Tag Archives: France

Nagorno-Karabakh war: France, Russia & US set to meet. [More Stories]

Advertisements

As international mediators head to Geneva, Armenia and Azerbaijan report further casualties.

  • France, US, Russia to hold talks in Geneva
  • Turkey says the Minsk Group should not be involved in mediating the conflict
  • Azerbaijan says city of Ganja shelled by Armenian forces, killing one civilian
  • Baku claims 30 Azeri civilians killed to date, but does not release military casualties
  • Nagorno-Karabakh says death toll among military rises to 350

France, the United States and Russia will step up efforts to end fighting between Azeri and ethnic Armenian forces in the South Caucasus by holding talks in Geneva, as fears of a regional war grow.

Advertisements

French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian said Russian, French and US representatives would also meet in Moscow on Monday to look at ways to persuade the warring sides to negotiate a ceasefire.

The three countries are co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group that mediates over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turkey has accused the group of neglecting the conflict and said it should not be involved in mediation.

Le Drian hit back at Turkey, reiterating accusations – denied by Ankara – that it is involved militarily and saying this fuelled the “internationalisation” of the conflict.

Advertisements

• HISTORIC ARMENIA CATHEDRAL DESTROYED IN KARABAKH •

Armenia said that Azerbaijani forces had shelled a historic cathedral in Nagorno-Karabakh’s city of Shusha, where AFP journalists saw the church had suffered serious damage.

There was a gaping hole in the roof of the Ghazanchetsots (Holy Saviour) Cathedral, an iconic site for the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Rubble was strewn about the floor, pews were knocked over and the interior was covered in dust from parts of the building’s limestone walls that had been hit. A section of its metallic roof had collapsed and fallen to the ground outside.

Advertisements

• ARMENIA DISMISSES HEAD NSS •

Armenia on Thursday dismissed Argishti Kyaramyan, the head its National Security Service, the Interfax news agency reported citing a presidential decree.

• TURKEY FOREIGN MINSTER COMMENTS •

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the “status quo has to be changed” regarding the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia adding that Turkey respects the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

Turkey has publicly backed Azerbaijan in the conflict and said it was ready to provide military assistance, should Azerbaijan request it.

Speaking at the annual Globsec forum in Bratislava, Cavusoglu also added that he was against any conflict in the Black Sea region, adding that Turkey is not flirting with Russia and supports the territorial integrity of Ukraine.


#Newsworthy…

Armenia, Azerbaijan clashes; France, Turkey trades insult.

Advertisements

Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia entered a fourth day on Wednesday in the biggest eruption of the decades-old conflict since a 1994 ceasefire.

Armenia said three civilians had been killed in Martakert, a town located in the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as a result of an Azeri attack, local news agency Armenpress reported.

Azerbaijani and Armenian forces battles rage for day 2. [Live]

French President Emmanuel Macron said Turkey’s “warlike” rhetoric was encouraging Azerbaijan to reconquer Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is a disputed region inside Azerbaijan and controlled by ethnic Armenians.

Armenia must return foreign mercenaries – Turkey Gov’t says.

It broke away from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s but is not recognised by any country as an independent republic.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: France could be overwhelmed – Doctor warns.

Advertisements

France will face a months-long coronavirus epidemic that will overwhelm its health system if something does not change, one of the country’s top medical figures warned Sunday.

“The second wave is arriving faster than we thought,” Patrick Bouet, head of the National Council of the Order of Doctors, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche.

Fresh restrictions to slow the spread of the disease in the country’s worst-hit areas, including the Mediterranean city of Marseille and the Paris region, have run into local resistance.

Advertisements

Bouet told the paper that warnings delivered this week by Health Minister Olivier Veran had not gone far enough.

“He didn’t say that in three to four weeks, if nothing changes, France will face a widespread outbreak across its whole territory, for several long autumn and winter months,” Bouet said.

There would be no medical staff available to provide reinforcements, and France’s health system would be unable to meet all the demands placed on it, he warned.

The health workers responsible for the spring “miracle” would not be able plug those gaps, he added.

Advertisements

“Many of them are exhausted, traumatised.”

France’s health service on Saturday recorded 14,412 new cases over the previous 24 hours — slightly lower than the record 16,000 registered on both Thursday and Friday.

But over the last seven days, 4,102 people have been hospitalised, 763 of whom are being treated in intensive care.

On Saturday, Marseille bar and restaurant owners demonstrated outside the city’s commercial courthouse against forced closures due to start this evening.


#Newsworthy…

Two soldiers, others killed in Mali explosives.

Advertisements

Two French soldiers with the anti-jihadist Barkhane force in Mali were killed Saturday when their armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device, the French presidency said.

A third soldier was wounded in the explosion in the Tessalit province of the northeastern region of Kidal, a statement said.

President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the two dead soldiers, members of a paratroop regiment based in Tarbes, southwest France, while repeating his call for a swift transition to civilian rule by the military junta that seized power last month.

