Six Months Later, Biden Calls For ‘Courage’ In Investigating Capitol Attack

 In this file photo taken on January 6, 2021 riot police push back a crowd of supporters of US President Donald Trump after they stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP.

 

Six months after the insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump, President Joe Biden called on Congress to investigate the assault, calling it an “existential crisis” for democracy.

“Not even during the Civil War did insurrectionists breach our Capitol, the citadel of our democracy,” Biden said in a statement. “But six months ago today, insurrectionists did.”

“This was not dissent. It was disorder. It posed an existential crisis and a test of whether our democracy could survive — a sad reminder that there is nothing guaranteed about our democracy,” Biden  said of the January 6 attack, meant to disrupt a session of Congress called to certify Biden’s election win over then president Trump.

Biden called on “people of goodwill and courage” to investigate the riot and its origins and urged Democrats, Republicans and independents to work together.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month announced a special commission to investigate the Capitol assault, after a proposal to create an independent investigative committee — resembling the 9/11 commission — was blocked by Senate Republicans, who said existing congressional and law enforcement investigations were sufficient.

The new special commission, which will aim to centralize those multiple congressional committees, will have the power to summon witnesses and documents, but it risks being seen as partisan.

In this file photo ex-US President Donald Trump speaks following a section of the border wall in Alamo, Texas, on January 12, 2021.  MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Trump gave a speech to supporters gathered for a rally outside the White House January 6, before much of the crowd marched to the Capitol and broke into the building during the session to certify Biden as president.

Trump had repeatedly and falsely claimed the election was marred by fraud and that victory was stolen from him.

The assault was stunningly violent and chaotic and left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump for an unprecedented second time over the riot, saying he instigated it but the Senate acquitted him.

AFP

Afghan Leader To Meet Biden As US Exit Looms

In this handout photograph taken on May 17, 2020 and released by Afghanistan’s Office of Chief Executive, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signs a document at the Presidential Palace in Kabul. HANDOUT / Office of Chief Executive of Afghanistan / AFP

 

Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani faces the cold reality of the end of US military presence in Afghanistan Friday when he meets with President Joe Biden in the White House.

With his government under increasing threat from an emboldened Taliban insurgency, Ghani will be hoping for a significant commitment of US aid for his government, which will be without the on-the-ground support of US forces for the first time in nearly two decades.

But any hopes for a delay in America’s exit from its longest war are likely to be snuffed.

Biden has ordered the departure of all US forces from Afghanistan by this year’s 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that triggered the invasion, saying he believes that no more can be achieved.

The final pullout, announced in April, has moved fast and some speculate the exit of some 2,500 US troops and 16,000 civilian contractors could be mostly completed in July.

“This visit is first about our ongoing commitment and support to the Afghan people and to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.

“The president will emphasize the need for unity, cohesion, and for the Afghan government to focus on key challenges Afghanistan faces.”

Deep uncertainty as Taliban gain

Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, who is in charge of stalled negotiations with the Taliban on a power-sharing deal, arrived in Washington on Thursday as the rebels continued to gain ground in the country, both physically and propaganda-wise.

The looming US exit has left the country in a deep state of uncertainty, with many worried about the return to power of extremists who applied a brutal version of Islam to the population when they ruled from 1996-2001.

The Wall Street Journal reported that a new US intelligence report assesses that the Taliban could possibly capture Kabul within six months — though other experts downplay that scenario, at least in the short-term.

Still, the situation is being compared to the US withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973.

Two years later, the South Vietnamese government that Washington had backed and then abandoned fell to North Vietnamese troops.

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‘Enduring commitment’ 

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP)

 

Still apparently hoping to slow the US pullout, Ghani and Abdullah met Thursday with members of Congress, many of whom criticize Biden’s decision to leave — even though the withdrawal actually began under his predecessor Donald Trump last year.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell urged Biden to delay the withdrawal after talks with the Afghan leaders.

“President Biden’s decision to withdraw US forces leaves our Afghan partners alone to confront threats that his own top advisors acknowledge are grave and growing worse,” McConnell said.

