UK minister condemns Syria regime attacks, meets opposition negotiator

Nasser Al-Hariri, chief negotiator for Syria’s main opposition group, pictured in London. (Reuters)
Updated 16 January 2018
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UK minister condemns Syria regime attacks, meets opposition negotiator

LONDON: The UK’s minister for the Middle East has strongly condemned the Syrian regime’s attacks on its own people, as he met with an opposition negotiator in London.

Alistair Burt met with members of the Syrian Negotiations Commission, led by Nasser Al-Hariri, during a meeting in London on Tuesday, according to a Foreign & Commonwealth Office statement.

“The UK continues to play a leading role in response to the tragedy in Syria. We have committed nearly £2.5 billion ($3.4 billion) to our humanitarian response to the crisis,” Burt said.

“I am alarmed that in spite of commitments to de-escalation the regime and its backers continue to bomb and shell opposition areas in eastern Ghouta and Idlib. In recent weeks these regime offensives have killed hundreds of civilians, displaced tens of thousands, and destroyed hospitals and other civilian infrastructure. These attacks must stop.”

The Syrian Negotiations Commission said earlier on Tuesday that the opposition would take part in a new round of negotiations hosted by the UN in Vienna.

Billed as “UN Geneva talks, but taking place in Vienna,” the dates are as yet unconfirmed.

The UN declined to comment on the change of venue or confirm dates for the new round.

Burt said the UK backs the UN-mediated Geneva process.

“After nearly seven years of conflict and over 400,000 deaths, it is abundantly clear that only a political settlement can bring a durable end to the human suffering and the regional instability the conflict fuels,” he said.

“Along with our international partners, the UK supports the efforts of the UN-mediated Geneva process as we believe this is the best way of reaching a lasting political settlement to end the conflict. We commend the constructive engagement by Nasser Hariri and the Syrian opposition in the latest round of Geneva talks and call on the Syrian regime to likewise engage constructively and agree to direct talks.”


Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

Updated 16 August 2018
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Thailand to ban imports of high-tech trash, plastic waste

  • The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months
  • Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste

BANGKOK: Thailand will ban imports of 432 types of scrap electronics within six months, an environment ministry official said on Thursday, the latest country to respond to China’s crackdown on imports of high-tech trash this year.
Southeast Asia nations fear they are the new dumping ground for the world’s trash after China banned the entry of several types of waste as part of a campaign against “foreign garbage.”
Thailand’s ban comes weeks after regional neighbor Vietnam said it would stop issuing new licenses for waste imports and crack down on illegal shipments of paper, plastic and metal.
The Thai ban covers 432 types of electronic refuse — from electronic circuit boards to old television and radio parts — and will take effect within six months, a senior environment ministry official told Reuters on Thursday.
He said the ban was agreed at a meeting on Wednesday chaired by Surasak Kanchanarat, the environment minister.
“The meeting yesterday passed a resolution to stop importing 432 kinds of electronic waste and to ensure...that this is enforced within six months,” said the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Mongukol Pruekwatana, director general of the department of industrial works, told Reuters a full list of banned items would be announced soon.
E-waste — commonly defined as any device with an electric cord or battery — can be mined for valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper. However, it can also include hazardous material such as lead, mercury and cadmium.
Surasak told Thai media on Wednesday that imports of some electronic appliances and second-hand devices would be allowed if these items can be repaired and reused.
Scrap metal, including aluminum, copper and steel, can still be imported for industrial use, but must be separated at the country of origin and cleaned, he said.
Thailand’s e-waste ban follows a series of raids that began in May on factories accused of illegally importing and processing electronic waste.
Environmentalists say waste once destined for China is being re-routed to Southeast Asia, and new laws are needed or existing laws better enforced to prevent illegal imports.
Vietnam’s central bank said on Wednesday it has asked banks to tighten lending to projects deemed environmentally unfriendly. It said banks must have strategies for environmental risk management by 2025.
Thailand also planned to ban imports of plastic waste in the next two years, the environment ministry official said, but he gave no details of the program.
The death of a pilot whale in June found with some 80 pieces of plastic rubbish in its stomach focused attention on what environmentalists call Thailand’s “addiction” to plastic bags and packaging.
Thailand’s military government has said improving the country’s waste management infrastructure is a priority and set goals for 2021.
They included cutting the use of plastic bags and bottles in government agencies and businesses, and plastic bans in tourist destinations. A tax on plastic bags has also been mentioned, along with a target to recycle up to 60 percent of plastic by 2021.