US Secretary of State Tillerson meets Russia’s Lavrov ahead of UN assembly

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) exits the Russian Permanent Mission to the UN following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on September 17, 2017 in New York. (AFP)
Updated 18 September 2017

US Secretary of State Tillerson meets Russia’s Lavrov ahead of UN assembly

NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Russian counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in New York on Sunday ahead of the UN General Assembly, officials said.
After the meeting, at the Russian delegation to the UN, Tillerson left without saying anything to the reporters, who were initially invited in to cover the opening of the talks but asked to leave before the US official arrived.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a reporter that “the meeting was on cooperation in Syria crisis Middle East issues and Minsk agreement,” but when asked how it went said she had not been in the room.
Tillerson and Lavrov “met this evening in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
“The two recommitted to deconflicting military operations in Syria, reducing the violence, and creating the conditions for the Geneva process to move forward,” she said.
Ties between Washington and Moscow are at what Tillerson has called a “historic” post-Cold War low, amid tit-for-tat cuts to each other’s diplomatic missions.
But Washington wants to work with Russia to help resolve the crisis in Syria, where both have military forces deployed, and the rivals are trying to work through their differences.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not attend the UN General Assembly this week, but his US counterpart Donald Trump will make his much anticipated first address to the world body on Tuesday.


China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

Updated 26 January 2020

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

  • Raising transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden until the epidemic is over
  • The virus has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections

BEIJING: China on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals as the country struggles to contain a deadly virus believed to have been spawned in a market that sold wild animals as food.
Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a government directive.
The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The lethal virus, which has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections in China, and spread to about a dozen countries, is believed to have originated in a market in the central city of Wuhan, where a range of wildlife was reportedly sold.
Conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines, including highly endangered species such as the pangolin or tiger.
Health experts say the trade poses a significant and growing public health risk as potentially dangerous animal-borne pathogens that people would normal not be exposed to make the jump to humans.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.
Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed on an exhaustive price list for one of the animal-trading businesses at the Wuhan market that emerged online last week.
Other items included various rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.
Sunday’s announcement said all businesses, markets, food and beverage outlets and e-commerce platforms are “strictly prohibited from trading in wild animals in any form.”
It added that “consumers must fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid wild game, and eat healthy.”
The so-called bushmeat trade, along with broader human encroachment on wild habitats, is bringing humans into ever-closer contact with animal viruses that can spread rapidly in today’s connected world, scientists say.
A study by the Global Virome Project, a worldwide effort to increase preparedness for pandemics, estimated that there are nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom, nearly half of which could be harmful to humans.
Peter Daszak, a virology expert with the project, told AFP its research also indicated that we can expect around five new animal-borne pathogens to infect humanity each year.
China has launched previous crackdowns on the wildlife trade, including after SARS, but conservationists say the trade typically resumes over time.