King Salman discusses Syria situation, oil market stability with Vladimir Putin

Saudi Arabia's King Salman held a telephone conversation with Russia's Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 14 February 2018
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King Salman discusses Syria situation, oil market stability with Vladimir Putin

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman "expressed readiness to expand fruitful coordination on world hydrocarbon markets" in a phone conversation they had on Wednesday, the Kremlin said in a statement.
The statement did not offer any details on what that expanded coordination could entail.
Russia and Saudi Arabia are major players in a global pact on cutting oil output.
The two leaders also discussed Syria and defence sales, the statement said.
It said the Saudi king had expressed his condolences to Putin regarding a plane crash at the weekend near Moscow that killed all 71 passengers and crew. 


Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to merge FATA with KPK

Updated 5 min 53 sec ago
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Pakistan's National Assembly passes bill to merge FATA with KPK

  • Government supported by all opposition parties but opposed by two allies.
  • The bill was passed despite opposition from two government-allied parties.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Assembly on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment bill allowing the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. 
This despite opposition from two government-allied parties: Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazal (JUI-F) and the Pukhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).
“This issue needed a national consensus, and thank God we achieved it today,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told the National Assembly after the passage of the bill.
The merger will greatly impact development in FATA, which borders restive Afghanistan, he said.
“This is the beginning of the process,” he added. “We have to win the trust of the people of FATA, and we can achieve it through infrastructure development in the area.”
Abbasi announced a tax exemption for FATA for the next five years, and promised a 100-billion-rupee ($864-million) special infrastructure development package.
“We need to build hospitals, schools and roads in FATA to bring it at par with other parts of the country,” he said.
The government required a two-thirds majority (228 votes) in the Lower House to pass the bill, and got the support of all opposition parties.
The bill will become law after it is passed by a two-thirds majority in the Senate, and by the KP Assembly.
The bill envisages the abolition of Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) — a special set of colonial laws that governs FATA — and representation in the KP Assembly.
The assembly will have an additional 21 seats from FATA “provided that elections to the aforesaid seats shall be held within one year after the general elections 2018.”
JUI-F legislator Naeema Kishwar said her party had asked Abbasi to hold a referendum in FATA. The merger “will not augur well for Pakistan” as it is fulfilling a “foreign agenda,” she added.
The government allocated 100 billion rupees for FATA in last year’s budget, but only 10 billion were released, she said. 
“How can we trust the government that it will fulfil all its promises of development in the tribal area?” she asked.
PkMAP legislator Abdul Qahar Khan Wadan said the people of FATA want a separate province, not a merger with KP. “We will fight for our rights, as the government has betrayed us,” he added.