On Friday, Ghani and Abdullah will meet with Biden in the White House and, separately, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon.

“One of the things that we will certainly be talking with President Ghani about tomorrow is what the enduring commitment of the United States to his government is going to look like,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

Biden is expected to reaffirm billions of dollars in US aid for the country, and possibly make arrangements for US civilian contractors — essential to keep the Afghan air force flying — to remain there.

The United States will also provide three million doses of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to Afghanistan to be shipped as soon as next week, according to Jean-Pierre.

Andrew Watkins, an Afghanistan expert at the International Crisis Group, said Ghani wants to show he has US support as the country’s leader.

“Ghani doesn’t have a lot of domestic legitimacy. His legitimacy comes maybe more than from any other source or any other factor from international recognition and support,” Watkins said.

The US side, meanwhile, is likely to pressure Ghani and Abdullah to strike a power-sharing deal with the Taliban sooner rather than later.

“We believe that a negotiated political settlement is the best way to end the conflict,” Jean-Pierre told journalists.

Possibly underscoring how uncomfortable the situation is for both sides, no press conference was planned.

AFP

Iran’s Raisi Calls For Effective Nuclear Talks, Rules Out Biden Meet

Iranian ultraconservative cleric and president-elect Ebrahim Raisi gives a news conference after voting in the presidential election. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

 

Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi said on Monday he will not allow nuclear negotiations for the sake of negotiations, in his first news conference since winning election last week.

Raisi also ruled out meeting US President Joe Biden but said there were “no obstacles” to resuming diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, the Sunni-ruled regional rival of Shiite Iran, which have been severed for five years.

Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election in which more than half the voters stayed away after many political heavyweights had been barred from running and as an economic crisis driven by US sanctions has battered the country.

Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric who heads Iran’s judiciary, will replace moderate President Hassan Rouhani — whose landmark achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — in August.

“Any negotiations that guarantee national interests will certainly be supported, but… we will not allow negotiations to be for negotiations’ sake,” Raisi said of the nuclear talks.

“Any meeting must produce a result… for the Iranian nation,” he added.

The 2015 deal saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear capabilities in return for an easing of sanctions, but former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew three years later and ramped up sanctions, prompting the Islamic republic to pull back from its nuclear commitments.

Trump’s successor Biden has signalled his readiness to return to the deal and state parties — also including Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — have lately been negotiating its revival in Vienna.

The European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said Sunday that there was “no reason to believe” that Raisi’s government would take “a different position” in the talks than its predecessor.

READ ALSO: Biden Goes To Church A Day After Challenge From Bishops On Abortion

No’ to Biden meet

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021. (Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP)

 

An austere figure from the Shiite Muslim clerical establishment, Raisi smiled and raised his hands as he arrived for Monday’s press conference.

When asked by a Russian media outlet whether he would meet Biden and try to “fix” issues between them in the event the nuclear talks lead to the US lifting sanctions on Iran, he replied, flatly: “No”.

Raisi also said his administration would be open to restoring ties with Iran’s regional foe Saudi Arabia.

“There are no obstacles from Iran’s side to re-opening embassies… there are no obstacles to ties with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Ties between Tehran and Riyadh were cut in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric.

The two sides have been engaged in talks hosted by Baghdad since April to improve relations.

Raisi, who is subject to US sanctions imposed over the executions of political prisoners in 1988, has in the past denied he played a role in the killings.

‘Always defending human rights’

France’s foreign ministry said Monday that it had “taken note” of Raisi’s victory and that it remained “fully mobilised” to implement the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We reaffirm the concerns we have regularly expressed regarding the human rights situation in Iran,” it added in a statement.

At Monday’s news conference, Raisi accused the west of violating human rights.

“All that I have done through my years of service has always been towards defending human rights,” said the Iranian president-elect.

Raisi, whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran.

His victory had been widely anticipated after the Guardian Council, made up of 12 clerics and jurists, had approved just seven candidates, all men, out of a field of almost 600 hopefuls.

