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UN chief welcomes political progress in Haiti

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United Nations, March 22 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed reports that Haitian stakeholders have nominated representatives to the Transitional Presidential Council, a UN spokesman said.

“He calls for all efforts to maintain the momentum and cohesively work toward the implementation of the transitional governance arrangements agreed upon last week,” said Farhan Haq, the Deputy Spokesman for Guterres, on Thursday.

Implementing the Caribbean Community’s suggestion for the Transitional Presidential Council is seen as paving the way for the deployment of the Kenyan-led Multinational Security Support mission, which is to be composed of police units from several nations to support Haiti’s police force. While authorised by the UN Security Council, it is not a UN mission.

“The swift deployment of the multinational force remains critical to ensure that the political and security tracks can advance in parallel, as only complementary efforts can be successful,” Haq added as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

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“The UN, through BINUH (the UN Office in Haiti), will continue to support Haiti on its path toward the restoration of democratic institutions.”

The Spokesman said BINUH calls for the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, and other members of civil society.

Ulrika Richardson, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Haiti, praised the efforts of the local police in battling gang attacks and humanitarian workers for their efforts during a briefing to reporters via a video link from Haiti.

“The local police have been extremely heroic and really been able to put up quite some resistance. But of course they struggled to be present everywhere,” she said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said UN humanitarians and partners continue to provide aid in Haiti.

The World Food Programme continues to distribute hot meals in Port-au-Prince, the capital city.

But on Wednesday, it could only reach 10 of the 14 displaced sites intended due to roadblocks. Only 11,500 hot meals were delivered instead of the planned 14,000, said OCHA.

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The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and its local partners have delivered blankets, solar lamps and kitchen kits to 3,800 displaced people. Meanwhile, between Saturday and Wednesday, the UN Children’s Fund, the IOM and their national partners delivered more than 36,000 gallons of water to displaced sites, reaching over 15,000 uprooted people, OCHA added.

The Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation supported the national health department by distributing water purification tablets, chlorine, gloves, boots, buckets and other items at sites for displaced people. They are also supporting the few operating health facilities by providing medicine and supplies, said the office.

For their part, the UN Population Fund and its partners on Wednesday deployed a mobile clinic in a site for displaced people to address sexual and reproductive health, as well as sexual and gender-based violence. More than 200 people received assistance. They also distributed hundreds of dignity kits to women and girls. Psychosocial support remains a critical service for thousands of traumatised people, it said.

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Despite the operations, humanitarians are only able to do a portion of what is needed, said OCHA.

“We have supplies in the country at the port in the capital. But they are at risk of being looted. We also need air transportation and our maritime services to urgently scale up our operations. We are calling on all parties to ensure safe, unhindered access to reach people in need.”

Nearly half of the country’s population — 5.5 million people — need humanitarian aid, OCHA added.

–IANS

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Taiwan thanks the US, others for supporting peace in the region

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Taipei, May 26 (IANS/DPA) Taiwan President Lai Ching-te on Sunday expressed his gratitude to the US and the international community for support amid higher tensions in the region, calling on China to jointly shoulder the important responsibility of regional stability.

“I am very grateful to US President Biden, the US government and Congress, and other countries around the world for their firm support for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Lai told reporters in southern Taiwan at an event held by his independence-leaning Progressive Progressive Party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

During his inaugural speech on Monday, Lai stressed that peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are indispensable to global security and prosperity.

“Any country that creates disturbance in the Taiwan Strait and affects regional stability will not be accepted by the international community,” Lai said.

Lai said he is very much looking forward to enhancing mutual understanding and reconciliation through exchanges and cooperation with China in order to create mutual benefits.

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Lai’s comments came just a day after Washington said it was “deeply concerned” about China’s military drills in the Taiwan Strait and around Taiwan, which were conducted days after Lai’s inauguration.

“We are monitoring PRC activities closely and coordinating with allies and partners regarding our shared concerns,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Saturday.

“We strongly urge Beijing to act with restraint. Using a normal, routine, and democratic transition as an excuse for military provocations risks escalation and erodes longstanding norms that for decades have maintained peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which is critical for regional and global security and prosperity and a matter of international concern,” Miller said.

–IANS/DPA

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Four injured, over 2,700 affected as tropical cyclone hits Philippines

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Manila, May 26 (IANS) Four people were injured and 2,734 affected as tropical cyclone Ewiniar triggered floods and landslides in parts of the Philippines, the government said on Sunday.

