Tag Archives: ease

Russia, Ukraine swap prisoners in landmark 'first step' to ease tensions

Russia, Ukraine swap prisoners in landmark 'first step' to ease tensionsRussia and Ukraine made a long-awaited swap of 70 prisoners on Saturday, a deal hailed as a first step towards ending five years of tensions and conflict. Two planes carrying 35 prisoners from each side landed simultaneously in Moscow and Kiev, where the passengers emerged under sunny skies. “We have taken the first step,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on the tarmac after greeting and hugging former detainees.



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Iran's Zarif leaves G7 talks, unclear if progress made to ease tensions

Iran's Zarif leaves G7 talks, unclear if progress made to ease tensionsIran’s foreign minister made a flying visit for talks with host France at the G7 summit on Sunday, as Paris ramped up efforts to ease tensions between Tehran and Washington, a dramatic diplomatic move that the White House said had surprised them. European leaders have struggled to tamp down the brewing confrontation between Iran and the United States since Trump pulled Washington out of Iran’s internationally-brokered 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on the Iranian economy.



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Hong Kong Billionaire Breaks Silence, Urges Protesters to Ease Off

Hong Kong Billionaire Breaks Silence, Urges Protesters to Ease Off(Bloomberg) — Ten weeks into the protests that have rattled the Asian financial hub to its core, Hong Kong’s billionaires are beginning to break their silence as the costs of escalating violence mount.Peter Woo, the largest shareholder and former chairman of developer Wheelock & Co., on Monday called on protesters to ease off after they notched a victory by blocking the government’s extradition bill. Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., controlled by the city’s wealthiest clan — the Kwoks — issued a statement Tuesday condemning violent protests.The billionaires’ comments come as two months of unrest weighs on the territory’s stock market. Woo has had more than $ 1 billion wiped from his personal wealth.Protests have moved to the city’s airport for the last two days, leading to a swath of canceled flights, following clashes that saw riot cops fire tear gas in a subway station and protesters lash out at undercover officers.“It’s time to think deeply,” Woo wrote in Monday’s edition of the Hong Kong Economic Journal. “Going against the extradition bill was the ‘big tree’ of this movement. This one and only big appeal has already been accepted by the government, so this tree has fallen.” Some people are using the issue to “purposely stir up trouble,” he added.Hong Kong’s unrest has spiraled since the initial anger was sparked by the proposed bill that would have allowed extraditions from the territory to mainland China. As graphic scenes of violence between police and protesters went viral on social media, a turning point came on July 21, when a mob of men attacked protesters with poles at the Yuen Long subway station.The perceived passivity of the police response to that incident spurred outrage and shifted the protesters’ focus from the extradition bill to law enforcement and the territory’s government more broadly. Weakened by the turmoil, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has refused to resign. She has followed Beijing’s stance not to give in to protesters’ demands, which include an independent inquiry into the use of force by police and the release of detainees, following hundreds of arrests.In his column, Woo focused on violence wrought by protesters, but not the actions of the police, who he described as “outnumbered.” Wheelock gets about 38% of its revenue from mainland China, making him one of the most exposed to China among Hong Kong’s property billionaires.Signs of economic fallout from the constant turmoil are starting to show. Flanked by business leaders on Aug. 9, Lam said the aftershocks could hit Hong Kong’s economy like a “tsunami.” Last week, Wheelock’s Wharf Holdings reported falling underlying profit and said demand in Hong Kong weakened due to “travel advisories, economic slowdown, contracting exports/re-exports, falling retail sales, stock market jitters and the threat to employment.”The Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong issued a statement Aug. 8 condemning violence and calling for peace. Seventeen members co-signed, including Woo’s Wheelock, as well as Sun Hung Kai and Li Ka-Shing’s Hutchison Properties. Another appeal published in Chinese-language papers was issued on Aug. 10, with co-signers including Kwok family members as well as billionaire Henry Cheng of New World Development.Woo, Li and Cheng also were among billionaires who opposed plans for a mass sit-in targeting the city’s financial district in 2014. Cheng said at the time that the protests — led by an activist group known as Occupy Central With Love and Peace — could offend Communist Party leaders in Beijing and hurt the company’s jewelry sales in Hong Kong.Sun Hung Kai, Hong Kong’s biggest developer, faced criticism after clashes last month at one of its malls in Sha Tin. The company denied protesters’ allegations that the firm invited the police into New Town Plaza. At the Harbour City center in Tsim Sha Tsui, owned by a unit of Woo’s Wheelock, protesters canceled a plan to swarm the mall in the wake of the New Town Plaza incident after management put up signs asking police not to enter unless a crime was taking place.Sun Hung Kai issued a statement on Tuesday that criticized the protests.“The recent series of violent acts to challenge the rule of law have damaged Hong Kong’s economy and seriously affect citizens’ daily life,” Sun Hung Kai said. The company would support efforts by the government and police to restore order, it said.Aftershocks have spilled over into other industries. Protesters have been circulating a spreadsheet aimed at boycotting brands perceived to be supportive of the establishment, while China has also been exerting economic pressure. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. staff who join the protests face a ban on flights to the mainland, and the Gianni Versace luxury brand apologized for a shirt that allegedly implied Hong Kong wasn’t part of China.Cathay’s biggest shareholder, the billionaire Swire family’s Swire Pacific Ltd., called for “restoration of law in order” in a statement Tuesday. “We must act now to stop the violence and preserve the stability, peace and prosperity of Hong Kong,” it said, adding that the company fully supports Cathay Pacific’s “strict implementation” of Chinese regulators’ “directives to ensure safety, and its zero-tolerance approach to illegal activities.”Housing CrisisSome development tycoons say Hong Kong’s population has reason for discontent. Lan Kwai Fong Group head Allan Zeman said on Bloomberg TV Monday that urgent solutions are needed to address the territory’s housing crisis.“A lot of these people, I don’t blame them for marching because they don’t have hope,” said Zeman, whose holdings spanning Hong Kong, mainland China and Thailand include the city’s California tower. “They live with their parents, they don’t see a future for themselves.”(Updates with Swire statement in 14th paragraph.)\–With assistance from Venus Feng.To contact the reporters on this story: Blake Schmidt in Hong Kong at bschmidt16@bloomberg.net;Sheryl Tian Tong Lee in Hong Kong at slee1905@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Pierre Paulden at ppaulden@bloomberg.net, Keith Campbell, Marion DakersFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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India promises to ease Kashmir curfew as Pakistan accuses New Delhi government of 'ethnic cleansing'

