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Senior Chinese diplomat holds phone conversation with US secretary of state

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Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee, on Friday held a phone conversation with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the latter’s request.

Noting that dialogue and cooperation should be the mainstay of China-US relations, Yang said cooperation must be mutually beneficial and address each other’s concerns in a balanced manner.

The Chinese side is committed to working with the United States to achieve a relationship of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, and will staunchly safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests at the same time, Yang said.

China urges the US side to follow the spirit of the telephone conversation between the two heads of state on February 11, and to jointly bring bilateral relations back to the right track of development, Yang added.

The Taiwan question concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and involves China’s core interests, said Yang, adding that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China.

Yang said that the Chinese side firmly defends its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China urges the United States to adhere to the one-China principle, honor its promise and cherish its credibility, handle issues related to Taiwan in a prudent and proper manner, and take concrete actions to maintain the overall situation of China-US ties as well as peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, Yang said.

Yang pointed out that recent signs indicate that some anti-China forces are trying to stir up one after another sinister waves to smear China under the excuse of the so-called Xinjiang and Hong Kong-related issues, and they are doomed to failure.

Noting that the issues related to Xinjiang and Hong Kong concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and involve China’s core interests, Yang urged the US side to respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, not to interfere in China’s internal affairs under any pretext, and not to damage China’s core interests in any way.

The issues related to Xinjiang are not so-called human rights or religion issues, Yang stressed.

Seeing violent and terrorist incidents on the rise in Xinjiang, the Chinese government took resolute actions to safeguard public safety, Yang said, adding that the Chinese moves are totally justified.

The US side has fabricated various lies about Xinjiang in an attempt to sabotage the stability and unity in Xinjiang, which confuse right and wrong and are extremely absurd. China is firmly opposed to such actions, Yang said.

Yang said Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China, and Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs.

The aim of improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is to safeguard the constitutional order of the HKSAR as defined in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, and ensure that “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” with patriots as the mainstay, he said.

It is a common practice in the world to make strict requirements on the patriotic stance and political qualifications of those who govern, Yang said, adding that those clamoring for “Hong Kong independence” are not eligible to participate in the administration of Hong Kong and must be punished by the national security law in Hong Kong.

Yang stressed that there is only one system and one order in the world: the international system with the United Nations (UN) at the core and the international order based on international law, not the so-called system and order advocated by a handful of countries.

He said that there is only one set of rules: the basic norms of international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, not the so-called rules formulated by a small number of countries.

Yang also said that there is only one kind of multilateralism, which is genuine multilateralism based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law, and featuring equal treatment, cooperation and mutual benefits, not pseudo-multilateralism based on interests of small cliques and group politics, letting alone practicing unilateralism in the name of multilateralism.

Peace and development, fairness and justice, democracy and freedom are the common values of all humankind, said Yang.

Respect for sovereignty is a prerequisite for the realization of human rights, which is a principle affirmed by the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Yang said.

The US side should fix the serious human rights violations on its own territory, instead of wilfully interfering in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of so-called human rights, said Yang.

Yang pointed out that China has actively participated in and supported international anti-epidemic cooperation, and firmly opposes any despicable acts that use the epidemic as an excuse to slander China and to shift blames.

Some people in the United States have fabricated and peddled absurd stories claiming Wuhan lab leak, which China is gravely concerned about, he said.

China urges the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicizing COVID-19 origin tracing and concentrate on international anti-pandemic cooperation, Yang said.

He noted that China is about to celebrate the centenary of the CPC, saying that the Chinese people have made great achievements under the strong leadership of the CPC, and will be more closely united and work harder, unswervingly follow the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, build a more prosperous country and realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

For his part, Blinken said the recent series of contacts between the United States and China is beneficial to bilateral relations, and the US side looks forward to increasing contacts and exchanges with China at all levels.

The United States adheres to the one-China policy and abides by the three Sino-US joint communiques, Blinken said, adding that the United States hopes to maintain communication and coordination with China on important international and regional issues.

The two sides also exchanged views on other issues of common concern.

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Israel set to swear in government, end Netanyahu’s long rule | International

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel is set to swear in a new government on Sunday that will send Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that sparked four elections in two years.

Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultranationalist party, will take over as prime minister. But if he wants to keep the job, he will have to maintain an unwieldy coalition of parties from the political right, left and center.

The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but agree on little else. They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the U.S. without launching any major initiatives.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power.

