Myth of South Waziristan Broken: Gen. Kayani


ISLAMABAD: Sitting under a portrait of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with a huge blazing red calligraphy on his left and an impressive piece of framed Chinese embroidery on his right, recalling the deaths at the Parade Lane of four young sons of his officers who were Hufaz-e-Quran, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani emerged as the first Army chief to resort to speak to the Americans and their Western allies in words and images that they cannot fail to understand.

One of the last few senior generals to have undertaken military training in the US until the Pressler Amendment was slapped on Pakistan, the US and its allies are now not only listening but also understanding as the COAS uses the symbols of American legendary golfer Tiger Woods on his power point display and comparing full bases at a baseball game to some of the war situations on the Pak-Afghan border.

In a meeting at the GHQ, with analysts and retired senior generals, some under whose command he had served, the COAS opened up his mind and heart to dwell on the dangers facing Pakistan militarily, and the region, and ways and means that the military leadership thinks are the solutions to ensure that at the end of the war, Pakistan does not find itself in the ‘wrong corner of the room’. The interaction continued for nearly three hours.

Speaking on and off therecord, the COAS shared with the participants the presentation that he had made at Nato headquarters in Brussels, where generals from 45 countries heard him, and which many Western military analysts told The News, was a “make and break” presentation, which got the Western military leadership not only ‘educated’, but confess amongst themselves “all” that they were doing “wrong” inside Afghanistan.

One of the direct results of this Brussels presentation, which even the Foreign Office agrees, resulted in the final push which made India coming reluctantly to the negotiating table. The COAS had convinced Nato and others why it was important for him to have his eastern border peaceful.

The proudest moment for any Pakistani was to hear and readily believe that the ‘myth’ of South Waziristan had been broken and the military operations before that in Swat and Malakand in the words of the Army chief, “We did it with no help from the United States. Daily I would receive calls if we needed any help and we replied we needed nothing”.

He was very clear about what was best for Pakistan in these days of turmoil. “Partnership (with the US) does not mean you desire and I start doing it,” said the COAS. He said with the US military aid still in the pipeline, “In many cases I have eaten into my reserves.” While acknowledging he said there has to be a balance for a military budget and one for development as well.

The fear was, said Kayani, even if his military had accepted 5%, it would have been blown up to 50%. The COAS earlier had met General Stanley A McChrystal, Commander International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, at a time when everyone in the region was still waiting for the US to explain in detail the policies that will take them up to the time that they are ready to leave the region.

“I told McChrystal that the acid test of a policy is that options should increase,” he said, adding that he believed that the only way to measure success inside Afghanistan was to gauge the public support and not the number of people you kill.

“Today, this is McCrystal’s policy inside Afghanistan, where they talk of a political process and reconciliation. Finally, there is realisation today,” added the chief. Looking at the US Afghan strategy, Kayani says he has clearly told the US that raising an Afghan Army in the stipulated time is not possible, and weaning away of the Taliban will only happen if the US is seen willing inside Afghanistan.

“This has not happened and the perception has not been formed. Only when you win over 70%, you are really winning,” he added. He also does not shy away from telling his US visitors that the bulk of Nato supplies are still going through Pakistan and they will continue to do so, and threats of looking for alternative routes do not impress him.

South Waziristan “We had a history of mismanaged operations in South Waziristan and there was a myth that no-one has ever come here and controlled the area. If we had turned back, we would have destroyed the credibility of the military”.

The victory in South Waziristan, the chief said, was because of motivation of the troops, changed tactics of engaging the adversaries from the dangerous ridges of mountains instead of the customary land routes which also resulted in fewer casualties.

Swat operation The COAS said there was no example in history of what the Pakistan military accomplished in the Swat operation and which successfully changed the public opinion. It was the largest heliborne operation.

“So when we send foreign defence chiefs to Swat, we have a story to tell. When I accompanied Admiral Mike Mullen and showed him how we had done the operation, including showing him the gorges there, his response was, “I will send General McChrystal to see this”.

The last visitor was US National Security Advisor James Jones, who heard for himself from educated locals how unpopular the Americans were.

India-centric

Kayani says he did not mince his words when he told Nato that he was India-centric and there was logic behind this. There was no way he could relax on his eastern border to concentrate fully on the west.

