Zelensky says he spoke to South African president, urged him to help end war

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, right, during a plenary session at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia on Oct. 24, 2019. (AP)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks to South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, right, during a plenary session at the Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia on Oct. 24, 2019. (AP)
Zelensky says he spoke to South African president, urged him to help end war
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a joint press conference with Italy's Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni following their meeting on May 13, 2023 at Palazzo Chigi in Rome. (AFP)
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Updated 15 May 2023
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Zelensky says he spoke to South African president, urged him to help end war

Zelensky says he spoke to South African president, urged him to help end war
  • South Africa has positioned itself as neutral in the conflict

KIEV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday and urged him to help implement Kyiv’s peace plan to end the war with Russia.
Zelensky made the remarks in a video address from Rome, a day after Ramaphosa spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin. South Africa has positioned itself as neutral in the conflict.

 


Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion

Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion
Updated 5 sec ago
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Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion

Chaos erupts in British Commons over Gaza motion
  • Disorder erupted when Speaker Lindsay Hoyle ignored a Gaza ceasefire motion by the SNP and allowed a vote instead for a Labor Party motion
  • Political passions are running high in Britain ahead of a general election due this year, with the Conservatives widely tipped to lose

LONDON: Britain’s House of Commons descended into chaos on Wednesday over a motion calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The chamber was due to debate and vote on a motion for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza by the Scottish National Party (SNP).
Instead, in an unusual move, speaker Lindsay Hoyle allowed a vote on a motion for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza by the Scottish National Party.
This sparked fury and shouts from the ruling Conservatives and the SNP.
SNP head in the Commons, Stephen Flynn, branded the move as “complete and utter contempt” of his party.
Faced with the outrage, Hoyle apologized, saying he had only intended to allow a wider debate on the issue.
The motion was not officially voted on, after the government said it would not participate in protest.
Political passions are running high in Britain ahead of a general election due this year.
The Conservatives, in power since 2010, are widely tipped by pollsters to lose.
Labour has been buoyed after having wrestled away several seats in by-elections from the Conservatives.


UK minister for veterans tells of ‘horrific’ testimony about SAS ‘war crimes’ in Afghanistan

UK minister for veterans tells of ‘horrific’ testimony about SAS ‘war crimes’ in Afghanistan
Updated 21 min 2 sec ago
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UK minister for veterans tells of ‘horrific’ testimony about SAS ‘war crimes’ in Afghanistan

UK minister for veterans tells of ‘horrific’ testimony about SAS ‘war crimes’ in Afghanistan
  • Mercer confirms to public inquiry he is talking about ‘allegations of straight murder’
  • Minister warned of legal consequences if he refuses to name British soldiers who spoke to him

LONDON: The British minister for veterans, John Mercer, spoke on Wednesday of “horrific” stories he heard from former members of the Afghan special forces about alleged executions of unarmed detainees, including children, carried out by members of the UK’s elite Special Air Service.

He was speaking during his second day of testimony at a public inquiry set up to investigate accusations made in media reports that SAS members killed civilians and unarmed prisoners during operations in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2013.

In 2022, a BBC investigation alleged that an SAS squadron was involved in questionable killings of at least 54 people, including detainees and children, in a six-month period.

Mercer, himself a former army officer, told the inquiry that discussions he had with former members of Afghan special forces known as the Triples “confirmed my worst fears.”

When asked by the chair of the inquiry whether he was talking about “allegations of straight murder” by members of the SAS, he replied: “Yes.”

He said the accounts given to him included allegations that the SAS executed detainees, including children, who were restrained and posed no threat. There is “no reason why a person under control should lose their life,” he added.

Mercer said that the Triples units, concerned about injuries suffered by children in particular, eventually refused to accompany the British forces on missions. When “Tier 1 Afghan special forces are refusing to go out the door with you,” this should have raised concerns, he said.

If the allegations presented to him are true, the members of the SAS responsible for the actions they described are “criminals,” he said.

