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Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward to Close in London’s West End

Featuring a book and lyrics by Christopher Hampton and Don Black (who collaborated with Lloyd Webber on Sunset Boulevard), Stephen Ward tells the story of the scandalous Profumo Affair of 1963, in which Secretary of State John Profumo had an affair with a call girl by way of an osteopathic experimentalist (the titular Stephen Ward) who stands trial for pimping out clients. The production stars Alexander Hanson as Ward, with Charlotte Spencer as Christine Keeler, Charlotte Blackledge as Mandy Rice-Davies, Anthony Calf as Lord Astor, Daniel Flynn as John Profumo, Joanna Riding as Valerie Hobson, Ian Conningham as Ivanov, Chris Howell as Murray, Ricardo Coke Thomas as Lucky Gordon and Wayne Robinson as Johnny Edgecomp. The world premiere of Stephen Ward, the latest musical from legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, has set a closing date of March 29 in London’s West End. Directed by five-time Olivier winner Richard Eyre, the show began previews at the Aldwych Theatre on December 3, 2013 and opened on December 19.  View Comments read more

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Soul Doctor Opens Officially Off-Broadway

first_img Soul Doctor In addition to Nelson, the cast includes Dan’yelle Williamson as Nina Simone, as well as Dianna Barger, Debra Cardona, Jacob Heimer, Anthony Laciura, Don Meehan, Hayden Wall, Lee Hollis Bussie, Rosalie Graziano, Janelle McDermoth, Erin Mosher, John Plumpis, and Jesse Swimm. Welcome back, Shlomo! The off-Broadway production of Soul Doctor opens officially on December 14 at The Actors Temple. Mindy Cooper directs a cast that features Josh Nelson as Shlomo Carlebach. The musical., which played on Broadway in 2013, features music by Carlebach, lyrics by David Schecter with additional lyrics by Carlebach and a book by Daniel S. Wise. View Comments The bio-musical tells the story of the beloved yet controversial father of popular Jewish music, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and his friendship with legendary jazz singer Nina Simone. As a “Rock Star Rabbi” of the 1960s, Carlebach struggled to harmonize his traditional beliefs with the “free love” generation. Show Closed This production ended its run on Jan. 25, 2015 Related Showslast_img read more

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Ethan Hawke, Peter Dinklage & More Sizzle in New Group Reading of Things We Want

first_imgHow does The New Group celebrate their 20th anniversary season? With a star-studded reunion! The original stars of the 2007 world premiere production of Jonathan Marc Sherman’s Things We Want performed a benefit reading on January 5 at the Pershing Square Signature Center, directed by Ethan Hawke. After the performance, stars Paul Dano, Peter Dinklage, Josh Hamilton and Zoe Kazan posed for a company photo with Sherman and Hawke, as well as New Group artistic director Scott Elliott and executive director Adam Bernstein. Congratulations! Star Files View Commentscenter_img Ethan Hawkelast_img read more

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Frozen Buds.

