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In association with Bro Don Pearce (Rugby UK)  Keep up to date with Bro Don’s Snippets – Email Don at Snippets@MilestonesUK.org  Just put in the subject line ‘Snippets Request’ state if you would prefer word doc or pdf format. ( If not stated, both will be sent as samples so you can decide) It’s that easy!

Here is the latest Snippets…

IS-TU:160629:(30-JUN-16):BICOM Strategic Assessment: Israeli-Turkish reconciliation. 1

UK-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):EU leaders to seek clarity on Brexit date. 1

IS-TU:160627:(30-JUN-16):Analysis: Israel-Turkey Accord Will Not Signal Near-Term Revival of Defense Ties. 2

UK-MGS:160628:(30-JUN-16):London a magnet for Gulf investors. 3

UK-MSA:160628:(30-JUN-16):Brexit won’t have major impact on Saudi-UK ties: Saudi FM.. 4

UK-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):Now the vote is over, let’s move on with six steps to a bright future. 4

UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Brexit vote irreversible, say EU leaders. 5

UK-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):British MEPs likely to lose top jobs by January. 6

UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):First EU summit without Britain. 7

UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Cameron gets okay for successor to trigger Brexit at Brussels ‘last supper’ 7

RU-TU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Turkey, Russia: Leaders Agree To Revive Bilateral Relations. 8

UK-EU-CV:160627:(30-JUN-16):Pope Francis puts his finger on the post-Brexit challenge. 8

IS-RU:160629:(30-JUN-16):The Israeli-Soviet Relations. 10

RU-TU-IS:160628:(30-JUN-16):Turkey, Russia, Israel find their own pragmatic reasons to recover ties. 11

UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):EU chief to Brexiter Nigel Farage: ‘Why are you here?’ 11

UK-EU:160702:(30-JUN-16):It is the ‘European Project’, not the UK, that’s now on the back foot 12

RU-TU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Erdogan’s Other Rapprochement: Russia. 14

UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):EU: Summit Continues Without U.K. As Leaders Seek Unity. 14

RU-NATO:160629:(30-JUN-16):Russia: Moscow Agrees To Russia-NATO Summit 14

EGE-EFR-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):The European War Union. 14

CG-CV-CR:160629:(30-JUN-16):Pan-Orthodox Council: Russian Absence Saves Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Status — for Now) 16

UK:160630:(30-JUN-16):U.K.: Former London Mayor Steps Out Of Conservative Race. 18

TIS-MIQ-RU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Iraq: Airstrikes Exact Heavy Damage On Militants’ Retreat From Fallujah. 18

EU-RU-UK:160628:(30-JUN-16):Brexit Could Open the Door to Russia Joining the EU. 18

RU-TU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Russian Tourism to Turkey Falls 90%.. 19

TIS:160630:(30-JUN-16):The Islamic State, Two Years On: Is it Indeed on the Verge of Collapse?. 20

UK-MGS:160628:(30-JUN-16):What Brexit Means for the GCC. 21

CM:160522:(30-JUN-16):Egyptian author Sayyid Al-Qemany: Islam in Its Present Form Is a Threat to the World, All Scorpions Sting. 22

MAR-MSY-US-RU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Syria: U.S. Proposes Limited Military Cooperation With Russia. 22

UK-EU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Cold shoulder for Sturgeon over separate EU deal 23

UK-EU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Britain is a land of opportunity in a world of opportunity – it is time to feel like a special country again, outside the EU. 23

UK-EU-NZ:160630:(30-JUN-16):New Zealand offers UK its top trade negotiators for post-Brexit deals. 24

RU-TU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Erdogan and Putin Hold Telephone Talks After Eight-Month Standoff 25

Extra, extra, extra  long to get to month end of an extremely busy week!  Good job only 30 day month. Don

 

IS-TU:160629:(30-JUN-16):BICOM Strategic Assessment: Israeli-Turkish reconciliation

BICOM (Britain Israel Communication & Research Centre  29-Jun-16

In separate ceremonies in Jerusalem and Ankara yesterday (28 June), Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dore Gold and Turkish Undersecretary for foreign affairs, Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu, signed a reconciliation agreement between their two countries. The agreement – which has been approved by Israel’s security cabinet – renews diplomatic relations between the countries and puts an end to the six-year hiatus that erupted following the death of nine Turkish civilians during a raid by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara, a ship that was part of the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, in May 2010.

The BICOM research team has produced a Strategic Assessment of the landmark reconciliation. Download the report in full:Download PDF

UK-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):EU leaders to seek clarity on Brexit date

EUObserver 28-Jun-16

 

When will Brexit actually happen?

At a summit in Brussels on Tuesday (28 June), EU leaders will discuss the issue amid disagreement over the timing of the legal process and even speculation that it may never happen.

Article 50 of the EU treaty, which is the framework for the exit negotiations, will not be triggered “at this stage”, British prime minister David Cameron said on Monday.

On Sunday, the 27 other EU countries had agreed that they would not push Cameron to notify the activation of Article 50 during the summit.

An EU diplomat said on Monday that there was “no British authority that is able” to do it at the moment.

