President Buhari Meets With Rex Tillerson

President Buhari Receives Rex Tillerson In Abuja
President Buhari shakes hands with Mr Rex Tillerson

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has met with the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr Rex Tillerson, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The President received Mr Tillerson on Monday shortly after the US Secretary of State has arrived at the State House, the Federal Capital Territory.

READ ALSOWhy We Prefer Negotiation To Military Option For Chibok, Dapchi Schoolgirls Rescue – Buhari

 

He thanked the United States government for assistance rendered in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency, especially in the areas of training and equipping Nigerian soldiers.

President Buhari said Nigeria has chosen the option of negotiation over the use of force to secure the release of the abducted Dapchi schoolgirls and the remaining Chibok girls in the custody of the insurgents.

He also vowed that his administration would continue to do its best to secure the country, and to ensure the forthcoming general elections are conducted freely without bias.

On his part, Mr Tillerson reaffirmed the support of the U.S. for Nigeria to ensure the speedy recovery of the abducted girls.

He further urged Africans to explore U.S. alternative financing mechanism instead of taking loans from China, noting that Chinese loans need to be looked at carefully as they have failed to yield the desired result in other places.

President Buhari welcomed the U.S. top diplomat in company with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama, and his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.

Mr Tillerson was also accompanied on the visit by his Chief of Staff, Margaret Peterlin; Colonel John Walker, as well as the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Stuart Symington.

See photos of the visit below:

U.S. Announces $533m Humanitarian Aid For Nigeria, Others

U.S. Announces $533m Humanitarian Aid For Nigeria, Others
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks about the US relationship with Africa and his upcoming trip to the continent at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, on March 6, 2018. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

The United States government has announced about $533million in humanitarian assistance for Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan, as well as countries in the Lake Chad region.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, announced this on Tuesday during a presentation at the George Mason University, Fairfax in Virginia, ahead of his ‘very important’ trip to Africa.

The government explained on its Nigerian embassy’s website that the fund is meant to support countries where millions of citizens are facing life-threatening food insecurity and malnutrition as a result of ongoing conflict or prolonged drought.

“As we support important security efforts, we must work to find long-term diplomatic solutions to conflicts that cause so much human suffering. Until we do, the United States, as the world’s largest provider of humanitarian assistance, will continue to stand with those most vulnerable,” Tillerson said.

“As a testament to that commitment, today I’m announcing $533 million in additional humanitarian assistance to fight famine and food insecurity and address other needs resulting from conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Lake Chad Basin.

“The alarming levels of hunger in these areas are largely man-made, as conflicts erupt and people flee their homes. Under these conditions, people cannot produce crops and often lose access altogether to food, education, and healthcare.

“Many lose everything. And regrettably, Mother Nature can still be cruel, such as in the Horn of Africa, where a prolonged drought is contributing to grave food insecurity,” he added.

With this new funding from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. is providing emergency food and nutrition assistance to help vulnerable populations, including tens of thousands of tons of in-kind food aid.

The funding, according to the statement, also supports safe drinking water programmes, emergency healthcare, and hygiene programmes to treat and prevent the spread of disease, as well as the reunification of families separated by conflict.

A breakdown of the newly announced funds shows that about $184million is for affected populations from South Sudan, more than $110million for affected populations from Ethiopia, at least $110million for affected populations from Somalia, while more than $128million is for affected populations from Nigeria and countries in the Lake Chad region.

The United States, however, called on all parties to allow aid workers safe and unhindered access to help communities in need.

U.S Policy With North Korea Has Ended – Rex Tillerson

rex-tillerson
Courtesy: www.slate.com

U.S Secretary Of State, Rex Tillerson, has said that the U.S policy of “strategic patience” with North Korea has ended.

Speaking during his visit to South Korea, he said that “all options” were on the table and that the U.S was exploring a “new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures.”

He also added that military action was “an option” against North Korea if it elevates its weapons programme threat.