Senior French politicians and military officers have expressed concern at the effect that last month’s military coup might have on the effectiveness of the fight against the jihadist active in Mali and neighbouring countries.

Advertisements

Swathes of Mali’s territory are outside of the control of central authorities and years of fighting have failed to halt an Islamist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since emerging in 2012.

This handout picture released by the French Army Information and Public Relations Service (SIRPA Terre) on September 5, 2020, shows 1st Class Hussar Arnaud Volpe of the 1st regiment of parachute hussars of Tarbes, who was killed on September 5, 2020 in Mali during his deployment as part of the Operation Barkhane. SIRPA / AFP

France has deployed over 5,000 troops serving in its Barkhane anti-jihadist force in West Africa.

According to the French army command, this latest incident brings to 45 the number of French soldiers who have died serving in the Sahel region since 2013.

In November 2019, France lost 13 soldiers in a single incident when two helicopters collided during an operation in Mali.


#Newsworthy…

France Gov’t Unveils $118BN Economic Stimulus Plan

Advertisements

French officials say programme will be Europe’s largest relative to GDP, likely to create around 160,000 jobs by 2021.


The French government has detailed its 100 billion euro ($118bn) stimulus plan to erase the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis over two years, lining up billions of euros in public investments, subsidies and tax cuts.

The plan – dubbed “France Relaunch” – earmarks, in particular, 35 billion euros ($41bn) for making the euro zone’s second-biggest economy more competitive, 30 billion euros ($35bn) for more environmentally friendly energy schemes and 25 billion euros ($30bn) for supporting jobs, officials told the Reuters news agency ahead of its official presentation late on Thursday.

With the plan equating to 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), France is ploughing more public cash into its economy than any other big European country as a percentage of GDP, one of the officials said.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said he hoped the economic recovery plan would create 160,000 jobs by 2021.

Speaking on RTL radio, he also said the plan aimed to erase the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis over two years as well as helping to avert widespread job losses.

Advertisements

Risky bet
It is a high-stakes political move for President Emmanuel Macron. His government is banking on the plan to return the economy to pre-crisis levels of activity by 2022 after suffering this year what the finance ministry expects to be its worst post-war recession with a contraction of 11 percent, among the biggest slumps in Europe.

The initial rebound following the end of a nationwide lockdown in May appears to be tapering off. Furlough measures have helped contain unemployment for now, but it could rise sharply in the coming months.

A cut in business taxes and a big boost for environmentally friendly energy production are two of the elements in France’s $118bn economic stimulus programme [File: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg]

Looming over the grim outlook are presidential elections in April 2022, leaving Macron no time for another shot at a defining policy transformation before he faces voters.

The economic recovery plan also aims to put Macron’s pro-business push back on track with already-flagged cuts in business taxes worth 10 billion euros ($12bn) annually and fresh public funds to boost France’s industrial, construction and transport sectors.

Advertisements

Officials said the transport sector would get 11 billion euros ($13bn) with 4.7 billion euros ($5.5bn) targeting the rail network in particular while energy-efficient building renovations would be spurred with four billion euros ($4.7bn) for public buildings and two billion euros ($2.4bn) for homes.

The hydrogen industry, increasingly seen as a key building block in the transition away from fossil fuels, would get two billion euros ($2.4bn) over the two years of the stimulus plan.

Another one billion euros ($1.2bn) would be offered in direct aid for industrial projects, including 600 million euros ($709m) to help firms relocate overseas plants back to France.

‘Very French’
The government estimates that France Relaunch will return economic output to 2019 levels in 2022, according to officials at the prime minister’s office, while also having a lasting impact that will raise potential growth by one percentage point 10 years from now.

Advertisements

“It’s a wise mix of short-term boosts to demand via job protection and longer-term supply via investment,” Allianz’s chief economist Ludovic Subran told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). “But it’s very French in the way it aims to resolve everything in one plan. There are no contingencies for supporting businesses and households in response to a changing pandemic.”

Governments across Europe are planning additional stimulus as the coronavirus continues to hammer economies. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling bloc on Tuesday backed plans allowing for extraordinary deficit spending next year.

But many countries have already stretched their finances. In France’s case, emergency spending has pushed the debt burden to around 120 percent of economic output – a level the central bank has warned the government should not exceed.

Some 80 billion euros of the overall cost of the French plan will weigh directly on the budget deficit, with EU subsidies offsetting 40 billion euros ($47bn), officials said.


#Newsworthy…

Emmanuel Macron backs Iraq sovereignty on first visit.

Advertisements

In first foreign visit since PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi formed gov’t in May, French president pledges support for Iraq.


French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged support for Iraq and said the main challenges facing the country are Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group fighters and foreign interference in its affairs.

Macron is the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, formed a new government in May.

“We are here for and we will continue to support Iraq,” Macron said at a news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih.

“Any foreign intervention may undermine the efforts exerted by you as a government.”

