investigations that threaten to cast an ignominious pall over his decades-long political career.Prosecutors allege Sarkozy offered to secure a plum job in Monaco for judge Gilbert Azibert in return for confidential information about an inquiry into claims that Sarkozy had accepted illegal payments from L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt for his 2007 presidential campaign.Sarkozy, who led France from 2007-2012 and has remained influential among conservatives, has denied any wrongdoing in all the investigations against him and fought vigorously to have the cases dismissed.Investigators had from 2013 been wiretapping conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog as they delved into allegations of Libyan financing in Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign.As they did, they learned that Sarkozy and his lawyer were communicating using mobile phones registered under false names. Sarkozy’s phone was registered to a Paul Bismuth.Prosecutors have said the wiretaps revealed that Sarkozy and Herzog had on multiple occasions discussed contacting Azibert, a magistrate at the Cour de Cassation, France’s top appeals court for criminal cases, and well-informed on the Bettencourt inquiry.They allege that Sarkozy offered to help Azibert get the Monaco job in return for insider help.”Mr. Azibert never got the job in Monaco,” Sarkozy told BFM TV this month.Herzog and Azibert are both on trial with Sarkozy, charged with corruption and influence-peddling. They are also accused of “violating professional secrecy.” All three face up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines if convicted.Sarkozy and his center-right party Les Republicains have for years said the investigations against the former president are politically motivated.Next March, Sarkozy is due in court on accusations of violating campaign financing rules during his failed 2012 reelection bid. The so-called “Bygmalion” case centers on accusations that Sarkozy’s party worked with a friendly public relations firm to hide the true cost of his campaign.Prosecutors are still investigating claims that Libya’s former leader Moammar Gadhafi provided Sarkozy’s 2007 campaign with millions of euros shipped to Paris in suitcases, allegations that Sarkozy denies. His main accuser, a French-Lebanese businessman, withdrew his account of events this month. 
 

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Dayton Accords 25 Years Later: Bosnia Got Blueprint for Peace but not for Its Future

When leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia gathered in the U.S. city of Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995, war in Bosnia had been raging for almost four years. It exacerbated deep ethnic tensions, drove almost 2 million people from their homes and claimed about 100,000 lives.  
 
A few months earlier, Serb forces had killed more than 8,000 Bosniak — Bosnian Muslim — men and boys in Srebrenica, an event later ruled genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
 
After numerous failed international attempts to stop the fighting, it was U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke who brokered the Dayton Peace Agreement. NATO, the guarantor for the peace, deployed 60,000 peacekeepers.
 
The agreement confirmed Bosnia’s independence and established a state presidency, parliament and government. However, it also divided the country into two entities, a Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina on one hand, and Republika Srpska, on the other, both with wide autonomies and complex political structures.FILE – Civilians run along Sarajevo’s notorious “Sniper Alley,” as French U.N. peacekeepers look on, April 5, 1995.James Pardew was part of the U.S. negotiating team, led by Holbrooke. He said that the biggest challenge before Dayton was the complicated structure of the negotiating process, including a lot of travel through European capitals, cooperation with international organizations, such as NATO and the United Nations, and dealing with leaders who had very hard positions.
 
Pardew said, “We had to deal with [former Serbian President] Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, which was challenging and difficult. He was a very crafty person, and he created this fiction that somehow he wasn’t involved in the war in Bosnia. That was all untrue. But each of the leaders, [former Bosnian President Alija] Izetbegovic with the Bosnian Muslims, [former President Franjo] Tudjman in Croatia, and others, each one of them had their own interests and their own agendas. And Holbrooke had to weave his way through those.”  
 
The negotiating process culminated at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, where leaders of the former Yugoslav republics — Izetbegovic, Tudjman and Milosevic — agreed to end the war. The agreement was initialed on November 21 in Dayton, and finally ratified on December 14 in Paris.FILE – Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, left, shakes hands with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, right, as Croatian President Franjo Tudjman looks on, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, Nov. 1, 1995.Primary objective of agreement accomplished
 
Critics say that the Dayton Accords created a complex nation with far too many layers of government, focused more on protecting ethnic groups than on promoting the rights of individuals. Many war criminals were never sanctioned, while the same, nationalistic, political parties have mostly been in power since 1995.
 
Robert Gelbard was special representative of the U.S. president and secretary of state for implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords from April 1997 until August 1999. Before that appointment he also dealt with the former Yugoslav region, including cooperation on capturing war criminals.
 
“The resistance that we saw from some of the governments in the region, particularly from Serbia, was extraordinary,” Gelbard said.  
 
Gelbard said he went to Bosnia for the first time just two weeks after the Dayton Accords, at Holbrooke’s request. He adds that it is easy to criticize compromises like the peace agreement later, but it did achieve its main goal, stopping the killing.
 
“There are lots of problems with the Dayton Agreement, but I still think, 25 years later, it was a brilliant achievement by Richard Holbrooke and those who were working with him,” Gelbard said.
“The failure came afterwards,” he said, “in the unwillingness of the international community when things have calmed down to sit down and create the circumstances again through the necessary political will to revisit it, redo the constitution, and create an environment to provide a different kind of Bosnia-Herzegovina that would be a successful state.”FILE – A forensic anthropologist of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) works to identify the remains of a victim of the Srebrenica massacre, at the ICMP center near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 6, 2016.Pardew said that the priority was to stop the killing, but the problem was the political structure created by Dayton.
 
