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Saturday, May 3, 2014

US officials: Even if Israel doesn’t like it, Palestinians will get state Read more: US officials: Even if Israel doesn't like it, Palestinians will get state

American officials directly involved in the failed Israeli-Palestinian peace process over the last nine months gave a leading Israeli columnist a withering assessment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, indicated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and warned Israel that the Palestinians will achieve statehood come what may — either via international organizations or through violence.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist from Israel’s best-selling daily Yedioth Aharonoth, the officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.

They made plain that US President Barack Obama had been prepared to release spy-for-Israel Jonathan Pollard to salvage the talks. And they warned that “the world will not keep tolerating the Israeli occupation.”

Barnea, who described his conversations with the American officials as “the closest thing to an official American version of what happened” in the talks, said the secretary is now deciding whether to wait a few months and try to renew the negotiating effort or to publicize the US’s suggested principles of an agreement.

Detailing how the US sought to solve disputes over the core issues of a two-state solution, Barnea wrote on Friday that, “Using advanced software, the Americans drew a border outline in the West Bank that gives Israel sovereignty over some 80 percent of the settlers that live there today. The remaining 20 percent were meant to evacuate. In Jerusalem, the proposed border is based on Bill Clinton’s plan — Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians.”

He quoted the Americans saying that while the Israeli government made no response to the American plan, and also failed to draw its own border outline, Abbas agreed to the US-suggested border outline.

Read more: US officials: Even if Israel doesn't like it, Palestinians will get state | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/us-officials-even-if-israel-doesnt-like-it-palestinians-will-get-state/#ixzz30fUjQsfn

China Condemns Unilateral Sanctions Against Russia

China strongly opposes unilateral sanctions against Russia, Beijing's ambassador to Moscow told reporters Wednesday, adding that US and EU sanctions would not resolve the crisis in Ukraine.

“We are against imposing unilateral sanctions on Russia. They are not a way out,” Chinese Ambassador Li Hui said.

The remarks followed Washington’s announcement on Monday that it had added seven high-ranking Russian officials and 17 Russian companies to a blacklist of sanctioned persons.

On Tuesday, the European Union agreed to fall in line with Washington and added another 15 Russian and Ukrainian individuals to its sanctions list. Among those targeted are Russia’s military chief of staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, and intelligence chief Igor Sergun, as well as six pro-federalization activists from Ukraine’s southeastern regions.

Li’s comments echoed a statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang earlier this week that “imposing sanctions is not helpful in terms of solving the problem. It will only exacerbate tensions.”

The Chinese minister called on all parties to continue dialog and promote a political solution. “Imposing sanctions goes against the interests of all parties," he said.

At the same time, Li lauded the continued growth of Russian-Chinese bilateral cooperation, adding there was a marked rise in trade turnover in recent years.

Beijing has been cementing its business ties with Moscow amid strained relations between Russia and the EU. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit China in May to sign a number of bilateral agreements, including on potential Russian gas supplies to China.

Credit to RIA Novosti

"We Are Essentially At War" Ukraine Admits, After Dozens Killed

While there may be some confusion about why massive bond buying greeted yesterday's "better than expected" loss of 209 jobs in the 25-54 age group, dragging stocks down, the answer is actually very simple:there is a war in the Ukraine.
A war which just took a turn for the worst after at least 42 people were killed according to Reuters in street battles between supporters and opponents of Russia in southern Ukraine that ended with dozens of pro-Russian protesters incinerated in a burning building. The riot in the Black Sea port of Odessa, ending in a deadly blaze in a besieged trade union building, was by far the worst incident in Ukraine since a February uprising that ended with a pro-Russian president fleeing the country.
The clip below, not for the faint of heart, shows anti-government protesters jumping from the burning Odessa trade unions house: it appears when Yanukovich was "killing" protesters in February, the west couldn't get up in arms fast enough screaming for the former president's overthrow. But now that the acting post-CIA funded coup government is doing the same thing to its own protesters, the radio silence is stunning.
But while yesterday's tragic events in Odessa were the first time the Ukraine conflict manifested itself in pro and anti-Russian clashes in the Black Sea town, it will hardly be the last: not only does the port city have economic and military significance, it also sits between Crimea and pro-Russian areas in eastern Ukraine and the breakaway Transnistria region of neighboring Moldova.
The admission of the true state of affairs finally came from Kiev itselfwhich said that Ukrainian forces pressed their assault on separatists today, freeing up a regional airport as the head of the country’s anti-terrorist center warned eastern regions are “essentially” at war.
The campaign in the Donetsk region left five dead from the Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation and 12 wounded, said the center’s chief, Vasyl Krutov, at a Kiev briefing, even as military observers were freed by anti-Kiev militants. Government forces have secured the town of Slovyansk as operations in Kramatorsk continue.
“What is happening in the east is not a short-term action, this is essentially a war,” Krutov said today.
War it is:
Open clashes are sweeping Ukraine’s east, from Donetsk near the Russian border to Odessa, about 100 miles from the European Union’s southeastern frontier in Romania, amid signs the industrial and coastal regions are slipping out of the Kiev government’s control. The U.S. and the European Union accuse Russia of being behind the unrest, while Russian President Vladimir Putin is “extremely concerned” and is studying the situation, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov, said today.
There was some good news: military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who were taken hostage a week ago were freed and will be delivered to the Council of Europe in Slovyansk near Donetsk, the council said today in a statement.
Bloomberg reports further that the U.S. and EU accuse Russia of stirring unrest to undermine Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a briefing today in Jezioro, Poland, that officials are “losing hope” about a diplomatic solution to end the crisis.
This is a war of maybe a different kind, it is a war that’s undeclared,” Tusk was quoted as saying by PAP newswire at a media briefing. “But what we’re really dealing with is de-facto a war. You can clearly see that actions taken by the international community haven’t brought results.”
To be sure, Ukraine and NATO is putting all the blame on Russia - not only for instigating the conflict but arming the separatists, seemingly oblivious of factual evidence that it was the US that was doing precisely the same just over three months ago when it was orchestarting the overthrow of the then government.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the use of advanced weapons showed the separatists were “professional saboteur groups” rather than peaceful protesters. In a statement, it called their tactics “characteristic of foreign military or mercenaries.”

