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Baltic Sea ferry runs aground in Finnish waters

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A Baltic Sea ferry with 331 passengers and a crew of 98 has run aground in the Aland Islands archipelago between Finland and Sweden. Finnish authorities say there are "no lives in immediate danger," and the vessel isn't leaking.

The Finnish coast guard tweeted Saturday afternoon that the Viking Line ferry that runs between the Finnish port city of Turku and Swedish capital Stockholm hit the ground just off Mariehamn's port capital of the Aland Islands.

The coast guard tweeted a photo showing the M/S Viking Grace stuck just offshore.

"Viking Grace has run aground in front of Mariehamn, firmly grounded, no leaks. The first rescue units are on-site," the tweet said.

The vessel was en route from Stockholm to Turku with a scheduled stop at Mariehamn. Strong storm winds prevailed in the area at the time. Ferry operator Viking Line confirmed the incident and said it was investigating.

Coast guard officials told Finnish media that the Viking Grace, a large vessel capable of carrying up to 2,800 passengers, was near the shore when it seemed to have floated toward land for some reason.

In September, Viking Line's M/S Amorella passenger ferry also ran aground in the Aland Islands, an autonomous Finnish territory that consists of thousands of named and unnamed islands. Its shallow waters and narrow passages are particularly tricky to navigate for large ships.

No one was injured in the September incident.

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5-magnitude quake hits Turkey

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A 5-magnitude earthquake shook the Kurtalan district of the Turkish city of Siirt, Report says, referring to the country's Emergency Management Agency (AFAD).

The epicenter was located at a depth of 20 km.

The officials have not informed about any casualties or damage so far.

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OSCE Foreign ministers to begin online conference today

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Foreign ministers from the 57-nation Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will tune in online on Thursday for two days of talks on existing and emerging challenges.

The ministerial council is the OSCE's primary decision-making and governing body. It routinely meets in the capital of the presiding country.

Due to the pandemic, this year's 27th edition will be held in a virtual setting for the first time, under Albania's chairmanship.

It will be opened by Albanian Foreign Minister Gent Cakaj.

The meeting will set the tone for OSCE's work next year when the Swedish foreign minister takes over in January. The diplomats are expected to fill four senior positions, including that of the OSCE secretary-general.

The council will also consider Russia's motion to set up an informal working group that will seek to improve the OSCE's efficiency. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to take part in the talks.

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Thailand to remain closed to foreigners until the end of tourism season

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Thai authorities predict that the Kingdom will be closed to international tourism until the second quarter of 2021.

Kiss any resemblance of general tourism to Thailand goodbye until March next year, at the earliest. That’s the outlook for Thailand’s beleaguered tourism industry from the usually optimistic Minister for Sports and Tourism, Pipat Ratchakitprakan.

The Thai Hotel Association and The Thailand Travel Agents Association have been lobbying the Thai government to drop its mandatory quarantine provisions. They even demand urgently to negotiate travel bubble with provinces in China and other nations that are currently “low risk” for Covid-19, including Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan.

The country will continue with an opening to business people, technical experts, high-level workers, and those in the medical field. The 14-day quarantine will continue for now with many countries still in the grip of the pandemic.”

He also noted that even Chinese officials advise caution and suggest waiting until the hot season next year (mid-year).

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