Biden Arrives In Geneva Ahead Of Putin Summit

US President Joe Biden steps off Air Force One as he arrives at Cointrin airport in Geneva on June 15, 2021, on the eve of a US – Russia meeting.
DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP

 

US President Joe Biden arrived in Geneva on Tuesday ahead of his first summit with Vladimir Putin, as tensions between Moscow and Washington stand at their highest in years.

Biden flew into Geneva at 4:16 pm (1416 GMT) on the last leg of his first foreign trip as president, after mending relations with Washington’s closest allies during G7 and NATO summits in Britain and Brussels.

He arrived in Geneva on the eve of the first meeting between US and Russian leaders since 2018 when Putin met Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump in Helsinki.

Switzerland’s President Guy Parmelin (R) welcomes US President Joe Biden stepping off Air Force One as he arrives at Cointrin airport in Geneva on June 15, 2021, on the eve of a US – Russia meeting.
DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP

 

Biden was greeted on the Geneva Airport tarmac by Swiss President Guy Parmelin, flanked by the heads of the Geneva cantonal and city authorities and US diplomats based in the city.

After handshakes and a few brief exchanges, he climbed into his armoured limousine known as “The Beast” and was whisked off to the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, just a mile (1.6 kilometres) away.

Switzerland has launched a massive security operation to ensure the safety of Biden, Putin and their large entourages, deploying around 4,000 police, troops and security personnel to guard the summit from all angles.

The summit venue, the La Grange villa, and its surrounding park has been ringed with two kilometres of barbed wire-topped security fencing.

Several blocks around Biden’s hotel, near the United Nations’ European headquarters, were also blocked off with barbed-wire fencing.

Switzerland’s President Guy Parmelin (R) welcomes US President Joe Biden stepping off Air Force One as he arrives at Cointrin airport in Geneva on June 15, 2021, on the eve of a US – Russia meeting.
DENIS BALIBOUSE / POOL / AFP

 

The international city, which on Tuesday was flying the US and Russian flags on its main bridge crossing the end of the picturesque Lake Geneva, is well accustomed to hosting heads of state and other dignitaries.

But such showpiece summits are rare — the last time leaders from Washington and Moscow met in the neutral country was back in 1985, when US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met each other for the first time.

Wednesday’s summit comes as Washington and Moscow find themselves at loggerheads over a long list of disputes — from cyber-attacks and election meddling to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and designation of his organisations as “extremist” groups.

Expectations for the talks are low, with officials on both sides repeatedly saying the two leaders are unlikely to find much common ground.

Messi Vs Ronaldo In Champions League Group stage, Man Utd To Face PSG

(COMBO) This combination created on October 1, 2020, shows file pictures of Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Miguel MEDINA, Josep LAGO / AFP
(COMBO) This combination created on October 1, 2020, shows file pictures of Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Miguel MEDINA, Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will meet in a mouthwatering clash in this season’s Champions League after Barcelona and Juventus were placed in the same group in Thursday’s draw.

Messi and Ronaldo will resume the rivalry they developed when the Portuguese superstar was at Real Madrid. Between them, they have won 11 of the last 12 Ballons d’Or.

The two heavyweights were drawn in Group G along with Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine and Ferencvaros, the Hungarian club returning to the group stage for the first time in quarter of a century.

Meanwhile, beaten 2020 finalists Paris Saint-Germain will have a chance for revenge against Manchester United, who ousted the French club in the last 16 two seasons ago.

READ ALSO: Lewandowski Named UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year

PSG will also come up against RB Leipzig in Group H. The sides met in last season’s semi-finals in Lisbon in August, with Paris winning 3-0 before losing to Bayern Munich in their first-ever final appearance.

Completing the group is Istanbul Basaksehir, who are appearing in the tournament proper for the first time.

English Premier League champions Liverpool, who won the Champions League in 2019, will face Ajax as well as Atalanta and Midtjylland of Denmark in Group D.

Holders Bayern will take on Atletico Madrid and will also have a short trip across the border to Austria to take on Salzburg in Group A. Lokomotiv Moscow are other team in the section.

Other notable match-ups will see 13-time European champions Real Madrid meet Inter Milan in Group B and Chelsea come up against debutants Rennes as well as Europa League winners Sevilla in Group E.

Chelsea signed goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes last week.

