No Prime Minister has ever advocated two state solution until now – Lapid

Zechariah 12:3 “On that day I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock. All the nations will gather against it to try to move it, but they will only hurt themselves.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Lapid to back two-state solution in UN address; is slammed by rivals and some allies
    • NEW YORK — In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid will include an explicit call for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, an official close to the Israeli leader said Wednesday.
    • The revelation drew both criticism from right-wing ministers in Lapid’s eight-party coalition, and support from some of his allies on the left.
    • Lapid’s speech will have four sections and offer “hope and vision through strength,” said the official in a briefing to reporters. The prime minister will stress that “Israel must move toward a two-state solution.”
    • “For many years, no Israeli prime minister has said this on the UN stage,” the official said.

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US and Israel sign declaration to stand against Iranian aggression and strengthen Abraham Accord

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • ISRAEL, US SIGN ‘JERUSALEM DECLARATION’ COMMITTING TO USE POWER AGAINST IRAN NUCLEAR THREAT
  • The two countries will formalize what one official called “the Jerusalem Declaration on the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership.”
  • The Declaration, the official said, will be a framework for the bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States and will include a “regional component.” The document “is going to be a living testimony to the unique quality, health, scope, depth and intimacy of the U.S.-Israeli relationship,” the official added, and “shows in the clearest terms possible” the relationship’s unique nature.
  • The declaration includes a section in Iran, which the official said makes a clear stand against Iran’s aggression in the region and commits to both nations using their national power against the Iranian nuclear threat.
  • The officials also spoke about the Israeli government’s hopes for the effect Biden’s visit will have on further cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the wake of the Abraham Accords.

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UN says Europe needs more efficient mechanisms to handle migrant arrivals

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europe could easily manage hundreds of migrants arriving on its shores if it had more predictable state-led systems to deal with such matters, the U.N.’s refugees chief said, pointing to the arrival of hundreds on Italy’s Lampedusa island at the weekend.

“The fact that over this weekend, we have witnessed again, arrivals through the central Mediterranean is further proof that … Europe needs predictable mechanisms to deal with these matters,” said Filippo Grandi, Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Yes, there were several boats coming but we’re talking about manageable numbers: through a rational and agreed mechanism this would be very manageable, in our opinion,” he told a news conference with the EU’s home affairs commissioner.

He said a system is needed for disembarkation and relocation of migrants, and push backs of would-be migrants that are happening at the external borders of the European Union should be stopped.

Grandi said he agreed with European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson that Europe needs a mechanism that balances “proper arrival arrangements with solidarity through relocation”.

“I personally think that this is the least that Europe could put in place”, he said. “We also need … a good, efficient and fair, right space, but nevertheless fair mechanism of return to their countries of those that are not recognized as refugees.”

(Reporting by John Chalmers and Marine Strauss)

Yemen famine could threaten opportunity for peace, U.N. warns

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A massive famine could wipe out a new opportunity, created by renewed U.S. engagement, to end the war in Yemen, top U.N. officials told the Security Council on Thursday.

U.N. Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths also called for a stop to an offensive by the Houthi movement on the government-held city of Marib, warning “the quest for territorial gain by force threatens all of the prospects of the peace process.”

U.S. President Joe Biden has made ending the conflict in Yemen a priority since taking office last month, appointing a special envoy and ending U.S. support for offensive operations by Saudi Arabia in neighboring Yemen.

“International support for ending the conflict is indispensable, and this offers us a new opportunity to reopen space for a negotiated solution,” Griffiths told the 15-member Security Council.

However, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock then warned: “There’s an important opportunity right now to help Yemen move towards lasting peace … but that opportunity will disappear, it will be wasted, if Yemen tips into a massive famine.”

The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the people in need of help.

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis. The more than six-year-long conflict is widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Griffiths visited Tehran this month for the first time since becoming the U.N. envoy three years ago. He made no reference to his visit during his public Security Council statement.

He said the warring parties needed to immediately agree to a nationwide ceasefire, allow the unhindered flow of fuel and other commodities into Hodeidah port and permit international commercial traffic to use Sanaa airport. Griffiths said these issues had been discussed regularly for the past year.

“What is needed is simply and fundamentally the political will to end this conflict. We know need a decision,” he said.

Lowcock said some $4 billion was needed in 2021 to fund humanitarian operations as “Yemen is speeding towards the worst famine the world has seen in decades.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Switzerland and Sweden plan to convene a pledging conference on March 1 to raise funds for Yemen.

When famine loomed in 2019, Lowcock said it was averted after the United Nations received about 90 percent of the $4 billion it requested. But last year the world body only received about $1.9 billion, about half of what it needed.

Lowcock said some 16 million people in Yemen were going hungry and 5 million of those people are “just one step away from famine.”

