White House Acknowledges 2016 Russia Meddling But Denies Impact

10 / 26

Justin Sink
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WH: Russian Meddling ‘Didn’t Impact’ Election

Video by Associated Press(Bloomberg) — White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders acknowledged on Tuesday that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections but said the efforts didn’t play a role in President Donald Trump’s victory.

“It’s very clear that Russia meddled in the election. It’s also very clear Russia didn’t have an impact on the election,” Sanders said at a briefing today. “And it’s also very clear that the Trump campaign didn’t collude with the Russians in any way for this process to take place.”

The president spent much of the holiday weekend tweeting about the Russia investigation after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals on charges that they carried out a multimillion-dollar operation to depress support for Democrat Hillary Clinton and boost backing for Trump in the 2016 election.

Trump was criticized for not speaking out against Russia after the indictment. He instead focused on comments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the indictment didn’t contain evidence that Trump’s campaign willingly collaborated with Russian efforts. He also rebuked his national security adviser for not defending the legitimacy of his election.

Sanders said Tuesday that Trump has acknowledged several times that Russia attempted to interfere with the U.S. elections. She also echoed another tweet by Trump over the weekend, in which he claimed to have been “much tougher on Russia than Obama.”

Sanders hinted the administration would soon reveal action it had taken against Russia, saying “an incident” will be “reported in coming days, another way that the president was tough on Russia.”

During the weekend, Trump also promoted a Fox News report featuring a “great timeline of all of the failures the Obama administration had against Russia.” He reiterated his complaints that Russian meddling was an “excuse” by Democrats for losing the presidential election and claimed he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election.”

“The Russian ‘hoax’ was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia – it never did!” the president wrote.

Trump’s previous statements contradict Mueller’s findings. In a 2016 interview with Time Magazine, Trump said he didn’t believe Russia interfered in the election; he also told Fox News that month he didn’t believe CIA conclusions that the Russians wanted to boost his chances.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in Washington.© AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in Washington.In November, Trump said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin when the Russian leader claimed he wasn’t responsible for meddling in the election, though at other points the president has said he believed Russia — or other countries — may be responsible for hacking activities related to the election.

The president also took aim at his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, who told an audience at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Russia had engaged in a “sophisticated form of espionage” against the U.S.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems,” Trump tweeted in reference to Hillary Clinton.

Sanders said Trump retained confidence in McMaster.

“He said that he liked the general’s answer, but just thought that little addendum would be helpful to add,” Sanders said.

Trump also reprimanded the FBI, saying the bureau overlooked advance warnings about the suspect in the Feb. 14 Florida school massacre because it was too busy investigating him.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud,” Trump tweeted.

Pressed about that comment, Sanders said the president didn’t intend to blame the FBI for the shooting.

“I think he’s making the point, we would like our FBI agencies to not be focused on something that is clearly a hoax in terms of investigating the trump campaign and its involvement,” Sanders said.

A person with knowledge of Mueller’s probe said last week the special counsel hadn’t concluded his investigation into whether Trump or his associates helped Russian efforts to interfere in the election, despite the president’s aides stressing Friday’s indictment showed no willing collaboration.

COURTESY: Bloomberg

Trump urges ban on gun devices like bump stocks

Associated Press

Cahterine Lucey and Ken Thomas
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Trump says he supports bump stock ban

Video by the Washington Post

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he has signed a memo directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to “ban all devices” like the rapid-fire bump stocks involved in last year’s Las Vegas massacre.

Seeking to show action days after a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Trump spoke during a White House ceremony recognizing bravery by the nation’s public safety officers.

“We must move past clichés and tired debates and focus on evidence based solutions and security measures that actually work,” Trump said.

The announcement came days after the shooting deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The device Trump referred to was used in the October shooting deaths of 58 people in Las Vegas, and attached to a half-dozen of the long guns found in the shooter’s hotel room. A legislative effort to ban the device fizzled out last year.

White House officials say the president will be meeting with students, teachers and state and local officials to discuss ways of providing more school safety and address gun violence. Pressure has been mounting for action after the Parkland shooting.

Trump has also indicated he is open to a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases.

Over the weekend, the White House said he had spoken Friday to Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, about a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen the FBI database of prohibited gun buyers.

Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders qualified the support, stressing that talks continue and “revisions are being considered,” but said “the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system.”

The main action Trump has taken on guns has been to sign a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people. The president has voiced strong support for gun rights and the National Rifle Association.

