Guatemala Opens Embassy In Jerusalem After US Move

Following in US’ footsteps, Guatemala opens its embassy in Jerusalem, despite international condemnation.

Guatemala has opened its embassy in Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of the United States, which inaugurated its embassy in the city two days prior, in a move that has triggered international condemnation.

Wednesday’s development comes amid widespread anger and protests in the occupied Palestinian territories, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, or Catastrophe.

The event marks the day when Israel was created in the midst of a violent campaign that led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland.

The inauguration of the Guatemalan embassy, which was attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, also comes amid outrage over the Israeli army’s killing of 62 Palestinians protesting in the Gaza Strip on Monday.

Morales said Guatemala was sending a message of “love, peace and fraternity” to Israel amid praise from Netanyahu.

Reporting from West Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett said that the Guatemalan government claimed it was not pressured by the US to move its embassy.

“The obvious calculation, however, that a lot of analysts would point to is that if Guatemala, as many Latin American countries, wants to have a good relationship with this US administration, key to it politically and economically is being as close as possible to Israel,” said Fawcett.

Guatemala, the second country to recognise Israel as a state in 1948, has had a long history of military cooperation with Israel. The latter is a major arms supplier to the central American nation.

Paraguay has said that it expects to follow suit and open its embassy in Jerusalem by the end of May. While other countries, including Honduras and the Czech Republic, have expressed interest in moving their embassies to Jerusalem, it remains unclear whether they will do so.

No country recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital until December 2017, when Trump declared it as such, breaking with decades of US policy favouring the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Since the 1967 war when Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the international community, as documented in a multitude of United Nations resolutions, supported the establishment of a Palestinian state on the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as the capital.

All embassies to Israel were situated in the commercial capital Tel Aviv, before the US and Guatemalan embassy moves.

The Arab League and the French government condemned the US embassy move as illegal and in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions surrounding the conflict.

The Security Council met in an emergency session on Tuesday to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip.

The US, however, blocked a statement drafted by Kuwait calling for an independent investigation into the killings of Palestinian protesters in Gaza and calling on countries not to station their diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.


Malaysia: Anwar Ibrahim Released After Getting Full Pardon

Former deputy prime minister arrives at the royal palace to meet with king after being released from prison.

Malaysia’s former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has been released from prison after receiving a full pardon from the king on Wednesday.

Speaking at a news conference after being freed following the royal pardon, he thanked the Malaysian people for standing by “the principles of democracy and freedom”.

“Now there is a new dawn for Malaysia. I must thank the people of Malaysia. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Iban; the entire spectrum of our Malaysians, regardless of race and religion …

“They demand change and it is our duty now to ensure that this mandate given to Pakatan Harapan [political alliance] will honour this commitment,” the politician added.

Anwar, who was initially scheduled to be released on Tuesday, walked out of the Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital, where he was temporarily confined after a surgery, and later arrived at the residence of the king, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V.

An image published by the Malaysian news agency Bernama showed Anwar, 70, greeting newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, his ally-turned-foe-turned-ally.

Another image showed the king welcoming Anwar and his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the deputy prime minister-designate.

Earlier, Mahathir arrived at the royal palace for the royal pardons board meeting to discuss Anwar’s release.

The question for Malaysia now is how Anwar will get along with Mahathir and what role he will play in the new government.

Anwar’s party, PKR, holds 48 seats of the 113 seats won by the Pakatan Harapan alliance on Wednesday, and he is widely tipped to succeed Mahathir once he steps down from office.



North, South Korea to Hold High-level Talks May 16

North Korea and South Korea agreed on Tuesday to hold high-level inter-Korea talks on May 16 to discuss steps needed to uphold the pledge to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

The meeting will discuss specific plans needed to carry out the April 27 inter-Korea summit declaration, which includes pledges to finally end a seven-decade war this year, and pursue “complete denuclearisation”.

“The South and North will hold a high-level inter-Korea meeting on May 16 in the Peace House in Panmunjom, to discuss implementation of ‘Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” the Unification Ministry said in a statement.

The meeting would be the latest in a series of actions taken by North Korea that have spurred hopes that the seven-decade conflict on the Korean Peninsula may be coming to an end.

North Korea has scheduled the dismantlement of its nuclear bomb test site for sometime between May 23-25 in order to uphold its pledge to discontinue nuclear tests, the country’s state media reported on Saturday, a month ahead of a planned North Korea-U.S. summit in Singapore.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet on June 12, a scenario that seemed improbable given the insults and threats exchanged between the two leaders in the past year.

Wednesday’s inter-Korea talks will see North Korea send a 29-member delegation led by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the ‘Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the country’. Also in the delegation will be Kim Yun-hyok, vice minister of Railways, and Won Kil-U, vice minister of Physical Culture and Sports.

From South Korea, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon will led a team of five.



Iraq Election: Shia Leader Muqtada Al-Sadr Alliance Set To Win

With 91 percent of ballots counted, alliance of Muqtada al-Sadr is in the lead in six provinces, including Baghdad.

