Russia: security talks with US to start after holidays
MOSCOW – Talks between Russia and the United States on Moscow’s demand for Western guarantees preventing NATO expansion in Ukraine will begin immediately after the New Year’s holiday period, Russia’s top diplomat said on Monday.
“It is with the United States that we will conduct most of the negotiations, which will take place immediately after the end of the New Year’s holidays,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview on Monday. The holidays in Russia will last 10 days, until January 9.
Earlier this month, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR and cancel alliance military deployments. in central and eastern Europe. Washington and its allies declined to provide such promises, but said they were ready for talks.
The demands, contained in a draft Russian-American security treaty and a security deal between Moscow and NATO, were drafted amid growing tensions over a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine that fueled fears. of a possible invasion. Russia has denied planning to attack its neighbor, but asked for legal guarantees that would exclude NATO expansion and the deployment of weapons there.
Lavrov said last week that in addition to talks with the United States, Moscow would start separate talks with NATO on the issue, as well as separate negotiations under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
It is important that “our proposals do not end in endless discussions, which the West is famous for and which it knows how to do, that there be a result of all these diplomatic efforts,” Lavrov said. Monday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has decided to call a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on January 12, a NATO official said on Saturday, adding that the bloc was in contact with Russia over the meeting.
Iran pushes oil exports as nuclear talks resume
VIENNA – Negotiators from Iran and five world powers resumed negotiations on Monday over restoring Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal in 2015, with Iran insisting the United States and its allies pledge to allow it to export its crude oil.
The latest round of talks in Vienna, the eighth, opened 10 days after the adjournment of negotiations for the Iranian negotiator to return home for consultations. The previous cycle, the first after a gap of more than five months caused by the arrival of a new hard-line government in Iran, was marked by tensions over new Iranian demands.
“If we work hard in the days and weeks to come, we should have a positive result,” said Enrique Mora, the European Union diplomat who chaired the talks, after the opening session. But “it’s going to be very hard – tough political decisions have to be made.”
Tehran’s landmark deal with world powers – Britain, France, Germany, the United States, Russia and China – granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.
But in 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew America from the deal and imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran, including against its oil sector – the lifeline of its economy. Iranian crude exports have plummeted and international oil companies have broken deals with Tehran, weakening its economy.
The other signatories fought to maintain the agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The United States is only participating indirectly in this year’s talks to restore the deal, which President Joe Biden has signaled he wants to join.
Speaking in Tehran ahead of the resumption of talks, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Iran wanted the next round of talks to focus on its sanctions-stricken oil industry. The goal is to get to “the point where Iranian oil is sold easily and without any barriers and its money gets into Iran’s bank accounts,” he said.
Nicaragua: former Taiwanese embassy belongs to China
MANAGUA, Nicaragua – The Nicaraguan government has seized the former Taiwanese embassy and diplomatic offices, claiming they belong to China.
President Daniel Ortega’s government severed relations with Taiwan this month, saying it would only recognize the mainland government.
Before leaving, Taiwanese diplomats attempted to donate the properties to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Managua.
But Ortega’s government said on Sunday evening that such a donation would be invalid and that the building in an upscale neighborhood of Managua belonged to China.
The attorney general’s office said in a statement that the attempted donation was a “ploy and subterfuge to take what is not theirs.”
Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned the “seriously illegal actions of the Ortega regime,” saying the Nicaraguan government violated standard procedures by giving Taiwanese diplomats only two weeks to leave the country.
He said Taiwan “also condemns the Nicaraguan government’s arbitrary obstruction of the symbolic sale of its property to the Nicaraguan Catholic Church.”
Mgr. Carlos Avilés, vicar of the archdiocese of Managua, told La Prensa newspaper that a Taiwanese diplomat offered the property to the church, saying: “I told him there was no problem, but the transfer was still undergoing legal proceedings.
The Central American country said in early December that it would only officially recognize China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
“There is only one China,” the Nicaraguan government said in a statement announcing the change. “The People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government that represents all of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. “
French tourist jailed in Iran goes on hunger strike
PARIS – A French tourist jailed in Iran since last year has gone on a hunger strike to protest mistreatment in prison, according to his sister and lawyer.
Benjamin Brière, 36, was arrested in May 2020 after taking photos in a desert area where photography is banned and asking questions on social media about the compulsory Islamic headscarf for women in Iran.
Brière was charged in March this year with espionage and “spreading propaganda against the system”.
He went on a hunger strike on Saturday after “further mistreatment” after being denied access to a phone call with his family on Christmas Day, his sister, Blandine Brière, told The Associated on Monday Press. He wants to “protest (…) and therefore put his health at risk to get things done,” she said.
“For the moment, we do not see moving, we have no hope of change, of freedom,” she lamented.
Blandine Brière described the “difficult” situation of her brother, who does not speak the local language, in the prison in the town of Mashahd, in the north-east of the country, in particular “psychological torture” when the guards promise him a phone call and then say no.
“Physically he was fine (until now), but morally he really started to sink,” she said. “It’s getting critical. It really is a desperate cry for help.
– The Associated Press
According to a statement from the Parisian lawyer of Benjamin Brière, Philippe Valent, “the feeling of abandonment and distress” led him “to start a hunger strike in order to alert the Iranian and French authorities to the absurdity of his detention “.
Brière has never been brought before a judge and no trial date has been set, the statement said. He is “not a spy or a criminal, but a tourist whose journey continues in an aberrant and unfair manner in Iranian prisons,” he added.
The French foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that French authorities in Paris and Tehran were monitoring the situation very closely and that Brière had been contacted by the French embassy on Monday.
There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials.
Rights groups accuse hard-line supporters of Iranian security agencies of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Tehran denies it, but there have been such exchanges of prisoners in the past.
In March 2020, Iran and France swapped French researcher Roland Marchal for Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad.
Marchal was arrested in June 2019 alongside his fellow researcher Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist with dual Franco-Iranian nationality. Adelkhah, who was sentenced to five years in prison for “assembling and colluding” against Iranian security, was granted leave without a deadline in October 2020 and must stay with her sister in Tehran and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet .