A partial cease-fire in Syria is “very fragile” and “insufficient” but could be enough to enable the resumption of peace talks if it holds into this week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“There clearly are violations but also, clearly, violence has diminished,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview in Paris, where he met with French officials. “If between now and March 9 we can see these conditions continue, then we have the foundations to resume negotiations on a political transition.”
A “cessation of hostilities” took place in Syria last week after a diplomatic effort led by the U.S., which has backed rebel groups, and Russia, the chief ally of President Bashar al-Assad. So far, it has fared better than past bids to end a five-year war that has killed a quarter-million people, destabilized the region and triggered an exodus of refugees to Europe.
In the first week, 135 people died in areas subject to the truce, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its website Saturday. Most deaths were of opposition, Islamist and Kurdish fighters, with 25 government troops and 32 civilians also killed, the group said.
‘El Chapo’ PR campaign
MEXICO CITY — The once-secretive Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has launched a public relations blitz, calling on his lawyers and even his common-law wife to keep his name in the news.
Emma Coronel, mother of Guzman’s twin 4-year-old daughters, has given unprecedented media interviews, issuing dire warnings about his health and pressuring the government to improve the conditions he endures his third time behind bars.
His lawyers have gathered the media at Mexico’s supreme court and outside the White House in Washington. On Friday, one of Guzman’s lawyers called a news conference outside the maximum-security Altiplano prison where he’s being held, and which he escaped from through a mile-long tunnel in July.
Analysts say the publicity is all part of a carefully planned media strategy.
At the very least, Guzman hopes to negotiate the terms of his imprisonment in the United States should moves to extradite him succeed.
Tibetan student dies
NEW DELHI — A 16-year-old Tibetan student living in India has died three days after setting himself on fire to protest Chinese rule in Tibet, a hospital official said on Friday.
The student, Dorjee Tsering, had self-immolated on Monday in Dehradun, India, while shouting “Free Tibet,” according to an advocacy group based in London. He was rushed to New Delhi and treated at Safdarjung Hospital, where he died on Thursday night, said Poonam Dhanda, a spokeswoman for the hospital. Burns had covered 95 percent of his body, Ms. Dhanda said.
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, held up a picture of Mr. Dorjee on Tuesday while in Minnesota speaking with the president of the Tibetan National Congress, an advocacy group.
Mr. Dorjee was the second Tibetan this week to die after self-immolation. On Monday, an 18-year-old Tibetan monk, Kalsang Wangdu, set himself afire in the Chinese province of Sichuan, the first such episode in a Tibetan area of China since August. Since 2009, more than 140 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibetan regions of China to protest Beijing’s rule.
India visas withheld
NEW DELHI — India has denied visas to a team from the United States government responsible for monitoring religious freedom, the group said.
The organization, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, had planned a trip to India, scheduled to begin last week, to assess religious liberty in the country. But India has not issued visas to members of the commission, it said on Thursday.
Robert P. George, the group’s chairman, said that the team was “deeply disappointed.”
The group has traveled to China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, “among the worst offenders on religious freedom,” he said.
India has had a checkered history with religious violence.