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33rd Asean summit begins with call for multilateralism, international cooperation

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ASEAN-INDIA Commemorative Summit

Singapore, Nov 13 : The 33rd summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) opened here on Tuesday with a call for upholding multilateralism and international cooperation to address economic, environmental and terrorism-related challenges.

The summit, a gathering of leaders of Asean’s 10 member countries, will review the regional bloc’s achievements in 2018 in pushing forward community building and integration while mapping out a new course for the year ahead, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the summit, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted the strength of the bloc in times of international uncertainty.

“The existing free, open and rules-based multilateral system, which has underpinned Asean’s growth and stability, has come under stress. Countries, including major powers, are resorting to unilateral actions and bilateral deals.

“Asean is greater than the sum of its parts. By coming together in one collective voice… Asean members have strengthened our standing in the world.”

During Singapore’s chairmanship in 2018, Asean member countries redoubled integration efforts and came up with concrete measures that laid the groundwork for a “united, effective and relevant Asean”, Lee said.

Asean reaffirmed its commitment to multilateral trade and made substantial progress towards completing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), he added.

Lee also called for international cooperation in tackling non-traditional and trans-national threats, including terrorism and climate change.

“These common challenges are complex and unprecedented. We need to pool our ideas and resources to tackle these issues together… multilateralism remains an important basis for international cooperation and for the region’s growth and stability.”

An ongoing trade dispute between Washington and Beijing has threatened to weaken the Asean economy, which was forecast to become the fourth biggest in the world by 2030, after the US, China and the EU.

Lee said the integration process implemented by the group sought to attract investors to some of the most vibrant economies in the region.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the Asean countries will meet representatives of allies such as the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

The most significant absentee at the forum was US President Donald Trump, although the US was represented by Vice-President Mike Pence, who was set to take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Papua New Guinea later this week.

It was not clear if Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pence would hold a bilateral meeting during the summit to discuss the trade dispute.

The humanitarian crisis of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya community was also expected to dominate talks between the summit’s participants, although Lee steered clear of the topic in his speech.

Climate change threats in the region, terrorism and the shift to digital technology were other issues in focus at the forum. The opening ceremony of the summit was set to be followed by a formal dinner for the leaders.

Asean consists of Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Asean was unable to conclude negotiations for the RCEP during a summit in Singapore, postponing them till 2019, Philippines Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez said.

The RCEP is a proposed free trade agreement between Asean and six Asia-Pacific states with which the regional bloc has existing Free Trade Agreements — namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

“We are determined to finish everything by next year,” Lopez said.

Middle East

Turkish Court Jails 27 For Life Over 2016 Coup Attempt

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

A Turkish court on Thursday jailed 27 former pilots and other suspects for life in one of the largest trials stemming from the bloody 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They were convicted of crimes including murder, trying to overthrow the constitutional order and attempting to assassinate the president, an AFP reporter in the courtroom said.

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Argentina declares three-day national mourning for Maradona

The former star player and coach, most recently of the Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata football team, underwent surgery following a stroke in early November.

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Buenos Aires: The Argentina government has declared three days of national mourning for the death of football legend Diego Armando Maradona, the office of the presidency has said.

“The President of the Nation will decree three days of national mourning from the day (of his death),” according to the statement on Wednesday evening, reports Xinhua news agency.

Maradona died due to cardiorespiratory arrest at his home in the Tigre district on the northern outskirts of the capital Buenos Aires.

His body did not show “any sign of violence” and everything indicates that he died of “natural causes,” the prosecutor general of the Argentinian town of San Isidro, John Broyad, said.

According to Broyad, Maradona passed away “around 12:00” local time (1500 GMT) Wednesday at his home in the neighbourhood of San Andres, on the northern outskirts of the capital.

In statements to the press, Broyad said that “at 16:00 (local time) the work of the Forensics Police began” on the body of the former footballer.

“No signs of criminality were evident, no signs of violence,” said the prosecutor.

In addition, he reported that an autopsy would be carried out at the morgue of San Fernando Hospital, to “reliably determine the causes of death”.

The former star player and coach, most recently of the Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata football team, underwent surgery following a stroke in early November.

On October 30, Maradona had celebrated his 60th birthday.

