How Palestinian Resistance Altered the Equation

JUNE 1, 2021

Photograph Source: Neil Ward – CC BY 2.0

BY RAMZY BAROUD

The ceasefire on May 21 has, for now, brought the Israeli war on Gaza to an end. However, this ceasefire is not permanent and constant Israeli provocations anywhere in Palestine could reignite the bloody cycle all over again. Moreover, the Israeli siege on Gaza remains in place, as well as the Israeli military occupation and the rooted system of apartheid that exists all over Palestine.

This, however, does not preclude the fact that the 11-day Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip has fundamentally altered some elements about Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, especially the Palestinian Resistance, in all of its manifestations.

Let us examine the main actors in the latest confrontation and briefly discuss the impact of the Israeli war and the determined Palestinian resistance on their respective positions.

‘Mowing the Grass’ No More

‘Mowing the grass’ is an Israeli term used with reference to the habitual Israeli attacks and war on besieged Gaza, aimed at delineating the need for Israel to routinely eradicate or degrade the capabilities of the various Palestinian resistance groups on the street.

‘Mowing the grass’ also has political benefits, as it often neatly fit into Israel’s political agendas – for example, the need to distract from one political crisis or another in Israel or to solidify Israeli society around its leadership.

May 2021 will be remembered as the time that ‘mowing the grass’ can no longer be easily invoked as a military and political strategy by the Israeli government, as the Gaza resistance and the popular rebellion that was ignited throughout all of Palestine has raised the price by several-fold that Israel paid for its violent provocations.

While Israeli military and political strategists want to convince us, and themselves, that their relationship with Gaza and the Palestinian Resistance has not changed, it actually has and, arguably, irreversibly so.

The Altered Equation

The Palestinian fight for freedom has also been fundamentally altered, not only because of the unprecedented resilience of Palestinian resistance, but the unity of the Palestinian people, and the rise of a post-Oslo/peace process Palestinian nation that is united around a new popular discourse, one which does not differentiate between Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza, or anywhere else.

Palestinian unity around resistance, not peace process, is placing Israel in a new kind of quandary. For the first time in its history, Israel cannot win the war on the Palestinians. Neither can it lose the war, because conceding essentially means that Israel is ready to offer compromises – end its occupation, dismantle apartheid, and so on. This is why Israel opted for a one-sided ceasefire. Though humiliating, it preferred over-reaching a negotiated agreement, thus sending a message that the Palestinian Resistance works.

Still, the May war demonstrated that Israel is no longer the only party that sets the rules of the game. Palestinians are finally able to make an impact and force Israel to abandon its illusions that Palestinians are passive victims and that resistance is futile.

Equally important, we can no longer discuss popular resistance and armed resistance as if they are two separate notions or strategies. It would have been impossible for the armed resistance to be sustained, especially under the shocking amount of Israeli firepower, without the support of Palestinians at every level of society and regardless of their political and ideological differences.

Facing a single enemy that did not differentiate between civilians and fighters, between a Hamas or a Fatah supporter, the Palestinian people throughout Palestine moved past all of their political divisions and factional squabbles. Palestinian youth coined new terminologies, ones that were centered around resistance, liberation, solidarity and so on. This shift in the popular discourse will have important consequences that have the potential of cementing Palestinian unity for many years to come.

Israel’s Allies Not Ready to Change

The popular revolt in Palestine has taken many by surprise, including Israel’s allies. Historically, Israel’s Western supporters have proven to be morally bankrupt, but the latest war has proved them to be politically bankrupt as well.

Throughout the war, Washington and other Western capitals parroted the same old line about Israel’s right to defend itself, Israel’s security and the need to return to the negotiation table. This is an archaic and useless position because it did not add anything new to the old, empty discourse. If anything, it merely demonstrates their inability to evolve politically and to match the dramatic changes underway in occupied Palestine.

Needless to say, the new US Administration of Joe Biden, in particular, has missed a crucial opportunity to prove that it was different from that of the previous Donald Trump Administration. Despite, at times, guarded language and a few nuances, Biden behaved precisely as Trump would have if he was still  President.

What ‘Palestinian leadership’?

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and his circle of supporters represent a bygone era. While they are happy to claim a large share of whatever international financial support that could pour in to rebuild Gaza, they do not represent any political trend in Palestine at the moment.

Abbas’s decision to cancel Palestine’s elections scheduled for May and July left him more isolated. Palestinians are ready to look past him; in fact, they already have. This so-called leadership will not be able to galvanize upon this historic moment built on Palestinian unity and resistance.

The Palestinian Authority is corrupt and dispensable. Worse, it is an obstacle in the way of Palestinian freedom. Palestine needs a leadership that represents all Palestinian people everywhere, one that is truly capable of leading the people as they attempt to chart a clear path to their coveted freedom.

Expanding the Circle of Solidarity

The incredible amount of global solidarity which made headline news all over the world was a clear indication that the many years of preparedness at a grassroots level have paid off. Aside from the numerous expressions of solidarity, one particular aspect deserves further analysis: the geographic diversity of this solidarity which is no longer confined to a few cities in a few countries.

Pro-Palestine solidarity protests, vigils, conferences, webinars, art, music, poetry and many more such expressions were manifest from Kenya to South Africa, to Pakistan to the UK and dozens of countries around the world. The demographics, too, have changed, with minorities and people of color either leading or taking center stage of many of these protests, a phenomenon indicative of the rising intersectionality between Palestinians and numerous oppressed groups around the globe.

A critical fight ahead for Palestinians is the fight of delegitimizing and exposing Israeli colonialism, racism and apartheid. This fight can be won at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), UNESCO and numerous international and regional organizations, in addition to the countless civil society groups and community centers the world over.

For this to happen, every voice matters, every vote counts, from India to Brazil, from Portugal to South Africa, from China to New Zealand, and so on. Israel understands this perfectly, thus the global charm offensive that right-wing Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been leading for years. It is essential that we, too, understand this, and reach out to each UN member as part of a larger strategy to deservingly isolate Israel for ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

Israel, Don’t Raise the Roof Beams High As You “Resettle” Lifta; Its Owners Will Return

By Rima Najjar

Global Research, June 01, 2021

All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version). 

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The latest crisis in Palestine cannot be set aside as another passing episode in Israel’s forever war against the Palestinian people.

We are now witnessing shocks within Israel behind the Green Line, something that Israel had hitherto been able to contain. In the process, it pretended, along with much of the western world, that it is the “longest-lived democracy in the Middle East” and that only its continued occupation of the West Bank and its harsh blockade of Gaza undermine its “constitutional ideals”- ideals now exposed for what they’ve always been: Jewish supremacist in nature. 

We know, as CJ Werleman wrote in Inside Arabia on May 14, 2021,

“Israel is a country built on racism, dispossession, and genocide. The recent rise in attacks by Israeli settlers, vigilante groups, and lynch mobs targeting Palestinians are a continuation of that history and must be addressed.”

There is an unbreakable thread between the Palestinian man lynched by Israeli Jews on the pavement after being pulled from his car in Jaffa and then beaten unconscious recently and the killings and massacres at the hands of Zionist militia in Jaffa and elsewhere in 1948 that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, as recounted by Israeli historian Benny Morris.

The myth, amplified by Wikipedia, is that historians [presumably Israeli] disagree “concerning the effect these killings and massacres had on the Palestinian refugee flight and whether or not these killings and massacres were carried out with the intent of hastening it.”

Palestinian historians have absolutely no doubt about what happened then and why, just as we Palestinians have no doubt about what is happening now in occupied Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, in Gaza and in several towns and cities behind the Green Line where Israel has imposed states of emergency — and why.

Take, for example, my own father’s village of Lifta on the northwestern edge of Jerusalem. It is the last remaining Palestinian village that was ethnically cleansed of its population in the 1948 Nakba. Now, Israel is set to destroy what remains of it.

The Jerusalem Post (JP), an Israeli English newspaper where facts are shaped by a narrative driven by Zionist values instead of knowledge, reported on this deeply disturbing piece of news this month by denying, like those Israeli historians who are still disputing historical facts, that any ethnic cleansing took place in Lifta — apparently, my grandfather just up and put his eight children and wife in a truck and abandoned his home so that, 73 years later, his village would be “resettled” by Israeli Jews and a luxury hotel built there.

The Israeli newspaper published the following shameful headline:

“Arab village of Lifta, abandoned in ’48, to house new Israeli neighborhood: The western neighborhood in Jerusalem which was abandoned in ’48 will be resettled with 259 housing units, including a luxury hotel.”

report by Hidden Palestine: a News & Media Website, which, unlike JP, is a site driven by a narrative that values freedom from oppression, provides us with the following facts:

The Israeli land authority announced this month that it is taking bids from construction companies to take charge of the real estate development of Lifta, with the contract set to last 98 years.

The agreement includes the construction of 259 buildings, as well as commercial and business units, in addition to a hotel. If it moves forward, the deal would also see the majority of the Palestinian village’s remaining buildings razed to the ground.

Thanks to petitions by its past Palestinian residents, Lifta was declared as one of 25 endangered sites on the 2018 World Monuments Watch list. It also appears on UNESCO’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites, which has led to threats from Netanyahu that Israel would withdraw from UNESCO.

Lifta has few parallels anywhere in the world. The Palestinian village, lying on a slope at the entrance to Jerusalem, is the last ethnically cleansed Palestinian village to be frozen in time. Here, hundreds of beautiful Palestinian stone houses have continued to stand the test of time, empty and neglected for the past 73 years.

With a history dating back at least 700 years as a Palestinian Arab village, Lifta was among the wealthiest communities in the Jerusalem area, and the women were known for their fine embroiders. Thob Ghabani bridal dresses were sewn in Lifta, which were made of ghabani, a natural cotton covered with gold color silk floral embroidery produced in Aleppo. The village’s clothing stores attracted Palestinians and Arabs from across the Levant.

The entire population was forced out following brutal attacks by the invading Hagannah militias in early 1948. It is an incredible but depressing place to visit, and its destruction would contribute to the continued erasure of Palestinian culture and heritage.

The Jerusalem Post’s story made it sound as though the “resettling” of Lifta was a preservation and development project. What it is, in fact, is a rewriting of history.

Destroying Lifta destroys opportunities for Palestinians to uncover the past of both Palestinians and Israelis: “Lifta has a lasting value in its own right, as it can link restitution to the right of return. Moreover, its preservation will be an opportunity to assert the restoration of dignity in the Palestinian as well as the Jewish community. Finally, by halting the new development in Lifta, UNESCO will affirm its global credibility in response to cultural cleansing.” [See LIFTA AFTER ZIONIST PLANNING and PLANNING AS A CRIMINAL ACT]

Israel’s expulsions of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, Jerusalem neighborhoods just outside the Green Line, are motivated by the same Zionist objective that resulted in the expulsion, also known as ethnic cleansing, of Palestinians like my family from Lifta, which is just inside the Green line. (See Israeli 2019 map of so-called “Greater Israel” below with Lifta, Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan circled). That objective is Israel’s desire to Zionize/Judaize all of Jerusalem and all of Palestine.

Israeli 2019 map of so-called “Greater Israel” below with (left to right) Lifta, Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan circled

I hope the ongoing worldwide protests on social media against Israel’s crimes will now add the rallying cry of #SaveLifta, in addition to #SaveSheikhJarrah and #SaveSilwan.

If you are still in doubt about Israel’s intention, listen to two Palestinian citizens of Israel reacting to the message they have heard loud and clear all their lives from successive Israeli governments:

Eva Najjar, Haifa-based lead designer and developer at Just Vision, writes:

“I knew I was bringing my children into an ethnic-supremacist state when they were born. But after these past weeks, I don’t know how I can continue to raise them here.” (In The Washington Post: Palestinian citizens of Israel like me are facing terrifying new attacks)

Diana Buttu wonders:

“How do I explain to my 7-year-old son what being a Palestinian citizen of Israel means? What future can he look toward, when the leaders of the government incite hatred against him? What audacious hope can he have when he is bound to face racism and discrimination in education, employment and housing? For now, I try to shield him from the images on television and on our phones, but there will soon come a time when I cannot shield him from the reality that he is surrounded by people who consider him a second-class citizen.” (In The New York Times: The Myth of Coexistence in Israel)

I am heartened by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) Special Session held on May 27, which for the first time has included a geographic scope encompassing Israeli violations targeting the Palestinian people on both sides of the Green Line.

Israel’s institutionalized regime of racial domination and oppression targets the Palestinian people as a whole, including those no longer in Lifta through no fault of their own, who have more right by far to reconstruct their homes in Lifta than Israeli Jews have in constructing housing and luxury hotels to “resettle” the village. We will return, so don’t raise the roof beams high, Israel.

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Rima Najjar is a Palestinian whose father’s side of the family comes from the forcibly depopulated village of Lifta on the western outskirts of Jerusalem and whose mother’s side of the family is from Ijzim, south of Haifa. She is an activist, researcher and retired professor of English literature, Al-Quds University, occupied West Bank.

She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Taken from slides in “Reconstruction of Memory — Lifta — 2007” by Malkit Shoshan

The Bamiyan Buddhas: an Afghan tale

The Bamiyan Buddhas: an Afghan tale

March 03, 2021

by Pepe Escobar with permission and first posted at Asia Times

In the beginning, they were the Bamiyan Buddhas: the Western Buddha statue, 55 meters high, and the Eastern, 38 meters high, carved for decades since 550 A.D. from porous sandstone cliffs, the intricate details modeled in clay mixed with straw and coated with stucco.

Xuanzang, the legendary traveling monk of the early Tang dynasty who journeyed to India in search of Buddhist manuscripts, saw them in all their – colored – glory in the 7th century.

Then, with Islam taking over these high central lands of Afghanistan, local Hazara folklore slowly turned them into the Romeo and Juliet of the Hindu Kush.

They became “Solsol” (“year after year”, or, more colloquially, the prince of Bamiyan) and “Shahmana” (“the king’s Mother”, or colloquially a princess from a remote kingdom). As lovers, they could not be united as a couple in this world; so they chose to turn into statues and stand close to each other forever.

And then, twenty years ago, after a millennium and a half of living history, the Taliban blew them up.

Killing Romeo and Juliet

Solsol and Shahmana lived since their inception among the Hazaras, who speak Dari, a Persian dialect with numerous words of Mongol and Turk origin. The Hazaras are partly descendants of Genghis Khan’s troops who infiltrated these mountains in the 13th century. Hazaras – who I had the pleasure to meet mostly in Kabul in the early 2000s – remain essentially Mongols, but linguistically Persianized, having adopted the old agricultural tradition of the Iranian mountains.

The Hazaras are diametrically opposed by the Pashtuns – who had an extremely complex ethno-genesis before the early 18th century, when they coalesced into great federations of nomad tribes. Their code of conduct – the Pashtunwali – is straightforward, regulating most of all a mechanism of sanctions.

The number one sanction is death: this is a poor society, where sanctions are physical, not material. Islam added moral elements to pashtunwali. And then there are juridical norms imposed by hereditary noblemen – which function like the carpet tying the room together: these come from the Turk-Mongols.

The modern Afghan state was created in the late 19th century by Abd-ur-Rahman, the “Iron Emir”. He pulled that off via a “Pashtunization” of the region that was locally known as the north of Turkestan. Then he integrated the Hazaras in the central mountains via bloody military campaigns.

Hazara lands were opened to Pashtun nomad tribes – who featured not only shepherds but also merchants and caravan entrepreneurs. Increasingly plunged into debt, the Hazaras ended up becoming economic hostages of the Pashtuns. Their way out was to emigrate to Kabul – where they hold mostly menial jobs.

And that brings us to the heart of the problem. Hazaras are Shi’ites. Pashtuns are Sunni. Pashtuns consider themselves the owners of Afghanistan – even as there’s persistent, major infighting among Pashtun groups. Pashtuns simply detest the Westphalian concept of the nation-state: most of all they see themselves as an empire within an empire.

This implies that ethnic minorities are marginalized – if they can’t find some sort of accommodation. Hazaras, because they are Shi’ites, were extremely marginalized during Taliban rule, from 1996 to 2001.

The Taliban rolled out en masse from Pakistani madrassas in 1994: the overwhelming majority were Pashtuns from rural areas between Kandahar and Paktiya. They had spent many years in camps scattered along the Pakistani tribal areas and Balochistan.

The Taliban became instantly successful for three reasons:

1 – Implementation of Sharia law.

2 – Their fight against the lack of security after the 1980s jihad instrumentalized by the Americans to give the USSR its “own Vietnam” (Brzezinski’s definition), and the subsequent warlord anarchy.

3 – Because they incarnated the return of the Pashtuns as the leading Afghan force.

No reincarnation?

All of the above supplies the context for the inevitable destruction of Solsol and Shahmana in March 2001. They were the symbols of an “infidel” religion. And they were situated in Shi’ite Hazara land.

Months later, after 9/11, I would learn from Taliban officials close to ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef in Islamabad that first they blew up “the little one, which was a woman” then “her husband”; that implies the Taliban were very much aware of local folklore.

The destruction process started with the legs of the Great Buddha: one of them was already cut at the knee and the other at the femur. It took them four days – using mines, explosives and even artillery. The Taliban forced local Hazara youth to drill holes in the statues: those who refused were shot dead.

Yet that was not enough to kill oral tradition. Even the young Hazara generation, born after the smashing of the Buddhas, still delights in the tale of Solsol and Shahmana.

But will they ever reincarnate as living statues? Enter the usually messy “international community”. In 2003, Unesco declared the site of the Bamiyan Buddhas and the surrounding caves a “World Heritage Site in Danger.”

Still, Kabul and Unesco can’t seem to agree on a final decision. As it stands, Solsol will not be rebuilt; Shahmana, maybe. On and off, they resurrect as 3-D holograms.

What happened so far is “consolidation work at the Eastern Buddha niche”, finished in 2015. Work at the Western Buddha niche started in 2016. A Bamiyan Expert Working Group gets together every year, featuring the administration in Kabul, Unesco experts and donors, mostly German and Japanese.co

Ishaq Mawhidi, the head of the Culture and Information Department of Bamiyan, is sure that “90 percent of the statues can be rebuilt with the debris”, plus fragments of smaller statues currently preserved in two large warehouses on site.

The Afghan Ministry of Culture correctly argues that reconstruction work will require a formidable team, including Buddhism scholars, archeologists specialized in Gandhara art, historians, ethnographers, historiographers specialized in the first centuries of the first millennium in Afghanistan.

It will have to be eventually up to wealthy donors such as Berlin and Tokyo to willingly finance all this – and justify the costs, considering Hazara lands barely have been granted with working roads and electricity by the Kabul central government.

It’s always crucial to remember that the Bamiyan Buddhas blow up is a crucial case of deliberate destruction of world cultural heritage – alongside appalling instances in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Mali. They all connect, directly and indirectly, to the causes and consequences of imperial Forever Wars and their spin-offs (never forget that the Taliban initially were fully courted by the Clinton administration).

The Buddha of Dushanbe

In the end, I never managed to see Solsol and Shahmana. The Taliban would not issue a travel permit for foreigners under any circumstances. After 9/11 and the expulsion of the Taliban from Kabul, I was negotiating a safe passage with Hazara fighters, but then something bigger came up: bribing a Pashtun commander to take a small group of us to Tora Bora to see the Empire B-52 Show against Osama bin Laden.

Instead of Solsol and Shahmana – either standing up in their niches, or blown up to smithereens – I finally managed to see the next best option: the reclining Buddha of Dushanbe.

Afghanistan may be the “graveyard of empires” – the last act being enacted as we speak. And, to a certain extent, a graveyard of Buddhas. But not neighboring Tajikistan.

The original Buddha of Dushanbe saga was published by Asia Times in those heady 9/11 days. It happened as my photographer Jason Florio and myself were waiting for days for a helicopter to take us to the Panjshir valley in Afghanistan.

Eighteen years later, like a Jorge Luis Borges short story, it all came down full circle before I traveled the Pamir highway in late 2019. I went to the same museum in Dushanbe and there he was: the 13 meter-long “sleeping lion”, found in the Buddhist monastery of Ajinateppa, resting on pillows, in glorious parinirvana, and fully restored, with help from an expert from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Somewhere in unknown spheres beyond space and time, Solsol and Shahmana will be benevolently smiling.


Recommended to open this Wikipedia page for existent photography of Pepe’s tale.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyanbrz

Is the US a Global Leader Anymore?

Is the US a Global Leader Anymore?

August 13, 2020

by Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Currently, the biggest challenge faced by the world is Pandemic. Outbreak early this year has engulfed the whole world. Indeed, the COVID-19 is not too fatal, yet due to its highly contagious nature, it has impacted society adversely. It is a new virus, a lot of studies are going on, especially on its cure and vaccines. Yet, nothing is commercially available; all such R&D is at the laboratory level. Either it is stage one or two or any other advanced stage, yet it might take some time to make the vaccine available at a commercial scale for everybody to be benefitted.