“We have unresolved issues, a history of conflict and now the Cold Start doctrine. Help us resolve these issues. We want peaceful co-existence with India. India has the capability and intentions can change overnight,” Kayani had told his audience in Brussels.

Nato is also realising why it is important for Pakistan to help train the Afghan Army because Pakistan could strategically simply not tolerate an Afghan Army trained by the Indians and having an Indian mindset.

Pak-Nato ratio

It is not easy for any commander to count his dead when the killing fields are still alive. But Kayani told Nato how Pakistan in 2009, lost 2,273 soldiers with another 6,512 being wounded.

“Pakistan as one nation lost 2,273 soldiers while US/Nato in the same period lost 1,582. We have 10,000 troops on UN missions,” recalled the COAS. Pakistan has contributed 147,000 troops to its “silent surge” while 43 nations in Afghanistan have sent a mere 100,000.

Pakistan mans 82 posts at the Pak-Afghan border while the coalition and Afghan Army have only 112. “Pakistan’s operations have decreased cross border movements, there is control of areas, squeezing of spaces, and continuous flow of logistic flow,” pointed the COAS. For a man of “few words” when he was DG ISI, today Kayani is saying a lot more. All of which has to be heard loud and clear by the people of Pakistan.

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Pakistan to US are you with us or against us?


The tide has shifted dramatically in recent years. Resurgent Afghan Taliban, better armed, trained, and deadly effective, now have control over 80% of Afghan territory. There has been a significant increase in offensive targetting of US and NATO bases and Afghan government officials and buildings in the last couple of years, with even Kabul coming under increasing pressure.

On the other side of the border, the CIA and Indian supported TTP has been getting a hiding at the hands of Pakistan’s armed forces with even the US and NATO stunned at the efficiency and success of the army operations against TTP militants in Swat and South Waziristan. For the first time in 8 years, Pakistan now has the upper hand and has started to dictate terms to the US, starting last week with the rejection of US request to extend the operation to North Waziristan where Jalaluddin Haqqani’s faction allegedly operates from. Anticipating an imminent turnaround in Pakistan’s Afghan policy and fearing the US supply lines into Afghanistan may come under pressure, the US immediately sought to pacify the Pakistan Armed Forces with promises to deliver 12 ‘unarmed’ shadow drones – which hasn’t worked.

The White House and Pentagon are in shock, as this turnaround by the Pakistan Army couldn’t have come at a worse time for them – with the recent attacks on CIA’s Chapman outpost in Khost, a failed civilian government incharge, an incompetent Afghan army, and with 30,000 US troops on their way to what many now realise is a lost cause.

And now the New York Times reveals an interesting conversation between Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and an unnamed senior Pakistan Army official that took place last week. The biggest sign yet of the reversal of fortunes comes with a simple but symbolic ‘Are you with us or against us?’ from the Pakistan Army to the United States. The NYT article follows:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Nobody else in the Obama administration has been mired in Pakistan for as long as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. So on a trip here this past week to try to soothe the country’s growing rancor toward the United States, he served as a punching bag tested over a quarter-century.

“Are you with us or against us?” a senior military officer demanded of Mr. Gates at Pakistan’s National Defense University, according to a Pentagon official who recounted the remark made during a closed-door session after Mr. Gates gave a speech at the school on Friday. Mr. Gates, who could hardly miss that the officer was mimicking former President George W. Bush’s warning to nations harboring militants, simply replied, “Of course we’re with you.”

That was the essence of Mr. Gates’s message over two days to the Pakistanis, who are angry about the Central Intelligence Agency’s surge in missile strikes from drone aircraft on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, among other grievances, and showed no signs of feeling any love.

The trip, Mr. Gates’s first to Pakistan in three years, proved that dysfunctional relationships span multiple administrations and that the history of American foreign policy is full of unintended consequences.

As the No. 2 official at the C.I.A. in the 1980s, Mr. Gates helped channel Reagan-era covert aid and weapons through Pakistan’s spy agency to the American allies at the time: Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. Many of those fundamentalists regrouped as the Taliban, who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now threaten Pakistan.

In meetings on Thursday, Pakistani leaders repeatedly asked Mr. Gates to give them their own armed drones to go after the militants, not just a dozen smaller, unarmed ones that Mr. Gates announced as gifts meant to placate Pakistan and induce its cooperation.

