World Newsletter

16th Aug 2019

All 24 Indian crew aboard VLCC Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker, have been released by Gibraltar authorities and are free to return to India, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said on Thursday. In a tweet, Muraleedharan said: "Spoke to our High Commission in London. They confirmed all 24 Indian crew aboard VLCC Grace 1 have been released by Gibraltar authorities and are free to return to India." "I am grateful and thankful for my release. And I am grateful to all who have facilitated my release in my legal team," the Captain of the Grace 1 tanker said in a statement. A spokesman for Gibraltar's government also confirmed that police proceedings against four members of the crew had ended. The arrested Indian crew members - the Master, Chief Officer and two Second Mates - were aboard the Panama-flagged supertanker that was detained off Europa Point in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on the Spanish coast, last month. The Gibraltar authorities had said the vessel is loaded to capacity with crude oil enroute to Syria, in breach of European Union (EU) sanctions. But after a hearing in Gibraltar on Thursday, the local Supreme Court of the region ruled that the tanker should be released after formal written assurances from Iran that the ship would not discharge its cargo in Syria and therefore not be in breach of EU sanctions. A total of 28 crew on board the vessel include majority Indians but also Russians, Latvians and Filipinos, who had spent over a month in detention on board the ship since it was seized in early July. They should now be able to sail on to a destination agreed with Iran and the owner of the tanker - the National Iranian Oil Company. "CHINA WILL 'QUELL UNREST SWIFTLY' IF HONG KONG CRISIS BECOMES 'UNCONTROLLABLE" China will not "sit by and watch" and is ready to "quell the unrest swiftly" if the crisis in Hong Kong becomes "uncontrollable", China's ambassador to London said on Thursday. "If the situation deteriorates further into unrest uncontrollable by the SAR govt, then the central government will not sit by and watch," Liu Xiaoming said in a televised press conference. "We have enough solutions and enough power to quell the unrest swiftly," he said. Images taken by AFP earlier on Thursday showed thousands of Chinese military personnel waving red flags and parading at a sports stadium in the city of Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong. Dozens of armoured personnel carriers and supply trucks were also parked nearby. "We hope this will end in an orderly way. In the meantime we are fully prepared for the worst," Liu said. He also protested against "foreign interference" in the Hong Kong protests and urged British PM Boris Johnson's govt to handle the issue with "great caution". "I think some politicians in this country... still regard Hong Kong as part of the British empire," he said. A satellite photo showed military vehicles massed inside a sports stadium in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong. JEREMY CORBYN SEEKS PM'S OUSTER TO AVOID NO-DEAL BREXIT Jeremy Corbyn urged anti-Boris Johnson MPs to make him Britain's caretaker Prime Minister to avoid a no-deal Brexit - but his proposal met with a mixed response on Thursday. The Labour main opposition leader said once in power, he would seek to delay Britain's October 31 exit date from the European Union and then call a general election. Mr. Corbyn - the only person who can trigger a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Johnson's government - will do so after MPs return to Parliament on September 3, if he feels sure of victory. Conservative PM Johnson has pledged to take Britain out of the EU on October 31, without a divorce deal if one cannot be agreed with Brussels. In a letter to other opposition leaders and leading rebel Conservatives, Mr. Corbyn said his plan "can halt the serious threat of no deal, end the uncertainty and disarray, and allow the public to decide the best way ahead". While the Scottish Nationalists, the second-biggest opposition party in Parliament, welcomed the idea, the Liberal Democrats, the next-biggest, dismissed it as "nonsense", saying Mr. Corbyn could not lead the charge. NORTH KOREA SNUBS PEACE TALKS WITH SOUTH KOREA OVER WAR DRILLS North Korea has rejected any further talks with South Korea, calling its decision "completely the fault of South Korea's actions". It issued a statement in response to a speech by South Korea President Moon Jae-in on Thursday. Meanwhile, early on Friday North Korea test-fired two missiles into the sea off its eastern coast, the South Korean military said. It is the sixth such test in less than a month. Six days ago, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan. The series of tests come after US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed during a meeting in June to restart denuclearisation negotiations. In the speech, marking Korea's liberation from Japanese rule, President Moon vowed to unite the Korean peninsula by 2045. ISRAEL BARS ILHAN OMAR AND RASHIDA TLAIB FROM VISITING Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers, who are prominent critics of the Israeli government, from visiting. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week. Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting. President Trump earlier tweeted it would show "great weakness" if the pair were allowed entry. Ms Omar described Israel's move as "an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation". Mr Trump earlier had taken to Twitter to urge that the two lawmakers be blocked from visiting, adding that "they hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds". JEFFREY EPSTEIN AUTOPSY REPORT SHOWS BROKEN NECK: WASHINGTON POST The autopsy into financier Jeffrey Epstein, who died in an apparent suicide while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges, found his neck had been broken in several places, the Washington Post reported late on Wednesday. Such injuries can occur to people who hang themselves or who are strangled, the newspaper said. It cited unidentified sources familiar with the autopsy's results. Epstein, a multi-millionaire and convicted sexual offender, was found dead in his jail cell in New York City on Saturday. The circumstances of his death are under investigation. It was also unclear when the autopsy report would be finished or made public. NEARLY 6,00,000 ADVISED TO EVACUATE AS STORM MAKES LANDFALL ON JAPAN Heavy rain lashed parts of western Japan on Thursday as tropical storm Krosa made landfall, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and trains as authorities advised more than half a million people to evacuate. Authorities warned the total rainfall in some areas could surpass 1,000 mm (39 inches) in 24 hours to Friday morning and advised some 5,84,100 people to evacuate as some rivers were verging dangerously close to flood stage. Krosa, a Khmer word for crane, was packing sustained winds of 108 kmh (67 mph) and gusts up to 144 kmh (90 mph) when it made landfall in the western Japanese prefecture of Hiroshima, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. "Given the predictions of record rains and high winds, we'd like to ask people in the affected areas to avoid going outside if they can, and to make early preparations to evacuate if needed according to directions of the local authorities," Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, told a news conference. JAPAN SURPASSES CHINA AS LARGEST NON-US HOLDER OF TREASURIES Japan overtook China as the largest non-US holder of Treasuries in June, after raising its holdings to a nearly three-year high, according to US Treasury Department data released on Thursday. Japan's holdings of US Treasuries rose to $1.122 trillion in June, from $1.101 trillion in May, and were its largest since October 2016. It was not the first time that Japan supplanted China as the largest non-US Treasury holder. From January to May 2017, Japan held more Treasuries than China, data showed. "The generally low- and negative-yielding sovereign debt market make Treasuries comparatively more attractive than European and Japanese debt," said Benjamin Jeffery, rates strategist at BMO Capital Markets in New York. The steepening of the yield curve - when rates on long-term bonds are higher than short-term notes - in June made currency hedging costs "a bit less onerous for foreign buyers," he added. China was the second-largest owner of US Treasuries with $1.112 trillion in June, compared with $1.110 trillion the previous month. Overall, major foreign holders of Treasuries had $6.636 trillion of U.S. government debt in June, up from $6.539 trillion in May, suggesting continued demand for the safe-haven asset. Foreign flows of U.S. Treasuries showed an outflow of $7.71 billion in June, from net selling of $32.785 billion in May. Foreign official institutions sold $14.605 billion during the month, compared with outflows from the same group totaling $21.998 billion in May. Offshore private investors purchased Treasuries amounting to $7.071 billion in June. Data also showed that after 13 straight months of selling, foreigners finally bought U.S. stocks in June to the tune of $26.589 billion, after outflows of $1.445 billion in May. Foreigners also bought $99.1 billion in net long-term securities in April, after buying $4.6 billion in May, the report showed. YEMEN SEPARATISTS SAY READY FOR TALKS IN SAUDI ARABIA OVER ADEN CRISIS Yemen's southern separatists said on Thursday they were ready to attend a summit in Saudi Arabia to resolve a standoff in Aden after they seized the southern port, seat of Yemen's Saudi-backed government. The takeover by the United Arab Emirates-backed separatist forces exposed cracks in the Saudi-led military coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group for more than four years and complicated United Nations efforts to end the war. "We thank Saudi Arabia for its earnest efforts to contain the crisis and invite the parties for talks in Jeddah," the Southern Transitional Council (STC) said in a statement. "The meeting will be held as soon as necessary arrangements are completed." BRAZILIAN PRESIDENT BOLSONARO FIRES BACK AFTER NORWAY, GERMANY SUSPEND FUNDING President Jair Bolsonaro took aim at Germany and Norway after they cut donations for Brazilian forestry projects in criticism of his policies, with the far-right leader saying they should focus on their own environmental problems. "Isn't Norway the one that kills whales up there in the North Pole? That also does oil exploration there?" Bolsonaro asked ironically Thursday. "Take the money and go help Angela Merkel to reforest Germany." His comments came as Germany and Norway announced the suspension of environmental funding for sustainability projects in Brazil's forests, both saying his far-right administration isn't committed to fighting deforestation. The Norwegian environment ministry confirmed Thursday that Norway suspended funding to the Amazon Fund, which was created in 2008 to receive donations used to finance projects in the Amazon. Norway has been by far the biggest contributor, with $1.2 billion donated so far, followed by Germany at $68 million and Brazilian state oil giant Petrobras at $7.7 million.

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