TIME sweden

Sweden Will Be Among First European Countries to Recognize Palestinian State

From left: Stefan Löfven and Per Westerberg in Stockholm on Sept. 18, 2014.
From left: Stefan Löfven and Per Westerberg in Stockholm on Sept. 18, 2014. Lindahl Bjorn—Aftonbladet/Zuma Press

Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Lofven announced Friday that his new center-left government will recognize the state of Palestine, making his country among the first in Europe to do so.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law,” said Löfven during his inaugural address in parliament. “A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful co-existence. Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine.”

No European Union country has recognized Palestine as a member; EU countries Hungary, Poland and Slovakia only did so before they joined the bloc, according to Reuters. In 2012, the United Nations overwhelmingly voted in favor of Palestinian statehood despite opposition from Israel and the United States.

The negotiations between Israel and Palestine for a two-state solution—creating a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and using established borders in the West Bank and Gaza—have sputtered despite efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

[Reuters]

TIME Foreign Policy

Washington Issues Statement Backing Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protesters

Student protesters gesture outside the Golden Bauhinia Square, venue of the official flag-raising ceremony for celebrations of China's National Day in Hong Kong
Student protesters gesture outside the Golden Bauhinia Square, venue of the official flag-raising ceremony for celebrations of China's National Day, in Hong Kong Oct. 1, 2014 Tyrone Siu—Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to discuss the ongoing protests with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday

The White House issued a statement of support for “the aspirations of the Hong Kong people” on Tuesday, in response to a petition urging the U.S. government to put pressure on the Chinese government.

The Obama Administration’s comments reflect a gradual toughening of its response to Beijing, as the Chinese Communist Party refuses to heed Hong Kong protesters’ loudening call for free and fair elections amid swelling demonstrations in the financial powerhouse.

“The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law,” the statement said. It continued that Hong Kong residents should have “a genuine choice of candidates representative of the voters’ will.”

U.S. officials also said Tuesday that Secretary of State John Kerry will discuss the protests racking Hong Kong with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a meeting in Washington on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, the U.K. also solidified its position on the side of the protesters; Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg summoned the Chinese ambassador in order to convey the British government’s alarm at Beijing’s hardened dismissal of universal suffrage in Hong Kong. The territory was a British colony until 1997.

“It is essential that the people of Hong Kong have a genuine choice of chief executive in 2017, through universal suffrage,” Clegg said, according to Sky News. Clegg also said he would “reiterate our position and seek reassurances from the Chinese government.”

Tens of thousands of people have flooded several of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, pledging to continue bringing traffic and commerce to a standstill until the Hong Kong and central governments meet two demands: Hong Kong’s top leader resigns, and Beijing grants the Special Administrative Region the right to freely elect a new one in 2017, as opposed to choosing from a list of candidates handpicked by a pro-Beijing committee.

The Chinese government has repeatedly accused the U.S. and British governments of meddling in its affairs and stirring up the protests; both countries’ officials have denied any involvement.

The original petition had asked the White House “to support Hong Kong democracy and prevent a second Tiananmen Square [massacre] in Hong Kong.” If a petition on the White House website collects more than 100,000 signatures within 30 days, it necessitates a response from the U.S. government. The petition boasted 196,942 signatures before it closed.

“We believe that an open society, with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law, is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” read the response.

The statement also reiterated White House comments made on Monday, urging “Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint, and for protesters to express their views peacefully.”

Since police lobbed 87 tear-gas canisters at protesters bearing nothing but umbrellas on Sunday evening, the number of officers on the streets has been drastically scaled back, while the number of protesters, galvanized by the disproportionate response, has burgeoned.

At demonstrations outside a flag-raising ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate China’s National Day, protesters said they were intent on remaining peaceful, while also staying put until their demands are met.

“We will not stop them from celebrating,” said T. Wong, 35, a protester standing under a swarm of umbrellas near the ceremony. “But as they celebrate, we want them to listen to our voices.”

