Weekly Global Newscast | February 4 - February 10 , 2019
China Condemns Indian PM Modi’s Visit to Arunachal Pradesh
China’s Foreign Ministry has condemned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the disputed north eastern border state of Arunachal Pradesh. In a statement released on Saturday, the ministry said it “resolutely opposes” activities by Indian leaders in the region.
‘Modi’s visit was part of a series of public meetings in the region aimed at garnering support for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in advance of Indian elections due by May. Despite recent efforts to improve bilateral ties between both countries, disputes over the mountainous Indo-China border – which triggered a war in 1962 – and the region that China claims as southern Tibet have remained a sensitive issue. “China urges the Indian side to proceed from the overall situation of bilateral relations, respect China’s interests and concerns, cherish the momentum of improving relations between the two countries, and refrain from any actions that intensify disputes and complicate the border issue,” the ministry said in a statement. In response, the official spokesperson at India’s foreign ministry said Arunachal Pradesh was “an integral and inalienable part of India”. “Indian leaders visit Arunachal Pradesh from time to time, as they visit other parts of India. This consistent position has been conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions.” said the ministry in a statement. India and China have sought to rebuild trust after an armed standoff over a stretch of the Himalayan border in 2017. Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met a number of times last year to give impetus to trade discussions.’ Reuters reported for Al Jazeera.
‘PM Modi’s visit was part of a series of public meetings in the region. Despite recent efforts to improve bilateral ties in both countries, disputes over the mountainous Indo-China border – which triggered a war in 1962 – and the region that China claims as southern Tibet have remained a sensitive issue. “China urges the Indian side to proceed from the overall situation of bilateral relations, respect China’s interests and concerns, cherish the momentum of improving relations between the two countries, and refrain from any actions that intensify disputes and complicate the border issue,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in response, said Arunachal Pradesh was an integral and inalienable part of India, and Indian leaders could visit it as and when required. “The state of Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. Indian leaders visit Arunachal Pradesh from time to time, as they visit other parts of India. This consistent position has been conveyed to Chinese side on several occasions,” a MEA spokesperson said.’ Associated Press reported for India Today.
Russia Says Ready to Help Taliban Talks on US Withdrawal
A top Russian diplomat has met with Taliban representatives and expressed Moscow’s support for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The meeting came after two days of talks between prominent Afghan figures and Taliban representatives in Moscow and contradictory statements about an immediate US forces pull-out from the country.
‘Zamir Kabulovm, the Russian presidential envoy on Afghanistan, told the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia is willing to help talks between the US and the Taliban on the withdrawal of US troops. It wasn’t clear what assistance the Russians would offer. Kabulov also said Moscow would be willing to support lifting sanctions on the Taliban as long as other UN Security Council members were also on board. Until now, the US has been at the forefront of negotiations. Since being appointed last September as the US special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Khalilzad has carried out a number of rounds of talks with the Taliban and other regional representatives in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, India, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The US envoy’s most recent talks were in Doha late last month where the two sides met for six days. Khalilzad told the New York Times that a draft framework was agreed that could eventually turn into an agreement.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘The Taliban is seeking the pullout of all foreign troops from Afghanistan within months, a senior official said, as the fundamentalist Islamic movement reached out to opponents of U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani at talks in Moscow. “This is the first step,’’ Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanikzai told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting with other Afghan factions. “It will continue in the future with the hope that it can bring peace one day to Afghanistan.” Ghani’s administration shunned the Feb. 5-6 Russian-hosted initiative, which came after the U.S. announced it was close to reaching a framework agreement with the Taliban on ending the 18-year Afghan war, including on the withdrawal of foreign troops. The Afghan government is worrying openly that the U.S. will leave them at the mercy of the Taliban. The militant group, which is on the offensive and already controls or contests about half of territory in Afghanistan, refuses to hold talks with the authorities in Kabul until it reaches a binding deal on the pullout of foreign troops, including 14,000 from the US.’ Henry Meyer and Eltaf Najafizad write for Bloomberg.
Middle East & North Africa
Russia Says Ready to Help Taliban Talks on US WithdIran’s Khamenei Clarifies His ‘Death to America’ Slogan as Aimed at ‘US Leaders, Not People’awal
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has defended the “Death to America” chants that are a standard fare at anti-US rallies across Iran, but said the slogan was aimed at American leaders and not its people. Khamenei’s website on Friday quoted him as saying the chant meant “death to US leaders, death to Trump and John Bolton and Pompeo”.
‘Khamenei said the Iranian people “will not stop saying ‘Death to America’ as long as the US acts maliciously” towards Iran. Khamenei was referring to Trump’s State of the Union address this week in which the American president, among other things, said: “We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America.” Khamenei’s remarks came as Iran marked the 40th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution. He also warned Iranian officials not to trust Europeans. Iran and Europe have been engaged in talks to save the 2015 nuclear deal after the US withdrew from it last year. “These days, there is a discussion concerning the Europeans and their proposals,” Khamenei said. “My advice would be that they should not be trusted, just like the US cannot be trusted.”’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Iran has no fight to pick with the American people, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said Friday. Well, maybe just a few of them. In comments at a gathering of Iranian air force officers, in which he called the United States the “embodiment of evil,” Khamenei also parsed the “Death to America!” chants so often heard at pro-government rallies in Iran. “I am telling the Americans, ‘Death to America’ means death to [President] Trump, [national security adviser] John Bolton and [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo,” he said, according to the supreme leader’s official website. (The speech was delivered in Persian and used the Persian phrase for “Death to America.” But an English translation of the speech posted on the website substituted the phrase “Down with the USA.”) The United States and Iran have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1980, after a group of students seized American hostages at the U.S. Embassy as part of Iran’s Islamic revolution. There are at least four Americans — some of whom are dual nationals — currently imprisoned in Iran. “It means down with the American politicians in charge. We have no fight to pick with the American people,” Khamenei said. But, he added: “As long as the United States shows viciousness and savagery, the Iranian nation will never cease shouting these words.”’ Erin Cunningham writes for The Washington Post.
