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EU, US and Quartet express concern over the rise in tensions and violence in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza border

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Arab rioters clashed with Israeli police on Saturday outside Jerusalem’s Old City in violence that threatened to deepen the holy city’s worst religious unrest in several years. Riots also erupted in Hebron and along the Gaza security fence, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Early Sunday, the Israeli army said Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at the country’s south that fell in an open area. In response, aircraft struck a Hamas military post. There were no reports of casualties in either attack.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and opposes Israel’s existence, has called for a new intifada, or uprising.

Late Saturday, several dozen protesters gathered along Gaza’s volatile frontier with Israel, burning tires and throwing small explosives at israeli soldiers. Israeli forces fired tear gas at the crowd.

According to the Palestine Red Crescent, more than 60 people were wounded in the clashes in Jerusalem on Saturday.

Israel Police chief Koby Shabtai said he had deployed more police in Jerusalem following Friday night’s clashes, which left 18 police officers wounded. After weeks of nightly violence, Israelis and east Jerusalem Arabs were bracing for more conflict in the coming days.

“The right to demonstrate will be respected but public disturbances will be met with force and zero tolerance. I call on everyone to act responsibly and with restraint,” Shabtai said.

A large crowd of protesters chanted “God is great” outside the Old City’s Damascus Gate, and some pelted police with rocks and water bottles. Police patrols fired stun grenades as they moved through the area, and a police truck periodically fired a water cannon.

In a statement, the European Union called on authorities ‘’to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions in Jerusalem. Acts of incitement around the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif must be avoided and the status quo has to be respected.’’

‘’Political, religious and community leaders on all sides should show restraint and responsibility and make every effort to calm down this volatile situation,’’ the statement added.

‘’The situation with regard to the evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas of East Jerusalem is also of serious concern. Such actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground,’’ the EU said. .

The United States also said it is ‘’extremely concerned’’ about ongoing confrontations in Jerusalem, including on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount and in Sheikh Jarrah.

State Departement spokesperson Ned Price issued a statement saying: ‘’There is no excuse for violence, but such bloodshed is especially disturbing now, coming as it does on the last days of Ramadan. This includes Friday’s attack on Israeli soldiers and reciprocal ‘price tag’ attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which we condemn in no uncertain terms.’’

He added, ‘’we call on Israeli and Palestinian officials to act decisively to deescalate tensions and bring a halt to the violence. It is absolutely critical that all sides exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserve the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif / Temple Mount – in word and in practice. Leaders across the spectrum must denounce all violent acts. Security services must ensure the safety of all of Jerusalem’s residents and hold all perpetrators to account.’’

‘’We are also deeply concerned about the potential eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods of Jerusalem, many of whom have lived in their homes for generations. As we have consistently said, it is critical to avoid steps that exacerbate tensions or take us farther away from peace. This includes evictions in East Jerusalem, settlement activity, home demolitions, and acts of terrorism,’’ he added.

The spokesperson said the State Department was in touch with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders to work to deescalate the situation. ‘’We also urge the authorities to approach the residents of Sheikh Jarrah with compassion and respect, and consider the totality of these complex historical cases and how they impact real lives today.’’

In a joint press statement, the Middle East Quartet envoys from the European Union, Russia, the United States and the United Nations, said they are ‘’closely monitoring the situation in East Jerusalem, including in the Old City and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.’’

‘’The envoys express deep concern over the daily clashes and violence in East Jerusalem, in particular last night’s confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We are alarmed by the provocative statements made by some political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank.’’

The statement added, ‘’The envoys noted with serious concern possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and voice opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment.’’

The envoys called upon the Israeli authorities ‘’to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days.’’

‘’We call on all sides to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites. All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement. In this context, the Quartet Envoys reiterated their commitment to a negotiated two state solution,’’ the statement concluded.

The current wave of protests broke out at the beginning of Ramadan three weeks ago when Israel restricted gatherings at a popular meeting spot outside Jerusalem’s Old City. Israel removed the restrictions, briefly calming the situation, but protests have reignited in recent days over threatened evictions in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. The Israeli foreign ministry has accused the Palestinians of seizing on the threatened evictions, which it described as a “real-estate dispute between private parties,” in order to incite violence.

