Palestinians announce agreement for unity government

Palestinians announce agreement for unity government


REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM — Palestinian factions said Monday they had broken a political impasse by agreeing to make Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas head of a proposed unity government between the secular Fatah Party and the Islamist militant movement Hamas.

Abbas would serve as president and prime minister, replacing current Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who was favored by Abbas and the international community to continue in that role but was rejected by Hamas leaders as being too pro-Western.

As president, Abbas was already in a position to play a leading role in the unity government, which was announced in May 2011. The government was never formed due to political in-fighting between Hamas and Fatah.

The appointment of Abbas, the leader of Fatah, to the additional role of prime minister is a shift from the original agreement, which called for a nonpartisan government of technocrats from neither party.

Some questioned whether the new government would differ substantially from the existing one. In addition, key details remain unclear, including whether Fayyad would continue as finance minister — a crucial post in the eyes of the international community — and who would control the security forces.

Announced with much fanfare last year, the reconciliation agreement was supposed to end more than four years of feuding, which began in 2007 after Hamas militants took control over the Gaza Strip and kicked out Fatah. After that, both sides created rival governments, each with its own prime minister and cabinet.

The unity government was intended to put Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza under the same government while preparations were made for elections in May. But doubts are already being raised about whether that vote will be held on schedule.

Abbas rejected criticism that the deal -– brokered over the weekend in Qatar -– was largely an effort to convince the Palestinian public that its leaders were making progress toward reconciliation.

“We didn’t sign this declaration for the sake of signing or for the media,” Abbas said during a news conference televised from the Qatari capital, Doha. “We consider the Palestinian reconciliation a vital Palestinian interest and a vital Arab interest.”

Fayyad expressed his support for the deal in a statement issued by the government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the agreement, saying Abbas should not form a government with Hamas, which has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel for refusing to renounce violence.

“If [Abbas] act on what was signed in Doha, he will be choosing to abandon the way of peace and joining with Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “I say you cannot hold both ends of the stick. It’s either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel.”

Some Palestinian leaders also questioned the legality of the agreement, which they said may violate a Palestinian law intended to prevent the same person from serving as president and prime minister.

“For Abbas to become a prime minister, the basic law needs to be amended,” said Hassan Khreisheh, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

It was also unclear whether Hamas leaders in Gaza would embrace the deal. A power struggle has emerged between Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, who signed the deal in Qatar, and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, whose future role in the unity government is unclear.

Hamas has been forced to abandon its exile base in Syria due to the instability there in recent months and is searching for another country to host its leaders.

Presidential elections in Turkmenistan – Looking from a different angle

Presidential elections in Turkmenistan – Looking from a different angle


Tariq Saeedi

Ashgabat, 4 February 2012 — The presidential elections in Turkmenistan will take place in less than 10 days from now.

Observers and analysts have raised several objections on the whole process:

  1. All the seven candidates running against President Berdymuhamedov are weak and obscure
  2. There is no opposition candidate
  3. The election manifesto of all candidates looks like a weak carbon copy of Berdymuhamedov’s manifesto
  4. These are sham elections; just a way for the sitting administration to stay in power

Superficially, these look like justifiable objections. Let’s examine them one by one.

Weak and obscure candidates

Two of the candidates against Berdymuhamedov are serving ministers, two are deputy governors of regions and two are heads of major industrial enterprises.

Because of their official positions, their names have been appearing off and on in the print and electronic media. In a system that is still struggling to get rid of its communist legacy, these candidates are not exactly obscure.

As far as their being weak is concerned, it is a relative term and cannot be applied wholesale. Weak against what? strong in what sense?

What is the sign of a strong candidate? Should he promise to break the whole system apart without knowing or caring for the consequences; without any plans to build something better in its place?

No opposition candidates

When talking of opposition candidate, we must first identify them. Is there any real opposition leader inside or outside the country?

