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MAIN FOCUS | 25/07/2014

Proposal for a truce in the Gaza conflict

US Secretary of State John Kerry has presented a ceasefire proposal to both conflict parties in the Gaza crisis. According to Haaretz newspaper, the fighting is to stop for a week to make way for Egyptian brokered talks on finding a long-term solution. Commentators stress the urgent need for a ceasefire and discuss the Arab world's passivity in view of the violence in Gaza.

MAIN FOCUS | 24/07/2014

Kerry and Ban Ki-moon mediate in Gaza conflict

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.

With articles from the following publications:
Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, Savon Sanomat - Finland, Die Zeit - Germany, Tages-Anzeiger - Switzerland

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

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

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

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

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)

MAIN FOCUS | 23/07/2014

EU considers new sanctions against Russia

The EU's foreign ministers were unable to agree on further sanctions against Russia on Tuesday. Instead they tasked the European Commission with examining measures such as an arms embargo by Thursday. Commentators criticise the fact that harsh economic sanctions weren't imposed immediately and call on the EU to finally adopt a united stance vis-à-vis Moscow.

With articles from the following publications:
De Volkskrant - Netherlands, Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy, The Times - United Kingdom, Berliner Zeitung - Germany

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

Europe's tone against Moscow has become harsher but that's not enough, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant argues: "Dogs that bark don't bite. Some of the countries that sent a last warning to Putin yesterday were still arguing about concrete measures only shortly before. A typical example was President Hollande's insistence on selling at least one Mistral warship to Moscow [rather than two as planned]. ... The Netherlands must now adopt a leading role to end Europe's lack of unity. Putin's dreadful decision in favour of ethno-nationalism and escapades abroad can only be countered if his 'European partners' make it clear this won't be tolerated. ... There's no choice: Putin's power can only be reined in by an effective counterweight." (23/07/2014)

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

A divided community in which each state pursues its own interests is hardly trustworthy, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore laments: "When it comes to relations with Russia every country in Europe has more than one skeleton in the closet. ... How much longer can Europe entertain the illusion that it can put its short-term economic interests above all ethical and strategic considerations without paying a high price? The model of the economic giant resting on the laurels of its single market and single currency without bothering about anything else no longer functions. ... The need for a common foreign policy and defence can no longer be ignored. But instead Europe is sticking to little games with the slide rule of sanctions: one for you, one for me, or perhaps none at all. It won't get very far with this approach." (23/07/2014)

The Times - United Kingdom

Germany should play a pivotal role in the discussion over stepping up sanctions against Russia, the conservative daily The Times believes: "Mrs Merkel won't risk a showdown, though, because Germany now sees its central role as the Putin-Whisperer, the official interpreter of Vladimir Putin. … Slowly Mrs Merkel has come to realise that redefining the relationship with Russia could be the biggest challenge of her nine years in office, as grave as the euro-crisis. More complex, too, than the prospect of a British exit from the EU. It means thinking out loud about whether the EU can by itself define the political and geographical boundaries of the continent. That's tricky for Germany and it will entail a degree of toughness with Moscow that has so far been absent. ... The price of wrong-headed tolerance of Putin has, in fact, just been paid in the blood of innocent airline passengers." (23/07/2014)

Berliner Zeitung - Germany

At a meeting of the Russian National Security Council on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke for the first time of putting pressure on the separatists in eastern Ukraine. But he wants something in exchange, and this reveals his true concern, the Berliner Zeitung comments: "Denuded of all the cautious phrases, what Putin is doing is demanding that the West promise it will stop using a country's internal problems as an excuse to support coloured revolutions or national springs. In Putin's eyes this is nothing but the destabilisation of foreign states and the instigation of conventional coups. ... He wants the West to guarantee there won't be another Ukraine - neither in neighbouring Belarus nor in Kazakhstan - but above all not in Russia itself. The approval there for his course of action is overwhelming right now, because he appears so strong and unbending. But Putin knows, also from the experience with Ukraine, how quickly and for what trivial reasons the mood can swing and turn against him." (23/07/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 22/07/2014

MH17 investigation: Moscow willing to cooperate

The UN Security Council, including Russia, condemned the shooting down of flight MH17 in a resolution passed on Monday. Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin pledged "full cooperation" with the investigation into the crash. Commentators nonetheless call for the EU foreign ministers to impose tough sanctions including an arms embargo on Russia at their meeting today, Tuesday.

