Pelosi Condemns ‘Illegal’ Azerbaijan Attack On Armenia

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a press conference in the Parliament in Yerevan on September 18, 2022. AFP

 

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday condemned what she described as an “illegal” attack by Azerbaijan on Armenia that sparked the worst fighting since their 2020 war.

Baku and Yerevan have accused each other of initiating the border clashes on Tuesday, which claimed the lives of more than 200 people.

“We strongly condemn those attacks — on behalf of Congress — which threaten (the) prospects of the much-needed peace agreement,” Pelosi told a news conference in Yerevan.

“Armenia has particular importance to us because of the focus on security following an illegal and deadly attack by Azerbaijan on the Armenian territory.”


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Pelosi said the attack was an “assault on (the) sovereignty of Armenia”.

Hostilities between the Caucasus arch foes ended overnight on Thursday thanks to mediation by the United States, Armenian parliament speaker Alen Simonyan said.

Earlier attempts by Russia to broker a truce failed.

“We are grateful to the United States for the agreement of the fragile ceasefire reached by their mediation,” he told a news conference alongside Pelosi.

US-Armenia rapprochement

Pelosi’s visit a growing closeness between Washington and Yerevan where frustration is brewing over the lack of support from Armenia’s traditional ally Moscow which is distracted by its nearly seven-month war in Ukraine.

Russia — which has a treaty obligation to defend Armenia in the event of foreign invasion, but which also has close ties with Baku — did not rush to help Yerevan despite a formal demand for military help.

“We asked for military help and our demand was not accepted. Obviously, we are not happy,” Armenia’s security council chairman, Artyom Grigoryan, said Friday.

Pelosi, who arrived in Yerevan on Saturday for a three-day visit, is the highest-ranking US official to travel to Armenia since the tiny nation gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

On Sunday morning, a tearful Pelosi laid flowers at Yerevan’s hilltop memorial of the 1.5 million Armenians killed in the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

Armenia has long sought international recognition of the bloodletting as genocide — a claim fiercely rejected by Turkey but supported by many other countries.

Pelosi said she was “proud” to travel to Yerevan after US President Joe Biden formally acknowledged the Armenian genocide last year.

“It is the moral duty of all to never forget: an obligation that has taken on heightened urgency as atrocities are perpetrated around the globe, including by Russia against Ukraine,” Pelosi said on Saturday.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars — in the 1990s and in 2020 — over the contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan.

Pelosi said: “In the Congress, in the bipartisan way, we hold (Baku’s ally) Turkey responsible — as well as Azerbaijan — for the conflict that exists in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Decades-long talks

Together with France and Russia, the US co-chairs the Minsk Group of mediators, which had led decades-long peace talks between Baku and Yerevan under the aegis of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Minsk Group has been largely defunct as Moscow faces growing isolation on the world stage following its February invasion of Ukraine.

The European Union had taken a lead role in mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation process.

Analysts have said the hostilities have largely undone Western efforts to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace deal.

The six-weeks war in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.

More Than 200 Dead In Armenia-Azerbaijan Clashes This Week

 

Armenia said Friday that at least 136 people died in border clashes with Azerbaijan this week, bringing the overall toll to more than 200 following the countries’ worst fighting in two years.

Both sides accuse each other of provoking the clashes, which erupted on Tuesday and ended with international mediation overnight on Thursday.

The Caucasus neighbours have fought two wars — in 2020 and in the 1990s — over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave.

Analysts say this week’s escalation has largely undone recent EU efforts to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace agreement.


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“For the moment, the number of dead is 135,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told a cabinet meeting on Friday.

“Unfortunately, it is not the final figure. There are also many wounded.”

Armenia’s rights ombudsperson, Kristina Grigoryan, later said one civilian was also killed and six wounded in shelling by Azerbaijani forces.

“Azerbaijan targeted peaceful residents,” she said — a claim which Baku flatly denies.

‘International mediation’

Grigoryan said the clashes also forced hundreds of Armenian civilians to flee their homes.

Azerbaijan has reported 71 deaths among its troops.

It was the worst fighting since the two countries fought a six-week war in 2020 and comes with Armenia’s closest ally Moscow distracted by its nearly seven-month war in Ukraine.

Armenia’s security council said the violence ended late Thursday “thanks to international mediation” after earlier failed attempts by Moscow to broker a truce.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is due to visit Yerevan over the weekend, Politico newspaper reported, citing sources familiar with the visit.