The number of CVID-19 cases has exceeded 20 million, with a death toll of around 750,000. The economic impact is even more visible. And some of the countries are already slipped into recession, while few are almost near to collapse. Social distance has made everyday life more difficult, people are losing jobs, businesses are suffering, and some of the markets have been closed.

At this challenging moment, the whole world was looking toward the US as a global leader to rescue them. Developing countries and underdeveloped countries were more miserable and was expecting much more from the US. Even the developed nations and well-advanced countries were also expecting some kind of assistance or help from the US.

Unfortunatetely, the US was the worst-hit country in the world, with the highest number of Coronavirus cases and the death toll. It was the time when the US can prove its global leadership role. NATO allies, other friendly countries were in award position, when the US showed cold shoulders.

It is entirely right; every country should look after its own interest and must say his own country first. But for a leader, one has to take everyone else along with and protect everyone.

Acknowledging the US’s global leadership, just after World War II (WWII), by launching the Marshal Program aimed to rebuild war-torn Europe was a successful model. As a result, the US gained a leadership role. But during the last couple of decades, the US policies witnessed a deviation from Global responsibilities.

The US was leaving International organizations and treaties, one after another, ignoring its global obligations and escaping from global responsibilities gradually.

  • In 1982, to maintain its maritime hegemony, the United States refused to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which it is still not a party. It has created an imbalance of power in the global maritime and vulnerability.
  • In 1984, the United States formally withdrew from UNESCO, dissatisfied with the gradual erosion of its social control by developing countries. After returning to the Organization in 2003, it once again withdrew in 2017 on the so-called ground of saving funds and urging reform. UNESCO suffered a considerable loss in its routine functions. It has impacted the capabilities of the Organization adversely due to a shortage of funds.
  • In 1985, the United States refused to recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) after Nicaragua complained that US armed intervention violated its sovereignty. A message that the US was not sincere about global justice. As a matter of fact, the US was extensively involved in war-crimes and international terrorism and scared of convictions.
  • In 1995, the United States withdrew from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and refused to pay arrears by claiming domestic budgetary constraints, damaging the global industrialization program. Yet increased its defense budget.
  • The United States has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol since 2001, saying it was not in its national interest to meet relevant environmental obligations. By withdrawing, the US denied its responsibility in protecting the global environment. It should be noted that damaging the environment is a severe collective crime with humanity.
  • In 2001, the United States withdrew from the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance after failing to prevent discussion of Israeli military action against Palestinians. Today, what is happening in the US is also the result of these policies.
  • In 2001, to strengthen its military advantage, the United States formally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. However, it gave supremacy to the US but created an arms race world-wide, forcing other nations to compete in the US.
  • In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, citing unfavorable terms for American soldiers, diplomats, and politicians. It was a message that the US did not feel globally obliged not to commit war crimes, espionage, the aggression of sovereign states, etc.
  • In 2017, the United States announced its formal withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) because it believed that multilateral trade agreements were not in its best interests and hindered its “America First” policy. Although the US is the largest economy of the world, it yet believes in unfair practices.
  • In 2017, the US government announced its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, aimed to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, believing that it could hinder economic development. An irrational approach and wrong decision again.
  • In 2017, the United States withdrew from negotiations of the United Nations Global impact on Migration and cast votes against the UNGCM at the UN General Assembly.
  • In 2018, even though the IAEA confirmed Iran’s fulfillment of its JCPOA commitment and that the United States had no clear evidence to show Iran conducted nuclear tests in breach of the deal, the United States withdrew from the JCPOA, a deal that has been endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and re-imposed unilateral sanctions against Iran. This decision has damaged the US image adversely. Contaraily imposed irrational sanctions on Iran, making the lives of Iranian more miserable.
  • In 2018, the US announced its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council, claiming it failed to protect human rights adequately. The current violence in the US may also be the outcome of this decision.
  • In 2018, the United States withdrew from the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes relating to the jurisdiction of the ICJ in order to avoid a Palestinian complaint filed legitimately to the ICJ. It has caused a strong wave of anti-American sentiments in the Arab world.
  • In 2019, the United States withdrew from the INF Treaty to develop short- and medium-range missiles without restraint. Again a wrong decision at wrong timings, pushing the world toward developing more lethal weapons.
  • In 2020, under the pretext of alleged Russian violations of the Open Skies Treaty, the United States announced steps to exit the Treaty.
  • In 2020, the US government, looking for scapegoats for its botched response to COVID-19, announced its withdrawal from the World Health Organization. It should be noted that the United States still owes more than $200 million in assessed contributions. Will the US pay this sum before going out? Exactly, when WHO needs to be strengthened, the US decision harmed the Organization’s capabilities.

Notably, the Trump-Administration has focused only on “America First,” leaving the rest of the world ignored. The Pandemic has exposed Trump-administration’s policies further. Europe was suffering from COVID-19 and expecting that the US may come up with some kind of help and rescue. But, unfortunately, this was not in the minds of the Trump-Administration.

If the United States tries to escape from its global responsibilities, it may no longer enjoy the status of global leadership. The gap created by the US may be filled-in by some other powers. Enjoy authority, but with responsibilities!

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

The Pendulum Swings Again: the Desecration of Hagia Sophia

Source

The Pendulum Swings Again: the Desecration of Hagia Sophia ...

Stephen Karganovic

July 18, 2020

The Turkish President should have consulted the prophecies of St. Paisius of the Holy Mountain rather than whatever kitaps he was reading before embarking on his risky provocation. In plain Greek, several decades ago St. Paisius was educating Turkish leaders about the sequence of events that the reconversion of Hagia Sophia would set in motion: “When the cathedral of Hagia Sophia is turned into a mosque, Turkey will disintegrate”. He also added reassuringly, for the benefit of his audience, that “I will not see that happen, but you will.” The saint left us for better pastures in 1994. As a footnote to his vision, he also noted that in the ensuing turmoil Constantinople would remain under Russian control for some time before again being returned to Greece. When and if that happens, it does not exactly sound from the tenor of his prophesy that it will revert to just being a museum.

If Mr Erdogan was so keen on tinkering with the status of this major Orthodox holy place, instead of pursuing short-sighted electoral advantage in a state presumably without a future, he should have done better had he chosen – as Americans are fond of saying –to be on the right side of history. He could have done that simply by returning the temple to the religious community which erected it and to which it rightfully belongs.

But, of course, it would be fatuous to expect from a mere politician with declining ratings a gesture of such dazzling magnanimity.

Hagia Sophia was built and consecrated as an Orthodox place of worship in the 6th century by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. It is a structure of great architectural beauty and even greater symbolic value for world Orthodoxy, as its prime cathedral. Upon the conquest of Constantinople and demise of the Byzantine empire in 1453, it was turned into a mosque by the commander of the conquering army, sultan Mehmed II, and functioned in that capacity until 1934, when the reformist President of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, made it a museum. The magnificent structure is under the protection of UNESCO (for whatever that is worth) and is the most visited historical site in Turkey.

What is the significance of the second forced reconversion of the Orthodox cathedral of Hagia Sophia into a mosque? It has to do entirely with internal Turkish politics. It is part of a larger design of the current rulers to reconfigure Turkey back from a secular republic to a resurgent neo-Ottoman state, reinforced with a strong religious identity. Given that the local economy is in poor shape and that the government’s foreign policy initiatives have been generally unsuccessful across the board, descending to religious demagoguery is a more or less natural and predictable recourse. For Orthodox Christians and, hopefully, civilized people of all backgrounds this crude reassertion of the right of conquest, targeting not material goods suitable for pillage, but the spiritual patrimony of one of the great world religious traditions, is nothing short of an act which constitutes the fusion of vandalism and blasphemy.

Of course, it could also be said with some justice, this issue is larger than Erdogan and will outlive him. It is clothed in the garb of a regular court order invalidating Ataturk’s earlier decree, and it was confirmed by a cabinet decision after a meeting lasting all of 17 minutes. As far as provocations go, it could also be argued that in terms of bellicosity it is far less dangerous than shooting down a Russian fighter jet in Syria. Also, as worldly logic might have it, the Hagia Sophia ceased to function as a consecrated church and has not served as consecrated Orthodox Cathedral for more than 550 years. Even before the Ottomans arrived it was ransacked and desecrated during the Western Fourth Crusade, and was then turned into a Roman Catholic cathedral during the Latin occupation of the city. Its history has been long and harsh. A friend of mine has argued that “frankly at least as a mosque it will serve as place of worship and fulfil a spiritual and religious function and not be a tourist attraction, which is a greater desecration, literally speaking.”

“Buildings are buildings,” he has asserted, “they are monuments to faith but no substitute for living faith or a living church which is the Body of Christ. [In the large sense, he does have a point there.] This will only happen when Hagia Sophia is reconsecrated, Orthodox Liturgy is held, the sacred mysteries enacted, and of course when the Eucharist is served once again.”

All these, arguably, are good points. But they miss the emotions this symbolically charged act (going to its core, beyond short-term and short-sighted electoral consideration) evokes among the Balkan Orthodox who still have vivid collective memories of Ottomanism (never mind its neo- variety that is being reinvented today). Nor do they fully take into account the emotions of the Russian Orthodox believers whose faith goes back, in a direct historical line, to that very spot in Constantinople where Vladimir’s bedazzled emissaries, while observing the religious services and magnificent decorations, wondered whether they were on earth or in heaven.

So besides the purely practical and realpolitik aspects to this, there is also a much deeper dimension that challenges Orthodoxy to its core. Its chief representative in Constantinople, the “Ecumenical Patriarch” with a plethora of impressive titles but hardly any flock, a man who few would be so naïve as to regard as a designated vessel of the Holy Spirit, but who certainly is an agent and close collaborator of Western intelligence services to whom he owes his precarious position in an increasingly hostile environment, has been resoundingly silent. Shockingly, Patriarch Bartholomew has been hiding in his Fanar rabbit hole while controversy over what should be his main cathedral has been raging all around him. He is more concerned, one imagines, about avoiding a potential indictment for involvement in the Turkish coup attempt several years ago than in reclaiming the jewel of his ecclesiastical heritage or at least protesting for the record its renewed desecration. The setting up of a false and heretical “church” in the Ukraine under his patronage was apparently a matter he thought more pressing and deserving of his public attention that an outrage to his communion being perpetrated literally in his back yard.

Mosques, Museums and Politics: The Fate of Hagia Sophia

When the caustic Evelyn Waugh visited the majestic sixth century creation of Emperor Justinian, one subsequently enlarged, enriched and encrusted by various rulers, he felt underwhelmed. “‘Agia’ will always win the day for one,” he wrote of Istanbul’s holiest of holies, Hagia Sophia, in 1930. “A more recondite snobbism is to say ‘Aya Sofia’, but except in a very sophisticated circle, who will probably not need guidance in the matter at all, this is liable to suspicion as a mere mispronunciation.”

In a somewhat cool reaction, Waugh struggled to reconcile the pop mythology, at that point elevated by celebratory brochure and tourist packages, with the sight of it. “We saw Agia Sophia, a majestic shell full of vile Turkish fripperies, whose whole architectural rectitude has been fatally disturbed by the reorientation of the mihrab.”

Such snobbery could not impeach the historical pedigree of Hagia Sophia. Seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, religious edifice of the Byzantine Empire, it became a mosque once Constantinople was successfully captured by the Ottoman forces of Mehmet II in 1453, officially terminating the vestigial remains of the Eastern Roman Empire. This was a function the structure served till 1934, when the secularist ruler Mustafa Kemal Atatürk ordered its conversion to a museum. Doing so served to secularize and neutralise a site of religious jostling.

That said, the 1934 decision could hardly be seen as a mark of pure benevolence. It was a year when Turkification policies were being applied with gusto, best characterised by Settlement Law of 1934 (Law No. 2510). It was an instrument designed to resettle (or not, in some cases) populations within the state into three zones with a focus on concentrating Turkish populations in some areas, while relocating and resettling populations “whose assimilation into Turkish culture is desired.”

That same year, pogroms against Jews in Eastern Thrace also took place to resolve, in the evocatively sinister words of İbrahim Tali, inspector general of Thrace, the “Jewish problem”. The Jews, he argued, had not Turkified themselves with sufficient rigour. They were also economically advantaged while disadvantaging Muslims in lending them money at high rates of interest.

The museum status of the edifice has had its fierce detractors. The poet Necip Fazil Kisakürek described it in 1965 as “a sarcophagus in which Islam is buried.” Under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Hagia Sophia has been sporadically threatened with a change of status. In 2004, the Turkish Union of Permanent Vakifs of Historical Monuments and Environment issued a plea to the government to change the standing of the building. It was politely ignored. In 2005, the Union petitioned the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, to return Hagia Sophia back to its standing as a mosque. Ever persistent, that same body sought relief in the Constitutional Court, an application that was rejected in 2018.

In November 2013, deputy prime minister Bülent Arinç expressed the view that the approach of treating former mosques as museums was due for revision. He did so like a mystic, claiming that the structure was speaking to the Turkish state in mournful longing. “We look at this forlorn Hagia Sophia and pray to Allah that the days when it smiles on us are near.” Despite stirring up a fuss with the secularists and irate voices in Greece at the time, he had reason to be confident, given the abolition of the museum status of the Hagia Sophia in both İznik and Trabzon. In both cases, the General Directorate of Pious Foundations, overseen by Arinç, were active and eventually successful.

The effort to de-museum Hagia Sophia have tended to receive billowing encouragement with undesired remarks in foreign quarters about Turkish policies, past and present. Demagoguery is ever on the permanent hunt for excuses. In 2015, Pope Francis chose April to use a word illegal in Turkish law to describe the treatment by Ottoman forces of Armenians a century prior. The deportations, massacres and rapes constituted, in an address by the Pope at a Mass in the Armenian Catholic rite at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, “the first genocide of the 20th century”. To conceal or deny “evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

The remarks had their shaking effect in Ankara. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu dismissed the statement, “which is far from the legal and historical reality”. It was not for religious authorities “to incite resentment and hatred with baseless allegations.” Domestically, eyes turned to the status of Hagia Sophia. The mufti of Ankara, Mefail Hızlı, saw a change as imminent. “Frankly, I believe that the pope’s remarks will only accelerate the process for Hagia Sophia to be reopened for [Muslim] worship.” That same month, the first recitation of the Quran for 85 years was made by Ali Tel, imam of the Ahmet Hamdi Akseki Mosque in Ankara.

The wheels were in motion and reached a terminus with the conclusion by the Council of State that “the settlement deed allocated it as a mosque and its use outside this character is not possible legally.” The 1934 decision ending the building’s “use as a mosque and defined it as museum did not comply with laws.” A delighted Erdoğan rushed off the decree to the state’s religious affairs directorate enabling the reopening of the structure as a mosque. The decree was celebrated by AK members in parliament.

As with many sites of religious contestation, conquest comes with grievance and hot tears of indignation. The Russian Orthodox Church, through spokesman Vladimir Legoida, expressed the view that “millions of Christians had not been heard.” The “need for extreme delicacy in this matter were ignored.” UNESCO’s World Health Committee is planning to review the status of Hagia Sophia, claiming it “regrettable that the Turkish decision was not the subject of dialog or notification beforehand”.

Erdoğan’s concerns lie elsewhere. He has had little truck with ecumenical politics and practises, battering down the secular divides within his country. His agenda is that of an up-ended Attatürk. As Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy remarks, “Just as Attatürk ‘un-mosqued’ Hagia Sophia 86 years ago, and gave it museum status to underline his secularist revolution, Erdoğan is remaking it a mosque to underline his religious revolution.” The ancient monument of emperors and sultans promises to be a stage of much self-promotion, with the court decision coming in time for prayers to take place on July 15, the date marking the failed coup attempt.

To keep matters interesting, the Turkish president is remaining oblique on what will happen to the tourist trade. (Last year, 3.7 million ventured to the edifice.) Spokesman İbrahim Kalın has told the Turkish news agency Anadolu that, “Opening up Hagia Sophia to worship won’t keep local or foreign tourists from visiting the site.” Capitalism and finance are often near neighbours of holiness and spirituality.


By Binoy Kampmark
Source: Oriental Review

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

Source

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World”

10 July 2020 15:55

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions during the online session “Russia and the post-COVID World,” held as part of the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, July 10, 2020

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude for inviting me to once again speak at the Primakov Readings. This is a young, but also one of the most respected platforms for discussing international matters. Unfortunately, we cannot meet in person due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, thanks to modern technology we could keep it on schedule. I am glad that my colleagues were able to take part in the preceding sessions of these readings. Judging by their feedback, this was a useful experience.

I will not delve into the question of how the coronavirus has affected every aspect of our lives, and what it will bring in the future. We already feel its effect on the economy and in personal contacts, from official visits and talks, to humanitarian, cultural and education exchanges. There seems to be a consensus that it will take quite some time for things to get back to normal. How long it will take and what the new norm will be is anybody’s guess. That said, all tend to agree that things will change.

By the way, I cannot fail to mention that our foreign service has had to face serious challenges. There were confirmed cases both at the Foreign Ministry head offices and our representative offices in the regions, as well as in our affiliated institutions. Thank goodness, we did not face a massive outbreak or severe cases. There were also people in our missions abroad affected by the pandemic. When borders closed, all our foreign missions without exception were mobilised to assist Russian nationals stranded abroad. Along with other agencies represented in the Emergency Response Centre, primarily the Transport Ministry, the Federal Air Agency, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare and the Communications Ministry, we complied repatriation lists. This was a lot of work, fraught with many mistakes, mostly unintentional rather than deliberate, that had to be rectified. At the same time we had to make arrangements to pay support allowances to those stranded abroad without funds. We have already done a great deal on this front, although there are still people asking to be repatriated, and some have come forward only recently. It seems that looking at the developments in the countries where they are staying and considering the uncertainty as to when all this will come to an end, they finally opted to return home.

Speaking of other ways in which the pandemic influenced our work and the way we perform our professional duties, the virus has aggravated other pre-existing challenges and threats. They have not gone away, including international terrorism. As you know, some speculate that terrorists are thinking about somehow using the strain of this virus, or maybe even creating new strains to achieve their malicious ends. Drug trafficking, cybercrime, environmental issues, climate and, of course, the many conflicts around the world – all these problems are still with us. And all this overlaps with the specific nature of the Trump administration and its deliberate policy of undermining all legal and contractual frameworks without exception on arms control and international cooperation, for example, regarding UNESCO, the WHO, the UN Human Rights Council, etc.

Of course, we keep a close eye on all these developments and analyse them. We still believe that sustainable solutions to various crises, conflicts and problems in the interests of all countries, and taking into consideration each and everyone’s concerns can only result from collective efforts based on the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, by respecting UN Security Council prerogatives, mobilising consensus-based associations, including the G20, as well as BRICS, the SCO and associations on the post-Soviet space. Unfortunately, not everyone has been ready to work together during the pandemic, to engage in collective efforts and approaches. We are witnessing attempts to push through narrow-minded agendas, and use this crisis to continue strangling unwanted regimes. The call from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to suspend unilateral sanctions, at least during the pandemic, that impede the distribution of medial and other humanitarian goods, and other essential items to the corresponding countries, was completely ignored. The same goes for attempts to assign blame for the infection in the midst of the pandemic, when what we need is to think about how we can help medical workers, doctors and virologists. You know very well what I am referring to.

Like 75 years ago, when Victory over a common enemy was won only by working together and rising above the ideological differences of the time, we now also need to realise that we will resolve these issues only if we cooperate. I’m sure we’ll talk about the future of the WHO later. We are in favour of resolving any issues based on the UN Charter, which is a collective security platform.

Our Western colleagues – I’ve already mentioned this many times – are trying to actively introduce the concept of a “rules-based order” into diplomatic, political and practical usage. This is not international law. This is something else (we can also talk about this in more detail during the discussion). Clearly, this is an attempt to regain the dominance that the historical West has enjoyed for almost 500 years now. This attempt takes the form of convening a “group of interests” and various partnerships, where convenient countries are invited that either share the attempts to adopt unilateral approaches to international affairs, or will yield to pressure and join these initiatives. Not everyone is invited. Those who have their own outlook on things and are ready to defend it are left out. Later, when a concept, say, on chemical weapons, is fabricated, or an attempt is made to create a club of the select few who will decide on who is to blame for violating cybersecurity, they will start selling it as universally applicable norms. We are witnessing this now as it’s happening. These are very serious problems.

I would like to conclude my opening remarks. Our main goal, as before, is to protect our national interests and create the most favourable external conditions for the country’s development. You may have noticed that we come up with ideas that unite. Convening a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members is our top priority. This effort is ongoing. We are now focusing on the substantive part of the event, because, of course, it will play the decisive part.

