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Tillerson to visit Middle East amid tensions

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US Secretary of State, RexTillerson (File Photo)

Washington, Feb 9: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will kick off a nearly week-long tour on Sunday to Turkey and four other Middle East countries amid mounting tensions between Washington and Ankara over Turkey’s military offensive in Syria, the US State Department said on Thursday.

In Turkey, Tillerson will meet with senior Turkish officials to discuss “a range of bilateral and regional issues,” said the US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a statement.

Tension has been escalating between the two NATO allies amid Turkey’s ongoing military operation into the Syria’s Afrin against the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers as the Syrian affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed by Turkey, the European Union and the United States as a terrorist organization.

Ankara’s operation followed US calls to establish a Kurdish-led “border security force (BSF)” in the future in Syria along the 900-km border with Turkey, a move that has angered Turkey.

The BSF would be mainly constituted by the YPG, which has been supported politically and militarily by the United States since 2014 in the battle against the Islamic State.

According to the statement, apart from Turkey, the top US diplomat will also travel to Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait on Feb. 11-16 and engage with leaders of the countries on topics including ongoing crisis in Syria.

IANS

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US Covid-19 catastrophe is Biden’s problem now

Biden has vowed to “manage the hell out of this operation”. There’s a ton of managing to be done, starting with the simple act of masking up, which has gone from public health tool to culture war in the Trump era.

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Joe Biden

New York, Jan 19 : At noon on January 20, 2021, almost a full year after the first coronavirus case was reported in the US, Covid-19 will no longer be Donald Trump’s problem to solve. It will be incoming US president Joe Biden’s.

The pandemic’s winter surge is raging, pushing the total death toll towards 400,000 (398,000 lives have already been lost to the virus), deaths are rising in nearly two-thirds of the country’s 50 states even as a strong variant is taking hold. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the new variant is about 50 per cent more contagious than the one that has ravaged the country so far.

California, where it all started, became the first state Monday to cross a grim milestone than 3 million coronavirus infections. The state took 292 days to get to 1 million infections on November 11 and just 44 days to sprint to 2 million. California alone accounts for more than 33,600 Covid-19 deaths.

The first wave never really ebbed, the baseline never came down to levels seen in Europe or Asia, US was struggling to hold down new infections even before the variants appeared, millions of Americans are out of work, the US has topped 24 million infections and counting.

“Almost a year later, we’re still far from back to normal. The honest truth is this: Things will get worse before they get better,” Biden said last week, in a nod to the massive challenge facing his “crisis tested” Covid-19 task force.

Biden has a stated goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days. What we know so far is all the goals that haven’t been reached. The US had a goal of reaching 20 million vaccinations by end December 2020, and less than 11 million have got shots in arms by Inauguration Day out of about 31.2 million doses of vaccine which have been distributed.

Biden wants to use the Defence Production Act to boost vaccine supplies and set up 100 vaccination centers around the country by the end of his first month in office. He plans to pour $50 billion to expand testing which is seen as a key to reopening K-8 classrooms. About $130 billion is the outlay to help schools reopen safely. A much touted predictive model used by the Trump White House projects a cumulative death toll of more than 550,000 deaths within 100 days from January 20.

Biden has vowed to “manage the hell out of this operation”. There’s a ton of managing to be done, starting with the simple act of masking up, which has gone from public health tool to culture war in the Trump era.

After 24 million infections and 398,000 deaths in America’s deadliest year, Biden is pleading with Americans: “For God’s sake, wear a mask for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country.”

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French government urges Russia to immediately release Navalny

He also informed Putin that France’s own analysis had confirmed Germany’s conclusion that Navalny was poisoned by Novichok “in contravention of international norms on using chemical weapons”.

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emmanuel macron

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday urged his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to urgently shed light on the “attempted murder” of opposition figure Alexei Navalny after French tests confirmed the use of the Novichok nerve agent, the Elysée said.

Macron told Putin in telephone talks that it is “imperative that all light be shed, without delay, on the circumstances of this attempted murder and who is responsible”, the French presidency said in a statement.

Read: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained after landing in Moscow

He also informed Putin that France’s own analysis had confirmed Germany’s conclusion that Navalny was poisoned by Novichok “in contravention of international norms on using chemical weapons”.

Putin, for his part, told Macron that it was “inappropriate” to make groundless accusations against Russia over the suspected poisoning of Navalny, the Kremlin said.

The Russian leader said his country wanted Germany to hand over medical test results taken from Navalny, according to a Kremlin readout of the call.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained after landing in Moscow

Russian prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence.

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Alexei Navalny

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany on Sunday, the prison service said.

The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case.

Mr. Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, had spent the previous five months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent attack that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Mr. Navalny decided to leave Berlin of his own free will and wasn’t under any apparent pressure to leave from Germany.

The prison service made the announcement after the flight carrying Mr. Navalny landed in the Russian capital, though at a different airport than had been scheduled. It was a possible attempt to outwit journalists and supporters who wanted to witness Mr. Navalny’s return.

The prison service last week issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had violated the terms of suspended sentence he received on a 2014 conviction for embezzlement. The prison service has asked a Moscow court to turn Mr. Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into a real one.

After boarding the Moscow flight in Berlin on Sunday, Mr. Navalny said of the prospect of arrest: “It’s impossible; I’m an innocent man.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the opposition leader’s poisoning.

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