Armenia and Azerbaijan say they have agreed Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire

Home owner, Lida Sarksyan, stands near her house destroyed by shelling from Azerbaijan's artillery during a military conflict in Stepanakert, the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 17 October 2020

Armenia and Azerbaijan say they have agreed Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire

  • It will be the warring sides' second attempt to declare a ceasefire to quell almost three weeks of clashes over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region
  • According to an official, but partial, toll more than 700 people have been killed in the clashes

YEREVAN: The foreign ministries of Armenia and Azerbaijan said they had agreed to declare a "humanitarian truce" from midnight Sunday, after nearly three weeks of fighting over a disputed region.
It will be the warring sides' second attempt to declare a ceasefire to quell almost three weeks of clashes over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region that have killed hundreds of people.
"The Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan have agreed to a humanitarian truce as of October 18, 00h00 local time," Armenia's foreign ministry said late Saturday.
Azerbaijan's foreign ministry confirmed the move in an identical statement.
The announcement came after Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov held phone talks with his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan and stressed "the need to strictly follow" a ceasefire deal agreed in Moscow last Saturday, the foreign ministry said.
The ministers also confirmed the importance of beginning "substantive" talks to settle the conflict, the ministry in Moscow said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan had last Saturday agreed to a ceasefire after 11 hours of talks mediated by Lavrov in Moscow, but then both accused each other of violating the deal.
Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway region of Azerbaijan mainly inhabited by ethnic Armenians and backed by Yerevan, has been the scene of deadly clashes since September 27.
According to an official, but partial, toll more than 700 people have been killed in the clashes.
The mountainous western region of Azerbaijan has remained under separatist Armenian control since a 1994 ceasefire ended a brutal war that killed 30,000.


Pakistan regulates falconry as Arab hunting forays loom

Updated 35 min 55 sec ago

Pakistan regulates falconry as Arab hunting forays loom

  • Every winter, thousands of the houbara bustard migrate to Pakistani deserts

KARACHI: With the annual hunting season for the houbara bustard bird beginning in Pakistan next month, the country’s southern Sindh province has moved to regulate the practice of falconry, including that parties arriving mostly from Arab states pay $100,000 to hunt 100 of the rare desert birds over a 10-day period.

Every winter, thousands of the houbara bustard migrate from Central Asia to the warmth of Pakistani deserts in Sindh province. Their arrival sets off another migration, with scores of wealthy Gulf Arab residents descending on Pakistan for falconry, the practice of hunting wild animals in their natural state or habitat, with the help of a trained bird of prey.

Local communities benefit from the hobby, the government argues, with hunters channeling cash — via hunting permit fees and jobs — into remote corners of the country where the bird is found.

In September this year, Sindh passed a new law, the Sindh Wildlife Protection, Preservation, Conservation and Management Act of 2020, to boost falconry and prevent “harmful” practices such as hunting during the breeding season.

“Previously, there was no code of conduct explained in the old law; however, in the new law it is fully explained,” Javed Mahar, the conservator at the Sindh Wildlife Department, told Arab News.

Under the new law, a foreign dignitary or his state would be required to file a hunting permit request with the Pakistani foreign office, which would then be forwarded to the wildlife department.

The provincial wildlife department would issue hunting permits to foreign dignitaries only on the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mahar added: “A foreign hunting party will pay $100,000 for hunting 100 houbara bustards in 10 days’ time.”

“The request is received by the government in writing, from a dignitary or his state or forwarded through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Pakistan,” the new law reads.

The foreign office did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2015, the Supreme Court placed a ban on hunting the houbara bustard. The government at the time, of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, asked the court to review the ban because it was damaging Pakistan’s relations with Gulf states, key investors in the country. It argued that sustainable hunting of the bustard was the best means of conservation.

The court lifted the ban in 2016.

But conservationists say that the bird is at risk of extinction if hunting continues.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the bustard as a vulnerable species with a global population of between 50,000 and 100,000. It has almost vanished on the Arabian Peninsula.

But Pakistani officials say that the new law will both boost diplomatic relations with Gulf states and set better hunting precedents.

“This healthy practice will help in boosting diplomatic relations,” Pakistan Falconry Association President Kamran Khan Yousafzai said. “It is good that falconry has been regulated in Sindh,” he added, saying that the new regulations would help local communities and conservation efforts.

“The pattern can be derived from markhor trophy hunting, which diverts 70 percent of its earnings to uplift local communities and conservation whereas only 30 percent goes to the government,” he said, referring to hunting licenses auctioned each year for the rare long-horned goat native to Pakistan.

However, the World Wide Fund for Nature — Pakistan said that hunting permits for the bustard should only be issued based on population viability confirmed through credible research.

“The global population of the threatened Asian houbara bustard is continuously declining mainly due to poaching, hunting and habitat degradation,” said Muhammad Jamshed Chaudhry, WWF Pakistan senior manager for research and conservation. “Without taking stringent measures to control these, new regulation law may not demonstrate any benefits to the species and communities.”

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