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Sudan’s Protesters Accept Roadmap for Civilian Rule

Sudan’s protest movement accepted an Ethiopian roadmap for a civilian-led transitional government, a spokesman said on Sunday, after a months-long standoff with the country’s military rulers — who did not immediately commit to the plan.

Ethiopia has led diplomatic efforts to bring the protest and military leaders back to the negotiating table, after a crackdown against the pro-democracy movement led to a collapse in talks. According to protest organizers, security forces killed at least 128 people across the country, after they violently dispersed the sit-in demonstration outside the military’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. Authorities have offered a lower death toll of 61, including three from the security forces.

Yet it appeared that protest leaders, represented by the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, were open to the Ethiopian initiative as a way out of the political impasse.

Ahmed Rabie, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association which is part of the FDFC, told The Associated Press that the proposal included a leadership council with eight civilian and seven military members, with a rotating chairmanship. All the civilians would come from the FDFC, except for one independent and “neutral” appointee, he said.

According to a copy of the proposal obtained by the AP, the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.

Rabie said that the roadmap would build on previous agreements with the military. These include a three-year transition period, a protester-appointed Cabinet and a FDFC-majority legislative body.

Rabie added that protest leaders would also discuss with the Ethiopian envoy, Mahmoud Dirir, the possibility of establishing an “independent” Sudanese investigation. Previously, the FDFC had said it would only resume talks with the military if it agreed to the formation of an international commission to investigate the killings of protesters.

The ruling military council has so far rejected the idea of an international probe, and says it has started its own investigation, in parallel with that of the state prosecutor.

The FDCF said Saturday said their approval of the Ethiopian plan “pushes all the parties to bear their responsibilities” to find a peaceful solution.

It urged the military council to accept the plan “in order to move the situation in Sudan” forward.

At a press conference at the Ethiopian embassy, the FDFC said it was demanding trust-building measures from the military. These included concerns about the investigation into violence, restoring severed internet connectivity, and ordering the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces — widely blamed for attacks against protesters — back to their barracks.

The spokesman for the military council, Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, confirmed at a news conference that the council had received a proposal from the Ethiopian envoy, and another one from the African Union envoy to Sudan, Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt.

“The council asked for a combined initiative to study and discuss the details,” Kabashi said. This joint proposal should be received by Monday, he said.

Kabashi also defended Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, saying that both countries, along with Egypt, “have provided unconditional support” to the Sudanese people.

Egypt has voiced its support for the military council, pressing the African Union not to suspend Sudan’s activities in the regional block. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged $3 billion in aid to shore up its economy.

Sudanese activists fear that the three countries are pushing the military to cling to power rather than help with democratic change, given that the three Arab states are ruled by autocrats who have clamped down political freedoms in their own countries.

A member of the military council, Yasser al-Atta, suggested that it had doubts about the protest leaders ability to govern.

He addressed protest leaders saying that “you should include other political forces” or it would be difficult to rule.

“We want them to rule and lead the transitional period, but can this be done?” He added.

Meanwhile, the head of the military council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, said on Sunday he canceled a decree demanding that the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur hand over its premises as part of its withdrawal.

Burhan also issued a new decree that says the U.N. facilities when handed over are to be used for civilian purposes in Darfur.

The target for ending the U.N. mission is June 30, 2020.

 

Sudan’s Protesters Accept Roadmap for Civilian Rule

Sudan’s protest movement accepted an Ethiopian roadmap for a civilian-led transitional government, a spokesman said on Sunday, after a months-long standoff with the country’s military rulers — who did not immediately commit to the plan.

Ethiopia has led diplomatic efforts to bring the protest and military leaders back to the negotiating table, after a crackdown against the pro-democracy movement led to a collapse in talks. According to protest organizers, security forces killed at least 128 people across the country, after they violently dispersed the sit-in demonstration outside the military’s headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, earlier this month. Authorities have offered a lower death toll of 61, including three from the security forces.

Yet it appeared that protest leaders, represented by the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, were open to the Ethiopian initiative as a way out of the political impasse.

Ahmed Rabie, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association which is part of the FDFC, told The Associated Press that the proposal included a leadership council with eight civilian and seven military members, with a rotating chairmanship. All the civilians would come from the FDFC, except for one independent and “neutral” appointee, he said.

According to a copy of the proposal obtained by the AP, the military would chair the council in the first 18 months, and the FDFC the second half of the transition.

