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Unveiling the new agreement from the Oval Office, Trump cast the move as a step toward peace in the region. He has worked to broker accords between Arab nations and Israel that he hopes will lead to a broader peace deal.

“Another HISTORIC breakthrough today!” Trump tweeted.

The announcement came less than a week ahead of a White House signing ceremony between Israel and the United Arab Emirates that will bring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Emirati officials to Washington.

As a condition of that agreement, Netanyahu agreed to shelve plans for now to annex sections of the West Bank. He has not ruled out resuming the annexation in the future.

Bahrain’s foreign minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khallaf will join Israel and the UAE for the signing ceremony currently scheduled for next Tuesday, according to the statement from Trump.

The announcement comes two months ahead of the US presidential election, where Trump hopes his efforts to forge foreign agreements will help sway voters. He has touted his support for Israel to Evangelicals in particular.

The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, took part in a phone call with Trump and Netanyahu to discuss the agreement, according to Bahrain’s state-run news agency.

Al-Khalifa “stressed the need to reach a just and comprehensive peace as a strategic option, in accordance with the two-state solution and relevant resolutions of international legitimacy,” according to the report.

The King’s diplomatic adviser Khalid bin Khalifa tweeted that the agreement “is in the interest of the security, stability and prosperity of the region, and sends a positive and encouraging message to the people of Israel that a just and comprehensive peace with the Palestinian people is the best way and the true interest for their future and the future of the peoples of the region.”

Netanyahu welcomed the agreement in a statement and claimed more Arab countries would follow suit.

“It took 26 years to get from the second peace agreement with an Arab country to the third agreement, and it took not 26 years but 29 days to go from the third peace agreement with an Arab country to the fourth, and there will be more,” Netanyahu said.

Trump’s top adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner described the announcement as sign that a “new Middle East” is emerging.

Kushner who spearheaded the Trump administration’s failed efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians wouldn’t directly address whether Bahrain has asked for any concessions as part of the deal, only saying that Bahrain is a very different country than the UAE.

Earlier this week, Kushner told reporters that they are “seriously” discussing selling F-35 stealth fighter jets to the UAE as part of the agreement to pursue a normalization deal with the Israel. Kushner noted that Bahrain is home to the US Fifth Fleet and the US will continue to develop its military ties with the kingdom.

But there was anger from Palestinians. Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted: “If you really wish to ‘advance the cause of peace, dignity, & economic opportunity for the Palestinian people’ how about ending Israel’s ruthless occupation & its theft of our land & resources? Coercing & cajoling Arabs to normalize with Israel will not bring you peace or dignity.”

Bahrain, a tiny island nation with significantly less natural wealth than most of its Arab Gulf neighbors, is regarded in some ways as an extension of Saudi Arabia, partly because they are physically linked by a causeway but also because the Bahraini monarchy is heavily reliant on Riyadh.

Officials said the agreement with Israel announced on Friday could likely not have happened without Saudi Arabia’s blessing, signaling that Bahrain may serve as a test case for a future Saudi-Israel deal.

Bahrain was home to one of the major popular uprisings during the Arab Spring, leading to a brutal crackdown by Saudi Arabia, which sent tanks over the causeway to crush the protests.

Bahrain, a small nation with significantly less natural wealth than some of its Arab Gulf neighbors, sits only 60 kilometers from Iran. Home to a Shiite majority ruled by Sunni sheikhs, Bahrain sees major benefit in this anti-Iran solidarity effort brokered by the United States.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Ruba Alhenawi contributed to this report.

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Local Liverpool Leaders Say Boris Johnson Has “Sowed Division” In The North As They Deal With Strict Covid Measures

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Merseyside and Greater Manchester metro mayors Steve Rotheram and Andy Burnham (Credit: PA)

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Boris Johnson’s repeated praising of Merseyside mayor Steve Rotheram after the city region was placed under the strictest lockdown measures nearly a week ago is a “deliberate tactic to sow division in the north”, an MP has claimed.

Liverpool Riverside MP Kim Johnson said people on Merseyside were “a bit pissed off, to put it mildly” after the region became the first in the country to be placed in the highest risk category under the government’s new three-tier system for slowing the spread of coronavirus.

Since then, ministers have been locked in a battle with other northern leaders – including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham – as they attempt to broaden the area of Tier 3 restrictions, which ban household mixing and force hospitality and leisure services to close.

“Lancashire was declared a Tier 3 area on Friday – but with different restrictions, which doesn’t make sense to anybody,” Ms Johnson told PoliticsHome. 

