China and Russia reaffirm their close ties as Moscow presses its offensive in Ukraine

China and Russia reaffirm their close ties as Moscow presses its offensive in Ukraine
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin after an informal meeting in Beijing, China, on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
China and Russia reaffirm their close ties as Moscow presses its offensive in Ukraine
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Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, gestures while speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin after an informal meeting in Beijing, China, on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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China and Russia reaffirm their close ties as Moscow presses its offensive in Ukraine

China and Russia reaffirm their close ties as Moscow presses its offensive in Ukraine
  • Putin and Xi said they were seeking an end to the war in Ukraine, but they offered no new proposals in their public remarks
  • China claims to take a neutral position in the conflict, but continues to supply key components needed by Moscow for weapons production

BEIJING: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday reaffirmed their “no-limits” partnership that has deepened as both countries face rising tensions with the West, and they criticized US military alliances in Asia and the Pacific region.

At their summit in Beijing, Putin thanked Xi for China’s proposals for ending the war in Ukraine, which have been rejected by Ukraine and its Western supporters as largely following the Kremlin’s line.
Putin’s two-day state visit to one of his strongest allies and trading partners comes as Russian forces are pressing an offensive in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region in the most significant border incursion since the full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022.
China claims to take a neutral position in the conflict, but it has backed the Kremlin’s contentions that Russia was provoked into attacking Ukraine by the West, and it continues to supply key components needed by Moscow for weapons production.
China, which hasn’t criticized the invasion, proposed a broadly worded peace plan in 2023, calling for a ceasefire and for direct talks between Moscow and Kyiv. The plan was rejected by both Ukraine and the West for failing to call for Russia to leave occupied parts of Ukraine.
China also gave a rhetorical nod to Russia’s narrative about Nazism in Ukraine, with a joint statement Thursday that said Moscow and Beijing should defend the post-World War II order and “severely condemn the glorification of or even attempts to revive Nazism and militarism.”
Putin has cited the “denazification” of Ukraine as a main goal of the military action, falsely describing the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust, as neo-Nazis.
The largely symbolic and ceremonial visit stressed partnership between two countries who both face challenges in their relationship with the US and Europe.
“Both sides want to show that despite what is happening globally, despite the pressure that both sides are facing from the US, both sides are not about to turn their backs on each other anytime soon,” said Hoo Tiang Boon, who researches Chinese foreign policy at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
While Putin and Xi said they were seeking an end to the war, they offered no new proposals in their public remarks.
“China hopes for the early return of Europe to peace and stability and will continue to play a constructive role toward this,” Xi said in prepared remarks to media in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. His words echoed what China said when it offered a broad plan for peace.
Earlier, Putin was welcomed in Tiananmen Square with military pomp. After a day in Beijing, the Russian leader arrived in Harbin, where he was expected to attend a number of events on Friday.
On the eve of his visit, Putin said China’s proposal could “lay the groundwork for a political and diplomatic process that would take into account Russia’s security concerns and contribute to achieving a long-term and sustainable peace.”
Zelensky has said any negotiations must include a restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the withdrawal of Russian troops, the release of all prisoners, a tribunal for those responsible for the aggression and security guarantees for Ukraine.
After Russia’s latest offensive in Ukraine last week, the war is in a critical stage as Ukraine’s depleted military waits for new supplies of anti-aircraft missiles and artillery shells from the United States after months of delay.
The joint statement from China and Russia also criticized US foreign policy at length, hitting out at US-formed alliances, which the statement called having a “Cold War mentality.”
China and Russia also accused the US of deploying land-based intermediate range missile systems in the Asia-Pacific under the pretext of joint exercises with allies. They said that the US actions in Asia were “changing the balance of power” and “endangering the security of all countries in the region.”
The joint statement demonstrated China’s support to Russia.
China is “falling over themselves to give Russia face and respect without saying anything specific, and without committing themselves to anything,” said Susan Thornton, a former diplomat and a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School.
The meeting was yet another affirmation of the friendly “no-limits” relationship China and Russia signed in 2022, just before Moscow invaded Ukraine.
Since then, Russia has become increasingly dependent economically on China as Western sanctions cut its access to much of the international trading system. China’s increased trade with Russia, totaling $240 billion last year, has helped the country mitigate some of the worst blowback from sanctions.
Moscow has diverted the bulk of its energy exports to China and relied on Chinese companies for importing high-tech components for Russian military industries to circumvent Western sanctions.
“I and President Putin agree we should actively look for convergence points of the interests of both countries, to develop each’s advantages, and deepen integration of interests, realizing each others’ achievements,” Xi said.
US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said that China can’t “have its cake and eat it too.
“You cannot want to have deepened relations with Europe … while simultaneously continuing to fuel the biggest threat to European security in a long time,” Patel said.
Xi congratulated Putin on starting his fifth term in office and celebrated the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, which was established following a civil war in 1949. Putin has eliminated all major political opponents and faced no real challenge in the March election.
“In a famous song of that time, 75 years ago — it is still performed today — there is a phrase that has become a catchphrase: ‘Russians and Chinese are brothers forever,’” Putin said.
Russia-China military ties have strengthened during the war. They have held a series of joint war games in recent years.
China remains a major market for Russian military, while also massively expanding its domestic defensive industries, including building aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.
Putin has previously said that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies with China that helped significantly bolster its defense capability.
 


Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Cyprus plans to build a major naval base to play a larger geopolitical role, says defense minister

An Open Arms ship and ship Jennifer, of the World Central Kitchen carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip, prepare to set sail.
  • Cyprus has in recent months been staging ground for collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to Gaza
  • Aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened

NICOSIA: Cyprus’ defense minister said Wednesday that plans are in motion to build a major naval base on the east Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast capable of hosting large ships from European Union countries and other nations to carry out a variety of missions including humanitarian aid deliveries to the tumultuous Middle East region.
Vasilis Palmas told reporters that Cyprus’ recently elevated geopolitical role as the European Union’s closest member to the Middle East warrants the building of infrastructure that can support policies geared toward the region.
Cyprus has in recent months been the staging ground for the collection and delivery of donated humanitarian aid to war-ravaged Gaza. The aid is being shipped from the Cypriot port of Larnaca to the Palestinian territory after being security screened. Last year, Cyprus served as a waystation for third-country nationals evacuated from Sudan.
Palmas said the construction of the base would “contribute decisively” to policy implementation in the region.
He said Greece is contributing technical know-how to the project, while actual construction will be guided by the findings of an expert study that will be completed in the next few days.
The naval base will be built on an existing naval installation some 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of the coastal town of Limassol, which in 2011 was the site of a huge explosion of 480 tons of seized Iranian gunpowder that killed 13 people, knocked out Cyprus’ main power station and stirred up a political crisis.


190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts
Updated 17 July 2024
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190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

190 Russian, Ukrainian prisoners exchanged following UAE mediation efforts

ABU DHABI: The UAE has succeeded in securing the exchange of 190 prisoners of war between Russian and Ukraine, state news agency WAM has reported.

The UAE now secured the release of 1,558 captives with its sixth successful mediation effort between the warring parties, less than one month after the previous exchange process, the report added.

“These efforts reflect the UAE’s commitment to being a reliable mediator supporting diplomacy to resolve the crisis between the two countries,” a statement for the UAE’s foreign ministry said.

The UAE was committed to ‘continuing all efforts and initiatives aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict, stressing the importance of dialogue, and de-escalation, as the only ways to resolve the conflict, and for mitigating its humanitarian repercussions,’ it added.

The UAE also managed to negotiate the exchange of two prisoners between the United States and the Russian Federation in December 2022.


Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

Pakistan summons Taliban envoy after attack on military base

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign ministry summoned the Taliban's deputy head of mission on Wednesday and urged their administration to take action against Afghanistan-based militant groups that Islamabad says attacked a military base this week.
Militants attacked the base in Bannu in northwestern Pakistan on Monday, killing eight Pakistani security force members.


Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests

Bangladesh shuts educational institutions after students killed in protests
  • Students say seven killed in overnight clashes with police, government supporters
  • They protest reservation of 30 percent of government jobs for families of 1971 war fighters

DHAKA: Bangladesh indefinitely closed all educational institutions on Wednesday following deadly clashes between students and police, as campus protests against job quotas spread across the country.

Students have been demonstrating at campuses since early July against the government’s quota system, in which 30 percent of public service jobs are reserved for the families of those who fought in Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation war.

The students demand the system’s reform and more just distribution of the well-paid public service jobs.

The protests turned violent on Sunday, after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undermined the cause by suggesting that the demonstrators supported the “razakars,” or those who had collaborated with the Pakistani military — an enemy occupying force — during the 1971 war.

Students denounced the comparison and more of them joined the rallies, where they clashed with members of the youth wing of Hasina’s ruling Awami League party and security forces.

As violence escalated and turned deadly on Tuesday, the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh announced in separate notifications that all secondary educational institutions, universities and medical colleges across the country would remain closed “until further notice” and “for the safety of the students.”

According to local media reports at least six people, including four students, were killed and 400 injured when the clashes broke out in Dhaka, Chottogram, Rajshahi and Rangpur.

Protesters estimate that the actual numbers are even higher.

“More than 1,000 of our protesters were injured during the clashes. Seven died, including one bystander. Just now, we held funeral prayers in absentia for our fellows who lost their lives,” said Mohammad Nahid Islam, coordinator of the Students Against Discrimination group, which is part of the protests in Dhaka.

“Today, police attacked protesting students at the Dhaka University campus with a stun grenade and tear gas shells. Many of our female students became sick and injured ... We are concerned about our security.”

Despite repeated attempts by Arab News, Bangladesh Police did not respond to requests for comment.


Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams
Updated 17 July 2024
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Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

Women lawyers top Philippines’ Shariah Bar exams

MANILA: Women have topped this year’s Shariah Bar examinations in the Philippines, with Supreme Court data showing that female examinees not only obtained the best score but also had the highest passing rate.

Shariah, or Islamic law, is partially implemented in the Philippines, applicable only to the Muslim community — about 10 percent of the 120 million of the country’s predominantly Catholic population.

A total of 853 candidates took part in the Shariah Bar exam in April and May, and 183 passed it. More than half of those who passed the exams were women, nine of whom were among the top 10 scorers.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh announced the results on Tuesday, saying that “62.3 percent of the total passers are female. I’m very happy to announce that.”

This year’s exam also saw the “largest number of Shariah Bar examinees we have had in nearly 40 years,” Singh said.

“This is to strengthen and make the Shariah justice system more accessible by encouraging and giving more opportunities to aspiring Shariah councilors.”

Separate from the regular Bar tests for aspiring lawyers, the Shariah Bar exams are the professional licensure examination covering Islamic law for Shariah court councilor candidates.

Established under the 1977 Code of Muslim Personal Laws, the Islamic law courts are under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court and have jurisdiction over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as well as other parts of the southern Mindanao island, which have significant Muslim populations.

The courts have application over personal status law, including marriage, as well as financial laws and halal certification.

The Supreme Court said last year that in its goal to “strengthen the Shariah justice system” under the Strategic Plan for Judicial Innovations 2022-2027, it was studying the possibility of expanding the mandate of Islamic courts to cover also criminal and commercial cases.