Lampedusa, Jun 30 (AP/UNB) — The German captain of a humanitarian rescue ship with 40 migrants aboard has been arrested after she rammed her vessel into an Italian border police motorboat while docking at a tiny Mediterranean island Saturday in defiance of Italy's anti-migrant interior minister.
Jeering onlookers shouted "handcuffs, handcuffs" as Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old captain, was escorted off the boat at Lampedusa, which is closer to north Africa than to the Italian mainland.
The migrants, meanwhile, hugged personnel of the German Sea-Watch charity who helped them during their 17 days at sea. Some kissed the ground after disembarking from Sea-Watch 3 at dawn's break.
The migrants had been rescued from an unseaworthy vessel launched by Libya-based human traffickers but Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had refused to let them disembark on Lampedusa until other European Union countries agreed to take them. Five nations so pledged to do on Friday: Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal.
The humanitarian rescue operation ended dramatically and violently when Rackete decided she could no longer wait for permission to dock given the odyssey of the migrants aboard.
"It's enough. After 16 days following the rescue, #SeaWatch3 enters in port," the organization tweeted early Saturday shortly before the ship started heading dockside.
The captain steered her vessel toward the island before dawn, ramming the much smaller police boat, which was blocking Sea-Watch 3's path to the dock.
In past years, Lampedusa had won international praise for its generous welcome to many of the hundreds of thousands of rescued migrants.
But even as the migrants' numbers dwindled as Italy cracked down on private rescue ships, many Italians lost patience, including economic migrants ineligible for asylum. Salvini's anti-migrant League party has soared in popularity.
Some on the island applauded when the migrants disembarked. But another group yelled insults, including "Gypsy, go home" to the captain. A senator from the opposition Democrats, Davide Faraone, filmed the intense scene and then posted it on Twitter.
"You must handcuff her immediately," a woman shouted before Rackete was hustled into a police car.
Her lawyer, Leonardo Marino, told Italian state TV that she was arrested for investigation of resisting a warship, a reference to plowing into the motorboat of the customs and border police force. No one was injured but the motorboat's side was damaged. If convicted, Rackete risks up to 10 years in prison.
She also risks a fine as high as 50,000 euros ($58,000) under a recent Salvini-backed law cracking down on private rescue vessels. Any fine might be covered by a reported 100,000 euros supporters in Italy recently donated to help Sea-Watch.
Salvini slammed the captain's defiance, branding her actions as tantamount to an "act of war."
"I have asked for the arrest of an outlaw who put (lives) at risk," Salvini told RAI state radio. He also ordered that authorities sequester the ship, "which went around the Mediterranean breaking laws."
Sea-Watch defended Rackete's actions. "She enforced the rights of the rescued people to be disembarked to a place of safety," Sea-Watch said in a statement.
But a Sicily-based prosecutor, Luigi Patronaggio, indicated otherwise. "Humanitarian reasons cannot justify inadmissible acts against those who work at sea for the safety of everybody," ANSA quoted the prosecutor as saying.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas appeared to criticize the Italian decision to arrest the captain.
"Saving lives is a humanitarian duty," he said on Twitter. "Rescue at sea must not be criminalized. It's up to the Italian justice system to swiftly resolve the allegations."
A judge will decide after closed-door hearings in coming days whether Rackete should be freed or stay under house arrest while the investigation continues.
Among those backing the captain's conduct was a leader of Germany's Green party, Robert Habeck.
"The arrest of Captain Rackete shows the nefariousness of the Italian government and the dilemma of European refugee policy," he told German media group RND. "The real scandal is the drownings in the Mediterranean, the lack of legal pathways to flee and the absence of a European distribution mechanism."
His outrage was echoed by the head of Germany's Protestant Church, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm.
"A young woman is arrested in a European country because she saved human lives and wanted to bring the rescued people to land safely," he said in a statement. "(This is) a disgrace for Europe!"
Thousands of migrants have drowned trying to reach European shores in recent years aboard migrant smugglers' unseaworthy vessels.
Democratic Party lawmaker Graziano Delrio, after disembarking himself, likened her actions to that of a driver of a Red Cross ambulance "which goes through a red light" to speed ailing patients to a hospital.
Sea-Watch 3 had rescued 53 people on June 12, but later 13 of the migrants were taken to Italy for medical care.
After reaching Italy following rescue at sea, migrants are transferred to centers where they can file initial asylum request documentation. Even if their asylum bids failed, many migrants manage to stay in the country or try to make their way to northern Europe where many have relatives.
The overwhelming majority of the migrants' home countries don't have repatriation agreements with Italy, meaning even if their asylum bids are rebuffed, Italy can't expel them, despite Salvini's pledges.
