Third Culture Queen vol. 17

Regional Resentments | Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, and the Global South

Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific

  • British MPs return after supreme court rules suspension unlawful (BBC)

    Speaking to BBC's Radio 4 Today programme, he reiterated his call for Mr Johnson to resign, and said the court's decision had left the PM "badly wanting".

    But he said he would not be proposing a motion of no confidence, which could trigger a general election, until it was "very clear" the prime minister would seek an extension to Brexit to prevent a no-deal and the EU had agreed to it.

    "He should apologise both to [the Queen], but more importantly apologise to the British people for trying to shut down our democracy in a crucial time when people are very worried about what will happen on 31 October," Mr Corbyn added.

    The Supreme Court ruled it was impossible to conclude there had been any reason - "let alone a good reason" - to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks in the run-up to the Brexit deadline of 31 October.

    UPDATE: Boris Johnson says Supreme Court 'wrong' to rule on Parliament suspension (BBC)

  • Erdogan says 2-3 million Syrian refugees can be resettled in 'safe zone' (Reuters)

    “Through making east of Euphrates a safe place, and depending on the depth of this safe zone, we can resettle 2-3 million displaced Syrians currently living in our country and Europe,” he said. “We want to see strong support from European countries, both on the issues of Idlib and the region east of Euphrates. We are full for words, and we expect action.”

    Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Its troops are also stationed in Syria’s northwest Idlib region, where a Russian-backed government offensive has pushed north in recent months, raising the prospect of a new wave of refugees.

    “If we cannot establish peace in Idlib swiftly, we will be unable to shoulder the burden of 4 million Syrians living in that region,” Erdogan added.

    Next week, Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump will discuss plans to establish what Turkey describes as a safe zone along 450 km (280 miles) of Syrian border stretching east from the Euphrates river to the Iraq border, a region controlled mainly by U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters.

    “We will initiate our own plans in two weeks if no results come from the work with United States on the formation of a safe zone,” Erdogan said.

    Related: UN Security Council to vote on rival calls for truce in Syria's Idlib (Reuters)

  • EU nations come to Italy's aid over relocating migrants (The Guardian)

    Interior ministers from Germany, France, Italy and Malta have agreed a joint proposal to relocate people rescued at sea and end the plight of migrant rescue boats adrift in the Mediterranean while countries bicker over who should help.

    In a bid to move on from the rancour of recent years, the latest paper proposes “a temporary emergency mechanism”, which means that rescued migrants would be relocated to other EU member states volunteering shelter, after arriving at a Mediterranean port.

    “I find it crucial that we move away from ship-by-ship arrangements towards a more predictable solution,” said Maria Ohisalo, the interior minister of Finland, which holds the presidency of the Council of the EU and helped broker Monday’s deal.

    She said the next step was “bringing together as many member states as possible”. “These arrangements in order to be functional need to be built on shared responsibility involving a sufficiently large number of members states.”

    The voluntary plan will be presented to the EU’s 24 other interior ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg in October. It is unclear how many will sign up.

  • Franco exhumation: Spain's Supreme Court backs move to cemetery (BBC)

    It backed the Socialist government's plan to move the remains from a state mausoleum to a less controversial site.

    The issue has divided opinion in Spain, which remains haunted by the Franco era. He won the 1930s civil war and went on to rule Spain until 1975.

    In a unanimous ruling, the court said it had decided to "completely reject the appeal lodged by the family in relation to Francisco Franco's exhumation".

    Mr Sanchez's deputy, Carmen Calvo, said the exhumation would be completed "as soon as possible". The government wants to carry it out before elections on 10 November.

    Franco currently lies in a huge mausoleum called the Valley of the Fallen, alongside tens of thousands of civil war dead.

    Many revile the complex - just outside Madrid - as a monument to the triumph of fascism, and it has become a shrine for the far right.

  • Germany launches Alliance for Multilateralism (DW)

    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Thursday welcomed their fellow foreign ministers from some 50 countries for the first meeting of the "Alliance for Multilateralism," a loose group of nations working to boost international cooperation, reform international institutions, and tackle various global issues such as disarmament, digitalization and climate change.  

    Maas had spoken to Canada and Japan about the effort. Australia, India, Indonesia and Mexico could possibly join the initiative as well.

    The alliance's first objective would be to show that countries that "support multilateralism and support the United Nations remain the majority in the world," Le Drian said.

