China joins Ukraine talks in Jeddah

China joins Ukraine talks in Jeddah
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Ukrainian and Western diplomats hope the meeting in Jeddah of senior officials from about 40 countries will agree on key principles for a future peace settlement of the war in Ukraine. (AN file photo)
China joins Ukraine talks in Jeddah
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Wheat harvest goes on at a farm near Kramatorsk in Ukraine's Donetsk region on August 4, 2023, amid the Russian invasion. Saudi Arabia is hosting talks to end the war, which has disrupted food exports from the world's "bread basket," affecting global food supply. (AFP)
China joins Ukraine talks in Jeddah
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This handout photograph released by Ukrainian Emergency Service on August 2, 2023 shows a view of a damaged building at a Ukrainian port on the Danube after a Russian night drone attack in Odesa region. (AFP)
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Updated 05 August 2023
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China joins Ukraine talks in Jeddah

China joins Ukraine talks in Jeddah
  • Saudi diplomacy played a key role in persuading Beijing to attend the Jeddah talks: German official
  • China snubbed a previous round of talks in Copenhagen in late June

JEDDAH: Chinese special envoy for Eurasian affairs Li Hui will take part in weekend talks in Saudi Arabia on finding a peaceful settlement to the war in Ukraine, China’s foreign ministry said on Friday.
“China is willing to work with the international community to continue to play a constructive role in promoting a political solution to the crisis,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

Ukrainian and Western diplomats hope the meeting in Jeddah of national security advisers and other senior officials from about 40 countries will agree on key principles for a future peace settlement.
The participation of China is a diplomatic coup for the Kingdom. China was invited to a previous round of talks in Copenhagen in late June but did not attend.

Saudi diplomacy played a key role in persuading Beijing to attend the Jeddah talks, a German official said.

Saudi state news agency SPA said the kingdom anticipated the meeting would reinforce “dialogue and cooperation... to ensure a solution for the crisis through political and diplomatic means.”
Ukrainian and Western officials said Riyadh wants to play a prominent diplomatic role.
The gathering is more palatable to Beijing with Saudi Arabia as host since it will not be seen as engineered by the West, said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center in Washington.
A senior European Union official said Saudi Arabia reached “into parts of the world where (Ukraine’s) classical allies would not get to as easily.”

10-point formula

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday he hoped the initiative will lead to a “peace summit” of leaders from around the world this autumn to endorse the principles, based on his own 10-point formula for a settlement.
Zelensky’s formula includes respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the withdrawal of Russian troops, anathema to Moscow which claims to have annexed occupied Ukrainian territory forever.
Ukrainian, Russian and international officials say there is no prospect of direct peace talks between Ukraine and Russia at the moment, as the war continues to rage and Kyiv seeks to reclaim territory through a counter-offensive.




This handout photograph released by Ukrainian Emergency Service on August 2, 2023 shows a view of a damaged building at a Ukrainian port on the Danube after a Russian night drone attack in Odesa region. (AFP)

But Ukraine aims first to build a bigger coalition of diplomatic support beyond its core Western backers by reaching out to Global South countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa, many of which have remained publicly neutral.
Earlier this week, the Kremlin said it would keep an eye on the Jeddah meeting, while restating Moscow’s position that it currently saw no grounds for peace talks with Kyiv.
“We need to understand what goals are set and what will be discussed. Any attempt to promote a peaceful settlement deserves a positive evaluation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
Western diplomats say an endorsement of all of Zelensky’s peace formula is highly unlikely at the talks. But they want to at least get clear backing for principles enshrined in the UN Charter — the founding document of the United Nations — such as territorial integrity.
The US and its allies also have been wary about embracing a Beijing-led peace initiative, and analysts doubted China would look to take a leading role at the conference.
“I don’t see the Chinese pushing an agenda,” said Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Beijing’s participation was more likely motivated by prestige and the opportunity to court Middle East and Global South countries.

In seeking to win over Global South countries, Western officials said they will stress that food prices have jumped since Russia quit a deal to allow safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea and carried out a string of air strikes on Ukraine’s ports.
“We’ll be for sure making this point and loud and clear,” another senior EU official said.

