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EU Leaders Seek End to Embarrassing Belarus Sanctions Clash

BRUSSELS—European Union leaders sought on Oct. 1 to end an embarrassing standoff that prevents them ..

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BRUSSELS—European Union leaders sought on Oct. 1 to end an embarrassing standoff that prevents them from imposing sanctions on senior officials in Belarus who stand accused of falsifying presidential election results and leading a clampdown on peaceful protesters.

All EU member countries reject the result of the Aug. 9 election that allowed Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko to extend his 26 years in office. EU members want a new election and agree that sanctions should be slapped on dozens of officials, perhaps even the leader once dubbed Europes last dictator.

But Cyprus, one of the EUs smallest member countries, is vetoing the move. It is demanding that its partners in the worlds biggest trading bloc also take action against Turkey for its energy exploration work in disputed waters off the island nations coast.

After European foreign ministers failed to break the deadlock in August, the EUs foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, warned that “our credibility is at stake,” if the bloc cannot forge a common foreign policy among 27 countries.

“It is bad that we cannot make it work,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Oct. 1.

“It is of major importance we agree on Belarus sanctions. There is a wide-ranging agreement on that. A link between Belarus and Turkey is political only, and has no explanation when we assess the facts.

“What we need to achieve in the coming hours is a decoupling, while we have to recognize there are legitimate concerns about Turkey.”

Ahead of the two-day summit, diplomats said an accommodation might be found. The leaders were holding wide-ranging talks about the EUs troubled ties with Turkey over its drilling in the Mediterranean Sea, its roles in the conflicts in Libya and Syria, and as a source of migrants trying to reach Europe.

Cyprus could be appeased if its partners underline their support in the final summit communique, or in a special statement from European Council President Charles Michel, who is chairing the two-day meeting. The leaders could then give a green light to sanctions against dozens of Belarus officials.

That would allow national envoys to quickly enact the sanctions in the coming days, the EU diplomats said.

French President Emmanuel Macron was staunch in his support, saying that “solidarity is non-negotiable” when it comes to Cyprus, but also to Greece in its long-running dispute with Turkey.

“When a European Union member state is attacked, threatened, when its territorial waters are not respected, its the duty of Europeans to show their solidarity,” Macron said.

In a televised address marking the 60th anniversary of Cypruss independence, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades expressed on Oct. 1 his “sincere gratitude to all European Union member states for their staunch support and solidarity in light of Turkeys provocations.”

But Anastasiades said he wants the leaders to take “a more tangible and effective stance to bring about an end to gunboat diplomacy and for the crisis to be succeeded by dialogue or recourse to the international court on the basis of international law and the law of the sea.”

Making the same point, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “The time has come for Europe to discuss with courage and honesty what kind of relationship it truly wants to have with Turkey. One thing is certain: Turkish provocation, whether this is expressed through unilateral actions or extreme rhetoric, can no longer be tolerated.”

In Ankara, meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dRead More – Source

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Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh receive Covid-19 vaccine

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Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh have received their Covid-19 vaccinations, a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Saturday.

The inoculations were administered by a household doctor at Windsor Castle, a royal source said.
To prevent inaccuracies and further speculation, Her Majesty, who 94, decided that she would let it be known that she has had the vaccination, the source added. Her husband is 99 years old.
The couple’s son, Prince Charles, tested positive for coronavirus and went into isolation in March. The 72-year-old later said he was lucky to only experience mild symptoms, adding he’d “got away with it quite lightly.”
Meanwhile, their grandson Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, also tested positive for coronavirus earlier this year, UK media reported, though exactly when he contracted the virus is unclear.
The UK has recorded more than 3 million cases of Covid-19 and more than 80,000 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University on Saturday.
The UK reported 1,325 coronavirus-related fatalities on Friday — its highest ever daily increase in deaths.
Health officials face a deadly start to 2021 as a new coronavirus variant, first detected in the UK, sweeps the nation.
In the capital, London’s mayor declared a “major incident” on Friday, warning that hospitals in the city were close to being overrun.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point,” Khan added. “If we do not take immediate action now, our [National Health Service] could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

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Dozens killed in suspected jihadist attack in Niger

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Dozens of people were killed in an attack in Niger on Saturday, in a suspected jihadist attack.

The attack took place around 12:00 CET in the Tchomo-Bangou village in Tillabéri, a western region bordering Mali.

“The assailants surrounded the village and killed up to 50 people,” a local radio journalist said anonymously. “The wounded have been evacuated to the hospital in Ouallam.”

It came on the day provisional results for the first round of the presidential election, held on December 27, were released.

Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate for the ruling Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) and a former interior minister, is in the lead with 39.3 per cent of the votes. Bazoum has vowed to strengthen the country’s fight against Islamist groups.

The second round of the election is to be held on February 21.

Niger has been a target for jihadist attacks for years, particularly in the western and southeastern parts of the country.

On December 21, six days before the presidential poll, seven soldiers were killed in Tillabéri. In May 2020, twenty people, including children, were also killed in two of the region’s villages.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/03/dozens-killed-in-suspected-jihadist-attack-in-niger

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Niger votes in presidential and legislative elections

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People in Niger began voting in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Mohamed Bazoum, the right-hand man of outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou is the favourite to win.

The sixty-year-old former interior minister is aiming for outright victory in the first round — something that no candidate has done before.

He’s focussing on security and education.

Over 7 million people are eligible to vote. But some voters, like Gambina Moumouni, simply want a president they can trust.

“We pray to Allah to choose us the president who has the most mercy for the people, a president who will not betray the country and who will not betray the trust of the people, that is our wish. It is also our wish that Allah may help to make the poor, the peasants, the (cattle) breeders happy.

Thirty candidates are standing including two former presidents and two former prime ministers, but according to seasoned observers in the region, the poll is arousing little enthusiasm among the population.

Niger is the world’s poorest according to the UN’s Human Development Index and also one of those hardest hit by climate change.

Read from source: https://www.euronews.com/2020/12/27/niger-votes-in-presidential-and-legislative-elections

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