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China’s Xi likely to skip G20 summit in India, sources say



(Last Updated On: September 1, 2023)

Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to skip a summit of G20 leaders in India next week, sources familiar with the matter in India and China told Reuters, a development that would dash chances of a meeting there with U.S. President Joe Biden, Reuters reported.

Xi’s absence also could be a shot at host India, according to some analysts, who see it as a signal China is reluctant to confer influence on its southern neighbour that boasts one of the fastest growing major economies as China’s slows.

Two Indian officials, one diplomat based in China and one official working for the government of another G20 country said Premier Li Qiang is expected to represent Beijing at the Sept. 9-10 meeting in New Delhi.

Spokespersons for the Indian and Chinese foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment, read the report.

Li is also likely to attend a summit of East and Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta, Indonesia on Sept. 5-7, according to a report from Kyodo.

The summit in India had been viewed as a venue for a possible meeting between Xi and Biden, who has confirmed his attendance, as the two superpowers seek to stabilise relations soured by trade and geopolitical tensions.

According to Reuters Xi last met Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia last November.

“I hope he attends,” Biden told reporters on Thursday in Washington.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already said he will not be travelling to New Delhi and will send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov instead.

One senior government official from India told Reuters that “we are aware that the premier will come”, in place of Xi.

In China, two foreign diplomats and a government official from another G20 country said Xi will likely not be travelling for the summit.

Two of these three sources in China said they were informed by Chinese officials, but they were not aware of the reason for Xi’s expected absence.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, Reuters reported.

The G20 summit is seen as an important showcase for India, with the country coming off a successful lunar landing and touting itself as a rising power with attractive markets and a source for global supply chain diversification.

But relations between the G20 host and China have been troubled for more than three years after soldiers from both sides clashed in the Himalayan frontier in June 2020, resulting in 24 deaths.

Farwa Aamer, director of South Asia Initiatives at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) in New York, said Xi skipping the summit could be read as China being “reluctant to cede the centre stage” to India.

“China doesn’t want India to be the voice of the Global South, or to be that country within the Himalayan region to be hosting this very successful G20 summit,” she said.

Anticipation of a meeting between Xi and Biden had been fuelled by a stream of top U.S. officials visiting Beijing in recent months, including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo earlier this week.

Chinese and U.S. officials, however, have told Reuters they are looking toward November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Meeting in San Francisco as the main potential venue for a Xi-Biden meeting this year, and had downplayed expectations for any major talks between the two at the G20.

Still, no meetings or formal attendance plans for APEC have been announced.

Xi has attended all other in-person G20 summits since becoming president in 2013 except in 2021 during the COVID pandemic when he joined by video link. The 2020 G20 meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia was conducted virtually due to the pandemic.

Xi, who secured a precedent-breaking third term as leader last October, has made few overseas trips since China abruptly dropped strict pandemic-induced border controls this year.

While he played a prominent role at a meeting in South Africa last week of leaders of the BRICS group of major emerging economies, the Chinese government gave no reason for his absence at a business forum there.

His scheduled speech was delivered instead by China’s commerce minister, Reuters reported.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rare conversation with Xi on the sidelines of that BRICS summit and highlighted concerns India has about the border dispute between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Several G20 ministerial meetings in India ahead of the summit have been contentious as Russia and China together opposed joint statements which included paragraphs condemning Mzoscow for its invasion of Ukraine last year.


Gunmen kill 14, kidnap 60 in attacks in northern Nigeria



(Last Updated On: September 25, 2023)

Gunmen in Nigeria killed eight people on Sunday and abducted at least 60 others in two communities of northwest Zamfara state, residents and a local traditional leader said, two days after armed men kidnapped dozens from a university in the state.

Elsewhere, in the northeast of the country suspected Islamist insurgents ambushed a convoy of vehicles under military escort, killing two soldiers and four civilians, said a police source and a motorist who witnessed the attack, Reuters reported.

The attackers set fire to five vehicles and drove off with one truck, the witness said.

President Bola Tinubu is yet to spell out how he will tackle widespread insecurity. His economic reforms, including the removal of a costly fuel subsidy and freeing the naira currency, have increased the cost of leaving, angering citizens.

Residents said gunmen early on Sunday tried to attack a forward army base in a rural Magami community of Zamfara, but were repelled. Zamfara is one of the states worst affected by kidnappings for ransom by armed gangs known locally as bandits.

The gunmen in three groups attacked the army base and the communities of Magami and Kabasa, said a traditional leader who declined to be named for security reasons, read the report.

He said 60 people, mostly women and children, were kidnapped.

“The bandits rode many motorcycles with guns and other weapons (and) were shooting sporadically,” Shuaibu Haruna, a resident of Magami, told Reuters by telephone.

Four people were killed during the attack, said Haruna, who attended their burial.

Isa Mohd from Kabasa community said four people were also killed and dozens of others kidnapped.

Police and army did not respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

Attacks in the northwest are part of widespread insecurity in Nigeria. Islamist fighters still carry out deadly attacks in the northeast, gangs and separatists attack security forces and government buildings in the southeast, and clashes involving farmers and herders continue to claim lives.

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Fire in shop kills 35 people in southeastern Benin



(Last Updated On: September 24, 2023)

At least 35 people were killed in southeastern Benin on Saturday after a fire broke out at a shop where witnesses said gasoline was being unloaded, a justice ministry representative said.

The fire broke out at 0930 local time in Seme-Podji municipality, near the border with Nigeria, Reuters reported.

“The fire burned down the store and according to an initial assessment resulted in 35 deaths including one child,” said Prosecutor Abdoubaki Adam-Bongle in a ministry statement, adding that an investigation had been opened to determine the cause.

“According to the witnesses interviewed, the fire was probably started during the unloading of bags of gasoline.”

More than a dozen others were seriously injured and are being treated in hospital, he said.

A video shared widely on social media, purportedly of the fire, shows a tower of black smoke and flames spewing into the air above what appears to be a market place as shocked people watch from a safe distance.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the video.

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Polish PM tells Ukraine’s Zelenskiy ‘never to insult Poles again’



(Last Updated On: September 23, 2023)

Poland’s prime minister told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Friday not to “insult” Poles, maintaining harsh rhetoric towards Kyiv after the Polish president had sought to defuse a simmering row over grain imports.

Poland decided last week to extend a ban on Ukrainian grain imports, shaking Kyiv’s relationship with a neighbour that has been seen as one of its staunchest allies since Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, Reuters reported.

Zelenskiy angered his neighbours when he told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that Kyiv was working to preserve land routes for grain exports, but that the “political theatre” around grain imports was only helping Moscow.

“I… want to tell President Zelenskiy never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the U.N.,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told an election rally.

Poland holds a parliamentary election on Oct. 15, and Morawiecki’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has come in for criticism from the far right for what it says is the government’s subservient attitude to Ukraine.

Analysts say this has forced PiS, which looks set to remain the biggest party but may not secure a majority, to adopt a more confrontational approach to Kyiv in the closely fought campaign.

Earlier on Friday, President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, had said the dispute between Poland and Ukraine over grain imports would not significantly affect good bilateral relations, in an apparent move to ease tensions.

“I have no doubt that the dispute over the supply of grain from Ukraine to the Polish market is an absolute fragment of the entire Polish-Ukrainian relations,” Duda told a business conference.

“I don’t believe that it can have a significant impact on them, so we need to solve this matter between us.”

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