India promises to ease Kashmir curfew as Pakistan accuses New Delhi government of 'ethnic cleansing'Indian security forces said they had eased a week-long curfew and restrictions on movement in Kashmir ahead of a major Muslim festival on Monday. The move came as police denied carrying out a violent crackdown against protesters in the region, despite the emergence of footage showing troops firing into a crowd. Jammu and Kashmir police said on Sunday that “not a single bullet had been fired in the last six days” and called the reports “mischievous and motivated news”. They claimed the protests were small and peaceably broken up. Earlier the BBC broadcast footage apparently showing officers firing tear gas and live rounds at a crowd of 10,000 protesters after Friday prayers in the city of Srinagar.   The BBC stood by its report, while the New York Times and India Today said its journalists had corroborated the incident.    Jammu and Kashmir has been under a media, internet and phone blackout since Narendra Modi's Indian government revoked the Muslim-majority region's special constitutional status on August 5. A curfew enforced by thousands of Indian troops has made movement and reporting in the region difficult. The move has provoked outrage in Pakistan, which has fought two major wars with India over the disputed territory since independence. Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, on Sunday accused the Indian government of pursing "ethnic cleansing" comparable to Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia. Describing the move as "the Hindu Supremacists version of Hitler's Lebensraum", he said it would lead to "the suppression of Muslims in India & eventually lead to targeting of Pakistan". "Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing," he tweeted. "Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich? Dilbag Singh, the Jammu and Kashmir police chief, on Sunday said the curfew had been eased ahead of the Muslims festival of Eid ul-adha today.    “Things are absolutely normal, not a single incident has been reported from south Kashmir even,” Mr Singh told the Hindustan Times. “We are closely watching the situation,” he said. Mr Singh said there were incidents of stone throwing in downtown Srinagar on Saturday, but insisted that any report of violence in the region “is false”. The New Delhi government on Sunday said deliveries of food and supplies were active again to Kashmir, and banks and stores were being restocked ahead of Eid.



