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U.S. President Trump arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia
U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One as they arrive at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

April 24, 2019

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – An architect of a still-secret U.S. plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took to Twitter again on Wednesday to disclose another element that it would not contain – a confederation with neighboring Jordan.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, had already tweeted “False!” on Friday to what he said were reports that the proposal would give part of Egypt’s Sinai desert to the adjacent Palestinian enclave of Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.

On Wednesday, Greenblatt denied that the plan envisages a confederation involving Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which administers limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

“@KingAbdullahII & #Jordan are strong US allies. Rumors that our peace vision includes a confederation between Jordan, Israel & the PA, or that the vision contemplates making Jordan the homeland for Palestinians, are incorrect. Please don’t spread rumors,” Greenblatt wrote.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, another main architect of the peace proposal, said on Tuesday it would be made public after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in June.

Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and spoke at a Time magazine forum in Washington, did not say whether the plan called for a two-state solution, a goal of past U.S. peace efforts.

Palestinian leaders have called for the establishment of an independent state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who won a fifth term in an election two weeks ago, laid down a series of conditions for Palestinian statehood in a major policy speech in 2009.

But U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014, partly over the expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied territory Palestinians seek for their state.

In a last-minute election campaign promise that angered Palestinians, Netanyahu said he planned to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank if he was again chosen as Israel’s leader.

The U.S. proposal, which has been delayed for a variety of reasons over the last 18 months, has two major components. It has a political piece that addresses core issues such as the status of Jerusalem, and an economic part that aims to help the Palestinians strengthen their economy.

Palestinian leaders have said Trump cannot be an honest broker after he broke with long-standing U.S. policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017 and moved the American embassy to the city last May.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower at Roissy airport, near Paris
FILE PHOTO: A Scandinavian SAS airline passenger plane flies near the air traffic control tower after taking off from Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, August 21, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

April 24, 2019

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Scandinavian airline SAS is offering travelers concerned about a possible strike by pilots the chance to reschedule flights for the April 26-29 period to another date free of charge.

The Swedish, Danish and Norwegian pilot unions’ joint SAS branch said this month they would go on strike on April 26 if there was no agreement on wages and terms by then, after an earlier talks round of talks broke down.

SAS said on its website the offer concerned flights operated by SAS but not those operated by its partners as they would not affected by the potential strike.

SAS employs around 1,500 pilots across its home markets of Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

National mediators in the three countries have since last week tried to broker a deal between delegations of the two parties but without success so far.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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FILE PHOTO: People walk past a flower arrangement set up to mark the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing
FILE PHOTO: People walk past a flower arrangement set up to mark the upcoming Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

April 24, 2019

By Brenda Goh and Michael Martina

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is expected to promote a recalibrated version of its Belt and Road initiative at a summit of heads of state this week in Beijing, seeking to allay criticism that its flagship infrastructure policy fuels indebtedness and lacks transparency.

The policy championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping has become mired in controversy, with some partner nations bemoaning the high cost of projects. Western governments have tended to view it as a means to spread Chinese influence abroad, saddling poor countries with unsustainable debt.

While most of the initiative’s projects are ongoing, some have been caught up by changes in government in countries such as Malaysia and the Maldives. Projects that have been shelved for financial reasons include a power plant in Pakistan and an airport in Sierra Leone, and Beijing has in recent months had to rebuff critics by saying that not one country has been burdened with so-called “debt traps”.

Xi launched the Belt and Road initiative in 2013, and according to data from Refinitiv https://apac1.apps.cp.extranet.thomsonreuters.biz/Apps/BRI, the total value of projects in the scheme is at $3.67 trillion, spanning countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, Oceania and South America.

A draft communique seen by Reuters said that 37 world leaders attending the April 25-27 summit will agree to project financing that respects global debt goals and promotes green growth.

Visiting leaders will be headlined by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, as well as Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan, a close China ally and among the biggest recipients of Belt and Road investment, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, which recently became the first G7 country to sign on to the initiative.

The United States, which has not joined the Belt and Road, is expected to send only a lower-level delegation, and nobody from Washington.

Some Belt and Road projects “are going through a period of rationalization and evaluation,” said Li Lifan, deputy director general of the Centre for Belt and Road Initiative Studies at the government-backed Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

The summit “will be a time for reflection and to talk about the hopes for the future,” he told Reuters.

RHETORIC SHIFT

Industry insiders and diplomats say that there has been a shift in the way Beijing has been pushing Belt and Road overseas since the first such summit two years ago.

