Russia rules out military pact with Philippines

Russia has no interest in further military alliances because “they provide security for a selected few member states at the expense of others.” (AFP)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Russia rules out military pact with Philippines

  • Russia seeks ‘equal partnership’ after Duterte scraps US troops deal

MANILA: Russia has ruled out the possibility of a military alliance with the Philippines despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to end a major defense pact with the US.

Instead, Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Khovaev said on Monday that Moscow’s aim was to build a “robust, equal partnership” with Manila.

“The goal of our common work here is not trying to contain someone or to create some sort of alliance,” he told senior Philippine defense officials and diplomats at a reception for Russian Armed Forces Day.

Early in February, the Duterte administration announced it would end a visiting forces agreement signed with Washington in 1998 that sets the terms for joint exercises with US troops in the Philippines.

According to Khovaev, Russia has no interest in further military alliances because “they provide security for a selected few member states at the expense of others.”

“The Russian Federation proceeds from the premise that security has to be indivisible. This is why we are not in the habit of entering into alliances,” he said.

“Equal partnerships” are necessary for stability and prosperity in the region, he added.

Asked if this ruled out a Russia-Philippines alliance similar to that between Manila and Washington, Khovaev said: “Yes. Our aim is to build a strong, robust partnership, not a military alliance. We have no military alliance in the Asia-Pacific region,” he told Arab News.

He also reiterated the importance of military cooperation between Russia and the Philippines, which was highlighted by President Vladimir Putin and Duterte during their meetings in Moscow in May 2017 and in Sochi in October 2019.

The two nations have organized joint military exercises, and the exchange of visits by Russian and Philippine navy ships in Manila and Vladivostok.

“But to tell you the truth, the full potential of our cooperation has yet to be explored,” Khovaev said. “It is indispensable because we have common threats and challenges, including terrorism, international drug trafficking, piracy and other kinds of transnational crime that we need to overcome together.”
 


Military promises Pakistani doctors gear to fight virus

Updated 15 min 9 sec ago

Military promises Pakistani doctors gear to fight virus

  • Some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten
  • The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition

QUETTA, Pakistan: Pakistan’s military promised Tuesday that dozens of doctors who were briefly jailed for protesting a lack of protective equipment needed to treat the growing number of coronavirus cases will get the equipment they need.
The 47 doctors protested in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, on Monday, when they were detained. They were released later the same day, according to provincial spokesman Liaquat Shahwani.
An army statement on Tuesday said the “emergency supplies of medical equipment, including PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are being dispatched to Quetta.”
However, some of the doctors said they were mistreated by police and that some of their colleagues were beaten. The physicians declined to give their names, fearing reprisals.
Two doctors have died after contracting the new virus in Pakistan, which has recorded 4,004 cases and 54 deaths. Many of the cases have been traced to pilgrims returning from neighboring Iran. Pakistani authorities have imposed a countrywide lockdown until April 14.
In Iran, authorities struggling to battle the virus announced Tuesday they would expand testing to asymptomatic people, but didn’t say how many test kits they have available or provide other details.
Iran’s Health Minister Saeed Namaki said that with active screening of such cases, there are expectations the virus and COVID-19, the illness it causes, can be brought under control by mid-May.
“With this step, we will go after people without symptoms,” said Namaki, adding this would require a large number of tests. He didn’t elaborate. The health ministry said searching for asymptomatic cases would be combined with restrictions on both city and intercity travel and quarantine.
Iran is facing the worst outbreak in the region. Iran’s state TV said Tuesday the new coronavirus has killed another 133 people, pushing the country’s death toll to 3,872 amid 62,589 confirmed cases.
The health ministry’s spokesman, Kianoush Jahanpour, said 27,039 people have recovered so far while 3,987 remain in critical condition.
There are nearly 109,000 confirmed cases across the Middle East, with more than 4,600 fatalities.
In Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments, which oversees mosques nationwide, called off all celebrations and late-evening prayer services for Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. The holiday, when devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, begins April 23. Mosques and churches have already closed for prayer to curb the spread of the virus in the Arab world’s most populous country. There is also a nightly curfew but the government has resisted a harsher lockdown.
President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Tuesday sought to reassure the jittery public a day after officials reported 149 new infections, bringing the case count to 1,320 and 85 fatalities in the biggest single-day jump so far.
“So far, the situation is under control,” he said in televised comments. “The goal is to minimize the damage caused by the pandemic.”
The Egyptian military, at the forefront of the country’s fight against the virus, said it set up four field hospitals with more than 500 beds to help treat virus patients.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death.
At a retirement home ravaged by the coronavirus in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba, another resident died, the eighth so far there. Dozens of the home’s resident’s have been infected and relatives have been staging angry protests outside the premises in recent days.
Overall, more than 9,000 have been infected in Israel and 60 have died, the vast majority elderly and many in assisted living facilities.