first_imgIt’s still too early for precise figures, but Georgia blueberrygrowers estimate at least a 15-percent crop loss as a result ofthe recent freeze.”It will take another couple of weeks to really see thefull damage because the flowers still have to open,” saidRusty Bell, president of the Georgia Blueberry Growers Association.”Then we’ll be able to see how much damage has been done.And when we harvest, we’ll know a lot more, too.”Georgia growers begin harvesting their earliest varieties ofsouthern highbush blueberries as early as mid-April and May. Themain harvest of rabbiteye blueberries, the later varieties, startsin June.Growers Make More on Early BerriesThough the actual damage isn’t known, Bell does know the freezewill hit growers’ wallets. “The main fruit we lost,”he said, “is from our early varieties when the fruit sellsfor $3 to $4 a pound. For the rest of the season, the fruit sellsfor 70 cents a pound.”Georgia’s blueberry crop is in the southeastern counties ofPierce, Bacon, Appling, Clinch and Ware. With 30 percent to 40percent of the crop sold on the fresh market, most berries aresold frozen.”Our berries, both fresh and frozen, are shipped all overthe United States and outside,” he said. “Japan is areally big fresh buyer, and we’re trying to open up some marketsin Taiwan.”The freeze seems to have spared Florida and North Carolinablueberries, Bell said, either because it didn’t get as cold asin Georgia or the plants weren’t flowering yet.The flower holds the key. If the plant’s bloom dies, the fruitdies with it.Planning for Freezing TemperaturesGrowers can take precautionary measures against potential freezes.But this one hit too hard.”A light freeze of 26 degrees or so we can prepare for,but not one in the teens,” Bell said. “Usually the coldwill just affect pollination. But this freeze killed everythingdown inside the bud.”Given enough notice, growers use frost protection to preparefor freezes. Through sprinklers, they spray plants with a quarter-inchof water per hour or more.”This sounds odd, but as ice forms it heats up the plant,”Bell said. “As long as water is continually applied and freezesto form clear ice, the plant temperature will remain around 28to 32. However, this approach can only be used when there is nowind, or for temperatures in the low 20s.”Of Georgia’s 4,500 acres of blueberry plants, 200 acres aresouthern highbush varieties and the rest rabbiteye types. Thesouthern highbush plants were hit hardest because they bloom first.”Rabbiteyes like Tifblue and Brightwell saw just a smallamount of damage because they flower a little later,” Bellsaid. “Only about 20 percent of the whole rabbiteye cropwas hurt.”New UGA Variety Bred to Bloom LaterBell says blueberry growers need a variety that flowers laterbut still matures early. Alapaha, a new University of Georgiaand U.S. Department of Agriculture rabbiteye introduction, isjust that.”This new variety blooms 10 days later than Climax, themost popular early-season rabbiteye,” said Scott NeSmith,a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and EnvironmentalSciences. “Ten days doesn’t sound like a long time. But itcan make all the difference in the world when a freeze hits.””Everyone I’ve talked to is excited about the new release,”Bell said. “It sounds good, but we want to get a couple ofrows in and treat them like real farm plants and see for ourselves.Field conditions with commercial picking will be the real tests.”last_img read more

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Freeze zaps landscapes

first_imgBy Faith PeppersUniversity of GeorgiaWeeks of unseasonably warm weather in Georgia followed by a week of near- and below-freezing temperatures could be a deadly combination for early spring blooms in the south.“Most fruit and nut flower buds can tolerate temperatures slightly below freezing (1-2 degrees),” said David Berle, a University of Georgia horticulture professor. “But it all depends on the stage of development and the microclimate,” or local conditions.Ice can actually work as an insulator for buds. “As long as it is raining, the ‘heat’ given off by water freezing actually protects flower buds to certain point, much like irrigation of the crops would do,” Berle explained.But too many hours of hard freeze can spell doom for spring blooms, although it’s very hard to tell at this point what damage will be done, he said. “If it gets to 20 degrees, it could be serious,” Berle said. “If it gets to 27 degrees, it is likely not to be a problem, but each site is different.”The worst freezes come on cold, windy nights when a front is moving in and temperatures drop rapidly.Some woody ornamentals like azaleas may survive the freeze. “Azaleas are not as far along as most fruit crops, and in a dormant stage they are fairly cold tolerant,” Berle said. There isn’t much homeowners can do to protect fragile plants, which is why it is so important to use landscape plants that match the hardiness zone they live in. “Landscape plants hardy for this area have a great capacity to make it through freezes and frosts,” Berle said. “Typically, it is only those actually blooming at the time for the freeze or frost that suffer.” Mulching material like pine straw layered 2 to 4 inches thick can be effective to keep ice off tender buds and pansy blooms, but should be pushed back when temperatures rise to allow the soil to warm up.“It’s kind of hard for homeowners to do anything about freezing plants,” Berle said. “Covering plants with fabric only provides a few degrees of protection, and then only if well-covered. Plastic works as well for a few degrees, but must be removed before the sun comes out and ‘bakes’ the plants underneath.”Berle adds that most plants can endure frost better than freezes. Frost occurs on a clear nights as heat radiates from surfaces to the sky. When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, water vapor freezes on surfaces like blades of grass, flower blooms and your car windshield. Freezing, on the other hand, usually accompanies a cold front moving in with freezing temperatures, wind and sometimes rain. For advice on protecting landscape plants from frost and freeze or a list of the best plants for your hardiness zone, contact your local UGA Cooperative Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or online at www.ugaextension.com.last_img read more

