Argentina reopens embassy in Bangladesh after World Cup love-in

Argentina reopens embassy in Bangladesh after World Cup love-in
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Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Andres Cafiero and Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Momen speak to reporters at a press briefing in Dhaka on Feb. 27, 2023. (Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Argentina reopens embassy in Bangladesh after World Cup love-in
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Bangladesh State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam and Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Andres Cafiero cut a ribbon to mark the opening of the Argentine embassy in Dhaka on Feb. 27, 2023. (Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
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Updated 27 February 2023

Argentina reopens embassy in Bangladesh after World Cup love-in

Argentina reopens embassy in Bangladesh after World Cup love-in
  • Ties renewed and football cooperation deal agreed after Bangladeshi fans got behind Argentina for Qatar competition

DHAKA: Argentina reopened its embassy in Dhaka on Monday, marking a new chapter in diplomatic relations that developed after Bangladesh’s huge support for the Argentine football team at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Bangladeshi football fans’ support for Argentina made headlines during the Qatar World Cup, bringing closer not only fans of the sport from both countries but also their governments. Hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis wore Argentina shirts as they watched the team on giant screens set up around their country.

Argentina’s Foreign Minister Santiago Andres Cafiero was welcomed Dhaka on Monday by his Bangladeshi counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen.

“We are happy to reopen the embassy in Bangladesh. The emotions for football reunited both countries. For this, I thank the people of Bangladesh,” Cafiero said following an inauguration at the new Argentine embassy.

“Our bilateral relations will be stronger. Both countries will work together to overcome global economic challenges. We will work together also for the development of football in Bangladesh.”

Momen said that Argentina's blue and white flag was beloved across Bangladesh.  “This flag is very popular because of you know the football championship. Messi is in the heart of everyone,” he said, referring to Lionel Messi.  

The reopening of the Argentine embassy took place 45 years after Buenos Aires closed its direct diplomatic representation in 1978, only six years after establishing official ties with Dhaka. 

Bangladesh has an ambassador to Argentina in Brazil, while Argentina previously maintained an ambassador to Bangladesh in New Delhi.

The countries signed several agreements as part of Cafiero’s visit, including one on football cooperation.

“We can say that our love for Argentine football accelerated the opening of the Argentine embassy in Dhaka,” Muhammad Mozammel Haque, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s South America wing, told Arab News. “The last World Cup brought the two nations very close.”

“Under the football cooperation agreement, Argentina will provide training to Bangladeshi coaches and young footballers,” Haque said.

Abdus Salam Murshedy, a politician and senior vice president of the Bangladesh Football Federation, said that football cooperation with Argentina was a “very special moment”.

“Argentina is the defending football champion, and there are millions of fans in our country. Since they love football, they love Argentine football,” Murshedy told Arab News. “We will have all the technical support from them for developing the quality of football in Bangladesh.”

The renewal of ties will also help boost Bangladesh’s top export industry: textiles. Bangladesh is already a global major producer of sportswear and a supplier for international brands such as Nike, Adidas and Puma.

“Very easily, our manufacturers will be able to export jerseys for the Argentine football team and fans as well,” Murshedy said. “The new Argentine mission in Bangladesh will increase our textile export potentials to this market.

“Earlier, they didn’t have much idea about Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi football fan base for Argentina amazed them at the last FIFA World Cup,” he added. “We have been waiting for a long time for such an auspicious moment.”

UK govt ‘in negotiations’ after three British men held in Afghanistan

UK govt ‘in negotiations’ after three British men held in Afghanistan
Updated 12 sec ago