The current hardships in international relations increase the importance of these discussions and, in general, the contribution of the expert community, and academic and political circles, into the efforts to analyse the situation and make reasonable realistic forecasts. I’d be remiss not to mention the case study concept that Yevgeny Primakov introduced into our foreign policy and political science. We appreciate the fact that the participants and organisers of the Primakov Readings always help us draw from a rich well of ideas, from which we then pick the ones that we submit to the President to determine our policies in specific circumstances.

Question: Five years ago, an IMEMO strategic forecast assumed that a new bipolarity might emerge as one of the four scenarios for the future world order.   At that time, this hypothesis was based on the relative dynamics of the synergetic power of China and the United States.  The COVID-19 pandemic has provided plenty of evidence of this theory. Of course, a different – asymmetrical – bipolarity is emerging, where the strategic parity is between Russia and the US, and the economic parity is between China and the United States, which is distinct from what was the case in the 20th century.

Do you think that the US-PRC conflict has passed the point of no return? It is obvious that any exacerbation of this confrontation is not in Russia’s interests. Will Russia be able to act as a swing power in order to maintain stability of the world system, including based on your unique experience of multilateral diplomacy?

Sergey Lavrov: I remember the forecast you have mentioned. I would like to say that, certainly, a lot has changed over these past five years, primarily in terms of confirming that the confrontation, rivalry, antagonism, and the struggle for leadership between the United States and China have, of course, been mounting. Before I pass directly to an analysis of this bipolar process, I would like to note that the real situation in the world as a whole is much more complicated. After all, the world is growing more polycentric than it was previously. There are numerous players apart from the US and China, without whom it is very difficult to promote one’s interests, if some or other capital suddenly decides to do this single-handedly.  I think we will yet discuss some other possible options in this sense. Let me mention the fact that Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics   Sergey Karaganov has commented on this subject in an article for Russia in Global Affairs, a journal published by Fyodor Lukyanov.

It is quite clear that we should take into consideration, in our practical work, the entire diversity and totality of political, economic, military, historical, and ideological factors that are manifesting themselves in the multipolar world, a world that Yevgeny Primakov predicted. We are assessing the US-Chinese controversy against this backdrop and through this prism.  That it is not existing in a vacuum is, as a minimum, confirmed by the fact that each of the sides is seeking to recruit as many supporters of their approaches as possible to the WHO or any other subject that in some way or other is associated with Washington and Beijing as defining contradictions in their approaches.

The Americans are certainly perceiving the growth of the PRC’s total state power as a threat to their claims to retaining the world leadership against all odds. Back in 2017, the US National Security Strategy listed China, along with Russia, among the main threats. It was for the first time that China was put before Russia as a threat to the United States.

Russia and China were directly accused of seeking to challenge the American influence, values and prosperity.  It is quite clear that the US is waging a struggle by absolutely unsavoury methods, as is obvious and clear to everyone. They are putting forward unilateral demands that take into account solely the US interests. If demands are turned down, they say the refusal is unacceptable and introduce sanctions.

If a discussion is suggested, the discussion rapidly degenerates into delivering an ultimatum and ends up in selfsame sanctions – trade wars, tariffs, and lots more.

A highly indicative fact is how the Americans and the Chinese managed to come to terms on phase one of the trade talks in January and what the fate of this agreement is now. The US authorities are accusing Beijing of drawing off jobs and glutting the market, while showing reluctance to buy US products. According to the Americans, China is implementing the Belt and Road project intended to steamroll all world economy mechanisms, production chains, and so on.  China allegedly was concealing information on COVID-19 and is engaging in cyber espionage. Notice how zealously the Americans are forcing their allies and others to give up any collaboration with Huawei and other Chinese digital giants and companies. China’s hi-tech companies are being squeezed out of the world markets.  China is being charged with expansionism in the South China Sea, problems on the actual control line with India, human rights violations, and [misbehaviour with regard to] Tibet, the Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. All of this is taking place simultaneously. A powerful wave of fault-finding, a perfect storm is being raised. I hope, of course, that common sense will prevail and the situation will not pass the point of no return mentioned by Mr Dynkin.

We hope that there are people in the United States, who are figuring out how to reassure the world of the dollar system’s reliability in the post-election period. The US Secretary of the Treasury is speaking about this all but openly. He is warning that they should be wary of overstepping the red line, after which people will just start fleeing from America, saying that the dollar is no good anymore because it is being brazenly abused.

There is, of course, hope that the Chinese possess a political, diplomatic and foreign policy culture that always seeks to avoid various imbroglios.  But there are also some very alarming signs that, despite these rays of hope, which must be nurtured and cherished, US and Chinese officials start getting personal, occasionally in a very harsh form. This bespeaks a high degree of tension on both sides. And, of course, this is really alarming.

I do hope that our Chinese and US partners have some diplomatic methods, ways of classical diplomacy tucked up their sleeve. People should not insult each other in public or accuse each other of all sins, as the Americans are doing on every street corner. A better option is to sit down [to the negotiating table] and recognise that your opposite number is a great power and that every state, be it a great power or otherwise, has interests that must be respected.  The world certainly should seek to function based on a search for a balance of these interests.

Now let me pass to the second question – that this aggravation is not in Russia’s interests. I think that it is totally at variance with our interests, the interests of the European Union, and those of other countries as well. If you take the EU, China-EU trade is absolutely comparable with trade between China and the US. I think it is also necessary to pay attention to the EU’s increasingly publicised aspirations as regards a strategic autonomy not only in the military-political and security sphere but also in trade and the economy. Incidentally, the EU also wants to start repatriating its industries and localise as many trade and distributive chains as possible on its territory. In this regard, it is entering direct competition with the Americans.

The EU is unlikely to support the United States on every count in its desire to bleed the Chinese economy white by “pumping over” all development-friendly processes to its territory. There will be a lot of wrinkles, tension and clashes of interests.

Today, unlike in 2014, when the EU, under atrocious US pressure, introduced sanctions against Russia, it is showing signs of sound pragmatism towards our country. Specifically, they have publicly announced that they will revise the notorious “five principles” that Federica Mogherini formulated several years ago to guide relations with Russia.  They also say that it is necessary to overhaul their entire approach so that it should be more consistent with EU interests.

Incidentally, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell gave a talk recently on EU and China and on EU and Russia. Asked, why not impose sanctions on China for Hong Kong and human rights, he said that sanctions were not a method to be used in relations with China. We inquired whether sanctions were, in his opinion, a method that could be used in relations with Russia?  Our European friends will be thinking about this. It is a tough question.

I think that the European Union and Russia have a stake in cooperating, but not to the detriment of anyone else.  Basically, we do not ally with others to organise some actions against a third party.  We prefer pragmatism and shared benefit. I think Brussels will be doing something to overcome the myopia of the recent period.  The survey of EU policy vis-à-vis Russia will give more heed to an analysis of the real benefits inherent in promoting relations with Russia and the EAEU.

I do not see any benefits that Russia could derive from a trade war between Washington and Beijing. We will not benefit from relations with the EU and India either. Relations with India are traditionally friendly and other than time-serving. I do not envisage any changes in this area. We have proclaimed a “specially privileged strategic partnership” with India. I do not see any reasons why our Indian friends should sacrifice the gains that exist in the context of our partnership and prospects that it opens.

Question: You have mentioned Russian-US relations. Of course, international security and strategic stability depend on them. The situation is rather alarming now because of a deep crisis in the arms control regime. It is possible that the last key treaty in this sphere will expire in six months. There are many reasons for this, both geopolitical and technological. I believe we have to admit that public opinion is not pressuring the political elites to maintain arms control as much as during the Cold War, when large-scale demonstrations were held, as we well remember. The highest priority threats for the public now are the pandemic, climate change and terrorism. The fear of a nuclear war has receded into the background. What can be done to change this, or will it take a new Cuban crisis for the public to become aware of the nuclear conflict threat and to start expressing its opinion?

Jointly with our academic community we are now holding many videoconferences with American experts. You have said that there are rational people in the United States. It can be said that these conferences offer an opportunity to coordinate a number of new proposals, which could be used to formulate our initiatives. Of course, we update the Foreign Ministry and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov about our activities. But it seems that today we need to think about some radical action, possibly in connection with the proposed summit of the five nuclear states, in order to create conditions that will help prevent the dismantling of the arms control regime and launch the creation of a new system of international security and strategic stability suited to the conditions of the 21st century.

Sergey Lavrov: I fully agree with you. Nuclear risks have increased dramatically, and the situation in the sphere of international security and strategic stability is visibly deteriorating. The reasons for this are obvious to everyone.  The United States wants to regain global domination and attain victory in what it describes as great-power rivalry. It has replaced the term “strategic stability” with “strategic rivalry.” It wants to win, whatever the price, as the saying goes. It is dismantling the arms control architecture so as to have the freedom to choose any instrument, including military force, to put pressure on its geopolitical opponents, and it wants to be able to use these instruments anywhere around the world. This is especially alarming in light of the changes in the doctrines of the US military-political authorities. These changes have allowed the limited use of nuclear weapons. It is notable that, like in the case of other strategic stability topics, the Americans have once again alleged that it is the Russian doctrine that permits the limited use of nuclear weapons and escalation for the sake of de-escalation and victory. They have recently issued comments on our doctrines, claiming that there are some secret parts where all of this is stipulated. This is not true. Meanwhile, we can see that the United States has adopted a number of practical programmes to support their doctrines with military and technical capabilities. This concerns the creation of low-yield nuclear warheads. American experts and officials are openly discussing this.

In this context, we are especially alarmed by the Americans’ failure to reaffirm – for two years now – the fundamental principle that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and that therefore it must never be unleashed. Early in the autumn of 2018, we submitted to the American side our written proposal that has been formulated as the confirmation of what People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov and US President Franklin Roosevelt had coordinated and the notes they exchanged. We have reminded them about this proposal several times. They have replied that they are analysing it. Of course, we will raise the issue of the inadmissibility of fighting a nuclear war and winning it at the upcoming summit meeting of the five nuclear powers. It is important for our arguments to be no weaker than the arguments in the relevant Soviet-US documents. The slackening of these formulations has shown that the Americans would like to dilute the fact that there is no alternative to this principle and it cannot be repealed.

You have said that civil society is not paying sufficient attention to these threats, and I fully agree with you on this count. It is vital to attract public attention to this problem, to tell the people about the risks in understandable terms, because technicalities are often difficult to understand, and the form in which the analysis of this situation is presented to people is very important. Of course, we should count not only on official establishments but also on civil society and its politically active part – the NGOs and the academic and expert community.

I have said that I agree with you on this count, but I would also like to caution against going too far with raising public awareness of nuclear risks, so as not to play into the hands of those who want to prohibit all nuclear weapons and not to raise other concerns. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons openly contradicts the Non-Proliferation Treaty, creating confusion and problems. The necessary balance can be found with the help of top quality professionals, and I believe that we have more of them than any other country.

As for public sentiments, they do not always determine the reality. During the election campaign of US President Donald Trump, public sentiments were largely in tune with his declared plans and his calls for normalising Russian-US relations. Since then, the public has calmed down, and nobody is staging any riots over this matter.

Of course, it is vital to continue to interact directly with the nuclear powers and their authorities. We would like reasonable approaches to take priority.

You have mentioned that political consultations are underway between you, your colleagues and American experts. We appreciate this. Your contribution and assessments, as well as the information we receive following such consultations are taken into account and have a significant influence on the essence of our approaches, including in situations when we submit several alternatives to the leadership; this helps us analyse the possible scenarios and all their pros and cons.

The United States, as well as Britain and France, which are playing along with it, would like to limit the summit’s agenda to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. China sees this as an attempt to press through the idea of expanding the number of negotiating parties at the talks on nuclear weapons by one means or another. China has put forth its position on the idea of multilateral talks clearly and more than once. We respect this position. By the way, the Americans are clever at twisting things. They use only the parts of our statements and those of the Chinese that suit their position. The Chinese have said recently that they will join the arms control talks as soon as the Americans reduce their capability to the level of China’s arsenal. A day later, Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea announced that the United States welcomed China’s readiness to join the multilateral talks and invited Beijing to Vienna. The next round of Russian-US consultations at the level of experts will be held in late July, following on from the late June meeting between Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control Marshall Billingslea, when the Americans made a show with Chinese flags. The Americans have once again stated publicly that they would like to invite the Chinese to Vienna but it would be better if Russia met with China before that so as to tell Beijing what Washington expects from it. I think everyone can see that this is impolite and undiplomatic. When we say that we proceed from the assumption that China is free to take whatever stand it deems necessary, it shows our respect for China’s position. I would like to add that the Americans have not put on paper anything of what they said about the need for transitioning to a multilateral format. Let them at least document what they have in mind. But they seem to be categorically averse to this.

We are ready to take part in multilateral talks, but it should be a voluntary and independent decision of everyone. Only voluntary participation can be effective.

None of the reservations are being taken into account. They say that Russia supports their call for multilateral talks. What do we hear when we add that multilateral talks must also include Britain and France? Special Envoy Billingslea didn’t blink when he said the other day in reply to a question about the possible involvement of Britain and France that they are sovereign states who are free to decide whether to join the talks or not, and that the United States will not make the decision for them. Why has it actually made the decision for China then?

Knowing the US negotiating party, I am not optimistic about the New START, for example, but it’s good that we have started talking. Sergey Ryabkov and Marshall Billingslea have agreed to set up three working groups within the framework of the process they are supervising. They will hold a meeting of the working group on space, nuclear and weapons transparency plus nuclear doctrines in Vienna between July 27 and 30. We’ll see what comes of it. We never refuse to talk, and we will try to make negotiations result-oriented.

Question: Extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is one of the critical items on the agenda of Russia-US relations, primarily in the sphere of arms control. If Russia fails to reach an agreement with Washington to renew this treaty before February 2021, what will it do next? If there’s a pause in the dialogue with Washington in the sphere of arms control, and if the treaty is not renewed, what will the arms control system become and will the multilateral formats that we are talking about now be possible in the future?

Sergey Lavrov: It appears that the United States has already decided not to renew this treaty. The fact that it insists that there’s no alternative to taking the deal to the trilateral format suggests that everything has been already decided. In addition to this, they want the latest Russian weapons to be part of the deal which, by and large, is nothing short of trying to force an open door. We told the Americans earlier on that when Avangard and Sarmat become fully deployed, they will be subject to the restrictions established by the treaty for as long as it remains valid. The other systems are new. They do not fit into the three categories covered by START-3, but we are ready to start talking about including the weapons that are not classical from the START-3 perspective in the discussion, of course, within the context of a principled discussion of all, without exceptions, variables that affect strategic stability that way or another. This includes missile defence, where we are now able to see that the once existing allegations that it was designed solely to stop the missile threat coming from Iran and North Korea, were lies. No one is even trying to bring this up anymore. Everything is being done solely in terms of containing Russia and China. Other factors include high-precision non-nuclear weapons known as a programme of instant global strike, openly promoted plans by the Americans and the French to launch weapons into space, the developments related to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a number of other factors too. We are ready to discuss new weapons, but to do so not in order to humour someone or to respond to someone’s initiatives, but to really reduce the threat to global stability and security.

To this end, we need to look at all the things that create these threats, pushing us to create antidotes, as was the case with our hypersonic weapons, which were developed in response to the global deployment of the US missile defence system.

Speaking specifically about the START-3 Treaty, we need an extension as much as the Americans do. They see some kind of a game in our calls to extend it for five more years without any preconditions. Russia, they say, has modernised its entire nuclear arsenal, but we are just beginning the modernisation, so they want to “tie our hands.” This is absolutely not so. We need to extend the START-3 Treaty as much as the Americans. If they refuse to do so, we will not insist. We know and we firmly believe that we will be able to ensure our security in the long run, even in the absence of this treaty. I think it is premature to discuss our actions if this treaty expires without any further action, but we are indeed ready for any turn of events. If the renewal is turned down, our options may be different, but I can assure you that overall we will continue the dialogue with the United States on strategic issues and new weapons control tools based on the facts that underlie strategic stability, as I just mentioned.

With regard to the multilateral talks, we already said back in 2010, when we were signing START-3, that the signing of this treaty puts an end to the possibility for further bilateral reductions and that, talking about future reductions, I emphasise this term, we will need to take into account the arsenals of other nuclear powers and start looking for other forms of discussions, if we’re talking about reductions. If we are talking about control, I think the bilateral Russian-American track has far more to offer. Losing all forms of control and transparency would probably be an unreasonable and irresponsible thing to do in the face of our nations and other nations as well. I believe the fact that there’s a transparency group (this is a broad term that includes measures of trust and verification) among the Russian-American working groups which will be meeting in Vienna soon, is a good sign.

Question: The Eurasian countries regard Russia as a mainstay that can connect the EU and Asian countries. How do you see Russia’s role in this space?

Sergey Lavrov: The situation on the Eurasian continent is fully affected by almost all global factors. This is where a number of the most important world centres are located, including China, Russia, India and the European Union if we are talking about the continent as a whole. For various reasons, each of these actors is motivated to pursue a foreign policy independent from the United States. This includes the EU.

Calls for strategic autonomy extend to the development area as such. We in Eurasia feel the influence of forces that would like to put together interest-based blocs and try to introduce elements of confrontation into various processes. We increasingly see centripetal tendencies. I am referring to ASEAN in the east and the EU in the west of our continent.

Located in the centre is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Eurasian Economic Union. We would like to promote unifying, not divisive approaches in this space  and intensify trans-regional collaboration based on equality, mutual benefit, and most importantly, we would like to realise the obvious comparative advantages of cooperation on the continent via integration entities created in the West, East, and Centre, with respect for each of these unions and the search for natural forms of collaboration. This is the goal of what we call the Greater Eurasian Partnership that President Vladimir Putin suggested establishing at the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi a few years ago. We think this is an absolutely realistic action plan.

Let me note parenthetically that there are opposing approaches. They are mostly promoted by the United States through so-called Indo-Pacific concepts aimed at undermining the central systematic role of ASEAN in the Asia-Pacific region. I am referring to an attempt to put together a group of countries that would openly – this is not even hidden – contain China’s development.

I would favour identifying points of contact among all integration processes. Of course, there is China’s Belt and Road concept. The EAEU has an agreement with China that includes identifying points of contact and the harmonisation of any project that will be implemented as part of Eurasian integration and China’s project. Of course, there is a clash of economic interests in a number of cases, but the sides’ willingness to be guided by international legal principles, respect for each other, and mutual benefit makes it possible to agree on these economic interests based on the search for balance. It is in this way that our relations with our EAEU partners, China within the SCO, and ASEAN, are built. We invite the European Union, as has been repeatedly stated, to consider how it can become part of the development of our common geopolitical and primarily geo-economic space with benefits for itself and for others.

Question: The Middle East and North Africa remain a troubled region. New divides continue to crop up there; the potential for conflict remains and the old conflicts that everyone knows about persist. The humanitarian situation is aggravated due to the West’s unfair sanctions against a certain part of the region. Various asymmetries are growing deeper. What are Russia’s strategic interests in the region today? What do we want to achieve there, given the post-COVID nature of the era we are now entering?

Sergey Lavrov: We have very good relations in this region, possibly the best in the history of relations between this country, in its various capacities, and the region. I mean relations with all sides: the Arab countries, regardless of the conflict potential within the Arab world, and Israel. We will proceed from the need to promote positive contact with all these countries and seek to understand their problems and needs, and take this into account in our relations not only with a specific country but also with the countries that this particular partner has problems with.

In the beginning, I was asked whether Russia was ready to perform as a balancing influence in relations between the United States and China. If they ask us to, if they are interested, we would not decline this. We have established contacts with both sides and our historical development record enables us to see that we have potential.

If there is interest in mediation services that we can offer in this region or elsewhere, we are always ready to try to help, but of course, we will not push ourselves on anyone. Our own interest is primarily in precluding new military crises and in settling old crises so that the Middle East and North Africa become a zone of peace and stability. Unlike certain major countries outside the region, we have no strategic interest in maintaining controlled chaos. We have no such interest whatsoever.

We are not interested in engineering head-on clashes between countries in the region so as to create a pretext and a motive for continuing, and sometimes expanding, our military presence there. We are interested in promoting mutually beneficial trade, economic, investment and other ties with these states. In this respect, we would not like any other country in the region to have the same fate as Libya, which was robbed of its statehood and now no one knows how to “sew it together.” This is why we will be actively involved in efforts to reestablish an international legal approach to avoid any further toothpowder-filled test tubes passed off as VX and lies about weapons of mass destruction in other countries in the region as is now happening in Syria. Some have already started talking about “undiscovered” chemical weapons in Libya. All of these are inventions. How they are concocted is no secret.

We would like to derive economic benefits from our relations with the countries in the region. For this, we primarily have much in common in our approaches to problems in the contemporary world: international law, the UN Charter, and inter-civilisational dialogue, something that is also important, considering the Muslim population in the Russian Federation. Russia’s Muslim republics maintain good ties with the Gulf countries and other countries in the Arab world. We would like to support and develop all this. We will not gain anything from the chaos that continues in the region. As soon as the situation stabilises, the Russian Federation’s reliability as a partner in economic cooperation, military-technical cooperation, and the political area will always ensure us important advantages.