Turmoil erupted yesterday in Odessa, where more than 130 people had been detained by police, with 10 criminal cases already started, according to Petro Lutsyuk, the head of the Interior Ministry’s directorate in the city, said on the agency’s website. The Interior Ministry later said on its website that Lutsyuk was fired.

The nearby city of Nikolaev hosts much of the country’s defense and shipbuilding industry, as well as Zorya-Mashproekt, a state enterprise that manufactures gas turbines for OAO Gazprom (GAZP), the Russian natural gas producer and exporter.
Meanwhile, the theater by western leaders hit a new peak yesterday when Obama and Merkel did all they could: threaten more sanctions. At their news conference in Washington, Obama and Merkel said Russia must pull back support for the separatists so Ukraine’s May 25 presidential election can go ahead unimpeded. If the vote can’t be held, “we will not have a choice but to move forward” with more sanctions, Obama said. Merkel called the election “crucial” and said she’s ready to support economic sanctions if needed.
Ironically, it is German commercial interests which as we said back in March, are doing all they can to prevent sanctions of Russia as they know well they would be the biggest losers. Germany is Europe’s largest economy and had $127 billion in trade with Russia in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund, making Germany is Russia’s second-biggest trading partner. Putin has threatened to escalate economic warfare if further sanctions are imposed.
“When we will reach a particular tipping point is very hard to say in advance,” Merkel said. “But all I can say is that the elections on May 25 are a decisive juncture for me and if there is further destabilization, things will get more and more difficult.”
Expect more furious bluster out of Germany and Obama, hoping that verbal escalation will finally cause Putin to pull back. It won't. Meanwhile Putin is keeping quiet. Which is the second good news because as we showed yesterday, all Putin has to do is give the command.

Ukraine crisis: 'thousands' pleading for our help says Russia, as more clashes take place

Russia has received “thousands” of pleas for help from people inside Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Saturday, after the worst bloodshed inside its neighbour since the revolution in February.

With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s eastern frontier, violence of the kind that claimed about 40 lives in the port city of Odessa might provide Moscow with a reason to invade.

However, Russia used its influence to secure the release on Saturday of seven military observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who had been held by pro-Kremlin rebels in the eastern town of Slavyansk.

The military officers – four Germans and one each from Denmark, Poland and the Czech Republic – were freed alongside five Ukrainians who were acting as their escort. They had spent eight days in captivity at the hands of pro-Russian insurgents who have de facto control over Slavyansk, a town of 100,000 people in Donetsk region.

Their release appears to have been brokered by Vladimir Lukin, an envoy from the Kremlin, who visited Slavyansk.

Nearby, however, the Ukrainian army resumed its attempt to restore Kiev’s control over Donetsk region. Arsen Avakov, the interior minister, said that government forces had seized back a television tower near the town of Kramatorsk in a dawn operation.

Ukrainian forces have also tried to seal off Slavyansk by capturing pro-Russian checkpoints on its perimeter. They have not yet attempted a full scale assault to retake the town.

All their decisions are taken under the shadow of Russia’s possible response. Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, denounced the bloodshed in Odessa, adding that “thousands” of “people are calling in despair, asking for help, the overwhelming majority demand Russian help. All these calls are reported to Vladimir Putin.”

