Iran nuclear deal collapse could spell grave consequences for the Korean peninsula – Lavrov

The potential collapse of the nuclear deal with Iran could set a dangerous precedent and will have serious consequences for the tense standoff on the Korean peninsula, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned.

Tensions between North Korea and the international community have steadily been rising over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. An already volatile situation has been further inflamed by hostile rhetoric and military provocations from both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

The case with Iran, whose own nuclear program is likewise viewed with suspicion by the US, has been soothed, so far, by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – agreed to in 2015 by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the so-called P5+1.

 
Morteza Nikoubazl ©

"It is evident that the failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, especially through the fault of one of the participants in the P5+1 group, will become an alarming signal for the whole architecture of international security, including prospects for the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula," Lavrov said before a meeting of the UN Security Council. Russia's Foreign Minister underlined that scrapping JCPOA will undermine any deal made with Pyongyang.

Last week, Trump announced that he would waive the economic sanctions on Iran, lifted under the JCPOA agreement, which sees Tehran scale back its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. He warned America’s European allies, however, that Washington could still pull out of the agreement if its terms were not met. Trump previously referred to JCPOA as the “worst deal ever.”

At the UN, Lavrov reiterated the importance of seeking a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis. He again put forward the “double-freeze” strategy proposed by Russia and China, in which the US and its allies cease major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program.
"We reaffirm the relevance of the road map proposed by Russia and China in the interests of an exclusively peaceful settlement of this problem," he said.

Washington has consistently rejected the plan. It did so again at a joint summit with Canada this week, proposing more sanctions on Pyongyang instead. In an interview with Reuters Wednesday, Trump said military action is still very much an option.

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The Eagles Settle Lawsuit Against Mexico's Hotel California

"Hotel California" is the title track from the 1976 Eagles album of the same name, and won the 1977 Grammy award for record of the year.

There can evidently be only one Hotel California: music legends the Eagles have settled a lawsuit to stop a Mexico hotel from using the name "Hotel California," arguably the rock band's most famous song, after the hotel's owners withdrew their application to trademark the name in the United States.

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A joint dismissal of the band's lawsuit against Hotel California Baja LLC, which runs the Todos Santos hotel in Baja California Sur, was filed on Wednesday with the US District Court in Los Angeles, Reuters reports.

"This case has been settled by mutual agreement of the parties," Thomas Jirgal, a lawyer for the Eagles, said in an interview on Thursday.

The dismissal came on the same day the US Patent and Trademark Office accepted Hotel California Baja's request to permanently abandon its trademark application.

Neither the hotel nor its lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment.

"Hotel California" is the title track from the 1976 Eagles album of the same name, and won the 1977 Grammy award for record of the year.

It is known for a long guitar outro by Don Felder and Joe Walsh, and abstract lyrics that lead singer Don Henley told CBS News in 2016 depict "the dark underbelly of the American dream."

Hotel California Baja was accused of wrongly encouraging guests to believe the Eagles authorized using the song's name, such as by playing the band's songs throughout its property.

The Eagles said this was done in part to spur sales of T-shirts, posters, refrigerator magnets and other merchandise for guests to take home after they check out and leave.

In court papers, Hotel California Baja denied it was trying to mislead guests, and said they were unlikely to be confused.

Located about 1,609km south of San Diego and 77km north of Cabo San Lucas, the hotel had been called Hotel California when it opened in 1950.

It underwent some name changes, but the original name was revived after John and Debbie Stewart, a Canadian couple, bought the property in 2001.

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Racist: Massive Outrage over Trump 'Shithole' Migration Remark

Prominent figures in the U.S. and abroad have condemned Trumps remarks calling countries like Haiti and El Salvador "shitholes."

Haitian and U.S. activists as well as U.S. lawmakers, including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, joined many in the U.S. and abroad in slamming President Donald Trump's latest immigration comments calling it "morally inadequate," and "racist". Earlier on Thursday during a meeting with Senate and House members, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly asked "Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?"

RELATED: Trump Administration Revokes TPS for Salvadorans

The insulting comments generated an immediate backlash from journalists, political figures, and activists all over the globe.

in an an interview with CNN shortly after Trump's comments, Senator Sanders spoke of part of his personal story to highlight how Trump's comments affect not only immigrants but also first generation U.S. citizens. "I am a first generation American, and my dad came from what I guess Trump would call a shithole, that was a very rural and a very poor area from Poland," Sanders said and further expressed his admiration for immigrants coming to the U.S. at a young age. "I cannot believe the courage that that took."

