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Death toll in Indonesia's lava flood rises to 44

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Jakarta, May 13 (IANS) The death toll due to cold lava flood in Indonesia’s West Sumatra province has mounted to 44, a senior official of a local disaster agency said on Monday.

Although many big stones and waste materials from the flooding hampered the search for the victims, rescuers discovered another seven bodies in the affected areas, said Fajar Sukma, head of the emergency unit of the disaster management and mitigation agency of West Sumatra province, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We have found several bodies, bringing the total death toll to 44. Big stones and the waste have hampered the searching, but we continue to look for the 15 people reported missing,” he told Xinhua.

Some machinery equipment has successfully reached the flood-stricken areas, according to him.

The search operation would focus on Tanah Datar and Agam regencies, where the 15 missing were reported, he added.

Spokesman of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) Abdul Muhari said the natural disaster on Saturday had forced over 3,000 people to flee home and take shelter in both regencies, as the cold lava floods destroyed houses, buildings and other infrastructure facilities.

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The government had conducted emergency relief efforts in responding to the disaster, while the head of the BNPB, Lieutenant General Suharyanto, would supervise the evacuation and distribution of aid to the affected residents, he said.

Earlier media reports put the death toll at 37.

–IANS

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International

Belarus suspends participation in conventional arms treaty in Europe

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Minsk, May 30 (IANS) Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the document to suspend the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the media reported.

The document was signed by Lukashenko on May 24, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the decision to suspend the CFE was made in the context of the collapse of the existing conventional arms control system in Europe and the continued escalation of the military and political situation in the region.

The Ministry added that if NATO ends its suspension of the treaty, Belarus would do the same.

The CFE was signed in November 1990 in Paris by 16 NATO member states and six Warsaw Pact countries. It came into effect in November 1992.

The treaty limits the number of military equipment signatory countries can possess.

–IANS

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Sudanese army chief, Blinken discuss Sudan conflict, humanitarian access

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Khartoum, May 30 (IANS) Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan has held a phone talk with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discussing the need to end the conflict in Sudan and enable unhindered humanitarian access to alleviate people’s suffering, according to a statement from the council.

The US State Department has called for ending the conflict in Sudan and allowing humanitarian access, said the statement on Wednesday as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

During the phone call from Blinken, the two sides also touched upon the resumption of the Jeddah talks and the need for cessation of hostilities in El Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur State in western Sudan, it added.

Al-Burhan, also the general commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), in addition, discussed with Blinken bilateral ties and enhancing cooperation.

Sudan has been witnessing deadly clashes between the SAF and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces since April 15, 2023, which have killed 15,550 people and displaced more than 8.8 million others so far, according to the latest estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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–IANS

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No indication Israel will open Rafah crossing soon: Palestine's Health minister

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Geneva, May 30 (IANS) There is no indication that Israel will open the Rafah crossing soon, Palestine’s Health Minister Majed Abu Ramadan said here.

“This is totally in the hands of the Israelis,” Abu Ramadan told a press briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

Israel launched a ground assault on Rafah on May 6 and claimed to have taken control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing, which is the only border crossing between the enclave and Egypt, Xinhua news agency reported.

The crossing is also a main conduit for humanitarian aid entering Gaza, and an exit point for medical evacuees from the enclave.

Abu Ramadan said that Israel committed a crime against humanity in Gaza, regardless of the exact death toll.

“What matters is that there is a crime against humanity. With one or a million (dead), that doesn’t change the situation,” he added.

“At the moment, people are deprived of almost all aspects of health services.”

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The closure of the Rafah crossing has aggravated the humanitarian crisis, he said.

“This is complicating the picture,” Abu Ramadan added.

The closure of Rafah crossing cut the access for patients in Gaza to get health services, he said.

Those who cannot be treated in Gaza are forbidden from going to Egypt and somewhere else for the treatment they need, Abu Ramadan added.

“This is only a part of the situation.”

–IANS

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Spanish PM meets Arab-Islamic delegation for Gaza

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Madrid, May 30 (IANS) Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez held a meeting on Gaza with a delegation of the Ministerial Committee commissioned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit here, a day after Spain’s official recognition of Palestinian statehood.

The delegation thanked Spain for the “historic and courageous” step that the recognition of a Palestinian state represents at this time. It is not just a symbolic step, but one that keeps alive the idea of the two states, the delegation said on Wednesday, according to a Spanish government statement.

The meeting highlighted Spain’s commitment and willingness to negotiate with Arab and Islamic countries in their efforts to put an end to violence and materialise the two-state solution, the statement added as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammad Mustafa said that Spain, Norway, and Ireland’s recognition of Palestine as a state on Tuesday “lays the foundations for a new beginning for the region”.

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Sanchez reiterated the need to stop Israel’s military operation in Rafah, as well as to establish a permanent ceasefire, the release by Hamas of all hostages and to allow humanitarian aid access to Gaza on a large scale.

The committee was created in November last year to achieve a ceasefire, help humanitarian aid reach Gaza and set up an action plan to materialise the two-state solution.

–IANS

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Sudan rejects US calls to return to Jeddah negotiations

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Khartoum, May 30 (IANS) The Sudanese government has voiced rejection of US calls to return to the Jeddah negotiation platform between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

“The invitation by US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken for Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan to go to the Jeddah negotiation platform embodies contempt for Sudan and cannot be accepted,” said Malik Agar, Deputy Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council, on Wednesday.

He made the remarks while addressing a political conference in Port Sudan, the capital city of the Red Sea State in eastern Sudan, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Sudan has not and will not agree to go to Jeddah, not because we do not want peace, but because peace must have foundations. We will not accept that without being consulted,” Agar added.

He noted that the current phase cannot stand interference of political parties with their different agendas, stressing that the priority must be given to ending the conflict and achieving stability before moving towards national consensus via Sudanese-Sudanese dialogue.

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Earlier, Blinken had a phone conversation with Al-Burhan, during which he called for ending the conflict in Sudan, allowing humanitarian access, and resuming the Jeddah negotiations, according to a statement by the Sovereign Council on Wednesday.

On May 6, 2023, Saudi Arabia and the US put forward a peace initiative in Jeddah as the first serious attempt to end fighting in Sudan, which was later known as the Jeddah negotiation platform.

Since then, several truces have been reached and breached, with the two sides accusing each other of violating them.

The Jeddah negotiations were suspended last December over fundamental differences between the Sudanese warring parties.

Sudan has been witnessing deadly clashes between the SAF and the RSF since April 15, 2023, which have killed 15,550 people and displaced 8.8 million others so far, according to the latest estimates by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

–IANS

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