We, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States strongly condemn the February 15 rocket attack on Iraq’s Kurdistan Region. We extend our condolences to the victims, their families and the Iraqi people. Together, our governments will support the Government of Iraq’s investigation into the attacks with a view to holding those responsible to account. We are united in our view that attacks on the US and Coalition personnel and facilities will not be tolerated.
The governments of France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States welcomed the agreement reached by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum on Libya’s interim executive authority tasked with leading the country to national elections on December 24, 2021.
This critical step towards achieving an inclusive, negotiated political solution is the result of a process that is truly Libya-led and owned, United Nations mediation, and the support of the Libyan people. In this regard, we laud the outstanding commitment of the United Nations Mission of Support in Libya and Acting Special Representative of Secretary General Stephanie Williams. We look forward to fully supporting the work of Special Envoy Ján Kubiš.
We call on all current Libyan authorities and actors to ensure the smooth and constructive handover of all competencies and duties to the new unified executive authority.
Since the Berlin Conference, Libya has made significant progress towards securing lasting peace and stability, including through the reopening of the energy sector, the 23 October 2020 national ceasefire agreement, the roadmap for holding national elections in December 2021, and now the election of a unified interim executive authority. .
The long road still lies ahead. The unified executive authority must enforce the ceasefire agreement, provide essential public services to the Libyan people, initiate a meaningful reconciliation program, address critical national budgetary needs, and organize national elections. The new interim government, to be proposed by the appointed Prime Minister, must be truly inclusive, allowing all Libyans to be represented, including with regard to gender, ethnicity and regional origin.
We call on the delegates of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to retain their important functions, ensuring the focus of a new unified executive authority in preparing for and holding the elections decided by the Forum.
At the Berlin Conference on Libya last year, the international community committed to supporting the resolution of the Libyan conflict. In the spirit of that commitment, all Conference participants must now support the new executive authority in fulfilling its duties to the Libyan people, implement a full arms embargo, and support the immediate withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries.
We are ready to hold accountable those who threaten stability or undermine the political process in Libya.
The governments of France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and the United States welcomed the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) vote in favor of a new interim executive authority election mechanism, which will guide Libya to national elections on December 24. , 2021. This is an important step towards the unity of Libya. The LPDF decision affirms the clear demands of the Libyan people that it is time for a change in the status quo. We urge all Libyan parties to act promptly and in good faith to complete adoption through the LPDF of a united and inclusive government. As participants in the Berlin Conference process and international partner Libya, we will give our full support to the LPDF’s efforts.
We also welcome the appointment of the UN Secretary General Ján Kubiš as the Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Libya, and the appointment of Raisedon Zenenga as UNSMIL Coordinator and Georgette Gagnon as Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, and we will fully support them in their important role. We express our continued thanks to Acting UN Special Representative, Stephanie Williams, for her unwavering leadership in UN mediation until Mr Kubiš took up his position.
One year after the Berlin Conference, we underlined the important role of the international community in supporting a political solution in Libya as well as our ongoing partnerships with members of the Berlin Process. We remind members of the Berlin Process of the solemn commitment we all made at the summit one year ago, strengthened by UNSCR 2510. In particular, we must continue to support the ceasefire, restore full respect to the UN arms embargo, and end foreign poisoning. interference that undermines the aspirations of all Libyans to re-establish their sovereignty and choose their future peacefully through national elections. It is imperative that all Libyan and international actors support steps towards the full implementation of the Libyan ceasefire agreement signed on 23 October last year, including the immediate opening of coastal roads and the removal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries.
Demands include constitutional changes, greater transparency of royal finances and power, and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military general who rose to power following the country’s 2014 coup.
The German government has also been embroiled in the fray, with Thai protesters pressuring Berlin to investigate whether the king has violated German law.
But since October, the king and his entourage have returned to Thailand, a move widely believed to be a response to protests and to shore up support among loyalists.
So how did King Vajiralongkorn’s relationship with Germany begin? And what about the view from inside Germany?
Why did the King spend so much time in Germany?