Three of those vetted candidates dropped out two days before the vote.

Raisi said there was a “massive” voter turnout in Friday’s election.

“This meaningful presence of the people, their massive presence, came about despite the coronavirus situation, despite the many enmities and psychological warfare of the Iranian nation’s enemies,” he said.

Turnout reached 48.8 percent, a record low for a presidential poll since Iran’s 1979 revolution ousted the US-backed monarchy.

Participation had been expected to be low in a country where many have been demoralised by years of painful economic crisis that was brought on by a crippling US sanctions regime and worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Biden To Confront Putin In Tense Geneva Summit

In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.
In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.

 

President Joe Biden will draw “red lines” for President Vladimir Putin at a tense Geneva summit on Wednesday, where ghosts of the Cold War will hover over modern-day US concerns that Russia has become a rogue, authoritarian state.

The setting — a sumptuous villa overlooking Lake Geneva — may be picturesque, but a gruelling diplomatic face-off awaits.

Up to five hours of talks are planned, starting at around 1:00 pm (1100 GMT), with no break for meals. Putin is due to arrive first, then Biden, with Swiss President Guy Parmelin acting as host.

Asked if the two leaders might share food together, a staple gesture of goodwill in summit diplomacy, a senior US official said no.

“There will be no breaking of bread,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The choice of Geneva, following long US-Russian negotiations, recalls the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.

This time, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly hostile, rule-breaking regime.

From cyber attacks on American entities and meddling in the last two US presidential elections, to human rights violations and aggression against Ukraine and other European countries, Washington’s list of allegations against the Kremlin runs long.

Putin, however, comes to the summit arguing that Moscow is simply challenging US hegemony. It’s part of a bid to promote a so-called “multi-polar” world that has seen Russia and arguably even more powerful US adversary China draw close.

Putin was due to fly into Geneva from Moscow right before meeting the US president. Biden, ending an intensive first foreign trip as president, arrived on Tuesday after summits with NATO and the European Union in Brussels, and a G7 summit in Britain.

Asked if he was ready for Putin, Biden smiled and said: “I’m always ready.”

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Optimism? ‘Not much’

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied meddling in US elections.
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied meddling in US elections.

 

In an interview with NBC, Putin scoffed at US accusations of dirty tricks abroad and authoritarian crackdowns at home.

As well as denying any connection to what the United States says are Russia-based hacking and ransomware gangs, Putin rejected having any hand in the deaths of many of his opponents during two decades in power.

Addressing one of the main irritants in relations with Washington and with the European Union, Putin insisted he also could not be blamed for the near-fatal poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, one of the few remaining major opposition figures in Russia.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow that the US-Russian relationship was “at an impasse”.

There is “not much” ground for optimism, he added.

Biden’s team likewise expects no “big set of deliverables,” the senior Biden official said.

‘Worthy adversary

File photo: US President Joe Biden speaks on the American Jobs Plan, following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia on May 3, 2021. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Biden says his main goal is simply to establish clear “red lines” for what the White House will no longer tolerate from Russia.

“I’m not looking for conflict,” he said in Brussels after the NATO summit, but “we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities”.

Biden, who had previously characterised Putin as a “killer”, upgraded the Russian leader to a “tough” and “worthy adversary”.

Going into the summit, Biden has emphasised that he has the backing of his Western partners.

Russia was one of the top topics at the NATO summit in Brussels, where the defence alliance warned that Russian military build-ups on the edge of eastern Europe “increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond”.

But for all the rhetoric, the White House and Kremlin both say they are open to doing business in a limited way. Officials point to the recent extension of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty as an example of successful diplomacy.

According to Russian and US officials, one possible baby step might be quick reinstatement of the two countries’ ambassadors, who returned home this year in response to tensions.

Officials from the two sides say Biden and Putin will initially huddle only with translators and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. They will then switch to a larger format.

However, unlike in 2018, when Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump met Putin in Helsinki, there will be no joint press conference at the end.

The US side clearly wants to avoid the optics of having Biden sharing that kind of platform with the Russian president.