The group stage starts on October 20, and all six rounds of games will be crammed into eight weeks in a schedule that is even more packed than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This season’s final is scheduled to be staged in Istanbul, which was initially the host for last season’s final before UEFA was forced into a change of plans because of the health crisis.

It remains to be seen whether spectators will be able to attend matches in the group stage.

Lewandowski Named UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year

 

Robert Lewandowski was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year on Thursday following a superb season in which he won the treble with Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski was at UEFA headquarters in Nyon in Switzerland to receive the award at the draw for the Champions League group stage, just weeks after Bayern won the 2019/20 edition of the competition.

The Poland striker scored 55 goals in 47 games as Bayern also won the Bundesliga and German Cup. He was the top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals.

Syrian Talks Resume Despite COVID-19 Cases – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. HAZEM BADER / AFP.

 

UN-backed talks on a new constitution for Syria resumed in Geneva on Thursday after Swiss health authorities gave the green light despite four delegates testing positive for Covid-19.

The discussions, aimed at rewriting the war-torn country’s constitution, were put on hold almost as soon as they started on Monday when the test results came through.

UN envoy Geir Pedersen, who is moderating the tentative talks between representatives of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, the opposition and civil society, has voiced hope they could pave the way towards a broader political process.

His office said in a statement that “following additional testing and further medical and expert advice regarding four earlier positive tests for Covid-19”, Swiss authorities had determined the meeting could go ahead at the UN Palais des Nations. They resumed at 2:00 pm (1200 GMT).

The committee members — 15 each from the government, the opposition and from civil society — were tested for the new coronavirus before they travelled to Geneva, and were tested again on arrival in the Swiss city.

The positive second tests were found among delegates who arrived from Damascus, opposition negotiations leader Hadi al-Bahra told a virtual press briefing on Tuesday.

One opposition delegate, one from civil society and two representing the government, tested positive, he said.

Pedersen said further testing in recent days “indicates that the earlier positive cases do not pose any risk,” adding though that “out of an abundance of caution”, the talks would proceed at the UN “only with those who have tested negative.”

He stressed strict precautions would be followed during the talks.

The discussions had been scheduled to wrap up Friday, but Pedersen said the plan now was to extend the talks into Saturday.

He said committee delegates seemed eager to resume dialogue as “a signal of the importance of this process.”

He hailed a “constructive” first meeting on Monday, and said delegates appeared keen to have “substantive discussions” for the remainder of the week.

The Constitutional Committee was created in September last year and first convened a month later.

Disagreement on the agenda prevented a second round of planned talks from taking place in late November. The pandemic has delayed them ever since.

The United Nations has been striving for more than nine years to nurture a political resolution to Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced more than 11 million.

AFP

Dozens Of Migrants Drown As Boat Sinks Off Mauritania

 

 

 

At least 58 migrants drowned as their boat sank near the Mauritanian coast after a week at sea, the International Organization for Migration said Thursday.

The UN agency said another 83 people swam to shore, while survivors said at least 150 people including women and children were aboard the vessel, which had set sail from The Gambia on November 27.

They said the boat was running low on fuel as it was nearing the coast of the northwestern African nation.

“The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in Nouadhibou,” said Laura Lungarotti, IOM’s chief of mission in Mauritania.

“Our common priority is to take care of all those who survived and bring them the support they need,” she added.

READ ALSO: Six Dead, Two Missing After Gas Explosion In Poland

The injured are being treated in hospital in Nouadhibou, Mauritania’s westernmost town on the Atlantic coast, the IOM statement said.

Mauritanian authorities are in contact with Gambian consular services “to ensure that the necessary support is provided to the migrants”, the statement said.

The Gambian Ambassador to Mauritania is headed to Nouadhibou, it added.

Federer Battles Past Isner To Save Europe In Laver Cup

Roger Federer

 

 

Roger Federer saved Europe from defeat in the Laver Cup after beating John Isner in a tight match 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) that takes the tournament down to the final singles match.

Federer had to win a tense tie-break over world number 20 Isner to take the three points, smashing an ace on the final point to raise the roof in Geneva after the American had somehow shot wide with the court at his mercy.

Team World lead 11-10 ahead of German Alexander Zverev’s clash Milos Raonic, a straight shootout for the tournament after Taylor Fritz had earlier put Team World to within one win of capturing their first Laver Cup with a 7-5, 6-7 (3/7), 10-5 win over Dominic Thiem.