Rabie said that the roadmap would build on previous agreements with the military. These include a three-year transition period, a protester-appointed Cabinet and a FDFC-majority legislative body.

Rabie added that protest leaders would also discuss with the Ethiopian envoy, Mahmoud Dirir, the possibility of establishing an “independent” Sudanese investigation. Previously, the FDFC had said it would only resume talks with the military if it agreed to the formation of an international commission to investigate the killings of protesters.

The ruling military council has so far rejected the idea of an international probe, and says it has started its own investigation, in parallel with that of the state prosecutor.

The FDCF said Saturday said their approval of the Ethiopian plan “pushes all the parties to bear their responsibilities” to find a peaceful solution.

It urged the military council to accept the plan “in order to move the situation in Sudan” forward.

At a press conference at the Ethiopian embassy, the FDFC said it was demanding trust-building measures from the military. These included concerns about the investigation into violence, restoring severed internet connectivity, and ordering the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces — widely blamed for attacks against protesters — back to their barracks.

The spokesman for the military council, Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, confirmed at a news conference that the council had received a proposal from the Ethiopian envoy, and another one from the African Union envoy to Sudan, Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt.

“The council asked for a combined initiative to study and discuss the details,” Kabashi said. This joint proposal should be received by Monday, he said.

Kabashi also defended Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, saying that both countries, along with Egypt, “have provided unconditional support” to the Sudanese people.

Egypt has voiced its support for the military council, pressing the African Union not to suspend Sudan’s activities in the regional block. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged $3 billion in aid to shore up its economy.

Sudanese activists fear that the three countries are pushing the military to cling to power rather than help with democratic change, given that the three Arab states are ruled by autocrats who have clamped down political freedoms in their own countries.

A member of the military council, Yasser al-Atta, suggested that it had doubts about the protest leaders ability to govern.

He addressed protest leaders saying that “you should include other political forces” or it would be difficult to rule.

“We want them to rule and lead the transitional period, but can this be done?” He added.

Meanwhile, the head of the military council, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, said on Sunday he canceled a decree demanding that the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur hand over its premises as part of its withdrawal.

Burhan also issued a new decree that says the U.N. facilities when handed over are to be used for civilian purposes in Darfur.

The target for ending the U.N. mission is June 30, 2020.

 

Retired US Admiral Joe Sestak Announces Democratic Run for White House

Another Democrat has entered the 2020 race for the White House.

Retired Navy admiral and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak announced his candidacy Sunday on his website.

He introduced himself to voters by telling them “I wore the cloth of the nation for over 31 years in peace and war, from the Vietnam and Cold War eras to Afghanistan and Iran and the emergence of China.”

He said he postponed announcing his candidacy to care for a daughter ill with brain cancer.

Sestak was also part of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s national security team, holds a doctorate in government from Harvard, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate twice.

He embraces many positions popular with liberals, including abortion rights, gun control, and backs the nuclear deal with Iran.

Sestak is the 24th Democrat to officially announce a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren leading the polls so far.

 

Retired US Admiral Joe Sestak Announces Democratic Run for White House

Another Democrat has entered the 2020 race for the White House.

Retired Navy admiral and former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak announced his candidacy Sunday on his website.

He introduced himself to voters by telling them “I wore the cloth of the nation for over 31 years in peace and war, from the Vietnam and Cold War eras to Afghanistan and Iran and the emergence of China.”

He said he postponed announcing his candidacy to care for a daughter ill with brain cancer.

Sestak was also part of former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s national security team, holds a doctorate in government from Harvard, and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate twice.

He embraces many positions popular with liberals, including abortion rights, gun control, and backs the nuclear deal with Iran.

Sestak is the 24th Democrat to officially announce a challenge to President Donald Trump in 2020, with Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren leading the polls so far.

 

Analysts: New Rebel Offensive May Further Complicate Syria’s Conflict

Syrian rebel groups have launched a major offensive this week against government troops in a Syrian province in what is seen by analysts as a new twist to the ongoing conflict in the northwestern part of the country.

Rebel fighters affiliated with the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation said Tuesday that they have begun targeting Syrian regime forces in the northern part of Hama, a province bordering the flashpoint province of Idlib, which is the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

The new assault is primarily aimed at targeting villages from which government forces launch attacks on Idlib, according to a rebel source quoted by German news agency DPA.

