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Freeland in a Divided Washington for USMCA Talks With US and Mexico

OTTAWA—Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland wrapped up a meeting Wednesday in the American capita..

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OTTAWA—Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland wrapped up a meeting Wednesday in the American capital aimed at finding the bipartisan agreement needed to finalize a new North American trade deal saying they continue to make progress.

The session involved U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mexican Undersecretary for North America Jesus Seade.

“Today it was a good meeting, good work has been done,” Freeland said after a session that lasted about an hour.

Freeland said she will continue to be in close communication with her counterparts during the next few days, but suggested no talks were planned on Thursday, when Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

She declined to confirm whether she would be hosting Seade in Ottawa, even though the Mexican official said he planned to be there Friday.

Officials from the continents three countries held talks earlier Wednesday in Washington on the final obstacle to ratifying the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend—a sign of the dwindling American legislative calendar.

Freeland, who is the lead minister for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, started her day with a federal cabinet meeting in the Ottawa area.

Canadian government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Canadas acting ambassador Kirsten Hillman and chief trade negotiator Steve Verheul represented Canada in talks earlier in the day.

But Freeland had been in close contact with Lighthizer, speaking on the phone with him Tuesday and Wednesday, said officials.

Mexico is the only country to legally approve the deal, while Canada is waiting on the U.S. Congress to make its first move towards ratification. Officials say Canadas approach remains the same—it will only move “in tandem” with the United States.

Freeland said she respects the domestic ratification process in each country.

“Where we can be a supportive partner, we are very happy to do that, and that is why we are here,” she said after the meeting in Washington.

Seade said only that the meeting was “good” because “we make constant progress.”

The American Thanksgiving holiday was seen by many as one of the last reasonable opportunities for U.S. lawmakers to practically dispatch with USMCA amid the broader impeachment drama engulfing President Donald Trump, and the looming political shift ahead of the November 2020 presidential election. Trump has levelled scathing criticism on the Democrats for blocking progress on the trade deal by focusing on impeachment.

Democrats control the House of Representatives and have negotiated with Lighthizer for months to strengthen several of the deals provisions, including improved labour standards to ensure that Mexicos much-promised workplace reforms can be enforced.

During the long and at times acrimonious renegotiation of NAFTA, Canadian and American negotiators pushed Mexico to improve labour standards to prevent companies in the manufacturing and auto sectors from relocating to where employers can pay them far less. Now, the Americans want to make sure those changes have teeth.

That could come in an addendum or side letter to the USMCA. As for the core text of the deal, Canada has maintained it considers that signed and sealed, not to be re-opened for further negotiations.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House leader who controls the introduction of a ratification bill, said earlier this week she and Lighthizer “were within range of a substantially improved agreement for Americas workers.” But she added that she wanted Lighthizer to put that in writing “for final review.”

Pelosi has said she wants a new deal finalized by the end of the year.

Observers in the U.S. and Read More – Source

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Benjamin Netanyahu calls to block Israel’s newly formed coalition

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Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu has lashed out at a newly agreed coalition which looks set to remove him from power after 12 years as prime minister.

Mr Netanyahu called on right-wing members of parliament to block the coalition from taking office.

Eight opposition parties reached an agreement to work together to form a new government late on Wednesday.

But the group, from across Israel’s political spectrum, still needs parliamentary backing to take office.

No date has so far been set for such a vote in the Knesset (parliament). But it is expected to take place next week at the latest, and there is still a chance this newly formed coalition could be upended by defections.

In his first comments since the coalition was announced, Mr Netanyahu urged members of the Knesset “elected by votes from the right” to oppose the coalition.

In a post on Twitter, he criticised them as “left-wing” and “dangerous”. He has previously called the proposed new government the “fraud of the century”, saying it endangered the state and people of Israel.

Observers have already noted that Mr Netanyahu – who failed to form his own coalition despite his Likud party winning the most seats in the March vote – is likely to try to prevent the group getting the support it needs.

News of a fresh coalition emerged late on Wednesday, when Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, called President Reuven Rivlin to let him know that agreement had been reached.

He pledged to form a government which would “work in the service of all Israeli citizens… respect its opponents and do everything in its power to unite and connect all parts of Israeli society”.

However, Mr Lapid will not become prime minister immediately. Under a rotation arrangement, the head of the right-wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, would serve as prime minister first before handing over to Mr Lapid in August 2023.

The coalition members span the full spectrum of Israeli politics with little in common apart from their plan to replace Mr Netanyahu. For the first time in decades, the government will include an Israeli Arab party.

An image carried on Israeli media showed Mr Lapid, Mr Bennett and Mansour Abbas, leader of the Arab Islamist Raam party, signing the agreement, a deal many thought impossible.

The other five parties included in the agreement are:

  • Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) (centrist) – led by Benny Gantz (eight)
  • Israel Beiteinu (centre-right to right-wing nationalist) – led by Avigdor Lieberman (seven)
  • Labor (social-democratic) – led by Merav Michaeli (seven)
  • New Hope (centre-right to right-wing)- led by Gideon Sa’ar (six)
  • Meretz (left-wing, social-democratic) – led by Nitzan Horowitz (six)

If the coalition fails to win the support of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, there is a risk of a fifth election in two years. All eight parties were needed to secure the 61-seat majority.