Question: My question is related to the recent changes in Russia. The new wording of the Constitution, which has come into effect, includes a provision according to which any actions (with the exception of delimitation, demarcation and re-demarcation of the state border of the Russian Federation with adjacent states) aimed at alienating part of the Russian territory, as well as calls for such actions, shall be prohibited. This provision is understandable. This brings me to my question: Does this mean that our years-long talks with Japan on the so-called territorial dispute have become anti-constitutional because they contradict our Fundamental Law? As far as I recall, the terms “delimitation” and “demarcation” have never been applied to the Kuril Islands, or have they?

Sergey Lavrov: Yes, you are spot on. Our relations with Japan are based on a number of agreements. The Russian Federation as the successor state of the Soviet Union has reaffirmed its commitment to all of the agreements signed by the Soviet Union. President Vladimir Putin has confirmed this more than once. This includes the 1956 Declaration under which we are ready to discuss and are discussing with our Japanese colleagues the necessity of signing a peace treaty, but not a treaty that would have been signed the next day after the last shot, that is, immediately after the termination of the war, as some of our Japanese colleagues would like. The state of war between the Soviet Union and Japan was terminated by the 1956 Declaration, which provides for the end of the state of war and for the restoration of diplomatic relations. What else do we need? In other words, a peace treaty we are negotiating should be modern and comprehensive, and it should not reflect the situation of 60-70 years ago but the current state of affairs, when we believe that we should develop full-scale ties with Japan. This document must be essential and inclusive, that is, it should include issues of peace, friendship, neighbourliness, partnership and cooperation, and it should cover all spheres of our relations, including economic ties, which are improving but not in all economic sectors. It should be remembered that our Japanese neighbours have imposed sanctions on Russia, although they are not as all-embracing as the US restrictions, but anyway.

A peace treaty should also cover security topics, because Japan has a close military alliance with the United States, which has essentially declared Russia to be an enemy. Of course, a comprehensive peace treaty should also include our views on foreign policy interaction, where, to put it simply, we disagree on all disputable matters, as well as humanitarian and cultural ties and many other factors. We have offered a concept of such a treaty. Our Japanese colleagues have not responded to this concept so far.

It is clear that the outcome of WWII is the fundamental issue that should determine our relations. Japanese officials have stated more than once that they recognise the results of WWII excluding the decision concerning the South Kuril Islands, or the “Northern Territories,” as they say. This position contradicts the law. Japan’s position must be based on the fact that the country ratified the UN Charter, which essentially means that the actions taken by the winner countries with regard to the enemy countries are beyond discussion.

Of course, our Japanese neighbours keep saying that they would sign a peace treaty as soon as the territorial dispute is settled. This is not what we have agreed to do. We have agreed to focus on signing a peace treaty as stipulated in the 1956 Declaration.

Question: Russia often criticises the US for promoting non-inclusive associations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans to isolate “uncomfortable” states. I am primarily referring to the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad. Obviously, the very existence of such formats turns the region from a zone of cooperation into a zone of confrontation. We are certainly not interested in that. However, for all its minuses, the Quad concept is obviously finding understanding from Russia’s strategic partners, for instance, India. The Quad Plus project, where the US plans to invite Vietnam, our strategic partner as well, is also under discussion. Apparently, there is a need to enhance security in the region. Can Russia offer an alternative to such formats to prevent our two strategic partners from being in a position where they have to deter a third one?

Sergey Lavrov: I talked about the appearance of concepts and strategies on forming what US diplomats call “a free and open Indo-Pacific” several years ago. When some initiative calls itself free and open, I always have the impression that this includes a tinge of PR because how can it be called open if every state the region without exception is not invited to join?

When the term “Indo-Pacific strategies” appeared we inquired if they did not deal with the Asia-Pacific Region the contours of which are clear: the APEC, and the mechanisms that were established around ASEAN (the ASEAN regional security forum, the meeting of the ASEAN defence ministers and the partner countries, which is very important and, of course, the East Asia Summit (EAS), a forum that will be a decade old this year). We asked why the established term, Asia-Pacific Region, was replaced with this “Indo-Pacific strategies.” Does this mean that these strategies will embrace more countries, including all Indian Ocean coastal states? We received a negative answer. But what does “Indo” mean then? Will the Persian Gulf, which is part of the Indian Ocean, take part in the new format? We got a negative answer again. The Gulf has too many problems to be involved in these initiatives.

As for the ideas pursued by this Quad, as I have said, they are not really hiding them. These ideas come down to attempts to deter China. Our specially privileged partner India is fully aware of this. Pursuing its multi-vector policy, India is certainly interested in developing relations with the US (and who isn’t?), Japan and Australia. We are also interested in this. But India does not want to benefit from this cooperation at the price of further aggravating its relations with China. They had sad incidents on the Line of Actual Control but we welcome their immediate contacts between militaries, which are ongoing. They reached agreements on de-escalating tensions. Their politicians and diplomats also met. We can see that neither India nor China want their relations to get worse. Therefore, before talking seriously about Indo-Pacific strategies as a future for our large region, it is necessary to explain the choice of wording. If this was done to please India because of the Indian Ocean, just say so.

There are things that have already been established. I mentioned a diverse network of institutions and mechanisms around ASEAN. ASEAN brings together a group of countries that promote unifying approaches in the context of their civilisations and cultures. Everything is aimed at searching for consensus based on a balance of interests. For decades, the members have been absolutely content with developing relations in this venue with its regional security forum, defence minister meetings and East Asia Summits. There is even an expression: “ASEAN-way.” They always emphasise that they want to handle matters in “the ASEAN-way.” This means never to seek confrontation or launch projects that will create problems for other members. Regrettably, Indo-Pacific strategies may pursue different goals, at least under their initial concept.

In the beginning of our conversation, I mentioned the tough claims made by the US against China. They sound like an ultimatum. This is a mechanism for exerting and intensifying pressure. We do not see anything positive in this. Any problems must be resolved peacefully, through talks. Let me repeat that ASEAN is an ideal venue where every participant can discuss its problems with another member without polemics or tension. We are actively forming bridges with ASEAN (I mentioned the EAEU and the SCO). Their secretariats have already signed related memorandums. We will continue promoting ASEAN’s core role in the South Pacific Region.

We will only welcome Indo-Pacific strategies if they become more understandable, if we are convinced that they lean towards joining the ASEAN-led processes rather than try to undermine its role and redirect the dialogue against China or someone else. However, we are not seeing this so far.

Question: A week ago, experts were polled on US allegations that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, had offered rewards to the Taliban for killing US troops in Afghanistan. All of the analysts agree that the allegation could be rooted in domestic, primarily political reasons. Your subordinate, Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov, has pointed out that one of the factions in the United States is against the planned troop withdrawal from Afghanistan because US security services have become deeply involved in the drug trade over the past few years. We have not asked you about this situation yet. What do you think about this uproar?

Sergey Lavrov: We have already responded to the hype in the United States over Russia’s alleged connection with the Taliban, who were allegedly financed to fight US troops and even offer bounties for the murder of American military personnel. I can only tell you once again that all this is a dirty speculation. No facts have been provided to prove anything. Moreover, responsible officials in the US administration, including the Secretary of Defence, have said that they know nothing about this.

These allegations fit in very well with the political fighting during an election year in the United States, as if they were invented – and it appears that this is so – for this purpose. The objective is to disgrace the US administration and to discredit everything it has been doing, especially with regard to Russia. I would like to repeat that there are no facts to prove these allegations. But there were facts in the late 1970s and 80s, when the US administration did not make a secret of helping the Mujahedeen, of supplying them with Stingers and other weapons, which they used against Soviet soldiers.

As I have said, we would like both Russia and the United States to draw lessons from the experience they have accumulated in that long-suffering country and to help launch an intra-Afghan dialogue together with the other countries that could help allay tensions there, primarily China, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan’s other neighbours. We have been working actively towards this end.

As for the United States, we have been acting within the framework of this political process under the agreements being advocated by the United States in its dialogue with the Taliban and the Afghan Government. We are using our channels to make these agreements possible. There is a mechanism for consultations between Russia, the United States and China, which Pakistan sometimes joins and to which Iran has been invited. However, Iran has not acted on the invitation because of its problems with the United States and the actions Washington has been taking against Iran around the world. These consultations are a mechanism for cooperation that is being used to define the spheres where signals could be sent to the sides. This is being done within the framework of the logic of the so-called Moscow format, which brings together all of Afghanistan’s neighbours without exception, as well as the United States, Russia and China. This is more than adequate.

Now, regarding Afghanistan’s drugs and the possible involvement of the US military in the drug business. We have received numerous reports, including through the media, according to which NATO aircraft are being used to smuggle Afghan opiates to other countries, including to Europe. The governors of the concerned Afghan provinces have stated more than once that unmarked helicopters are flying in the area. It should be noted that the sky over Afghanistan is controlled by the NATO coalition. Other reports have mentioned other forms of smuggling opiates.

Of course, we cannot verify such information to the dot, but it has been reported so regularly that we cannot ignore it. If combat aircraft were used in Afghanistan (as I mentioned, it could only be NATO aircraft), the flights could only be made by military or intelligence personnel. These circumstances should be investigated, first of all in the United States. The Americans have agencies that are in charge of monitoring compliance with American laws. Second, investigations should also be held in the country where military personnel are deployed, that is, Afghanistan. This is exactly what Zamir Kabulov said. By the way, established facts show that over the 20 years of the deployment of the US and other coalition members in Afghanistan the volume of drugs smuggled into other countries, including in Europe and our neighbours, as well as into Russia, has increased several times over. Neither the United States nor the other members of the NATO coalition are seriously fighting this drug business. By the way, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko noted in a recent report that there are opium poppy plantations right next to NATO bases. This is an established fact. And this is possibly not right from the viewpoint of the US stand on the drug business.

We have regularly tried to attract the UN Security Council’s attention to this issue when we listened to reports on NATO coalition operations in Afghanistan, and we also did this via bilateral channels when we urged our partners to combat the drug industry. They replied that the mandate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan did not include drugs, that it only stipulated counterterrorist activities. But it is a well-known fact that the drug business is used to finance terrorism and is the largest source of funds for terrorist organisations. You can reach your own conclusions. As I have pointed out, we take this problem very seriously.

QuestionA few hours after this meeting of the Primakov Readings is over, an extraordinary UN General Assembly session on combating the pandemic will begin at 10 am New York time. This session was convened by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). How important is this session? Who will represent Russia? Do you think the UN is late in responding to the pandemic? What do you think about the Non-Aligned Movement’s principles in these conditions?

Sergey Lavrov: Of course, we are aware that a special session of the UN General Assembly on the subject of COVID-19 will be convened upon the initiative of the Non-Aligned Movement chaired by Azerbaijan this year. It will take place a little later. Today, on July 10, the procedural registration of the rules to be used for convening the session begins, since amid the coronavirus infection, all remotely held events are subject to coordination in terms of their organisational and procedural aspects. Only this matter will be discussed today. The date for convening the special session itself has not yet been determined.

I don’t think we have any reason to believe that the UN is slow or late in responding to the coronavirus infection challenges. The UN General Assembly met twice some time ago at an early stage of this situation. Two resolutions were adopted which were dedicated to the international community’s goals in fighting the coronavirus infection. Most recently, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on COVID-19. We were unable to do this for a long time because the Americans strongly opposed mentioning the role of the World Health Organisation in the document. Eventually, we found words that allowed us to mention this role and to ensure consensus approval.

Let us remember that the World Health Assembly, by the way, with the participation of the Americans, held a special session in May. The WHA adopted a resolution supported by the US in which the WHO’s role was objectively reflected. It was agreed at that session that as soon as the pandemic and all major programmes are completed, an international assessment of the lessons we learned from the WHO’s work in this area would be made, but without pointing a finger at anyone. It is an objective scientific evaluation of independent professionals.

Of course, the Non-Aligned Movement is our close partner. We are a guest country that is regularly invited to NAM summits and ministerial meetings in this capacity. This body was created in a wholly different historical context at the height of the Cold War, when the developing countries that formed this movement wanted to emphasise the principle of neutrality with respect for the two military blocs. Nevertheless, the Non-Aligned Movement remains a significant factor in international politics even after the Cold War. I think this is good, since the attempts to cobble up certain blocks again (we have already discussed this today) continue. It is important that this neutrality, non-commitment and focus on advancing the principles of international law be preserved at the core of NAM activities.

By the way, another NAM summit was held in Baku in October 2019. We attended it as a guest. Important joint statements were agreed upon. We confirmed our support for strengthening multipolarity in the international arena and respect for the UN Charter principles. NAM statements in support of Palestine and Bolivia were adopted as well. Back then, these were important topics. We are interested in seeing our status in NAM help us actively work on issues of common interest.

Question: Did Dmitry Kozak give an ultimatum at the talks on the Minsk agreements, telling Kiev to draft amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine on the special status of Donbass as soon as possible? If so, why has this demand become so tough only now that these agreements are already five years old?

Sergey Lavrov: There were no demands or ultimatums. Working as Normandy format advisors, the assistants of the four leaders that are part of our Contact Group, we are trying to ensure, in cooperation with the OSCE, the direct dialogue that Kiev is required to conduct with Donetsk and Lugansk. Conceptually, we are striving for only one goal – we are asking our Ukrainian partners to reaffirm their full commitment to the Minsk agreements as they were drafted, signed and approved by the UN Security Council. When we are told that Kiev is committed to the Minsk agreements but that it is necessary to first establish control of the Ukrainian Army and border guards over the entire border, this has nothing to do with the Minsk agreements. This is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. When we are told, at the top level, that the Minsk agreements must be preserved to continue the sanctions against Russia, we would like to know if Ukraine is primarily interested in these agreements because of the sanctions, why it signed them and whether it is still committed to what is written in them rather than this absolutely artificial and inadequate link with sanctions. The majority of EU members consider this link incoherent. This is an approach of principle. I talked with the foreign ministers of France and Germany. Mr Kozak spoke with his counterparts as well. We would like our French and German partners to continue to express their views about this as participants in the Normandy format. Every day, we hear Kiev’s official statements that simply discard the agreements that were reaffirmed by the UN Security Council after the talks in Minsk.

For all this, we continue to hold pragmatic conversation with a view to coordinating specific steps on promoting all aspects of the Minsk agreements: security, socio-economic, humanitarian and political issues. At the recent, fairly productive meeting of the leaders’ assistants of the Normandy format states, the participants reached a number of agreements on yet another detainee exchange, and the Contact Group’s security arrangements, including reconciliation of the texts of the orders that must be adopted by the parties to the conflict (Kiev, Donetsk and Lugansk) and describe in detail the actions to be banned by these orders. These issues were agreed upon. The third negotiated item on the political agenda is the presentation by Ukraine of its vision of the document that will contain amendments to the Constitution to reflect the special status of Donbass fully in line with the Minsk agreements.

Understandings were reached in these three areas and were supposed to be formalised in the decisions of the Contact Group that ended its session the other day. In Minsk, the Ukrainian delegation disavowed everything that was agreed upon in Berlin. We noted this, and Deputy Chief of the Presidential Executive Office Dmitry Kozak sent a related message to his colleagues. So, this is no surprise at all. We have always insisted that the Minsk agreements must be carried out in full and with the due succession of actions. It’s not that we are losing patience, but patience helps when there is a clear understanding of what comes next. President Vladimir Zelensky came to power under a slogan of quick peace in Donbass. However, at this point, we have no idea what the attitude of his administration is to the actions that must be taken under the Minsk agreements.

Question: Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton writes in his memoirs that US President Donald Trump was unhappy about the sanctions over Salisbury and Syria. Did you hear about this? Is the agreement with the US on the exchange of top level visits still valid? Is Russia’s participation in the extended G7 format being considered?

Sergey Lavrov: I haven’t read John Bolton’s memoirs but I’m familiar with some parts of his book. Clearly, Mr Bolton has his own view of Russia-US relations, the US mission in the world, and America’s vision of the world order and what it should be. Apparently, every author wants his or her book to sell well (and in America practically every person writes a book after serving in the government for one or two years). To achieve this, it is necessary to make it interesting, and “hot issues” are helpful in this respect. I’ll leave all this on the conscience of Mr Bolton: both his presentation of this material and the spicy and sensitive details. I’ll also leave on his conscience his obvious embellishment of US actions in different situations.

Nobody has signed any agreements on exchanging top level visits because such an agreement implies a certain date for a visit, and the name of the city and geographical location. But nobody is discounting the possibility of such meetings, either. We are willing to work with the Americans at all levels and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin has good relations with US President Donald Trump. From time to time, I talk with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. Our deputies also maintain a dialogue. So, if the Americans are interested, we do not see any obstacles. We don’t want our relations to be seen as some appendage to the election campaign and the tough actions taken by the sides as regards each other on the eve of the US election.

As for the G7, I think we have already said everything we wanted to say on this issue. Russia was a full member of the G8. The G8 did not meet in 2014 and not due to any action on our part. Our partners — Europe, North America and Japan — decided not to hold this event in full. This is their choice. President Vladimir Putin said in one of his comments that as before we will be happy to host the entire G8 in the Russian Federation. If our colleagues do not want this, love cannot be forced.

As for the G7, the list of countries invited to attend, as mentioned by US President Donald Trump, shows that the G7 can no longer accomplish much on its own. But even the countries that were mentioned will not make any radical change because the list is incomplete. We are convinced that the serious issues of the world and global finances can hardly be resolved effectively. Apparently, these reasons — the need to involve the main players in world financial, economic and commodity markets — have prompted the resumption and upgrade of activities in the G20. This is an inclusive mechanism that relies on consensus and the principles of equality. We believe the G20 format must obviously be preserved, encouraged and actively used if we want to talk about the underlying causes of current economic problems rather than their use in foreign policy disputes or any other sort of rhetoric.

Question: In Russia, they always say that they are ready to work with any president that is elected by the American people. Can you predict potential development of bilateral relations if former US Vice President Joe Biden wins? Do you think some analysts are correct in believing that he could revise some of President Donald Trump’s decisions, which do not benefit Russia, such as withdrawal from the INF Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty?

Sergey Lavrov: We do not comment on election campaigns. This is done by the media in all countries. The election campaign in the US is creating much interest in the entire world. This is understandable, but officially we proceed from the correct assumption that the choice of the head of state is up to the American people. This is a domestic US affair.

As for how this or that outcome might affect Russia-US relations, if we reason in a perfectly abstract way, we can quote some analysts that have commented on how this will influence disarmament talks. There is an opinion that is probably buttressed by some facts, that the Democrats are less prone than the Republicans to destroy the agreements on strategic stability and disarmament that had been reached over the past few decades. But we have not forgotten that a major anti-Russia campaign was launched during the Democratic administration of Barrack Obama. Many elements of this campaign, including sanctions, are now an element of bipartisan consensus. I don’t want to guess. This situation is unpredictable. Let me repeat, let the American people make their decision.

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights that is in charge, among other things, of monitoring elections, has conducted such monitoring remotely and distributed a report that was recently presented at the OSCE Permanent Council. The report contains many critical remarks about the correlation of election processes to American laws. I will not go into details. You can read this report yourself. But the report mentions, in particular, that for a variety of reasons at least 2 million US citizens are deprived of the right of the vote to which they are entitled by law. Interestingly, the report notes such a congenital defect in US election legislation, notably, a two-stage election process.

At first, people elect the Electoral College that later on chooses the president. The report also noted that the creation of the electoral districts is unfair to different ethnic groups. This is an indicative observation on behalf of the OSCE. We have spoken about this for a long time. I also recall that when Condoleezza Rice was US Secretary of State, she complained about our elections. I replied that if she had specific grievances, we had international and domestic observers and many other mechanisms and the entire process would be analysed. I reminded her that in the US a nominee can win a popular vote but a different candidate can be elected president because of different shares of votes in the electoral districts and the Electoral College. This is what happened in 2000 when the Florida votes were recounted for such a long time. Eventually, this process was stopped by the Supreme Court. George Bush Jr became US President and Alexander Gore accepted his defeat. Ms Rice told me then that they know this is a problem but this is their problem and they will settle it themselves. They probably will respond to the OSCE report in the same way.

As for the prospects and the projection of this or other decision on treaties, including the Open Skies Treaty, in line with the current schedule and its own announced decision on withdrawal, the US is supposed to end its participation in the treaty on November 22 or two and a half weeks after the election. No matter who becomes president, the new administration will assume its duties on January 20. Therefore, this decision will not likely be revised if the treaty expires. If the new administration, Democratic or Republican, decides to return to the treaty, the talks will have to be started from scratch. Therefore, at the extraordinary conference of the signatories of the Open Skies Treaty that was held online on July 6 of this year, we urged all remaining parties to the treaty to try and preserve it. We are prepared to continue with it but will take our final decision on whether we should remain part of it after analysing all consequences of the US decision on withdrawing from it, that is unlikely to be revised. It is final and irreversible as we are seeing, in my opinion. This is also confirmed by what happened with the INF Treaty. The decision was announced. This was followed by attempts at persuading them to keep it but to no avail.

