Spain, Ireland, Slovenia, Malta ready to recognise Palestine

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Saturday, 23rd March 2024

EU Council President Charles Michel revealed on Friday that Spain, Ireland, Malta, and Slovenia expressed that they are prepared to recognise the state of Palestine once appropriate conditions are met and he said this would be used as leverage to initiate peace negotiations.

Michel made the remarks at the end of a EU summit held in Brussels and underscored the importance of initiating a process toward recognising Palestine. He emphasised the need for steps from both sides to achieve the goal.

Michel highlighted that, while the debate on recognising Palestine was not fully on the table during recent discussions, it remains a crucial decision for each EU member state to consider. He acknowledged that some members have recognised Palestine as a sovereign state and emphasised the significance of beginning a structured process toward recognition. He stressed the importance of acknowledging steps taken by authorities, particularly in Israel, as part of the process.

“This is not the topic we discussed Thursday evening, but we discussed in depth the two-state solution … There’s a process, so that it can be seen as leverage to make steps and to support the efforts for the resumption of the peace talks,” he added.

Michel also addressed the question of whether Europe is “ready for a possible war.” He said Russia’s war in Ukraine justified taking steps to strengthen Europe’s defense preparedness. Expressing a desire not to spread concern about war throughout European society, he said: “On the other hand, (defence preparedness) should be accepted by our citizens throughout the EU and we should explain this to our public. If we want peace, security, and stability, it is extremely important to strengthen our defence capacity and capabilities and build a EU in the defence field,” he said.

EU issues first joint demand for ceasefire in Gaza

EU leaders have issued their first joint demand for a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages in Gaza in a joint summit statement, which called for “an immediate humanitarian pause leading to a sustainable ceasefire” and repeated condemnations of the attacks by Hamas against Israel on October 7. In the aftermath of the Hamas attacks, EU leaders together only managed to call for “humanitarian corridors and pauses” in Gaza to allow aid to reach Palestinian civilians. European Council President Charles Michel called the statement “strong and unified” on X. Ireland, Spain, and Belgium pushed for the ceasefire at the summit in Brussels. The statement from EU leaders later said it was “appalled by the sexual violence” during the 7th October attacks, noting UN reports on the issue and declared support for independent investigations. EU leaders also called on Israel not to go ahead with a planned ground offensive in the southern city of Rafah on the Egyptian border, where 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres joined talks in Brussels and urged the EU to support a ceasefire. He warned that civilian casualties in Gaza like in Ukraine must be condemned “without double standards”.

Russia, China veto US ceasefire in Gaza resolution

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a US-sponsored UN resolution supporting “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, calling the measure ambiguous and saying it was not the direct demand to end the fighting that much of the world seeks. The vote in the Security Council became another showdown involving world powers that are locked in tense disputes elsewhere, with the United States taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, whose ongoing military offensive has created a dire humanitarian crisis for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza. A key issue was the unusual language that said the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire.” The phrasing was not a straightforward “demand” or “call” to halt hostilities. Before the vote, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate cease-fire, but he criticised the diluted language, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a UN resolution. China’s ambassador, Zhang Jun, said the US proposal set preconditions and fell far short of expectations of council members and the broader international community. The vote in the 15-member council was 11 members in favour and three against, including Algeria, the Arab representative on the council. There was one abstention, from Guyana.

The UN Security Council has postponed until Monday the vote, originally scheduled for today, on a new resolution – this time drawn up by the non-permanent members – calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip, according to diplomatic sources close to ANSA. The decision was taken to allow further discussion on the draft resolution. The vote was originally scheduled for this afternoon.

Israel announces seizure of 800 hectares in the West Bank

Israel said on Friday it had seized 800 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s extreme-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared “state lands” in the northern Jordan Valley, near the Israeli settlement of Yafit. “While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” Smotrich said on Friday, using a contentious name for the occupied West Bank. Smotrich heads the extreme-right Religious Zionism party and lives in a settlement himself. Areas declared state land are no longer considered private property of Palestinians by the Israeli state. The land can then be leased or sold to Israeli settlers. Many governments consider all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories illegal under international law.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the move on Friday as “a continuation of the extermination and displacement of our people from their homeland. The international failure to protect our people is complicity and cover for Israel’s ongoing evasion of punishment,” it added. Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said Friday’s announcement equalled the largest area of land seized by Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accords and that “2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land.”

Blinken meets Netanyahu, Gantz

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a one-on-one meeting with war cabinet minister Benny Gantz after his 40-minute meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a spokesman for the minister said. Gantz expressed his appreciation for the continued support Israel has received from the US and for its commitment to Israel’s security. The two discussed Israel’s planned operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which the US is opposed to and which Israel has said is necessary in order to eliminate Hamas. Gantz reassured Blinken that Israel will continue to enable humanitarian solutions to aid civilians in Gaza, his office adds. Blinken’s meeting with Netanyahu focused on ensuring that more aid flows into Gaza. The two also discussed the contentious plans for Rafah.

