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12 Feb

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks at a press conference after peace talks over the Ukraine crisis in Minsk, Belarus.

Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks at a press conference after peace talks over the Ukraine crisis in Minsk, Belarus. Photograph: Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Ukraine ceasefire deal agreed at Minsk talks

Ceasefire will come into force on Sunday, but François Hollande says much work still to be done afer marathon overnight negotiations

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have reached a ceasefire deal after 17 hours of talks on the Ukrainian conflict.

Speaking at a press conference in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said the leaders had agreed on a ceasefire starting on Sunday, followed by the withdrawal of heavy weapons..

“We have managed to agree on the main points,” Putin told reporters.

“We have agreed on a ceasefire from midnight February 15.”

“The next thing that I believe is very important is the withdrawal of heavy weapons … and the withdrawal of Donbass militias,” he said.

Putin added: “There is also the political settlement. The first thing is constitutional reform that should take into consideration the legitimate rights of people who live in Donbass. There are also border issues. Finally there are a whole range of economic and humanitarian issues.”

The French president, François Hollande, confirmed that a ceasefire had been agreed. He said much work still needed to be done, but that an agreement in Minsk was a real chance to ameliorate the situation.

Hollande and Merkel will ask the European Union to support the agreement later on Thursday…………………..

 

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North Carolina vigil

Suzanne Askar with North Carolina State University students Safam Mahate and Nida Allam during a candlelight vigil for murder victims. Photograph: Al Drago/Corbis

North Carolina shooting victims remembered for their ‘amazing spirit’

Thousands gathered to pay tribute at vigil for three students who were gunned down on Tuesday, as crowd reminded that ‘Muslim lives matter’

Thousands gathered on the campus of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill on Wednesday night to pay tribute to three local students who were shot to death the night before.

Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her younger sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were killed on Tuesday evening in the couple’s apartment in a leafy suburb of Chapel Hill.

The assembled crowd, which included students from both UNC and North Carolina State University, as well as members of the surrounding community, numbered as many as 3,000 people, university officials confirmed.

Brian Swift, a friend of Barakat’s and the president of his class at the dentistry school, told the Guardian that the turnout was “unbelievable.”
“If Deah were to see me now, he would give me a smack and tell me to put a smile on my face,” he added.

Many held candles, while students from the school of dentistry – where Barakat was studying, and where his wife was set to enroll in the autumn – wore their white coats in an act of solidarity.

Craig Stephen Hicks, who turned himself in to the police, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths.

deah barakat

Deah Barakat with his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. All three were shot dead. Photograph: Supplied

Deah Barakat provided relief to Syrian refugees

Deah Barakat is one of the three students killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by Craig Stephen Hicks. In this video, Barakat is seen providing relief for Syrian refugees as part of Project Refugee Smiles. Hicks, who turned himself in to police, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shooting deaths which took place on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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Other New

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Opinion

Illustration by Sebastien Thibault

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

The careless, astonishing cruelty of Barack Obama’s government

George Monbiot

The US, it seems, couldn’t care less if it causes a humanitarian crisis in Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries

Let me introduce you to the world’s most powerful terrorist recruiting sergeant: a US federal agency called the office of the comptroller of the currency. Its decision to cause a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the poorest, most troubled places on Earth could resonate around the world for decades.Last Friday, after the OCC had sent it a cease-and-desist order, the last bank in the United States still processing money transfers to Somalia closed its service. The agency, which reports to the US treasury, reasoned that some of this money might find its way into the hands of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. It’s true that some of it might, just as some resources in any nation will find their way into the hands of criminals (ask HSBC). So why don’t we shut down the phone networks to hamper terrorism? Why don’t we ban agriculture in case fertiliser is used to make explosives? Why don’t we stop all the clocks to prevent armed gangs from planning their next atrocity?

Ridiculous? In fact it’s not far off. Remittances from the Somalian diaspora amount to $1.2bn-$1.6bn a year, which is roughly 50% of the country’s gross national income, and on which 40% of the population relies for survival. Over the past 10 years the money known to have been transferred to suspected terrorists in Somalia amounts to a few thousand dollars. Cutting off remittances is likely to kill more people than terrorists will ever manage.

During the 2011 famine in Somalia, according to a British government report, “British Somalis saved hundreds of thousands of lives by remitting money … reaching family members before aid agencies could mobilise”. Government aid agencies then used the same informal banking system – the hawala – to send money to 1.5 million people, saving hundreds of thousands more. Today, roughly 3 million of Somalia’s 7 million people are short of food. Shut off the funds and the results are likely to be terrible.

Money transfers from abroad also pay for schooling, housing, business start-ups and all the means by which a country can lift itself out of dependency and chaos. Yes, banking has its uses, as well as its abuses.

Somalia might be one of the poorest nations in the world, but its remittance system is widely seen as a model for other nations. Shifting e-money via the mobile phone network, hawala brokers charge only 5% interest, against a global average of 9% and an African average of 12%. In a nation held to ransom by well-armed thugs, and lacking almost all infrastructure, these remarkable people – often motivated as much by a desire to keep their country alive as to make money – supply tiny desert settlements all over the nation with scarcely any losses……………………

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