US Secretary of State John Kerry held tense talks with his Russian counterpart in Geneva Monday to end fighting in Ukraine, where the UN says more than 6,000 have died in less than a year. The meeting with Sergei Lavrov in an upscale Geneva hotel came less than a week after Kerry accused Moscow of lying to his face about its involvement in the conflict, which has triggered the worst post-Cold War crisis between the US and its allies, and Russia. High-stakes talks between Kiev and Moscow were also set to get under way in Brussels to resolve a bitter gas dispute which threatens deliveries to Europe, after Russia began direct supplies to parts of separatist-held eastern Ukraine.
Britain's Prince William met China's Communist President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday before strolling through the Forbidden City, the former home of the country's deposed imperial dynasties. Xi warmly welcomed the second-in-line to the British throne, making the highest-profile visit to China by a member of the royal family since Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip in 1986. William was met by the Chinese leader on the first full day of a trip which comes as London and Beijing have traded diplomatic barbs over pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, a former British colony. "The British royal family has great influence not just in Britain but across the world," said Xi, who is due to visit Britain himself later this year.
Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on Monday in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Government forces have been working their way north in recent months, notching up key victories against IS but Tikrit, which has resisted them several times, is their toughest target yet. Building on recent successes, commanders voiced hope that the broadest operation since IS overran swathes of the country last June would be a step towards the liberation of Mosul, the jihadists' main hub in Iraq. "Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north)," a senior army officer on the ground told AFP by telephone.