The leaders, he said, would have to “reconcile two worries” – the fact that Cameron cannot launch the process, and the risk of uncertainty for the EU and UK’s economies and for the good functioning of the EU.

They will try to deliver a message of stability for the financial markets and businesses in member states, and a basis for a short-term plan, another diplomat said.

They will agree that the process should start as soon as possible. But they are likely to disagree on when it would be necessary.

After a meeting in Berlin on Monday with Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed different views.

While Hollande said there was “no time to lose”, Merkel said that Britain needed “a certain amount of time to first analyse things”.

Merkel set the tone on Saturday when she said that there was “no reason to fight now”.

An EU source admitted that Friday’s call by the presidents of the EU institutions to trigger Article 50 rapidly “however painful that process may be” was now “no longer valid”.

“The stakes are far too high,” a third EU diplomat explained. “There is an emerging convergence on not punishing the British.”

Merkel, Hollande and Renzi said that there would be “no informal or formal talks on the exit of Britain until an application has been filed to leave the European Union”.

Officials in Brussels said that would also be the message of other leaders at the summit.

But Merkel refused to set a deadline for when Article 50 should be triggered, and some in London and Brussels are considering the possibility that it will never happen.

Time limit

On Monday, Cameron said the British voters’ decision “must be accepted and the process of implementing the decision in the best possible way must now begin”. But he left the decision to a future government in a few months.

A few hours later his health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, urged against invoking Article 50, because it “puts a time limit of two years on negotiations after which we could be thrown out with no deal at all”.

“Before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election,” Hunt told the Daily Telegraph.

His call, the first from a minister, comes after several Conservative and Labour MPs floated the idea that the British parliament could try to overturn the referendum outcome, and officials in Scotland and Northern Ireland said their assemblies would block the process.

“If the Brits came back and said ‘that was a joke’, no one would tell them ‘you still have to go’,” the first diplomat in Brussels said.

“All 27 would prefer that the UK stays in the EU. But it’s up to the British authorities, not to the EU, to clarify the situation,” a senior EU official said.

‘Hoping is human’

He noted that “nothing happened as expected”, with Cameron refusing to trigger Article 50 just after the referendum and the Brexit campaign leaders appearing to have no plan for the future.

He said that “one should never say never” and that no Brexit was a possibility. “A sovereign decision can undo what another sovereign decision has done earlier.”

Other officials are more sceptical about the possibility.

“To keep hoping is human,” another diplomat said. “But the question has been so existential. The political reality is in contradiction with the human reflex of always having hope.”

But if the UK keeps dragging its heels over invoking Article 50, “we’ll have to think of something else”, he said.

 

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IS-TU:160627:(30-JUN-16):Analysis: Israel-Turkey Accord Will Not Signal Near-Term Revival of Defense Ties

Defense News 27-Jun-16

 

An agreement between Israel and Turkey, announced Monday to normalize ties after a six-year estrangement between the countries, is unlikely to trigger near-term resumption of defense trade or bilateral military cooperation.

On the contrary, officials and experts in Israel warn that strategic cooperation, if and when it resumes, will be focused on regional stability and safety measures to be conducted primarily in the context of the US-Israel or NATO alliance.

“This agreement does not confer a green light to restore the intimacy we once knew among our defense industries and military cadres, even if there was such a desire in Turkey, which is doubtful,” an Israeli official told Defense News, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The good relationship won’t return, at least not in the foreseeable future, for the simple reason that the Turkish security establishment that once saw itself as operating in harmony with Israel no longer exists,” said Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli major general and former Israeli national security adviser.

Eiland added that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “managed to purge or repress the vestiges of [Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk,” the first president of the Turkish republic.

“We don’t have natural, like-minded friends there anymore,” he said.

In an interview Monday, Eiland said Erdogan’s policies in support of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State group are antagonistic toward Israel, and that it would be irresponsible to pursue meaningful intelligence, operational and technology transfer ties under the current regime in Ankara.

“By nature, this will be a very cold agreement; an agreement of convenience, but nothing of the deep dialogue and strategic partnership we once had,” he said.

Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister and former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, said it was important for the two countries to normalize ties, but that resumption of security cooperation would have to evolve and be tested over time.

“There’s too much instability in the region for two major, regional powers to be in a state of dysfunction,” Mofaz told Defense News. “Having said that, we can’t rebuild too much too quickly. We need to take into account what could happen the next time a crisis erupts.”

In a Monday interview, Mofaz noted that as minister of defense from 2002-2006, he managed flourishing military-to-military and defense trade ties, which included Israeli upgrades of Turkish M60 main battle tanks. “I hope that level of cooperation may one day return, but we must be mindful of all the changes in Turkish policies over the past several years.”

Israel and Turkey initiated their strategic partnership in the mid-1990s, which grew to include front-line Israeli defense sales and routine aerial and naval exercises, both on a bilateral basis and in conjunction with the US armed forces.

By 2005, Turkey had become one of Israel’s largest defense export markets. Major programs included a $700 million upgrade to the Turkish Air Force’s F-4E Phantom fighters; a $668 million M60A1 tank upgrade for the Turkish Army; and sales of radar, electro-optical sensors, munitions, and command-and-control systems.

