‘This war is unwinnable:’ UN chief renews plea for Ukraine peace talks

‘This war is unwinnable:’ UN chief renews plea for Ukraine peace talks
Ukrainian firefighters work amid the rubble of the Retroville shopping mall, a day after it was shelled by Russian forces in the Ukranian capital Kyiv. (AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2022

‘This war is unwinnable:’ UN chief renews plea for Ukraine peace talks

‘This war is unwinnable:’ UN chief renews plea for Ukraine peace talks
  • Country cannot be conquered “city by city, street by street, house by house,” said Antonio Guterres
  • War is “absurd” and continuing it is “morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical,” he added

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said that Russia’s war in Ukraine is “unwinnable,” as he repeated his plea for the conflict to shift from the battlefield to the negotiating table.

“That is inevitable,” he said at the UN’s headquarters in New York. “The only question is how many more lives must be lost? How many more bombs must fall? How many Mariupols must be destroyed?

“How many Ukrainians and Russians will be killed before everyone realizes that this war has no winners — only losers? How many more people will have to die in Ukraine and how many people around the world will have to face hunger for this to stop?

“Continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical.”

In the month since Russia invaded Ukraine “in violation of the UN Charter,” Guterres said, the world has witnessed appalling human suffering as the war intensifies and becomes more destructive and “unpredictable by the hour.” Civilians are being terrorized by “systematic bombardments” and the destruction of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, and shelters, he added, and 10 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes.

“But the war is going nowhere fast,” Guterres said. The city of Mariupol has been under siege for more than two weeks and “relentlessly” attacked, he pointed out.

Foreign journalists have fled the city and heavy shelling has driven most of the civilians who remain there into hiding in their basements.

“For what?” he asked. “Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house. The only outcome to all this is more suffering, more destruction and more horror as far as the eye can see.”

He said Ukrainians are enduring “a living hell,” the reverberations of which can be felt worldwide in rising food and energy prices that threaten to cause a “global hunger crisis” at a time when developing countries are already reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now they are also paying a heavy price as a result of this war,” Guterres said. Not all hope is lost, however, he added.

“From my outreach with various actors, elements of diplomatic progress are coming into view on several key issues,” he said. “There is enough on the table to cease hostilities — now — … and seriously negotiate — now.”

He again pleaded for the war to end, saying: “By any measure, by even the shrewdest calculation, it is time to stop the fighting now and give peace a chance. It is time to end this absurd war.”


Former Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa will return next week — local media

Former Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa will return next week — local media
Updated 8 sec ago

Former Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa will return next week — local media

Former Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa will return next week — local media
  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term, is temporarily sheltering in Thailand
  • Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa will return to the island nation next week after fleeing in July amid mass protests, local broadcaster Newsfirst reported on Wednesday, citing a former ambassador.
Udayanga Weeratunga, a former Sri Lankan envoy to Russia who is related to Rajapaksa, said he will arrive in Sri Lanka on Aug. 24, Newsfirst reported.
Rajapaksa, the first Sri Lankan president to quit mid-term, is temporarily sheltering in Thailand, after fleeing Sri Lanka on a military plane to the Maldives and then spending weeks in Singapore.
He resigned from office soon after arriving in Singapore, facing public anger over his government’s handling of Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1948.
Rajapaksa has made no public appearances or comment since leaving Sri Lanka. Reuters was not able to immediately contact him or Weeratunga.
The office of Rajapaksa’s successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who suggested last month that the former president refrain from returning to Sri Lanka in the near future, did not immediately respond for a request for comment.
“I don’t believe it’s the time for him to return,” Wickremesinghe told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on July 31. “I have no indication of him returning soon.”

Myanmar junta hits back at ASEAN after being barred from meetings

Myanmar junta hits back at ASEAN after being barred from meetings
Updated 20 min 49 sec ago

Myanmar junta hits back at ASEAN after being barred from meetings

Myanmar junta hits back at ASEAN after being barred from meetings
  • ASEAN has barred Myanmar’s generals from attending regional meetings
  • Junta has declined offers to send non-political representatives instead to ASEAN meetings

