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May 2018 International Affairs

  • UN trains Rohingya refugees to deal with rain-linked challenges
    Anticipating that about 2,00,000 Rohingya refugees may again turn homeless during Bangladesh’s monsoon, the UNHCR has trained “thousands of volunteer[s]” to mitigate the challenges, a UNHCR release noted. 

    Since April, the UNHCR, with Bangladesh’s biggest non-governmental organisation BRAC, has trained more than 20,000 ‘community outreach members’ (COMs) on emergency preparedness. But with the onset of monsoon, at least two lakh — out of the 9,00,000 refugees settled in Cox’s Bazar — will face fresh challenges to survive. 

    The members at present receive training on basic awareness, landslide risk mitigation, first aid and weather hazard management, the UNHCR release noted. 

    The UNHCR and its partners have also distributed more than 82,000 upgraded shelter kits, which provide families with sturdier and more waterproof shelters. The UN said they are distributing 80,000 pre-monsoon “tie-down” kits to help families to anchor their shelters firmly when strong winds start to approach. 

  • US nuke watchdog opposes Pakistan's application to Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) 
    A US-based international nuclear proliferation watchdog on 31st May said, Pakistan's application to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) should not be granted. 

    In its report, the Institute for Science and International Security said, Pakistan's application should not be granted the present time as it appears committed to building one or two large uranium enrichment plants in its Kahuta nuclear power plant site. 

    After a detailed analysis of the latest satellite images obtained by it, the institute said, there are also other reasons to refuse its membership including Pakistan's ongoing illicit nuclear procurements abroad and its refusal to even minimally split its military and civil nuclear programs. 

    The watchdog said, while much of the world's attention has been directed to the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea, Pakistan has greatly expanded its nuclear complex dedicated to producing nuclear weapons. 

    It said, other members of the NSG should tell China that the supply of goods to Pakistan's enrichment programme would violate China's NSG commitments. 

  • RIMPAC military exercise from June 27; India among 26 participant countries
    As many as 26 countries, including India, will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific, RIMPAC military exercise from June 27 to August 2, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The Pentagon announced this on 30th May. 

    Known as the world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC this year involves 47 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. 

    Ahead of the announcement, the United States had disinvited China from RIMPAC, a move Beijing described as "unfortunate".

    The countries participating in the exercise include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom among others. 

  • Denmark bans Islamic full-face veil in public spaces
    Denmark has banned Islamic full-face veil in public spaces. The Danish parliament passed a law in this regard, becoming the latest European country to do so. 

    As per the law, anyone who wears a cloth that hides the face in public will be punished with a fine. The law was passed with 75 votes against 30. 

  • UN Security Council possible sanctions on South Sudan
    The UN Security Council has given South Sudan's warring sides a month to reach a peace deal or face possible sanctions. A resolution drafted by the United States narrowly won backing in the 15-member council, picking up nine votes. 

    Six countries abstained, including Russia, China and Ethiopia, a key player in regional peace efforts. 

    South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011, with critical backing from the United States, which remains Juba's biggest aid donor. 

    But the US administration has grown increasingly frustrated with President Salva Kiir's government as the brutal war grinds on, now in its fourth year. 

  • IMF urges countries to work constructively together to reduce trade barriers
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged countries to work constructively together to reduce trade barriers. 

    Describing the United States' decision to impose metal tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico as unfortunate, IMF Spokesperson, Gerry Rice said in Washington that trade tensions are rising at a moment where the global recovery is being supported by trade. 

    He said for the first time in a long time, trade is growing faster than global GDP, and spreading recovery around the world. 

    Rice said that because of trade and innovation, billions of people today enjoy longer, healthier and more prosperous lives and IMF encourage countries to resolve trade disagreements without resorting to exceptional measures. 

  • US vetoes Arab-backed UN draft resolution to protect Palestinians
    The United States vetoed an Arab-backed UN draft resolution calling for measures to protect the Palestinians after more than 100 people were killed in Israeli fire during protests at the border with Gaza. 

    Ten countries including China, France and Russia voted in favor of the draft put forward by Kuwait on behalf of Arab countries at the Security Council on 1st June. Four countries Britain, Ethiopia, the Netherlands and Poland abstained. 

