International Current Affairs
February 1st week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) Round 3 of bilateral nuclear talks begin between US, Iran

  • A third round of bilateral talks has commenced between the US and Iran to resolve the remaining issues over Tehran`s contentious nuclear programme even as a meeting of the P5+1 nations with the Islamic republic ended on a positive note. 
  • US Secretary of State, John Kerry, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman, senior director at the National Security Council, Rob Malley, Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz and their Iranian counterparts, including Iranian President Hassan Rouhani`s brother, Hossein Fereydoun, along with their nuclear experts are discussing the technical details for the outline of an agreement which the parties are scrambling to reach by the March 31 deadline.
  • The P5+1 China, Russia, the UK, the US, France and Germany - are trying to broker a deal with Iran to end an over decade-long standoff over its nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions. Iran, however, has maintained that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.
2) India urged reforms in UN Security Council
  • India has urged the United Nations to reform the UN Security Council this year, arguing that the most powerful body of the UN itself is representative of an undemocratic chokehold of a few over it, courtesy of a wartime alliance that exists no more.
  • In his address to an open meeting of the UN Security Council on Maintenance of International Peace and Security on 23rd February, the Indian Ambassador to the UN Ashoke Kumar Mukerji said, that It is ironical that calls for democracy and the rule of law are being made in a Council that itself embodies the undemocratic stranglehold of the privileges of a few, forged by a wartime alliance that no longer exists.
  • Not a member yet, India however, being the world`s largest democratic country, and a top economic and world power, is a rightful claimant to a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
  • Significantly, almost all the veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China- have supported India`s place in this most powerful wing of the UN.

3) IS kidnaps 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria

  • Jihadists from the Islamic State group have kidnapped at least 90 Assyrian Christians in northeast Syria, after overrunning two villages
  • The abductions appeared to be the first time the group has kidnapped Christians en masse in Syria, though the jihadists have taken thousands of prisoners as they have advanced in the country and neighbouring Iraq.
  • There were just 30,000 Assyrians in Syria before the country’s conflict erupted in March 2011, with most of them living throughout Hassakeh province. They represent a tiny percentage of the country’s overall Christian population, which numbered around 1.2 million people before the war.
  • The mass IS abduction of Assyrians appeared to be the first of its kind in Syria, but the group has become infamous for its abuses, including the mass kidnapping of minority Kurdish Yazidis in Iraq. It also abducted dozens of Kurdish students in Syria last year, freeing them only after months in captivity.
4) Nod for 3-parent babies in UK
  • Britain has become the first country in the world to legalize the creation of human embryos from the DNA of three people, a controversial technique aimed at preventing the passing on of deadly genetic diseases from mothers to children. The House of Lords- the upper house of the British Parliament- voted 280 votes to 48 on 23rd February to approve changes to the invitro-fertilisation (IVF) law allowing fertility clinics to carry out mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) donation.
  • The bill was approved earlier this month by the House of Commons and clinics can apply for licences to use the technique from later this year. Babies conceived via this IVF technique would have biological material from three different people – a mother, father and a female donor.
5) All female patrol protecting rhinos
  • Unarmed Black Mambas recruited from local communities are guarding nature reserve inside the Greater Kruger national park The battle against the poaching that kills a rhino every seven hours in South Africa has acquired a new weapon: women.
  • The Black Mambas are all young women from local communities, and they patrol inside the Greater Kruger national park unarmed. Billed as the first all-female unit of its kind in the world, they are not just challenging poachers, but the status quo.
  • The Mambas are the brainchild of Craig Spencer, ecologist and head warden of Balule nature reserve, a private reserve within Kruger that borders hundreds of thousands of impoverished people.
  • The private reserve’s scientists and managers have had to become warriors, employing teams of game guards to protect not only the precious rhinos but lions, giraffes, and many other species targeted by poaching syndicates. The Mambas are their eyes and ears on the ground.
  • Authorities developed an approach that addresses the huge economic and cultural divide between the wealthy reserves and local communities, which is believed drives poaching.
  • In a bid to engage communities outside the park fence, the reserve hired 26 local jobless female high-school graduates, and put them through an intensive tracking and combat training programme. Kitted out in second-hand European military uniforms, paid for by donations, the women were deployed throughout the 40,000 hectare reserve, unarmed but a visible police presence, like a British bobby.
  • The numbers suggest the approach works. In the last 10 months the reserve has not lost a rhino, while a neighbouring reserve lost 23. Snare poaching has dropped 90%.
  • The reserve uses a team of 29 armed guards, 26 unarmed Black Mambas, and an intelligence team that seeks to stop the poachers before they can kill. The Mambas’ main job is to be seen patrolling the fence. They also set up listening posts to hear vehicles, voices and gunshots and patrol the reserve on foot, calling in the armed guards whenever they find something.

6) German Parliament backs Greek bailout

  • Germany`s parliament approved an extension of Greece`s bailout on 27th February but a record number of dissenters from Angela Merkel`s conservatives underscored growing scepticism in Berlin about whether a new Greek government can be trusted to deliver on its reform pledges.
  • With Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble promising not to let Greece proposals its euro zone partners, 542 members of the Bundestag voted yes to the extension, while 32 opposed it and 13 abstained. 
  • It was the biggest majority for a euro zone bailout since the crisis erupted five years ago, in part because Merkel`s year-old "grand coalition" enjoys a dominant position in the Bundestag lower house.
  • But 29 of the 32 "no" votes came from Merkel`s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) -- more conservative rebels than any other lower house vote.
  • The parliamentary debate showed widespread misgivings about Greece. The broader German population also grown more skeptical since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras took power last month, with a poll this week showing only 21 percent of Germans backs an extension for Greece.
7) UN moves world court on heritage destruction in Iraq
  • UNESCO chief Irina Bokova called on the International Criminal Court to look into the destruction of priceless artefacts by jihadists in Iraq that has caused outrage globally. A video released recently of Islamic State militants smashing ancient statues to pieces with sledgehammers in the main museum and an archeological site in Mosul drew shocked condemnation and sparked fears that more of the world`s oldest heritage would be destroyed.
  • The Islamic State group has controlled Iraq`s second city of Mosul since June last year and has destroyed several historical and cultural sites across the country, including Muslim shrines.
8) China opens largest embassy in Pakistan
  • China has opened a new embassy in Pakistan, its largest overseas diplomatic mission, which foreign minister Wang Yi described as a symbol of friendship between the all-weather allies. As China`s largest overseas embassy, it is a symbol of friendship between China and Pakistan," state-run China Daily quoted Wang as saying. It however did not provide the details of the new embassy.
  • China maintains large diplomatic missions abroad including Washington, New York and New Delhi. Its mission in New Delhi has over 300 personnel The opening of the new Islamabad embassy came as China and Pakistan deepen their all weather relations with the construction of the multi-billion Economic Corridor through the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK).
  • The Corridor, which is part of the Silk Road projects proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping aims to connect China`s Xinjiang with Pakistan Gwadar Port in Balochistan province neighbouring Iran. China also set to construct two 1,100 nuclear reactors with $6.5 billion in addition to the four medium size reactors.