World News May 29
EU COMMISSION: FRANCE AND GERMANY DIFFER ON BRUSSELS’ TOP JOB
France and Germany have disagreed on who should take one of the EU’s key
roles as leaders from the bloc met following parliamentary elections.
The vote saw the big centrist blocs lose their majorities with Greens and
nationalists gaining ground.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants centre-right candidate Manfred Weber
as the next EU Commission president.
But French President Emmanuel Macron did not even mention Mr Weber as a
contender for the influential position.
Their comments came at a meeting on Tuesday in Brussels, which was a chance
for EU leaders to discuss the new political landscape and who might take
over the top jobs.
The elections left the EU more fragmented with the chances of reaching
consensus more difficult.
The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said Brexit was a factor
behind a majority of voters favouring pro-EU parties.
“As Europeans see what Brexit means in practice, they also draw conclusions.
Brexit has been a vaccine against anti-EU propaganda and fake news.”
TALIBAN SAYS ‘OCCUPATION’ MUST END FOR AFGHAN PEACE
A Taliban delegation met a group of senior Afghan politicians in Moscow on
Tuesday, insisting that international forces must leave Afghanistan for
peace to be agreed, amid gathering diplomatic efforts to end the 18-year
The delegation, led by chief Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar Akhund, met
politicians, including senior regional leaders and candidates challenging
President Ashraf Ghani in this year’s presidential election.
“The Islamic Emirate wants peace but the first step is to remove obstacles
to peace and end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar said, appearing
openly on television in what appeared to be a calculated move to establish
his legitimacy as one of the main public faces of the Taliban.
The Taliban, ousted by U.S.-backed forces weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks on the United States, refer to themselves as the Islamic Emirate.
Mohammad Karim Khalili, head of the High Peace Council, the main body
charged with pursuing peace efforts, said dozens of people were being killed
in fighting every day and it was time for a “dignified and just mechanism”
to end the bloodshed.
SRI LANKA, JAPAN, INDIA SIGN DEAL TO DEVELOP EAST CONTAINER TERMINAL AT
Sri Lanka, Japan and India on Tuesday signed an agreement to jointly develop
the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port.
The signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) is significant, given
that India and Sri Lanka were negotiating a potential partnership on the
project, although with little success.
New Delhi’s interest in partnering the project is well known. Over 70% of
the transhipment business at the strategically located East Container
Terminal is linked to India, according to official sources.
However, India’s possible role in developing the terminal had become a major
flashpoint within the government. President Maithripala Sirisena had opposed
any Indian involvement in the project, as roping in foreign actors for
developing “national assets” remains a politically sensitive call in the
Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had a heated argument
on the matter during a cabinet meeting last year, with the Sri Lankan PM
apparently more inclined towards allowing an Indian role in the project.
Negotiations seemed to have hit a roadblock until Japan stepped in more
recently. The new dynamic altered the prospects for India, allowing it to
play a part in upgrading the terminal.
AS SHANAHAN HEADS TO ASIA, IRAN TENSIONS THREATEN PENTAGON’S ‘GREAT POWER’
As acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan heads to Asia on Tuesday
to deliver a major policy speech on the region, increasing tensions with
Iran threatens to upend the Pentagon’s strategy to focus on “great power
competition” and countering Russia and China, officials and experts say.
On his first day as acting defense secretary in January, Shanahan told
civilian leaders of the U.S. military to focus on “China, China, China.”
But escalating tension with Iran over the past month could impair that
focus. The U.S. military has cited what it sees as a threat of potential
attack by Iran to deploy hundreds of troops to the region, in addition to
Patriot missiles, bombers and the accelerated movement of a carrier strike
“The greatest way to kill the National Defense Strategy and its focus on
long-term competition and preparing for the possibility of conflict with
China and Russia is to start another war in the Middle East,” said Mara
Karlin, a former Pentagon official now with the Brookings Institution.
Karlin said it was not just conflict with Iran that would distract the
Pentagon from its own strategy, but that planning itself can consume
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Pentagon
leadership was spending time discussing the question of what a large-scale
conflict with Iran could mean for the focus on China and Russia.
The official said the hope was that the deterrence measures being used by
the Pentagon – sending aircraft and ships to the region – would be enough to
stave off a major conflict with Iran.
AS DROUGHT PERSISTS, AUSTRALIA RESTRICTS WATER USE IN POPULOUS STATE
Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales on Tuesday imposed water
restrictions for the first time in a decade with dam levels at just over 50%
due to a prolonged drought. The country’s east coast has suffered through
two years of below average rainfall, devastating agricultural production and
stoking a political debate over the impact of climate change.
With the drought showing no sign of abating, state authorities said
residents can only water their lawns and gardens between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Washing of hard surfaces such as driveways will be prohibited from June 1.