Advertisements

Iraqi officials should continue to share the vision of restoring “Iraq’s sovereignty,” he said, adding that this is a “very significant enterprise not only for Iraq, but also the entire region”.

“I would like to reiterate that France totally supports the Iraqi state and institutions.”

Macron had earlier said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty”.

Later on Wednesday, the French leader met al-Kadhimi during his day-long trip, which comes amid a severe economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic that has put a huge strain on Iraqi economy and politics. He is also expected to meet Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

Advertisements

Al-Kadhimi was selected by parliament in May to head a government that would guide the country towards early elections and has called for one to be held in June 2021.

His predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi quit under pressure from protests against corruption and foreign interference in December last year.

Salih told Macron the Iraqi leadership is looking forward to a future where Baghdad will claim an ‘essential and a central role in the region’. [The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Handout via Reuters]

Early elections are a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to Iran-backed armed groups.

Salih told Macron the Iraqi leadership is looking forward to a future where Baghdad will claim an “essential and a central role in the region”.

Advertisements

“This area must be in a peace and stability situation, and the base of this stabilities proceed from the strengthening of Iraq’s role as a competent country with sovereignty,” he said.

President Salih said he looked forward to a longer visit by Macron in 2021, and al-Kadhimi said he hoped France and Europe as a whole could help “restore stability” to the rocky region.

“We do not want to be an arena for confrontations but a zone of stability and moderation,” al-Kadhimi said in a news conference, adding that France and Iraq would sign energy agreements in the future and deepen military cooperation.

“We talked about a future project, using nuclear energy to produce electricity and peaceful projects, which will be under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency … which will create jobs and address electricity shortages.”

Advertisements

US-Iran tensions
After a United States-led invasion toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was ravaged by waves of sectarian conflict that culminated in ISIL capturing swaths of the country six years ago.

At the same time, the country has been caught for years between its two main allies, Iran and the United States, a balancing act that has become increasingly tortured since Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.

France is among the European nations that remain key backers of the 2015 agreement.

Reporting from Baghdad, Noble Reporters Media learnt Macron’s visit was an “important step”, especially since the country is caught between two allies who are at odds with each other.

Advertisements

Al-Kadhimi, who is backed by the US, assumed office on May 7 when Baghdad’s relations with Washington were precarious. Like previous Iraqi leaders, he has to walk a tightrope amid the US-Iran rivalry.

The January assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the US in Baghdad prompted demands by Shia legislators that US forces leave Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi visited Washington last month, where he held talks with President Donald Trump. He said his administration is committed to introducing security reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.

Other crises for al-Kadhimi include slashed state coffers in the crude oil-dependent country following a severe drop in prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling amid the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

Update: France reform proposal for Lebanon in details.

Advertisements

France proposed a detailed draft list of sweeping reforms it is pressuring Lebanon to implement by year’s end.


French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms.

Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said he would rally international aid at an October donor conference aimed at rebuilding the capital after a devastating explosion last month and halting the country’s economic demise.

But “we will not give Lebanon a carte-blanche, or a blank check,” he added, noting that everything was conditional on whether the country’s fractious leaders could unite around change.

Even before the August 4 explosion that killed at least 190 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged wide swaths of Beirut, Lebanon had been drowning in economic crisis.

Advertisements

Its government was seeking $20bn in financial aid, half from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the other half from development funds pledged by a host of donor nations at a 2018 donor conference. An additional sum of nearly $5bn is now needed for the reconstruction of Beirut, as well as humanitarian assistance.

French President Emmanuel Macron and French Health Minister Olivier Veran visit Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut [Stephane Lemouton/Reuters]

Macron said Lebanese leaders had pledged to form a government with 15 days, which must then implement a host of reforms within one to three months.

Before the meetings on Tuesday, the French embassy distributed a “draft programme for the new government”, to the heads of political blocs, which Noble Reporters Media has obtained.

The French draft proposals get into the nitty-gritty details of public policy in Lebanon, underlining some laws and projects and sidelining others.

Advertisements

Here are the main points:

COVID-19 and the humanitarian situation

  • The government will prepare and disseminate a coronavirus pandemic control plan “that includes support for the most vulnerable people”.
  • It will strengthen social safety net programmes for the population.

Aftermath of the Beirut explosion

  • The government will facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid – provided by the international community and coordinated by the United Nations – in an “expeditious, transparent and effective manner”.
  • It will put in place governance mechanisms to allow the disbursal of aid in a “transparent and traceable manner”.
  • It will begin reconstruction based on a needs assessment by the World Bank, EU and UN that estimated the value of damages caused by the explosion at up to $4.6bn.
  • The government will rapidly launch tenders for the reconstruction of Beirut’s port according to “neutral” standards.
  • It will conduct an “impartial and independent investigation” into the port explosion “that enables the full truth to be established regarding the causes of the explosion, with the support of Lebanon’s international partners … within a reasonable timeframe”.
Advertisements

Reforms

  • The government will regularly exchange views with civil society regarding its programme and the reforms it entails.
  • It will immediately resume stalled negotiations with the IMF and rapidly approve measures requested by the lender, including a capital controls law and a “full audit” of the Central Bank’s accounts.
  • The French proposal also called for the approval of a timetable for working with the IMF within 15 days of the government gaining confidence. 

