Osinbajo Receives British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson

The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, has received the British Foreign Secretary, Mr Boris Johnson, at the State House in Abuja.

Professor Osinbajo received the UK top diplomat on Thursday in company of the Minister of Foreign affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; and that of budget and national planning, Udo Udoma.

Mr Johnson was also accompanied on the visit by the UK International Development Secretary, Priti Patel.

He made the visit hours after unveiling the new office of the British High Commission in Nigeria’s federal capital.

According to the British diplomat, the new building, located at Plot 1157, Diplomatic Drive, Central Business District, is a symbol of UK’s commitment to strengthening its long-term relationship with Nigeria.

Details later…

Syria Presses Toward Aleppo, Tells Rebels To Leave

Syria, Allepo, UN, Boris JohnsonSyrian government and allied forces are pushing toward Aleppo, pursuing their week-old offensive to take the rebel-held part of the city after dozens of overnight air strikes.

The Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.

Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power began their push to take the whole of the divided city after a ceasefire collapsed last month.

An air campaign by the Syrian government and its allies has been reinforced by a ground offensive against the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, where insurgents have been holding out. Hospitals have been badly hit in the assault, medics say.

Reuters reports that while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke by phone to discuss normalisation of the situation, Britain said the bombing of hospitals by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad made it impossible to talk about peace.

“It is the continuing savagery of the Assad regime against the people of Aleppo and the complicity of the Russians in committing what are patently war crimes – bombing hospitals, when they know they are hospitals and nothing but hospitals – that is making it impossible for peace negotiations to resume,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian military said on Sunday that the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.

Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim, told Reuters there were clashes in this area on Sunday.

The Observatory said air strikes and shelling continued on Sunday and there was fierce fighting all along the front line which cuts the city in two.

The Syrian army said that rebel fighters should vacate east Aleppo in return for safe passage and aid supplies.
“The army high command calls on all armed fighters in the eastern neighborhood of Aleppo to leave these neighborhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” a statement carried by state news agency SANA said.

East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.

International attempts to establish ceasefires to allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although other aid groups have brought in limited supplies.

British Embassy In Tehran Reopens

British embassyNearly four years after it was closed, Britain has reopened its embassy in Iran.

British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, is in Tehran with a delegation of business leaders for a ceremony to mark the reopening.

It held about the same time, Iran was also reopening its embassy in London.

The UK embassy was closed in 2011 after it was stormed by protesters during a demonstration against sanctions.

Mr Hammond is the first UK Foreign Secretary to visit Iran since 2003.

The visit came weeks after Iran reached a deal with six world powers aimed at curbing its nuclear programme.

Earlier, Mr Hammond said the  nuclear deal and the election of Hassan Rouhani as President in June 2013,  had drawn greater engagement with the western world and had been “important milestones” in the improved relations between the two countries.

In November 2011 Iran announced it was expelling the UK’s ambassador in retaliation for British support for tougher sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme.

Hundreds of protesters stormed embassy compounds two days later, smashing windows, torching cars and burning Union flags.

The UK responded by closing the Iranian embassy in London later that month.

But following the election of Rouhani and an agreement on how to deal with Iran’s nuclear programme, the then Foreign Secretary, William Hague, proposed the reopening of the embassy in June last year.

Since then, the reopening of the embassy had been held up by technical problems over visa policy and communications equipment, Mr Hammond said.

Ukraine Crisis: Government Dismisses Self-Rule Referendums ‘A Farce’

Ukraine referendumPro-Russian rebels declared a landslide victory in Sunday’s referendum held in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions with Pro-Russian separatists in the region said to have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the “self-rule”.

The Ukrainian government, however, have dismissed the vote as a farce and the European Union has criticized the referendum.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague said: “These votes, these attempts at referendums have zero credibility in the eyes of the world. They are illegal by anybody’s standards, they don’t meet any standard, not a single standard of objectivity, transparency, fairness or being properly conducted as a public referendum or election and indeed the people organizing them didn’t even pretend to meet any of those standards. The important thing is that the Ukrainian elections go ahead on the 25th of May.”

However, a Luhansk election commission official said residents overwhelmingly supported the referendum.

Like officials in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, a spokesman for the Luhansk referendum said that more than 90 percent of residents voted in favour.

Russia said on Monday it respected the outcome of the referendum and that the results should be implemented peacefully.

The European Union meanwhile is set to step up pressure on Russia by taking a first cautious step towards extending sanctions to companies, as well as people, linked to Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.