EU foreign affairs chief hails ‘good results’ in nuke talks
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EU foreign affairs chief hails ‘good results’ in nuke talks

Iran, US confirm talks to miss June 30 deadline; officials says all parties planning to stay on in Vienna, as negotiations enter final stretch

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (unseen) at a hotel in Vienna on June 28, 2015 as part of  talks between Iran and the US concerning Iran's nuclear program.  (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Carlos Barria)
    US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman meet with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (unseen) at a hotel in Vienna on June 28, 2015 as part of talks between Iran and the US concerning Iran's nuclear program. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Carlos Barria)
  • US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L), US Secretary of State John Kerry (2-L) and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (3-L) meet with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (2- R) at a hotel in Vienna on June 28, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Carlos Barria)
    US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (L), US Secretary of State John Kerry (2-L) and US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman (3-L) meet with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (2- R) at a hotel in Vienna on June 28, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Carlos Barria)
  • EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini addresses the media in front of the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria on June 28, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/CHRISTIAN BRUNA)
    EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini addresses the media in front of the Palais Coburg Hotel, the venue of the nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria on June 28, 2015. (AFP PHOTO/CHRISTIAN BRUNA)
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 28, 2015. (Flash90/Alex Kolomoisky)
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 28, 2015. (Flash90/Alex Kolomoisky)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s developments as they unfolded.

PM urges world powers to toughen stance

With some two days to the deadline for the nuclear negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it’s not too late for the West to make additional demands.

The prime minister, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting, refers to the recent State Department report condemning Iran’s human rights record and says the West is “turning a blind eye” to Tehran’s actions.

“In practice, there is no demand that Iran change its behavior and there is a total disregard for its violations, its radical demands, and the concessions to Iran are growing,” he says.

“We see before our very eyes that the world powers are retreating from the red lines they set for themselves recently and publicly. There is no reason to rush to sign this bad deal, which becomes worse every day. It’s not too late to go back and make demands that will really prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and will prevent it from receiving funds that will sponsor its aggression, its expansion, and the terror attacks that it carries out all over the world.”

Netanyahu condemns the weekend terror attacks in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait, adding that the attacks are minor compared to the day-to-day activities of an Iran-backed Syria.

“While the world is dismayed, and rightly so, by the terror attacks that were carried out last weekend by radical Islam, at the same time, in three countries and three continents, one must remember that Iran assists the Assad regime to carry out a slaughter similar to [the weekend attacks] daily,” he says.

Nuclear talks enter ‘critical stage’

Talks between Iran and major powers enter a “critical phase” with tensions rising days from a deadline to nail down a deal thwarting any Iranian nuclear arms drive. EU foreign policy head Federica Mogherini says as she joined the meeting in Vienna with US Secretary of State John Kerry and their Iranian counterpart that “political will” was still needed.

“It is going to be tough, it has always been tough but not impossible… It is a matter of political will. The reasons for having this agreement done are still there, probably now more than ever,” Mogherini tells reporters.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived on Saturday. British and German counterparts Philip Hammond and Frank-Walter Steinmeier were expected Sunday. China and Russia were represented at deputy foreign minister level.

“Obviously we are at a critical stage now,” a Western diplomat says. “It’s become more tense in the final days. But that was always likely to happen.”

AFP

Yesh Atid to resubmit civil union bill

After the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, the Yesh Atid party announces it will resubmit its civil union bill to the Ministerial Committee of Legislation on Sunday.

“We have to provide a civil alternative for all those couples who prefer not to go through the rabbinate. Many couples can’t marry through the rabbinate. This proposal provides a solution for Israel in 2015,” says MK Aliza Lavie, who is spearheading the proposed legislation.

Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid urges Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who came out in support of the Supreme Court decision, to back the bill.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks at a party meeting at the Knesset on June 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid speaks at a party meeting at the Knesset on June 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“After the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage and after Defense Minister Ya’alon expressed his hope that it could happen here in Israel as well – now is the time for cross-party cooperation, across coalition and opposition, to pass the civil union law in Israel,” Lapid says.