No one knows for sure.
He spent most of his childhood in England attending school and was eventually sent to Australia’s Royal Military College, Duntroon, where he graduated with an arts degree as a corporal.
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai foreign policy scholar at Kyoto University, told the ABC much of what has been said about the life of the German king, who he says began in 2007, is in rumor.
But he said that from the rumors, three main themes kept coming back: health, hedonism and escape.
Dr Chachavalpongpun said one speculation was that King Vajiralongkorn had to be in Germany because of health complications.
Another reason is allegedly related to its hedonistic reputation, which he saidcould be shrouded in Germany due to perceptions of the country’s “calmer” media landscape.
However, Dr Chachavalpong notes that this is not the case in practice, given that he is a figure of interest to the German tabloids.
Meanwhile, King Vajiralongkorn’s desire to pilot the plane was also cited as the reason for Germany’s life, as Dr Chachavalpong said there were fewer obstacles for him to fly.
Since coming to power, the King has continued to spend most of his year in the region, usually in a lakeside villa in Tutzing – a city that has long been a playground for the rich, about an hour’s drive south of Munich.
The King’s 15-year-old son, Dipangkorn Rasmijoti – who is also the Crown Prince of Thailand – is also studying at the Bavarian international school.
Who ran Thailand when King was in Germany?
When he took the throne in 2017, the King made constitutional changes that outlined what Thai sovereignty can and cannot do.
This includes removing the old provisions relating to district head elections, which are terms that describe someone who rules on behalf of sovereignty if they are abroad or are powerless.
Under the previous Thai constitution, the former King Bhumipol appointed a regent whenever he and the Queen paid a state visit, which was conducted in consultation with the Thai Advisory Council, which is the kingdom’s powerful advisory body.
Then, the regent is usually another member of the royal family, such as the Princess’s mother, or the president of the Advisory Council.
But since King Vajiralongkorn’s ascension to the throne, the powers of the Advisory Council have declined, while the King has instead made concerted efforts to increase military power.
Shortly after his coronation, for example, the King took direct command of two infantry regiments based in Bangkok.
Paul Chambers, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Center for ASEAN Community Studies at Thailand’s Naresuan University, told the ABC that the military was neutralizing the threat of a military-led coup while King Vajiralongkorn was abroad.
He added that the King is ultimately trying to remove the powers of the Advisory Council and the royal family, “so it depends on him and the army”.
Dr Chambers said this would cumulatively result in “the relationship between the monarchy and the army becoming the fulcrum of power in Thailand”.
For Dr Chachavalpong too, this is just another example of the King’s deep centralization of personal power, which could keep him away from Thailand “as long as he wants”.
What did Berlin say about Vajiralongkorn’s time in Germany?
Running Thailand from Bavaria has caused significant concern among some German politicians in recent months.
While the King’s activities in Germany have largely gone unnoticed by the country’s ruling class, there is closer scrutiny of him due to the advocacy of the German Green Party.
In October, Green MP Frithjof Schmidt questioned why Berlin would tolerate the “very unusual” behavior of a foreign head of state conducting internal affairs from German territory.
In response, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told lawmakers that King Vajiralongkorn should not rule from his country in Europe.
“If there are guests in our country who run their state business from our land, we will always want to act to counter that.”
This week in the German Parliament, Maas was once again asked about the King and confirmed that he does not need a visa to travel to and from Germany since becoming head of state.
Sevim Dagdelen, the opposition lawmaker who raised the question, also suggested Berlin could declare the King as persona non grata (an unwanted person).
According to Dr Chambers, what happened was Berlin’s admission that the host to King Vajiralongkorn might tarnish Germany’s international image.
“There is [German] considerations about the Thai demonstrators, because they could influence German international opinion, “said Dr Chambers.
Dr. Chambers also suggested that the King’s host in Germany would be in trouble if he was found to have violated local laws, despite the fact that the King wascannot be prosecuted because he holds diplomatic immunity as head of state.