A delegation of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) — a Moscow-led grouping of ex-Soviet republics — arrived in Yerevan on Thursday evening, Armenia’s defence ministry said.

Armenia is a member of CSTO but Azerbaijan is not.

On Tuesday, Armenia’s security council asked for military help from Moscow, which is obliged under the treaty to defend Armenia in the event of a foreign invasion.

With Moscow increasingly isolated on the world stage following its February invasion of Ukraine, the European Union had taken a lead role in mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation process.

Transport sticking point

During EU-mediated talks in Brussels in May and April, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Pashinyan agreed to “advance discussions” on a future peace treaty.

They last met in Brussels on August 31, for talks mediated by the European Council President Charles Michel.

The talks also focus on border delimitation and the reopening of transport links.

The issue of ensuring a land transport link between Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan and its ally Ankara via Armenian territory has emerged as the primary sticking point.

Azerbaijan insists on Yerevan renouncing its jurisdiction over the land corridor that should pass along Armenia’s border with Iran — a demand the Armenian government rejects as an affront to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The six weeks of fighting in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.

Death Toll In Armenia-Azerbaijan Border Clashes Rises To Over 170

A billboard with an image of a serviceman and the slogan “Serve for the Motherland” sits by a road in the city of Vardenis on September 15, 2022. AFP

 

Azerbaijan said Thursday that 71 of its troops had died in border clashes with Armenia over the last two days in the worst fighting since 2020.

Yerevan said a ceasefire was holding on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, with no fresh violence reported overnight.

The earlier death toll given by Azerbaijan was 50.

Azerbaijan’s defence ministry published a list of 71 servicemen killed in clashes between the historic rivals since Tuesday while Yerevan said 105 of its troops were killed.

The clashes ended “thanks to the international involvement” overnight on Thursday, Armenia’s security council said, after earlier failed attempts from Russia to broker a truce.

The European Union welcomed the ceasefire, which it said was “being respected so far.”

“The EU remains strongly involved in the normalisation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Peter Stano, the bloc’s spokesman for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement.

EU Special Representative, Toivo Klaar, was holding high-level consultations in Baku on Wednesday and in Yerevan on Thursday, he said.

Baku and Yerevan have traded accusations of initiating the violence, which saw hundreds of Armenian civilians flee their homes.

The escalation came as Yerevan’s closest ally Moscow is distracted by its nearly seven-month war in Ukraine.

A delegation of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) — a Moscow-led grouping of several ex-Soviet republics — is due in Yerevan later Thursday, Armenia’s foreign ministry said.

Armenia is a member of CSTO but Azerbaijan is not.

On Tuesday, Armenia’s security council asked for military help from Moscow, which is obliged under the treaty to defend Armenia in the event of a foreign invasion.

Fragile peace process

In Yerevan, opposition supporters staged an anti-government protest overnight, demanding Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s resignation, after rumours he was planning to agree on concessions in the decades-long territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.

The Caucasus neighbours fought two wars — in the 1990s and in 2020 — over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated enclave.

The six weeks of fighting in 2020 claimed the lives of more than 6,500 troops from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.

Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.

The Ukraine conflict has changed the balance of power in the region, as Russia faces and increasing international isolation.

The European Union has since led the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation process, which involves peace talks, border delimitation and the reopening of transport links.

During EU-mediated talks in Brussels in May and April, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and the Armenian leader Pashinyan agreed to “advance discussions” on a future peace treaty.

They last met in Brussels on August 31, for talks mediated by the European Council President Charles Michel.

Analysts have said the latest escalation has largely undone Brussels’ efforts to bring Baku and Yerevan closer to a peace agreement.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.

Three Killed As Iranian Fighter Jet Crashes Into School


A handout picture provided by the news agency TASNIM on February 21, 2022 shows firefighters putting out a blaze at the crash site of a fighter jet in a residential area of the northwestern city of Tabriz. TASNIM NEWS / AFP

 

An Iranian F-5 fighter jet crashed into a school compound in the northwestern city of Tabriz on Monday, killing two crew and a passerby, authorities said.  

“Luckily the school was closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic,” local official Mohammad-Bagher Honarvar told state television.

The aircraft was on a training mission when it went down around 9:00 am (0530 GMT) in the city’s central district of Monajem, said Honavar, who heads a crisis management unit in East Azerbaijan province.