The country’s deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote. He was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber.

Bennett’s speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

“Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”

Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for its decades of support for Israel.

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government will likely be more stable than it appears.

“Even though it has a very narrow majority, it will be very difficult to topple and replace because the opposition is not cohesive,” he said. Each party in the coalition will want to prove that it can deliver, and for that they need “time and achievements.”

Still, Netanyahu “will continue to cast a shadow,” Plesner said. He expects the incoming opposition leader to exploit events and propose legislation that right-wing coalition members would like to support but can’t — all in order to embarrass and undermine them.

The new government is meanwhile promising a return to normalcy after a tumultuous two years that saw four elections, an 11-day Gaza war last month and a coronavirus outbreak that devastated the economy before it was largely brought under control by a successful vaccination campaign.

The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years, if the government lasts that long.

Israel’s parliament, known as the Knesset, will convene to vote on the new government at 4 p.m. (1300 GMT). It is expected to win a narrow majority in the 120-member assembly, after which it will be sworn in. The government plans to hold its first official meeting later this evening.

It’s unclear if Netanyahu will attend the ceremony or when he will move out of the official residence. He has lashed out at the new government in apocalyptic terms and accused Bennett of defrauding voters by running as a right-wing stalwart and then partnering with the left.

Netanyahu’s supporters have held angry protests outside the homes of rival lawmakers, who say they have received death threats naming their family members. Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service issued a rare public warning about the incitement earlier this month, saying it could lead to violence.

Netanyahu has condemned the incitement while noting that he has also been a target.

His place in Israeli history is secure, having served as prime minister for a total of 15 years — more than any other, including the country’s founder, David Ben-Gurion.

Netanyahu began his long rule by defying the Obama administration, refusing to freeze settlement construction as it tried unsuccessfully to revive the peace process. Relations with Israel’s closest ally grew even rockier when Netanyahu vigorously campaigned against President Barack Obama’s emerging nuclear deal with Iran, even denouncing it in an address to the U.S. Congress.

But he suffered few if any consequences from those clashes and was richly rewarded by the Trump administration, which recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, helped broker normalization agreements with four Arab states and withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal.

Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a world-class statesman, boasting of his close ties with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also cultivated ties with Arab and African countries that long shunned Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians.

But he has gotten a far chillier reception from the Biden administration and is widely seen as having undermined the long tradition of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States.

His reputation as a political magician has also faded at home, where he has become a deeply polarizing figure. Critics say he has long pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy that aggravated rifts in Israeli society between Jews and Arabs and between his close ultra-Orthodox allies and secular Jews.

In November 2019, he was indicted for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. He refused calls to step down, instead lashing out at the media, judiciary and law enforcement, going so far as to accuse his political opponents of orchestrating an attempted coup. Last year, protesters began holding weekly rallies across the country calling on him to resign.

Netanyahu remains popular among the hard-line nationalists who dominate Israeli politics, but he could soon face a leadership challenge from within his own party. A less polarizing Likud leader would stand a good chance of assembling a coalition that is both farther to the right and more stable than the government that is set to be sworn in.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Britain will be America’s pet. But it’s Europe’s future that’s at stake | Simon Tisdall

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Beneath the strained bonhomie of the G7 summit lurks a visceral fear: that Joe Biden’s bid to build a democratic alliance to stem the authoritarian tide led by China and Russia will split the world in two, leaving Europe, betrayed by Boris Johnson’s turncoat Britain, to play piggy-in-the-middle.

Despite public applause for Biden’s key message – that the US is “back” after the xenophobic hyper-nationalism of Donald Trump – European leaders seem far from convinced. They worry the EU may be sucked into a second, limitless cold war, and that Biden, who will be 82 in 2024, could be unseated by a hawkish Trump or Trump clone.

The message to Europe in Johnson’s fawning weekend embrace of Biden and America, symbolised by a reworked Atlantic Charter and much Cornish corniness, was clear. Like a whipped bulldog craving favour, Brexit Britain will be Washington’s obedient, needy pet. Johnson is no Winston Churchill. But like Churchill in 1941, he’s desperate for US backing.

Biden will strive to hold the transatlantic alliance together, which for him means all the European democracies, including the UK. But the Johnson government’s anti-EU trajectory, seen in the latest row with Brussels over Northern Ireland, threatens his vision.