In November 2005, Israeli and Turkish partners dedicated a licensed production line for Turkish M60A1 tanks, and earlier that year Israel had begun to share satellite imagery with Ankara from its latest Ofeq-series spy satellites. During that time, the two countries were also heavily involved in discussions about possible sales of the US-Israel Arrow anti-tactical missile system — an initiative that never panned out due to opposition from Washington.

Yosi Ben-Hanan, a former director of defense exports and international cooperation at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, estimated that during peak years, Turkish defense procurement from Israel amounted to several hundred millions of dollars annually.

“During those peak years, from 1998 to 2005, we were clearly in a situation where Turkey had serious military modernization needs. They found important support from the Israeli defense industries while, at the same time, we had a cardinal interest in cultivating a type of alliance with an important Islamic state in our region,” Ben-Hanan said.

But today, given Turkey’s pro-Islamist policies and ongoing tension with Egypt, Jordan and many Arabian Gulf states, Ben-Hanan said it remained to be seen whether Israel and Turkey could come close to the ties they enjoyed more than a decade ago.

“It’s too early to tell what Turkey wants to achieve in this region and whether its interests are compatible with our own,” he said.

Bezhalel Machlis, president and CEO of Elbit Systems, hedged when asked in an interview last month if resumed defense trade to Turkey was part of his long-term business plan. “My answer is very simple: We are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense. … There is a very complex set of considerations, but it is up to the government of Israel, not me.”

He added: “We will be ready for whatever the government decides.”

 

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UK-MGS:160628:(30-JUN-16):London a magnet for Gulf investors

AFP. 28-Jun-16

 

Harrods, the Savoy, the Shard — London property has long been a magnet for Gulf investors and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union is unlikely to dampen their interest, analysts say.

In fact, the Brexit vote could even see a surge in activity as wealthy Gulf buyers look to take advantage of the dramatic fall in the value of the pound.Attracted to London property as both a sure-fire investment and for the cachet of ownership, Gulf investors have invested billions of their oil windfalls into British real estate.

CNBC Arabiya television recently reported that total Gulf investments in Britain amounted to about $200 billion, of which $45 billion was in real estate. And Britain accounts for 40 percent of all Gulf investments in European property, it said.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial bank, said that with so much invested it would take more than the Brexit vote to shake Gulf confidence in the London property market.”In the near term, there will be a sentiment of cautiousness but we do not expect a marked sell-off,” she said.”A knee-jerk reaction or panic is unlikely,” she said.

“Property in the UK is very attractive and has been a well-performing asset class. The underlying foreign demand is expected to remain strong once the uncertainties subside.”

Top British assets held by Gulf owners include a 50 percent stake in London’s legendary Savoy hotel controlled by Qatar. The gas-rich state also owns the Shard skyscraper in central London and the Harrods department store.

A part of London has been dubbed the “Qatar Quarter” because so much property has been bought by the country’s investors. The London-based Rokstone estate agent estimated earlier this year that Qataris now own property worth more than one billion pounds in London’s poshest area, Mayfair.

– ‘Even more attractive’ “Qatar is one of the most high-profile investors in London, snapping up landmarks,” said M.R. Raghu, head of research at the Kuwait Financial Center (MARKAZ).The royal families of the United Arab Emirates are also known to hold prestigious assets in the British capital.

“Investors from the UAE accounted for more than 20 percent of buy-to-let property sales in the UK in 2015,” Raghu said.Ownership levels are so high, Raghu warned, that a crash in British real estate would have a “huge impact” on Gulf investors.But for now analysts expect to see even more buying of London property from investors in the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, where currencies are mostly pegged to the U.S. dollar.

“The fall in the value of sterling could make the UK an even more attractive place for GCC nationals to invest in London property,” said Gulf expert Neil Partrick.

The Brexit vote “has weakened the pound and it will make property cheaper for investors” from countries where currencies are tied to the dollar, said Dana Salbak, an associate partner at the Knight Frank property consultancy.

“What we are seeing now, and we expect to see over the next couple of months, is that this activity (buying property) will pick up and they will start securing their purchases,” she said.

For Damian Wild, editor of weekly British property magazine Estates Gazette, “the medium-term story remains strong” because with the weakened pound “there is certainly a currency play to be had.”

Qatar, for example, is “heavily invested in London for the long-term and, short-term matters aside, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t continue,” he said.

And while Gulf investors have bought significant property assets elsewhere — especially the Qataris in Paris — Partrick said London would continue to hold a special place.

There is a “historical and linguistic familiarity” with Britain in the Gulf, where most GCC countries are former British protectorates, English is the de facto second language and sizable communities of British expatriates live and work.

 

Top of the Document

UK-MSA:160628:(30-JUN-16):Brexit won’t have major impact on Saudi-UK ties: Saudi FM

Reuters 28-Jun-16

 

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union will not affect relations with Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Tuesday.

“We don’t believe that the exit of Britain from the EU will have a major impact on our relationship with Great Britain,” al-Jubeir told reporters at a news conference in Paris.