With articles from the following publications:
Helsingin Sanomat - Finland, Spiegel Online - Germany, Rzeczpospolita - Poland, L'Express - France

Helsingin Sanomat - Finland

The EU must be stricter with Russia, the liberal daily Helsingin Sanomat writes: "Every concrete, tough measure leads to an outcry somewhere in Europe. But perhaps it would do more to solve the crisis if Russia's President Vladimir Putin were obliged to find peace in eastern Ukraine through an embargo on sales of weapons . ... Russia is itself a major arms manufacturer, nevertheless it can't get by without weapons purchases. For warships, for example, it depends on French know-how. ... Of course there would be a price to pay for tightening the EU's joint stance. But as the continent's self-declared peaceful power, the Union would also pay a heavy price if it simply looked on as the crisis comes to a head, or if it continued to flog Putin with flowers. If it does manage to implement a ban on weapons sales and exports and to extend its sanctions to the financial sector, that would be a fitting way to make its clout felt." (22/07/2014)

Spiegel Online - Germany

Economic sanctions against Russia won't achieve anything unless there's a radical shift in thinking among Germany's business leaders, writes columnist Wolfgang Münchau on news portal Spiegel Online: "First of all the fatal eastward orientation of Germany's business elites needs to be corrected. [Ex-German chancellor and chairman of the board of Nord Stream] Schröder and others should make it clear to the bosses of German companies that contact with Putin and his entourage is officially frowned upon. Russia should be dropped as a destination for German investments. The Ostauschuss der deutschen Wirtschaft [organisation for supporting German companies in their East European activities] should help organise the strategic withdrawal from Russia for German companies." (22/07/2014)

Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Russia is responsible for the plane crash, the conservative daily Rzeczpospolita believes, and calls on the EU to show its teeth to President Putin: "Russia already behaved like a terrorist state in the case of the Smolensk disaster. The investigations into the crash of the Tupolev 154 were marked by many irregularities, delays and blunders. ... In the present case too, it looks very much as if the Russians bear responsibility for this crime. And they are doing all they can to hide it. ... For that reason we launch an appeal, with the help of the press, to the politicians of the West. Stand firm on this issue. Be resolute, and ready to isolate the Kremlin politically and economically. Do not address Moscow in a tone of reconciliation and understanding. Because these investigations belong in the hands of an international commission." (22/07/2014)

L'Express - France

The world is no longer safe when heavy weapons can fall into the hands of fanatics, publicist Jacques Attali writes in his blog for the weekly magazine L'Express in light of the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet: "The missile attack on an airliner flying at high altitude shows that the Somalisation - the anarchy - knows no bounds. After having taken hold of the sea off the Somali coast, it has now reached the sky above Ukraine. It is now to be feared that no airliner is safe anywhere in the world. … Nothing will improve as long as reasonable people go on believing that criminals and fanatics obey the same laws as they do, and as long as they are willing to sell, give or allow them to have terrible weapons of destruction. … If we treat the mafia and terrorist organisations in the same way we treat reasonable people, the whole world will soon become an impossible place to live in." (21/07/2014)

MAIN FOCUS | 21/07/2014

Pressure on Moscow mounts after plane crash

After a Malaysian passenger plane was apparently shot down over eastern Ukraine, European leaders have called on Moscow to push for an independent investigation of the tragedy. Commentators doubt Russia will cede ground in the Ukraine conflict and call on the EU foreign ministers to impose tougher sanctions against the country at their meeting on Tuesday.