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Diego Maradona (1960-2020): When death felt like a tackle from behind

In India, the 1986 World Cup was where all games were shown live for the first time. And since he made that World Cup his own, Maradona straddled a line between legend and God in a country he wouldn’t visit till 2008.

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Diego Maradona, the shanty-town boy who became a supernatural footballer before his life went into a downward spiral of addiction and myriad health issues for over 30 years, died of a heart attack on Wednesday. He turned 60 on October 30.

Maradona had looked death in the eye a number of times and when he underwent successful surgery for a subdural haematoma recently, his fans would have been forgiven for thinking the worst had passed. In 2004, doctors said his heart was functioning at 40% efficiency. Back then, Maradona pulled through and went on to coach Argentina in the 2010 World Cup where amid the constellation of the planet’s football star, he — in a sharp suit, a diamond stud glinting from an ear and a wristwatch on either hand — was the cynosure till Argentina were gobsmacked by Germany one day after Holland sent Brazil home.

Life, it seemed, was sucked out of that World Cup because the curtains had come down on Maradona’s performance. At press conferences — where once he climbed over the dais to bearhug a journalist who then became the story — and on the pitch where his last memorable act was possibly burying his face on son-in-law Sergio Aguero’s back as Germany scored another goal in that 4-0 rout.

The year 2004 wasn’t the only time he had flirted with death and had the world praying and believing in a miracle. One year later, he had a gastric bypass surgery to help deal with obesity. And as a boy he had survived falling into a pit where he could have drowned. On turning 45 at a party with 400 friends for company, Maradona had said: “I am 45. And I am alive,” wrote Marcela Mora y Araujo, who translated his autobiography “El Diego” in The Observer. “He’s a crazy little giant who dices with death and toboggans unto hell on a daily basis,” wrote Araujo in the introduction to the autobiography.

So it wasn’t surprising that the Maradona of 2006 had again made way to a bloated version of the genius who slalomed his way past England in the 1986 World Cup to score one of the most memorable goals of the competition ever. In Russia in 2018, the version of Maradona that filled fans with dread was seen in the World Cup when he had to be helped from his seat during the Argentina-Nigeria game. He blamed it on wine and said he was fine and we got on with our lives. So when news broke of his heart attack at home in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, it felt like a tackle from behind. How could death win this round?

In India, the 1986 World Cup was where all games were shown live for the first time. And since he made that World Cup his own, Maradona straddled a line between legend and God in a country he wouldn’t visit till 2008. In Egypt, bandits released a group of Argentine tourists on realizing they were from Maradona Country, writes Jimmy Burns, in “Hand of God” . But at least he had played a friendly there. He had not in Kolkata, where the Salt Lake stadium spilled over to see him move in a car. In Bangladesh he had not either, but it didn’t matter. Seeing God, the hero of the 1990 World Cup too and in the bit part he played in 1994 before failing a drug test, felt like an act of fulfillment itself.

Maradona’s rise coincided with football transforming into a billion dollar industry, in whose crosscurrents he found himself for most of his playing career. Except possibly the time at Napoli, where he handheld a team trod upon by the rest of the country to European glory. Two Serie A titles, two second-place finishes an Italian Cup and the UEFA Cup immortalized him in the city. It was while he was at Napoli that Maradona transformed from being an artful dodger to a messiah.

It was also where he came in contact with the Cammora, the city’s crime syndicate. It was where he became a cocaine addict. With Maradona, you see, the sublime and the ridiculous are never mutually exclusive, they exist cheek by jowl. Just as life and death did with him till the final blow on Wednesday.

“Maradona,” Burns begins in ‘Hand of God’, “is the story of a natural-born football talent who grew up to believe he was God and suffered as a result. It was on the pitch where he was the happiest, away from all his troubles, he had said. But while doing what he loved since his uncle gifted him a ball when he could barely walk, he also became a hero for the downtrodden, his ‘Hand of God’ epitomizing — justifying too perhaps — the chicanery that they needed to deal with life’s unfair hand. That magical left foot drew you to him, his outspokenness then endeared him to you.

“Poor old Diego. For so many years we have told him repeatedly, ‘You’re a God’, ‘You are a star’, ‘You are our salvation’ that we forgot to tell him the most important thing: ‘You are a man.’” The words of Jorge Valdano, Maradona’s Argentina teammate in the 1986 World Cup, sums up a life extraordinary.

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