The bipartisan background check legislation would be aimed at ensuring that federal agencies and states accurately report relevant criminal information to the FBI. It was introduced after the Air Force failed to report the criminal history of the gunman who slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church.

The White House statement comes as shooting survivors and other young people press for more gun control in a rising chorus of grief and activism. Their “March for Our Lives” is planned March 24 in Washington.

Ella Fesler, 16-year-old high school student in Alexandria, Virginia, was among the students at the “lie-in” in front of the White House. She said it was time for change, adding: “Every day when I say ‘bye’ to my parents, I do acknowledge the fact that I could never see my parents again.”

But previous gun tragedies have not led Congress to act. After the Las Vegas massacre in the fall, Republicans and Democrats in Congress talked about taking a rare step to tighten the nation’s gun laws. Four months later, the only gun legislation that has moved through Congress eases restrictions for gun owners.

Kristin Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the measure Trump discussed with Cornyn would help to enforce existing rules but would not close loopholes permitting loose private sales on the internet and at gun shows. She’s pressing for a ban on assault-type weapons and for laws enabling family members, guardians or police to ask judges to strip gun rights temporarily from people who show warning signs of violence.

“We need a comprehensive system,” Brown said. “One of these isn’t enough.”

Trump, who visited first responders and some victims Friday, had focused his comments on mental health, rather than guns. The White House says the president will host a “listening session” with students and teachers on Wednesday and will discuss school safety with state and local officials on Thursday. They have offered no further details on who will attend those sessions.

Trump spent most of the weekend at his private Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago. White House aides advised against golfing too soon after the shooting. But on Presidents Day, the avid golfer headed to his nearby golf club. The White House did not answer questions about whether he was playing golf.

President Barack Obama took heavy criticism in 2014 when he went golfing during a vacation just minutes after denouncing the militants who had beheaded an American journalist. He later regretted playing golf so soon after the killing.

Trump watched cable television news during the weekend and groused to club members and advisers about the investigation of Russian election meddling.

In a marathon series of furious weekend tweets from Mar-a-Lago, Trump vented about Russia, raging at the FBI for what he perceived to be a fixation on the Russia investigation at the cost of failing to deter the Florida school attack.

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Danilova reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

COURTESY: AP

Pro-Syrian government militia move into Kurdish-controlled Afrin despite Turkish warnings

The deployment of pro-Syrian government forces raises the prospect of clashes with Turkish forces in Afrin. Soon after the convoy arrived, Syrian state media reported that Turkey had targeted them with shellfire.

Watch video00:42

Pro-Syrian government militia move into Kurdish-controlled Afrin

Pro-government Syrian forces moved into the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin on Tuesday despite warnings from Turkey, which halted the irregular troops’ advance with artillery fire.

Convoys of pro-Syrian government militia members were seen in video passing a Kurdish YPG militia checkpoint into Afrin.

“The Syrian government has responded to the call of the duty and sent military units on this day … to deploy along the border and take part in defending the unity of Syria’s territory and borders,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said in a statement.

Read more: Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish-held Afrin: What you need to know

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said hundreds of pro-Syrian government forces had entered Afrin.

The pro-government troops appeared to largely consist of National Defense Forces (NDF) units, a paramilitary militia organized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

On Monday, state media and Kurdish sources said the two sides were negotiating for pro-regime troops to help defend against the Turkish military and its rebel allies.

Read more: Erdogan: Turkish army will besiege Afrin within days

Map of North Syria

The troop movements raised the prospect of direct clashes between the Syrian regime and Turkey, which alongside rebel allies launched an offensive against the Kurdish-held enclave in northwestern Syria a month ago.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said artillery fire pushed back “Shiite militia” and “the case is closed for now.”

However, it was unclear if the pro-Syrian government militia forces had fully pulled back.  The YPG denied this.

Details of a deal between the Assad regime and Kurds are scant.  Kurdish sources have said that any deal would be limited to pro-Syrian government forces moving into border areas, essentially acting as buffer to an expanded Turkish offensive in Afrin.

Read more: Who are the Kurds?

Any agreement between the Kurds and the Syrian government further complicates the multi-sided conflict in northern Syria involving Kurdish forces, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, the United States, Iran and Russia.

In a complicated web of rivalries and alliances, the deal in Afrin means that Iran-backed pro-regime militia are cooperating with US-backed Syrian Kurds against NATO member Turkey and its rebel allies.