It goes on to propose time limits for sector-specific reforms.

Electricity sector

Within one month, the government will:

  • Appoint officials to the National Electricity Regulatory Authority according to Law 462/2002 “without amendments”, and provide the Authority with the resources to carry out its work.
  • Launch tenders for gas-fired power plants to plug Lebanon’s massive energy gap.
  • “Abandon” the controversial Selaata power plant project in its current form. The project is one President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party have insisted on.

Within three months, the government will:

  • Announce a timetable for raising the price of electricity, “provided that this will first affect the most financially wealthy consumers”.
Advertisements

Capital controls

Within one month:

  • Parliament should finalise and approve a draft law on capital control that should “immediately be implemented for a period of four years” after it is approved by the IMF.

Governance, judicial and financial regulations

Within one month, the government will:

  • Hold a meeting to follow up on the 2018 donor conference in which the international community pledged $11bn in soft loans, and launch a website dedicated to following up on projects, financing and related reforms.
  • Complete judicial, financial and administrative appointments, including members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority and regulatory bodies in the electricity, telecommunications and civil aviation sectors, “in accordance with transparency and competency-based standards”.
  • Approve in Parliament a law on the independence of the judiciary.
  • Launch a study on Lebanon’s public administration by an “independent international institution” such as the World Bank or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “with a specialised office”.
Advertisements

Fighting corruption and smuggling

Within one month, the government will:

  • Appoint members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and grant it the resources to launch its work.
  • Launch the track to accede to a 1997 OECD treaty on combating corruption.
  • Implement customs reforms with immediate effect.

Within three months, the government will:

  • Establish “control gates” and strengthen oversight at the Beirut and Tripoli ports and at the Beirut airport, as well as at other border crossings.

Public procurement reform

Within one month:

  • Parliament will prepare, adopt and implement a bill on public procurement reform.
  • The government will grant the Higher Council for Privatization the human and financial capabilities necessary to carry out its tasks.
Advertisements

Public finances

Within one month:

  • Prepare and vote on a “corrective finance bill that explicitly clarifies the status of accounts for the year 2020”.

By the end of the year:

  • Prepare and approve a “harmonised” budget for the year 2021.

Elections

  • “The government will ensure that new legislative elections are organised within a maximum period of one year.”
  • “The electoral law will be reformed with the full inclusion of civil society, allowing Parliament to be more representative of the aspirations of civil society.”

At his speech later on Wednesday, however, Macron seemed to walk back his proposal for early polls, saying there was “no consensus” on early elections and that other reforms were the priority.


#Newsworthy…

France president, Macron, first foreign leader to visit Iraq since May.

Advertisements

French president is the first foreign leader to visit Iraq since PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi formed a government in May.


French President Emmanuel Macron has landed in Baghdad on his first official trip to Iraq, where he hopes to help the country reassert its “sovereignty” after years of conflict.

Macron is the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq’s former intelligence chief, formed a new government in May.

The French leader is expected to meet al-Kadhimi and President Barham Salih at the presidential palace during his day-long trip on Wednesday, which comes amid a severe economic crisis and coronavirus pandemic that has put a huge strain on Iraqi economy and politics.

The visit would be of “great importance, as it’s the third by French officials in a single month,” said Husham Dawood, an adviser to the Iraqi premier.

Speaking in Lebanon on Tuesday night while concluding his two-day visit there, Macron said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty”.

In Lebanon, Macron offers the carrot or the stick
“The fight for Iraq’s sovereignty is essential,” Macron had told reporters on Friday, before departing for Lebanon.

Advertisements

He said Iraqis, who “suffered so much”, deserved options besides domination by regional powers or groups such as ISIL (ISIS).

“There are leaders and a people who are aware of this, and who want to take their destiny in hand. The role of France is to help them do so,” Macron said.

Macron will hold a series of high-level meetings during his visit [Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters]

He said he would also discuss the case of French citizens who fought with ISIL, which was defeated in Iraq in 2017 with international support. Nearly a dozen French ISIL members have been sentenced to death before Iraqi courts.

Macron is also expected to meet Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region.

Advertisements

Soon after winning the presidency in 2017, Macron had tried to mediate between the Kurdish north and the federal government, but financial and security disputes between the two sides remain unresolved.

US-Iran tensions
After a United States-led invasion toppled former president Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq was ravaged by waves of sectarian conflict that culminated in ISIL capturing swaths of the country six years ago.

At the same time, the country has been caught for years between its two main allies, Iran and the United States, a balancing act that has become increasingly tortured since Washington’s withdrawal in 2018 from a multilateral nuclear deal with Tehran.