This “military operation that opposition groups have started positions belonging to regime troops came about after government forces deployed military reinforcements in the countryside of Hama and Idlib in order to launch a large military offensive,” the unidentified rebel source said.  

Hama province has largely been under the control of the Syrian regime with parts of it briefly captured by rebel groups and Islamic State (IS) militants during different stages of Syria’s civil war.

For weeks, Syrian government troops, backed by Russian warplanes and Iranian militias, have been trying to dislodge rebels from Idlib. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the recent escalation across Idlib, according to local media.

Distraction strategy

Assaulting areas like Hama at this point could be an attempt by the rebels to distract the regime from focusing on it, some analysts charge.

“This offensive is to move the battle to regime-held areas as opposed to keeping in rebel-held areas, which has been Idlib for a long time now,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syrian war monitor.

“There is a Russian military presence in Hama. So rebels are also seeking to threaten Russian forces there,” he told VOA.

But other experts view this offensive as an extension of the ongoing battle between rebels and Syrian government forces.

“For rebels, the battles of Idlib and Hama is one battle because to be able to enter Idlib, they have to first battle regime troops in northern Hama,” said Ahmed Rahal, a former Syrian army general who is now a military analyst based in Istanbul.

Impasse for Russia

Rahal added that such battlefronts could create a new impasse for Russia as Moscow has been seeking to assert the control of its embattled ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The Russians are in an awkward position. They clearly didn’t accomplish their objectives to retake Idlib from opposition fighters and now Hama is under threat,” he told VOA.

Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the University of Lyon in France, echoes Rahal’s assessment about the ongoing battle for northwestern Syria.

“More than the Syrian regime itself, Russia has been trying so hard to remove rebels and extremist groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham from the entirety of Idlib,” he said.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a powerful Islamist group that was once al-Qaida’s Syria branch, controls large territory in Idlib.

Recently, HTS claimed responsibility for a missile attack against the Russian Hmeimim air base in the nearby province of Latakia.

Turkey’s role

With hopes to end the violence in Idlib, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement in September of 2018 which required Turkey to remove extremist elements from Idlib, while Russia would stop the Syrian regime from carrying out attacks on the province.

Several months into the deal, however, both sides have so far been unable to fully implement a ceasefire. This, experts believe, has caused tensions between the two powers.

“Turkey is not happy about Russia’s insistence to retake Idlib from rebels,” Balanche said.

“So by launching an offensive in Hama, Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan wants to tell Moscow that Turkish-backed rebels can still create problems for Russian forces elsewhere in Syria,” he said.  

Yielding to pressure

While Syrian regime forces seem to have the upper hand in recent battles against opposition fighters, some experts believe this time around rebel fighters are poised to shift the balance.

“Opposition forces appear to be more organized which could make this offensive [on Hama] very costly for the Assad regime,” military analyst Rahal said.

“That’s why we are seeing Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias are being deployed to the frontlines once again,” he added.

Since the beginning of Syria’s conflict in 2011, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have played a central role in recapturing major cities from rebel forces.  

Depleted from years of fighting on different fronts across the country, experts express doubts about the capability of Syrian government troops to get involved in yet another unpredictable battle with rebels.

“The Syrian regime could yield to this pressure from rebels, because they understand that they don’t have enough resources to protect Hama and engage in a large battle in Idlib at the same time,” analyst Balanche said.

 

Analysts: New Rebel Offensive May Further Complicate Syria’s Conflict

Syrian rebel groups have launched a major offensive this week against government troops in a Syrian province in what is seen by analysts as a new twist to the ongoing conflict in the northwestern part of the country.

Rebel fighters affiliated with the Turkish-backed National Front for Liberation said Tuesday that they have begun targeting Syrian regime forces in the northern part of Hama, a province bordering the flashpoint province of Idlib, which is the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

The new assault is primarily aimed at targeting villages from which government forces launch attacks on Idlib, according to a rebel source quoted by German news agency DPA.

This “military operation that opposition groups have started positions belonging to regime troops came about after government forces deployed military reinforcements in the countryside of Hama and Idlib in order to launch a large military offensive,” the unidentified rebel source said.  

Hama province has largely been under the control of the Syrian regime with parts of it briefly captured by rebel groups and Islamic State (IS) militants during different stages of Syria’s civil war.

For weeks, Syrian government troops, backed by Russian warplanes and Iranian militias, have been trying to dislodge rebels from Idlib. Dozens of civilians have been killed in the recent escalation across Idlib, according to local media.

