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Japan’s Abe in Tehran to ease US-Iran tensions

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Shinzo Abe

Tokyo, June 12 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is on a two-day trip to Iran, during which he will try to help diffuse rising tensions in the Persian Gulf between Washington and Tehran.

Prior to the Japanese leader’s departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Abe said he wanted to exchange candid views while in Iran and help ease rising tensions.

“To ease tensions, I’d like to have a frank exchange of views,” Abe told reporters at the airport.

During his visit, Abe is slated to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani and intends to try and urge Iran to stick to an international nuclear accord inked in 2015 between Iran and six major powers, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

US President Donald Trump, however, has since pulled the United States out of the international nuclear deal and restored sanctions against Tehran that were scraped under the 2015 deal, leading to a backlash from Tehran and it opting to suspend some of its commitments under the deal.

The US sending a carrier strike force, B-52 bombers and armed troops to the Gulf, after Iran said it plans to keep more enriched uranium than is permitted under the pact, has contributed to rising tensions in the region.

Prior to this, the US said it would on May 2 end waivers granted since November that have been applicable to certain countries including resource-poor Japan to import oil from Iran.

The Japanese prime minister believes he can help de-escalate the situation as Japan has friendly ties with both Washington and Tehran.

Abe’s high-stakes, yet symbolic visit to Iran will mark the first visit to be made a Japanese prime minister to Iran since Takeo Fukuda in 1978.

In light of the escalating tensions in the region, Abe will seek to use the summit-level talks to try and urge Iran to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue as the US. has voiced its openness to hold further talks.

Abe garnered the support of Trump to try and help mediate the situation with Iran while the US leader was here for a state visit recently.

Japan, who maintains friendly ties with Iran, relies on its Middle Eastern partner for 5 per cent of its total crude oil imports, due to favourable prices.

World

World Council of Churches wants Hagia Sophia decision reversed

The issue has highlighted the clash between those who want Turkey to remain secular, and President Erdogan’s conservative religious base.

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Hagia Sophia

Istanbul, July 12 : The World Council of Churches has called on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reverse his decision to turn the celebrated Hagia Sophia museum back into a mosque.

In a letter to Erdogan, the Council, which counts 350 churches as members, said the move would sow division, the BBC reported.

The Unesco World Heritage site in Istanbul has been a museum since 1934.

The president announced his decision on Friday following a court ruling which annulled its museum status.

The Hagia Sophia was built 1,500 years ago as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest in 1453.

It was converted to a museum on the orders of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of modern, secular Turkey.

Since then religious services have been banned at the site, but devout Muslims have long campaigned for worship to be allowed.

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches says it represents more than 500 million Christians.

The letter is from Ioan Sauca, interim general secretary, who says the Council feels “grief and dismay”.

“By deciding to convert the Hagia Sophia back to a mosque you have reversed that positive sign of Turkey”s openness and changed it to a sign of exclusion and division.”

He writes that the decision “will inevitably create uncertainties, suspicions and mistrust, undermining all our efforts to bring people of different faiths together at the table of dialogue and co-operation”.

“In the interests of promoting mutual understanding, respect, dialogue and co-operation, and avoiding cultivating old animosities and divisions, we urgently appeal to you to reconsider and reverse your decision,” the letter read.

The case was decided by the Council of State, Turkey”s highest administrative body, following a petition from an NGO – the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment.

It argued that the building had been the private property of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed, responsible for turning the church into a mosque.

The issue has highlighted the clash between those who want Turkey to remain secular, and President Erdogan’s conservative religious base.

The case was decided by the Council of State, Turkey”s highest administrative body, following a petition from an NGO – the Association for the Protection of Historic Monuments and the Environment.

It argued that the building had been the private property of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed, responsible for turning the church into a mosque.

The issue has highlighted the clash between those who want Turkey to remain secular, and President Erdogan”s conservative religious base.

He defended his decision on Friday by stressing that the country had exercised its sovereign right in converting the building back to a mosque. The first Muslim prayers would be held on 24 July.

“Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be wide open to locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” he said.

