- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008


Livni expects global support

JERUSALEM | Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Sunday told her visiting British counterpart David Miliband that she expected the international community to support the Jewish state’s tough stand in Gaza.

“Israel can not just watch its citizens being attacked. … The international community can not turn a blind eye,” Mrs. Livni said during talks with Mr. Miliband.

The British foreign secretary arrived in the region on Sunday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders amid renewed violence in and around the Gaza Strip that threatened to end a 5-month-old calm in the area.

Palestinian militants in the Hamas-controlled territory continued to fire rockets against southern Israel on Sunday, wounding one person after four militants were killed in an Israeli air strike.

Mr. Miliband, who will tour the rocket-battered Israeli town of Sderot together with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday, said he was “looking forward to showing solidarity in my visit tomorrow.”

He did not echo calls from the United Nations and the European Union for Israel to ease its crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip that has deprived the densely populated area of vital foodstuff and goods.

Mr. Miliband earlier met outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss efforts to launch direct Israeli-Syrian peace talks, ahead of the foreign secretary’s visit to Damascus this week, a British embassy spokeswoman told Agence France-Presse.

Last month, Mr. Olmert asked the Turkish government to present the Syrians with a proposal to resume indirect talks, which were put on hold after the prime minister announced on July 30 that he would step down over a corruption scandal.


Peace talks hit impasse

NICOSIA | Initial hopes that one of the world’s most intractable disputes might finally be solved have dissipated as peace talks enter their third month.

The now-weekly discussions between Greek-Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have yielded the sobering realization that a tough slog still lies ahead of any breakthrough, despite the exuberance that greeted the resumption of negotiations in September after a four-year stalemate.

The two are to meet again Monday.

“It’s a long-standing problem, it has many different facets and you wouldn’t expect it to be solved overnight,” said Alexander Downer, the former Australian foreign minister who is the U.N. special envoy to the talks.

Cyprus was ethnically split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in response to a coup by Athens-backed supporters of uniting the island with Greece. Since then, numerous attempts to reach a deal have failed.

Mr. Christofias’ February election, which ousted a hard-liner, boosted hopes for peace, and both leaders moved quickly to restart the peace process. In April, they reopened a busy shopping street in the heart of the divided capital, removing barricades that symbolized the estrangement of the two communities.

But the talks have not lived up to hopes of a swift agreement as both leaders confront the complexities of issues such as security guarantees and the thorny issue of property rights.


Socialists fail to elect leader

REIMS | France‘s main opposition party failed to select a new leader and promote a platform at an annual convention Sunday, plunging the party into disarray as it seeks to challenge President Nicolas Sarkozy in the 2012 election.

The Socialists will now put the matter to a vote among party members Thursday, and again Friday if a runoff is necessary. It will be the first time a Socialist leader is chosen by the rank and file without the backing of the party leadership.

The candidates to replace outgoing party chief Francois Hollande are former presidential candidate Segolene Royal, former Labor Minister Martine Aubry and Benoit Hamon.

Ms. Royal was defeated by the conservative Mr. Sarkozy in the 2007 election, and Mr. Aubry gave France the 35-hour work week that Mr. Sarkozy is undoing. Mr. Hamon represents a far-left faction of the party.

Governing party officials mocked the Socialists for their failure to select a leader at the 75th annual convention held in Reims, the gateway to Champagne country. “Is there still a Socialist Party?” Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie asked ironically in an interview on Radio J.

Ms. Royal, 55, appealed in vain for unity behind her candidacy. She had won a pre-convention ballot with 29 percent of the vote and appealed to Mr. Hollande, her ex-companion and father of her four children, to back her candidacy.


Bad weather hurts wine price

BEAUNE | Battered by storm damage and the weak global economy, French Burgundy wine prices fell at an annual charity auction held Sunday.

The Beaune Hospices auction, which features the 200-year-old tradition of bidding for the final lot until two candles flicker out, traditionally sets the price for the latest vintage.

Edinburgh hotel and restaurant owner James Thomson, wearing a kilt, placed the successful bid of 50,000 euros (about $63,000) for the final exhibit, a 228-liter oak barrel of Pommard Premier Cru red wine.


EU peacekeepers come under fire

TBILISI | European Union cease-fire monitors in Georgia said Sunday that they had come under fire near the rebel region of Abkhazia while investigating the killing of a police officer.

The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) said in a statement that “heavy shooting erupted and some bullets fell close to the mission personnel” while monitors were investigating the killing of a Georgian police officer Saturday near the border with Abkhazia.

“It was not clear whether they were aimed at [EU monitors] intentionally, but this action is unacceptable, the EUMM is an unarmed civilian mission,” the statement said.

No one was injured in the attack.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another Georgian separatist province, were the scene of a brief war between Russia and Georgia in August that was sparked by an attempt by Georgia to retake control of South Ossetia.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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