Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’
Georgia's Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze. (AFP/File photo)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’

Georgian PM says EU official made ‘horrific threat’
  • Oliver Varhelyi, EU commissioner for neighborhood policy and enlargement, says he regrets making the warning
  • The EU official says his remarks on the Slovak assassination attempt was 'taken out of context

TBILISI/BRUSSELS: Georgia’s prime minister on Thursday said an EU commissioner had hinted he could face an assassination bid over a controversial law but the official said the conversation had been distorted.
Georgian premier Irakli Kobakhidze said the unnamed commissioner told him to be “very careful,” citing this month’s assassination attempt on Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico, while discussing the legislation likened by critics to Russian-style laws.
The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies “pursuing the interests of a foreign power.”

President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed the bill, but the ruling Georgian Dream party has the numbers in parliament to override her veto in a vote next week, despite mass protests and sweeping global condemnation.
Critics say the measure mirrors Russian legislation used to stifle dissent, while Brussels warns it is “incompatible” with Tbilisi’s longstanding bid for European Union membership.
Kobakhidze said that “amid open blackmail” by high-ranking foreign politicians, an EU commissioner had called him to outline “measures, which Western politicians could take if the presidential veto is overridden.”
In what Kobakhidze called a “horrific threat,” he quoted the commissioner as saying: “You’ve seen what happened to (Robert) Fico and you must be very careful.”

Fico, a Euroskeptic populist, was shot four times at point-blank range on May 15. Slovak police arrested a 71-year-old suspect who said he had wanted to hurt Fico because he disagreed with government policies.

“As a precautionary measure, I decided to inform Georgian society of that threat,” Kobakhidze added in a statement.
EU Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said later: “I would like to express my very sincere regret that a certain part of my phone conversation was taken out of context.”
Georgia’s ruling party has faced widespread accusations of derailing the country from its EU membership path and leading the ex-Soviet republic back toward the Russian orbit.
But the party insists it is committed to EU and NATO membership — which are enshrined in the country’s constitution and supported by more than 80 percent of the population.
It has repeatedly accused Western countries of attempts to drag Tbilisi into Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Kamala Harris announces $1.5 billion US aid for Ukraine at peace summit in Switzerland

Kamala Harris announces $1.5 billion US aid for Ukraine at peace summit in Switzerland
Updated 35 min 55 sec ago
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Kamala Harris announces $1.5 billion US aid for Ukraine at peace summit in Switzerland

Kamala Harris announces $1.5 billion US aid for Ukraine at peace summit in Switzerland
  • The $1.5 billion includes $500 million in new funding for energy assistance
  • US vice president also announced more than $379 million in humanitarian assistance

LUCERNE, Switzerland: US Vice President Kamala Harris announced more than $1.5 billion in aid in part for Ukraine’s energy sector and its humanitarian situation as a result of Russia’s 27-month invasion of Ukraine.
The announcement was made as Harris attended a Ukraine peace summit in Lucerne, Switzerland, where she was to meet Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and address the summit’s plenary session.
The $1.5 billion includes $500 million in new funding for energy assistance and the redirecting of $324 million in previously announced funds toward emergency energy infrastructure repair and other needs in Ukraine, the vice president’s office said.
“These efforts will help Ukraine respond to Russia’s latest attacks on Ukraine energy infrastructure by supporting repair and recovery, improving Ukraine’s resilience to energy supply disruptions, and laying the groundwork to repair and expand Ukraine’s energy system,” Harris’ office said.
She also announced more than $379 million in humanitarian assistance from the State Department and the US Agency for International Development to help refugees and other people impacted by the war.
The money is to cover food assistance, health services, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene services for millions of Ukrainians. Harris, who will spend less than 24 hours at the gathering in Lucerne, Switzerland, will be standing in for President Joe Biden at the event. The president will be just ending his participation at the G7 summit in Italy and returning to the United States to attend a fundraiser for his reelection campaign in Los Angeles.
Harris will meet with Zelensky and address the summit’s plenary session. Biden met with Zelensky both at the G7 summit, where they signed a US-Ukraine bilateral security agreement, and in France for events surrounding the 80th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day invasion.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the United States at the summit on Sunday and help establish working groups on returning Ukrainian children from Russia and on energy security.