@WajahatAli So we don't forget, in addition to calling Africa, Haiti and El Salvador "shithole countries," Trump also said all Haitians have AIDS, Nigerians live in huts, Mexicans are rapists and criminals and Muslims should be banned because, of course, "Islam hates us." Economic. Anxiety.

Prominent Haitian left-wing activist Rene Civil blasted the U.S. president for his comments calling him “a cancer on the world” and demanding that he apologizes to both Haiti and the African continent. "Haiti is not a 'shithole.' It's a great country. It's the mother of liberty,” Civil said in an interview with Reuters Thursday night as he kissed the Haitian flag. 

He also demanded Trump “apologize before the entire African continent as well as before Haiti, the country whose blood has been used by ancestors who have served with their minds and bodies to liberate the United States itself from slavery."

United States scholar Steven Salaita criticized Trump's remarks calling them "racist" and blasting Trump for likening "Blackness to shit." The countries targeted by Trump were overwhelmingly Black countries like Haiti, of which he said: they "have sent 15,000 people, they all have AIDS." 

@stevesalaita Trump calling Haiti and African countries "shitholes" is racist, period. He implies that poverty arises from innate cultural and intellectual deficiencies rather than from centuries of US/European enslavement, colonization, and genocide. He also likens blackness to shit. 

The American Civil Liberties Union also slammed Trump's comment a "racist", while National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP, lamented: "As our nation fights to move forward, our President falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of racism and xenophobia."

@ACLU There are no words for language like this except for one: Racist. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-attacks-protections-for-immigrants-from-shithole-countries-in-oval-office-meeting/

Meanwhile Latino journalist Julio Ricardo Varela responded to Trump by reminding him of the U.S.'s role in regional crisis and instability. "Last time I checked, the USA has an amazing ability to create shitholes," Varela claimed in relation to Washington's role in Central America. El Salvador was another country targeted by Trump's remarks.  

@julito77 Last time I checked, the USA has an amazing ability to create “shitholes.” Made in the USA. Central America is literally a region that the US started directly controlling well over a century ago. How no one is talking about this in depth right now doesn’t surprise me.

White House CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins argued that Trump's "shithole" comment "will resonate with his base." And this is probably true. President Trump ran on a racist platform, and during his campaign he didn't shy away from calling Mexican immigrants "rapists and criminals." Furthermore, after white supremacist violence in Charlottesville resulted in one dead woman, Trump refused to condemn white nationalism and described some of the neo-Nazi protesters as "very good people".

@KarenAttiah I hope every media outlet that is going to produce outraged pieces about Trump’s “shithole" comments takes a long and hard look at its coverage of black and brown countries.

Even lawmakers from Trump’s own party blasted his comments. Republican U.S. Representative Mia Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, said the comments were "unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation's values" and called on Trump to apologize to the American people and to the countries he denigrated.

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‘Shrewd & mature N. Korean leader has won this round' – Putin on peninsula crisis

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has emerged a winner in the latest crisis around the Korean Peninsula, Russian president Vladimir Putin said. He believes Pyongyang is now trying to defuse tensions.

I believe, Mr Kim Jong-un has certainly won this round,” Putin told journalists at a meeting with the Russian media. He said North Korea has achieved its strategic goal.

 
Ri Son Gwon exchanges documents with Cho Myoung-gyon, January 9, 2018.  © Yonhap

“He has a nuclear [charge] and a … missile with a range of up to 13,000 kilometers that can reach almost any place on Earth or at least any territory of his potential adversary,” Putin told journalists on Thursday. The Russian president said the North Korean leader is likely to be seeking an easing of tensions in the region.

“He is already an absolutely shrewd and mature politician,” Putin added.

The latest crisis around the Korean Peninsula broke out in September 2017 after Pyongyang claimed it had conducted a hydrogen bomb test. The US responded to North Korean actions by flexing its muscles and conducting a number of military drills in the region with its allies South Korea and Japan. North Korea replied to this saber-rattling by conducting several missile tests, including one, according to Pyongyang, involving an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Both Pyongyang and Washington, along with its allies, added further fuel to the fire by issuing repeated threats against one another. US President Donald Trump repeatedly said the US could use a “military option” in dealing with the crisis and even threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” during the annual General Debate of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. More recently Trump said in a Twitter post that his “nuclear button” is “bigger and more powerful.”

Russia and China, by contrast, have called for a peaceful resolution of the crisis from from the outset. Moscow and Beijing put forward a “double freeze” initiative that envisaged the US and its allies halting all major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program. The initiative was, however, turned down by Washington.