Read more about the civil marriage legislation here.

British FM says ‘no deal better than bad deal’

No nuclear deal between Iran and world powers is better than a “bad deal,” Britain’s foreign minister says as he arrives for talks.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on March 23, 2015 (Photo credit: Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on March 23, 2015 (Fayez Nureldine/AFP)

“We still have very big challenges if we are going to be able to get this deal done,” Philip Hammond tells reporters. “I have said many times before and I will say it again today, no deal is better than a bad deal.”

AFP

Armed Palestinian woman arrested

A Palestinian woman armed with a rifle is caught by the IDF while attempting to cross the security barrier in Kalkilya in the West Bank, the Walla news website reports.

The woman says that Hamas sent her to carry out an attack.

12 medical students feared to have joined IS

Twelve students including British, Canadian, Sudanese and US citizens are feared to have traveled from Khartoum to Turkey to try to join the Islamic State (IS) group, their university’s dean tells AFP Sunday.

Another group of British students of Sudanese origin from the same private University of Medical Sciences and Technology traveled to Turkey in March and it is believed they crossed into Syria.

“We confirmed reports from multiple parties that 12 medical students at the university left for Turkey on Friday,” dean Dr. Ahmed Babikir tells AFP.

AFP

Zarif to leave talks, return to Iran

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will leave nuclear talks in Vienna and return to Tehran on Sunday, state media reports, saying the trip was pre-planned.

“Iran and the US foreign ministers have given their teams necessary guidelines regarding how to proceed with the text and its details,” reports say, quoting a media official from Iran’s negotiating team.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif  talks to the press  at the Foreign Ministry in Athens, on May 28, 2015. Iran warned global powers against making "excessive demands" in talks aimed at sealing a ground-breaking nuclear deal, after France demanded access to its military installations.  (AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif talks to the press at the Foreign Ministry in Athens, on May 28, 2015. Iran warned global powers against making “excessive demands” in talks aimed at sealing a ground-breaking nuclear deal, after France demanded access to its military installations. (AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI)

Iran’s IRNA and ISNA news agencies say that “after a one-day stay in Tehran,” Zarif would return to Vienna but “in case more time is needed to work on the text of the agreement negotiations can continue after the June 30 deadline.”

AFP

Sirens sound in Golan Heights

Assad confidant dies of illness – state media

Mohammed Nasif Khayrbik, a senior Syrian government security official close to President Bashar Assad, died on Sunday morning after a long illness, state media says.

Khayrbik was a key confidant of the Assad family and the target of EU and US sanctions for his alleged role in putting down anti-government demonstrations and interfering in neighboring Lebanon.

“The presidency announces the death this morning of retired general Mohammed Nasif Khayrbik, deputy vice president of the republic, after a long illness,” Syrian state television says.

Khayrbik’s ties to Syria’s ruling family go back to the days of Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father and predecessor as president.

AFP

IDF investigating after sirens go off

The IDF is investigating whether rockets fell in Israeli territory after sirens are triggered in the Golan Heights.

According to Hebrew reports, there are no injuries or damage, and no projectile has been located.

Another siren sounds in Golan Heights

Talks to continue past deadline, Iran says

Talks between Iran and major powers on finalizing a historic nuclear deal will go beyond the June 30 deadline, a spokesman for the Iranian delegation in talks in Vienna says.

“Because there is still lots of work to do the delegations will remain beyond Tir 10 (July 1) to continue the negotiations and reach a good overall deal,” the spokesman says.

“At the same time there is no desire or discussion yet on a long-term extension,” he says.

Officials have said that the deadline may be missed by a few days but until now no officials have confirmed that it will.

AFP

Hamas operative indicted for smuggling weapons and cash

A Gazan fisherman and Hamas operative is indicted for digging tunnels, transferring weapons and tons of explosives into the coastal enclave, and smuggling millions of dollars in cash to former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh to support Hamas activity.