In November, the German Government issued a statement confirming that King Vajiralongkorn had not done anything illegal during his stay in the country, in response to a letter from protesters sent to the German embassy in Bangkok.
The letter asked Germany to investigate protesters’ allegations of King Vajiralongkorn’s involvement in the torture and disappearance of dissidents, and to decide whether he violated German law.
Andrew MacGregor Marshall, former bureau chief for Reuters Bangkok who has been banned from Thailand since 2011 for violating the state the laws of lese-majeste are strict, wrote on Twitter that it was “wonderful” to see this issue discussed so openly.
“Neither of these issues could be discussed at all in Thailand just a few weeks ago, and it is wonderful to see them being publicly picked up by protesters in Bangkok and included in their open letter to German authorities,” wrote MacGregor Marshall.
“They have tried for years to cover up the King’s destructive behavior, but now it’s front page news around the world.”
What happened from here?
In Dr Chachavalpongpun’s view, the protesters’ methods of influencing the King’s behavior through pressure from the German Government may have been ultimately futile.
“I don’t think so [German] The government wants to go the extra mile, “said Dr Chachavalpongpun.
“Because in the end it’s about bilateral relations.
New Zealand has never seemed so far away for the heartbroken Kiwis living abroad this Christmas.
Kiwi entrepreneur Sarah Ayala – who lives in Texas with her husband and children – always thought she and her family were just a flight from home when it came to life’s big moments.
She has long kept an emergency fund of cash to buy last-minute tickets to New Zealand or Argentina – where her husband is from – if they had to return home soon.
It was a godsend when Ayala’s son was very sick as a baby and his mother ran across from New Zealand to support him through difficult times.
But Covid-19 has since created barriers around the world.
Ayala was unable to return to New Zealand for her mother’s funeral in September and is now unable to return at Christmas to see her remaining family as her children only get two weeks of school holidays in the US.
“Being stuck might be a bit exaggerated, but it feels really weird knowing we can’t go when we need it,” he said.
And not just his family.
The protective COVID-19 border wall that New Zealand has set up on the other side of the world makes family and friends appear more distant than usual at this year’s celebration time, said fellow US expat Hayden Garrett.
He’s been in Colorado with his family for five years, but can’t come home this Christmas because it’s too expensive.
Isolation from family back home adds to the gloomy festive season in the US where a surge in the virus means the country faces major challenges over the next four to eight weeks, he said.
Likewise, Ayala said she is proud of how New Zealand is handling Covid-19 and the way everyone can participate in their role to keep others safe.
By contrast, the virus is “out of control in the US” with more people dying from it every day than what happened in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, he said.
“I’ve heard people tell me that wearing a mask is like slavery or complaining about why everyone with a health condition or an elderly person destroys it for all of us,” he said.
“It leaves me breathless – this is literally the person I know and talk to.”
All staff and visitors to her workplace must wear masks, with Ayala joking that she hired a new employee three months ago and still hasn’t seen her face.
“I saw his driver’s license working on the paperwork, and I thought, ‘oh that’s what he looks like’,” he said.
People often underestimate New Zealand’s achievements, saying it should handle the virus well as a small and isolated island, Ayala said.
But the country’s leadership and support from every day Kiwi to do their part is extraordinary when compared to most of the rest of the world.
It’s also not easy as Kiwis have chosen to maintain tight borders that come at sacrifices they can’t easily make or have family and friends come home for Christmas.
“I feel influenced by the quarantine rules, but still agree with what has been done in New Zealand,” he said.
“And it might be in contrast to what I’m seeing here in the US, people feel they shouldn’t be affected in any way.”
Ayala says she’s only voicing the sadness of many Kiwis this Christmas at being so far away from home.
While people always talk about how special a white Christmas is in the US, no one celebrates Christmas better than New Zealand, he said.
“There’s a barbeque on the beach, the family gets together and everyone’s really nice to each other for the day, you have a few drinks, sit in the park, the kids run around and someone might start kicking a ball.”
It means that when she sees her family photo together this year, there will be extra pain in her heart.
“I would be like: ‘Aww, it would be great to be there’.”