Source: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
* Iraq closed its ground borders with Iran for three days on Thursday (February 20) after the detection of coronavirus illness, named COVID-19, in Iran, official IRNA news agency reported on Friday. Iraqi Airways on Thursday has suspended flights with Iran over the fear of the virus spread, IRNA confirmed.
* Russia successfully launched a Soyuz-2.1A carrier rocket with a Meridian-M military communications satellite on Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The launch, postponed from Jan. 24 for technical reasons, was carried out from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwest Russia.
* French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly and her counterparts from Germany and Spain signed a contract on Thursday to develop a prototype of the next generation fighter jet as part of a plan to bolster the European bloc’s security and reduce defense reliance on allies, notably the United States, the French minister said.
* Palestine and Israel have agreed to defuse their commercial tension over mutual exports and imports bans, a senior Palestinian official said Thursday.
* Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed regional and international issues on Thursday. The two sides also talked about relations between the two countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
* Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday informed his government that he will soon form a legal framework that would transform Sri Lanka to a country favorable for investments.
* The Turkish forces heavily shelled Syrian government forces’ positions in the countryside of the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
* The newly formed lower house of the Irish parliament failed to elect a new prime minister for the country during its first sitting held in Dublin on Thursday, reported Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE.
* Armenia’s national statistics committee said on Thursday that its economy grew 7.6 percent in 2019, the highest recorded since 2008, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said. The prime minister also expressed confidence at Thursday’s cabinet meeting that higher economic growth will be recorded this year.
* The alleged gunman that shot and killed nine people in twin shootings in the western German city of Hanau late Wednesday had a “xenophobic motive,” police and officials said on Thursday. Police said early Thursday on Twitter that the suspect was found dead at home with another body, and “there is no indication of other perpetrators.”
* Voting began in the Iranian parliamentary election on Friday as supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was seen cast the first vote on the state television. Nearly 58 million Iranians are eligible to vote in the parliamentary elections, during which lawmakers for the 290-seat chamber will be elected.
* The chief of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Stefano Del Col urged on Thursday Lebanon and Israel to further utilize UNIFIL’s tripartite mechanisms to avoid tensions on the borders.
* Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday met with the head of the UN-recognized government in Libya, local media reported.
* Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab headed a meeting with experts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday to discuss solutions to Lebanon’s financial and economic crisis, the National News Agency reported.
* At least 6.5 million people in South Sudan, or more than half of the population, could face acute food insecurity at the height of this hunger season between May and July, three UN agencies and the government warned Thursday.
* A delegation of the African Union (AU) has expressed the union’s unwavering solidarity and support to South Sudan as the world’s youngest nation is implementing a peace agreement and strives to form transitional government.