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EU urges swift establishment of Afghan Peace Council

We encourage the swift establishment and operationalisation of the High Council of National Reconciliation as the body designated to provide guidance to the negotiations,” the EU said in a statement on Thursday…reports Asian Lite News

The European Union (EU) delegation and the EU Heads of Mission based in Kabul have urged for a “swift establishment” of the Afghan High Council of National Reconciliation,the body designated to provide “guidance” to the ongoing peace negotiations.

The statement came at a time Afghan and the Taliban delegations in Qatari capital Doha continue to struggle on finalizing the procedural rules for the intra-Afghan talks, Khaama Press reported.

“We encourage the swift establishment and operationalisation of the High Council of National Reconciliation as the body designated to provide guidance to the negotiations,” the EU said in a statement on Thursday.

“In addition to political leaders, the membership of the Council should include a diverse membership representing women’s groups, war victims, religious minorities, youth and civil society organizations,” it added.

While the ongoing talks between the Afghan and Taliban negotiators in Doha push through a peace deal in war-torn country, international community – including the EU and women rights activists – raise voice for equal role in the process.

“Reaching a sustainable outcome respecting the rights and aspirations of the Afghan people will be best served by a strong political unity on the side of the Republic and the inclusion of all Afghan voices in the process,” the EU in Kabul elaborated.

Addressing the current war that has escalated in different parts of the country, the EU said that “we express deep concern about the continuing high level of violence and the security situation in Afghanistan, especially the number of civilian casualties and call for an immediate permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”.

The EU Delegation and EU Heads of Mission based in Kabul, as underscored at the Afghanistan 2020 conference, reaffirm the strong support of the bloc and its member states to a balanced Afghan Peace process, the statement concluded.

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Covid 19: France’s situation improves

The daily tally was down by 2,719 from a day before…reports Asian Lite News

The overall coronavirus situation in France, both in terms of new cases and hospital admissions, has improved as the government was unwinding restrictions and planning avaccination campaign, according to authorities.

On Thursday, the country reported 13,563 new cases, which increased the overall infection tally to to 2,183,660, reports Xinhua news agency.

The daily tally was down by 2,719 from a day before.

Another 339 people died from the coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 50,957.

As of Thursday, some 29,310 people were hospitalized, 662 fewer than the previous day, while some 4,018 required life support, down by 130.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Jean Castex told reporters that pressure from the pandemic was further weakening in France than in other European nations.

The virus reproduction rate, the “R” rate, is now at 0.65 countrywide, the same level France had reached when it emerged from a three-month confinement in mid-May, he added.

Starting from Saturday, non-essential shops in France will reopen under strict health protocol.

Stores must respect the rule of one client for every 8 square metres of floor space, put in place one-way circulation and ventilate their premises.

Indoor religious services with 30 worshippers would be allowed.

People would be allowed to go outdoors for three hours instead of one hour now and within a 20-km radius of their homes. However, people should continue to sign a document to go out.

If the situation improves further and the number of new cases remain below 5,000 per day, the lockdown could be lifted by December 15, but a night-time ban on movement would remain in place from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m., except on December 24 (Christmas Eve) and December 31 (New Year’s Eve).

Restaurants, bars, cafes and gyms will stay shut until January 20, 2021, in an effort to avoid a third wave.

“The situation is improving but remains fragile… We cannot lower our guard. Our objective is to allow a gradual return to a more normal life, to allow you to spend the holiday season with your loved ones while minimizing the risk of a resurgence of the virus,” Castex said.

Meanwhile, the country’s the vaccination campaign would start at the end of December or early January, provided its efficacy and safety are approved by regulators, said Health Minister Olivier Veran.The government will detail its vaccination program next week, he added.

According to Arnaud Fontanet, a government scientific adviser, up to 90 per cent of the 67 million population should be vaccinated to enable the return to normal life by next autumn.

“This is an extremely ambitious objective given the scepticism towards vaccines,” Fontanet told BFMTV news channel.

An Elabe survey released on Thursday found that 48 per cent of 1,003 respondents refused to get a Covid-19 vaccine if it became available, up by two points from the poll last week.

According to the pollster, six out of 10 French citizens opposed to making vaccination mandatory.

Also read:France Ranks Fourth In COVID-19 Cases Globally

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France Ranks Fourth In COVID-19 Cases Globally

France on Wednesday registered 16,282 new Covid-19 cases and 381 deaths in a 24-hour span, while pressure on the country’s health services continued to ease, health authorities said.

Since the start of the pandemic, 21,70,097 people have been infected with the virus, and 50,618 of them have died. France now ranks fourth in the number of total Covid-19 cases after the United States, India and Brazil, the Xinhua news agency reported.

As of Wednesday, 29,972 Covid-19 patients had been hospitalised (down 650 from Tuesday), confirming a downward trend reported since mid-November. Of the hospitalised, 4,148 are in intensive care, down 141 in the past 24 hours.