— Video by Helen Regan / Hong Kong

TIME North Korea

An American Held in North Korea Begins Six Years of Hard Labor

U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court
U.S. citizen Matthew Miller during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in Pyongyang in this undated photo released by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Sept. 14, 2014 KCNA/Reuters

Matthew Miller was jailed for committing acts "hostile" to the Pyongyang regime

An American man has begun a six-year sentence of hard labor in North Korea, CNN reports.

Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, Calif., was arrested in North Korea in April and convicted earlier this month of committing acts “hostile” to the regime.

A shaven-headed Miller has been assigned the prisoner number 107, but CNN says there are no details of where in North Korea he will serve his sentence, or the nature of the labor he will be required to perform.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency claimed that the 25-year-old tore up his tourist visa upon arrival in Pyongyang as part of a ploy to be sent to prison so that he could report on human-rights violations there. It accused him of wanting to become a “second Snowden through intentional hooliganism.”

Washington, which has no diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, has unsuccessfully sought a meeting with North Korean officials to arrange the release of three Americans held in the state, including Miller.

[CNN]

TIME diplomacy

Watch Live: Obama Addresses the U.N. General Assembly

Days after the U.S. and five Arab nations began air strikes against ISIS

President Barack Obama addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, days after the U.S. joined forces with five Arab nations to begin conducting air strikes in Syria against targets of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria

TIME China

Majority of Chinese Expect War With Japan by 2020, Poll Finds

Anti-Japan Protests Erupt In China
Anti-Japan protesters are confronted by police as they demonstrate over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands on Sept. 16, 2012, in Shenzhen Lam Yik Fei—Getty Images

About 53% of Chinese respondents expect war to break out between the two countries before the end of the decade, a new survey found

More than half of China’s citizens expect their country to be at war with Japan in as little as six years, according to a new public opinion poll that finds a widening sense of mistrust and hostility between the two countries.

About 53% of Chinese respondents and 29% of Japanese respondents expected a war to break out by the year 2020, according to a joint survey conducted by newspaper China Daily and Genron, a Japanese NGO.

Each country’s favorability rating of the other remained at historic lows: 93% of Japanese respondents reported having a negative impression of China, the worst rating in the survey’s decadelong history, while 87% of Chinese responded negatively to Japan, a slight decrease from last year’s record high.

Tensions between Japan and China flared in 2013 over disputed islands in the East China Sea, and diplomats from both countries accused one another of behaving like “Voldemort,” the evil wizard from the Harry Potter fame. The rhetoric has cooled slightly since then, but public resentment evidently is still running deep.

TIME Iran

Plane Carrying U.S. Military Personnel Forced to Land in Iran

The State Department says the landing was the result of a "bureaucratic issue"

A charter plane carrying U.S. and allied military forces from Iraq to Dubai landed unexpectedly in Iran on Friday because of a “bureaucratic issue,” according to a senior State Department official.

“Contrary to press reports, this plane was not forced down by the Iranian military,” the official said. “The issue appears to have been resolved and hopefully the plane will be able to take off soon.”

The plane was carrying 100 Americans when Iranian military planes forced it to land in the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas, the Washington Post reports. Bandar Abbas is about a 40-minute flight from the plane’s original destination.

–Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller

TIME Iran

One Result of the Gaza Conflict: Iran and Hamas Are Back Together

Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian ambassadors abroad during a ceremony in Tehran, Aug. 13, 2014.
Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaking to Iranian ambassadors abroad during a ceremony in Tehran, Aug. 13, 2014. EPA

Iran and Hamas were once tightly allied, but the Syrian war drove them apart. Now, after the Gaza conflict, the two sides are making up

Correction appended, 8/19/14

Long considered to be the biggest sponsor of Islamic militants battling Israel and designated as terrorist groups by the United States, Iran’s relationship with the Palestinian group Hamas was once touted as among its strongest. Not only had Iran brought Hamas on board the so-called Axis of Resistance, alongside its other regional allies Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah, but the Islamic Republic had always publicly boasted of its wide ranging support for the group, from providing financial backing to shipping weapons.

However, when the Arab Spring spread into Syria in 2011, the majority Shiite Iran’s long-standing alliance with Hamas deteriorated significantly when the militant group opted to break step with Tehran and support the mainly Sunni rebels against Syria’s Bashar Assad. The falling-out came to a head when the political leaders of Hamas moved their base from Syria to Qatar, a regional rival of Iran.

In retaliation Iran, Syria and Hezbollah reportedly ended their support for Hamas in all fields, effectively ousting it from their Axis of Resistance and cutting off one of Hamas’ most vital lifelines. “The Iranians are not happy with our position on Syria, and when they are not happy, they don’t deal with you in the same old way,” the deputy political leader of Hamas Moussa Abu Marzouk in February 2012, according to the Associated Press.

When the latest battle between Hamas and Israel, called the Zionist Regime in Tehran, flared up in early July, Iran initially remained relatively quiet, though it denounced Israel for the loss of life among civilians. But the number of Palestinian casualties grew, including many children and women, attracting significant international attention and sympathy. (As of Aug. 10 nearly 2,000 Palestinians had been killed according to the UN, along with 66 Israelis.) For Iran, the Gaza conflict was seen as an opportunity to improve its standing in the Islamic world, which had suffered—especially among Sunnis—thanks to its steadfast support of Assad.

Seeking to take advantage of this opportunity and to regain its position as the foremost supporter of the Palestinian militant groups battling Israel—and to reconcile with Sunni Muslims throughout the Middle East—a significant number of Iranian officials have now gone on the record to voice their support for Hamas, the main militant group in Gaza, over its latest battle with Israel. “We are prepared to support the Palestinian resistance in different ways,” said the commander of the revolutionary guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafaria, during a speech on Aug. 4, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency. “Just as until now any show of strength in Palestine which caused the defeat of Zionists has its roots in the support of the Islamic Revolution [of Iran].”

The first sign of this shift came on July 29, when Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, praised the resistance against Israel in a speech, calling on the Islamic world to equip Palestinians according to his official website Khamenei.ir. Two days later Khamenei was echoed by one of Iran’s top military officers, Major General of the Guards Qasem Soleimani, who commands the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guardians Corps. Soleimani published a rare public letter to the “Political leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the resistance,” lauding their continued efforts against Israel. The letter promised that Iran “will continue to perform our religious duty to support and help the resistance till the moment of victory when the resistance will turn the earth, the air and the sea into hell for Zionists,” according to the official IRNA news agency.

That was followed by numerous officials, MPs and military figures, all issuing statements in support of Hamas, and echoing Khamenei’s call for unity among Muslims. “In our defence of Muslims we see no difference between Sunni and Shiite,” said General Jafari, the commander of the guards, in an Aug. 4 speech. Some even promised a supply of weapons to Hamas, which has been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. “You will get the weapons and ammunition you need no matter how hard it might be to do so,” said Mohsen Rezaei, the former wartime commander of the revolutionary guards in a public letter to the commander of the military wing of Hamas Mohammed Deif, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

With Iran already deeply involving in shoring up the Iraqi and Syrian governments against militant Sunni groups, it is doubtful that these promises of support and weapons for Hamas could be fulfilled anytime soon, and while the Islamic Republic is also striving to break the impasse in its nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and other powers, arming militant groups against Israel, America’s main ally in the region, could be potentially disruptive for those talks. But in his letter to Deif, Rezaei tried to address that doubt, writing that “Israel is mistaken in its belief that the instabilities in Syria, Iraq and Egypt, and the pressure on Iran from the United States’ economic blockade has given them an opportunity.”

In the meantime Iran has continued its charm offensive on Sunni Muslims. The head of the influential State Expediency Council, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, met with Iran’s top Sunni clerics and activists recently, and called for unity among all Muslims. Promising them that Iran intended to support and defend all Abrahamic religions and sects—Rafsanjani condemned any act that could cause divisions among Muslims. Backing up that position, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced on Aug. 3 that it had shut down the offices and arrested the staff of four extremist Shiite satellite channels that regularly incite intolerance and hatred against other Islamic sects, especially Sunnis.