New South Wales, home to about a third of Australia’s 25 million people and
its biggest city Sydney, last imposed water restrictions in 2009.
New South Wales Water Minister Melinda Pavey said the latest outlook for
dry, hot conditions had forced the government’s hand. “The Bureau of
Meteorology’s latest forecast is predicting below-average rainfall and
higher temperatures for June to August, which are key drivers of stronger
water demand,” Pavey said in a statement.
Dam levels in the state are now just over 50%, down sharply from 96% in
April 2017, she said.
With less than 50mm of rain in May, wheat farmers in the state face a third
straight year of below average production, a drain on the state’s economy.
CHINA REJECTS U.S. CALL FOR DIALOGUE WITH DALAI LAMA
China on Tuesday rejected U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad’s call to Beijing
to engage in “substantive dialogue” with the Dalai Lama, saying that it was
firmly opposed to “foreign interference” in Tibet and its internal affairs.
Mr. Branstad visited Tibet from May 19 to 25, the first such visit by a U.S.
ambassador to China to the remote Himalayan region since 2015, where access
is restricted for diplomats and journalists.
Mr. Branstad, during his visit to Tibet last week, had asked the Chinese
government to “engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his
representatives without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves
differences,” according to a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman.
“He also expressed concerns regarding the Chinese government’s interference
in Tibetan Buddhists’ freedom to organise and practice their religion,” she
Asked about the U.S. envoy’s call for dialogue with the Dalai Lama, Chinese
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told media that Chinese officials had
briefed the Ambassador about China’s religious and ethnic policies and also
about socio-economic development in Tibet.
“The Chinese government’s policy on dialogue and contact with the Dalai Lama
and foreigners access to Tibet [were made clear to the Ambassador]. Finally,
it was also stressed that China firmly opposes any foreign interference in
Tibet affairs in China’s domestic affairs,” said Mr. Kang.
US SAYS NORTH KOREA PROGRAM VIOLATES UN RESOLUTIONS, AFTER TRUMP TWEET
WASHINGTON, United States – The US State Department said Tuesday that North
Korea’s overall program of weapons of mass destruction violated UN
resolutions, after President Donald Trump brushed off recent missile
Choosing words carefully after Trump’s latest warm words for North Korean
leader Kim Jong Un, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus declined to
say if North Korea’s launches were of ballistic missiles or constituted
weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
“I think the entire North Korean WMD program, it’s in conflict with the UN
Security (Council) resolutions,” Ortagus told reporters.
She said the United States wanted a favorable relationship between Trump and
Kim with a goal to “negotiate a peaceful end to the North Korean WMD
“We have said many times and we will continue to reiterate that the economic
sanctions will remain in place until we’re there,” she said.
When he arrived in Japan for a weekend state visit, Trump tweeted that North
Korea had tested “some small weapons” that had “disturbed some of my people,
and others, but not me.”
GERMAN GOVERNMENT NOW ASKS PEOPLE TO WEAR KIPPAH
The German government has called on people to wear the Jewish kippah ahead
of an anti-Israel protest as a demonstration of solidarity and as Jews face
a spike in anti-Semitism, withdrawing an earlier warning against wearing the
At the weekend, Felix Klein, the country’s commissioner on anti-Semitism,
sparked uproar when he said in an interview that he could not “advise Jews
to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin voiced shock at Mr. Klein’s warning and said
it was a “capitulation to anti-Semitism” and evidence that Jews are unsafe
Late on Monday, Mr. Klein reversed course after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
spokesman intervened. “The state must see to it that the free exercise of
religion is possible for all… and that anyone can go anywhere in our
country in full security wearing a kippah,” said Steffen Seibert.
In his latest statement, Mr. Klein said: “I call on all citizens of Berlin
and across Germany to wear the kippah next Saturday if there are new,
intolerable attacks targeting Israel and Jews on the occasion of al-Quds day
Al-Quds is an annual event against Israeli control of Jerusalem and will
take place on Saturday.
Klein also addressed his earlier statements, saying that he “could no longer
recommend that Jews wear the kippa everywhere in Germany should be taken as
an alarm signal.”
Earlier Monday, German daily Bild published a cut-out-and-use kippa in a bid
to fight rising anti-Semitism.
PAK LAUNCHES ITS FIRST-EVER MOON-SIGHTING WEBSITE
Islamabad: Pakistan has launched its first ever moon-sighting website in a
bid to end decades-old controversy over the start of key lunar months that
decides the beginning of the holy month of Ramazan and Eid festivals. The
website was inaugurated on Sunday, two weeks after Federal Minister for
Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry made an announcement regarding the
preparation of a scientific lunar calendar. He said the website would show
the exact dates of important Islamic occasions-Ramazan, Eidul Fitr, Eidul
Azha and Muharram, the Dawn reported.