LONDON, 28 January, 2021 (TON): The Prime Minister of UK, Boris Johnson is set to visit Scotland on Thursday as support grows for a second independence referendum in the country.
Scotland’s leader, Nicole Sturgeon questioned the necessity of the trip during the lockdown.
Scotland, which makes up the northernmost part of United Kingdom, voted against independence in 2014. But ties have strained since the 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union.
Majority of the Scots voted to stay in the EU, apart from UK as a whole that voted to leave Brexit.
The pandemic condition has taken its toll in relations between the two neighbors.
The semi-autonomous administration has had a large say in dictating Scotland's own response, often pitting it against central government in London.
The Prime Minister is expected to highlight his government’s role in dealing with the pandemic crisis.
According to his office, he will say, "The great benefits of cooperation across the whole of the UK have never been clearer than since the beginning of this pandemic”. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the majority Scottish National Party, (SNP) on Wednesday questioned if reasons for visiting are "really essential" amid the pandemic. She added it sets a bad example to the public.
Sturgeon is hoping a strong performance by her SNP in May elections for the country's devolved Parliament would give her the mandate to hold a second referendum.
Scotland voted against independence by 55% to 45% in the 2014 referendum. But recent polls showing Scotland would vote to leave the union in any re-run.
NEW YORK, 28 January, 2021 (TON): During the virtual UN Peace-building Fund Replenishment, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau announced Canada’s contribution of $15 million.
The announcement was made in the presence of UN Secretary-General, Germany, Sierra Leone Sudan.
Canada has always been one of the top most donating funds since its inception in 2006.
The support empowers UN entities, local governments, regional organizations, financial institutions and civil society and helps prevent conflict and build peace in fragile states. This includes dialogue and reconciliation, improving human rights protections, justice and security sector reform, and demobilization and reintegration of combatants.
The contributions of the member states help underpin these efforts through predictable, sustained funding.
Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “Despite financial challenges, we must do better to prevent conflict and build peace by addressing tensions and injustice before the result in violence. We cannot afford to wait. Canada’s leadership at the UN Peace-building Commission and with the UN Peace-building Fund helps advance inclusive approaches to better prevents conflict, as well as builds and sustains peace.”
Since it has been giving a handsome sum to the Fund since 2006, Canada has advocated for sustained and predictable resources to be dedicated to countries’ peace-building priorities. The Peace-building Fund places great importance on gender equality, and engaging women and youth throughout its work.
Canada will continue to advocate for concrete action and commitments from UN Member States, as well as partners such as the World Bank and civil society.
BEIJING, 28 January, 2021 (TON): Talks held between Li Zhanshu, China’s top legislator and Asad Qaiser, Speaker of Pakistan’s National Assembly.
While remembering the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Pakistan, the media reported that Li, chairman of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, on Wednesday said the two sides should take this opportunity to carry out higher-level, broader and deeper cooperation.
The countries should strengthen high-level exchanges, promote anti-epidemic cooperation, and deepen people-to-people and cultural exchanges. He said.
He added that the both countries should join hands in building the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and turn the corridor into a project that demonstrates high-quality development under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Pakistan and China should also deepen multilateral coordination, jointly maintain the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, safeguard multilateralism and the basic norms of international relations, uphold fairness and justice to promote regional peace and prosperity, he said.
Li focused on the NPC’s willingness in continuing enhancing friendly exchanges with Pakistan’s National Assembly in order to promote the implementation of the consensus reached by the two heads of state as well as bilateral cooperation agreements.
Asad Qaiser extended his heartfelt gratitude to China for the selfless assistance in coping with the ongoing condition and said Islamabad stands firmly with Beijing on issues of core interests.
A sound legal environment has been provided by Pakistan’s National Assembly for the joint construction of the BRI and the CPEC to actively contribute to the bilateral relations and friendship between the two.
TEHRAN, 28 January, 2021, (TON): Iranian and Taliban officials met in Tehran on January 27, Wednesday and accused the U.S. of provoking the continuation of war in Afghanistan, Iranian State TV reported.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told visiting Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar that the US seeks to continue the war in neighboring Afghanistan.
“The US strategy supports the continuation of war and bloodshed among various Afghan groups in the political spectrum,” said Shamkhani, as State TV quoted.
He said the US tries to blame insecurity and instability in the country on individual Afghan groups. There was no immediate comment from the US, which signed a peace agreement with the Taliban last February and met its goal this month of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500.
Taliban representative Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who arrived on Monday with the delegation also criticized the US for allegedly breaking its commitments to the February deal.
“We do not trust the US and will fight any group that is a mercenary for the US,” he added.
The first round of talks, which kicked off in September, ended in December after the two sides agreed on procedural rules. Afghan government officials and Taliban leaders resumed peace talks in Doha, earlier this month.
