Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wins confidence vote; The vote came after a key minister in the Greek government quit last week over the Macedonia name dispute. Prime Minister Tsipras said he would put the ratification of the Macedonia name-change agreement on the agenda. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday won a confidence vote in parliament, just days after the country’s governing coalition collapsed.Tsipras received the minimum 151 votes he needed from the parliament for his government to survive. Speaking after the vote, Tsipras said winning a vote of confidence was a vote for stability in Greece. “Today the Greek parliament gave a vote of confidence in stability,” he said. “We received a vote of confidence with our only concern to continue to address the needs and interests of the Greek people.” Panos Kammenos, the defense minister in Tsipras’ government who leads the small nationalist Independent Greeks (ANEL) party, was the latest minister to quit the coalition over a proposed name-change agreement with neighboring Macedonia. Greece has been blocking Macedonia from joining NATO and the European Union for a decade over the name row.
Vladimir Putin to meet with troubled Serb counterpart; Ecstatic crowds are expected to greet Vladimir Putin as he enters the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade alongside Aleksandar Vucic. For over a month, thousands have turned out for weekly protests against Serbia’s president. The tabloids report that 70,000 people will turn out in Belgrade on Thursday to warmly welcome Russian President Vladimir Putin. That could be the case: Putin is popular in Serbia. The greeting has been organized by small political associations founded by politicians from nationalist splinter groups that have close ties to the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). On the internet, there are offers for day packages that include lunch and bus transportation to the festivities for about €13 ($15). Street vendors are even selling T-shirts bearing Putin’s face and Russian flags.
Taiwan prepares to hold large-scale military drills to deter China; Amid heightened tensions in cross-strait relations, Taiwan’s military is starting a series of newly designed large-scale military drills. Taiwanese analysts say the island should enhance its combat preparedness. Taiwan’s armed forces are on Thursday holding their first live-fire drill for this year, an exercise aimed at improving their military readiness. It comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping recently reasserted Beijing’s right to use force to unify the self-governing island with mainland China. Thursday’s drill is part of the large-scale military exercises designed to counter the growing threat from China. Even though Taiwan’s military holds such exercises regularly, this year’s training adopts new tactics aimed at “defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” said Major General Yeh Kuo-hui, the Taiwanese defense ministry’s planning chief.
German police raid suspected KKK members’ homes; Police conducted raids on several properties throughout Germany thought to be connected to an extremist group that associates itself with the Ku Klux Klan. A total of 17 people are at the center of the investigation.German police on Wednesday raided 12 apartments in eight different German states belonging to suspected members of an extreme-right group calling itself the National Socialist Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Deutschland. A total of 200 police officers searched properties in Baden-Württemberg, Bremen, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland Palatinate, Saxony Anhalt and Thuringia. More than 100 weapons — including air guns, swords, machetes and knives — were seized in the raids, prosecutors and regional police in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg said.
ICC halts release of Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo; Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and his right-hand man had been acquitted of crimes against humanity. But they will have to stay in custody until the court evaluates an appeal by prosecutors. The International Criminal Court on Wednesday halted the release of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, after prosecutors filed an appeal to keep him in custody on charges of crimes against humanity. Judges on Tuesday ordered Gbagbo and his right-hand man, Charles Ble Goude, to be immediately freed after clearing them of any role in a wave of post-electoral violence in 2010 and 2011 that killed 3,000 people.
UN officials, international parties talk Yemen in Berlin; Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has hosted further talks aimed at ending the civil war in Yemen and building on the breakthrough achieved in Stockholm in December. No representatives from the country were at the table. Representatives of 17 governments and international organizations gathered at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin on Wednesday in the latest round of talks to end the civil war in Yemen. The High-Level Strategic Dialogue on the Peace Process and Prospects for Stabilization in Yemen was intended to build on the breakthrough achieved in Stockholm in December, when an agreement for a ceasefire around the key port city of Hodeida was reached. The discussions in Sweden marked the first time that the belligerents in Yemen had come together at all since 2016. “For the first time in a long time, we’ve seen good news from Yemen,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the roundtable of diplomats in his welcoming remarks. “We’ve taken an important step towards a peace process that we would like to see in other crises and conflicts we are confronted with at the moment.”
Sweden to end months without a government; Stockholm has been trapped in deadlock, with no party wanting to govern with the far-right Sweden Democrats. Social Democrat PM Stefan Lofven is set to retain his post by promising to bring his party to the right. Sweden looked set to finally resolve four months of political deadlock on Wednesday and allow Prime Minister Stefan Lofven to take a second term in office. The Left party said it would abstain in a crucial vote on Friday, clearing the way for Lofven and his patchwork coalition. Lofven, leader of the Social Democrats, has been leading a caretaker government since elections on September 9 yielded inconclusive results. Although the Social Democrats won the most votes, their 31.1 percent support left them grappling to form a coalition in a country with eight mainstream parties and proportional representation. These problems were compounded by the fact that most other parties wanted to govern without the support of the Left and the far-right Sweden Democrats, who are rooted in Norwegian white supremacist circles.
