U.S. climate envoy Kerry, UK’s COP26 chief discuss common goals

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma arrives at number 10 Downing in London, Britain, December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

January 21, 2021

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry spoke to Britain’s head of the United Nations COP26 climate conference on Thursday, agreeing that the two countries would work together to raise global efforts ahead of the meeting in November.

Kerry and Alok Sharma, Britain’s former business minister, agreed that there was no time to waste and noted that the two countries were once again tightly aligned on the issue.

“The pair agreed that their respective officials should work together closely,” a British statement said. “They looked forward to speaking regularly in the run up to G7 and COP26, and to meeting in person at the soonest possibility.”

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Russia Working With Venezuela to Ship Sputnik V Coronavirus Vaccine, Envoy Says


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BUENOS AIRES (Sputnik) – Moscow and Caracas are exploring ways to ensure the delivery of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine to Venezuela, which is expected to start by the end of January, Russia’s ambassador to Venezuela, Sergei Melik-Bagdasarov, told Sputnik on Friday.

“The Russian and Venezuelan sides signed a contract at the end of last year for the supply of Sputnik V vaccines to Venezuela. The first batch is planned to be delivered this month. Currently, issues related to logistics are being worked out”, the diplomat said.

In October 2020, Venezuela received Sputnik V as part of phase III clinical trials. In December, the Latin American country signed an agreement with Russia for the delivery of the vaccine to kickstart mass vaccination. Venezuela is expecting to receive the first batch of 10 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 in the coming weeks.

Sputnik V is the first ever officially registered coronavirus vaccine. In addition to Russia, Sputnik V was registered by Algeria, Argentine, Belarus, Bolivia and Serbia, while clinical trials continue in Belarus, Egypt, India, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

The vaccine’s dosing regimen is two doses per patient at least 21 days apart. Interim clinical results from latest studies in mid-December established its efficacy at 91.4 percent and at 100 percent against severe cases.

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WHO envoy unclear when COVID origins team will be allowed into China

The World Health Organization”s special envoy for COVID-19 has said that a team from the organisation looking at the origins of the virus was unable to enter China due to a “visa slip-up”.

The process of setting up the mission is what has taken a long time, according to Dr David Nabarro, as “organising these types of visits is not an easy task”.

China blocked the entry of the WHO team even as some members were travelling to the country, saying that their visas had not yet been approved.

Nabarro labelled this a “slight slip-up in terms of logistics” in what is an “extremely complicated international investigation”.

But WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus previously voiced his concerns calling on the Chinese to let the team into the country.

“I’m very disappointed with this news, given that two members have already begun their journeys, and others were not able to travel at the last minute,” he said.

Nabarro asked when the WHO team would be let into the country, responded: “I don’t know, let’s hope it is soon.”

He added WHO was in “in regular correspondence with Chinese colleagues to try and make certain that this gets remedied as quickly as possible”.

Watch Euronews’s full interview in the player above.

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Indonesia summons UK envoy over Papua separatist leader

JAKARTA: Indonesia has lodged a formal protest with Britain after a UK-based separatist leader announced an interim government-in-exile for the restive Papua province.

Mineral-rich Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province, has been dealing for decades with a low-level separatist insurgency, as well as poverty and communal tensions.

Benny Wenda, leader of a pro-independence group, this week declared himself the president of a new interim government in Papua, but an infuriated Jakarta dismissed his claim.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry on Friday (Dec 4) summoned British ambassador Owen Jenkins to convey “strong protest” over Benny Wenda’s statements and activities, according to ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah.

“The British ambassador promised he would deliver Indonesia’s strong protest and he also reiterated the UK government stance on the sovereignty and unity of Indonesian regions,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

The British embassy did not comment.

Indonesia took control of Papua, a former Dutch colony, in the 1960s after a vote – widely viewed as rigged – showed a majority favoured staying under Jakarta’s rule.

Wenda, who has been living in Britain since the early 2000s, leads one of the groups campaigning for Papua’s independence, and Jakarta has declared that he is no longer an Indonesian citizen.

Indonesian security forces tasked with crushing the Papua rebellion have long been accused of committing atrocities against Papuan civilians.

The impoverished region has also seen communal and ethnic violence in recent years.

A spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights office said on Monday the organisation was “disturbed by escalating violence over the past weeks and months” in Papua.

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Clamour for Resignation of Australian Envoy to India Gathers Steam After RSS Headquarters Visit


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Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell’s last month meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, a close ally of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has raised eyebrows in his home country. The visit has been described as running contrary to “Australian values”.

A section of Indian social media users has backed demands for pulling out Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell over his visit last month to the headquarters of the Hindu nationalist outfit Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While O’Farrell’s visit to the central Indian city of Nagpur on 15 November had already been a subject of critical commentary both in Indian and Australian media, following his meeting with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Greens party Senator Janet Rice also raised the issue in the federal parliament.

In a tweet, the Australian envoy to India shared how the RSS has supported society at large, and during his meeting with the RSS chief, the latter threw light upon their organisation’s efforts amid pandemic.

His move was widely criticised in Australia. The Australian senator from Victoria state in her speech described the RSS as a “fascist organisation which openly admits admiration for Adolf Hitler” and that “…they demonise and encourage persecution of some of the non-Hindu citizens of India”, Rice told the Australian parliament.