Pakistani journalists asked Mr. Gates if the United States had plans to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons (Mr. Gates said no) and whether the United States would expand the drone strikes farther south into Baluchistan, as is under discussion. Mr. Gates did not answer.

At the same time, the Pakistani Army’s chief spokesman told American reporters at the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Thursday that the military had no immediate plans to launch an offensive against extremists in the tribal region of North Waziristan, as American officials have repeatedly urged.

And the spokesman, Maj. Gen Athar Abbas, rejected Mr. Gates’s assertion that Al Qaeda had links to militant groups on Pakistan’s border. Asked why the United States would have such a view, the spokesman, General Abbas, curtly replied, “Ask the United States.”

General Abbas’s comments, made only hours after Mr. Gates arrived in Islamabad, were an affront to an American ally that gave Pakistan $3 billion in military aid last year. But American officials, trying to put a positive face on the general’s remarks and laying out what they described as military reality, said that the Pakistani Army was stretched thin from offensives against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and probably did not have the troops.

“They don’t have the ability to go into North Waziristan at the moment,” an American military official in Pakistan told reporters. “Now, they may be able to generate the ability. They could certainly accept risk in certain places and relocate some of their forces, but obviously that then creates a potential hole elsewhere that could suffer from Taliban re-encroachment.”

Mr. Gates’s advisers cast him as a good cop on a mission to encourage the Pakistanis rather than berate them. And he was characteristically low-key during most his visit here, including during a session with Pakistani journalists on Friday morning at the home of the American ambassador to Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson.

But Mr. Gates perked up when he was brought some coffee, and he soon began to push back against General Abbas. American officials say that the real reason Pakistanis distinguish between the groups is that they are reluctant to go after those that they see as a future proxy against Indian interests in Afghanistan when the Americans leave. India is Pakistan’s archrival in the region.

“Dividing these individual extremist groups into individual pockets if you will is in my view a mistaken way to look at the challenge we all face,” Mr. Gates said, then ticked off the collection on the border.

“Al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tariki Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network – this is a syndicate of terrorists that work together,” he said. “And when one succeeds they all benefit, and they share ideas, they share planning. They don’t operationally coordinate their activities, as best I can tell. But they are in very close contact. They take inspiration from one another, they take ideas from one another.”

Mr. Gates, who repeatedly told the Pakistanis that he regretted their country’s “trust deficit” with the United States and that Americans had made a grave mistake in abandoning Pakistan after the Russians left Afghanistan, promised the military officers that the United States would do better.

His final message delivered, he relaxed on the 14-hour trip home by watching “Seven Days in May,” the cold war-era film about an attempted military coup in the United States.

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India’s challenge


Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor inspects the guard of honour during the Army Day parade in New Delhi. –Reuters Photo/B Mathur

The statement by Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor regarding his army’s capacity to fight a two-front war upset a lot of people in Pakistan. Both Pakistan’s army chief and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee rebutted such superfluous claims.

Pakistan’s military high command did not mince its words in dissuading its Indian counterparts from giving any thought to ‘military adventurism’, and highlighted the severe implications of this and of the Pakistan military’s capacity to respond.

Such exchanges represent the heightened tension between the two traditional rivals. For many political pundits the year 2010 does not bode well for bilateral ties. The tide of peace and amity has been reversed even though people thought that the peace process, started during Musharraf’s reign, was ‘irreversible’. At that time, one of the major reasons for hope on both sides was that a possible deal could be negotiated between an elected government in India and a military dictator in Pakistan, who, it was assumed, could carry his institution along in reaching out to New Delhi. Now things are back to square one with hawks on both sides intensifying tensions.

Kapoor’s statement and its response from Rawalpindi is not the last time that such an exchange will take place. Needless to say, such exchanges do not bode well for peace in the region.

The Indian army chief had spoken of a capability that India desires but does not possess at the moment. Taking on two neighbours militarily and ensuring a ceasefire on its conditions is New Delhi’s dream. But it does not have the capacity to translate this into reality. In fact, India does not even have the capability to successfully try out ‘cold start’, its strategy to allow the Indian military to strike specific targets inside Pakistan and pull back without incurring a high cost. The basic assumption is that if India targets terrorist training camps or headquarters in Pakistan and pulls out without holding Pakistan’s territory or annihilating its military, Rawalpindi will have no excuse to deploy nuclear weapons.