Some 400,000 children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished, he said. “Those children are in their last weeks and months,” he warned. “They are starving to death.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Cynthia Osterman)

U.N. envoy, Iran’s Zarif discuss how to end war in Yemen

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – United Nations Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed on Monday how to make progress toward a nationwide ceasefire and reviving the political process in Yemen, a U.N. spokesman said.

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis. The more than six-year long conflict is widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

It is Griffiths first visit to Iran since becoming the U.N. envoy three years ago.

Zarif and Griffiths “exchanged views on Yemen and how to make progress towards a resumption of the political process,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Mr. Zarif and Mr. Griffiths further discussed the urgent need to make progress towards a nationwide ceasefire, the opening of Sanaa airport and the easing of restrictions on Hodeidah ports.”

He added that Griffiths welcomed Iran’s expression of support for the U.N. efforts to end the conflict in Yemen.

While Griffiths office said the visit to Iran had been planned for some time, it comes after new U.S. President Joe Biden declared last week that the war in Yemen “has to end” and said Washington would halt support for the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against the Houthis.

The United States also said on Friday it intends to revoke its terrorist designation of the Houthis to avoid worsening Yemen’s humanitarian crisis. The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people in need and millions on the verge of famine.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Alex Richardson)

U.S. exempts U.N., aid groups from effort to cut off Yemen’s Houthis

By Daphne Psaledakis and Michelle Nichols

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday exempted aid groups, the United Nations, the Red Cross and the export of agricultural commodities, medicine, and medical devices from its designation of Yemen’s Houthi movement as a foreign terrorist organization.

The carve-outs are not enough to allay U.N. fears that Washington’s move would push Yemen into a large-scale famine. The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of its people in need.

“Our concern from the beginning … is the impact on the commercial sector and that the vast majority of food and other basic supplies that come into Yemen comes in through the commercial sector,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

U.N. officials and aid groups said the designation will scare off commercial trade in Yemen, which relies almost solely on imports, creating a gap the humanitarian operation cannot fill regardless of U.S. humanitarian exemptions.

The United States has exempted the export to Yemen of agricultural commodities. Its description of that includes food for people, including raw, processed, and packaged foods, live animals, vitamins and minerals, and bottled drinking water.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move against the Iran-aligned Houthis last week and it took effect on Tuesday, one day before Democratic President-elect Joe Biden succeeds Republican President Donald Trump.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Houthis in a war widely seen as a proxy conflict between U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and Iran. U.N. officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as Yemen’s suffering is also worsened by an economic collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The designation freezes any U.S.-related assets of the Houthis, bans Americans from doing business with them and makes it a crime to provide support or resources to the movement.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Daphne Psaledakis; writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

U.N. warns 2021 shaping up to be a humanitarian catastrophe

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Next year is shaping up to be a humanitarian catastrophe and rich countries must not trample poor countries in a “stampede for vaccines” to combat the coronavirus pandemic, top U.N. officials told the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Friday.

World Food Program (WFP) chief David Beasley and World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke during a special meeting on COVID-19, which emerged in China late last year and has so far infected 65 million globally.

The pandemic, measures taken by countries to try to stop its spread and the economic impact have fueled a 40% increase in the number of people needing humanitarian help, the United Nations said earlier this week. It has appealed for $35 billion in aid funding.

“2021 is literally going to be catastrophic based on what we’re seeing at this stage of the game,” said Beasley, adding that for a dozen countries, famine is “knocking on the door.”

He said 2021 was likely to be “the worst humanitarian crisis year since the beginning of the United Nations” 75 years ago and “we’re not going to be able to fund everything … so we have to prioritize, as I say, the icebergs in front of the Titanic.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his top officials have also called for COVID-19 vaccines to be made available to all and for rich countries to help developing countries combat and recover from the pandemic.

Tedros appealed for an immediate injection of $4.3 billion into a world vaccine-sharing program.

“We simply cannot accept a world in which the poor and marginalized are trampled by the rich and powerful in the stampede for vaccines,” Tedros told the General Assembly. “This is a global crisis and the solutions must be shared equitably as global public goods.”

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Blinken is president-elect’s pick as U.S. secretary of state – Biden ally

By Matt Spetalnick and Trevor Hunnicutt

NEW YORK/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – Joe Biden will pick Antony Blinken as U.S. secretary of state, a person close to the president-elect’s transition said on Sunday, elevating one of his most seasoned and trusted aides as he prepares to undo President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.

Blinken is a longtime Biden confidant who served as No. 2 at the State Department and as deputy national security adviser in President Barack Obama’s administration, in which Biden served as vice president.

A second Biden ally said that Blinken was Biden’s first choice. An announcement is likely on Tuesday.

Blinken’s appointment makes another longtime Biden aide with a foreign policy background, Jake Sullivan, the top candidate to be U.S. national security adviser, the first source said. Bloomberg News first reported the expected roles.