UK govt ‘in negotiations’ after three British men held in Afghanistan

UK govt ‘in negotiations’ after three British men held in Afghanistan
LONDON: Britain’s interior minister Suella Braverman on Sunday said the UK government was “in negotiations” after three British men were detained by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Media reports have identified the men as charity medic Kevin Cornwell, 53, the unnamed manager of a hotel for aid workers and YouTube star Miles Routledge.
“The government is in negotiations and working hard to ensure people’s safety is upheld,” Braverman told Sky News.
The non-profit group the Presidium Network said on Twitter on Saturday it had been “working closely with two of the families.”
“We are working hard to secure consular contact with British nationals detained in Afghanistan and we are supporting families,” the UK’s foreign ministry added in a statement.
Scott Richards of the Presidium Network told Sky News: “We believe they are in good health and being well treated.
“We have no reason to believe they’ve been subject to any negative treatment such as torture and we’re told that they are as good as can be expected in such circumstances.”
He added, however, that there had been “no meaningful contact” between authorities and the two men Presidium was assisting.
These two men are believed to have been held by the Taliban since January.
It is not known how long the third man has been held for.

Presidium on Twitter urged the Taliban to be “considerate of what we believe is a misunderstanding and release these men.”
Last year the Taliban freed a veteran television cameraman and four other British nationals it had held for six months.
Peter Jouvenal was one of a “number” of Britons that the government in London said had been held by the hard-line Islamists.
Britain’s foreign ministry said the five “had no role in the UK government’s work in Afghanistan and traveled to Afghanistan against the UK government’s travel advice.”
“This was a mistake,” it added.
At the time, Afghanistan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid accused the Britons of “carrying out activities against the country’s laws and traditions of the people of Afghanistan.”
“After consecutive meetings between the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) and Britain the said persons were released... and handed over to their home country,” he said.
“They promised to abide by the laws of Afghanistan, its traditions and culture of the people and not to violate them again,” he added.
The Taliban returned to power in August 2021 and has since sparked global outrage with its policies in particular toward women and girls.

Pope Francis leads Palm Sunday service, bounces back from illness

Pope Francis leads Palm Sunday service, bounces back from illness
Updated 13 min 11 sec ago

Pope Francis leads Palm Sunday service, bounces back from illness

Pope Francis leads Palm Sunday service, bounces back from illness
  • The pope, 86, was taken to Rome’s Gemelli hospital after complaining of breathing difficulties

ROME: Pope Francis led a Palm Sunday service the day after he was discharged from hospital following a bout of bronchitis, and urged the world to take better care of the poor, the lonely and the infirm.
Thousands of people waved palm and olive branches as Francis was driven into St. Peter’s Square sitting in the back of a white, open-topped vehicle, before descending and starting the service from beneath an ancient Egyptian obelisk.
The pope, 86, was taken to Rome’s Gemelli hospital on Wednesday after complaining of breathing difficulties, but recovered quickly following an infusion of antibiotics and returned to his Vatican residence on Saturday.
Looking to allay concerns about his health, the Vatican has said he will take part a full array of Easter events this week, the busiest period in the Roman Catholic Church calendar, starting with the open-air Palm Sunday service.
The pontiff, wearing red vestments, spoke with a quiet, but clear voice as he addressed a crowd of more than 30,000 faithful in weak spring sunshine. In his homily he called on people not to ignore those experiencing great suffering and solitude.
“Today their numbers are legion. Entire peoples are exploited and abandoned; the poor live on our streets and we look the other way; migrants are no longer faces but numbers, prisoners are disowned; people written off as problems,” he said.
The pope, who marked the 10th anniversary of his pontificate in March, has long highlighted the plight of the poor and of migrants.
He has suffered a number of ailments in recent years, including severe knee pain, which means he uses a cane and often a wheelchair in his public appearances.
His difficulties with mobility have limited his participation at some events, and as happened last year, a senior cardinal celebrated the actual Mass on Sunday.
Palm Sunday marks the day that the Bible says Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds, the week before Christian believe he rose from the dead following his execution on the Cross.
On Holy Thursday, Francis will celebrate Mass in a prison for juveniles in Rome. It is not yet clear if he will participate in the traditional Good Friday Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around Rome’s ancient Colosseum.
The pope, head of the world’s nearly 1.4 billion Roman Catholics, will then preside over the Mass on Easter Sunday, the most important day on the Christian liturgical calendar, where he is expected to read his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message.