Turkey has warned that it will hit back at pro-Syrian government forces if they moved into Afrin, which is controlled by the YPG militia. Ankara considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization tied to Kurdish rebels fighting a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Watch video01:59

Shifting alliances in Syria’s protracted war

Earlier on Tuesday, Erdogan said Russia had intervened to block Damascus from entering Afrin and that the Turkish military would quickly expand its assault on Afrin.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Turkey to enter into direct negotiations with the Syrian regime, something that would be hard for Ankara to stomach.

“We recognize Turkey’s concerns regarding the current situation in Syria, and we recognize the Kurds’ aspirations,” Lavrov said. “I am confident that Turkey’s lawful interests of security provision can be implemented and satisfied through direct dialogue with Syria’s government.”

Read more: Syrian conflict: Where does the Assad regime stand on the Afrin offensive?

Watch video00:42

Mass funeral of Kurdish fighters killed in clashes

Iran and Russia are key backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Turkey has been one of the main backers of rebels seeking to oust Assad. But over the past two years, Ankara has focused on thwarting Syrian Kurdish gains and cooperated with Tehran and Moscow to try to end a civil war now in its seventh year.

The Syrian Kurds have had a tacit relationship with Damascus since it withdrew forces from parts of northern Syria in 2012 to focus on fighting rebels seeking to oust the Assad regime.

Further east, the YPG militia is a key component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which controls around 25 percent of Syrian territory after pushing back the “Islamic State” (IS) over the past three years.

Washington’s support of the SDF has been a major source of tensions between the United States and Turkey.

DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

COURTESY: DW

Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta?

Near Syria’s capital, Damascus, fighting has escalated between the Syrian government and rebels in the suburb of Eastern Ghouta. DW takes a look at these various groups and who supports them.

Syrian air bombardments against East-Ghouta (Getty Images/AFP/H. Al-Ajweh)

The Eastern Ghouta suburb is one of the last remaining areas of rebel control in Syria. These rebels, who demand the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, are being bombarded by Syrian military airstrikes. The United Nations described the bombardments on Monday as “senseless human suffering.” At least 200 civilians have been killed in the fighting over the last three days.  There are a total of 400,000 residents in Eastern Ghouta and rebel-controlled areas amount to about 100 square kilometers (40 square miles).

Syrian rebel groups are negotiating with Russia, a major Assad ally, to end the bombardments on Eastern Ghouta. “We are trying to do whatever we can do by negotiations with the Russians themselves, to interfere to stop these massacres,” Nasr al-Hariri, the head of the Syrian opposition’s negotiating team, told the DPA news agency. Here are the main rebel groups, many with Islamist leanings, operating in the suburb:

1. Jaysh al-Islam: The Jaysh al-Islam, or Army of Islam, coalition is centered in the Damascus area and Eastern Ghouta. It aims to replace the Assad government with a Syria based on Sharia, or Islamic law. The group’s founder, Zahran Aloush, recruited many of its members and expanded its arsenal of military equipment. He was assassinated by the Syrian military in a 2015 airstrike. The group is now headed by Essam al-Buwaydhani. It is the largest rebel faction in the Eastern Ghouta region, with an estimated 10-15,000 members. The organization is also said to have received money from Saudi Arabia, but has denied those claims.

Watch video02:26

Syrian opposition activist Adnan Hadad on government strikes on Eastern Ghouta.

2. Faylaq al-Rahman: The Faylaq al-Rahman organization, or al-Rahman Legion, is also based in Eastern Ghouta and is allied with Qatar. It is also connected to the Free Syrian Army, one of the biggest rebel coalitions formed at the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The organization describes itself as “a revolutionary military entity aiming for the downfall of the Syrian regime,” but it does not seek to turn Syria into an Islamic state. The group possesses American BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles. The organization is directly opposed to Jaysh al-Islam and has allied with Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham.

3. Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham: The Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham organization, or Organization for the Liberation of the Levant, is also known as the covert Syrian version of al Qaeda. It is led by Hasim al-Sheikh, also know as Abu Jabr, and is based in the northwestern city of Idlib. The organization believes in using violence to implement an ultraconservative religious doctrine.

4. Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement: The Harakat al-Din al-Zenki, or the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, is a Sunni Islamist group based in Aleppo. In June 2016, a video of the group circulated showing its members beheading a 15-year-old boy. The video received obvious attention, not only due to the cruelness of the action but also the fact that during that time the United States had financially backed the organization.

5. Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya: The Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya, or Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant, aims to also form an Islamic state in Syria based on Sharia. It’s membership is in the tens of thousands and merged with the Nour al-Din al-Zenki movement on February 18, 2018. The group has tanks, mobile artillery and anti-guided missiles it procured from its victories against the Syrian army. Its main rival is Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham. The organization has allegedly received money from donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey and is opposed by Syria, Iran and Russia.