“The political part is handled by the foreign ministry now, not the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC),” said a senior Western diplomat in China, referring to the country’s state planner which drafted the initiative’s official outline in 2015. That shift occurred last year, he said.

Other analysts said there was a noticeable change in China’s overseas efforts to market the policy in the second half of 2018. In an unusual move, at least 10 of China’s ambassadors and diplomats in countries such as Mexico and Kenya published letters in local media outlets to defend the initiative.

Wu Ken, China’s new ambassador in Germany, acknowledged in his first speech on the job that there were “deep doubts” about Belt and Road.

“I hope relevant people can overcome the ‘allergies’ they have towards the Belt and Road as soon as possible so China and Germany can cooperate to jointly tap the benefits from it,” he said earlier this month.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, will attend the summit.

William Klein, minister counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, told a forum earlier this month that the United States continued to have concerns about the Belt and Road.

“These concerns, for example, are opaque financing practices, poor governance and a failure to adhere to internationally accepted norms and standards.”

Andrew Davenport, chief operating officer at Washington-based consultancy RWR Advisory, which has been tracking Belt and Road investment, said China has become more reactive in its positioning of the initiative since the last forum.

“It’s relatively clear that the Belt and Road narrative being put forward by Beijing over the past several months is designed to counter the criticism and push back,” he said.

SUBDUED

While the number of foreign leaders due at the summit is up from 29 last time, the run-up to the event has been subdued compared with the 2017 meeting.

Two years ago, the weeks before the summit’s opening day were marked by a series of music and explanatory videos published by state media to advertise the Belt and Road initiative while the government announced the dates publicly roughly a month before.

There has been no such media blitz this year besides a handful of documentaries and advertisements, and Beijing only confirmed the dates last Friday, less than a week before the opening.

In events held to talk about Belt and Road before the summit, Chinese officials stressed that the initiative remained a “win-win” and an attractive opportunity for countries willing to become partners.

On Monday, NDRC official Xiao Weiming told a media briefing that Chinese companies had invested $90 billion in countries benefiting from Belt and Road and handed out between $200 billion-300 billion worth of loans between 2013 and 2018.

“The Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive idea,” he said. “As long as any country is willing to work with China, we will all have gardens along the Belt and Road.”

(Reporting by Brenda Goh and Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Cate Cadell and Ben Blanchard in Beijing, and John Ruwitch and Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. first lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he greets supporters on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport, as he arrives to spend Easter weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club, Florida, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Al Drago

April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he is opposed to current and former White House aides testifying to congressional committees on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, according to the Washington Post.

In an interview with the newspaper, Trump said the White House cooperated with Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and did not need to comply with congressional committees, which are probing possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

“There is no reason to go any further, and especially in Congress where it’s very partisan — obviously very partisan,” Trump said, according to the Post.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: Jet Airways aircraft are seen parked at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai
FILE PHOTO: Jet Airways aircraft are seen parked at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, India, April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

April 23, 2019

MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s Jet Airways is constantly engaging with the government and lenders for a resolution of the current debt crisis and will not leave any stone unturned to revive the airline, its chief executive officer Vinay Dube told television channel ET Now in an interview.

Once India’s largest private airline, Jet halted all flight operations indefinitely last Wednesday evening after lenders led by State Bank of India declined to extend more funds to keep the carrier going.

“We are in constant touch with the lenders on how to get it (debt resolution) done in a manner that makes sense for them and makes sense for us,” Dube told ET Now.

“But I would like to think that a flying Jet Airways makes definite sense for them (banks) because it preserves their value as well. So we are not talking about anything that does not make good economic sense for the lenders, this is not charity for the sake of it”.

The company has requested banks for 10 billion rupees ($143.29 million), Dube said.

Earlier in the day, newspaper Business Standard reported that all shortlisted bidders for the company had backed out of the bidding process that is due to complete on May 10.

Dube, however, said he was hopeful of finding a keen, healthy investor who can inject the requisite amount of equity into the company.

The government plans to form a committee to temporarily allocate takeoff and landing slots left vacant by the grounding of Jet Airways flights, a senior official said last week.

Dube, however, said the government had assured the airlines this was a temporary move and the slots will be protected for the airline once they start flying again.

“While we have a combination of aircraft that are being deregistered or early terminated, the majority of them have not left the premise,” Dube said referring to the aircraft and said they will be available to the airline when it starts flying again.

“We understand the banks’ position. This is a financial proposition for them as well and we are in constant touch with them and we will be. For us there is no stone that we will leave unturned. We believe in Jet Airways, we will do whatever we can to make other people also believe in us.”

