French Ambassador to the United States Philippe Etienne has returned to Washington after almost two weeks of absence amid the dispute between two countries over the US submarine contract with Australia, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the airport.
Etienne declined to answer journalists’ questions upon his arrival at Washington’s Dulles International Airport on Wednesday. The ambassador was called back to Paris on September 17, two days after Australia abandoned a $66 billion agreement on submarines with France in favour of a partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom under the trilateral security alliance AUKUS. France considered the move a “stab in the back,” and also recalled its ambassador from Australia.
On September 22, following a phone conversation with US President Joe Biden on the matter, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to send Etienne back to Washington.
Last week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian discussed the issue with his US counterpart, Antony Blinken, noting that the restoration of confidence between the two states “would take time and action.”
In mid-September, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia declared the formation of AUKUS as a platform for defence and security cooperation. The announcement came as Canberra unilaterally withdrew from the $66 billion agreement on submarines with Paris in favour of the supply of vehicles within the framework of the alliance.
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PAK, IRAN DISCUSS REGIONAL SECURITY SITUATION SINCE TALIBAN TAKEOVER OF AFGHANISTAN
Pakistan and Iran reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and discussed the regional security situation since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani led a delegation that held talks with a team led by Pakistani Foreign Minister Sohail Mahmood in Islamabad on Tuesday, Al Jazeera reported. “During the session, the two sides reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral relations in all areas including political, economic, trade, connectivity, security, energy, education, and people-to-people exchanges,” said a Pakistani statement on the meeting.
Iran’s foreign ministry did not release a statement on the meeting, and the official news agency IRNA quoted from the Pakistani statement. The Pakistani statement said talks were also held on the regional situation, in particular developments in Afghanistan.
“The current situation [in Afghanistan] demanded positive engagement of the international community, urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and measures to help build a sustainable economy,” said the Pakistani statement.
The two countries affirmed that they would “coordinate closely at bilateral and regional” forums on Afghanistan, the statement said. Separately, the Iranian deputy foreign minister also met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad on Tuesday, Pakistan’s foreign office said. “[Qureshi] said that Afghanistan required immediate provision of humanitarian assistance and that the international community should fully support the Afghan people at this critical juncture,” a statement said.
“He stressed the importance of continued economic engagement with Afghanistan to avert economic collapse, which could lead to refugee influx and regional instability,” it added.
CHINESE GENERAL, WHO COMMANDED WESTERN THEATRE ALONG INDIAN BORDER, DIES DUE TO GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Senior Chinese General Zhang Xudong who stepped down as head of Western Theatre Command (bordered with India) in June died aged 58. Citing military sources, Minnie Chan, wrote in South China Morning Post (SCMP) that Zhang, who was replaced as head of the country’s biggest military theatre, had been suffering from cancer and gastrointestinal problems. He was responsible for security along China’s border with India. He was replaced as head of the Western Theatre Command after just six months as part of a series of leadership changes.
His replacement, Xu Qiling, stepped down after just two months and is also said to be in poor health amid a spate of illnesses among commanders and troops posted in the region, reported SCMP.
Zhang had been suffering from cancer and problems with his gastrointestinal tract before his death on October 1, according to two military sources.
Zhang was promoted to full general in late December last year, replacing Zhao Zongqi as head of the country’s largest theatre command, an area that includes Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as China’s border with India in the Himalayas, said Minnie.
In June he stepped down without giving any reason and was replaced by General Xu Qiling, previously head of the Eastern Theatre Command.
“Zhang and Xu were rising stars in the military as President Xi Jinping seemed to think highly of them,” said a military source who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the situation. Zhang was given a role on the CMC’s Strategic Planning Committee, but it is not known what Xu’s current role is, reported SCMP.
However, one military source said there were broader concerns for the health and well-being of commanders and troops in the Western Theatre Command, adding that Xu was also suffering from health problems. “[Xu] also has some problems linked to his gastrointestinal tract,” the source said. “That’s why he left his post just two months after the appointment to the Western Theatre Command.”
Zhou Chenming, a researcher from the Yuan Wang military science and technology institute in Beijing, said many senior officers and commanders on the front line were suffering from gastrointestinal disease and other health problems, wrote Minnie.
“Working conditions in the low-oxygen, low-temperature, high-altitude Western Theatre Command are tough, with coronary heart disease becoming a common problem among officers and soldiers,” Zhou said. The Western Theatre Command was established as part of a major military overhaul five years ago, which divided the country into five theatre commands as part of the drive to modernise the military and make it combat-ready, reported SCMP.
HUNDREDS OF DISPLACED FAMILIES ORDERED TO LEAVE KABUL BY THE TALIBAN
Hundreds of displaced families who were living in Kabul amid countrywide fighting that preceded the Taliban takeover in August, have now been ordered to return to their homes.
Taliban-led government’s Deputy Minister of refugees and repatriation said, “This process began today and will continue, thus all (displaced) families in Kabul will go back to their provinces,” TOLOnews reported. Over 2,000 families have been displaced and are living in Kabul, the Taliban said.