But let me return to what I said in replying to one of the questions. We are ready for a situation where nothing will be left of arms control due to the US’s persistent line to throw all of these agreements out. But we are also prepared not to start from scratch but continue our contacts with the Americans on all strategic stability issues. I am confident that all members of the international community will support this approach. That said, we will keep the door open for multilateral talks as well. Let me repeat that these talks must rely on common understanding, voluntary participation and a balanced lineup of participants.

مِن محمّد الثّاني إِلى أردوغان: أُصوليّةٌ مُتجدّدةٌ

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مِن محمّد الثّاني إِلى أردوغان: أُصوليّةٌ مُتجدّدةٌ

لم يُظهر الرّئيس التّركيّ رجب طيّب أَردوغان، في ملفّ تحويل متحف “​آيا صوفيا​” التّرائيّ العالميّ إلى مسجدٍ، تبدأ الصّلوات فيه بتاريخ 23 تمّوز الجاري، “نموذجًا مثاليًّا للحاكم المُسلم”! في وقتٍ نجد أَنّ ما تنعم به ​تركيا​ اليوم، من تقدّمٍ نسبيٍّ وازدهارٍ، إِنّما الفضل فيه يعود إِلى مصطفى كمال أَتاتورك، أَي إِلى النّظام العلمانيّ فكرًا وفلسفةً وسياسةً.وأَردوغان المُنتمي إِلى “حزب العدالة والتّنمية”، يميل بوجدانه ويتطلَّع إِلى إِعادة الحُكم الدّينيّ سواءً عن طريق العودة إِلى نظام الأَجداد (الخلافة العُثمانيّة) أَو عن طريق إِحياء النّزعة الدّينيّة في المجتمع التّركيّ، لتكون بعد ذلك عاملاً مُساعدًا له في ترويض الشّعب وتشريع ديكتاتوريّته، ليُصبح أَكثر جُرأة ويحقِّق أَهدافه وأطماعه التّوسّعيّة شيئًا فشيئًا…

كما وأَنّ حسابات أَردوغان الدّاخليّة، ورهانه في هذا المجال على شعبٍ سيَسْكر بجُنوح رئيسه نحو الأُصوليّة ليس في محلّه، إِذ إِنّ الشّعب التّركيّ قد رضع وتشرّب مفاهيم الحريّة والعلمانيّة كما وأَنّ ثقافة ​الإنسان​ التّركيّ، وأُسلوب حياته وسيكولوجيّته وبُعده السّوسيولوجيّ… أَقرب إِلى الشّعوب الأُوروبيّة منه إِلى الشّعوب العربيّة…

حتّى أَنّ تاريخ العرب والمسلمين عابقٌ بقيم التّسامح والتّعايش مع غير المسلمين، كما وأَنّ ​المسيح​يّين حصلوا على وظائف عُليا في الدّولتين الأُمويّة والعبّاسيّة!. وأَكثر ما يُخشى، أَن يكون حنين أَردوغان إِلى حقبةٍ إِجراميّةٍ لا خير فيها للعرب ولا للمُسلمين، بل إِنّها كانت سببًا في عُزلة العرب، وتخلُّفهم على مدى قرونٍ من الزّمن… في ظلّ حقبةٍ كانت سببًا في تشويه الصّورة الحقيقيّة للإِسلام، من خلال رسم الدّين في صورةٍ دمويّةٍ وعُنصريّةٍ دينيّةٍ وعرقيّةٍ، لم توفّر العرب ولا المسيحيّين، إذ نفّذ العثمانيّون جرائم في حقّ العرب، لا لشيءٍ سوى أَنّهم عرب، كما وأَنّ ما ارتكبوه من إِبادة جماعيّةٍ في حقّ الأَرمن لا لشيءٍ سوى أَنّهم مسيحيُّون!.

والخُطوة الأَردوغانيّة المُتطرِّفة الأَخيرة الّتي تم فيها تحويل متحف آيا صوفيا إِلى مسجدٍ؛ أَثبتت بما لا يدع مجالاً للشّكّ أَنّ النّظام التُّركيّ بدأَ يقترب مِن أُسلوب الميليشيات التّكفيريّة، ويكاد يتلاشى الفرق بينه وبين الجماعات الإرهابيّة كـ “داعش” و”​القاعدة​”.

وهذهِ الخطوة تُهين كُلّ مَن يحترم حُريّة الأَديان ومشاعر أَتباع كُلّ دينٍ، وإذا ما سُمح ل​أردوغان​ بالمضيّ في خطته الممنهجة، فلن نُشاهد في تركيا أَيّ ​كنيسة​ٍ، إذ إنّه وَفقًا للـ “عُثمانيّة ​الجديدة​”، لا مكان لأَي دينٍ آخر في تركيا سوى الإِسلام. فما هو مُتحف “آيا صوفيا”، الّذي هو في الأَساس كنيسةً؟.


كنيسة آيا صوفيا


كنيسة “آيا صوفيا” التّاريخيّة الّتي ينوي أَردوغان تحويلها مُجدّدًا إِلى مسجدٍ مكثت تحت الاحتلال التّركيّ 677 عامًا، بعدما كانت بُنيت في العام 537 على يد إِمبراطور بيزنطيا جوستنيان الأَوّل، وقد اختير موقع بنائها على تلّةٍ في وسط العاصمة الإِمبراطوريّة المُطلّة على ​مضيق البوسفور​، آخر بقعة أَوروبيّة مقابل المشرق المسيحيّ آنذاك، المُمتد من مصر حتّى ​سوريا​ و​لبنان​ وجبال الأَناضول وكيبدوكيا وأَرمينيا. وبعد إِنجازها، اعتُبرت تحفةً ومُعجزةً معماريّةً في القرن الخامس لا مثيل لها لا شرقًا ولا غربًا سوى الإِهرامات المصريّة، وأَبهرت الجميع ببنائها الضّخم وصحن قبتها وقاعة هيكلها الشّاسع المُتّسع لآلاف المُصلّين وهندستها الفريدة… وقد استمرّت تلك الكنيسة في خدمة المؤمنين من المسيحيّين لأَكثر من أَلف عامٍ، شهد فيها جرن العماد على بركة آلاف الأَطفال وجدرانها سمعت طلبات الفُقراء والمرضى والمحتاجين.

وفي يومٍ أَسود من العام 1453، وصلت طلائع جُنود السُّلطان التُّركيّ محمّد الثّاني إِلى المدينة، وقد عقد النّيّة على احتلالها، بعد ما فشل أَجداده في تلك المهمّة لمئات الأَعوام، كما فشل قبله الخليفة الأُمويّ معاوية في القرن السّابع، حين بقيت الكنيسة عصيّةً على المُحتلّين.

ووعد السّلطان جنوده بأَن تكون المدينة –إِذا دخلوها– مُلكًا لهم لثلاثة أَيّام، وأَنّ نساءها بكُلّ أَعمارهم في الدّاخل هديّة لهم كجواري لتشجيعهم على القتال. وهكذا، حاصر الأَتراك المدينة المُنهكة لفترة 52 يومًا، إِلى أَن دخلوها في ٢٩ أَيّار بعد اختراق جُدرانها، وبدأت مذبحة كبرى وعمليّة اغتصابٍ هي الأَكبر في التّاريخ. وقُطعت رؤوس عشرات آلاف الرّجال البالغين أَمام نسائهم، لحظاتٍ بعد ما شهدوا اغتصاب بناتهم. واستمرّ سماع صراخ تلك الفتيات طوال اللّيل المليء ب​الحرائق​ ورائحة الموت والدّماء، حيث تناوب الجنود على انتزاع الفتيات الصّغيرات من أَيدي رفاقهم واغتصابهنّ مع أُمهاتهنّ.

وأَمّا الكنيسة الّتي اختبأ فيها وفي ساحاتها وأَقبيتها أَكثر من خمسة آلاف مُصلّ خوفًا، اقتحمها جنود السّلطان وكتيبته الخاصّة، وتوجّهوا فورًا إِلى المذبح، وأُخد البطريرك جانبًا مع كبار الأَساقفة والكهنة، وقُطعت رؤُوسهم في الدّاخل. وأَما الرّجال فسيقوا إِلى الخارج وقُتلوا واحدًا تلو الآخر أَمام عائلاتهم، وجُمع الأَطفال الذذكور وجرى تكبيل أَرجلهم بالسّلاسل تمهيدا لبيعهم كعبيد، لتبدأ لاحقًا حفلة اغتصابٍ جديدةٍ للنّساء والفتيات انتهت بتكبيلهنّ تمهيدًا لإِهدائهنّ إِلى القصور والبيع في الأَسواق البعيدة.

وقيل يومها إِنّ أَصوات العويل خرقت قناة البوسفور إِلى الجهة الأُخرى: أَطفالٌ فُصلوا عن والداتهم وسيقوا بعيدًا والحديد في أَعناقهم… كما وكُسّرت أَبواب الكنيسة البرونزيّة وأُخرجت ذخائر القدّيسين وأُحرقت خارجًا مع الأَيقونات النّادرة، ونُهب ذهب “الايكونستاس الكبير”. ولم تنتهِ المذبحة إِلاّ بوصول السُّلطان إِلى السّاحة حيث عاين المبنى الّذي راقبه مع أَبيه مِن بعيدٍ لسنواتٍ طامعًا فيه!. وقد أَعلن فورًا نيّته بتحويله إِلى مسجدٍ عاقدًا العزم على الصّلاة فيه بعد أَسابيع…


التّاريخ يُعيد نفسه


لقد أَزمع أَردوغان على الالتزام بكتاب محمّد الثّاني على حساب الكُتُب السّماويّة، وإِذا كان الثّاني غسل الدّماء عن الرُّخام الأَبيض لأَرضيّة الكنيسة وبدأ بطمس الفُسيفساء على جُدران الكنيسة، حيث أُخفيت ​العذراء​ من فوق المذبح وأَيقونة المسيح الذّهبيّة من أَعلى مدخل الكنيسة، وطُلست الجدران بالكلس لإِخفاء المعالم المسيحيّة… فإِنّ أَردوغان تعهّد بعد 567 عامًا، باستكمال طمس الحضارة الإِنسانيّة، مستهدفًا بذلك أوّل ما استهدف، وثيقة الأخوّة الإنسانيّة الّتي وقّعها في أَبوظبي السّنة الماضية، قداسة ​البابا فرنسيس​ وشيخ الأَزهر أَحمد الطيّب. وإِذا كان كِلْس محمّد الثّاني يذوب مع الوقت، لتظهر مُجدّدًا المعالم المسيحيّة على الفُسيفساء، فإِنّ لأَردوغان أُسلوبه الخاصّ في عصر التّكنولوجيا المُتطوِّرة، والسّياسات الدّوليّة الإِنزوائيّة–الإنعزاليّة لا بل التّحريضيّة التّكفيريّة، ليمحو الحضارة الإِنسانيّة على طريقته!. وللحديث صلة…

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Turkey’s Hagia Sophia to Be Reopened as Mosque after Court Decision

Turkey’s Hagia Sophia to Be Reopened as Mosque after Court Decision

By Staff, Agencies

A top Turkish court on Friday revoked the Byzantine-era Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the court’s decision and announced that the site would be handed over to Turkey’s religious affairs directorate and reopened for Muslim worshipping.

Erdogan’s announcement comes shortly after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia’s status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque.

The Council of State, which was debating a case brought by a Turkish NGO, canceled a 1934 cabinet decision and ruled the site would be reopened to Muslim worshipping.

Earlier on Friday, UNESCO warned Turkey against converting the Hagia Sophia museum, a World Heritage site, in Istanbul into a mosque, urging dialogue before any decision is taken.

Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire in 537 AD but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Turning it into a museum was a key reform of the post-Ottoman authorities under the modern republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Calls for it to serve again as a mosque has sparked anger among Christians and tensions between the historic foes and uneasy NATO allies Turkey and Greece. Russia, which has become an increasingly important partner of Turkey in recent years, has also urged against altering its status.

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THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF THE EMERGING NEW WORLD ORDER

 A

Source: New Eastern Outlook

By James O’Neill
One of the many difficulties in interpreting the statements of United States President Donald Trump is to decide what category to put his many statements (and even more prolific tweets) in.

Is it another thought bubble similar to his pronouncements on a cure for COVID-19 that was more likely to kill rather than to cure those who followed his advice? Is the latest pronouncement said with an eye to his re-election this coming November, to be discarded once that hurdle has been passed?

The answer to that question is perhaps best found by looking at his track record over the past 3 ½ years. There have been many pronouncements in the foreign policy field, but vanishingly small achievements have followed. The much-heralded nuclear deal with North Korea is one of the latest to fall by the wayside with North Korea’s president Kim announcing a resumption of nuclear testing.

Kim’s cited reason was the total absence of any concrete moves by the United States in settling their multiple outstanding issues. Kim noted, with some justification, that Trump’s negotiating technique was to demand concessions from the North Koreans which had to be fulfilled before the US would make any moves itself, such as reducing troop numbers in South Korea, or ceasing its economic warfare on the North.

It is a well-established principle that what a person does is a much more reliable indicator of future behaviour than what they say. Since becoming president, Trump has withdrawn from, or announced the United States’ intention of withdrawing from, a significant number of major treaties. These included, a by no means exhaustive list, the nuclear arms deal with Iran negotiated with the other United Nations Security Council permanent members plus Germany and European Union; the International Postal Union; the Paris climate agreement; the Trans-Pacific Partnership; UNESCO; and the Human Rights Council.

Whatever else these moves may mean; they are not the actions of a country committed to solving international problems in a multi-national format. Given this track record over the past 3+ years there is no basis for believing that they are temporary measures designed only to enhance Trump’s re-election prospects. Rather the attitude has been, “as long as you do what we want, we will stay.”

Given also the lack of any serious opposition to these moves in the US Senate or his putative presidential opposition candidate Joe Biden, it is probably safe to assume that these moves reflect a broader US approach to multilateral relations. That is, “as long as you do what we want we will stay” in any given organisation.

The reaction to unfavourable decisions by international bodies does however go further. The International Criminal Court (that the United States does not belong to) recently announced it was reopening its investigation into war crimes committed by the United States (and its allies) in Afghanistan. One might argue that this is long overdue, given that these alleged crimes have been a feature of the long 18+ years of warfare carried out on that country. This is before one even begins to contemplate the manifest lies on which the original invasion was based.

Trump’s reaction to the ICC announcement was to threaten both the organisation and its investigating staff, implying a military response if they had the temerity to indict any Americans for war crimes. The principles established in the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials are, it seems, but an historical aberration when even the investigation of what are, in reality, well documented crimes, invokes such a lawless and violent response.

It is in this context that one has to look at Trump’s sudden enthusiasm for an arms control treaty with Russia. This is the topic to be discussed at the forthcoming meeting between the United States and Russian representatives at a 22 June 2020 meeting in Vienna.

There are a number of ways to interpret the United States’ sudden enthusiasm for an agreement with Russia. The first and most obvious is that it is that the United States has realised that the modern Russian arsenal, partially detailed in President Putin’s March 2018 speech to the Russian parliament, is vastly superior to anything in the United States arsenal and that gap is unlikely to narrow, little alone close, for the foreseeable future.

The Russian (but United States resident) writer and military analyst Andre Martyanov is particularly scathing on this point, both in his books and all his website.

While that is possibly part of Trump’s motivation, this is far from being the whole explanation. One has only to look at the continuing role of the United States in Ukraine, not to mention the farcical trial of four alleged perpetrators of the shooting down of MH 17 (three Russians and one Ukrainian) to gauge a measure of United States sincerity.

Far more likely a motive is that Trump is using the meeting as part of his much wider campaign of trying to disrupt the burgeoning Russia China partnership that is going from strength to strength. Trump wants a new deal on nuclear arms that includes China, but he is silent on the other nuclear powers (Great Britain, India, France, Pakistan and Israel) all of whom have a similar or greater number of nuclear weapons than China.

China has long since passed the United States as the world’s largest economy in terms of parity purchasing power. It has formed a close and growing relationship with Russia, not only in its huge Belt and Road Initiative (with now more than 150 countries) but in a series of other organisations such as the Shanghai Corporation Organisation and ASEAN that is presenting a radically different model of economic co-operation and development than the exploitative western model that has dominated for the past 300 years.

This threat to the United States’ self-defined role as the world’s dominant power did not commence during Trump’s presidency, and the United States reaction to it will not cease with the ending of that presidency, either at the end of this year or in four years’ time. If Biden wins in November, we may be spared the endless tweets and bombastic behaviour, but it would be naïve to anticipate any significant change in United States foreign policy.

Therein lies the greatest danger to world peace. The likely future trends arising out of the growing might of China and its relationship with Russia have recently been analysed by the imminent Russian academic Sergey Karaganov. His analysis of the developing China Russia relationship and its geopolitical implications was recently published in an Italian outlet and conveniently summarised in English by Pepe Escobar in his article “Russia Aiming to Realise Greater Eurasian Dream”.

Karaganov argues that Russia’s growing relationship with China represents a wholly new non-aligned movement centred in the greater Eurasian landmass. Unlike the British and the later United States models which depended on invasion, occupation and exploitation of the natural resources of the conquered nations, the new Eurasian model is much more likely to recognise the individual rights and aspirations of the participating nations and pursue policies of mutual benefit.

None of which is seen as other than a threat to the United States and the model it seeks to impose upon the world. Trump’s recent gestures towards Russia need to be interpreted in that light. The United States has no genuine interest in the welfare and prosperity of either Russia or China. Rather, they exist as pieces to be used in the United States version of the world chess board, manipulated to try and maintain the old model of Western, and in particular, United States dominance.

The reluctance of a growing number of European countries to subscribe to that version is more apparent by the day. Therein lies the challenge, the prospect for a better future for the countries joining the pivot to the east, and the greatest danger from a desperate United States unwilling to acknowledge that its days of dominance are rapidly disappearing.

As the Indian commentator M.K. Bhadrakumar says: “Trump’s diatribe against the ICC exposes the hypocrisy of American policies, which keeps blabbering about a rules based international order while acting with impunity whenever it chooses, for geopolitical reasons.” He cites examples and then concludes that “America under Trump has now become the rogue elephant in the international system.” That is, with respect, a perfect summation of where we are at present.

UNESCO should cry no tears over israel’s (apartheid state) departure

UNESCO should cry no tears over Israel’s departure

UNESCO Headquarters [unesco.org]

By Dr Daud Abdullah | MEMO | January 2, 2019

There will be no tears now Israel and the US have withdrawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Both countries have undermined the organisation’s credibility and brought it into disrepute – UNESCO will be better off without them.

UNESCO is governed by several international accords, to which all members are treaty-bound to adhere. The 1954 “Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict” is arguably the most important international instrument for the protection of cultural property – defined as monuments of architecture, art or history; archaeological sites; buildings of historical or artistic interest; works of art; manuscripts, important books and archives, as well as scientific collections.

Both The Hague Convention and its Protocol have been incorporated into international customary law; their provisions are, therefore, binding on all parties to conflict, regardless of whether or not they are signatories to these instruments. In recent years, the protection of cultural heritage has been deemed so important that the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has recognised the destruction and seizure of buildings dedicated to religion, education, arts, science or charitable purposes, as well as historic monuments, a war crime.

Yet throughout its 70-year history, Israel has shown an alarming disregard for UNESCO’s rules and ideals, seeking exemptions and privileges not granted to any other member state. Its real grievance with UNESCO is that it wants the organisation to remain silent and, in doing so, endorse its theft and destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage.

Israeli soldiers and civilians have stolen innumerable objects of historical, cultural and archaeological importance to Palestine. Bizarrely, on the same day that Israel announced its withdrawal from UNESCO, one of the country’s leading daily newspapers, Haaretz, published an article under the title “Israel Displays Archaeological Finds Looted from West Bank”. This was in reference to a Civil Administration exhibition currently being held at the Bible Land Museum in Jerusalem.

As a contracting party to The Hague Convention, Israel is obliged “to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a stop to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against, cultural property”. Yet, with the backing of the US, it chooses to do just the opposite.

The theft of archaeological items is bad enough, but their wilful destruction is far worse. Israel’s construction of the Separation Wall –  which encircles its settlements across the occupied West Bank – has often required large-scale archaeological excavation. Palestinian officials believe that an estimated 1,100 archaeological landmarks have been ruined or destroyed by the construction of the wall.