But Mr Peskov said that Russia had not yet decided how to respond. “This element is absolutely new to us,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency. “Kiev and its Western sponsors are practically provoking the bloodshed and bear direct responsibility for it," added Mr Peskov.

Ukraine plans to hold a presidential election on May 25. The aim is to install a legitimate ruler after the downfall of Viktor Yanukovych, the fallen president, in the February Revolution. But Mr Peskov said that it would be “absurd” to hold an election under the current conditions of “military action, a punitive operation and mass killings”.

Credit to The Telegraph

Saudi Arabia Shows Off Chinese Missiles

Saudi Arabia’s military for the first time displayed Chinese made intermediate-range missiles during a recent military parade in the kingdom.

The unveiling of the two Chinese DF-3 missiles is the latest sign that the oil-rich kingdom is distancing itself from the United States.

The missiles were shown during a large-scale military parade featuring troops, warplanes and other military hardware. The parade marked the end of a large military exercise known as Abdullah’s Sword that ended April 29 in northeastern region of Hafar al Batan.

The DF-3s were purchased by the Saudis in a secret deal with Beijing in 1987 and the sale was the first time intermediate-range missiles had been exported.

The missiles are considered nuclear-capable because their accuracy as conventionally armed weapons is limited.

Screen capture from State-run Saudi media

Security analysts have speculated that the DF-3s are part of a secret agreement between the kingdom and Pakistan to share some of Islamabad’s nuclear warheads for the missiles in a future crisis or conflict.

Saudi Arabia is an arch foe of Iran and has been pressing the Obama administration to take a more forceful posture toward ending Iran’s covert nuclear arms program.

The disclosure of the missiles follows a recent visit to China by Saudi defense officials who U.S. officials say are angered at the Obama administration over its policies toward Iran.

Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud traveled to Pakistan in February. U.S. officials said the visit was an indication that the Saudis are preparing to purchase Chinese-designed JF-17 combat jets from the Pakistanis.

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan also visited Pakistan’s Heavy Industries Taxila fueling reports that the Saudi are buying the Chinese-Pakistani Al-Khalid tank.

The visit was viewed by U.S. officials as a clear indicator of Saudi anger at conciliatory Obama administration policies toward a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, and a perception in Riyadh that the United States is not supporting its friends.

Simon Henderson, a Middle East analyst with the Washington Institute, said the display of the missiles appears to be Saudi “messaging” to both the United States and Iran.

“These missiles were supplied to Saudi Arabia in 1987 and have long been based in the mountainous desert well south of Riyadh, from where they can target Iran,” Henderson said in a written analysis.

“The missile display signals Saudi Arabia’s determination to counter Tehran’s growing strength, as well as its readiness to act independently of the United States,” he said. “In particular, the presence of Pakistan’s top military commander [at the Saudi military parade] will reawaken speculation that Riyadh may seek to acquire nuclear warheads from Islamabad to match Iran’s potential.”

On relations with the United States, Henderson said reports from the summit in March between President Obama and King Abdullah revealed it was a “difficult” meeting.

Saudi Arabia in the past assured the United States that the DF-3 would not be equipped with nuclear warheads.

Screen capture from State-run Saudi media

Newsweek reported Jan. 29 that China also secretly supplied Saudi Arabia with more advanced DF-21 medium range missiles—among Beijing’s most advanced missiles that have been modified for use in attacking satellites and aircraft carriers at sea.

No DF-21s were displayed during the military parade.

“For Washington, the Saudi display is a reminder that Riyadh remains profoundly concerned about the course of events in the region,” Henderson said. “As the dominance of U.S.-supplied equipment in the parade indicated, Washington is still the kingdom’s preferred security partner, but the relationship continues to show signs of being frayed.”

Saudi press reports said the military exercises last month were the largest in the country’s history and involved tens of thousands of troops, jets, helicopters, ships and anti-missile systems.

“We are preparing our armed forces to protect the nation. The armed forces do not aim to attack anyone as this is not our wise government’s policy,” Lt. Gen. Hussian al Qabeel told state media.

According to U.S. officials, another sign that Saudi Arabia appears to be limiting its long-time friendship with the United States was the ouster last month of its intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to the United States who was considered one of the most pro-U.S. officials in Riyadh.

News reports from the Middle East stated that Bandar was directing Saudi efforts to finance, arm and support Syrian rebels seeking the overthrow of the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus.

Bandar had been intelligence chief since 2012 and his departure from the post is widely regarded as an indication of a major shift in Saudi policy away from the United States.

Credit to Washington Free Beacon

Putin: Kiev, Western allies responsible for Ukraine bloodshed

Video: APCs near Slavyansk as Kiev intensifies military op in eastern Ukraine