UPDATE – UN holds Kashmir talks as rights fears continue

ADDS CHINA ENVOY'S REMARKS

By James Reinl

UNITED NATIONS (AA) – UN Security Council members held rare talks on the disputed region of Kashmir on Wednesday amid ongoing concerns over the flashpoint between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

After the meeting, senior Russian diplomat Dmitry Polyanskiy said the 15-nation body had discussed the contentious Indian-administered region, where New Delhi has been accused of abuses against its mostly-Muslim population.

“UNSC discussed Kashmir in closed consultations,” Polyanskiy said in a tweet to his nearly 6,000 followers shortly after the discussions ended on Wednesday.

“Russia firmly stands for the normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. We hope that differences between them will be settled through bilateral efforts based on the 1972 Simla Agreement and the 1999 Lahore Declaration.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun warned of “tensions” in the region and said council members heard from a UN official about the “situation on the ground” and then “exchanged views” on the divisive issue.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was also set to attend UN meetings in New York on Wednesday afternoon.

According to reports, France, an ally of India, had opposed China’s request to hold the closed-door talks on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir at the world body’s headquarters in New York.

Last month, the United States, Britain, France, and Russia blocked a previous attempt by China to discuss the issue at another closed-door meeting. The council last discussed Kashmir in August 2019.

China has long voiced concern over the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir, and said it supports Pakistan in its fight for the Kashmiris.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in part and claim the Himalayan region in full. China also controls part of the contested region, but it is India and Pakistan that have fought two wars over the territory.

UN peacekeepers have been deployed since 1949 to observe a ceasefire between India and Pakistan.

Long-fraught relations between the two South Asian nuclear rivals flared up further after India scrapped the special provisions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and imposed a near-complete lockdown on Aug. 5.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other major international campaign outfits have repeatedly called on India to lift restrictions, release political detainees and switch all telecommunications back on.

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By Handan Kazanci

ANKARA (AA) - Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world.

- Coronavirus in Turkey

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 926 additional recoveries as the country began easing measures against the novel coronavirus, according to the country’s health minister.

The total number of recoveries from the disease hit 131,778 as 926 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, citing Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,630 as Turkey reported 21 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Turkey conducted over 54,000 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to more than 2.2 million, said Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to resume international flights to 40 countries gradually as of June 10, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said Thursday.

International flights from Turkey will carry passengers first to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece, Karaismailoglu said in a statement.

Turkey suspended all international flights on March 28 amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions worldwide.

- Global coronavirus developments

A low death toll was once again recorded Thursday as France recovers from the coronavirus pandemic which plagued the country over the last three months, according to the latest statistics reported by the Health Ministry.

The country registered a total of 46 deaths in hospitals Thursday, a drop of 39 cases over those reported Wednesday.

Italy on Thursday reported 88 more fatalities from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 33,689 as authorities unveiled new guidelines to prevent crowded summer spots like beach resorts from becoming new virus hotbeds.

The slowing trend in the number of deaths registered in May continued in early June, confirming that the peak of the crisis has been passed.

Face masks on English public transport will be mandatory from June 15, the British government announced Thursday, as a further 176 people died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

British authorities announced that the UK-wide death toll from COVID-19 is now 39,904.

As Spain prepares for its state of emergency over COVID-19 to last until June 21, the Health Ministry reported Thursday that 195 more people were infected with the coronavirus and five more had died.

The number of infections diagnosed Wednesday was down slightly from the 219 people who tested positive Tuesday but up from Monday and Sunday. In total, 240,660 infections have been confirmed in the country.

Health officials in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza announced Thursday the arrival of medical supplies sent by Turkey to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed that two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines had been delivered for detecting the virus.

- George Floyd Memorial service

Hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the first of several memorials for George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25.

The service at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota was attended by Floyd's family and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family, as well as celebrity guests.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged demonstrators joining protests over the death of George Floyd to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Cuomo said around 30,000 people have taken part in the statewide protests demanding justice for the killing of the unarmed black man in police custody.

Of them, 20,000 were involved in rallies in New York City.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens not to overlook the racism problem in Germany while intensely discussing racism and police brutality in the US after the death of George Floyd.

"This murder of George Floyd is very, very terrible. Racism is something terrible,” Merkel said Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with public broadcaster ZDF.

“Racism has always been present, but sadly we also have this [problem]. We should first sweep in front of our own door,” she stressed.

- Other developments

Turkey and Libya plan to advance cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including exploration and drilling activities, to further benefit from natural resources, Turkey’s president said in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister Thursday.

The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj took place at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Libya have reached a consensus on expanding their cooperation areas on the territory of Libya.

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