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Civilians among ten dead in Iraq attack blamed on ISIS: Officials

At least three civilians and seven Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been killed in northern Iraq in an attack blamed on the Islamic State, the forces said Friday.

The jihadists attacked the village of Khidir Jija, south of Arbil, killing three civilians, a statement said. The peshmerga, Kurdistan’s armed forces, launched an operation in response, and seven fighters died when “an explosive device planted by ISIS elements” blew up.

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Republican lawmakers press Biden to send cluster bombs to Ukraine: Letter


Four Republican members of Congress urged US President Joe Biden to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, alleging in a Tuesday letter to the White House that the administration fears doing so would be seen as an escalation by Russia.

Ukraine is seeking the MK-20, an air-delivered cluster bomb, to release its individual explosives from drones, and 155 mm artillery cluster shells, Reuters reported earlier this month. Kyiv had urged members of Congress to press the White House to approve sending the weapons.

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The letter criticized Biden for “reluctance to provide Ukraine the right type and amount of long-range fires and maneuver capability to create” a breakthrough against Russian forces.

The letter was signed by Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike Rogers the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

It urged Biden to send the Dual-Purpose Conventional Improved Munitions (DPICM) found in several types of US munitions, including 155-millimeter artillery, GMLRS and ATACMS.

It is by no means certain the Biden administration would sign off on a transfer.

Cluster munitions, banned by more than 120 countries, normally release large numbers of smaller bomblets that can kill indiscriminately over a wide area, threatening civilians.

Read more: Russia did not intercept B-52 bombers over Baltic Sea: US Air Force

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US renews opposition to Assad normalization after UAE trip


The United States on Tuesday stood firm against nations normalizing relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after he paid his second visit in as many years to the United Arab Emirates, a close US partner.

“We will not normalize with the Assad regime nor will we encourage others absent authentic and enduring progress towards a political resolution,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

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“We continue to urge anybody engaging with Damascus to consider sincerely and thoroughly how their engagements can help provide for Syrians in need no matter where they live,” he said. UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Assad on Sunday and told him that it was time for Syria to return to the Arab fold.

A growing number of nations have been repairing relations with Assad, believing he has effectively won in a brutal war that broke out in 2011.The United States under domestic law rules out any assistance for reconstruction in Assad-ruled Syria without accountability for abuses.

Assad, helped by Russian airpower, has largely restored control over Syria after the conflict that has killed half a million people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population and saw the rise of the ISIS.

Along with Arab states, neighboring Turkey — which has backed rebels fighting Assad — has recently moved to repair relations.

Read more: Egypt FM to visit Syria, Turkey for first time in decade since ties with both soured

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Xi and Putin agree to bolster ties in politics, energy, trade: Everything to know


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping concluded on Tuesday rounds of talks, culminating in the signing of a joint declaration stating that the two countries will strengthen their “strategic cooperation” on the international stage in the fields of politics, energy, economy, trade, and military.

After the talks, Putin and Xi held a press conference at which the Russian president said the signed joint declaration reflects the nature of Sino-Russian relations which are “at the highest level in all [their] history”. He added that the two countries “share solid bonds of neighborly relations, mutual support and assistance, and friendship between our peoples.”

Xi said: “Russian-Chinese relations are demonstrating healthy and stable development dynamics. Political mutual trust between our countries is being built up, shared interests are multiplying, our peoples are getting closer.”

He added: “Cooperation in the trade-and-economic, investment, energy, cultural, humanitarian, and inter-regional dimensions is developing.”

Putin said the joint statement of the planned expansion in key economic cooperation areas until 2030 “sets the task of increasing the volume of trade in goods and services multiple times over, deepening ties in eight strategic areas, primarily finance, industrial manufacturing and technology, as well as transport and logistics.”

The declaration stressed that the boosting of ties between Russia and China was “independent of foreign influence.”

"The sides stress that efforts toward strengthening and deepening Russian-Chinese relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation entering a new era are a strategic choice independent from external influence,” the document reads according to the text published by the Kremlin.

Other dimensions of the joint declaration are:

Ukraine war

Russia and China criticized the role being played by the West (US and NATO) in the Ukraine war.

“The two sides point out that to settle the Ukraine crisis, the legitimate security concerns of all countries must be respected, bloc confrontation should be prevented and fanning the flames avoided. The two sides stress that responsible dialogue is the best way for appropriate solutions,” according to the text published by the Kremlin.

“We believe that many of the provisions of the peace plan put forward by China are consonant with Russian approaches and can be taken as the basis for a peaceful settlement when they are ready for that in the West and in Kyiv. However, so far we see no such readiness from their side,” Putin said.

Xi stressed that China maintained an “impartial position” on the conflict.

Energy

Moscow and Beijing will “jointly protect international energy security (including critical cross-border infrastructure) and stability of chains of production and supplies of energy products,” according to the Kremlin’s text.

The two countries will also “facilitate fair energy transitions and low-carbon development with consideration of the principle of technology neutrality and jointly contribute to long-term, healthy and stable development of the global energy market.”

Putin said Russia stood ready to ramp up oil and gas supplies to meet China’s growing demand for energy resources, highlighting that China is Russia’s largest oil buyer. “Russian business is able to meet the growing demand from the Chinese economy for energy resources, both as part of current projects and those that are currently being negotiated,” he said.

“By 2030, the total volume of gas supplies will be at least 98 billion cubic meters, plus 100 million tons of liquefied natural gas,” Putin added.

Trade and economy

Putin hailed China’s position as Russia’s leading trade and economic partner: “Of course, trade and economic cooperation remain a priority for us, considering that China has solidly established itself as the leading foreign trade partner for our country.”

He added: “Our two countries have been effective in working together to expand mutual trade and maintain this momentum. Last year, trade increased by 30 percent to set a new record of $185 billion. This year, trade may well exceed $200 billion, which would be a symbolic threshold.”

The two countries plan to expand the scale of the bilateral trade. “[It is planned] to increase scales and optimize the structure of trade, particularly on account of developing the electronic trade and other innovative instruments.”

The declaration added that it is also planned to “consistently promote high quality development of bilateral investment cooperation, interaction deepening in spheres of digital economy and sustainable, including green, development, form comfortable business environment and mutually increase the favoring level in trade and investments.”

Xi said the trade turnover between the two countries sky-rocketed by 110 percent over the past decade. “The trade turnover has grown by 116 percent over the decade. This made possible to not merely substantially strengthen the material basis of bilateral relations but also to give a significant impetus to socioeconomic development of both countries,” state news agency TASS quoted him as saying.

Military

The declaration stated that Moscow and Beijing will help each other defend their key interests and borders. The two countries will “provide resolute mutual support with regard to matters of defending each other’s core interests, primarily sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development.”

US missiles

“Russia and China express concern over the United States’ increased activities toward creating a global missile defense system and deploying its elements in various parts of the world,” the declaration states.

The two countries “call on the US to stop undermining international and regional security, as well as global strategic stability in the interests of ensuring its unilateral military superiority.”

Nuclear weapons

Moscow and Beijing agree that nuclear powers should not deploy nuclear weapons abroad. “All nuclear powers must not deploy their nuclear weapons beyond their national territories, and they must withdraw all nuclear weapons deployed abroad,” the declaration reads.

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Read more:

Putin offers to meet China’s growing energy demands, Xi wants ‘practical’ cooperation

Putin, Xi pledge friendship but talks yield no Ukraine breakthrough

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