The evacuation of displaced families is being done in cooperation with the donor organisations. Mihruddin, who is a resident of Baghlan, is struggling to receive aid as he is specially-abled.
“I haven’t received any aid. The little aid that is provided, the able-bodied take it,” he said, TOLOnews reported. Abdul Baseer, who is a resident of Kunduz said, “We have a demand to immediately move the people, the people have become sick, it has been over a month that we are here.”
Hundreds of displaced families in Kabul are living in tents or in open areas and the situation is dire as winter is approaching. The World Food Program (WFP) said that the country is facing severe economic conditions and also warned of an economic crisis in the upcoming weeks.
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP representative and country director for Afghanistan said, “The economy is on the brink of collapse here in Afghanistan. There is a cash crisis. Banks had closed their doors, but they are now opened. You can only take out 200 dollars. Savings are inaccessible for the people that have a little bit of money in the bank. The Afghan currency has decreased significantly,” TOLOnews reported,
Various donor organisations and countries have provided humanitarian support to Afghanistan in form of aid, but still, a large number of people remain out of the reach of this aid and remain in need of support.
Maria Ressa, Dmitry Muratov win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize
The 2021 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia.
“Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov – awarded 2021 #NobelPeacePrize – are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions,” tweeted The Nobel Prize Committee. Committee chair, Berit Reiss-Andersen on Friday said the awards have been made for “their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”
The 2021 peace prize laureates are representative of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.
Dmitry Muratov, a Russian journalist and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize who has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions.
In 1993, he was one of the founders of the independent newspaper Novaja Gazeta. Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of the Philippines-based news website Rappler. She uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines.
US should fully recognise the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue: China
China on Friday asked the United States to fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue after media reports stated that US troops are secretly deployed on the island, helping train local troops.
“The US should fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan question, abide by the one-China principle, and stop arms sales to Taiwan island and military contact with it so as not to seriously damage China-US relations and peace and stability across the Straits,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a daily briefing. China has sent in recent days almost 150 military aircraft close to Taiwan while the US and other allied forces conducted drills in the South China Sea.
Pentagon said on Thursday that the United States has said that its support for and defence relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by China. This comes after a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report claimed that a US special operation unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly training military forces in Taiwan to help shore up the country’s defence.
Though Pentagon spokesperson John Supple declined to comment on the specifics of the report, he said that the US support for Taiwan remains “strong, principled, and bipartisan,” in line with his country’s one-China policy and longstanding commitments, Focus Taiwan reported.
The US will continue to support the peaceful resolution of cross-Taiwan Strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on both sides, Supple said.
“The PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan and other allies and partners, including increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, East China Sea, and South China Sea, which we believe are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation,” he added.
Since mid-September of last year, Beijing has stepped up its grey-zone tactics by regularly sending planes into Taiwan’s ADIZ, with most instances occurring in the southwest corner of the zone and usually consisting of one to three slow-flying turboprop planes. Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, despite the island’s self-governance for more than seven decades.
DESIGNATE PAKISTAN AS A TERROR STATE, SAYS EXPERT; URGES US TO EVALUATE TIES WITH ISLAMABAD
Policymakers and geopolitical experts in Washington are advocating a shift in outlook towards Islamabad following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan which was aided by Pakistan.
This shift in tide has been widely attributed to Pakistan’s covert and overt support to the outfit which led to the swift fall of the democratically elected government in Kabul in August this year. Last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said that Washington is looking to “reassess” its ties with Islamabad. Pakistan Foreign Office later expressed “surprise” over Blinken’s remarks, saying it was “not in line with the close cooperation” between the two nations.
A few weeks later, a bill was introduced in the US Senate calling for a probe into Pakistan’s support to the Taliban for the 2021 offensive that toppled the Afghan government. More than 20 US Senators had introduced the bill and demanded sanctions on the Taliban in Afghanistan and the foreign governments that support the outfit. Writing for The Washington Examiner, Michael Rubin argued that it is time for both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives to say enough is enough.
“It is time to move the fundamental rethink of US Pakistan policy from rhetorical to reality. Strip Pakistan of major non-NATO ally status. Designate Pakistan as a terror sponsor. Put it on the Financial Action Task Force blacklist where it belongs,” he added.
Rubin, who is the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), said apologia for Pakistan should not be hardwired into US foreign policy.
He said that Pakistan’s failure to come clean about its sheltering of Osama bin Laden and numerous Pakistani terrorists captured while fighting alongside the Taliban should have landed Pakistan on the state sponsor of terror list a while ago.
Terming Washington’s strategy of Pakistan as “delusional”, Rubin reminded that that between 2002 and 2018, the US gave the south Asian country more than USD 33 billion.
“That equates to more than USD 100 for every American man, woman, and child. Whether that aid was civilian or military, neither Washington nor Pakistan have anything to show for it.”
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