    A draft resolution requires nine votes to be adopted in the 15-member council and no veto from the five permanent members including US. 

    US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council that the measure was wildly inaccurate in its characterization of recent events in Gaza by condemning Israel for the violence. She said, there is not a single mention of Hamas in the resolution, when it is chiefly responsible for the recent violence in Gaza. 

  • Cuba, US to restore direct postal service
    Cuba and the US have agreed to permanently restore the direct postal service between the two countries. In a statement on 1st June, the state-run Correos de Cuba Business Group said, this measure is coming into force after the execution of a pilot program, approved by Washington and Havana in December 2015. 

    Correos de Cuba added that the execution of the service in its current format began on April 16, 2018. This service allows the postal delivery of mail, parcels, and express courier deliveries on direct flights between Cuba and the United States, and through post offices in both countries. During 48 years, letters and parcels had to travel through other countries like Canada, Mexico, Panama and Jamaica. This led to increased operational costs for the Cuban side and caused large delays to deliveries, leading to customer complaints. 

    The direct postal service between the two neighbouring nations was suspended by Havana in 1968 after the explosion of a bomb in a parcel coming from New York that killed five postal workers. 

  • Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes inaugurates country's Israel embassy in Jerusalem
    Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes inaugurated his country's Israel embassy in Jerusalem on 21st May, making it the third nation to make the deeply controversial move after the United States and Guatemala. 

  • United States tightens financial sanctions against Venezuela 
    The United States has tightened financial sanctions against Venezuela following President Nicolas Maduro's victory in election. In an order, US President Donald Trump has restricted Venezuela’s ability to liquidate state assets and debt in the US. 

    The sanctions include the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Venezuela government of any interest in any entity in which it has a 50 percent or greater ownership interest. President Donald Trump also asked Nicolas Maduro to restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners and end the repression. 

    US had, earlier, slapped sanctions on Mr. Nicolas Maduro and his senior aides, as well as banned US companies from buying any more debt from Caracas or the state oil company. 

    Venezuelan President is also facing an international backlash after winning his second six-year term. In a joint statement at the G20 foreign ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires, six countries, including the US and Argentina said they did not recognize the election results which excluded the participation of key political players. Fourteen countries including Argentina, Brazil and Canada have recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest. 

    Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated Mr Nicolas Maduro on his re-election. Mr Nicolas Maduro had won 68 percent of votes more than three times as many as his main rival Henri Falcon in 20th May elections. 

  • Rohingya militants massacred Hindu villagers in Myanmar, says Amnesty
    Amnesty International has said that Rohingya militants massacred Hindu villagers during last year's uprising in Myanmar's Rakhine province. In a report on 22nd May, Amnesty International said a new investigation has confirmed that the militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) killed 53 Hindus, mostly children, in the Kha Maung Seik village cluster in northern Maungdaw. 

  • Iran still implementing nuclear deal: IAEA
    International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran is still implementing the 2015 accord over its nuclear programme. 

    According to a report by the UN's nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is abiding by the deal's key restrictions on its nuclear facilities in return for relief from damaging economic sanctions. 

    The latest assessment from the IAEA comes just two weeks after US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord. The IAEA urged Iran to stick with the accord and even go beyond its legal obligations so as to boost international confidence in Tehran's commitments. 

    Signatories Britain, France, Germany, European Union, Russia and China have been trying to salvage the deal after Trump's decision but Iran has warned that if it suffers as a result the reintroduction of US economic sanctions, it could walk away from the accord. 

  • US President Donald Trump cancels his proposed summit meeting with Kim Jong-un on June 12
    US President Donald Trump has cancelled his proposed summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore. 

    Mr Trump blamed Pyongyang's tremendous anger and open hostility for his decision. The announcement came hours after North Korea carried out what it said is the demolition of its nuclear test site on 24th May. Mr Trump wrote a letter to Kim which was released to the press. However, he kept the door open for future talks with Kim. 

    Washington has made it clear it wants to see the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the North. But Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrence until it feels safe from what it terms US aggression. 

