Obama Calls for Fresh Middle East Peace Talks
US President Obama visited the West Bank on Thursday and met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the second day of his Middle East trip. He said the Palestinians should move beyond the idea that Israeli settlements are a significant impediment to any peace negotiations. “If we’re going to be successful, part of what we’re going to have to do is get out of the formulas and habits that have blocked progress. Both sides are going to have to think anew”, said Obama. President Abbas renewed his demand for an Israeli halt on new constructions, but did not say that would be a pre-condition to any new talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “It is the duty of the Israeli government to at least halt the activity, so we can speak of the issues. The issue of settlements is clear: we never gave up our vision, whether now or previously”, said the Palestinian leader. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been stalled since 2010.
Kurdish Leader Öcalan Orders Halt to Hostilities Against Turkey
Imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan ordered his fighters to cease fire and withdraw from Turkish soil as a gesture towards ending a conflict that has killed over 40,000 people since 1984. “Let guns be silenced and politics dominate. The stage has been reached our armed forces should withdraw beyond the borders. It’s not the end, it’s the start of a new era”, said a letter issued by Öcalan from his Turkish jail on the Marmara Sea, where he has been jailed since 1999. The letter to his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) followers was read out on Turkish television and cheered by hundreds of thousands of Kurds in Diyarbakır, a scene unthinkable a few months ago, where the insignia of the PKK was banned from the airwaves. “War happens, but at some point you have to dress your wounds. This is our chance now. I remember peace. My grandson does not. He does not remember when Kurds and Turks lived as brothers. This is a last chance”, said Bedri Alat, a 73-year-old Kurd. The Turkish government received the letter with some scepticism. “The language is the language of peace, we need to see it implemented”, said Interior Minister Muammer Güller.
UK at Risk of ‘Lights Going out’
The CEO of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has warned that the United Kingdom is facing a serious risk of blackouts in the next decade. “There is a very real risk of the lights going out”, said Ian Marchant, adding that the government had underestimated the energy generation deficit for the coming years. The country’s energy regulator, Ofcom, had also warned of a higher risk of blackouts, predicting that current power station closures could bring a 10 percent decrease in capacity by April. According to Ofgen chief Alistair Buchanan, Great Britain would be “very tight on power station capacity in three to five years’ time”. Energy Minister John Hayes denied the government was standing still, saying that its approach would secure supplies. “The amount of spare power available today is currently comfortable. We will make sure it stays manageable and we have an insurance policy – the capacity market”, he told the BBC.
Scottish Independence Referendum Date Set
The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, announced on Thursday that Scotland’s independence referendum will be held on September 18, 2014. The first minister unveiled the date as the Scottish parliament published the draft referendum enabling the vote. The referendum question will be “Should Scotland become an independent country?” and voters will include 16- and 17-year-olds for the first time in the United Kingdom. According to Salmond, the date “becomes etched in our nation’s story as the day Scotland took a decisive step forward to a better, fairer future”. He said Scotland faced two distinct futures. Should the country vote “no”, it would be saddled with the UK, “an outdated political entity that ill-serves the interests of the people of Scotland”. An independent Scotland, on the other hand, “will get a parliament that is both fully empowered and fully accountable to those whose lives are affected by its actions”. Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont accused Salmond of delaying the poll because he knew he was going to lose. “The truth is that Alex Salmond knows if he held the referendum now, he wouldn’t just lose, he would be routed”, said Lamont.