Mercer also expressed frustration with the Ministry of Defence for not adequately investigating the allegations, and accused ministry officials of misleading him about the availability of evidence, specifically full-motion video footage from the operations in question.

He said that when he challenged the head of UK Special Forces, Gen. Sir Roland Walker, about this apparent lack of footage, he simply leaned back in his chair and shrugged.

“I don’t disguise the fact that I am angry with these people,” Mercer said. “The fact that I’m sitting here today is because those people, with their rank and privileges, have not done their job.”

During his first day of testimony to the inquiry, on Tuesday, Mercer refused to reveal the names of SAS members who gave him first- and second-hand accounts of incidents in Afghanistan.

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, who is chairing the inquiry, on Wednesday described the minister’s refusal to reveal the identities as “completely unacceptable,” the BBC reported.

“You need to decide which side you are really on,” Mr. Mercer,” he said. “Is it assisting the inquiry fully, and the public interest and the national interest, in getting to the truth of these allegations quickly, for everyone’s sake? Or is it being part of what is in effect an ‘omerta,’ a wall of silence?”

He warned Mercer that continued refusal to comply with the inquiry’s requests would result in “potentially serious legal consequences that I may need to put in place.”

If Mercer continues to refuse to provide the names, the inquiry has the legal authority to compel him to do so.

In February, BBC current affairs program Panorama reported that UK Special Forces blocked members of Afghan special forces from relocating to the UK after the Taliban reclaimed power in the country in 2021.

Former members of the SAS told Panorama that this veto created a clear conflict of interest because Afghan personnel might be called as witnesses by the public inquiry.


Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign

Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign
Updated 20 min 15 sec ago
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Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign

Trump faces warning signs that his fundraising prowess may have limits in 2024 campaign

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s legendary ability to raise massive sums of political cash may be on a collision course with a new and unpleasant reality.
Campaign finance reports released this week flashed bright warning lights, showing two key committees in his political operation raised an anemic $13.8 million in January while collectively spending more than they took in. A major driver of those costs was millions of dollars in legal fees from Trump’s myriad of court cases.
The latest numbers offer only a partial snapshot of the Trump operation’s finances because other branches won’t have to disclose their numbers until April. But Trump’s diminished cashflow nonetheless presents an alarming picture of the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP’s presidential nominee, particularly to would-be donors who aren’t eager to subsidize Trump’s legal challenges.
Despite threats of vengeance by Trump, some are instead backing his last standing rival, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who outraised Trump’s primary campaign committee by nearly $3 million last month.

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, center, talks with a young supporter after speaking at a campaign event on Feb. 19, 2024, in Camden, South Carolina. (AP)

In a statement, Trump spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt did not directly address the campaign’s finances.
“President Trump’s campaign is fueled by small-dollar donors across the country from every background who are sick and tired of Crooked Joe Biden’s record-high inflation, wide open border invasion, crime and chaos,” Leavitt said. “Voters don’t want four more years of misery and destruction.”
When asked specifically about the numbers, a Trump spokesman texted a link to a Fox News story published Tuesday, stating that Trump was expected to raise $6 million at a fundraiser held that day.
Legal fees dominated Trump’s January expenditures, amounting to $3.7 million of $15.3 million spent by the two committees. One of the committees, Save America, also held nearly $2 million in unpaid legal debts, the records show.
Save America was bolstered with a cash infusion from a pro-Trump super PAC.
The committee received another $5 million “refund” installment from the super PAC “Make America Great Again Inc.,” which was initially seeded through a $60 million from Save America in the fall of 2022. Instead, Trump campaign officials opted to claw that money back in installments, a running total that has now reached $47 million, records show.
That left Trump’s two committees with $36.6 million in cash on hand compared to Biden’s $132 million stockpile, which he and the Democratic National Committee raised $42 million for in January.
“His endless drama and legal bills will deplete the Republican Party and bring even more electoral losses,” Haley’s communications director, Nachama Soloveichik, said in a statement.
The latest tranche of legal bills comes at a sensitive time, as Trump is orchestrating a takeover of the cash-strapped Republican National Committee, where he plans to install his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as the party’s No. 2 official. Some donors and RNC committee members worry that Trump may soon turn to the RNC to help cover his legal bills, too, considering Trump has made claims of legal persecution a pillar of his campaign.
“Every single penny will go to the number one and the only job of the RNC,” Lara Trump said during a recent interview on the conservative network NewsMax, which she added was to focus on electing Donald Trump.