    The second objective would be to establish a network of countries ready to support multilateralism and cooperation, including joint efforts on inequality, climate change and the consequences of new technology. 

    "We are in a good position to show to the world what could be the consequences of unilateralism and isolationism, and enabling nationalist and extremist speech to flourish," Le Drian said.

  • Israel's Arab Joint List endorses Benny Gantz in bid to oust Netanyahu (Axios)

    This is the first time since 1992 that an Arab party in Israel has recommended one of the candidates for prime minister. The recommendation by the Arab Joint List brings the number of members of the Israeli parliament who support Gantz to 57, compared to just 55 for Netanyahu. Since Netanyahu and Gantz virtually tied in last week's election, Odeh's move almost guarantees that Gantz will receive the mandate from President Rivlin to form a government.

    "Our decision to recommend Mr. Gantz as the next prime minister without joining his expected national unity coalition government is a clear message that the only future for this country is a shared future, and there is no shared future without the full and equal participation of Arab Palestinian citizens."

    "By choosing to recommend Mr. Gantz, we have proven that co

    operation between people, Arab and Jewish, is the only principled political strategy that will lead to a better future for us all."

    Joint List Leader Ayman Odeh: We Are Ending Netanyahu’s Grip on Israel

    UPDATE: Israeli president gives Netanyahu first shot to form government (Axios)

    (Related: NYT and Reuters)

  • More US troops will be sent to Poland (DW)

    Meeting on the sidelines of the US General Assembly in New York, the two leaders signed a Joint Declaration on Advancing Defense Cooperation that builds on a framework deal reached in June.

    The United States currently has 4,500 rotational troops in Poland. That number is "expected to grow by approximately 1,000 additional United States military personnel in the near term," according to the joint declaration.

    Trump said the new troops would "most likely" be transferred from other European bases.

    The United States has about 35,000 troops stationed in Germany. In June, Trump suggested additional soldiers to be sent to Poland could be pulled from Germany, which the president has repeatedly criticized over NATO defense spending targets.

  • Russia, China veto UN resolution calling for ceasefire in Syria (Al Jazeera)

    Russia and China have vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for a truce in the region of Idlib, the last rebel-held stronghold in northwestern Syria.

    The resolution said, "All parties shall immediately cease hostilities to avoid a further deterioration of the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Idlib Governorate, beginning at noon Damascus time on 21 September 2019."

    Russia vetoed the call for action because it did not include an exemption for military offensives against the UN-blacklisted fighter groups.

    It was the 13th time Russia vetoed a resolution on the Syrian conflict and the seventh in the case of China.

    Equatorial Guinea abstained, while the remaining 12 members of the council voted in favour of the resolution, which was drafted by Kuwait, Belgium and Germany.

  • Ukraine summit in Paris delayed amid continued bickering (DW)

    A September Normandy-format summit — between Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France — aimed at ending the war in eastern Ukraine seems increasingly unlikely to happen. That became painfully evident after a contact group meeting this Wednesday in Minsk, Belarus, proved unsuccessful.

    The group's biggest impediment became evident during a phone call between Putin and Macron on September 8, when the Russian leader insisted he would participate in a meeting only if he had, in writing, a promise that negotiations would follow the so-called "Steinmeier formula." He was referring to a 2015 plan put forth by Germany's then foreign minister and now president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to implement the unfulfilled terms of the Minsk Protocol signed by both sides in 2014.

    Putin's statement set a wave of confusing statements and speculation in motion. Ukraine, above all, had difficulty articulating its position. Increasingly, negotiations ahead of the summit took on the character of a game of political poker — one in which Russia seems to have the better hand.

    This much is clear: The Steinmeier formula concentrates on the future status of separatist regions and on elections. In 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a law establishing far-reaching autonomy for parts of the Donbass. It has continued to grant extensions to keep the law in place since then. Yet several measures included in the law will only go into effect after early municipal elections are held. And, as the law states, there are several conditions that must be met before those elections can be held, including the withdrawal of illegal armed groups, the participation of Ukrainian political parties and access for independent Ukrainian media outlets.

    Related: Hold on Military Aid Blindsided Top Ukrainian Officials (NYT)

  • U.S. senators urge Trump admin to end nuclear talks with Saudis (Reuters)

    U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters on Tuesday at a nuclear power conference in Vienna the United States would only provide Saudi Arabia with nuclear power technology if it signed an agreement with a U.N. watchdog allowing for intrusive snap inspections.