“And so this is something that we follow. We will continue to have very strong ties with Great Britain in all areas as we will with the rest of the European countries,” he added at a joint news conference with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

 

Top of the Document

UK-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):Now the vote is over, let’s move on with six steps to a bright future

Daily Telegraph 28-Jun-16

 

Okay, can everyone stop whingeing? The CBI can pack away its warnings about economic meltdown, Nissan can stop telling everyone it will stop making cars in Sunderland, and FTSE chief executives can stop telling us all about how investment and trade will freeze up.

Most of the business community opposed leaving the European Union. But the decision has now been taken. The important task now is surely to make the best of that and plotting a course for the country’s future.

What should the business community be asking for from that? There are six key demands it should make – stop obsessing about the European market, join other trade blocs, lift some burdensome taxes, deregulate, build new infrastructure to reassure the world we are open for trade and keep immigration high. All of those will do more to secure the economy than arguing the vote.

Big business could not have made its position on the referendum any clearer. It wrote letters to the Financial Times. It donated money to the StrongerIn campaign. It lent one of its own – Stuart Rose – to head up the Remain campaign. It sent its troops loyally over the top in the service of Project Fear, making ever more hysterical warnings about the consequences for jobs and prosperity if we were bonkers enough to leave the EU. And the result? Remain lost.

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Either people didn’t listen, didn’t believe them, or decided they didn’t care – or some mixture of all three. Whatever the reason, Britain is now on the way out. The task for business is to start shaping the best Brexit possible.

It is easy to see what a messy, bad Brexit looks like. The UK gets shut out of a huge market. Inward investment gets put on hold amid months of uncertainty. The trade deficit starts to blow out, the pound keeps sinking, and joblessness rises as the economy tanks. But what does a good Brexit look like? Here are six key demands business should make of new prime minister as he or she negotiates with Brussels, Berlin and Paris.

First, don’t obsess about access to the Europe market. In the first instance, Britain should go for the Norwegian model, with full access to the single market, in return for accepting most of its rules, and paying a more modest financial contribution to Brussels. But if Angela Merkel and François Hollande want to be difficult about that, then forget it. Our trade with the EU has been sinking like a stone for the last decade – down from 55pc of our exports to 44pc over the last 10 years. The very worst that can happen is the EU imposes tariffs of roughly 4pc on our goods. But since the pound has just devalued by around 8pc, companies exporting to Europe can easily absorb that and still cut prices. The most important move is to get the new trading arrangement sorted quickly and to start focusing on the rest of the world.

Two, let’s prepare our application to join other trade blocs. We are on the North Atlantic, so there is no reason we shouldn’t join the United States, Canada and Mexico in Nafta (its combined GDP is $3 trillion more than the EU, by the way). There is no reason why the rules shouldn’t be tweaked to allow us to join the new Trans Pacific Partnership as well. Switzerland has signed a free trade agreement with China, and why shouldn’t we – surprise, surprise, but Swiss exports to that country have quadrupled in a decade. The sooner we build alternatives to the EU market and forge our own trade agreements with economies that are growing far faster, the quicker the world will be convinced Brexit doesn’t matter much.

Thirdly, push through a wave of deregulation. The Left will hate it, but Britain’s economic future is now clear. We will be a free-wheeling offshore state that acts as a bridge between Europe and the rest of the world. Think Singapore, except bigger and with worse weather.

We should scrap EU-mandated labour market regulations and social protections as fast as possible. There is no reason why we should accept European limits on how many hours people do in the office – so long as we have a minimum wage in place, which we do, then it is up to every individual how long a shift he or she wants to put in. Issues such as parental leave can be freely agreed between companies and staff. Employers who want to hire lots of young women, the best educated, most skilled part of the workforce, will be generous; others less so. But business can decide for itself.

“We should scrap energy taxes and rules that have made power more than twice as expensive in Europe as it is in the United States. That will help the manufacturing industry”

Fourthly, drop specific taxes. The City faces a huge challenge in adjusting to Brexit. There is no point denying that a lot of mainstream corporate business will start to move to Frankfurt. One move that would help it a lot would be scrapping the bank levy – it is currently forecast to bring in more than £900m a year, cash the industry could use to get it through a difficult period. Next, we should scrap energy taxes and rules that have made power more than twice as expensive in Europe as it is in the United States. That will help the manufacturing industry as it battles with the potential loss of some orders from Europe. The more help we can give to specific sectors of the economy, the faster it will recover.

Fifthly, upgrade our infrastructure. The cost of government borrowing has dropped to record lows and the Bank of England may need to print more money to stimulate the economy. We should relax on austerity and spend some money on better transport links and rebuilding roads, water and power systems. A flash new London airport would make us far more open to the world than anything the EU has done in the last decade – and send out a great signal that the UK was still open to international business.

Finally, keep immigration at high levels. Many people who voted for Brexit wanted it to come down, but that is a debate for another day. Right now business is structured around a constant flow of new workers and although it can change that by improving productivity and using more robots, it can’t be done quickly.

For the first five years, the Government should aim to keep net migration around the 300,000 mark every year, even if it wants to change the mix to allow in more Canadians and Indians and fewer East Europeans.

For all the hysteria and scaremongering, the British economy will be just fine outside the EU. But it will depend on adopting the right policies right away – and those six would be a great place to start.