“I’m thrilled that I was able to give something back to the team,” said Federer.

“Obviously to see Rafa on the sidelines after having to pull out with an injury, it’s great camaraderie I feel.”

Team World came into the day 7-5 down but were boosted by Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal with a hand injury.

Fritz, himself a replacement for injured Nick Kyrgios, followed up on Isner and Jack Sock’s 5-7, 6-4, 10-8 defeat of Federer and Stefanos Tsitsipas with a surprise tie-break triumph over world number five Thiem.

“That was such a big match for Team World to win, we really needed that,” said Fritz.

“This has to be one of the biggest wins of my career. It means so much more when you’re playing for other people as well.”

This year is the first time the tournament has been played since being added to the ATP Tour.

Europe won the 2018 edition 13-8 in Chicago.

Geneva Braces For Large Protests Against Cameroon President

A woman holds a placard during a demonstration with other Cameroonian’ nationals living from the different European country, against the presence of Cameroon President Paul Biya, in Geneva on June 29, 2019./ AFP

 

Large numbers of police, many in riot gear, were posted outside a luxury Geneva hotel Saturday where Cameroon’s president is staying, as protestors against his leadership began gathering nearby.

Cameroon’s 86-year-old president, Paul Biya, who has ruled the country since 1982, “has run his dictatorship for nearly half a century,” said rally co-organiser Robert Wanto, a Cameroonian national who has lived in exile for three decades.

“We are here to demand that Cameroon be allowed to enter the modern democratic era,” he told AFP, standing on a square in front of the United Nations European headquarters, where a large demonstration is scheduled to kick off Saturday afternoon.

A woman holds a placard during a demonstration with others Cameroonian’ nationals living from different European country, against the presence of Cameroon President Paul Biya, in Geneva on June 29, 2019.

Several hours before the rally’s start, around 30 protestors draped in Cameroonian flags were already busy setting up a stage and hanging banners with graphic pictures of dead bodies apparently mangled by torture, with the message: “The people say no to Paul Biya”.

Cameroon’s embassy in Bern warned earlier this week that Cameroonian nationals living in various European countries were planning a “violent” protest against Biya Saturday.

Geneva police told AFP they were expecting a “large” demonstration and said they had been authorised to use to the square in front of the UN.

– ‘Ultimatum’ –
They have not been granted permission to march some 500 metres (yards) to the five-star Intercontinental Hotel, where Biya is believed to have been staying since Sunday.

But Wanto told AFP that the demonstrators had given Biya an “ultimatum” to leave and that if he remained at the hotel when the protest began, “we will march there”.

He pointed out that Biya had made it a habit to stay at the pricy Intercontinental during long visits to Switzerland, where he reportedly comes for medical treatment.

“He thinks it is ok to come here and spend billions of our money when our country is economically sick,” Wanto said.

Early Saturday, dozens of suit-clad men believed to be part of the president’s security detail stood around the hotel.

Several police vans were also parked outside the hotel and groups of officers had been stationed at regular intervals between the tall glass building and the UN square.

Over the past week, there have already been several scuffles with small numbers of demonstrators in front of the hotel and even inside the lobby.

An attack on a Swiss journalist covering the events by men believed to be Biya’s security staff even sparked a diplomatic incident, prompting the Swiss government to summon Cameroon’s ambassador in Bern on Thursday.

“The dictator must be senile to want to transport the violence he unleashes on his country on a daily basis to the soil of a democratic country,” Wanto said.

Cameroon, a former French colony, has faced a succession of crises and is currently wracked by a deadly conflict between separatists and government forces in its English-speaking west.

Opposition leaders have faced mass arrests, and rights groups charge the authorities regularly disappear torture detainees.

Algerian President Seeks Medical Treatment In Geneva

 

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Monday left for Geneva for regular medical tests, the presidency said in a statement.

The 81 year Bouteflika, has rarely been seen in public since he suffered a stroke in 2013, but his backers have urged him to seek a fifth term in next April’s election.

The veteran leader, in office since 1999, has not said yet whether he will stand.

“He will undergo periodic medical checks,” the statement said, without elaborating. Bouteflika has undergone checks several times since his stroke.

United Nations’ Staff In Geneva To Strike Over Grievances

 

The United Nations Security Council votes at a meeting on threats to international peace and security at the United States Mission in New York.
DON EMMERT / AFP

 

Angered by “unfair” pay cuts, UN staff in Geneva are planning a half-day strike next week, as dozens of ministers and other dignitaries attend high-level events at the organisation’s European headquarters.

