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August 9, 2014

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August 9, 2014

Asia Leaders Stress Cooperation With Russia at Summit

The Wall Street Journal - World

Asia Leaders Stress Cooperation With Russia at Summit

Dialogue Is Key in Probe of Downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Diplomats Say

Aug. 8, 2014 11:04 a.m. ET

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Left to right, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, Brunei Foreign Minister Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng and Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyidaw Friday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar—Southeast Asian diplomats said Friday that they won’t pressure Russia over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, trying to keep an Asian security summit that includes Moscow focused on dialogue and the need for cooperation in an investigation.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations raised the issue in discussions among themselves Friday but will keep the focus during wider talks this weekend on the need for a transparent investigation.

The Asean Regional Forum will be attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also expected to attend. So are their counterparts from China, Japan, South Korea and other powers with interests the region.

K. Shanmugam, Singapore’s minister of foreign affairs, told reporters that “Asean is not proceeding with Russia as the guilty party.”

The Boeing 777 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile July 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight. The U.S. and Ukraine have said the missile was fired by rebels backed by Russia, a charge Moscow denies.

The unstable security situation in the area has repeatedly stalled an investigation on the ground, though most the bodies have been recovered and transported to the Netherlands for forensic identification following intense backdoor diplomacy by Najib Razak, Malaysia’s prime minister.

Malaysia hasn’t adopted a confrontational stance against Russia but demanded free access to the crash site for investigators. Malaysia’s attorney general has said the country has the right to prosecute the people who fired the missile.

Malaysia will chair a bilateral Asean meeting Saturday with Russia. Asean operates by consensus and seldom takes a confrontational approach in relations with the bigger powers with a footprint in Asia.

“Don’t expect any statement or pressure on Russia,” said Ye Htut, Myanmar’s information minister. “The Asean Regional Forum is not to force any other country. It’s about mutual respect and dialogue.”

Malaysian officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

The downing of Flight 17 followed the disappearance March 8 of Flight 370 dwith 239 people on board over the Indian Ocean for reasons that remain unknown.

Earlier Friday, Malaysia’s state investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns nearly 70% of Malaysia Airlines, disclosed a US$430 million plan to take the loss-making flag carrier private, a first step in a restructuring that could force layoffs and board changes.

The three-day meeting in Myanmar’s capital will also discuss the territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China has increasingly pressed military claims to nearly the entire sea and engaged in a tense two-month standoff with Vietnam by moving an oil-exploration vessel into the disputed waters. China withdrew the vessel last month but has asserted its companies were within their rights.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, all Asean members, also have claims, as does Taiwan. Asean has been divided in recent years between members who want to push a stronger unified position against China and others that don’t. A Code of Conduct to avoid escalation of disputes has stalled for a decade.

China has proposed some measures that it describes as “low hanging fruit” that will be discussed, Mr. Shanmugam said. He didn’t disclose details.

Mr. Shanmugam said that Asean nations believe that “substantive moves” are needed on the code of conduct. He also said that every nation has an interest for incidents in the disputed area to be “contained.”

“You need to start looking at what can be done to move ahead,” Mr. Shanmugam said. “There is consensus on trying to move on the code of conduct.”

The U.S. is expected to back a demand by the Philippines for a temporary moratorium on all activities in the disputed area. Mr. Shanmugam said the U.S. call wasn’t discussed Friday.

Write to Gaurav Raghuvanshi at and Shibani Mahtani at



August 9, 2014

Iraq airstrikes: Preventing genocide was the least bad option

Iraq airstrikes: Preventing genocide was the least bad option

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Iraqi refugees receive humanitarian aid at a camp near Irbil.


Iraqi refugees receive humanitarian aid at a camp near Irbil.

THE FORMAL withdrawal of American forces from Iraq never meant that the United States could categorically disengage from that country. As fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria advanced toward the previously stable Kurdish-dominated city of Irbil this week, and as the massacre of thousands of members of the Yezidi religious group appeared likely, President Obama’s decision to order US airstrikes against the militant group was the least objectionable option. It need not — and should not — signal a re-escalation of a war whose human toll has been horrific.

Even as he announced his decision late Thursday, Obama made it clear that there were limits to the engagement and that the United States would not get involved in another land war in Iraq. His evident reluctance revealed the airstrikes for what they are: a stopgap measure to keep ISIS in check, while also buying time for a more competent and inclusive Iraqi government to emerge.

