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Israel meetings row: Indian-origin UK minister resigns

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London, Nov 9: Amid flak over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials, Indian-origin International Development Secretary of UK Priti Patel stepped down on Wednesday late night, media reports said.

Patel resigned after being summoned back from a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia by Downing Street after it emerged that she failed to be candid with Prime Minister Theresa May about 14 unofficial meetings with Israeli ministers, business people and a senior lobbyist, the Guardian reported.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, Patel met May for just six minutes.

In her resignation letter, Patel admitted that her actions “fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state”.

“While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation.”

Responding to this, May said Patel’s decision was the correct one. She argued in a letter to Patel that the UK and Israel were close allies and should work closely together.

“But that must be done formally, and through official channels. That is why, when we met on Monday, I was glad to accept your apology and welcomed your clarification about your trip to Israel over the summer.

“Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated,” May wrote in the letter.

She added that Patel should “take pride” in what had been achieved during her time in office.

Patel had apologised to May on Monday after news about the unauthorised meetings in August with Israeli politicians including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, came to light, reports the BBC.

But it later emerged she had two further meetings in September without the presence of any government officials.

A replacement for Patel is anticipated to be announced on Thursday.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC: “Priti Patel has been a very good colleague and friend for a long time and a first class secretary of state for international development.

“It’s been a real pleasure working with her and I’m sure she has a great future ahead of her.”

Patel’s resignation from the cabinet is the second in seven days, after Michael Fallon stepped down as Defence Secretary on November 1 amid allegations about his behaviour.

Patel was appointed as Conservative MP for Witham in May 2010. She has served several prominent posts such as Treasury Minister (July 2014 to May 2015), Employment Minister (May 2015 to July 2016) and was elevated as the International Development Secretary in July last year.

Wefornews Bureau 

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Nepal, China sign 8 deals worth $2.24bn

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nepal china ties

Beijing, June 20: Nepal and China on Wednesday signed eight agreements worth $2.4 billion on the second day of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s visit.

These agreements were reached between the two governments and private sectors where Chinese investors will put money on developing hydroelectricity, water resources, cement factories and fruit cultivation and farming.

The signing ceremony took place at the Nepal Embassy here.

Additional memorandum of understandings will be signed on Thursday after delegation-level talks between Oli and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.

Oli, who arrived here on Monday on his five-day-visit, will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday afternoon at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

This is Oli’s first official visit to China after returning to power in February and second foreign trip after India.

IANS

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US withdraws from ‘biased’ UN Human Rights Council

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Donald Trump

Washington, June 20: The United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday. 

The US envoy Nikki Haley told the UN, the body is “hypocritical and self-serving” and “makes a mockery of human rights”.

Last year, Haley accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” and said America was reviewing its membership, a BBC report said.

Constituted in 2006, the council invited flak for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

Following this United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the Donald Trump’s administration decision.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting spokesman Stephane Dujarric as saying in a note to correspondents.

“The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” the note said.

The move comes amid sharp criticism over the Trump administration’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad has called the policy “unconscionable”.

Haley announced the US’s intention to exit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

She described the council a “cesspool of political bias”, but stressed: “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Last year, she told the council it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel yet none had been considered for Venezuela, which at the time witnessed the killing of dozens of protesters during political turmoil.

Israel is the only nation that is subject to a permanent standing agenda item, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians is scrutinised at a regular basis.

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UN chief regrets as US exits ‘biased’ Human Rights Council

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Antonio Guterres

United Nations, June 20: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres regretted the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), said his spokesman on Tuesday.

“The Secretary-General would have much preferred for the United States to remain in the Human Rights Council,” reported Xinhua news agency quoting spokesman Stephane Dujarric as saying in a note to correspondents.

“The UN’s human rights architecture plays a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights worldwide,” the note read.

Earlier, announcing the country’s withdrawal from the UNHRC, US envoy to the UN Nikki Haley described the body as “hypocritical and self-serving” and one that “makes a mockery of human rights”.

According to a BBC report, Haley last year accused the council of “chronic anti-Israel bias” and said the US was reviewing its membership.

Formed in 2006, the council has been criticised for allowing countries with questionable human rights records to be members.

The move comes amid intense criticism over the Trump administration’s policy of separating child migrants from their parents at the US-Mexico border.

UN human rights chief Zeid bin Ra’ad has called the policy “unconscionable”.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch also condemned separation of families, and called President Trump’s human rights policy “one-dimensional”.

Reacting to the US’ exit from the global rights body, Ra’ad said in Geneva that the US withdrawal is “disappointing, if not really surprising.”

“Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back,” Zeid said.

Haley announced the US intention to quit the council at a joint news conference with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

She called the council a “cesspool of political bias”, but stressed: “I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.”

Last year, she told the Council it was “hard to accept” that resolutions had been passed against Israel yet none had been considered for Venezuela, which at the time saw dozens of protesters killed during political turmoil.

Israel is the only country that is subject to a permanent standing agenda item, meaning its treatment of the Palestinians is regularly scrutinised.

IANS

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