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Archive for: October 2021 - DIGEST UKRAINE

Monthly Archives: October 2021

A volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma that has been erupting for six weeks spewed greater quantities of ash from its main mouth Sunday, a day after producing its strongest earthquake to date.

Lava flows descending toward the Atlantic Ocean from a volcanic ridge have covered 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of land since the eruption began on Sept. 19, data from the European Union’s satellite monitoring service, showed. On the way down the slope, the molten rock has destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and forced the evacuation of over 7,000 people. 

But authorities in the Canary Islands, of which La Palma is part, have reported no injuries caused by contact with lava or from inhaling the toxic gases that often accompany the volcanic activity.

Experts said that predicting when the eruption will end is difficult because lava, ash and gases emerging to the surface are a reflection of complex geological activity happening deep down the earth and far from the reach of currently available technology.

The Canary Islands, in particular, “are closely connected to thermal anomalies that go all the way to the core of the earth,” said Cornell University geochemist Esteban Gazel, who has been collecting samples from the Cumbre Vieja volcano.

“It’s like a patient. You can monitor how it evolves but saying exactly when it will die is extremely difficult,” Gazel said. “It’s a process that is connected to so many other dimensions of the inside of the planet.”

Signs monitored by scientists —soil deformation, sulfur dioxide emissions and seismic activity— remained robust in Cumbre Vieja. The Spanish Geographic Institute, or IGN, said that a magnitude 5 quake in the early hours of Saturday was not just felt on La Palma, but also in La Gomera, a neighboring island on the western end of the Canary Islands archipelago.

IGN said the ash column towering above the volcano reached an altitude of 4.5 kilometers (15,000 feet) on Sunday before heavier wind scattered it. Many nearby towns and a telescope base further north that sits on a mountain at 2,400 meters above sea level (7,800 feet) were covered in a thick layer of ash.

The eruption has also turned the island into a tourist attraction, especially as many Spaniards prepared to mark All Saints Day, a Catholic festivity that honors the dead, on Monday.

Local authorities said some 10,000 visitors were expected over the long weekend and 90% of the accommodations on La Palma were fully booked. A shuttle bus service for tourists wanting a glimpse of the volcano was established to keep private cars off the main roads so emergency services could work undisturbed.

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Thousands of opposition supporters filled the street outside Georgia’s national parliament building Sunday to protest municipal election results that gave the country’s ruling party a near sweep. 

Candidates of the Georgian Dream party won 19 of the 20 municipal elections in runoff votes on Saturday, including the mayoral offices in the country’s five largest cities: Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi and Poti. 

The opposition alleges fraud.

Nika Melia, the head of the main opposition party United National Movement and a mayoral candidate in Tbilisi, claimed that “the victories gained by the opposition in many municipalities were taken away…like they never happened.”

An election observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the “voting and counting were overall assessed positively despite some procedural issues, particularly during counting.”

“The persistent practice of representatives of observer organizations acting as party supporters, at times interfering with the process, and groups of individuals potentially influencing voters outside some polling stations were of concern,” the OSCE observers said in a statement.

Melia told the protest crowd, which shut down the capital’s main avenue, that opposition leaders would be sent to other cities to marshal supporters to come to Tbilisi for a massive rally on Nov. 7. 

The Saturday runoff elections were held after no candidate in the cities won an absolute majority during the first round of nationwide municipal elections on Oct. 2.

The elections were overshadowed by the arrest of former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the founder of the United National Movement, on Oct. 1.

Saakashvili left Georgia in 2013; he was convicted in absentia of abuse of power and sentenced to six years in prison. He returned to Georgia from his home in Ukraine, hoping to boost the opposition in the first round of voting, but was arrested within a day and imprisoned. He called a hunger strike soon after his arrest.

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Britain and France faced calls Saturday to sort out their post-Brexit spat over fishing rights in the English Channel, which threatens to escalate within days into a damaging French blockade of British boats and trucks.

French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the dispute is testing the U.K.’s international credibility, while each country accused the other of being in breach of the post-Brexit trade agreement that Britain’s government signed with the European Union before it left the bloc.