“Did we make mistakes? Of course, we did. There is no perfect negotiation,” Pardew said.
 
“But I would say the biggest one was giving the entities, the Republika Srpska and the Federation, as much authority over the functioning of Bosnia as they had. I don’t think we could have reached an agreement without the two entities, but I do think that we could have done a better job of limiting the power to disrupt the state by those entities.”  
 
The U.S. played a key role in establishing the peace, but the long-term goal for Bosnia was always European integration. In the past two decades Bosnian politicians have unsuccessfully attempted to change the constitution, make significant reforms and fulfill conditions to join the European Union. The EU itself also has slowed down the accession process.   
 
Despite all that, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Matthew Palmer, who has responsibility for the Western Balkans, said that the European dream for Bosnia has no alternative.  
 
“The Dayton Peace Accords were successful in achieving their primary objective, which was to bring an end to the war, an end to the violence, an end to the suffering. To create a foundation upon which the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina could build a more stable future,” Palmer said. “There’s still clearly a lot of work that needs to be done. The vision of Bosnia-Herzegovina integrated completely into the European family of nations has not yet been fulfilled,” he added.FILE – A flock of pigeons fly over Bascarsija square in the old part of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo, Jan 11, 1998.Responsibility of local leaders
 
On the 10th anniversary of the accords, Holbrooke urged U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration to increase its engagement in Bosnia, saying that Bosnia’s central government was weak, and corruption in the country was widespread. He added that without EU membership, Balkan countries will always be a mess.  
 
Gelbard said that even today corruption, complicated bureaucracy, and an unfavorable investment environment remain key problems in Bosnia.
 
“I’ve tried to get companies to invest in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Very little interest,” he said.
 
Pardew also says the development of Bosnia after 1995 has been a disappointment. As reasons, he cites negative, destructive influences of neighboring countries, especially Serbia, Russian involvement, and the failure of local leaders to create a democratic and productive society that benefits everybody.   
 
Both Pardew and Gelbard mentioned Milorad Dodik as an example. Dodik, currently a member of a tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a pro-Western leader of Bosnian Serbs after the war, with strong international support. Since then, though, he has embraced a nationalistic narrative, threatening to separate Republika Srpska from Bosnia. In 2017, he was sanctioned by the U.S. for actively obstructing the Dayton Accords.FILE – Members of Bosnia’s newly elected tripartite presidency, Bosnian Serb member Milorad Dodik, center, Croat member Zeljko Komsic, left, and Muslim member Sefik Dzaferovic, greet each other, in Sarajevo, Nov. 20, 2018.“Milorad Dodik was around in 1995 when all this was going on. I can’t believe that he’s still in power in Republika Srpska and unwilling to take any kind of compromise that would weaken the position of Republika Srpska in his mind. Even though those compromises might be in the best interest of the Serbs who live there,” Pardew said.  
 
“I think of anybody in that country, he disappoints me the most,” Gelbard said.
 
“Watching Republika Srpska over the years and at first they hated Dayton, and now Dodik keeps saying — I love Dayton. And the reason he loves Dayton is because the structures, unfortunately, do not allow for true governance of a real state,” he added.
 
Gelbard said that the peace agreement provided a temporary framework for the governance of Bosnia Herzegovina, but the country is stagnating, and needs changes in its constitution and its structures. He adds that the process should be led by the EU, which has failed to show the political will to do so for decades.  
 
“This would be a wonderful case for Europe to show responsibility and for the EU to take responsibility, with strong American support, for convening a group, an international conference, to redo the constitution of Bosnia and create an effective ability to govern Bosnia,” Gelbard said.
 
Pardew does not think that is likely to happen, saying, “There is not going to be a Dayton 2.”FILE – Participants of the “March for Peace,” carrying Bosnian flags, walk near the village of Nezuk, some 150 kilometers northeast of Sarajevo, July 8, 2015.He said that responsibility lies in the hands of Bosnian leaders who have chosen divisiveness rather than cooperation and development, even though Dayton Accords do not prevent them from making positive changes.
 
“Until we have leaders that are willing to work together and toward those kinds of goals, I think Bosnia is going to continue to be a failure. And what does that cause? It causes young people to leave, to seek opportunities elsewhere, and it creates a kind of a broken system under international support. And I think that’s tragic. That is certainly not what we intended in 1995,” Pardew said.
 
Palmer, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia, said that reforms are key for Bosnia and that the system needs to be more functional and capable of delivering goods and services to the citizens, and to holding the leadership accountable.
 
“Those who are in positions of power and responsibility need to be held to account and the system, the state, the institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina need to work for everybody,” he said.
 

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Biden Team Decries Lack of Access to Official COVID Data

With U.S. President Donald Trump still disputing results of the November 3 election, there is little communication between the Trump administration and the incoming Biden team, including on the nation’s response to COVID-19. Michelle Quinn reports.
Video editor: Mary Cieslak