Mr Tillerson spoke shortly after visiting the demilitarized zone which divides the two Koreas.

North Korea has sparked concern with recent missile and nuclear tests.

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.

Kerry Sees Hope Of Extending Truce To Syria’s Aleppo

kerryU.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry said on Monday talks were closer to extending a Syrian truce to Aleppo, the divided northern city where a sharp escalation of violence in recent weeks has torpedoed peace talks and left a ceasefire in tatters.

Kerry was in Geneva for talks with other dignitaries to try to revive the first major ceasefire of the five-year Syrian war, which was put in place in February with U.S. and Russian backing but has since all but collapsed.

Syria announced temporary local truces in other areas last week but has so far failed to extend it to Aleppo, where government air strikes and rebel shelling have killed hundreds of civilians in the past week, including more than 50 people in a hospital that rebels say was deliberately targeted.

The Aleppo fighting threatens to wreck the first peace talks involving the warring parties, which are due to resume at an unspecified date after breaking up in April when the opposition delegation walked out in anger.

“We’re getting closer to a place of understanding, but we have some work to do, and that’s why we’re here,” Kerry said at the start of the meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

The civil war in Syria has killed hundred of thousands of people, driven millions from their homes, created the world’s worst refugee crisis and provided a base for Islamic State militants who have launched attacks elsewhere.

The fighting has drawn in global powers and regional states, while all diplomatic efforts to resolve it have foundered over the fate of President Bashar al-Assad, who refuses to accept opposition demands that he leave power.

The United States and Russia have taken the leading roles in the latest diplomatic initiative, which began after Moscow joined the war last year with an air campaign that tipped the balance of power in favor of Assad, its ally.

So far, Syria has announced a “regime of calm” — a temporary local truce — in the Eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus and the countryside of northern Latakia province, from Saturday morning. The Latakia truce was for three days and the Ghouta truce, initially for 24 hours, was also extended by another 48.

Both are areas where there has been heavy fighting, but Aleppo remains the biggest prize for Assad’s forces, who are hoping to take full control of the city, Syria’s largest before the war. The nearby countryside includes the last strip of the Syria-Turkish border in the hands of Arab Sunni rebels.

A Russian military official, General Sergei Kuralenko, said talks were under way on extending the regime of calm to Aleppo.

Fidel Castro Chides U.S Ahead Of Embassy Reopening

castroAhead of the historic reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, has published an open letter to the nation in which he criticises American foreign and economic policies since World War Two.

The letter was published to mark Mr Castro’s 89th birthday.

He also accused the U.S. of owing Cuba millions of dollars.

The former leader said that the US owes Cuba money because of the trade embargo the U.S. imposed on the communist-run island in 1960.

Cuba says the embargo which it calls a blockade, is hugely damaging to its economy.

The U.S Embassy reopens in Havana on Friday, with the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry attending.

 

 

John Kerry Meets Russian President On Ukraine Crisis

RussianU.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, met Russian President, Vladimir Putin, on Tuesday, to probe Russia’s willingness to curb its involvement in Ukraine crisis and its backing of Syria’s President.

This was the highest-level U.S. visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began in the autumn of 2013.

The west accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and sending its troops there, a claim Moscow denied.

Kerry also met Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for over four hours before he sat with President Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

While they were expected to discuss issues including the Iran nuclear talks, Yemen and Libya, the tour seemed planned to maintain contact, given that U.S.-Russian relations are at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.

“It’s important for us to keep these lines of communication open. It’s important to try to talk to the senior decision maker.

“We have a lot of business that we could do together if there is interest,” said a senior U.S. State Department official.

President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the visit a “positive step”, noting that the Russian President was prepared for “extensive” discussions at the meeting.

“Through dialogue, it is possible to find ways for a normalisation, closer coordination in dealing with international problems,” Peskov told reporters before the talks began. “Russia was never the initiator of this cooling of relations,” he added.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since fighting began in April 2014 between Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The conflict was subsequent to Russia’s takeover of the Crimean Peninsula in Southern Ukraine.