Seoul, Jun 30 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un shook hands across the border at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, in an historic photo-op as Trump seeks to make a legacy-defining nuclear deal with the North.
It is the third time the two leaders have met, and the first since a failed summit on the North's nuclear program in Vietnam earlier this year. Trump briefly crossed the border into North Korea after greeting Kim.
There are as yet no indications of a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations to end the North's nuclear program.
President Donald Trump is meeting with several dozen troops stationed at the Korean Demilitarized Zone separating South and North Korea and telling them, "We're with you all the way."
The troops include both U.S. solders as well as South Korean troops.
Trump was joined by South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who is praising Trump for deciding to meet shortly with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. He's calling it "a bold decision"
Trump has at times appeared to question the value of keeping U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula in light of the U.S.-South Korea trade deficit.
President Donald Trump is griping about the press not giving him sufficient credit for improved U.S. relations with North Korea as he pays an historic visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Trump is telling reporters as he stands atop Observation Post Ouellette that there has been "tremendous" improvement since his first meeting with the North's leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year.
Trump says the situation used to be marked by "tremendous danger," but that, "After our first summit, all of the danger went away."
And he's chastising reporters, saying "they have no appreciation for" for changes in the North, which he's calling a "very different place."
Trump has been criticized for meeting again with Kim when the North continues to test short-range missiles and has not moved forward with a pledge to denuclearize.
President Donald Trump is getting his first glimpse of North Korea from an observation post in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Trump, wearing a suit, is being shown various landmarks as he stands atop Observation Post Ouellette.
It's his first stop on his first visit to the border between the North and the South, which will include another face-to-face meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. His last attempted visit was thwarted by bad weather.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced earlier Sunday that Kim had accepted Trump's tweeted invitation to meet at the heavily fortified site at the Korean border village of Panmunjom
President Donald Trump is making his first visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone ahead of a meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
Trump arrived by helicopter Sunday near the Panmunjom truce village. He was also expected to visit an observation post and greet U.S. and South Korean troops.
Trump told reporters at a news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in that he and Kim will "just shake hands quickly and say hello" at the historic meeting at the Korean border village.
Trump on Saturday invited Kim to meet him at the border for a symbolic handshake. He expressed openness to briefly crossing into North Korean territory if Kim accepted.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has visited the 1953 armistice line, except for George H.W. Bush, who visited as vice president.
President Donald Trump is on his way to the Korean Demilitarized Zone for a historic meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
Trump departed Seoul by helicopter on Sunday afternoon shortly after South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that Kim had accepted Trump's invitation to meet at the heavily fortified site at the Korean border village of Panmunjom.
Trump told reporters before departing that he looked forward to seeing Kim and to "shake hands quickly and say hello."
The meeting is set to mark yet another historic first in the yearlong rapprochement between the two technically warring nations. It also marks the return of face-to-face contact between the leaders since negotiations to end the North's nuclear program broke down during a summit in Vietnam in February.
Japan, June 28 (AP/UNB) — With a smirk and a finger point, President Donald Trump dryly told Russia's Vladimir Putin "Don't meddle in the election" in their first meeting since the special counsel concluded that Moscow extensively interfered with the 2016 campaign.
The tone of the president's comment did little to silence questions about Trump's relationship with Russia in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's conclusion that he could not establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia.
The moment at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka echoed one of the most defining moments of Trump's presidency in Helsinki, Finland. There, he pointedly did not admonish Putin about election interference and did not side with U.S. intelligence agencies over his Russian counterpart.
Trump and Putin traded brief remarks Friday, the first time they sat together since Helsinki, about issues they planned to discuss when a reporter asked Trump if he would warn Putin not to meddle in the 2020 election.
"Of course," the president replied. Then he turned to Putin and facetiously said, "Don't meddle in the election." He playfully repeated the request while pointing at Putin, who laughed.
Trump said he enjoyed a "very, very good relationship" with Putin and said "many positive things are going to come out of the relationship."
Putin has repeatedly dismissed the Mueller report's conclusion that Russia had systemically interfered in the 2016 U.S. election, telling the Financial Times earlier this week that it was "mythical interference."
Putin said that what really happened was that Trump saw changes in American society and took advantage of them.
Putin, who has highlighted national populist movements in Europe and America, told the newspaper that he thinks liberalism — the main political ideology in the West since the end of World War II — is dead.
He praised Trump for trying to stop the flow of migrants and drugs from Mexico.
"This liberal idea presupposes that nothing needs to be done — that migrants can kill, plunder and rape with impunity because their rights as migrants have to be protected," Putin said in the FT interview.
