Russia seeks to take mediator role between Israel and Iran

Russia seeks to take mediator role between Israel and Iran
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that "all issues should be solved through dialogue." (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018

Russia seeks to take mediator role between Israel and Iran

Russia seeks to take mediator role between Israel and Iran

MOSCOW: Following Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, Russia has positioned itself as a mediator between the Middle Eastern rivals as it has maintained good relations with both countries.
“The Kremlin is sitting on two chairs,” Russian analyst Alexei Malashenko told AFP.
“It is a complex and difficult situation for Russia that has links with both of the sworn enemies.”
Israel carried out raids on dozens of Iranian military targets on Thursday after it said around 20 rockets were fired from Syria at its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.
Russia was quick to call for restraint, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying on Thursday that “all issues should be solved through dialogue.”
He added that Russia had warned Israel to avoid “all actions that could be seen as provocative” the day before the strikes, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Moscow for talks with President Vladimir Putin.
Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov said relations between Putin and Netanyahu were “very good” and that the meeting, on the eve of the strikes, showed Russia could play a major role in the Israel-Iran dispute.
“Moscow could use its good relations with the two countries to help them communicate and make sure confrontation does not exceed certain limits,” Lukyanov said.
Russia has become a major player in the Middle East since intervening in the Syrian war on the side of the Damascus regime in September 2015. Analysts also highlight its role as mediator in other conflicts in the area.
“The role of Russia as a mediator is strongly appreciated in the region. This role will be reinforced if the crisis between Israel and Iran worses,” said Alexander Krylov, a foreign policy expert at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
Krylov told AFP that Russia’s “additional value” is that it has good relations with forces that other actors refuse to speak to such as with Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and the Kurds.
Russia’s good ties to Israel were demonstrated by Netanyahu’s visit, he said.
“I do not rule out the idea that Israel gave some clues to Russia about the strikes,” Krylov said.
But even if Russia considers Israel’s security concerns over Iran legitimate, Lukyanov said, it sees Iran as an “indispensable partner on many issues, especially in Syria.”
Russia, Iran and Turkey regularly meet to discuss the regulation of the Syrian war, where the three countries have positioned themselves as major players.
Unlike Turkey, Iran and Moscow are unflinching allies of the Bashar Assad regime and often maintain a united diplomatic front.
Analyst Alexei Malashenko said Russia would do everything possible to maintain relations with both Israel and Iran without taking a stand, especially since Israel’s strikes “do not threaten” Moscow’s position in Syria.
“If Israel were to defy Russia’s dominant role, Russia would react and take a stand. This is unlikely to happen because Israel knows Russia defines the rules in Syria,” said Lukyanov.
But if escalation continues, Moscow will find it difficult to keep playing a mediator’s role.
“Even with the best intention, nobody can bring Iran and Israel to the same table,” said Malashenko.
He added that Russia is also closely watching Washington’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal, which the Kremlin has opposed. On Thursday Moscow said it would continue a “close collaboration” with Iran on the agreement.
Lukyanov said it may not have been coincidental that the Israeli strikes took place shortly after US President Donald Trump announced his country’s withdrawal from the deal.
“Iran’s enemies can only be inspired by this decision: there is a very strong anti-Iranian sentiment,” Lukyanov said. “Increased US pressure on Iran has certainly helped Israel fulfill its agenda.”


Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge
Updated 31 July 2021

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge

Bangladeshis rush back to work as factories reopen despite virus surge
SHIMULIA: Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers rushed back to major cities Saturday, besieging train and bus stations, after the government said export factories could reopen despite a deadly coronavirus wave.
With the economy badly hit by the pandemic, the government excluded the factories that supply top brands in Europe and North America from a nationwide lockdown order.
Authorities had ordered factories, offices, transport and shops to close from July 23 to August 5 as daily coronavirus infections and deaths hit record levels.
Officially, Bangladesh has reported 1.2 million cases and more than 20,000 deaths. Experts say the real figures are at least four times higher.
The government said however that the country’s 4,500 garment factories, which employ more than four million people, can reopen from Sunday, sparking a rush back to industrial cities.
The influential garment factory owners had warned of “catastrophic” consequences if orders for foreign brands were not completed on time.
Hundreds of thousands who had gone back to their villages to celebrate the Eid al Adha Muslim festival and sit out the lockdown, headed to Dhaka in any available transport — some just walking in the monsoon rain.
At the Shimulia ferry station, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Dhaka, tens of thousands of workers waited hours for boats to take them to the capital.
Garment factory worker Mohammad Masum, 25, said he left his village before dawn, walked more than 30 kilometers (20 miles) and took rickshaws to get to the ferry port.
“Police stopped us at many checkpoints and the ferry was packed,” he said.
“It was a mad rush to get home when the lockdown was imposed and now we are in trouble again getting back to work,” Jubayer Ahmad, another worker, told AFP.
Bangladesh is the world’s second largest garment exporter after China and the industry has become the foundation of the economy for the country of 169 million people.
Mohammad Hatem, vice president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, said up to $3 billion worth of export orders were at risk if factories had stayed closed.
“The brands would have diverted their orders to other countries,” Hatem told AFP.

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge
Updated 31 July 2021

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge

Pakistan locks down Karachi amid new coronavirus surge
  • Lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities have imposed a lockdown in the southern Sindh province, including the commercial hub of Karachi and other urban centers, amid an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases.
The lockdown began Saturday and is set to last until Aug. 8, despite opposition from the federal government and the local business community.
Sindh’s chief minister Murad Ali Shah said Friday that a sudden rise in virus cases has flooded hospitals in Karachi, the provincial capital. The new surge appears linked to many of the crowd-attracting activities earlier this month during the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha.
The Sindh provincial government is closing all markets, except for pharmacies, bakeries, gas stations and grocery stores, which still must close by 6 p.m. All transport between cities is halted and public busses aren’t operating. Private cars and taxis are limited to two people.
Ongoing examinations at schools and universities are also postponed until after the lockdown.
Nationwide, Pakistan on Saturday reported 65 deaths and 4,950 new virus cases in the past 24 hours. The South Asian country has reported 1,029,811 confirmed cases and 23,360 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.


COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest
Updated 31 July 2021

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest

COVID-19 cases surge in Sydney as police cordon deters protest
  • 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 reported in Sydney and vicinities
  • Lockdown, to last at least until the end of August, spurred violent demonstrations last weekend

MELBOURNE: Sydney’s coronavirus cases continued to surge on Saturday as police cordoned off the city’s central district, preventing a planned anti-lockdown protest from taking place.
There were 210 locally acquired cases of COVID-19 reported in Sydney and vicinities that are under a weeks-long strict lockdown while battling an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant. Saturday’s numbers bring the outbreak to 3,190 cases.
The lockdown, to last at least until the end of August, spurred violent demonstrations last weekend, with protesters vowing to return to the streets on Saturday.
But the police closed train stations, banned taxis from dropping passengers off downtown and deployed 1,000 officers to set up check points and to disperse any groups.
Australian media reported that the rally’s organizers urged their followers on Saturday to avoid gathering and regroup on a later date.
A late-July poll by the NSW-based market research firm Utting Research showed that only 7 percent of the people support the demonstrations. Compliance with public health rules has been one of the key cited reasons behind Australia’s success in managing the pandemic.
Despite its struggle with spikes of infections, mostly of the Delta variant, Australia has managed to keep its epidemic largely under control with a total of just over 34,000 cases and 924 deaths.
The country has struggled significantly with its vaccination rollout, with the government indicating on Friday it will be months before Australia’s borders reopen. [
In Sydney, there are 198 people in the hospital, 53 of them in intensive care and 27 requiring ventilation, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said. There was also one death reported, bringing the total number of deaths in the outbreak to 14.
Parts of the neighboring state Queensland entered into a three-day snap lockdown on Saturday after the state recorded six new coronavirus cases of the Delta strain, putting a number of football, rugby and other sporting events into a limbo.
“We have seen from the experience in other states that the only way to beat the Delta strain is to move quickly, to be fast and to be strong,” the state’s Deputy Premier Steven Miles said. “That is now the nationally agreed approach.”