  • Ireland ends abortion ban as “quiet revolution” transforms country
    Ireland has voted by a landslide to liberalise its highly restrictive abortion laws in a referendum that its prime minister called the culmination of a "quiet revolution" in what was one of Europe's most socially conservative countries. 

    Voters in the once deeply Catholic nation were estimated to have backed the change by more than two-to-one, according to two exit polls released and the government plans to bring in legislation by the end of the year. 

    The outcome is the latest milestone on a path of change for a country which only legalized divorce by a razor thin majority in 1995 before becoming the first in the world to adopt gay marriage by popular vote three years ago. 

    Anti-abortion activists conceded defeat early on 26th May and lawmakers who campaigned for a "No" vote said they would not seek to block the government's legislation. 

    Voters were asked if they wish to scrap the amendment, which gives an unborn child and its mother equal rights to life. The consequent prohibition on abortion was partly lifted in 2013 for cases where the mother's life was in danger. 

    Reform in Ireland also raised the prospect that women in Northern Ireland, where abortion is still illegal, may start travelling south of the border. 

  • South Korea President Moon Jae-in meets North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
    South Korea said President Moon Jae-in met with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on 26th May inside the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two nations, a day after US President Donald Trump said his summit with Pyongyang could still go ahead. Moon Jae-in and Kim met to exchange views to pave way for a summit between North Korea and the United States, South Korea's presidential office said. 

    The Blue House, South Korea's presidential office, said the two leaders held talks for two hours in the truce village of Panmunjom, where they had met last month and made a declaration vowing to improve ties. 

    They exchanged views and discussed ways to implement the Panmunjom Declaration and to ensure a successful US North Korea summit, the Blue House said in a statement. 

  • China, Burkina Faso establish ties following Taiwan snub
    China and Burkina Faso signed an agreement to establish diplomatic relations on 26th May, days after the west African nation cut ties with Taiwan in yet another victory for Beijing in its campaign to isolate the island. 

    A communique on establishing relations was signed in Beijing by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart Alpha Barry. 

    Burkina Faso broke off ties with Taiwan, becoming the second country to do so within a month and leaving the democratically ruled island with only 18 diplomatic allies around the world. 

  • North Korea says it will start dismantling its nuclear test site between 23rd and 25th of May, 2018
    North Korea has said, it will start dismantling its nuclear test site between 23rd and 25th of this month. The site is located in a northeastern part of the country. 

    The complete tunnel complex used for nuclear testing will be destroyed. This will be followed by the removal of all observation facilities and closing off the whole area. The officials also said, a ceremony will be held where international media will observe the dismantling. 

    North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un told his South Korean counterpart last month that the site would be abandoned within this month. 

    Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has thanked North Korea after it pledged to destroy its nuclear test site ahead of a summit meeting between the two country's leaders next month. 

  • UK, Germany and France remain committed to ensuring Iran nuclear deal is upheld: British Prime Minister Theresa May
    British Prime Minister Theresa May has said her country and its European partners Germany and France remain committed to ensuring that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is upheld. 

    In her telephonic conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, she said it is in both countries national security interests to maintain the deal. She urged Iran to continue to meet its obligations under the pact. Theresa May and Hassan Rouhani also agreed on the importance of continuing dialogue between the two countries. 

  • United States blocks call for independent Gaza inquiry at UN
    The United States on 14th May blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe of deadly violence on the Israel-Gaza border, which erupted as the new US embassy in Jerusalem was opened. 

  • World Health Organization (WHO) launches 'REPLACE' to eliminate trans fat in foods by 2023
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a comprehensive plan to eliminate industrially-produced artificial trans fats from the global food supply by 2023. 

    Elimination of trans fats is key to protecting the health and saving lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. The global health body estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to over 5,00,000 deaths worldwide from cardiovascular diseases. 

    Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack, baked, and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. 

    But, healthier alternatives can be used, which would not affect taste or cost of food, the WHO said in a statement 

    Implementing the six strategic actions in the 'REPLACE' package will help achieve the elimination of trans-fat, and represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular diseases

    In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans-fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly, the statement said. 

    Trans-fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there is no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed to it, Frieden said. He said action is needed in low and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world. 

