Troops in Mariupol reject Russian surrender terms

KYIV/MARIUPOL: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that his country could not fulfill “Russian ultimatums”, claiming Moscow was seeking to “destroy” his country.

He said Moscow wanted Ukraine to “hand over” Kharkiv, Mariupol and Kyiv, adding that neither the people of those cities “or me, as president, can do this”.

Ukrainian officials defiantly rejected a Russian demand that their forces in Mariupol lay down arms and raise white flags on Monday in exchange for safe passage out of the besieged strategic port city.

Ukrainian officials rejected the Russian proposal for safe passage out of Mariupol even before Russia’s 0200 GMT deadline for a response came and went.

Shopping mall bombed in Kyiv

“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the news outlet Ukrainian Pravda. “We have already informed the Russian side about this.

Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev had offered two corridors one heading east toward Russia and the other west to other parts of Ukraine. He did not say what Russia planned to do if the offer was rejected.

The Russian Ministry of Defence said authorities in Mariupol could face a military tribunal if they sided with what it described as bandits, the Russian state news agency reported.

Meanwhile, people fleeing the besieged port of Mariupol say they are leaving behind a city that has been almost entirely destroyed by Russian bombardment and heavy fighting.

Video captured by The Associated Press showed residents pushing carts and carrying bags of food and supplies along debris-ridden streets and passages. The siege has caused shortages of food, water, and energy supplies, according to city officials who say at least 2,300 civilians have been killed thus far in Mariupol.

In Kyiv, shelling has devastated a shopping center, leaving a flattened ruin still smoldering on Monday morning in the midst of high-rise towers.

Overnight shelling near the city centre left at least eight dead, emergency officials said. The force of the explosion shattered every window in the high-rise next door and twisted their metal frames.

A cluster of villages on Kyiv’s northwest edge is on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe, regional officials said Monday.

Bucha and other nearby villages have been all but cut off by Russian forces.

At the same time, authorities in Odessa have accused Russian forces of damaging civilian houses in a strike on the Black Sea port city on Monday.

Democratic Pakistan critical to America’s interests: US official

WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Monday that a prosperous and democratic Pakistan was critical to US interests.

Responding to queries about the current political situation in the country, a spokesperson for the State Department also underlined America’s support for the constitutional process in Pakistan.

“We are closely following developments in Pakistan. We respect and support Pakistan’s constitutional process and the rule of law,” the spokesperson told media.

“The United States values our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan and has always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan as critical to US interests.”

Some circles in Pakistan blame the United States for stirring up troubles in the country for supporting the elements that want to unseat the current government.

Official and diplomatic circles in Washington, however, reject all such speculations as incorrect, pointing out that there were internal causes for the ongoing political crisis.

At a Friday afternoon news briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki underlined the Biden administration’s desire to continue a careful engagement with Pakistan without committing to either improving or degrading ties with a country that was once a close ally.

“We have a long relationship with Pakistan, and that is a relationship we’ll continue through diplomatic channels,” she said.

OIC FMs to discuss challenges faced by Muslim world

ISLAMABAD: The 48th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) opens here on Tuesday (today) to discuss challenges being faced by the Muslim world and emerging opportunities.

The two-day annual meeting of the 57-member body of Muslim countries is being held under the theme of ‘Building Partnerships for Unity, Justice, and Development. About 46 member states will be represented at the ministerial level in the meeting. The rest will be represented by senior officials.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a tweet welcoming the participants of the meeting, said: “Under the overarching theme of ‘Unity, Justice & Development’, OIC-CFM will have wide-ranging deliberations.”

Senior representatives of the United Nations and other international bodies, including the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council, will also participate in the meeting.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi would also attend as special guest

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is attending the meeting as a special guest. It is the first time that a Chinese foreign minister will attend a meeting of the OIC foreign ministers’ council.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said China’s participation in the event and interactions with member states will further strengthen their engagement.

In addition to China, the foreign ministers are expected to deliberate on OIC’s cooperation with the United Nations, the Russian Federation, and the European Union.

The agenda of the meeting covers a review of the developments affecting the Muslim world since the last CFM held in Niamey in 2020 and efforts undertaken by the secretariat for the implementation of resolutions adopted in previous sessions, especially on Palestine and Al Quds.

The participants would also deliberate on the situation in Afghanistan and India-held Jammu and Kashmir.

The meeting, OIC said, represented “the second most prominent OIC activity following an extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers held last December on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan”.

Kashmir issue will also be discussed in a meeting of the Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir on the sidelines of the event.

Issues pertaining to Africa and Muslims in Europe and developments in Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Syria, will also be taken up at the meeting.

The agenda, moreover, includes Islamophobia and issues related to international terrorism and cooperation in economic, cultural, social, humanitarian, and scientific domains.

The Islamabad Ministerial, the Foreign Office said, would consider and adopt over 100 resolutions on a broad range of issues, including peace and security; economic development; cultural and scientific cooperation; and humanitarian, legal, administrative and financial matters.

Pakistan, it said, had been an ardent supporter of OIC. Pakistan, it recalled, had played a seminal role in cementing bonds of unity and solidarity, upholding respect for principles of international law, and fostering economic, scientific and cultural partnerships.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan lauded Azerbaijan’s contribution to the OIC, especially as an active member of the OIC Contact Group on Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking to Minister of Defence of the Republic Azerbaijan Colonel General Zakir Hasanov, who called on him on Monday, PM Khan expressed the desire to further expand the brotherly relations with special focus on bilateral trade, tourism and people-to-people contacts. While noting the strong and robust defence ties between Pakistan and Azerbaijan, Mr Khan congratulated the leadership and people of Azerbaijan on liberation of their occupied territories, and appreciated Azerbaijan’s efforts in pursuing the objective of peace and prosperity in the South Caucasus, PM Office media wing said in a press release.

Mr Hasanov conveyed the greetings from the Azeri president to the prime minister.

He informed that a contingent of Azerbaijan armed forces would participate in the National Day Parade of Pakistan on March 23.