(Reporting by Swati Bhat; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

Source: OANN

FILE PHOTO: President Rodrigo Duterte speaks after his arrival in Davao
FILE PHOTO: President Rodrigo Duterte speaks after his arrival, from a visit in Israel and Jordan at Davao International airport in Davao City in southern Philippines, September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr/File Photo

April 23, 2019

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte berated Canada on Tuesday in a longrunning dispute over waste exported to the Southeast Asia nation, threatening to sail it back to Canada.

Manila has filed several diplomatic protests with Canada over tons of waste shipped to the Philippines between 2013 and 2014. Canada has said the shipment was a commercial transaction and was not backed by its government.

“For Canada’s garbage, I want a boat prepared,” Duterte told officials after being briefed on an earthquake that struck the Philippines on Monday.

“They better pull that thing out or I will set sail to Canada and dump their garbage there,” Duterte added.

In 2017 at the end of a summit of Asian and Western nations in Manila, Duterte berated Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for raising questions about his war on drugs. (https://reut.rs/2KXWJSK)

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; editing by Darren Schuettler)

Source: OANN

Passengers of a flight from Ashgabat gather at Almaty International Airport
People, including passengers of a flight from the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, gather in the baggage claim area upon their arrival at Almaty International Airport, Kazakhstan April 5, 2019. REUTERS/Mariya Gordeyeva

April 23, 2019

By Mariya Gordeyeva

ALMATY (Reuters) – Beset by economic hardship, enterprising Turkmens have found a way to supplement their incomes – smuggling towels and bed linen into neighboring Kazakhstan.

Moving hundreds of items every trip in trademark Chinese plaid bags which at times have clogged airport luggage belts, informal traders – mostly women in their late forties and fifties – hand them over to relatives or local partners to be resold for up to five times the purchase price.

Dressed in traditional Central Asian garb such as headscarves and long skirts, these women arrive on almost every flight from Ashgabat to Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city.

Textiles are among the few items manufactured domestically from local feedstock and prices for items produced by state-owned companies have remained stable for years even as the Turkmen manat lost four-fifths of its value on the black market due to Turkmenistan’s falling gas export revenue.

A deal to resume gas exports to Russia this month brought hope, but turned out to be small and short-term.

Turkmenistan, where president Kurbanguly Berdimukhamedov rules with an elaborate personality cult, is one of the world’s most closed countries.

There are no opposition parties or media critical of the government and Berdymukhamedov, often referred to as Arkadag (Protector), wields sweeping powers.

Turkmenistan rarely allows visits by foreign journalists and the textile trade offers a glimpse into the depth of its economic problems.

INDUSTRIAL SCALE

The trade attracted the attention of Almaty airport officials this year when luggage from Turkmenistan started clogging its belts. The planes, it turned out, were stuffed with textiles.

“My daughter trades at a bazaar (in Kazakhstan) and I bring her goods little by little… which I buy from our (Turkmen) stores,” said a Turkmen woman picking up bags from the luggage belt in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial hub.

Like all other people involved in this informal textiles trading, the woman spoke on the condition of anonymity because traders like her dodge customs duties by claiming their goods are personal belongings not meant for resale.

These de facto smuggling operations reached industrial scale in early 2019, prompting the Almaty airport to lodge an official complaint with the Turkmen flag carrier.

“There were parcels weighing over 50-60 kilograms (110-130 pounds) each,” said Marina Zabara, a complaints inspector at the airport.

Oversized parcels have since disappeared but the flow of textiles continues. A Reuters reporter saw Turkmen travelers pick up parcels of textiles upon arrival in Almaty this month.

“A woman from Turkmenistan moved to our village last year and offered us to sell their textiles,” said a Kazakh trader working at a market on the outskirts of Almaty. “Her mother brings the goods as luggage, as many items as she can.”

At Almaty’s biggest market, traders display Turkmen bedding – often with traditional patterns based on deer and sheep horns or abstract human figures – from fully-packed cargo containers.

“The demand is good, with the most expensive bedding set priced at 10,000 tenge ($26),” said one trader.

Some hotels have also become wholesale buyers, Turkmens say.

The official exchange rate of the manat is 3.5 per dollar, but on the black market a dollar fetches 18.6 manat.

A Kazakh citizen who used to live in Turkmenistan told Reuters that by buying out luggage allowances from other travelers and bribing airline officials, a “shuttle trader” can move up to 200 kilograms (441 pounds) in one trip.

(Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty and Marat Gurt in Ashgabat,; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: OANN

A rescuer assists a search dog as they try to reach survivors at a collapsed four-storey building in Porac town
A rescuer assists a search dog as they try to reach survivors at a collapsed four-storey building following an earthquake in Porac town,, Pampanga province, Philippines, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

April 23, 2019

PORAC, Philippines (Reuters) – Rescue teams in the Philippines searched for signs of life beneath the rubble of a collapsed four-storey commercial building on Tuesday after a strong earthquake shook the country’s biggest island, killing at least 11 people.

Heavy lifting equipment and search dogs were used as dozens of firefighters, military and civilian rescue teams raced to shift piles of concrete in the town of Porac, about 108 km (67.1 miles) northeast of Manila, where a 6.1 magnitude earthquake destroyed several buildings on Monday.

During the night, seven people were rescued and four dead bodies were pulled out of the rubble of the commercial building, which had caved in on a ground floor supermarket, officials said.

“The rescue is ongoing, they are still hearing a sound, no one can say how many were still trapped,” Pampanga provincial governor Lilia Pineda said in a radio interview.

The quake, which struck at 5 p.m. local time on Monday, was initially reported as being of 6.3 magnitude and later revised down to 6.1 magnitude, the U.S. Geological Survey and Philippines seismology authorities said.

The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, located on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horse-shoe shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines that arcs round the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

The earthquake was felt strongly in key business areas of Manila, with residential and office buildings evacuated after being shaken for several minutes. Train services were halted and roads and sidewalks were clogged by the sudden exodus of workers.

The government declared Tuesday a holiday for civil servants in Metro Manila to allow for safety inspections of buildings.

The international airport in Clark, a former U.S. military base in Pampanga, remained closed for repairs, while parts of a one corner of a historic church in the province collapsed.

(Reporting by Eloisa Lopez and Peter Blaza; Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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A security officer stands in front of St Anthony's shrine in Colombo
A security officer stands in front of St Anthony’s shrine in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

April 22, 2019

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Authorities lifted a curfew in the Sri Lanka on Monday, a day after 290 people were killed and about 500 wounded by a string of bombings that tore through churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

There was still no claim of responsibility for the attacks on two churches and four hotels in and around Colombo, the

capital of predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka, and a third church on the country’s northeast coast.

A government source said President Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the National Security Council early on Monday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, the source said.

There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday there

had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

Sri Lanka had been at war for decades with Tamil separatists but extremist violence had been on the wane since the civil war ended 10 years ago.

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about eight

and 12 percent.

The island-wide curfew imposed by the government was lifted early on Monday, although there was uncharacteristically thin traffic in the normally bustling capital.

Soldiers armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Center in the business

district, where the four hotels were targeted on Easter Sunday, according to a Reuters witness.

Scores of people who were stranded overnight at the main airport began making their way home as restrictions were lifted.

The government also blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp, making information hard to come by.

Wickremsinghe acknowledged on Sunday that the government had some prior information about possible attacks on churches involving a little-known Islamist group, but said ministers had not been told.

Sri Lankans accounted for the bulk of the 290 people killed and 500 wounded, although government officials said 32

foreigners were also killed. These included British, U.S., Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nations.

A British mother and son eating breakfast at the luxury Shangri-La hotel were among those killed, Britain’s The

Telegraph newspaper reported.

One Australian survivor, identified only as Sam, told Australia’s 3AW radio the hotel was a scene of “absolute carnage”.

He said he and a travel partner were also having breakfast at the Shangri-La when two blasts went off. He said he had seen two men wearing backpacks seconds before the blasts.

“There were people screaming and dead bodies all around,” he said. “Kids crying, kids on the ground, I don’t know if they were dead or not, just crazy.”

There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered for Easter Sunday services. Pictures from the scene showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.

Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Police said they suspected that blast was a suicide attack.

Three police officers were also killed when security forces raided a house in Colombo several hours after the attacks.

Police reported an explosion at the house.

(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Michael Perry)

Source: OANN

Customers walk past Avianca airline check-in machines at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo
FILE PHOTO – Customers walk past Avianca airline check-in machines at Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

April 20, 2019

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Avianca Brasil has canceled more than 1,300 flights, Brazilian media reported on Saturday, as the bankrupt airline was forced to reduce its fleet by more than two-thirds.

The cancellations, for April 19-28, are nationwide, with airports in Brasilia, Guarulhos in Sao Paulo, and Galeao in Rio de Janeiro, the hardest hit, O Estado de Sao Paulo reported.

Avianca, which filed for bankruptcy protection in December, has to return 18 leased planes after Easter, Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency said on Thursday, reducing its fleet to just eight aircraft.

Earlier this month, the airline had 35 planes.

(Reporting by Jamie McGeever; Editing by Richard Chang)

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