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4-H Week

first_imgSix million students across America participate in 4-H and, of those, more than 170,000 call Georgia home. To raise awareness of the state’s largest youth development organization, the week of Oct. 1-7 has been declared National 4-H Week.The green four-leaf clover has long been identified with 4-H, as have the four ‘H’s: head, heart, hands and health. Members of 4-H pledge their head to clearer thinking, their heart to greater loyalty, their hands to larger service and their health to better living for their clubs, their communities, their country and their world. Participating youths develop life skills through hands-on projects involving volunteer work, health, science, engineering, technology, leadership, agriculture and communication.Available to children in all of Georgia’s 159 counties, Georgia 4-H began as a club for kids familiar with farm life and has grown into an organization that helps youth become successful, confident adults. Today, 55.2 percent of Georgia 4-H’ers live in urban areas, 41.8 percent live in rural, nonagricultural settings and just 3 percent live on a farm.No matter where they live, Georgia 4-H members say that 4-H helps them overcome being shy to become better public speakers, teaches them to be active in their communities, develops their leadership skills and opens the door for them to create lifelong friendships.Georgia 4-H alumni include Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, television host and legal commentator Nancy Grace and pop music artist Jennifer Nettles, all of whom acknowledge the significant and positive impact 4-H had on them as young people.Future leaders include Georgia 4-H member Amelia Day, 18, of Fort Valley, Georgia. Day won the national 2017 4-H Youth in Action Award and a $10,000 scholarship for founding Operation: Veteran Smiles. At 13, she created the community service initiative that has now reached more than 4,000 veterans and engaged more than 6,500 volunteers nationwide to hand-deliver custom care packages, notes of encouragement and musical therapy to veteran patients.Her project is just one of hundreds of community service projects Georgia 4-H’ers lead and participate in each year, from collecting pop tabs for Ronald McDonald House Charities to donating canned goods to food pantries across the state. Under the umbrella of University of Georgia Cooperative Extension, Georgia 4-H programs are rooted in research from the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and other land-grant colleges across the nation. Georgia 4-H agents supplement teachers’ efforts by using after-school lessons and in-school curricula designed to meet Georgia Standards of Excellence.“The idea of bringing UGA research and resources to Georgia students through the use of county agents throughout the state was a cutting-edge idea in 1904 and remains so even today,” said Arch Smith, state 4-H leader. “The most important work of 4-H is to help young people become better citizens and enable them to grow into responsible, active adults.”Each year, more than 30,000 Georgia 4-H youth perform community service, conduct research, compile portfolios of their accomplishments and learn public speaking skills through oral presentations at 4-H District Project Achievement.Georgia 4-H’ers also learn responsibility through livestock projects, programs and judging. Georgia 4-H partners with Georgia FFA and the UGA CAES Department of Animal and Dairy Science to provide these programs. Every year, close to 2,500 students complete a yearlong process to prepare more than 4,500 animals for exhibition at the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show and other competitions.Georgia 4-H’s camping program hosts 8,500 youth ages 9 and up each summer at five 4-H camping centers located across the state. Enthusiastic and well-trained camp counselors, UGA Extension employees, and certified adult volunteer and teen leaders work together to provide campers with fun, engaging activities. Campers return home with a lifetime of memories and lasting friendships.To learn more about Georgia 4-H, go to georgia4h.org. To learn more about Georgia 4-H’er Amelia Day, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ALmVVwpoTY.last_img read more

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Colombia’s Era of Big Capos Ending as Drug Barons Fall from Grace