 
Head of North Korean delegation, Ri Son Gwon, is greeted by a South Korean official as he crosses a concrete border to attend their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas, January 9, 2018. © Korea Pool

Russia also repeatedly called on all parties involved in the Korean crisis to “break the vicious cycle of confrontation, reckless schemes and sanctions” and engage into a meaningful dialog instead. In December, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said North Korea wants to engage in a direct dialog with the US to assure its security, adding that Russia could help with these talks.

In January, Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to hold high-level bilateral talks to discuss the North’s potential participation in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, as well as other issues related to improving relations. The move followed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year message, in which he wished success for the 2018 Olympics.

During the talks held on January 9, the two sides agreed on the participation of North Korean athletes in the South Korean Olympics. They also discussed the potential reunification of families separated by the Korean War. In a significant breakthrough, the two Koreas agreed on talks between army officials in order to avoid dangerous military incidents.

Pyongyang’s chief negotiator, however said there was no need to discuss the North Korean nuclear program because all its weapons “are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia.” Trump meanwhile has claimed it was his aggressive stance that made the negotiations between two Koreas possible.

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Maduro Announces Implementation of People's Defense System

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said today that in 2018 the people's defense system for peace will be implemented.

This system, along with the people's militias, encourage the participation of the people in favor of peace, something that according to specialists, is a concern for some sectors in the United States that promote an armed aggression against Venezuela.

During the ceremony of the year-end celebration of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (Fanb) at the Ministry of Defense, Maduro said that 2017 was a heroic year, in which Venezuela demonstrated that 'it is capable and that no one will be able to defeat us'.

Maduro also pointed out that 2017 was the year of the unity against oligarchy, as well as the 'triumph of peace over the oligarchic guarimba, it was the year of the people's unity in the Bolivarian National Armed Force, of farmers and workers, a Fanb made up of people. A year of victory for peace.'

He also urged Fanb to develop in 2018 a 'bold deployment and training plan to tune our defensive capacity, our people, and keep on winning respect for our country'.

He said that U.S. imperialism and the Government of U.S. President Donald Trump reached a dangerous point of despair for their failures in 2017, attempting to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution, so he urged the Venezuelan people not to lower their guard.

Maduro also tackled the smuggling affecting the country and urged Fanb to strengthen the fight against that scourge that affects the population.

'They are taking basic products and diamonds, gold, Venezuela's mineral wealth. We are going to make decisions. I expect recommendations to implement them during the first days of January,' he said.

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China: 'US Has No Right to Act as Human-Rights Judge'

"We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge," said China's Foreign Ministry. 

Chinese officials have slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for sanctioning public security official Gao Yan, insisting that the United States has no right to act as a "human-rights judge."

RELATED: China Releases Human Rights Report on US: 'Terrible Problems'

In March 2014, Yan was head of the Chaoyan Detention Center, in Beijing, where rights activist Cao Shunli was detained and interrogated, according to Reuters, before dying in hospital while in police custody.

Human-rights groups have said that Shunli was both tortured and prevented from receiving medical care before she died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has now issued an executive order targeting Yan, blocking the property of foreign nationals involved in human-rights abuses.

Four Russians, including the head of the republic of Chechnya, were also placed on the sanctions list known as the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law which inters the bank assets of those targeted.

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said: "We urge the United States to impartially and objectively look upon China's human-rights development and to stop acting as a so-called human-rights judge." 

She went on to state that the Asian country's police maintain public safety according to Chinese laws and the United States should refrain from using its domestic jurisprudence to determine which foreign nationals should be sanctioned.

Beijing officials have often criticized Washington for scrutinizing China's human-rights record. Earlier this year, China's State Council released its own report, denouncing the United States for its "terrible human-rights problems."

"With the gunshots lingering in people's ears behind the Statue of Liberty, worsening racial discrimination and the election farce dominated by money politics, the self-proclaimed human-rights defender has exposed its human rights 'myth' with its own deeds," the report said.

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Palestine Slams US 'Blackmail,' Says Jerusalem Not 'For Sale'

The Palestinian Liberation Organization called President Trump’s threat to countries voting against his Jerusalem decision extortion and blackmail.

The Palestinian leadership responded Wednesday to the U.S. threat to cut aid to countries defying Washington’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel's capital saying such tactics of “extortion” would only isolate the United States globally.

RELATED: Abbas Says 'Crazy' Seeing US as Mediator, Turns East in Quest for Statehood

"President Trump should know that there are things that are not for sale or subject to blackmail, particularly issues of principle, legality and morality,”  Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Executive Committee Member at the Palestinian Liberation Organization said in a statement posted on the group’s website.

“Extortion is the most effective way for the US to isolate itself even further and to weaken its influence and standing globally. We will not be deterred or intimidated.”

