Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned the EU’s deputy ambassador to Israel, Mark Gallagher, on Monday, according to Haaretz.
The summons followed Brussels’ vocal protest of the demolition of 42 homes in a Bedouin village in the West Bank, in order to make room for Jewish settlements.
During the meeting with Gallagher, the ministry’s EU director, Avivit Bar-Ilan, told the deputy ambassador that the buildings being destroyed were constructed illegally. She reminded that “in Israel, illegal construction is dealt with according to the law,” according to ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.
“There are 32 humanitarian crises around the world, but the EU chooses to disproportionately focus only on what is done in Area C of the West Bank, which are most definitely not suffering a humanitarian crisis,” Bar-Ilan said.
According to Nahshon, the ministry also asked Gallagher to “stop being so obsessive” about matters in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel’s message for the bloc came after EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen delivered a letter of protest to Foreign Ministry General Yuval Rotem last week.
The letter, delivered on behalf of all 28 EU member countries, demanded that Israel stop demolishing Palestinian homes in Area C, especially in the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. It said the demolitions would amount to the forcible transfer of village residents, a violation of the Geneva Convention.
Khan al-Ahmar is home to a few hundred people who live in temporary structures. Its citizens are among the poorest in the West Bank.
The EU has long voiced opposition to Israel’s policies in Area C. It has also provided modular housing for Palestinian and Bedouin herding villages, particularly in the area of Ma’aleh Adumim and the South Hebron Hills, according to the Jerusalem Post. It argues that such structures fall under humanitarian aid, and that international law allows it to provide such housing to Palestinians, even if it goes against Israeli law.
Two weeks ago, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reconsider the planned demolitions in Al-Ahmar. Netanyahu replied by saying he will not allow “illegal building by the Palestinians.”
Although Israel says the buildings in question were erected without permits, the EU and United Nations say such permits are practically impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
Tel Aviv has increased demolitions in Area C over the past year, according to figures from the UN’s office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs. A total of 876 Palestinian structures were demolished in 2016, compared to between 450 and 560 each year between 2012 and 2015. A total of 121 structures were demolished in January 2017 alone.
There are 46 communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer by Israel. Those communities house a total of 7,000 residents.
Israel’s stern words for the EU come just one week after Tel Aviv cut an additional $2 million from its annual UN contribution, citing “obsessional discrimination against Israel.” The move followed the adoption of five resolutions by the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC), all having to do with human rights abuses Israel has allegedly committed in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights.
Chem attack blame game ‘failed’ at Syria conference in Brussels – Russian envoy
“In what concerns this conference, of course, some tried to redirect it in order to focus attention on the incident that has occurred [in Idlib]. I must say that they failed to achieve that,” said Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s representative at the UN-sponsored international donor conference that was held on April 4-5 in Brussels.
Moscow hopes that the incident will not lead to the derailment of intra-Syrian talks as that would play into hands of those who strive to obstruct the peace process.
“Anything can affect the talks. But we would not like for such incidents to be used by opponents of the negotiation process to disrupt it,” the Russian diplomat said, stressing that it is necessary for the negotiations to be inclusive.
Despite the apparent discord at the conference, its participants were largely united in that there is no alternative to political settlement to the protracted military conflict.
“I would like to note that all spoke in favor of political solution, the majority agreed that there is no military solution,” Gatilov said, as cited by TASS. He added that “practically all hailed” the negotiations in Astana made possible by the mediation of Russia, Turkey and Iran and commended them as “great help” for the Geneva process.
No breakthrough has yet been achieved in the talks, Gatilov said, referring to the latest round of intra-Syrian negotiations that took place in Geneva last week.
“Regrettably, so far it has yielded no practical results but it is not the reason to say that the round failed. Obviously, it is going to be a long process and we had been saying this all the time,” Gatilov said.
The slow progress is due to major differences between the take of the Syrian government and rebels on an array of key issues, he said. The major point of disagreement between the sides is what topic should be given a priority in the talks. While opposition argues that the talks should pave way for a transitional government, the Syrian authorities insist on the preeminence of the fight against terrorism.
Rebel warehouse with chem weapons hit by Syrian airstrike in Idlib – Russian MOD — RT News
The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.
On Tuesday, a suspected chemical attack on the hospital in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib province claimed the lives of dozens of people, including children. Rebel groups accused the Syrian government of mounting the attack, the claims which the Syrian authorities flatly denied.
Russia has demanded a thorough investigation into the incident, saying it should be led by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. The OPCW will be entrusted with collecting evidence of the attack within the fact-finding mission. The composition of the mission should be subject to approval by the UN Security Council.