French President Emmanuel Macron

On Tuesday evening, President Emmanuel Macron said that the peak of the pandemic’s second wave had passed, allowing a gradual return to normalcy starting on November 28. Non-essential shops will reopen. People will be allowed to spend a longer time outdoors, and indoor in-person worship in churches will be limited to 30 people.

The country-wide confinement in force since October 30 will be lifted on December 15 provided that new infections remain below 5,000 per day. Cinemas, theaters and museums will then be allowed to reopen under strict health protocols.

Meanwhile, a nationwide 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew will remain in force, except on December 24 and December 31. Restaurants, bars, cafes and gyms would have to stay shut until January 20, 2021.

The President warned that “the return to normal is not for tomorrow … We must continue our efforts.”

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, countries including France, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US are racing to find a vaccine.

According to the website of the World Health Organisation, as of November 12, there were 212 Covid-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 48 of them were in clinical trials.

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Lee suggests ensuring affordable vaccines

In his address to the ongoing 12th G20 Summit, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has put forward two suggestions on what member countries could do together, the media reported on Sunday.

The first suggestion is to ensure affordable and equitable access to vaccines, Xinhua news agency quoted The Straits Times report as saying.

Lee said that he was glad the G20 had advanced vaccine multi-lateralism by backing global initiatives such as the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator and the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility.

He also said that Singapore will continue to work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to accelerate vaccine development and enhance long-term pandemic preparedness.

The second suggestion is to strengthen global disease surveillance networks so that the world will be better prepared for the next pandemic.

Lee said that the effectiveness of such networks depends on countries investing in their domestic surveillance and response capabilities as well as on their willingness to share information with one another.

Besides, he said that Singapore stands ready to support the G20 in its endeavours to reinvigorate multilateralism, and to create a fair, predictable and stable international order, which will allow every country, big and small, to grow and prosper.

Singapore is an invited guest country to the G20 summit this year.

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UK, Canada announce interim trade agreement

Canada and Britain signed the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement on Saturday as an interim post-Brexit trade agreement that will take effect on January 1, 2021 when Britain cuts its final ties to the European Union.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Boris Johnson announced the deal at a live video news conference on Saturday, Xinhua reported.

“Now we get to continue to work on a bespoke agreement, a comprehensive agreement, over the coming years that will really maximize our trade opportunities and boost things for everyone,” Trudeau said.

“Free trade is an important part of the way that we’re going to bounce back from COVID, but I also think that Canada and the U.K. share a perspective about building back greener,” said Johnson.

The new deal will roll over the provisions in the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which will no longer include Britain on January 1.

Boris Johnson

It will provide continued access to the benefits of CETA on a bilateral basis, including the elimination of tariffs on 98 per cent of Canadian products exported to the United Kingdom.

Britain is Canada’s fifth largest trading partner after the United States, China, Mexico and Japan.

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French Prez Calls For United Response To Pandemic

The world needs a global, coordinated and united response to effectively fight the coronavirus pandemic, said French President Emmanuel Macron when addressing the Group of 20 (G20) Riyadh Summit.

“The DNA of the G20 is to urgently forge effective multilateral solutions to crises,” said Macron at the summit, adding that the current sanitary crisis is a test for the G20 and only a global response would be efficient in addressing the crisis.

He stressed that “the universal access to health technologies against Covid-19” is the next fight to be carried out, Xinhua reported.

“We need to avoid at all costs a scenario of a two-speed world where only the richer can protect themselves against the virus and resume normalcy,” he said.

Regarding access to the vaccine, the French president suggested the creation of a donation system for the vaccination of priority populations in developing countries.

“In times of health emergency we must promote industrial partnerships and production with developing countries,” he added. “Promote research and production capacities for health technologies, including in Africa, constitutes our best protection against future pandemics.”

The G20 groups the world’s major economies whose combined GDP accounts for over 85 percent of the world’s total.

They are widely expected to take more initiatives through closer cooperation to address the pandemic and its lasting and far-reaching impact on the world economy.

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Portugal Announces Ban On Free Movement

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa has announced a ban on free movement between municipalities ahead of the two upcoming public holidays amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The country will observe the Restoration of Independence Day on December 1 and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, reports Xinhua news agency.

The two-phased ban from November 28 to December 2 and from December 4-9 is part of the government’s new set of measures to curb the pandemic under the “state of emergency”, Costa announced on Saturday.

According to the resolutions approved by the Council of Ministers, the new measures will go into effect on Tuesday when the “state of emergency” is renewed.

Another measure announced by Costa is the mandatory use of masks in workplaces and the suspension of teaching activities on November 30 and December 7, the eves of the two holidays.

“At work, viruses are transmitted and also at work, the mask protects against virus transmission.

“We still have a lot to strive for in order to achieve the desired result,” the Prime Minister said in a speech to the nation.

Saturday’s announcement came a day after President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa announced the renewal of the “state of emergency” in the country until December 8 aimed at the curbing the pandemic.

The President also warned of a possible third wave of the pandemic, saying: “A third wave is likely to occur between January and February, that will be even worse than we had now.”