Reaction to the agreement has been mixed. According to news agency AFP, other parties representing Israeli Arabs – who make up 20% of the population – have said they will oppose a government led by Mr Bennett, who rejects the concept of a Palestinian state.

Meanwhile, right-wing politicians have also voiced concerns. “The left is celebrating but it is a very sad day for the State of Israel,” Miki Zohar, a prominent Likud member wrote on Twitter, saying the right-wing parties in the coalition “should be ashamed”.

But elsewhere there was jubilation. Protesters who had been demanding Mr Netanyahu’s resignation danced in the street.

Some were just relieved at the prospect of an end to the political turmoil which has seen Israel hold four elections in just two years as politicians struggled to find someone to unite behind.

“I think that the political situation has been deadlocked for too long,” protester Zvi Yosef told Reuters news agency. “We have to try something new, even though it’s a little bit scary and there’s a lot of unknowns. But at the moment, I don’t see any other option.”

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57340973

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Federation of African Journalists “dismayed” by UAE attempts to manipulate African Journalists

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Agencies – Federation of African Journalists accused UAE of “attempts” to manipulate the work of African Journalists. During a conference held this week, the federation issued an urgent resolution which attacked United Arab Emirates due to its efforts to affect the work of the federation and African journalists.

The press release said, “We, the delegates attending the African Journalists Leaders’ Conference from five regions of the African Continent, being held in Accra, Ghana, from 1st to 2nd June 2021, under the auspices of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) and hosted by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA)”

The press release announced a number of points stating:

“With dismay recent attempts by external elements from the United Arab Emirates who deliberately tried to manipulate journalists’ organisations in Africa to issue public statements or campaign against 2022 FIFA World Cup, that will be hosted by the State of Qatar.”said the statement

The organisation expressed serious concerns about how UAE is trying to push for political disputes and drag African journalists into activities beyond their primary interests, scope and mandate.

It also added that “Serious challenges facing journalists in Africa in covering adequately global events such as the World Cup.”

The federation rejected what it described as “despicable attempts”to use and manipulate African journalists and their organisations as tools to challenge the organisation of 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

It reiterated its full support of the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) to the position taken by the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC) about the labour rights situation in Qatar and note the unparalleled progress so far made.

It has also demanded that African jour alista have full access to 2022 FIFA 2022 World Cup so they inform African peoples about these global soccer events.

It has called upon the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the qualifying National teams from Africa to be vigilant about these manipulative attempts and ensure Africa’s dignified and prominent participation in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The statement made an appeal to CAF and FIFA to investigate and penalize the people and forces behind this unprecedented interference in global soccer events which has the potential to compromise African journalists reporting on the world’s biggest football event.

It also added that, “Mandate the Steering Committee of FAJ to develop a close working relationship with CAF to facilitate and advance the work and interests of African journalists.”

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Dozens of Palestinians injured in police clashes as Jewish extremists chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ march in Jerusalem

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Clashes between Palestinians from east Jerusalem and Israeli police around the Damascus gate entrance to the Old City erupted in a night of unrest that earlier saw Jewish extremists marching through another city street shouting “Death to Arabs.”

The violence marks a high point so far in a new phase of complex heightened tensions in the city which began a week and half ago around the start of Ramadan, and prompted an unusual statement Friday morning from the US embassy in Jerusalem in which it called on “all responsible voices [to] promote an end to incitement.”
Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the area around the Damascus gate Thursday evening to protest the closure of the plaza space in front of the gate, a popular place for young Palestinians to hang out, especially during Ramadan.
Glass bottles and rocks were thrown at police, who used stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons spraying foul-smelling ‘skunk water,’ in an effort to disperse the crowds.
At one point, a group of young men managed to break down a pole with a security camera mounted on top and set it alight, temporarily creating a barricade.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 105 Palestinians were injured, of which 22 required treatment in hospital.
Close by, police used barricades of their own to prevent a march by hundreds of supporters of the Jewish extremist ‘Lehava’ movement from reaching the same area.
Videos on social media show hundreds of people marching down one of Jerusalem’s main thoroughfares, Jaffa Street, towards Damascus Gate chanting repeatedly “Death to Arabs.”
Israeli media reports Lehava supporters threw rocks at police, and videos on social media show police water cannon being used to disperse them.
Lehava has been emboldened by the recent election to the Israeli parliament of several extremist-racist politicians, all of whom have been openly courted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his ongoing attempts to form a new government.
Tensions have been heightened further by a number of videos posted to Tik Tok over the last couple of weeks apparently showing acts of assault, including one purporting to show a Palestinian youth slapping two religious Jews riding the city’s light rail tram service
.
The violence continued well into Friday morning with incidents reported across the city, including one captured on video apparently showing Palestinian youths repeatedly kicking a Jewish man in east Jerusalem as he lies on the ground attempting to protect his head.

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