Netanyahu: European countries will follow Trump on Jerusalem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has defended U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying Monday that he believed European countries would follow suit.

Speaking in Brussels, where he is meeting European Union foreign ministers, Netanyahu said Trump’s announcement was based on “recognizing reality.”

Trump’s move Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and commit to moving the U.S. embassy to the holy city prompted international criticism and sparked protests across the world.

The announcement, which upended seven decades of U.S. foreign policy, delighted Israeli officials but was condemned by Palestinian leaders, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Speaking alongside European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini — who last week described Trump’s announcement as a “dangerous” move that “discredited a bit the United States as an honest broker” in the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process — Netanyahu praised the shift in U.S. policy.

“Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 70 years,” Netanyahu said. “I think what President Trump has done is put facts squarely on the table. Peace is based on reality. Peace is based on recognizing reality.”

“I believe that even though we don’t have an agreement yet, this is what will happen in the future. I believe that all or most of the European countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and engage robustly with us for security, prosperity and peace.”

Erdogan, Netanyahu trade barbs

Netanyahu’s appearance in Brussels comes the day after he held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, who last week said the new American policy contravened international law.

On Sunday, Macron expressed further reservations about the move but condemned “all forms of attacks” against Israel in a statement made alongside Netanyahu.

Netanyahu also traded barbs with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who described Israel as a “terrorist” and “child-murderer state” on Sunday.

“Jerusalem is the apple of our eye. We will not abandon it to the child-murderer state. We will not abandon it to an occupier state,” Erdogan said in an address in the Turkish city of Sivas.

“I’m not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran go around international sanctions, and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people,” Netanyahu said in response Sunday. “That is not the man who is going to lecture us.”

Demonstrations on Sunday

The fallout from Trump’s announcement continued Sunday with fresh demonstrations in a number of countries, including Turkey, Lebanon and Morocco.

Lebanese security forces clashed with protesters Sunday near the U.S. embassy in Beirut, where hundreds of protesters and dozens of riot police gathered in front of the entrance leading to the heavily fortified building.

Despite calls to keep the demonstration peaceful, violence broke out as crowds threw plastic water bottles, stones and sticks at the police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

The Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah plans to hold a demonstration Monday in the Beirut suburbs to condemn Trump’s announcement.

On Sunday, a Palestinian man was arrested after stabbing an Israeli security guard at Jerusalem’s central bus station in what police described as a terror attack. More than 300 people were injured Friday across Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza during protests against Trump’s decision, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Health Ministry.

Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes that were launched in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.

Palestinians: No formal communication with US

Palestinian officials have reacted furiously to Trump’s Jerusalem move. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters in Cairo on Saturday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would not meet with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during his planned visit this month to the region.

Malki said the Palestinian Authority considers the United States “has withdrawn … from the peace process” and “positioned itself as an actor in the conflict and not as a mediator.”

Calling the Trump administration decision “illegal and illegitimate and null and void legally and politically,” Malki said there would be no formal communication with US officials.

He said the Palestinian leadership had “no intention of withdrawing from the peace process” and would instead seek a new mediator to work toward a two-state solution.

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UN chief: ‘America first’ is ‘detrimental to American interests’

President Trump said in his inauguration speech that the slogan “America First” would govern his administration and approach to foreign policy. But UN Secretary-General Antnio Guterres believes that the President’s pledge is “detrimental to American interests.”

The whole idea of “America first” is predicated on a belief that “the interests of the American people are best protected by the US in itself, and that international organizations do not contribute much to it,” Guterres told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday.

But, the Secretary-General emphasized, this simply “wasn’t true.”

“The US is too big and too relevant to be able to think it alone. The way things happen in the world has a very important impact in the way things happen in the United States,” he said.

As a result, it’s important for the United States to operate with a global mindset, Guterres insisted. This in spite of the fact that, in his first year of office, President Trump has pulled out of the Paris Accords, and has announced that he will be withdrawing US membership of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization.

“It’s very important for the United States that the US engages — engages in climate action, engages in migration but also engages in addressing crises like the crisis in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan or South Sudan or the DRC,” Guterres said.