The renewal of the state of emergency for another 15 days was approved by the Portuguese Parliament on Friday, requiring compulsory confinement or active surveillance of people infected, as well as the total or partial closure of establishments, services and companies.

Portugal has so far reported a total of 249,498 coronavirus cases and 3,762 deaths.


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Scotland tightens Covid-19 curbs

The restrictions, which will remain in place till December 11, will be accompanied by legally-enforceable travel bans, under which people can be fined by the police for travelling in or out of the council areas unless it was essential…reports Asian Lite News

More than two million people across Scotland were bracing for the country’s most stringent coronavirus restrictions set to come into force on Friday evening.

Under the level four rules, which will come into force at 6 p.m. in 11 council areas, including Glasgow, non-essential shops, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms and visitor attractions will all remain closed except for schools, the BBC reported.

The restrictions, which will remain in place till December 11, will be accompanied by legally-enforceable travel bans, under which people can be fined by the police for travelling in or out of the council areas unless it was essential.

The move is aimed at driving down “stubbornly and worryingly high” levels of the virus in western and central parts of Scotland which have been worst hit by the pandemic’s second wave, according to the government.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s other council areas will remain in their current levels for now, although East Lothian and Midlothian will move from level three to level two from next November 24.

Virus rates in these 11 council areas last week ranged from 158 new cases per 100,000 people in West Lothian to 277 in Glasgow – all of which were above the Scotland-wide rate of 140 cases per 100,000.

Scotland’s coronavirus cases have increased to 85,612, while the death toll stands at 3,427.

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Macron asks Muslim leaders to accept ‘republican values’

Macron gave a 15 day ultimatum to French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to accept the charter, which will state that Islam is a religion and not a political movement, while also prohibiting “foreign interference” in Muslim groups…reports Hitesh Tikoo

French President Emmanuel Macron has asked Muslim leaders across the country to accept a “charter of republican values” as part of a nationwide crackdown on radical Islam.

Macron gave a 15 day ultimatum to French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to accept the charter, which will state that Islam is a religion and not a political movement, while also prohibiting “foreign interference” in Muslim groups.

This comes after three Islamist terrorist attacks took place across the country in less than a month’s time.

One of the attacks included the horrific beheading of a 47-year-old school teacher, Samuel Paty, by an 18-year-old Chechen refugee after the victim showed cartoons of Prophet Mohammed to his students in a class on freedom of speech.

Emails published by Le Monde, a French daily afternoon newspaper, revealed Paty’s reluctance to do any more teaching on freedom of speech class, days after he showed the cartoons in his class.

“It’s really distressing and particularly as it comes from a family whose child wasn’t in my lesson and isn’t someone I know. It’s becoming a malicious rumour,” Paty had written in an email.

“I won’t do any more teaching on this topic – I’ll choose another freedom as a subject for teaching,” he wrote in a separate email.

Paty’s beheading prompted a strong response from the French government, including police raiding individuals and organisations that expressed support for the attack and attacker in the immediate aftermath of the beheading.

A well know mosque in a northern suburb of Paris was shut down by French authorities as part of their clampdown on Islamist groups and suspected extremists.

President Macron has described Islam as a religion “in crisis”, and has vowed to tackle what he calls “Islamist Separatism”.

Following his comments, Macron was criticised by several Muslim majority nations, including Turkey.

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Macron and said in a televised speech” “I’ve said it on Saturday and am repeating it again, Macron needs to get himself checked out.”

The French President and his Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, met eight French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) leaders at the Elysee palace on Wednesday.

“Two principles will be inscribed in black and white (in the charter): the rejection of political Islam and any foreign interference,” Le Parisien said in a report after the meeting.

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Italy allocates $526k for UN’s Libyan mission

“I strongly welcome Italy’s steadfast and longstanding support to the UN efforts in Libya,” said Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Stephanie Williams during the signing ceremony…reports Asian Lite News

The UN Development Program (UNDP) announced that Italy has supported the Libyan political dialogue program by providing a financial aid of 450,000 euros ($526,000 ).

According to a statement released by the UNDP on Thursday, an agreement was signed during the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) held in Tunisia during which Italy provided the aid to the program, reports Xinhua news agency.

The agreement, signed by Deputy General Director/Central Director for the Mediterranean and Middle East countries of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Luca Gori, and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Gerardo Noto, has raised the total fund from Italy to UNDP programs to 14,500,000 euros targeted to support stability, security and prosperity in Libya, said the statement.

“I strongly welcome Italy’s steadfast and longstanding support to the UN efforts in Libya,” said Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Stephanie Williams during the signing ceremony.

“The stabilization of Libya is a strategic priority for Italy. Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been advocating that the only way to ensure Libya’s stability, unity and integrity was to pursue political dialogue,” said Gori.

“Italy is a key partner of the stabilization facility contributing to recover communities and benefit people affected by conflict all around the country.

“We are looking forward to continue working together for peace and inclusive development in Libya,” said Noto.

Under the auspices of the UN, the LPDF took place in Tunis with participation of 75 Libyans representing the social and political spectrum of Libyan society, with the aim of discussing a political roadmap to achieve lasting peace.

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