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Xi, Moon agree to enhance communication on Korean peninsula

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Port Moresby,Nov 18 : Chinese President Xi Jinping met his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in here on Saturday, calling for deepening the strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries and strengthening communication on the Korean peninsula issue.

The Korean Peninsula situation is at a crucial stage, the Chinese leader said, noting that Beijing and Seoul should enhance communication and coordinate with each other to advance the process of denuclearization and push for the establishment of a peace mechanism on the peninsula.

The consensus that was reached between the two heads of state had been implemented effectively over the past year and the bilateral ties had steadily improved and developed, Xi told Moon on the sidelines of the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

On the Korean Peninsula issue, Xi said that the situation on the peninsula had shown positive changes over the past year and the issue had gone back to the right track of dialogue and consultation.

He urged the two countries to continuously deepen their strategic cooperative partnership and jointly make positive contributions to lasting peace and prosperity in the region, Xinhua news agency reported.

Xi called for greater efforts from both sides to jointly promote the Belt and Road Initiative, accelerate the second-phase negotiations of the bilateral free trade agreement and optimize and upgrade their mutually beneficial cooperation.

He also proposed that the two sides strengthen coordination and cooperation within multilateral frameworks such as APEC, G20 and the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral meetings.

Moon said relations with China were now showing a trend of quick recovery, with exchanges and cooperation in various areas picking up markedly.

 

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‘Horror show’: Massive explosion in Beirut kills dozens, wounds thousands in Lebanon’s capital

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Beirut Blast

BEIRUT : A huge explosion in a port warehouse district near the centre of Beirut killed more than 73 people, injured over 3,700 others and sent shockwaves across the Lebanese capital on Tuesday, shattering windows and causing apartment balconies to collapse.

Officials expected the death toll to rise sharply as emergency workers dug through rubble across a swathe of the city to rescue people and remove the dead. It was the most powerful blast to hit Beirut in years, making the ground tremble.

“What we are witnessing is a huge catastrophe,” the head of Lebanon’s Red Cross George Kettani told broadcaster Mayadeen. “There are victims and casualties everywhere – in all the streets and areas near and far from the explosion.”

Three hours after the blast, which struck shortly after 6 p.m. (1500 GMT), a fire still blazed in the port district, casting an orange glow across the night sky as helicopters hovered and ambulance sirens sounded across the capital.

A security source said victims were being taken for treatment outside the city because Beirut hospitals were already packed with wounded. Red Cross ambulances from the north and south of the country and the Bekaa valley to the east were called in to cope with the huge casualty toll.

The blast was so big that some residents in the city, where memories of heavy shelling during the 1975 to 1990 civil war live on, thought an earthquake had struck. Dazed, weeping and, wounded, people walked through streets searching for relatives.

Lebanon’s interior minister said initial information indicated highly explosive material, seized years ago, that had been stored at the port had blown up. The minister later told Al Jadeed TV ammonium nitrate had been in storage there since 2014.

Footage of the explosion shared by residents on social media showed a column of smoke rising from the port district followed by an enormous blast, sending a ball of white smoke and fireball into the sky. Those filming the incident from high buildings 2 km (more than a mile) from the port were thrown backwards by the shock.

Lebanon’s health minister said more than 25 people had been killed and more than 2,500 were injured. Lebanon’s Red Cross said hundreds of people had been taken to hospitals.

DAY OF MOURNING

Lebanese President Michel Aoun called for an emergency meeting of the country’s Supreme Defence Council, according to the presidency’s Twitter account. Prime Minister Hassan Diab called for a day of mourning on Wednesday.

The explosion occurred three days before a U.N.-backed court is due to deliver a verdict in the trial of four suspects from the Shi’ite group Hezbollah over a 2005 bombing which killed former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and 21 other people.

Hariri was killed in another huge blast on the waterfront, although on that occasion it was caused by a truck bomb.

It was not immediately clear what caused Tuesday’s blaze that set off the blast.

Internal Security Chief Abbas Ibrahim, touring the port area, said he would not pre-empt investigations. An Israeli official said Israel, which has fought several wars with Lebanon, had nothing to do with the blast.

The governor of Beirut port told Sky News that a team of firefighters at the scene had “disappeared” after the explosion.