first_img Emergence of ‘micro cartels’ An array of Colombian syndicates is now cultivating coca plants, chemically processing the leaves into cocaine, and transporting the finished drug northward. But the lucrative part of the trade — bringing cocaine across the U.S. border and distributing it in its cities — is now in the hands of Mexican cartels, cutting into the Colombian traffickers’ profits. And over the past two decades, Colombia’s big cartels have broken into dozens of “micro cartels,” said Alfredo Rangel, security expert and former defense ministry advisor. The usual pattern when a cartel breaks up, he said, is that a capo falls and three of his underlings fight for control of the organization. In a few instances, one is more powerful than the others and simply eliminates them. But more often, the cartel “fragments itself into smaller cartels that keep independent relationships with the business, replacing one capo of importance with three capos of medium importance,” Rangel said. These mid-level capos are the faces of Colombia’s trade today. Neighboring countries look to Colombia’s achievements The success of Colombia’s anti-drug efforts has also pushed its capos into neighboring countries. Since 2008, 10 Colombian capos, including Barerra, have been caught in Venezuela, a prominent exit route for cocaine. Colombia’s role in the cocaine trade will likely continue to weaken, Ávila said. With the removal of so many capos recently, Mexican cartels are sending delegates to Colombia’s neighboring countries, especially Venezuela, to wrestle away the transportation routes. “The Colombians each time are losing more space,” he said. Colombia, however, is still the top grower of coca, with about 160,000 acres in cultivation, according to a report released in July by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Nonetheless, cultivation has plunged about 60 percent since 2000 when it was more than 400,000 acres. At the same time, Peru and Bolivia’s coca crops have mostly increased over the last several years. According to the UNODC report, Peru had nearly 155,000 acres under cultivation in 2011 and Bolivia had about 70,000. Peru and Bolivia have overtaken Colombia to become the world’s producers of finished cocaine, according to a U.S. government report published July 30, though the Bolivian government disputes this. Jhon Marulanda is a security consultant and former member of the Colombian army (and no relation to former guerrilla leader Manuel Marulanda, who was killed in 2008). He said that no single Latin American country can win the battle against drugs, noting that “we need cooperation among all of the countries if this is to be controlled.” Peace deal with FARC: Further blow to cartels? Meanwhile, ongoing talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s largest left-wing guerilla group, and the Colombian government could dramatically change the country’s position as a cocaine producer. FARC manages 60 percent of coca production in Colombia, experts say, and could potentially hand the government, as part of a peace agreement, huge swaths of cultivation land and labs where the drug is processed. “That would give a significant hit to narcotrafficking in Colombia,” said Rangel, the former defense ministry advisor. But one obstacle to such cooperation, Rangel and other experts said, is that members of FARC still refuse to recognize themselves as narcotraffickers. Moreover, the withdrawal of FARC from remote coca-growing zones could create a bloody struggle for power, with traffickers enlisting paramilitaries in a war. “The FARC acts as a type of judge, regulating and administrating, ”said Ávila. “And when they are not there, it could become chaos.” Corpades: Lots of work remains to be done Fernando Quijano, an organized crime investigator and director of the Medellín-based human rights group Corpades, said most of today’s capos are actually “gatilleros,” or gunmen, whose purpose is to act as figureheads, uniting and giving orders to the hundreds of smaller criminal gangs. True power, he said, lies with a small group of men who operate as legitimate businessmen but are actually a tightly knit mafia. “The true bosses of the business are quiet. No one bothers them, because all eyes are following the façade,” he said. Quijano and other investigators noted that very few money launderers have been prosecuted in Colombia. “We’ve had a grand success in the capture of narcos,” said Ávila, of Nuevo Arco Iris. “But the bosses of these narcos have not been touched. It’s bittersweet.” How well that drug trafficking ends, but I would prefer that they put an end to corrupt politicians and to all the exaggerated perks that they have nowadays, not only them, but the majority of the senior officials of the State (high pensions, high wages, cell phone and plan, per diem, passages, advisers, cars…) There is no doubt, that politicians have done and will harm the country even more, than all traffickers together, including PABLO ESCOBAR.. MEDELLÍN, Colombia — The 20-year career of Colombian drug baron Daniel Barrera came to an end with a whimper, not a bang, last month when he was captured in a Venezuelan telephone booth. Barrera — deemed to be the second most wanted trafficker after Mexico’s Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — was living quietly in the border city of San Cristobal. For four years, this man with a $5 million bounty on his head had been moving among a series of guesthouses, the last of which cost less than $100 a night. Despite his low profile, Colombian and Venezuelan forces tracked him with intelligence assistance from the United States and England. Then as the sun set on the evening of Sept. 19, Venezuelan security officers grabbed him without a fight. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called Barrera—known as “El Loco,” the madman, for his mercurial temper — “the last of the grand capos.” Barrera’s capture, despite the painful lengths he took to hide his identity from authorities, including burning his hands with acid to remove his fingerprints and having plastic surgery to alter his face, shows just how effective Colombian forces have become at collaring narcotrafficking heads. In July, fellow drug trafficker Camilo Torres — known as “Fritanga” — was taken into custody after police raided his lavish wedding party on the island of Múcura. Experts: Colombian drug trade more fragmented than ever But security analysts say the recently caught capos, including Barrera, aren’t nearly as powerful as the Colombian capos of the 1980s and 1990s. “I will not say that [Barrera] is the last of the grand capos,” said Ariel Ávila, who has written extensively on the drug trade as an investigator for Bogotá-based research institute Nuevo Arco Iris. “Colombia hasn’t had grand capos for some time.” Those who track the subject closely say Colombia — and much of Latin America — has entered a post-capo era, in which authorities must combat networks of traffickers whose heads can easily be replaced. The success of Colombian security forces has fragmented the drug trade more than at any time in its more than 50-year history. “This era of capos, the cartel of Medellin, the Cartel of Cali, is not going to repeat itself,” Ávila said. “To think that we are going to return to the epic of Pablo Escobar, that is not going to happen.” Plan Colombia instrumental in catching kingpins In the two decades since the fall of Pablo Escobar, Colombian forces have become much more adept at capturing drug kingpins. Under Plan Colombia, the police and military created small groups of highly vetted and trained forces, whose sole job was to track and capture capos. They tapped phone lines, intercepted electronic communications, and recruited criminal informants. In the last several months authorities have captured, besides Barrera, Erickson Vargas Cardona, better known as “Sebastían,” who was the head of the Oficina de Envigado (Office of Envigado), a group with roots in the old Medellín cartel. In early June, Diego Pérez Henao, the main enforcer of a transnational gang called the Rastrojos, was arrested on a Venezuelan farm, where he was posing as a groundskeeper. And just a month earlier his partner Javier Calle Serna, alias “Comba,” surrendered to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after months of negotiations from a hideout in Argentina. These capos have behaved very differently from the capos of old, who built their wealth through cocaine, spread it across other businesses, and were unafraid to show it. Escobar raced expensive cars, hosted parties at grand fincas and built a full-fledged zoo. His rival capos in the Cali cartel, Gilberto José and Miguel Angel Rodriguez Orejuela, owned a professional soccer team and a chain of pharmacies that is still in business today. (The Orejuela brothers were extradited to the United States in 2005 and sentenced to 30 years each). New breed of ‘capo’ keeps a low profile The new class started as street toughs, murdering their way to temporary power. Ávila described them as “killers of turn that can easily be replaced.” They also keep a much lower profile so as not to attract attention, said Diego Corrales, a specialist in urban security and the director of Enciudad, a public-policy group in Medellín. “Escobar showed off the eccentricities he had as an extension of his power,” Corrales said. “Anyone who does that now is likely to fall at the hands of the law.” Escobar and his contemporaries also controlled the entire chain of cocaine, from the cultivating and manufacturing of the drug to its transportation and ultimate distribution in North America. But these days the chain is decentralized, and most capos today often control only one or two parts of it. For example, said Ávila, “Loco” Barrera maintained shipping routes. He bought cocaine, loaded it in airplanes and distributed it to Mexican cartels. By Dialogo November 05, 2012last_img read more