Kerry, Kenyan President Hold Talks On Al Shabaab Threat

Uhuru Kenyatta and John KerryU.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, discussed on Monday ways to counter the threat from the al Shabaab militant group that killed 148 people at a Kenyan university last month.

Kerry also commemorated the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, in which more than 200 people died, before meeting Kenyatta.

His Kenyan counterpart Amina Mohamed said last month that Nairobi wanted more help with intelligence and security measures from U.S. and European allies to prevent further attacks by the radical Somali movement.

The United States, along with other Western states, already provides training and other support for the security forces.

“We do have the power to fight back, not only with our military and law enforcements, but also with something that may be more powerful and make a bigger difference in the end, and that is our unity,” Kerry said before laying a wreath at site of the former embassy.

“The only place for al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Boko Haram and others is in the past,” he added.

According to Reuters, Kerry met for an hour and a half with Kenyatta at State House, the last 30 minutes without any aides. “It was a good meeting,” he said without giving details.

Kenyatta’s spokesman said on Twitter that security issues and investment and trade were the focus for talks. A planned visit by President Barack Obama to Kenya later this year was also discussed, he said.

12 Suspects Arrested Over Paris Attack

_80309505_80309504The Police have arrested a dozen people suspected of helping the Islamist militant gunmen in last week’s Paris killings, the city prosecutor’s office said on Friday as U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, arrived for talks.

They are being questioned about “possible logistical support”, such as weapons or vehicles, they could have given the three gunmen, police say.

Raids were still taking place in Montrouge just outside Paris, where gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, killed a policewoman last week.

Paris police evacuated the Gare de l’Est train station on Friday after a bomb threat, as authorities across Europe pressed on with efforts to prevent new violence after one of the worst attacks in decades.

Similar anti-terrorism raids and arrests took place in Belgium and Germany.

According to police source, investigators have followed several people over the past few days that had been pinpointed thanks to probes on people in the alleged entourage of the Kouachi brothers, who waged the Charlie Hebdo attack, and Coulibaly, who killed a policewoman and four people in a kosher supermarket.

French authorities say that about 120,000 police and soldiers are now mobilised across France and that anti-terror plans remain in place.

Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, said on Friday that France and Belgium were facing the same threats, but added that there were no links between the events in France and Belgium’s anti-terror raid on Thursday.

Spain has also launched an inquiry after it was revealed that one of the Paris gunmen, Amedy Coulibaly, had visited Madrid days before the attacks.

Iran Nuclear Talks Extended Seven Months After Missing Deadline

IrIranan and six world powers have given themselves seven more months to overcome the deadlock that prevented them from clinching an historic deal to resolve their 12-year dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The Chinese representative involved in negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, Cheng Jingye, had been of the opinion that talks might need to be extended, as time was running out for a deal to be struck before Monday’s deadline.

“There have been some new ideas and suggestions during the talks. The deadline of this round of negotiations is Monday. Considering that some issues are complex and important, I think more time may be needed,” said Cheng.

“We have been working closely with other sides, such as the United States, Iran and Russia in the past few days. We’ve had many discussions within our framework, and China has been playing a constructive role in moving the nuclear talks forward.”

An analyst at the Arms Control Association, Kelsey Davenport, ahead of the extension, had also expressed confidence a deal would be reached, although not necessarily before the deadline expires.

“We can be optimistic about reaching an agreement. It may not happen by November 24, but I think it shows that there is significant political will and commitment to getting a deal, even though we may need a short extension in order to get there,” he said

Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, had, however, warned ahead of the extension that although getting a deal seemed to be the major force, false hopes should not be raised.

“We’re all focussed on trying to get to a deal but I wouldn’t want to give any false hopes here. We’re still quite a long way apart and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with but we’re all focussed on trying to get that deal done,” Hammond said.

A U.S. official revealed that U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, discussed the extension.