The head of the local Red Crescent organisation said the plane crashed into an external wall, and that one of the dead was a nearby resident.

READ ALSO: Putin To Host Iran’s Raisi In Moscow On Wednesday

A blaze broke out at the crash site and firefighters were seen battling the flames as a crowd looked on, in video footage by the official news agency IRNA.

The charred remains of the warplane could be seen amid the rubble of the school’s blackened facade.

The plane had been stationed at the Shahid Fakouri air base in Tabriz, base commander General Reza Youssefi told the broadcaster, adding that it was heading back from the training mission when it encountered a technical problem that prevented it from landing.

Ageing Fleet 


A handout picture provided by the news agency TASNIM on February 21, 2022, shows firefighters putting out a blaze at the crash site of a fighter jet in a residential area of the northwestern city of Tabriz.  TASNIM NEWS / AFP

 

Iran’s airforce has some 300 warplanes, mostly Russian MiG-29 and Sukhoi-25 fighters that date back to the Soviet era, as well as Chinese F-7s, and French Mirage F1s.

The fleet also includes some American F-4 and F-5 jets that date back to the regime of the Western-backed shah, who was ousted in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Experts say that only some of these aircraft are operational.

In August 2006, Iran announced it had developed a new warplane named “Azarakhsh” (Lightning) which it described as similar to the F-5.

A year later it unveiled another home-grown jet calling it “Saegheh” (Thunder), saying it was similar to the American F-18.

But some Western military experts have said the Saegheh is a derivative of the F-5.

Monday’s fighter jet crash was the first accident involving a military plane reported by Iran since December 2019.


A handout picture provided by the news agency TASNIM on February 21, 2022, shows firefighters putting out a blaze at the crash site of a fighter jet in a residential area of the northwestern city of Tabriz.  TASNIM NEWS / AFP

 

Back then, a MiG-29 warplane went down near a dormant volcano in the country’s northwest during a test flight, according to official media.

Three days later the military confirmed the death of the pilot.

In January 2019, a military cargo plane overshot a runway, crashed and caught fire during a botched landing near the capital Tehran.

At the time the army said 15 people were killed in the accident.

A combat jet also crashed in Tabriz during military exercises in September 2011, local media reported.

Iran has been subject to severe US sanctions since 2018 when the US withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal struck three years earlier between Tehran and world powers.

Talks are underway in Vienna to revive the deal and Iran is calling for sanctions to be lifted.

AFP

Putin To Host Armenia, Azerbaijan Leaders As Fighting Renews

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during meeting at Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, on November 21, 2021. Mikhail Metzel / SPUTNIK / AFP
Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on during meeting at Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, on November 21, 2021. Mikhail Metzel / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin will host the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan this week, days after some of the worst fighting between the Caucasus foes since last year’s war over Nagorno-Karabakh, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Putin will hold talks with Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday.

The trio will meet on Putin’s initiative, the Kremlin said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Biden Taps US Oil Reserves To Tame Fuel Prices

The Kremlin said the talks are “timed to coincide” with the anniversary of a Russian-mediated ceasefire, signed in November last year, that ended six weeks of fighting over the long-disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

The deal saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled for decades.

The Kremlin said the leaders will discuss “outlining further steps to strengthen stability and establish peace in the region.”

Earlier this month, clashes broke out on the shared border between Armenia and Azerbaijan with both sides reporting casualties and blaming each other for the fighting.

Russia stepped in to mediate, with Moscow’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu negotiating a truce.

Later on Tuesday, Pashinyan told an online press conference that talks in Sochi should, among other issues, address “Azerbaijan’s behaviour”.

“Azerbaijan is demonstrating constant aggressive policies towards Armenia. What Azerbaijan is doing is an attack on Armenia,” Pashinyan said in a live video on his Facebook page.

Pashinyan, however, confirmed his “readiness” to meet Aliyev on the sidelines of the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on December 15.

“I think that our communication should be more frequent, so we can find ways of solving problems and avoiding crisis situations,” Pashinyan said.

He said they will discuss “humanitarian questions”, including the exchange of war prisoners, but warned against expecting “fast results”.

Pashinyan and Aliyev last met in January in the Russian capital.

Last year’s war claimed the lives of more than 6,500 people.