Furthermore, as a matter of policy Israel refuses to share with Palestinian researchers the data and objects obtained from its excavations in the occupied territories. Although Israel signed the UNESCO “Recommendation on International Principles Applicable to Archaeological Excavations” in 1956, it has refused to ratify the 1970 “UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property”. Instead, it continues to argue that international law does not prohibit excavation in occupied territories.

Around 53 per cent of the archaeological sites in the occupied West Bank are located in Area C, in which Palestinians are prohibited from conducting exploration, restoration and development. Unsurprisingly, during the first five years of the Oslo Accords (1993-98), only nine out of the 171 excavation permits issued by the Israeli Staff of Antiquities were granted to Palestinian academic institutions.

All told Israel has, for its own partisan reasons, never been a committed member of UNESCO. Its discomfort always lay in the fact that it could not persuade the organisation’s members to acquiesce to its theft and destruction of Palestinian cultural heritage. Disagreement and divorce seemed inevitable, given that UNESCO has declared some of the sites affected by Israel’s occupation as World Heritage sites.

Contrary to the Israeli-US claim, UNESCO has never adopted a policy of singling-out Israel for criticism or censure – the only reason it has been subjected to scrutiny is because it has, for decades, refused to act in accordance with UNESCO’s rules.

Were UNESCO to turn a blind eye to Israel’s looting and vandalising of Palestinian cultural heritage, this would be nothing less than a dereliction of duty. Furthermore, to appease Israel would set a dangerous precedent for rogue states and non-state actors to act with similar impunity.  Instead of weeping over their departure, UNESCO must now feel deeply relieved that it will no longer be called upon to act against its principles, values and interests.

 

محاور حروب ترامب العالمية: قطبية أميركا وتقويض إيران وتمكين «إسرائيل»

أغسطس 13, 2018

د. عصام نعمان

لا غلوّ في القول إنّ دونالد ترامب يخوض، بموجب سياسة «أميركا اولاً»، حروباً عالمية، تجارية ناعمة وعدوانية ساخنة بالوكالة. الرئيس الأميركي يتوخّى من حروبه تلك تحقيق جملة أهداف أبرزها ثلاثة: تأكيد قطبية الولايات المتحدة وأولويتها في علاقات القوى الدولية، وتقويض نظام الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران، وتمكين الكيان الصهيوني من البقاء الدولة الأقوى في غرب آسيا والأقدر على مواجهة حركات التحرير والمقاومة في هذه المنطقة الغنية بالنفط والغاز وذات الموقع الاستراتيجي البالغ الأهمية.

لاستعادة قطبية أميركا وتأكيدها، اعتمدت إدارة ترامب سلسلةً من السياسات والمواقف العدوانية:

الانسحاب من اتفاقية باريس للمناخ بدعوى تعارضها مع مصالح أميركا الاقتصادية.

الانسحاب من منظمة الأمم المتحدة للتربية والعلوم والثقافة الأونيسكو بدعوى «تركيزها غير التناسبي والعدائي المتواصل ضدّ إسرائيل».

الانسحاب من مجلس حقوق الإنسان التابع للأمم المتحدة بدعوى نقده سياسة إدارة ترامب في قضايا الهجرة، ونقده المتواصل لممارسات «إسرائيل» المنافية لحقوق الإنسان.

الانسحاب من الاتفاق النووي بدعوى أنه لا يحدّ من قدرات إيران على صنع أسلحة نووية، كما يتيح لها استخدام مواردها في دعم حركات المقاومة المعادية لأميركا و»إسرائيل».

شنّ حرب تجارية ومضاعفة العقوبات الاقتصادية ضدّ إيران وروسيا والصين، وضدّ الحكومات والشركات التي تمتنع عن التزام العقوبات المعلنة ضدّ تلك الدول.

لتقويض نظام الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران، وصولاً الى إسقاطه، إذا أمكنها ذلك، طوّرت ادارة ترامب الحرب الأميركية المتواصلة ضدها منذ سنة 1979 بإعلان انسحابها من الاتفاق النووي منتصفَ ايار/ مايو الماضي، ثم بإعادة فرض سلّة من العقوبات الاقتصادية كانت عُلّقت بعد توقيع الاتفاق النووي سنة 2015، تقضي بمنعها من شراء العملة الأميركية والمعادن الثمينة ومكوّنات السيارات والطائرات، وبفرض العقوبات على الشركات العالمية التي تتعامل معها تجارياً في مختلف القطاعات الصناعية والتقنية والزراعية. كل ذلك تمهيداً لفرض رزمة إضافية جائرة من العقوبات مطلعَ تشرين الثاني/ نوفمبر المقبل تستهدف قطاع الطاقة الإيراني ومنع تصدير النفط أو استيراد أي مشتقات نفطية، وحرمان إيران التعامل بالدولار واليورو. ويدّعي أركان إدارة ترامب أنّ غاية هذه العقوبات ليس تغيير نظامها بل تغيير سلوكها للقبول بمفاوضة واشنطن وتعديل الاتفاق النووي، ووقف صناعة الصواريخ الباليستية بعيدة المدى.

لتمكين الكيان الصهيوني من أن يكون الأقوى في غرب آسيا والأقدر على مواجهة حركات التحرير والمقاومة، لجأت الإدارات الأميركية المتعاقبة، ولا سيما إدارة ترامب، الى جملة تدابير ومواقف أبرزها:

تزويده مساعدات مالية سخيّة لا تقلّ سنوياً عن أربعة مليارات دولار.

تسليحه بأحدث الأسلحة الأميركية وأكثرها تطوراً في البر والبحر والجو.

تنظيم وتسليح وتدريب مقاتلي تنظيمات إرهابية في شتى أنحاء العالم ونقلهم إلى سورية والعراق وليبيا واليمن لمقاتلة حكوماتها المعادية لأميركا او لـِ «إسرائيل» او لكلتيهما.

تنشيط وتمويل التيارات الإسلاموية السلفية المتطرفة، والتعاون مع الحكومات المحافظة بغية تسليطها على المجتمعات العربية، والعمل على استغلال تعدديتها المذهبية والأثنية لتقسيم الدول التي تحتضنها، ولا سيما سورية والعراق واليمن.

الضغط على الدول العربية المحافظة المعادية لإيران من أجل حملها على التطبيع مع الكيان الصهيوني وإقامة محور سياسي وعسكري معادٍ لإيران بدعوى أنها اصبحت العدو الاول للعرب.

ما حظوظ سياسة أميركا الترامبية في بلوغ أغراضها سالفة الذكر؟

صحيح أن العقوبات الاقتصادية وآثارها سيئة ومضرّة، إلاّ أن ثمة أسباباً وعوامل تحدّ من فعاليتها وقد تؤدي الى فشلها:

اولها، أن مجموعة كبيرة من الدول باتت متضرّرة من سياسة إدارة ترامب وعقوباتها الاقتصادية. في مقدّم هذه الدول: الصين وروسيا والهند ودول الاتحاد الأوروبي ودول أخرى في أميركا وآسيا حليفة للولايات المتحدة. ومن المنطقي أن تتعاون هذه الدول، بأشكال متعددة، لمجابهة سياسة واشنطن والحدّ من فعاليتها. والواقع أن بعضها باشر فعلاً هجوماً معاكساً على أميركا في هذا السبيل.

ثانيها، أن الولايات المتحدة أطلقت منذ سنة 1979 عقوبات اقتصادية قاسية ضد إيران بلغت ذروتها في سنة 2015، لكنها لم تُفلح في حملها على التراجع والرضوخ ما أدى الى قيام الرئيس الأميركي باراك اوباما بالتخلي عن سياسة العقوبات الفاشلة والتركيز على خيار المفاوضات مع إيران وتوقيع الاتفاق النووي في السنة ذاتها. الملاحظ اليوم ان كل الدول الكبرى الموقعة على الاتفاق النووي تعارض إقدام ترامب على الانسحاب منه، وتعلن تمسكها به وتؤكد معارضتها للعقوبات الأميركية وعدم التزام إجراءاتها، كما تؤكد استعدادها للتعاون مع إيران بغية تفادي مفاعيلها.

ثالثها، ان إيران أصبحت الآن أكثر اقتداراً عمّا كانت عليه ايام كانت الولايات المتحدة تمارس عليها عقوباتها الجائرة قبل توقيع الاتفاق النووي سنة 2015. ومن المنتظر ان تتمكن الآن رغم الصعوبات التي يعانيها اقتصادها من التغلّب على هجمة ترامب وعقوباته الجائرة.

رابعها، ان أميركا تتهيأ لخوض انتخاباتها النصفية مطلعَ تشرين الثاني/نوفمبر المقبل، وهي تتناول مجلسيْ الكونغرس الشيوخ والنواب اللذين يسيطر عليهما الحزب الجهوري الموالي لترامب. وإذا تمكّن الحزب الديمقراطي المعارض من السيطرة على كِلا المجلسين او على أحدهما في الاقل، فإن ادارة ترامب قد تجد نفسها عاجزة عن فرض الرزمة الثانية من العقوبات ضد إيران.

خامسها، إن محور المقاومة المناهض لسياسات ترامب لن يكون مكتوفَ اليدين في هذه الآونة. فقوى المقاومة في منطقة غرب آسيا الممتدة من شواطئ البحر الأبيض المتوسط غرباً الى الحدود الإيرانية – الأفغانية شرقاً سيكون حاضراً وفاعلاً بمواجهته القتالية لأميركا وحلفائها ولا سيما الكيان الصهيوني. ولا شك في أن عمليات المقاومة في هذه الساحات سيكون من شأنها إنهاك أميركا وحلفائها وحملها، عاجلاً او آجلاً، على إعادة النظر بسياساتها الرعناء.

باختصار، الولايات المتحدة ستنزلق مجدداً الى صراعات مستعرة ومتعدّدة، وليس أكيداً ان ما عجزت عنه في الماضي ستكون قادرة على الفوز به في الحاضر الأكثر تعقيداً وخطورة.

وزير سابق

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الخداع الأميركي

مارس 24, 2018

زياد حافظ

نحيي هذه الأيام ذكرى أولى جرائم القرن الحادي والعشرين، أيّ احتلال العراق وتدميره على يد قوى تحالف الأطلسي وعدد من الدول خارج إطار مجلس الأمن والقانون الدولي والمواثيق الدولية. فالولايات المتحدة التي قادت ذلك التحالف لم تعتبر نفسها معنية بالقانون الدولي أو مجلس الأمن. أما الجرائم الأخرى فهي العدوان الكوني على سورية، وتبنّي جماعات الغلو والتعصّب والتوحّش في كل من العراق وسورية، والعدوان على سورية وليبيا واليمن. فمن يقرأ تاريخ الولايات المتحدة القريب أو البعيد يصل إلى نتيجة قاطعة أنه لا يمكن الوثوق بالولايات المتحدة بشكل عام في اتفاقاتها الشفهية أو حتّى المبرمة بشكل خاص. فثقافة الولايات المتحدة في التعاقد بين الأطراف، سواء كانوا في القطاع الخاص أو في القطاع العام، أو مع الدول الصديقة أو غير الصديقة، تفضي أن الولايات المتحدة ستتخلّى عن أي أتفاق أو أي تعاقد أو أي التزام مكتوب، فما بالك في ما يخصّ الاتفاقات الشفوية، عند أول فرصة تسمح بذلك وإن كانت على حساب مصالحها الاستراتيجية أو سمعتها.

فهذه الثقافة مبنية على قناعة وواقع أن التعاقد بين أطراف هو نتيجة لموازين قوّة سائد عند توقيع الاتفاق أو الالتزام بتفاهمات شفوية أو خطّية. وبما أن سنّة الحياة هي السعي إلى تحسين الوضع لكل طرف، فيصبح الاتفاق إن كان مبرماً أو شفوياً عبئاً على الطرف الذي استطاع تحسين وضعه. وبالتالي فإن الواجب الأخلاقي من وجهة نظر الثقافة الأميركية! هو نقض الاتفاق الذي يحدّ من الإمكانيات المتزايدة خارجه أو الخروج عنه لعقد اتّفاق آخر يعكس بشكل أفضل التغيير في موازين القوّة بين الأطراف المتعاقدة. لذلك أصبح قطاع المحاماة في الولايات المتحدة من أهم القطاعات الاقتصادية والمالية لانشغال الأميركيين أفراداً ومؤسسات بالدعاوى!

تاريخ الولايات المتحدة حافل بنقضها لاتفاقات مبرمة سنذكر منها اتفاقين مبرمين لما لهما من أهمية على العلاقات الدولية والاستراتيجية، كما سنشير إلى اتفاقات أخرى اقتصادية وسياسية وثقافية تمّ ضربها عُرض الحائط. الحالة الأولى هي الخروج عن الاتفّاق لتحديد الصواريخ البالستية المعروف باتّفاق «أ بي أم» الذي أقدمت على إشعاره إدارة جورج بوش في أواخر عام 2001 ثم تنفيذه عام 2002. كان ذلك الخروج أحادياً، لأن الولايات المتحدة اعتبرت أن لا مصلحة لها بالتقيّد بذلك الاتفاق خاصة أنها كانت تنوي بناء منظومة صاروخية مضادة للصواريخ البالستية والتي تحظرها اتفاقية أ بي أم. وقيمة هذا الاتفاق الذي أبرم عام 1972 بين الاتحاد السوفياتي والولايات المتحدة أنه كان نتيجة المحادثات لتخفيض الاسلحة الاستراتيجية التي رافقتها والمعروفة باتفاقيات «سالط» أي محادثات تخفيض السلاح الاستراتيجي بالأحرف الأولى في اللغة الانكليزية. فهذا الاتفاق كان نتيجة محادثات سالط 1 عام 1972، بينما تعثّرت المحادثات بعد 7 سنوات محادثات سالط 2، بسبب عدم التوازن في التسليح الاستراتيجي والتكنولوجي بين الاتحاد السوفياتي والولايات المتحدة. لكن المهم أن اتفاق أ بي أم صمد 30 سنة حتى إدارة بوش. فسباق التسليح بين الاتحاد الروسي والولايات المتحدة بدأ منذ تلك الفترة بعد سنتين من وصول فلاديمير بوتين إلى الرئاسة عام 2000. فقرار إدارة بوش بالانسحاب واجهه الرئيس الروسي بقرار تطوير القدرات العسكرية الروسية نوعاً قبل أن تكون كمّاً كما كشف عنه في خطابه الأخير في مطلع شهر آذار/مارس 2018. وقد أكّد على مسؤولية الولايات المتحدة في التسبب في سباق التسلّح في مقابلة على الشبكة الأميركية أن بي سي بعد بضعة أيام من خطابه الشهير. والجدير بالذكر أن معظم القادة العسكريين الأميركيين ومنهم فوتل قائد المنطقة المركزية الوسطى ومسؤولون آخرون في البتناغون أخذوا على محمل الجدّ خطاب الرئيس الروسي وإقرارهم أن منظومتهم الدفاعية غير مؤهّلة لمواجهة المنظومة الروسية الحديثة، كما أشرنا في مقال سابق.

واليوم يكثر الحديث في أروقة الإدارة الأميركية عن انسحاب الولايات المتحدة من الاتفاق النووي مع الجمهورية الإسلامية في إيران، رغم اعتراض العديد في الولايات المتحدة، ورغم اعتراض الدول الأوروبية الحليفة للولايات المتحدة وخاصة المملكة المتحدة وفرنسا وألمانيا. هذا يدلّ على عدم اكتراث الولايات المتحدة بالاتفاقات التي تعقدها ولا تهتم بمصالح غير مصالحها وكأن تغيير الإدارات لا يعني استمرارية في الالتزامات. وهذا مخالف للقانون الدولي والأعراف الدبلوماسية والدولية.

وهناك اتفاقيات غير مبرمة مع الاتحاد السوفياتي في أواخر الثمانينيات وقبل سقوطه، والتي أفضت إلى قبول الاتحاد السوفياتي بتوحيد ألمانيا على أساس أن الحلف الاطلسي لن يتوسع شرقاً في أوروبا ليتاخم الاتحاد السوفياتي ويهدّد أمنه مباشرة. كما تمّ الاتفاق على أن تصبح أوكرانيا دولة حاجز بين منظومة الاتحاد الأوروبي والأطلسي والاتحاد الروسي. كان ذلك الاتفاق مع إدارة بوش الأب غير أن إدارة كلنتون نقضته مستفيدة من تفكّك الاتحاد السوفياتي ومجيء رئيس روسي ضعيف بوريس يلتسن. وكانت حجّة إدارة كلنتون أن ليس هناك من أي نصّ مكتوب يلزمها بذلك، رغم وجود أدلّة قاطعة على التفاهم الشفهي الذي حصل بين غورباشيف وبوش الأب والمستشار الألماني هلموت كول وقيادة الحلف الأطلسي. فكانت حروب البلقان في التسعينيات التي أدّت إلى تفكيك يوغسلافيا ومآسي البوصنة والهرزاق توّجها الهجوم الأميركي على صربيا وقصفها من الجوّ لمدة طويلة أدّت إلى إخضاعها وبالتالي إذلال حليفتها روسيا.

الحالة الثانية هي قرار إدارة ترامب بالانسحاب من اتفاقية المناخ التي وُقّعت في باريس عام 2015 والتي كانت تهدف إلى احتواء الاحتباس الحراري، وذلك عبر فرض قيود على الإنتاج الصناعي وضرورة إيجاد تكنولوجيات ملائمة للحفاظ على البيئة. قرار الانسحاب من ذلك الاتفاق كان من أول القرارات التي اتخذها ترامب، حيث اعتبر أن الاحتباس الحراري خرافة ويفرض قيوداً وكلفة إضافية غير مقبولة على الانتاج الصناعي الأميركي. والمأساة هنا هي اعتماد الرئيس الأميركي سردية الانجيليين المتشدّدين الذين لا يعترفون بالقاعدة العلمية لظاهرة الاحتباس الحراري وأن الأخير هو مجرّد وجهة نظر غير مدعومة بالوقائع، حتى وإن كان هناك شبه إجماع عند العلماء على ذلك بما يدحض تلك السردية. فقرار الرئيس الأميركي بالانسحاب من تلك الاتفاقية، والتي كانت تعتبر من إنجازات الرئيس السابق باراك اوباما، لم يخل من الكيدية بحق سلفه، وإن كان على حساب المصلحة الأميركية المتوسطة والبعيدة. أما تداعيات الانسحاب من الاتفاقية فهي ستكون وخيمة على الولايات المتحدة والعالم من الناحية البيئية ولن تعود بالضرورة إلى منافع للصناعات الأميركية كما تعتقد الإدارة الحالية.

أما على الصعيد الاقتصادي، فكافة الاتفاقات التي قد وقّعتها الولايات المتحدة عند إنجاز منظمّة التجارة العالمية بتخفيض أو إلغاء التعرفات الجمركية أصبحت بمهبّ الريح مع الإدارة الحالية. أقدم الرئيس الأميركي على فرض تعرفات جمركية على استيراد الصلب والألومنيوم كما فرض تعرفات على المتنوجات الصينية بقيمة 60 مليار دولار بحجة عدم التكافؤ في الميزان التجاري مع الصين. طبعاً، هذا القرار أثار حفيظة الحلفاء والخصوم على حد سواء وقد يؤدّي إلى نتائج وخيمة من حروب تجارية وحروب في صرف العملات مزعزعة أكثر مكانة الدولار المهتزّ أصلاً. وهذا القرار اتخذ ضد رأي المستشارين الاقتصاديين في البيت الأبيض ما أدّى إلى استقالتهم.

أما على صعيد السياسة الخارجية فنجد الولايات المتحدة لا تكترث للقانون الدولي وقرارات مجلس الأمن. فهي تقدم على خطوات خارج مجلس الأمن كاحتلال أجزاء من سورية وقبل ذلك العراق وقصف مواقع للدولة والجيش السوري وذلك من دون أي تكليف دولي بل ضاربة عرض الحائط كل ذلك. أضف إلى ذلك الاتهامات التي تلصقها مندوبة الولايات المتحدة نيكي هايلي بحق روسيا أو إيران دون أي دليل والتهديد المباشر لسورية ولجميع الدول التي لا تلتزم بالموقف الأميركي. فالبلطجة هي أساس السلوك الدبلوماسي في الولايات المتحدة. وإذا أضفنا تصريحات وزير الخارجية الجديد مايك بومبيو بأن لا جدوى للدبلوماسية فهي مضيعة للوقت على عكس ممارسة القوّة العارية التي هي أفعل نرى مدى الانحدار والاستهتار بالقوانين فما بالك بالأعراف الدولية!

