US says it's time for Finland, Sweden to join NATO – Arab News

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WASHINGTON: The Biden administration said Thursday it’s time for Turkiye to ratify Finland and Sweden’s applications to join NATO, bluntly saying that holdout members of the alliance should quickly approve their memberships.
The State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had affirmed resolute support for Finland and Sweden in phone calls with their foreign ministers and said the US places great importance on “remaining allies quickly ratifying their accession.”
In nearly identical statements about the two calls released just 13 minutes apart, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken had “reiterated US support for Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession.”
“He conveyed again our firm belief that Finland and Sweden are ready to join the alliance,” Price said of the calls with Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. “The United States urges remaining allies to quickly ratify their accession.”
The statements did not mention Turkiye by name, but the calls came just a day after Blinken met with the foreign minister of Turkiye, whose country is the most ardent NATO holdout against Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.
The two countries applied for NATO membership last year after becoming alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Only two of the alliance’s 30 members — Hungary and Turkiye — have yet to ratify their membership, although Hungary’s ratification is seen as a formality and expected soon.
Turkiye, meanwhile, has raised significant objections to the Nordic countries joining the alliance, citing their support for Kurdish groups that Ankara sees as terrorist threats. Turkiye has demanded that Sweden in particular do more to rein in these Kurdish groups before agreeing to its accession to NATO.
 
 
LONDON: A second inquest has been ordered into the death of 17-year-old British-Lebanese student Yousef Makki, who died after being stabbed in the heart in a Cheshire village in 2019.
Makki’s friend Joshua Molnar, also 17 at the time, was cleared of murder and manslaughter in the same year.
Molnar claimed he acted in self-defense, with a coroner ruling out a verdict of “unlawful killing” because the circumstances of the death “could not be ascertained.”
However, the British High Court on Friday quashed the original findings, including the dismissal of accidental death, ordering a new inquest before a different coroner.
The ruling by High Court judges in Manchester follows the family’s decision last year to bring a judicial review challenging the supposed insufficiency of evidence surrounding the “central issue” of whether the killing on March 2, 2019, was unlawful.
Makki had won a scholarship to study at Manchester Grammar School.
 