Rami Alnagar, 27, is indicted by the Beersheba District Court. He was arrested on June 1.

US says all parties plan to stay past deadline

Negotiators in Vienna for make-or-break nuclear talks with Iran are all “planning to stay past” a June 30 deadline for a deal, a US official says Sunday, echoing comments from Iran.

The official also stresses that the US team was not concerned that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was returning to Tehran for the day, saying “we’ve always said that ministers may need to go back and forth” to consult with their capitals.

AFP

IS executed 3,000 in past year, monitor says

The Islamic State group has executed more than 3,000 people in Syria, including hundreds of civilians, in the year since it declared its self-described “caliphate,” a monitor says.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group monitoring Syria’s conflict, says it had documented 3,027 executions by IS since June 29, 2014.

Screen capture from video allegedly showing Islamic State militants marching captive Iraqis to their mass execution in Tikrit, April 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/Bengal Newz)

Screen capture from video allegedly showing Islamic State militants marching captive Iraqis to their mass execution in Tikrit, April 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/Bengal Newz)

Among those executed are 1,787 civilians, including 74 children, says the Observatory.

Members of Sunni Shaitat tribe account for around half of the civilians murdered.

AFP

Foreign Ministry chief makes Cairo visit

Dore Gold, the director-general of the Foreign Ministry, visits the Egyptian Foreign Ministry at Cairo’s invitation.

Gold holds meetings with senior Egyptian officials and the Deputy Foreign Minister Osama Almajdoub.

Director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, delivers a speech in   Jerusalem, June 1. (AFP/THOMAS COEX)

Director-general of the Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, delivers a speech in Jerusalem, June 1. (AFP/THOMAS COEX)

Jewish leaders from Montreal, France meet on anti-Semitism

Jewish leaders from Montreal and France meet to discuss ways for their cities to fight the rising tide of global anti-Semitism and Islamic radicalization.

The Jewish leaders meet for two hours at Montreal City Hall. Discussions include officials from the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF and B’nai B’rith in France, and locally from the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Jewish member of Parliament Irwin Cotler.

“[W]e have to call a spade a spade,” says Montreal mayor Denis Coderre. “We have to denounce (anti-Semitism)…(and) understand that clearly something is going on and we must be there to fight it.”

One possibility discussed for Montreal was to set up a designated police hate crimes unit.

JTA

Tunisia ramps up security after attack

Tunisia weighs new security measures Sunday as it scrambles to secure its vital tourism sector after 38 people were killed at a seaside resort in the worst jihadist attack in its history.

The country’s National Security Council was to meet later Sunday after authorities vowed to ramp up security following Friday’s attack targeting tourists, which saw at least 15 Britons killed.

After an emergency meeting late on Saturday, Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli promised new steps to ensure the “protection of Tunisia’s tourist sites and beaches by armed police units.”

“We can no longer refrain from taking difficult measures,” Gharsalli said in a statement carried by Mosaique FM radio, adding that at least 1,000 members of security forces would be involved in securing tourist sites.

AFP

A Tunisian policeman patrols the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse  on June 28, 2015, following a shooting attack two days earlier. (AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

A Tunisian policeman patrols the beach in front of the Riu Imperial Marhaba Hotel in Port el Kantaoui, on the outskirts of Sousse on June 28, 2015, following a shooting attack two days earlier. (AFP PHOTO / KENZO TRIBOUILLARD)

Gaza-bound flotilla 150 nautical miles away

Channel 2 reports that the Gaza-bound flotilla is 150 nautical miles away from the coastal enclave, and will likely arrive within 24 hours.

The Israeli navy is monitoring the vessels’ progress carefully, the report says, and is awaiting orders on how to proceed.

MK Basel Ghattas, on board the Swedish Marianne of Gothenburg, sends a letter to Netanyahu and Ya’alon asking them not to intervene by force and grant the flotilla entry into Gaza.