China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing

China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing
Updated 31 July 2021

China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing

China reports 55 new COVID-19 cases as Delta variant spreads from Nanjing
  • The National Health Commission says 30 of the new infections were local cases, compared with 21 the previous day

BEIJING: China reported on Saturday 55 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 30, compared with 64 cases a day earlier, the health authority said.
The National Health Commission said in a statement 30 of the new infections were local cases, compared with 21 the previous day. There were no new deaths.
The other 25 cases were imported infections originating overseas.
A majority of the local cases were reported in Jiangsu province, the authority said.
The province’s capital city of Nanjing is currently facing an outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant that surfaced earlier this month, traced to airport cleaners who worked on a flight from Russia.
The Nanjing outbreak has since spread to other cities in Jiangsu, the Chinese capital of Beijing, and to other provinces including Anhui, Sichuan, Liaoning, Guangdong and Hunan.
Suzhou, a major city in Jiangsu, announced on Saturday it is shutting all games parlours for chess, cards and mahjong, after several people in another Jiangsu city caught the virus while playing in one such parlour.
To curb the outbreak in Beijing, some schools in the city have asked students on summer vacation to return to Beijing at least fourteen days before the autumn semester starts on August 15, the Beijing Youth Daily reported on Sunday.
Zhengzhou, the provincial city of Henan province hit by heavy floods this month, announced on Saturday people leaving the city must test negative for COVID. It also reported one asymptomatic case, its first in many months.
China also reported 19 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 25 a day earlier.
As of July 30, mainland China had a total of 92,930 confirmed coronavirus cases.
China’s death toll from the coronavirus remained unchanged at 4,636.


Protests, accusations against Myanmar junta ahead of coup anniversary

Protests, accusations against Myanmar junta ahead of coup anniversary
Updated 31 July 2021

Protests, accusations against Myanmar junta ahead of coup anniversary

Protests, accusations against Myanmar junta ahead of coup anniversary
  • Myanmar’s army seized power on Feb. 1 from the civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi
  • The army has branded its opponents terrorists and says its takeover was in line with the constitution

BANGKOK: Small groups of students protested against Myanmar’s military junta on Saturday in Mandalay and a human rights group accused the armed forces of crimes against humanity ahead of the six-month anniversary of the army’s takeover.
Bands of university students rode motorbikes around Mandalay waving red and green flags, saying they rejected any possibility of talks with the military to negotiate a return to civilian rule.
“There’s no negotiating in a blood feud,” read one sign.
Myanmar’s army seized power on Feb. 1 from the civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi after her ruling party won elections that the military argued were tainted by fraud.
New York-based Human Rights Watch on Saturday said the armed forces’ violent suppression of protests against the coup and arrests of opponents included torture, murder and other acts that violate international humanitarian conventions.
“These attacks on the population amount to crimes against humanity for which those responsible should be brought to account,” Brad Adams, the group’s Asia director, said in a statement.
The spokesman for the military authorities, Zaw Min Tun, could not be reached on Saturday to respond to Human Rights Watch allegations because his mobile phone was turned off.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group says at least 6,990 people have been arrested since the coup. The group says the armed forces have killed 939 people, a number the military says is exaggerated.
The army has branded its opponents terrorists and says its takeover was in line with the constitution.
The military took power in February after alleging fraud in the November 2020 election, which Suu Kyi’s party swept. The former electoral commission had dismissed the military’s accusations.