In 2018, Trump caused a stir by saying, as Putin stood beside him, that he believed the Kremlin leader over his own intelligence services when it came to accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election bringing Trump to power.

AFP

Mexico Offers US Plan To Reopen Land Border

File photo: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador delivers a press conference about the results of Sunday’s midterm elections at the National Palace in Mexico City on June 7, 2021. (Photo by ALFREDO ESTRELLA / AE / AFP)

 

Mexico on Tuesday proposed a plan to the United States to gradually reopen their land border, which has been closed to non-essential traffic since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The strategy is based on a mass vaccination campaign on the Mexican side of the frontier whose aim is to “reach normality as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter.

He said he had outlined the plan to US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who arrived in Mexico City late Monday for talks.

Mayorkas told the Mexican authorities that “facilitating trade, tourism and travel is his priority,” Ebrard said.

Mexico plans to vaccinate adults along the border using 1.35 million Johnson & Johnson shots donated by the United States that arrived on Tuesday.

Once that is achieved, “there would no longer be an argument to maintain the restrictions on health grounds,” Ebrard told reporters before his talks with Mayorkas.

“It’s a good sign that he’s coming to Mexico to hear the country’s proposals and what impact the border closure has had on the entire region,” Ebrard said.

READ ALSO: At Least 14 Killed As Farmers, Herders Clash In CAR

A man wearing a face mask and protective shield walks past posters related to COVID-19 at Del Valle neighbourhood in Mexico City, on June 2, 2020. Alfredo ESTRELLA / AFP

 

With 600,000 Covid-19 deaths, the United States has by far the world’s highest pandemic death toll, but it also organized one of the most effective vaccine roll-outs.

More than half the US population has received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose.

Mexico’s official pandemic death toll of around 230,000 is the world’s fourth highest.

About 29 percent of its adults have had at least one Covid-19 vaccine shot and infections and deaths have been trending lower for several months.

AFP

Biden ‘Ready’ For Putin After Landing In Geneva

This combination of pictures created on June 07, 2021 shows Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaking with US NBC news network anchor Megyn Kelly at the Kremlin on March 1, 2018 in Moscow and US President Joe Biden delivering remarks on his plan to administer Covid-19 vaccines at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on January 15, 2021.  Angela WEISS, Alexey DRUZHININ / AFP

 

President Joe Biden landed Tuesday in Geneva on the eve of his first summit with Vladimir Putin, a meeting the White House hopes will set clear “red lines” preventing the combustible US-Russia relationship from further deterioration.

“I’m always ready,” the US president told reporters with a smile when asked if he was prepared for the tense encounter.

Biden and Putin will huddle for hours on Wednesday at an elegant lakeside villa in Geneva, a setting reminiscent of the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.

Talks at La Grange villa are expected to start at around 1:00 pm (1100 GMT) and last as long as five hours.

Illustrating the frostiness of the session, the two leaders will not be sharing any kind of meal.

“There will be no breaking of bread,” a senior US official said aboard the president’s Air Force One plane, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One of the few things both sides can agree on is that relations between Moscow and Washington are at about their lowest ebb since the distant days of the US-Soviet superpower stand-off.

This time, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly rogue, authoritarian Russian state.

From cyberattacks on US entities and meddling in the last two US presidential elections to human rights violations and aggression against Ukraine and other European countries, the US list of allegations against the Kremlin runs long.

READ ALSO: At Least 14 Killed As Farmers, Herders Clash In CAR

US ‘predictable’ relations hopes

Russian President Vladimir Putin address the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, via teleconference call, in Moscow on September 22, 2020. Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin address the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, via teleconference call, in Moscow on September 22, 2020. Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP

 

In an interview with NBC ahead of the summit, Putin scoffed at US accusations.

As well as denying any connection to what the United States says are Russia-based hacking and ransomware gangs, Putin rejected having any hand in the deaths of many of his opponents during two decades in power.