  • European top diplomats in agreement to follow through the landmark Iran nuclear deal
    European top diplomats agreed to follow through the landmark Iran nuclear deal despite U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw last week, according to the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini 

    To this end, the EU will launch intensive discussion at all levels with Iran in next few weeks. The discussion will focus on, among others, how to maintain economic relations and effective banking transactions with Iran in the context of renewed U.S sanctions, according to Mogherini. 

  • World Health Organization (WHO) publishes its first Essential Diagnostics list
    The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published its first 'essential diagnostics list', a catalogue of tests needed to diagnose the most common conditions as well as a number of global priority diseases. The step was taken to address the problem of people's inability to access diagnostic services, thus failing to receive the correct treatment. 

    An estimated 46 per cent of adults with Type 2 diabetes worldwide are undiagnosed, risking serious health complications and higher health costs, said a statement by the world health body. 

    Late diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis increases the risk of their spread and makes them more difficult to treat, it said. The essential diagnostics list concentrates on in vitro tests like tests of blood and urine. 

    Apart from this, 58 tests are listed for detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions, thus providing an essential package that can form the basis for screening and management of patients. The remaining 55 tests are designed for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of 'priority' diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus and syphilis. 

    Some of the tests are particularly suitable for primary health care facilities, where laboratory services are often poorly resourced and sometimes non-existent. 

    For each category of test, the Essential Diagnostics List specifies the type of test and intended use, format, and if appropriate for primary health care or for health facilities with laboratories. 

    The list also provides links to WHO guidelines or publications and to pre-qualified products. Similar to the WHO essential medicines list, which has been in use for four decades, the essential diagnostics list is intended to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics. 

    The WHO will update the essential diagnostics list on a regular basis. It is also expected to issue a call for applications to add categories to the next edition. 

    The list will expand significantly over the next few years, as it incorporates other important areas, including antimicrobial resistance, emerging pathogens, neglected tropical diseases and additional noncommunicable diseases. 

  • United Nations: Since March 30, over 1,000 children injured in Gaza
    Since March 30, more than 1,000 children have been injured by Israeli forces in the besieged Gaza Strip during demonstrations, according to UN Children's Fund (UNICEF). 

    UNICEF and its partners, provided the Gaza Strip with two truck-loads of urgent medical supplies for approximately 70,000 people. 

    On May 14, in the recent clashes between the Israel and Palestine at the Gaza Strip, at least 62 Palestinian demonstrators lost their lives and more than hundred were injured. Unidentified Palestinians were killed when Israeli soldiers opened fire at the eastern border of al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza. 

    A large number of Palestinians gathered to protest on the Gaza Strip's eastern border to commemorate the Nakba anniversary and protest the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. 

  • British political consulting group Cambridge Analytica files for bankruptcy in the US
    British political consulting group Cambridge Analytica has filed for bankruptcy in the US. The consultancy was at the centre of the Facebook data-sharing scandal in which it was accused of improperly obtaining information on users. 

    The bankruptcy proceedings are part of the process of closing down the company and its UK parent, SCL Elections, that started in early May. 

    The company blamed a siege of media coverage for driving away customers and forcing its closure. In court papers filed with a New York court, Cambridge Analytica said it had assets of up to 5 lakh dollar and debts in the range of one million to 10 million dollars. 

    Regulators have said that, despite the firm's shutting down and laying off staff, they will still pursue a probe into how the firm used Facebook data. 

    The social network said data on about 87 million users was grabbed when people completed a quiz hosted on the site. 

    This information was then passed on to Cambridge Analytica which has been accused of using it for political campaigning. 

    The political consultancy always maintained that it did nothing wrong in the way it obtained and used the data. 

  • North Korea accuses US of misleading world opinion
    North Korea on 6th May accused the United States of misleading world opinion by saying that Pyongyang's commitment to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula was the outcome of international sanctions and pressure. 

    The Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesperson for North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs as saying that Washington is deliberately provoking Pyongyang despite the improvement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula. 

    The spokesman slammed the United States for saying that it would not ease the sanctions and pressure until North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons completely. 

    The spokesman warned that if Washington miscalculates the peace-loving intention of the North Korea as a sign of weakness and continues to pursue its pressure and military threats against the latter, it would be counter-effective to addressing the nuclear issue on the peninsula. 

