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China replaces Britain in world’s top five arms exporters

China’s J-10 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Aerobatics Team perform during a flight demonstration at the air show in Zhuhai last year. —Photo (File) Reuters

China’s J-10 fighter jets from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force Aerobatics Team perform during a flight demonstration at the air show in Zhuhai last year. —Photo (File) Reuters

BEIJING: China has become the world’s fifth-largest arms exporter, a respected Sweden-based think tank said on Monday, its highest ranking since the Cold War, with Pakistan as the main recipient.

China’s volume of weapons exports between 2008 and 2012 rose 162 per cent compared to the previous five year period, with its share of the global arms trade rising from 2 per cent to 5 per cent, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said.

China replaces Britain in the top five arms-dealing countries between 2008 and 2012, a group dominated by the United States and Russia, which accounted for 30 per cent and 26 per cent of weapons exports, SIPRI said.

“China is establishing itself as a significant arms supplier to a growing number of important recipient states,” Paul Holtom, director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme, said in a statement.

The shift, outlined in SIPRI’s Trends in International Arms Transfers report, marks China’s first time as a top-five arms exporter since the think tank’s 1986-1990 data period.

Now the world’s second-largest economy, China’s rise has come with a new sense of military assertiveness with a growing budget to develop modern warfare equipment including aircraft carriers and drones.

At the Zhuhai air show in southern China in November, Chinese attack helicopters, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and air defences were on public show for the first time.

SIPRI maintains a global arms transfers database base that tracks arms exports back to the 1950s. It averages data over five-year periods because arms sales vary by year.

“Pakistan – which accounted for 55 per cent of Chinese arms exports – is likely to remain the largest recipient of Chinese arms in the coming years due to large outstanding and planned orders for combat aircraft, submarines and frigates,” SIPRI said.

Myanmar, which has been undergoing fragile reforms that the United States thinks could help counter Beijing’s influence in the region, received 8 per cent of China’s weapons exports.

Bangladesh received 7 per cent of the arms, and Algeria, Venezuela and Morocco have bought Chinese-made frigates, aircraft or armoured vehicles in the past several years.

Beijing does not release official figures for arms sales.

Germany and France ranked third and fourth on the arms exporter list. China followed only India in the acquisition of arms, though its reliance on imports is decreasing as it ramps up weapons production capabilities at home.

After decades of steep increases in military spending and cash injections into domestic defence contractors, experts say some Chinese-made equipment is now comparable to Russian or Western counterparts, though accurate information about the performance of Chinese weapons is scarce.

China faces bans on Western military imports, dating back to anger over its crushing of pro-democracy protests in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989. That makes its domestic arms industry crucial in assembling a modern military force that can enforce claims over Taiwan and disputed maritime territories.

China has faced off recently with its Southeast Asian neighbours and Japan over conflicting claims to strings of islets in the South China Sea and East China Sea, even as the United States executes a military pivot towards the Pacific.

Source: Dawn News

Israel must pull all settlers from Palestinian land: UN

GENEVA: Israel must immediately stop all settlement activity and start to withdraw its settlers from the Palestinian territories, a United Nations report said on Thursday.

“Israel must … cease all settlement activities without preconditions (and) must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers” from the occupied territories, a UN fact-finding mission concluded.

Because of the settlements, Palestinians’ human rights “are being violated consistently and on a daily basis,” the three independent experts said in a report commissioned by the UN’s Human Rights Council last March.

The three experts – Christine Chanet of France, Asma Jahangir of Pakistan and Unity Dow of Botswana – who will present their findings to the 47-member state council on March 18, also called on the Jewish state to “ensure adequate, effective and prompt remedy to all Palestinian victims … of human rights violations that are a result of the settlements.”

The council’s decision to dispatch the fact-finding mission to determine what impact the settlements are having on the rights of Palestinians so enraged the Jewish state that it cut all ties with the 47-member state council in March 2012.

The experts published their findings just two days after Israel made its anger felt by becoming the first country to ever boycott a special council review of its rights situation.

Israel calls report ‘biased’

Israel on Thursday slammed as “biased” the report by the UN Human Rights Council, saying it would only hamper peace efforts.

“The Human Rights Council has sadly distinguished itself by its systematically one-sided and biased approach towards Israel. This latest report is yet another unfortunate reminder of that,” foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

“Counterproductive measures, such as the report before us, will only hamper efforts to find a sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” Palmor said in a statement.

