Kazakhstan abolishes death penalty

Kazakhstan abolishes death penalty
Executions were paused in Kazakhstan from 2003 but courts continued to sentence convicts to death in exceptional circumstances. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 02 January 2021

Kazakhstan abolishes death penalty

Kazakhstan abolishes death penalty
  • President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had signed off on parliamentary ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan abolished the death penalty, making permanent a nearly two-decade freeze on capital punishment in the authoritarian Central Asian country, a notice on the presidential website said Saturday.
The notice said President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had signed off on parliamentary ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — a document that commits signatories to the abolition of capital punishment.
Executions were paused in Kazakhstan from 2003 but courts continued to sentence convicts to death in exceptional circumstances, including for crimes deemed acts of terror.
Ruslan Kulekbayev, a lone gunman who killed eight policemen and two civilians during a rampage in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty in 2016, was among the convicts set to be executed if the moratorium were lifted.
Kulekbayev will now serve a life sentence in jail instead.


159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse

159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse
Updated 41 min 49 sec ago

159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse

159 people unaccounted for after Florida building collapse
  • Mayor Daniella Levine Cava: ‘We do have 120 people now accounted for, which is very, very good news. But our unaccounted for number has gone up to 159’

SURFSIDE, United States: The number of people unaccounted for following the collapse of a Florida apartment block has risen to 159, the county’s mayor said Friday.
“We do have 120 people now accounted for, which is very, very good news. But our unaccounted for number has gone up to 159,” Miami-Dade County mayor Daniella Levine Cava told a news conference.
Authorities have stressed it is still unclear how many people were inside the building when it pancaked in the early hours of Thursday, killing at least four people.


Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult
Updated 48 min 40 sec ago

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult

Macron says EU discussion about Russia summit idea was long, difficult
  • The meeting proposed by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • EU summits with Russia ended after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and the West imposed sanctions

PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron defended on Friday a failed attempt by France and Germany to hold an EU summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after eastern European leaders shot down the initiative they said would send the wrong message to Moscow.
The meeting proposed by Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, which have both sought to take a less confrontational attitude with Russia in recent years, fractured EU leaders gathered in Brussels along an old East-West divide.
“There was no consensus for a quick summit. It’s no tragedy in my view,” Macron said. “The most important thing is to remain united. Divisions weaken us,” Macron told a news conference.
“The aberration today is that we’re the toughest power vis-a-vis Russia, despite the fact they’re our neighbor,” he said, adding that fellow EU leaders had not expressed the same objections when US President Joe Biden met Putin.
“We saw President Biden meeting President Putin a few weeks ago. I told my friends around the table: he didn’t ask for your opinion. And you see them meeting together and that’s not shocking to you. We’re the odd ones,” Macron said.
EU summits with Russia ended after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 and the West imposed sanctions.
While Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Italy’s Mario Draghi said they supported the Franco-German proposal, many other leaders were opposed.
Latvia’s Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said the EU risked rewarding Russia with a summit even though diplomacy has failed to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine with Russian-backed separatists.
“I have no obsession with a summit with the 27 (leaders),” Macron said. “I’ll be frank, I don’t need an EU summit to see Vladimir Putin. I saw him several times as president and I’ll continue to see him.”


Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken
Updated 25 June 2021

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken

Taliban’s actions inconsistent with pursuit of peace in Afghanistan, says Blinken
  • ‘Actions that try to take the country by force, of course, are totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution’

PARIS: The Taliban’s actions in Afghanistan are totally inconsistent with the pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday during a visit to Paris.
“We’re looking very carefully at the situation on the ground in Afghanistan and were also looking very hard whether the Taliban is at all serious about peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Blinken told a joint news conference with his French counterpart.
“Actions that try to take the country by force, of course, are totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution,” Blinken added.