As officials prepared for the talks, Ukraine carried out a drone strike against Russian naval targets on the Black Sea, damaging the Olenegrorsky Gornyak landing ship in the Novorossiysk naval base in southern Russia.
“The goal was to show that Ukraine can attack any Russian warship in that zone,” a Ukrainian security source said.

“Another Russian ship is on the edge of its fall,” the Ukrainian foreign ministry said, publishing video footage of a military vessel listing heavily.
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said: “The presence of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea... will be put to an end. Ukraine will ensure freedom and security in the Black Sea for world trade.”

(With Reuters)

 


Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots

Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots
Updated 9 sec ago
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Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots

Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots
  • Villages are largely self-segregated by religion in and around Muzaffarnagar in the most populous Uttar Pradesh state
  • Violent clashes broke out in 2013 after two Hindus stabbed Muslim youth to death, accusing him of harassing their sister

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Hindu-Muslim enmity made way for peace in an Indian district that saw deadly riots a decade ago but religious divisions still influence residents who voted on Friday in general elections in which Hindu nationalism is a key theme.

Villages are largely self-segregated by religion in and around Muzaffarnagar district, in the most populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, but people say there is no longer tension between the majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities.

Violent clashes broke out here in 2013 after two Hindus stabbed a Muslim youth to death, accusing him of sexually harassing their sister. They were later beaten to death by a Muslim mob, which sparked riots that killed about 65 people, mostly Muslims, and displaced thousands.

Violence has not returned to the district known as the country's sugarcane-belt, but political divisions remain as Hindus typically vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Muslims for the opposition.

Modi's government has "controlled Muslims", said Ramesh Chand, a Hindu biscuit baker in Kairana city near Muzaffarnagar.

Critics accuse the nationalist BJP of targeting India's 200 million minority Muslims to please their hardline Hindu base - charges they deny.

Modi is widely expected to win a third term on the back of strong growth, welfare and his personal popularity despite some concern about unemployment, price rises and rural distress.

Chand said Modi had improved security in the region. "We can live in peace, whether or not we have jobs ... We can sleep with our doors open."

There were opposing views too.

In Jaula village, sugarcane farmer Mohammed Irfan, 50, said Modi's "high-handedness against Muslims" as well as unemployment and inflation were major reasons for him voting for the opposition Samajwadi Party.

Uttar Pradesh elects 80 lawmakers to the 543-member lower house of parliament, the most among all states, and a strong showing here is critical to the nationwide outcome.

Support for Modi was visible in Kutba Kutbi village, the epicentre of the 2013 riots.

Although there is "brotherhood" between the two communities now, nearly all Muslim families left the village after the riots, said Vinay Kumar Baliyan, 43, a farmer who said he supports Modi for promoting economic growth and raising India's stature globally.

But Irfan said Muslims are expected to vote in larger numbers this time as Eid celebrations this month brought many migrant workers and students home.


After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup

After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup
Updated 19 April 2024
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After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup

After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup
  • The UN health body said it puts out global medical product alerts to ‘encourage diligence’ by authorities
  • The WHO this week sent out alert on five batches of contaminated cough syrup ingredients found in Pakistan

LONDON: The World Health Organization is likely to issue a wider warning about contaminated Johnson and Johnson-made children’s cough syrup found in Nigeria last week, it said in an email.

Nigeria’s regulator recalled a batch of Benylin paediatric syrup last Wednesday, having found a high level of diethylene glycol in the product during routine testing.

The contaminant, alongside another closely related toxin, ethylene glycol, has been linked to the deaths of more than 300 children in Cameroon, Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan since 2022, though there is no evidence that these incidents are linked with the latest recalls.

The UN health body said it puts out global medical product alerts to “encourage diligence” by national authorities and was likely to do so in this instance, “subject to confirmation of certain details from parties.”

The recalled batch of Benylin syrup was made by J&J in South Africa in May 2021, although Kenvue now owns the brand after a spin-off from J&J last year.

J&J has referred requests for comment to Kenvue. In an emailed statement on Friday, Kenvue said it had carried out tests on the batch recalled by Nigeria and had not detected either diethylene or ethylene glycol.

