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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama

The real Statement on Dalai Lama, Obama

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JR claims to be a China expert. But this time, he has fallen for a crude piece of anti-China propaganda. Did he really believe that the government of China was still living in the woods, throwing fortune cookies with weird messages inside at Chinese and foreign journalists?

This is what the Chinese foreign ministry actually said. (All websites which quote spokesman Ma Zhaoxu otherwise are silly fakes):

We obviously don’t encourage foreign leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama. Such meetings aren’t conducive for our policies on Tibet, and we initially hoped that our American partners would take our domestic tasks and interests into account here. But if president Obama believes that a meeting with the Dalai Lama is a must for him, we have to respect his decision. After all, the Dalai Lama travels from India, not from our country.

I’d just like to say that such meetings do nothing to make America look more virtuous. We here in Beijing don’t think of ourselves as morally superior. The way we took control of Tibet in the 1950s and after isn’t a glorious point in our history, and we acknowledge that the way we govern Tibet needs a lot of improvement. Suggestions from anyone are welcome, provided that they are meant to help the Han Chinese and the Tibetans to improve their lives as Chinese citizens. But the American president and the American public must understand that Tibet is part of China, just as any U.S. state is part of the United States. As long as all sides are credibly committed to this position, our minds are open to their comments and contributions from inside and outside China.

We do what we can to gradually improve the lives of the Tibetans, just as we are working for the improvement of all Chinese citizens’ lives, no matter of which nationality they are. We do  not only take into account what we think is best for the Tibetans, but we also listen to the voices of the Tibetans themselves. Thank you, next question.

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Asma al-Assad’s unnoticed Peace Plan

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Syria’s first lady, Marie-Antoinette à la rose, Asma al Assad, introduced a peace plan for the Middle East and the World a few months ago. I believe it is time to give it some publicity.

“The fact is President Obama is young,” al Assad said, “and President Assad is also very young as well, so maybe it is time for these young leaders to make a difference in the world.”

Many tanks, Madame. Consider yourself nominated.

Asma al Assad is a SENSATION in Europe! (زيارة الرئيس الأسد إلى (فرنسا) أثارت جدلاً واسعاً في الأوساط الفرنسية والأوروبية)

Oh! Ah! Wohoo! Asma al Assad is a SENSATION in Europe! (زيارة الرئيس الأسد إلى (فرنسا) أثارت جدلاً واسعاً في الأوساط الفرنسية والأوروبية)

Syria: Visitors Welcome, but “Sick of Processes”

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France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner visited Syria on July 11 and 12, as he announced in advance, within the framework of the extremely constructive dynamics that characterize the new relationship with Syria. The United States are about to restore full diplomatic relations with Syria, after semi-suspending them following the assasination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Kouchner received assurances from Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad that Syria would not meddle in the formation of the Lebanese government (that’s how Al-Shorfa, a website sponsored by USCENTCOM puts it, let’s assume that al-Assad and Kouchner used more diplomatic expressions). Their discussions also included an adoption of a comprehensive peace plan between Palestine and Israel, but France’s plans in this regard received rather offish treatment in a meeting between British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. “They’re pretty sick of processes”, suggested Miliband. Mouallem and his country are now looking forward to a visit by U.S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell as “the first step of dialogue.” President Obama‘s envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will be in Damascus on Sunday to meet president al Assad, ahead of meetings in Israel with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The American government may be sick of processes too. “If the Syrians or anyone else can persuade [Hamas] to take a positive path forward, well, clearly, I think the Palestinian Authority and others would welcome that”, secretary of state Hilary Clinton reportedly said.

France isn’t at the centre of the process. That may hurt. Then again, maybe it could also be an opportunity. An NGO would like to remind the French foreign minister that there are issues besides Palestine, the Golan Heights, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Lebanon. Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) points out that five cyber-dissidents are still in prison, among them Habib Saleh and Firas Saad. A Palestinian journalist and expert on Israeli affairs, Helmi Musa, was arrested in Damascus  on July 5 for unknown reasons.  The Syrian Press Law of 2001 prevents any liberalisation, criticizes RSF. Only the prime minister may authorise work permits for journalists, and the press law provides many reasons for arresting journalists, such as damaging the the reputation or dignity of the state, national unity, or the morale of the army.

