Madeleine Albright, First Female US Secretary Of State, Dies At 84

Madeleine Albright, the first female US secretary of state and one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation, has died of cancer at age 84, her family announced March 23, 2022.
LUKE FRAZZA / AFP

 

 

Madeleine Albright, who came to the United States as a child refugee and rose to be the first female secretary of state, shaping American foreign policy at the end of the 20th century, has died at the age of 84.

Tapped by President Bill Clinton as ambassador to the United Nations then as the US top diplomat, Albright was one of the most influential stateswomen of her generation.

In mourning her passing, Clinton said Albright had been “a force for freedom, democracy and human rights,” calling her death an “immense loss to the world.”

President Joe Biden said Albright had “turned the tide of history,” adding that she “defied convention and broke barriers again and again.”

At the United Nations, the Security Council observed a moment of silence before voting on a Russian-led resolution on Ukraine.

Clinton, announcing his choice of Albright to head the State Department in 1997, said gender “had nothing to do with her getting the job” and she was the most qualified candidate.

Albright, however, was aware of the significance of the appointment.

“It used to be that the only way a woman could truly make her foreign policy views felt was by marrying a diplomat and then pouring tea on an offending ambassador’s lap,” she once said in a speech to the Women in Foreign Policy Group.

“Today, women are engaged in every facet of global affairs.”

Albright took the helm of the State Department in a post-Cold War world in which the United States had emerged as the sole superpower, leading crucial discussions with world leaders on arms control, trade, terrorism and the future of NATO.

Not since Margaret Thatcher governed Britain had a woman held such a position of global influence.

Born Marie Jana Korbelova in Czechoslovakia on May 15, 1937, Albright came to the United States as a refugee with her family in 1948 and became a US citizen in 1957.

Her father, Josef Korbel, a diplomat, had converted from Judaism to Catholicism after the family fled to London in 1939 to escape the Nazis.

Albright said she only learned about her Jewish origins late in life and the fact that three of her grandparents had perished in concentration camps.

– ‘Short, noisy type’ –
Fluent in English, Czech, French and Russian, Albright earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College.

She earned her doctorate in political science at Columbia University and went to work for Democratic senator Edmund Muskie.

She later joined the National Security Council in the White House of president Jimmy Carter, serving under his national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, her former professor at Columbia.

After Carter’s defeat, Albright began teaching at Georgetown University in Washington but remained an influential voice in Democratic foreign policy-making circles.

She was named US ambassador to the United Nations by Clinton in 1993 and served in that role until 1997, when she became secretary of state.

One of her final voyages in the post was an official visit to North Korea, where she met with then-leader Kim Jong-Il.

In an interview with AFP as she prepared to leave the State Department in 2001, Albright said she would remain involved in foreign policy.

“I am not going to be a wallflower,” Albright said.

“I also have never thought of myself as the tall, silent type, so I will be the short, noisy type and I am going to stay out there,” she said. “I love foreign policy, I am passionately interested in how the world evolves.”

Just a month ago, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Albright in which she argued that Russian leader Vladimir Putin would be making an “historic error” if he invaded Ukraine.

Albright married Joseph Albright in 1959. They had three daughters and divorced in 1982.

Her memoirs, “Madam Secretary,” were published in 2003.

She also wrote a book about her huge collection of brooches which, she explained to Smithsonian magazine in 2010, sometimes were “reflective of whatever issue we’re dealing with.”

Once during her stint at the United Nations, state media in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq compared her to an “unparalleled serpent” — she responded by wearing a snake pin to a meeting on Iraq.

“In every role, she used her fierce intellect and sharp wit — and often her unmatched collection of pins — to advance America’s national security and promote peace around the world,” Biden said.

US Secretary Of State Blinken Visits Egypt On Mission To Shore Up Gaza Truce

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by US ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen (L) as he arrives in Cairo on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP)

 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Cairo Wednesday as he presses efforts to shore up an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.

The US top diplomat already met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to throw Washington’s support behind the Friday truce that ended 11 days of heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza and rocket fire from the enclave into Israel.

After talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as giving millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.

The announcements signalled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the long term, Blinken evoked the “possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they’re entitled to”.

READ ALSO: Myanmar Excluded From WHO Annual Meeting

After meeting earlier Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza’s Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the international reconstruction aid.

In Cairo, Blinken is to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before flying on to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah II.

Unlike the United States and many European governments, which boycott Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement as a terror group, Egypt maintains regular contacts.

