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Kerry and Ban Ki-moon mediate in Gaza conflict

John Kerry called on Hamas in particular to agree to a ceasefire. (© picture-alliance/dpa)


US Secretary of State John Kerry flew to israel on Wednesday to negotiate a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Following the suspension of flights to Ben Gurion International Airport, some commentators believe Israel has been forced into a corner and that mediation efforts are bearing fruit. Others stress that a ceasefire is a far cry from peace, but an important step in that direction.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Truce in reach: Israel under pressure

The efforts to negotiate a ceasefire may well be successful because Israel fears isolation, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore believes: "Trapped in a cage: now Israel is getting a taste of the nasty feeling of being trapped like the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip - even if that feeling has different origins. Ever since one of Hamas's rockets landed near a runway at Ben Gurion airport, the country's gateway to the world has been all but closed. The Gaza offensive is not going as the Israeli government and general staff had planned. And the Jewish state is now also under siege - from Hamas's military operations and above all from international diplomacy and public opinion. This is why the ceasefire negotiated by John Kerry and the Egyptians is taking a concrete form and may come into effect tomorrow." (24/07/2014)

Savon Sanomat - Finland

Ceasefire just the first step

International pressure on Hamas and Israel is growing, the liberal daily Savon Sanomat observes, and hopes a ceasefire in the Gaza conflict will be the first step to peace: "As of Wednesday over 600 people have died in two weeks of fighting, most of them Palestinian civilians, including 100 children. ... There's no point in believing that a ceasefire agreement on the basis of the Egyptian government's proposal will provide a solution to the problems that have accumulated over decades. A ceasefire is still necessary to end the bloodshed. But it's clear that in six months' or a year's time the violence will erupt again if the parties don't make progress in the negotiations." (24/07/2014)

Die Zeit - Germany

Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism

When international politicians seek a solution to the Gaza conflict it must be possible for them to criticise Israel's course of action - even if they come from Germany, the liberal weekly Die Zeit demands: "When Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, criticised Israel's settlement policy and the blockade in Gaza as obstacles to peace in a speech before the Knesset at the start of the year, he was promptly accused of anti-Semitism by the Israeli right wing. When such criticism is addressed to a German it always has the following implication: because of your responsibility for the Shoah it is your duty to defend Israel, no matter what. This misconception should be dispelled: Because of their history Germans have a special obligation to fight anti-Semitism and campaign for Israel's right to exist. But it is not their duty to remain silent when an Israeli government contravenes international law." (24/07/2014)

Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

UN Human Rights Council does the right thing

The UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday condemned the Israeli military offensive in Gaza and agreed to launch an inquiry into possible war crimes. The daily Tages-Anzeiger welcomes the initiative: "Although protecting international humanitarian law is not among the core tasks of the UN Human Rights Council, it does this on a regular basis. ... Because no one can close their eyes to the fact that in just a few days the war in Gaza has cost the lives of over 200 women and children. The Human Rights Council is doing the only right thing: insisting that the international laws of armed conflict should be respected. ... Too many warring states couldn't care less about protecting the civil population. They let their soldiers shoot at hospitals and schools, protect neither women, children, the injured nor the disabled, and prevent deliveries of food and medicine as they see fit. And that despite the fact that they've signed the Geneva Convention and are duty-bound to respect the international law of war." (24/07/2014)


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De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Dignity of plane crash victims restored

Wednesday was declared a day of mourning in the Netherlands as the first 40 victims of the MH17 plane crash arrived in the country. A worthy occasion, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant comments: "Today something beautiful happened in the Netherlands. 'The dead have regained their dignity', someone solemnly said. ... First all we had was the shocking death toll. Then came the anger at the tug-of-war over the bodies and the rummaging around in luggage. But the whole time the tragedy remained pretty abstract for most Dutch. ... All this changed when the two airplanes landed in Eindhoven. Now the mourning can finally begin for the relatives. Now the victims are no longer being pushed out of the picture by the perpetrators. Now the black plastic bags have been replaced by proper wooden coffins. Now instead of the pictures of chaos on Europe's periphery we have pictures of order in a country of peace. ... The country has mourned in a way fitting for our society." (24/07/2014)