In the aftermath of the attack, Russia’s Defense Ministry issued a statement, saying that the Syrian Air Force on Tuesday bombed a warehouse housing chemical weapons bound for Iraq. The storage facility, which was used to produce and store munitions containing toxic gas, was managed by the rebels. Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov noted that the symptoms displayed by the victims of the attack in Khan Sheikhoun are similar to those shown by civilians who suffered in the Aleppo chemical attack, perpetrated by the militants.
The death of civilians has sparked an international outcry, with some of the Western governments, including the US, backing the allegations put forward by the rebels.
Commenting on the attack, US President Donald Trump said that it was “unacceptable” went “beyond the red line” and made him to rethink his stance on the Syrian government and President Bashar Assad.
In his turn, Vice President Mike Pence blamed the attack on a “failure of the past administration to both confront the mindless violence of the Assad regime and also hold Russia and Syria to account for the promises to destroy chemical weapons,” in an interview to Fox News on Wednesday.
Responding to a question, if Washington sees Moscow also responsible for the attack, Pence stated that Russian must ensure the implementation of the pledge by the Syrian government to destroy all chemical stockpiles, saying that “the time come has come for them [Russia] to keep the word that they made, to see the elimination of the chemical weapons so that they no longer threaten the people in that country.”
“We were told that there were an agreement between Russians and Assad to destroy chemical weapons and that the threat to civilians from a chemical attack had been eliminated, it was not,” Pence claimed.
‘Ultimatum’: EU paints Hungary as ‘villain’ in migrant dispute, trying to pressure court – minister
Pal Volner, State Secretary at the Hungarian Justice Ministry, said in a statement the report was an attempt by Brussels to put pressure on the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) ahead of the upcoming proceedings, in which Hungary, Slovakia and Poland will be trying to overturn the migrant quota mechanism.
The statements “grossly violate” the court’s independence and are designed to “entice” it “into the migrant business,” Volner said.
The rebuke apparently came in response to an article that appeared by The Times on Tuesday, in which the newspaper cited a senior diplomatic source from one of the EU founding members saying that the bloc’s leading members, France and Germany, as well as up to 21 other countries, are poised to declare an ultimatum to Hungary and Poland.
“They will have to make a choice: are they in the European system or not? You cannot blackmail the EU, unity has a price,” the diplomatic source told the Times, speaking about the staunch opposition to the scheme approved by the bloc in late 2015.
According to the source, there is little doubt that the court will reaffirm the legality of the quota scheme, thus siding with the founding members and the majority of the bloc. The court is set to start hearing the case in May and is expected to deliver the verdict by next year.
“No more opt-outs. There is no more ‘one foot in and one foot out,” it stressed.
Although the petition against the quota system was filed jointly by Budapest and Bratislava, there was no mention of Slovakia in the report, which led to Volner to suspect an EU bias against Hungary and Poland. The recent bid by Austria to withdraw from the scheme also was not covered in the piece, he noted.
Volner claimed that such selectiveness shows the bloc is trying to apply political pressure on Hungary and Poland in particular.
“Brussels leaders trying to play it tough treat Hungary as a miscreant and want to send it off to the “sin bin,” he said.
Earlier, Poland took a similar stance towards the report, with Warsaw’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, arguing that Poland has been sharing the migrant burden on a par with other EU countries, citing 1.26 million visa applications by Ukrainians approved by the Polish authorities last year, with half of them enabling arrivals to work and live in Poland.
“That should end the discussion. Poland is a country that is also exposed to a great wave of migration,” Waszczykowski told journalists, speaking in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
He added he “doesn’t see” any possibility of Poland’s being penalized for denying refugees, referring to possible financial sanctions touted by the source in the report.
The Hungarian authorities have been long waging a vocal campaign against what they see as Brussels’ overreaching influence on internal state affairs, especially in the realm of migration policy. Since the refugee crisis hit Europe in 2015, Hungary’s controversial policies, such as constructing a wire fence on its border with Serbia and Croatia, and green-lighting the automatic detention of all asylum-seekers at border camps, have come under intense scrutiny.
Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban is known for sharp criticism of EU migration policy and the nature of the migrant crisis.
“Migration is the Trojan wooden horse of terrorism,” Orban said in March while introducing reinforcement to border patrols, labeled “border hunters,” adding that his country is “still, at this moment, under siege.”
Last week, Hungary launched a campaign, asking citizens “what Hungary should do” in a questionnaire dubbed “Let’s stop Brussels.” Among the points to which the Hungarians are to provide their opinion, is migration. The respective question asks if “illegal immigration should be kept under supervision until the authorities decide in their cases” or “we should allow illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.” It also said that “Brussels wants to force Hungary to let in illegal immigrants” despite a recent wave of terrorist attacks that have shaken Europe.