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UN Recap: November 28-December 3, 2021

Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

Omicron travel bans 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that South Africa and seven nations surrounding it were being collectively punished for having been transparent about detecting and reporting infections from a new COVID-19 variant called omicron. 

UN Chief Denounces COVID ‘Travel Apartheid’ Against Southern Africa

Humanitarian crises

The United Nations appealed Thursday for a record $41 billion to help 183 million of the world’s most vulnerable people suffering from multiple crises, including poverty, hunger, conflict and the impact of COVID-19.

COVID, Conflicts Prompt UN to Make Record Appeal for Humanitarian Aid 

Afghanistan, Myanmar representation 

The nine countries who currently sit on the U.N. General Assembly committee that approves credentials for representatives at the world body decided Wednesday to postpone any action on competing claims for representatives for the Afghan and Myanmar seats. On December 6, the wider General Assembly is expected to approve their decision to let the current envoys stay put for now. 

UN Committee: No Change for Now in Afghanistan, Myanmar Envoys 

In brief

— Humanitarian assistance has started to trickle into northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The U.N. said Friday that from November 24 to November 30, four convoys with 157 trucks loaded with humanitarian supplies arrived in the regional capital, Mekelle. They were the first deliveries since October 18. Fuel shortages continue to hamper the aid response. The U.N. says no fuel has reached the region since August 2. More than 5.2 million people in Tigray are in urgent need of assistance after months of a de facto government blockade on the region.

— On Thursday, U.N. headquarters went on lockdown briefly as a man with a shotgun loaded with a single round of ammunition held to his chin caused a three-hour standoff with New York City police outside the gate. Later identified as William Tingler, 65, of Florida, he eventually surrendered peacefully to police when they agreed to take documents he wanted delivered to the United Nations. He was taken to an area hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

Quote of note

“Our concern is for a cease-fire. That absolutely must happen. Humanitarian aid needs to reach all those that have suffered from this conflict, and we absolutely need to resolve these problems through political discussions and through dialogue.” — Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, in remarks to reporters at the U.N. Wednesday on the situation in Ethiopia.

Next week

The U.N. envoy for Sudan, Volker Perthes, is due to brief the Security Council on December 10.

On November 21, the military — which overthrew and jailed the civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, in an October 25 coup — agreed to release him and allow him to return to his post in a new power-sharing deal. But the deal is unpopular with large portions of Sudanese society and protests have continued. Perthes said in a tweet on Thursday that while the U.N. cautiously welcomes the agreement, “it does not constitute a return to this [constitutional] order” and “other critical steps need to follow.” 

 

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Росія: до реєстру ЗМІ-«іноагентів» внесли чотирьох журналістів проєкту Радіо Свобода

Загалом у реєстрі ЗМІ – «іноземних агентів» у Росії зараз 103 особи й організації, включно з російськомовними проєктами Радіо Свобода

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China Deepens Informal Alliance With Russia

China and Russia have strengthened their political, economic and military relations this year, despite their uneasy history in the past, as both countries say they resent what they call growing pressure from the West.

So far this year, the two have held a series of military exercises and issued joint diplomatic statements aimed at Western countries. On November 27, for example, an essay by both countries’ ambassadors to Washington protested the upcoming U.S.-led Summit for Democracy for creating divisions in the world. Neither Russia nor China appeared on the list of 110 invitees.

Russia depends on China’s massive industrial economy for oil and gas exports as environmental rules in the European Union complicate energy imports there, said Vassily Kashin, senior fellow at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

He said two-way relations were at their strongest since the 1950s.

“Most importantly, we have a common position concerning the global order, which is that we don’t like the U.S. global order, so this close partnership is based on common opposition to the U.S.-led global order,” Kashin said.

Western democracies from the United States to Australia and throughout Europe have strengthened their own ties this year at a time of concern about China’s policies. Western governments have signaled opposition to Beijing’s aggressive language on Taiwan, its crackdown on dissenters in Hong Kong and its policies targeting a Muslim minority in China’s Xinjiang region.