As the war of words intensified, Britain said it was “actively considering” launching legal action if France goes through with threats to bar U.K. fishing boats from its ports and slap strict checks on British catches.

“If there is a breach of the (Brexit) treaty or we think there is a breach of the treaty then we will do what is necessary to protect British interests,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told British broadcasters in Rome, where he and Macron are both attending a Group of 20 summit.

At stake is fishing — a tiny industry economically that looms large symbolically for maritime nations like Britain and France. Britain’s exit from the economic rules of the 27-nation bloc at the start of this year means the U.K. now controls who fishes in its waters.

France claims some vessels have been denied permits to fish in waters where they have long sailed. Britain says it has granted 98% of applications from EU vessels, and now the dispute comes down to just a few dozen French boats with insufficient paperwork.

But France argues it’s a matter of principle and wants to defend its interests as the two longtime allies and rivals set out on a new, post-Brexit relationship.

The dispute escalated this week after French authorities accused a Scottish-registered scallop dredger of fishing without a license. The captain was detained in Le Havre and has been told to face a court hearing next year.

France has threatened to block British boats crossing the English Channel and tighten checks on boats and trucks from Tuesday if the licenses aren’t granted. France has also suggested it might restrict energy supplies to the Channel Islands — British Crown dependencies that lie off the coast of France and are heavily dependent on French electricity.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex appealed to the EU to back France in the dispute, saying the bloc should demonstrate to people in Europe that “leaving the Union is more damaging than remaining in it.”

U.K. Brexit Minister David Frost called Castex’s comments “troubling” and accused France of a pattern of threats “to our fishing industry, to energy supplies, and to future cooperation.”

He said if France acted on the threats it “would put the EU in breach of its obligations under our trade agreement,” and said Britain was “actively considering launching dispute settlement proceedings,” a formal legal process in the deal.

He urged France and the EU to “step back.”

Many EU politicians and officials regard Frost, who led negotiations on Britain’s divorce deal, as intrinsically hostile to the bloc.

Macron, who is scheduled to meet Johnson on Sunday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, defended France’s position and said the fishing dispute could hurt Britain’s reputation worldwide.

“Make no mistake, it is not just for the Europeans but all of their partners,” Macron told the Financial Times. “Because when you spend years negotiating a treaty and then a few months later you do the opposite of what was decided on the aspects that suit you the least, it is not a big sign of your credibility.”

Macron said he was sure that Britain has “good will” to solve the dispute. “We need to respect each other and respect the word that has been given,” he said.

Johnson said the fishing issue was a distraction from fighting climate change — top of the G-20 leaders’ agenda at their meeting, which comes before a U.N. climate conference in Scotland next week.

“I am looking at what is going on at the moment and I think that we need to sort it out. But that is quite frankly small beer, trivial, by comparison with the threat to humanity that we face,” Johnson added.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president and chairman of the northern French ports of Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, said the spat was “ridiculous” and urged both sides to resolve it.

He told BBC radio that the dispute was over just 40 boats — “a drop in the ocean” — and that there would be “terrible” consequences if France carried out its threat of blocking British trawlers from French ports.

“If no agreement can be found, it will be a drama, it will be a disaster in your country because the trucks will not cross,” he said. 


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White House officials say U.S. President Joe Biden had “very constructive talks” with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome Sunday amid simmering tensions and strategic disagreements between Washington and Ankara.

“The President made clear his desire to have constructive relations with Turkey and to find an effective way to manage our disagreements,” a senior Biden administration told reporters.

The official said topics of discussion included Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, the South Caucuses, climate, human rights as well as Turkey’s request to purchase U.S. F-16 fighter jets.

On the subject of the jets, Biden was “very clear that there was a process underway that we had to go through,” the official said.

In 2019, during former U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, the Pentagon kicked Turkey out of the F-35 program because of its purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. Now Ankara wants to buy 40 F-16 fighter jets made by U.S. company Lockheed Martin and nearly 80 modernization kits for its air force’s existing warplanes.

U.S. lawmakers have urged the Biden administration not to sell F-16s to Turkey, saying Ankara has “behaved like an adversary.”