The Sairoon Alliance of Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadris set to win Iraq’s parliamentary elections in a remarkable comeback after being sidelined for years by Iranian-backed rivals.

With over 91 percent of votes counted in 16 of Iraq‘s 18 provinces, Iran-backed Shia militia chief Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah (Conquest) Coalition was in second place, while Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s Nasr (Victory) Coalition once seen as the frontrunner, came in third.

Sadr’s bloc did not run in the remaining two provinces, Kurdish Dohuk and the ethnically-mixed oil province of Kirkuk. The results there, which may be delayed due to tensions between local parties, will not affect Sadr’s standing.

Reports indicate that Sairoon – an alliance between the Sadrist Movement and Iraq’s Communist Party – won more than 1.3 million votes, gaining 54 of a 329-seat parliament.

Saturday’s election was the first since the defeat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, but the turnout fell far short of previous elections with only 44.52 percent of registered voters participating. Turnout is 15 percent lower than that of 2014.

Commenting on the results, Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States told Al Jazeera: “The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters.”

But according to Rahim, Sadr’s rise to victory was also based on emotionally-driven voting.

“None of the lists had an electoral programme that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.

“The success of Sairoon and Fatah clearly show that voters were ideologically and emotionally driven,” said Al-Rahim.

Move away from Iran, US?

Unlike Abadi, a rare ally of both the US and Iran, Sadr is an opponent of both countries, which have wielded influence in Iraq since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thrust the Shia majority into power.

Sadr has led two uprisings against US forces in Iraq and is one of the few Shia leaders to distance himself from Iran.

He has instead sought to broaden his regional support, meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah last year.

Because Sadr did not stand as a candidate and therefore cannot head the government, he appears set to play kingmaker.

Even Sadr’s bloc might not necessarily form the next government, as the other winning blocs would have to agree on the nomination.

In a 2010 election, Vice President Ayad Allawi’s group won the largest number of seats, but he was blocked from becoming premier for which he blamed Tehran.

In a similar fashion, Iran has already publicly stated it will not allow Sadr’s bloc to govern.

Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, warned in February that he would “not allow liberals and communists to govern in Iraq”, a reference to the Iraqi Communist Party.

According to Al-Rahim, “All we know is that Sadr will not form a coalition with Maliki. Everything else is wide open”.

On his part, Sadr said in a statement that he would be willing to work with a number of parties, among those Amar al-Hakim’s Hikma (Wisdom) Coalition, the Sunni al-Wataniyya Coalition and the Kurdish parties Goran and Komal.

He did not, however, mention Abadi’s State of Law Coalition or the Fatah Coalition, both of which are aligned with Iran.

Despite being third in the running, Abadi could still potentially remain prime minister after a coalition government is formed.

“We are ready to work and cooperate in forming the strongest government for Iraq, free of corruption,” Abadi said, referencing the issue that has been at the forefront of most voters’ minds.

Gaza Killings: New Yorkers Call For Justice In Nakba Protest

About 300 activists demand Israel be brought to justice for rights violations after scores were killed in Gaza Strip.

New York City, United States – Chanting slogans, raising placards and singing resistance songs, about 300 people marched through Brooklyn in New York on Monday to commemorate the 70th year since the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes when Israel was created in 1948.

Monday’s protest coincided with fierce violence in the Gaza Strip, where at least 58 Palestinians, including six children, were killed by Israeli army snipers in several rallies along the fence with Israel.

Addressing the crowd gathered on the sidewalks of Bay Ridge, a Brooklyn neighbourhood known for its sizeable Palestinian population, Nerdeen Kiswani, one of the organisers of the rally, said they had assembled to demand an end to the Israeli occupation and the right of Palestinians to return home.

“We are saying that we are part of the Great March of Return. It has been 70 years too long,” Kiswani said to the gathered crowd.

Another Palestinian activist, Nancy Mansour, said they had gathered to demand that Israel be brought to justice for all its human rights violations over the past 70 years.

“Every Palestinian [here] has to wake up every morning and check the news to see if our families [back home] are still alive. Who does that?

“It’s a shame on the international community, especially the Palestinian Authority and the Arab leaders of the world, who are silent about this,” Mansour said.

On Monday, rallies commemorating the Nakba coincided with the unveiling of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Scores killed in Gaza

In addition to the 58 victims in Gaza, another 2,700 people were wounded by the Israeli army, which fired live ammunition and tear gas cannisters, in what is being described as the deadliest day in the Palestinian enclave since 2014.

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the actions of the army, arguing that Israel had a right to defend its border.

But the Israel’s actions has been condemned by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called its actions “shocking”.



Tensions rise ahead of US embassy opening in Jerusalem

A US delegation has flown to Israel amid rising tensions ahead of planned protests against the controversial move of the American embassy to Jerusalem and rallies calling for the Palestinians’ right of return to the homes from which they were expelled from in 1948.