Countries, including the West and some in Southeast Asia, further resent China’s “wolf warrior diplomacy” approach that has seen China’s Communist Party become more vocal about promoting its views among overseas audiences. In foreign relations, experts say Beijing has been using “increasingly assertive tactics” to “aggressively defend their home country,” often in the cyber world.

China and Russia in turn hope to stop a return to U.S.-driven soft power of the Barack Obama-George W. Bush presidencies, when smaller countries saw the United States as “more acceptable leaders” among great powers, said Alan Chong, associate professor at the Singapore-based S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Chinese soft power, Chong said, “has taken a hit” because of President Xi Jinping’s comments that make him sound strong at home at the expense of solidarity and friendship overseas. China sees U.S. President Joe Biden as “a very tough opponent,” he added.

Western governments have called out China this year particularly over its perceived aggression toward Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing calls its own. A U.S. official also warned Russia last month about troop buildup near Ukraine.

Evidence of stronger Sino-Russian ties

With the world’s second-strongest military, after the United States, Russia holds occasional military exercises with China — five made public to date — while selling arms to its giant neighbor to the south.

In October, China and Russia held their 10th annual “Maritime Interaction” naval drills with the Russian Pacific Fleet’s anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev, the Moscow-based Sputnik news service reported. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy sent several destroyers and a diesel submarine.

The two navies drill together to strengthen “combat capabilities” in case of “seaborne threats,” Sputnik said.

Russia and China held five days of military exercises in a remote region of central China in August, drawing more than 10,000 service personnel, aircraft, artillery and armored vehicles.

China and Russia also began operating a space weather center this month in Beijing and Moscow, the Chinese state-run China Daily reported. In June, they agreed to extend their 20-year-old Treaty of Good Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation to strengthen relations by respecting each other’s interests and sovereignty, the Daily said.

Russia looks to China for support of its goal in occupying parts of Ukraine, as well as a conduit to show Moscow can “still play a role” in Asia, in the region,” said Andrew Yang, secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank in Taiwan.

China needs Russian weapons, energy and support against Western pressure, Yang said. Russia agreed in 2015 to sell China 24 combat aircraft and four S-400 surface-to-air missile systems for about $7 billion. On the economic side, China became Russia’s No. 1 trading partner in 2017. Two years ago, Xi and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed to fuse each side’s efforts to open trade routes by building infrastructure in other countries.

“I think this is the traditional, old-fashioned balance of power,” Yang said. “They consider if China and Russia can join together, they can also regulate the regional security issues.”

Limits to Sino-Russian cooperation

Cold War-era distrust between China and Russia is likely to limit cooperation to broad or informal actions rather than a signed pact, analysts say. Sino-Russian relations faded in the 1960s when the two Communist parties split over ideology and border conflicts ensued.

The two sides could set up a military technology sharing deal like the AUKUS pact involving Australia, Britain and the United States, said Nguyen Thanh Trung, a faculty member at Fulbright University Vietnam. Earlier goals haven’t been met, he told VOA.

“Over the last two years, China and Russia have signed a lot of agreements, but I don’t see a lot of concrete progress in their agreements,” Nguyen said.

Western allies need not worry about China-Russia cooperation unless the two powers sign a formal agreement, Chong said.

“If you see an MOU [memorandum of understanding] where they would state, explicitly, [that] they would stage X number of military exercises, they would establish some sort of integrated military command or something, then there’s cause for worry, but as they go at the moment, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” he said.

This week the Pentagon announced as part of a regular review of its forces around the world that it would reinforce deployments and bases directed at China and Russia, while still maintaining forces in the Middle East to deter terrorist groups and Iran.

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Parents of US Teen Accused in Deadly School Shooting Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter

The parents of the teenager who allegedly shot and killed four students at a U.S. high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths. 

Karen McDonald, the chief prosecutor in Oakland County, Michigan, charged Jennifer and James Crumbley on Friday with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, declaring their actions prior to the killings went “far beyond negligence.” 

