LATIN AMERICA – CARIBBEAN – CUBA – EU – PAKISTAN – EGYPT – SAUDI ARABIA – UK – SYRIA – BANGLADESH – INDIA – AFGHANISTAN – ISRAEL
The EU will agree the next month to deepen relations with Cuba in the most significant overture to the communist island since the bloc lifted diplomatic sanctions in 2008, Reuters reported, citing its sources. On February 10, foreign ministers from EU countries will give the go-ahead to launch talks with Havana on a special cooperation accord. The pact, aimed at increasing trade, investment and dialogue on human rights, could be agreed by the end of 2015. “Cuba wants capital and the EU wants influence,” said one source involved in the talks.
Gunmen shoot dead influential pro-Taliban cleric in Pakistan
An influential cleric who supported the Afghan Taliban has been shot dead in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, officials said Thursday. “Two unknown gunmen on a motorcycle” shot dead Maulana Abdullah Zakiri as he was on his way to a mosque Wednesday night,” senior police official Abdul Razzaq told AFP. Zakiri had lived in Quetta for a long time and had no known disputes with anyone. However, his family has accused Afghan intelligence services of his murder.
Egypt to receive up to $4bn more aid from Saudi Arabia – report
Saudi Arabia is expected to give Egypt up to $4 billion in additional aid in the form of central bank deposits and petroleum products, Reuters said. State-run Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported Thursday that the package would be worked out during a visit next week to Riyadh by Egypt’s interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi. Funds from Gulf Arab states have kept Egypt’s economy afloat during the recent political turmoil, which has hit investment and tourism hard.
UK to accept vulnerable Syrian refugees – Hague
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday that his country will accept the most vulnerable Syrian refugees this year. Hague said in the Philippine capital, Manila, that the details were still being worked out, did not specify a number of the refugees, AP reported. However, he said that Britain would prioritize displaced Syrians who have been exposed to the horrors of the conflict, including victims of sexual violence.
Bangladesh court sentences top Islamist, 13 others to death for arms smuggling
A Bangladesh court on Thursday sentenced 14 people to death over an arms smuggling racket 10 years ago, AFP reported. Those convicted include the leader of the country’s largest Islamist party, the Jamaat-e-Islami party. “The judge sentenced 14 people including Motiur Rahman Nizami, to death on smuggling charges,”prosecutor Kamal Uddin Ahmed said.
10 killed as mob attacks India village in land dispute
A mob armed with shotguns attacked a remote village in northeast India, killing at least 10 people in a land dispute, police said Thursday. The attackers fired indiscriminately Wednesday evening in Chauldhua village in the densely forested area in northern Assam state, AP reported, citing witnesses. The gunmen came from neighboring Arunachal Pradesh state, police said. The dispute dates back to 1987, when Arunachal Pradesh state was created and the village was declared to be in Assam.
Suicide car bomber kills 2 officers in east Afghanistan
A suicide car bomber has attacked a police facility in the country’s east, killing two officers, AP reported. The attacker targeted a police and intelligence compound in the Nangarhar province’s Pachir Wagam district early on Thursday morning, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman in the province. Three members of the security forces were injured in the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement.
Johansson breaks with humanitarian group Oxfam over Israeli settlement boycott
Actress Scarlett Johansson has decided to end her eight-year tenure as ambassador for Oxfam International, a prominent group fighting against poverty and injustice, saying she does not endorse the group’s boycott of Israeli settlements in occupied territories. Oxfam opposes all trade with the settlements, saying their existence is illegal and violates Palestinians’ rights. Johansson recently came under fire for signing on as the first global brand ambassador of SodaStream, a company maintaining a large factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Latin America and Caribbean to become ‘zone of peace’
The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States bloc has signed a resolution declaring the region a “zone of peace”. The 33 nations thus pledged to resolve regional disputes without the use of force in respect to another. The measure was approved on the final day of a summit of Western Hemisphere nations, minus the United States and Canada.
EU agrees on accord to normalize relations with Cuba – source
EU states have agreed on the “whole package” for a new accord with Cuba aimed at normalizing relations with the communist state and encourage reforms and strengthen the human rights in the country, an EU source told AFP. The text of the agreement will be discussed among EU foreign Ministers next month. The bloc suspended ties with Cuba in 2003 after a crackdown on 75 dissidents, which have all now been released from jail.