“This meeting is important for President Biden to send some messages to Turkey about what is and is not acceptable behavior from a NATO ally,” said Rachel Ellehuus, deputy director of the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She said Biden will convey his expectations for Turkey as a partner in a range of issues including security challenges following U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, its role in the Black Sea region and performance in NATO.

Bilateral relations between the two NATO allies have also been strained over human rights. As president, Biden has pledged to restore human rights and democracy as pillars of U.S. foreign policy. In August of last year, before taking office, then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden advocated for a new U.S. approach to the “autocrat” Erdogan. Ankara slammed the comment as “interventionist.”

Since then, the two leaders have taken a more pragmatic approach to maintaining a relationship. Biden is keen to avoid another escalating flashpoint in the region following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, while Erdogan is embattled politically at home.

“The Turkish economy is faltering, he [Erdogan] is actually losing in popularity,” Ellehuus said. “Whether he’ll admit it or not, I think he needs to be perceived as having at least a cooperative relationship with President Biden.”

This is the second in-person discussion between the leaders under the Biden presidency, following a June meeting in Brussels, on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

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Учасник битви за Сталінград Іван Залужний втратив влітку 2014 року єдиного онука під час АТО. Історія родини Залужних набула широкого розголосу в ЗМІ

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Parts of the planet that were once thought to be permanently frozen are starting to thaw – posing problems for countries like Russia where permafrost covers vast areas of its territory. The thaw is threatening Russia’s oil economy as Oleksandr Yanevskyy tells us in this report narrated by Amy Katz.
Camera: Oleksandr Yanevskyy

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The G-20 heads of state from the world’s major economies will discuss climate change Sunday on day two of their meeting in Rome.

Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed the heads of state, including U.S. President Joe Biden, to the Italian capital, where they discussed issues of mutual concern, including the pandemic recovery.

The G-20 leaders supported a sweeping global tax deal agreed to by 136 finance ministers earlier this month, including a minimum 15% global corporate tax rate for companies with annual revenues of more than $870 million. It still needs to be implemented within each member country’s legal framework.

On COVID-19, G-20 health and finance ministers announced the formation of a new panel to improve future pandemic preparedness, proposed by the United States and Indonesia, but did not specify funding for it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met on the sidelines with Biden and said they support Biden’s pledge to return the United States to full compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, so long as Tehran does the same. Talks are scheduled for November.

This year’s meeting is the the first face-to-face G-20 meeting in two years. Notably absent were Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who joined virtually, citing pandemic concerns at home.

“Despite the G-20 decisions, not all countries that need them can have access to vaccines,” Putin said. “This happens partly because of dishonest competition, protectionism and because some states, especially those of the G-20, are not ready for mutual recognition of vaccines and vaccination certificates.”

Activists marched Saturday through the streets of Rome protesting the lack of action by G-20 leaders in tackling climate change, before the leaders move on the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.






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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made stops in Belgrade, Serbia, and Tirana, Albania, this week, seeking to further the Chinese government’s “17+1” effort to promote trade and investment between Beijing and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe.

While Wang was received cordially in both countries, Serbia and Albania have taken somewhat different approaches to economic cooperation with Beijing through China’s Belt and Road initiative, which has funded infrastructure projects throughout the developing world.

A stop in Greece on Wednesday and a scheduled stop in Italy on Saturday served as bookends to Wang’s visit to the Balkans. The trip is widely seen as China’s attempt to shore up economic ties in the region, which has traditionally looked more toward the European Union for development assistance.

Friendship ‘made of steel’

In Serbia, officials presented Wang with a building permit for a stretch of railway from Novi Sad to Subotica, part of a larger project to modernize the railroad between Belgrade and Budapest, Hungary. The move reflects Serbia’s relative openness to Chinese investment in the country.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić reiterated that Belgrade supports the “one China” policy, which considers Taiwan part of China. Wang, in turn, said Beijing respects the territorial integrity of Serbia, a signal that Beijing will continue to refuse to recognize the independence of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Wang said the friendship between the two countries was “made of steel” and added, “Serbia is a country that has its own principles and that Beijing is proud to have such a friend.”