Theoretically, such an adventure is possible because it is based on another calculation that the Indian army will not waste time in regrouping but would already be regrouped to carry out a strike. Official sources believe that activating ‘cold start’ could mean Pakistan deploying nuclear weapons at forward positions or keeping them ready for use. Such a situation would result in India deploying its arsenal as well, making the atmosphere highly charged.

Thus far, the Indian strategy is not in place. It requires complete inter-services harmony and would essentially be a joint services operation which could only succeed if well simulated. So far, there is no indication that India has this capacity. There are internal problems in establishing a new force structure. The establishment of this would indicate that headway is being made in bringing necessary changes to the organisational structure.

So, should Pakistan just laugh off Kapoor’s statement? It would be wiser to understand the nuances of the statement which are more important than the actual content of what he said. It basically indicates the shifting of plates in terms of civil-military relations in India. This is not to suggest that the Indian military is getting ready for an internal coup or that it could take over politics or even wage a war on its own.

However, Kapoor’s statement is one of the many symbols of the growing significance of India’s military in the country’s security and foreign policy paradigm, particularly as far as Pakistan, China and the US are concerned. It is no longer the military of Nehru’s days that sat silently waiting for orders from Delhi as it saw the Chinese army creeping into areas India considered part of its territory.

The modern-day Indian military has access to the media and has managed to build a partnership with it to get its message across when it is in need of public pressure on the political government regarding a particular issue or policy. Furthermore, the military’s overall significance in military security decision-making has increased for a number of reasons.

First, the current lot of Indian politicians is comparatively less skilled to deal with security issues than their predecessors and so tend to seek advice from military officers on security issues. Second, given India’s desire to become a global player and its acquisition of modern technology to achieve this objective, the significance of the armed forces has increased. Third, India’s security partnership with the US has bolstered the Indian military’s significance. Finally, (as in Pakistan) senior commanders who retire from the service find jobs in think tanks. This has allowed them to influence the national security discourse in the country.

For instance, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently published a report on national security and terrorism proposing extreme measures. Thus, senior retired military officers and hawkish civilian experts drive the thinking of businessmen and traders who are key to peace in the region. This is indeed unfortunate and depicts a reduced capacity of the civilian sector in India to take on or oppose the military’s perspective.

From Pakistan’s perspective the important thing is that Indian politicians might find it difficult to go against their military’s opinion in case there is a crisis in the future. Not to forget the fact that both the Indian and Pakistani military have changed qualitatively as far as their class structure goes.

Greater indigenisation of the officer cadre and troops has meant larger numbers from the lower, lower middle and middle classes. One of the distinguishing features of these classes is their sympathy for socio-cultural traditions that have a significant religious flavor. Consequently, the men in uniform might view matters of war and peace differently.

Such factors as mentioned above are difficult to quantify but have a greater bearing on military planning and decision-making than what one would imagine. Under the circumstances, any misadventure or misperception could cost heavily.

These are two neighbors who do not know or understand each other and this makes an accidental conflict or some other dangerous miscalculation possible. Perhaps it is time that the two rivals began to understand each other.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
ayesha.ibd@gmail.com

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Zardari says will liberate Kashmir from India


MUZAFFARABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday vowed to continue struggle for Kashmiris in getting their right of self-determination, saying that Kashmir will also be liberated from Indian occupation as the Pakistan was once achieved, reported ARY NEWS.

“Its my obligation to let the Kashmiris get their right of self determination so that they could decide their future themselves,” the President said in his address to joint session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and the Kashmir Council.

“Kashmir belongs to Pakistan. And my father came to Kashmir and fought for the independence of the valley from Indian occupation,” Zardari told the legislators and other dignitaries attended the special session of the assembly.

Zardari claimed that the democratic government of Pakistan has negotiated with India on equal basis to get a consensus on resolution of Kashmir dispute.

At the occasion, President also announced the establishment of a medical college, an engineering college and a technical education institute in AJK valley.