France is among the European nations that remain key backers of the 2015 agreement.

Advertisements

Al-Kadhimi, who is backed by the US, assumed office on May 7 when Baghdad’s relations with Washington were precarious. Like previous Iraqi leaders, he has to walk a tightrope amid the US-Iran rivalry.

The January assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis by the US in Baghdad prompted demands by Shia legislators that US forces leave Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi visited Washington last month, where he held talks with President Donald Trump. He said his administration is committed to introducing security reforms as rogue militia groups stage near-daily attacks against the seat of his government.

Other crises for al-Kadhimi include slashed state coffers in the crude oil-dependent country following a severe drop in prices, adding to the woes of an economy already struggling amid the pandemic.


#Newsworthy…

Fourteen go on trial in France amid Charlie Hebdo attack.

Advertisements

Trial opens in Paris for 14 suspects accused of helping gunmen attack French magazine and Jewish supermarket in 2015.


Fourteen people have gone on trial in Paris on charges of assisting the gunmen who attacked the weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket five years ago, leaving 17 people dead.

Only 11 of the suspected accomplices appeared in the packed courtroom on Wednesday to face charges of conspiracy in a terrorist act or association with a terror group – the other three fled to territory controlled by ISIL (ISIS) in Syria or Iraq before the January 2015 attacks on the publication’s offices and the supermarket in the French capital.

The three attackers were shot dead by police in separate stand-offs.

Reporting from Paris, Noble Reporters Media learnt the trial will be “very closely watched” in France until it wraps up in November.

“The attacks shocked so many people, prompting an enormous outpouring of grief,” she added.

Advertisements

Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication infamous for its irreverence and accused by critics of racism, was targeted after publishing derogatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Twelve people, including some of France’s most celebrated cartoonists, were shot dead when French brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed its offices in eastern Paris on January 7, 2015. The attackers also killed a police officer as they left the scene.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who had become close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic check in Montrouge, outside Paris.

Then on January 9, Coulibaly killed four men during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher Jewish supermarket.

Advertisements

The perpetrators of the attacks had links with al-Qaeda and ISIL. Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the supermarket. The Kouachi brothers were killed when officers carried out a nearly simultaneous operation at a printing shop where they were holed up in Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris.

Lawyers for the victims enter the courtroom for the opening of the trial [Charles Platiau/Reuters]

Caricatures reprinted
Over the next two-and-a-half months, the court will hear from some 150 experts and witnesses.

The suspected accomplices face charges including financing terrorism, membership in a terrorist organisation and supplying weapons to the attackers.

The defendants tried in absentia include Hayat Boumedienne, Coulibaly’s partner at the time of the attacks, and brothers Mohamed and Mehdi Belhoucine.

Advertisements

As the court proceedings got under way, Charlie Hebdo reprinted in its Wednesday issue the hugely controversial caricatures that stirred outrage in the Muslim world when they were first published nearly a decade before the attacks. Physical depictions of the prophet are forbidden in Islam and deeply offensive to Muslims.

“We will never lie down. We will never give up,” director Laurent “Riss” Sourisseau, who was wounded in the attack, wrote in an editorial published on Wednesday.

The publication of the cartoons drew fresh condemnation from Pakistan’s foreign ministry, which said the decision to print them again was “deeply offensive”.

But French President Emmanuel Macron defended the “freedom to blaspheme” and paid tribute to the victims of the attack.

Advertisements

“A president of France should never judge the editorial choice of a journalist or editorial staff because there is freedom of the press which is rightly cherished,” he said on a visit to Beirut, Lebanon.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex wrote in a Twitter post: “Always Charlie”.

The 2015 attacks prompted a rally of solidarity in Paris at the time, drawing more than four million people, many holding signs with the slogan “I Am Charlie.”

Dozens of world leaders and statespeople also linked arms in a march under high security to pay tributes to the victims of the attacks.


#Newsworthy…

France’s satirical paper reprinting caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.

Advertisements

The move comes a day before 13 men and one woman accused of assisting the 2015 attackers of the paper go on trial.


The French satirical paper whose Paris offices were attacked in 2015 is reprinting the caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad that the gunmen who opened fire on its editorial staff cited as their motivation.

The move was announced on Tuesday, a day before 13 men and a woman accused of providing the attackers with weapons and logistics go on trial on charges of terrorism on Wednesday.

In an editorial this week accompanying the caricatures, the paper said the drawings “belong to history, and history cannot be rewritten nor erased”.

The January 2015 attacks against Charlie Hebdo and, two days later, a kosher supermarket, touched off a wave of killings claimed by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group across Europe.

Seventeen people died in the attacks – 12 of them at the editorial offices – along with all three attackers.

The attackers, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, claimed their attack on the newspaper in the name of al-Qaeda. As they left the scene at Charlie Hebdo, they killed a wounded policeman and drove away.