The Crumbleys were charged three days after their 15-year-old son, Ethan, allegedly opened fire at Oxford High School in the Midwestern town of Oxford, Michigan, killing four students and wounding seven other people. 

Experts say parents in the U.S. are seldom charged in school shootings involving their children. If convicted, the Crumbleys could face up to 15 years in prison. 

Ethan Crumbley has been charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder and terrorism, for allegedly killing the students with a semi-automatic gun that investigators said was legally bought by his father last week. 

Michigan law does not require gun owners to keep weapons locked away from children, but McDonald said that is no excuse. 

“All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” she in an interview with WJR-AM radio in Detroit, Michigan. 

Tuesday’s attack was the deadliest shooting in a U.S. school this year, according to Education Week. It was also the latest in a long series of mass shootings at U.S. schools that spans decades.

Information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

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Biden Says He has a Plan to Protect Ukraine from Russia

U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters Friday he has been developing a set of initiatives that will make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to escalate the situation at its border with Ukraine, where Moscow has been building up troops and equipment for weeks.

The situation at Ukraine’s eastern border has raised fears Moscow is planning to invade its neighbor. Russian aggression was the focus this week of a NATO foreign ministers meeting, with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warning Russia any escalation of the situation would come at a high price.

Earlier Friday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Russia has now massed more than 94,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, suggesting to him they could be preparing for a large-scale military offensive at the end of January.

When asked about the situation during remarks Friday at the White House, Biden told reporters he has been in constant contact with U.S. allies in Europe, and with Ukraine. He said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan have been engaged extensively.

Biden said his administration is “putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do. But that’s in play right now.”

The president offered no details of what his initiatives might be.

Diplomatic efforts have been underway to ease tensions in the region this week. Blinken met in Stockholm on Thursday with both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

The Kremlin said Friday arrangements are also being made for a video call between Biden and Putin in the coming days.

Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.

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Влада Криму збирається виставити землі «іноземців» на примусові торги

Підконтрольна Кремлю влада півострова вважає «іноземцями» всіх, хто не живе на території Росії та анексованих нею Криму і Севастополя, зокрема жителів материкової України

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Austria’s Ruling Party Names New Chancellor

Austria’s ruling party on Friday named Interior Minister Karl Nehammer to lead the conservative camp and the country after the shock resignation of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz as party head caused fresh political upheaval.

“I wanted to announce that today I was unanimously appointed by the OeVP (People’s Party) leadership as party head and at the same time as the chancellor candidate,” Nehammer told reporters.

The meeting of the party’s top brass came a day after Kurz, implicated in a corruption scandal, said he was quitting as party boss.

Alexander Schallenberg, who took over as chancellor in October, said on Thursday that he was ready to resign as “the posts of chancellor and head of the party… should quickly be taken on by the same person”.

It will now be up to Austria’s president to accept Nehammer’s nomination and swear him in, but this is mostly a formality.

Kurz’s announcement that he would quit politics to dedicate time to his family, especially his new-born son, came just two months after he resigned as national leader.

This followed his implication in a corruption scandal, bringing down a spectacular career, which saw him become the world’s youngest democratically elected head of government in 2017 at just 31.

Besides naming Nehammer, the conservative party also nominated fresh faces for several other portfolios, the interior minister said.

This includes a new finance minister after Kurz ally Gernot Bluemel also resigned on Thursday.

Former army officer

Born in Vienna in 1972, Nehammer worked in the army for several years before becoming a communications advisor.

He became a lawmaker in 2017 and interior minister in January 2020 and faced the first jihadist attack in Austria, which killed four people.

The interior ministry was strongly criticized for having failed to monitor the Austrian gunman responsible for the killings, even though they had been alerted to the danger.

The scandal bringing down Kurz erupted in early October when prosecutors ordered raids at the chancellery and the finance ministry.

