World News in Brief: February 8

Ecuador's National Assembly on Wednesday approved the free trade agreement between Ecuador and China, according to local authorities.
The rice supply in the Philippines is sufficient through the first half of this year, ensuring the stable price of the country's main food staple, an agriculture official said on Thursday.
The rice supply in the Philippines is sufficient through the first half of this year, ensuring the stable price of the country's main food staple, an agriculture official said on Thursday.

* Globally, peace remains the absent element amid escalating conflicts, widening divides, and intensifying polarization, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday. Addressing the UN General Assembly with a list of priority areas for action, the UN chief underscored that the UN was founded on the pursuit of peace.

* The voting process in Pakistan's parliamentary elections concluded Thursday evening and the counting of ballots has started, said a statement from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Elections took place on 265 seats of the National Assembly, or the lower house of the country's parliament, after polls were postponed on one seat due to the death of a candidate.

* Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of resuming peace treaty talks with Tokyo under the current situation.

* The Ethiopian House of Peoples' Representatives (HoPR), the lower chamber of the parliament, on Thursday approved the appointment of new cabinet members upon the endorsement of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

* Four candidates will be on the ballot during the upcoming presidential elections in Russia, head of the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) Ella Pamfilova said on Thursday.

* The Swedish government is considering participating in two naval operations in the Red Sea, Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billstrom said Thursday.

* The United States will provide more funds for the construction of the Lobito Corridor, a rail link to export metals from Central Africa's Copperbelt, including a link for Zambia, U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein said.

* The prime ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) met on Thursday in Canberra as part of the fifth PNG-Australia annual leaders' dialogue.

* The U.S.-British navy forces struck a Houthi site in Yemen's Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Thursday, the group's al-Masirah TV reported.

* Israel released on Thursday 71 Palestinians who were arrested during the Israeli army's ground operation in Gaza, according to a Palestinian security source.

* Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday met with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in the West Bank, discussing issues including Palestinian statehood and the developments in the Gaza Strip.

* U.S. President Joe Biden will host Jordan's King Abdullah in Washington on Feb. 12, the White House said on Thursday, adding the two leaders will discuss the ongoing situation in Gaza and efforts to "produce an enduring end to the crisis."

* The Iraqi government said Thursday that the U.S. drone strike in eastern Baghdad Wednesday evening pushed the Iraqi government more than ever to end the mission of the U.S.-led coalition forces.

* Mexico and the United States have reaffirmed their commitment to jointly tackling immigration and security issues along their border, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

* Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday stressed that his country would never leave the negotiation table and is insistent on its right to develop nuclear technology for "peaceful" purposes.

* A United Nations committee appealed on Thursday for "massive psychosocial support" for children traumatised by violence in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and Israel and said it would review Israel's treatment of children later this year.

* The top UN official in the Middle East underscored the importance of a ceasefire in Gaza during a briefing to journalists at UN headquarters on Wednesday.

* The world just experienced its warmest January on record, marking the first 12-month period in which temperatures averaged more than 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial times, the European Union's climate change monitoring service said on Thursday.

* The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) on Thursday released its official record of Australia's climate, indicating that the country endured warmer than average climate in 2023, with contrasting rainfall between the north and the south.

* Unusually mild weather and droughts in Italy are destroying crops and threatening livelihoods this winter, Italy's main farming lobby Coldiretti said on Thursday.

* Hundreds of Spanish bank employees took to the streets in Madrid on Thursday to demand a pay rise they say is justified by record 2023 profits at lenders such as SantanderSAN.MC and BBVABBVA.MC.

* The Mongolian government said on Thursday it is in talks with Elon Musk's SpaceX to launch the country's first national telecommunications satellite, its latest move to improve connectivity and develop its "domestic space economy."

* The Malaysian central bank said Thursday that its international reserves stand at 114.8 billion USD as of Jan. 31. The reserves slipped 0.26 percent as compared to 115.1 billion dollars as of Jan. 15, Bank Negara Malaysia said in a statement.

* India's central bank the Reserve Bank of India Thursday announced that it has kept the repo rate unchanged at 6.5 percent.

* Euro zone government bond yields rose to a two-week high on Thursday and markets scaled back bets on future rate cuts after policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic reiterated that central banks must be cautious on easing monetary policy.

* The credit rating agency Fitch Ratings has affirmed Mongolia's long-term foreign-currency issuer default rating at "B" with a stable outlook, local media reported on Thursday, citing the agency's statement.

* Sri Lanka's state revenue increased by 25 percent in January following the increase of value added tax (VAT), State Minister of Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said on Thursday.

* The number of missing from a landslide that struck a southern Philippine province rose to 110 on Thursday as rescuers recovered more bodies, bringing the official death toll to 11, disaster officials said.

* Iceland's Civil Protection Agency raised its alert level to emergency status on Thursday as a volcanic outbreak disrupted the supply of hot water in a region just south of the capital.