Vučić said that Serbia and China are implementing joint projects worth 8 billion euros ($9.3 billion) and trade between the two countries has tripled.

Large Chinese presence

According to Bojan Stanić, the assistant director for analytics at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in addition to 1.5 billion euros ($1.73 billion) in direct foreign investment from China in the past five years, more than 20,000 people in Serbia work in Chinese-owned companies. Additionally, more than half of the suppliers of the Smederevo Ironworks, which is owned by the Chinese HBIS Group, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, are Serbian companies.

Serbia and China have had a strategic partnership agreement since 2009 and a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement since 2016. The latter involves more high-level meetings between both country’s officials, and more extensive personnel exchanges. China is the dominant lender for road construction in Serbia. Beijing is also the owner of the Bor mining complex and the Linglong tire factory, which is under construction.

Extensive Chinese ownership of businesses in Serbia has raised concerns about compliance with environmental protection and working condition regulations in factories.

Relationship unclear

Other concerns arise from the difficulty in understanding the relationship between Chinese firms and the Chinese Communist Party’s security services.

Igor Novaković, research director at the Center for International and Security Affairs Centre – ISAC Fund, said it is not always clear where a company’s commercial interest ends and the CCP’s political interests begin.

“I do not claim that companies operating in Serbia are dangerous in themselves, but when there is a connection between politics and business, then there is a danger of using business decisions in favor of the political interests of the country from which investments come,” Novaković said.

Belgrade visit

Wang traveled from Belgrade to Tirana Thursday, ahead of Friday’s meetings with Albanian President Ilir Meta, Prime Minister Edi Rama, and Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Olta Xhaçka.

In Belgrade, officials have historically been much more cautious with regard to Chinese investment and lending.

“The truth is that serious doubts have actually been raised about Chinese funding following the experiences in some African countries and in the Balkans as the time comes for debt refinancing, that is, debt repayment and liabilities that have placed the governments of these countries in great financial difficulties,” said Selami Xhepa, an economist and a member of the Assembly of the Republic of Albania.

“This has required some kind of renegotiation, or similar diplomacy, with the Chinese authorities,” he added. “I think market discipline is better than diplomatic negotiations.”

UN Security Council

Last year, Albania joined a group of nations, headed by the United States, that has shut out Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment essential to the rollout of 5G wireless service in the country.

Nevertheless, with Albania about to take a seat on the United Nations Security Council, of which China is a permanent member, experts saw Wang’s visit to the country as an important opportunity to cement ties between the two countries and open dialogue about issues important to Albania. Among those issues is China’s continued effort to block the recognition of Kosovo as an independent country, which Albania supports.

“China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and it is necessary to talk about Kosovo, about Kosovo’s accession to the United Nations, where China is a very big obstacle,” said Besnik Mustafaj, a former foreign minister of Albania who now serves as president of the Council of Albanian Ambassadors. “It is time to say that there is no parallelism between Kosovo and Taiwan, that Albania recognizes only one China.”

Ilirian Agolli of VOA’s Albanian Service and VOA’s Serbian Service contributed to this report.

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The United States and European Union are expected this weekend to announce a deal to resolve a dispute over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs imposed in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, easing a major transatlantic trade irritant, six people familiar with the agreement said.

Three of the sources said the agreement, details of which were still being finalized, would allow EU countries to export duty free some 3.3 million tons of steel annually to the United States under a tariff-rate quota system.

“An agreement on steel has been reached and will be announced soon,” said one source familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity.

U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to mend fences with European allies following Trump’s presidency to more broadly confront China’s state-driven economic practices that led to Beijing building massive excess steelmaking capacity that has flooded global markets.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi raised the need to resolve trade issues during a meeting Friday with Biden as a G-20 leaders summit got underway in Rome, a source familiar with the meeting said.

The deal may ease record-high U.S. steel prices that have topped $1,900 a ton as the industry has struggled to keep up with a demand surge after COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdowns. This has contributed to rising price inflation for manufactured products in the United States including cars.

Steel volumes above the 3.3-million-ton quota would be subject to tariffs, but additional duty free-status would be extended for about 1 million tons of EU steel products that had previously won Commerce Department tariff exclusions, three sources said.

