Macron begins China state visit at Silk Road gateway

French President Emmanuel Macron (front L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (2nd L) pose for photos next to the famous terracotta warriors during a visit to the northern Chinese city of Xian on January 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 January 2018

Macron begins China state visit at Silk Road gateway

XIAN: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday launched a state visit to China in Xian — the starting point of the ancient Silk Road — in a nod to his counterpart’s scheme to revive the famous trading route.
Macron will visit the northern city’s famous terracotta warriors along with his wife Brigitte before delivering a keynote speech on the future of Franco-Chinese relations.
The 8,000-man clay army, crafted around 250 BC for the tomb of China’s first emperor Qin Shihuang, is a symbol of ancient Chinese artistic and military sophistication in a country that proclaims itself a 5,000-year-old civilization.
Macron is beginning the three-day visit in Xian as a gesture to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s colossal New Silk Road project, an ambitious initiative to connect Asia and Europe by road, rail and sea.
The $1 trillion infrastructure program is billed as a modern revival of the ancient Silk Road that once carried fabric, spices, and a wealth of other goods in both directions.
Known in China as “One Belt One Road,” the plan is to see gleaming new road and rail networks built through Central Asia and beyond, and new maritime routes stretching through the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
The project has elicited both interest and anxiety and France has so far been cautious on it. Observers say China is waiting for Macron to outline his views on the scheme, in his emerging role as a European leadership voice.
Macron’s first official visit to Asia marks a new stage for his diplomacy, which has so far been concentrated on Europe and Africa.
He plans to seek a “strategic partnership” with Beijing on issues including terrorism and climate change, and make Xi an ally in implementing the Paris accord to fight climate change after the US pulled out of the deal.
After Xian, Macron will travel on to Beijing along with his delegation which takes in some 60 business executives and institutions.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”