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Trump expresses desire to improve relations with Russia

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Trump weighs lifting Russia sanctions

Washington, May 11 : US President Donald Trump on Wednesday emphasised his desire to build a better relationship between the US and Russia, the White House said.

Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington, Trump raised the possibility of broader cooperation on resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, Xinhua quoted the White House as saying.

The meeting came amid tensions between the US and Russia as the two countries hold differences on a slew of issues, including the Syrian conflict, the Ukrainian crisis and the expansion of NATO.

Trump, who has expressed hopes of repairing relations with Moscow, said last month that the US was “not getting along with Russia at all” and the relations between the two countries “may be at an all-time low.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Trump emphasised the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, underscoring the need for Russia to “rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies.”

After Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syria airbase last month in response to Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons, the Russian government condemned the military action, calling Washington’s move “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law.”

On Ukraine, Trump expressed his Administration’s commitment to remain engaged in resolving the conflict and stressed Russia’s responsibility to fully implement the Minsk agreements.

The US, along with some European allies, has imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia in response to what they called the annexation of Crimea and destabilising activities in eastern Ukraine.

After the meeting, Lavrov told reporters that Trump confirmed his interest in building “mutually beneficial” relations with Russia.

Earlier in the day, Lavrov held talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on a range of issues, including Ukraine, Syria, and bilateral concerns.

Europe

Belgian court ends extradition case against Catalan leader Puigdemont

The judge had declared the case to be “without merit” during an in-camera hearing.

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Carles Puigdemont

A Belgian court formally closed extradition proceedings against deposed Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Thursday.

Puigdemont and four of his deputies fled to Belgium in October to avoid charges of rebellion, sedition and misusing public money in relation to Catalonia’s independence bid. The Spanish Supreme Court withdrew the European arrest warrants last week.

The judge had declared the case to be “without merit” during an in-camera hearing, Paul Bekaert, Puigdemont’s Belgian lawyer, told AFP.

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North Korea: Trump taking dangerous step to nuclear war by seeking naval blockade

Pyongyang also lashed out at the possible US move in a commentary on Sunday in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

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Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald

US President Donald Trump is taking an “extremely dangerous” and “big step” towards nuclear war by seeking a naval blockade, North Korea has stated, according to the official KCNA news agency.

Pyonyang also said it will take “merciless self-defensive” measures against any blockade, as it would consider such a move an “act of war.” The North Korean government also believes any blockade would be a “wanton violation” of its sovereignty and dignity, KCNA reported, citing a foreign ministry spokesman.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson previously mentioned the “right to interdict maritime traffic transporting goods” to and from the North, following Pyongyang’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on November 29.

Pyongyang also lashed out at the possible US move in a commentary on Sunday in the communist party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

Earlier on Thursday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin warned that North Korea now finds itself in a position where it “doesn’t see any other way for self-protection rather than developing weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies.” Having reiterated that Moscow in no way supports Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the Russian leader stressed that the Kremlin calls for steps by all sides towards a peaceful solution.

Both the US and North Korea “should stop fueling tensions,” Putin told international media at his annual press conference, adding that everyone should be “extremely cautious” about the situation on the Korean peninsula. “One launch from North Korea will be enough for catastrophic consequences,” the president warned.

The comments come just one day after State Department spokesperson Heath Nauert appeared to backtrack on statements made by Tillerson, in which the secretary of state said the US was “ready to have the first meeting” with Pyongyang “without preconditions.” Nauert said on Wednesday that North Korea would have to suspend its weapons tests before such talks could take place.

Earlier this month, Moscow said it was ready to help facilitate talks between Washington and Pyongyang, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stating that “North Korea wants to talk to the US about its own security assurances.”

Russia and China have proposed a so-called “double freeze” plan which would see the US suspend joint drills with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests. However, that plan was swiftly rejected during the summer by the US, which asserted its right to conduct military exercises with its ally South Korea.

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India ready to work with new Nepal government

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Nepal election
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New Delhi, Dec 14: Welcoming the parliamentary and provincial election results in Nepal, India on Thursday said it was looking forward to working with the new government in Kathmandu.

“India has age-old unique time-tested ties of friendship with the country,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here.

“We look forward to working with the next democratically elected government in Nepal to advance our close and multi-faceted partnership across all sectors and to support Nepal in its pursuit of peace, stability, economic prosperity for all round development,” he said.

Nepal’s CPN-UML emerged as the largest party in the Himalayan nation. The vote count for Parliament and provincial assembly elections in Nepal ended on Wednesday.

IANS

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