Russian FM self-isolating after coronavirus patient contact

Russian FM self-isolating after coronavirus patient contact

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who has the coronavirus, the Sputnik news agency reported, citing the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“Because of the contact with a person who has COVID-19, Sergei Lavrov will self-isolate. Visits and meetings that were planned will be postponed,” the ministry said, according to the report, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

Lavrov is feeling well, it added.

Disappointed with collapse of Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire: Trump

Disappointed with collapse of Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire: Trump

US President Donald Trump said that it was disappointing to see a US-brokered ceasefire reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region collapsed.

“It’s disappointing to see that, but that’s what happens when you have countries that have been going at it for a long time,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the collapse of the newly reached ceasefire between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Xinhua news agency reported.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held separate phone conversations with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, according to a statement issued by the State Department earlier in the day.

“Secretary Pompeo pressed the leaders to abide by their commitments to cease hostilities and pursue a diplomatic solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, and noted that there is no military solution to this conflict,” said the statement.

The two warring parties agreed on a new humanitarian ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh region that would take effect 0400 GMT Monday, according to a Sunday joint statement between the United States, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

However, shortly after the truce came into effect, the two sides broke the ceasefire and traded accusations and attacks with each other.

The defence ministry of Azerbaijan said in a Monday statement that the Armenian side had shelled several regions including Tovuz and Gadabay in Azerbaijan since Monday morning.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s defence ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan accused Azerbaijani troops of opening artillery fire at the northeastern part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region soon after the ceasefire took effect.

Both sides denied accusations from the other party.

Monday’s ceasefire agreement was the third within weeks. The two other agreements were reached on October 10 and October 17, but both sides blamed each other for not observing them.

A new round of armed conflict broke out on September 27 along the contact line of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at loggerheads over the mountainous region since 1988. Peace talks have been held since 1994 when a ceasefire was reached, but sporadic clashes have been taking place.

Bulgarian PM tests positive for Covid-19

Bulgarian PM tests positive for Covid-19

The development comes in the wake of a recent spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announced that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, joining a handful of world leaders to be infected with the disease.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Borisov said: “After two PCR tests from today I’m positive with Covid-19. I generally have a general malaise, at the moment at the discretion of doctors I’m staying on home treatment.

“All contacts with me are submitted to the RZI (Metropolitan Regional Health Inspectorate). I’m sure that we will manage it together.”

The 61-year-old leader added that he has “postponed all meetings and public events for the upcoming days”.

The development comes in the wake of a recent spike in the number of new Covid-19 cases in Bulgaria.

The country has so far reported a total of 37,889 cases and 1,094

Borisov joins Polish President Andrzej Duda, US President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the list of infected world leaders.

Chileans vote in constitutional referendum

Chileans vote in constitutional referendum

In the referendum, voters were asked to decide whether Chile needs a new constitution.

Chileans have cast their ballots in a referendum vote on re-drafting the country’s incumbent Constitution, which was enacted in 1980 during the reign of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

President Sebastian Pinera urged people to participate in Sunday poll after casting his vote earlier in the day, Xinhua news agency reported.

“I am asking you to come and vote because your voice, your opinion, is important to us,” Pinera told the media at a polling station.

“Vote so that all voices are heard. That is the way we strengthen our democracy and together build a better Chile for everyone,” he added

A plebiscite was initially scheduled for April 26, but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Deputy Minister of Public Health Paula Daza told local press that those who have tested positive for the disease and their close contacts were barred from voting.

Voters were also required to wear a face mask, abide by social distancing rules at polling centres and bring their own pencil to mark the ballot.

In the referendum, voters were asked to decide whether Chile needs a new constitution and, if the answer is “yes”, should the document be drafted by Congress or by a constituent assembly elected solely for that purpose.

Holding the plebiscite was the centrepiece of the political class’ effort to defuse the unrest that began in October 2019 with protests against an increase in subway fares in Santiago and quickly grew into a national uprising over the extreme economic inequality prevailing in Chile.

More than 30 people have died in the course of protests, many at the hands of the police, who have been denounced by domestic and international organizations for torturing, sexually assaulting and maiming demonstrators.

Tasmania reopens to most of mainland Australia after 7 months

Tasmania reopens to most of mainland Australia after 7 months

Tasmania was the first region/territory in Australia to close its borders in March in the wake of the pandemic

Tasmania on Monday reopened its borders to most of mainland Australia. marking the first time in seven months that people can arrive in the island state without having to quarantine amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tasmania was the first region/territory in Australia to close its borders in March in the wake of the pandemic and has not reported any confirmed case more than 70 days, The Australian newspaper said in a report.

The island state’s borders were now reopened to Covid-19 low-risks jurisdictions in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, as well as New Zealand.

In a statement, Tasmania’s Health Minister Sarah Courtney said that all arrivals will be health screened and anyone with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested and ordered into quarantine until their result was known.

“While it’s exciting to be able to see restrictions ease and life getting to a Covid-normal, we also need to remember there is always a risk of coronavirus in our community,” she said, urging people to maintain social distancing and good personal hygiene.