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace
Updated 02 April 2023

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace

War-crimes warrant for Putin could complicate Ukraine peace
  • Putin appears to have a strong grip on power, and some analysts suspect the the warrant hanging over him could provide an incentive to prolong the fighting

THE HAGUE: An international arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin raises the prospect of the man whose country invaded Ukraine facing justice, but it complicates efforts to end that war in peace talks.
Both justice and peace appear to be only remote possibilities today, and the conflicting relationship between the two is a quandary at the heart of a March 17 decision by the International Criminal Court to seek the Russian leader's arrest.
Judges in The Hague found “reasonable grounds to believe” that Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights were responsible for war crimes, specifically the unlawful deportation and unlawful transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
As unlikely as Putin sitting in a Hague courtroom seems now, other leaders have faced justice in international courts.
Former Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, a driving force behind the Balkan wars of the 1990s, went on trial for war crimes, including genocide, at a United Nations tribunal in The Hague after he lost power. He died in his cell in 2006 before a verdict could be reached.
Serbia, which wants European Union membership but has maintained close ties to Russia, is one of the countries that has criticized the ICC's action. The warrants “will have bad political consequences” and create “a great reluctance to talk about peace (and) about truce” in Ukraine, populist Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said.
Others see consequences for Putin, and for anyone judged guilty of war crimes, as the primary desired outcome of international action.
“There will be no escape for the perpetrator and his henchmen," European Union leader Ursula von der Leyen said Friday in a speech to mark the one-year anniversary of the liberation of Bucha, the Ukraine town that saw some of the worst atrocities in the war. “War criminals will be held accountable for their deeds.”
Hungary did not join the other 26 EU members in signing a resolution in support of the ICC warrant for Putin. The government's chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said Hungarian authorities would not arrest Putin if he were to enter the country..
He called the warrants “not the most fortunate because they lead toward escalation and not toward peace.”
Putin appears to have a strong grip on power, and some analysts suspect the the warrant hanging over him could provide an incentive to prolong the fighting.
“The arrest warrant for Putin might undermine efforts to reach a peace deal in Ukraine,” Daniel Krcmaric, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University, said in emailed comments to The Associated Press.
One potential way of easing the way to peace talks could be for the United Nations Security Council to call on the International Criminal Court to suspend the Ukraine investigation for a year, which is allowed under Article 16 of the Rome Statute treaty that created the court.
But that appears unlikely, said Krcmaric, whose book “The Justice Dilemma,” deals with the tension between seeking justice and pursuing a negotiated end to conflicts.
“The Western democracies would have to worry about public opinion costs if they made the morally questionable decision to trade justice for peace in such an explicit fashion,” he said, adding that Ukraine also is unlikely to support such a move.
Russia immediately rejected the warrants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow doesn’t recognize the ICC and considers its decisions “legally void.” And Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, which is chaired by Putin, suggested the ICC headquarters on the Netherlands' coastline could become a target for a Russian missile strike.
Alexander Baunov, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, observed in a commentary that the arrest warrant for Putin amounted to “an invitation to the Russian elite to abandon Putin” that could erode his support.
While welcoming the warrants for Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, rights groups also urged the international community not to forget the pursuit of justice in other conflicts.
“The ICC warrant for Putin reflects an evolving and multifaceted justice effort that is needed elsewhere in the world,” Human Rights Watch associate international justice director Balkees Jarrah said in a statement. “Similar justice initiatives are needed elsewhere to ensure that the rights of victims globally — whether in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Myanmar, or Palestine — are respected.”

Bulgaria votes for fifth time in two years under Ukraine shadow

Bulgaria votes for fifth time in two years under Ukraine shadow
Updated 02 April 2023

Bulgaria votes for fifth time in two years under Ukraine shadow

Bulgaria votes for fifth time in two years under Ukraine shadow

SOFIA: Bulgarians vote on Sunday in their fifth general election in two years, a record in the European Union, amid deep divisions over the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion of its neighbor has deepened the political crisis that has engulfed Bulgaria since 2020, the worst instability since the fall of Communism.
The poor Balkan nation of 6.5 million people is a member of the EU and NATO. But it is historically and culturally close to Russia.
The country witnessed massive anti-corruption rallies three years ago but, contrary to protesters’ hopes of a clean-up in public life, the demonstrations triggered a series of elections.
Conservative prime minister Boyko Borisov, whose decade in office was tainted by allegations of graft, lost power in 2021.
But the country’s political parties have struggled since to form stable coalitions, leading to a deeply fragmented parliament and series of interim governments.
“What if the results are the same as in previous legislative elections?” asked Silvia Radoeva, a 42-year-old care worker.
“It’s high time that politicians united to deal with everyday problems,” Radoeva told AFP, citing “crazy prices, poverty and deplorable medical care.”

