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Belt & Road Initiative not an exclusive club, must benefit all: Xi Jinping

Press Trust of India

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Beijing, Apr 27: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday said that the Belt and Road Initiative should benefit all around the world and deliver common development by following the established international norms.

Addressing a roundtable meeting of the 37 heads of states and governments who attended the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF), which would close on Saturday, Xi again stressed that the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would focus on common development of all the participating countries and their people.

“We must implement the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits to see that all voices are heard, all reached their full potential and all stand to benefit,” the Chinese President said.

 

The BRI must be open, clean and green and follow high standards, people centred sustainable approach, he said, adding that it should be aligned to the United Nations’ sustainable development agenda.

“Align our cooperation with universally accepted rules, standards and best practices and pursue social and economic progress and environmental protection in a balanced way. The BRI should be beneficial to all and deliver common development,” Xi said.

Those attended the BRF meeting included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and heads of several Asian, African and Latin American countries besides heads of the UN and the IMF. India and the US skipped the meeting.

India, which boycotted the first BRF meeting held in 2017 over its objections to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), skipped its second edition for the same reasons.

India has also been airing its concerns over the BRI financing, saying that connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities.

This time the US has emerged as a fierce critic of the BRI, saying that its predatory financing is leaving the smaller countries in heavy debt.

The concerns grew louder after China acquired Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for a 99-year lease as a debt swap.

The heavy Chinese financing of the $60 billion CPEC also raised concerns over Pakistan’s ability to pay back.

China has clarified that less than 20 per cent of the CPEC projects are based on loans provided by it and rest of the 80 per cent ventures are either directly invested by Beijing or, used Chinese grants.

The BRI was launched by President Xi when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link southeast Asia, central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

China is doling out huge sums of money for infrastructure projects in countries from Asia to Africa and Europe, enhancing its global influence.

In his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2nd BRF on Friday, Xi allayed fears that China is using the BRI as a geopolitical tool to attain superpower status.

He said the BRI is “not an exclusive club”.

“Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.

Xi said that China will not engage in beggar-thy-neighbour currency devaluation.

China will continue to improve the exchange rate formation mechanism of its currency and keep the exchange rate generally stable on a reasonable and balanced level, he said.

Xi said the joint building of the Belt and Road has opened up new space for the world’s economic growth and it has also created a new platform to boost international trade and investment, expanded new practices to optimise global economic governance, and made new contributions to improving people’s well-being in all countries.

Besides Putin and Khan, Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Myanmar state councillor Aung San Suu Kyi are among the top leaders taking part in the event. France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Japan, South Korea and the EU sent high-level representatives.

China said representatives from 150 countries and international organisations are taking part in it.

Commenting on the BRF meeting, Li Xiangyang – director of China’s National Institute of International Strategy – said that “the BRI has helped China expand its global friendship network which shows that China is playing an increasingly pivotal role in promoting regional development and safeguarding multilateralism”.

The initiative, which focuses on utilising market and economic resources to explore new diplomatic relations with other countries, also drives the country’s transition to economic diplomacy, Li told Global Times on Saturday.


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US warn Turkey of facing ‘very negative’ consequences over S-400 deal

Agencies

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Washington: The United States on Wednesday warned that Turkey will have to face “very real and very negative consequences” if Ankara finalises the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defence systems.

In a statement, the State Department said, “We have said that the S-400 defence system, the acquisition of that would have serious consequences for the US and NATO’s defence relationship with Turkey.”

“We’re clearly willing to engage with them and have continued to engage regarding our concerns on this acquisition, but there will be very real and very negative consequences if that happens,” it added.

 

Turkey has repeatedly rejected US ultimatums for cancelling S-400 shipments and the purchase of American Patriot batteries instead. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned to the US ultimatum on Wednesday by calling it unacceptable, Sputnik reports.

In December 2017, Moscow and Ankara signed a loan agreement for the delivery of S-400 air defence systems to Turkey. Since then, the United States and NATO have criticised Turkey’s move, citing security concerns and incompatibility with NATO air defence systems.

Washington had earlier threatened Turkey with sanctions for its planned acquisition of S-400s and repeatedly said it may delay or cancel the sales of F-35 aircraft to Ankara. Turkey is one of the seven states that participate in the F-35 program.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on last Saturday told Al Jazeera that the S-400 deal with Russia was done and wouldn’t change.

“There is absolutely no question of [Turkey] taking a step back from the S-400 purchase. That is a done deal,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.

