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Zelensky wants Xi Jinping meeting following China’s peace plan



Zelensky said victory "will inevitably await us" (pic BBC)

BBC reported that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he plans to meet China’s leader Xi Jinping to discuss Beijing’s proposals on ending the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion, he said the proposal signalled that China was involved in the search for peace. “I really want to believe that China will not supply weapons to Russia,” he said.

China’s plan calls for peace talks and respect for national sovereignty. However, the 12-point document does not specifically say that Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine, and it also condemns the usage of “unilateral sanctions”, in what is seen as a veiled criticism of Ukraine’s allies in the West.

The Chinese authorities have so far not publicly responded to Zelensky’s call for a summit with  Xi.

Meanwhile, Russia hailed the Chinese peace proposals. “We share Beijing’s views,” the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement.

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Foreign News

Cyril Ramaphosa re-elected South African president




Cyril Ramaphosa reacts in parliament after being re-elected president [BBC]

South Africa’s parliament has re-elected Cyril Ramaphosa as the country’s president following a landmark coalition deal between the governing African National Congress (ANC) and opposition parties.

The new government of national unity combines Mr Ramaphosa’s ANC, the centre-right Democratic Alliance (DA) and smaller parties.

In his victory speech, Mr Ramaphosa hailed the new coalition, and said voters expected the leaders to “to act and to work together for the good of everyone in our country”.

The agreement was hashed out on a day of high political drama, which saw the National Assembly sitting late into the evening for votes to confirm who would hold power in the new administration.

Earlier, a deal was struck following weeks of speculation about whom the ANC would partner with after losing its parliamentary majority for the first time in 30 years in last month’s elections.

It got 40% of the vote, while the DA came second with 22%.

ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula called the coalition deal a “remarkable step”.  It meant Mr Ramaphosa – who replaced Jacob Zuma as both president and ANC leader following a bitter power struggle in 2018 – was able to retain power.

The next step is for Mr Ramaphosa to allocate cabinet positions, which will include members of the DA.

The multi-party deal does not involve two ANC breakaway parties, and they will probably benefit if it fails to deliver economic improvements demanding by voters.

But opinion polls suggest many South Africans want this unprecedented grand coalition to succeed.


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Foreign News

Malawi VP confirmed dead in plane crash in forest




Saulos Chilima had been vice-president for 10 years[BBC]

The wreck of a plane carrying Malawi’s vice-president has been found with no survivors, President Lazarus Chakwera has said.

Saulos Chilima and nine others were flying within the country on Monday morning when their aircraft disappeared from airport radars.  The plane, a military aircraft, was flying in bad weather.

Soldiers had been searching Chikangawa Forest overnight and into the morning in an effort to find the plane.

In a news briefing on Tuesday, President Chakwera said the Malawi Defence Force commander informed him that the search and rescue operation had been completed and the plane was found. Mr Chakwera said he was “deeply saddened and sorry” to inform Malawians of the terrible tragedy.

He said the rescue team found the aircraft completely destroyed.

The vice-president and president come from different parties but the two teamed up to form an alliance during the 2020 elections.

Mr Chakwera paid tribute to Dr Chilima, describing him as “a good man”, “devoted father” and “formidable VP”.  “I consider it one of the great honours of my life to have had him as a deputy and as a counsellor,” he added.

Dr Chilima, 51, was on his way to represent the government at the burial of former government minister Ralph Kasambara, who died four days ago.

Former First Lady Shanil Dzimbiri was also on the flight, which took off from the capital, Lilongwe, on Monday morning.

It was meant to land at the airport in the northern city of Mzuzu, but was turned back because of poor visibility.

BBC News A map showing the plane's route and the site of the crash

The military is transporting the remains of Dr Chiima and the other victims to Lilongwe, the president said, adding that funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.

Dr Chilima had been vice-president of Malawi since 2014.  He was widely loved in Malawi, particularly among the youth, AFP news agency reports.

However, Dr Chilima was arrested and charged in 2022 on allegations that he accepted money in exchange for awarding government contracts.  He denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, the court dropped the charges, giving no reasons for the decision.

Dr Chilima is survived by his wife, Mary, and two children, Sean and Elizabeth.


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Foreign News

Europe’s night of election drama capped by Macron bombshell




Supporters of France's National Rally (RN) react after President Macron's decision to call parliamentary elections [BBC]

Exit polls had begun to roll in at the end of European elections across the EU’s 27 countries, when President Emmanuel Macron delivered his bombshell moment in a televised address to a stunned French population.

“I’ve decided to hand you back the choice of our parliamentary future with a vote. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly,” he declared.

The National Rally party – led by  Macron’s rivals Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella – was one of the big gains that Europe’s far-right parties had expected, and confirmation came with all the exit polls giving the party more than 30%, double that of Mr Macron’s centrist Renaissance.

But beyond France, the broader story of Europe’s four-day vote marathon really belonged to the parties of the centre right. They tightened their grip on the European Parliament, with victories in Germany and Spain, and significant advances in Hungary, against long-dominant Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The far right did not enjoy as great a surge across Europe as many had predicted.

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party came second, while Austria’s party of the same name came out as winners, but only narrowly.

“The centre is holding, but it is also true that the extremes on the left and on the right have gained support,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the centre-right head of the European Commission. “And this is why the result comes with great responsibility for the parties in the centre.”

There had been talk before the vote that her dominant European People’s Party might consider talking to the two right-wing groups that house the far right.  But she made clear her only allies would be the Socialists & Democrats and the liberal Renew group that includes Mr Macron’s party.

Germany’s opposition conservatives were always going to come out on top, and they scored an impressive 30% of the vote.  But for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s SPD party this was the worst ever result in a European election, coming third behind the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The AfD has endured a slew of scandals involving espionage, foreign interference and allegations of Nazi sympathies, and yet its support still held up.  “After all the prophecies of doom, after the barrage of the last few weeks, we are the second strongest force. And I’m telling you, the only way is up,” said co-leader Alice Weidel.

EPA Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla of the AfD celebrate the exit polls
Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla of the AfD celebrate the exit polls [BBC]

Meanwhile a new anti-migrant far-left party, BSW, led by charismatic left-wing firebrand Sahra Wagenknecht, also performed well – rounding off a good night for radical parties.

In Spain, the centre-right opposition Popular Party (PP) defeated Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists, but not by the big margin that PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo had been hoping for. Another far-right party, Vox, came a distant third.

Meanwhile, in Italy, Giorgia Meloni’s dominance of the country’s politics continues.  Her far-right Brothers of Italy defeated the centre left Democratic Party of Elly Schlein by less than four points.  “Thank you to the Italians who are continuing to choose us… I am proud of the result tonight,” she told her supporters.

Reuters Giorgia Meloni speaks at an election night rally
Giorgia Meloni thanked Italians for “continuing to choose” her party [BBC]


In just five years, Ms Meloni has more than doubled her party’s seats in the European Parliament, while Ms Schlein’s performance pleasantly surprised even party activists.

There was no far-right success story in Belgium’s national elections, even though Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang was widely expected to win.  The Flemish National Alliance is now the dominant party there, bringing an end to the rule of liberal Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

“The far right has under-performed in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland and Poland. But it has over-performed in France,” said Prof Alberto Alemanno of HEC Paris, who was surprised that President Macron decided to dissolve parliament.

“It’s disproportionate that these election results might push a government out of a country,” he told the BBC.


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