Lara Trump, daughter-in-law to former US President and 2024 presidential hopeful Donald Trump, signs a campaign material after speaking at a VFW Hall in Beaufort, South Carolina on Feb. 21, 2024. (AFP)

What’s not clear is how much of a drag his prodigious legal spending will be on his finances.
The RNC is also facing headwinds of its own, reporting $8.7 million on hand at the end of January, reports show.
Though Trump’s financially strained position is unusual for the odds-on favorite to clinch a major party’s nomination, there is ample time to reenergize his fundraising. It’s still early in the campaign and — assuming he becomes the nominee — he will be able to raise money in concert with the RNC, which should enable him to receive a check from a single donor worth upwards of $1 million. That’s an advantage that Biden and the DNC currently hold over him.
Over the past year, he’s also used pivotal moments in his ongoing legal drama, including his indictment hearings, to open a spigot of campaign cash from his large base of conservative supporters, who chip in small amounts online.
Still, Trump’s cash woes place him in a familiar, if unwelcome, position that echoes the 2020 presidential race, when he and his aides plowed through $1 billion and a large cash advantage over Biden amid profligate spending.
Trump approached the 2024 race with over $100 million, a substantial amount of which was raised in the early days after his 2020 election loss to Biden, when he bombarded supporters with solicitations for an “election defense fund.” This time, legal fees have proven to be a drain, costing over $80 million over the past two years, records show.
Democrats have reacted with glee.
“It’s been a tough couple of weeks if you are Donald Trump and also like money,” said Ammar Moussa, a Biden campaign spokesman. “The RNC had its worst fundraising year in decades, is hemorrhaging cash, and now Trump enters the general election with the weakest operation in recent history.”


Kuwaiti Embassy in Japan celebrates National Day and Liberation Day

Kuwaiti Embassy in Japan celebrates National Day and Liberation Day
Updated 21 February 2024
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Kuwaiti Embassy in Japan celebrates National Day and Liberation Day

Kuwaiti Embassy in Japan celebrates National Day and Liberation Day
  • Ambassador Sami Al-Zamanan hosted the reception and greeted the guests, who included Tsuji Kiyoto, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs
  • Al-Zamanan also stressed his country’s unity with the Palestinian people