قرار نقل السفارة الأميركية من تل أبيب إلى القدس هو أيضاً مخالف للقوانين والمواثيق الدولية، كما أن تمويل الكيان الصهيوني للاستمرار في بناء المستعمرات في الأراضي المحتلّة هو أيضاً مخالفة للقانون الدولي. فالولايات المتحدة لا تعتبر أنها مقيّدة بذلك والوعود التي قطعتها على القيادات الفلسطينية بالتوسّط مع حكومة الكيان تبيّن أنها خدعة. نشير هنا إلى كتاب الدكتورة بثينة شعبان مستشارة الرئيس السوري الراحل حافظ الأسد والرئيس الحالي بشّار الأسد حول المحادثات بين سورية والولايات المتحدة والنفاق الذي أظهرته القيادات الأميركية المفاوضة خلال التفاوض. فما كانوا يقولونه في الغرف المغلقة كانوا ينقضونه في العلن! كذلك الأمر بالنسبة لمهام الموفد الأميركي إلى لبنان دافيد ساترفيلد الذي ادّعى التوسّط بين حكومة لبنان وحكومة الكيان في قضية بلوك رقم 9 لحقول الغاز مقابل شاطئ لبنان الجنوبي تبيّن أنه ينقل وجهة نظر الكيان الصهيوني ضارباً عرض الحائط القانون الدولي بالنسبة لتحديد الحدود البحرية الاقتصادية للبنان.

هناك حادثة يجب ذكرها أيضاً لأنها تشكّل مفصلاً أساسياً في العلاقات بين روسيا والولايات المتحدة. فروسيا تتّهم الولايات المتحدة ودول الغرب بالخداع في ما يتعلّق بقرار مجلس الأمن 1973 عام 2011 المتعلّق بحظر التحليق في أجواء ليبيا وضرورة حماية المدنيين. تعتبر روسيا أن الولايات المتحدة وفرنسا والمملكة المتحدة استغلّوا القرار لشنّ هجوم الحلف الأطلسي على ليبيا وتدميرها وقتل رئيسها. فالتفسير الذي تبنّاه الحلف الأطلسي لقرار مجلس الأمن يناقض نصّاً وروحاً القرار الأممي ما أثار حفيظة روسيا فأدّى إلى انتهاجها دبلوماسية متشدّدة وهجومية تجلّت في التحالف مع الدولة السورية في مواجهة الحرب الكونية على سورية في مجلس الأمن وفي الميدان.

نذكر هنا محاولات وزير الخارجية الأميركية السابق جون كيري في الولاية الثانية للرئيس أوباما لعقد تفاهمات مع نظيره الروسي سيرغي لافروف حول تخفيض التوتّر في سورية تمّ إفشالها من قبل أطراف داخل الإدارة الأميركية. فحادثة الهجوم الأميركي على مواقع الجيش العربي السوري في دير الزور عام 2016 أدّى إلى سقوط شهداء واحتلال فصائل داعش لمواقع الجيش العربي السوري، وذلك رغم الاتفاق بين كيري ولافروف الذي سبق الهجوم بأيام عدّة. ومؤخّراً الهجوم في مطلع هذا العام على وحدات روسية في منطقة دير الزور أيضاً أدّى إلى سقوط أكثر من مئة قتيل بين القوّات الروسية وإن كانت تابعة لشركات أمنية روسية خاصة، وذلك رغم «التفاهم» المتبادل بين الأميركيين والروس لعدم التصادم المباشر. فكان لا بد من إنذار روسي مباشر وواضح تجلّى لاحقاً في خطاب الرئيس الروسي محذّراً من أن أي اعتداء على أي حليف لروسيا بمثابة اعتداء عليها يستدعي الردّ المناسب. فمرّة أخرى تخرق الولايات المتحدة كلماتها لأغراض ظرفية وإن كانت على حساب المصالح الطويلة المدى وكأنها لا تكترث لها.

أما على صعيد منطقة الشرق الأوسط فالسلوك الأميركي مع بعض حلفائها يثير ريبتهم. فالتعاطي مع قيادة إقليم كردستان أدّى إلى سقوط الرهان عليه كورقة ضاغطة على حكومات بغداد وطهران ودمشق. والشعور عند القيادات الكردية هو أن الولايات المتحدّة تخلّت عنها. لكن على ما يبدو فإن القيادات الكردية في سورية تُعيد كرّة التحالف مع الولايات المتحدة وإذ تجد نفسها تواجه بمفردها الجيش التركي في عفرين، وربما في منطقة منبج وعين العرب والقامشلي. من جهة أخرى نشهد تعاظم الحذر التركي بل الريبة من الموقف الأميركي. فالثقة أصبحت شبه معدومة بين الطرفين. ونشير هنا إلى بعض الأوساط الأميركية كرئيس مجلس العلاقات الخارجية ريشارد هاس أنها تعتبر التحالف مع تركيا غير ضروري، بل التحالف مع الأكراد هو الأهم. هذا وكانت أصوات عديدة في الولايات المتحدة اعتبرت تركيا غير صديقة لها، وإن كانت في معسكر حلفائها.

ونقض الاتفاقات ليس محصوراً بالقطاع السياسي والعسكري والاقتصادي بل يشمل أيضاً القطاع الثقافي والرياضي. فلا ننسى مقاطعة الولايات المتحدة للألعاب الأولمبية في موسكو عام 1980 ولا ننسى انسحاب الولايات المتحدة من منظمة الأونيسكو التي ساهمت في إنشائها ودعمها طالما المصالح الصهيونية لم تكن مهدّدة. والآن تقطع الولايات المتحدة مساهمتها في منظمة الأنروا بعد أن خفّضت تمويلها للأمم المتحدة عقب التصويت في الجمعية العامة ضد قرار نقل السفارة الأميركية إلى القدس. فالكيد أصبح عاملاً أساسياً في اتخاذ القرارات وإن أضرّت بسمعة ومصالح الولايات المتحدة. فتعتبر نفسها فوق كل الاعتبارات!

أما الوعود فلن ندخل في مناقشتها، لأنها عديدة خاصة أن الولايات الأميركية لا تحترم حتى حلفائها الأوروبيين. وبالتالي يصبح التساؤل حول مصداقية الولايات المتحدة أكثر جدّية، وإن كانت موازين القوّة بين الولايات المتحدة وأوروبا ما زالت لصالح أميركا. لكن هل تستطيع الولايات المتحدة وبعض الدول الأوروبية ومع الكيان الصهيوني وبعض دول الجزيرة العربية خوض معارك استراتيجية في المشرق العربي وتواجه كلاً من محور المقاومة وروسيا ومن ورائهما الصين، خاصة أن الثقة بين أعضاء ذلك التحالف الغربي مهتزة؟ سؤال محفوف بالمخاطر التي لا تستطيع الولايات المتحدة ولا بعض الحكومات الأوروبية الإجابة عليه. فهي ما زالت تعتقد أن بإمكانها ضرب تحالف محور المقاومة وروسيا من دون أي ردّ فعل مكلف لها ومن دون تصدّع التحالف الغربي.

هذه بعض الملاحظات التي تجعل الدول الصاعدة كروسيا والصين تشكّك في مصداقية أي كلام يصدر عن الولايات المتحدة. فالمواقف العدوانية الأميركية ضد كل من روسيا والصين رغم الاتفاقات المبرمة معهما تؤكّد أن العقوبات المفروضة عليهما عقوبات فاقدة أي قاعدة شرعية دولية سواء الرغبة الأميركية التي تعتبر أن ما تقوله في لحظة ما هو القانون وليس أيّ شيء آخر. فهل يمكن الوثوق بالولايات المتحدة بعد كلّ ذلك وما هي قوّة القانون الدولي الذي لا تحترمه الولايات المتحدة؟ فشريعة الغاب هي التي تتحكّم بسلوكها. ذلك يذكّرنا بمقولة الشاعر البيروتي الراحل المرحوم عمر الزعنّي الذي كان يردّد بالعامية:

بلا عصبة يقصد آنذاك عصبة الأمم قبل إنشاء الأمم المتحدة ، بلا مجمع

كلّ دولة إلها مطمع

الحق بيد القوّة

والقوّة ببوز المدفع!

أمين عام المؤتمر القومي العربي

مقالات مشابهة

USA and israel leaves UNESCO, Goodbye and Good Riddance

Goodbye and Good Riddance

By Jeremy Salt | Palestine Chronicle | December 25, 2017
By Jeremy Salt | Palestine Chronicle | December 25, 2017

Holding hands, the US and Israel have decided to walk out of UNESCO. Nothing could be more appropriate. Two rogue states run by two dangerous buffoons. Two states that have wreaked immense violence across the Middle East ever since ‘Israel’ was implanted in Palestine. In addition to Palestine, the US has launched genocidal wars against three countries just since 1990, Iraq (twice), Libya and Syria and continues to back Saudi Arabia in its equally genocidal war on Yemen.

As for Israel, living permanently outside international law is a necessary condition of its existence. It should have been tossed out of the UN long ago, or at least suspended, until it mended its ways. After all, what club continues the membership of someone who does not obey the rules, is warned once, once, twice, thrice, even 50 times, but still refuses to obey the rules? But Israel does not have to mend its ways and remains a member of the ‘international community’ because another state that does not obey the rules, and shows no respect for international law either, the US, protects it at every level and in every way, fomenting even more violence.

UNESCO has done its best to protect the cultural heritage of Palestine. Nothing that is not Jewish matters to the Zionists and so little of it is Jewish that Muslim and Christian Palestine has been ravaged, not just once (1948) or twice (1967) but continuously. The destruction of Palestine is the necessary condition for the creation of Netanyahu’s ‘Jewish state.’ It is all or nothing: there can be no compromise, no either/or. The Palestinians have set forth options, one secular state, two states living side by side, but the only option acceptable to Israel is all Palestine for us and none for you.

The elimination of the Palestinian human presence in 1948 was accompanied by the destruction of close to 500 of Palestinian villages or hamlets, irrespective of their historical and cultural worth. More destruction followed after 1967, beginning with the demolition of the Magharibah quarter in 1967 to make way for a ‘plaza’ around the Haram al Sharif and continuing in the years that followed. The war also created the opportunity for more Palestinians to be driven out of their homeland, this time from the West Bank, where many had taken refuge during the Zionist onslaught in 1948.

The war was another opportunity to drive Palestine further into history, towards the point where the physical evidence had all been destroyed and the Zionists could say ‘What Palestine? There was never a Palestine here.’ In fact this is what they have been saying all along, anyway, convincing no-one outside their own ranks because the Palestinians have not gone away, because their numbers are increasing (possibly there are now more Palestinians between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan River than the Zionist settler population) and because too much of their history can still be seen on the landscape. This is why the danger to Al Aqsa, glowing above Jerusalem, is so great because it is the living symbol of the lies being told by the Zionists.

On this subject how intriguing it is, and how frustrating for the Zionists, that in the half century they have been burrowing under and around the Haram al Sharif they have not found one object proving that the temple was ever there. There are far older structures whose ruins can be seen today. Turkey is full of them: the excavated temple at Gobeklitepe in south-eastern Turkey is 12,000 years old so how can it be that nothing is left of the grandiose structure said to have been built by Solomon where Al Aqsa now stands? The Bible speaks of a building more than 60 meters high, built from wood (the cedars of Lebanon) and huge blocks of stone. Similar material is said to have been used in the building of the second temple, completed in 515 BC and destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. It is said to have been of the same massive dimensions yet nothing has been found, no remnants of fallen stone pillars, no votive bowls, absolutely nothing, suggesting that if the temple did stand on this site the biblical descriptions were fantastically exaggerated (no surprise in a book full of fantastic exaggerations).

Furthermore, the modern day Zionists are connected to ancient Israel only by their religion. Their first colonists had no living connection with the land and no ethnic connection with the people who lived on it. Zionists continue to play on the living Jewish connection in Palestine over the centuries but do not mention that the Jews who were there when their forefathers arrived regarded Zionism as a heresy. Netanyahu’s claim that Jerusalem has been Israel’s capital for 3000 years could convince only idiots, seeing that Israel is only seven decades old and that the last Jewish state in Palestine collapsed in the sixth century BC.

In any case, irrespective of these questions, the ancient Jewish presence in Palestine cannot be accepted as justification for the destruction of what was there until the arrival of Zionist colonists in the late 19th century.

The Zionists share with the Crusaders the unsavory distinction of bringing to Palestine the greatest destruction known in its modern history. After conquering Palestine in the late 11th century the Crusaders massacred or drove all Muslims and Jews out of Jerusalem. The restitution of Muslim rule was followed from the early 16th century by four centuries of a long Ottoman peace until the British capture of Jerusalem in December, 1917. From that time onwards, Palestine has not known a day of peace. Violence and repression by the British occupiers was followed by massive violence, repression and dispossession by the Zionists, continuing down to the present day.

Jerusalem was always a prime target. Massacres and the seizure of Palestinian property in 1948 were repeated after the seizure of the eastern half of the city in 1967, followed by a continuing racist demographic war launched in complete breach of international law and the laws of any country claiming to be called civilized. What this underlines is that at heart Israel is not a modern state but a tribal, atavistic community that lives by its own brutal standards, certainly insofar as the Palestinians are concerned, and is indifferent to what the rest of the world thinks, when not actually contemptuous of what it thinks. For the Zionists to think that they can get away with this endlessly is a sure indication of the madness and delusions in their minds.

The US has now gone so far as to ‘recognize’ Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when in international law, Jerusalem is an occupied city, all of it, not just the eastern half, captured by force of arms and settled in direct violation of the laws or war. Commenting on the UN General Assembly vote rejecting the Trump declaration, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador, openly threatened those who had voted in its favor. Names had been taken and punishment would be inflicted at the appropriate time. By voting for the resolution UN members had shown a lack of respect for the US, according to Haley: where, one might ask, is US respect for international law and the right of UN members to take independent decisions on the basis of that law?

The Trump declaration on Jerusalem has had an incendiary effect across the Middle East and amongst Muslims everywhere. It should be welcomed because it rips the last veil from the deceit known as the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas has had his nose rubbed in the dirt. The Saudi and Qatari governments, dealing with the Zionists behind the thinnest of veils, have had to fall into line on the question of Jerusalem. The Trump declaration has united Muslims across all divides.

By themselves, as brave as they are, as much fortitude and steadfastness as they have always shown, the Palestinians were never going to be able to defeat their enemies on their own. They were far too powerful. The road back to Palestine was always going to lead through the Arab world, as George Habash wrote in the 1950s, now to be extended, given the rise of Iran, to the Islamic world. Nasser fired up the Arab people in the 1950s and together, Hizbollah and Iran have again set an example of defiance of the US and Israel, so successfully that Israel is now well into preparations for the war intended to destroy them once and for all.

This will be an existential war for survival, an extremely violent war for which Israel has been making intensive preparations. It is warning of total destruction and Hasan Nasrallah is warning back that Hizbollah is ready with missiles that can reach any part of occupied Palestine. The stakes in Middle Eastern wars have never been higher, the possible consequences never graver and even potentially cataclysmic. The consequences of Trump’s declaration would have been so well known beforehand that it seems insufficient to call it stupid. Perhaps it was intended to bring on the war with Iran that Israel and [Zionists in] the US have wanted for a long time.

Trump’s Pivot to Asia – An Arms Sales Bonanza – An Anti-Peace Trip

November 10, 2017

by Peter Koenig for the Saker blogTrump’s Pivot to Asia – An Arms Sales Bonanza – An Anti-Peace Trip

President Trump’s 5-country Asia tour has nothing to do with seeking peace anywhere, it has not even to do with diplomacy – it is entirely a warmongering business trip for the Military Industrial Complex. It is amazing that the world doesn’t catch on.

We know about Obama’s several years of pivoting to Asia. It resulted largely in the TPP, the Transpacific Partnership, a trade agreement between 12 countries including the US. The first thing Trump did when he came on board is canceling it, claiming that it would only harm the US. Canceling it, in fact, was a good thing, since contrary to what Trump understands, or claims to understand, of US-made international trade, the Asian partners would have suffered, not the US. There is not one single trade agreement the US has instigated, bilateral or multilateral, where the US came out as a loser, or even as an equal, always a winner. The original meaning of trade is not winning or losing, but it is an exchange of equals with equal benefits for all partners. ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) is perhaps one of the few living examples.

Trump doesn’t like multilateral trade agreements, because – even though he is in control – he may not be in total control. He wants to call the shots, every shot. Literally. This is what this 8-day ‘pivot’ to Asia is all about. It is about selling weapons, ‘the best, the most accurate, the deadliest the world has ever produced. Trump’s words – almost. And repeated over-and-over-and-over again.

At a press conference in Tokyo, with Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, Trump said literally, when pointing at Prime Minister Abe, “[He] will shoot [North Korea’s] missiles out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of equipment from the United States. One very important thing is that Prime Minister Abe is going to be purchasing massive amounts of [US-made] military equipment, as he should. We make the best by far … it’s a lot of jobs for us, and a lot of safety for Japan (The Guardian, 6/11/2017).”

Trump had the audacity, as he always does, calling North Korea (DPRK – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) a “threat to the civilized world”. And this, when he knows – or should know – that Pyongyang is only defending North Korea from the constant threats and aggressions of the United States, that Kim Jon-Un has no intention of attacking any country – but still has the memory deep inside, inherited by generations of North Koreans born after the atrocious Washington initiated 1953 Korean war, that devastated literally the entire country and killed 3 million people, about a third of the then North Korean population.

The entire world knows, including Trump’s predecessors, that the only threat to not only the world’s civilization, but to the entire humanity, are the United States of America – a rogue state, not respecting any international laws, no international contracts – and no human life, not even that of her own citizens. Tens of millions of people around the globe have been killed since the end of WWII directly by the US military, or NATO, or indirectly through proxies or mercenaries by the United States. All for wars that aim at complete world hegemony, at ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ – as described by the PNAC – Plan for a New American Century. Nobody wants to touch this reality – almost nobody. Fortunately, in the last few years there are countries emerging that dare stand up to the killing monster, resisting it, by disobedience, despite ‘sanctions’, and through economic measures, like detaching their economy from the fraudulent fiat dollar. Recent examples are Venezuela and Iran.

Trump’s arms sale’s bonanza started actually already with Saudi Arabia, when he sold King Salman 110 billion worth of the best killer instruments – bombs, planes and tanks – America produces. A record weapon sales-contract.

On the pivot’s second leg, South Korea – Trump trumped up his tone, not at all for peace but to threaten once more Pyongyang and the North Korean leader, the American bully cum President calls derogatorily the ‘Little Rocket Man’. – Where are we in this world? Does this man Trump not see how much he is despised? Or is he so sick to actually enjoy being hated?

More than eighty percent of South Koreans want peace with the Nord. President Moon Jae-in was recently elected on a platform of uniting the South with the North – to bring back together families that were separated for more than half a century. How could he be such a dreamer? With close to 30,000 American soldiers on South Korean soil and a weapons arsenal, including nuclear arms, that could destroy all of east Asia in a jiffy. – And billions worth of more weapons sales to Seoul are on Trump’s murderous sales agenda. He is not only a bully par excellence, but the best salesman the US military industrial complex could wish for – and a booster of the US’s GDP of death and destruction.

The bully at the pulpit had no intention of addressing a road to peace. To the contrary, he boasted about the extraordinary unsurmountable weapons might of “America First” – and using South Koreans Parliament as a platform to launch yet another slandering tirade towards North Korea’s leader, Kim Jon-un, and her people, “[I] have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship—the weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in great danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face. North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned. It is a hell that no person deserves. Yet despite every crime you have committed against god and man… we will offer a path towards a much better future. It begins with an end to the aggression of your regime, a stop to your development of ballistic missiles and complete verifiable and total denuclearization.”

While Emperor Donald was talking, three US Navy aircraft carriers were positioning themselves in attack mode in front of North Korea’s coast, preparing for more intimidating war games. More provocation, knowing damn well that DPRK’s President Kim Jon-un will not let go of his defense strategy – and rightly so. Anyone who knows a bit of North Korea’s history understands. Kim’s several requests for dialogue, as he wants peace for his country and for his people, were rejected by Washington. Instead he was showered with Trump’s outrageous warmongering language like “we will unleash ‘fire and fury’ the world has never seen” – or “we will destroy your country to rubble” – and more of such ridiculous and shameful threats – shameful for the so-called ‘leader’ of the “free world”, of the globe’s self-proclaimed Almighty, and shameful for all the other nations of this globe that just watch and listen to the monster’s angry outbursts – but are afraid to counter him, though they know he is wrong.

According to Reuters, Han Tae Song, Ambassador of the DPRK to the United Nations in Geneva, told on Wednesday the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, “The United States and other hostile forces impede the enjoyment by our people of their human rights in every possible way, resorting to the vicious ways and means of all kinds in their attempt to stifle the ideas and system of the DPRK,” He continued saying that Washington “manipulated” sanctions resolutions against his country at the U.N. Security Council that violated North Korean sovereignty and rights to existence and development.

“Due to these inhumane economic sanctions, vulnerable peoples like women and children are becoming…victims. Such sanctions against humanity which block even the delivery of the medical equipment and medicines for maternal and child health and the basic goods for daily life…..threaten the protection and promotion of our women’s rights and even the right to survival of the children.”