Except for one possible exception, all of the names that are thrown around as opposition leaders are the persons with proven embezzlement cases against them. After fleeing the country with millions of dollars, they suddenly discovered, with helpful prodding by Russia and the west, that they were opposition leaders. This is not how authentic democracy works in real life environment.

Then, there is the matter of following the legal channels. No matter how cumbersome and obstructive, there is a system in Turkmenistan for getting registered as a presidential candidate. Admittedly, the law ‘On presidential elections’ is designed to keep unwanted candidates away.

However, this law has been around for quite a few years now. There was ample time for any opposition candidates to attempt to break into the system. Had they made high profile attempts to enter the presidential race, long before the elections were announced, one would have considered them as genuine candidates denied a chance. For instance:

  1. They could have moved the courts to reconsider the cases against them. Their requests would most probably have been turned down but they would have had on record their desire to seek justice.
  2. In their endless media appearances outside the country, they could have voiced some solid ideas on what they would do for the country and the people. Instead, they squandered all the opportunities in merely badmouthing the sitting government.
  3. They could have started or sponsored some media outlets with positive attitude instead of getting piggy ride on the biased and slanderous websites.
  4. They could have demonstrated in any way whatsoever that they have genuine concerns for the people instead of scheming with the western players for sabotaging and toppling the sitting regime.

Also, there is the undeniable code that as soon as a media outlet starts receiving funding from an interested country, organization or individual, it ceases to be an independent media. This is fully applicable to politicians and pseudo-politicians: The moment they receive funding from a foreign country, organization or individual, they forego the right to speak for their people.

Election manifesto

It is absurd to make an issue of similarity of manifestos of presidential candidates in Turkmenistan.

As Obama said before being elected, he will keep what is working and replace what is not.

There is no reason why this simple logic should not be applied to Turkmenistan: There are all the indications that the economy is growing, industrial base is expanding, benefits are trickling down to the people and the country is playing an increasingly useful role at the regional and global level. Why should there be any desire to tinker with this?

Sham elections

If we accept the indictment that these are sham elections, merely a ploy by the government to remain in power, is this an absolute inevitability?

What is there to prevent the voters to stamp on any name on the ballot paper once they are behind the curtain in the polling booth?

If the people are really, totally fed up with the present government, will they not put their stamp on any other candidate’s name except for Berdymuhamedov just to show their disgust?

Even if the whole process is a sham, the final 30 seconds of this process, when a voter is alone in the booth, are not a sham.

Hillary and Obama’s Army of Internet Geeks Sowing Subversion, Egyptian Courts Demand Justice

[SEE:  Egypt protests: secret US document discloses support for protestersEgyptian Police Fight Back Against State Dept./Soros Subversive NGOs ; A Glimpse Inside of Hillary’s Subversive “Intern Factory”  ;  State Dept. Calls Subversive Stable of Activist Geeks, “an underground railroad of trust”]

U.S. Asks Egypt About Reports Americans Will Be Prosecuted

By Nicole Gaouette and Viola Gienger

Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. State Department said it wants Egypt’s government to clarify reports that 19 Americans are among 43 people to be prosecuted in Cairo in an investigation of non-governmental organizations.

“We are deeply concerned by these reports,” Mark Toner, a State Department spokesman, said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions.

Egypt’s state-run Middle East News Agency reported earlier yesterday that the foreign workers are being charged with receiving illegal funding. The Washington-based National Democratic Institute said it learned “through judicial sources, media reports and its lawyer” that the case “has been referred to the Cairo Criminal Court for prosecution.”

The inquiry into the non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, whose stated aim is to promote democracy has added to strains between the U.S. and Egypt, and jeopardized American financial aid to the Egyptian military, a close ally.

Egyptian authorities have prevented Americans working for U.S.-funded NGOs, including the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, from leaving the country pending a decision on whether to put them on trial on grounds that they didn’t properly register with the government. Several of the democracy advocates have taken refuge at the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

‘Total Judicial Issue’

Egyptian authorities can’t intervene in the judicial branch’s inquiry, Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr said yesterday.