Advertisements

Two days later, a prison acquaintance of theirs stormed a kosher supermarket on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath, claiming allegiance to ISIL. Four hostages were killed during the attack.

The Kouachi brothers had by then holed up in a printing office with another hostage. All three attackers died in near-simultaneous police raids.

The supermarket attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, also killed a young policewoman.

The artwork depicting members of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo [File: Francois Guillot/AFP]

Blasphemy
The caricatures re-published this week were first printed in 2006 by the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, setting off sometimes violent protests by Muslims who believe depicting the Prophet is blasphemy.

Advertisements

Charlie Hebdo, infamous for its irreverence, regularly caricatures religious leaders from various faiths and republished them soon afterwards.

The paper’s Paris offices were firebombed in 2011 and its editorial leadership placed under police protection, which remains in place to this day.

Laurent Sourisseau, the paper’s director and one of the few staff to have survived the attack, named each of the victims in a foreword to this week’s edition.

“Rare are those who, five years later, dare oppose the demands that are still so pressing from religions in general, and some in particular,” wrote Sourisseau, also known as Riss.


#Newsworthy…

France Money Heist: Thieves Seize €9M

Advertisements

Thieves made off with about nine million euros in cash in the southeastern French city of Lyon on Friday in an armed attack on an armoured security vehicle, prosecutors said.

The vehicle was attacked by several armed individuals as it came out of a branch of the Bank of France in Lyon.

No-one was wounded in the attack on the vehicle belonging to the Loomis security company “but the losses amount to nine million euros (about $10.7 million)”, prosecutors said in a statement to AFP.

“The perpetrators managed to immediately flee after committing the act.”

The theft is believed to be the biggest such cash heist in France since notorious robber Toni Musulin made off with 11.6 million euros in 2009.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: France, Germany tightens their controls

Advertisements

Germany and France drew up tougher rules on Thursday in line with a growing number of countries battling a resurgence in coronavirus infections with Paris making masks obligatory in all public places in a bid to curb a rise of new cases in the city.

European countries are seeing an increase in infections even as they struggle to balance new restrictions against the need for their economies to recover from the devastating impact of the first round of lockdowns.

Britain, South Korea and Rwanda are also tightening their restrictions as fears rise of a return to the draconian anti-virus curbs put in place earlier in the year.

The pandemic has killed more than 826,000 people worldwide since surfacing in China late last year and more than 24 million infections have been recorded.

Germany, the European Union’s biggest economy, will impose tougher rules on mask wearing and keep football fans out of stadiums until at the least the end of the year, under a draft proposal seen by AFP.

Advertisements

The measures — such as a minimum fine of 50 euros ($59) for flouting requirements on mask wearing — are likely to be officially agreed later Thursday.

As in other countries, Germany’s surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks has been mainly blamed on summer travel and friends and family gatherings.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Thursday masks will be compulsory in all public places in the capital Paris, one of the hardest hit regions in France.

Official figures released in France on Wednesday showed more than 5,400 confirmed new cases in just 24 hours, with admissions to hospital and intensive care units on the rise.

Advertisements

Castex has warned a new lockdown cannot be ruled out even if the government will try to do everything to avoid one.

European government officials are also trying to instill discipline in their ranks to retain public trust in measures that restrict freedoms.

European Union trade boss Phil Hogan was forced to step down over a breach of guidelines in his home country of Ireland.

– ‘Highly uncertain’ –

Britain, which left the EU in January, meanwhile reversed course and has called on students to wear masks when they return to class from next week.

Advertisements

Keeping mask wearing and other restrictions in place, Rwanda has lengthened its evening curfew and prevented movement in and out of the western area of Rusizi after a recent infections surge.

Rwanda on Tuesday hit a record 217 cases in one day and has recorded a third of its 3,625 cases in the past 10 days, with authorities blaming the spike on complacency and fatigue with social distancing measures.

In South Korea, the parliament was shut down on Thursday and a group of lawmakers were in self-quarantine as the country recorded more than 400 new coronavirus infections.

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of Covid-19 outside mainland China before bringing it broadly under control with extensive tracing and testing.

Advertisements

The United States, however, broke with the toughening trend even though it leads the world in virus deaths and infections.

US authorities now say asymptomatic people don’t need to test for Covid-19 if they have been exposed to someone diagnosed with the virus.

They had previously encouraged such people to get tested, but US media reported political interference from the White House.

– ‘Historic’ Swiss plunge –

President Donald Trump has long been accused by critics of trying to play down the scale of the pandemic and focus on economic recovery ahead of his re-election bid in November.

Advertisements

The US recovery from the coronavirus economic downturn is “highly uncertain” and many businesses will continue to struggle, a top Federal Reserve official said Wednesday.

Switzerland was the latest example to show how the pandemic has brought the global economy to its knees.

Switzerland, official figures showed, has plunged into recession after the coronavirus pandemic caused a “historic” 8.2-percent slump in economic activity in the second quarter.

