Thousands rally in Armenia against Karabakh concessions

Thousands rally in Armenia against Karabakh concessions
Demonstrators shout slogans as they attend an opposition rally in Yerevan on May 1, 2022, held to protest against Karabakh concessions. (AFP)
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Updated 01 May 2022

Thousands rally in Armenia against Karabakh concessions

Thousands rally in Armenia against Karabakh concessions
  • Opposition parties have accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of plans to give away all of Karabakh to Azerbaijan
  • Yerevan and Baku had been locked in a territorial dispute since the 1990s over the mountainous region of Azerbaijan predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians

YEREVAN: Thousands of opposition supporters rallied Sunday in the Armenian capital Yerevan to warn the government against concessions to arch-foe Azerbaijan over the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Opposition parties have accused Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of plans to give away all of Karabakh to Azerbaijan after he told lawmakers last month that the “international community calls on Armenia to scale down demands on Karabakh.”
On Sunday, several thousand opposition supporters gathered in the capital’s central Square of France, blocking traffic throughout central Yerevan.
Protesters shouted demands for Pashinyan to resign, with many holding placards that read “Karabakh.”
Parliament Vice Speaker and opposition leader Ishkhan Sagatelyan said: “Any political status of Karabakh within Azerbaijan is unacceptable to us.”
“Pashinyan had betrayed people’s trust and must go,” he told journalists at the rally, adding that the protest movement “will lead to the overthrow of the government in the nearest future.”
Addressing the crowd, he announced “a large scale campaign of civil disobedience to begin on Monday.”
“I call on everyone to begin strikes. I call on students not to attend classes. Traffic will be fully blocked in central Yerevan.”
On Saturday, Armenia’s National Security Service warned of “a real threat of mass unrest in the country.”
Yerevan and Baku had been locked in a territorial dispute since the 1990s over the mountainous region of Azerbaijan predominantly populated by ethnic Armenians.
Karabakh was at the center of a six-week war in 2020 that claimed more than 6,500 lives before it ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire agreement.
Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territories it had controlled for decades and Russia deployed some 2,000 peacekeepers to oversee the truce.
In April, Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met for rare EU-mediated talks in Brussels after which they tasked their foreign ministers to “begin preparatory work for peace talks.”
The meeting came after a flare-up in Karabakh on March 25 that saw Azerbaijan capture a strategic village in the area under the Russian peacekeepers’ responsibility, killing three separatist troops.
Baku tabled in mid-March its set of framework proposals for the peace agreement that includes both sides’ mutual recognition of territorial integrity, meaning Yerevan should agree on Karabakh being part of Azerbaijan.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan sparked controversy at home when he said — commenting on the Azerbaijani proposal — that for Yerevan “the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a territorial issue, but a matter of rights” of the local ethnic-Armenian population.
Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflicts claimed around 30,000 lives.


China foreign minister seeks ‘new golden era’ of ties with Philippines

China foreign minister seeks ‘new golden era’ of ties with Philippines
Updated 59 min 11 sec ago

China foreign minister seeks ‘new golden era’ of ties with Philippines

China foreign minister seeks ‘new golden era’ of ties with Philippines
  • Many analysts saw the election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr as more favorable to China than the US

MANILA: China’s foreign minister said on Wednesday Beijing was ready to work with new Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to help usher in what he called a “new golden era” in the countries’ relationship.
That relationship “turned a new page” with the election of Marcos, said Wang Yi, who is visiting Southeast Asia at a time when Philippines ally the United States is seeking to boost its influence in the region.
“We highly appreciate President Marcos’ recent commitment to pursuing friendly policy toward China and we speak highly of these recent statements that have sent out a very positive signal to the outside world,” Wang said in a meeting with his Philippines counterpart, Enrique Manalo. Many analysts saw the election of Marcos, the son of the late strongman ousted in a 1986 uprising, as more favorable to China than the United States, but the new president has been clear in public statements that close ties with Beijing will not be at the expense of sovereignty.
China’s assertiveness and conduct in waters off the Philippines has long been a source of diplomatic tension, but Marcos on Tuesday said he wanted their relationship to be about more than a maritime dispute.
Wang said China was one with Marcos in his desire to deepen and strengthen ties.
“We are ready to work toward that same direction with the Philippines and to plan for our cooperation going forward in all areas,” Wang said.
“I’m confident that with the two sides working together, we can surely open a new golden era for the bilateral relationship.”
Marcos has a tricky balancing act in boosting business ties with China while maintaining a close relationship with defense ally the United States, a former colonial power that still holds considerable sway among the military and the public.