Mladá fronta Dnes - Czech Republic

Business as usual despite MH17

A week after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine, the EU has still not managed to formulate a response and is doing business as usual with Russia, the liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes complains: "French President Hollande confirmed yesterday that his country would not cancel the sale of two modern Mistral class helicopter carriers, on the grounds that Russia ordered and paid for them three years ago. 'Are we supposed to repay 1.1 billion euros?' he asked. ... This deal should have been cancelled months ago when Russia invaded Ukraine. But the French aren't the only ones to act shamelessly in the turbulent situation after the MH17 disaster. The Dutch, too, who lost the greatest number of innocent victims in eastern Ukraine, have no intention of limiting their cooperation. Particularly Shell's lucrative business with oil reserves in Siberia." (24/07/2014)

T24 - Turkey

New witch hunt in Turkey

Over fifty high-ranking police officers were arrested on Tuesday in Turkey. Many of those arrested took part in corruption investigations against the government and the criminal proceedings against the underground organisation Ergenekon. The liberal daily T24 sees the arrests as an act of revenge by the government given that Turkey has a long tradition of state persecution that is now targeting government critics: "Turkey has begun a new witch hunt. In the days of one-party rule the communists, Kurds and conservative Muslims were the preferred targets of the persecution. Until the end of the Cold War the communists were at the top of the list. Then when the Soviet regime collapsed, the communists were suddenly forgotten, and the witch hunt focussed pitilessly on the Kurds. ... Today anyone reasonable realises that the current arrests are an act of vengeance." (24/07/2014)

Kapital Daily - Bulgaria

Isolation forced Bulgaria's government to resign

Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski handed in his resignation on Wednesday after only a year in office. Not just the protests that have been going on since last summer but also international isolation and the freezing of EU funding forced his government to take this step, the newspaper Kapital Daily argues: "Since 1997 no Bulgarian government has met with such widespread rejection as that of Plamen Oresharski. ... Hardly any European countries extended invitations to the prime minister and foreign minister. ... The government comprising the Socialists and the Party of the Turkish Minority pretended it didn't care. That only deepened the rift and finally led to EU funding being stopped. Of course there are also objective reasons for this sanction, but politically it was meant to demonstrate mistrust of the Bulgarian government. So while the stopping of EU funding was partially responsible for the collapse of the governing coalition, Bulgaria's isolation in the EU hastened the government's resignation." (23/07/2014)


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Eesti Ekspress - Estonia

Sergei Metlev sets hopes on Russians living abroad

Russians living outside Russia have a vital role to play in talking sense into the Russian government and population concerning the political situation in Ukraine, Russophone civil rights activist Sergei Metlev writes in the weekly paper Eesti Ekspress: "The millions of people who demonstrated for freedom on the streets of Moscow in 1991 have been swallowed up by the darkness of history. Surveys show that over 80 percent of Russians support the occupation of Crimea. But there is one glimmer of hope: the millions of Russophones who live in freedom around the world, or who are inwardly free, could impede the degeneration of the Russian state. It is particularly difficult to be Russian today. In the past years Putin has deceitfully maintained that Russia has been kneeling for too long, and that he wants to get it back on its feet. Instead his orders are simply burying the Soviet Union. ... The question is how the Russian communities around the world can maintain their spiritual and cultural bonds with Russia while seeking to become Europeans. That is: people who are aware and courageous enough to stand up for an open society." (23/07/2014)


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Verslo žinios - Lithuania

Lithuania on track for euro club membership

Lithuania will become the 19th EU member state to join the Eurozone on 1 January 2015, the EU states agreed at a meeting of the Council of Ministers on Wednesday. The country has cleared the final hurdle to the single currency, the business paper Verslo žinios applauds: "The main advantage being talked about is that we won't have to pay fees for exchanging currency. We will pay with the same currency as our Eurozone partners and the newcomers to the euro club, Latvia and Estonia. And the entire Lithuanian financial system will feel more secure - the European Central Bank will back our banks. It's estimated that after conversion to the euro the average interest rate will go down by 0.56 percent. Both the state and companies and households will benefit from cheaper loans. And this will also make Lithuania more attractive for foreign investors." (24/07/2014)