TOKYO: The Embassy of Kuwait in Japan celebrated on Wednesday the 63rd anniversary of independence and the 33rd anniversary of liberation of Kuwait.
Ambassador Sami Al-Zamanan hosted the reception and greeted the guests, who included Tsuji Kiyoto, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, as well as various members of parliament, government officials, company leaders and diplomats.
In his welcoming speech, the ambassador said that his country’s independence “marked the historic beginning of our distinguished diplomatic relations with friendly Japan, with whom we share a strong friendship and a model partnership at multiple levels and fields.”
The Ambassador touched on the many problems facing the world today.
“Our ceremony today coincides with a number of bloody crises ravaging the world, most notably the humanitarian catastrophe resulting from the devastating earthquake that struck the Noto region in Japan, resulting in a large number of victims and injuries and extensive property destruction. We extend our sincere condolences to the friendly Japanese people and to the families of the victims.”
The ambassador recalled visiting the affected areas, where he met with a number of officials, as well as families and children who were affected by the disaster. He assured them that the Kuwaiti people always stand by the Japanese people in such circumstances.
Ambassador Al-Zamanan also stressed his country’s unity with the Palestinian people. “The dangerous humanitarian catastrophe in the occupied Palestinian territories and the aggression against the Gaza Strip have continued since October 7, 2023.” He stressed Kuwait’s “steadfast position in standing by the brotherly Palestinian people and supporting them in obtaining their full rights and establishing their independent state.”
Ambassador Al-Zamanan added: “We call for the need to strengthen joint international action to stop the ongoing fighting in Gaza, ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to it, and find the best ways to end this disaster, which threatens the security and stability of the region as a whole.”
State Minister Tsuji congratulated the government and people of Kuwait and said that Japan and Kuwait have been “important partners since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1961, not only in the energy sector but also in economic, cultural and other fields.”
He said that the two countries helped each other as friends when they faced historical difficulties, pointing to Japan’s financial assistance to Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion in 1990 – worth $13 billion – and sending minesweeping units of the Japanese Maritime Defense Forces to the Gulf.
He also praised the assistance provided by Kuwait to Japan following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. “Kuwait provided us with one of the most generous contributions of aid, which included a donation of crude oil worth 40 billion yen. Japan will never forget the generous assistance of Kuwait.”
Tsuji said that Japan and Kuwait share many common positions in the international arena and expressed Japan’s appreciation for Kuwait’s leadership in the United Nations, particularly on the topic of Security Council reform.
“Our two countries are great partners in working to rebuild confidence in the United Nations and the multilateral system,” Tsuji said.
He added that both countries are also committed to international efforts to resolve conflicts and provide humanitarian aid and stressed that Japan will continue to make every effort to cooperate with Kuwait at the bilateral and international levels “on the basis of our common values.”
Tsuji also expressed his “heartfelt” congratulations to Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah on the occasion of his assumption of the position of Emir of the State of Kuwait, and expressed his hope that Japanese-Kuwaiti relations will continue to develop under his new leadership.


Somalia announces deal with Turkiye to deter Ethiopia’s access to sea through breakaway region

Somalia announces deal with Turkiye to deter Ethiopia’s access to sea through breakaway region
Updated 21 February 2024
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Somalia announces deal with Turkiye to deter Ethiopia’s access to sea through breakaway region

Somalia announces deal with Turkiye to deter Ethiopia’s access to sea through breakaway region
  • Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre described the defense and economic deal with Turkiye as ‘a historic day for the country’
  • Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that senior officers from Ethiopia’s military were in Somaliland ‘preparing the ground’ for the territory’s annexation

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Somalia announced on Wednesday a defense deal with Turkiye that includes support for the Horn of Africa nation’s sea assets and appears aimed at deterring Ethiopia’s efforts to secure access to the sea by way of the breakaway region of Somaliland.
Ethiopia signed a memorandum of understanding with Somaliland on Jan. 1. The document has rattled Somalia, which said it’s prepared to go to war over it because it considers Somaliland part of its territory. Somaliland says Ethiopia agreed to recognize its independence in return for a naval port.
Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre described the defense and economic deal with Turkiye as “a historic day for the country,” after the council of ministers approved it.
“Somalia will have a true ally, a friend, and a brother in the international arena,” he said.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told reporters on Saturday that senior officers from Ethiopia’s military were in Somaliland “preparing the ground” for the territory’s annexation.
Ethiopia has not addressed the allegations but its Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has downplayed fear of conflict, telling lawmakers earlier this month that he had “no intention” of going to war with Somalia.
With a population of more than 120 million, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world.
Turkiye is a key player in Somalia, one of several states jockeying for influence in a country on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden — a pathway to the Red Sea.
Under the deal announced Wednesday, Turkiye will provide training and equipment to the Somali navy so it can better safeguard its territorial waters from threats such as terrorism, piracy, and “foreign interference.”
The deal, first signed by the two countries’ defense ministers on Feb. 8, will be in force for a decade, according to Somali authorities.
“For Somalia, it offers crucial support for security and development initiatives, while for Turkiye, it represents an opportunity to expand its influence and deepen its engagement in Africa,” said Mohamed H. Gaas, an analyst who heads the think tank Raad Peace Research Institute in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.