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US pushes peace talks to avert ‘point of no return’ in Sudan

US pushes peace talks to avert ‘point of no return’ in Sudan

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US pushes peace talks to avert 'point of no return' in Sudan

The United States hopes for a relaunch of talks aimed at ending the conflict in Sudan and opening up humanitarian access soon after Ramadan ends in mid-April, Washington’s newly appointed envoy said on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia and the United States led talks in Jeddah last year to try to reach a truce between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), but the negotiations faltered amid competing international peace initiatives.

“We need to restart formal talks. We hope that will happen as soon as Ramadan is over,” Tom Perriello, who took up his role as US special envoy to Sudan late last month, told reporters.

“Everybody understands that this crisis is barrelling towards a point of no return, and that means everybody needs to put whatever differences aside and be united in finding a solution to this conflict.”

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The army and the RSF began battling each other in mid-April last year as tensions over plans for a new political transition and restructuring of the military erupted into heavy fighting.

The two sides had staged a coup in 2021 that derailed a transition towards elections following the overthrow of autocratic ruler Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years earlier.

The conflict has driven nearly 8.5 million people from their homes creating the world’s biggest displacement crisis, pushed parts of the 49-million population close to famine, and triggered waves of ethnically driven killings and sexual violence in the western region of Darfur.

The army, which has recently regained some ground in the capital, shunned an appeal from the UN Security Council for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Every week we wait without a peace deal makes the potential for famine more protracted, and the atrocities that we know that have been documented continue,” Perriello said.

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Talks could build off efforts in Jeddah, Manama and Cairo and should involve African leaders, regional bodies and Gulf states, the envoy said. “This next round of formal talks should be inclusive. But it also has to be people who are truly serious about ending the war,” he said.

Support by regional powers for rival factions in Sudan has contributed to fears of the country fragmenting and the war spilling over beyond its borders.

The United Arab Emirates along with some African players have backed the RSF, according to United Nations experts, while Perriello was asked about reported Iranian support for the army, which includes Islamist factions that grew strong under Bashir.

“We are hurtling right now towards a situation where more and more actors appear to be getting involved, where we could see a return of extremist elements that the Sudanese people with great courage and over much time had mostly eradicated from the area,” he said.

Sudan’s army has not responded to requests for comment on the alleged Iranian support.

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Thai court accepts complaint seeking PM’s removal over minister’s appointment

Thai court accepts complaint seeking PM’s removal over minister’s appointment

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Thai court accepts complaint seeking PM's removal over minister's appointment

Thailand’s Constitutional Court accepted a complaint on Thursday seeking to remove Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin over his cabinet appointment of a lawyer who served jail time, in a new legal setback for the government.

The decision comes after three ministers quit in recent weeks as the government battles to jumpstart an underperforming economy and find funds to deliver on a delayed election promise of cash handouts for 50 million people.

The court chose not to suspend Srettha from duty pending a verdict, as was sought by 40 senators who had complained Pichit Chuenban fell short of moral and ethical standards for ministers set out in the constitution.

Srettha has 15 days to file his defence in court. “The prime minister is focused and determined, this will not affect his work,” said government spokesperson Chai Wacharonke.

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Pichit’s qualifications prior to becoming a minister in the prime minister’s office had been carefully vetted and the appointment was in line with the law, he added.

For decades a close aide of the politically influential Shinawatra family, Pichit resigned on Tuesday in an effort to insulate Srettha from the court case.

He had been jailed for six months in 2008 for contempt of court after being accused of a bid to bribe court officials with 2 million baht ($55,218) placed in a grocery paper bag, which he denied. His law license was suspended for five years.

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As a lawyer, Pichit fought, and lost, big court cases against former premiers Yingluck Shinawatra and billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been a towering figure in Thailand for more than two decades.

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Thaksin is a close ally of Srettha and founder of his ruling Pheu Thai party, which together with its predecessors has won all but one Thai election since 2001.

The court gave no timeframe for a decision in the case.

If it dismisses Srettha, a new government must be formed and Pheu Thai would need to put forward a new candidate for premier to be voted on by a parliament in which it is not the biggest party.

VReal estate mogul Srettha was elected by the legislature in August last year after weeks of political deadlock, following a deal with parties and lawmakers allied with the royalist military, which staged coups against Shinawatra-backed governments in 2006 and 2014.

Government critics say Pichit got the job thanks to his close ties with Thaksin. The tycoon still holds significant sway in politics, despite officially being retired and having spent 15 years in self-imposed exile until his return last year.

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The government has said Pichit was picked because he was suitable.

Thaksin, who was convicted of conflicts of interest and abuse of power and was released from detention on parole in February, will learn next week if he is to be prosecuted for an alleged insult to the powerful monarchy.

He has denied wrongdoing in the case over comments made in an interview a decade ago.

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Putin to hold two-day talks with Lukashenko in Belarus, says Kremlin

Putin to hold two-day talks with Lukashenko in Belarus, says Kremlin

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Putin to hold two-day talks with Lukashenko in Belarus, says Kremlin

 Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold wide-ranging talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on Thursday and Friday, the Kremlin said.

Russia and Belarus are close allies, with Minsk set to take part in exercises aimed at simulating preparations for the launch of tactical nuclear weapons this month.

Belarus has offered Russia logistical support during its conflict with Ukraine, with Russian forces entering Ukraine from Belarusian territory during their initial offensive against Kyiv in February 2022.

Separately, Belarusian state news agency Belta reported on Thursday that Lukashenko had appointed Pavel Muraveyko as the new chief of the Belarusian army’s general staff. 

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Thai hospital says 20 people from Singapore Airlines flight remain in intensive care

Thai hospital says 20 people from Singapore Airlines flight remain in intensive care

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Thai hospital says 20 people from Singapore Airlines flight remain in intensive care

Twenty people who were aboard a Singapore Airlines flight that hit severe turbulence and diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing on Tuesday remain in intensive care, a hospital official said on Thursday.

Of the 40 people on the flight still under treatment, 22 patients have spinal cord injuries and six have brain and skull injuries, Adinun Kittiratanapaibool, Director of Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital told reporters.

Adinun had said 41 people were still under treatment, but later said one person had been discharged. One passenger died of a suspected heart attack and dozens were injured after Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 encountered what the airline described as sudden, extreme turbulence while flying over Myanmar on Tuesday. 

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