July 4 gunman charged with seven counts of murder

July 4 gunman charged with seven counts of murder
Updated 06 July 2022

July 4 gunman charged with seven counts of murder

July 4 gunman charged with seven counts of murder
  • Robert Crimo, 21, was arrested on Monday, several hours after the attack on a festive Independence Day crowd

HIGHLAND PARK, United States: A 21-year-old man who allegedly opened fire on a July 4 parade in a wealthy Chicago suburb while disguised in women’s clothing was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Robert Crimo, 21, was arrested on Monday, several hours after the attack on a festive Independence Day crowd.
“There will be more charges,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart told reporters. “We anticipate dozens of more charges centered around each of the victims.”
Police spokesman Christopher Covelli said the death toll rose to seven on Tuesday after one of the wounded victims died in hospital. More than 35 people were injured.
Among the dead were Kevin McCarthy, 37, and his wife, Irina, 35 — the parents of a two-year-old boy who was found wandering alone after the shooting, according to CBS News.
Covelli said no motive had been established for the attack, which sent panicked parade-goers fleeing for their lives.
“We do believe Crimo pre-planned this attack for several weeks,” and that he acted alone, he said.
“We have no information to suggest at this point it was racially motivated, motivated by religion or any other protected status,” he added.
He said Crimo has a history of mental health issues and threatening behavior.
Police had been called twice to Crimo’s home in 2019, once to investigate a suicide attempt and the second time because a relative said he had threatened to “kill everyone” in the family, he said.
Police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from the home but did not make any arrests, he said.
Covelli said Crimo used a fire escape to access the roof of a building overlooking the parade route and fired more than 70 rounds from a rifle “similar to an AR-15,” one of several guns he had purchased legally.
“Crimo was dressed in women’s clothing and investigators believe he did this to conceal his facial tattoos and his identity and help him during the escape with the other people who were fleeing the chaos,” he said.
Covelli said Crimo went to his mother’s nearby home after the shooting and borrowed her car. He was captured about eight hours later after a brief chase.
He also said the authorities were investigating disturbing online posts and videos made by Crimo.
The shooting has left the upscale suburb in shock.
“We’re all still reeling,” Mayor Nancy Rotering told NBC’s Today show. “Everybody knows somebody who was affected by this directly.”
The mayor said she personally knew the suspected gunman when he was a young boy in the Cub Scouts.
“How did somebody become this angry, this hateful to then take it out on innocent people who literally were just having a family day out?” Rotering asked.
Crimo, whose father unsuccessfully ran for mayor and owns a store in Highland Park called Bob’s Pantry and Deli, was an amateur musician billing himself as “Awake the Rapper.”
The younger Crimo’s online postings include violent content that alluded to guns and shootings.
One YouTube video posted eight months ago featured cartoons of a gunman and people being shot.
“I need to just do it,” a voice-over says.
It adds: “It is my destiny. Everything has led up to this. Nothing can stop me, not even myself.”
Crimo, who has the word “Awake” tattooed over an eyebrow, is seen sporting an “FBI” hat in numerous photos and a Trump flag as a cape in one picture.
The shooting is the latest in a wave of gun violence plaguing the United States, where approximately 40,000 deaths a year are caused by firearms, according to the Gun Violence Archive.


Russian foreign minister Lavrov says Putin-Macron call leak breached ‘diplomatic etiquette’

Russian foreign minister Lavrov says Putin-Macron call leak breached ‘diplomatic etiquette’
Updated 06 July 2022

Russian foreign minister Lavrov says Putin-Macron call leak breached ‘diplomatic etiquette’

Russian foreign minister Lavrov says Putin-Macron call leak breached ‘diplomatic etiquette’
  • ‘Diplomatic etiquette does not provide for unilateral leaks of (such) recordings’
  • Sergei Lavrov: Moscow had nothing to be ashamed of from the content of the conversation between the two leaders

HANOI: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the publication of a call between President Emmanuel Macron and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was a breach of “diplomatic etiquette.”
“Diplomatic etiquette does not provide for unilateral leaks of (such) recordings,” Lavrov said on a trip to Vietnam.
The details of the confidential call days before Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine were revealed by the broadcaster France 2 in a documentary on the French president’s handling of the conflict.
Lavrov said Russia had nothing to be ashamed of from the content of the conversation between the two leaders.
“We in principle lead negotiations in such a way that we never have anything to be ashamed of. We always say what we think and are ready to answer for these words and explain our position,” he said.
Lavrov is on a two-day visit to Vietnam, on the tenth anniversary of the two nations’ “comprehensive strategic partnership.”
Vietnam, historically close to Moscow, has so far declined to outright condemn Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.


Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities

Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities
Updated 06 July 2022

Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities

Taiwan touts new air force advanced training jet’s abilities
  • Taiwan’s armed forces are mostly equipped by the United States
  • The Brave Eagle trainer can be equipped with weapons, though that remains in the testing phase

TAITUNG, Taiwan: Taiwan’s air force showed off its new locally designed and made jet trainer on Wednesday, touting the more advanced, combat-capable abilities of the aircraft that will replace aging and accident-prone existing equipment.
Taiwan’s armed forces are mostly equipped by the United States, but President Tsai Ing-wen has made development of an advanced home-grown defense industry a priority, especially as China, which claims the island as its own, steps up military modernization efforts and drills near Taiwan.
The new AT-5 Brave Eagle, made by state-owned Aerospace Industrial Development Corp. with a budget of T$68.6 billion ($2.3 billion), had its first test flight in 2020.
It is Taiwan’s first jet made domestically since the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo Indigenous Defense Fighter, or IDF, rolled out more than three decades ago, and the two jets look similar and have similar capabilities.
Three Brave Eagle’s roared into the air at the Chihhang air base in Taitung on Taiwan’s east coast, in a show of its prowess in front of reporters.
Flight training officer Chang Chong-hao said the Brave Eagle was suitable for both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat training purposes, and can land and take off using a shorter amount of runway.
“So it helps give the students more space to deal with some unforeseen situations.”
The Brave Eagle trainer can be equipped with weapons, though that remains in the testing phase, and the plane is designed to have a support function in time of war.
“We’re not involved in the armaments part, those tests are up to the manufacturer ADIC,” said air force officer Huang Chun-yuan. “Our main mission at the moment is general conversion training and tandem flying.”
Taiwan’s air force plans on taking 66 units by 2026 to replace aging AT-3 and F-5 training aircraft, which have suffered a series of crashes in recent years. An AT-3, a model that first flew in 1980, crashed in May, while three F-5s have crashed in the past year or so.
The F-5s first entered service in Taiwan in the 1970s, though are no longer front line combat aircraft.


Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing
Updated 06 July 2022

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing

Shanghai, Beijing order new round of mass COVID-19 testing
  • Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks

BEIJING: Residents of parts of Shanghai and Beijing have been ordered to undergo further rounds of COVID-19 testing following the discovery of new cases in the two cities, while tight restrictions remain in place in Hong Kong, Macao and other Chinese cities.
Shanghai has only just emerged from a strict lockdown that confined most of its 24 million residents to their homes for weeks and the new requirements have stirred concerns of a return of such harsh measures.
The latest outbreak in China’s largest city, a key international business center, has been linked to a karaoke parlor that failed to enforce prevention measures among employees and customers, including the tracing of others they came into contact with, according to the city health commission. All such outlets have been ordered to temporarily suspend business, the city’s department of culture and tourism said.
Shanghai’s lockdown prompted unusual protests both in person and online against the government’s harsh enforcement, which left many residents struggling to access food and medical services and sent thousands to quarantine centers.
Beijing has also seen a recent outbreak linked to a nightlife spot. It has been conducting regular testing for weeks and at least one residential compound in the suburb of Shunyi, which is home to many foreign residents, has been locked down with a steel fence installed over its entrance to prevent residents from leaving.
Enforcement in China’s capital has been far milder than in Shanghai, although officials continue to require regular testing and prevention measures.
In the northern city of Xi’an, whose 13 million residents endured one of China’s strictest lockdowns over the winter, restaurants have been restricted to takeout only and public entertainment spots closed for a week starting Wednesday.
A notice on the city government’s website said the measures were only temporary and intended to prevent the chance of a renewed outbreak. It said supermarkets, offices, public transport and other facilities are continuing to operate as normal, with routine screening including temperature checks and people being required to show an app proving they are free of infection.
Neighboring Hong Kong has also seen a rising trend of coronavirus infections since mid-June. In the past seven days, daily infections reported averaged about 2,000 a day.
The city’s new leader, John Lee, said Wednesday that Hong Kong must not “lie flat” when it comes to COVID-19, rejecting the “living with the coronavirus” mentality that most of the world has adopted.
His comments echo the sentiments of Chinese authorities, who have stuck with their “zero-COVID” policy that has become closely identified with President and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping.
However, Lee has said that Hong Kong authorities are exploring options, including shortening the duration of mandatory quarantine for incoming travelers. Currently, travelers must test negative for COVID-19 before flying and quarantine for seven days in designated hotels upon arrival.
The city, once known as a bustling business hub and international financial center, has seen tourism and business travel crippled by its tough entry restrictions.
The strict measures have remained in place despite relatively low numbers of cases and the serious negative effects on China’s economy and global supply chains.
The World Health Organization recently called the policy unsustainable, a view Chinese officials rejected outright even while they say they hope to minimize the impact.
While China’s borders remain largely closed, cutting off both visitors from abroad and outbound tourism, officials have cautiously increased flights from some foreign countries, most recently Russia.
Mainland China reported 353 cases of domestic transmission on Wednesday, 241 of them asymptomatic.
Shanghai announced just 24 cases over the past 24 hours, and Beijing five. Anhui announced 222 cases in what appears to be the latest cluster, prompting the inland province to order mass testing and travel restrictions in Si county, where the bulk of cases have been reported.