The US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in the final year of Donald Trump's presidency, paving the way for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, which even faced criticism from Republicans and NATO’s secretary-general. According to the US-Taliban deal, all American soldiers are supposed to leave Afghanistan by April.
Biden administration seems to be less interested in continuing peace talks with the Taliban. New Biden administrations officials are to re-evaluate the pact after violence across Afghanistan has surged in recent weeks.
Iran also views the presence of US forces in neighbourhood as threat and calls for the departure of troops.
NEW DELHI, 28 January, 2021 (TON): Indian government assets threatened by the Cairn Energy, following a $1.2bn (£880m) award from a long-running corporate tax case.
Damages were awarded to the U.K. based energy firm by an international tribunal in the dispute with the Indian government the previous month.
If the Indian government does not comply with the order, Cairn could seize their assets being identified.
Sources have said that these could include planes and ships. He case was filed after income tax officials seized Cairn's 10% stake in its Indian subsidiary.
Delhi violated the 2014 UK-India bilateral investment treaty, tribunal ruled out in December.
The treaty ordered Delhi to pay $1.2bn in damages, interest and costs to compensate Cairn for the shares as well as impounded dividends or shares.
But since the 582-page judgment was issued, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has given no indication about whether it intends to honor the verdict, even though payment was due immediately.
Cairn has sent a letter to Indian government officials, saying its shareholders "expect early resolution, failing which they will expect Cairn to pursue the award in conformity with its rights under the treaty".
"The award can be enforced against Indian assets in numerous jurisdictions around the world for which the necessary preparations have been put in place," the letter added.
The letter did not specifically stated when the assets might be seized; however the most possible targets are those of the public sector enterprises, e.g. state-owned Air-India.
The battle between the two concerned parties is from a 2012 law that changed the country’s tax regime. The tax authorities cited a new law in 2014 that claimed unpaid dues.
ADDIS ABABA, 28 January, 2021 (TON): The soldiers from Eritrea should immediately leave the beset Tigray region, says United States.
Late Tuesday, a State Department statement cited,” credible reports of looting, sexual violence, assaults in refugee camps and other human rights abuses.
“There is also evidence of Eritrean soldiers forcibly returning Eritrean refugees from Tigray to Eritrea”, the statement said.
The statement indicated the Biden government is putting pressure on the Ethiopian administration. Ethiopia rates second in the most populous countries in Africa, with 114 million people.
The media reported witnesses that flee from the Tigray region for the Eritrean soldiers were looting, going house to house killing men and even acting as local authorities. The Eritreans have been fighting on the side of Ethiopian forces as they pursue the fugitive leaders of the Tigray region, though Ethiopia's government has denied their presence.
The stance on the part of the U.S. has shifted in contrast to the Trump administration that praised Eritrea for its ‘restraint’, when the conflict was in embryonic stages.
The new U.S. statement calls for an independent and transparent investigation into alleged abuses. ‘It remains unclear how many Eritrean soldiers are in Tigray, or precisely where’, it says.
It was not immediately clear whether the U.S. has addressed its demand directly to Eritrean officials. And the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed did not immediately respond to questions.
The Eritrean soldiers number in the thousands, witnesses estimated.
Eritrean officials have not responded to questions. The information minister for Eritrea, one of the world's most secretive countries, this week said that ‘the rabid defamation campaign against Eritrea is on the rise again.’
The U.S. seeks to stop the fighting in Tigray immediately ‘full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access’ to the region, with Ethiopian forces often accompanying aid.
“We are gravely concerned by credible reports that hundreds of thousands of people may starve to death if urgent humanitarian assistance is not mobilized immediately”, the statement says.
The UN cited in its latest humanitarian update that it is receiving reports of rising hunger as there is “dire lack of access to food” in Tigray region, since many farmers in the largely agricultural region missed the harvest because of the fighting, and as ‘critical staff’ to scale up the humanitarian response can't access the region. 78% of the hospitals are not functional, besides, transport, electricity, banking and other links are yet to be restored in much of the region.
SINGAPORE, 28 January, 202 (TON): A 16-year old detained for intended to attack two mosques. He got inspired by the killing of the worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019, said the authorities.
The unmanned boy belonged to Christian Indian ethnicity that had purchased a tactical vest online and had intended to also buy a machete at the time of his arrest in December, the Internal Security Department (ISD) said in a statement on Wednesday.
He conducted a reconnaissance survey of the mosques near his home, tried to live-stream his attack and also, prepared the statements that referred to the attacker of Christchurch Brenton Tarrant, life imprisoned for killing 51 Muslim worshippers and harming dozens of others on 15th March, 2019.
The ISD said, “He could only foresee two outcomes to his plan: that he is arrested before he is able to carry out the attacks, or he executes the plan and is thereafter killed by the Police”.
He planned to carry out the attack on the anniversary of the Christchurch killings, he added.
The boy is the youngest to be arrested under Singapore’s colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allows authorities to detain anyone seen as a threat to security for up to two years.