Princess of Wales appears at first public event since cancer diagnosis

Princess of Wales appears at first public event since cancer diagnosis
Updated 33 min 46 sec ago
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Princess of Wales appears at first public event since cancer diagnosis

Princess of Wales appears at first public event since cancer diagnosis

LONDON:

Catherine, Princess of Wales, on Saturday made a tentative return to public life for the first time since being diagnosed with cancer, attending a military parade in central London to mark Britain’s King Charles III’s official birthday.
Kate, as she is widely known, rode in a carriage alongside her three children at the outset of the annual celebration before disembarking to watch proceedings from a viewing point.
It comes nearly three months after the future queen revealed she was receiving chemotherapy treatment. The 42-year-old princess had not been seen at a public engagement since a Christmas Day service last year.
In a Friday evening statement Kate said she was “making good progress” with her treatment, which is set to last for several more months, but was “not out of the woods yet.”
“I’m looking forward to attending the King’s Birthday Parade this weekend with my family and hope to join a few public engagements over the summer,” the princess said.
Kate’s announcement that she had cancer came just weeks after it was disclosed that her father-in-law, King Charles III, had also been diagnosed with the condition.
Neither has revealed what type of cancer they have.
British head of state Charles, 75, was given the green light to resume public duties in April, after doctors said they were “very encouraged” by his progress.
His first engagement was meeting staff and patients at a London cancer treatment center.
Earlier this month, he attended commemoration events in northern France for the 80th anniversary of D-Day.


However, unlike previous years when he inspected troops on horseback at Trooping the Color, Charles participated this year from a carriage, in full military regalia alongside Queen Camilla.
His elder son and heir William, 41, rode on horseback, also in military uniform.
Kate, wearing a white dress and hat, had been seen arriving by car at Buckingham Palace with William and their children ahead of the parade, which formally began at 11:00 am (1000 GMT).
Spectators on The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace to witness the yearly ceremonial event welcomed Kate’s tentative return to public appearances.
“I was so pleased to hear the news last night,” Angela Perry, a teacher in her 50s from Reading in central England, told AFP.
“She’s our future queen. She’s so important,” she added, calling Kate’s reemergence “reassuring.”
Royal officials will be keen to manage expectations about Kate’s gradual return to the public eye, and have maintained that her appearances will depend on her treatment and recovery.
Kate explained in her statement that she had “good days and bad days” and was “taking each day as it comes.”
After traveling with Prince George, aged 10, Princess Charlotte, nine, and six-year-old Prince Louis in a state carriage to watch the parade from a building, the family were set to return to Buckingham Palace for a balcony appearance.

Trooping the Color marks the British sovereign’s official birthday and is a minutely choreographed military tradition dating back more than two centuries.
It starts at Buckingham Palace and moves down The Mall to Horse Guards Parade, where Charles will receive a royal salute before inspecting soldiers.
Charles was actually born in November but the second birthday tradition dates back to King George II in 1748, who wanted to have a celebration in better weather as his own birthday was in October.
The ceremony has its origins in the preparations for war, where all regimental flags — or colors — were shown to the soldiers so that they would recognize them in the confusion of battle.
This year’s event will include three of five military horses that bolted through the streets of central London in April after being spooked by the noise of building construction.
London’s Metropolitan Police said it would mount a “significant” security operation and had been liaising with anti-monarchy group Republic, which kicked off protests at the event.
The force said it had banned “amplified sound” in and around the parade route on public safety grounds and to avoid disruption to the mounted regiments taking part.
Republic’s activists, who huddled on a section of The Mall alongside royalists, held aloft placards bearing slogans including “not my king” and “down with the crown.”