 

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UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Brexit vote irreversible, say EU leaders

EUObserver 29-Jun-16

 

Five days after the UK voted to leave the EU, the bloc’s leaders decided at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (28 June) to wait before starting the legal process for Brexit, but they insisted there was no alternative to Brexit.

There was no “clamour” to trigger Article 50, British prime minister David Cameron said, referring to the EU treaty clause that organises a country’s exit.

If the UK wants access to the single market, “freedom of movement is not subject to discussion”. (Photo: Valentina Pop)

“Leaders understand that some time is now needed to allow the dust to settle in the UK,” European Council president Donald Tusk explained.

The position had been agreed on Sunday because of the political crisis in the UK.

But EU leaders “also expect the intentions of the UK government to be specified as soon as possible”, Tusk added.

As one official from a member state put it, the message to British officials was: “You have a referendum, you deal with it.”

That means Britain will have to trigger Article 50 before any discussion about its future relationship with the EU can start. Cameron, who will resign after the summer, said it would be for the next British government to decide.

“As of this evening, I see no way back from the Brexit vote,” German chancellor Angela Merkel told journalists. “This is no time for wishful thinking, but rather to grasp reality.”

The message was delivered to Cameron but was in reality addressed to his successor and to eurosceptic leaders in Europe.

Many member states want to discourage British officials from trying to negotiate a new deal to stay in the EU as they fear this would give an incentive to other countries or anti-EU parties to threaten the EU with referendums.

If talks were held outside the legal framework of Article 50, “what kind of message would you send to everybody else?” the member state official said.

UK ‘cannot cherry-pick EU rules’

The mood at the working dinner, the first since last Thursday’s referendum and the last for Cameron, was “emotional”, sources said.

Cameron himself told journalists how several leaders told stories of old links between the UK and their countries.

He said that the discussions were “very constructive, positive, calm” and that there was “an understanding that Britain and the EU should seek the closest possible relations… over trade, cooperation, security”.

He added however that it would be “impossible to have all of the benefits of EU membership without some of the cost of membership”.

“That is something the next British government is going to have to think through very carefully,” he added.

Officials said that when the UK negotiates its new status with the EU, “there will be no cherry-picking” of EU rules.

‘Face the consequences’

In particular, if it wants to get access to the EU single market, it will have to accept the freedom of movement for goods, capitals, services and above all for people.

“Freedom of movement is not subject to discussion, even if it has been portrayed in a cartoonesque way in the British press,” a senior EU official said, adding that it was “a principle of the EU, we will not move from that”.

“This isn’t to punish the British people but they will have to face the consequences for some time,” French president Francois Hollande said.

The issue is likely to be one of the most contentious ones in future talks.

Cameron himself told his colleagues during the discussion that he lost the referendum because he did not get a deal to reduce migration further.

“I think people recognised the strength of the economic case for staying, but there was a very strong concern about freedom of movement,” he told journalists.

In their summit conclusions, EU leaders only mentioned that “the UK prime minister informed the European Council about the outcome of the referendum in the UK”, thus keeping their hands free for the months to come.

The Conservatives aim to choose a new leader, who will then become prime minister, by 9 September, party officials said on Tuesday.

‘No need to speculate’

EU officials said Article 50 could be activated by the new prime minister in October, at the next EU summit, or later according to the domestic situation. But no time-frame was discussed by leaders, sources said.

At the press conference following the meeting, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker surprised everyone by saying that a prime minister from the Remain camp would have two weeks to notify Article 50, while for a PM from the Leave camp “it should be done on the day after his appointment”.

An official told EUobserver that the remark was only made “in the heat” of the press conference.

Speaking after Juncker, Tusk said that there was “no need to speculate”.

“If they [the future British cabinet] need more time we’ll have to wait. It’s not the best solution for the UK and for us but this is the only legal way we have today,” he said.

 

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UK-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):British MEPs likely to lose top jobs by January

EUObserver 28-Jun-16

 

Internal moves are being made to swiftly dethrone British MEPs that chair EU parliament committees and other top seats in the assembly.

Three MEPs from the UK each preside over a committee in the European Parliament. Another three co-chair committees, one is a so-called quaestor (a senior administrator), and seven others are presidents of delegations to third countries.

All are likely to lose their posts in the next six months.

The threat was highlighted in a resolution adopted by the assembly on Tuesday (28 June).

It noted, among other issues, that the parliament will “enact changes in its internal organisation” following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

The parliament was in any case due for a mid-term reshuffle of the senior posts in January.

The expectation is that the Brits would go at this point at the latest, but an EU parliament source told this website there is a chance they would stand down more quickly.

“I have the feeling it will be sooner,” the source said.

Committee coordinators are set to discuss the issue next week.

January mid-term elections

Another part of the calculation is that the parliament’s current mandate ends in mid-2019, but the UK is expected to leave by the end of 2018.

That date comes from UK prime minister David Cameron’s announcement that it would start exit negotiations in October and from the EU treaty, which foresees exit talks that would take two years.

“If the UK is going to leave in a maximum of two years, that means that these people would not finish their term [if they were to remain chairs or co-chairs]”, said Pedro Lopez, the spokesman of the centre-right EPP group.

The EPP is the biggest group but has no British MEPs.

