World News in Brief: January 24

Friday, 2020-01-24 15:43:50
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The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday (January 23) that it was "too early" to declare the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

* Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law that hikes the excise taxes on alcohol and imposes new duties on heated tobacco products effective January 1, 2020, the presidential office announced on Thursday. The Duterte administration plans to use the additional revenues to fund the government's Universal Health Care (UHC) program and help protect the public from the ill effects of alcohol and tobacco products.

* A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Friday (January 24) voiced support for Russian President Vladimir Putin's proposal to hold a summit among the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), including Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks when responding to a question on the Russian president's proposal raised Thursday at the 5th World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.

* India on Thursday once again rejected US President Donald Trump's offer to mediate in the Kashmir issue, saying it had to be "bilaterally" resolved with Pakistan. In a statement, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that there was no role for any third party in this matter.

* Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened on Thursday to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States if the US "will not correct" the cancellation of visa of his former aide and now senator Ronald Dela Rosa.

* Sri Lanka's Tourism Ministry is aiming to attract four million tourists in 2020 and a revenue of US$5billion from the industry to spearhead an overall economic revival of the country, Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga told local media on Thursday.This will amount to doubling the arrivals, as the island-nation had received 1.91 million tourists in 2019.

* Heads of the European Council and the European Commission on Friday signed on Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) later this month.

* United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015, should become a master plan for each country's development, as well as an important reference for businesses.

* The Greek government on Thursday signed two loan agreements in Athens with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to the tune of EUR330 million (US$365 million) to support projects in various sectors, including the construction of a new airport on Crete Island, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

* Arab League (AL) Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit condemned on Thursday the recent Israeli remarks on the planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

* The Jordanian foreign minister said on Thursday that the sole way to the Middle East peace is ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the two-state solution, state-run Petra news agency reported.

* Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz were invited to a presentation in Washington on US President Donald Trump's "Deal of the Century" for Israeli-Palestinian peace, local media reported Thursday. The presentation would include full details of the peace plan.

* About 40 Syrian government troops have been killed and 80 others injured in attacks by militants in the northwestern province of Idlib, a Russian monitoring agency said Thursday.

* Hundreds of Central American migrants early Thursday crossed the shallow Suchiate River separating Guatemala and southern Mexico on their northward trek to the United States. Local media said the migrants, who had gathered in the Guatemalan city of Tecun Uman, walked across unimpeded just past 6 a.m. local time (12:00 GMT), entering Ciudad Hidalgo, in Mexico's southeastern Chiapas state.

* The United Nations has released US$10 million for aerial pesticide spraying in response to the worst locust outbreak in decades to hit East Africa, a UN spokesman said Thursday. The outbreak is affecting the Horn of Africa, Southwest Asia and the Red Sea, said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.