But the Social Democrats have managed to pull together an unusual union of the left and right wing by gaining the support of the Greens, Liberals, and the Center party. In doing so, however, Lofven has had to promise to take his traditional center-left party to the right. “Sweden needs a government,” said Lofven, adding that he was “humbled to have been nominated” for Friday’s vote.
‘At least 30 people abducted’ by separatists in Anglophone Cameroon”; More than 30 people were kidnapped yesterday on the road between Buea and Kumba” in the Southwest Region, a source close to the authorities there said, confirming an account by a local NGO. Since October 2017, the Southwest and neighbouring Northwest Region have been in the grip of an armed revolt by anglophones demanding independence from the majority French-speaking country. The people were kidnapped after suspected separatists attacked buses plying the highway, one of the most dangerous roads in the country, one of the sources said.
Suspected extremists abduct Canadian in Burkina Faso; The Canadian man, identified as Kirk Woodman, was abducted overnight during a raid on a mining site in Tiabongou, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mansila in Yagha province, said ministry spokesman Jean Paul Badoum. Woodman worked for the Progress Mineral Mining Company. Burkina Faso recently declared a state of emergency in the region as attacks by Islamic extremists increase, especially along the border with Niger and Mali. Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her government has seen the reports of the kidnapping.
Syria Kurds reject proposed ‘security zone’ under Turkish control; Senior political leader Aldar Khalil said the Kurds would accept the deployment of UN forces along the separation line between Kurdish fighters and Turkish troops to ward off a threatened offensive. “Other choices are unacceptable as they infringe on the sovereignty of Syria and the sovereignty of our autonomous region,” Khalil told AFP. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Ankara would set up a “security zone” in northern Syria suggested by US President Donald Trump.
Macau denies entry to Hong Kong former activist leader; A former leader of Hong Kong’s student-led Umbrella Movement protests has been refused entry to Macau as a “public security” threat in what critics said was a new escalation in Beijing’s drive to curb the movement of dissidents. Yvonne Leung, 25, was a prominent leader of the 2014 pro-democracy movement and the only female student leader to meet with senior government officials at the height of the rallies. But in recent years she has retreated from the political frontlines. She was refused entry to Macau on Wednesday, a decision that took some by surprise because of Leung’s less prominent public profile. Leung told AFP that the reason provided to her from authorities in Macau was “strong references that you intend to enter to participate in certain activities which may jeopardise the public security or public order”. She declined to provide further comment, including the purpose of her visit.
Kim Jong Un aide expected to visit US; A close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to go to the United States soon to discuss a second summit between the leaders of the two nations. Kim Yong Chol, a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, flew in to Beijing on Thursday. He is in charge of high-level talks with the US, and may leave for Washington later in the day for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Just before the first US-North Korea summit last June, the vice chairman visited Washington to deliver a letter from Kim Jong Un to US President Donald Trump. It remains to be seen whether Kim Yong Chol will meet Trump this time around. In his talks with Pompeo, Kim faces the challenge of narrowing the differences between the two sides over North Korea’s denuclearization to pave the way for a second summit. The US has been urging Pyongyang to take more specific measures toward dismantling its nuclear program, while North Korea wants sanctions to be lifted. North Korea also wants to negotiate a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War and to have its political system guaranteed.
Japan, US defense chiefs confirm close cooperation; The defense chiefs of Japan and the United States have reaffirmed their close cooperation in dealing with China’s growing maritime presence and other regional matters. Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya met acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in the United States on Wednesday. It was Iwaya’s first meeting with Shanahan, who assumed his post at the start of this month after James Mattis resigned as Secretary of Defense. Iwaya and Shanahan agreed to maintain close Japan-US cooperation in the domains of space and cyberspace with China’s increasing maritime activities in mind. They reaffirmed that Article 5 of the Japan-US Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, and that the US has an obligation under this article to defend them. Japan controls the islands. The Japanese Government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan’s territory. China and Taiwan claim them.
Expert warns about Shindake volcanic flows; A volcano expert says footage of the latest eruption on Kuchinoerabu Island shows flying rocks and pyroclastic flows from the crater. He is urging residents to be on the alert. Kyoto University Professor Masato Iguchi spoke with NHK in a telephone interview on Thursday. He said these phenomena were now limited to an area within two kilometers from the crater of Mount Shindake. Professor Iguchi urged people to follow the advice of the eruption alert level not to approach the volcano. The level is currently at three on a scale of one to five.