Aleppo, satellite dishes: You can watch, but You better not Blog

Aleppo, satellite dishes: You can Watch, but You better not Blog

More than enough for Bernard Kouchner to take care of, while Washington and London are doing the sweet-talk. Someone has to be the bad guy after all.

Then again, if he gets the impression that talking with Damascus about Lebanon is more than just a process, maybe he will prefer to  stay nice.

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Related: Is Sarko just “showy”? – July 13, 2008

Written by taide

July 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Obama’s best Revenge: go to Berlin

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Barack Obama visits Germany, but skips Berlin. A roundmail about the president’s itinerary, sent around by the White House, didn’t even mention Germany: it was from Cairo right away to France.

Former concentration camp Buchenwald and U.S. Landstuhl Military Hospital are Obama’s destinations here – not Berlin, although he might have got the Brandenburg Gate this time.

Sarkozy, on the other hand, has engendered the desired attention. Obama will stay one extra night. Well… when you have the choice between nightlife in Berlin, or Paris…

Washington considers chancellor Merkel unwieldy, hesitant, impolite, and therefore unwise. Unwieldy because her refusal to let Obama have the Brandenburg Gate as a background for his speech in Berlin last summer. Impolite and unwise, because she declined an audience at the White House in April, because she didn’t need the plane trip and would see Obama in London at the G20 summit anyway.

On economic matters, she is considered rather uninformed, especially since her conduct at the beginning of the global financial crisis, when she underestimated its magnitude and thought of it as a mostly American problem. The European stimulus action was pushed mostly with French support. Ever since, Germany has been sidelined when important economic decisions are taken, in places such as the IMF. Merkel keeps silent about it.

When Opel’s future was negotiated, the U.S. administration sent a representative with a White House intern’s  decision-making power. In the end, Merkel had to give Obama a phonecall to get decisions.

Stephen Szabo, the Transatlantic Academy’s director: “Currently, France is hip. The impression here is that the Germans are rather useless.”

Meantime, the IMF’s head is French, France is back in Nato’s military structures, it has a military base at the Persian Gulf, and isn’t only active in Africa, and while Merkel demanded the closure of Guantanamo, her interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declines to admit any of the camp’s detainees into Germany.

The new U.S. administration feels that Germany tries to dodge its military duties within NATO. Merkel had made it clear long before Obama’s inauguration that noone should expect more military contributions from Germany. The country’s 4,100 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan seem to guard their military camps in the first place, while soldiers from other allies have to do most of the fighting – and of the dieing.

The new administration apparently wants to show that it doesn’t need Germany, and Merkel wants to avoid an open confrontation.

Obama’s war without words may feel good for him. It may even help to get Germany to work.

But he could have done better. He could have delivered another big speech in Berlin. And he could have hammered an important news home to the German public: that their country, just as America itself, is at war. He had made some hints last July, in Berlin. But he needs to become more explicit. Once he will have made the German public understand that Germany is at war, too, he will really have hurt Merkel. Because so far, this big war is the grand coalition’s dirty little secret.

And while the American president tours the federal state of Saxony, Germans will happily stay in their state of denial.

Written by taide

June 5, 2009 at 9:04 am

How Turkey tries to write Other People’s History

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“History, unresolved, can be a heavy weight”, U.S. president Obama said in a statement on Armenian Remembrance Day.

In Memory of Armenian Genocide 1915, Aleppo, Syria

In Memory of Armenian Genocide 1915, Aleppo, Syria

Which is true. A heavy weight on the Armenians, who have reason to wonder about their Turkish neighbours who are in denial. On the Turks themselves – suppression of memory is more complicated than acknowledging the facts, and suggests a lack of national self-confidence. A weight on the European Union’s relations with Turkey – and therefore again, mainly on Turkey.

Turkey isn’t addressing its problem – it tries to dump it on others. On the victims themselves, for example. According to the BBC, Ankara accuses Barack Obama of failing to honour those Turks killed by Armenians at the time. President Gul: “Everyone’s pain must be shared”.