 

AFP

‘Pandora Papers’ Expose Leaders’ Offshore Millions

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 25, 2019, shows an aerial view of the financial centre of Panama City. More than a dozen heads of state and government have amassed millions in secret offshore assets, according to an investigation published on October 3, 2021, by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). (Photo by Luis ACOSTA / AFP)

 

More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya, and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the ICIJ media consortium.

The so-called “Pandora Papers” investigation — involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian — is based on the leak of some 11.9 million documents from 14 financial services companies around the world.

Some 35 current and former leaders are featured in the latest vast trove of documents analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) — facing allegations ranging from corruption to money laundering and global tax avoidance.

In most countries, the ICIJ stresses, it is not illegal to have assets offshore or to use shell companies to do business across national borders.

But such revelations are no less of an embarrassment for leaders who may have campaigned publicly against tax avoidance and corruption, or advocated austerity measures at home.

The documents notably expose how Jordan’s King Abdullah II created a network of offshore companies and tax havens to amass a $100 million property empire from Malibu, California to Washington and London.

The Jordanian embassy in Washington declined to comment, but the BBC cited lawyers for the king saying all the properties were bought with personal wealth, and that it was common practice for high profile individuals to purchase properties via offshore companies for privacy and security reasons.

Family and associates of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev — long accused of corruption in the central Asian nation — are alleged to have been secretly involved in property deals in Britain worth hundreds of millions.

And the documents also show how Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis — who faces an election later this week — failed to declare an offshore investment company used to purchase a chateau worth $22 million in the south of France.

“I have never done anything illegal or wrong,” Babis hit back in a tweet, calling the revelations a smear attempt aimed at influencing the election.

– Tony Blair And Shakira –

In total, the ICIJ found links between almost 1,000 companies in offshore havens and 336 high-level politicians and public officials, including more than a dozen serving heads of state and government, country leaders, cabinet ministers, ambassadors and others.

More than two-thirds of the companies were set up in the British Virgin Islands.

Nearly two million of the 11.9 million leaked documents came from prestigious Panamanian law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee (Alcogal), which the ICJ said had become “a magnet for the rich and powerful from Latin America and beyond seeking to hide wealth offshore.”

Alcogal, whose clients allegedly included the Jordanian monarch and Czech prime minister, rejected accusations of shady dealings, saying it was considering legal action to defend its reputation.

“I guess it mostly demonstrates that the people that could end the secrecy of offshore, could end what’s going on, are themselves benefiting from it,” the ICIJ’s director Gerard Ryle said in a video accompanying the investigation.

“We’re looking at trillions of dollars.”

For Maira Martini, a policy expert with Transparency International, the latest investigation once more offers “clear evidence of how the offshore industry promotes corruption and financial crime, while obstructing justice.”

“This business model cannot go on,” she said.

Among the other revelations from the ICIJ investigation:

Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who has been critical of tax loopholes, is shown to have legally avoided paying stamp duty on a multi-million-pound property in London when he and his wife Cherie bought the offshore company that owned it.

Members of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s inner circle, including cabinet ministers and their families, are said to secretly own companies and trusts holding millions of dollars. In a series of tweets, Khan vowed to “take appropriate action” if any wrongdoing by Pakistani citizens is established.

Vladimir Putin is not directly named in the files, but he is linked via associates to secret assets in Monaco, notably a waterfront home acquired by a Russian woman believed to have had a child with the Russian leader, The Washington Post reports.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta — who has campaigned against corruption and for financial transparency — is alleged along with several family members of secretly owning a network of offshore companies.

As well as politicians, the public figures exposed included the Colombian singer Shakira, the German supermodel Claudia Schiffer and the Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar. Representatives for all three told the ICIJ the investments were legitimate and denied tax avoidance.

The “Pandora Papers” are the latest in a series of mass ICIJ leaks of financial documents, from LuxLeaks in 2014, to the 2016 Panama Papers — which triggered the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland and paved the way for the leader of Pakistan to be ousted.

They were followed by the Paradise Papers in 2017 and FinCen files in 2020.

AFP

Azerbaijan Organisers Ban Russian Journalist From Euro 2020

UEFA-Euro-2020-Logo-London
Photo: UEFA

 

A Russian journalist has been banned from covering football’s European Championship by Azerbaijan’s organising committee over his visits to the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh, sparking outrage in Moscow on Wednesday.

Nobel Arustamyan, a journalist with Armenian ancestry working for the Russian Match TV station, said Tuesday that Azerbaijan’s organising committee has denied him accreditation for Euro 2020 that is being organised in 11 European cities including the Azerbaijani capital, Baku.