“We continue to work closely with health authorities and the WHO and are engaging with NAFDAC to understand their test results, including verifying the authenticity of the sampled product, the testing methodology used, and results reported by the agency,” the statement added.

Since Nigeria’s recall, five other African countries have also pulled the product from shelves — Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, where the drug was made.

South Africa’s regulator has also recalled another batch of the syrup, which is used to treat coughs, hay fever and other allergic reactions in children.

Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans when consumed and can result in acute kidney failure, although there have been no reports of harm in the latest incident.

RAW MATERIALS

In the 2022 cases, the contamination in the syrups came from the raw materials used by manufacturers in India and Indonesia.

The WHO said it was collaborating with both the manufacturer and regulatory authority in South Africa to investigate the Benylin paediatric syrup, and had information on the source of the ingredients used. Kenvue has previously said it tested its ingredients before manufacture.

The agency said the possibility that the syrup was counterfeit was also “under consideration as part of investigations.”

Earlier this week the WHO sent out a separate alert on five batches of contaminated cough syrup ingredients found in Pakistan that appeared to have been falsely labelled as Dow Chemical products.

It was the first alert the WHO has sent on excipients — elements of a medicine other than the active pharmaceutical ingredient — rather than finished products, the agency confirmed on Friday.

The batches of propylene glycol were contaminated with ethylene glycol.

“It was critical for WHO to also alert manufacturers that may have been procuring this material to exercise more caution,” a WHO spokesperson said by email.

Propylene glycol is not an ingredient in Benylin paediatric syrup, a Kenvue spokesperson said on Friday.


Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports

Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports
Updated 19 April 2024
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Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports

Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports
  • Decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis

WARSAW: Polish national airline LOT canceled flights on Friday to Tel Aviv and Beirut due to the unstable situation in the region, a spokesperson was quoted as saying by state news agency PAP.
“Today’s flight 151/152 to Israel from Warsaw and to Beirut 143/144 have been canceled,” Krzysztof Moczulski told PAP. He said decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis.


French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate
Updated 19 April 2024
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French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate
  • Police verifying man’s identity and trying to determine whether he had weapons

PARIS: A man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris was arrested by police, a police source said.

French police earlier cordoned off the Iranian consulate, Reuters reporters saw, and did not immediately confirm finding any weapons.

A police source told Reuters the man was seen at about 11 am (0900 GMT) entering the consulate, carrying what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest.

A Paris police official told The Associated Press that officers were verifying the man’s identity and trying to determine whether he had weapons.

Police earlier said they were at the scene and asked the public to avoid the area but provided no further details.

Service was interrupted on a nearby metro line for security reasons, the RATP metro company said.

A police cordon remained in place on Friday afternoon, but traffic was resuming in the area.

A person at the Iranian embassy who responded to a call from Reuters declined to provide any information on the situation.

It was unclear whether the incident had any link to the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel.

Earlier on Friday, explosions echoed over the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged toward averting region-wide war.

The incident also comes as Paris is gearing up to host the summer Olympics.

* With Reuters and AP


Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’
Updated 19 April 2024
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Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’
  • ‘All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation’

CAPRI, Italy: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday refused to comment on reports of an attack by Israel on Iran, beyond saying Washington was “not involved in any offensive operation.”

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with G7 counterparts in Italy, he declined to answer repeated questions about explosions in Iran, and reports that Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes.

“I’m not going to speak to these reported events... All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation,” Blinken told a press conference on the island of Capri.

“The US has not been involved in any offensive operation,” he said.

Speaking to reporters earlier, G7 host Antonio Tajani, the foreign minister of Italy, said Washington had been informed in advance of the strikes, without giving details.

“The United States were informed at the last moment,” he said, adding that “it was just information” passed on — without saying who by.

The reports dominated the G7 Friday, with Tajani forced to change the agenda, but little public information emerged.

In its final statement, the Group of Seven ministers said: “In light of reports of strikes on April 19th, we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation. The G7 will continue to work to this end.”

Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel almost a week ago, in retaliation for a deadly strike — which Tehran blamed on its foe — that levelled Iran’s consular annex at its embassy in Syria.