So far, Tasmania has reported a total of 230 Covid-19 cases and 13 deaths.

As of Monday, Australia’s overall caseload and death toll stand at 27,520 and 905, respectively.

‘Donald Trump had offered me position of Secretary of State’: Nikki Haley

‘Donald Trump had offered me position of Secretary of State’: Nikki Haley

Popular Indian-American Republican politician Nikki Haley has revealed that Donald Trump, soon after winning the November 2016 US presidential election, had offered her the position of Secretary of State which she politely refused.

However, the 48-year-old Haley, who at that time was the South Carolina Governor, said she could not refuse the second offer of the post of US Ambassador to the United Nations as Trump had met all the conditions she had set for accepting the position.

Ms Haley, who went on to become one of the most successful US Ambassador to the UN, is now campaigning in support of Trump’s re-election bid.

“There is a stark contrast” between President Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden, she said at a fireside chat event organised by the Indian Voices for Trump in the battleground state of Philadelphia on Saturday.

“There is a lot at stake with this election,” she said.

Responding to a question from Dr Merlynn Carson, co-chair of Indian Voices for Trump, Ms Haley, for the first time, revealed that Trump, soon after winning the November 2016 presidential elections, offered her the position of Secretary of State. Trump sent a plane to fly her to New York.

However, Ms Haley said, she politely refused the offer, noting that she was not the right fit for the post as she had no experience.

Days later, after she returned from New York, Trump through his chief of staff offered her the position of US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Responding to the offer, she set three conditions — the position should be of Cabinet rank, the envoy should be a member of the national security council and that she will not be a yes-woman, Haley said.

To all the conditions, Trump”s response was: “Done. What next?”, leaving her with no option but to accept the position, she recalled.

Haley has been one of the most successful US Ambassadors to the UN, a position in which she served for nearly two years.

Ms Haley said Trump has stopped giving aids to countries like Pakistan, which harbour terrorists.

“The relationship (of US) with India (under Trump administration) has never been stronger,” she said, adding that President Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi get along very well.

Under Trump administration, the US is partnering with India on various issues, including defence, Haley said.

In the aftermath of the coronavirus, there is a far greater need to collaborate between India and the US, she said, referring to the increased co-operation between India and US along with Japan and Australia.

China, she said, is the number one national security threat to the US.

President Trump has “put China on notice,” Haley told the audience.

Trump is “not very much a politician”, “what you see, what he is,” she said when asked about the president. She referred to a conversation that she had with Trump, before he was scheduled a deliver an address at the United Nations and asked her opinion on calling the North Korean leader as the “Rocket Man”.

Kabul suicide attack death toll reaches 30

Kabul suicide attack death toll reaches 30

The death toll due to a suicide attack outside an education centre in the Afghan capital of Kabul has increased to 30, a security official confirmed on Sunday.

The number of injured in the attack that took place near the Kawsar educational centre on Saturday evening in the Pul-e-Khoshk area has also increased to more than 70, TOLO News quoted the official as saying.

The Interior Ministry said that the suicide bomber was identified by security guards at the centre and detonated his explosives just before reaching his target.

“Most of the victims are young and teenagers,” officials said.

The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attack

According to witnesses, dozens of students were in their classes when the attack took place.

A number of nearby houses were also damaged in the attack.

A funeral ceremony will be held on Sunday for the victims of the attack.

The attack has been widely condemned, TOLO News reported.

Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council of National Reconciliation, said the incident was inhuman and against Islamic principles and values.

While, US Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson reiterated that the Americans stand with the Afghans, Sharhzad Akbar, the chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said the attack “drains every last ounce of energy and hope”.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called the incident “a callous and senseless war crime” and urged redoubled efforts to stem violence and focus on peace talks.

10,488 structures destroyed in California wildfires

10,488 structures destroyed in California wildfires

Since the wildfires erupted in California earlier this year, at least 31 people have lost their lives.

At least 10,488 structures have been destroyed due to the 21 wildfires still raging across California, with 12 of them still categorised as major incidents, according to authorities.

In its latest update, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said that more than 5,300 firefighters continued to battle the blazes as of Saturday.

On Friday, windy conditions were experienced across Northern California which challenged efforts in containing the 24 new initial attack wildfires that broke out across the state, it said.

All but two of the initial attack fires were contained, while crews are continuing to make good containment on fires in Napa and Humboldt counties, Cal Fire added.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for much of Northern California from Sunday due to extreme fire weather.

Winds will likely be 20 to 30 mph, with gusts of up to 70 mph, which are forecast to be the strongest this year, according to Cal Fire.

Northern California’s East Bay Regional Park District will close a number of its facilities out of concern about fire danger, according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Since the wildfires erupted in California earlier this year, at least 31 people have lost their lives.

The fires have scorched an area totalling 4,129,924 acres so far.

EU’s domestic tourism recovers faster than foreign

EU’s domestic tourism recovers faster than foreign

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the EU saw 66 per cent less international tourist arrivals year-on-year in the first half of 2020.