    North and South Korea issued a joint declaration on April 27, saying the two sides are committed to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, during a historic summit meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. 

  • 74.2% H-1B visas were given to Indians: United States
    India accounted for 74.2 per cent of the total number of H-1B visas issued by the US to technology professionals. In 2016 and the next year (2019) the figure increased to 75.6 per cent. 

    United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in its report in Washington that in 2016, as many as 70,737 Indians received initial H-1B visas, which dropped to 67,815. During the same period, Indians accounted for 185,489 visas for continuing employment, which increased to 208,608 in 2017. In all there were 256,226 Indians on H1B visas in 2016 and 276,423 in 2017. 

    However there has been a drop in the number of new H-1B beneficiaries from India, the report said. China with a little over nine per cent, comes a distant second after India in terms of number of H-1B visas. The figures for China were 9.3 and 9.4 per cent respectively for 2016 and 2017. 

  • 350 million dollar US conditional financial aid to Pakistan
    In US, a powerful Congressional committee has placed conditions on the release of 350 million dollar financial aid to Pakistan for counter-terrorism operations with the aim to push Islamabad into taking action against the Haqqani network. 

    The Haqqani network has carried out a number of kidnappings and attacks against US interests in Afghanistan. Releasing the text of its version of the national defence authorisation (NDAA) bill, the House Armed Services Committee said, 350 million of the 700 million dollars proposed financial assistance to Pakistan may not be released till the defence secretary certifies to Congress that Islamabad has taken actions against the Haqqani network terrorists. 

    In his new South Asia and Afghanistan policy in August, Mr Donald Trump had called for tougher measure against Pakistan if it fails to cooperate with the US in its fight against terrorism. 

    Since January, the US has suspended its security assistance to Pakistan alleging that Islamabad has not been taking satisfactory actions against terrorist safe havens inside the country. 

  • US President Donald Trump announces withdrawal from 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran
    US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of a landmark deal with Iran and reimposed its economic sanctions against the country. 

    In an address to the nation from the White House, President Trump said, the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and warned countries against any cooperation with Tehran on its controversial nuclear weapons programme. He also signed the fresh set of sanctions after the announcement. 

    Meanwhile, Western powers said, they are committed to the Iran nuclear deal. In a joint statement, the UK, France and Germany, which were signatories to the deal along with China and Russia, said that Trump’s decision was a cause for regret and concern. 

    The UK, France and Germany also urged the US not to obstruct its implementation. They said they would work with the other signatories to the 2015 deal Russia and China which have stressed continuing support for the deal. 

    Iran has said, it would restart uranium enrichment if the agreement could not be salvaged. In a statement, President Hassan Rouhani said that he has asked the foreign ministry to negotiate with the European countries, China and Russia. He said if Iran achieves the deal's goals in co-operation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place. 

    The historic nuclear deal was reached in Vienna in July 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Germany and the European Union. The pact, lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. 

  • United States imposes sanctions on six Iranian people and three companies
    The United States has imposed sanctions on six Iranian people and three companies, for having ties with Iran's elite military force. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that the penalties targeted those who had funnelled millions of dollars to Iran's military. 

    He said the Iranian regime and its Central Bank have abused access to entities in the UAE to acquire US dollars to fund Iran's elite military force, the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Treasury Department said US individuals and entities will be barred from doing business with them. 

    US President, Donald Trump said at a rally in the state of Indiana that the US cannot allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. The new penalties come just two days after Trump pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal and pledged to ramp up pressure on Tehran. The 2015 agreement curbed Iran's nuclear activities in return for the lifting of UN, US and EU sanctions. 

  • Militants from Pakistan responsible for Mumbai 26/11 attacks: Nawaz Sharif
    Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has admitted that militants thriving in his country were responsible for the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 160 people were killed. 

    In an interview to Pakistan's Dawn Newspaper, Mr. Sharif questioned the policy of allowing the non-state actors to cross the border and kill people in Mumbai. 

    Mr. Nawaz Sharif's comments assume significance as Pakistan has been consistently denying India's allegation that state actors in Pakistan were responsible for the Mumbai attacks. 