Watch video02:02

Deadly shelling of rebel-held Damascus suburb

COURTESY: DW

Ghouta: Death toll soars as Syrian government bombards rebel-held city

Syrian pro-regime troops have launched a large-scale attack on the rebel-held eastern Ghouta near Damascus. After years under siege, some 400,000 civilians are trapped between between starvation and bombings.

Watch video02:02

Deadly shelling of rebel-held Damascus suburb

More than 100 people were killed on Tuesday as Syrian and Russian forces pounded a rebel-held Damascus suburb for the second day, bringing the death toll in the past 48 hours to at least 250 civilians.

Another 1,200 people people were injured in a combination of air strikes, rocket fire, and shelling on eastern Ghouta in the past two days, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Rebels and analysts say the regime is preparing a major ground offensive to retake the rebel-held enclave of some 400,000 people, which is surrounded and has been under siege since 2013.

‘Spiraling out of control’

Concern is mounting that the seige of eastern Ghouta could turn into a repeat of the battle for Aleppo, which was restored to government control in December 2016 after a brutal pro-regime onslaught.

Tens of thousands of people trapped in eastern Ghouta have gone months without basic food, medicine or supplies.

The latest escalation in fighting has left civilians trapped between starvation and bombings. At least seven hospitals have also been hit by Syrian or Russian airstrikes.

“The humanitarian situation of civilians in East Ghouta is spiraling out of control,” said United Nations regional coordinator for the Syria crisis Panos Moumtzis. “Many residents have little choice but to take shelter in basements and underground bunkers with their children.”

“It’s imperative to end this senseless human suffering,” he added.

In Geneva, UNICEF issued a blank statement on the suffering of children in Ghouta, saying it had run out of words.

“Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?” they asked.

Read more: Which rebel groups are fighting in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta?

No end in sight

Eastern Ghouta is one of four “de-escalation zones” drawn up by Russia, Iran and Turkey to lower violence in the country.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears bent on retaking the pocket of rebel territory so close to the capital.

For most of the civil war, the regime has prefered to siege and starve eastern Ghouta, rather than engage in a frontal assault.

The Syrian opposition said they were seeking to talk to Russian officials, who may be able to pressure Damascus into halting the attack. Two rebel factions signed onto the truce deal last year, which doesn’t include al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate.

A wounded man is carried following an air strike on the rebel-held besieged town of Arbin, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital DamascusA wounded man is carried following an air strike on the rebel-held besieged town of Arbin, in the eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus

Russia and Damascus are using a jihadist presence in eastern Ghouta as a pretext to launch an offensive, rebels there said.

“We are trying to do whatever we can do by negotiations with the Russians themselves … to interfere to stop these massacres,” Syrian opposition representative Nasr al-Hariri told the DPA news agency.

“Now the situation in Ghouta is getting more complicated and more catastrophic without any response until this moment from the international community,” said the official, whose Army of Islam rebel faction controls parts of the enclave.

Syrian state media said that rebels in eastern Ghouta had fired mortars at districts of Damascus, killing a child and wounding eight others.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Moscow and its allies could “deploy our experience of freeing Aleppo … in the eastern Ghouta situation.”

Lavrov blamed “armed provocations” by Nusra militants, formerly linked to al Qaeda, for current conditions in eastern Ghouta.

UN warns of war crimes in Syria after ‘one of the bloodiest periods’ in conflict

 

cw,av,dj/aw (AFP, Reuters, DPA)
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COURTESY: DW

South Africa: Cyril Ramaphosa announces ‘lifestyle audits’ for public officials

Outlining his first steps to tackle corruption, the new South African president told parliament he plans to screen the lifestyles of future government officials. He also spoke up over the deadly Marikana miners’ strike.

President Cyril Ramaphosa in parliament

New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told parliament on Tuesday it was time to implement resolutions on the conduct of lifestyle audits of all people who occupy positions of responsibility — starting with members of the executive.

It is time that we implement our resolutions on the conduct of lifestyle audits of all people who occupy positions of responsibility, starting with members of the Executive. – President Cyril Ramaphosa

“The work we must undertake to tackle corruption and state capture has, quite correctly, featured prominently in the debate,” Ramaphosa said as he addressed the assembly.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) issued a 5-point commitment on the issue of corruption and what has become known as state capture. The ruling party urged professional bodies and regulatory authorities to take action against “members who are found to have acted improperly and unethically.” It called for a quick start to the inquiry into state capture and to continue to investigate and prosecute “any and all acts of corruption.”