They are probing allegations that Kurz’s inner circle used public money to pay for polls tailored to boost his image and ensure positive coverage in one of the country’s biggest tabloids.

Kurz has denied any wrongdoing, saying he hopes to have his day in court to prove his innocence.

Kurz, now 35, wrested control of the OeVP in 2017 and with his hard stance on immigration led it two to election victories.

The OeVP’s first coalition with the far-right collapsed in 2019 when its junior partner became engulfed in a corruption scandal, leading to fresh elections.

Those returned Kurz as chancellor, this time heading an administration with the Greens.

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Facebook’s Struggle with Disinfo and the Gateway Pundit

The Gateway Pundit, a far-right news site, has used its Facebook page – with more than 630,000 followers – to post bogus stories alleging the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. Some commenters responded with threats of violence.

After Gateway Pundit posted a June story on Facebook that included debunked claims of voter fraud in Arizona, a commenter said the governor and secretary of state should be “fed feet first through a woodchipper.” A story featuring false claims of vote-rigging in Fulton County, Georgia, drew comments on Facebook calling for an election worker to be hanged or “shot for treason.”

For years, Facebook has imposed sanctions on Gateway Pundit’s account to limit the spread of its misinformation. But Gateway Pundit still uses its Facebook page to amplify its reporting and raise money: The page features a prominent appeal asking readers to buy subscriptions to support its “battle for survival.”

Gateway Pundit’s continuing presence on Facebook illustrates the platform’s worldwide struggle to stop the spread of disinformation and to balance content-policing with free-speech concerns. Facebook has taken a barrage of criticism this year from critics and a company whistleblower who say its practices stoke anger and division to increase user engagement.

In a statement to Reuters, Facebook said it seeks to label misinformation and “reduce its spread,” using fact checkers and artificial intelligence to identify false or misleading material and warning readers who try to share it. Facebook said repeat offenders, such as the Gateway Pundit, are subject to tougher sanctions, including having their posts pushed to the bottom of users’ news feeds (the lists of posts they see), and being barred from Facebook’s content-promotion services.

But Facebook almost never removes the offending posts or shuts down the pages – that happens only in rare circumstances, such as posts pushing COVID misinformation, the company says. Sites that directly threaten violence also may be shut down, but account holders are not held responsible for comments on their pages.

Twitter has taken a more aggressive approach with Gateway Pundit, permanently suspending the @gatewaypundit account of Jim Hoft, the site’s founder and editor, as well as the account of his twin brother, Joe Hoft, a writer.

Jim Hoft declined a request for comment; Joe Hoft did not respond to comment requests.

Facebook and Twitter both have been blasted by right-leaning politicians for what they call censorship of conservative voices. Jim Hoft testified in a 2018 congressional hearing that his site’s traffic from Facebook had tanked after the platform imposed restrictions on the spread of the Pundit’s content, saying such sanctions make “book burning” look benign.

Yet Gateway Pundit’s traffic has boomed: In the wake of the 2020 election, it peaked at nearly 50 million visits a month, according to one estimate, illustrating the power of viral disinformation. Reuters found the site’s often-debunked election-fraud claims were cited in about 100 of more than 800 threatening or harassing messages sent to election officials since last November.

Facebook has long recognized Gateway Pundit as a source of false and divisive content. A July 2019 internal report on “potential misinformation and polarization risks” listed the site as one of Facebook’s “common misinfo offenders.” The report was among a cache of documents provided to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress by Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager who left the company in May and has been a leading public critic of its practices.

Reuters identified a dozen Gateway Pundit stories on Facebook that contained baseless election-fraud claims, two of which Facebook labeled as containing false information. Under four of those stories, nine Facebook users called for the execution of election workers or officials. Only one of those four stories was flagged by Facebook for containing false information.

In August, Gateway Pundit reported that a Milwaukee official had been threatened after being featured in Pundit stories alleging voter fraud. The result? Even more threats. On the site’s Facebook page, one reader commented: “There is only one punishment acceptable for traitors, being drawn and quartered.”