Economies have picked up generally since then though there are concerns that the recovery appears to be slowing as coronavirus cases mount again, stoking fears of a repeat of the economically damaging lockdowns seen earlier this year.

Advertisements

In the growing toll on the air transport sector that has seen aircraft grounded worldwide, British aerospace giant Rolls-Royce on Thursday logged a £5.4 billion ($7.1 billion) net loss for the first half of 2020.

And flag carrier Air New Zealand announced a roughly US$300 million annual net loss after demand plummeted due to the pandemic.

Hopes for economic revival are partly pinned on the development of a vaccine, which companies and governments worldwide are racing to develop.

Peru on Wednesday began registering volunteers for clinical trials of a Chinese vaccine against the coronavirus.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Paris govt makes masks mandatory

Advertisements

France’s prime minister announced Thursday that face masks will become compulsory throughout Paris as he urged the public to help halt a trend of mounting coronavirus infections.

Jean Castex said 19 departments have been added to a map with “red” zones of active virus circulation, meaning 21 of mainland France’s 94 departments are now classified as such.

Official figures released Wednesday showed more than 5,400 confirmed new cases in just 24 hours, with admissions to hospital and intensive care units on the rise.

There was an “undeniable resurgence” of the Covid-19 epidemic throughout France, Castex told a press conference, with 39 positive tests per 100,000 population — four times the level of a month ago, and rising in all age groups.

Advertisements

The “positivity rate” — the percentage of tests that come back positive — was up from one percent in May to 3.7 percent today, and the so-called “R” rate of viral transmission is now 1.4 nationwide, meaning 10 infected people are infecting 14 others on average.

More than 800 coronavirus patients are being admitted to hospital on average each week, up from 500 six weeks ago, the prime minister said.

“The epidemic is gaining ground, and now is the time to intervene” to curb exponential infection growth, he said.

– Dash to avoid lockdown –

Castex announced that Paris, one of the 21 zones with active virus circulation, will make face masks compulsory throughout the city.

Advertisements

The city council later said the measure would come into effect at 8:00 am on Friday.

Masks are already obligatory on public transport nationwide and in most enclosed public spaces, including the workplace.

Local authorities in some cities and towns, including Paris, have also used executive powers to make face coverings compulsory in busy outdoor areas.

On Tuesday, the Mediterranean port city of Marseille — also in a red zone — made masks compulsory in public places throughout the city, including outdoors, and announced bars and restaurants would close every day at 11:00 pm.

Advertisements

Castex said the government would do everything in its power to avoid issuing new nationwide stay-at-home orders, but the possibility could not be excluded entirely and localised lockdowns may be on the cards.

– ‘Relaxation’ to blame –

He urged French people to do their part by taking infection-prevention measures such as regular hand-washing and mask wearing, and to practice social distancing.

Some “relaxation” in French society appears to have contributed to the post-lockdown infection rise, he said, with some unwilling to wear masks or follow guidelines to avoid parties or stay away from older people at higher risk.

The rate of infection increase was particularly high among people aged 20 to 30.

Advertisements

Castex said the situation was not yet “serious”, with the virus incidence rate still 20 times lower today than it was at the peak of the epidemic, when there were an estimated 1,000 cases per 100,000 of the population.

But if things do take a turn for the worse, he said hospitals were ready with sufficient beds, masks and equipment.

The outbreak has claimed over 30,500 lives in France.

Masks will become obligatory for all children over 11 when they return to school next week after the summer holidays, including on the playground, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer announced Thursday.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Pogba out of France squad after testing positive.

Advertisements

Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was omitted from the France squad announced Thursday for next month’s Nations League matches against Sweden and Croatia after testing positive for Covid-19, coach Didier Deschamps said.

World Cup winner Pogba has been replaced by teenager Eduardo Camavinga, who was called up for the first time alongside Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano.

“Unfortunately he underwent a test yesterday (Wednesday) which was revealed to be positive this morning,” Deschamps said of Pogba’s absence from the group.

Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot was also recalled for the first time in over two years after he refused to go on the standby list for the 2018 World Cup.

Advertisements

“He’s found a very good level again. We can’t go back, I’m not someone who likes to take radical decisions. He remained selectable,” explained Deschamps.

Blaise Matuidi, 33, was overlooked following his recent move to David Beckham’s Inter Miami in Major League Soccer as Deschamps decided to give a chance to some younger players in midfield.

Kylian Mbappe was one of two Paris Saint-Germain players included alongside defender Presnel Kimpembe, both starters in last weekend’s Champions League final defeat by Bayern Munich in Lisbon.

France will travel to Sweden for their opening Nations League game on September 5 before returning home to play Croatia three days later. Their last international was the 2-0 victory over Albania on November 17.