Addressing one of the main irritants in relations with Washington and with the European Union, Putin insisted he also could not be blamed for the near-fatal poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, one of the few remaining Russian opposition figures.

A small group of demonstrators, some wearing “Free Navalny” t-shirts, gathered in Geneva on Tuesday evening, calling for the dissident’s release and chanting “Russia without Putin”.

Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, told journalists in Moscow the US-Russian relationship was “at an impasse” and “close to critical”.

There were some grounds for optimism, albeit “not much”, he added.

Biden’s team is also downplaying the chances of major change. Success, says the White House, would be simply managing to lower the temperature and forging a “predictable, stable” relationship.

The US side is “not expecting a big set of deliverables”, the senior Biden official said.

The Swiss hosts, who are running a massive security operation during the summit, stressed the importance of the meeting.

“Switzerland is convinced that a constructive dialogue between the great powers is needed to face the challenges of our times,” President Guy Parmelin told reporters after meeting Biden.

After a year and a half of grappling with the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, the US and Russian leaders had the chance to “inject a bit more optimism, a bit more hope into global politics”, he added.

Backed by allies

 

In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.
In this file combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.

 

Biden — flying into Geneva from Brussels after back-to-back summits with the EU, NATO and the G7 group of allies — meanwhile said he wants to establish clear “red lines” for what the White House will no longer tolerate.

“I’m not looking for conflict with Russia, but… we will respond if Russia continues its harmful activities,” Biden said after his NATO meeting on Monday.

In something of a pivot from his previous characterisation of Putin as a “killer”, Biden upgraded the Russian leader to a “tough” and “worthy adversary”.

Going into the summit, Biden has emphasised that he has the backing of his Western partners.

Russia was one of the top topics at the NATO summit in Brussels, where the defence alliance warned that Russian military build-ups on the edge of eastern Europe “increasingly threaten the security of the Euro-Atlantic area and contribute to instability along NATO borders and beyond”.

For all the bruising rhetoric, the White House is keen to emphasise that it wants to do business in a limited way with Russia. Officials point to the recent extension of the New START nuclear arms limitation treaty as an example of successful diplomacy.

According to Ushakov, one possible baby step might be a quick reinstatement of the two countries’ ambassadors, who returned home this year in response to tensions.

Officials from the two sides say the leaders will initially meet with only translators and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

They will then switch to a larger format, with five officials accompanying each leader.

However, unlike in 2018, when Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump met Putin, there will be no joint press conference.

The US side is clearly anxious to avoid the optics of having Biden sharing that kind of platform with the Russian president.

In 2018, Trump caused a stir by saying, as Putin stood beside him, that he believed the Kremlin leader over his own intelligence services when it came to accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election that brought Trump to power.

AFP

Biden Takes Tea With The Queen In Maiden Overseas Trip As President

US First Lady Jill Biden (L) and US President Joe Biden (R) speak with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (C) at the dais in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London, on June 13, 2021.  Arthur EDWARDS / POOL / AFP

 

Joe Biden on Sunday ended the first leg of his maiden overseas trip as US president, inspecting a military guard of honour and taking tea with Queen Elizabeth II.

In bright sunshine, the 78-year-old US leader’s Marine One helicopter landed at Windsor Castle, west of London, after the three-day G7 summit in Cornwall, southwest England, wrapped up.

The Queen, 95 and wearing a pink floral dress with a matching hat, is now back on frontline royal duties after the death of her husband, Prince Philip, in April.

She had met Biden and his wife, Jill, at the summit of G7 leaders on Friday, hosting a reception at the Eden project eco-visitor attraction.

And on Saturday, she reviewed a scaled-down Trooping of the Colour, also at Windsor, as part of her official birthday celebrations.

Sunday’s high-profile reception for the Bidens, which included a military band playing both the British and US national anthems, means she has now formally met 13 of the last 14 sitting US presidents — barring Lyndon B. Johnson — since she took the throne in 1952.

Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, visited in June 2019.

It was also the monarch’s first in-person meeting with a foreign leader in more than a year, after she was forced into self-isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden, in a dark suit, inspected the Grenadier Guards in their red tunics and black bearskin hats on the immaculate lawns of the historic royal palace’s quadrangle.

