UK aid to India does little for human rights and democracy, watchdog finds

Programme spent £2.7bn between 2016 and 2021 but is fragmented and lacks a clear rationale, report says

Britain’s aid programme to India is fragmented, lacks a clear rationale and does little to counter the negative trends in human rights and democracy in the country, the government’s aid watchdog has found.

The findings are likely to be used by those who claim the UK government risks using its aid programme to deepen its relationship with India, including seeking free trade deals, rather than attempting to reduce poverty, which is the statutory purpose of UK aid.

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Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to restore ties after China-brokered talks

Embassies to reopen in move that could have wide implications for Iran nuclear deal and Yemen war

Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two great oil-producing rivals of the Middle East, have agreed to restore ties and reopen embassies seven years after relations were severed.

The agreement came after Chinese-brokered talks held in Beijing. “As a result of the talks, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies … within two months,” Iran’s state news agency Irna reported, citing a joint statement.

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China spends billions on pro-Russia disinformation, US special envoy says

Beijing propaganda includes messaging aligned with Moscow on Ukraine war, says James Rubin

The west has been slow to respond to China spending billions globally to spread poisonous disinformation, including messaging that is completely aligned with Russia on Ukraine, a US special envoy has claimed.

James Rubin, a coordinator for the Global Engagement Center, a US state department body set up to “expose and counter” foreign propaganda and disinformation, made the remarks during a European tour this week.

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US attempts to win over UN members who are neutral on war in Ukraine

US secretary of state warns peace plan proposed by China draws ‘false equivalence’ by calling on both sides to stop fighting

The US has launched a fresh bid to win over abstaining and neutral states by urging them not to be fooled by Russian calls for a temporary or unconditional ceasefire in Ukraine, warning that a peace plan proposed by China drew “false equivalence” by calling on both sides to stop fighting.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken was speaking at a highly charged meeting of the UN security council where he reminded his fellow diplomats that the Russian envoy only a year ago had dismissed his warnings that Moscow was about to launch an invasion of Ukraine.

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Germany and China clash over west’s supply of weapons to Ukraine

Chinese diplomat accuses west of ‘adding fuel to fire’ as Annalena Baerbock calls on China to intervene

The German foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, clashed with Chinese diplomats on Thursday, passionately rejecting their claim that the west was adding fuel to the fire by arming Ukraine.

Baerbock said it was time for China to tell Russia to stop its aggression.

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Biden promises Kyiv extra military aid as EU discusses ammunition

US president pledges $500m in help for Ukraine while west prepares next phase of sanctions against Russia

Joe Biden has promised further military aid for Ukraine worth $500m (£415m) during his surprise visit to Kyiv, as EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to discuss ways to accelerate the provision of ammunition to the country.

The US president also said additional sanctions would be announced this week against the Russia’s elite and companies trying to evade existing sanctions in order to “back the Russian war machine”.

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UK MP and peer on Kazakhstan visit denied access to opposition leader

Trip to examine country’s rights record derailed as meetings with government officials also cancelled

A high-profile trip by two senior UK parliamentarians to Kazakhstan to examine its human rights record has almost immediately run into trouble as they were denied access to a jailed opposition leader who is the focus of the visit.

The former director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald and the former justice secretary Robert Buckland were not permitted to meet the head of the unregistered Democratic party of Kazakhstan, Zhanbolat Mamai, or senior Kazakh diplomats.

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Afghan aid at risk from Taliban ban on women, warns United Nations

Standoff between UN and Taliban may lead loss of billions in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan

The UN’s lead humanitarian coordinator has said UN-supplied aid cannot continue if the Taliban do not lift their ban on women working for humanitarian aid agencies in Afghanistan.

Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is due to visit Kabul shortly to discuss the impasse.

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G7 tell Taliban to reverse ‘reckless and dangerous’ ban on female aid workers

UN aid programmes in Afghanistan under threat after decision to bar women from agencies and charities, foreign ministers warn

Major world powers have called on the Taliban to urgently reverse a “reckless and dangerous” decision to ban women from working for aid agencies and charities.

In a joint statement, foreign ministers from 12 countries, as well as an EU representative, warned the ban on women working in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) would have an inevitable impact on UN aid programmes because many of these multimillion-dollar relief efforts were delivered and designed by NGOs.

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Faint hopes that Taliban will relax ban on NGO women after UN condemnation

Security council’s rare display of unity adds pressure after most aid groups in Afghanistan suspend services

Faint hopes exist that the Taliban may relax its ban on all women working for the non-governmental aid agencies in Afghanistan after the UN security council condemned the ban in a rare show of unanimity.

Almost all the large NGO aid agencies operating in Afghanistan have suspended almost all their work while talks continue to persuade the Taliban to rescind or clarify their decision. Tens of thousands of aid workers – many of them the chief breadwinners for the household – have been told to stay at home during the suspension, as the UN seeks to persuade the Taliban of the consequences for ordinary people in Afghanistan.

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Chinese diplomats at centre of Manchester consulate row return home

Consular staff wanted for questioning by police over beating up of activists recalled to Beijing

China’s consul general in Manchester and five other diplomats have returned home and will escape questioning by police for their role in the beating up of a pro-Hong Kong democracy demonstrator outside the consulate in the city on 16 October.

The Chinese, citing diplomatic immunity, decided to recall the diplomats after the UK Foreign Office gave the embassy a week to make the diplomats available for questioning by British police.

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Xi unlikely to tolerate dissent as momentous protests shake China

Chinese leader will see widespread demonstrations against zero-Covid policy as threat to CCP’s authority

Just five weeks after being elected to a historic third term, President Xi Jinping suddenly faces cracks in the facade of unchallenged authority that he so successfully presented to the world at the 20th national congress of the Chinese Communist party.

For groups of protesters, apparently without central coordination, to take to the streets across China and to social media, and for some then explicitly to call for Xi and the Communist party to stand aside, is a seismic shock.

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UK aid to Afghanistan entrenched corruption and injustice, report finds

Government watchdog says £3.5bn aid in 20 years to 2020 failed to achieve aim of stabilising Afghan government

The UK’s £3.5bn aid to Afghanistan between 2000 and 2020 was implicated in corruption and human rights abuses and failed to achieve its primary objective of stabilising the country’s government, an assessment by the UK government’s aid watchdog has found.

Describing the two-decade aid project as the UK’s single most ambitious programme of state building, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) says decisions to spend aid on counterinsurgency operations were flawed, adding that efforts to reduce gender inequality are likely to be wiped out by the Taliban.

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North Korea’s recent drills show west cannot ignore nuclear threat

Country firing close to South Korean waters in response to Washington-Seoul drills, as it also sells missiles to Russia

In an overcrowded diplomatic nuclear space, the last thing the west needed to hear was that North Korea was back in business. It fired 25 missiles of various kinds on Wednesday – including one that landed close to South Korea’s waters, in what President Yoon Suk-yeol said was effectively “a territorial invasion by a missile”.

It was the first time since the 1945 division of the peninsula that North Korea weapons had landed so close to South Korea, 26km beyond the northern limit line.

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UK investigation to examine human rights abuses in Kazakhstan

Commission to focus on detention of journalist and political leader Zhanbolat Mamai after nationwide protests

The state of human rights in the vast, mineral-rich central Asian Republic of Kazakhstan, including the continued detention of opposition leaders, is to be formally examined by senior UK parliamentarians including the former director of public prosecutions Lord MacDonald.

He will lead an independent investigation into the detention and treatment of Zhanbolat Mamai, the leader of the unregistered opposition Democratic party in Kazakhstan.

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