The approval of the 11 national organising committees is necessary for journalists to be accredited.

The oil-rich country on the Caspian Sea is set to host three group games in June — Wales v Switzerland, Turkey v Wales, Switzerland v Turkey — and a quarter-final in July.

The vice president of the Azerbaijani Football Federation, Elkhan Mammadov, confirmed his country was behind the refusal.

“This person has repeatedly visited the occupied lands of Azerbaijan for many years and during these visits did not receive permission from the relevant structures of Azerbaijan,” Mammadov told journalists.

READ ALSO: European Commission Opens Case Against Germany Over Primacy Of EU Law

“He violated the laws of our country, showing disrespect for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”

Azerbaijan’s Armenian-populated breakaway region of Karabakh was last year at the centre of a six-week war between the arch-foe neighbours.

The war has claimed the lives of some 6,000 people and ended in November with a Russian-brokered ceasefire that saw Armenia cede swathes of territories it had controlled for decades.

Azerbaijan’s move to block Arustamyan’s accreditation sparked outrage among Russian journalists and elicited a protest from his channel.

“The refusal of a regional federation to approve the name of our commentator is a violation of the spirit of the international sports movement,” the general producer of Match TV, Tina Kandelaki, wrote on her Telegram channel.

Sports journalist Vasili Utkin denounced “a bestial injustice.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the ministry had “worked all night” with UEFA to ensure Aroustamyan is allowed “to exercise his professional activities.”

“I believe a solution will be found,” she added.

Azerbaijani laws prohibit the entry into its territory of those who have visited Nagorno-Karabakh without permission from Baku.

In 2019, Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan missed, for security reasons, the Europa League final between his then team Arsenal and Chelsea that was played in Baku.

AFP

Villagers Burn Karabakh Houses Ahead Of Azerbaijan Takeover

The smoke from an explosion rises above the houses after a shelling during the ongoing military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, in the disputed province’s capital of Stepanakert on November 6, 2020. Karen MINASYAN / AFP

 

Villagers in Nagorno-Karabakh set their houses on fire Saturday before fleeing to Armenia ahead of a weekend deadline that will see parts of the territory handed over to Azerbaijan as part of a peace agreement.

Residents of the Kalbajar district in Azerbaijan that was controlled by Armenian separatists for decades began a mass exodus this week after it was announced Azerbaijan would regain control on Sunday.

Fighting between the separatists backed by Armenian troops and the Azerbaijan army erupted in late September and raged for six weeks, leaving more than 1,400 dead and forcing thousands to flee their homes.

In the village of Charektar, on the border with the neighbouring district of Martakert which is to remain under Armenian control, at least six houses were on fire Saturday morning with thick plumes of gray smoke rising over the valley, an AFP journalist saw.

“This is my house, I can’t leave it to the Turks,” as Azerbaijanis are often called by Armenians, said one resident as he threw burning wooden planks and rags soaked in gasoline into a completely empty house.

“Everybody is going to burn down their house today… We were given until midnight to leave,” he said.

On Friday at least 10 houses were burned in and around Charektar.

The ex-Soviet rivals agreed to end hostilities earlier this week after previous efforts by Russia, France and the United States to get a ceasefire fell through.

A key part of the peace deal includes Armenia’s return of Kalbajar, as well as the Aghdam district by November 20 and the Lachin district by December 1, which have been held by Armenians since a devastating war in the 1990s.

Russian peacekeepers began deploying to Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday as part of the terms of the accord and took control of a key transport artery connecting Armenia to the disputed province.

Russian military officials said the mission consisting of nearly 2,000 troops would put in place 16 observation posts in mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor.

Merkel Urges ‘Immediate Ceasefire’ In Karabakh Fighting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a press conference on March 11, 2020 in Berlin to comment on the situation of the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. AFP

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged an immediate end to the fighting in the region of Nagorny Karabakh in phone calls with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, her spokesman said Tuesday.

At least 95 people have been killed in the clashes that have been raging since the weekend, including 11 civilians, according to the latest available tallies.

“The chancellor urgently called for an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table,” Steffen Seibert said.

Merkel spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Monday and with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Tuesday, he added.

The so-called Minsk Group of mediators, led by France, Russia and the United States, “offers an appropriate forum” for dialogue, Merkel said in the calls.