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Кулеба про вимоги Москви до НАТО: відкидаю ідею про те, що ми маємо щось гарантувати Росії

«Це Росія має гарантувати, що вона не продовжуватиме своєї агресії проти будь-якої країни»

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Справа Стерненка: захист намагається довести політичний характер обвинувачення

Засідання 3 грудня стало першим, на якому захист розпочав долучення доказів. До цього впродовж року свої докази долучало обвинувачення

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У НАЗК перевірили декларацію Баканова, проаналізувавши дані Pandora Papers

З приводу інформації, висвітленої у розслідуванні, НАЗК зазначило: за наявними відомостями від 5.05.2019 року, належні суб’єкту декларування акції компанії Davegra Limited були відчужені

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China Gives Long-Awaited Approval to Boeing 737 MAX After Crashes

Chinese authorities have approved the Boeing 737 MAX to resume service after making a series of safety adjustments, removing a major uncertainty surrounding the American aviation giant’s comeback after a lengthy slump.

A directive from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) deeming the model “airworthy” sets the stage for the jet to return to airline schedules in the country next year, following months of negotiations between Beijing and Boeing.

Shares of Boeing rocketed after the decision, which also clears the way for it to deliver more than 100 MAX aircraft to Chinese carriers that were produced during the more than two years the plane was grounded in China following two deadly crashes.

The CAAC said in a further statement Friday that it expects “commercial operation of the existing domestic fleet will be resumed progressively at the end of this year or early next year.”

News of the decision had initially emerged on Thursday, when AFP saw a government directive showing China was giving the green light to the 737 MAX after taking “corrective actions.” The CAAC statement on Friday confirmed the decision.

The CAAC’s move also confirms a place for the US plane maker in the country — an essential growth market in aviation — despite persistent trade and political tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“This will give Boeing the assurance to begin to ramp plane production back up,” said Michel Merluzeau, an analyst at AIR consultancy, adding that the action amounts to the “light at the end of the tunnel” for the MAX.

Protracted process

China is the last major travel market to bring the MAX back into use after it was grounded globally in March 2019 following two crashes that together claimed 346 lives.

Investigators said a main cause of both tragedies was a faulty flight handling system known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS).

Boeing won approval from the United States in November 2020 and from most other leading aviation authorities soon after to resume service.

But the process was far more protracted in China, with the CAAC only conducting a test flight of the model in the third quarter of this year.

Analysts said delays may have been a consequence of tensions with Washington.

But on Thursday, Chinese authorities gave the green light after requiring upgrades to planes, including installing new software programs to address the defect and updating the flight manual.

“After conducting sufficient assessment, CAAC considers the corrective actions are adequate to address this unsafe condition,” said an airworthiness directive from the authority.

The directive means there are no remaining regulatory obstacles for the MAX to return to the skies in China, although the aviation authority cautioned that it does not mean the planes will immediately return to use.

“Obtaining airworthiness is just one of the most basic tasks,” said the CAAC on Friday.

It added that domestic airlines will still have to “complete aircraft modification, restoration of parked aircraft, pilot training and so on.”

Symbiotic relationship

Boeing cheered the decision.

“CAAC’s decision is an important milestone toward safely returning the 737 MAX to service in China,” Boeing in China said in a statement to AFP.

“Boeing continues to work with regulators and our customers to return the airplane to service worldwide.”

A Boeing spokesperson said more than 180 countries have now allowed the MAX to return to service, with Indonesia, where the first crash took place, and Russia among those that have yet to do so.

Burkett Huey, an analyst at Morningstar, said Boeing still faces some important hurdles such as restoring deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner plane, its other top-selling aircraft, and beefing up its order book following cancelations and the hit from the COVID-19 aviation downturn.

But Huey called the CAAC move “very good news and very consequential” for Boeing.

Uncertainty about the timing for Beijing to approve the MAX have contributed to the company’s travails in recent months.