​Scores of Indian netizens on Thursday tweeted calls for #Barrymustresign, as they cited Rice’s remarks against the RSS.

The calls for the resignation of O’Farrell, who was posted to India this year, come amid a warming of ties between New Delhi and Canberra. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) participated in the four-nation Malabar naval drills earlier this year, after pulling out of the defence exercise in 2008 owing to reservations expressed by Beijing.

The naval drills also comprised Japan, the US, and India, with the alliance of four countries informally referred to as the “Quad”.

In an interview with an Indian daily in October, O’Farrell described his country’s 2008 decision to pull out of four-nation exercise as a “mistake”.

In a virtual bilateral summit this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison also elevated their countries’ relationship to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”, another indication of bolstering security ties.

‘Believe in the Indian Constitution’

“Officially, the RSS has no involvement in politics. We are just a cultural organisation. If any political party can adopt our policies for the benefit of the nation, that would be more than welcome”, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said at the end of a two-day volunteer meeting in Ghaziabad city last month.

“We believe in the Indian Constitution and abide by it”, Bhagwat stated.

The RSS has often found itself facing heat directed at its ideologue and second chief M.S. Gowalkar, who is credited with popularising the institution across the country after independence in 1947.

A visit to the RSS headquarters by Germany’s Ambassador to India Walter Linder in June last year attracted similar criticism. In his defence, the German envoy reportedly described the RSS as a “mass movement” and a “mosaic that made up India”.

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UN Envoy Sees Delay In Syria Political Process

A UN envoy acknowledged Tuesday that a new meeting aimed at winding down Syria’s civil war would not happen as planned this month but voiced hope it would take place in November.

Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy for Syria, said after a trip to Damascus that there had been no accord on the agenda for a meeting in October in Geneva aimed at revisions to Syria’s constitution.

“We have no agreement yet,” he told a virtual UN meeting.

“But assuming full agreement is confirmed, the plan would be to reconvene sometime in November,” he said, without confirming the date of November 23 mentioned by some diplomats.

It would be the fourth meeting of the small group on constitutional reform and involve some 45 representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the opposition and civil society.

Richard Mills, the US deputy representative to the United Nations, called the lack of progress “both regrettable and unacceptable.”

“We believe it is time now to tell the Assad regime that enough is enough,” Mills said.

The French ambassador, Nicolas de Riviere, accused Assad’s regime of playing for time.

“The political process is at a complete impasse,” he said, calling the achievements of the constitutional committee so far “almost nothing.”

Syrian artist Aziz Asmar paints a mural depicting US President Donald Trump fighting with the coronavirus in October 2020 in Idlib province, which has remained a zone of fighting in the country’s brutal war
 AFP / Muhammad HAJ KADOUR

The United States and France want to see an inclusive political solution in Syria and accountability for atrocities after nearly a decade of war that has claimed more than 380,000 lives.

But Assad, with support from Russia and Iran, has won back control of most of the country.

“It is important to give the Syrians the opportunity to negotiate without interference from the outside,” said the Russian ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia.

“The work of the constitutional committee should not be subject to any deadlines,” he said.

The constitutional process, launched in October 2019, aims at drafting a constitution acceptable to all sides that will pave the way for elections.

Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the session that the world body was seeking another $211 million to fight Covid-19 in Syria.

The money will be used to provide medical supplies, improve water access, sanitize displacement camps and improve conditions at schools, he said.

Lowcock said that Syria likely had “far greater” than the 13,500 Covid-19 cases officially reported and voiced particular concern for the spread of the pandemic in densely populated camps.

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France recalls Turkey envoy after Erdogan says Macron needs ‘mental check’

Responding to Mr Macron’s campaign to defend such values –

which began before the teacher was murdered – Mr Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday: “Macron needs treatment on a mental level.

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Israel Bombs Site West of Gaza City as UN Envoy Warns of ‘Unbearable’ Conditions

Israel Bombs Site West of Gaza City as UN Envoy Warns of 'Unbearable' Conditions

Multiple eyewitnesses reported an Israeli strike on a site west of Gaza City early on Friday, August 28, shortly before the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov warned of “unbearable” conditions in the enclave. The strike was the latest in a series on the Gaza Strip, which Israel said was a response to the launch of rockets and incendiary balloons. Six rockets were launched at Israel early on Friday morning, according to the IDF. Hamas’s military wing said the rockets were a response to the “escalation and aggression of the occupation on Gaza.” Conditions in the Gaza Strip have been deteriorating rapidly in recent weeks, with its sole power plant forced to shut down on August 18 because of a lack of fuel and the first community-spread cases of COVID-19 being reported in recent days. After the latest exchange of fire, Mladenov tweeted: “The situation in and around Gaza is rapidly deteriorating. Militants continue to launch projectiles and incendiary devices. The tightening of closures is making life inside the Strip unbearable. Electricity is down to 3 hours, hospitals barely functioning.” He called for the resumption of fuel deliveries and for Palestinian militants to cease the launch of rockets and incendiary devices. “Under the current circumstances no mediation efforts to prevent escalation and improve the situation can succeed,” he concluded. Credit: Shady Salfity via Storyful

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