The second largest group, the centre-left S&D has 20. Among them is Claude Moraes, who chairs the powerful civil liberties committee. The group also has Linda McAvan, who oversees the committee on development.

The Socialists struck a different note to the EPP in terms of early British departures.

“This mandate of five years is what needs to be respected irrespective of whatever discussions about Brexit going on,” said the group’s spokesperson Utta Tuttlies.

The European Conservatives & Reformists group (ECR) will also lose out. The group has over 70 MEPs, of which 21 are British.

They stand to lose Vicky Ford as chair of the committee on the internal market and consumer protection.

“They have a mandate and will continue to fulfil that mandate until the UK is no longer a member of the EU, whenever that may be,” the ECR group told this website.

British committee vice-chairs include Afzal Khan (S&D), Nirj Deva (ECR) and Derek Vaughan (S&D). Catherine Bearder from the liberal Alde group is one of five quaestors.

Difficult to plan ahead

The Brexit situation is also causing broader frustration.

Polish centre-right MEP Danuta Huebner, who chairs the committee on constitutional affairs, told reporters on Monday that Brexit has complicated parliament’s legislative agenda.

“We are worried because we are now in the period of where we are making long term planning of many European actions,” she said.

She noted the mid-term review of the multi-annual financial framework and EU budget after 2020 as examples.

Question marks also remain over British MEPs who lead legislative files. Around 10 are so-called rapporteurs.

Unable to steer their files through the EP due to loss of political authority, some may consider stepping down, as Ian Duncan from the ECR group did already. He is no longer the lead on the EU Emissions Trading System.

Another big file is being handled by Timothy Kirkhope of the same group.

Kirkhope oversees Eurodac, the new EU asylum database, and the European Criminal Records Information System.

The ECR’s Vicky Ford is dealing with the firearms directive and Dan Dalton, from the same group, is working on vehicle emissions.

 

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UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):First EU summit without Britain

New Europe 29-Jun-16

 

EU leaders are meeting today for the first time without Britain to discuss the aftermath of the Brexit, but conflicting visions of Europe’s future are complicating the high-stakes summit.

British Prime Minister David Cameron left Brussels Tuesday night without any clear divorce plan, after he obtained a delay until autumn to trigger the exit procedure. The 27 EU leaders agreed to Cameron’s demand that the obligation of triggering the exit Article 50 be left to his successor in autumn.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday night she saw no chance for Britain to backtrack on its decision to leave the European Union.

Speaking at the end of the first day of an EU summit, Merkel described talks with outgoing British Prime Minister David Cameron as “serious” but “friendly”. She said it was not a time for sorrow or anger, but that Europe must simply deal with the situation with which it was now confronted.

 

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UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Cameron gets okay for successor to trigger Brexit at Brussels ‘last supper’

Euractiv  29-Jun-16

 

British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to deny the United Kingdom had collapsed “politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically” last night, after his final summit with EU leaders before the UK leaves the bloc.

At a subdued and “sad” dinner with the other 27-leaders, Cameron confirmed and got agreement that his successor would “trigger without delay” Article 50 – the legal mechanism by which Britain leaves the EU after 43 years.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later stressed that should come “the next day” after a new Prime Minister takes office in Downing Street.

President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi had earlier briefed the dinner that growth across the euro area would decrease by 0.3%-0.5% over the next three years, due to Brexit.

It’s a Nein

German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed to crush any lingering hopes for the 48% of the British who voted to stay in the EU, saying “I don’t think it’s possible. The referendum is there as reality.”

“I don’t see a possibility to go back.”

She added: “It was a sad occasion, it was unfortunate, but it’s reality. We’re politicians. We’re not here to dwell very long on sadness. We made our regret clear but we have to accept the reality.”

Whilst some in Brussels have argued over who will lead the negotiations, it appears it will be a European Commission-led, Council-backed process.

According to two sources, the Irish delegation pushed hard to have a significant role in the negotiations, both due to their trading relationship with the UK, and the land border between North and South, which will become an EU Schengen border.

Scottish talks

Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives in Brussels today (29 June) for talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who told journalists he would be in “listening” mode, rather than proposing solutions for the dilemma of Scotland voting to remain within the EU, against the overall UK vote.

Empty seat

The remaining 27 members of the EU will meet today, for their second day of the summit, without the UK.

Cameron, in his final, packed press conference just before midnight in Brussels, was keen to stress that triggering Article 50 would be a “sovereign” decision for the UK.

He also, in a line pushed by Downing Street officials, pushed the remaining 27 members to look at the free movement of people – something immediately slapped down by the Commission.

“We need to look at it, and Europe needs to look at it,” Cameron said.

The PM said he had hoped the February renegotiation – which he called “better than the status quo or leaving” – would have been enough to swing the referendum, which was dominated by immigration, but conceded it had not.

Failed state?

Responding to the comments by Mark Rutte earlier in the day, that England was effectively a failed state, having collapsed “politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically,” Cameron replied “I just don’t believe that,” pointing to membership of the G7, the G20, NATO and the seat on the UN.

“We are one of the best connected nations in the world,” he declared.