The agreement leaves intact Trump’s global tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum but on a practical basis exempts a substantial portion of Europe’s steel exports to the United States.

Europe exported about 5 million tons of steel annually to the United States prior to Trump’s imposition of the “Section 232” tariffs in March 2018 on national security grounds.

The Commerce Department, U.S. Trade Representative’s office and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is scheduled to address American steel industry executives Tuesday in Washington. The industry and the United Steelworkers union have been pressing Biden’s administration to maintain the steel tariffs to protect a resurgence in new investment since 2018.

Industry officials also have said they were pushing for a requirement that any EU steel imported duty free be melted and poured in the trade bloc, a provision aimed at keeping Chinese steel from being minimally processed in Europe and exported to the United States.

The metals deal would allow officials about a month to implement it before a late-November deadline for a doubling of EU retaliatory tariffs on certain U.S. products, including motorcycles and whiskey.

Details were not immediately available on terms of the aluminum portion of the deal. An industry source said a resolution is expected to be included as part of an overall metals dispute agreement.

The United States allows imports of steel duty-from North American trade deal partners Mexico and Canada, with a mechanism that allows tariffs to be reimposed in the event of an unexpected “surge” in import volumes.

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U.S. President Joe Biden will hold talks with European leaders over the Iran nuclear program Saturday afternoon, Rome time, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Italy, following Tehran’s announcement earlier this week that it is ready to resume negotiations before the end of November. 

Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek an agreement on the path to resume negotiations for a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear agreement. The so-called E3+1 format will focus on “shared concerns about the state of Iran’s nuclear program,” the White House said.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA deal in 2018. Biden has said the United States will rejoin once Tehran returns to full compliance with the agreement’s restrictions on nuclear weapons development.

The Saturday talks will be a “study in contrast with the previous administration, since Iran was one of the areas of most profound divergence between the previous administration and the Europeans,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Rome Thursday.

“Here you’ll see Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, Prime Minister Johnson, and President Biden all singing from the same song sheet on this issue,” he said.

However, in his first in-person meeting with these NATO allies, Biden will also have to placate lingering resentment over the chaotic August U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which left them scrambling to get their troops and citizens out as the Taliban took over Kabul. Analysts say the allies are likely to press Biden for firm commitments of better coordination on Iran, which they did not believe was given on Afghanistan.

On Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had ordered a full-scale review of the Afghan withdrawal. VOA asked Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre aboard Air Force One en route to Rome, Thursday, whether the announcement Afghanistan review was timed ahead of Biden’s G-20 trip. 

“I wouldn’t connect the two,” she said. “I don’t have much more to share about that.”  

Fresh sanctions

On Friday, ahead of the G-20, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions against two senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and two affiliated companies for supplying lethal drones and related material to insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Ethiopia.

With these sanctions Biden is signaling that his administration still has leverage and tools to pressure Tehran, said Sanam Vakil, deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House.

“Iran’s sponsorship of regional instability continues to be on Biden’s radar,” she said. 

Iran swiftly called the penalties “completely contradictory behavior.”

“A government that talks about an intention of returning to the nuclear deal but continues Trump’s policy of sanctions is sending the message that it really is not reliable,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in remarks published on the ministry’s website.

“Iran is upset but its options to hit back are limited,” said Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute, who predicts that the sanctions will not stop Iran from returning to the negotiation table.

“It can refuse to return to the talks in Vienna but then it will increase the chances that Washington can better mobilize the international opinion against Iran as the main spoiler that is preventing a breakthrough in the nuclear talks.”

Analysts say Tehran is trying to avoid a scenario where the U.S. and Europe convince Russia and China that Iran’s nuclear program is too close to possible weaponization.  

“It’s likely Iran will return in part because Europeans – whom Iran sees as weaker than U.S. – and Russia with whom Iran does various deals, want Iran back,” said James Jeffrey, chair of the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.

Plan B

The United States and Israel have warned that they are exploring a Plan B if Tehran does not return in good faith to salvage JCPOA.