"Every crime must have its punishment. The liberal idea has become obsolete. It has come into conflict with the interests of the overwhelming majority of the population."
While Trump has long placed a premium on establishing close personal ties with Putin, his administration has increased sanctions and other pressures on the Russian government.
The United States and Russia also are on opposing sides of the escalating crisis with Iran, which shot down an American drone last week. Trump nixed a possible retaliatory air strike and stressed Friday that "there's no rush" to ease tensions with Tehran.
At a summit last November in Argentina, Trump didn't meet with Putin after Russia seized two Ukrainian vessels and their crew in the Sea of Azov. Those crew members remain detained, yet Trump opted to forge ahead with the Osaka meeting. Trump said Friday alongside Putin that the fate of the sailors had yet to be discussed.
The leaders also have announced their withdrawal from a key arms control pact, the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It is set to terminate this summer, raising fears of a new arms race. Another major nuclear agreement, the New Start Treaty, is set to expire in 2021 unless Moscow and Washington negotiate an extension.
The White House said after Friday's meeting that the leaders agreed to keep talking about a "21st century model of arms control," which Trump said needs to include China. In addition to Iran, the two leaders also discussed Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine. The U.S. and Russia are on opposing sides on those three issues too.
But the backdrop of U.S.-Russia relations remains Moscow's 2016 election interference.
Though the meeting occurred in the early morning hours back in the United States, some were quick to denounce the president's comments. Michael McFaul, who was U.S. ambassador to Russia under Barack Obama, tweeted that he found Trump's conduct "depressing."
"Trump's admiration and appeasement of Putin is so bizarre," he wrote. "I can't think of one concrete U.S. interest that has been advanced by Trump's behavior."
The sit-down with Putin came amid a gauntlet of negotiations on international crises and trade wars. The president is to meet on Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump said he believed there was "a very good chance" they could make progress toward ending their trade dispute.
Trump also is keeping an eye on the race to replace him back home. Ten Democrats met in Miami, Florida, as part of the first debates of the 2020 presidential race.
"I just passed a television set on the way here. I saw that health care and maximum health care was given to 100% of the illegal immigrants coming into our country by the Democrats," Trump said, telling German Chancellor Merkel during their meeting that a debate the previous night "wasn't very exciting."
"So I look forward to spending time with you rather than watching," he said. Merkel did not react.
Later, while meeting with Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, Trump segued from a discussion on the crisis in Venezuela to declare that he had heard a rumor that the Democratic Party will change its name to the Socialist Party. "I'm hearing that, but let's see if they do it," Trump said.
There have been no such rumors.
United Nations, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — The United States accused the Syrian government Thursday of stalling political negotiations and called for a new route to U.N.-monitored elections and a nationwide cease-fire that would end the country's eight-year conflict.
Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen called for Russia and Syria to de-escalate military operations in the last rebel-held strongholds in Idlib and northern Hama and warned that the United States will keep ratcheting up pressure if this doesn't happen.
He told the Security Council it must acknowledge the failure of efforts to advance the political process by the so-called Astana group, comprised of Syrian government allies Russia and Iran and Syrian opposition supporter Turkey.
And after 17 months of negotiations to form a committee to draft a new Syrian constitution, Cohen said, "it is time to admit that not only has progress stalled, it is likely to remain out of reach for some time — because that's where the regime wants it to be."
Agreement on a new constitution has been seen as a key step toward implementing a 2012 roadmap for peace that includes a cease-fire and ends in U.N.-supervised elections. Endorsed by the Security Council, it was approved by representatives of the U.N., Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five veto-wielding council members: the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain.
Cohen said it is time for U.N. special envoy Geir Pedersen, who has been trying to get the government and opposition to agree on a constitutional committee, to try other routes to a political settlement by focusing on preparations for elections and a cease-fire.
He said the U.S. believes the reinvigoration of the political process should start with a cease-fire in Idlib and northern Hama. Cohen said Russia and close ally Syrian President Bashar Assad "must immediately cease military operations" and return to the lines of a 2018 cease-fire agreement. "Turkey should be entrusted to remove terrorist forces from the region" consistent with the agreement, he said.
The United States recognizes "there is no path forward without the cooperation of Russia and the Assad regime," Cohen added.
But he warned that until Syria and Russia take "concrete steps" to de-escalate the violence in Idlib, "the United States will continue to apply diplomatic and economic pressure through all available means to isolate the regime and its allies." He said Washington also will "ratchet up our pressure on the regime and its supporters if political progress on humanitarian and political tracks continues to stall."
Deputy Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told the council that "the Astana guarantors are determined to fully implement the agreements on stabilization in Idlib" and said that "Russia is working energetically to make progress on the political front" in Syria.
