Tuesday, 11 August 2020: Lebanon’s government resigns over Beirut explosions, EU condemns state violence in Belarus, EU urges respect for human rights in Hong Kong


Lebanon’s government resigns over Beirut explosions: Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced his cabinet’s resignation, responding to outrage over the catastrophic explosions in Beirut. In a televised speech on Monday, Diab blamed his predecessors for last week’s deadly blast in the capital. “Their corruption created this tragedy,” said Diab. “Between us and change stands a thick wall protected by their dirty tactics,” he added. The explosions had killed at least 160 people, wounded more than 6,000 and left many homeless. Protesters have blamed corruption and poor leadership at the heart of Lebanon’s government for the explosion. Violent protests erupted outside the prime minister’s office on Monday evening. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has announced that he will travel to Beirut on Wednesday and demand reforms in Lebanon.
npr.org, dw.com, cnn.com, dw.com

EU condemns state violence in Belarus: Belarusian police clashed with protesters on Monday after the opposition accused President Alexander Lukashenko of rigging his re-election victory. The human rights group Viasna said at least one person had been killed in clashes between protesters and police. Belarus’s interior ministry denied reports of the death. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Enlargement Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi said the election in Belarus had been marred by disproportionate and unacceptable state violence against peaceful protesters. They condemned the violence and called for the immediate release of all those detained the previous night. Poland wants a special EU summit on Belarus. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for Belarus to publish accurate election results.
reuters.com, dpa-international.com, ft.com, eeas.europa.eu, dw.com

EU urges respect for human rights in Hong Kong: The EU Commission has urged respect for human rights and freedom of expression in Hong Kong on Monday, after the arrest of pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai. A Commission spokesman said the recent arrests of Lai, members of his family and other individuals further stoked fears that the new security law imposed by China was being used to stifle freedom of expression and the media in Hong Kong. The EU recalled that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms was a central element of the Basic Law and the “one country, two systems” principle. Meanwhile, Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow was also arrested under the security law. China has announced that it will impose sanctions on eleven US citizens including senators and other high-profile officials, in response to a decision by the US to sanction Chinese officials for curtailing political freedoms.
eeas.europa.eu, nytimes.com (Lai); reuters.com (Chow); bbc.com (US sanctions)

European states push ahead with sanctions over Libya arms embargo: Germany, France and Italy want to use EU sanctions to stem the continuing supply of arms to Libya. The three countries have agreed on a list of companies and individuals providing ships, aircraft or other logistics for the transport of weapons, in violation of a United Nations embargo that has been in place since 2011. Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 revolt toppled long-time dictator Moamer Gaddafi. It has since become a battleground for rival proxy forces. The government forces are supported by Turkey, their opponent General Khalifa Haftar by Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.
dpa-international.com, zeit.de

Senators urge US to remove tariffs on EU foods, beverages: Seven Republican and six Democratic US senators have asked the US Trade Representative’s Office to remove the 25% tariffs imposed in October 2019 on EU food, wine and spirits, according to a letter seen by Reuters. The senators noted that demand for these goods had declined, leaving importers and distributors with months’ worth of product, much of it perishable, in storage and in transit with no clear end date for the pandemic.

EU and US discuss changes to “Privacy Shield”: The EU Commission and the US Commerce Department have begun discussing how to create a privacy shield framework that would comply with the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union last month that the current deal for transatlantic data transfer does not work. The judgment had declared that the EU-US Privacy Shield framework was no longer a valid mechanism to transfer personal data from the European Union to the United States.

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United States: Secret Service escorts Trump from press briefing after shooting outside White House theguardian.com
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control ECDC recommends restrictions to deal with new coronavirus spike politico.eu
Algeria wants to reassess EU trade deal euractiv.com
Mediterranean: Tensions escalate as Turkish vessel arrives in waters claimed by Greece politico.eu


France opens terrorist murder case in Niger aid worker killings: France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor has opened an investigation into the killing of six French aid workers at a wildlife reserve in Niger. The aid workers and their local guide were shot dead by gunmen on Sunday in southwestern Niger. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the assault. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences for the victims in a statement, denouncing the violence as cowardly. Macron also spoke to Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou about the attack. In a tweet published on Sunday, Issoufou condemned the cowardly and barbarous terrorist attack.
theguardian.com, dw.com

Germany displeased at US sanctions threat: German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday said he had expressed displeasure to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about threats made by three US senators. Last week, Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Ron Johnson in a letter pledged “crushing legal and economic sanctions” against Fährhafen Sassnitz GmbH, the operator of the Murkan Port, where Russian vessels are helping build the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Stricter coronavirus restrictions in Greece: The Greek government has announced stricter measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus after a recent surge of cases. In several regions of the country, taverns, bars and discos have to close by midnight the latest. Additionally, all people travelling across national borders from August 17th must present a negative coronavirus test, regardless of which country they come from. The traditional fair of Thessaloniki has been cancelled.

Finland to mandate coronavirus tests for travellers: Finland will introduce mandatory coronavirus tests and quarantines for travellers from certain high-risk countries, the minister of family affairs and social services Krista Kiuru said on Monday, after 24 of 157 passengers arriving from Skopje in North Macedonia tested positive for Covid-19.

Germany: Merkel’s deputy Olaf Scholz to run for chancellor in 2021 vote euronews.com
Slovenia: Police stop van carrying 43 migrants washingtontimes.com


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Trump denies asking how to add face to Mount Rushmore: US President Donald Trump on Sunday denied a “New York Times” report that the White House had reached out to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem to inquire about having additional presidential heads carved into the state’s Mount Rushmore alongside sculptures of Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Trump called the report fake news, then tweeted late on Sunday that he had never suggested expanding the monument, although based on all the things he had accomplished as president, it sounded like a good idea to him.
forbes.com, theguardian.com


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