Myanmar’s military leadership on Wednesday lashed out at the ASEAN grouping of Southeast Asian countries for excluding its generals from regional gatherings, accusing it of caving to “external pressure.”
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have heaped condemnation on Myanmar’s junta, which they say has failed to make concrete progress on a peace plan agreed with the 10-nation bloc last year, including engaging with opponents and a cessation of hostilities.
Myanmar’s military seized power from an elected government in a coup last year, and has since then crushed dissent with lethal force. Most recently, the junta has been criticized for executing political activists and imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi, the symbol of Myanmar’s opposition and democracy movement.
ASEAN has barred Myanmar’s generals from attending regional meetings, and some members said last month it would be forced to rethink the way forward unless the junta demonstrates progress on the peace plan.
The junta has declined offers to send non-political representatives instead to ASEAN meetings.
“If a seat representing a country is vacant, then it should not be labelled an ASEAN summit,” junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said at a routine news conference on Wednesday, adding that Myanmar was working on implementing the peace plan.
“What they want is for us to meet and talk with the terrorists,” he said, using the junta’s label for pro-democracy movements that have taken up arms against the military.
He said ASEAN was violating its own policy of non-interference in a country’s sovereign affairs while facing “external pressure,” but did not elaborate.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cambodia, which is currently chairing ASEAN, did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Several western countries including the United States and Britain have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s junta over the coup.


Lesotho inaugurates Saudi Arabia-funded $11.2 million water supply project

Lesotho inaugurates Saudi Arabia-funded $11.2 million water supply project
Updated 17 August 2022

Lesotho inaugurates Saudi Arabia-funded $11.2 million water supply project

Lesotho inaugurates Saudi Arabia-funded $11.2 million water supply project

DUBAI: Lesotho has inaugurated a $11.2 million water supply project that will supply clean water to five cities in the south African country.

Funded by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), the project aims to sustain water resources and provide clean water sources in Lesotho as well as mitigate effects of drought in the country to ensure water and food security.

The undertaking will see the laying of a 210-kilometer-long pipe network and the construction of 25 pumping stations.

Saudi Arabia, through the SFD, supports developing countries achieve their development goals by providing grants, technical aid as well soft loans and since its inception in 1975 has provided 730 development loans to finance 692 development projects and programs in 84 developing countries.


Rohingya refugees in India’s capital to be given flats, security

Rohingya refugees in India’s capital to be given flats, security
Updated 17 August 2022

Rohingya refugees in India’s capital to be given flats, security

Rohingya refugees in India’s capital to be given flats, security
  • There have been isolated incidents of violence toward Rohingya in India

NEW DELHI: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in India’s capital will be allotted apartments and provided with police protection, a government minister said on Wednesday, signalling a change in the stance toward members of the Muslim minority.
“India has always welcomed those who have sought refuge,” Minister for Housing and Urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said on Twitter, outlining new provisions for Rohingya refugees in New Delhi.
“India respects & follows UN Refugee Convention 1951 & provides refuge to all, regardless of their race, religion or creed,” Puri said.
Puri did not elaborate on what he said would be “round-the- clock” police protection but there have been isolated incidents of violence toward Rohingya in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has previously tried to send back members of the Muslim minority from predominately Buddhist Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled from persecution and waves of violence in their homeland over the years.


South Korea president says any talks with Pyongyang should be more than show

South Korea president says any talks with Pyongyang should be more than show
Updated 17 August 2022

South Korea president says any talks with Pyongyang should be more than show

South Korea president says any talks with Pyongyang should be more than show
  • Yoon Suk-yeol repeats his willingness to provide phased economic aid to North Korea

SEOUL: Talks with North Korea should not be for political show but contribute to establishing peace, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Wednesday, speaking at a wide-ranging press conference to mark his first 100 days in office.
Yoon repeated his willingness to provide phased economic aid to North Korea if it ended nuclear weapons development and began denuclearization, noting that he had called for a dialogue with Pyongyang since his campaign.
“Any dialogue between the leaders of the South and North, or negotiations between main working-level officials, should not be a political show, but should contribute to establishing substantive peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia,” he said.
The comments were an apparent criticism of a series of summits involving his predecessor Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and then-US President Donald Trump.
Despite those meetings, denuclearization talks stalled in 2019 and North Korea has said it will not trade away its self-defense, though it has called for an end to sanctions. It has been observed preparing for a possible nuclear test, which would be its first since 2017.
South Korea was not in a position to guarantee the North’s security if it gave up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul did not want a forced change in the status quo in the North, Yoon said.
The North’s recent missile tests and nuclear development has revived debate over whether the South should pursue its own nuclear weapons. Yoon said that he was committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and working with the United States to boost its “extended deterrence” for South Korea.
“The NPT should not be abandoned and I will adhere to that until the end,” he said.