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US names Uzra Zeya as Tibet coordinator, drawing warning from China

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The United States on Monday named Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya as special coordinator for Tibet, drawing warnings from China to stay out of its internal affairs.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Zeya, who is responsible for democracy and human rights, would lead US efforts to preserve the Chinese-ruled territory’s religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage in the face of human rights abuses by Beijing.

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Beijing has consistently refused to deal with a US coordinator on Tibet and denounced the move as political manipulation.
“By naming a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, the US is interfering with China’s domestic affairs,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
“China firmly rejects this, and we will never recognize this designation. We urge the US to take concrete actions to abide by its commitment of recognizing Tibet as part of China and not supporting Tibet’s independence, and stop using Tibetan-related issues to interfere in China’s domestic affairs.”
Blinken said Zeya would seek to promote dialogue between China and Tibet’s spiritual leader-in-exile, the Dalai Lama, or democratically elected Tibetan leaders.
“She will lead US efforts to preserve the religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of Tibetans who are facing human rights abuses and challenges to their livelihoods and environment,” Blinken said in a tweet.
China reacted angrily last year and accused the United States of seeking to destabilize Tibet after the administration of former US President Donald Trump appointed Zeya’s predecessor to the same role.
US-China relations have been at their lowest point in decades over a range of issues, including trade, Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights, the South China Sea and the coronavirus.
China seized control of Tibet after its troops entered the region in 1950 in what it calls a “peaceful liberation”. Tibet has since become one of the most restricted areas in the country. Critics, led by the Dalai Lama, say Beijing's rule amounts to “cultural genocide.”
China denies wrongdoing in Tibet and says its intervention ended “backward feudal serfdom.”
The International Campaign for Tibet advocacy group welcomed Zeya's new role and in an emailed statement its interim president, Bhuchung Tsering, urged Zeya to take the lead in gathering support from like-minded countries to formulate a common approach on Tibet, as mandated by the Tibetan Policy and Support Act passed in the United States last year.

Read more: Biden raised concerns over Tibet, Hong Kong, Xinjiang; Xi warns of Taiwan ‘red line’

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Russian and UK defense ministers to meet over Ukraine

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Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has accepted an invitation to meet his British counterpart Ben Wallace to discuss the crisis on the Russia-Ukraine border, a senior UK defense source said Saturday.

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“The Defense Secretary is glad that Russia has accepted the invitation to talk with his counterpart,” the source said.

“Given the last defense bilateral between our two countries took place in London in 2013, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has offered to meet in Moscow instead,” added the source.

“The Secretary of State has been clear that he will explore all avenues to achieve stability and a resolution to the Ukraine crisis.”

Tens of thousands of Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s border, along with an arsenal of tanks, fighting vehicles, artillery and missiles.

Russia has denied it plans to invade but the White House believes an attack could now come “at any point.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned on Friday that Moscow risks becoming embroiled in a “terrible quagmire” if it invades.

In a speech in Australia, the UK’s top diplomat issued a blunt and personal warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is on the brink of making a major strategic blunder.

He “has not learned the lessons of history,” Truss told Sydney’s Lowy Institute.

“The Ukrainians will fight this, it could be a quagmire” she said.

Britain is among a handful of Western nations rushing weapons such as anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

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At least six killed in blast in western Afghan city of Herat

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A blast ripped through a minivan in the western Afghan city of Herat on Saturday, killing at least six people, according to officials.

Herat commander Mawlawi Ansari told Reuters that nine people had been injured. The cause of the blast was not clear.

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A health official in Herat, who asked not to be named, said an explosion hit a small van used for public transport just after 1800 local time and that three of the injured were in serious condition.

Since the Taliban took over in August, a series of blasts and attacks, some claimed by Islamic State, have taken place across Afghanistan.

The attacks have heightened the new administration’s security challenges as the country spirals into an economic crisis.

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Arab League delays annual summit as COVID-19 bites again

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The Arab League has announced it is delaying its annual summit scheduled for March 22 in Algiers because of COVID-19 after two years of cancellations due to the pandemic.

“Every year, the summit is held in March, but this year, there has been a delay,” the pan-Arab organization’s assistant secretary general, Hossam Zaki, said in televised remarks Friday, a week after returning to Cairo from a visit to Algiers.

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The last Arab League summit was held in Tunis in March 2019. The past two years’ gatherings have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Zaki added that Algeria “preferred the option” of delaying the summit, noting that the critical mass of Arab leaders and high-ranking officials needed for the summit could not be guaranteed due to the public health situation.

Arab foreign ministers are expected to announce a new date for the summit during their scheduled meeting on March 9, Zaki said.

Zaki said that there were “no political reasons” behind the delay, but the time could be used to “improve political climates” in the region.

The summit is important for Algeria, which has been seeking to expand its political sphere of influence, against the backdrop of heightened tensions with Morocco.

No agenda has been announced for this year’s summit, but the Arab world remains plagued with multiple conflicts and crises.

These extend from the war in Yemen, which has killed nearly 400,000 people since 2015, to the 2021 coup in Sudan that resulted in its suspension from the African Union, as well as protracted crises in Libya, Lebanon and beyond.

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