Israeli authorities have inspected the offices of NSO Group, a surveillance outfit, in response to the Pegasus project investigation into abuses of the company’s spyware by several government clients, as per The Guardian report.
Officials from the Defence Ministry visited the company’s offices near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, at the same time when Defence Minister Benny Gantz arrived in Paris for a pre-arranged visit. Gantz discussed the Pegasus revelations with his French counterpart.
French President Emmanuel Macron is one of the high-profile figures whose phone numbers appeared on a leaked database of 50,000 numbers that are believed to have been selected as candidates for possible surveillance by the clients of NSO, as per the report. Macron spoke to Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett last week to stress the importance of “properly investigating” the project’s findings.
According to early media reports, the moves on NSO’s offices were described as a raid but the company stated that the authorities had only “visited” and not “raided” its premises.
The NSO clarified that it had been informed in advance that Defence Ministry officials, responsible for overseeing commercial exports of sensitive cyber-exports, would be doing an inspection. “The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities,” the report added.
The Defence Ministry tweeted that the visit conducted by several state bodies was related to disclosures stemming from the Pegasus project — a consortium of 17 media outlets, including The Guardian, which revealed last week that government clients around the world have used the hacking software sold by NSO to target human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers.
As the scale of the disclosures has become clearer, diplomatic pressure has mounted on Israel to explain the nature of the relationship between NSO and the state under the tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the report stated.
The wider Pegasus project investigation found that the Israeli government gave the NSO explicit permission in 2017 to try to sell the hacking tools to Saudi Arabia in a deal reportedly worth at least $55 million, the report added.
Gantz told French Defence Minister Florence Parly, on Wednesday, that Israel is investigating the matter “with the utmost seriousness”, as per a statement from the Israeli Defence Ministry.
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EU looks for deeper Indo-Pacific ties amid China concerns
Amid the growing Chinese aggression and ongoing developments in Afghanistan, the European Union will seek new digital partnerships with Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and closer trade and investment relations with Taiwan.
This push by the EU is aimed at building influence in Asia after the messy US and NATO military exit from Afghanistan, Nikkei Asia newspaper reported. According to a draft strategy document seen by the publication, the bloc will seek to reinforce semiconductor value chains with Asian partners as the pandemic amplifies fears about industrial supply chain vulnerabilities.
Earlier this year, the EU released its own Indo-Pacific strategy policy paper, which the experts regarded as an unprecedented declaration that promises to put the EU at loggerheads with China.
“Democratic principles and human rights are also under threat from authoritarian regimes in the region, putting the region’s stability at risk,” says the document, as seen by the newspaper. “Similarly, efforts to establish a global level playing-field based on transparent trade rules are increasingly undermined by unfair trade practices and economic coercion. These developments increase tensions in trade, supply and value chains.”
According to Nikkei Asia, the EU proposes to explore the possibility for talks on digital partnership agreements with Tokyo, Seoul and Singapore. “These would enhance cooperation on — and interoperability of standards for — emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence. The accords would enable deeper cooperation on data governance, trusted flows and data-based innovation, and would complement World Trade Organization negotiations on e-commerce,” the report added.
On Wednesday, a Chinese diplomat issued a warning to the EU for “discriminatory actions” against Chinese businesses. Wang Weidong, commercial counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Germany promised that China will not “sit idle” regarding such actions.
UNSC RENEWS MANDATE OF UN MISSION IN LIBYA TO SEPT 30, ADOPTS RESOLUTION 2595
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday renewed the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya to September 30 and adopted Resolution 2595 after voting at horseshoe table.
India, along with other countries in UNSC voted for unanimous adoption of Resolution 2595 and renewing mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. Taking to Twitter, Pratik Mathur, Counsellor in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN said, “#UNSC votes at horseshoe table! India voted with others for unanimous adoption of Resolution 2595, renewing mandate of @UNSMILibya. #Libya headed for Elections in December 2021 during this crucial moment. India also CHAIR of UNSC subsidiary committee on Libya.”Speaking after the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation, emphasising the central role that the United Nations is playing in Libya, said that today’s technical rollover will enable Council members to focus on a mutually acceptable solution.
UYGHUR TRIBUNAL PROBING RIGHTS ABUSES CONCLUDES SECOND SESSION
An independent UK-based panel, probing human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang province, has concluded its second and final session.
From September 10-13, the Uyghur Tribunal, a panel of Britain-based lawyers and rights experts examined human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang region. According to an official statement by Campaign For Uyghurs (CFU), the Committee heard further evidence on the atrocities and genocide being perpetrated by the Chinese regime in East Turkistan.
“This people’s tribunal is an attempt to hold accountable a regime that evades accountability by leveraging economic and political power to obfuscate its genocidal policies,” CFU said in a statement.
In response to a lack of transparency, the refusal to admit investigators, and the stonewalling of international pressure, this tribunal has brought the question of genocide to the people, who cannot be bought, the statement added. In total, this tribunal heard from over 70 witnesses, and over 30 researchers spent a combined 10,000 hours reviewing an insurmountable amount of evidence, including 500 fact witness statements.
