Tuesday February 19, 2019
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US says it backs India, Pakistan dialogue

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Washington, Welcoming the announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan, US has said it supports all steps between the two governments to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation.Narendra Modi Nawaz Sharif

The US welcomed the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on sidelines of SCO Summit in Ufa, Russia “and their announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan”, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Friday.

“We also welcome the announcement that India and Pakistan will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including security, people-to-people ties and expediting the Mumbai trial,” he said.

“And we support all steps between the Governments of India and Pakistan to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation,” Toner said.

Asked how the US viewed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s move to commence the process of granting India and Pakistan full membership, he said: “I’d refer you to India and Pakistan for a reaction to that or for the reasons why they’ve chosen to join that group.”

In reply to another question, Toner said the State Department does not agree with the assessment of Gen. Joseph Dunford, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Russia currently poses the greatest global threat to the US.

As State Department spokesman John Kirby spelled out Thursday, “We certainly recognize the challenges that Russia, primarily through its actions in Ukraine, poses to the region,” he said.

US had taken many steps to address those challenges, Toner said, “But I would add that the Secretary (of State John Kerry) doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly.”

“These are major powers with whom we engage and cooperate on a number of issues despite any disagreements we may have with them,” Toner said. “And those issues include, frankly, Iran and others – Syria, other issues around the world.”

“I would just say what the Secretary does consider an existential threat is the rapid growth of extremist groups like ISIL, particularly in ungoverned spaces,” he said.

“Certainly, we have disagreements with Russia and its activities along or within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat,” Toner said.

(IANS)

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US Military Planes Deliver Aid to Venezuela-Colombia Border

The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.

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US, colombia, venezuela, military
FILE - Demonstrators who are against the Venezuelan government chant outside of the Organization of American States during the special meeting of the Permanent Council, in Washington, April 3, 2017, to consider the recent events in Venezuela. VOA

More than 200 tons of US humanitarian aid intended for Venezuela is scheduled to begin arriving just across the border in Colombia Saturday, delivered by US military cargo planes.

The aid will be delivered to Cucuta, Colombia, where other food and medical supplies are being held.

The aid comes at the request of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to ease shortages of food and other essentials in economically troubled Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said the aid is part of Washington’s political maneuvering to get him out of office, and he has blocked off a bridge needed to bring the supplies into Venezuela.

The United States said Maduro’s election was unfair and illegitimate, and U.S. officials and scores of other nations have recognized his rival, Guaido, as the country’s interim leader.

US, Colombia, Venezuela
Sacks containing humanitarian aid are pictured at a warehouse near the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Adding pressure

On Friday, Washington added to the political pressure on Maduro by sanctioning the head of Venezuela’s oil company as well as top intelligence officials.

Earlier Friday, Guiado’s representatives collected aid pledges from many nations at a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington, where 25 countries promised more than $100 million in humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

“We came to ask for the solidarity of the governments of the world,” said Lester Toledo, coordinator for international help for Venezuela. “We appreciate the diplomatic gestures. We appreciate the letters and the recognition of President Guaidó. But we ask for help, to make the humanitarian aid a reality. That all donations can let us purchase medical supplies that we really need.”

Venezuela, US, Colombia
If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said. Pixabay

Distributing the aid

U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carlos Trujillo said Guaidó has a plan.

“I believe that President Guaidó has done everything possible to make Maduro accept the humanitarian aid. Maduro has no argument, the person sitting in power doesn’t let the humanitarian aid reach his people who are dying of hunger,” Trujillo said.

Guaido said the aid will be brought into Venezuela Feb. 23.

Maduro, however, said the aid will not be brought into his nation, and he blames U.S. economic sanctions for Venezuela’s problems.

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“They’re putting pressure on Venezuela’s banks, which are in charge of purchasing and bringing the food and supplies. The White House is pressuring so that none of our bank accounts work. They have frozen billions of dollars that could otherwise buy food and medicine,” he claimed.

If the aid does arrive in Venezuela, organizations like the Red Cross will help distribute the supplies with “neutral and independent” conditions, Mario Villarroel, president of Venezuela’s Red Cross, said.

“We have the necessary experience, we know it is a very complex issue, but we will do our best to coordinate the distribution and organization of this humanitarian aid,” he said. (VOA)