“These groups are under investigation by the judicial authorities,” Amr told delegates at a security summit in Munich. “Those groups are unregistered and from the view of the judiciary they were breaking the laws of Egypt. This is a total judicial issue. We cannot exercise influence on the judges.”

Investigators found out that large sums of money have been transferred to these organizations and provided to Egyptians “who used it to realize political goals,” Al Shorouk newspaper reported, citing judge Ashraf el-Ashmawy. “Investigations are still going on and more people will be referred to trial in the coming days,” the Cairo-based paper quoted him as saying.

Five Serbs, two Germans, three Arabs and 14 Egyptians are also reported to be facing charges, the National Democratic Institute said in an e-mailed statement. In a separate statement, the International Republican Institute, also a Washington-based group with staff in Egypt, called the reported prosecutions a “politically motivated effort to squash Egypt’s growing civil society, orchestrated through the courts, in part by Mubarak-era holdovers.”

Visiting Generals

A delegation of Egyptian generals is in Washington to discuss U.S. aid and security issues with military officials, lawmakers and the Obama administration.

The U.S. aid to Egypt, linked to the Camp David peace accord with Israel, is about $2 billion a year, according to the Congressional Research Service, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress. Most of the aid goes to Egypt’s army.

President Barack Obama must certify to Congress that Egypt is making progress toward democracy in order for the aid to continue. On Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, the generals met with State Department officials, including Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro.

The visits were part of a regular dialogue between the U.S. and Egypt on security assistance, Toner, the State Department spokesman, said Feb. 3. He said the travel ban and other issues related to NGOs were discussed. The Egyptian delegation also met last week with Defense Department officials and with members of Obama’s national security team.

–With assistance from Jonathan Tirone in Vienna and Mariam Fam in Cairo. Editors: Larry Liebert, Nancy Moran, Ben Holland, Louis Meixler.

To contact the reporters on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at; Viola Gienger in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

Avoiding civil war in Syria

Avoiding civil war in Syria

(China Daily)

When China joined hands with Russia on Saturday to veto an Arab-European draft UN resolution backing an Arab League plan to promote a regime change in Syria, its stance was consistent with its approach to international issues.

The draft resolution that sought to realize a regime change in Syria did not adequately reflect the state of affairs in this Middle East country.

In putting the resolution to the vote, Western powers hoped to further exert pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, thus paving the way for the removal of a regime that is an obstacle to their policies in the Middle East.

By only exerting pressure on the Syrian government and explicitly trying to coerce its leader al-Assad to step down, the resolution sends the message to armed groups and opponents of his regime that they have the support of the international community. This will undoubtedly make the Syrian situation even more complicated and make it impossible for all parties to reach a conciliatory agreement that is in the best interests of the country and its people.

We’ve seen what happened in Libya. With the armed intervention by some major Western powers, the Libyan regime was overthrown. But instead of the democracy and freedom they were promised, Libyan people cannot even live in peace as the country is in the danger of falling into a sectarian civil war.

It is not a question of whether Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad should step down or not. It is whether the ever-worsening crisis in the country will be brought to an end in such a way that the country will not be plunged into a sectarian civil war and its people plunged into even greater misery.

China maintains that any attempt by the international community to help Syria solve its crisis must respect the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the country.

A messy civil war in Syria will not be conducive to peace in the Middle East.

Russia’s stance that conditions should not be imposed on dialogue, and that any efforts should influence not just the government but also the armed groups is reasonable. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Mikhail Fradkov, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, will travel to Syria on Feb 7 to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The draft resolution was presented too hastily and the international community should give the Russian diplomatic endeavor time to soften the positions of all the parties in Syria so that an agreement can be reached that is for the good of the country.

The Chinese government believes that, in line with the UN Charter, political consultations are the best way to help a nation solve any political crisis.