Talks on sanctions removal
Iran and the other signatories to the 2015 nuclear agreement wrap up five days of talks in Vienna following a plenary session of the joint commission, the deal's implementing body. The delegations will now return to their capitals for consultations and political decisions. The European Union's Deputy foreign policy chief says the talks will resume next week in the framework of the seventh round. Tehran has already stressed that the negotiations should result in the removal of sanctions against the Iranian nation. Earlier on Friday, the Iranian Foreign minister told EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a phone call that the West should present a real initiative to end the sanctions. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said a good agreement is within reach, if some parties abandon the language of threat and instead use the language of mutual respect.
WHO: No Omicron death reports
The World Health Organization says no deaths have been reported relating to the new Omicron variant as countries across the world scramble to stop it from spreading. The WHO says it is collecting more evidence about the new mutation, Omicron, which it calls a variant of concern. The US, Australia, India, and Malaysia, have reported cases of the new variant on Friday. So far, the highly transmissible variant has been logged in at least 30 countries including in Europe. It was first detected in southern Africa more than a week ago. Concerns are growing as some of the newly-identified cases in non-African countries had no travel history. The WHO recommends vaccinations, while wearing masks and avoiding crowds.
Lithuania-China row over Taiwan
Lithuania says China is blocking its exports, days after Vilnius allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in the Baltic state. A Lithuanian trade body says Chinese customs no longer lists Lithuania in its list of origin countries. The Lithuanian president has expressed regret over Beijing’s decision, saying he has asked the government to find a way to compensate businesses for their losses. Tensions have been running high between two countries since mid-November, when Taipei said it formally opened a de facto embassy in Lithuania. China reacted by downgrading its diplomatic relations with the Baltic state to the level of charge d'affaires. Beijing views Taiwan as part of its territory under the One-China policy, and has been at odds over the island with the US and its allies.