Archive for North America
Gunmen stormed a military hospital in Afghanistan’s capital Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding more than 60, setting off clashes with security forces that were still underway hours later. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said gunmen entered the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan Hospital after an explosion and gunfire. The 400-bed military hospital is located near two civilian hospitals in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul, which is also home to several embassies, including that of the U.S. The attack began when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the rear of the hospital and three attackers with automatic weapons and hand grenades entered the complex, a security official told the Reuters news agency. The gunmen, dressed as medical personnel, took positions on the hospital’s upper floors and battled special forces sent to the scene, officials told Reuters. As fighting went on, a second explosion was heard inside, Reuters added.
An official United States delegation led by Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is briefly visiting Israel on Saturday and Sunday to study the possibility of relocating the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “The delegation is in Jerusalem to learn first hand what it will mean to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Ruth Lieberman, a friend of DeSantis and a political advisor in Israel. “Its leadership intends to return to Congress with a report and a deeper understanding of what to expect, and of some of the decisions that have to be made as well,” Lieberman said. DeSantis chairs the subcommittee for National Security for the US House Oversight Committee. The delegation will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli political leaders during their visit. US President Donald Trump had promised to relocate the embassy during his campaign for the White House. But since his January 20th inauguration, his lukewarm statements about the matter led many to speculate that he would not make good on his pledge. The delegation’s visit is the first sign that there might be some movement on the issue. Palestinian and Jordanian leaders have warned the US that moving the embassy could spark violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as in the Middle East region as a whole.
The Trump administration’s back-to-back controversies over its Russian ties now have at least one thing in common: Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He has emerged as the central figure in the investigations into Trump advisers’ connections with Russia. In a matter of weeks, contact with Kislyak led to the firing of a top adviser to the president and, on Thursday, prompted calls for the attorney general to resign. Separately, a White House official confirmed Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Kislyak at Trump Tower in December for what the official called a brief courtesy meeting. Flynn was pushed out of the White House last month after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call. At issue Thursday were two meetings between Sessions and Kislyak — one in July and another in September, at the height of concern over Russia’s involvement in hacking of Democratic officials’ emails accounts. Intelligence officials have since concluded Moscow ordered the hacks to tilt the election toward Trump. In his confirmation hearing, the Alabama Republican denied having contact with any Russian officials, neglecting to mention the meetings with Kislyak, which were first reported by the Washington Post. The Russian Embassy did not respond to a request for comment. Kislyak, who was appointed to his post in 2008, is regularly spotted walking around town, heading to and from meetings. Early in his tenure, he often opened the doors of the Russian Embassy, hosting dinners for foreign policy professionals, Pentagon officials, journalists and Capitol Hill staffers. Those who have attended the events describe him as a gracious and amiable diplomat, although perhaps not as polished — nor as confrontational — as his more famous boss, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kislyak, 66, has bounced between the United States and Russia for most of his long career.
The Russian embassy to the United States sayd it was in regular contact with “US partners” after the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had failed to disclose meetings with Russia’s ambassador. Citing Justice Department officials, the Post said Sessions spoke twice last year with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador, while he was still a US senator. US House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on Sessions to resign over the issue. The question of how much contact there was between the campaign of President Donald Trump and Russia prior to his election has dominated the early days of his presidency along with allegations from US intelligence officials that Moscow ran an influence campaign to try to sway the election’s outcome. Russia categorically denies meddling and Russian officials say the issue is being deliberately used by Trump’s opponents to derail chances of a swift warming in US-Russia ties. “The embassy doesn’t comment on numerous contacts with local partners, which occur on a daily basis in line with diplomatic practice,” Russian embassy spokesman Nikolai Lakhonin told Russia’s Interfax news agency, when asked to comment on meetings between Sessions and Kislyak. Sessions has denied discussing details of the US presidential campaign with Russian officials. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired last month after he discussed US sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has introduced legislation to name the street in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington Boris Nemtsov Place in honor of the slain opposition politician. Rubio (Republican-Florida) proposed the bill on February 27, two years after Nemtsov was shot dead on a bridge near the Kremlin. Rubio, who unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said that Nemtsov “was just one of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s critics who have wound up dead or hospitalized as the regime cracks down on any opposition.” “The creation of ‘Boris Nemtsov Plaza’ would permanently remind Putin’s regime and the Russian people that these dissidents’ voices live on, and that defenders of liberty will not be silenced,” Rubio said in a statement. “Whether it is looking at a street sign or thousands of pieces of correspondence addressed ’1 Boris Nemtsov Plaza,’ it will be abundantly clear to the Kremlin that the intimidation and murder of opposition figures does not go unnoticed.” For Rubio’s resolution to become U.S. law, it must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Donald Trump.
China’s top diplomat will soon be in the United States (US) on the first official visit to the country since President Donald Trump took office, amid signs of strain in ties over trade relations and growing tension in east Asia. State Councillor Yang Jiechi will be in Washington for two days beginning Monday. He will exchange views with senior Trump administration officials on bilateral ties and issues of common concern, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang. Yang, the top diplomat in Chinese political hierarchy who has served as ambassador to Washington, is the first senior official from China to visit the US since Trump took office on January 20. And it comes after Trump agreed to “honour” the ‘One China’ policy, which considers Taiwan part of China, during a telephonic conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 10, retracting from his previous public stance that he would negotiate the policy. The future of US-China ties remain uncertain after Trump accused the world’s second-largest economy of cheating at trade and repeatedly called it a “currency manipulator”. Trump has also slammed China over its assertive moves in the disputed South China Sea (SCS), where Beijing has built islands that can potentially be used for military purposes.
India’s top diplomat will visit Washington this week for talks with the new US administration, an Indian foreign ministry official said Sunday. Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar is expected to discuss with American officials India’s concerns over proposed US legislation that could make it harder for companies to replace American workers with those from India and other countries. Also on the agenda during Jaishankar’s four-day visit, which begins Tuesday, is safety for foreigners following a Kansas City bar shooting that killed an Indian engineer and wounded another. Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup did not give details Sunday, but news reports said Jaishankar would meet with US Acting Deputy Secretary of State Tom Shannon and other officials.