China also has high hopes for developing its own aviation industry, with attention focused on Comac’s C919 narrow-body plane, a potential rival to Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

But analysts do not believe Beijing will be able to meet its targets solely with Chinese companies.

“It would be difficult for China to grow as much as it can without Boeing for at least the next 10 years,” Huey said, adding that the CAAC’s action “is unlocking access to a really critical market” for Boeing.

Boeing shares finished with a gain of 7.5% at $202.38, the biggest winner in the Dow.

 

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US Says It Will Determine Quickly if Iran is Serious in Nuclear Talks

U.S. officials are increasing pressure on Iran to make progress in reviving a 2015 deal that curbed the Iranian nuclear program, saying they will determine within days if Tehran is serious about negotiations with world powers in Vienna.

“We’re going to know very, very quickly, I think in the next day or two, whether Iran is serious or not,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday, speaking to reporters before leaving Stockholm.

Some analysts said Iran may deflect such pressure by using negotiating tactics to try to prolong the talks, which are aimed at reviving the 2015 deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The United States and Iran resumed indirect negotiations in Vienna on Monday, with other countries acting as mediators and seeking to bring both sides back into compliance with the JCPOA. U.S. and Iranian negotiators previously held five inconclusive rounds of indirect talks in Vienna from April to June, when Iran suspended the negotiations ahead of its presidential election that month.

Under the JCPOA, Iran promised it would curb nuclear activities that could be weaponized in return for international sanctions relief. Tehran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

The prior U.S. administration of former President Donald Trump quit the JCPOA in 2018, saying it was not tough enough on Iran, and reimposed U.S. sanctions. Iran retaliated a year later by starting to publicly exceed JCPOA limits on its nuclear activities. Trump’s successor, President Joe Biden, has said he wants to honor the deal again if Iran does the same.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran’s latest breach of JCPOA limits on Wednesday, saying it has begun using advanced centrifuges at its underground nuclear facility in Fordo to enrich uranium up to 20% purity, a short step away from weapons-grade levels.

Israel, a key U.S. ally whose destruction Iran has vowed to pursue, reacted to that news with alarm. The Israeli government said Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke by phone with Blinken on Thursday and accused Tehran of using its Fordo advances as “nuclear blackmail” in the JCPOA talks. It said Bennett urged the United States and other world powers to respond by stopping the negotiations immediately.

Blinken made his comment about determining the Iranian negotiators’ seriousness in “the next day or two” as he responded to a reporter asking what he thought of Bennett’s appeal. “We will not accept the status quo of Iran building its [nuclear] program on the one hand and dragging its feet in talks on the other. That’s not going to last,” Blinken added.

It was the first time that Blinken or any other Biden administration official has publicly stated such a specific and short timeframe for assessing Iran’s negotiating position, after months of declining to do so while also saying that time was running short.

In comments to reporters Thursday in Vienna, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator and Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Bagheri Kani said Tehran is prepared to continue the talks if “they are ready” to do the same, in apparent reference to the U.S. and other Western powers.

Britain, France and Germany, the three European powers acting as mediators in the JCPOA talks, already had toughened their stance toward Iran last week, issuing a statement expressing “deep concern” that Iran is “permanently and irreversibly upgrading its nuclear capabilities and exposing the international community to significant risk.”

Blinken’s short timeline for Iran to show seriousness also came a day after Iran handed two proposals to the Western powers for the U.S. sanctions that it wants to be lifted and for the nuclear limits it is prepared to resume in return for the U.S. sanctions relief.

Iran has repeatedly insisted that it wants all sanctions imposed by the U.S. in recent years to be lifted, regardless of whether the U.S. justified the measures as responses to Iran’s nuclear activities, alleged involvement in terrorism or alleged human rights abuses. Tehran has not publicly outlined what nuclear concessions it is willing to make.

“My understanding from the latest news reporting is that [Iran’s proposals] have been maximalist demands that are unworkable for the United States,” said Jason Brodsky, policy director of U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, in a VOA interview.