READ ALSOCanada Pays Final Homage To Family Killed In Truck Attack

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (R) greets US President Joe Biden (L) and US First Lady Jill Biden (C) at the dais in the Quadrangle of Windsor Castle in Windsor, west of London, on June 13, 2021. Chris Jackson / POOL / AFP

 

Some of the soldiers had been involved in the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh, the queen’s husband of 78 years who died just weeks short of his 100th birthday.

The Bidens at the time paid tribute to the duke, saying: “His legacy will live on not only through his family but in all the charitable endeavours he shaped.”

They saluted “eyes left” as they marched past the monarch and the Bidens, who stood to attention under a white canopy, before the dignitaries disappeared inside.

The US First Lady, who is set to return to Washington after the regal reception, while her husband flies on to Europe for further meetings, said Friday it was “an exciting part” of their UK visit.

Afterwards at London’s Heathrow Airport, a short drive away from Windsor, Biden told reporters on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One they had a long talk and the queen was “very gracious”.

Biden said he extended an invitation to the monarch to the White House, and added: “I don’t think she’d be insulted. She reminded me of my mother.”

AFP

Putin-Biden Geneva Summit Set For Lakeside Villa

In this file photo taken on March 9, 2020 a shuttle boat sails in front of Geneva’s landmark fountain in Geneva where Russian leader Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden are to meet on June 16 amid the biggest crisis in ties between their two countries in recent history.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The June 16 summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin looks set to be held in a plush villa overlooking Lake Geneva, given the security lockdown zone announced Wednesday.

The Geneva regional authorities issued a decree fixing the secure zone around the talks between US President Biden and his Russian counterpart.

The secure zone screens off the waterfront on both sides of Lake Geneva, a section of the lake itself and two adjacent parks surrounding neighbouring villas on the south side: the Parc de La Grange and the Parc Eaux-Vives.

Views from villas sweep down over the tree-lined parks to the shore, and across Lake Geneva towards the United Nations and the Jura mountains beyond.

Temporary security fencing has been erected around the parks.

“The council is pleased that the US and Russian delegations have chosen Geneva to host their heads of state meeting,” it said.

“This choice reaffirms the preponderance of Switzerland and of international Geneva on the global diplomatic scene.”

The authorities urged people to work from home and avoid travel as much as possible on the day itself.

“The council calls for the responsibility and understanding of everyone, so that this important event can take place under excellent conditions, in the Geneva tradition of respect, welcome and dialogue,” it said.

An unnamed US official confirmed to AFP that the summit was being held in a villa.

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This combination of pictures created on June 07, 2021 shows Russia’s President Vladimir Putin speaking with US NBC news network anchor Megyn Kelly at the Kremlin on March 1, 2018 in Moscow and US President Joe Biden delivering remarks on his plan to administer Covid-19 vaccines at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on January 15, 2021 Angela WEISS, Alexey DRUZHININ / AFP

 

The 18th-century Villa La Grange is a former grand family home used to host the Swiss city’s civic receptions for more than a century.

The main entrance gates to the park are guarded by two stone lions, which were cleaned up with a pressure hose on Tuesday ahead of the summit, AFP witnessed.

Meanwhile the neighbouring luxury Hotel-Restaurant Eaux-Vives, which dates back to 1750, has 16 suites and can hold events for up to 500 people.

During the summer months, the two parks would typically be filled by picnickers.

AFP

China Rebukes Biden For ‘Suppressing’ Chinese Firms With Blacklist

File photo: US President Joe Biden speaks on the American Jobs Plan, following a tour of Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia on May 3, 2021.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

Beijing accused the United States of “suppressing” Chinese firms and issued veiled threats of a retaliation Friday, after President Joe Biden expanded a blacklist of companies Americans are barred from investing in.

Biden on Thursday widened a list to 59 Chinese companies that are off-limits to American investors over their links to Beijing’s “military-industrial complex”, as he maintains a campaign of pressure on the Asian superpower.

