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TUESDAY 23 MAY 2017,



There’s rare opportunity for Mideast peace: US president

Netanyahu said Israel shared

Trump’s commitment to peace

— but he also repeated his right-

wing government’s political and

security demands of the Pales-

tinians, including recognition of

Israel as a Jewish state.

“May your first trip to our re-

gion prove to be a historic mile-

stone on the path towards reconcil-

iation and peace,” Netanyahu said.

US Secretary of State Rex Til-

lerson told reporters en route to

Tel Aviv that any three-way meet-

ing between Trump, Netanyahu

and Abbas was for “a later date”.

Trump has vowed to do what-

ever is necessary to broker peace

between Israel and the Palestin-

ians — something he has called

“the ultimate deal” — but has

given little indication of how he

could revive negotiations that

collapsed in 2014.

When he met Abbas this

month inWashington, he stopped

shortly of explicitly recommit-

ting his administration to a two-

state solution to the decades-old

conflict, a long-standing founda-

tion of US policy. He has since

spoken in support of Palestinian


Trump has also opted against

an immediate move of the US

Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusa-

lem, a longtime demand of Israel.

A senior administration of-

ficial told Reuters last week that

Trump remained committed

to his campaign pledge to ulti-

mately relocate the embassy, but

would not announce such a move

during this trip:

“We’re having very good dis-

cussions with all parties and, as

long as we see that happening,

then we don’t intend to do any-

thing that we think could upset

those discussions.”

On Sunday, Israel authorised

some economic concessions

to the Palestinians that it said

would improve civilian life in ar-

eas controlled by the Palestinian

Authority and were intended to

respond to Trump’s request for

“confidence-building steps”.

The United States welcomed

the move but the Palestinians said

they had heard such promises be-

fore. Trump will have visited sig-

nificant centers of Islam, Judaism

and Christianity by the end of his

trip, a point that his aides say bol-

sters his argument that the fight

against militancy is a battle be-

tween “good and evil”.


US President Donald Trump (2ndL) looks at his wife Melania signing a guest book as Israeli President Reuven

Rivlin (3rd L) and his wife Nechama (R) stand nearby at Rivlin’s residence in occupied Jerusalem on Monday.

— Reuters

200 suspected military coup plotters on trial in Turkey


Turkey put on trial

200 suspects on Monday includ-

ing senior military officers ac-

cused of plotting and orchestrat-

ing last year’s failed coup, in a

court case where prosecutors are

calling for life sentences.

The defendants, among them

President Tayyip Erdogan’s aide-

de-camp, the former head of Tur-

key’s air force, and dozens of gen-

erals, colonels and majors, were

paraded on their way to court

past dozens of protesters who

demanded the death penalty and

threw nooses towards them.

Around 1,500 security per-

sonnel were deployed for securi-

ty at the trial, state-run Anadolu

news agency reported, which was

held in a purpose-built court-

house in Sincan on the outskirts

of the Turkish capital.

More than 240 people, many

of them civilians, were killed in

the failed coup on July 15, 2016,

when a group of rogue soldiers

commandeered tanks, warplanes

and helicopters, bombing the

parliament and attempting to

overthrow the government.

Those on trial in Sincan in-

cluded core suspects behind the

coup who raided the state broad-

caster and forced the presenter

to read out an announcement

saying the army had taken over

and Turkey was being run by a

committee they called “Peace at


Erdogan blames Fetullah

Gulen, a US-based cleric and a

former ally, and his global net-

work for orchestrating the coup,

a charge Gulen denies. Turkish

authorities have arrested nearly

50,000 people over alleged links

with the preacher.

At the start of the hearing,

families of the victims attend-

ing the trial screamed at the de-

fendants, and one woman in the

courtroom, whose son was killed

during the coup, broke down.

“Kill these traitors, the mur-

derers of my son,” she screamed

before fainting. The judge called

for a medical team to be brought

into the courtroom.

From a total of 221 defen-

dants, more than 200 are from

the military and more than half

of those were officers who held

ranks from captains up to gen-

erals. All but 12 of the suspects,

who are still at large, appeared in

court. Gulen, who is among the

defendants, is among those being

tried in absentia.

Following confirmation of the

suspects’ identity and the read-

ing of a summary of the roughly

2,000-page indictment, suspects

will be able to put forward their


Hearings at the trial, one

of the largest of several coup-

related trials taking place across

Turkey, are expected to last until

June 16.

Citing the coup attempt as a

grave threat to the state, Turkish

authorities have also sacked or

suspended around 150,000 civil

servants, teachers, judges, pros-

ecutors, police and soldiers and

have shut down around 150 me-

dia outlets.

While the detentions may

have been supported by some

Turks in the immediate after-

math of the abortive putsch, criti-

cism mounted as arrests widened

to include groups of which many

deny any connection to Gulen.



US President Donald Trump said

on Monday that Iran must imme-

diately stop its financial and mili-

tary support for “terrorists and

militas” and he reiterated that

it never be permitted to possess

atomic arms.