Egypt was also the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

– Rebuilding Gaza –

Cairo has sent delegations to both Tel Aviv and Gaza to watch over the implementation of the ceasefire and has also been coordinating international relief and reconstruction aid for the Palestinian territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for nearly 15 years.

US President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with his Egyptian counterpart on Monday for the second time in less than a week to discuss the relief effort.

Blinken said Wednesday the United Sates was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to the Palestinian people.

 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he arrives in Cairo on May 26, 2021. (Photo by Alex Brandon / POOL / AFP)

 

This included $250 million in economic, development, security and humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people announced in March and April.

On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in additional aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

“All of these funds will be administered in a way that benefits the Palestinian people — not Hamas, which has only brought misery and despair to Gaza,” Blinken said.

Last week, Sisi pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

Even before the fighting halted, he had sent ambulances into Gaza to bring out some of the most seriously wounded for treatment in Egyptian hospitals.

He has since sent in food and medical supplies through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, the only entry point to Gaza not controlled by Israel.

– British FM in Jerusalem –

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meanwhile travelled to Jerusalem Wednesday, also to back international efforts to shore up the ceasefire.

Speaking ahead of planned talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Raab urged an end to the “cycle of violence” through a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The events of the last month demonstrate the urgent need to make genuine progress towards a more positive future for both Israelis and Palestinians, and break (the) cycle of violence that has claimed so many lives,” he said.

The latest military escalation started after clashes in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, which is also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Israeli security forces had moved in on Palestinian worshippers there towards the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

They had also sought to quell protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian national and two Thai workers, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

AFP

Pompeo, Netanyahu Hopeful More Arab States Will Forge Israel Ties

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bump elbows ahead of making a joint statement to the press after meeting in Jerusalem, on August 24, 2020. – Pompeo arrived in Israel kicking off a five-day visit to the Middle East which will take him to Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, focusing on Israel’s normalising of ties with the UAE and pushing other Arab states to follow suit. DEBBIE HILL / POOL / AFP.

 

Israel’s prime minister and the US top diplomat voiced hope Monday the Jewish state would soon build ties with more Arab countries, following its landmark normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates.

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who started a Mideast tour in Jerusalem, both praised the US-brokered deal as a milestone toward bringing stability to the turbulent region.

“I’m very hopeful that we will see other Arab nations join in this,” said Pompeo, who was also set to visit Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE on a five-day regional tour.

Netanyahu hailed the Israel-UAE agreement as “a boon to peace and regional stability” which “heralds a new era where we could have other nations join”.

“I hope we’ll have good news in the future, maybe in the near future,” he said.

Netanyahu called Israel’s agreement with the Emirates, the first of its kind in a quarter century with an Arab state, an “alliance of the moderates against the radicals”.

Washington and its close ally hope Israel will be able to normalise ties with other regional countries traditionally hostile to it, in part to forge a stronger regional alliance against their common arch foe Iran.

Pompeo again stressed US President Donald Trump’s goal that “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon” and urged the international community to maintain an arms embargo on the Islamic republic.

– ‘Legacy of hostility’ –

Israel had previously only signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which unlike the UAE share borders with Israel and had technically been at war with the Jewish state.

The pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom said Sunday that direct talks with the UAE on the wording of the deal were close to starting and that “a full agreement could be reached within a month”.

Under the US-brokered agreement announced on August 13, Israel pledged to suspend its previous plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, without saying for how long.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make a joint statement to the press after meeting in Jerusalem, on August 24, 2020. – Pompeo arrived in Israel kicking off a five-day visit to the Middle East which will take him to Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, focusing on Israel’s normalising of ties with the UAE and pushing other Arab states to follow suit. DEBBIE HILL / various sources / AFP.

 

The Palestinians have slammed the UAE’s move as a “stab in the back” while their own conflict with the Jewish state remains unresolved.

The Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, Monday charged that the Israel-UAE deal helps “maintain crimes and violations” against the Palestinians.

It urged regional and world leaders to “break their silence to bring an end” to the Gaza blockade.

In the latest upsurge of violence, Israel has bombed the coastal strip almost daily since August 6, while balloons carrying fire bombs and, less frequently, rocket fire have hit Israel from Gaza.

– Bahrain, Oman, Sudan? –

The Israel-Emirati pact has sparked speculation on which regional country might be next, with frequent mentions made of Bahrain and Sudan.

Israel remains technically at war with Sudan, which for years had supported hardline Islamist forces but which is turning its back on the era of strongman Omar al-Bashir who was ousted last year.

The State Department said Pompeo would meet Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok during his tour, to “express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship”.

Pompeo will also meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa before talks with UAE foreign minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, it said.