But, Safronkov said, "demanding and calling on us to do nothing" in the face of "continuing provocative attacks" on the Syrian military, civilians and Russian air bases by extremists from the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham "is extremely dishonest."
"Instead of demanding that we implement what we agreed on and signed, it would be better if everybody else got involved in the fight against terrorism," he said. "That would be a real contribution to achieving the Syrian settlement."
Pedersen, the U.N. envoy, told the council by video from Geneva that the only solution for Idlib is to stop fighting and have the key parties agree on a cooperative approach to countering "terrorism" that protects civilians. He reiterated Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appeal to Russia and Turkey to quickly stabilize the situation.
Safronkov said Russia is hopeful of "a breakthrough" soon in forming the constitutional drafting committee, and Pedersen said he will be testing a formula he believes has the support of all parties in the near future.
But French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the Assad government "is refusing every compromise." If the Syrian regime maintains its opposition, the council will have "to consider other ways to make progress," he said.
Britain's ambassador, Karen Pierce, went further, saying that if progress can't be made, she agreed with the United States that Pedersen should "try other routes to achieving the political solution."
While the Security Council is focused on the constitutional committee, she said, the bigger prize "includes preparing for nationwide elections observed by the U.N., securing the release of detainees and establishing the nationwide cease-fire."
Miami, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — Fiery liberal Bernie Sanders slapped back at his party's centrist candidates Thursday night in a raucous presidential debate that underscored deep ideological divisions that are starting to shape the party's winding search for a nominee to take on President Donald Trump.
The Vermont senator, a self-described democratic socialist, admitted that his plans for universal health care and free college would require a tax increase on America's middle class. But he insisted that fundamental change is needed to address growing inequality across America. His critics warned that such an approach would leave the party open to attacks from Republicans who call them socialists.
"We think it is time for change, real change," Sanders declared.
While the tone was mostly civil, just beneath the surface a fierce debate was simmering about the party's future — and what kind of candidate should lead it. A generation divide was displayed early on as younger candidates called on 76-year-old Joe Biden, their party's early front-runner, to pass the torch.
Some candidates want to fight fire with fire in the age of Trump. They're embracing Sanders' call for a revolution that would transform the private health care system into a government-financed one and mandate a redistribution of wealth — even as Republicans attack them as socialists. A smaller group, led by Biden, favors a far more pragmatic approach to address the nation's problems within the current framework. They emphasize bipartisanship and moderation, hardly an exciting concept for liberal activists crying for dramatic change after years of Trump.
A day after the first wave of 10 Democrats debated, the second 10 faced each other and the nation for the first time in a prime-time confrontation that gave many voters their first peek inside the Democratic Party's unruly 2020 presidential campaign.
At the start, Biden downplayed his establishment leanings.
The former vice president, along with the other candidates on stage, raised his hand to say his health care plan would provide coverage for immigrants in the country illegally.
Thursday's showdown featured four of the five strongest candidates — according to early polls, at least.
Sanders' appeal relies on emotion, often anger. He stood alongside Biden, who preaches pragmatism and relative moderation.
Biden, like Sanders, who is 77, also represents a different generation from several candidates on stage. The age difference was noted by California Rep. Eric Swalwell, who said, "Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago."
Others on the stage Thursday night included South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and California Sen. Kamala Harris, who have shown support in opinion polls. Also on stage: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, New York businessman Andrew Yang, California Rep. Swalwell and author and social activist Marianne Williamson.
The showdown played out in Florida, a general election battleground that could well determine whether Trump wins a second term next year.
Biden sought to sidestep the ideological debate altogether, training his venom on Trump.
"Donald Trump thinks Wall Street built America. Ordinary middle-class Americans built America," said the former vice president. He added: "Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality."
For much of the early campaign season, Biden has ignored his Democratic rivals, training his attention instead on the man he hopes to defeat in the general election next fall: Trump.
Biden's strategy is designed to highlight his status as the front-runner, and as such, the Democrat best positioned to take down the president at the ballot box. Above any policy disagreement, Democratic voters report that nothing matters more than finding a candidate who can beat Trump.
If nothing else, Thursday's slate highlights the diversity of the Democratic Party's 2020 class.
Buttigieg, a 37-year-old gay former military officer, is four decades younger than Sanders, and has been framing his candidacy as a call for generational change in his party. Harris is the only African American woman to qualify for the presidential debate stage. Any of the three women featured Thursday night would be the first ever elected president.
Yet Biden and Sanders have received far more attention and shown higher standing than their less-experienced rivals.
The party will have to decide whether it wants a candidate based on resume over aspiration.