The airstrikes, which have been coupled with humanitarian aid for civilians in danger, meet a narrow set of criteria: They were invited by the relevant governing authority, namely Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki; they helped to prevent what, some feared, might become a genocide; and they served a strong US interest — in this case, protecting Iraq’s stable and largely autonomous Kurdish region from outside attackers. Beyond the threat to the Yezidis, the recent advance of ISIS fighters threatened to create a population exodus that would render Irbil and other areas still more vulnerable to attack — and give ISIS access to oil supplies that the militant group could use to enrich itself.

Obama also had reason to be confident that US involvement would help forestall such an outcome, and at an acceptable cost; during the later years of Saddam Hussein’s regime, enforcement of the so-called no-fly zone in northern Iraq prevented major military operations against Kurdish areas.

The president’s decision to order airstrikes now, thereby shoring up a de facto Kurdish state, contrasts with his more restrained response to the ISIS advance elsewhere. In the Sunni Arab-dominated areas where it has gained power, the group, despite its brutality, enjoys some support from powerful local interests. Indeed, ISIS owes its recent successes in no small part to Maliki’s increasingly sectarian Shiite-led government, which has given Sunnis little reason to believe a unified, pluralistic Iraq is possible.

Obama has no illusions, either. If anything, his decision to assist the Yazidis and the Kurds showed a recognition that Washington’s influence over Iraq as a whole is limited. The US administration should do what it can to encourage Maliki to leave office.

But precisely because it can’t dictate the outcome of the current power struggle, the Obama administration had good reason to react in real time to an emerging humanitarian threat. And having unleashed the forces now struggling for control over the country, the United States has lost any moral justification for looking the other way.


August 6, 2014

George Osborne: Baroness Warsi resignation over Gaza ‘disappointing and unnecessary’

George Osborne: Baroness Warsi resignation over Gaza ‘disappointing and unnecessary’

Senior Tories round on Warsi’s resignation as PM reveals she did not speak to him about Gaza concerns before quitting

4:35PM BST 05 Aug 2014

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George Osborne has condemned Baroness Warsi’s “disappointing and frankly unnecessary” decision to resign over the situation in Gaza, as it emerged she had not told the Prime Minister about her concerns beforehand.

Lady Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, announced her resignation on Twitter on Tuesday morning, calling Britain’s policy on Gaza “morally indefensible”.

In her resignation letter, she was also highly critical of David Cameron’s recent reshuffle, making reference to the sackings of Ken Clarke, the former minister without portfolio, and Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general.

She criticised the manner in which Philip Hammond, the new Foreign Secretary and her superior, formulates policy.

David Cameron revealed she had not spoken to him about her concerns before she resigned.

Mr Hammond said the decision was a “surprise” given Israeli forces are withdrawing from Gaza, saying they had discussed the crisis at length over the weekend.

The Chancellor immediately hit out at her decision, which took the Government by surprise, and said that ministers are “working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza”.

“This a disappointing and frankly unnecessary decision,” he said. “The British government is working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza and we now have a tentative ceasefire which we all hope will hold.”

Mr Osborne added: “We have made it clear that we want to see restraint on all sides, we want to see a ceasefire on all sides. We are working to bring that about. Today there is a prospect of a brief ceasefire, but we want to see that permanent.”

The Chancellor’s comments highlight the growing tensions that existed between senior Cabinet ministers and Lady Warsi in the months ahead of her resignation.

David Cameron said he was “sorry” about her decision, but used a public letter to reveal that she had not told him of her intention to resign.

“I realise that this must not have been an easy decision for you to make and very much regret that we were not able to speak about your decision beforehand,” he said.

Defending Britain’s policy on Gaza, he said: “I understand your strength of feeling on the current crisis in the Middle East – the situation in Gaza is intolerable. Our policy has always been consistently clear: we support a negotiated two state solution as the only way to resolve this conflict once and for all and to allow Israelis and Palestinians to live safely in peace.

“Of course, we believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. But we have consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint, and to find ways to bring this fighting to an end.

“As part of that, we have consistently called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire.”