“I saw a fireball and smoke billowing over Beirut. People were screaming and running, bleeding. Balconies were blown off buildings. Glass in high-rise buildings shattered and fell to the street,” said a Reuters witness.

Residents said glass was broken in houses from Raouche, on the Mediterranean city’s western tip, to Rabieh 10 km (6 miles) east). In Cyprus, a Mediterranean island 110 miles (180 km) across the sea from Beirut, residents heard the blast bangs. One resident in Nicosia said his house and window shutters shook.

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Pakistan Foreign Minister writes to UNSC on Jammu and Kashmir ‘dispute’

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Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Islamabad, Aug 4 : Amid Pakistans plans to mark the first anniversary of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, which granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, on August 5 with protests, rallies and other activities, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has written a letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), highlighting Islamabads claims of what it calls “illegal and unilateral measures of August 5 2019 in the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK)”.

In the letter addressed to the President of UN Security Council, Qureshi has highlighted the ongoing tense situation in the Kashmir Valley and the “violations of human rights committed by the Indian forces”.

“Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has one again written to the President of UN Security Council sharing additional information on India’s continuing massive violations of human rights in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, its attempt to change demography and its escalating ceasefire violations and rhetoric against Pakistan which together pose a threat to regional and international peace and security,” read the statement issued by the Pakistan Foreign Office.

Terming the year-long lockdown and curfew imposed by the Narendra Modi-led government in Jammu and Kashmir as “military siege”, Qureshi maintained that with “internet and communication blackout, imprisoned Kashmiri political leaders and abducted Kashmiri youth, India is seeking to camouflage the ongoing systematic torture, extra-judicial killings and imposition of collective punishment on Kashmiris”.

“These atrocities epitomise India’s brutality in suppressing Kashmiri’s resistance against Indian occupation for over seven decades,” read the letter.

Along with the letter, Pakistan has also circulated two papers as official document for the Security Council: 1) On the legal aspects of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute; 2) On India’s violations of human rights in IIOJK.

As per the press release of the Foreign Office, the legal document “apprises the Council members and the world community of the legitimacy of the Kashmiris’ demand of self-determination”.

The second document details India’s violations of human rights which “will be a permanent and damning testimony of India’s long record of oppression and serious crimes against the Kashmiri people”.

Qureshi has also highlighted the ongoing ceasefire violations by India along the working boundary and the Line of Control (LoC), stating that “India’s belligerent posture towards Pakistan pose a threat to peace and security”.

Qureshi has “urged the Council to strengthen the UN Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to enable it to report fully and accurately on the gravity of the security environment in occupied Jammu and Kashmir”.

Pakistan has also reminded the Security Council of its responsibility towards maintenance of international peace and security.

“I urge the Council to meet and consider the consequences of India’s military siege in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir and the serious threats that India’s aggressive posture pose to the peace and security of South Asia,” Qureshi said.

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Pompeo, Taliban deputy leader discuss intra-Afghan talks

The prisoners in question were named on a 5,000-member list given to the government by the Taliban.

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Kabul, Aug 4 : US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Talibans deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar discussed the much-awaited intra-Afghan talks and the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, a spokesman of the group said.

The talks took place on Monday via video conference.

“Both sides talked about the inception of intra-Afghan negotiations and the status quo emphasizing that release of the remaining prisoners are essential for commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations,” Khaame Press quoted spokesman Suhail Shaheen as saying.

“The Secretary of State also welcomed announcement of ceasefire by the Islamic Emirate on the eve of the current Eid.”

This comes as the both the Afghan government and Taliban have released hundreds of prisoners following the signing of peace deal between Washington and Taliban earlier this year.

Meanwhile, senior government official said on Monday that Afghan government is convening the consultative Loya Jirga, the grand assembly of Afghan elders and representatives, to find a consensus on the decision to release the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners who are accused of crimes including murder, drug trafficking and abduction, TOLO News reported.

The prisoners in question were named on a 5,000-member list given to the government by the Taliban.

The Afghan government has so far released 4,600 prisoners on this list but has refrained from releasing the remaining 400.

At least 3,200 people will attend the Jirga, according to presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

The prisoners, he said, are accused of murder and also for abduction, as well as other crimes.

The Afghan government has not made public any further details about the Jirga and its committees or its duration.

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