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Russia expels 60 US diplomats in diplomatic ‘tit-for-tat’

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MOSCOW — Russia has ordered 60 US diplomats to leave by April 5 and close the US consulate in St. Petersburg, in a response mirroring the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats initiated by the US and UK, the Foreign Ministry says

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it had declared persona non grata 58 diplomats in Moscow and two general consulate officials in Yekaterinburg in the row over the poisoning of former Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal on March 4.

US ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman, has been summoned to the Foreign Ministry and told the news by deputy FM Sergey Ryabkov, Lavrov said at the press conference following a meeting with the special UN envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura.

Moments before the ministry announcement, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would respond in kind to the mass expulsion of diplomats by Western governments which include, apart from the United States and Britain, most member states of NATO and the European Union.

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The other countries affected are France, Germany and Poland would each have four of their diplomats in Moscow sent home, Ukraine would forfeit 13 diplomats, and Denmark, Albania and Spain would each have two of their embassy staff expelled.

Russia has already retaliated in kind after Britain initially expelled 23 diplomats.

The White House said Moscow’s decision marked a further deterioration in the US-Russia relationship.

“Russia’s response was not unanticipated and the United States will deal with it,” the White House said in a statement without elaborating.

The US State Department, however, indicated earlier that Russia’s decision to expel the diplomats showed Moscow was not interested in diplomacy, and Washington reserved the right to take further action.

The attack on 66-year-old Mr Skripal and his daughter, which Britain has blamed on Russian President Vladimir Putin and said was caused by a Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok left on the door of their home in England, has driven relations between Russia and the West to a new post-Cold War low.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack on the Skripals and said it suspected the British secret services were trying to frame Russia to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

Agencies

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Nepal, China to establish mechanism on Chinese-aid projects; expedite feasibility study and DPR on rail link

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KATHMANDU — Nepal and China have agreed on establishing mechanism on Chinese aid projects in Nepal for the implementation of various key agreements including a cross-country railway link which were reached with China during K P Sharma Oli’s previous stint as prime minister.

At a bilateral meeting held in Beijing on Wednesday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali held discussions with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi about the early conduct of a feasibility study and preparation of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Nepal-China Cross Border Railway line.

Minister Gyawali, addressing a joint press conference held after the bilateral meeting, said they held a comprehensive review of the progress made in implementing various other agreements reached during recent high-level visits including the visit of Prime Minister Oli to China in March 2016.

During the meeting held at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, the duo discussed bilateral relations and among other issues of mutual cooperation between Nepal-China.

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Foreign Minister Gyawali said they exchanged views on the draft protocol for the transit and transport agreement and agreed to step up negotiations for its early finalization.

The two foreign ministers also held discussions about implementation of the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoU) under the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Nepal has expectations that the Initiative should contribute to the development of physical infrastructure, enhancing of cross-border connectivity including by rail and road, promotion of trade, tourism and investment, and people to people relations,” Gyawali further said.

On the occasion, Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang said China-Nepal-India, the three neighbouring countries, are natural allies connected by rivers and mountains.

Wang further said they agreed to continue deepening mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Nepal. “China will give full support and China will continue to encourage Chinese businesses to invest in Nepal in light of need on the ground to contribute to local development,” Wang said.

Saying that China and India are the neighbours of Nepal, the Chinese Minister said the two countries should support Nepal in its development works.

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Talking about Nepal’s vision of multidimensional cross-Himalaya connectivity network, Wang said as China-Nepal have signed BRI cooperation, the connectivity network falls under the part of BRI cooperation. He said BRI further covers links to ports, railways, highways, aviation, electricity and communications.

Moreover, Wang said Nepal could take advantage from cooperation and development of China and India.

On the occasion, Gyawali thanked Chinese Foreign Minister Wang for China’s support for reconstruction projects including the Araniko Highway Repair Project and cross-border bridges at Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi.

Earlier, Minister Gyawali has called on Vice-President of China, Wang Qishan at Zhongnanhai on Wednesday morning.

A press release issued by Nepali Embassy in Beijing mentioned that Foreign Minister Gyawali conveyed the greetings and best wishes of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and said that Nepal appreciates President Xi Jinping’s vision of ‘building a community of shared future for humanity,’ and supports China’s thrust on enhancing cooperation among nations under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Highlighting the fact that Nepal and China have been enjoying excellent relations based on friendship and good neighborliness since ancient times, Vice-President Qishan stressed on fully tapping the potentials of bilateral relations between the two countries.

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