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Kazakhstan: Syria peace talks off to a slow start

By: RFE/RL Source: RFE/RL The first day of talks aimed at solidifying the cease-fire in Syria’s civil war have ended in the Kazakh capital, Astana, with no breakthroughs reported. Delegations from both the Syrian government and the opposition participated in the sessions on January 23 but did not address one another directly. Yahya al-Aridi, the spokesman for the Syrian opposition at the talks, said his group met with the Russian and Turkish delegations in the presence of UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to discuss details of a nationwide cease-fire. Aleksandr Lavrentyev, the special representative of the Russian president at the talks, said the “intensity of emotions was rather...

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Gaza: UN and EU funded desalination plant brings needed water

By: AP Source: VOA News DEIR EL-BALAH, GAZA STRIP – International aid workers on Thursday opened a new desalination plant in the Gaza Strip, bringing some relief to a territory where 97 percent of the water is undrinkable. It is the Hamas-ruled territory’s second and largest desalination plant. While it will not solve Gaza’s water woes, officials said the project marked an important step. “Despite the small production, this gives symbolism to Gaza residents that the train of water solution is now on track,” said Monzer Shublaq, director of Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza. The plant will initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water a day, a small...

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Istanbul nightclub attacker says orders came from ISIS

By: Humeyra Pamuk Source: Reuters via MuslimVillage ISTANBUL (Reuters) – An Uzbek gunman who killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Day told police he had to change target at the last minute to avoid heavy security and acted with direct orders from ISIS in Syria, a newspaper said on Wednesday. The gunman, named by the authorities on Tuesday as Abdulgadir Masharipov, had initially been told to attack the area around the central Taksim square and said his instructions came from Raqqa, a Syrian stronghold of ISIS, the Hurriyet newspaper cited him as saying in police testimony. “I came to Taksim on New Year’s Eve but the security measures were intense....

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