Advertisements

The French Squad
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham/ENG), Mike Maignan (Lille), Steve Mandanda (Marseille)

Defenders: Lucas Digne (Everton/ENG), Leo Dubois (Lyon), Lucas Hernandez (Bayern/GER), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Clement Lenglet (Barcelona/ESP), Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid/ESP), Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig/GER), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid/ESP)

Midfielders: Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes), N’Golo Kante (Chelsea/ENG), Steven Nzonzi (Rennes), Adrien Rabiot (Juventus/ITA), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham/ENG)

Forwards: Houssem Aouar (Lyon), Wissam Ben Yedder (Monaco), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea/ENG), Antoine Griezmann (Barcelona/ESP), Jonathan Ikone (Lille), Anthony Martial (Manchester United/ENG), Kylian Mbappe (PSG).

DON’T MISS:

‘This has to End’ Pogba and Rashford cries out against racism


#NobleSport

France PM, Jean Castex urges public to fight COVID-19.

Advertisements

France’s new Prime Minister Jean Castex looks on at the police station of La Courneuve, a northern Paris suburb, on July 5, 2020, during one of his first official visits following his appointment as Premier on July 3. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

France’s prime minister urged the population to take “responsibility” for limiting the coronavirus outbreak by wearing masks to protect one another, saying a new epidemic lockdown cannot be ruled out.

In an interview with France Inter, Jean Castex said people who resisted mask-wearing, now compulsory in the workplace, enclosed public spaces and on public transport, should “think of others”.

“They all have vulnerable and elderly people in their families. People feel invincible and think that they do not need a mask.

“People will contaminate others,” he warned. “I appeal to a sense of responsibility.”

Advertisements

Castex said the French government alone could not bear all responsibility for curbing the outbreak, and “everyone must feel invested in the fight against the epidemic.”

France on Tuesday reported over 3,300 new infections in 24 hours, with new admissions to hospital and intensive care also continuing an upward trend observed in recent weeks following a dip brought about by a near two-month social lockdown.

Asked whether the government could issue new stay-at-home orders if the situation spirals out of control, Castex said Wednesday “all hypotheses” were on the table, though a new lockdown was “not the goal” given the severe economic impacts.

– ‘Cannot drop our guard’ –

The government is to unveil details of an economic revival plan worth some 100 billion euros ($118 billion) on Thursday next week, and Castex announced the cultural sector would receive two billion euros to cover lost revenue.

Advertisements

He added a 5,000-person limit for concerts and sporting events will remain in place.

In addition, local authorities in departments with high virus rates, including the Paris Ile-de-France region, will no longer have the power to grant exceptions to the attendance limit.

Given that no proven vaccine or cure exists, Castex warned the population must learn to “live with the virus”.

But life also has to go on, and Castex said the government would do all it can for the French to resume work, school and social and cultural participation “as normally as possible”.

Advertisements

Masks are being made compulsory for children aged 11 and older when they return to school next week and will be provided for free to those at particular risk or cannot afford it.

But “we are not going to pay for masks for families that don’t need” assistance, said the premier.

Masks are now compulsory in the busiest areas of many French towns and cities, including the capital.

On Tuesday, the southern port city of Marseille became the latest to make face coverings compulsory city-wide outdoors, while bars and restaurants will close every day at 11 pm.


#Newsworthy…

News+: Bodies of Aid workers killed in Niger returns to Paris.

Advertisements

The bodies of six French aid workers killed by suspected jihadists in Niger arrived in Paris Friday, with Prime Minister Jean Castex due to lead a national tribute later in the day.

The four women and two men were killed on Sunday along with their Nigerien guide and driver in a wildlife haven about an hour’s drive southeast from the capital Niamey.

The victims worked for French NGO Acted and were aged between 25 and 30.

The national tribute in the VIP section of Paris’s Orly airport will be closed to the media. Castex will be joined by several senior ministers.

“It’s important that the nation pays homage to them,” said Jerome Bertin, the head of France Victimes federation.

“Their families want their commitment to be really cited… they were not tourists killed in Niger but young people engaged in helping the people of this country.”

Advertisements

The country, one of the poorest in the world, is struggling with incursions by Islamists from both Nigeria to the south and Mali to the west.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a Defense Council video-conference on Niger at the Fort de Bregancon, southern France on August 11, 2020. Daniel Cole / POOL / AFP

In Paris, French anti-terror prosecutors said they would investigate charges of “murders with links to a terrorist enterprise” and “criminal terrorist association”.

There have been no claims of responsibility so far.

A judicial source in Paris told AFP the attack was “premeditated” and “targeting Westerners”.

Advertisements

French President Emmanuel Macron described it as “manifestly a terrorist attack” and said there would be repercussions.

“We’re pursuing action to eradicate the terrorist groups, with the strengthened support of our partners,” Macron said.

The president did not elaborate on the exact nature of the measures envisaged but Castex said the “odious crime” would not go unpunished.

Acted has decided temporarily to suspend work in Niger but has stressed it will not pull out of the country.


#Newsworthy…