Indian technology institute to start undergrad courses in UAE

Indian technology institute to start undergrad courses in UAE
Students participate in a summer program run by the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi in Abu Dhabi in July 2023. (WAM)
Updated 15 June 2024
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Indian technology institute to start undergrad courses in UAE

Indian technology institute to start undergrad courses in UAE
  • Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi globally ranks 45th in engineering and technology
  • Its UAE branch was established in 2023 and is the IIT’s first campus set up abroad

NEW DELHI: The Abu Dhabi branch of the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi is set to start its first undergraduate courses in September — a milestone expected to kickstart the school’s further expansion in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi is a public engineering institute in the Indian capital, one of 23 IITs operating across the country and offering undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate-level programs.

Run by the Indian Ministry of Education, it is considered one of the best centers of excellence for training, research and science in India, and is globally ranked 45th in engineering and technology in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024.

The institute’s UAE branch is funded by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education based on an agreement with the Indian government signed in July 2023.

Currently hosted by Zayed University, the IIT-Delhi Abu Dhabi started its teaching program in January with a master’s course in energy transition and sustainability, which paved the way for full-fledged operations to be launched in the academic year 2024-25.

“The undergraduate program is a flagship program of the IITs and hence its launch is significant,” Prof. Shantanu Roy, director of the IIT Delhi-Abu Dhabi, told Arab News this week.

“We would like to reach out to international students in the GCC countries. We will also be rolling out our research programs shortly and would like to engage with partners in Abu Dhabi, UAE and the region. IIT-Delhi Abu Dhabi will serve as a meeting point between IIT Delhi and its long 60-plus years legacy in teaching and research, and partners and collaborators in the UAE and neighboring countries.”

The two upcoming undergraduate programs will have a batch of 30 students each. Most of the students will enter based on the institute’s new examination, which the director said was customized for the UAE.

“A significant number of Emirati students have registered ... We see many students in our outreach programs,” Roy said.

“Eleven out of 18 students in our inaugural master’s program in energy transition and sustainability are UAE nationals. They are doing very well, and we are proud of them.”

The offshore campus is a part of the UAE-India comprehensive economic partnership agreement that came into force in May 2022.

The UAE branch is the IIT’s first campus set up abroad.

“The opening of the IIT campus in Abu Dhabi is indeed a significant milestone,” Sunjay Sudhir, Indian ambassador to the UAE told Arab News. “Now, in September, the first bachelor of technology courses in computer science and energy will commence.”

He said that IIT operations would not only strengthen the institute’s global brand, but also Abu Dhabi’s position as a hub for high-tech and innovation.

“The IIT-Delhi campus will be an important part of the innovation ecosystem of this country,” Sudhir said. “We expect a strong linkage between the IIT-Delhi campus and other research teaching establishments and also industries.”


Philippines seeks UN confirmation of its vast continental seabed in the disputed South China Sea

Philippines seeks UN confirmation of its vast continental seabed in the disputed South China Sea
Updated 15 June 2024
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Philippines seeks UN confirmation of its vast continental seabed in the disputed South China Sea

Philippines seeks UN confirmation of its vast continental seabed in the disputed South China Sea
  • The Philippine government submits information to UN body on the extent of its undersea shelf in the South China Sea