“Most importantly, the Unit-

ed States and Israel can declare

with one voice that Iran must

never be allowed to possess a nu-

clear weapon - never, ever - and

must cease its deadly funding,

training and equipping of ter-

rorists and militias, and it must

cease immediately,” Trump said

in public remarks at a meeting in

occupied Jerusalem with Israeli

President Reuven Rivlin.

US President Donald Trump

arrived in Israel on Monday on

the second leg of his first over-

seas trip since entering office

and said he had new reasons to

hope for peace and stability to

the Middle East after his visit to

Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu and his wife Sara,

as well as President Reuven Riv-

lin and members of the Israeli

cabinet, were at Tel Aviv’s Ben-

Gurion airport to greet Trump

and first lady Melania in a red

carpet ceremony.

“During my travels in recent

days, I have found new reasons

for hope,” Trump said in a brief

speech on arrival.

“We have before us a rare op-

portunity to bring security and

stability and peace to this region

and its people, defeating terror-

ism and creating a future of har-

mony, prosperity and peace, but

we can only get there working

together. There is no other way,”

he said.

During my travels in

recent days, I have found

new reasons for hope.

We have before us a

rare opportunity to bring

security and stability

and peace to this region

and its people, defeating

terrorism and creating

a future of harmony,

prosperity and peace,

but we can only get there

working together. There

is no other way.

Donald Trump

US president


makes some

concessions to

Palestinians as

Trump visits


Israel on Sunday authorized a

few economic concessions to the

Palestinians requested by Presi-

dent Donald Trump, hours be-

fore the US leader began a visit in

which he hopes to revive peace

talks frozen since 2014.

As well as the concessions,

Prime Minister Benjamin Netan-

yahu’s Security Cabinet — a fo-

rum of senior ministers — voted

to establish a committee to ex-

amine legalizing outposts built

without formal approval in the

occupied West Bank.

“The security cabinet has

approved economic measures

that will ease daily civilian life

in the Palestinian Authority after

(Trump) who arrives tomorrow,

asked to see some confidence

building steps,” the cabinet state-

ment said.

Trump arrived in Israel on

Monday and met Netanyahu. On

Tuesday, he will go briefly to the

West Bank to see Palestinian Presi-

dent Mahmoud Abbas and will lat-

er speak in Jerusalem before head-

ing to Rome and then Brussels.




ahead of Trump’s visit that do not

harm Israel’s interests,” an Israeli

diplomatic source said.

The concessions include the

building of two industrial zones

at Jalameh in the northern West

Bank and Tarqumiyeh in the

south and would keep the Allen-

by Bridge crossing that connects

the West Bank and Jordan open

24 hours a day.

It said it would also ease re-

strictions on Palestinian con-

struction in areas where it retains

overall control at places that abut

Palestinian urban areas.

Among the main bones of con-

tention between Israelis and Pales-

tinians are Netanyahu’s insistence

that the Palestinians recognize

Israel as the nation state of the

Jewish people and the Palestinians

calling for a halt to Israeli settle-

ment building in the West Bank.

The committee to examine

legalizing Israeli outposts would

work for three years, although

its exact mandate was still to

be defined, the statement said.

Over decades, settlers have built

scores of hilltop outposts without

receiving government approval.

Most countries consider all

Israeli settlements, including

those built with official sanction,

to be illegal. Israel disagrees, cit-

ing historical and political links

to the land — which the Palestin-

ians also assert — as well as secu-

rity interests.

The Palestinians want to es-

tablish a state in the West Bank

and in the Gaza Strip, which Is-

raeli forces and settlers left in

2005, with East Jerusalem as its


— AP

Iran must stop funding, training

terrorists immediately: Trump

France says not planning to reopen embassy in Syria


France’s foreign minis-

try said on Monday that the re-

opening of its embassy in Syria

was not on the table, signalling

there may be no fundamental

change to Paris’ approach to the

Syrian conflict under new presi-

dent Emmanuel Macron.

Citing a political source close

to Macron, pan-Arab daily news-

paper Al-Hayat had reported on

Monday that Macron was review-

ing France’s decision to close the

embassy in 2012.

“The reopening of our em-

bassy in Damascus is not on

the agenda,” Foreign ministry

spokesman Romain Nadal said in

a daily briefing.

Officials at the president’s of-

fice did not immediately respond

for comment, although Macron

ruled out reopening the embassy

during a campaign trip to Beirut

in January.

Some European Union coun-

tries which withdrew their am-

bassadors from Syria as the con-

flict worsened in the country

have indicated a willingness for

more communication with Da-

mascus given the ongoing fight

against Daesh (the so-called IS)

even though France and Britain

have staunchly opposed it.

With the arrival of Macron,

Paris’ policy on Syria has yet to

be clearly defined.

However, the new president

has said his priority will be the

fight against IS as well as creat-

ing a political road map to end

the conflict that has killed hun-

dreds of thousands and displaced


Former President Nicolas

Sarkozy closed the French em-

bassy in March 2011. His succes-

sor Francois Hollande maintained

that policy, actively backing oppo-

nents to Syrian President Bashar

Al-Assad and saying he could not

be part of any future political set-

tlement in the country.

After an alleged chemical

attack by Assad forces in April,

Macron said that the Syrian

president would have to “answer

for his crimes in international


– Reuters

French embassy in Damascus