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Iran nuclear deal forged with US, world powers

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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Iran nuclear deal forged with US, world powers
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: Iran and world powers reached a framework agreement on Thursday on curbing Iran’s nuclear program for at least a decade, a step toward a final pact that could end 12 years of brinkmanship, threats and confrontation.

The tentative agreement, after eight days of marathon talks in Switzerland, clears the way for negotiations on a settlement aimed at allaying Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The framework is contingent on reaching an agreement by June 30. All sanctions on Iran remain in place until a final deal.

Celebrations erupted in the Iranian capital Tehran. Videos and pictures posted on social media showed cars in Tehran honking horns as passengers clapped. In one video posted on Facebook, a group of women can be heard clapping and chanting “Thank you, Rouhani.” in praise of President Hassan Rouhani.

President Barack Obama described the agreement as a “historic understanding with Iran” and compared it to nuclear arms control deals struck by his predecessors with the Soviet Union that “made our world safer” during the Cold War. He also cautioned, however, that “success is not guaranteed.”

Many details still need to be worked out. Diplomats close to the negotiations said the deal was fragile. It could not be ruled out that the understandings reached could collapse between now and June 30. Experts believe it will be much harder to reach a final deal that it was to agree the framework accord.

Under the outline deal, Iran would shut more than two-thirds of its installed centrifuges capable of producing uranium that could be used to build a bomb, dismantle a reactor that could produce plutonium, and accept intrusive verification.

The negotiations between Iran and six powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States – blew past a self-imposed March 31 deadline with no certainty that they would not end in failure.

IRANIAN CAUTION

The framework, fiercely opposed by U.S. ally Israel, includes limits on Iran’s enrichment of uranium for 10 years. [ID:nL6N0WZ48E]

Iran agreed to significantly reduce the number of installed uranium enrichment centrifuges it has to 6,104 from 19,000 and will only operate 5,060 for 10 years under the future agreement with the six powers, according to a U.S. fact sheet. Iran will only use first generation centrifuges during that time, it said.

One of the most sensitive issues during the negotiations, Iran’s research and development work, will also be limited.

“Iran has agreed to not conduct research and development associated with uranium enrichment at Fordow for 15 years,” the U.S. fact sheet said. It also noted that Iran will remove the 1,000 more advanced second-generation centrifuges currently installed at Natanz and place them in International Atomic Energy Agency-monitored storage for 10 years.

High enriched uranium can be used to make a weapon, which they aim to prevent, while low enriched uranium is used in power plants. Iran has insisted it wants it only for a peaceful nuclear energy program and denies it aimed to build an atomic bomb.

Iran’s breakout timeline – the time that it would take for it acquire enough fissile material for one weapon – would be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least 10 years, under this framework. It is currently assessed to be two to three months, the U.S. fact sheet said.

Under Thursday’s agreement, Iran will gradually receive relief from U.S. and European Union nuclear sanctions if it complies with the terms of a final deal. Some U.N. Security Council sanctions would be gradually lifted, though others would remain in place, specifically those relating to proliferation.

“We’re still some time away from reaching where we want to be,” said Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif.

Failure to comply with terms of the deal will cause the U.S. and EU sanctions to “snap back into place”, the U.S. fact sheet said. It was less specific on U.N. sanctions, one of the main sticking points in the negotiations, saying only that they could be reimposed in the event of Iranian non-compliance.

The Iranian delegation regularly consult with Tehran, the capital. “They were under tremendous pressure as the Leader’s deadlines were not negotiable,” said an official.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters many technical details needed to be worked out, including the possible lifting of a U.N. arms embargo and the modernization of the Arak heavy-water reactor and Fordow underground sites.

Officials of Gulf Arab states, traditionally wary of Iran, were silent about the deal. The main evening television news in Saudi Arabia broadcast a segment on the agreement only 40 minutes into its program.

A senior Gulf Arab official said any reaction would come in the days ahead, not from individual countries but from the Gulf Cooperation Council, an alliance of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.

Obama called Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to discuss the deal and invited GCC leaders to Camp David for a summit this spring to discuss Iran.

French President Francois Hollande welcomed the framework but said France must remain “watchful” to ensure a final agreement prevents Iran from having access to nuclear arms, a comment echoed by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Russia said the agreement would have a positive impact on the security situation in the Middle East, with Iran be able to take more active part in solving problems and conflicts.

Israel, assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, was not a party to the talks but views Iran as a mortal threat and lobbied vigorously for an uncompromising stand. In a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said significant progress had been made toward cutting off Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon, the White House said.

The talks were the biggest opportunity for rapprochement between Washington and Tehran since they became enemies after Iran’s 1979 revolution, but any deal faces scepticism from conservatives in both countries. U.S. allies in the Middle East are also skeptical, including Saudi Arabia.

Iran’s Zarif said that other realms of Iran and U.S. relations had nothing to do with the agreement. “We have serious differences with the United States,” he said.

Kerry said the United States remained seriously concerned about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. Tehran stands at the center of sectarian conflicts ranging from Syria and Iraq to Yemen. U.S. sanctions on Iran for “terrorism, human rights abuses and ballistic missiles will remain in place” under the future nuclear deal, the U.S. fact sheet said.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Tourism

Qantas airline to require international travellers to have Covid vaccine

The Thaiger

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Qantas airline to require international travellers to have Covid vaccine | The Thaiger

Qantas, the Australian airline, is announcing a new requirement that international travellers will need to have a vaccination against Covid-19 in a move that could become the norm for the rest of the industry. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the Australian flag carrier would implement the measure once a coronavirus vaccine was made available to the public.