The UN Security Council is due to hold emergency talks Tuesday behind closed doors on Nagorny Karabakh, diplomats said.

Yerevan and Baku have been locked in a territorial dispute over the ethnic Armenian region of Nagorny Karabakh for decades, with deadly fighting flaring up last July and in 2016.

The region declared independence from Azerbaijan after a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives.

It is not recognised by any country — including Armenia — and is still considered part of Azerbaijan by the international community.

AFP

Adekuruoye Leads Team To Victory In Indian Pro Wrestling League

AdekuruoyeCommonwealth gold medalist, Odunayo Adekuruoye, has inspired her team, Mumbai Garuda to beat Haryana Hammers 7-2, to clinch the inaugural Indian Pro Wrestling League title.

In her final fight, Adekuruoye edged out Tatyana Kit 9-0 in a one-sided contest in women’s 53kg.

The 21-year-old Nigerian did not give any chance to Tatyana as she dominated the proceedings throughout the match, to remain unbeaten throughout the competition.

Her teammate, Odikadze Elizbar, sealed the title for Mumbai with his stunning 6-4 win over Andriitesey Valerii in men’s 97kg category.

Nigeria’s Youth and Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung, congratulated Adekuoroye on her victory over Ukraine’s Tatyana Kit.

The two time African Champion had earlier defeated Ukraine’s Liliya Horishna, Babita Kumari and Lalita Sehrawat of India and Priyanka Phogat on her way to the final.

Adekuoroye is the only Nigerian wrestler to secure a slot for the 2016 Rio Olympics after winning bronze at the 2015 World Wrestling Championship in Las Vegas, USA. She also won bronze at the World Grand Prix held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Flamengoes To Play Colombia, Mexico & China At 2014 FIFA World Cup

Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team, the Flamengoes, have been drawn in group D for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Costa Rica.

The Flamengoes will play Colombia in their opening game, go against China in the second encounter and tackle Mexico in the final group game.

The U-17 Women’s national team qualified for the world cup finals following the withdrawal of South Sudan.

South Sudan was to host the first leg of the two-legged qualifier against Nigeria between November 1 and 3 2013 but withdrew, making their opponents, Nigeria, the first African team to qualify for the tournament.

At the last edition in Azerbaijan, the Flamengoes made it to the quarter-finals, losing the semi-final place to France in a penalty shoot-out. But it was an experience and exposure for the team, as Halimatu Ayinde finished third top scorer with four goals.

The 2014 2014 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup will be the fourth edition of the tournament since its inception as a competition in 2008 and Nigeria, Ghana and Zambia will represent Africa when the event kicks-off on the March 15 next year.

GROUP A               GROUP B

Costa Rica                 Ghana

Venezuela                 North Korea

Italy                            Germany

Zambia                       Canada                                                                                 

GROUP C                   GROUP D

New Zealand                    Mexico

Paraguay                          China

Spain                               Colombia

Japan                               Nigeria

 

Flamingoes crash out of FIFA U-17 women world cup losing to France on penalty

The first penalty shootout of the FIFA U-17 Women World Cup in Azerbaijan saw Marion Romanelli strike, the winning spot-kick for France as they beat Nigeria 5-3 to reach the semi-finals.

After an enthralling encounter, Sandie Toletti, Ugochi Emenayo and Declercq exchanged efforts before Sarah Nnodim blew her kick.

The pendulum of victory fell to the French with Romanelli tucking home the winner.

The game turned horrible for Nigeria when Captain Adelomon received only the second red card of the tournament for her second yellow of the match.

The loss means Nigeria has failed to scale the quarter-final hurdle for the second tournament running.

Reacting to the loss, Nigeria’s coach, Peter Dedevbo, stated that “France read us very well. We had our strategies, but they did not pay off. Sometimes football is like that. I am not happy, I have taken my team twice to the World Cup and we lost twice in the quarter-finals. I am not happy at all.”

Earlier before the Flamingoes match, Ri un Sim’s formidable scoring form continued, as a late brace from her saw Korea DPR’s record of always reaching the FIFA U-17 women’s World Cup semi-finals continued with a 2-1 win over Canada.

Canada began the game the brighter, with both Summer Clarke and Nichelle Prince getting in behind the Korean backline, but spurned both chances.

Ri un Sim got the opener in the 78th minute, and it was game over for Canada when she again hit target on 87 minutes.  Nichelle Prince’s goal in added time was too late to level scores.