“Time is running short,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in Washington earlier this month. “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course, and these consultations with our allies and partners are part of it.”

However, analysts say the Biden administration is unlikely to use military options nor would it greenlight the Israelis to strike. Jeffrey said the U.S. is more likely to rely on a combination of new sanctions and tougher position on Iran’s aggression in the region, alongside strategic ambiguity on military response should the talks fail.

While the Iranians do not think the Biden team has a serious military Plan B, Tehran cannot allow the nuclear stalemate to go on forever, Vatanka said. 

“One way or another, both sides – the US and Iran – need to put the brakes on this cycle of escalation,” he said.

VOA’ Anita Powell contributed to this report.

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The G-20 Summit hosted by Italy kicked off Saturday in Rome, where leaders from the world’s major economies discussed issues of mutual concern, including pandemic recovery and climate change.

The red carpet was rolled out at La Nuvola, Rome’s Convention Center, as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders amid strict COVID-19 protocols.

This summit is the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting in two years, following last year’s virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia. Notably absent are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. They will join virtually, citing pandemic concerns at home.

Pandemic response and prevention

On Friday, G-20 health and finance ministers released a communique committing to bringing the pandemic under control everywhere as soon as possible. They said the G-20 will take all necessary steps needed to advance on the global goals of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

However, the ministers could not reach agreement on a separate financing and coordination mechanism to prepare for future pandemics proposed by the U.S. and Indonesia.

“We’re looking for not the ultimate final product of a financing mechanism or the ultimate final product of a task force or a board that would operate as kind of a global coordinating body going forward,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told VOA aboard Air Force One en route to Rome, Thursday. “So the hope is to have in the communiqué a statement of intent that we will work towards these two outcomes.”

Climate change

In Rome, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the summit an opportunity to “put things on track” ahead of the U.N. COP26 climate conference in Glasgow that G-20 leaders will participate in following their Italy meeting.

“There is a serious risk that Glasgow will not deliver,” Guterres said. “The current nationally determined contributions, formal commitments by governments, still condemn the world to a calamitous 2.7-degree increase,” he said referring to the pledge made at the 2015 Paris Climate Accord to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Countries are expected to announce more emissions reduction pledges to reach the target of net-zero emissions by around mid-century, but some analysts are skeptical of these voluntary commitments that come without enforcement mechanisms.

“There’ll be pledges, the best-case scenario something along the lines of what we saw in Paris,” said Dalibor Rohac, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. 

Rohac added that to make progress on climate change, the world needs tangible actions.

“Rather than to proceed with this habit of looking for a big-bang multilateral solution, to pursue sound domestic policies that that accelerate decarbonization,” he said.    

A key issue to watch is whether G-20 members can agree on coal actions. The U.N. has called for wealthy countries to phase out coal by 2030, but G-20 environment ministers have failed to agree on a timeline.  

Guterres also called on wealthy nations to uphold commitments to provide funding to help developing nations mitigate the impacts of climate change. Under the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, wealthy nations pledged a minimum of $100 billion per year in climate funding to lower-income countries. Much of that money has not been delivered.

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Вартість довідки про проходження громадянами ПЛР-тестування на відсутність захворювання входила у загальну суму туру, розповіли у поліції

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U.S. President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, ahead of his meeting with G-20 leaders. Biden said the pope supported his receiving Holy Communion, while some U.S. bishops want to deny him the sacrament over his stance on abortion. With Anita Powell contributing, White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report from Rome.

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За даними Кіберполіції, зловмисники здійснювали атаки «вірусом-вимагачем» – за відновлення доступу до закриптованих даних вимагали викуп у криптовалюті

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U.S. President Joe Biden launched his whirlwind European diplomatic tour on a conciliatory note, saying Friday that the rollout of a security deal between the United States, Britain and Australia that cut out longtime ally France was “clumsy.”

“What happened was, to use an English phrase – what we did was clumsy,” Biden said. “It was not done with a lot of grace,” he acknowledged, next to French President Emanuel Macron in Rome ahead of the G-20 summit. The two spoke to reporters following their meeting which was notably held at Villa Bonaparte, the French Embassy to the Vatican, instead of a neutral venue.

