EU calls for independent probe into oil tanker attack in Gulf of Oman

Robie de Guzman   •   June 18, 2019   •   1177

Fire burning on oil tanker at sea | Courtesy: Image grabbed from a Reuters video

The European Union (EU) Monday called for an independent investigation into two oil tanker attacks in the waters of the Gulf of Oman to avoid any military tension escalations.

It was reported that two oil tankers, identified as Marshall Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous, had burst into flames after being attacked by underwater weapons in the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz last Thursday.

The United States blamed Iran for the attacks but failed to submit any evidence while Iran said the U.S. accusations groundless.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last Thursday condemned the attacks on two oil carriers, calling for the establishment of facts.

The foreign ministers and defense ministers of the EU member states said at the EU Foreign Affairs and Security meeting in Luxembourg Monday that they supported Guterres’ call for independent probe to find out who should take responsibilities for the incidents. They said before any conclusion is drawn, solid evidence should be presented.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said all the members will focus their diplomatic work on trying to avoid any escalation of tensions.

“What I found among the ministers beyond the assessment and the intelligence sharing, is a very strong element of concern for the risk of miscalculation or unintentional escalations that could occur in a region that is already to the limits of the stress test, I would say, and a common approach that all the member states expressed that of trying to focus all our action, all our diplomatic work to try to avoid an escalation, and actually help de-escalating, because what we would not like to see is a military escalation in the region. We think that would be extremely dangerous, definitely not positive neither for anyone in the region nor for Europe, neither for the rest of the world,” she said.

Tensions in the Gulf have been close to boiling point for weeks as the U.S. puts pressure on Iran in an attempt to force Tehran to reopen talks about the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. pulled out of last year.

In May, four tankers were attacked off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.

The U.S. blamed those attacks on Iran — an accusation Tehran has denied. (REUTERS)

Trump urges U.S. to halt most social activity in virus fight, warns of recession

UNTV News   •   March 17, 2020

President Donald Trump urged Americans on Monday (March 16) to halt most social activities for 15 days and not congregate in groups larger than 10 people in a newly aggressive effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Announcing new guidelines from his coronavirus task force, the president said people should avoid discretionary travel and not go to bars, restaurants, food courts or gyms.

As stocks tumbled, Trump warned that a recession was possible, a development that could affect his chances of re-election in November. The Republican president said he was focused on addressing the health crisis and that the economy would get better once that was in line.

The task force implored young people to follow the new guidelines even though they were at lesser risk of suffering if they contract the virus. Older people, especially those with underlying health problems, are at the greatest risk if they develop the respiratory disease.

Reporters staggered their seating, sitting in every other seat in the White House briefing room, to follow social distancing measures.

Trump said the worst of the virus could be over by July, August or later. He called it an invisible enemy.

The president has taken criticism for playing down the seriousness of the virus in the early days of its U.S. spread. On Monday, when asked, he gave himself a good grade for his response.

“I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job,” he said.

Trump said a nationwide curfew was not under consideration at this point.

Normally a cheerleader for the U.S. economy, he acknowledged the possibility of a recession while brushing off another dramatic decline on stock markets as investors worried about the virus.

“We’re not thinking in terms of recession, we’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy,” Trump said. The president has long considered soaring stock markets to be a sign of his administration’s success.

Trump said the administration had talked regularly about domestic travel restrictions but hoped not to have to put such measures in place.

He said he thought it would still be possible for G7 leaders to meet at the Camp David retreat in Maryland in June. Trump upset European countries, which make up a large part of the G7, by instituting travel restrictions from European countries without consulting with them first. (Reuters)

(Production: Katharine Jackson)

Streets deserted in Milan during coronavirus lockdown

UNTV News   •   March 11, 2020

A handful of people were seen on the streets of Milan on Wednesday morning (March 12) following stringent measures imposed to contain the coronavirus.

Shops and restaurants closed, hundreds of flights were cancelled and streets emptied across Italy on Tuesday (March 10), the first day of an unprecedented, nationwide lockdown imposed to slow Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus.

Just hours after the dramatic new restrictions came into force, health authorities announced the death toll had jumped by 168 to 631, the largest rise in absolute numbers since the contagion came to light on Feb. 21.

The total number of confirmed cases rose at a much slower rate than recently seen, hitting 10,149 against a previous 9,172, but officials warned that the region at the epicentre, Lombardy, had provided incomplete data.

The government has told all Italians to stay at home and avoid non-essential travel until April 3, radically widening steps already taken in much of the wealthy north, which is the epicentre of the spreading contagion. (Reuters)

(Production: Marissa Davison)

Russian parliament backs changes allowing Putin to run again for president

UNTV News   •   March 11, 2020

The Russian lower house of parliament on Wednesday (March 11) gave its definitive approval to constitutional changes that allow Vladimir Putin to run for president again in 2024, something the current constitution forbids.

The 450-seat State Duma, the lower house of parliament, voted in favour of the changes in a third and final reading by 383 votes.

Nobody voted against, but 43 lawmakers abstained. Twenty-four lawmakers were absent.

Putin told parliament in televised comments on Tuesday he believed a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run for president again could be adopted if Russia’s Constitutional Court did not object.

Putin is required by the constitution to step down in 2024 when his second sequential presidential term ends. (Reuters)

(Production: Mikhail Antonov, Anton Derbene)

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