Marikana darkest moment

The new president also addressed the August 2012shootings of 34 mineworkers by police during a strike at the Marikana platinum mine operated by the UK-registered Lonmin mining company. Ramaphosa was a non-executive director of Lonmin at the time.

He said on Tuesday that the government had failed the people and that it was important to admit failures and take steps to redress them.

“The Marikana tragedy was the darkest moment in our young democracy,” Ramaphosa told parliament. “Notwithstanding the findings of the Farlam commission on my responsibility for the events that unfolded, I am determined to play whatever role I can in the process of healing and atonement for what happened at Marikana.”

Security officers at the Lonmin Marikana mine in January 2014Security officers at the Lonmin Marikana mine in January 2014

Economic and financial renewal

Ramaphosa said he wanted to build consensus and partnerships in rebuilding the economy: “I would like to have the best companies in the country, continent and the world to make commitments on investments that are going to create jobs for our people.”

The president again mentioned land expropriation but said he would not allow “smash and grab” interventions to take land without compensation. He said it should be done in a way that improves food security and agricultural output. Most of the land in South Africa is in the hands of white owners.

Watch video00:48

Cyril Ramaphosa: ‘A new dawn is upon us’

Ramaphosa, who was sworn in last Thursday after his scandal-hit predecessor Jacob Zuma resigned, has not yet announced his cabinet. Media reports suggest former finance ministers Nhlanhla Nene, who was sacked by former President Jacob Zuma in 2015 or Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, who were sacked in March last year, may return.

jm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

COURTESY: DW

Palestinian leader Abbas calls for Middle East peace conference, sidelining US role

In a rare UN speech, Mahmoud Abbas has called for an international mechamism to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Palestinian leader slammed the US, which he said could no longer be the sole peace mediator.

Watch video00:51

Abbas calls for Middle East peace conference

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday called for an international conference on Middle East peace in mid-2018 followed by UN recognition of a State of Palestine.

In a rare speech at a monthly UN Security Council meeting on Middle East issues, Abbas called for an end to the United States’ traditional role as the main mediator between Israel and Palestine.

“It has become impossible today for one country or state alone to solve a regional or international conflict,” Abbas said. “It is essential to establish a multilateral international mechanism emanating from an international conference.”

The Palestinians are furious at US President Donald Trump’s announcement in December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and accuse Washington of being biased towards the Jewish state. The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Abbas also lashed out at US threats to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington and the decision to cut to US funding of UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees.

Watch video02:49

US aid cut to Palestinians – DW talks to UNRWA director Pierre Krähenbühl

Settlements

Abbas blamed the failure of peace efforts on Israeli settlements and occupation, saying it was “acting as a state above the law.”

“It has transformed the occupation from a temporary situation as per international law into a situation of permanent settlement colonization,” he said.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks mediated by the Obama administration broke down in 2014 primarily over Israel’s continued building of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN”s envoy, said the international community must press for “substantial Israeli policy changes” on settlements and said that “these are not negotiations between equals.”

settlements in the West Bank

Read more:  PLO recognition threat on Israel: Posturing or hard-line diplomacy?

Reducing US influence

Abbas said the conference should include the Palestinians, Israel, the five permanent UN Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — and the United Nations.

Such an arrangement would reduce the weight of the United States’ influence. Israel wants direct negotiations with the Palestinians, which give it an upper hand.

The goal of the conference should be full UN membership for Palestine, mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine and a new mechanism for a final peace settlement, Abbas said.

The Trump administration is talking up a Middle East peace plan, but has provided few details or explained how unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as Israeli’s despite overwhelming international opposition was supposed to advance a two state solution.

Read more: Mahmoud Abbas dismisses Donald Trump’s peace efforts as ‘slap of the century’ to Palestinians

The US response

In a snub, Abbas left the Security Council meeting before the US and Israeli ambassadors spoke.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the US was “ready to talk” as it finalizes a peace plan proposal.

“But we will not chase after you. The choice, Mr. President, is yours,” she said to Abbas, who was not in the room.

On Jerusalem she said: “You don’t have to like that decision. You don’t have to praise it. You don’t even have to accept it. But know this: That decision will not change.”

Highlighting Palestinian perceptions of bias, she was joined by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, adviser on Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. Both are supporters of Israeli settlements.

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon said Abbas’ words and actions made it clear he was “no longer part of the solution. You are the problem.”

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cw/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

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