The Indo-Pacific AUKUS security deal provides Australia with U.S. nuclear-powered submarines.  But buying U.S. subs meant Canberra cancelled the $65 billion deal it previously made with Paris for traditional submarines.

The diplomatic fallout was swift: Paris temporarily recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, saying they were not consulted in advance of the AUKUS deal.

“I was under the impression that France had been informed long before that the deal was not coming through,” Biden said Friday. “Honest to God, I did not know that you had not been.”

This modest concession matters, said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and the Americas program at Chatham House. 

“It’s pretty clear that both Biden and Macron have a lot to lose and wish this relationship to work,” she said. “So, they are finding ways to signal that, including in this case an acknowledgment that stops short of an apology.”

Biden earlier committed to supporting France in their counterterrorism effort in the Sahel, where instability triggers waves of African migrants to aim for Europe.

“Clearly the U.S. made a tough call on how to deal with France in the run-up to this decision and, ultimately, the AUKUS partnership stands and France is outside of it,” Vinjamuri said.

Other key meetings 

Earlier Friday, Biden met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a potential key ally in transatlantic relations at a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to leave office and Macron remains politically embattled at home.

They and other leaders will gather at the G-20 summit of the world’s wealthiest nations, hosted this year by Italy, which begins Saturday.

“Italy really is an anchor in southeastern Europe for the United States,” said Rachel Ellehuus, deputy director and senior fellow with the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

The White House said Biden thanked Draghi for Italy’s support following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, including by temporarily housing more than 4,000 Afghans who were on route to the U.S. in August. The leaders discussed challenges to security in the Mediterranean region and reaffirmed the importance of NATO’s efforts to deter and defend against threats.

Biden is also expected to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the summit’s sidelines. Erdogan recently threatened to expel the U.S. and nine other Western ambassadors over their support of a jailed Turkish philanthropist over charges of espionage, terrorism and attempts to overthrow the government – allegations that Western observers have called absurd.

“This meeting is important for President Biden to send some messages to Turkey about what is and is not acceptable behavior from a NATO ally, what his expectations are for Turkey being a partner in everything from follow-on security challenges from Afghanistan to Turkey’s role in the Black Sea region and Turkey’s performance in NATO,” Ellehuus said.

Observers, journalists and international partners have repeatedly asked when Biden will meet one-on-one with the leader of the country the U.S. considers its main adversary: China. But Chinese President Xi Jinping will not attend the G-20 summit in person, nor the climate conference that will follow immediately after, in Glasgow. 

The White House has confirmed Biden and Xi will meet virtually before the year’s end.

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Pope Francis issued an urgent appeal Friday to world leaders ahead of the U.N. climate conference to take “radical decisions” to protect the environment and prioritize the common good rather than nationalistic interests.

Francis delivered the “Thought for the Day” on the British Broadcasting Corp.’s morning radio program ahead of the Oct. 31-Nov. 13 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

In the message, Francis urged political leaders not to waste the opportunity created by the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic to change course and chart a future based on a sense of shared responsibility for a common destiny.

“It means giving priority to the common good, and it calls for a change in perspective, a new outlook, in which the dignity of every human being, now and in the future, will guide our ways of thinking and acting,” Francis said. “The most important lesson we can take from these crises is our need to build together, so that there will no longer be any borders, barriers or political walls for us to hide behind.”

Francis has made caring for God’s Creation one of the hallmarks of his papacy. In 2015, ahead of the last U.N. climate conference in Paris, he penned the first-ever ecological encyclical, “Praised Be,” in which he denounced how the “perverse” profit-at-all-costs global economic model had exploited the poorest, ravaged Earth’s natural resources and turned the planet into an “immense pile of filth.”

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Efforts by Chinese diplomats to stop cultural events deemed critical of the government in Beijing have met with mixed results in Europe, succeeding in Germany but being rebuffed by a city government in Italy.

The incident in Germany concerned a new book, Xi Jinping — The Most Powerful Man in the World, by two veteran German journalists, Stern magazine’s China correspondent Adrian Geiges, and Die Welt newspaper publisher Stefan Aust.