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Xi urged Trump to ease North Korea sanctions in 'timely' fashion

Xi urged Trump to ease North Korea sanctions in 'timely' fashionChinese President Xi Jinping urged US President Donald Trump to “show flexibility” towards North Korea, including the “timely” easing of sanctions, at the G20 summit last week, China’s foreign minister said Tuesday. Xi visited North Korea prior to meeting Trump at the G20 in Japan on Saturday, and analysts had said the Chinese leader could use the trip as leverage in his trade war talks with the US leader.



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India returns key diplomat to Pakistan as tensions ease

India returns key diplomat to Pakistan as tensions easeNEW DELHI (AP) — India said Saturday that it was returning a key diplomat to Pakistan's capital amid an easing of tensions between the nuclear neighbors, but also demanded that its archrival take concrete steps against terrorists operating from its territory.



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Pakistan-India train service resumes as border tensions ease

Pakistan-India train service resumes as border tensions easeLAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — A key train service with neighboring India resumed and schools in Pakistani Kashmir opened Monday in another sign of easing tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals since a major escalation last week over the disputed Kashmir region.



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US and South Korea scrap major military exercises to ease tensions with North

US and South Korea scrap major military exercises to ease tensions with NorthThe US and South Korea announced on Sunday an end to their annual large-scale military exercises in support of diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme. The decision comes days after the conclusion of US President Donald Trump’s second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, which ended without a formal agreement but with both sides suggesting they would keep talking. There are close to 30,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, and their annual drills with tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers have been a perennial target of North Korean fury – with Pyongyang condemning the manoeuvres as provocative rehearsals for invasion. While Mr Trump has ruled out withdrawing the troops, he has repeatedly complained about the cost of the exercises, describing them at a press conference in Hanoi as "very, very expensive". During a Saturday phone call between South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his US counterpart Patrick Shanahan, "both sides decided to conclude the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle series of exercises", according to a Pentagon statement. Foal Eagle is the biggest of the regular joint exercises held by the allies. In the past, it has involved 200,000 South Korean forces and some 30,000 US soldiers. It is accompanied by Key Resolve, a computer-simulated war game conducted by military commanders which usually begins in March and runs for about 10 days. The two allies will instead carry out "adjusted outside manoeuvre trainings and united command exercises to continue firm military readiness", Seoul’s defence ministry said Sunday. The decision was reached to support ongoing diplomatic efforts for North Korea’s denuclearisation and ease military tensions with the North, it added. South Korea’s foreign ministry said that Lee Do-hoon, Seoul’s chief nuclear envoy, will leave for Washington to hold talks with his US counterpart Stephen Biegun. "Lee will fly sometime this week," ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk told AFP. Lee and Biegun are expected to discuss the Hanoi summit, which failed to build on the vaguely-worded commitment to denuclearise the Korean peninsula signed by Kim and Trump during their meeting in Singapore last year. Opponents of scrapping the drills have warned that it could impact the combat readiness of the combined US and South Korean forces and hand the North a strategic advantage on the divided peninsula, but most analysts said such concerns were exaggerated. "Suspending or downgrading the US-South Korean drills may hurt the readiness of the two militaries, but I don’t think it’s going to be a serious security threat to South Korea," Ahn Chan-il, the president of the World Institute for North Korea Studies in Seoul, told AFP. U.S. Army's Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters fly during a combined arms live-fire exercise during the annual joint military exercise Foal Eagle Credit: AP "The South’s conventional forces outclass the North’s, and given the current situation (with the US and the existing sanctions), it’s highly unlikely that Pyongyang will do anything with its nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future," he added. Retired General Vincent Brooks, a former commander of US forces in South Korea who helped organise Trump’s first meeting with Kim in Singapore, said last year that any end to joint training would not hinder the Pentagon’s combat-readiness on the peninsula. "Perhaps we’ve been told for now to put our sword back into its sheath, but we have not been told to forget how to use it," he said. Washington has sought to end long-running tensions on the peninsula and encourage North Korea to scrap its nuclear programme. Since the Singapore summit, the US and Seoul have scaled back or scrapped several joint military drills, and US bombers are no longer flying over South Korea. "Not downgrading or suspending the drills at this point … would mean the involved countries are not serious" about reaching a denuclearisation accord, said University of North Korean Studies professor Yang Moo-jin.