“Liverpool city region is the only place in the country where gyms are closed.  If the tier system is a way to reduce the transmission rate, how come it can be imposed in one way in one area and differently in another?

“There is absolutely no sense of the government dealing with the situation.  Everything is knee-jerk all the time and this is just one key example. We just want to see competence. We want to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.”

While Mr Burnham has resisted the imposition of Tier 3 restrictions, his Merseyside counterpart won praise from the prime minister last week for his “strong leadership and collaboration” after agreeing to the measures for the Liverpool city region in exchange for a package of extra financial support.

“Andy has won a lot of praise for standing his ground, but Steve and Joe [Anderson] also stood their ground,” said Labour MP Ms Johnson. 

“I think the fact Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson thanked them for their co-operation was deliberate, to cause divisions, because the government hasn’t worked collaboratively at all.

“They summoned Merseyside MPs to a Zoom meeting with three minutes’ notice last week. That says it all. We are supposed to have devolved responsibility here with a metro mayor, but it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.  It’s just diktat from Boris Johnson.”

Mr Rotheram has pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Mr Burnham after the latter was accused of “political posturing” by ministers.

Mr Rotheram, a former MP for Liverpool Walton, also accused the PM of using his name “inappropriately”, in what he described as “an attempt to divide and conquer”.

A senior Merseyside council source said: “They are playing divide and conquer with us and Greater Manchester.

But they went on: “That being said, the Greater Manchester approach is incredibly risky – yes, they’ve avoided Tier 3 for now and can claim a win, but if their case numbers continue to rise, and to be blunt, if the bodies pile up in the next few weeks – the government won’t hesitate in putting the blame at Burnham’s door for not locking down sooner.”

They added: “There’s a lot of anger with the government for failing to give any extra financial support to businesses or workers, and that’s what the government don’t want people to focus on.”

Ms Johnson said while a £51 million package of support for Merseyside from central government would help keep some businesses afloat, “many will just not reopen again, and constituents are going to suffer”.

“I’m hoping to hold a Zoom meeting with the small business federation and others in the sector this week to get a better understanding of how this money is going to be distributed,” they added.

“But if more money had been allocated to local authorities and to local public health teams in the first place to run test and trace, we’d have had a much better opportunity to get a handle on this. 

“Ultimately, the Tories don’t like Liverpool and have attacked it since the 1970s.  And when you look at the former ‘red wall’ seats that the Tories now hold, you can clearly see the unequal distribution and that we are being punished.”

Alison McGovern, MP for Wirral South and shadow sports minister, said she fears for the mental and physical health of her constituents.

“People are trying to do the right thing, to get out for walks, get a coffee, to focus on the small things that you can still do,” she told PoliticsHome. 

“But it is a worry.  Businesses are trying their absolute best, but they need some extra help.  During early meetings with ministers, we weren’t able to get a Treasury official or even a Treasury minister on the call.  We have our first meeting with someone tomorrow.”

Ms McGovern said waiting until the last minute to invite Merseyside MPs to a virtual meeting with health minister Matt Hancock was “totally unacceptable”.

She added: “Even then, the invite for that meeting came through on email.  Are my staff expected to be on constant red alert for an email from the secretary of state to invite me to a meeting in 10 minutes’ time?  My staff are brilliant, but they’ve also got their actual jobs to do. 

“It’s completely infuriating.  And then when you do get into a meeting to speak to Matt Hancock, and you want to know the scientific base for making decisions, you find out that the Joint Biosecurity Committee reports into the Cabinet Office, so it’s not even under his umbrella anyway.

“In Wirral, we went for four cases in 100,000 to 104 almost overnight, which was quite shocking and we were anxious to get the response right.  People are tired, people are depressed.  They are trying their best, but it’s hard going for everyone.”

Announcing the new restrictions last week, Mr Hancock said ministers “had to act” to stop the spread of infection.

 “As with our strategy overall, our goal is to protect education and employment as much as possible, while bearing down on the virus,” he told the Commons.

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US election 2020: Trump and Biden feud over debate topics

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media captionWho really decides the US election?

US President Donald Trump and his White House challenger Joe Biden are feuding over plans for their final TV debate.

The Republican president’s campaign accused organisers of this week’s showdown of helping the Democrat by leaving out foreign policy as a topic.

The Biden camp shot back that Mr Trump was trying to avoid questions about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Biden has a commanding lead nationally in opinion polls with two weeks to go until the election.

But he has a smaller lead in the handful of key US states that will ultimately decide the outcome.

  • The Countdown: Biden, Beastie Boys and early votes

What did the Trump campaign say?

On Monday, the president’s camp sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates calling for topics to be adjusted for the final primetime duel this Thursday.

Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in the letter that the campaigns had already agreed foreign policy would be the focus of the third debate.

The topics were announced by moderator and NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker last week: American families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.

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image captionMr Trump has been holding large campaign rallies

During a campaign rally on Monday afternoon in Prescott, Arizona, Mr Trump described Ms Welker as a “radical Democrat” and said she would be “no good”.

Mr Stepien accused Mr Biden of being “desperate to avoid conversations about his own foreign policy record” and the commission of trying to “insulate Biden from his own history”.

“The Commission’s pro-Biden antics have turned the entire debate season into a fiasco and it is little wonder why the public has lost faith in its objectivity,” he wrote.

He also accused Mr Biden of trying to avoid questions over reports about purported emails from his son, Hunter, and alleged conflicts of interest.

How did the Biden campaign respond?

The Democrat’s camp hit back that it was actually Mr Trump who was trying to duck questions.

“The campaigns and the Commission agreed months ago that the debate moderator would choose the topics,” said national press secretary TJ Ducklo.

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“The Trump campaign is lying about that now because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response.

“As usual, the president is more concerned with the rules of a debate than he is getting a nation in crisis the help it needs.”

What are the debate rules?

Following public criticism over the handling of the first debate, the commission has adopted a new rule to mute microphones in the final event.

The 90-minute debate structure will be divided into 15-minute segments. At the start of each new topic, both candidates will have two minutes of uninterrupted time – during which the opponent’s microphone will be off.

The rest of the time will be open discussion – and the microphones will not be muted during this period.

In a statement announcing the decision, the debate commission said they determined it was “appropriate to adopt measures intended to promote adherence to agreed upon rules”.

The commission noted that “one [campaign] may think they go too far, and one may think they do not go far enough”, but that these actions provided the right balance in the interests of the public.

What happened with the last two debates?

The Trump campaign chief noted on Monday that the moderator of the cancelled second debate on 15 October, Steve Scully, had been suspended after tweeting to a prominent Trump critic, then lying that his account had been hacked.

Mr Stepien also accused the moderator of the first debate, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, of having acted as “a third combatant” against Mr Trump.

The first Trump-Biden duel back on 29 September descended into insults between the candidates, with the president interrupting many more times than the Democrat did, according to post-debate statistics from US media outlets.

How is early voting going?

Nearly 30 million early voters have already cast their ballots, compared with just six million at this point before the last presidential election in 2016.

Experts say the coronavirus pandemic has spurred many to cast their ballot ahead of time to avoid crowding at polling stations on 3 November, though some early voters have faced long queues.

On Monday, Republicans were dealt a defeat by the US Supreme Court as it declined to take up a case on postal ballots in the critical swing-voting state of Pennsylvania.

Republicans had argued only ballots received by election day should be counted, and were contesting a state Supreme Court decision to allow late ballots to count.

Now that America’s highest court has refused to hear the case, any ballots received within three days of 3 November will be counted, even if they do not have a clear postmark.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court’s three liberal justices in the case.

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Trump announces plans to remove Sudan from state sponsors of terrorism list

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“GREAT news! New government of Sudan, which is making great progress, agreed to pay $335 MILLION to U.S. terror victims and families. Once deposited, I will lift Sudan from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. At long last, JUSTICE for the American people and BIG step for Sudan!” he tweeted.

Trump’s announcement comes months after the US and Sudan reached a bilateral settlement agreement. The tweet was welcome news for Sudanese officials as well as some of the American survivors and families of the victims of those bombings, who have urged Congress to pass legislation so that it can be disbursed. However, others remain opposed to the settlement, which pays lesser amounts to foreign nationals who worked at the embassy and employees who became US citizens after the attack.

Behind the scenes, the Trump administration has been pushing for the transitional government in Sudan, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, to normalize relations with Israel. Such a move would present a foreign policy win to Trump just weeks ahead of the election.

The President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a team of international negotiators from the White House and State Department had taken the lead on brokering these deals between Israel and a number of countries, including Sudan, Oman and Morocco, according to people familiar with the discussions, and their efforts have thus far yielded two successful deals — with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

During a visit to Khartoum in late August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Hamdok discussed the rescission of the terrorism designation, but Hamdok appeared to rebuff the potential of normalizing relations with Israel, saying the transitional government did not have the authority to pursue such a change.

Senior government sources in Sudan told CNN that the designation change was a requirement by Hamdok before talks on normalization could proceed.

“Prime Minister Hamdok was insistent during negotiations with the US that the removal from the list not be linked to normalization as Sudan has met all the criteria for its removal. Now that the designation has been changed discussions can begin afresh on normalization. The designation change was our priority and normalization is theirs,” one source said.