Confucius Institutes at two German universities had planned online events on Oct. 27 to coordinate with the book’s launch. But the book’s publisher, Piper Verlag of Munich, said the events were canceled at short notice “due to Chinese pressure.”

The company accused Feng Haiyang, the Chinese consul general in Düsseldorf, of intervening personally to quash the event at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Duisburg and Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

At Leibniz University in Hannover, the Tongji University in Shanghai — which jointly operates the Confucius Institute there — forced the cancellation of an event, according to the company. Neither the publisher nor the institute offered details on what triggered the cancellation.

The institutes, run by China’s education ministry, are seen by Beijing as a way to promote its culture. Many Western countries have become wary of the influence the institutes exert on campuses by subsidizing classes, travel and research.

Dozens of Confucius Institutes have been closed or are closing in Europe and Australia. At least 29 shuttered in the U.S. after the State Department in August 2020 designated the Confucius Institute U.S. Center as a “foreign mission” of the Chinese government.

In a statement, Piper Verlag quoted a Confucius Institute employee as saying that “One can no longer talk about Xi Jinping as a normal person, he should now be untouchable and unspeakable.”

Felicitas von Lovenberg, head of Piper Verlag, called the cancellation of the events “a worrying and disturbing signal.”

Aust of Die Welt said the incident confirmed the book’s basic thesis: “For the first time, a dictatorship is in the process of overtaking the West economically, and is now also trying to impose its values, which are against our freedom, internationally.”

The book presented China in a very differentiated way as it also talked about China’s success in overcoming poverty, co-author Geiges said. “Apparently, such balanced reports are no longer enough for Xi Jinping. Stories are no longer enough — he now wants a cult around his person internationally, just as he does in China itself.”

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Berlin said events at Confucius Institutes were planned to bring about better understanding between the two peoples, and they “should build on the basis of comprehensive communications between the partners.”

China supports the development of the institutes as “a platform to understand China comprehensively and objectively,” the embassy spokesperson added. “But we strongly object to any politicization of academic and cultural exchange.”

Both Confucius Institutes said in their respective statements that there were different views between the German and Chinese partners, making it impossible to carry on. The Institute for East Asian Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen had expressed interest in hosting the event, according to the university’s Confucius Institute.

German human rights activist David Missal told VOA Cantonese there has always been pressure from the Chinese side when it comes to critical events, but the tactics were rarely exposed. He took it as a positive development that these incidents are coming to light.

“I think this is the only way to fight this kind of influence in a democracy — you have to make these things public, make them transparent, and then there will be political responses to these incidents,” Missal said.

Reinhard Bütikofer, a German member of the European Parliament who is critical of China, said the next German federal government must draw clear lines about its China policy. “Chinese censorship at German universities? Does not work at all. These so-called ‘Confucius’ institutes, which are in fact CCP aides, have no future,” he tweeted.


Earlier this month, the Chinese Embassy in Rome attempted to stop a critical art show, but failed.

A museum in Brescia, an Italian city about 100 kilometers east of Milan, will continue with its plans to open a solo exhibition of the work of Australia-based Chinese exiled activist Badiucao. Scheduled to run from Nov. 13-Feb. 13, the exhibition is entitled “China is [not] near.” It will feature the artist’s work criticizing issues such as China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The Chinese Embassy in Rome sent the Brescia city council a message on Oct. 21, contending that Badiucao’s works twisted facts, spread false information, would mislead the Italian people’s understanding of China while seriously damaging Chinese people’s feelings, and jeopardize friendly relations between China and Italy, according to Italy’s ANSA news agency.

Brescia Mayor Emilio Del Bono told the Il Foglio newspaper the show will not be canceled, adding, “I think it is important to show that you can stay friends while criticizing some things.”

Badiucao told VOA Mandarin via phone on live TV that he was not surprised by the embassy’s position. “I am very excited that the city government and the museum stood strongly with me. I can say very confidently that my exhibition will not be canceled. I will not amend my exhibits or commit any self-censorship.”

VOA Cantonese asked the Chinese Embassy in Rome for comments but received no response.

This story originated in VOA’s Cantonese Service.

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