However, trillions of dollars have been wiped off world markets since Thursday’s shock result, Cameron has resigned, notable Leave figureheads have been reluctant to appear in public to volunteer what happens next, and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost a vote of confidence – although he has not resigned.

In a clear warning to his successor , likely to be Boris Johnson or Home Secretary Theresa May, Cameron said the “negotiating aims” of the UK would have to be decided before triggering Article 50, and that it was “impossible to have all the rights” of being within the EU once the UK leaves.

Dealing with that, and freedom of movement, will be a “huge challenge for the future” he said.

He stressed European nations were still “our neighbours, allies, partners and friends”.

Juncker: One day to trigger Article 50

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, told journalists that the next British PM has “a day to trigger Article 50″.

“As long as there is no notification, there is no negotiation. I have told the whole staff of the European Commission not to have negotiations,” Juncker added.

On the internal market, he warned, “Either you are in or out. If you are out, you have to negotiate access to the market like the Swiss or Norway.”

Juncker also criticised the Leave leadership, saying: “What I don’t understand is that those who wanted to leave are totally unable to tell us what they want.

“They are saying we need some time. I thought if you want to leave you have a plan, a project with global pictures but they don’t have it.”

In a passionate final coda, he added, “My impression is that if you are, over years if not decades, telling your public that something is wrong with the EU, that this EU is too technocratic, bureaucratic, you are not taken by surprise if voters believe you.

“Blaming Brussels day after day, starting in the morning and finishing in the evening, telling them that Brussels is under the Commission ruled by bureaucrats, technocrats and non-elected people, then you can’t be surprised by the result.

“I like him [Cameron] as a person though he was behaving to me in a certain way –  our friendship will remain. That is the only thing that will remain.”

Tusk

EU Council President Donald Tusk was more conciliatory, saying, “The negative effects are less negative than we expected before Brexit.

“The conversation was calm and measured. Leaders understand time needed to allow the dust to settle in the UK.”

But he added, “Brexit means substantial variables in the UK with possible negative spillover across the whole world.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who holds the rotating presidency, added, “We have to accept that the negotiation will be time consuming, complex and I hope that they will be done in an amicable manner.

“We can’t afford to ignore this wake-up call.“

Storms ahead?

However, one EU diplomat warned ominously, “The European Union doesn’t have an identity, but now it has one thing in common: the problem of the British.”

He added, “The EU has bent over backwards to give [Cameron] the best chance in the referendum.

“We gave him the best possible deal. We bent over backwards six times for him.

Asked if anyone got Cameron a leaving present, the diplomat said: “Yeah, a dinner”.

 

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RU-TU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Turkey, Russia: Leaders Agree To Revive Bilateral Relations

June 29, 2016 | 12:15 GMT

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to re-establish their countries’ bilateral relationship during a June 29 phone call, statements from both presidential offices said, Hurriyet Daily News reported. Relations soured quickly after Turkey shot down a Russian jet operating near the Syria-Turkey border in November. A statement from the Turkish presidency called the conversation positive and productive and said that the leaders discussed cooperation in political, economic and humanitarian crises in the Middle East, as well as in the fight against terrorism. Erdogan and Putin also agreed to a face-to-face meeting, the statement added. A statement from the Kremlin said the two governments will begin talks to restore bilateral trade cooperation and that measures restricting Russian tourism to Turkey would be dropped, though it did not say when. While the conversation was certainly a step forward, larger forces will limit the extent of rapprochement between the two countries.

 

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UK-EU-CV:160627:(30-JUN-16):Pope Francis puts his finger on the post-Brexit challenge

Crux 27-Jun-16

 

In two perceptive speeches, one in Strasbourg in 2014 and another for the Charlemagne Prize earlier this year, Pope Francis warned that treating people as mere “cogs in a machine” has disastrous consequences — and the Brexit result shows how right he was.

Commentary

Even while he professed to know little of why the British have chosen to leave the European Union, Pope Francis’ comments on the return flight from Armenia Sunday night are some of the most perceptive of any world leader in response to Brexit.

“Give more independence, give greater freedom to the countries of the Union. Think of another form of union, be creative,” the Pope told journalists, adding that “something is not working in this massive Union.”

The pope is not a leaver, but a reformer. The crisis in the EU did not mean “we throw out the baby with the bath water,” he went on to say. But he pointed to the rise of secessionist movements across the continent as symptomatic of a deeper malaise that must urgently be addressed.

He has identified that malaise in two major speeches that now, in the light of Brexit, seem sadly prophetic.

Last Friday’s Brexit vote, picked over by endless weekend analysis, laid bare a deeply divided nation. The socially mobile, educated, young, urban population  – mostly in London and the south-east, but also in cities such as Liverpool and Manchester – voted to Remain. But elsewhere, in towns and villages across rural England, especially among the elderly and less educated, and overwhelmingly in the depressed cities of the north, they opted to Leave.

The Leavers crossed political lines, and ignored their party leaders. Conservative elderly and rural voters as well as Labour working-class voters voted for a Brexit, lamenting that their country was no longer theirs and it was time to take back control, especially of Britain’s borders.

Immigration was a very real issue in the depressed cities of Wales and northern England, where since the accession of the eastern European states in 2004 low-wage workers have found themselves competing against hardworking and ambitious Poles and Romanians.

