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Asian markets down on European discord

 Asian markets down on European discord

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell on Friday as a meeting between the eurozone’s three biggest economies highlighted their differences on finding a solution to the region’s debt crisis.

Traders remained nervous at the end of a week that saw fears over Europe deepen as the yields on Italian and Spanish bonds sat dangerously high and even Germany — the bloc’s pillar — failed to sell all its bonds at auction.

Tokyo was flat, edging down 5.17 points to end at 8,160.01, while Sydney shed 1.48 percent, or 59.90 points, to end at 3,984.3 and Seoul closed 1.04 percent, or 18.66 points, lower at 1,776.40.

Shanghai was 0.60 percent off and Hong Kong fell 1.21 percent in the afternoon.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy on Thursday met to discuss plans to address the two-year-old debt crisis in a bid to sooth markets, which have been hammered over fears of a collapse of the eurozone and another global downturn. (AFP)

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China denies India envoy mistreated in Yiwu court row

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 China has denied that an Indian diplomat was mistreated during an angry court hearing in the city of Yiwu.Delhi complained after S Balachandran was reportedly denied medication when trying to secure the release of two Indians held hostage by local traders for allegedly failing to pay debts.China said media reports were “not factually accurate”.Indian media report that the two Indians are now being moved from a hotel in Yiwu to Shanghai.The two Indians had earlier told Indian television they were being treated “like animals”.On Tuesday, India warned its businessmen they were not safe to trade in Yiwu.

‘Ruled by laws’

At a press briefing China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: “Relevant media reports that the Indian consular official from Shanghai was forbidden from eating or taking his medication while in Yiwu and was surrounded and attacked do not accord with the facts.

“China is a country ruled by laws, which pays great attention to relations with India,” he said.

However, Mr Hong gave no specific account of what China believed had happened.

He said the two Indians had been put under police protection in a hotel and that five people had been arrested for “illegal detention”.

“China hopes that India treats this matter objectively and fairly,” he said.

China’s ambassador to India, Zhang Yan, met foreign affairs officials in Delhi on Wednesday and assured them that “serious attention” was being given to the plight of the two traders.

Later India’s NDTV channel quoted External Affairs Minister SM Krishna as saying the pair were being escorted by Indian consulate officials to Shanghai.

The businessmen, Deepak Raheja and Shyamsunder Agrawal, had pleaded for help in an earlier interview with NDTV.

Mr Agrawal said: “Please save us… get together and help us. They have stripped us, thrown things at us, beaten us, tortured us. We are being treated worse than animals.”

Their hotel had reportedly been surrounded by a large crowd of locals.

The pair had been held hostage by local traders for two weeks for non-payment of dues by their company, whose owner has allegedly fled the country.

On Tuesday, an advisory on India’s Beijing embassy website said businessmen could be “mistreated” in Yiwu and had “no guarantee of legal remedies”.

The strongly worded statement on the embassy website said that “Indian businessmen are cautioned to stay away from Yiwu”.

It added: “In case of disputes arising, experience suggests that there is inadequate protection for safety of persons.”

Delhi believes Mr Balachandran was denied medicine and collapsed in the courtroom in Yiwu on 31 December.

Mr Balachandran is a diabetic. He was taken to hospital in a semi-conscious state and later transferred to Shanghai, where he has improved.

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Israel, Palestinians hold ‘positive’ talks

AMMAN: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a “positive” first face-to-face meeting in more than 15 months on Tuesday, saying they remain committed to a two-state solution but that full-blown talks are still some way off.

“The talks and atmosphere were positive,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told reporters after the talks in Amman between Israel’s chief negotiator Yitzhak Molcho, his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erakat and Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh.

Washington too welcomed what it described as a “positive development” after months of deadlock in peace talks over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal in 2010 to renew a freeze on most settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.

Judeh, who hosted the meeting in the Jordanian capital, voiced cautious optimism. “The two sides expressed their commitment to a two-state solution. We do not want to raise the level of expectations, but at the same time we do not want to minimise the importance of this meeting,” he said.

“The Palestinians submitted a paper on borders and security. The Israeli side received it, promising to study it and respond,” he said.

The minister said Jordan, which has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel, will host further talks between the two sides.

“Any announcement about the meetings will be made by Jordan. You might hear about the meetings and you might not,” he said, expecting “progress and things to be positive by the end of this month.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday the outcome of the meeting would soon be clear.

“We will know today or in the coming two days,” he said, indicating that they were looking to find “the right foundation” to resume talks with Israel.
“This is a good thing and we hope Jordanian efforts work,” he was quoted as saying by Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency.
Earlier this week, Israeli cabinet minister Dan Meridor said the fact that a meeting was taking place was “a positive development” but that it did not in itself constitute a return to direct talks.Erakat made the same point in an interview with Voice of Palestine radio.
“This meeting will be devoted to discussing the possibility of making a breakthrough that could lead to the resumption of negotiations. Therefore, it will not mark the resumption of negotiations,” he said on Monday.

Direct talks ground to a halt in September 2010, when an Israeli freeze on new West Bank settlement construction expired and Netanyahu declined to renew it.

“We will see what the quartet’s position will be in this meeting and if it is willing to seriously address the obstacles to the peace process and negotiations put by Israel,” PLO secretary general Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine.

Abbas met with US envoy David Hale in Ramallah late on Monday and told him there would be no resumption of talks unless Israel froze settlement construction and accepted the 1967 borders as the basis for peace talks, a Palestinian official told AFP.

The Quartet, which comprises the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, has been trying to draw the two sides back to the negotiating table, asking them for comprehensive proposals on territory and security.

White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged the difficulties President Barack Obama faced in getting a resumption of talks.

“He is doing everything he can to bring them together at the table,” Carney said.

“And this is obviously a challenging issue — it has been so for a long time. But the president’s very focused on doing what he can to make it happen.”

Abed Rabbo said Washington wanted the talks to restart “without any preconditions or promises on settlement expansion.
“This does not fulfil the conditions for a resumption of negotiations nor does it enable any negotiations to succeed,” he said.
The meeting sparked an angry reaction from the Hamas movement which has controlled the Gaza Strip since ousting Abbas’s forces in 2007.
“Going to such a meeting is only betting on failure,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP on Monday.
The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also criticised the meeting, calling it a “fatal error” which would force the Palestinians back into another pointless waiting game. (AFP)

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