Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA
Prime Minister of Pakistan Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar addresses the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City on Sept. 22, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 September 2023
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Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA
  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar welcomes Saudi-Iranian normalization, calls for two-state solution for Palestine
  • Premier says global powers should convince India to accept offer of mutual restraint on strategic weapons

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday called for action to halt militant attacks from neighboring Afghanistan, endorsed Saudi Arabia and Iran’s diplomatic rapprochement, and advocated a two-state solution as the path to enduring peace in Palestine.
Kakar achieved a historic milestone as the first caretaker prime minister of his country to address the annual United Nations General Assembly session in New York, where he tackled global issues ranging from extremist violence and relations with India to the escalating challenges of climate change and Islamophobia.
“Pakistan’s first priority is to prevent and counter all terrorism from and within Afghanistan,” he told representatives of UN member states. “Pakistan condemns the cross-border attacks by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), Daesh and other groups operating from Afghanistan.”
The prime minister’s statement follows a dramatic surge in militant violence in Pakistan, mainly in regions bordering Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul in August 2021.
Attacks in the first half of this year rose by 80 percent compared with the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.
“We have sought Kabul’s support and cooperation to prevent these attacks,” the prime minister said. “We are also taking necessary measures to end this externally encouraged terrorism.”
Kakar reiterated his country’s position that peace in Afghanistan was a “strategic imperative” for Pakistan, while sharing international concerns with respect to its neighbor, particularly those related to the rights of women and girls.
“We advocate continued humanitarian assistance for the destitute Afghan population in which Afghan girls and women are the most vulnerable, as well as the revival of Afghan economy and implementation of the connectivity projects with Central Asia,” he said.
Discussing Pakistan’s relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor, the prime minister said his country desired “peaceful and productive” relations with all neighbors, including India.
“Global powers should convince New Delhi to accept Pakistan’s offer of mutual restraint on strategic and conventional weapons,” he said, adding that Kashmir provided the key to peace between the neighboring states.
Pakistan and India both rule parts of the disputed Himalayan region while claiming it in full. They have fought two wars over the mountainous territory, and their forces frequently exchange fire across a 740 km (466 mile) line of control, the de facto border separating the two parts of Kashmir.
“We must counter all terrorists without discrimination, including the rising threat posed by far-right extremist and fascist groups, such as Hindutva-inspired extremists threatening genocide against Indian Muslims and Christians,” he said.
“We also need to oppose state terrorism, address the root cause of terrorism, such as poverty, injustice and foreign occupation, and distinguish genuine freedom struggles from terrorism.”
The prime minister proposed the creation of a committee of the general assembly to oversee the balanced implementation of all “four pillars of the global counter terrorism strategy.”
He also applauded the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, while commenting on the overall strategic situation in the Middle East.
“Pakistan welcomes the progress made toward ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. In particular, we warmly welcome the normalization of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Focusing on the Palestine issue, Kakar mentioned continued “Israeli military raids, air strikes, expansion of settlements and eviction of Palestinians.”
He said: “A durable peace can be established only through a two-state solution, and establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state within the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds as its capital.”
The prime minister also mentioned the “age-old phenomenon” of Islamophobia, saying the problem had grown dramatically in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US, and could be seen in the negative profiling of Muslims and public burnings of the Qur’an.
“The narratives advocating a clash of civilizations have done considerable harm to humanity’s progress,” he said. “Such ideas have bred extremism, hatred and religious intolerance, including Islamophobia.”
Kakar welcomed legislation initiated by Denmark and contemplated by Sweden to ban desecration of the Islamic scripture.
“Pakistan and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries will propose further steps to combat Islamophobia, including the appointment of a special envoy, creation of an Islamophobia data center, legal assistance to victims and an accountability process to punish Islamophobic crimes,” he said.
Discussing the climate change issue, Kakar said Pakistan looked forward to fulfilling the climate commitments made at COP28 by developed countries to provide over $100 billion in annual climate finance.
“Pakistan’s triple food finance fuel challenge is a prime illustration of the impact of COVID conflict and climate on developing countries,” he said, adding that Pakistan was one of the countries worst hit by climate change.
Flooding in Pakistan last year submerged one-third of the country, killed 1,700 people, displaced over 8 million others, destroyed vital infrastructure and caused over $30 billion damage to the economy, Kakar said.
“We are gratified by the commitment of over $10.5 billion for the Pakistan’s comprehensive plan for recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction with resilience,” he said.
“Specific projects are being submitted to ensure timely funding. I hope our development partners will accord priority to the allocation of funds for our recovery plan which costs $13 billion.”