Distraction strategy

Assaulting areas like Hama at this point could be an attempt by the rebels to distract the regime from focusing on it, some analysts charge.

“This offensive is to move the battle to regime-held areas as opposed to keeping in rebel-held areas, which has been Idlib for a long time now,” said Rami Abdulrahman, director of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Syrian war monitor.

“There is a Russian military presence in Hama. So rebels are also seeking to threaten Russian forces there,” he told VOA.

But other experts view this offensive as an extension of the ongoing battle between rebels and Syrian government forces.

“For rebels, the battles of Idlib and Hama is one battle because to be able to enter Idlib, they have to first battle regime troops in northern Hama,” said Ahmed Rahal, a former Syrian army general who is now a military analyst based in Istanbul.

Impasse for Russia

Rahal added that such battlefronts could create a new impasse for Russia as Moscow has been seeking to assert the control of its embattled ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The Russians are in an awkward position. They clearly didn’t accomplish their objectives to retake Idlib from opposition fighters and now Hama is under threat,” he told VOA.

Fabrice Balanche, a Syria expert at the University of Lyon in France, echoes Rahal’s assessment about the ongoing battle for northwestern Syria.

“More than the Syrian regime itself, Russia has been trying so hard to remove rebels and extremist groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham from the entirety of Idlib,” he said.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a powerful Islamist group that was once al-Qaida’s Syria branch, controls large territory in Idlib.

Recently, HTS claimed responsibility for a missile attack against the Russian Hmeimim air base in the nearby province of Latakia.

Turkey’s role

With hopes to end the violence in Idlib, Turkey and Russia signed an agreement in September of 2018 which required Turkey to remove extremist elements from Idlib, while Russia would stop the Syrian regime from carrying out attacks on the province.

Several months into the deal, however, both sides have so far been unable to fully implement a ceasefire. This, experts believe, has caused tensions between the two powers.

“Turkey is not happy about Russia’s insistence to retake Idlib from rebels,” Balanche said.

“So by launching an offensive in Hama, Turkish President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan wants to tell Moscow that Turkish-backed rebels can still create problems for Russian forces elsewhere in Syria,” he said.  

Yielding to pressure

While Syrian regime forces seem to have the upper hand in recent battles against opposition fighters, some experts believe this time around rebel fighters are poised to shift the balance.

“Opposition forces appear to be more organized which could make this offensive [on Hama] very costly for the Assad regime,” military analyst Rahal said.

“That’s why we are seeing Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias are being deployed to the frontlines once again,” he added.

Since the beginning of Syria’s conflict in 2011, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have played a central role in recapturing major cities from rebel forces.  

Depleted from years of fighting on different fronts across the country, experts express doubts about the capability of Syrian government troops to get involved in yet another unpredictable battle with rebels.

“The Syrian regime could yield to this pressure from rebels, because they understand that they don’t have enough resources to protect Hama and engage in a large battle in Idlib at the same time,” analyst Balanche said.

 

Українець переміг у конкурсі класичного співу у Британії

Український баритон, 31-річний Андрій Кимач переміг на конкурсі класичного співу BBC Cardiff Singer of World у Великій Британії.

Як повідомляє BBC, він був одним із п’яти співаків, які пройшли до фінального туру після тижня змагань.

Кимач отримає 20 000 фунтів (25,5 тисячі доларів) і Кардіффський трофей.

«Мене переповнюють почуття через те, що я виграв BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2019… Це буквально втілення мрії», – сказав переможець.

У фіналі Кимач виконав твори Бізе, Рахманінова та Доніцетті.

Більш ніж 400 співаків з усього світу подали заявки на участь у конкурсі в 2019 році, 20 учасників з 15 країн пройшли етап відбору.

Конкурс проводять кожні два роки, його почали з нагоди відкриття концертної зали St David Hall у 1983 році.

Андрій Кимач народився на Вінниччині, навчався на філософському факультеті Університету імені Тараса Шевченка, а потім на вокально-дерижерському факультеті Музичної академії імені Петра Чайковського у Києві.

У 2016 році він став солістом Херсонської обласної філармонії, а з 2016 до 2018 року був артистом Молодіжної оперної програми московського Большого театру.

На початку червня 2019-го українець значився серед виконавців партії Ескамільо в опері «Кармен» Жоржа Бізе у Театрі Джузеппе Верді в італійському Трієсті.