US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal

US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal
Updated 59 min 3 sec ago

US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal

US, France warn Iran that time running out to revive deal
  • The Biden administration says it is ready to lift economic measures related to nuclear work as laid out by the JCPOA
  • Analysts have said Iran could strike a deal before Raisi takes office in August

PARIS: The United States and France on Friday warned Iran that time was running out to return to a nuclear deal, voicing fear that Tehran’s sensitive atomic activities could advance if talks drag on.
On the first high-level visit to Paris by President Joe Biden’s administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his French hosts saluted a new spirit of cooperation after four years of turbulence under Donald Trump.
But the two sides said that one key Biden promise — to return to the 2015 accord on the Iranian nuclear program that was trashed by Trump — was at risk if the clerical regime does not make concessions during talks that have been going on for months in Vienna.
Blinken warned that the United States still had “serious differences” with Iran, which has kept negotiating since last week’s presidential election won by hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi.
“There will come a point, yes, where it will be very hard to return back to the standards set by the JCPOA,” Blinken told reporters, using the formal name of the accord.
“We haven’t reached that point — I can’t put a date on it — but it’s something that we’re conscious of.”
Blinken warned that if Iran “continues to spin ever more sophisticated centrifuges” and steps up uranium enrichment, it will bring nearer the “breakout” time at which it will be dangerously close to the ability to develop a nuclear bomb.
But Blinken said that Biden still supported a return to the accord, under which Iran had drastically scaled back its nuclear work until Trump withdrew in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions.
“We have a national interest in trying to put the nuclear problem back in the box that it was in the JCPOA,” Blinken said.
France — which like Britain, Germany, Russia and China had stayed in the 2015 accord despite pressure from Trump — also ramped up pressure on Iran to move ahead.
“We expect the Iranian authorities to take the final decisions — no doubt difficult ones — which will allow the negotiations to be concluded,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at the joint news conference with Blinken.
Talks have stalled in part over Iran’s insistence on the lifting of all sanctions, pointing to the promises of economic relief under the accord.
The Biden administration says it is ready to lift economic measures related to nuclear work as laid out by the JCPOA — but that it will keep other sanctions, including over human rights and Iran’s support to militant movements in the Arab world.
Some experts believe that Iran had been waiting for the election of Raisi, whose hard-line approach is backed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate arbiter of the Islamic republic’s foreign policy.
Analysts have said Iran could strike a deal before Raisi takes office in August — letting him take the credit for the expected economic boost but blame outgoing president Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who championed a better relationship with the West, if the situation deteriorates.
Blinken, who was raised in Paris, saluted the alliance with France and sprinkled his remarks with fluent French, in a sharp change of tone after the sometimes abrasive “America First” approach of the Trump administration.
“My dear Tony, I’m really very happy to welcome you to Paris,” Le Drian said as he welcomed Blinken in an ornate room of the Quai d’Orsay, the French foreign ministry.
“It’s expected that you would visit Paris because you’re at home here. I would even be tempted to say, welcome home!“
Blinken is on a European tour that also took him to Germany and will continue in Italy, just after Biden visited the continent.
The administration is looking to solidify relations with Europeans in the face of growing challenges from a rising China and an assertive Russia.
On hotspots of strategic importance to the French, Blinken also promised solidarity on tackling extremism in the Sahel and a united front on troubled Lebanon.
“We have decided to act together to put pressure on those responsible. We know who they are,” Le Drian said of Lebanon which is engulfed in twin economic and political crises.
Blinken added: “We need to see real leadership in Beirut.”


Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues

Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues
Updated 25 June 2021

Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues

Moscow coronavirus deaths hit record as Russian COVID-19 case surge continues
  • Officials have scrambled to compel people to get inoculated amid tepid demand for the vaccine since cases began surging this month

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday reported a record number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in Moscow, amid a surge in infections that authorities blame on the Delta variant and the slow progress of a vaccination program.
Officials have scrambled to compel people to get inoculated amid tepid demand for the vaccine since cases began surging this month.
The government coronavirus task force reported 20,393 new COVID-19 cases, including 7,916 in Moscow, the most confirmed in a single day since Jan. 24, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,409,088.
It said 601 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, with 98 in the capital, pushing the national death toll to 132,064. St. Petersburg also reported 98 deaths.
The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to April 2021.
Moscow’s authorities have ordered bars and restaurants from Monday to serve people only if they can present a QR-code showing they have been vaccinated, had an infection indicating immunity or recently tested negative.
As demand for the shots boomed, the Kremlin said on Friday vaccine shortages in Russia were also linked to storage difficulties, and that shortages would be resolved in the coming days.
The local health ministry in Russia’s far eastern Khabarovsk region on Friday said it had been forced to suspend vaccinations at some sites in two cities due to shortages.