Ashrawi added that she was confident that most countries at the United Nations will honor their “legal and political obligations on Palestine" in the upcoming vote at the U.N. General Assembly.

https://imgs.openmultimedia.biz/640x480/clips/imagen-2017-12-19-160405424346-693816.png

On Monday the U.S. vetoed a draft resolution calling on Washington to withdraw its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at the United Nations Security Council, while the 14 other members of the council voted in favor of the resolution.

Arab and Muslim countries, infuriated by President Donald Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, called for an emergency General Assembly meeting in order to vote on the draft resolution. The 193-country body agreed to hold the rare meeting and will be held on Thursday.

As a response to holding the special session U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, in a letter to dozens of U.N. states on Tuesday seen by Reuters, warned that Trump had asked her to "report back on those countries who voted against us." She bluntly echoed that call in a Twitter post: "The U.S. will be taking names."

RELATED: 70 Years of Broken Promises, The Untold Story of Israel's Partition Plan

Ashrawi’s statement came just hours after Trump doubled down Wednesday on the threat, telling reporters that his administration would cut aid to those countries that “voted against us.”

Last month the U.S. president ended decades of Washington’s policy stating that the status of the city of Jerusalem must be decided as part of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, a position that most of the international community continues to fully support.

In the 1967 war Israel took over the eastern part of the city as well as the West Bank from the Jordan. In 1980, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and declared it as its capital, a move that was rejected by most countries in the world.

Palestinians and most of the international community consider East Jerusalem as occupied territory and the future capital of a sovereign Palestinian state.

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US sends 'dangerous message' by turning blind eye to Guantanamo tortures - UN

The US is in “clear violation” of the United Nations Convention against Torture over “gruesome” abuses committed by its agents in locations such as Guantanamo Bay, according to a UN official.

The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, noted in a Wednesday statement that "perpetrators and policymakers responsible for years of gruesome abuse have not been brought to justice, and the victims have received no compensation or rehabilitation," despite a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report acknowledging the use of torture in US custody.

The UN rapporteur also stated that torture reportedly continues at US sites, including Guantanamo, despite former President Barack Obama ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" in a 2009 executive order.

 
Britain's opposition Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson © Toby Melville

Melzer accused the US of being in "clear violation" of the UN's Convention against Torture and of sending a "dangerous message of complacency and impunity to officials in the US and around the world."
He stressed that his particular concern regards detainees who face "prolonged detention in almost complete isolation," according to a release on the website of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

Melzer noted the case of Guantanamo inmate Ammar al-Baluci, a Pakistani citizen and alleged 9/11 co-conspirator, who was named 153 times in the 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report. Baluci is said to have suffered torture during more than three years at CIA "black sites" before eventually being moved to Guantanamo, where he reportedly endures further abuse.

“Mr al-Baluchi has been held in isolation at a severely restricted-access facility at Guantanamo Bay for more than a decade,” Melzer said, elaborating that "noise and vibrations are reportedly still being used against him, resulting in constant sleep deprivation and related physical and mental disorders, for which he allegedly does not receive adequate medical attention."

The special rapporteur made clear that the ban on torture and ill-treatment is "absolute and allowed for no exceptions whatsoever," according to the UN release. “This is one of the most fundamental norms of international law, and its violation is listed among the most serious international crimes, including crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Melzer said.

 
Omar Khadr © Todd Korol

"...I therefore now urge the US to live up to its legacy, to end its policy of impunity and to bring its own perpetrators to justice," Melzer added. He noted that a "society bruised by torture and abuse" can only heal when the "truth about secret policies and practices is fully disclosed to the public and when full reparation and rehabilitation is granted to victims."

Melzer also requested once again to be allowed an official visit to Guantanamo and to interview inmates. "I very much regret that, despite repeated requests, my predecessors and I have consistently been refused access to Guantanamo and other high security facilities, in accordance with the standard terms of reference of my UN mandate,” he said.

Guantanamo Bay, which turned 15 years old in January, has long been the subject of scrutiny from the US and abroad, particularly for its use of torture and for holding prisoners without charge. Although President Obama campaigned with a promise to shut it down, that vow was never fulfilled. Meanwhile, his successor Donald Trump has expressed his support for the facility.

"There should be no further releases from Gitmo," Trump tweeted in January, less than three weeks before his inauguration. "These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield."

@realDonaldTrump There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.

Around 800 prisoners have been detained there over the years, often subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques" including waterboarding. Some have reportedly been stripped naked and confined to dark cells for significant periods of time. Inmates went on a major hunger strike in 2013 to protest their detention and treatment at the facility, resulting in authorities force-feeding them.

  • Published in World
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