In a report, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the four injured people were from the Bicol region, southeast of the Philippine capital, Manila, Xinhua news agency reported.

It added that no deaths have been reported so far.

Meanwhile, more than 6,000 passengers, truck drivers and cargo helpers were stranded in all ports nationwide on Sunday morning due to the inclement weather conditions, said the Philippine Coast Guard.

Ewiniar, the first cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, has affected the Bicol region on the main Luzon island and the Eastern Visayas region in the central Philippines.

The state weather bureau said Ewiniar will continue to dump heavy rain in many areas, including Metro Manila, warning of more flooding and possible landslides.

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The bureau forecast Ewiniar to reach severe tropical storm category on Monday and typhoon category by Tuesday before exiting the Philippines on Wednesday.

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries globally, mainly due to its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and the Pacific typhoon belt. On average, the archipelagic country experiences 20 typhoons yearly, some intense and destructive.

–IANS

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North Korea warns of military action over alleged sea border incursions

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Seoul, May 26 (IANS) North Korea on Sunday threatened to take action against South Korea over what it claims are violations of the de facto western maritime border, ratcheting up tensions ahead of a trilateral summit in Seoul.

North Korea’s supreme military leadership instructed its army on Friday to take offensive action against the encroachment upon its sovereignty, North Korea’s Vice Defence Minister Kim Kang-il said, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“We officially warn that we can never tolerate such continued encroachment on our maritime sovereignty and that we may exercise our self-defensive power on or under the water at any moment,” Kim said in a statement carried by the KCNA, Yonhap news agency reported.

The statement came hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will have back-to-back bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the presidential office.

The three leaders will hold a trilateral summit on Monday. It marks the first three-way summit among the Asian countries since December 2019, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and strained Seoul-Tokyo relations over historical disputes.

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Tension remains high along the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the de facto maritime border, Yellow Sea. North Korea has never recognised the NLL, demanding it be re-drawn further south.

Waters near the NLL have been a flashpoint between the two Koreas, where three bloody naval skirmishes took place in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

In March 2010, Pyongyang torpedoed a South Korean warship near the sea border, killing 46 sailors on board. In November of that year, the North bombarded South Korea’s border island of Yeonpyeong, killing two civilians and two Marines.

North Korea also accused South Korea and the United States of intensifying their hostile aerial espionage as it vowed to scatter “mounds of wastepaper and filth” over the inter-Korean border areas in retaliation against anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

For years, North Korean defectors in South Korea and conservative activists have sent balloons carrying leaflets critical of the North’s leader Kim Jong-un into North Korea. Pyongyang has bristled at the propaganda campaign amid concern that an influx of outside information could pose a threat to the Kim regime.

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North Korea blew up the joint liaison office in the now-shuttered inter-Korean factory park in the North Korean border city of Kaesong in 2020 in anger over Seoul’s failure to stop North Korean defectors from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

–IANS

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Death toll rises to 11 in Russian attack on Kharkiv's DIY store

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Kyiv, May 26 (IANS/DPA) The death toll from a Russian airstrike on a DIY store in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has risen to 11, Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Syniehubov announced on Sunday.

Russia attacked the store with at least one glide bomb on Saturday, wounding at least 40, because it said Ukraine had hidden a weapons cache in the store.

“The tactic of human shields is being used in Kharkiv – they (the Ukrainians) have set up a military camp and a command post in a shopping centre, which was discovered by our intelligence service,” the state agency TASS quoted an unnamed representative of the Russian leadership as saying.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said around 200 people were in the Epicenter home improvement store at the time of the attack.

–IANS/DPA

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Philippine troops kill suspected militant in clash

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Manila, May 26 (IANS) Philippine troops have killed a suspected militant in a clash in Maguindanao del Sur province in the southern Philippines, the Philippine Army said on Sunday.

In a report, the Army said that the alleged Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) militant was killed early Saturday morning after a five-minute clash in the village in Datu Salibo town following information from the villagers about the militants’ presence in the area, Xinhua news agency reported.

Troops seized a 45 calibre pistol and explosives from the clashed site, read the report.

The BIFF, a small armed group aligned with the Islamic State group, is blamed for bombings and other atrocities in the Central Mindanao region in the southern Philippines.

The group broke off from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front when the latter agreed to negotiate a peace pact with the government in 2014.

–IANS

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