Hamas—which has been politically isolated since its last remaining backer, former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, was removed from power—has welcomed reconciliation with its old ally and benefactor. Hamas’ official representative to Iran, Khalid al-Qoddoumi, reportedly said on Aug. 9 that Iranians “have always been the first in line to help and support our people.” Reports from the semiofficial ISNA news agency also indicate that a long postponed visit to Iran by the head of Hamas, Khaled Mashal, is set to happen soon. For Israel, the ongoing conflict in Gaza has had one more unexpected and unwelcome outcome: Iran and Hamas are together again.

Correction: Because of an editing error, the date of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry’s announcement that it had shut down the offices and arrested the staff of four extremist Shiite satellite channels was misstated. It was Aug. 3.

TIME diplomacy

Reports: Germany Recorded Hillary Clinton Conversation

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif on July 23, 2014.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) to launch a community campaign to encourage parents to talk, sing and read to their young children in Oakland, Calif on July 23, 2014. AP

The revelation is a potential embarrassment to Angela Merkel, who has decried American spying

German intelligence agents intercepted and recorded Hillary Clinton in conversation as she traveled aboard a United States government plane while she was Secretary of State to Barack Obama, three German media outlets reported Friday. Agents intercepted the conversation “by accident,” according to reports citing unnamed government sources by broadcasters NDR and WDR, along with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The revelation was among the more than 200 documents that a German spy, identified only as “Markus R.”, allegedly passed to the CIA.

The news, which comes as relations between the U.S. and Germany have soured over allegations that the U.S. spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has the potential to embarrass the German government. As recently as last month, Merkel condemned alleged U.S. spying on Germany, stating, “I would see this as a clear contradiction to what I understand as trusting cooperation of intelligence services as well as of partners.”

U.S. officials, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff of Denis McDonough, have allegedly confronted their German counterparts on the recording.

The specific time and location of the recording remain unclear.

[NDR]

TIME Australia

The U.S. Will Increase Its Military Presence in Australia

US Marines Train In Australia's Northern Territory
The first group of 200 U.S. Marines arrives at Darwin's Robertson Barracks for a 6-month training rotation, April 2012. The Sydney Morning Herald—Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The move comes at a time when China has been testing the waters in the region

The United States will be finalizing an agreement to increase its military presence in Australia in an attempt to bolster its ties with allies in the Asia-Pacific, where China has been flexing its muscles, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The negotiations will conclude an agreement made between Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott and U.S. President Barack Obama in June.

At the annual AUSMIN talks between U.S. and Australian defense leaders this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will discuss a proposal to add more fighter jets and bombers to a military base near the northern Australian city of Darwin, Reuters said.

Australia’s defense minister David Johnston and U.S. officials will also sign a 25-year agreement, which will create a larger ballistic missile defense shield for U.S. allies in Asia-Pacific and boost U.S. troops in Australia from 1,500 to 2,500 by 2017. The additional forces will respond to humanitarian disasters and conflicts in the region.

The negotiations for an increased military presence in the region follow Beijing’s rejection of a U.S. request that China and other nations refrain from provocative acts in disputed areas of South China Sea.

TIME Terrorism

Bill Clinton Said The Day Before 9/11 He Could Have Killed Bin Laden

Listen to the audio

Chilling audio of former President Bill Clinton admitting that he turned down an opportunity to attack Osama bin Laden during his presidency was recently uncovered by Sky News Australia. The audio was recorded on September 10, 2001, one day before the 9/11 attacks which claimed nearly 3,000 lives and dramatically impacted the course of global history.

“I could have killed him, but I would have had to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children,” Clinton said. “And then I would have been no better than him.”

Sky News obtained this footage of the former U.S. President through former Australian politician Michael Kroger.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser