Trump, Turkey’s Erdogan Discuss Gulf Crisis Involving Qatar

President Donald Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Friday to discuss the ongoing feud between Qatar and several Arab states, a conflict that some are calling the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

Trump and Erdogan talked by phone to discuss how to resolve the dispute “while ensuring all countries work together to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology,” the White House said in a statement.

Turkey has been a supporter of Qatar, whose ties with some of its Gulf and Arab neighbors were severed after Qatar was accused of funding terrorism and fomenting regional instability. Qatar denies the accusations. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar.

your ad here

Congo Denies ‘Security Concerns’ Caused Cancellation of Military Parade

Democratic Republic of Congo officials are denying a report that security concerns led them to cancel the annual military parade.

Congo celebrated 57 years of independence Friday, but the country is grappling with militia violence in the central Kasai region, a Kinshasa prison break that freed 4,000 inmates last month and political tension over the delay in the presidential election.

President Joseph Kabila’s deputy chief of staff said there would be no parade Friday because of “security reasons,” according to the report from the Reuters news agency.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende and Congo’s deputy interior and security minister, Basile Olongo, denied that report in separate interviews with VOA.

Olongo, talking to VOA’s French to Africa Service, noted the parade has been cancelled before and implied that dominance by foreign powers played a role in this year’s decision. “When you are no longer considered a sovereign country, it is high time to stop and think,” he said, without elaborating.

Mende, speaking to VOA English to Africa, denied allegations from opposition parties that Kabila is procrastinating on holding the election. The president’s second term expired in December 2016, but he has remained in office. The government says the delay is due to slow voter registration and a lack of funding.

Mende said the electoral commission has now registered 30 million of 42 million prospective voters.

A December 2016 political deal between Kabila and opponents calls for elections to be held by the end of this year.

VOA’s James Butty and Eddie Isango contributed to this report.

your ad here

US Travel Ban Implementation Moves Ahead with Little Protest

President Donald Trump’s modified travel ban has been implemented with little immediate protest as immigration lawyers gathered at U.S. airports to aid travelers from six affected countries.

The U.S. activated the new rules Thursday evening, requiring visa applicants from six majority-Muslim nations to have a “bona fide” relationship with a family member or business in the U.S. to be admitted into the country.

Before the rollout, senior administration officials explained how consular officials should proceed with the visa applications for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Anyone in transit to the U.S. with travel scheduled before July 6 will be allowed to enter. Those with travel booked after that date will be addressed “later,” according to senior administration officials.

Previously scheduled visa application appointments will not be canceled, administration officials said, but all new applicants will have to prove their bona fide relationship to a family member or business in the U.S. in addition to passing traditional screening.

Acceptable close family relationships include a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling who already is in the United States.

Relationships that do not meet the requirement include grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, fiance or other extended family. The officials said these distinctions were based on those included in the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

First court suit

Late Thursday, the Trump administration added fiance to the acceptable list after Hawaii filed an emergency motion in federal court, asking a judge to clarify that the ban can’t be enforced against relatives, including fiances, not mentioned in the administration’s guidelines.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson ordered the Justice Department to respond by Monday and gave Hawaii until July 6 for a rebuttal.

“I think the Supreme Court actually laid it out very clearly,” New York Immigration Coalition Director of Political Engagement Murad Awawdeh told VOA. “A bona fide relationship is anyone who has a relationship with anyone in the United States or an American entity. And for the department of state to come out with such a new version of what that word actually means, it is kind of disheartening.”

He added that the Trump administration is trying to “redefine what family means.”

Awawdeh spoke Thursday at an anti-travel ban protest of about 150 people in New York’s Washington Square.

Also at the protest was Yemeni American Widad Hassan, who says that choosing between family and country is nothing new. Her sister-in-law and newborn nephew are in Yemen, while her brother is in the U.S., unable to reunite with his family.