He is also the first in the low crime island nation to be detained for extremist ideology; while there have been a number of cases that included extremism.
“It would be said in a court of law, that he was only thinking about it. He has planned it, but he hasn’t actually taken a step yet. So, in many countries, without laws similar to the Internal Security Act, you can’t move early until there is some further act of preparation,” Home Minister, Shanmugam told the media.
Never matter the duration for the young boy would be detained, he should be given psychological assistance while continuing his education in detention, and however, he may not face any criminal charges.
MOGADISHU, 28 January, 2021 (TON): Somalia denied the findings of a fact-finding commission on Wednesday, saying that it has not given any evidence that Kenya is taking part in its affairs.
A report by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country trade bloc in Africa comprising governments from the Horn of Africa, Nile Valley and the African Great Lakes, also said on Tuesday that Kenya was not arming militants to attack and destabilize areas in Somalia along the border shared between the two.
“The commission considers that these grievances, some of which are longstanding, do not appear sufficient to justify a diplomatic separation between Kenya and Somalia. It is true that the federal government of Somalia is sovereign in its decisions,” a part of the IGAD report read.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Information Ministry of Somalia said, “The federal government of Somalia has described as unrealistic a report issued by the newly-appointed fact-finding committee on a case filed by the Somali government against the Kenyan government.”
Osman Dubbe, Somali Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism reported to the media that the report was “biased”, adding “The outcome of their report came as a shock to us. The report is one-sided. They [investigators] refused to go to the Somali territory. They went to Kenya twice, they went to Mandera. We wanted them to visit the Gedo region, but they refused to cross the border.”
On Tuesday, the head of the African Union urged Kenya to calm the situation and ease tensions along their borders.
Somalia, a Horn of Africa country, has accused Kenya of supporting armed fighters who engaged Somali forces on Monday, a fight that claimed 11 lives.
On the other hand, Kenya wanted the conflict to be ended and distanced itself from the allegations.
KYIV 27 January, 2021 (TON): Talks on mending bridges between Hungary and Ukraine are expected on Wednesday.
The Foreign Ministers of countries, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba are anticipated to meet in Kyiv but Budapest said its diplomatic missions in the ex-Soviet Republic had received threats of violence.
The two countries are in a state of disagreement over the right of some 150,000 ethnic Hungarians living in Transcarpathia in western Ukraine to use their native language, especially in education. The region shares border with Hungary.
In Budapest, the Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist government has responded by barring Kyiv’s steps to build ties with NATO and the European Union, of which Hungary is a member.
The Hungary Foreign Minister said that he would meet Mr. Dmytro Kuleba to discuss ways to stop these negative trends or at least sketch a way out.
“Unfortunately the Hungary-Ukraine relationship has gone in a very bad direction after a temporary thaw,” he said.
Overnight, Szijjarto added that Hungarian diplomatic missions in Ukraine received threats “from people claiming to be Ukrainian patriots promising all sorts of bloodletting in the event of our talks taking place”.
No further details were provided. The threats were being investigated by the Ukranian police who appeared from outside Ukraine, Kuleba said.
Adopting a firm tone towards Hungary, Dmytro Kuleba said, “Nobody should think it is possible to come to Kyiv and dictate any conditions,” adding that he expected Hungary to make concrete proposals to end their row.
In 2017, Hungary restricted Ukraine with a law to abstain using minority languages in schools. Ukraine has large Russian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Polish minorities as well as Hungarian.
The situation between the two is colder than it appears. Hungary’s Orban has fostered good relations with Russian President, Vladimir Putin and over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine has called for lifting of EU sanctions imposed on Moscow and also provided assistance for pro-Russian separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces in eastern Ukraine.
BARCELONA, 27 January, 2021 (TON): Barcelona rescheduled its presidential elections to March, 2021 that had been originally scheduled for January 24, 2021.
The elections got delayed due to mobility restrictions, imposed by the Catalan government.
The club said, the members will be allowed to vote by mail.
Voting will take place at six polling stations and by mail after the Catalan government made a change in the legislation “to allow for postal voting for sporting bodies,” Barcelona said on Tuesday.
Members over 65 years of age will be allowed to vote from home. Polling stations outside Catalonia, with the exception of Andorra, will not be used as originally planned because of the restrictions prompted.
“During this period the club will continue to work closely with the Catalan government and the health and local authorities to best organize the elections so that they can be carried out in the best conditions possible,” Barcelona said.
The three presidential candidates are Joan Laporta, Víctor Font, and Toni Freixa.
Since the former president Josep Bartomeu resigned in October, Barcelona has been governed by a caretaker board.
Barcelona lost to Bayern Munich 8-2 in the quarterfinals of the Champions League in August, and its soaring debt forced the club to practically give away veterans like Luis Suárez to slash its salary burden. Lionel Messi later asked to leave the club but had his request denied.