He also said Turkey and Russia would jointly produce S-500 defence systems after Ankara’s controversial purchase of the S-400s from Moscow.

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Man busted for threatening to bomb Trump tower in New York

Agencies

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Washington: A 20-year-old New Jersey man accused of threatening on social media to “shoot everybody” at a pro-Israel march and bomb the Trump Tower skyscraper in New York City was arrested on Wednesday on a string of federal charges, prosecutors said.

Jonathan Xie, of Basking Ridge, was taken into custody on charges of attempting to provide material support to Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip and which the United States designates as a terrorist organization, making false statements and transmitting threats over interstate commerce, according to federal prosecutors.

“Homegrown violent extremists like Xie are a serious threat to national security,” US Attorney Craig Carpenito said in a statement. “The actions that he took and planned to take made that threat both clear and present.”

 

According to the charging documents, Xie appeared in an Instagram Live video in April 2019 wearing a black ski mask and displayed a handgun as he expressed the desire to attack demonstrators at a pro-Israel rally.

“I want to shoot the pro-Israel demonstrators … you can get a gun and shoot your way through or use a vehicle and ram people … all you need is a gun or vehicle to go on a rampage….I do not care if security forces come after me, they will have to put a bullet in my head to stop me,” Xie said in the video, according to the court papers.

That same month Xie was spotted outside of Trump Tower, headquarters of the businesses owned by US President Donald Trump. He later posted photos of the building on Instagram along with a poll asking if he should bomb it.

“Okay, so I went to NYC today and passed by Trump Tower and then I started laughing hysterically … I forgot to visit the Israeli embassy in NYC … I want to bomb this place along with trump tower,” Xie said in a separate post detailed in the court documents.

In February 2019 Xie said he wanted to join the US Army in hopes of learning “how to kill” and applied for a security clearance as a first step, prosecutors say.

He is also accused of sending money to an individual in the Gaza Strip aligned with a faction of Hamas that has carried out attacks against civilian targets in Israel.

It was not immediately clear if Xie, who faces more than 30 years in federal prison if convicted on all charges, had retained an attorney.

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Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro wins, Justice Minister loses in Congress

Agencies

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Brasilia: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro surmounted a crucial hurdle for his young government on Wednesday by winning approval from disgruntled lower house lawmakers for his move to reorganize the country’s executive branch.

But lawmakers voted against putting the Council for Financial Activities Control (COAF), a key tool for flagging suspicious funds moving through the banking system, under the control of Justice Minister Sergio Moro, a former judge who jailed many politicians in the sweeping corruption probe known as Car Wash.

“I lament what happened,” Moro said, according to newspaper O Globo. “It’s part of the democratic debate.”

 

The vote on the first decree Bolsonaro issued the day he took office in January was a test of his ability to govern without courting traditional parties in Congress, which is threatening to derail his agenda after months of mutual antagonism.

The decree that reduced the number of ministries to 20, from 29 previously, was due to expire on June 3.Failure to gain approval would have thrown the government into crisis, forcing a ministry reshuffle and increasing doubts that he can rally support for an ambitious pension reform bill – the cornerstone of his economic agenda – now in the hands of a political class he openly insults.

A former army captain and apologist for Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, Bolsonaro wielded little influence in his three decades in Congress and cast his grassroots campaign as a crusade against the horse trading of Brazil’s “old politics.”

“Bolsonaro despises democracy. We have to isolate his anti-democratic attitude and lack of respect for institutions so this does not paralyse the country,” lawmaker Marcelo Ramos, chairman of the congressional committee on pension reform, told Reuters.

Ramos said Bolsonaro was unable to build a coalition with the 308 votes needed to pass the pension bill, aimed at saving 1.2 trillion reais (USD 300 billion) in a decade to restore investor confidence and jump-start a weak economy. Ramos estimated the bill could currently only muster 200 votes.

Bolsonaro has said he would rather work with issue-focused caucuses than party leaders and has called on his supporters via social media to pressure lawmakers obstructing his agenda.

He attacked the political class on Monday for being the country’s “big problem” and blamed interest groups for impeding him from governing.

Lawmakers passed the decree despite their frustration with Bolsonaro’s refusal to reach out to them with government jobs and support for projects in their constituencies.

However, their decision to keep the COAF under the Economy Ministry was a set-back for Bolsonaro and especially Moro, who has declared war on the country’s entrenched culture of political graft and impunity.

The move had alarmed some lawmakers, many of whom are under investigation on suspicion of corruption.

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