“Faced with war and inflation, (Bulgarian) society is crying out for a solution,” Parvan Simeonov, a political analyst with Gallup International, told AFP.
The fight against corruption has taken a back seat, leaving many 2020 protesters disillusioned.
The main players in Sunday’s ballot are the same as in recent elections.
The latest polls put Borisov’s GERB party neck-and-neck with the reformist We Continue the Change (PP), led by Harvard-educated Kiril Petkov, who was briefly premier in 2022.
Both have around 25 percent support.
This time, the PP has joined forces with a small right-wing coalition called Democratic Bulgaria.
“We find the same pattern as in other central European countries — a former leader who clings on and the other parties who refuse to ally with him, without having much else in common,” said Lukas Macek, associate researcher at the Jacques Delors Institute for Central and Eastern Europe.
Macek sees no end to this “worrying spiral of elections” unless Borisov withdraws.

“I fear the influence of pro-Russian parties in the next parliament,” Ognian Peychev, a 60-year-old engineer, told AFP at a recent protest against the war in Ukraine.
The ultra-nationalist Vazrazhdane party, which defends the Kremlin’s war, stands to gain some 13 percent of the votes, according to polls, up from the 10 percent it won at the last general election in October.
The Socialist BSP, the successor of Bulgaria’s Communist Party, has also sided with Moscow and objects to sending weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Many in Bulgaria still look to the east, revering Russia as the country that ended five centuries of Ottoman rule in 1878.
“Both Petkov and Borisov are too aggressively critical of Russia,” said Mariana Valkova, a 62-year-old entrepreneur who used to work in what was then the Soviet Union.
“I’d rather there wasn’t a government and (President Rumen) Radev remained in charge.”
Pro-Russian Radev, who has appointed interim cabinets between the string of inconclusive elections, has denounced Petkov and his allies as “war mongers.”
He has also spoken out against sending arms to Ukraine.
At the same time, Bulgaria’s munitions factories have been running at full capacity making ammunition to be exported to Kyiv via third countries.
Polling stations opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) on Sunday.
The first exit polls are expected after polls close at 8:00 p.m. (1700 GMT).

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US
Updated 02 April 2023

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US

Recognition of Arab American Heritage month growing but still far from complete in US
  • Biden said that despite the contribution made to the nation, many Arabs continue to face racism and discrimination
  • For many years, Arabs in only a few states celebrated Arab American Heritage Month individually and during different months of the year

Chicago: US President Joe Biden this week issued a lengthy statement recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month, noting on Friday that “the Arab American story is the American story” and should be recognized formally by all Americans.

Biden said that Arab Americans, like all of the nation’s ethnic groups, had contributed to defining America as a country welcoming of immigrants and the cultures they brought with them, serving in the US military and in every profession.

However, Biden said that despite the contribution made to the nation, many Arabs continue to face racism and discrimination.

“This month, we join together to celebrate the immeasurable contributions of Arab Americans to our nation and recommit ourselves to the timeless work of making sure that all people have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Biden said during a briefing on March 31.

“Sadly, we also recognize that, even as Arab Americans enrich our nation, many continue to face prejudice, bigotry, and violence — a stain on our collective conscience. Hate must have no safe harbor in this country. We must affirm that sentiment again and again. That is why, on my first day in office, I issued the proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States, which harmed the Arab American community. I also signed an executive order charging the federal government with advancing equity for historically underserved communities, including Arab Americans. I was proud to host a first-of-its-kind United We Stand Summit at the White House and announce new measures to help communities prevent and respond to hate-based threats, bullying and harassment.”