This is how:

When the German federal state of Brandenburg included the Armenian genocide in its schoolbooks – apparently in a pretty small paragraph -, Turkish consul general talked with the authorities there, and made Brandenburg (295 Turkish students there at the time around 2003) retract the paragraph, according to Die Zeit. And in summer 2004, also according to Die Zeit, Beast on the Moon, a drama centered around the trauma of genocide, had to be cancelled in Karlsruhe.

It’s Turkey’s problem and Turkey’s shame – but they prefer to get on other peoples’ nerves, rather than either keeping cool, or addressing their problem.

There are many reasons for potential critics to remain silent. America fears the loss of air bases in Turkey. Germany, allied with the Osmanian Empire during world war one, was complicit in the Armenian genocide and isn’t really keen on shedding too much light on it now. Israel doesn’t acknowledge the notion of genocide in the Armenian context, either.

A few weeks ago, Turkish prime minister Erdogan suggested that Israeli president Peres had spoken very loud in his defence of Israel’s Gaza invasion “due to the guilt you feel” (according to a youtube translation). Maybe next time, Israel’s president should tell him that Erdogan’s hypocrisy hurts his pride.

Sometimes, Turkish politicians speak in a pretty loud voice, too. And different from president Peres, they don’t even listen.

NATO Brawl about Rasmussen: Any Winners?

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Turkish prime minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t like injustices. When he got less time to speak than Israel’s president Peres at the Davos summit this year, he left and told the moderator that he wouldn’t come back.

On a NATO summit, walking out (and not coming back) is hardly an option. Turkey had blocked the election of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary general for a while, acting as the voice of the Islamic world, or as a bridge towards it, depending on how one looks at it.  “We are receiving telephone calls from the Islamic world, telling us: ‘By God, this person should not become the secretary general of Nato’,” Erdogan said in an Al Jazeera interview.

Now, Rasmussen has been appointed after all. U.S. president Obama reportedly held private talks with Turkish president Abdullah Gul and Rasmussen, and Gul finally agreed to accept Rasmussen’s nomination.

Maybe it is good that Erdogan wasn’t there. After his Davos performance, gold-chain Eddie doesn’t really look like the man man you can find common ground with any more.

Today’s Zaman‘s headline: Obama, Germany, France winners in NATO deal.

That’s too easy.  Turkey’s opposition against the choice of all other NATO members – 25 out of 26 – lasted too long and makes Turkey a loser in this matter. But there are no winners either. The  debate between Turkey and other members should have remained behind the scenes.

Yesterday’s final decision was a case of damage control. Dumping Rasmussen at the final stage would have looked like giving in to people who are merciless and cold-hearted when they “defend their faith”, but pity themselves whenever they don’t get their way. The question if it is allowed to depict the prophet should be no matter of debate at all. Depicting the prophet is only forbidden to people (of any faith) who decide to accept such a ban.

But either Turkey didn’t speak up early enough behind the scenes, or the other NATO members didn’t listen closely behind the scene. There is no question that Rasmussen’s position in the cartoon brawl was correct (although he should have shown some more ability to listen to those who complained then, too).

But NATO is abroad. Their soldiers are in Afghanistan – a predominantly Muslim country. That’s not to say that certain Islamic practices there are better than here. But NATO is a guest in Afghanistan when looking through friendly glasses, and an occupying organisation when looking through unfriendly ones. And many Afghans may not have made up their minds about it yet.

At the stage things were yesterday, there was no other way but to appoint Rasmussen. But at an earlier stage, a different choice could have been made, and would have made sense.

Written by taide

April 6, 2009 at 7:52 am

Europe warmly welcomes Obama

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OK, not exactly everyone. Klaus Emmerich, former chief editor of Austria’s publicly-owned ORF Radio and TV station and former correspondent in the US dislikes the election result. “I don’t want to be led by a Black in the Western world. If you say that this is a racist remark, that’s correct, no question.

And in an interview with Austria’s national daily Der Standard he saw some need to elaborate: he saw a very disturbing development behind Obama’s victory, because the Blacks, “in their political-civilisational development” hadn’t got that far yet. (Der Spiegel)

Fortunately, our neighbours still further South have a prime minister who is much more considerate of minorities. Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was full of praise for America’s president-elect:

He’s young, handsome and tanned.

Silvio, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Written by taide

November 6, 2008 at 9:46 pm