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Three days of talks between a Taliban delegation led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Norwegian government and several allied countries have started in Oslo amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. The closed-door meetings that began Sunday have reignited a debate over whether they legitimize the Taliban government. The Taliban’s deputy minister of culture and information tweeted a voice message from Muttaqi expressing hopes that the talks in Norway will become “a gateway for a positive relationship with Europe.” Norway stressed the visit was not “recognition of the Taliban," but a Taliban official said it's a first step in that direction. Some protesters gathered in Oslo to condemn the meeting.

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Police in Brussels have fired water cannons and tear gas to disperse violent demonstrations against COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictions. The protest Sunday drew tens of thousands of people, some traveling from France, Germany and other countries. It followed demonstrations in other European capitals on Saturday that also drew thousands of people who are against vaccine passports and other requirements that European governments have imposed in hopes of ending the coronavirus pandemic. In Brussels, demonstrators chanted “Liberty!” as they marched. There were violent confrontations with police. Video images showed black-clad protesters attacking a building used by the European Union’s diplomatic service, hurling projectiles at its entrance and smashing windows. 

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Russia's Foreign Ministry has rejected a British claim that Russia is seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate.  Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services. Murayev is the leader of a small party that has no seats in Ukraine's parliament. The U.K. government made the claim based on an intelligence assessment without providing evidence to back it up. It comes amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over Russia’s designs on Ukraine. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied the U.K. accusations on Sunday.

Pope Francis has expressed his concern over “rising tensions” in Ukraine that threaten peace, and called for political talks that put at the center "human brotherhood instead of partisan interests." Francis said Sunday that he was "following with concern the rising tensions that threaten to inflict a new blow to peace in Ukraine and put in question the security in Europe with even wider repercussions." Francis called for a day of prayer for peace on Wednesday. He said “those who pursue their own goals to the detriment of others despise their own human vocation because we have all been created as brothers.”

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Using Iranian bank funds freed from American sanctions, South Korea has paid Iran’s $18 million in delinquent dues owed to the United Nations. The step was apparently approved by Washington to restore Tehran’s suspended voting rights at the world body. Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the South Korean Foreign Ministry said Sunday Seoul had paid the sum using Iranian assets frozen in the country after consulting with the the United States Treasury — a potential signal of flexibility amid floundering nuclear negotiations. The funds had been impounded at a Korean bank under sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump.

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Aid flights from Australia, Japan and New Zealand carrying food, water, medical supplies and telecommunications equipment landed in Tonga over the weekend, as the Pacific nation grapples with the aftermath of an underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami. The main airport runway has been cleared of ash spewed when the nearby Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted a week ago. The explosion also set off a Pacific-wide tsunami that smashed boats in New Zealand and caused an oil spill as far as Peru. A lack of clean water is a priority because supplies have been disrupted by layers of volcanic ash and salt water. Ships from the U.S. and Britain also are on their way. Also deployed is an Australian navy ship with helicopters, engineers and a 40-bed hospital. 

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The British government on Saturday accused Russia of seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and said former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is being considered as a potential candidate. Murayev is head of the small pro-Russian party Nashi, which currently has no seats in Ukraine’s parliament. Britain’s Foreign Office named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services. It’s unclear what means Britain believes Russia might use to install a friendly government in Kyiv. The U.K. government made the claim based on an intelligence assessment, without providing evidence to back it up.

The head of the German navy resigned after coming under fire at home and abroad for saying Ukraine would not regain the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Vice admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach's comments caused anger in Ukraine, which summoned the German ambassador to complain. They also sparked consternation and a swift rebuke back in Berlin. By late Saturday, Schoenbach had asked for his dismissal, saying he wanted to prevent further damage resulting to Germany and its military from his “ill-considered statements.” The German government has insisted that it stands united with its NATO allies on the issue of Russia’s military threat to Ukraine. But differences remain between Berlin and its allies over the issue of supplying Ukraine with weapons.