Philip Hammond questioned the timing of Lady Warsi’s resignation, saying they had spoken “a great deal” over the weekend and Israeli forces are withdrawing from Gaza as a ceasefire takes hold.

“Sayeeda and I have talked a great deal about her concerns, including a long conversation over the weekend, but we’ve seen some progress over the last 24 hours.

“Everybody has to answer for their own conscience for their own actions, but I find it rather surprising that she’s chosen now, this particular moment, to take this stand, when in fact we are now at long last seeing some relief,” he said.

In a rejection of her demands for vocal British condemnation of Israel, he said pushing for a ceasefire required British diplomats to be “dispassionate.”

“To my colleagues who say ‘Can you do a bit more megaphone diplomacy over here or over there, offend one side or the other side a bit more?’, I say, it is more important to achieve the result.”

Michael Howard, the former Tory leader, said her resignation was a “great loss” but backed the Government, saying: “If our Government wants to have any influence in bringing about a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East, it has to be very cautious and circumspect and measured in what it says.”

Writing on Twitter, Lady Warsi said: “With deep regret I have this morning written to the Prime Minister & tendered my resignation. I can no longer support Govt policy on #Gaza”.

In her resignation letter presented to the Prime Minister Lady Warsi said the British response to the crisis in Gaza will have a long term “detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically”.

She appeared to suggest that Britain’s support for Israel could encourage extremism in the UK. Home Office evidence suggested that Britain’s response to the Gaza crisis risked “becoming a basis for radicalisation [that] could have consequences for us for years to come”, she wrote.

The letter indicates Lady Warsi’s wider disgruntlement at the way David Cameron runs his administration.

She wrote: “For some weeks, in meetings and discussions, I have been open and honest about my views on the conflict in Gaza and response to it.

“My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East Peace Process generally but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically.”

She also suggested the Israeli government should face international trial for alleged war crimes, but feared the British Government would not support that position. She wrote in the letter: “Particularly as the Minister with responsibility for the United Nations, The International Criminal Court and Human Rights, I believe our approach in relation to the current conflict is neither consistent with our values, specifically our commitment to the rule of law and our long history of support for international justice.”

Speaking afterwards, she told the Huffington Post website: “As the minister for the International Criminal Court, I’ve spent the last two and a half years helping to promote, support and fund the ICC. I felt I could not reconcile this with our continued pressure on the Palestinian leadership not to turn to the ICC to seek justice.”

In a thinly-veiled attack on Mr Cameron’s reshuffle, she said: “”In many ways the absence of the experience and expertise of colleagues like Ken Clarke and Dominic Greive has over the last few weeks become very apparent,” she added.

She also expressed concern at the way the Foreign Office is run. William Hague had “dismantled foreign policy making by sofa government and restored decision making and dignity to the Foreign Office.”

But in what may be interpreted as a criticism of Philip Hammond, Hague’s successor and her new boss, she wrote: “There is however great unease across the Foreign Office, amongst both Ministers and senior officials, in the way recent decisions are being made.”

Lady Warsi, who had the right to attend Cabinet, had become increasingly uncomfortable with Israel’s military action in Gaza and the British government’s response to it.

In recent days she had used Twitter to ask for details of protests, and in one message wrote: “Can people stop trying to justify the killing of children. Whatever our politics there can never be justification, surely only regret.”

Lady Warsi held the position of Senior Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

She was previously Chairman of the Conservative Party and Minister without Portfolio, having joined the Cabinet in 2010.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “Most reasonably minded people across Britain will agree with the sentiments expressed by Baroness Warsi in her resignation statement today.

“It is a sad reflection of the Prime Minister’s misjudgement of the crisis in Gaza that this capable Minister has felt the need to leave the Government.”

Labour has condemned the Israeli incursion into Gaza and called the Prime Minister’s reticence “inexplicable”.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, said the news was “very sad” and hoped she return to Government “as soon as possible.”

After making a speech on immigration, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that it was “the first I have heard of it”.

Mr Clegg said that it was an “open secret” that there were “different opinions” among ministers “in reaction to bloodshed in Gaza”.

He said that despite being a self-proclaimed Zionist, he regards the Israeli action in Gaza as “ugly disproportionate and tragic” and will harm Israel in the long-term.

Lady Warsi attended Birkdale High School and Dewsbury College, and studied law at the University of Leeds.

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