Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Caledonia vote for Independence

Lawmakers in New Caledonia have voted in favour of a referendum in November this year, which will decide the territory’s independence from France.
The Congress of the French overseas territory approved the plan for a popular vote yesterday. New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific with a population of nearly three lakh, became the French colony in the 19th century.
In 1998, the French government and leaders of the independence movement signed an agreement to hold a referendum on independence from France by the end of 2018.

G-20 meeting in Argentina

Finance Ministers and central bankers from 20 leading industrial and developing countries are meeting in Argentina amid growing concerns over potential global trade war following US decision to slap import tariffs on steel and aluminium.
G-20 officials are also discussing issues including infrastructure development and the technology behind cryptocurrencies during the two-day meeting that began in Buenos Aires yesterday.This is the first of five such meetings to be held before Argentina hosts the G20 Summit in November

Russia blocks UNSC meeting on human rights in Syria

Russia has blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in Syria. Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the un, Gennady Kuzmin said, they do not see any justification for the meeting since human rights is not a subject on the agenda of the Council. Russia is the largest international backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
France and six other members had called for the meeting, which was expected to include a briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.
China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan voted with Russia to prevent the meeting, while Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia were abstentions.
Those who voted to hold the meeting alongside France were the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland, Holland, the United States, Peru and Kuwait.
United Nations’ Human Rights Chief has criticised the Security Council for failing to defend human rights and prevent further loss of life in Syria where the war that has killed nearly half a million people enters its eighth year.
Mr Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said many who had sought to document human rights violations had been detained, tortured or killed. He said the Council has not lived up to the sacrifice of these heroes throughout Syria.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke at an informal meeting at the UN shortly after his expected briefing to the Security Council was blocked when Russia requested a procedural vote. The 15 members of the Council attended the informal meeting.

Israel’s Shin Bet arrests French Romain Franck

A French employee of France’s consulate in Jerusalem has been arrested for allegedly smuggling dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, Israel’s domestic security agency said Monday. The Shin Bet said the man, identified as Romain Franck, 23, was part of a broader Palestinian smuggling ring, AP reported. He allegedly used his consular vehicle, which is subjected to less stringent security checks, as cover to transport the weapons through Israel’s secured border with the Gaza Strip. The Shin Bet accused Franck of taking part in the ring for financial gain, saying his employer was unaware of his actions. The consulate in Jerusalem declined to comment and did not confirm whether Franck was an employee.

No-confidence motion dropped

Another day, another washout. No-confidence motion dropped amid protests in Lok Sabha: Notices of no-confidence motion against the government by the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress were not taken up for a second consecutive day in Lok Sabha.
Today as the  Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the MPs to quiet down so that she could introduce the motion, chants and protests erupted, forcing her to adjourn for the day.
It was deja vu as similar scenes had taken place on Monday when Mahajan tried to introduce the no-confidence motion, but the uproar in the House forced an adjournment.
Today will be the 12th day in a row that the Lok Sabha has not transacted any business

Africa’s leaders to launch world’s largest FTA

Africa’s leaders are expected to gather in Rwanda Wednesday to launch what they say will be the world’s largest free trade area in terms of countries.
Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) with 55 African Union members having a cumulative GDP of $2.5 trillion is one of the AU’s flagship projects, AFP reports.
Muhammadu Buhari, president of one of Africa’s largest markets Nigeria, this week canceled plans to attend the Kigali launch and called for more consultations after business leaders objected to joining the free trade area. “The signature of the CFTA is something that makes Africa look good on paper, but for implementation it’s going to have a lot of hiccups,” according to Sola Afolabi, a Nigeria-based international trade consultant.
Some 27 heads of state are expected to attend the Kigali meeting. It is still unclear who will sign on to the CFTA right away.

Sweden Foreign Ministry to summon Russian ambassador

Swedish Foreign Ministry announced Monday it will summon the Russian ambassador in Stockholm on March 20. Stockholm wants explanations over Moscow’s “accusations that Sweden could be the source of the poison that was used” against ex-double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has called that claim “unacceptable and unfounded,” according to Reuters. Russia’s ambassador will be summoned “on account of the Russian accusations that Sweden could be a source of the nerve toxin used in the attempted murder in Salisbury,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told Reuters on Monday.
Britain has accused Russia of being behind the attack. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the most likely source of the nerve agent was Britain itself, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the US or Sweden.

Canada IPKF mission to Mali

Canada has announced a peacekeeping effort in the West African country of Mali. The mission will include six helicopters and some support troops, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday, adding that the deployment will be 12 months.
The mission will have two Chinook helicopters for airlift operations and four armed Griffon helicopters for escort purposes, AP said. The number of troops has yet to be determined. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to return Ottawa to peacekeeping after more than a decade of dwindling participation.