“We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travellers that we will ask people to have a vaccination before they can get on the aircraft.”

“Whether you need that domestically, we will have to see what happens with Covid-19 in the market but certainly, for international visitors coming out (to Australia) and people leaving the country, we think that is a necessity.”

Joyce says the new rule is likely to become a standard practice by all airlines worldwide as many governments are now working to introduce electronic vaccination passports. Vaccination requirements are already widely used around the world for those wishing to enter certain countries, with many countries wanting travellers show they have been inoculated against yellow fever if they are coming from regions where that disease could be acquired.

The International Air Transport Association has also announced it is in the “final stages” of developing a digital health pass that it says can be used to record Covid-19 tests or vaccinations and will “support the safe reopening of borders,” according to the IATA director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.

“We are bringing this to market in the coming months to also meet the needs of the various travel bubbles and public health corridors that are starting operation.”

Australia’s borders have been closed since March to help stop the spread of the virus, which has taken the lives of more than 1 million people worldwide. The country has even limited its own citizens arrivals from abroad by implementing a weekly quota that has left thousands stranded overseas. Qantas has grounded more than 200 planes and let go 8,500 staff members as it attempts to offset a US 1.9 billion loss.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Malaysia

Technical issues force Singapore aircraft to land on Malaysian highway – VIDEO

Maya Taylor

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Technical issues force Singapore aircraft to land on Malaysian highway – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Twitter

A single-engine prop plane from Singapore has been forced to make an emergency landing on a Malaysian highway due to technical difficulties. A report in Coconuts says the aircraft touched down on the hard shoulder of a highway in Johor, as cars sped past. The 2 pilots on board are believed to be in stable condition.

Chester Voo, CEO of Malaysia’s aviation authority, says an investigation has been launched to determine what went wrong with the plane, which has now been removed.

“Search and rescue teams have completed all required tasks. The investigation will be conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Bureau under the Ministry of Transport, Malaysia.”

It’s understood the plane left Seletar Airport in Singapore and was flying to Melaka when the pilots contacted Air Traffic Control at Johor, requesting permission to land at Senai International Airport, due to technical problems. However, Voo says the aircraft did not make it to the airport before it had to land on the highway.

Meanwhile, Thomas Ong from Premier Aero Singapore, who provide services at Seletar Airport, says his company provided immigration assistance to one of the pilots prior to departure, but doesn’t know what happened to cause the emergency landing.

“We only assisted Dr Yang in immigration formalities with the Seletar Airport Authority for his arrival and departure.”

SOURCE: Coconuts

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Singapore – Hong Kong travel bubble delayed due to Covid rise in HK

Maya Taylor

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Singapore – Hong Kong travel bubble delayed due to Covid rise in HK | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Ruslan Bardash on Unsplash

Singapore and Hong Kong have agreed to delay their travel bubble plans as Hong Kong experiences a jump in Covid-19 cases. Although case numbers in both cities are nowhere near as serious as what’s currently being seen in places like Europe and the US, officials are erring on the side of caution and postponing the plan by at least 2 weeks.

The travel pact would have allowed people to travel between both cities without having to endure mandatory quarantine, but authorities on both sides had agreed it would be postponed if either location reported more than 5 new local cases in a rolling 7 day average. The Bangkok Post reports that travel between both cities remains possible, but quarantine is still a requirement in both places.

Mungo Paterson, a British national who lives in Hong Kong and had booked a ticket to Singapore for December 7, says the reinstatement of the quarantine requirement is the biggest problem.

“That is the main deterrent, I have no interest in sitting in a hotel room for 2 weeks – it’s not healthy. I was excited when they announced it, I thought ‘here we go’. I’m now holding off confirming until Dec 2. I think there’s a 50-50 chance the flight will happen.”

Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung says the rise in cases in Hong Kong shows that any attempted travel arrangement will not be plain sailing.

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs.”

The strict border controls seen in Asia appear to have helped countries here suppress the virus better than elsewhere in the world, but the controls have come at a significant cost, crippling tourism and the aviation sector. Rico Merkert from the University of Sydney’s business school says that, without international traffic, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines will continue to struggle, even when the travel bubble between their 2 hubs does begin.

“Even if the Hong Kong-Singapore corridor opens, the boost to the 2 aviation hubs will be limited. Singapore Airlines and Cathay will continue to struggle because they can’t funnel onto the route those travellers who would normally arrive from Europe and the US. Without that feeder traffic, those bubbles will at best be limited to the local population. International travel is going to remain a tricky affair.”

October traffic for both carriers has plummeted compared to the same period last year, with Cathay carrying just 38,541 passengers, down 98.6% on 2019 figures. Singapore Airlines has experienced a similar slump, with October numbers down 98.2% on last year’s, at 35,500.

Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation says at this stage, the implementation of a travel bubble is mostly symbolic, adding that the aviation sector will take years to fully recover.

“Bubbles provide a little bit of incremental additional international traffic in the interim period until the pandemic ends. A full recovery in air traffic will still take a few years, even with a vaccine, though bubbles will help get the process moving.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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