    But Saudi Arabia has resisted agreeing to strict nonproliferation restrictions, known as the gold standard, that would block it from enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel, potential pathways to making a nuclear bomb.

    A nonproliferation expert said the administration wants to convey the idea it supports the gold standard, but the ambiguity means it remains unclear if it does.

    “Why would you even consider helping the kingdom build nuclear reactors after the attack on an energy facility?” said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. “What makes you think building another energy facility that’s radioactive is smart?”

  • UN welcomes Yemen rebels' offer to halt attacks on Saudi Arabia (DW)

    The Houthi plan to cease drone and missile attacks in Saudi Arabia "could send a powerful message of the will to end the war," Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said on Saturday.

    The Yemeni rebel group made the announcement as part of a peace initiative a day earlier, saying that "war is not in anyone's interest."

    A Saudi-led military coalition has been waging a brutal war against the Houthi insurgency in Yemen since 2015. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict and the UN has called it the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

    In a statement from UN headquarters in New York, Griffiths welcomed "the desire for a political solution to end the conflict." He also stressed "the importance of taking advantage of this opportunity and moving forward with all necessary steps to reduce violence, military escalation and unhelpful rhetoric." (Related: The Guardian)

  • US and Japan have reached an initial trade agreement (CNBC)

    The first stage of the accord will open markets up to about $7 billion in U.S. agricultural products, President Donald Trump said at a signing ceremony with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the United Nations. Japan will also reduce tariffs on products such as beef and pork, and eliminate tariffs on goods such as almonds, blueberries and broccoli.

    Trump added that the two nations made commitments for $40 billion worth of digital trade. It would bar customs duties on products such as videos, music and e-books, among other provisions.

    In a joint statement later Wednesday, Japan and the U.S. said they wanted to finish their trade talks within about four months, according to Reuters. They said that, “while faithfully implementing these agreements, both nations will refrain from taking measures against the spirit of these agreements and this joint statement.” 

The Global South

  • Africa’s Economic Giants are Fighting – and the Continent May Bleed (Ozy)

    Fearing violence, South Africa temporarily closed its diplomatic missions in the two Nigerian cities, and MTN and Shoprite shut offices and stores there. Nigeria evacuated 400 nationals from South Africa in an unprecedented move. The country’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo boycotted the World Economic Forum summit in Cape Town on Sept. 9.

    Most worryingly for the rest of Africa, the tensions are threatening to drag down the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), says Mariama Sarr, head of Gambia-based Royalion Ventures, which works to position smaller African economies as major exporters of finished products. The free trade agreement, ratified by African nations in May, promises to create the largest single economic zone after the European Union, involving 1.3 billion people. But at the Cape Town summit, Nigerian participants argued that the pact couldn’t be implemented in an atmosphere of distrust, following the attacks in South Africa.

    The bilateral economic crisis between Nigeria and South Africa itself could also hurt the rest of the continent, given the size of their markets, say experts, much like the trade war between the United States and China is affecting the world. The combined gross domestic product of Nigeria and South Africa — estimated by the International Monetary Fund to cross $800 billion in 2019 — is almost equal to the economies of the rest of Africa together.

    “When big economies fight, the smaller economies in those regions suffer,” says South African economist Dawie Roodt.

    A setback to the AfCFTA would derail attempts at better integrating the region’s economy. The share of intra-African exports as a percentage of total African exports stood at just 17 percent in 2017, far lower than other regions such as Europe (69 percent), Asia (59 percent) and North America (31 percent) according to the Brookings Institution.

  • Austria vetoes EU-Mercosur trade deal over Amazon fires (The Guardian)

    Lawmakers on the Austrian parliament’s EU subcommittee on Wednesday almost unanimously voted to reject the draft free trade agreement, thus obliging their government to veto the pact at EU level, where all 28 member states and their parliaments must agree to trade deals.

    The draft for a trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, a free-trade zone that includes Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina, was announced last June after almost a decade of negotiations.

    But last month France and Ireland threatened not to ratify the deal unless Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, agreed to do more to fight fires in the Amazon.

    Concerns about adverse effects on the European product standards and farming sector also played a part in the debate in the Austrian parliament. “The agreement would have been bad for our agriculture, but especially bad for climate protection and workers’ rights in South America,” said Jörg Leichtfried, deputy leader of the centre-left SPÖ.