The European Union’s (EU) domestic tourism has recovered faster than foreign tourism after most countries started easing their Covid-19 restrictions by June, official figures have revealed.

In a report on Friday,the EU’s statistical office Eurostat said during the early part of 2020, the tourism industry suffered as a result of travel restrictions implemented in response to the pandemic.

Tourist numbers dropped sharply during March and April 2020, when compared with the same period a year earlier.

Since June 2020, most EU countries have begun to ease travel restrictions.

However, other restrictions related to Covid-19 have remained in place, such as tourists having to quarantine on return from some foreign destinations.

These have prompted a preference for domestic tourism, which has recovered more quickly than incoming tourism.

After a drop of 93 per cent in April 2020 compared with the same month of the previous year, by July 2020, domestic tourism in the EU almost returned to the level of the previous year.

In July 2020, nights spent by EU residents in tourist accommodation inside their own country were only 22 per cent lower than in July 2019, while nights spent by non-residents were 64 per cent less than the previous year.

According to the UN World Tourism Organization, the EU saw 66 per cent less international tourist arrivals year-on-year in the first half of 2020.

Although the EU interior borders were reopened in the summer to spur the EU-wide tourist industry with precautionary measures taken, the exterior borders have remained been closed to the world.

India, US likely to ink strategic info sharing pact during 2+2 meet

India, US likely to ink strategic info sharing pact during 2+2 meet

In preparation for it on the Indian side, the cabinet approved the BECA, which had been submitted by the Defence Ministry on Wednesday.

The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), a breakthrough pact for sharing important strategic information, is likely to be signed during the 2+2 ministerial dialogue between the top foreign affairs and defence officials of India and the US next week, a senior official in President Donald Trump’s administration has hinted.

“We’ve made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement, the BECA,” the official told reporters on Friday ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mike Esper’s visit to India for the 2+2 meeting.

“This agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces.

“We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign and defence ministries, and that too figures prominently on what we’re trying to accomplish in the information-sharing space,” the official said on the basis of anonymity.

In preparation for it on the Indian side, the cabinet approved the BECA, which had been submitted by the Defence Ministry on Wednesday.

BECA will enable sharing geospatial intelligence and information on maps and satellite images for defence and also have applications in times of disaster to organise relief.

India will be represented by Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the 2+2, which will be held a week before the November 3 US presidential election.

The official said that the US would welcome greater Indian participation in Southeast Asia through a presence in the South China Sea, but also through security cooperation and development investments.

“We’ve had ongoing dialogue with the Indians about increased cooperation in Southeast Asia writ large, not simply the South China Sea, and we encourage their involvement.

“Given China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour across the Indo-Pacific from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, it’s more important than ever that we work with like-minded partners such as India,” the official said.

Asked if the US election outcome could impact the cooperation between New Delhi and Washington on countering China, the official said: “I fully expect, have no reason to believe that in the event of there being a new administration following the upcoming elections here in the US that the policy with regard to India would change. I think both parties are largely aligned on their interest in supporting and deepening the partnership.”

The official said that Washington was “covering the situation in the Himalayas closely, and understandably. And we certainly want to ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate”.

“Certainly we are providing support, whether through defence sales, exercises a as well as information sharing… These are all areas where we cooperate with the Indians on, and not just as it relates to the tensions in the Himalayas.”

The official said that while Washington is working to enhance maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region India’s invitation to Australia to join next month’s Malabar naval exercise with Japan and the US “signals not only a strategic convergence between the Quadrilateral partners but a recognition that regional security requires strengthening allies and partnerships and working multilateral on issues of mutual concern”.

Asked about its future, the official said that the Quad — made up of India, the US, Japan and Australia — is not a formal alliance with reciprocal obligation among its participants and does not seek members, but “there are many different dimensions in which it can grow and expand, and more… All activities are on the table, and meetings among officials in different places and at different levels and with different subject matter focuses”.

“So I think all of us are open to additional cooperation, coordination, and common activity. And I expect that the next year will see even more alignment of activities among the four countries in the Quad, and hopefully those that will bring in other like-minded nations as well.”

Asked about the Trump administration’s restrictions on student H1-B professional visas that are heavily impacting Indians, the official said the measures were not directed against New Delhi.

“Our current visa policy is based on US interests in protecting some, the American homeland and respect for American immigration law. None of the current restrictions have anything to do with any specific country, and many of them have a lot to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So I think we would be looking to see some changes in global travel patterns and easing of pandemic restrictions globally before we would see a really substantial change in any of our visa and immigration policies at the moment,” he added.

In dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and health issues, the official said: “Joint efforts to develop and produce Covid-19 vaccines have taken off at a remarkable pace. More than half a dozen American companies and institutions are working on vaccine research with Indian partners like the Serum Institute of India.

“We know that going forward, working closely with India and its robust research and pharmaceutical sectors will be critical to finding and implementing a cure for infectious diseases.”

(Arul Louis can be reached at and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)