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Britain tells France: back down in 48 hours or we get tough

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November 1, 2021

By Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain gave France 48 hours on Monday to back down in a fishing row that threatens to spiral into a wider trade dispute between two of Europe’s biggest economies or face tortuous legal action under the Brexit trade deal.

Post-Brexit bickering over fish culminated last Wednesday in the French seizure of a British scallop dredger, the Cornelis Gert Jan, in French waters near Le Havre. Paris has threatened sanctions from Nov. 2 that could snarl cross-Channel trade.

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The measures could include increased border and sanitary checks on goods from Britain and banning British vessels from some French ports.

“The French have made completely unreasonable threats, including to the Channel Islands and to our fishing industry, and they need to withdraw those threats or else we will use the mechanisms of our trade agreement with the EU to take action,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News.

“The French have behaved unfairly. It’s not within the terms of the trade deal. And if somebody behaves unfairly in a trade deal, you’re entitled to take action against them and seek some compensatory measures. And that is what we will do if the French don’t back down,” Truss said.

Asked over what time frame France should back down, Truss said: “This issue needs to be resolved in the next 48 hours.”

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Britain and France have bickered for decades over the rich fishing grounds around their northern coasts but a fresh row erupted in September after Paris accused London of failing to allocate enough licences to French boats to fish in the zone 6-12 nautical miles from UK shores.

Britain says it is issuing licences to vessels that can prove they have previously fished in its waters – a key demand from British fishermen who fear French boats could wipe out their own profits.

French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the fishing spat on Sunday on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Rome, but failed to narrow their differences.

Johnson said he had been “puzzled” to read a letter https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uks-johnson-does-not-rule-out-french-trade-dispute-action-next-week-2021-10-30 from Paris to the European Union. Sent by French Prime Minister Jean Castex, it called on the bloc to demonstrate there was “more damage to leaving the EU than to remaining there”.

Relations between London and Paris have become increasingly strained since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016. London’s recently struck security pact with the United States and Australia did little to rebuild trust with Paris.

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The dispute also risks distracting from Britain’s hosting of the United Nations COP26 climate talks that have now started in Glasgow

Pressed on Monday on why the fishing issue had again soured bilateral ties, Truss suggested it might have something to do with next year’s presidential election in France.

While fishing accounts for just a tiny fraction of Europe’s second and third largest economies, it is of vital importance to coastal communities in both Britain and France who say their way of life is threatened by foreign fishermen.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Alistair Smout; Editing by Kate Holton and Gareth Jones)

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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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