  • Colombia's Duque seeks sanctions on Venezuela to protect region (Reuters)

    Duque, who accuses Maduro of providing a safe haven for Colombian rebel fighters from the now-demobilized FARC guerrilla group and the still-active ELN rebels, compared the Venezuelan leader to former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who was put on trial for alleged war crimes in conflicts that destabilized the Balkans.

    “We should look at communal sanctions and actions so that the threat of (Venezuela) protecting terrorism in its territory ends,” Duque told Reuters before traveling to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

    “The international community must understand that the dictatorship has to come to an end soon because the humanitarian tragedy, in addition to the consolidation of a dictatorial regime that is coexisting with drug cartels and with terrorism, is a threat for the whole Western hemisphere and for the stability of the world.”

    Maduro accuses Colombia of preparing to attack Venezuela, and has repeatedly warned of an invasion coordinated with the U.S. government.

    Latin American countries could invoke the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, known by its Spanish initials TIAR, against Maduro, Duque said. The treaty considers an attack on any of the signatories to be an attack on them all.

    Related: EU to give Colombia €30m in aid for Venezuelan migrants (DW)

  • Ghana arrests three people for plot against president (Reuters)

    Ghana said police foiled a suspected coup on Friday when they arrested three people believed to have been amassing makeshift bombs, weapons and computer equipment in a plot targeting the presidency.

    The Information Ministry said the men were taken into custody after 15 months of surveillance during which they tried to obtain weapons from military personnel and secure funding “for the purpose of taking over the reins of government”.

    Its statement said one of the suspects, acting on behalf of the alleged ringleader, had contacted a number of serving military personnel about the plot.

    It was not clear how advanced any threat was, or whether the suspects were known to authorities, although one was identified as a Ghanaian weapons manufacturer.

  • In remote Amazon, indigenous married Catholics spread gospel, pray for priesthood (Reuters)

    On Oct. 6, Pope Francis will open a three-week synod of Amazonian bishops where one of the most keenly awaited topics will be whether to allow Yampik and other married men to be ordained as priests in parts of the Amazon, a proposal that would break centuries of Roman Catholic tradition.

    The idea is to allow older married men with grown children and a strong standing in the Church - “viri probati” or proven men - to join the priesthood and help fill a gap in their communities.

    The synod will also discuss protection for the Amazon after a global outcry over forest fires this year. But the “viri probati” proposal could be more explosive within the Church, where Francis is already under attack by its conservative wing.

    The synod’s working document, branded heretical by its critics, says men could be ordained in the priesthood “even if they already have an established and stable family, in order to guarantee the sacraments.”

    Opponents of the reform say it will introduce a slippery slope leading to the abolition of the Church’s rule on priestly celibacy, which became obligatory in the 12th century in part to keep children of priests from inheriting Church property.

  • Rio Treaty nations to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government (Reuters)

    Peru, Chile and Costa Rica have proposed an amendment to the Rio Treaty - a Latin American mutual defense treaty invoked by members of the Organization of American States earlier this month in response to Venezuela’s political and economic crisis - to rule out the use of force.

    Many Latin American countries do not have legal mechanisms to implement sanctions or travel bans on Venezuelan officials, and the treaty could provide them with one, a senior U.S. official said earlier on Monday.

    “It is not just an option for these countries, this treaty makes it an obligation,” Venezuelan opposition envoy Julio Borges told reporters.

    UPDATE: Maduro to Meet Putin in Moscow, No Deals Planned (Bloomberg)

    (Related: Miami Herald)

  • Rwandan Hutu leader wanted by ICC shot dead by DR Congo troops (France 24)

    Sylvestre Mudacumura, commander of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), was "definitively neutralised" in DRC's North Kivu province on Tuesday night, General Leon-Richard Kasonga said.

    Mudacumura, wanted for charges including rape, torture and pillage, was killed about 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the capital of the province Goma.

    The FDLR was created by Rwandan Hutu refugees in eastern DRC after the genocide of Tutsis by majority Hutus in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994.

  • Uganda says Russia to help it develop nuclear energy (Reuters)

    Under the agreement, the statement said, Russia will help Uganda with development of nuclear infrastructure and production and application of radioisotopes for industrial, healthcare and agricultural use.

    The government of President Yoweri Museveni has previously said it is eager to use the country’s uranium deposits to boost energy production capacity.

    In May last year Uganda also signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to help Uganda build capacity in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.