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Brexit talks in last stretch despite EU crunch

EU and UK officials will resume Brexit talks this morning in the hope of reaching a deal that can be agreed by leaders at a key summit on Thursday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to update the cabinet on the progress of the negotiations, which continued through the night. On Tuesday there were reports…

Hong Kong leader forced to suspend state of the nation address

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was forced to suspend her annual address after being heckled in the city’s parliament. Opposition lawmakers disrupted the session from the start by shouting and projecting slogans. After a first interruption, the session resumed only to be interrupted again. It was then suspended, with the address delivered by pre-recorded video. The suspension means the extradition bill – which sparked months of protests – was unable to be withdrawn formally. Hong Kong has experienced months of protests since the extradition bill was introduced in April. The Legislative Council (Legco) resumed on Wednesday for the first time since it was stormed by protesters in July. Now the withdrawal of the bill will only be possible once Legco resumes. The bill was suspended in July – but the move failed to quell protests in the city. On Wednesday, as the city’s chief executive was about to begin her speech, opposition lawmakers projected the slogan “Five demands – not one less” on the wall behind her. Since the protests began in June, they have widened from rallies against the extradition bill to five key demands – including universal suffrage. Opposition lawmaker Tanya Chan said Ms Lam was to blame for the city’s troubles. “Both her hands are soaked with blood,” she said. “We hope Carrie Lam withdraws and quits. She has no governance ability. She is not suitable to be chief executive.” It was the first time a Hong Kong chief executive had been unable to deliver a policy address in the chamber. Hong Kong protests explained in 100 and 500 words The background you need on the Hong Kong protests Why Starbucks? The brands attacked in Hong Kong Pro-establishment lawmakers condemned the interruption of the session – saying the address was important for the city’s economic future. Ms Lam’s interrupted speech came just hours after US lawmakers supported Hong Kong’s protesters by passing a bill aimed at upholding human rights in the city. After the assembly was suspended a second time, the speech was made available as a video on the Legco website – instead of live from the parliament chamber. In the address, she stressed her commitment to “one country, two systems” – introduced after British rule ended – and that Hong Kong independence was not tolerable. She then announced several housing and infrastructure policies, saying housing was the most urgent issue the city faces. What are the Hong Kong protests about? Hong Kong is part of China but, as a former British colony, has some autonomy and people have more rights. The protests started in June against plans to allow extradition to the mainland – which many feared would undermine the city’s freedoms and judicial independence. The bill was withdrawn in September but demonstrations continued. Demands have widened to include genuine universal suffrage and an inquiry into police behaviour. Protests have taken place every weekend over the past month and in every district, causing widespread disruption. Clashes between police and activists have become increasingly violent, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs. Ms Lam’s address was scheduled just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping said any attempt to divide China would end in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder”. While he did not mention any particular region, his comment was seen as a warning to Hong Kong’s protesters. How did the protests escalate? In July, hundreds of protesters stormed Legco, spraying graffiti and defacing symbols of the Hong Kong law-making body. In August, one protester was injured in the eye, leading to demonstrators wearing red-coloured eye patches to show their solidarity. Protests at Hong Kong international airport then led to hundreds of flights being cancelled. When the bill was finally withdrawn in September, most protesters said it was “too little, too late”. On 1 October, while China was celebrating 70 years of Communist Party rule, Hong Kong experienced what authorities said was one of its most “violent and chaotic days”. An 18-year-old was shot in the chest with a live bullet, one of six rounds were fired by police. Protesters also fought officers with poles, petrol bombs and other projectiles. The government then banned protesters wearing face masks, invoking powers dating back to colonial rule. Many activists continue to defy the ban. Last Sunday, peaceful rallies again descended into clashes with railway stations and shops deemed to be pro-Beijing targeted. -BBC

Turkish President Erdogan rejects US ceasefire call in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected a US call for an immediate ceasefire in northern Syria. Mr Erdogan’s comments come ahead of a visit to Turkey by the US vice-president and US secretary of state. Turkey launched an offensive designed to drive away Kurdish troops after their main ally, the US, pulled out. Russia,…

Turkey risks attacks from US as it pushes more into Syria

Turkish-backed militias carrying out attacks in northern Syria came very close to American forces on the ground on Tuesday, putting them and their base “directly at risk,” a U.S. official in Syria tells NPR. “The Turkish forces violated a standing agreement with the U.S. to not get close enough to threaten U.S. troops on the…

US senators propose tough sanctions on Turkey unless it leaves Syria

A bipartisan group of US senators have said they have agreed on far-reaching sanctions to be slapped on NATO ally Turkey if its forces do not withdraw from neighboring Syria, reports Times of Israel. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he and Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland are introducing legislation that would…

Ethiopian PM wins Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to end Eritrea conflict

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 in recognition of his efforts to end his country’s long-running border conflict with Eritrea, Times of Israel reports. The Norwegian Nobel Institute on Friday also praised the “important reforms” that Abiy, Ethiopia’s leader since April 2018, has launched at home. Chairwoman…

Britain, Ireland to discuss Brexit proposals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar will meet for talks later to discuss the UK’s Brexit proposals. Downing Street said the meeting was to allow “detailed discussions” on the process of securing a deal. Mr Johnson has said he remains “cautiously optimistic” about a deal. But on Wednesday EU leaders accused…

US did not approve Turkey’s Syrian offensive

The US did not give Turkey a “green light” for its offensive in northern Syria, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said. Mr Pompeo defended President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from the border area, which has sparked an outcry at home and abroad. Turkey has now launched an assault on territory…

Turkey launches military attack against Kurds on Syrian border

Turkish forces began crossing the Syrian border on Wednesday, launching an operation in Kurdish-dominated areas of the country’s north, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced. The Turkish offensive jeopardizes Kurdish-led forces who have been a key U.S. ally in the bloody fight against ISIS. Turkey says those same forces are linked to militant groups who stage…

Kenya to host symposium on strengthening capacities of public institutions in East Africa

Kenya will next week host a three-day symposium on Strengthening Capacities of Public Institutions for Transformation, Innovation and Ethical Leadership to Realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Agenda 2063 in East Africa. The symposium, which is being organized by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), in collaboration with…

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