ISIS claims responsibility in raid which left 62 dead, 145 injured

ISIS, the Islamic State group is reported to have claimed responsibility for a brazen attack on Friday night in which several assailants burst into a large concert hall in Moscow and sprayed the crowd with gunfire, killing at least 62 people, injuring some 145 and setting fire to the venue. It wasn’t immediately clear what happened to the attackers after the raid, which authorities were investigating as ‘terrorism’. The attack, which left the concert hall with a collapsing roof, was the deadliest in Russia in years and came as the country’s war in Ukraine dragged into a third year. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin called the raid a “huge tragedy”. The Kremlin said President Putin was informed minutes after the attack and later he wished a speedy recovery to all those injured, Tass news agency reports. The assailants burst into Crocus City Hall, a large music venue on Moscow’s western edge that can accommodate 6,200 people.The attack took place as crowds gathered for a performance by the Russian rock band Picnic. Some Russian news reports suggested that more could have been trapped by the blaze that erupted after the assailants threw explosives. Health authorities released a list of 145 injured – 115 of them hospitalised, including five children.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the Moscow attack and expressed his “deep condolences” to Russia and wished a speedy recovery for those injured in the attack. Guterres’ statement came after earlier remarks in which the UN expressed sorrow for the deadly attack. The Security Council also condemned “the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack”. EU spokesperson Peter Stano said on X that the bloc was “shocked and appalled by the reports of a terrorist attack” in Moscow.  The foreign ministers of several European countries – including Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia – expressed their condolences to the families of those killed or injured in the shooting.

Princess of Wales confirms cancer diagnosis, underging chemotherapy

It is believed Catherine, Princess of Wales will not return to royal duties at Easter as was previously expected after the she announced her shock cancer diagnosis on Friday night. Kate has remained absent from official royal duties since undergoing abdominal surgery in January, where she spent 13 days recovering at a London Clinic. The 42-year-old confirmed in a video statement the planned surgery was for an unspecified condition that was not believed to be cancerous. However, subsequent tests revealed cancer had been found. “My medical team therefore advised that I should undergo a course of preventative chemotherapy, and I am now in the early stages of that treatment,” she explained. “This of course came as a huge shock, and William and I have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family.” In recent weeks, Kate has been the subject of persistent speculation due to her absence from royal duties.

King Charles says he is “so proud” of his daughter-in-law Catherine, Princess of Wales, “for her courage in speaking as she did” when revealed she is receiving treatment for cancer, according to the BBC. A Buckingham Palace statement added Charles and his wife Camilla “will continue to offer their love and support to the whole family through this difficult time”. Charles, who underwent a corrective procedure for an enlarged prostate, received his cancer diagnosis last month after doctors identified another issue while carrying out the operation.

Harry and Meghan have also expressed their support for Kate amid her cancer announcement. “We wish health and healing for Kate and the family, and hope they are able to do so privately and in peace,” they said in a statement. The couple’s relationship with Kate has been strained in recent years following Harry and Meghan’s split from the royal family.

US President Joe Biden said he was “praying for the full recovery” of Kate, the Princess of Wales. “Jill and I join millions of people around the world praying for your full recovery, Princess Kate,” the American president wrote on X.

“Radical right now unstoppable in EU’s Inner Six”

The support for far-right and conservative parties appears unrestrained in countries once known as the Inner Six – Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands – which first established the European Communities in the 1950s. This was the most striking figure to emerge from Euronews’ unprecedented survey, based on 26,000 interviews (10,000 of these from the Inner Six countries) in countries representing 96% of the bloc’s population.

As the EU’s beating heart, interest in what’s happening in the Inner Six has always been considered vital to check the pulse of the Union. But a simple glance at the political parties leading in terms of seat projection for the next Parliament according to the poll shows how these countries are relentlessly leaning toward the radical right. While centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) affiliates are still topping the poll in Germany and Luxembourg, Italy’s right-wing Fratelli d’Italia is expected to have its best electoral performance ever and is projected to jump from its current seven parliamentary seats to 23. More impressively, three parties affiliated with the far-right parliamentary group Identity and Democracy (ID) are leading the polls in France, the Netherlands, and Belgium.

65 migrants found in Libya mass grave

The bodies of at least 65 migrants have been discovered in a mass grave in the southwest of Libya, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on the social media platform X on Friday. According to the IOM, the circumstances of the deaths remain unknown. “But it is believed that they died in the process of being smuggled through the desert,” the agency said in a statement, adding that it is “profoundly shocked and alarmed”. The IOM said it appreciated that Libyan authorities had launched an investigation into the deaths. It urged them to “ensure a dignified recovery, identification and transfer of the remains of the deceased migrants”, and notify and assist their families.

New Hong Kong security law comes into force

A new national security law has came into force in Hong Kong despite growing international criticism that it could erode freedoms in the city, which is ruled by China. The law took effect at midnight, when it was published on a government website, days after Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing lawmakers passed it unanimously, fast-tracking legislation to plug what authorities called national security loopholes. Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee signed the new national security law yesterday evening. Australia and Britain on Friday criticised China for its actions in Hong Kong after a meeting in Adelaide. Australia and Taiwan updated their travel advisories for Hong Kong, urging citizens to exercise caution.

“I have $500 million in cash” – Trump

“Through hard work, talent, and luck, I have nearly five hundred million dollars in cash, a significant sum that I intended to use for my campaign,” Donald Trump has claimed on his social media site Truth regarding the $464 million fine which he defines as “insane and politically motivated”. “I didn’t do anything wrong other than win an election in 2016, get a better result in 2020 and be ahead again, by a long shot, now. This is communism in America!”

World’s first pig-to-human kidney transplant performed

A 62-year-old American with end-stage renal disease has become the first human to receive a new kidney from a genetically-modified pig, doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have announced. The four-hour surgery “marks a major milestone in the quest to provide more readily-available organs to patients”, the hospital said in a statement. The patient is recovering well and expected to be discharged soon, the hospital said.

Compensation agreed over chaotic scenes at Champions League final

Liverpool fans caught up in the violence at the Champions League final in Paris last year will be compensated by UEFA. Football fans were crushed and tear-gassed by French police outside the Stade de France before Real Madrid’s 1-0 win against Liverpool on Saturday, May 28. An out-of-court settlement was reached following what UEFA itself described as the “frightening and distressing events”. It comes after days of gruelling talks between European football’s governing body and lawyers for some supporters, with a payout now agreed. However, the full terms of the settlement will remain confidential. 

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