Next stop on Trump’s ‘pivot’ was Beijing, where, to the surprise of most media, he behaved like a statesman, trying to persuade President Xi of the benefits of a friendly US-Sino relation – and of course, of the importance that China adhere to the UN imposed sanctions on North Korea. The South China Sea, Human Rights and China’s alleged lack of Democracy – the usual Washington swan song – were not mentioned. Even the Chinese media hailed Trump’s visit as a success. The two leaders signed contracts for some 250 billion dollars-worth of investment and trade deals, or rather, as per Bloomberg, “non-binding memoranda of understanding”, between the two countries.

The deals, many of which were already concluded or planned before the Beijing meeting, included goods and services in transportation (Chinese purchase of 300 Boeing civilian aircraft), agriculture (pork and beef), IT, the financial sector (with Goldman Sachs – who else?) – and more. Nothing controversial. Trump expects to be appreciated at home for his salesmanship in Beijing – and for helping reducing the 250 billion US trade deficit with China.

Interestingly though, during the perhaps strategically most important stop of his Asia journey – Beijing – Trump did not use his usual vitriolic language to condemn and threaten Pyongyang and putting Xi on guard to follow the strict sanctions regime against the DPRK – or else. Why didn’t he? – Did he realize that it was worthless? That China would never let her neighbor die – and he would make himself ridiculous making believe his sanctions threat would work on China? – Or did he have a deeper agenda, like winning China over – or neutralizing her – for a possible future strike on Iran? – Of course, if carried out, then by proxies like the armed-to-the-teeth with US and UK weaponry Saudis and Israel? – Time will tell. But there is no doubt that the clear winner of this meeting was President Xi – with his calm manner and Tao philosophy of smiling and non-aggression.

On his last stop in Da Nang, Vietnam, Trump attended the APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit (10-11 November), where he was expected to meet with President Putin, even briefly at the margin of the meetings. However, no official meeting was scheduled and as RT reports, ”Hopes of a bilateral Putin-Trump meeting on the sidelines of the APEC summit have waned with the White House citing “scheduling conflicts,” but at least the two were all smiles while shaking hands during the photo call.”

Well, why would President Putin want to meet with Trump, who after a meeting with seemingly positive chemistry, in Hamburg in July 2017, at the G20 summit, has been nothing but deceptive? Why faking more trust in a flamboyant billionaire bully, who has no ethics, who doesn’t honor contracts, promises, multilateral agreements or even international law – and allows his government to keep slandering Russia for ‘interfering’ in the 2016 US Presidential Elections?

The truth is, Trump, his predecessors, the UK leadership, the NATO allies, the Saudis, Gulf States and the EU puppets are shameless, ‘legalized’ murderers. – Legalized, because they dance to the tune of Trump’s canons, or to the dark deep state’s strings that pull the triggers of mayhem and death. For these people – are they still to be called people? – Trump has accomplished what he set out to do: Selling hundreds of billions worth of arms. In less than a year of his Presidency, he did more good to the military-security industrial complex than Obama did in his last four years in office.

Arms are made to kill and destroy. Killing and destroying is contributing big-time to the US GDP; in fact, this industrial octopus with all its associated tentacles – finance, IT, research, sub-contracting, mercenary funding abroad and within the US, spying and surveillance the world over – amount to more than half of the US total economic output. The United States of America lives off an economy of war, an economy of destruction and death.

Take Yemen. Since March 2015, the US and UK backed and armed Saudis have bombed Yemen to ruins, destroying schools, hospitals, roads, ports – vital infrastructure for any civilization. In addition to hospitals and schools, they targeted specifically water and sanitation systems to cause utmost harm to civilian populations. As a result, cholera cases are estimated at 500,000-plus, mostly children and women and elderly (UNICEF), the worst in recorded history. Many die, because the Saudis, again backed by the US and the UK, have banned import and distribution of essential drugs.

With major ports closed – also by the Saudis, the US and the UK, Yemen is facing one of the worst famine the world has ever seen in recent history. Daily Saudi shelling with US planes and UK bombs, has killed tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, women and children – some estimates range from 60,000 to 80,000. Nobody really keeps count. Yemen has been (kept) poor before. And now, who cares. Yemen already today is the worst humanitarian crisis in decades. And there is no end in sight.

Since the US / UK backed Saudi attacks began some 20 months ago, UK arms sales have increased 50 times. Yet a case filed with the International Court of Justice (ICC) by UK citizens against ‘illegal’ weapons sales, was dismissed by the court, as it could not find anything illegal with these weapon deliveries. That only shows, ICC’s worthlessness, as it is totally controlled by the Zion-Anglo-Saxon hegemon.

What might be more effective than ICC in stopping the boundless assassination raids, is chaining up Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Theresa May and David Cameron, and parachuting them onto Hudaydah, one of Yemen’s hardest hit towns, in the west of the country. Let them see and feel and smell the pain, death and desperation of the survivors. Would it light up the remnants of their spark of ethics and moral they may still have left from birth?

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staff and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, RT, Sputnik, PressTV, The 4th Media (China), TeleSUR, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

 

The real reasons Trump is quitting UNESCO

Source

Trump the Israel puppet

By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth

At first glance, the decision last week by the Trump administration, followed immediately by Israel, to quit the United Nation’s cultural agency seems strange. Why penalise a body that promotes clean water, literacy, heritage preservation and women’s rights?

Washington’s claim that the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is biased against Israel obscures the real crimes the agency has committed in US eyes.

Palestinian self-determination

The first is that in 2011 UNESCO became the first UN agency to accept Palestine as a member. That set the Palestinians on the path to upgrading their status at the General Assembly a year later.

It should be recalled that in 1993, as Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, the watching world assumed the aim was to create a Palestinian state.

But it seems most US politicians never received that memo. Under pressure from Israel’s powerful lobbyists, the US Congress hurriedly passed legislation to pre-empt the peace process. One such law compels the United States to cancel funding to any UN body that admits the Palestinians.

Six years on, the US is $550 million in arrears and without voting rights at UNESCO. Its departure is little more than a formality.

Preserving Palestinian heritage

The agency’s second crime relates to its role selecting world heritage sites. That power has proved more than an irritant to Israel and the US.

The occupied territories, supposedly the locus of a future Palestinian state, are packed with such sites. Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, Christian and Muslim relics promise not only the economic rewards of tourism, but also the chance to control the historic narrative.

Israeli archaeologists, effectively the occupation’s scientific wing, are chiefly interested in excavating, preserving and highlighting Jewish layers of the Holy Land’s past. Those ties have then been used to justify driving out Palestinians and building Jewish settlements.

UNESCO, by contrast, values all of the region’s heritage, and aims to protect the rights of living Palestinians, not just the ruins of long-dead civilisations.

Nowhere has the difference in agendas proved starker than in occupied Hebron, where tens of thousands of Palestinians live under the boot of a few hundred Jewish settlers and the soldiers who watch over them. In July, UNESCO enraged Israel and the US by listing Hebron as one of a handful of world heritage sites “in danger”. Israel called the resolution “fake history”.

Combating “memoricide”

The third crime is the priority UNESCO gives to the Palestinian names of heritage sites under belligerent occupation.

Much hangs on how sites are identified, as Israel understands. Names influence the collective memory, giving meaning and significance to places.

The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has coined the term “memoricide” for Israel’s erasure of most traces of the Palestinians’ past after it dispossessed them of four-fifths of their homeland in 1948 – what Palestinians term their Nakba, or Catastrophe.

Israel did more than just raze 500 Palestinian towns and villages. In their place it planted new Jewish communities with Hebracaised names intended to usurp the former Arabic names. Saffuriya became Tzipori; Hittin was supplanted by Hittim; Muyjadil was transformed into Migdal.

A similar process of what Israel calls “Judaisation” is under way in the occupied territories. The settlers of Beitar Ilit threaten the Palestinians of Battir. Nearby, the Palestinians of Sussiya have been dislodged by a Jewish settlement of exactly the same name.

The stakes are highest in Jerusalem. The vast Western Wall plaza below Al Aqsa mosque was created in 1967 after more than 1,000 Palestinians were evicted and their quarter demolished. Millions of visitors each year amble across the plaza, oblivious to this act of ethnic cleansing.

Settlers, aided by the Israeli state, continue to encircle Christian and Muslim sites in the hope of taking them over.

That is the context for recent UNESCO reports highlighting the threats to Jerusalem’s Old City, including Israel’s denial for most Palestinians of the right to worship at Al-Aqsa.

Israel has lobbied to have Jerusalem removed from the list of endangered heritage sites. Alongside the US, it has whipped up a frenzy of moral outrage, berating UNESCO for failing to prioritise the Hebrew names used by the occupation authorities.

Upholding international law

UNESCO’s responsibility, however, is not to safeguard the occupation or bolster Israel’s efforts at Judaisation. It is there to uphold international law and prevent Palestinians from being disappeared by Israel.

Trump’s decision to quit UNESCO is far from his alone. His predecessors have been scuffling with the agency since the 1970s, often over its refusal to cave in to Israeli pressure.

Now, Washington has a pressing additional reason to punish UNESCO for allowing Palestine to become a member. It needs to make an example of the cultural body to dissuade other agencies from following suit.

Trump’s confected indignation at UNESCO, and his shrugging off of its vital global programmes, serve as a reminder that the US is not an “honest broker” of a Middle East peace. Rather it is the biggest obstacle to its realisation.


A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi. The version here is published by permission of Jonathan Cook.

U.S. and israel unable to live with the standards required in membership of UNESCO

U.S., Israel to Pull Out of U.N. Agency Over Alleged Bias

The United Nations flag. (Makaristos / Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s note: Shortly after the U.S. announced it was pulling out of UNESCO, Israel announced it would join the U.S. in leaving the agency.

PARIS—The United States said Thursday it is pulling out of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency because of what Washington sees as its anti-Israel bias and need for “fundamental reform.”

While the Trump administration had been preparing for a likely withdrawal from UNESCO for months, the announcement by the State Department on Thursday rocked the agency’s Paris headquarters, where a heated election to choose a new chief is underway.

The outgoing UNESCO director-general expressed her “profound regret” at the decision and tried to defend the reputation of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions.

The U.S. stopped funding UNESCO after it voted to include Palestine as a member state in 2011, but the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office and sought to weigh on policy behind the scenes. The U.S. now owes about $550 million in back payments.

In a statement, the State Department said the decision will take effect Dec. 31, 2018, and that the U.S. will seek a “permanent observer” status instead. It cited U.S. belief in “the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, praised Washington’s move as heralding “a new day at the U.N., where there is a price to pay for discrimination against Israel.”

“UNESCO has become a battlefield for Israel bashing and has disregarded its true role and purpose,” Danon said in a statement. The organization’s absurd and shameful resolutions against Israel have consequences.”

Several U.S. diplomats who were to have been posted to UNESCO this summer were told that their positions were on hold and advised to seek other jobs. In addition, the Trump administration’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year contains no provision for the possibility that UNESCO funding restrictions might be lifted.

The lack of staffing and funding plans for UNESCO by the U.S. have been accompanied by repeated denunciations of UNESCO by senior U.S. officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the decision and that it was not discussed with other countries but was the result of an internal U.S. government deliberation.

The officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named discussing the issue, said the U.S. is notably angry over UNESCO resolutions denying Jewish connections to holy sites and references to Israel as an occupying power.

Chris Hegadorn, the U.S. Charge d’Affaires and ranking U.S. representative to UNESCO, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that the decision to pull out was linked to “the unfortunate politicization of the mandate of UNESCO, where anti-Israel bias has been a major factor and something the US has been struggling to address.”

“The accrual of arrears since 2011 since the admission of Palestine as a member state had been mounting,” he added.

Many saw the 2011 UNESCO vote to include Palestine as evidence of long-running, ingrained anti-Israel bias within the United Nations, where Israel and its allies are far outnumbered by Arab countries and their supporters.

UNESCO’s outgoing director-general, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, called the U.S. departure a loss for “the United Nations family” and for multilateralism. She said the U.S. and UNESCO matter to each other more than ever now to better fight “the rise of violent extremism and terrorism.”

She defended UNESCO’s reputation, noting its efforts to support Holocaust education and train teachers to fight anti-Semitism—and that that the Statue of Liberty is among the many World Heritage sites protected by the U.N. agency. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls in poor countries and in scientific fields and to defend media freedom, among other activities.

UNESCO’s executive board plans to select its choice to succeed Bokova by Friday in a secret ballot.

It’s not the first time the U.S. has pulled out of UNESCO: Washington did the same thing in the 1980s because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003.

Hegadorn said the U.S. would remain a force at the cultural agency in the same way as it was from 1984 when the country withdrew under President Ronald Reagan.

The U.S. informed Bokova it intends to stay engaged as a non-member ‘observer state’ on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

“We will be carefully watching how the organization and the new director general steers the agency,” Hegadorn said. “Ideally, it steers it in way that U.S. interests and UNESCO’s mandate will converge.”

___

Lee reported from Washington.

Matthew Lee and Thomas Adamson / AP

Update on Israeli Feud with UNESCO

As I reported in a post yesterday, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has in the past week adopted a couple of resolutions that have aroused Israeli indignation. One of the resolutions–the one which seems to have sparked the most fury–recognizes the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site.

According to the video in the embedded tweet below, Israel has now announced a cut of $1 million in UN funding, apparently in retaliation.

 declared the obvious,  is 🇵🇸. Why is Israel even in the UN? They’ve broken so many laws — 🇮🇱 needs to be shunned & boycotted!

 As I reported in yesterday’s post–and as the video above also mentions–the World Heritage committee, in addition to designating the site as Palestinian, also declared it to be endangered. Reportedly the concern here, or at least one of the concerns, is the threat from vandalism. Given that Hebron is inhabited by Israeli settlers, who seem to be free to commit crimes against the Palestinian population with impunity, the apprehension is probably justified. But of course this aspect to the resolution’s passage in all probability had the effect of arousing Israeli anger all the more.

The Israeli official in the video I posted yesterday–the man who interrupted the proceedings by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews” and who was accused by the representative from Cuba of turning the meeting into a “politicized circus” by way of response–this man’s name, apparently, is Carmel Shama-Hacohen, and he reportedly is Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO. According to a report here, shortly after the Hebron resolution was passed, he declared that fixing his “toilet” was more important than the vote just taken:

Israel isn’t known for its fondness of the United Nations and its institutions, but a resolution passed on Friday questioning Israel’s continued occupation of the ancient West Bank city of Hebron and the damage it might be causing to holy sites there drew an unusual response.

“Sorry … I have a very urgent … sorry, Mr Chairman … it’s my plumber in my apartment in Paris,” Carmel Shama-Hacohen, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said sarcastically while addressing the forum’s annual gathering.

“There is a huge problem in my toilet, and it’s more important than the decision you just adopted, thank you.”

Also in yesterday’s post I made an offhand observation regarding the impression that comments by Israeli officials often leave with me. Specifically, I said:

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

When I wrote those words yesterday, little did I know that Israel does not even hold a seat on World Heritage Committee–which would seem to lend a sort of special significance to my comment about the rude guest showing up uninvited. But indeed, I made that discovery today.

If you go to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention website, you can find a PDF document that lists the current members of the World Heritage Committee. There are 21 of them in all. Here is a screen shot from the document (click to enlarge):

As you can see, Israel is not on the list. In other words, Hacohen, who spent part of the meeting talking about his toilet and importuning silence on behalf of “six million murdered Jews,” is not even a member of the committee. But yet, according to Israelis, it is the committee members who are guilty of bad behavior.

By the way, the World Heritage Committee’s deliberations are taking place in Krakow, Poland, and they are not over yet. The session is supposed to continue through Wednesday, so there may be more to come.

Israel Turns UNESCO Meeting into ‘Politicized Circus’

Israel, not for the first time, is royally P.O.’ed at UNESCO. The UN organization’s World Heritage Committee has been holding a meeting in Krakow, Poland–and in a session on July 4, the body passed a resolution naming Israel as an “occupying power” while at the same time condemning its tunneling and underground excavation activities in the old city of Jerusalem.

Said excavations, presumably for archaeological purposes, started up several years ago. I first put up a post about them back in 2014 after it was reported that they were causing structural problems with Palestinian homes in the area, so it’s good that UNESCO is addressing the issue. But the resolution angered the Israeli representative, who threw a temper tantrum by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews.” And this is what we see in the video below:

As you can see, the representative from Cuba charged the Israeli–rightfully in my opinion–with turning the meeting into a “politicized circus.” She then reciprocated by calling for a moment of silence for Palestinians who have died. As the video shows, the overwhelming majority of people in the auditorium rose to their feet. It did not sit well with the Israelis.

According to a report here, one Israeli official accused the UNESCO committee of being “detached from reality,” while the Zionist state’s Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying, “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and no decision by UNESCO can change that reality.”

That all was, as I say, on July 4.

Three days later, on July 7, Israel again had a hissy fit over a resolution–passed by the same committee. This time the measure had to do with Hebron, specifically recognizing its old city as an endangered World Heritage site. Hebron’s old city includes a site known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque (or Mosque of Abraham) and to Jews as the Cave of the Patriarchs. In that regard it has significance to both religions. But the committee voted to recognize the old city of Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage site–rather than an Israeli one. This of course makes perfectly logical sense because Hebron is in the West Bank and the West Bank is internationally recognized as rightfully belonging to the Palestinians. But again Israelis resorted to tantrums.

“Not a Jewish site?!” thundered Netanyahu. “Who is buried there? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah – our patriarchs and matriarchs!”

Of course, the committee didn’t say it wasn’t a Jewish site; they just said it was a Palestinian site–because the site is, after all, in Occupied Palestine. In fact, according to a report here, the resolution–which passed by a vote of 12-3 with six abstentions–“emphasized the importance of the site to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.”

But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli charged the committee with attempting to “appropriate the national symbols of the Jewish people,” and she went on to further accuse the UNESCO delegates of maliciously spreading lies.

“This is a badge of shame for UNESCO, who time after time chooses to stand on the side of lies,” she is quoted as saying.

You might recall I put up a post about Hotoveli a week ago.  This was after she did an interview with 60 Minutes Australia in which she expressed the view that “it’s not because of the Israelis” that Palestinians live under such abject conditions. No, “it’s really dependent on them,” she insisted, adding that “their leadership doesn’t give them the ability to live under democratic values.”

From turning a meeting into a circus sideshow by calling for a moment of silence for “six million murdered Jews,” to accusing a people living under a brutal occupation of being responsible for their own misery and suffering–there is something about the behavior of Israeli officials that somehow always seems to remind me of the proverbial rude guest who showed up for a party uninvited.

By the way, in case you missed it, Israel recently confiscated an array of solar panels that had been donated by the Dutch government to a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Despite being surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, the village in question, Jubbet al-Dhib, is not connected to the national electric grid. The Dutch government has called the action “unacceptable,” and Holland’s prime minister, Mark Rutte, has reportedly now lodged a formal protest. The solar panels cost approximately $600,000.

Netanyahu Slams ‘Delusional’ UNESCO Vote on Al-Khalil (Hebron)

July 7, 2017

Zionist PM Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday slammed a UNESCO vote declaring the Old City ofAl-Khalil (Hebron) Netanyahu Slams ‘Delusional’ UNESCO Vote on Al-Khalil (Hebron)Hebron an endangered world heritage site, calling it a “delusional decision”.

“It is another delusional decision by UNESCO,” Netanyahu said in a Hebrew video posted online. “This time they ruled the Tomb of the Patriarchs is a Palestinian site, meaning not a Jewish site, and it is in danger.”

Source: AFP

UNESCO Votes to Declare Palestine’s Al-Khalil ‘a Heritage Site’

July 7, 2017

Al-Khalil-1

UNESCO has declared the Old City of al-Khalil (Hebron) a protected heritage site in a secret ballot despite Israeli attempts to thwart the vote.

On Friday, the UN’s cultural arm voted 12 to three — with six abstentions — to give heritage status to al-Khalil in the occupied West Bank, which is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians and a few hundred Israeli settlers.

On Thursday, a Palestinian official said the Zionist entity was seeking to thwart Palestinian efforts to include the Old City of al-Khalil (Hebron) on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger.

Deputy Mayor of al-Khalil Yousef al Jabari made the remarks to a group of journalists visiting the Old City of al-Khalil on Thursday, one day prior to UNESCO’s vote on the matter.

The Old City of al-Khalil is also home to the Ibrahimi Mosque, one of the key holy sites in the Muslim world.

Jabari described Ibrahimi Mosque as a “pure Muslim” site and said, “We will do everything we can [for] this place to remain a mosque, and a mosque for Muslim worshipers only.”

If the Palestinian Authority (PA) succeeds in its bid on Friday, the Old City of al-Khalil would become the third site registered under “Palestine” since the UNESCO recognized it as a member state in 2011.

Source: Press TV

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