NEWS OF THE DAY
From Around the World
Afghan conference: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday voiced hope that a conference on Afghanistan taking place in Moscow could help pave the way for peace talks. “The Moscow format of talks is aimed at establishing an inclusive inter-Afghan dialogue in the interests of advancing the process of national reconciliation,” Lavrov said as he opened the meeting that has brought together representatives of the Afghan authorities and the Taliban. The conference is Moscow’s effort to get the Afghan authorities and the Taliban together at a table. The U.S. Embassy has sent a diplomat to observe the discussions, and envoys from China, India, Pakistan and the ex-Soviet nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan also attended the meeting.
Parliament dissolved: The president of Sri Lanka dissolved the country’s Parliament Friday night, state media reported, deepening a two-week constitutional crisis over who is the legitimate ruler of the island nation. The move, which critics said violated the nation’s constitution, came two weeks after President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replaced him with a popular former leader. That leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was accused of human rights abuses, nepotism and excessively close ties to China when he governed the country. Wickremesinghe and many members of Parliament had challenged the legitimacy of Rajapaksa’s appointment, and foreign governments, including the United States, had urged Sri Lanka’s government to allow lawmakers in Parliament to decide who the prime minister should be.
Rape accusations: Police in Thailand have arrested an HIV-infected soldier who allegedly blackmailed and raped more than 70 teenage boys between the ages of 13 and 18. Police said in a statement Friday that they received a complaint that the suspect was using fake social media profiles on Facebook and the gay dating app Blued to win the trust of his victims so they would send him nude photos before agreeing to meet him. When they found out he was not who he pretended to be online, he would threaten to make their nude photos public if they refused to have sex with him. Police Lt. Col. Nacharot Kaewpetch said the police discovered medicine for treating HIV when they arrested the 43-year-old suspect, Sgt. Maj. Jakkrit Khomsing, at his home in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen. They said tests confirmed he was infected with HIV.
Hamas funds: Gaza’s Hamas rulers lauded on Friday what they described as a gain of their weekly protests along Gaza-Israel perimeter fence, which have often turned deadly, after receiving $15 million from Qatar to help pay the salaries of the territory’s civil servants. Since March, the Islamic militant group has orchestrated weekly demonstrations along the fence, in large part against a blockade Israel and Egypt imposed when it seized Gaza in 2007. The Qatari grant is part of indirect Hamas-Israel understandings to improve living conditions for Gaza’s 2 million people and subsequently scale down the border protests, in which 170 Palestinians and an Israeli soldier have been killed since they began in March. For the second week in a row, the Palestinians kept Friday’s protests carefully restrained, refraining from breaching the fence to avoid drawing a lethal response from the Israeli military. However, a 28-year-old who was injured by Israeli fire during the marches later died.