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RAW organizes seminar with aim to target Baluchistan


—‘Selected’ participants invited to discuss issue of Autonomy of Baluchis and Kashmiris n show set to be held mysteriously at Delhi’s India International Centre

From Christina Palmer

NEW DELHI—While a leading media group of Pakistan has signed an agreement with an Indian media group to promote peace between Pakistan and India with the title Aman Ki Aasha( the hope for peace), the Indian Intelligence Agency Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) is organizing a charade seminar at New Delhi’s India International Centre from January 10th to January 12th, 2009, reveal the findings of The Daily Mail.

These findings indicate that the seminar, titled ‘India-Pakistan Conference-A Road map towards peace” is being hosted by a RAW-run organization Focus on Global South, in a rather mysterious manner as a very few people have been informed about it and there has been no publicity about the event made by the organizers and even a very few people from amongst the Delhi-based local and foreign journalists have been informed and invited to the said seminar. The Investigations indicate further that even the official website of the India International Centre (IIC) does not indicate that the said seminar is amongst the event, listed to place on the said dates at IIC.

The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that though a reasonable number of participants have been invited from Pakistan to take part in the seminar but one particular segment of the seminar that targets Baluchistan province of Pakistan, titled “ Issue of Autonomy: Kashmir and Baluchistan”, is epically drafted by RAW to draw a comparison between the freedom movement in Indian Occupied Kashmir and the RAW sponsored separatists movements in Baluchistan province of Pakistan where RAW is super-actively engaged for years. For this part of the seminar, The Daily Mail’s findings indicate, no senior journalist or intellectual from Pakistan has been selected to speak but merely one nationalist journalist from Baluchistan who runs a separatism nationalists Online newspaper from Baluchistan and got his Journalism degrees from Asian College of Journalism, Chennai India and is known for toeing the RAW lines regarding Baluchistan has been invited from the Media side. The Baluchistani journalist, Siraj Malik has graduated from Asian College of Journalism at Chennai India while Chennai is known as the hub of RAW-run think tanks and it is an established fact that the RAW people keep nurturing the foreigners, linked to Indian education or research organizations.

The Daily Mail findings indicate that the overall Pakistanis, invited for the said RAW arranged seminar include former Information Minister (PPP) Ms. Sherry Rehman, former Law Minister (PPP) Iqbal Haider, Human Rights activists Aasma Jehangir, Baluchistani journalist Malik Siraj Akbar, Senator Hasil Khan Bazinjo, some Farooque Tarique of some Pakistan Labour Party, some economist Akbar Zaidi, defence analyst Ayesha Siddiqua, and women rights’ activists and theatre artist, Madeeha Gauhar, all known for having a very soft corner for India and having a very pro-India mindset. However the speakers for the main target and rather the nucleus of the seminar that would bee focusing on Baluchistan, the “selected” speakers from Pakistan include, Asma Jenagir, Malik Siraj Akbar and Senator Hasil Khan Bizenjo. While all the participants of the overall seminar from the Indian side are very well known for their staunch anti-Pakistan mindsets.

The Daily Mail’s finding indicate that through the particular segment of the seminar that relates to Baluchistan, RAW plans to draw parallels between the freedom movement in Indian Occupied Kashmir and the RAW funded separatists’ drives in Baluchistan.n however, surprisingly the organizers have neither invited anyone from among the officials of Pakistan government or Delhi-based Pak diplomats nor have they opted to invite anyone from amongst the Baluchi tribes that confront the militant and rebellion Sardars like Bugtis Marris etc.

The Daily Mail’s findings also reveal that the said scheduled seminar is not the first of its kind to promote the separatism in Baluchistan as in past, many foreign intelligence organizations have been indulging in such exercises. These finding indicate that RAW, in connivance with the British and Israeli intelligence agencies, has been organizing many such forums to benefit the separatist movements in Baluchistan. According to these findings, different foreign agencies including India’s RAW have remained actively involved in the formation of different militant and separatist outfits like Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), Baluchistan Rights Movement (BRM) etc. these foreign agencies have been continuously using such outfits in Baluchistan and have been patronizing them. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that apart from the funding and provision of arms and ammunition to the militants in Baluchistan, these foreign intelligence agencies have been organizing media and intellectual support programmers for these organizations.