One dead in Greek wildfires fanned by gale-force winds

One dead in Greek wildfires fanned by gale-force winds
Updated 12 sec ago
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One dead in Greek wildfires fanned by gale-force winds

One dead in Greek wildfires fanned by gale-force winds
The man, 55, was injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula
Dozens of firefighters assisted by aircraft were deployed to tame forest fires in Ilia

ATHENS: A man died on Friday as several forest fires fanned by gale-force winds battered Greece's southern tip and forced evacuations, the fire brigade said.
The man, 55, was injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula and died at a hospital, said a fire service official.
Dozens of firefighters assisted by aircraft were deployed to tame forest fires in Ilia, the nearby Achaia region and near the town of Kranidi, also in Peloponnese.
Residents of several villages in those areas were told to flee their homes as blazes approached.
Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country, but they have become more devastating as summers have become hotter and drier, which scientists relate to climate change.
Winds of up to 95 kph (60 mph) were hampering operations of firefighting aircraft, Greek fire brigade spokesperson Vasilis Vathrakogiannis said.
"All civil protection forces have been on alert today," he told a televised briefing, as around 45 wildfires broke out in the country within a few hours.
One forest fire that briefly threatened houses at a coastal town close to the capital Athens was contained earlier on Friday, the fire brigade said.

Ukraine claims three oil refinery strikes inside Russia as Moscow says naval attack thwarted

Ukraine claims three oil refinery strikes inside Russia as Moscow says naval attack thwarted
Updated 21 June 2024
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Ukraine claims three oil refinery strikes inside Russia as Moscow says naval attack thwarted

Ukraine claims three oil refinery strikes inside Russia as Moscow says naval attack thwarted
  • Russia said its air defenses shot down scores of drones, including a half dozen it said were launching a naval attack in the Black Sea
  • SBU drones struck oil refineries in the Russian locations of Afipsky, Ilsky, and Krasnodar, which supply fuel for ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

KYIV: The Ukrainian military launched a wave of drones that struck three oil refineries inside southern Russia overnight, a security official said Friday, as Ukraine tries to disrupt the infrastructure that supplies the Russian military.
Russia said its air defenses shot down scores of drones, including a half dozen it said were launching a naval attack in the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian security official said his country’s forces also struck a drone-launching facility within Russia, but declined to say how that target was attacked. The operations involved the armed forces and the Ukrainian Security Service, SBU, the official said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to announce the information publicly.
SBU drones struck oil refineries in the Russian locations of Afipsky, Ilsky, and Krasnodar, which supply fuel for ships in Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the official said.
Ukrainian forces also struck a drone facility in the southern Russia town of Yeysk where Iranian-designed Shahed drones were stored and launched, the official said. A “series of explosions” were recorded there, the official said.
Russian regional authorities in the Krasnodar region said four people were injured, including oil refinery workers, as a result of drone strikes.
Despite improvements in Russia’s air defenses, Ukraine has continued its campaign to strike oil infrastructure across the border, hitting multiple sites in 2024, as part of a wider effort to disrupt Russia’s military supplies.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday that its air defenses had downed 114 Ukrainian drones It said that 70 drones were shot down in Crimea and the Black Sea, 43 in the Krasnodar region and one in the Volgograd region, further east.
Russian warplanes also destroyed six Ukrainian naval drones in the Black Sea early Friday, the ministry said, responding to an incident that appeared to be one of the largest drone attacks of its type in recent months.
Veniamin Kondratyev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, said that Ukrainian drones also damaged a boiler room near a bus station in the city of Krasnodar, killing a worker.


Vaccine group Gavi seeks $9 billion to immunize world’s poorest children

Vaccine group Gavi seeks $9 billion to immunize world’s poorest children
Updated 21 June 2024
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Vaccine group Gavi seeks $9 billion to immunize world’s poorest children

Vaccine group Gavi seeks $9 billion to immunize world’s poorest children
  • A separately funded $1.2 billion scheme to boost vaccine production in Africa, the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator, also launched
  • Gavi helps low-income countries buy vaccines to protect against killer diseases