Saudi Arabia, in keeping with decades of policy by the majority of Arab states, has said it will not follow the UAE’s example until Israel has signed a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Israel and the UAE say they want to promote trade, especially the sale of Emirati oil to Israel and Israeli technology to the UAE, establish direct air links and boost tourism.

Netanyahu has denied reports that the UAE deal hinges on the sale of US F-35 stealth fighter-jets to the Emirates, saying he opposes a move that could reduce Israel’s strategic edge in the region.

“This deal did not include Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal,” he said Monday.

Pompeo said the US was determined to help UAE defend itself against Iran and would do it “in a way that preserves our commitments to Israel”.

“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to (Israel’s) qualitative military edge. We will continue to honour that,” he said.

“But we have a 20-plus year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well, where we have provided them with technical assistance and military assistance.”

Washington, Pompeo said, would “continue to review that process to continue to make sure that we’re delivering them the equipment that they need to secure and defend their own people.”

AFP

Pompeo Says ‘Enormous Evidence’ Coronavirus Came From Wuhan Lab

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a briefing at the State Department on February 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Secretary Pompeo spoke on several topics including the coronavirus and the recent truce with the Taliban. Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP

 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

“There is enormous evidence that this is where it began,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But while highly critical of China’s handling of the matter, Pompeo declined to say whether he thought the virus had been intentionally released.

President Donald Trump has been increasingly critical of China’s role in the pandemic, which has infected nearly 3.5 million people and killed more than 240,000 around the world.

He has insisted that Beijing recklessly concealed important information about the outbreak and demanded that Beijing be held “accountable.”

News reports say Trump has tasked US spies to find out more about the origins of the virus, at first blamed on a Wuhan market selling exotic animals like bats, but now thought possibly to be from a virus research laboratory nearby.

READ ALSO: Russia Reports More Than 10,000 New COVID-19 Infections

Pompeo, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told ABC that he agreed with a statement Thursday from the US intelligence community in which it concurred “with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

But he went further than Trump, in citing “significant” and “enormous” evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory.

“I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories,” Pompeo said.

He said early Chinese efforts to downplay the coronavirus amounted to “a classic Communist disinformation effort. That created enormous risk.”

“President Trump is very clear: we’ll hold those responsible accountable.”

AFP

Tillerson ‘Unaware’ Of Reason For His Removal

Courtesy: www.slate.com

Outgoing US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not speak to President Donald Trump before he was sacked on Tuesday and has not been given a reason for his ouster, a top aide said.

“The secretary did not speak to the president this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted,” Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said.

Tillerson arrived back in Washington before dawn on Tuesday after a tour of African countries and a few hours later Trump announced abruptly on Twitter that he was to be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo.

“We wish Secretary-Designate Pompeo well,” Goldstein — who is undersecretary of state for public affairs and public diplomacy — said, in a series of tweets from his official account.

“The secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues. He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts,” he said.

“The secretary will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship,” he added, in a nod to Tillerson’s close working relationship with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

AFP

Tillerson Shortens African Tour Over ‘Schedule Demands’

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson boards his plane to depart Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, on March 12, 2018. PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday was to shorten his maiden tour of Africa because of work, aides said.

“Due to demands in the secretary’s schedule, he is returning to the US one day early, after concluding official meetings in Chad and Nigeria,” Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein told the press.

Tillerson, making his first trip to Africa as the senior-most US diplomat, has visited Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya since last Wednesday.

He is due to fly from the Chadian capital of N’Djamena on Monday to the Nigerian capital Abuja, staying there for several hours before heading for home in the early evening.

He had initially been scheduled to stay there overnight, hold further meetings on Tuesday with US embassy staff and then fly back to Washington.

But the African tour has coincided with the shock announcement of a possible summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump over the nuclear standoff in the Korean peninsula.

Tillerson, while in East Africa, canceled scheduled events on Saturday on the grounds of ill-health.

“The secretary is not feeling well after a long couple days working on major issues back home such as North Korea and has canceled his events for the day,” Goldstein said in a statement on Saturday.

He later said Tillerson was “feeling better” and would resume his schedule on Sunday.

AFP

Trump Says No New Deals During Presidency

Donald Trump,Donald Trump says his sons will run his businesses during his presidency, but there will be “no new deals”.

After delaying an announcement on how to handle his business interests, he took to Twitter to disclose he would hold a news conference in the near future.

The US president-elect was due to hold a rare press conference on the matter on Thursday.

He has also confirmed the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson, as his choice for US Secretary of State.

Mr Trump praised Mr Tillerson as being among the “most accomplished business leaders and international deal-makers” in the world.