“We have tried other forms of protest before, to no avail… They have left us no choice,” Ian Richards, who heads the UN staff unions association in Geneva, told AFP Sunday.

He said it remained unclear how many of some 9,500 UN staff members in Geneva would participate in Tuesday’s work stoppage, or what impact it would have, pointing out that “this is not like a bus company where the buses just stop.”

“But we certainly expect this to have an impact,” Richards said.

The half-day work stoppage will come during what is arguably one of the busiest weeks of the year at the UN in Geneva, with around 100 heads of state, government ministers and country representatives from around the world set to attend the main annual sessions of the UN’s top human rights and disarmament bodies.

According to a letter sent to all UN agency chiefs late last week, Tuesday will mark only “a first day of action, (and will) be followed by others.”

It complained of a “substantial deterioration in the employment conditions of UN staff around the world,” and warned that “the reputation of the UN as a leading employer that treats its staff with respect and fairness has been tarnished.”

The letter, sent by the unions and representatives of civil servants working for the UN, went out as staff received their first pay slips showing a 3.5-percent salary cut, and with the knowledge that the cut will swell to five percent by June, Richards said.

AFP

Geneva Talks To Resume Sunday, Says Syria Government

The Syrian government delegation will return to Geneva on Sunday for peace talks hosted by the United Nations on ending the country’s brutal conflict, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

“The Syrian government delegation will arrive in Geneva on Sunday to take part in the eighth round,” state news agency SANA reported, citing a foreign ministry source.

The government delegation was absent for the resumption of the talks on Tuesday following a weekend break.

Maduro Cancels Human Rights Council Appearance In Geneva – UN

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has cancelled a scheduled appearance at the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) next week, a UN spokesman said Tuesday, without giving a reason.

“Please note that per information the HRC Secretariat just received, President Maduro of Venezuela will not address the Human Rights Council.

“Instead, Minister Arreaza Montserrat has been scheduled to address the Council on the opening day of the session” on Monday, council spokesman Rolando Gomez said in an email.

5th Africa CEO Forum To Kickoff March 20 In Geneva

5th Africa CEO Forum To Kickoff March 20 In GenevaHaving cemented its status as the foremost business personalities meeting dedicated to the development of the African private sector, the Africa CEO Forum is set to kick off its 5th edition, themed: “re-thinking Africa’s business model”.

The 2017 edition, set to take place in Geneva, would focus on how to succeed in this new economic cycle on the continent.

Slated to hold between March 20 and 21, the programme would bring together more than 1000 personalities, key decision makers in industry, finance and politics from the African continent and around the globe.

The Africa CEO forum 2017 would open the debate with the economic boom of the 2000s, the context of economic growth in Africa and the critical decisions that must be taken to reach rapid and sustainable growth.

Other themes to be discussed include: Unleashing innovation and the entrepreneurial potential of youth and women, making Africa more attractive for international investors, turning African stock exchanges into competitive powerhouses and creating the next generation of African exporters.

Find out more about the programme

The forum would also offer 20 sessions for debate and reflection, allowing participants to hit strategic topics for driving African corporate growth including: digital transformation, fintech, agri-business, private equity, emerging African champions, electricity and innovation.

Some of the African and international personalities slated to take part in the discussion and debate include:

President, African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, CEO Unilever, Paul Polman, President, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim, CEO, OTMT Investments, Naguib Sawiris, Chairperson, MTN, Phuthuma Nhleko, Co-Founder and Group Executive Director, Sahara Group, Tonye Cole, CEO, United Capital, Oluwatoyin Sanni, Chairperson, Firstbank, Ibukun Awosika, CEO, Mohammed Enterprises, Mohammed Dewji, CEO, Africa and Middle East, Orange, Bruno Mettling, CEO, MSC, Diego Aponte, CEO, Afreximbank, Benedict Oramah, CEO, Rougier, Marie-Yvonne Charlemagne, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Sola David-Borha, CEO, Uchumi Supermarkets, Julius Kipng’etich, CEO, Cevital, Issad Rebrab, CEO, Casablanca Finance City Authority, Saïd Ibrahimi, CEO, NSIA, Jean Kacou Diagou.

For more information, visit the African CEO Forum website.