Today Turkey had “435 churches and synagogues open for worship”, while “few buildings our ancestors built in Eastern Europe and Balkans stand today”.

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Middle East

Etihad Airways to now operate India flights from July 15

On Thursday, the Centre announced civil aviation authorities of India and the UAE have agreed to operate special repatriation flights between the two countries during July 12-26.

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etihad Airways

New Delhi, July 11 : Etihad Airways has postponed, to July 15, the resumption of a limited number of special flight operations from Abu Dhabi to six Indian gateways.

On Friday, the airline had announced operations will begin from July 12.

Consequently, the airline will now operate the special flight operations from July 15-26, both ways of these routes.

The latest announcement comes a few day after partial lifting of international flight restrictions by Indian authorities to allow outbound travel.

“Following the partial lifting of international flight restrictions by the UAE and Indian authorities on travel for eligible individuals to and from Abu Dhabi to India, Etihad Airways will resume a limited number of special flights to six Indian gateways,” the company said in a statement.

“The airline will operate services from Abu Dhabi to Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kochi, and Mumbai.”

On Thursday, the Centre announced civil aviation authorities of India and the UAE have agreed to operate special repatriation flights between the two countries during July 12-26.

As per the arrangement, chartered flights operated by UAE carriers to fly out Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry ICA (Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship) approved UAE residents to their native country on their return leg.

Further, Indian carriers operating repatriation flights to bring back Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry the ICA-approved UAE residents on their onward journey from India to the Gulf country.

“As part of the close strategic partnership between the governments of India and UAE, and with a view to assisting UAE residents who are presently in India to return to UAE, the Civil Aviation Authorities of both countries have agreed to operationalise a special arrangement,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had tweeted.

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China, India stand very differently at UN: Syed Akbaruddin

The 1985 batch IFS officer, who retired recently, shared his memories of being a part of the university as a student of Political Science.

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Syed Akbaruddin United Nations

Hyderabad, July 12 : India’s former permanent representative at the United Nations, Syed Akbaruddin on Saturday said countries like China and India stand very differently at the UN, in terms of their perspective and approach.

Akbaruddin was speaking during an online interaction with the Vice Chancellor and other faculty members of the University of Hyderabad, his alma mater.

About his experience working at the United Nations, he said: “The ones who have been a part of the United Nations very well know that UN is not an enchanted place. Countries like China and India stand very differently in the UN, in terms of their perspective and approach. China is always quiet and speaks only for itself whereas India always wants to speak for everyone.”

The Alumni Association of University of Hyderabad had organised an online interactive session with a distinguished alumnus in presence of Vice Chancellor Prof. Appa Rao Podile and Professor P. Prakash Babu, Dean, School of Medical Sciences, and also the General Secretary of the Alumni Association. Faculty and students from the schools participated in this programme.

Responding to a question by Professor Pramod K, Nayar, Department of English, Akbaruddin talked about the current situation of foreign policy in India. “Foreign policy is something we should not take for granted. It is not a private body but a collective government enterprise. We need to give more time and space to the government to act on the foreign policy that has been taking an upward trajectory, however, we, as a country, always fancy something better than what we own.”

As Professor Vinod Pavarala, Department of Communication, asked the former diplomat about the difference between trained civil servants and political appointees becoming ambassadors, he said: “If there is better talent available outside the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), we should not shy away because India”s diversity is such that a closed club cannot represent the whole of it. The talent we have today is more diversified and has the potential of bringing a lot to the table.”

The 1985 batch IFS officer, who retired recently, shared his memories of being a part of the university as a student of Political Science.

“My passion for learning and understanding International Relations ignited here in HCU (Hyderabad Central University). For someone like me who always wanted to study about state issues, my professors made me realise that one doesn”t need to feel alienated from their roots when they learn more about international relations. In fact, a better understanding of international relations gives you a clearer world view in understanding your roots,” he said, as per a university statement.

Akbaruddin, who served as India”s permanent representative at the UN from January 2016 to April 2020, also had advice for the young minds. “One should always be confident about their values because your values cannot be crushed under any circumstances. Your intrinsic values always prevail, even when you face difficult situations.”

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