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Exports of higher price wine are growing

first_imgThe Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for Agriculture and Tourism, Dragan Kovačević, elaborated on the situation in domestic winemaking in more detail. “Although we are not satisfied with the fact that we produce 75 to 90 million liters of wine a year, that we record a large foreign trade deficit of 14,5 million euros and that our exports do not cover even 50 percent of imports, it is encouraging that in 2018 and the first ten months of 2019 exports of higher price wine, bottled wines and sparkling wines, which today make up almost 95 percent of the total export structure, and the average price at which we export a liter of wine of 3 euros is twice as high as the import. We still need to work on stronger branding of Croatian wines and we believe that the new structure with four strong regional organizations will further contribute to that. “, said Kovacevic, noting that the Croatian Chamber of Commerce will continue to be under a common brand Vina Croatia vina mosaica work even harder with their own funds and funds from the EU wine envelope on the international promotion of Croatian wines. President of the Wine Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce Ivica Kovačević stressed that this year’s wines will be of very high quality, although they need about a month to fully mature. “We have great wines because our winemaking as a whole is moving forward, following world trends and constantly advancing, but the problem is that it is not followed by viticulture. The areas under vineyards are declining and this could be a serious handicap in production in the near future. We have to deal with this topic, and I hope that politics will pay the necessary attention to this challenge. “, said Kovacevic.  Organized by the Association Graševina Croatica, Vina Dalmacije and Hortus Croatiae and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, more than 60 wineries from three Croatian regions – Slavonia and Podunavlje, Dalmatia and Međimurje, presented their products as part of En Primeura 2020. NEW WINE LAW ADOPTED: FOUR WINE REGIONS ESTABLISHED Assistant Minister of Agriculture Krunoslav Karalić used the opportunity to emphasize the quality cooperation between the ministry and producers. „.One of the most important results of this cooperation is the new Wine Act, which brings administrative and financial relief to the sector in the amount of HRK 12 million, and aims to enable producers to manage the wine labeling system themselves. All this should improve competitiveness and increase the production of Croatian wines”, Concluded Karalić. En Primeur was opened by the Minister of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Crafts Darko Horvat saying that enogastronomy is one of the greatest Croatian trump cards and one of the main reasons for the arrival of foreign tourists in Lijepa naša. “That is why we see great potential in food and wine, not only from the perspective of agriculture and tourism, but also from the aspect of the overall economy. I wish you that the 2019 harvest will mature and turn into a respectable offer that will promote our country around the world. “, said Horvat. HGK REQUESTS REDUCTION OF VAT RATE ON NON-ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES AND BEVERAGES, WINE AND BEER Fans of a good drop today, as part of En Primeura 2020, had the opportunity to taste the best wines from last year’s harvest, which is yet to come on the market.  The emphasis was on Graševina, Pošip and Pušipel, but experts and visitors were able to taste other varieties of the 2019 vintage, rosé wines and red wines of older years.  RELATED NEWS: SEVEN LARGEST WINE PRODUCERS IN MOSLAVINA PRESENTED JOINT WINE – ŠKRLETlast_img read more