These findings reveal that in one of such endeavors,on 27th June 2006, when Pakistani security forces were gaining immense success in restoring peace and disarming the militants in Baluchistan and hundreds of mercenaries started surrendering to the government authorities, a UK based , so called think tank Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) organizes a highly confusing seminar on Baluchistan, titeled ‘Baluchistan at the crossroads’. Surprisingly, the FPC organized the said seminar with open collaboration of Baluchistan Rights Movement (BRM), which is merely an extension of BLA, an outfit that has been banned and declared as a terror organization, not only by Pakistan government but also by the government of England while the FPC organized the seminar at no where else but right at the committee room number 16 of the House of Commons. To add to it, and make the credentials of the said seminar even dubious, the organizers neither invited anyone from among the officials of Pakistan government or UK-based Pak diplomats nor did they bother to invite anyone from amongst the Baluchi tribes that confront the militant and rebellion Sardars like Bugtis, Marris etc, just the way it is happening at New Delhi in this latest episode. However there was a comprehensive representation from the three Militant tribes and leaders and workers of BLA and BRM. It is learnt that that a Board member of FPC, a British politician and a fomer member of British Parliament, Stephen Twigg was the main spirit behind the holding of this seminar.

The UK Seminar. The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that in the said seminar, chaired by Hugh Barnes of FPC Mehran Baluch, an active member of BLA and a senior activist of Baluchistan Rights Movement, Mr. Sanaullah Baloch, whose, close association with warlords of Baluchistan and millatnt outfits like BLA are known to everyone, Dr. Naseer Dashti another associate of Bugti and Marri and BLA, Fredric Grare of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace etc expressed their views and analysis about situation in Baluchistan. All the participants of the said seminar blamed Pakistan government for usurping the human rights in Baluchistan and treating the people of Baluchistan like animals. They also declared Baluchistan to be a separate state and accused Pakistan of illegally occupying it. They one-sidedly accused Pakistan government and people of Punjab in particular for usurping all rights of people of Baluchistan and portrayed militant Sardars like Bugti and Marri as heroes of Baluchis people. Fredric Grare blamed Pakistani media being in control in Pakistan Army while member of European Parliament from Poland Ryszrd Czarnecki went on to claim that Baluchistan was not a part of Pakistan and a “Punjabi Army” was ruling them he also went on to say that Pakistan came into existence through a restrictive voting. So in other words, the seminar was merely an attempt to malign Pakistan, Pakistan government and Pakistan Army and media as well. All attempts were made to lay the fundaments for the separation of Baluchistan from Pakistan and to encourage the separatists and militant activists in Baluchistan while the seminar concluded with pledge from the chair to hold more sessions on similar debate in near future. A similar conclusion is expected when the Delhi seminar’s episode regarding Baluchistan would end as the Chairman of the said segment former Indian Judge Rajendra Sacchar is expected to come up with similar conclusions, as desired by RAW and the government at New Delhi.

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Hindu Terrorism Exposed in Alex Jones Show


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Israel acts like the world’s ‘spoilt child’: Saudi FM


Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal (R) and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu hold a news conference in Riyadh January 2, 2010. – Photo by Reuters.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Saturday said Israel was the world’s “spoilt child” and got away with what Riyadh said were violations of international law and war crimes without punishment.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal also urged countries to adopt “a firm and serious stance to put an end to the policy of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories and in Jerusalem”.

“Not reaching solutions (for the Middle East conflict) is (the result of) the special treatment Israel gets,” he said at a news conference with visiting Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

“When they violate international law, other countries get punished but not Israel … Israel has become like the spoilt child of the international community.

“It (Israel) gets away with anything it does without accountability or punishment,” he added.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is backed by Riyadh, has insisted Israel freeze Jewish settlement building before peace talks for a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war resume. He has rejected a temporary halt to construction ordered by Netanyahu as insufficient.

Israel announced on Monday plans to build nearly 700 new Jewish homes in areas of the occupied West Bank it considers part of Jerusalem, prompting strong US criticism implying they could undermine peace talks.

Prince Saud said the policy of expanding settlements was “a source of deep concern and condemnation for both us and the international community”.

“This policy casts doubts on the seriousness of (Israel’s) commitment to the peace process,” Prince Saud said.

Saudi Arabia floated in 2002 an Arab peace plan that calls for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a “fair” solution to the crisis of Palestinian refugees in exchange for normalised ties with the Arab world. — Reuters.

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