“Do they leave to join their family in Yemen or do they stay here? So, that is pretty much how the ban has impacted us,” said Hassan, adding that the battle is a recurring one. “It is just mentally and emotionally draining, especially when you have family members who are being directly impacted by it.”

“Hey hey! Ho ho! Syrian refugees have got to go!” shouted an older white man, hoisting a black-and-white “Keep Syrians Out” poster outside a #NoMuslimBanEver Emergency Town Hall in New York.

Travel ban supporter Pauline Pujol told VOA, “I think Donald Trump is 100% correct. He is protecting the country. A president is supposed to protect the country; there is nothing racist about it. It’s about security.”

Refugee numbers

A 120-day ban on refugees and yearly cap of 50,000 total refugees coming to the United States also went into effect Thursday evening; however, any refugee who can prove a relationship to a family member in the U.S. may be allowed entry.

Senior administration officials said 49,009 refugees had been admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017 as of Wednesday night, nearing the cap three-quarters of the way through the fiscal year that begins in October. But the cap is likely to be exceeded as additional refugees are accepted on the basis of family ties. Officials said about half of refugees admitted to the U.S. have family in the country.

The Supreme Court partially reinstated the president’s executive order limiting travel after it was halted by two lower courts. The high court will hold its own hearing on the legal challenges in October.

Trump says the order is necessary to protect national security, with the entry freezes meant to give the government time to strengthen vetting procedures.

your ad here

Suicide Attack on Niger Displaced Persons Camp Kills 2, Wounds 11

The United Nations refugee agency says two female suicide bombers attacked a camp for internally displaced people in eastern Niger’s Diffa region, killing two people and wounding 11.

The agency says the attackers entered the Kabelawa camp late Wednesday.

It calls this the first suicide attack in the eastern part of the Diffa region in a year and the first-ever attack against the camp.

Kabelawa camp is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border with Nigeria. It hosts more than 10,000 people who have fled violence by Nigeria-based Islamic extremists Boko Haram.

Niger contributes to the multinational force set up to fight Boko Haram in the region.

your ad here

Escalating Violence in CAR Threatens Thousands of Civilians

The U.N. refugee agency warns renewed violence in the Central African Republic is threatening thousands of civilian lives, forcing many to flee and destroying villages and camps for displaced people.

United Nations officials describe a chaotic scene of attacks by rival warring groups in different parts of CAR. UNHCR spokesman Andreij Mahecic tells VOA that violence has broken out near the capital of Bangui, in central parts of the country, and close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“It is of concern to us because it in many places affects the population that has been displaced already — most likely more than once — and these are the most vulnerable,” Mahecic said. “And, as you know, there is a plethora of armed groups within the CAR. … It is very concerning that we have recorded this escalation of violence over the past days and weeks.” 

While clashes are going on between self-defense groups and other armed groups, the UNHCR says civilians and humanitarian workers also are being targeted.

In Zemio, a town near the border of DRC, the agency says houses close to its office were burned down.  It says more than 1,000 people fled their homes, and many refugees in a nearby camp returned to DRC in fear for their lives. 

Mahecic says clashes in the town of Bria were so violent that all 2,400 inhabitants of a camp for internally displaced people fled, leaving it empty.

“Indiscriminate attacks in Bria have left some 136 people dead and 36 wounded, with 600 houses burned and an additional 180 looted,” he said. “These are conservative estimates. People fleeing the violence speak of having witnessed brutal attacks, killings, robberies, lootings and kidnappings.” 

It has not been possible to assess the full extent of damage or displacement from the recent violence because of the ongoing dangers, Mahecic says. The UNHCR reports more than five years of civil war in CAR has uprooted more than half a million people inside the country and sent nearly as many fleeing across borders.

your ad here

Famine Alert in South Sudan Lifted, But Catastrophe Continues

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains catastrophic, even though the country is no longer classified as being in a state of famine.

The government and the United Nations declared on June 21 an end to the famine that had struck parts of Unity State.

However, the head of the Red Cross office in South Sudan, Michael Charles, says the situation remains precarious.

“We have over 1.7 million people that are on the brink of famine,” he said. “And, really, the lifting of the famine vis-a-vis the emergency phase of food insecurity is very blurry in the eyes of the people that are affected. So, whether famine has been lifted technically, people have not really noticed the difference because they still do not have access to food, because the children are still malnourished because diseases are still ongoing.”

Charles says more than 6 million people across the country are short of food and going hungry, and 1 million children are acutely malnourished.

Preventable, treatable diseases — such as measles, cholera and malaria — are on the increase and are a potential death sentence for children who are malnourished, according to Charles.

your ad here

House Immigration Votes Build on Trump Campaign Promises

The U.S. House of Representatives took the first steps Thursday toward fulfilling two key Trump campaign promises: strengthening penalties on undocumented immigrants who return to the U.S. after being deported and cutting federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities – those that choose not to work with immigration agents. VOA’s congressional reporter Katherine Gypson looks at what that will mean for grieving families and for undocumented immigrants across the country.

your ad here

Trump, Moon Present Unified Front Against North Korea

President Donald Trump on Friday declared the U.S. has run out of patience with North Korea, as he met with his South Korean counterpart at the White House.

Speaking in the Rose Garden alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump vowed a “determined response” against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

“The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed,” Trump said, referring to his predecessors’ approach to the North. “Many years and it’s failed, and frankly, that patience is over.”

Trump and Moon differ over exactly how much to pressure the North into giving up its weapons programs. Both leaders also have criticized certain aspects of their countries’ defense cooperation.

But on Friday the two leaders presented a unified front.

Words of praise

After a discussion that lasted about 30 minutes longer than scheduled, Moon praised Trump’s “determination and pragmatism” and said they were able to build a “broad consensus” on issues ranging from defense ties to the North Korean nuclear issue.

“The North Korean nuclear issue must be resolved without fail,” Moon said. “North Korea should by no means underestimate the firm commitment of Korea and the U.S. in this regard.”

Few specifics were given about North Korea strategy. Moon said both “sanctions and dialogue” would be used in dealing with Pyongyang, while Trump’s comments focused more on applying additional pressure.

WATCH: Moon on relationship with US

“The United States calls on other regional powers and all responsible nations to join us in implementing sanctions and demanding that the North Korea regime choose a better path, do it quickly, and a different future for its long-suffering people,” Trump said.

It was the first meeting between Trump, a billionaire former real estate developer, and Moon, a liberal human rights lawyer who took office last month. The meeting was closely watched, not only because of the stark personality differences between the two leaders, but also for the potential areas of disagreement.

During the presidential campaign, Trump harshly criticized South Korean trade practices. He also frequently slammed Seoul and other U.S. allies for not paying enough for defense protection from the U.S.

On Friday, Trump assured Moon that the U.S. “will always defend our allies,” but he added that there needs to be “fair burden-sharing in South Korea.”

Trade

On trade, Trump said the existing U.S.-South Korea trade agreement has been “rough for the U.S.” and that he is working to create a “fair and reciprocal” economic relationship with South Korea.

WATCH: Trump on trade

Since the current trade deal went into effect in 2012, the U.S. trade deficit with Seoul has doubled. “Not exactly a great deal,” Trump complained Friday.

But the bulk of the two leaders’ comments on Friday dealt with North Korea.

“Together we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea,” Trump said. Any “threats and provocations by the North will be met with a stern response,” Moon added.

Moon is seeking to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to pause his nuclear and missile programs in exchange for restarting talks, which eventually would aim for a complete disarmament. Trump prefers maximizing diplomatic pressure and sanctions before engaging in such talks.

It isn’t clear that Kim would even agree to restarting talks in exchange for a freeze, since the government in Pyongyang considers its weapons programs essential to its survival.

 

your ad here