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The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom

Europe's Jewish population is scared

In the conservative Daily Telegraph, Emma Barnett examines the consequences of Israel's Gaza Strip offensive for Jews in Europe: "The truth is that up and down this island, Jews are arguing, debating, crying and worrying about what's going on in an even smaller country across the ocean. Some British Jews are fasting for peace; some are angry at one or both sides; but many are just scared - scared not just about events in Gaza, but events in Europe. These include reports about gangs of Muslims chanting 'death to Jews' on the streets of France, and attacking synagogues and setting fire to Jewish-owned stores. … Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Germany, too. … British Jews aren't scared to talk to each other about the situation in Israel. We're becoming scared to talk at all." (23/07/2014)

Blog Pitsirikos - Greece

Democracy based on loans isn't democracy

Greece is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the end of the military dictatorship and the restoration of democracy today, Thursday. President Karolos Papoulias stated that the withdrawal of democracy was the 'most dramatic side effect of the economic adventure'. Blogger Pitsirikos wonders how anyone can talk of Greece as a democratic society: "This state was built on loans. The loans were taken out even before the Greek state was founded, and this state continued to exist only thanks to loans. Democracy based on loans doesn't exist. ... Anyone who is familiar with Greek history knows that major problems arise when the loans come to a halt. There are no more loans. And now the politicians, the 'compradors' [who benefit from foreign trade] and the descendants of the traitors have no more money and are in trouble. Nonetheless, most Greeks tolerate them and keep them in power, despite the fact that most Greeks don't even know what true democracy is." (24/07/2014)

România Liberă - Romania

Liberate wheelchair users from house arrest

Hundreds of demonstrators took to Bucharest's streets to demand a more pedestrian-friendly and wheelchair-friendly city on Sunday. Wheelchair users are virtually excluded from public life, the conservative daily România Liberă complains: "There's no space for them on the pavements, so they're basically condemned to house arrest. At best they can move around in front of the block of flats where they live if there's a lift which fits wheelchairs. Forced into invisibility like this, the disabled go ignored by most Romanians, and worse still: also by the authorities. Bucharest is inaccessible for an important section of its population - the disabled, the elderly and parents with pushchairs. This was the reason for the march on Sunday. ... And also to prevent what happened to a young man in a wheelchair who took part in the protest from happening again: a bodyguard denied him entry to a newly opened shopping mall, saying that with his wheelchair he would 'damage the mall's image'." (24/07/2014)


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Le Quotidien - Luxembourg

Twitter a formidable propaganda machine

Since the escalation in the Gaza conflict, Hamas's al-Qassam brigades and the Israeli army have been spreading their own versions of events via Twitter. Social networks are a wonderful achievement for press and media freedom but they also aid war propaganda, the liberal daily Le Quotidien complains: "Everyone can be connected, follow or communicate with people they know - or not, as the case may be. Information circulates at an unimaginable speed, with tools that can be considered the ultimate embodiment of a free world where no limits are set on people's ability to inform and express themselves. These tools remain an expression of the free world. The proof is that the social networks are censured in overtly authoritarian countries. However they have also become a formidable propaganda tool for the parties engaged in these hazy conflicts. But it must be clear to everyone that they have likewise become indispensable for the protagonists of wars, be they psychological, diplomatic, economic or military." (23/07/2014)


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Svenska Dagbladet - Sweden

Russia shouldn't host World Cup

Following the alleged shooting down of flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, European politicians have raised doubts about Russia hosting the football World Cup in 2018. The Swedish Football Association should also campaign for the tournament to be held elsewhere, the conservative daily Svenska Dagbladet comments: "International sport has a uniting effect, and championships in team sports can be seen as peaceful competitions among nations. To allow a championship in one of the major sports to take place in a country that is occupying parts of a neighbouring country would be a mockery of the basic principle of sport. The Swedish Football Association should therefore join forces with other like-minded associations and governments and campaign for Russia to lose the World Cup 2018 unless the situation in Ukraine improves markedly in the next few months. In addition the Crimea issue must be resolved in accordance with international law." (24/07/2014)

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