Iran analyst and JCPOA critic Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies told VOA that a serious negotiating approach by Iran would mean not only dropping its demand that the talks focus initially on sanctions relief but also proposing a timetable for returning to Iranian compliance with the JCPOA’s nuclear limits.

Brodsky said Blinken’s Thursday remarks also could give Iran an opening to prolong the JCPOA talks in other ways.

“Even though the hour is getting very late,” Blinken said, “it is not too late for Iran to reverse course and engage meaningfully in an effort to return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.”

Brodsky said Iran could accept IAEA demands to restore U.N. inspectors’ access to cameras at a centrifuge workshop in Karaj after blocking such access for months. “It would be a token concession to keep the process going,” he said.

Ryan Costello, policy director of pro-JCPOA U.S. advocacy group National Iranian American Council, said Iran’s nuclear negotiators may be posturing in such way that it would take time for the U.S. to figure out what their bottom line is.

“There are likely to be consultations in capitals and so forth, and the process will play out in weeks and months, not a couple of days,” he predicted to VOA.

Some information in this report came from Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Україна розпочинає будівництво військово-морських баз в Очакові і Бердянську – Резніков

Розвиток флоту є одним із пріоритетів Міністерства оборони – міністр

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«Розвідка аналізує усі сценарії» – Резніков припускає, що Росія буде готова до ескалації в кінці січня

Міністр оцінює кількість військ, які Росія може задіяти для ескалації, в 94,3 тисячі осіб

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Pandora Papers: у Путіна заявили, що дані про росіян «неможливо перевірити»

Запит стосувався депутатів Державної думи та їхніх родичів, які згадувалися в документах як власники офшорних компаній

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Serbia Sentences 4 Former Intelligence Officers in Journalist’s 1999 Murder

A Serbian court Thursday jailed four former intelligence officers for up to 30 years over the brutal 1999 murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, a fierce critic of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

The special court sentenced Serbia’s former secret police chief, Radomir Markovic, and the head of Belgrade’s intelligence branch, Milan Radonjic, to 30 years in prison, the Beta news agency said.

Two other intelligence officers, Ratko Romic and Miroslav Kurak, were each given 20 years in prison. Kurak was sentenced in absentia.

According to Serbian media outlet Cenzolovka, the group was convicted of premeditated murder “for the purpose of protecting the regime.”

The four had been found guilty in 2019, but the decision was overturned and a retrial ordered.

Shot 13 times

Curuvija was one of the most critical voices in Serbia in the 1990s, attracting a wide readership as the owner and editor of two leading independent publications.

He was shot 13 times in front of his Belgrade home during the NATO bombing campaign that was a response to the Milosevic government’s brutal crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in the late 1990s.

The journalist was killed just days after pro-government media outlets accused him of being a “traitor” and after he was accused on state media of calling on NATO to bomb.

Journalists have long been targeted in Serbia, where reporters and editors critical of authorities have been assaulted and intimidated.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who served as information minister under Milosevic, regularly berates reporters during his near-daily public addresses.

In 2020, 32 journalists were physically attacked and almost 100 reported threats, according to the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia.

Press freedom groups called the sentences a victory, even though they remain subject to appeal.

“The verdict is an important step in the right direction by Serbian authorities in breaking the cycle of impunity in crimes committed against journalists,” Attila Mong, of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, told VOA.

Pavol Szalai, the head of the European Union and Balkans desk for the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, said threats continue against journalists throughout the region.

“Before he was murdered, Slavko Curuvija was surveilled by the state, pressured by politicized judiciary, verbally attacked by politicians and subjected to a smear campaign in the pro-government media,” Szalai said.

“These are all issues which Serbian journalists are still threatened with,” he said. “If the Serbian authorities can definitively bring justice for Slavko Curuvija, there is a hope they can avoid another murder.”

Reporter Milan Nesic of VOA’s Serbian Service contributed to this report.

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Blinken Dismisses Russian Claims It Is Threatened by Ukraine

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Camera: Henry Ridgwell