MANILA: The Philippines has asked a United Nations body to formally recognize the extent of its undersea continental seabed in the South China Sea, where it would have the exclusive right to exploit resources, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday, in a move that rejects China’s vast territorial claims to the region.
The Philippine government submitted information to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on the extent of its undersea shelf in the South China Sea, off western Palawan province, after more than a decade and a half of scientific research, the department said.
China did not immediately comment but it will likely contest the Philippine move.
The undersea region where the Philippines seeks to formally establish its sovereign rights under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, covers the Spratlys, a chain of islands, islets, reefs and atolls that has been fiercely contested over the years by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Indonesia has also confronted Chinese coast guard and fishing fleets in the gas-rich Natuna sea in the fringes of the South China Sea.
“Incidents in the waters tend to overshadow the importance of what lies beneath,” Philippine Foreign Assistant Secretary Marshall Louis Alferez said. “The seabed and the subsoil extending from our archipelago up to the maximum extent allowed by UNCLOS hold significant potential resources that will benefit our nation and our people for generations to come.”
“Today, we secure our future by making a manifestation of our exclusive right to explore and exploit natural resources in our extended continental shelf entitlement,” Alferez said.
Under the 1982 UN convention, a coastal state could have exclusive rights to exploit resources in its continental shelf, a vast stretch of seabed that can extend up to 350 nautical miles (648 kilometers), including the right to authorize and regulate any kind of drilling.
The Philippines’ undersea continental shelf could potentially overlap with those of other coastal states in the South China Sea, including that of Vietnam. Philippine officials expressed readiness to hold talks to resolve such issues based on UNCLOS.
Philippine permanent representative to the UN Antonio Lagdameo said the move “can reinvigorate efforts of states to demonstrate their readiness to pursue UNCLOS processes in the determination of maritime entitlements and promote a rules-based international order.”
Hostilities and tensions in the disputed waters have alarmingly escalated particularly between China and the Philippines over two disputed shoals since last year. Chinese coast guard ships and suspected militia vessels have used powerful water cannons and dangerous blocking maneuvers against Philippine coast guard patrol ships and navy boats that have injured Filipino navy personnel, damaged their supply boats and strained diplomatic relations between the two countries.
After a tense standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships near a shoal in 2012, the Philippines brought its disputes with China the following year to international arbitration. The arbitration panel invalidated China’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea in a 2016 ruling but Beijing refused to participate in the arbitration, rejected the decision and continues to defy it.


North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap

North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap
Updated 15 June 2024
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North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap

North Korea building roads, walls inside Demilitarized Zone: Yonhap
  • Construction activities are taking place north of the Military Demarcation Line that runs through the middle of the DMZ
  • North Korea strictly controls the flow of information inside its borders, and is extremely sensitive about its people gaining access to South Korean content

SEOUL: North Korea’s military has been building roads and walls inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from the South, the Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.
The construction activities are taking place north of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that runs through the middle of the DMZ, the South Korean agency said, citing an unnamed military source.
The report follows an incident last week when South Korean forces fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the MDL.
South Korean authorities said it was likely accidental, and Yonhap quoted a military spokesman as saying some of the North Koreans were carrying work tools.
“Recently, the North Korean military has been erecting walls, digging the ground and constructing roads in some areas between the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Northern Limit Line in the DMZ,” the military source said, according to Yonhap on Saturday.
It was not clear what they were building, the source told Yonhap.
When asked about the report, the South Korean military said in a statement that it was “closely tracking and monitoring the activities of the North Korean military,” and that “further analysis is required.”
It said it could not share the South Korean response to these actions “to ensure the safety of the personnel proceeding with an operation,” without offering further details.
South Korea’s spy agency said this week that it had detected signs that North Korea was demolishing sections of a railway line connecting the two countries.
That followed an escalation in the propaganda war between the two Koreas.
North Korea sent more than a thousand balloons carrying trash into the South, describing them as retaliation for the propaganda balloons sent the other way by anti-Pyongyang activists.
Then, South Korea resumed blasting K-pop songs and news broadcasts at the North, using loudspeakers installed at the border.
The resumption of the loudspeaker campaign prompted Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to threaten an unspecified “new countermeasure.”
North Korea strictly controls the flow of information inside its borders, and is extremely sensitive about its people gaining access to South Korean content, especially pop culture.
It has previously threatened artillery strikes against the South Korean loudspeakers — a psychological warfare tactic that dates back to the 1950-53 Korean War.