Homeless man held over Stanford swastikas

A homeless man is arrested in connection with the spray painting of swastikas on several Stanford University buildings.

Lucas Joseph Ninow, 19, who has no connection to the university, was arrested last week and charged with one count of felony vandalism, one count of misdemeanor vandalism and one count of a misdemeanor hate crime, the Stanford Daily reported on Friday.

Swastikas were found painted on a Jewish fraternity house and on at least one student residence on April 26.

JTA

Turkey police use tear gas at pride parade

Riot police in Istanbul unleash tear gas and water cannons at attendees of the annual gay pride parade.

Tunisia is ‘sure’ shooter had accomplices

Investigators say they are searching for one or more accomplices in the attack on a luxury hotel in the Tunisian resort city of Sousse that killed at least 38 people, some of them sunbathers on the beach.

The Interior Ministry’s spokesman says Sunday that investigators are “sure” the attacker, a 24-year-old student killed in the assault on the Imperial Marhaba Hotel, had help.

Mohammed Ali Aroui tells The Associated Press that “we are sure that others helped but did not participate” except indirectly.

The Islamic State releases a picture online it says is of the Tunisian gunman who mowed down at least 37 people, most of them tourists, on June 26, 2015 at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia. He was named as Seifeddine Yacoubi, 23, from Kairouan, also known as Abu Yahya Qayrawani by IS. Authorities later named him as Seifedinne Rezgui

The Islamic State releases a picture online it says is of the Tunisian gunman who mowed down at least 37 people, most of them tourists, on June 26, 2015, at a beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia. He was named as Seifeddine Yacoubi, 23, from Kairouan, also known as Abu Yahya Qayrawani by IS. Authorities later named him as Seifedinne Rezgui

He says the father of the attacker, identified as Seifeddine Rezgui, and three roommates in Kairouan where he studied have been detained for questioning.

AP

French killer sent selfie to Syria

The gruesome selfie taken by the man suspected of beheading his boss during an attack on a gas factory in France was sent to Syria, sources close to the investigation say.

The macabre picture of Yassin Salhi and the severed head was sent via the WhatsApp messaging service to a number in Canada but authorities had said Saturday that the number could be a relay for a recipient elsewhere.

AFP

Jews at pre-WWII numbers? Not quite

Despite the hype over the weekend, worldwide Jewry is not nearing the pre-Holocaust population number of 16.5 million, ToI’s Amanda Borschel-Dan reports.

Jewish demographer Prof. Sergio DellaPergola disputes recent reports, telling The Times of Israel it’s unlikely the Jews will reach these figures before 2050.

Read the full report here.

Egypt jails female dancer for debauchery

A Cairo court Sunday sentences to one year in jail an Egyptian female dancer who featured in a controversial music video, accusing her of inciting debauchery, a judicial official says.

Reda El-Fouly was arrested in May after she appeared singing and dancing, and wearing a revealing dress, in a video that went viral on the Internet.

Her dancing partner and director of the video, Wael El-Sediki, was also sentenced to one year in jail in absentia, the official says.

The verdict can be appealed.

AFP

PMO pamphlet to Gaza-bound flotilla activists

The Prime Minister’s Office releases the following document, saying it will be distributed to the pro-Palestinian activists on the Gaza-bound flotilla.

“Welcome to Israel!

It seems you have gone astray. Perhaps you meant to go somewhere not far from here — Syria. There, Assad’s regime is slaughtering its nationals daily, with the support of Iran’s murderous regime.

By contrast, here in Israel we are dealing with a situation in which terror groups like Hamas are trying to harm innocent civilians. In the face of these attempts, we are protecting the citizens of Israel in accordance with international law.

Despite that, Israel is facilitating the transfer of humanitarian supplies to Gaza — some 800 trucks a day, which have sent in more than 1.6 million tons of supplies in the past year. On average, one ton of supplies for every resident of the Strip.

By the way, the amount of supplies that Israel allowed into Gaza is more than 500,000 times the weight of the ships such as the ones on which you arrived here.

Israel is assisting hundreds of humanitarian projects through international organizations, including setting up clinics and hospitals.

At the same time, we are not willing to allow weapons in for the terror groups as had been done in the past, by way of the sea. Only a year ago, we thwarted an attempt to smuggle from the sea hundreds of weapons intended for use against innocent civilians.

There is no blockade on the Gaza Strip, and you are invited to transfer humanitarian supplies through Israel. Preventing access through the sea is done in accordance with international law, and we even received backing from a committee of the UN secretary-general.

If human rights really interested you, you wouldn’t sail in solidarity with a terror group that executes Gazans without trial, and uses Gazan children as human shields.

If you were to come to Israel, you could have been impressed by the only democracy in the Middle East that affords equality for all its citizens and freedom of worship for all religions. A state that acts in accordance with international law to grant its citizens security, and its children the right to grow up in peace and harmony.”

UK says more attacks possible in Tunisia

The British government cautions that other attacks “are possible” in Tunisia as Queen Elizabeth II sent condolences to the relatives of victims of a mass shooting that killed at least 38.

The 89-year-old monarch says she and her husband Prince Philip were “shocked” at the attack in which at least 15 British people died.

“We send our sincere condolences to the families of those who were killed and our deepest sympathy to the people who are still fighting for their lives in hospital, and those who have been seriously injured,” the queen says in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those of all countries who have been affected by this terrible event.”

AFP

US Jews among most supportive of same-sex marriage

American Jews are among the most supportive religious groups of same-sex marriage.

Some 77 percent of American Jews expressed support for same-sex marriage, according to data gathered in 2014 by the Public Religion Research Institute. Some 47 percent of American Jews polled said they “strongly favor” allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, and 30 percent said they “favor” it.

Thirteen Jewish groups, among them organizations representing the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative streams, were among the 25 groups that joined the amicus brief filed by the Anti-Defamation League in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case decided by the US Supreme Court on Friday that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

The only religious group to be more supportive of same-sex marriage are Buddhists at 84 percent, with 48 strongly favoring and 36 in favor. Seventy-seven percent of religiously affiliated also support same-sex marriage, with 45 strongly in favor and 32 in favor.

JTA

EU chief praises ‘political will’ in nuke talks

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says all sides had shown the political will needed to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, praising the “good results” despite a day of tough talks.

“I would say that the political will is there. I’ve seen it from all sides. So that we’ve tasked negotiating teams to continue work immediately tonight on the texts” for an accord, Mogherini tells reporters in Vienna.

AFP

Kiev Holocaust memorial defaced, again

The monument commemorating Jewish victims of the Babi Yar massacre in Kiev is desecrated for the fifth time in about a year.

Swastikas drawn on the monument were discovered last week by a delegation from the Shorashim organization, which helps immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union clarify their Jewish status in dealing with the Chief Rabbinate. The group was visiting the memorial as part of a trip to Ukraine to inaugurate its offices in Dnepropetrovsk.

“The swastikas have increased our resolve and sense of urgency to keep promoting the activity in which we are engaged,” says Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar rabbinical organization, which established Shorashim in 2005 with the support of the Harry A. Triguboff Foundation in Israel.

JTA

EU chief says extension of talks ‘not an option’

Mogherini says postponement of the talks beyond a few days is “not an option.”

“Everybody is very much aware of the fact that we have conditions now to close the deal,” she tells reporters.

“There’s a good deal, and we have to use these hours these days to do it. Postponement is not an option,” she insists, adding however that everyone is prepared to be flexible if a few more days were needed to reach a deal curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.

“We don’t have new points open on the agenda, we’re not re-negotiating things,” Mogherini says, adding the ministers had given political guidelines to their teams on how to advance.

She says the remaining “open points” were mainly how to “translate the political understandings that we reached already into concrete detail.”

AFP

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