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Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes rage as Macron denounces ‘jihadist’ deployment

first_imgCivilian casualties Armenia has recorded the deaths of 104 soldiers and 13 civilians. Azerbaijan has not reported any military casualties but said 19 civilians were killed after Armenian shelling. Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan sparked a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives, but it is still not recognized as independent by any country, including Armenia.Armenia and Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilization Sunday, while Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.Talks to resolve the conflict have largely stalled since a 1994 ceasefire agreement. Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have intensified their shelling as French President Emmanuel Macron said jihadist militants had been deployed to Nagorny Karabakh in a “serious” new development.The West and Moscow renewed calls to halt several days of fighting over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region that has left more than 130 dead and threatened to draw in regional powers Turkey and Russia.In a joint appeal on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump and Macron urged the two sides to return to negotiations aimed at resolving their longstanding territorial dispute. In Martuni, a small town in Karabakh around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the front line, residents took refuge in cellars as heavy shelling by Azerbaijan killed four civilians and wounded 11.Artak Aloyan, a 54-year-old construction worker sheltering in his basement with an elderly neighbor, vowed to stay despite the worst clashes the contested region has seen for years.”I built this house with my own hands. I will not go anywhere, that’s that,” he told AFP after a rocket attack. “I will die here in the last battle.” Topics : ‘Crushing strikes’ The rival Caucasus nations have been locked in a bitter stalemate over Karabakh since the collapse of the Soviet Union when the ethnic Armenian region broke away from Azerbaijan.In the fiercest clashes in years, 136 people have been confirmed dead in fighting that has raged for five days.The Armenian defense ministry said fighting had intensified and its troops had repelled Azerbaijani attacks, downing helicopters and destroying drones and armored vehicles.It said Azerbaijani forces had fired on two villages inside Armenia, close to Karabakh, killing one civilian. Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said that 1,280 Azerbaijani troops had been killed and 2,700 wounded since Sunday, with both sides making claims of inflicting heavy casualties.Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said its forces had carried out “crushing artillery strikes” on Armenian troops. It denied claims that one of its helicopters was shot down and had crashed in Iran.The two sides have accused each other of shelling civilian areas and ignored repeated calls from international leaders to halt the fighting. Putin, Macron and Trump called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” and urged the warring sides to commit to talks. ‘Foreign fighters’Yerevan is in a military alliance of ex-Soviet countries led by Moscow and has accused Turkey of dispatching mercenaries from northern Syria to bolster Azerbaijan’s forces in the Karabakh conflict.It also claimed earlier this week that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet flying in support of Baku’s forces had downed an Armenian SU-25 warplane, but Ankara and Baku denied the claim.Pashinyan reiterated claims that mercenaries had joined the conflict, saying Azerbaijan and Turkey were fighting “with the help and involvement of foreign terrorist fighters”.”This terrorism equally threatens the United States, Iran, Russia, and France,” he added.His calls were echoed by Macron, who earlier said intelligence reports had established that 300 Syrian fighters drawn from “jihadist groups” from the Syrian city of Aleppo had passed through Turkey en route for Azerbaijan.The French president said that a “red line has been crossed, which is unacceptable” and demanded an explanation from Ankara. Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, has signaled his country’s full backing for Baku’s military and on Thursday called for Armenian troops to leave Karabakh. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev have both rejected the idea of holding talks, with the Armenian leader stating: “Nagorno-Karabakh cannot disarm, because it would lead to genocide.””The people who live there face an existential threat,” Pashinyan told French newspaper Le Figaro.But Russia suggested it was making progress in diplomatic efforts with Turkey, a firm supporter of Azerbaijan in the conflict.It said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu had confirmed they were ready for “close coordination” to stabilize the situation.last_img read more

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