His predecessor Donald Trump in November issued a list of 31 Chinese companies that were deemed to be supplying or supporting China’s military and security apparatus, adding more firms earlier this year.

But after legal challenges put the sanctions in doubt, Biden’s team reviewed the blacklist, removing some names and ultimately expanding it. Many are subsidiaries of companies already included.

The sanctions target companies involved in Chinese surveillance technology used to “facilitate repression or serious human rights abuses”, which “undermine the security or democratic values of the United States and our allies”, according to a White House statement.

China’s foreign ministry decried the move as a “violation of market law” and an attempt to “suppress” Chinese companies.

“Remove these so-called lists that suppress Chinese companies,” Wang Wenbin, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters, urging the US to be “fair, just and non-discriminatory” towards Chinese companies.

“China will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” he added.

The initial list published under Trump included major telecoms, construction and technology firms such as China Mobile, China Telecom, video surveillance firm Hikvision, and China Railway Construction Corp.

China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) was added in January — causing S&P to remove it from its stock index — and remains on Biden’s list.

The investment ban takes effect on August 2 and current shareholders have a year to divest.

Strained relations

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File photo: US President Joe Biden makes a statement of a police shooting in Minnesota in the Oval Office of the White House after a meeting with members of Congress about the American Jobs Plan April 12, 2021, in Washington, DC.  Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

The move was among a series of measures by the White House aimed at Beijing that have left ties between the two sides severely strained.

Previously, the sanctions and choice of targets were tied to a congressionally mandated Defense Department report but will be managed by the Treasury Department.

While the Biden administration has pledged to take a more diplomatic approach with China following Trump’s exit, he has said he will keep to a tough line on several issues including defence and technology.

Biden has lamented that the United States is falling behind, saying China is “eating our lunch”.

However, his list was brushed off by investors, with shares of the firms that are listed in Hong Kong and mainland China broadly higher.

Among the standouts, Changsha Jingjia Microelectronics added 5.20 percent and Zhonghang Electronic Measuring Instruments Co. jumped more than four percent.

In Hong Kong, China Mobile climbed more than one percent and China Unicom jumped almost one percent, while CNOOC was only slightly lower.

A tough line on China has rare cross-party support in Congress, with lawmakers determined to keep a lid on its growing global clout.

Republican senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, alongside Democrats Gary Peters and Mark Kelly, published a bi-partisan letter earlier this week urging the administration to publish a new list.

“The US government must continue to act boldly in blocking the Chinese Communist Party’s economic predation against our industrial base,” they said.

AFP

Biden, Queen Elizabeth To Meet In Person After G7 Summit

A file photo of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
A file photo of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

 

Queen Elizabeth II will hold her first in-person meeting with a foreign leader in over a year when she hosts US President Joe Biden on June 13 after he attends a G7 summit, Buckingham Palace announced Thursday.

It said the 95-year-old monarch will meet the president and First Lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle west of London, where she has largely lived since the coronavirus pandemic first swept Britain in March 2020.

The Queen, who has received her two doses of Covid-19 vaccination, has been holding the vast majority of meetings virtually, including audiences with foreign ambassadors.

It will be her first meeting in person with a foreign head of state since the pandemic hit, and her most high-profile official engagement since presiding over the state opening of parliament on May 11.

In this file photo taken on March 25, 2009 Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (R) and Prince Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (L) watch a bell cast from molten metal during a visit to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in east London, on March 25, 2009. Photo by Adrian DENNIS / POOL / AFP)

 

That was the Queen’s first public appearance since the funeral of her husband Prince Philip. He died on April 9, aged 99.

In a statement of condolence then, the Bidens paid tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh. “His legacy will live on not only through his family, but in all the charitable endeavours he shaped,” they wrote.

The meeting with the president and first lady will come the day after the Queen’s official birthday, and will follow the three-day summit of Group of Seven leaders in Cornwall, southwest England.

