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Death penalty is a crime, no place for executions in the 21st century: UN chief

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NEW YORK: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the death penalty is a crime and it has no place in the 21st Century.

Guterres also urged all countries, which have not forbidden the extreme practice, to urgently stop executions.

“The death penalty does little to deter crimes or serve victims, he said while speaking alongside Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, at an event at the UN Headquarters, here today.

The UN chief also expressed concern that the countries that continued executions were also failing to meet their international obligations, particular in relation to transparency and compliance with international human rights standards.

“Some governments conceal executions and enforce an elaborate system of secrecy to hide who is on death row, and why,” Guterres said, underscoring that lack of transparency showed a lack of respect for the human rights of those sentenced to death and to their families, as well as damaging administration of justice more generally.

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Chemical attack probe: France wants immediate access!

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PARIS: France urged the Syrian regime and its ally Moscow today to grant weapons inspectors immediate access to the site of an alleged chemical attack, accusing them of “obstruction” aimed at eroding the quality of the evidence.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who arrived in Damascus last Saturday, needed “full, immediate and unhindered access” to the site in the town of Douma.

Their mission has been put on hold after a United Nations security assessment team were fired at, and officials at the OPCW have said that Russian and Syrian forces have likely removed key evidence.

“At this time the OPCW investigators still have no access to the chemical attack site in Douma. If Russia and Syria ultimately abide by their commitments, it will take (the investigators) at least two weeks,” Le Drian said in a statement.

“The OPCW mission has as its goal establishing whether a chemical attack indeed took place and identifying the nature of the chemical agent used. This obstruction will obviously harm the quality of the investigation,” he added.

“It seems likely that this attitude is intended to make proof and material evidence linked to the chemical attack disappear.” France joined the United States and Britain in launching air strikes a week ago against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, in retaliation against an alleged chemical attack in Douma which local medics said killed at least 40 people.

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Europe

Romanian president and government clash over moving embassy to Jerusalem!

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BUCHAREST: A row erupted today between Romania’s government and President Klaus Iohannis over a proposal to move the country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The foreign ministry announced that “a process of analysis and evaluation with the aim of transferring the embassy has been launched”.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila of the left-wing Social Democratic Party confirmed Friday the government had adopted a memorandum on moving the embassy but added that other steps needed to be taken before a final decision.

In December US President Donald Trump sparked global controversy by announcing that his country would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Romania would be the first EU country to follow suit. 

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Asia

China and Japan all set to speed-up preparations for air, marine contact mechanism

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SENDAI: China and Japan agreed to speed up preparations for launching an air and maritime contact mechanism in their ninth round of high-level consultations on maritime affairs held here from Thursday through Friday.

Officials from the two countries’ ministries on foreign affairs, defence, security, natural resources, environment, transportation, and agriculture and some other departments attended the talks.

The two sides held a plenary meeting on consultation mechanism and four working group meetings on politics and law, maritime defense, maritime law enforcement and security, as well as maritime economy. The two sides exchanged views on issues related to the East China Sea and discussed ways of maritime cooperation.

They made further progress on negotiations about launching a maritime and aerial communication mechanism between their defense departments as soon as possible, and agreed to speed up preparations for launching the mechanism.

They also agreed to enhance defense exchanges to promote mutual trust and discussed concrete plans for such exchanges. The Border Control Department of China’s Ministry of Public Security and the Japan Coast Guard agreed to continue cooperation in cracking down on transnational crimes including smuggling, human smuggling and drug trafficking, and exchange visits between experts according to the meeting minutes signed by both sides.

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