“The role of the US can be extremely important to allow for solutions to be found, to have leverage, to have pressure on the actors to these conflicts in order to be able to make them understand that it’s necessary to stop those conflicts,” he added.

What’s more, he argued, if “the US doesn’t occupy the space, someone else will.”

Not only would a negative view of international institutions and global agreements be “detrimental to American interest,” Guterres emphasized, it could also result in “a lack of capacity to have a stabilizing influence in the world.”

“In the multiplicity of crises we have where conflicts are so much interlinked and linked to problems of global terrorism, I think that to disengage in world affairs also impacts negatively on the security of any people, including the American people,” he said.

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Nuclear destruction ‘one impulsive tantrum away,’ Nobel winners warn

The winners of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize have warned countries that possess nuclear weapons to eliminate their “instruments of insanity” or risk mutual destruction.

The stark warning came Sunday as this year’s peace prize was presented at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

“Heed our warning and know that your actions are consequential. You are each an integral part of the system of violence that threatens humankind,” said Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima survivor and ICAN campaigner.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee chose the group as the winner of this year’s peace prize in recognition of its role as a driving force behind the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The treaty was adopted on July 7 with the support of 122 nations.

Thurlow and ICAN’s Executive Director Beatrice Fihn called on the world’s nuclear-armed states to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.

The treaty prohibits a catalog of nuclear activity, including undertaking development, testing, production, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons.

Thurlow said that, as a 13-year-old schoolgirl in 1945, she witnessed classmates who had “parts of their bodies missing” and “flesh and skin hanging from their bones” after the US dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

She survived. Most her classmates did not. Thurlow’s 4-year-old nephew was also killed after being “transformed into an unrecognizable melted chunk of flesh.”

“He kept begging for water in a faint voice until his death release him from agony,” Thurlow said.

She said her nephew’s fate reminds her of all the children in today’s world who live under the threat of nuclear weapons.

“We must not tolerate this insanity any longer,” she said.

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China — the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, all of which have nuclear arsenals — did not participate in the negotiations for the treaty.

North Korea, which has carried out six nuclear weapons tests, also did not participate. The country has traded barbs in a war of words over its nuclear program with US President Donald Trump. Fihn told the audience in her speech that “mutual destruction is only one impulsive tantrum away.”

“We have avoided nuclear war — not through prudent leadership, but through good fortune. And sooner or later, if we fail to act, our luck will run out,” said Fihn.

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‘Time is of the essence,’ UN official says after North Korea visit

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are the world’s most dangerous security issue, and must be resolved fast and diplomatically to avoid war, a top United Nations envoy said after a rare visit to North Korea.

Jeffrey Feltman, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, visited the reclusive nation between Tuesday and Friday, the first trip there by a top UN official in six years.

During his visit, he met with Ri Yong Ho, the North Korean minister for foreign affairs. Their meeting came at a particularly tense time — a week after North Korea tested an advance long-range missile and South Korea conducted military drills with its ally, the United States.

Ri and Feltman “agreed that the current situation was the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today,” the UN said in a statement.

Feltman stressed the need for relevant Security Council resolutions to be implemented, saying a diplomatic solution could be achieved through sincere dialogue.

In a statement to journalists, he said there’s an “urgent need to prevent miscalculations and open channels to reduce the risks of conflict.” He emphasized that the international community is alarmed by escalating tensions, and is committed a peaceful solution to the situation.

“Time is of the essence,” the statement said.

Missiles and drills

North Korea remains technically at war with its neighbor South Korea after the Korean War ended in armistice but not peace in 1953.

Feltman’s trip coincided with with the annual Vigilante 18 military drill held by the US and South Korea, which the US Air Force says is designed to boost the “combat effectiveness” of the alliance.

North Korea’s state media described the drills as “joint air war exercises targeting the DPRK,” a reference to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The drills came after Pyongyang test-fired a Hwasong-15 missile November 29.

