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Xi Jinping lashes out at Nato over 1999 Belgrade bombing ahead of Serbia visit

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China’s President Xi Jinping has lashed out at Nato over its “flagrant” bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999 as he tries to cement ties with Serbia ahead of a visit to the Balkan country on Tuesday.

Xi, who is travelling in Europe for the first time in five years, will head to Serbia on Tuesday afternoon from the French Pyrenees, where French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting him on the final day of a three-day state visit to France.

In a signed letter in the Serbian media outlet Politika, Xi invoked the 25th anniversary on Tuesday of the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in the former Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war to call for unity between Beijing and Belgrade.

“Twenty-five years ago today, Nato flagrantly bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia, killing three Chinese journalists . . . This we should never forget,” Xi said, according to an English version of the article. “The China-Serbia friendship, forged with the blood of our compatriots, will stay in the shared memory of the Chinese and Serbian peoples.”

The Belgrade neighbourhood that was home to the former embassy was on Tuesday decked in Chinese and Serbian flags. At a small demonstration this week, two Serbian communist parties hung banners to welcome the Chinese president, including one that offered a reminder of the similarities between Serbia and China: “Kosovo is Serbia — Taiwan is China”. Belgrade claims its former province broke away illegally in 2008 and Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and strives to bring it under its control.

Xi’s European trip, which will also include Hungary, is seen by analysts as aiming to exploit differences on the continent in attitudes towards Russia and the US and potentially undermine the unity of Nato and the EU on China.

Chinese academics have praised Macron’s advocacy of a more independent European stance on the global stage while Serbia and Hungary are seen as more pro-Russia despite the Ukraine war.

During Xi’s visit, French and Chinese companies signed several co-agreements, including metro construction contracts for France’s Alstom and a memorandum of understanding with Airbus on deepening aviation co-operation, but no big orders.

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Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who will host Xi, was propaganda minister for former leader Slobodan Milošević during the Nato bombing of Belgrade — an event that solidified Serbia’s anti-American stance.

The Nato bombing remains a “source of persistent resentment in Serbia towards Nato and the US in particular,” said Milos Damnjanovic, an analyst at BIRN, a Belgrade think-tank. “[It] creates a sense of solidarity between China and Serbia.”

Nato has said the Chinese embassy bombing was an accident that happened during a war to protect Kosovans from Serbian aggression.

In one potential sweetener for Serbia, China’s customs administration announced on Tuesday that it would lift an avian flu alert on Serbian poultry products.

China is the biggest foreign investor in Serbia and accounts for 8.5 per cent of Belgrade’s foreign loans, said Branimir Jovanovic, a researcher at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. “In a way this is a failure of the EU and the west in general that China is so prominent,” Jovanovic said. “The west leaves space that China is more than willing to step into.”

Chinese media have carried several days of blanket coverage of Xi’s trip to Europe. The People’s Daily, the Communist party mouthpiece, quoted him as telling Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Élysée Palace on Monday that there was “no such thing as China’s overcapacity problem” in response to western concern over the possible dumping of subsidised Chinese goods.

In a separate interview, Beijing’s ambassador to Hungary extolled the country’s key role in the Chinese infrastructure scheme, the Belt and Road Initiative, in Europe, acting as a rail distribution hub for freight from China.

He also touted a high-speed railway between Belgrade and Budapest built with Chinese companies.


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Thousands of Israelis take to streets of Tel Aviv to demand cease-fire and Netanyahu’s resignation

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Protesters are demanding the government reach a deal to bring the hostages back from Gaza, for new elections and the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The demonstration took place as a delegation of the Palestinian militant group Hamas was in Cairo for cease-fire talks with Israel. (AP video by Shlomo Mor)

Protesters are demanding the government reach a deal to bring the hostages back from Gaza, for new elections and the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The demonstration took place as a delegation of the Palestinian militant group Hamas was in Cairo for cease-fire talks with Israel. (AP video by Shlomo Mor)

Published [hour]:[minute] [AMPM] [timezone], [monthFull] [day], [year]  


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Netanyahu told to resign at Holocaust Remembrance Day event

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During a wreath-laying ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heckled by a protester who called on the leader to resign.

Video posted online by The Times of Israel shows a man yelling out at Netanyahu to resign moments before he places a wreath down during the ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial.

On October 7, 2023, militants in the Palestinian organization Hamas attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking over 200 hostages. Israel subsequently launched a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip that has killed over 34,000 people, the Associated Press reported, citing the Gaza Health Ministry.

The Times of Israel said the heckler at Yad Vashem blamed Netanyahu for not protecting his country’s people and also mentioned the hostages still being held by Hamas.

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at Yad Vashem

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Monday. He was heckled by a protester who told him to resign.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on Monday. He was heckled by a protester who told him to resign.
Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images

“We must not descend into the abyss again. What else is necessary for you to go home?” the man yelled at Netanyahu, according to The Times of Israel’s translation.

The online newspaper also said the man referenced the hostages by saying, “Let the people of Israel remember their abandoned sons.”

Newsweek reached out to the Israeli government’s press office via email on Monday for comment.

Israel’s N12 news channel posted a clip on X (formerly Twitter) of the moment Netanyahu was heckled.

— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) May 6, 2024

Netanyahu has faced scrutiny and criticism from many Israeli citizens for not being able to negotiate a release of all the hostages from Gaza. A poll conducted last month by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 62 percent of Israelis believe government officials who are “responsible for the failure of October 7” should resign. This opinion was shared by 58 percent of Jewish respondents to the survey, as well as by 81 percent of Arab respondents.

During remarks made on Sunday evening for the Holocaust Remembrance Day opening ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Netanyahu pledged to bring all the hostages home from Gaza.

After saying that Hamas had the same “intention” as the Nazis during the Holocaust, the prime minister said: “We are determined to release them all—all of them—from this dark inferno, those who are still alive and the dead.”

He went on: “We are obligated to bring them home, to their families, and end this ongoing nightmare. Our hearts are with them.”

Netanyahu then vowed to “fight the monsters of Hamas and destroy them for good.”

The heckling incident at Yad Vashem came hours before Hamas announced it had agreed to a ceasefire proposal mediated by Qatar and Egypt. Israeli officials have yet to issue an official reaction to that news, but reports in Israeli media suggested that the government had not signed off on the proposed ceasefire.

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Jon Jackson

Jon Jackson is an Associate Editor at Newsweek based in New York. His focus is on reporting on the Ukraine and Russia war. Jon previously worked at The Week, the River Journal, Den of Geek and Maxim. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors in journalism and mass communication from New York University. Languages: English.

Jon Jackson is an Associate Editor at Newsweek based in New York. His focus is on reporting on the Ukraine …
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