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Slovenian Prime Minister Jansa’s remarks on human rights violations in Iran draw reaction from EU’s Borrell

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (pictured) has declared that ‘’the Iranian regime must be held accountable for human rights violations,” a statement that drew a reaction from EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Slovenia holds the six-month EU presidency since July 1st.

Jansa was addressing a Free Iran World Summit organized by the Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

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Jansa told the conference that the “Iranian people deserve democracy, freedom and human rights and should be firmly supported by the international community.”

The Slovenian Prime Minister also referred to Amnesty International’s demands to investigate the new Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi over his alleged involvement in the executions. “For nearly 33 years, the world had forgotten about the victims of the massacre. This should change,” Jansa said.

In a reaction, Borrell said that Jansa may hold the rotating EU Council presidency but he “does not represent” the EU in foreign policy. Jansa’s statements also sparked tensions with Iran.

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Borrell said that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had called him  to ask “if the declarations of the Slovenian prime minister represent the official position of the European Union, given that there had been a certain confusion related to the fact that Slovenia is currently the country holding the rotating presidency of the Council.”

The EU foreign policy representative said he told Zarif that “in our institutional setting, the position of a Prime Minister — even if he’s from the country that holds the rotating Council presidency — does not represent the position of the European Union.”

He added that only the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, could represent the EU at the level of heads of state and government.

“Foreign policy remains a competency of EU member states and each member state can have the opinion that it sees fit for each issue of international politics. … For me it’s only up to say whether Jansa’s position represents the European Union. And certainly it does not,” Borrell said.

Borrell also said that the EU had “a balanced position” on Iran “that puts political pressure when it’s considered necessary, in many areas, and at the same time looks for cooperation when it is necessary.”

The EU is currently working as coordinator to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

A spokesperson of the Slovenian representation to the EU, quoted by Politico.eu, said that “Slovenia has no intention whatsoever of getting involved in Iran’s internal affairs.’’ He added however that Slovenia “always advocates for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is in line with our values and legislation.”

Slovenia is considered as a pro-Israel country within the European Union. The country made a sharp U-turn in recent years as one of the one former Soviet bloc country in the EU that consistently voted against Israel in the UN. Slovenia nearly recognized a Palestinian state in 2014, but in the end the parliament opted to just call on the government to do so.

Jansa’s party, in the opposition at the time, was the only one to oppose supporting a Palestinian state.

Slovenia took two a pro-Israel actions when it changed its annual vote from abstention to opposition on a UN General Assembly resolution extending the tenure of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat.

Contrary to the EU which has banned only the so-called ‘’military wing’’ of Hezbollah, Slovenia declared the whole Lebanese organisation a “criminal and terrorist organization that represents a threat to peace and security.”

During Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas, the Israeli flag was raised on official buildings in Slovenia in a sign of “solidarity” with the Jewish state. “In a sign of solidarity, we flew the Israeli flag on the government building,” the Slovene government said in a tweet with a photo of the standard.

“We condemn the terrorist attacks and stand with Israel,” it said.

Israel

For the first time, the European Parliament states that Hezbollah is responsible for Lebanon’s devastating political and economic crisis

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In a resolution on Lebanon adopted earlier this week, the European Parliament clearly stated that Hezbollah is responsible for the country’s devastating political and economic crisis and the repression of the 2019 popular movement, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

The resolution, which was adopted with a overwhelming and cross-party support, stresses the need for full Lebanese sovereignty and laments detrimental outside interference.

The text reads: “Whereas Hezbollah still controls key ministries in the Lebanese Government; whereas Hezbollah has been listed as a terror organisation by several EU Member States; whereas Hezbollah has repeatedly shown its strong ideological allegiance with Iran, which is destabilising the Lebanese Government and undermining its much-needed cohesion.”

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The resolution further threatens “the introduction of targeted sanctions for obstructing or undermining the democratic political process.”

The text was adopted with 575 yes votes, 71 no votes and 39 abstentions.

The resolution said that the European Union should still consider imposing sanctions on Lebanese politicians who block the progress of the new government.

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Taking note of Lebanon’s formation of a government two weeks ago after more than a year of political deadlock, the European Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, said EU governments cannot yet release pressure on the country.

Despite the fact that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told the European Parliament that the time for sanctions had passed because of the formation of a government. The EU has welcomed the announcement of the new government led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The European parliament “deeply urges Lebanese leaders to keep their promises and be a functional government”, the resolution said.

The EU agreed in June to prepare travel bans and asset freezes for Lebanese politicians accused of corruption and obstructing efforts to form a government, financial mismanagement and human rights abuses.

EU must take stand against Hezbollah, say ECR MEPs

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), a center-right political group in the EU parliament, strongly welcomed the adoption of the resolution. ‘’The ECR Group endorses the European Parliament’s view that Hezbollah is responsible for Lebanon’s devastating political and economic crisis and the repression of the 2019 popular movement.”

