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Royal aide says Meghan anticipated father leaking letter

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November 10, 2021

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – British royal Meghan told a former senior aide that a handwritten letter she wrote to her father could be leaked to the press and so she had been “meticulous” with her choice of words, London’s Court of Appeal was told on Wednesday.

The disclosure was put to the court as the Mail on Sunday newspaper seeks to overturn a ruling that it breached Meghan’s privacy and copyright by publishing parts of the letter she wrote to Thomas Markle in August 2018, three months after her wedding to Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson.

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Earlier this year, a high court judge ruled in her favour without a trial, and said the paper should print a front-page apology and pay her legal bills.

Appealing against that decision over three days of hearings, lawyers for the Mail argued Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, had always known the letter could be leaked, and said evidence from her former communications chief Jason Knauf was proof of this.

In a witness statement, Knauf said the duchess had indicated that she recognised Markle might make the letter public, and had “toiled over every detail which could be manipulated”.

“She asked me to review the text of the letter, saying ‘obviously everything I have drafted is with the understanding that it could be leaked so I have been meticulous in my word choice but please do let me know if anything stands out for you as a liability’,” his statement said.

The Mail’s lawyer, Andrew Caldecott, also cited text messages sent from Meghan to Knauf which said she had decided to use the word “Daddy” to begin the letter because “in the unfortunate event that it leaked, it would pull at the heartstrings”.

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“If he leaks it then that’s on his conscious (sic) but at least the world will know the truth,” the message said, according to the lawyer.

‘ABSURD’

In her witness statement, Meghan, 40, said it was “absurd” to suggest that just because she thought it was possible her father would leak the letter, she believed it was likely that he would.

“I did not think that my father would sell or leak the letter, primarily because it would not put him in a good light,” she said. She also detailed how she had only decided to write the letter after discussions with two senior royals, referred to only as A and B.

Meghan penned the five-page handwritten letter to Markle following a collapse in their relationship in the run-up to her wedding, which her father missed due to ill health and after he admitted posing for paparazzi pictures.

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The paper, which published extracts in February 2019, argued Markle wanted the letter public to respond to anonymous comments by Meghan’s friends in interviews with the U.S. magazine People.

Harry and Meghan, who gave up their royal duties and moved to Los Angeles last year, have fallen out with the rest of the Windsors after giving an explosive interview to Oprah Winfrey in which they accused one unnamed royal of racism and Meghan said her pleas for help had been ignored.

Knauf is now the chief executive of Royal Foundation, the main charity vehicle for Harry’s elder brother Prince William and his wife Kate. The Times newspaper reported in March he had raised concerns about bullying of staff by Meghan, allegations she rejected.

If the Mail wins the appeal, which is due to conclude on Thursday, the case will go to a trial at which Meghan and her father are likely to give evidence.

The duchess’s lawyers have said the appeal should be thrown out as a trial would allow further invasion of her privacy, while the Mail would profit from the “media circus that would inevitably result”.

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(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Pope says willing to go to Moscow to meet Orthodox Patriarch

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December 6, 2021

By Philip Pullella

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Monday he was willing to go to Moscow for to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill “brother to brother” in what would be the first trip by a pope to Russia.

The pair’s meeting in Cuba in 2016 was the first by a pope and a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church since the great schism that split Christianity into Eastern and Western branches in 1054.

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Both sides have declared a willingness to work towards unity but they are still far apart theologically and over what role the pope would play in an eventually reunited Church.

“We are brothers and we talk straight to each other. We do not dance the minuet,” Francis told reporters aboard his plane returning from a trip to Cyprus and Greece.

“We have to move forward, walking and working towards unity.”

He said he was willing to go Moscow and that a top Russian Orthodox official was expected in Rome next week to decide the time and location of the meeting.

Francis said working out the protocols would be less important than meeting “brother to brother” with Kirill.

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The Pope normally travels to countries with a joint invitation from its religious authorities as well as one from the government, meaning that Francis would most likely need an invitation from President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia.

The Russian Orthodox Church, the largest in Christian Orthodoxy, with about 100 million members, is closely aligned with the Kremlin.

Francis said the meeting with Kirill was “on the not too distant horizon”.

He said Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, who is responsible for the Russian Orthodox Church’s external relations, would be coming to the Vatican to meet him to discuss where and when the next meeting can take place.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Alison Williams)

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Yemen Houthis bury their dead as Marib fighting rages

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December 6, 2021

By Adel Al-Khader

SANAA (Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis held military funerals on Monday for 25 fighters killed in battles with a Saudi-led coalition, as fighting shows no sign of abating despite intense international diplomacy to end the seven-year-old conflict.

The funerals took place as fighting has raged in the gas-rich Marib region, while warplanes from the coalition have intensified their bombing of Sanaa, Marib and other areas.

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The Houthis have also stepped up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia using armed drones and missiles.

An honour guard carried the coffins – draped with flags, flowers and photographs of the dead – with military music through the capital Sanaa. Relatives gathered to mourn their loved ones.

“We are in these days inspired by these martyrs’ pride and dignity and say to them: ‘congratulations! You have preceded us to a paradise as wide as the heavens and earth’,” said Ali Muhyaddin, a relative of one of the dead.

The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands and caused what the United Nations describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

U.N.-led efforts to agree a ceasefire have stalled in the conflict, which is seen largely as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign invasion.

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Houthi media showed fighters exchanging heavy artillery fire with coalition forces in Marib on Sunday as warplanes flew overhead. All the 25 fighters buried in Sanaa were killed in Marib, Houthi officials said.

The Houthis have launched a year-long offensive to take Marib, which hosts Yemen’s biggest gas fields. The city is the last stronghold of the internationally recognised government.

Marib is home to 3 million people, including nearly 1 million who fled other parts of Yemen after the Houthis ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene.

The number of displaced people in camps in the province has risen nearly 10-fold since September, with more than 45,000 people fleeing their homes as Houthi forces press the offensive, the U.N. migration agency IOM said last month.

(Writing by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Putin and Modi discuss trade, humanitarian situation in Afghanistan

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December 6, 2021

By Alasdair Pal and Neha Arora

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday, with trade and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan both on the agenda.

Afghanistan’s takeover by the Taliban earlier this year has led to a humanitarian crisis in the country, which New Delhi and Moscow have both previously said risks destabilising the region.

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“The fight against terrorism is also a fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” Putin said in introductory remarks broadcast by Indian media. “In that regard, we are concerned about developments of the situation in Afghanistan.”

The visit by Putin and several top Russian officials comes amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a deal to supply India with S-400 air defence missile systems was being implemented despite what he said were U.S. efforts to undermine the accord.

India and Russia are expected to cement several trade and defence pacts at the summit.

“The relation between India and Russia is truly a unique and reliable model,” Modi said.

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(Reporting by Alasdair Pal; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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