LONDON: Sixty-three percent of Britons believe that Prince Harry put the UK in danger with his revelation that he killed 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, according to a poll conducted by Savanta for The Independent.
The admission is contained in his recently released memoir “Spare,” and has been criticized by military veterans.
Of the 2,064 British adults polled, 58 percent said Prince Harry was “unjustified” in revealing the number of Taliban fighters he had killed over the course of his military service. The figure peaked at 82 percent for those aged 55-64.
Just 23 percent thought the remarks brought no danger, although he generally received more support from younger cohorts, with 52 percent of 25-34-year-olds thinking he was justified.
Those in England were only slightly less concerned (58 percent) over the ramifications compared to Northern Ireland (60 percent), Scotland (66 percent) and Wales (68 percent).
Political colors evidenced a wider divide, with 80 percent of those who voted Conservative in the 2019 election believing that Prince Harry’s comments had damaged national security, compared to 62 percent of those who voted Labour.
The prince, who conducted six tours of duty in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2015, said he felt compelled to speak as part of his “healing journey,” adding that “expressing and detailing my experience is how I chose to deal with it, in the hopes it would help others.”
Helsinki: Finland announced Friday a 400-million-euro military aid package to Ukraine, its largest to date and including heavy artillery as well as munitions but no Leopard tanks.
“Ukraine continues to need support in defending its territory,” Defense Minister Mikko Savola said in a statement.
The ministry did not disclose more detailed information on the contents of the package but said the aid did not include Leopard battle tanks, special adviser Miikka Pynnonen told AFP.
This is the Nordic country’s 12th package of defense materiel to Ukraine. The previous 11 had a combined value of 190 million euros (about $205 million).
The ministry also said Finland would sign a so-called Statement of Intent with Sweden on support for Ukraine, to make sure the aid “would not endanger the national defense of the two countries.”
“Finland supplies defense materiel to Ukraine, and Sweden expresses its readiness to support Finland as necessary,” the statement said.
On Thursday, Sweden pledged to send Ukraine its Archer artillery system, a modern mobile howitzer requested by Kyiv for months, along with armored vehicles and anti-tank missiles.
Pressure has also been mounting on Germany from European allies to authorize exports of its Leopard tank, which are used by several armed forces around the world, including Finland.
“We hope that this decision (to deliver Leopards) will be made real, and Finland is definitely ready to play its part in that support,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday.
LIMA: Thousands of protesters in Peru, many from the country’s heavily indigenous south, descended on Lima, the capital, on Thursday, angered by a mounting death toll since unrest erupted last month and calling for sweeping change.
Police estimated the march at around 3,500, but others speculated it attracted more than double that.
Rows of police in riot gear faced off against rock-hurling protesters on some streets, and one historic building in the city’s historic center caught on fire late on Thursday.
The building, on San Martin Plaza, was empty when the massive blaze ignited from unknown causes, a firefighter commander told local radio.
Over the past month, raucous and sometimes deadly protests have led to the worst violence Peru has seen in over two decades as many in poorer, rural regions vent anger at the Lima establishment over inequality and rising prices, testing the copper-rich Andean nation’s democratic institutions.
Protesters are demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte, snap elections and a new constitution to replace the market-friendly one dating back to right-wing strongman Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s.
“We want the usurper Dina Boluarte to step down and call for new elections,” said protester Jose De la Rosa, predicting the street protests will only continue.
The protests have been sparked by the dramatic Dec. 7 ouster of leftist former President Pedro Castillo after he tried to illegally shutter Congress and consolidate power.
In buses and on foot, thousands journeyed to Lima on Thursday, carrying flags and banners blasting the government and police for deadly clashes in the southern cities of Ayacucho and Juliaca.
The unrest spread far beyond the capital.
In southern Arequipa, police fired tear gas at hundreds of protesters who tried to take over the airport, local television showed, leading officials to announce the suspension of operations at the Arequipa and Cusco airports.
The mounting death toll stands at 45, according to the government ombudsman, with the latest victim on Thursday coming from southern Puno region, a woman who succumbed to injuries from a day earlier. Another nine deaths are attributed to accidents related to protest blockades.
Across the nation, roadway blockades were seen in 18 of the country’s 25 regions, according to transport officials, underscoring the reach of the protests.
Police had increased surveillance of roads entering Lima and political leaders called for calm.
Last week, the embattled Boluarte government extended a state of emergency in Lima and the southern regions of Puno and Cusco, curtailing some civil rights.
“We do not want more deaths, we do not want more injuries, enough blood, enough mourning for the families of Peru,” Interior Minister Vicente Romero told reporters.
Boluarte has asked for “forgiveness” for the protest deaths, even as protester banners label her a “murderer” and call the killings by security forces “massacres.” She has dismissed calls to resign.
Human rights groups have accused the police and army of using deadly firearms in the protests. The police say the protesters have used weapons and homemade explosives.
“We won’t forget the pain the police have caused in the town of Juliaca,” said one protester traveling to Lima, who did not give her name. She referred to the city where an especially deadly protest took place earlier this month. “We women, men, children have to fight.”
Other protesters pointed to strategic reasons for targeting the coastal capital.
“We want to centralize our movement here in Lima, which is the heart of Peru, to see if they are moved,” said protester Domingo Cueva, who had traveled from Cusco.
“We have observed an increase in repressions everywhere,” he added. 
SEOUL, South Korea: About 500 South Koreans were forced to flee their homes after a fire spread through a low-income neighborhood in southern Seoul on Friday morning and destroyed at least 60 homes.
Officials said firefighters were bringing the fire under control at Guryong village and there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.
Shin Yong-ho, an official at the fire department of Seoul’s Gangnam district, said rescue workers were continuing to search areas affected by the fire but that it was believed that all residents there have safely evacuated.
More than 800 fire fighters, police officers and public workers were deployed to fight the flame and handle evacuations after the fire broke out around 6:30 a.m.
Photos from the scene showed firefighters fighting the flame under thick white smoke covering the village known for its dense rows of makeshift houses as helicopters sprayed water from above.
Shin said it was presumed that the fire began at one of the village’s homes made with plastic sheets and plywood. He said the cause of the fire was being investigated.
Kim Ah-reum, an official at the Gangnam district office, said around 500 residents have evacuated to nearby facilities including a school gym. Officials were planning to later move the residents to nearby hotels.

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