    Mr. Nawaz Sharif said militant organisations are active in Pakistan. He said Pakistan has isolated itself and its narrative is not being accepted by the world. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have already said that it is unacceptable to allow non-state actors to cross the border and commit terrorism. 

    He said that the US has accused Pakistan of giving nothing except lies and deceits and providing safe haven to terrorists. 

  • 131 Indian-origin people on U.K.’s crime list
    As many as 131 India-born people, who have changed their nationality to British, have been mapped as having links to organised crime gangs of the U.K., according to an official data. It also showed that 131 Indians, 141 Somalis, 78 Poles, 47 Sri Lankans and 44 Nigerians were among the active gang members who had changed their nationality. 

  • North Korea move the country’s clocks 30 minutes forward to unify with the South's time zone as a conciliatory gesture
    North Korean leader Kim Jong un has said, he will move the country's clocks 30 minutes forward to unify with the South Korea's time zone as a conciliatory gesture after summit with President Moon Jae-in. The two countries on the divided peninsula have had different time zones since 2015 when the North suddenly changed its standard time to 30 minutes behind the South. 

  • North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) condemns Pakistan for permitting terror groups to operate from its land
    North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has reprimanded Islamabad for allowing terror groups to operate from safe havens in Pakistan and launch cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. 

    At a meeting in Brussels on 29th April, NATO asked Islamabad to close terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan and to work to prevent terrorist financial flows and cross-border attacks. 

    NATO said the grouping echoes Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's call on regional actors to play a significant role in peace and stabilisation in Afghanistan. The grouping has also called upon Iran and Russia to contribute to regional stability by fully supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. 

  • In Nepal International Buddhist Conference concluded in Lumbini
    In Nepal International Buddhist Conference concluded in Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama Buddha on 29th April

    In his concluding remarks Prime Minister of Nepal K. P. Sharma Oli said that Lumbini is a fountain of light that candles Buddha's quest for enlightenment. He said that deliberations on Gautama Buddha's immortal teachings have great relevance in the contemporary world. 

    PM K. P. Sharma Oli also said that messages of Buddha always guide in pursuant to peace, tolerance and harmony. Participants from more than 20 countries including India attended two day conference. 

    It was organised as part of 2562nd Buddha Jayanti celebrations. The basic objective of the conference was to disseminate teachings of Gautam Buddha and spread the messages of nonviolence, brotherhood, co-existence, love and peace to the international community. 

  • United States, Saudi Arabia agree to push Iran harder on amending nuclear deal
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the United States and Saudi Arabia have reached consensus on the Iran nuclear deal and would push Iran harder on amending the deal. The U.S. official said this at a joint press conference after his visit to Saudi Arabia on 29th April Riyadh. 

    Mike Pompeo said the nuclear agreement failed to modify Iran's behavior and stressed that if Iran doesn't accept to amend the deal, the U.S. would unilaterally withdraw from it. He also reiterated the importance of Saudi Arabia's security and accused Iran of disturbing the security. 

    Meanwhile, his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir blamed Iran of providing weapons to Yemen's Houthi, seriously affecting regional security. He said Saudi Arabia completely supports the U.S. attitude toward Iran with regard to the nuclear agreement, and called on the international community to impose more sanctions on Iran. Pompeo arrived in Riyadh as the beginning of a regional tour. He will also visit Jordan and Israel. 

  • Dominican Republic establishes ties with China
    The Dominican Republic and China announced they were establishing diplomatic relations on 1st May as the Caribbean country becomes the latest nation to dump Taiwan in the face of Beijing's growing influence. 

    Taipei said it was "deeply upset" at the decision to sever ties as the island faces deepening international isolation while its giant neighbour flexes its economic and political might on the global stage. 

    The Dominican Republic said it believed its switch to ties with China would be "extraordinarily positive for the future of our country"

    Mainland China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since 1949, but while democratic Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign nation, it has never formally declared independence. 

    Beijing sees the island as a renegade province that is part of its territory awaiting reunification. There now remain just 19 nations worldwide with official ties to Taiwan, as its decades of Cold War era ties with Central America and the Caribbean have dwindled. In June last year (2017), Panama cut ties with Taipei to open relations with Beijing. Costa Rica did so in 2007. 