Last week’s forceful pre-emptive intervention by senior US officials suggests that London will eventually be forced to compromise, if only because Johnson dare not jeopardise the wider US relationship. Yet UK-EU antagonism looks set to deepen. Biden will have to tighten the leash again in future.

Europe’s concerns about strategic isolation as a newly divisive, bipolar world order takes shape are well founded. To its east lies China, Russia and like-minded regimes in India, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia – autocratic, aggressive and contemptuous of western-defined international norms.

To its west lies the US, a damaged power, divided against itself, whose political stability and consistency can no longer be depended upon. Biden’s efforts to restore normalcy to international relations are assured of European support for as long as he lasts, as this week’s EU-US and Nato “reunion” summits will demonstrate.

But if Trump or his followers regain power, a permanent US rupture with Europe and its liberal, multilateralist principles may become unavoidable. This in turn could wreck the EU if, say, copycat populists in Poland or Hungary were to definitively break with Brussels. For his part, Johnson would be happy to see Trump return and the EU split asunder.

Fears about Europe’s future in a hostile world are reflected in a comprehensive new survey of EU states by the European Council on Foreign Relations. It reveals what its authors call “a widespread lack of confidence in the US ability to come back as leader of the west”. Most Europeans believe America’s political system is broken.

This disillusionment is not wholly due to Trump. “More than a year after the start of the pandemic, the feeling has taken root among Europeans that they cannot rely on the US, Russia or China, and that they must move towards greater self-reliance,” the survey concludes.

In short, they don’t trust anyone any more. Instead, majorities believe Europe should develop unified responses to global threats. They prefer pragmatic partnerships to permanent alliances. Many want the EU to be a “beacon of democracy and human rights” and a great power capable of defending itself.

At a time when the EU faces an extraordinary 21st-century agenda – the climate crisis, the pandemic, economic recovery, migration, digitisation, cyber-threats and rightwing populism – such ambition should, in theory, be welcome.

And yet Europe’s politicians and bureaucrats seem unprepared. While the public wants the EU to do more, confidence is low that it will – not least due to its Covid-19 missteps. “Disappointment with EU institutions has now come out of the periphery and gone mainstream,” the ECFR says.

This reflects a broader problem: a dearth of effective national leaders. Few are committed to building the independent, self-sufficient Europe voters want. Solidarity is lacking when it comes to standing up to China over Xinjiang and Hong Kong, to Russia over Ukraine, Belarus and Alexei Navalny, or to the US over Israel-Palestine and trade.

In Germany, to which many Europeans look for leadership that never quite arrives, Angela Merkel’s imminent departure as chancellor has created a sort of funk. Despite talk of a Green revolution, voters seem likely to opt (as usual) for the safe, inward-looking, centre-right choice – namely Armin Laschet, Merkel’s CDU successor.

In France, Emmanuel Macron, who has no illusions about Johnson or US altruism, regularly calls for a fiscally, economically and militarily integrated Europe. Yet the president’s eloquence has not helped him at home, where he was quite literally slapped down last week. In any event, he is increasingly distracted by a tough 2022 re-election battle.

In Italy, the rise and rise of far-right parties such as the Brothers of Italy, feeding off immigration fears, inspires ultra-nationalists, xenophobes and bigots everywhere. Brothers leader Giorgia Meloni’s ideas about identity and globalist conspiracies make her a natural ally of Trump, not of Biden or Brussels.

Those who look, meanwhile, for strong EU leadership look in vain. If the union were a true democracy, Ursula von der Leyen, commission president, would have been voted out over her vaccine fiasco. But the EU does not work that way, which is part of the problem.

For EU leaders, the G7 perpetuated a fantasy of power and purpose. Unless they urgently take ownership of its destiny, Europe will be squeezed like an unripe lemon between rival global forces that share neither its values nor its interests.

Europe’s choice: be a standup player on the world stage – or risk becoming a quirky cultural museum for Chinese tourists and the butt of Trump’s and Johnson’s jokes.

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International Relations

Foreign diplomats face expulsion | Citypress

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 International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pando addressing the media at Luthuli house. Photo: Christopher Moagi


International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pando addressing the media at Luthuli house. Photo: Christopher Moagi

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The department of international relations and cooperation on Thursday confirmed that Lesotho diplomats and their family members had been given 72 hours to leave the country after they were found to have been involved in the illicit peddling of duty-free alcohol.


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