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Lavrov says Mali asked private Russian military company for help

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Mali has asked a private Russian military company to help it fight against insurgents, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday at the United Nations, Reuters reported.

Mali’s year-old military junta is close to a deal to recruit the Russian private military contractors the Wagner Group, sources have told Reuters, triggering opposition from France, which has said it was “incompatible” with a continued French presence in the West African state.

“They are combating terrorism, incidentally, and they have turned to a private military company from Russia in connection with the fact that, as I understand, France wants to significantly draw down its military component which was present there,” Lavrov said of Mali’s junta during a news conference.

According to the report the French defence ministry declined to comment. Paris has started reshaping its 5,000-strong Barkhane mission to include more European partners and earlier this month began redeploying from bases in northern Mali.

Mali’s military junta has said it will oversee a transition to democracy leading to elections in February 2022.

Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Maiga told the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday that his country felt abandoned by the French move and signaled they were seeking other military help “to fill the gap which will certainly result from the withdrawal of Barkhane in the north of the country.”

“The new situation resulting from the end of Operation Barkhane puts Mali before a fait accompli – abandoning us, mid flight to a certain extent – and it leads us to explore pathways and means to better ensure our security autonomously, or with other partners,” he said.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that he told Lavrov and his counterpart from Mali this week in New York that the potential deployment of the Wagner Group would be a “red line” for the European Union, “and it would have immediate consequences on our cooperation.”

EU foreign ministers discussed the issue on Monday during a closed-door meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders for the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Reuters reported.

Lavrov said the Russian government had nothing to do with any deal between the private military company and Mali.

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Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others: Erdogan

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power, Reuters reported.

Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.

In a joint statement on Monday, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”.

They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.

“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.

The US and French embassies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.
A US State Department spokesperson said it was aware of the reports and was seeking clarity from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense

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(Last Updated On: October 22, 2021)

The United States would come to Taiwan’s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.

“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.

While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”, but declined further comment when asked if Biden had misspoken.

“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.

Taiwan’s presidential office, responding to Biden’s remarks, said their position remains the same, which is it will neither give in to pressure nor “rashly advance” when it gets support.

Taiwan will show a firm determination to defend itself, presidential office spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement, noting also the Biden administration’s continued concrete actions to show its “rock-solid” support for Taiwan.

Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world.”

“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views,” he said.

Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025, Reuters reported.

Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.

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N.Korea fires ballistic missile off its east coast, S.Korea military says

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2021)

North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile off its east coast on Tuesday, officials in South Korea and Japan said, as Seoul opens a major arms fair, spy chiefs meet to discuss the nuclear standoff, and South Korea prepares for a space launch, Reuters reported.

The North Korean launch would be the latest weapons test by the country, which has pressed ahead with military development in the face of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

According to the report one ballistic missile was launched about 10:17 a.m. local time from the vicinity of Sinpo, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). North Korea has also launched other types of missiles from that area.

“Our military is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States, to prepare for possible additional launches,” JCS said in a statement.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that two ballistic missiles had been detected, and that it was “regrettable” that North Korea had conducted a string of missile tests in recent weeks, read the report.

The launch came as the intelligence chiefs of the United States, South Korea, and Japan were due to meet in Seoul to discuss the standoff with North Korea, amid other issues, Yonhap news agency reported, citing a government source.

Representatives of hundreds of international companies and international militaries were gathered in Seoul for the opening ceremonies of the International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX), Reuters reported.

It is set to be South Korea’s largest defence expo ever, with displays of next-generation fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, drones, and other advanced weapons, as well as space rockets and civilian aerospace designs.

According to Reuters South Korea is preparing to test fire its first homegrown space launch vehicle on Thursday.

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