Sudan has been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993, and it is one of only four nations total designated as such. Iran, North Korea and Syria are also listed. As a result, Sudan faces a series of restrictions including a ban on defense exports and sales and restrictions on US foreign assistance.
Sudan’s strongman leader, Omar al-Bashir, was ousted in a military coup in April 2019 after three decades in power.

‘A critical step in advancing the US-Sudan relationship’

With the nation under a transitional government, Pompeo has voiced support for delisting Sudan with certain prerequisites.

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come along often. We all know the history of Sudan and the tragedy there,” Pompeo said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late July. “There’s a chance not only for a democracy to begun to be built out, but perhaps regional opportunities that could flow from that as well. I think lifting the state sponsor of terrorism designation there, if we can take care of the victims of those tragedies, would be a good thing for American foreign policy.”

More than 200 people were killed and thousands were injured in 1998 when twin al Qaeda bombings rocked the US Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Sudan, under the leadership of al-Bashir, sheltered Osama bin Laden and was found to have assisted the al Qaeda operatives. The US and Sudan reached a settlement in which the latter would pay $335 million to compensate survivors who worked at the embassies and victims’ families. The money will be deposited in an escrow account. Sudanese government spokesman Faisal Mohammed Salih told CNN that “the required compensation amount has been deposited in a neutral account.”

The State Department declined to comment on Trump’s announcement Monday, although the top US diplomat in Khartoum congratulated the Sudanese government and its people on the news.

“This will be a critical step in advancing the U.S.-Sudan relationship and we hope will open the way for new engagement by the international community,” charge d’affaires Brian Shukan wrote Monday on Twitter.
Hamdok said in a tweet Monday, “We very much look forward to your official notification to Congress rescinding the designation of Sudan as a state-sponsor of terrorism, which has cost Sudan too much.”

“This Tweet and that notification are the strongest support to Sudan’s transition to democracy and to the Sudanese people,” he said. “As we’re about to get rid of the heaviest legacy of Sudan’s previous, defunct regime, I should reiterate that we are peace-loving people and have never supported terrorism.”

The role of Congress

Three congressional aides told CNN that the administration had yet to notify Congress of the delisting. The notification triggers a 45-day period in which Congress could override the decision, but it would require both the House and Senate to pass a veto-proof joint resolution of disapproval.

Edith Bartley, spokesperson for some the families of Americans who were killed in the embassy bombings, said in a statement Monday that they welcomed the announcement.

“On behalf of the families killed in the 1998 bombing of the Nairobi embassy, I wish to express our appreciation for the long hard work of the State Department, and the new civilian regime in Sudan, to secure Sudan’s payment of compensation to our diplomatic families for that act of terror,” said Bartley, who herself lost her father and brother in the attack in Nairobi.

“The escrow fund established by that agreement, once it is released to the victims, will fulfill a longstanding commitment first made by President Bush, honored by President Obama, and now affirmed by President Trump, to condition normalization on compensating survivors and the families of those who were lost to acts of terror. In so doing, we vindicate the sacrifice of our diplomats abroad,” she said.

In her statement, Bartley also called for Congress “to immediately pass the legislation that is needed to implement the agreement, and begin the payment process. Congress cannot let this agreement fall victim to legislative gridlock and bickering.”

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat who has been spearheading efforts on the matter, said Monday that the “Trump administration and Congress must redouble efforts to pass legal peace legislation for Sudan to deliver long-awaited justice and compensation to terror victims and families.”

Stuart Newberger, an attorney at Crowell & Moring who represents US victims and their families, told CNN that Congress must pass the legislation because the agreement between Washington and Khartoum “requires that Sudan be basically relieved of being sued in federal court as a sponsor of terror under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.”

“So that’s why Congress has to get involved to provide Sudan what’s called ‘legal peace.’ The President can’t do that on his own; that’s something only Congress can do,” he said.

The settlement faces opposition from those who see it as unfair and inequitable — it would give different payouts to those embassy employees who were US citizens at the time of the attacks, those who have since become US citizens, and those who are still foreign nationals. Some 9/11 victims’ families are also opposed to the immunity that Sudan would receive under the deal, which they fear could jeopardize their own claims against the nation.

Doreen Oport, who worked at the embassy in Nairobi and was injured in the attack, said in a statement Monday, “We want a resolution but cannot accept one that betrays so many US embassy victims and the most basic principles of American justice.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

CNN’s Vivian Salama, Nima Elbagir and Yassir Abdullah contributed to this report.

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