“The only way to resolve all pending issues between Israel and the Palestinians, including the settlements issue, is through direct negotiations without pre-conditions.”

The experts were not able to visit Israel or the Palestinian territories, after failing to secure Israeli permission, and instead met in Jordan with more than 50 people affected by the settlements or working in NGOs in a relevant field, it said.

The Jewish state is not a member of the council but like all 193 UN countries it is required to undergo Universal Periodic Reviews of its human rights situation.

Source: Dawn News

Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault

Letter with 52 signatories including artists and activists also denounces US and EU ‘complicity’ through weapons sales

A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their “complicity” through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

“Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel’s decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel,” the letter says.

“Such a measure has been subject to several UN resolutions and is similar to the arms embargo imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.”

The letter accuses several countries of providing important military support that facilitated the assault on Gaza. “While the United States has been the largest sponsor of Israel, supplying billions of dollars of advanced military hardware every year, the role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel’s military complex through its research programmes.

“Similarly, the growing military ties between Israel and the emerging economies of Brazil, India and South Korea are unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom,” it says.

The letter opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

The other signatories include John Dugard, a South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur in the occupied territories; Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European parliament; Cynthia McKinney, a former member of the US Congress; Ronnie Kasrils, a South African former cabinet minister; and the dramatist Caryl Churchill.

Source: Guardian News

Britain ready to back Palestinian statehood at UN

Mahmoud Abbas pledge not to pursue Israel for war crimes and resumption of peace talks are UK conditions

Britain is prepared to back a key vote recognising Palestinian statehood at the United Nations if Mahmoud Abbas pledges not to pursue Israel for war crimes and to resume peace talks.

Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, has called for Britain’s backing in part because of its historic responsibility for Palestine. The government has previously refused, citing strong US and Israeli objections and fears of long-term damage to prospects for negotiations.

On Monday night, the government signalled it would change tack and vote yes if the Palestinians modified their application, which is to be debated by the UN general assembly in New York later this week. As a “non-member state”, Palestine would have the same status as the Vatican.

Whitehall officials said the Palestinians were now being asked to refrain from applying for membership of the international criminal court or the international court of justice, which could both be used to pursue war crimes charges or other legal claims against Israel.

Abbas is also being asked to commit to an immediate resumption of peace talks “without preconditions” with Israel. The third condition is that the general assembly’s resolution does not require the UN security council to follow suit.

The US and Israel have both hinted at possible retaliation if the vote goes ahead. Congress could block payments to the Palestinian Authority and Israel might freeze tax revenues it transfers under the 1993 Oslo agreement or, worse, withdraw from the agreement altogether. It could also annex West Bank settlements. Britain’s position is that it wants to reduce the risk that such threats might be implemented and bolster Palestinian moderates.

France has already signalled that it will vote yes on Thursday, and the long-awaited vote is certain to pass as 132 UN members have recognised the state of Palestine. Decisions by Germany, Spain and Britain are still pending and Palestinians would clearly prefer a united EU position as counterweight to the US.

Willian Hague, the foreign secretary, discussed the issue on Monday with Abbas and the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, offiicals said.

Palestinian sources said Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, raised the issue with Abbas at his Ramallah headquarters last week, shortly before a ceasefire was agreed in the Gaza Strip, as had Tony Blair, the Quartet envoy.

Abbas has been widely seen to have been sidelined by his rivals in the Islamist movement Hamas, as well by his failure to win any concessions from Israel. Abbas, whose remit does not extend beyond the West Bank, hopes a strong yes vote will persuade Israel to return to talks after more than two years.

Officals in Ramallah have opposed surrendering on the ICC issue so it can be used as a bargaining chip in future, but views are thought to be divided. Abbas said at the weekend: “We are going to the UN fully confident in our steps. We will have our rights because you are with us.”

Leila Shaid, Palestine’s representative to the EU, said: “After everything that has happened in the Arab spring, Britain can’t pretend it is in favour of democracy in Libya, Syria and Egypt but accept the Palestinians continuing to live under occupation. As the former colonial power, Britain has a historic responsibility to Palestine. Britain is a very important country in the Middle East, it has extensive trade relations, and David Cameron should know he risks a popular backlash from Arab public opinion if he does not support us.”

Palestinians have rejected the claim that they are acting unilaterally, calling the UN path “the ultimate expression of multilateralism”. Israel’s apparent opposition to unilateralism has not stopped it acting without agreement to build and expand settlements, they say.

Source: Guardian News