Sub Saharan Africa
Egypt’s Sisi Takes Over as New Head of African Union
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over as chair of the African Union (AU) following a meeting by heads of state from the continent in Ethiopia’s capital.
‘Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took up his chairmanship of the 55-member African Union (AU) at its 32nd ordinary session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Sunday. During his tenure, el-Sissi is expected to concentrate on security and financial reform, but with no great plans to strengthen the AU’s multilateral powers. Instead, the focus is expected to be on combating illegal immigration while Egypt presents itself as a model for hosting refugees. The summit has been titled: “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons” presented within a security context.’ Associated Press reported for the Deutsche Welle.
‘The post rotates annually between the five regions of the continent. The Egyptian leader is expected to focus on the fight against armed groups on the continent and rebuilding efforts of countries recovering from conflict. “Terrorism remains a cancer that affects African nations and steals the dreams of our people and we must identify and combat those who fund terrorism activities on the continent,” Sisi said in a speech to the AU assembly shortly after his appointment. Under Egypt’s leadership the bloc will prioritise mediation and “preventive diplomacy” as one of the key mechanisms for promoting peace and security on the continent, he added. Sisi takes the helm from Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who focused on creating an Africa wide free-trade zone during his tenure. “There is no doubt that you (Sisi) will take our union forward decisively to new and greater heights,” the Rwandan leader said as he handed over to Egypt’s president.’ Hamza Mohamed writes for Al Jazeera.
Greek Parliament Approves Macedonia’s NATO Accession
Greece has ratified a NATO accord with Macedonia for the admission of the former Yugoslav Republic into the US-led military alliance after a deal over the name ended a 27-year-old dispute between them.
‘The Greek parliament on Friday ratified the NATO accession protocol for neighbouring Macedonia – renamed North Macedonia – with 153 votes in favour, 140 against and one abstention. The ratification ended a process to normalise relations between the two neighbours and anchor Macedonia firmly within the western sphere of influence. “Today’s vote closes the most important round of obligations involving Greece,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament ahead of the vote. “I’d like to welcome North Macedonia, a country friendly to Greece, a country that must be an ally in efforts to establish security, stability and peace in the region,” he said. “History will judge us. I feel we have carried out our patriotic duty.”’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.
‘Greece’s parliament on Friday approved a measure for FYROM to join NATO, ending a decades-old dispute watched closely by Western allies wary of Russian influence in the region. Lawmakers voted 153-140 to back the NATO protocol that must now also be approved by all other alliance members. The Greek vote means the former Yugoslav republic will now formally change its name to North Macedonia, settling the spat over the country’s name which Greece saw as a potential threat to its own northern region of Macedonia. “I would like to again welcome North Macedonia, a country that is friendly toward Greece, a country that must be a supporter — and not an opponent — of our efforts to establish safety, stability, and cooperation in the wider region,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament shortly before the vote. Western countries strongly backed the deal between Greece and FYROM, after the country’s bid to join NATO had been shelved for a decade and amid European concerns over Russia’s vocal opposition to the alliance’s expansion further into the Balkans.’ Associated Press reported for the National Herald.
US Vows ‘Relentless’ Action to Deter Iran Missile Programme
The United States has vowed to remain “relentless” in pressuring Iran to deter its missile programme after the Islamic Republic unveiled a new ballistic weapon days after testing a cruise missile. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) revealed a new ballistic missile with a range of 1,000km, their official news agency Sepah News reported, a development that Tehran maintains is part of its defence capability.
‘The IRGC’s surface-to-surface missile, dubbed Dezful after a city in western Iran, has a shorter range than the Hoveizeh cruise missile it tested earlier this month. It is also within the 2,000km range that Iran has voluntarily set for itself, although it is sufficient to reach Israel and Western military bases in the Middle East. According to experts, a missile requires a 10,000km range to reach the US. The IRGC is under the command of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The move was the latest show of military might by the country, as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution at a time of heightened tensions with the US. “Iran’s blatant disregard for international norms must be addressed,” State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement on Thursday. “We must bring back tougher international restrictions to deter Iran’s missile programme,” he added. “The United States will continue to be relentless in building support around the world to confront the Iranian regime’s reckless ballistic missile activity, and we will continue to impose sufficient pressure on the regime so that it changes its malign behaviour – including by fully implementing all of our sanctions.” Tehran reined in most of its nuclear programme under a landmark 2015 deal with major powers but has kept up development of its ballistic missile technology, as part of its defence strategy.’ Reuters reported for Al Jazeera.
‘On the same day Donald Trump called out Iran in his State of the Union address as a major target of his administration, Tehran test-fired a satellite rocket in defiance of US warnings not to do so. Satellite images released on Thursday by the firm DigitalGlobe suggested Iran sought to launch a satellite into orbit on Tuesday as part of its space programme. It remained unclear if the launch was successful, though nonproliferation experts say it was likely a failure because it has not been spotted by amateur satellite observers or appeared on a US registry of space objects. Western powers have recently upped pressure on Iran over its missile programme, even as they themselves abandoned long-standing deals over the testing and refinement of long-range weaponry. Although ostensibly for civilian purposes, such launches have worried western powers because the same rocket technology used to put devices into outer space can be repurposed for intercontinental ballistic missiles.’ Borzou Daragahi writes for Independent.