LONDON: The global vaccine organization Gavi wants $9 billion from governments and foundations to fund immunization efforts in the world’s poorest countries over five years, it said on Thursday.
The amount was finalized at a meeting in Paris, where donors also began announcing commitments for the organization’s plan for 2026-2030. Gavi said it had already raised $2.4 billion of the total with months more fundraising to go, including $1.58 billion from the United States.
A separately funded $1.2 billion scheme to boost vaccine production in Africa, the African Vaccine Manufacturing Accelerator, also launched.
Gavi helps low-income countries buy vaccines to protect against killer diseases. Around one billion children have been immunized as a result of Gavi’s work since 2020.
Gavi Chief Executive Sania Nishtar said the group aims to move more quickly and offer more vaccines. This will include expanding a malaria vaccine roll-out, which began in Cameroon this year, as well as catching up on routine programs for diseases like measles, which were set back by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The global vaccine alliance wants to reach “the highest number of children, covering them against the widest number of diseases ... in the shortest possible time,” Nishtar told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday, ahead of the meeting.
The organization wants to reach 500 million children in the next five years, including 50 million children with the malaria vaccine.
Gavi board documents had suggested the alliance needs up to $11.9 billion for its work from 2026 on. The remaining money will come from leftover COVID-19 financing and some financial instruments the organization has in place, Nishtar said, although she acknowledged it was a very challenging time for global health, with aid budgets stretched worldwide by demands from conflicts to climate change.
“Gavi has never had to make trade-offs,” she said. “On the one hand, there is a wide portfolio of vaccines available. On the other hand, we’re looking at an environment where donors are resource constrained.”
But she said she was cautiously optimistic that the organization would raise the amount needed.
Gavi also plans to further expand its work in the coming years, for example by setting up an mpox vaccine stockpile. It is also likely to add a dengue vaccine to its program as climate change puts more countries at risk of outbreaks. It will also establish a “day zero” $500 million pandemic response fund for quick action on major outbreaks.


Germany arrests Ukrainian, Russian on spying charges

Germany arrests Ukrainian, Russian on spying charges
Updated 21 June 2024
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Germany arrests Ukrainian, Russian on spying charges

Germany arrests Ukrainian, Russian on spying charges
  • The three men were arrested in the western city of Frankfurt on Wednesday after allegedly trying “to gather information about a Ukrainian national“
  • Prosecutors did not specify which foreign secret service the men were allegedly working for

BERLIN: German prosecutors said Friday they had arrested three men — a Russian, a Ukrainian and an Armenian — on suspicion of spying for a foreign intelligence service.
The three men were arrested in the western city of Frankfurt on Wednesday after allegedly trying “to gather information about a Ukrainian national,” federal prosecutors said in a statement.
The men were only identified as Robert A. from Ukraine, Vardges I. from Armenia and Russian citizen Arman S.
Prosecutors did not specify which foreign secret service the men were allegedly working for, and declined to comment further when contacted by AFP.
“The three suspects were acting on behalf of a foreign intelligence service in Germany,” the statement said, adding that the trio had on June 19 “scouted a cafe in Frankfurt am Main where the target person was thought to be.”
Germany has uncovered numerous espionage cases on its soil since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
A former German intelligence officer is currently on trial in Berlin, accused of handing information to Moscow that showed Germany had access to details of Russian mercenary operations in Ukraine. He denies the charges.
Last month, a German former soldier was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for sharing secret military information with Russia in the wake of the outbreak of war in Ukraine.
Russian authorities for their part have levelled treason charges against dozens of people accused of aiding Ukraine and the West since the invasion.


Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison

Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison
Updated 21 June 2024
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Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison

Court blocks Modi opponent Kejriwal’s release from prison
  • He was released from detention to campaign partway through India’s weeks-long general election but returned to jail after voting ended this month

NEW DELHI: An Indian court stopped on Friday the release from jail of one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chief opponents, a day after he was granted bail in a long-running corruption case, reports said.
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi and the leader of the opposition Aam Aadmi party, denies the charges as a “political conspiracy” by Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He was released from detention to campaign partway through India’s weeks-long general election but returned to jail after voting ended this month.
A trial court ordered his release late Thursday, but before he could walk out of jail on Friday the country’s top economic crimes investigative agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), appealed to the Delhi High Court.
It suspended his release until it could decide on the appeal, local media reported.
The decision could come in “two-three days,” legal news portal Live Law posted on social media platform X.
Kejriwal is one of several opposition leaders in India under criminal investigation over various corruption-related probes, which Modi’s opponents say are being used by the premier to weaken any potential challengers.
The 55-year-old has been chief minister of Delhi, the region which includes the capital New Delhi, for nearly a decade.
He first came to prominence as an anti-corruption crusader, but his government was itself accused of graft when it liberalized liquor sales in 2021.
His party is a key member of the opposition INDIA bloc, led by the main opposition Congress party, which defied polls and expectations to deprive Modi’s BJP of its overall parliamentary majority in the election.