Biden established an interagency group to “coordinate” the federal government’s efforts to fight antisemitism and Islamophobia, and is exploring ways to include Arabs in the 2030 US Census drive, leaning toward adding to the census questionnaire the phrase “MENA” (Middle East and North Africa) rather than the word “Arab.”

For many years, Arabs in only a few states such as Michigan, Illinois, California, Washington D.C., Arizona and Texas celebrated Arab American Heritage Month individually and during different months of the year.

That changed in 2017 when Arab American leaders launched a coordinated effort to designate one month, April, as Arab American Heritage Month. In 2018, Illinois became the first state to pass a law officially recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month.

Since then, 44 other states have approved proclamations recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month and Arab contributions to American society.

In 2022, the recognition of April as Arab American Heritage Month received a major boost when Biden became the first US president to recognize it as an official national commemoration.

“We have seen a steady progression, first to bring Arab Americans together to recognize one month to celebrate our rich cultural heritage, and we have seen many Americans and elected officials support this important designation,” said American Arab Chamber of Commerce of Illinois President Hassan Nijem who was instrumental in getting the law passed in 2018.

“Last year, President Biden recognized April nationally as Arab Heritage Month and it has been followed by proclamations and declarations from members of Congress, state governors and legislatures in 45 states. We still have a way to go, but the recognition of the contributions of Arab Americans to the richness of this country is undeniable.”

Several Biden administration officials and department heads issued statements affirming April as Arab American Heritage Month. On April 1, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking for the Biden administration, issued a proclamation honoring Arab American Heritage Month.

Last year, President Biden became the first US president to declare April as National Arab American Heritage Month, in recognition of the contributions of Arab Americans to the United States that are as old as America itself. Americans of Arab heritage have advanced the nation’s achievements in diplomacy, science, technology, as well as in art and culture,” Blinken said.

“Arab Americans have also been at the forefront of the fight for civil rights and social justice. We mark National Arab American Heritage Month by celebrating the rich culture and heritage of Arab Americans and honoring the contributions to this country, including proudly here at the Department of State.”

The Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison joined the DNC’s Ethnic Council Chairman James Zogby, also the president of the Arab American Institute, in issuing a statement saluting Arab culture during April Arab American Heritage month.

“This Arab American Heritage Month, we celebrate the culture, contributions, and achievements of Arab Americans across our country. This vibrant and diverse community, with roots in 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and numerous cultural and religious traditions, represents the best of who we are,” a statement released on Saturday by the DNC read.

“President Biden understands that, and it is why the Biden-Harris administration recognized April as National Arab American Heritage Month for the first time nationally in 2021. On behalf of the Democratic Party, we’re proud to celebrate and support Arab Americans for the tremendous impact they have on our party and country.”

From schools to government agencies and public organizations, Americans are celebrating Arab American Heritage Month. The New York City Public Schools, for example, listed a variety of ways in which classrooms and students can learn more about Arab American history.

The Arab American National Museum located in Dearborn, Michigan, is offering a “virtual tour” of Arab American history.

Google Classrooms and “1001 Inventions” have partnered to provide digital access to interactive stories about lesser-known pioneer men and women, primarily from the Arab world, to help spark young people’s interest in science while promoting diversity and inclusion in their own online exhibition.

Several Arab American leaders said that the celebrations were muted slightly in deference to the observance of Ramadan, the important Islamic religious commemoration observed by Muslims during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar by fasting from sunrise to sunset, and in prayer and through community reflection.

In a show of unity with Muslims, many Christian-owned restaurants limit their business hours until after the sunset iftar, and temper public celebrations.

“In Illinois, we will be hosting events at the end of the month of April Arab American Heritage Month as an act of respect,” Nijem said, noting that Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, who annually recognizes the achievements of the region’s ethnic groups, will host a special Arab American Heritage gathering on May 1 at her offices in Chicago.

The Arab Chamber also has several events planned for the last week of April after Ramadan concludes, Nijem said.