Campaign For Uyghurs (CFU) has lauded those testifying as brave and proud champions of the Uyghur cause; this truly is a proud moment for human rights around the world. “Those who offered first-hand accounts described a horrifying reality. The stories and evidence presented in this tribunal are too great to ignore: the Uyghurs are facing a genocide. The Genocide Report published by CFU in July of 2020 came to this determination utilizing the standards of the Geneva convention, and we look forward to the world coming to this determination now.”
Abdulhakim Idris, of the Center for Uyghur Studies, provided expert testimony on the use of economic power to prevent action on the genocide, and the colonial history of East Turkistan.
He said, “The Uyghur people know, from their experience, how to warn other countries of the coming danger from China. To conquer central Asia, they have to destroy the Uyghur people[…]in almost 136 years of colonization by China, Uyghurs have lived many tragic days. China knows what they did to the Uyghur people, and so they are afraid of them, as a people.”
Executive Director of CFU, Rushan Abbas said, “Having watched this tribunal in full, I have been horrified by what I have heard, especially knowing that my innocent sister may also be subject to the same tortures being described. To watch these brave witnesses testify on behalf of the voiceless people back home made me so proud of them.” Earlier in June this year, the “tribunal” heard nearly 38 witnesses during the first round of hearings in London.
UN official meets Afghan interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, discusses humanitarian aid
A UN official met with Afghanistan’s new interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, and discussed the ongoing situation of Afghanistan and humanitarian aid.
According to Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen, Haqqani met Deborah Lyons, head of UNAMA, and her delegation on Wednesday. “Sirajuddin Haqani, Minister of Interior, IEA, met Head of UNAMA Deborah Lyons and her delegation yesterday. They discussed the ongoing situation of Afghanistan and humanitarian aids. IEA Interior Minister stressed that UN personnel can conduct their work without any hurdle,” he tweeted.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the notorious Haqqani network, was named as interior minister earlier this month.
The network is a US-designated terror group aligned with the Taliban and al Qaeda. Haqqani has a USD 5 million US bounty on his head.
APPREHENSIVE OF ANTI-CHINA ELEMENTS REGROUPING, BEIJING ASKS U.S. TO ‘GUIDE’ TALIBAN
China during talks with a top American diplomat in late August expressed its desire that the international community, including the US, cooperate and provide guidance to the Taliban as it is afraid that the absence of security forces might lead to anti-Beijing elements regrouping in the region.
In late August, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during a telephone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that the global community should provide the Taliban with guidance so that Afghanistan’s new political system can support government operations and services, The Hill reported. China believes that the withdrawal of the US forces in Afghanistan could allow the regrouping of Uyghur separatist groups based in Xinjiang and facilitate their operations from Afghanistan.
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), declared an international terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council, poses a direct threat to China’s national security and territorial integrity, according to The Hill.
During the talks with Blinken, Wang also said that in order to achieve peaceful reconstruction, the Taliban will require economic assistance to maintain stability and stave off the depreciation of the Afghani, the currency of Afghanistan.
The communist regime has been blaming the US for the current Afghanistan situation. It claims that the US troops’ withdrawal from the region can pave the way for a wider insurgency.
UK forum discusses ‘new reality’ of Afghanistan under Taliban
As US and NATO forces concluded military withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of presence in the country, a new reality now exists for the country, under the Taliban’s regime.
As fresh challenges arise for Afghanistan’s neighbours to step into the breach, London-based NGO The Democracy Forum hosted a virtual seminar on September 14 — titled ‘Afghanistan: Filling the Void’. This debate was moderated by former BBC Asia Correspondent Humphrey Hawksley. “What can we anticipate from the new regime?” wondered TDF President Lord Bruce in his opening address, given that the Taliban is embarking on a campaign to win hearts and minds and offer a credible alternative to the Ghani administration.
But, with the new cabinet in Kabul dominated by Taliban hardliners and appearing to opt for ‘diplomatic non-engagement’, Lord Bruce believed the international community would struggle to find meaningful leverage.
He also cast doubt over any immediate advantage Afghanistan’s neighbours might hope to gain from US withdrawal, saying that China and Pakistan have “a real problem with the Taliban”, as do Russia and Iran. Pakistan’s predicament, in particular, as a “supplicant of both China and the US, would surely determine its response to the change of regime in Kabul, with possible repercussions including renewed tension with India.”
Addressing the security situation and the Taliban’s ability to govern Afghanistan, Dr Weeda Mehran, a Lecturer at the University of Exeter’s Dept. of Politics, considered key challenges facing the new government.
The expert highlighted challenges like brain drain, and depreciating currency. Moreover, the current caretaker cabinet’s problematic lack of inclusivity, with no Hazaras, Shia or women representatives.
As many as 17 of the 33 cabinet members, including the new minister of the interior, are on UN and FBI terrorist lists, while the Taliban has released thousands of IS, al-Qaeda, TTP and other prisoners, which could cause huge security challenges in Afghanistan if they decide to confront the regime.
UN Consultant Dr Shahriar Tadjbakhsh, a Professor at the Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, looked at how the region can engage with the Taliban, offering an analysis of the security concerns and interests of regional countries, and what regionalism can do.
She spoke of the September 8 meeting of foreign ministers from Afghanistan’s neighbouring countries to make a joint statement — a meeting tellingly convened by the foreign minister of Pakistan, the country with the most leverage in Afghanistan.
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