Biden’s transition team declined to comment. Neither Blinken nor Sullivan responded to requests for comment.

While neither are household names, Blinken and Sullivan have helped Biden formulate a strategy that will include immediate outreach to U.S. allies who have often been antagonized by Trump’s “America First” approach, and to demonstrate a willingness to work together on major global problems like the coronavirus epidemic and its economic fallout.

Biden has vowed to rejoin a nuclear deal with Iran if the country returns to compliance, return to the Paris climate accord, abandon plans to leave the World Health Organization and end a U.S. rule that bans funding of aid groups that discuss abortion. Each move would reverse Trump’s policies and some could take place quickly after Biden takes office on Jan. 20.

Biden is also likely to name Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, media outlets reported on Sunday. Thomas-Greenfield is Black, an expert on Africa policy and held a top diplomatic post in the administration of former President Barack Obama.

‘DIPLOMAT’S DIPLOMAT’

Blinken, 58, has long touted the view that the United States needs to take an active leadership role in the world, engaging with allies, or see that role filled by countries like China with contrary interests.

“As much of a burden as it sometimes seems to play … the alternative in terms of our interests and the lives of Americans are much worse,” he said in an interview with Reuters in October.

When asked if relations with the United States might improve with Blinken replacing Mike Pompeo, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian sidestepped the question by saying he does not comment on U.S. domestic affairs.​

He reiterated that China was willing to improve communication, strengthen cooperation and manage differences with the United States.

People familiar with his management style describe Blinken as a “diplomat’s diplomat,” deliberative and relatively soft-spoken, but well-versed in the nuts and bolts of foreign policy.

After Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election to Trump, Blinken became one of the founders of WestExec Advisors, a Washington consultancy advising corporations on geopolitical risks.

Having practiced law briefly, he entered politics in the late 1980s helping Democrat Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign raise money.

He joined Democratic President Bill Clinton’s White House as a speechwriter and became one of his national security aides.

Under Obama, Blinken worked to limit most U.S. combat deployments to small numbers of troops. But he told Reuters last year that Trump had “gutted American credibility” with his pullback of U.S. troops in Syria in 2019 that left Kurdish U.S. allies in the lurch in their fight against Islamic State.

On the campaign trail, Blinken was one of Biden’s closest advisers, even on issues that went beyond foreign policy.

That trust is the product of the years Blinken worked alongside Biden as an adviser to his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign, as national security adviser early in his vice presidency and as the Democratic staff director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair.

Sullivan, formerly a close policy aide to Hillary Clinton, became one of the key policy advisers to Biden. He served as the former vice president’s national security adviser during the Obama administration.

A 43-year-old graduate of Yale, who was also a Rhodes scholar at Oxford and has a reputation as a behind-the-scenes operator, Sullivan took part in secret back channel talks with Iran that led to a 2015 international nuclear deal that Trump subsequently overturned.

He took on a broad portfolio on foreign and domestic policy, including the campaign’s views on the public health and economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, and was quickly chosen to stay on with Biden through the transition.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick in New York, Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington, Delaware, and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Diane Craft, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Toby Chopra)

Trump to tell U.N. it ‘must hold China accountable for their actions’ on virus

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump will tell the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday it “must hold China accountable for their actions” related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Chinese government, and the World Health Organization – which is virtually controlled by China – falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission,” Trump will say, according to excerpts released ahead of delivery.

“Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease … The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions,” he will say.

Trump taped his speech on Monday at the White House for delivery remotely to the General Assembly, which convened virtually this week.

The president promised to distribute a vaccine and said: “We will defeat the virus, we will defeat the virus, and we will end the pandemic” and enter a new era of prosperity, cooperation and peace.

Trump, a frequent critic of the United Nations, also said in the excerpts that if the UN is to be effective, it must focus on “the real problems of the world” like “terrorism, the oppression of women, forced labor, drug trafficking, human and sex trafficking, religious persecution, and the ethnic cleansing of religious minorities.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Howard Goller)

Trump says to meet with North Korea’s Kim on June 12 in Singapore

FILE PHOTO - A combination photo shows a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) handout of Kim Jong Un released on May 10, 2016, and Donald Trump posing for a photo in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA handout via Reuters/File Photo & REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore for a first ever summit between the leaders of the two countries.

“The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th. We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!” Trump said on Twitter.

The two leaders are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and testing program, which has deepened long-seated tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

Trump’s announcement came just hours after three Americans who had been held prisoner in North Korea arrived at a U.S. military base outside Washington, having been released by Kim.

Trump said on their arrival that he believed Kim wanted to bring North Korea “into the real world” and had high hopes for their planned meeting, which would be the first between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

“I think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful,” Trump said. “My proudest achievement will be – this is part of it – when we denuclearize that entire peninsula.”

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell)