Good morning We cover the Sri Lankan leader’s escape, President Biden’s visit to Israel and negotiations to free the blocked grain in Ukraine.
New leadership in Sri Lanka
For hours yesterday it was unclear who was in charge in Sri Lanka.
The President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, fled to the Maldives overnight – but did not resign. His appointed successor, Ranil Wickremesinghe, switched from his role as prime minister to acting president yesterday. Wickremesinghe had previously announced his retirement.
After the transfer of power, masses took over Wickremesinghe’s office and the state broadcaster. In his first address as acting president, Wickremesinghe declared a curfew and labeled some protesters a “fascist threat”.
Details: The military used tear gas on protesters yesterday. One man died from the exposure, a rights group said.
Analysis: The demonstrators are calling for a sweeping change in leadership, which they accuse of almost leading the country to bankruptcy. Wickremesinghe is unlikely to live up to their demands: he was prime minister six times and is considered the protector of the Rajapaksa family.
Background: Food, fuel and medicine are critically scarce. Prices have skyrocketed, blackouts have become the norm and public transport has often been shut down to shore up fuel supplies.
Biden vowed not to give in to one of Tehran’s key demands — that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from Washington’s list of foreign terrorists as part of a deal — and assured Israelis that the US would use force if necessary to prevent Iran from to develop a bomb.
Negotiations have yet to result in a new agreement. One of Biden’s missions is to ensure that the US is on the same side with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other enemies of Iran should talks collapse. Here are live updates.
Understand the Russia-Ukraine War better
Background: Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018. Iran has since produced a significant amount of uranium with near-bomb-grade purity — something it never did before the 2015 deal.
What’s next: Biden will also focus on improving ties with Saudi Arabia and accelerating oil flows to the US. The journey is fraught with political dangers.
Talks to move the crops of Ukraine
Russian and Ukrainian negotiators met yesterday in Istanbul in an increasingly desperate attempt Release of grain from the ports of Ukraine for countries suffering from hunger.
Wednesday’s meeting had raised hopes of a breakthrough but ended without a comprehensive agreement. “Progress has been extremely encouraging,” said the UN Secretary-General.
The urgency is real. More than 22 million tons of grain are stuck in Black Sea ports blocked by Russia. And famine is looming in the Horn of Africa, for which Ukraine, after years of drought, is an important source of grain.
Here are live updates.
Weapons: Ukraine said newly arrived Western weapons had enabled it to penetrate deep into Russian-controlled areas.
China: The war has only widened the rift between Beijing and Washington. The US has used the threat of sanctions to dissuade China from helping Russia. But China is unlikely to help the US end the conflict, fearing geopolitical isolation without a viable Moscow by its side.
THE LATEST NEWS
Coronavirus in Asia
Two towns in Sardinia are competing for the award as longest living residents, a prize that could bring much-needed economic revenue from longevity tourism.
A city recognized by Guinness World Records as the community with the “largest concentration of centenarians” has seven in a population of about 1,780.
The other has only four centenarians. But residents note that their town has a smaller population: 790 people. That’s not the 1,000 required for Guinness, but the density doesn’t lie. “You miscalculated,” scoffed an 89-year-old.
ART AND IDEAS
Sierra Leone weighs legal abortion
Sierra Leone has them third highest maternal mortality rate in the world. As part of a broader series of legislation aimed at making motherhood safer, President Julius Maada Bio announced last week that he and his cabinet unanimously support legalizing abortion.
Activists celebrated the move to repeal a colonial-era law, contrasting Bio’s support with US restrictions on reproductive rights. Others saw it as at odds with society and an attempt to appease international donors – a similar bill Parliament happened But it was 2015 rejected by then-President Ernest Bai Koromaafter public pressure, particularly from religious groups.
Bio’s supporters cite his success in abolishing the death penalty, but the law has yet to pass Parliament, where it could face stiff opposition from politicians eager to please a religious bloc.
When abortion is legalized, access can be hampered by poor infrastructure and stigma. But for some, the resumption of public debate on the issue is a hopeful sign.
“As a teenager, I almost bled to death after a backyard abortion,” said activist Josephine Kamara. said in a statement. “Let this generation be the last to experience the horrors of what happens when women’s most basic reproductive health needs are pushed underground.” — Lynsey Chutel, Briefings Writer