Speaking to reporters after the extension had been made known, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, gave a sombre assessment, saying “real and substantial progress had been made” but added that “some significant points of disagreement” remained.

“These talks are not going to get easier just because we extend them. They’re tough. They’ve been tough. And they’re going to stay tough,” he said.

The cost of failure to reach a deal could be high. Iran’s regional foes Israel and Saudi Arabia are watching the Vienna talks nervously.

Both fear a weak deal that fails to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions, while a collapse of the negotiations would encourage Iran to become a threshold nuclear weapon state, something Israel says it would

Iraqi Prime Minister Accuses President Of Violating Constitution

 IraqiIraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, has indicated that he will not give in to the pressure to drop his bid for a third term and accuses the President of violating the constitution in a tough televised speech likely to deepen political tensions as a Sunni insurgency rages.

The Prime Minister, seen as an authoritarian and sectarian leader, accused Iraq’s Kurdish President, Fouad Massoum, of violating the constitution by failing to meet a deadline for Iraq’s biggest political bloc to nominate a prime minister.

A dispute over which bloc won the most seats during the election has complicated efforts to form a new government in Iraq, a major oil exporter.

Nouri Al-Maliki, who has served in a caretaker capacity since an inconclusive election in April, has defied calls by Sunnis, Kurds, some fellow Shi’ite and regional power broker, to step aside for a less polarizing figure who can unite Iraqis against Islamic state militants.

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of  State, John Kerry, insisted that the formation of an Iraqi government is critical for stability and urged the Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki not to stoke political tensions.

The U.S President, Barack Obama, has urged Iraqi political leaders to bury their sectarian differences and form a more inclusive government that can unite Iraqis against Islamic state militants.

Also the United States has carried out three consecutive days of air strikes over Iraq, stepping up assistance to Kurdish forces to counter the advance of Islamic militants in the north of the country.

Maliki, who has been premier since 2006, has alienated some allies, including the United States, who blame him for failing to forge consensus and fueling sectarian violence that is breaking Iraq apart.

 

Diplomats Seek To End Bloodshed Between Israel And Palestines

Palestinian medic inspects a damaged room at Al-Aqsa hospital, which witnesses said was damaged in Israeli shelling on Monday, in Deir El-Balah in the central Gaza Strip Israeli forces pounded multiple sites across the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, including the enclave’s sole power plant, and said it was meeting stiff resistance from Hamas Islamists, as diplomats sought to end the bloodshed.

In a blow to Israel’s economy, U.S. and European air carriers halted flights in and out of Tel Aviv citing security worries after a militant rocket from Gaza hit a house near the airport. Israel urged a re-think, saying its airspace was safe.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Egypt and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Israel, spearheading international efforts to secure a ceasefire. Hamas ally Qatar was also working in the background to seek a solution.

Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes by Hamas Islamists, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank and suffering economic hardship because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

After failing to halt the militant barrage through days of aerial bombardment, Israel sent ground troops into Gaza last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas’s missile stores and destroy a vast, underground network of tunnels.

Some 630 Palestinians, many of them children and civilians have died in the conflagration, including a seven-year-old hit by a shell in southern Gaza early on Wednesday, a medic said.

Some 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed, including a tank officer who was shot by a Palestinian sniper overnight. Two civilians have been slain by rocket fire. The military says one of its soldiers is also missing and believes he might be dead. Hamas says it has seized him, but has not released his picture.

Clouds of black smoke hung over the densely populated Mediterranean enclave, with the regular thud of artillery and tank shells filling the air.

“We are meeting resistance around the tunnels … they are constantly trying to attack us around and in the tunnels. That is the trend,” said Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner.

He said 30 militant gunmen had been killed overnight, bringing the total to 210 since the offensive started.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam, said its fighters had detonated an anti-personnel bomb as an Israeli army patrol passed, killing several troops. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel.

There was also violence in the occupied West Bank, where a Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli troops near Bethlehem. The army said soldiers fired a rubber bullet at him during clashes with Palestinians hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails.