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US move to downgrade Palestine mission to ‘take effect on Monday’

The United States is expected to move ahead with a downgrade of its mission to the Palestinians on Monday by merging its Jerusalem consulate with the embassy to Israel, a US official said. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday said the announcement to merge the two offices in October was intended to improve…

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US move to downgrade Palestine mission to ‘take effect on Monday’

The United States is expected to move ahead with a downgrade of its mission to the Palestinians on Monday by merging its Jerusalem consulate with the embassy to Israel, a US official said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday said the announcement to merge the two offices in October was intended to improve “efficiency and effectiveness” and did not constitute a change in policy.

But Palestinian leaders have seen the decision as yet another move against them by US President Donald Trump’s administration, which they froze contact with after his 2017 decision recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A date for the merger of the consulate into the embassy had not been announced, but a State Department official told AFP news agency on condition of anonymity that it “is expected to take place on March 4”.

The Jerusalem consulate general, which has acted independently as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians since the Oslo accords of the 1990s, will be replaced by a new Palestinian affairs unit within the embassy.

Palestinians reopen Al-Aqsa gate locked by Israel 16 years ago

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said at the time of the announcement last year: “It [the merger] has nothing to do with efficiency and a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of the international system.”

Placing the consulate under the authority of the embassy could be seen as an American recognition of Israeli control over the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The controversial US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has been a supporter of Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Friedman previously expressed doubt over a potential two-state solution, which has traditionally been the bedrock of US diplomacy, and had long called for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The State Department official could not confirm reports that the consul general’s residence in Jerusalem would eventually become the home for the US ambassador as part of the embassy’s move to the disputed city, which occurred last May.

Located near occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City, it has been the home of the consul general since 1912, while the US permanent diplomatic presence in the city was established in 1857.

Trump, who is expected to release his long-awaited peace plan in the coming months, has also cut more than $500m in Palestinian aid in a bid to force its leaders to negotiate.

Palestinian leaders call it an attempt to blackmail them into accepting a plan aimed at wiping out their cause, and have labelled the US as a “dishonest broker”.

The status of Jerusalem – home to sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians – is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Though Israel claims Jerusalem is the capital of its state, its jurisdiction over the city is not recognised internationally.

After occupying the city’s eastern part in the 1967 War, Israel unilaterally annexed the territory and proclaimed it as its capital. The Palestinians, however, see the city as the capital of their future state.

Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem broke with decades of international consensus that the status of the city must first be decided upon through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Middle East News

Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials. The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of…

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Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school

Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials.
The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“They attacked around noon. They found the children in a class and they opened fire on them,” Kumba sub-prefect Ali Anougou told the Reuters news agency.
At least nine other students were wounded and sent to the hospital. There were fears the death toll could rise.
The Associated Press news agency quoted Anougou as blaming separatists who have been fighting the military in parts of western Cameroon for the attack.

Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions – the Northwest and Southwest Regions – are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority – a situation that is the legacy of the decolonisation of western Africa by France and Britain more than 60 years ago.
In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilled over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.
The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities.
Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s government.
Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, charges the separatists denied.

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation…

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Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts

KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation for the society’s aid to the Vietnamese Embassy during the coronavirus crisis.

The ambassador added that they discussed providing his country with aid to face the impact of the recent floods and landslides, considered to be the worst in decades. Sayer said he was pleased with the ambassador’s visit and affirmed that KRCS will continue exerting humanitarian efforts to aid those affected by natural disasters and crises everywhere. – KUNA

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the…

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Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID

File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel

After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the government sector who were being laid off.

As part of its Kuwaitization policy, Kuwait is replacing expats with locals in the government sector. The government has also stopped issuing work permits to expats over 60 years of age without a university degree. These new rules have had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of expats in the country, leaving many with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.

Gulf countries are facing an exodus of foreign workers as the coronavirus pandemic pushes out foreign workers. In the midst of the COVID-19 and financial crunch, the National Assembly approved a draft law to slash expat numbers over the next five years.

As the budget deficit widens and economic conditions worsen, Kuwait is grappling with an economic downturn as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. The combined shock of collapsing oil prices, the pandemic and joblessness is reshaping labor policies in the region, thus bringing anti-foreigner sentiments to the fore again.

While Kuwait’s expats struggle to secure their jobs, the government is calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities. “Why will foreigners take the jobs meant for us (Kuwaitis)? They can work anywhere – but not in the ministries,” argued Abdullah, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.

Buttressing Abdullah’s viewpoint, Fatma, an unemployed Kuwaiti woman, complained of the difficulty in competing with foreign workers for jobs in the private sector. “Foreign workers can work longer for less, unlike us Kuwaitis. So most companies prefer to hire non-Kuwaitis. This leaves us with only one sector (the public sector). I think this is why the government introduced Kuwaitization, so as to give unemployed Kuwaitis an opportunity,” she explained.

For Lyon, justice and fairness should override anti-expat sentiments. “It is understandable that ministries would give preference to locals for jobs during these tough times, but it would be fair to consider the efforts of the old staff who have put in their best to build this country,” Lyon, 61, and some of his co-workers who were laid off recently lamented, as they worry about their future.

Expats make up the majority of the population of Kuwait. Residency is tied to employment and Kuwait does not easily offer citizenship routes to non-nationals. “We have been here (in Kuwait) legally for over 20 years. It will be difficult to go back and start afresh in our home countries. More so, Kuwait’s residency is linked to the work permit – when you lose your job, you automatically lose your residency. I worry about my children who are still in school. The three-month notice will not be enough to relocate them,” Mustapha, an Egyptian expat who recently lost his job, said in dismay.

Abdurazak Hamad, an African expat, is in a dilemma. “I feel miserable leaving my family behind. I don’t want to go alone, but I can’t make my wife quit her KD 450 job since she is now the sole breadwinner. Starting afresh in my home country at this age (62) will be very difficult. I wish I can get a permit (residency) to stay here with my family,” said Hamad, who was recently sacked.

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