Other recent developments also contributed to the tense atmosphere, including the postponement of Palestinian elections, deadly violence in which yeshiva student Yehuda Guetta, 19, was murdered in a shooting attack at Tapuah junction last week, and three armed terrorists opened fire at a Border Police base in northern Samaria.

Fearing the situation could escalate further, the Israeli army’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi ordered a comprehensive reinforcement of the units already operating in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

Speaking on the riots and clashes in his city, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon insisted that “there is no connection between Sheikh Jarrah and the Temple Mount, in Sheikh Jarrah this is a property dispute. This is an unprecedented incitement by the Palestinian Authority that is trying to lead to violence and unnecessary acts.”

“The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are trying to ignite Jerusalem, this is the problem and it needs to be addressed. It happens every year. There is no doubt that we all need to act to calm down and have zero violence, and we have zero tolerance for violence. The ministers are doing everything to calm the situation down.”

Israeli diplomats have contacted officials in Jordan and Egypt in an effort to get them to pressure the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas to cease inciting violence.

In a call to Palestine TV on Friday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas praised the “courageous stand” of the protesters and said Israel bore full responsibility for the violence. Abbas last week postponed planned parliamentary elections, citing Israeli restrictions in east Jerusalem as an excuse for the delay.

At a special cabinet meeting on Sunday, at Jerusalem City Hall to mark Jerusalem Day, the reunification of the city since 54 years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin addressed the ‘’violent disturbances in Jerusalem under the influence of agitators.’’

‘’We will not allow any extremist element to undermine the quiet in Jerusalem. We will uphold law and order – vigorously and responsibly. We will continue to guard freedom of worship for all faiths but we will not allow violent disturbances,’’ he said.

‘’Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for thousands of years. Our roots in Jerusalem go back to Biblical times. Our continuous link with Jerusalem has been maintained in all generations.’’

‘’When one looks back over thousands of years of Jewish rule and the foreign rule, and today again under the state of the Jews, only under the sovereignty of Israel has full and consistent freedom of worship been ensured for all faiths, and thus we will continue,’’ Netanyahu said.

‘’We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, these pressures have been increasing of late. I say to our best friends as well: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Just as every people builds its capital and in its capital, so too do we reserve the right to build Jerusalem and in Jerusalem.’’

EU

7th EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Business Platform focused on transition to low-carbon and green technologies

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The EU-Kazakhstan High-Level Platform of dialogue on economic and business matters (Business Platform) held its 7th meeting in Nur-Sultan on 11 June, chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin.

The event brought together representatives of business and EU Heads of Mission led by the Ambassador of the EU to the Republic of Kazakhstan, Sven-Olov Carlsson. Visiting EU Special Representative for Central Asia Ambassador Peter Burian joined the event.

The High-level Business Platform complements the technical dialogue between the EU and Kazakhstan within the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, in particular the Cooperation Committee in Trade Configuration, which took place in October 2020.  

The EU has committed to climate neutrality by 2050 and is fully translating the implementation of the Paris Agreement into legislation. Ambitious targets and decisive actions demonstrate that EU is and will remain to be a global leader in the transition to green economy. The climate challenge is inherently global, the EU is only responsibly for approximately 10% of all global Greenhouse Gas emissions. The EU expects from its partners to share a comparable level of ambition to fight climate change and is ready to deepen co-operation with Kazakhstan in this area, including exploring new opportunities for trade and investment.

The recent EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council welcomed the progress made in the framework of the Business Platform chaired by the Prime Minister Mamin. The Platform acknowledges the importance of the EU in Kazakhstan's external trade, and discussions on a range of issues contribute to attract more investment in Kazakhstan.

Background Information

The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), fully in force from 1 March 2020, aims at creating a better regulatory environment for businesses in areas such as trade in services, establishment and operation of companies, capital movements, raw materials and energy, intellectual property rights. It is a tool of regulatory convergence between Kazakhstan and the EU, with some “WTO plus” provisions, notably on public procurement. Even in a year as difficult as 2020, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s first trade partner and first foreign investor, and Kazakhstan remains the main trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. Total EU-Kazakhstan trade reached €18.6 billion in 2020, with EU imports worth €12.6bn and EU exports €5.9bn. The EU is by far Kazakhstan's first trading partner overall, representing 41% of total Kazakh exports.

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Belgium

Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime

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Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.

The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.

In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.

According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”

Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.

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Brexit

Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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