With articles from the following publications:
ABC - Spain, De Volkskrant - Netherlands, Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia, Der Spiegel - Germany, The Independent - United Kingdom

ABC - Spain

Now the time has finally come for Europe to impose tougher sanctions against Russia, the conservative daily ABC urges with an eye to the meeting of the EU foreign ministers on Tuesday: "The events regarding Flight MH17 show that there would be catastrophic consequences not just for nations like Ukraine but also for the West if Putin manages to push through his plans [for a Greater Russia]. In the coming hours of investigation into the plane crash, all sides must put their cards on the table. Above all the pro-Russian rebels must behave according to the demands of the international community, because this is their last chance to avoid the isolation of their closest ally. Moscow too must wield its considerable influence to uncover the truth - whatever that may be. The European Unions must also put its cards on the table and show its weapons. After this most recent event it has no more arguments for delaying tougher sanctions." (21/07/2014)

De Volkskrant - Netherlands

After the shock at the deaths of the 193 Dutch victims, anger is growing in the Netherlands over how their remains are being treated. The pro-Russian rebels are said to have removed the majority of the corpses. Prime Minister Mark Rutte must exert more pressure on Moscow, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant demands: "Rutte made a weak impression on the weekend. Certainly, he had an 'insistent' telephone conversation with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the Kremlin boss fobbed him off with evasive comments. ... Rutte must now take the initiative and see to it that the OSCE is given the necessary protection to carry out its investigations unimpeded at the crash site. ... The crisis teaches us that Putin is only too happy to take advantage of the European Union's powerlessness - and reluctance - to take a stand. ... Now the goal must be must be for Europe to fully enforce the economic sanctions announced by President Obama against Russia. ... Economic profit can no longer be an argument for 'appeasement' vis-à-vis the Kremlin." (21/07/2014)

Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia

Pro-Russian rebels took control of the site where the Malaysian Airlines plane crashed and impeded the investigating and salvaging operations of independent experts over the weekend. The liberal daily Eesti Päevaleht fears the separatists will allow the situation to escalate: "The shooting down of the Boeing 777 could have sobered up the Ukrainian separatists. 298 innocent people died in the tragedy - shocking. Unfortunately it seems those not involved in the conflict find that more shocking than those who are involved, whose interests, worries and motives are hindering humane acts. ... Despite the numerous alarms the EU is proving powerless in its support for Ukraine, although this conflict on its border is more dangerous than the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. It's time the big powers - Russia, the US and the EU - sought compromises. Too many separatists and their supporters seem to feel they have nothing left to lose. Feelings like that have sparked more than one major war." (21/07/2014)

Der Spiegel - Germany

The plane tragedy in eastern Ukraine is forcing all involved parties to come to their senses, news magazine Der Spiegel writes and calls for an international commission to investigate the crash, a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine and "the deployment of a 'robust 'UN-approved mission that is detailed not just to maintain peace but has permission to fire and to establish peace. It's true, such UN missions, for example that in Congo, have failed miserably in the past. And with such neutral troops, there is the danger of eastern Ukraine becoming a 'frozen' centre of conflict. ... In other words, the risk that the government of Ukraine won't attain its legitimate right to autonomously determine the fate of eastern Ukraine in the near future. But right now this is by far the lesser evil compared to all other scenarios. Peace can and must be forced on the country." (21/07/2014)

The Independent - United Kingdom

The international community must call to account those who turn civilians into victims in conflict areas like eastern Ukraine and Gaza, columnist Joan Smithe demands in the left-liberal daily The Independent: "The conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza are very different but they have this in common: as in almost all modern wars, the people who suffer most are civilians. ... There is a danger, when so many civilians are dying - the total number of dead in Gaza rose above 300 yesterday - that it starts to seem inevitable. But it is happening because of a reluctance by the international community to restore and enforce the rule of law. ... It shouldn't take mass murder in the sky over Ukraine to persuade our leaders that they need to identify and prosecute those who commit war crimes, no matter how important they are." (20/07/2014)


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