Several US officials, joined by President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband and senior adviser Jared Kushner, will attend the opening on Monday, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding.

Trump announced last December that Washington formally recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would move its embassy there from Tel Aviv, breaking with decades of US policy.

His decision, long-sought by Israel, sparked anger and protests throughout the occupied Palestinian territories and drew condemnation from world leaders.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump’s “bold decision” as the Israeli foreign ministry held a festive ceremony to welcome the US delegation, which also included 12 Congress members.

The event, however, was shunned by most European Union countries.

Earlier, hundreds of Jewish settlers raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, raising the Israeli flag and praying there, on what Israelis call Jerusalem Day, which marks the occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967.

The ancient marble-and-stone compound, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif, houses Al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third-holiest site – and the 7th-century Dome of the Rock. Jews call it Temple Mount.

Visits by Jewish groups, including politicians, have triggered violence over the years, wit


Turkey targets French studies ‘due to Quran row and reciprocity’

Turkish universities will no longer admit new students to French language departments, Turkey’s Higher Education Board has ruled, the latest development in the strained ties between Turkeyand France.

The decision came in response to a manifesto signed by prominent French figures, calling for the removal of certain passages from the Quran, and as a reciprocal measure over the “lack of Turkish studies departments in the European country,” a Turkish official told Al Jazeera.

“We have condemned the controversial statements on the Quran coming from France. And the Higher Education Board, which is an autonomous institution, made this move as a response to those statements,” said Emrullah Isler, chairman of the Committee on National Education, Culture, Youth and Sport in the Turkish parliament.

Isler added that universities in France do not have enough departments teaching Turkish, that there is an imbalance between the two countries in that area.

“Lack of university departments in France that teach in Turkish is another factor behind the decision. They need to form decent Turkology departments there.

“Plus, there have been too many departments teaching in the French language in Turkish universities,” he told Al Jazeera from the capital, Ankara.

He added that the Higher Education Board took the decision in such a manner that currently enrolled students would not suffer from the measure.

“The existing departments with active students are going to continue teaching in French as usual, but will not admit new ones,” Isler said.

The Board had cited “reciprocity” and “graduate-employment links” on Thursday as the reasons for its decision.


Iran seeks ‘clear future design’ for imperilled nuclear deal

Iran’s foreign minister has held talks in China as he began a diplomatic tour with the remaining signatories of a multinational nuclear deal following the recent US withdrawal from the landmark 2015 pact.

Speaking on Sunday in Beijing, Mohammad Javad Zarif underlined Tehran’s readiness “for all options” but expressed optimism that this round of negotiations could save the 2015 deal.

“We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement,” Zarif said, speaking alongside his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

“[But] if the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured.”

Earlier on Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would remain committed to the deal “if the remaining five countries abide by the agreement”.


Iraq: Election results within two days, turnout at record low

Iraq’s election commission says the results of the first national vote since declaring victory over ISIL are expected within two days.

The vote on Saturday saw a record low turnout, with 44 percent of eligible voters casting ballots. No election since 2003 has had turnout below 60 percent. More than 10 million Iraqis voted.

Polling station officials blamed the low turnout on a combination of tight security measures, voter apathy and irregularities linked to a new electronic voting system.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is running to keep his post. His chief rivals are political parties with closer ties to Iran, as well as the influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a staunch nationalist who campaigned against government corruption.

Nearly 7,000 candidates from dozens of political alliances are competing for the 329 seats in parliament.

Al-Abadi, who heads the Nasr (Victory) coalition, is seen by some as a front runner, but he faces stiff competition from Hadi al-Amiri, a paramilitary commander heading the Fatah alliance.

Another strong contender is Nouri al-Maliki, a former prime minister who is being seen as a possible kingmaker in the vote.

The results are expected within 48 hours of the vote, according to the independent body overseeing the process.


Mexico: Third election candidate murdered within a week

Gunmen have shot dead a candidate in central Mexico ahead of a July election, marking the third murder of a politician within the country in the past week.

Jose Remedios Aguirre, a mayoral hopeful for the leftist Morena party in Guanajuato state, was killed in the town of Apaseo El Alto on Friday, the state prosecutors’ office said.

Ricardo Sheffield, a Morena candidate for governor in Guanajuato state, told Al Jazeera that the party resumed campaigning on Saturday “to honour Aguirre”.

He had previously suspended all campaigning in the state until officials could guarantee the safety of all its contenders, according to a report by the Associated Press news agency.

“It’s very unfortunate what we are living through, particularly in Guanajuato, which is the state this year with more violence than anywhere else in Mexico,” Sheffield said.

“Our governor sticks his head in the ground like an ostrich and ignores what is happening; people are being killed every single day.”

The office of incumbent Guanajuato Governor Miguel Marquez denounced Aguirre’s murder in a Twitter post on Friday, adding that a special investigation had been set up to investigate the killing.