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Pakistan will free downed pilot to ease India stand off, Imran Khan pledges

Pakistan will free downed pilot to ease India stand off, Imran Khan pledgesPakistan will release a captured Indian pilot on Friday, Pakistan's prime minister told a joint session of parliament Thursday, in an overture towards New Delhi after soaring tensions fuelled fears of conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals. "As a peace gesture we are releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow," Imran Khan said, a day after Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was shot down in a rare aerial engagement between the South Asian neighbours over the disputed region of Kashmir. The adversaries on Wednesday night and Thursday morning continued to trade fire over their disputed Kashmir frontier while Delhi demanded the return of its airman. In contrast to world leaders, who continued to call for the nuclear armed neighbours to show restraint, members of India's ruling party have called for more military action against Pakistan. The US said the risks from either of the adversaries taking more military action were “unacceptably high”. Delhi demanded the “immediate and safe return” of Wg Cdr Varthaman who was captured after his aircraft was lost during a dogfight with Pakistani jets on Wednesday. India called for the immediate and safe return of Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman Indian anger over the suicide bombing of a security convoy that killed at least 40 paramilitary police in Kashmir earlier this month has prompted the most severe showdown between the neighbours in nearly two decades. India blames the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group for the attack this week launched air strikes inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan responded with its own strikes and the said it had shot down two Indian jets, capturing Wg Cdr Abhinandan. Pakistani police say troops deployed in the disputed region of Kashmir continued trading fire with India overnight, forcing villagers living near the contested frontier to flee to safety. Police official Mohammad Tahir says cross-border fire continued into Thursday but there were no casualties. Pulwama suicide attack – Map Meanwhile Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, told a rally of supporters that his country's enemies were conspiring to create instability through terror attacks He didn't mention arch rival Pakistan but said a united India would "fight, live, work and win." The prospect of runaway escalation in the stand off between the nuclear-armed countries has sent alarm around the world. "The potential risks associated with further military action by either side are unacceptably high for both countries, their neighbours, and the international community," said a White House National Security Council told Bloomberg. Donald Trump, the US president, was more upbeat, saying America had been involved in attempts to persuade the neighbours to climb down. “We have, I think, reasonably attractive news from Pakistan and India,” he said while in Hanoi. “They’ve been going at it, and we’ve been involved in trying to have them stop.”



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Saudi King Approves $3.1 Billion Plan to Ease Expat Fee Costs

Saudi King Approves $  3.1 Billion Plan to Ease Expat Fee CostsAuthorities will exempt some companies from paying the 2018 fees or reimburse those that have already paid, according to the official-Saudi Press Agency. To qualify for the aid, businesses need to have made strides in hiring more Saudi nationals. The fees were introduced in 2018 as part of a drive to increase non-oil government revenue — a key goal of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic transformation plan — but have drawn fire from business owners in a country accustomed to cheap foreign labor.



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