Mr Tillerson is said to have a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, alarming both Democrats and some Republicans.

The nomination, however, needs Senate approval.

US Election: Trump Attacks Clinton In ‘Hot Talk Showdown’

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in US Election DebateUS Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, has clashed with her Republican co-contender, Mr Donald Trump, in a hot television debate late Monday night.

The duo traded words over jobs, terrorism and race in a ‘talk showdown’ that lasted till the early hours of Tuesday.

The debate, which could be described as the most watch in TV history, was said to be observed by an estimated 100 million persons.Donald Trump

It also turned personal, as the republican candidate accused his democratic rival of not having the right temperament to be the next American President.

In a swift response, Mrs Clinton taunted the American billionaire by pointing out that he refused to release his tax returns.

Trump, however, promised to release them if Clinton would release the 33,000 emails that were deleted during an investigation into her private email set-up while she was the US Secretary of State.

Donald Trump fires Hillary Clinton in hot talk showdown
Donald Trump fires Hillary Clinton in hot talk showdown

UN Concerned About Lake Chad Basin Food Crisis

United Nations, UN, Lake Chad Basin, FoodThe United Nations has said that at least nine million people are in urgent need of aid in Nigeria’s northeast and neighbouring countries.

The UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer, said at least $559 million would be needed in the next four months to ease the crisis in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

He said more than six million people were “severely food insecure” with 568,000 children acutely malnourished adding that the UN has appealed to Britain and other western governments for help.

Mr Lanzer said at the Chatham House in London: “With population growth of speed and nature, in an area where everyone is already poor, the environment is incredibly stressed.

“There is a never-ending stream of heavier violence, it is only natural to conclude that more people will migrate,” he said.

The Heads of State of the Lake Chad Basin and donor countries would meet on the margins of the annual United Nations General Assembly holding next week.

Meanwhile, the US President, Barack Obama, would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the sidelines of the Assembly.

US Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes, disclosed that President Obama would hold separate sessions with the Nigerian President, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi and Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos.

Obama To Meet Buhari, Others At UN Assembly

Barrack Obama, Muhammadu Buhari, UN General AssemblyThe President of the United States, Barack Obama, will meet with Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, the leaders of Iraq and Colombia on the sidelines of the annual United Nations General Assembly holding next week.

The White House Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes, explained that President Obama would hold separate sessions with the Nigerian President, Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi and Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos.

President Buhari would participate in the five-day, 71st session of the General Assembly where he would deliver Nigeria’s statement at the opening of the general debate.

The theme of this year’s debate is “The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push To Transform Our World”.

Attack On US President

The proposed meeting comes as President Obama cancelled a meeting with controversial Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, who earlier called him a “son of a whore”.

Mr Duterte was responding to the US President’s promise to raise the issue of drug-related and extra-judicial killings in the Philippines at their meeting.

US aides later confirmed Mr Obama would meet South Korea’s President instead.

In reply, Mr Duterte issued a statement saying he regretted that the comment came across as a personal attack on the US President.

This is not the first time President Duterte has made inflammatory statements against prominent figures as he had attacked Pope Francis, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry and the US Ambassador to the Philippines in recent times.

Syria Ceasefire ‘Holding’ As It Enters First Full Day

Syria CeasefireReports from Syria say the cessation of hostilities that came into effect on Monday appears to be holding.

The deal, brokered by Russia and the US, has been described by the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, as possibly the “last chance to save a united Syria”.

Residents in the troubled northern city of Aleppo said there had been calm in the city.

A monitoring group based in the United Kingdom, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has also confirmed that it appeared to be “quiet” on nearly all fronts.

However, there were reports of sporadic attacks carried out by both government forces and rebels after the ceasefire had come into effect.

The Syrian Army said the truce would be applied throughout Syria for seven days, but that it reserved the right to respond decisively to any violation by armed groups.

Obama Calls Off Meeting With Philippine Leader After ‘Whore’ Jibe

Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, ObamaA diplomatic row seems to be brewing between the US and the Philippines As President Barack Obama has cancelled a meeting with controversial Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, who earlier called him a “son of a whore”.

Mr Duterte was responding to the US President’s promise to raise the issue of drug-related extra-judicial killings in the Philippines at their meeting.

US aides later confirmed Mr Obama would meet South Korea’s president instead.

In reply, Mr Duterte issued a statement saying he regrets that the comment came across as a personal attack on the US President.

This is not the first time the Filippino President Duterte has employed inflammatory language against such prominent figures as he has attacked Pope Francis, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry and the US Ambassador to the Philippines in recent times.