The G7 gathering starts Biden’s first foreign tour since he took office in January. He will also make stops at a NATO summit in Brussels and in Geneva, for a June 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With the exception of Lyndon B. Johnson, the Queen has met every US president during her 69-year reign. Donald Trump staged a controversial state visit to Britain in June 2019.

The official birthday celebration is normally marked by a military parade called “Trooping the Colour”, featuring hundreds of personnel from Britain’s most prestigious regiments.

But it has been cancelled for a second year, owing to the pandemic.

AFP

Biden Expands Blacklist Of Chinese Firms Prohibited From US Investment

File photo: US President Joe Biden makes a statement of a police shooting in Minnesota in the Oval Office of the White House after a meeting with members of Congress about the American Jobs Plan April 12, 2021, in Washington, DC.  Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US President Joe Biden on Thursday expanded a blacklist of Chinese firms that are off-limits to American investors over their links to Beijing’s “military-industrial complex,” in a sign of Washington’s continued pressure campaign against China.

Former president Donald Trump had prohibited Americans from buying stakes in 31 Chinese companies that were deemed to be supplying or supporting China’s military and security apparatus, and Biden’s move expands the blacklist to 59.

The latest batch of sanctions target companies involved in Chinese surveillance technology used to “facilitate repression or serious human rights abuses,” which “undermine the security or democratic values of the United States and our allies,” according to a White House statement.

The initial list published under Trump included major telecoms, construction and technology firms such as China Mobile, China Telecom, video surveillance firm Hikvision, and China Railway Construction Corp.

In this file photo former US President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing at the White House on September 27, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

It was among a series of measures by the White House aimed at the Asian giant, which have left ties between the two countries severely strained.

Before the US order was released, Beijing repeated its outrage at the Trump-era blacklist Thursday and vowed to protect Chinese companies’ rights, claiming the blacklist was “politically motivated” and “ignores the facts and actual situation” of the firms involved.

The ban “severely undermines normal market rules and order” and “damages… the interests of global investors, including US investors,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a routine briefing.

READ ALSO: Trump Pulls Own Blog From Internet

Previously, the sanctions and choice of targets were tied to a congressionally mandated Defense Department report.

While the Biden administration has pledged to take a more diplomatic line with China following the upheaval of his predecessor, he has said he will keep to a strict line on several issues including defense and technology.

A tough line on China has rare cross-party support in Congress, with lawmakers determined to keep a lid on its growing global clout.

Republican senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, alongside Democrats Gary Peters and Mark Kelly, published a bi-partisan letter earlier this week urging the administration to publish a new list.

“The US government must continue to act boldly in blocking the Chinese Communist Party’s economic predation against our industrial base,” they said.

AFP

Biden Signs Hate Crimes Law Protecting Asian Americans

File photo: President Joe Biden speaks from the State Dining Room following the passage of the American Rescue Plan in the U.S. Samuel Corum/Getty Images/AFP

 

President Joe Biden signed a hate crimes law Thursday aimed at protecting Asian Americans who have suffered a surge in attacks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Racism, Biden told Asian American politicians and senior members of Congress in a packed room at the White House, is “an ugly poison that has long plagued our nation.”

Reeling off a list of violent incidents, which took place against a backdrop of anti-Chinese sentiment linked to the pandemic, Biden said the Asian American community had been made a “scapegoat.”

“Too many Asian Americans have been waking up this past year genuinely fearing for their safety, just opening their door and walking down the street,” he said.

READ ALSO: Sweden Tops EU COVID-19 Case Rates

Stop AAPI Hate, an activist group, says there were 6,603 hate incidents — mostly verbal insults — in the year from March 2020, but many more were likely not reported to police.

Going unmentioned by Biden was that his predecessor Donald Trump would frequently refer to the coronavirus as “the China virus” and “kung flu” — racist-tinged phrases that quickly became part of the right-wing lexicon.

The bill signed by Biden, after rare, overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, improves access for reporting such crimes and seeks to smoothen procedures for the authorities to respond.

“I mean this from the bottom of my heart: hate can be given no safe harbor in America,” Biden said. “Silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit.”

AFP