Young Indian asked to deposit Rs 10 cr in IT case

Delhi High Court today directed Young Indian Private Limited, in which Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi are major stakeholders, to deposit 10 crore rupees in the over 249 crore rupees income tax proceedings against it.
The court directed the company, earlier summoned as an accused by a trial court in the National Herald misappropriation case, to deposit half the amount with the Income Tax department before the 31st of this month and the remaining by 15th of next month.
The court also sought the IT department’s response to the company’s plea challenging the demand and the proceedings emanating from it and listed the matter for further hearing on the 24th of next month.
The IT department’s move followed its probe on a complaint alleging that the Gandhis had misappropriated the assets of Associated Journal Limited, which is the owner of the National Herald newspaper while transferring their shares to the newly formed Young Indian.

WTO ministerial meeting begins

The two-day informal World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting got underway in New Delhi today. Representatives from 50 countries are participating in the meet. Our correspondent reports the WTO is facing systemic challenges, particularly its dispute settlement arm.
The informal meeting is expected to provide an opportunity to engage in free and frank discussions leading to political guidance on some of the major issues, both at the negotiating table and also in other areas.
In the absence of Ministerial guidance at the Eleventh Ministerial Conference that took place in December last year in Buenos Aires, it is hoped that the meeting in New Delhi will provide an opportunity for ministers to explore in greater detail options on different issues for re-invigorating the WTO.

Former Chinese missile force commander appointed defense minister

China appointed a former missile force commander as its new defense minister. Lt. Gen. Wei Fenghe’s naming on Monday as the international face of China’s military was among a series of appointments by the legislature on the penultimate day of its annual session. As the minister, Wei is outranked by President Xi Jinping, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, and two vice chairmen, AP said. Foreign Minister Wang Yi was reappointed as the country’s top diplomat and also promoted to state counselor, while Zhao Kezhi was confirmed as minister of public security in charge of the police. Chen Wenqing, a former top official in the ruling Communist Party’s graft-busting agency, remains minister of state security.

North Korean diplomat heads to Finland

A senior North Korean diplomat left for Finland on Sunday for talks with former US and South Korean officials, Yonhap News Agency reported, amid a series of diplomatic encounters ahead of a possible US-North Korean summit.
North Korea is pursuing its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of UN Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland.
It defends the programs as a necessary deterrent against a possible US invasion. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea but denies any invasion plans.
Tensions have eased in recent weeks, coinciding with North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in the South last month.
Choe Kang Il, a deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, plans to attend the “track 1.5 talks”, according to Yonhap, reflecting planned contact between former US officials and current North Korean ones in a broader bid to end the standoff over North Korea’s weapons programs.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement North Korea would participate in the meeting joined by former South Korean officials and academics but did not provide further details.
The talks in Finland will add to a flurry of diplomatic activity ahead of the proposed North Korean summits with South Korea and the United States, respectively, in April and May.
Arriving at a Beijing airport en route to Finland, Choe declined to comment.
In Washington, a State Department representative said they had no information on the meeting in Finland.
North Korean and Swedish foreign ministers ended three days of talks on Saturday on security on the Korean peninsula in preparation of the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
South Korea said on Friday it was seeking high-level talks this month with North Korea to prepare for a summit and that South Korean President Moon Jae-in may meet Trump before the US president’s planned meeting with the North Korean leader.
In a telephone call, Moon and Trump both voiced “cautious optimism” about efforts to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
In an interview broadcast Sunday by CBS News’ Face the Nation, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha noted that Kim has “in effect” met a condition for talks by making a commitment “in clear terms” to denuclearization.
“He’s given his word,” said Kang, referring to discussions that South Korean officials held with Kim in Pyongyang earlier this month. “But the significance of his word is – is quite – quite weighty in the sense that it is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself.”
Kang stressed that Kim will receive “no reward” for engaging in dialogue and that South Korea and the United States will be pressing the North Korean leader to take unspecified “actions” in order for there to be any progress.

Merkel, Macron meet in Paris on eurozone reform

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet in Paris on Friday to discuss eurozone reform. It is their first encounter since Merkel’s new coalition took office. The leaders may struggle to find common ground on further change in Europe, Reuters said. Merkel, reelected to a fourth term as chancellor, wants to fulfill her incoming government’s pledge to deliver a “new start” for Europe. The French president has made eurozone overhaul a key goal since taking power last May. There is already detailed reform underway in the eurozone, including the creation of a banking union among its 19 member states and plans for a single deposit insurance scheme that would protect individuals’ savings. Macron has ideas for a separate eurozone budget and a single eurozone finance minister.

Mark Rutte : No ‘dictating EU reforms’

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday cautioned Berlin and Paris not to try to push through their ambitious EU reform plans against the will of other member states.
Prime Minister of the Netherlands Rutte believes deeper integration is not the answer to the bloc’s problems, telling Der Spiegel that countries would not just “nod along” to French-German proposals, particularly the eurozone.
The warning came hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel was due in Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, who is eager to push his vision for an overhaul of EU institutions, AFP reported. “We have freedom of movement in the EU, and of course the German government can meet the French government without us being there,” Rutte said in an interview. “But that doesn’t mean that we and other EU countries agree with everything the Germans and French agree on.”

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