It was North Korea’s first ballistic missile test since September. The Hwasong-15 is believed to be its most dangerous and technologically advanced long-range ballistic missile, and demonstrated a range of around 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles), which puts most of the planet in range. North Korean state media purports it can carry a “super-large heavy warhead.”

UN in North Korea

Feltman’s visit to North Korea was a response to a “long standing invitation” from Pyongyang authorities for policy dialogue, the UN said ahead of the visit.

The last senior UN official to visit North Korea was emergency relief coordinator Valerie Amos in October 2011, according to the UN. The last time an undersecretary-general for political affairs visited the country was in February 2010.

Six UN agencies are represented in North Korea, staffed by a team of about 50 people from across the globe, the UN said in a statement.

Feltman visited several UN projects in North Korea, including a pediatric hospital and Tuberculosis prevention institute.

The former American diplomat is a key adviser to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on global peace and security issues. He spent nearly 30 years at the US State Department before joining the UN in 2012.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said Saturday there was still hope for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

China has repeatedly called for a de-escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, including a freeze in the North Korean nuclear program in exchange for the halt of United States and South Korean military drills.

China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Wang again raised the “suspension for suspension” proposal at an international relations conference Saturday.

“(Wang) noted that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is still deep in a vicious circle of demonstrating strength and confrontation, and the outlook is not optimistic,” Xinhua said. “He said that all parties need to make efforts to ease the situation and bring the situation out of the ‘black hole’ of confrontation.”

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Iraq is ‘fully liberated’ from ISIS, its military says

The Iraqi military has “fully liberated” all of Iraq’s territory of “ISIS terrorist gangs” and retaken full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border, it said Saturday in a statement.”Our heroic armed forces have now secured the entire length of the Iraq-Syri…

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Israeli airstrikes target Gaza amid tensions after Trump’s Jerusalem move

Two Palestinians were killed Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported, as tensions soared in the region after US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Israel Defense Forces said Israeli aircraft had targeted what it identified as four facilities belonging to Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist group that controls Gaza — early Saturday in response to rockets fired into southern Israel from Gaza.

The aircraft targeted two weapons manufacturing sites, a weapons warehouse and a military compound, according to an IDF news release.

The bodies of two Palestinian men aged 28 and 30 were found under rubble after the strikes, WAFA said, quoting the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

A 54-year-old Palestinian man also died late Friday from injuries sustained during an earlier Israeli airstrike in Gaza. The IDF said Israeli aircraft had struck a Hamas training compound and ammunition warehouse in Gaza.

A 30-year-old Palestinian man was shot and killed earlier Friday during clashes between protesters and Israeli security forces over Trump’s controversial move. Both Palestinians and Israelis claim Jerusalem as their capital.

More than 300 people were injured Friday across the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, 50 of whom needed hospital treatment, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health said.

An Israeli army statement said what it called violent riots had broken out in about 30 locations across the West Bank and Gaza. The main disturbances in the West Bank were in Hebron, Al-Arroub, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Qalqilya and Nablus.

At least 49 people were also injured Thursday during protests over Trump’s decision, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and commit to moving the US Embassy to the holy city has prompted international condemnation and sparked protests in countries around the globe, from Indonesia and Malaysia to Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt.

US envoy to UN defends Trump move

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Trump’s decision and criticized member countries for their treatment of Israel during an emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday.

She also said the US has credibility with both the Israelis and the Palestinians and that any peace agreement would likely be “signed on the White House lawn.”

“The United States is not predetermining final status issues,” Haley said.

“We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”

Several countries voiced their opposition to the US decision before Haley’s comments, including France and Egypt.

Tillerson: Embassy move not imminent

Speaking Friday in Paris, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “is not something that will happen this year, probably not next year.”

He also said that Trump’s decision did not “indicate any final status for Jerusalem,” adding that the “final status would be left to the parties to negotiate and decide.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas cast doubt on whether he will receive US Vice President Mike Pence during a planned visit to the region later this month.

Speaking to broadcaster Al Jazeera, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “Jerusalem is more important than Mike Pence — we will not abandon Jerusalem just to receive Mike Pence.”

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