Euractiv – Alexandra Brzozowski / Borrell bites the bullet after disastrous Moscow trip
- After a defeating trip to Moscow, EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell on Sunday (7 February) tried to explain and justify his controversial trip to Moscow but admitted that relations between the EU and Russia have hit rock bottom.
- Borrell’s controversial visit to Moscow, which ended on Saturday, had raised eyebrows among EU diplomats and received heavy criticism after the EU first diplomat became part of a show in which he was humiliated by his hosts.
- According to him, an “aggressively-staged press conference and the expulsion of three EU diplomats during my visit indicate that the Russian authorities did not want to seize this opportunity to have a more constructive dialogue with the EU.”
- The EU “will have to draw the consequences” he wrote, insisting that “it will be for member states to decide the next steps, and yes, these could include sanctions.” “We also have another tool in this respect, thanks to the recently approved EU human rights sanctions regime,” he added.
- Politico – David M. Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi / Borrell stands by as Lavrov calls EU ‘unreliable partner’
The New York Times – Benjamin Mueller, Rebecca Robbins and Lynsey Chutel / AstraZeneca’s vaccine does not work well against virus variant in South Africa
- South Africa halted use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine on Sunday after evidence emerged that the vaccine did not protect clinical trial volunteers from mild or moderate illness caused by the more contagious virus variant that was first seen there.
- Scientists in South Africa said on Sunday that a similar problem held for people who had been infected by earlier versions of the coronavirus: The immunity they acquired naturally did not appear to protect them from mild or moderate cases when they were reinfected by the variant, known as B.1.351.
- The developments, coming nearly a week after a million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine arrived in South Africa, were an enormous setback for the country, where more than 46,000 people are known to have died from the virus.
- They were also another sign of the dangers posed by new mutations in the coronavirus. The B.1.351 variant has spread to at least 32 countries, including the United States. The pause in the country’s rollout of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine means that the first shipments will now be put in warehouses.
- Bloomberg – Prinesha Naidoo / South Africa to speed up plans to use J&J Covid shot
Financial Times – Yuan Yang and Jamie Smyth / Beijing charges Australian journalist with leaking state secrets
- Beijing has charged an Australian journalist who worked for Chinese state television with illegally supplying state secrets overseas, six months after she was detained.
- The Australian government confirmed it had received a formal notice of Cheng Lei’s arrest on Monday, long after the Chinese authorities took the Australian national into China’s opaque system of secret detention centers.
- Richard McGregor, an analyst at the Lowy Institute think-tank in Sydney, said the formal arrest of Cheng would be devastating for her family but was not unexpected, given she has been held in detention for six months – a legal limit under Chinese law.
- China’s legal definition of state secrets is extremely broad, covering topics related to the country’s economic and technological development, as well as military and national defense.
- South China Morning Post / Australian journalist Cheng Lei formally arrested in China for ‘supplying state secrets’
The Guardian – Oliver Holmes / ICC rules it can investigate alleged war crimes in Palestine despite Israeli objections
- The international criminal court has announced that it has jurisdiction in Palestine, clearing its chief prosecutor to investigate alleged atrocities despite fierce Israeli objections.
- Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned the ruling and said the country would “protect our citizens and soldiers in every way from legal persecution”.
- Fatou Bensouda, the ICC chief prosecutor, has previously announced she intends to open a formal inquiry into alleged war crimes in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
- However, due to Palestine’s status as an occupied territory rather than a sovereign country, she had waited for judges to “confirm” if the court, headquartered in The Hague, had the authority.
- Haaretz – Anshel Pfeffer / Prosecuting Israeli officials could take years, but the ICC’s chilling effect will be immediate
- The Atlantic – Deborah Brautigam and Meg Rithmire / The Chinese ‘debt trap’ is a myth