  • European Union proposes 25% ‘climate quota’ in new long-term budget
    The clean energy transition and other initiatives to decarbonise Europe’s economy will represent 25% of EU spending under a seven-year EU budget plan put forward by the European Commission on 2nd May

    Climate action will be mainstreamed across all EU programmes, with a target of 25% of all expenditure contributing to climate objectives, said Miguel Arias Canete,? the EU Commissioner in charge of climate action. This is up from 20% in the current budget, which spans the years 2014-2020

    The climate effort will span policies on regional integration, energy, transport, research and innovation, agriculture as well as development aid, “making the EU budget a driver of sustainability,” the EU executive 

    Brussels will follow up at the end of the year with a “Reflection Paper” to address “possible ways” of further integrating UN Sustainable Development Goals in EU policy-making. 

    The headline 25% figure is a “key earmark”, said Jonathan Gaventa, director of E3G, a climate and energy think tank, which broadly welcomed the Commission’s budget announcement. 

    But the way it’s counted also matters, he cautioned. “If you tighten up the way it’s counted, the 25% could represent a substantial increase or it could be watered down,” he told EURACTIV before the announcement was made official. For example, the 25% might end up being actually lower if the Commission decides to exclude spending on immigration and security from the total

    Another key aspect is EU funding for projects such as gas pipelines, which environmentalists claim risk locking Europe into unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure. 

    Other parts of the budget could prove controversial, like a proposal to allocate 20% of revenue from carbon trading to the EU budget, as well as a plastic tax. The national contribution will be calculated on the amount of non-recycled plastic packaging waste in each member state. 

  • Cambridge Analytica announces 'ceasing all operations'
    Cambridge Analytica, the UK-based company involved in leakage of data of Facebook users, announces immediate ceasing of all of its operations; Company says, it is filing for insolvency in Britain and the United States. 

    Cambridge Analytica, the UK marketing analytics firm at the heart of the Facebook data scandal, has announced it was "immediately ceasing all operations" and filing for insolvency in Britain and the United States. 

  • China and the United States agreement on economic and trade consultations in Beijing
    China and the United States reached agreements on certain key issues in their economic and trade consultations in Beijing. The agreements were reached after the second day of negotiation and agreed to set up a work mechanism to keep close communication channels in order to resolve trade disputes. 

    Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, held candid, efficient and constructive talks with the US delegation led by US president's special envoy and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on economic and trade issues of common concern. 

    The two sides agreed that a sound and stable China-US trade relationship is crucial for both, and they are committed to resolving relevant economic and trade issues through dialogue and consultation. 

    The two sides had thorough exchange of views on issues including increasing US exports to China, bilateral service trade, two-way investment, protection of intellectual property rights, as well as resolving tariff and non-tariff issues, reaching consensus in some areas. They also agreed to stay in close communication on relevant issues and establish a corresponding work mechanism. 

  • Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarded for the year 2018
    The Swedish Academy says the Nobel Prize in Literature will be not awarded for the year 2018 following sex-abuse allegations and other issues within its ranks that have tarnished the body’s reputation. 

    In a statement, the body said, the decision was taken in view of the reduced public confidence in the Academy. It said that the 2018 prize will be given in 2019. It is the first time since wartime 1943 that the prestigious award will not handed out. 

  • SAARC Finance Ministers meet in Manila 
    The 12th informal meeting of SAARC Finance Ministers was held in Manila, the capital of Philippines, on 4th May on the sidelines of the 51st Annual Meeting of Asian Development Bank (ADB). The meeting was attended by the Finance Ministers/Heads of Delegations from the SAARC member states. 

    Finance Minister of Nepal Yuba Raj Khatiwada chaired the meeting. Mr. Raj Khatiwada underscored the need of concerted efforts to attain the objective of South Asian Economic Union as desired by the leaders of SAARC. The Finance Ministers/Heads of Delegation briefed the meeting about current status of economic progress achieved by their countries. 

    They also appreciated ADB for its contribution in economic growth of SAARC countries. Vice President of Asian Development Bank Wencai Zhang reaffirmed ADB’s commitment to continue collaboration with SAARC for economic development and prosperity of the peoples in South Asia.
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