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German foreign minister pushes for two-state solution and Gaza aid

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Berlin, April 30 (IANS/DPA) Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has spoken out in favour of more humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip and a two-state solution, during the talks with counterparts from Western and Arab countries in Riyadh.

During the talks, Baerbock emphasised that an independent Palestine state as a part of a comprehensive peace process and a two-state solution remains a clear goal of German policy, according to reports from German delegation circles on Monday evening.

Baerbock took part in a meeting of Arab and European foreign ministers in Riyadh, initiated by Saudi Arabia and Norway, at which the prospect of a two-state solution and the recognition of Palestine was on the agenda.

A two-state solution foresees the peaceful co-existence of Israel and a Palestinian state based on the borders of the Palestinian Territories occupied by Israel since 1967 – the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

However, Israel’s government rejects such a two-state solution outright, whereas, the Palestinian militant organisation Hamas has said it wants an independent Palestinian state but will not officially recognise the state of Israel.

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Baerbock also made it clear “that there is now an urgent need for improved humanitarian access to Gaza and the release of the hostages,” it was reported after the talks.

She also held confidential talks with Arab and Western colleagues in Riyadh on the specific steps needed to end the fighting and find a sustainable solution to the conflict.

The ministers, including Baerbock’s US counterpart Antony Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, met in Riyadh on the fringes of a two-day World Economic Forum (WEF) conference. Israel did not take part in the talks.

–IANS/DPA

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US Fed keeps interest rate unchanged

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Washington, June 13 (IANS) The US Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept the interest rate unchanged but hinted that there could be one cut between now and the end of the year as they continue the fight against inflation.

The Fed announcement came after a two-day meeting of its top officials.

They will meet four more times this year — July, September, November and December.

The Fed increased interest rate multiple times starting in early 2022 when inflation hit a four-decade high and took it up to 5.3 per cent in July where it has been kept since.

The Fed expected to announce three cuts in 2024 as inflation showed signs of coming down, but decided against it every time as inflation stayed stubbornly high.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will address a news conference shortly.

Inflation has cooled down notably since May and the Fed predicted that inflation could be more stubborn than expected and the overall rate could end bottom out at 2.6 per cent by the end of the year instead of the 2.4 per cent they had estimated earlier.

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–IANS

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Zelensky calls on Saudi Crown Prince in Jeddah

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Riyadh, June 12 (IANS) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday, media reports said.

Ukraine is bringing together dozens of world leaders and international organisations at the Burgenstock resort in Switzerland this weekend to mount pressure on Russia and outline a path towards peace.

Zelensky arrived in the coastal city earlier on Wednesday and was received by the deputy governor of the Makkah region Prince Saud bin Mishal bin Abdulaziz.

In a post on social media platform X, the Ukrainian President said the two leaders discussed preparations for the summit, “its expected outcomes and their possible implementation.”

Bilateral relations between Ukraine and Saudi Arabia were also discussed, Zelensky added.

Ukraine has invited more than 160 nations to participate at the summit and Zelensky has said garnering support from as many countries as possible will be key to the summit.

–IANS

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2019 Easter Sunday bombings: Lanka to probe why prior info from Indian intel was ignored

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Colombo, June 12 (IANS) Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a Committee of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate the actions taken by the Lankan intelligence services on the prior information received from their Indian counterparts regarding the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings which killed around 270 people.

President Wicremesinghe’s decision follows the findings of the final report of the Commission of Inquiry dated January 31, 2021, which highlighted that Indian Intelligence agencies and other sources had provided advance warnings about the impending attacks.

“The committee’s mandate includes examining whether adequate actions and measures were taken by the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Chief of National Intelligence (CNI), and other relevant authorities based on the prior intelligence, and evaluating the sufficiency of these measures,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said in a statement on Wednesday.

President Wickremesinghe has given full powers to the committee headed by retired high court judge A.N.J. De Alwis to question relevant officials and examine important documents to thoroughly investigate these matters.

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Additionally, the committee will investigate the circumstances surrounding the Directorate of Military Intelligence’s (DMI) initial belief that the Vavunathivu killing of two police officers on November 30, 2018, was connected to the LTTE.

This belief was held for four months before suspects with alleged links to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) were identified.

A compact disk containing the final report of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2019 bomb attacks has been provided to the committee, with a Senior Assistant Secretary to the President serving as the Secretary to the Committee of Inquiry.

The committee is expected to submit its report, including findings and recommendations, to the President by September 15, 2024.

A series of coordinated bomb attacks on three star hotels in Colombo and three churches carried out by ISIS suicide bombers on Easter Sunday in 2019 resulted in the death of 270 people, including at least 45 foreign nationals, besides injuring over 500 others.

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–IANS

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Taliban courts deliver punishments for sodomy, 'moral corruption'

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Islamabad, June 12 (IANS/DPA) The Taliban’s Supreme Court said on Wednesday that three convicts have been separately punished in two Afghan provinces for allegedly committing sodomy and “moral corruption”.

A convict in Zurmat district of Paktia province was sentenced to one year in prison and whipped 36 times for committing moral corruption. The specific nature of the crime was not disclosed.

Another two convicts were publicly punished in the Balkhab district of Sar-e-Pul for sodomy. One received a one-year sentence and 21 whips, while the other received six months and 31 whips.

In a separate development from Paktika province, a murder case in Mata Khan district was resolved through mediation by local officials, tribal elders, and religious scholars, resulting in forgiveness from the victim’s family, according to the Supreme Court.

The Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has seen the reintroduction of corporal punishment, including executions and whipping, for crimes such as murder, robbery and adultery.

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The United Nations has criticised the Taliban’s use of corporal punishment, saying it violates the UN Convention against Torture, and has called for an end to the practice.

The Taliban authorities have rejected the criticism, saying this form of punishment is in line with the country’s law and necessary to ensure security and safety for the public.

–IANS/DPA

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Death toll in Kuwait building blaze climbs to 49 (2nd Ld)

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Kuwait City, June 12 (IANS/DPA) The death toll in a fire that erupted on Wednesday in a building housing workers in Kuwait has risen to 49, the Gulf country’s state news agency Kuna reported, citing the Interior Ministry.

Local media said the fire broke out in a six-floor building crammed with migrant workers in al-Mangaf area, south of the capital Kuwait City.

The blaze occurred while the workers were asleep and some residents had to jump from the building in an attempt to survive, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas reported, citing witnesses.

Kuwait’s Emir Meshal Al Ahmad has ordered investigations to determine the cause of the blaze and bring to account those found responsible, Kuna said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasser Abu Salib said without elaborating that stringent measures would be taken against the building’s owners.

He added that the ministry was investigating the circumstances of the fire and identifying the victims.

Initially, officials had put the death toll at more than 35.

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Most fatalities were caused by smoke inhalation, according to a security official.

The Health Ministry earlier Wednesday said at least 43 people had been transferred to hospitals for treatment.

–IANS/DPA

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