” For the first time, MEPs have recognised the organisation’s strong ideological allegiance with Iran which acts to destabilise Lebanon,’’ it noted.

For the group, Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers said the resolution ‘’greatly challenges the left-liberal groups to come to terms with Hezbollah’s true terrorist nature and to do away with the made-up distinction between the so-called military and political wings of the organisation.’’

‘’It is a distinction that is strongly denied by Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, himself who stresses that Hezbollah has one single leadership and that no distinction between wings exists,’’ Weimers added.

“This must be the European Parliament’s strongest condemnation yet of Iran and their terror proxy Hezbollah for undermining the stability of Lebanon,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute.

“European lawmakers have thus sent a clear warning to the regime in Tehran and their Shiite terror group that it is no longer business as usual. The Lebanese people deserve freedom, democracy and prosperity–neither of which will be attainable as long as Hezbollah and Iran can continue to drag the country into corruption, crime and war,” he added.

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Holocaust

Dutch municipality disgusted with young people protesting corona measures in Nazi uniforms

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The municipality of Urk, in the Netherlands, has expressed disgust at images showing around 10 young people marching through the city in Nazi uniforms last Saturday protesting against the COVID-19 measures, NLTimes reported, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Photos online show one of them wearing prisoner stripes and a Star of David, while the others aim fake weapons at him.

“This behavior is not only highly objectionable and extremely inappropriate, but also hurtful to large population groups. With this tasteless action, a line has very clearly been crossed as far as the municipality of Urk is concerned,’ the municipality said in a statement.

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“We understand that these young people want to make their voices heard about the impact of the current and upcoming coronavirus measures,” the city mayor Cees van den Bos said, adding that ‘’this discussion is not only taking place in Urk, but throughout our country.’’

He continued, ‘’However, we do not understand the way they are doing it. Not only the municipality of Urk, but the entire community completely disapproves of this way of protesting.”

The Public Prosecution Service said it is investigating whether a criminal offense was committed.

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Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA), a group that represents hundreds of communities across the continent, said this incident ‘’ underlines the massive job still left to do in education.’’

‘’The actions of the youth in Urk, part of a growing trend of comparing Covid restrictions and push back against vaccination that seeks to draw parallels between government attempts to stem the virus and the Nazi treatment of Jews, shows the massive job still to do in educational provision on what really happened during the Holocaust,’’ he said.

‘’No matter how high feelings are running, the Jewish experience of the holocaust can never be used to draw any comparison, simply because nothing compares to it in Europe,’’ Margolin added.

According to news website Hart van Nederland, the young people apologized on Monday. In a letter, they wrote. “It was absolutely not our intention to arouse memories of the Second World War.”  Howevern they they did not clarify what their intention was. “We want to emphasize that we are absolutely not anti-Semitic or against Jews, or support the German regime. Our sincerer apologies,” they wrote.

This is not the first incident around the coronavirus in Urk.  In January, a GGD testing center in the village was set on fire. In March, journalists were attacked by churchgoers who continued to attend church despite the coronavirus measures.

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Egypt

At meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett and Egyptian President El-Sisi agree to deepen ties between the two countries

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Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the coastal resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Monday, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

It was the first Israeli prime ministerial visit to Egypt in a decade.

A statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office said the two leaders discussed a series of topics, including “ways to deepen and strengthen cooperation between the states, with an emphasis on broadening mutual trade, and a long series of regional and international issues.”

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Bennett thanked President El-Sisi for Egypt’s important role in the region and noted that in the over 40 years since it was signed, the peace agreement between the two countries continues to serve as a foundation for security and stability in the Middle East.

He als emphasized Egypt’s significant role in maintaining the security stability in the Gaza Strip and in finding a solution to the issue of the Israeli captives and missing.

The two leaders also discussed ways to prevent a nuclear Iran and the need to halt that country’s regional aggression.

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They agreed to continue deepening the cooperation and dialogue between the two countries in all spheres. ‘’During the meeting, first and foremost, we created a foundation for deep ties in the future,’’ said Bennett upon his return to Israel.

‘’Israel is increasingly opening up to the countries of the region, and the basis of this longstanding recognition is the peace between Israel and Egypt. Therefore, on both sides we must invest in strengthening this link, and we have done so today,” he said.

Bennett was the first Israeli Prime Minister to publicly visit Egypt since his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu met with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 also in Sharm El-Sheikh.

The Jerusalem Post noted that back then there was only one flag at the meeting, the Egyptian one. This time, the Israeli and Egyptian leaders sat next to flags from both countries.

In an unusual show of Egyptian comfort level with an Israeli high-level meeting, Sisi’s office announced Bennett’s presence in Sharm e-Sheikh, rather than leaving Israel to publicize the event.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, but it has been considered as a “”cold peace’’.

According to journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, an expert on Palestinian and Arab affairs, Egyptian President El-Sisi meeting with Bennett is part of Egypt’s efforts to resume its pivotal role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Sisi’s effort to depict himself as a peacemaker and curry favor with the Biden administration.

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