But across most of the country those least affected by immigration were the ones who objected to it most; conversely, cities transformed by newcomers from Europe as well as elswhere – led by London, where one in three are foreign-born – were most enthusiastically pro-Remain.

In other words, it wasn’t just or even mainly the direct effect of immigration on communities that was crucial to Leave, but the feeling of being “left behind.”

To the disaffected, all institutions, not just those in Brussels and Strasbourg, seemed distant and out of touch.

As Pope Francis warned in his 2014 address in Strasbourg: “In recent years, as the European Union has expanded, there has been growing mistrust on the part of citizens towards institutions considered to be aloof, engaged in laying down rules perceived as insensitive to individual peoples, if not downright harmful.”

In its final weeks, the referendum conversation was not about the EU at all, but about the country Britain has become, about the gulf between north and south, the well-off and the poor, about over-strained public resources, the shortage of homes, and the precarious jobs market.

But rather than address those issues directly, the Leave campaign sold the idea that abandoning Europe would solve them.

Above all white, middle aged, working-class men who once had pride in their identity as miners or steelworkers, who felt belittled by zero-hours contracts and pitiful wages driven down by enthusiastic Romanian migrants, voted Leave.

“Men and women risk being reduced to mere cogs in a machine that treats them as items of consumption to be exploited,” said Francis in Strasbourg, “with the result that – as is so tragically apparent – whenever a human life no longer proves useful for that machine, it is discarded with few qualms.”

This anger has in recent years increasingly driven nationalism, which has wiped out Labor support in the north of England just as last year it wiped out Labor in Scotland.

Britain’s working and lower middle-classes are angry at the banks and the corporations for the 2008 crisis, annoyed at immigrants for driving down their wages and taking their jobs, and furious with the major political parties for not listening to them.

Rather than engage the disaffected in a conversation about how Europe could better serve them, the Remain campaign lectured them about the perils to the economy of leaving. The answers varied from, “well they would say that, wouldn’t they?” to “So what? I haven’t seen any benefit from it.”

It was the language of disaffection, the anger of exclusion.

Pope Francis in his Charlemagne speech spoke of the need to create economic models that do not just serve the few but ordinary people as a whole, moving from “a liquid economy to a social economy” that invests in job creation and training.

He went on to speak of the just distribution of wealth and work, of the need to create “dignified and well-paying jobs, especially for our young people.”

It didn’t happen, and the losers from the liquid economy turned on their rulers. The Leave campaign, despite its own internal contradictions now coming to the fore, successfully created a narrative that persuaded the left-behind that they could “take control,” get their country back, reduce immigration, and invest millions in local services that currently seep away to distant bureaucrats.

“Keeping democracies alive is a challenge in the present historic moment,” warned Francis in Strasbourg.

“The true strength of our democracies – understood as expressions of the political will of the people – must not be allowed to collapse under the pressure of multinational interests which are not universal, which weaken them and turn them into uniform systems of economic power at the service of unseen empires.  This is one of the challenges which history sets before you today.”

It is not a challenge which either Strasbourg or Brussels took up. As a result, the EU was seen as part of the global system which had turned London and the south-east into a foreign land.

Seen from Castle Point in Essex (73 per cent for Leave), Camden in London (75 per cent for Remain) is another country, with its insane house prices and $100-dollar-a-head restaurants and waiters and customers speaking in euro-English.

In his Charlemagne speech in May, Pope Francis said that what Europe must now do is “promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history.”

Solidarity, he said, was not charity, but “a means of creating opportunities for all the inhabitants of our cities – and of so many other cities – to live with dignity.”

It is the lack of that solidarity that Brexit Britain has so cruelly exposed. Rather than including the disaffected and disenfranchised, our country assumed that the benefits of being a global crossroads would sooner or later filter down.

The culture of exclusion replaced the culture of encounter. Rather than engage with the peripheries, our political and economic leaders reinforced the center.

Rather than welcoming foreigners, praising them for their contribution to our economy and society, we pushed the immigration issue under the carpet, and left the angry British workers to fight it out with the incoming Polish workers in a race to the bottom of the wage scale.

Pope Francis spoke in the same Charlemagne speech of the need for a culture of dialogue in which people learn to see others as partners in a conversation, “to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to.”

Such a dialogue “reminds us that no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander” for “everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society.”

To read this now is to realize how right he was, and to weep.

The president of the bishops’ conferences of the European Community (COMECE) in Brussels, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, says the British Brexit vote “confronts the European Union and its member states with questions about their goals and their tasks.”

Marx said on Monday that the European Union “needs a new departure” and must be rethought “on a broad social basis.”

If it isn’t, what happened in Britain last Thursday could happen again, all the way across Europe.

 

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IS-RU:160629:(30-JUN-16):The Israeli-Soviet Relations

Israel Defense 29-Jun-16

 

Prof. Giancarlo Elia Valori discusses the newly strengthened political and military ties between Israel and Russia against the backdrop of the American disengagement from the Middle East

During the meeting held on June 7, 2016, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to start military cooperation between the two countries.

It is a historic decision which breaks the traditional link existing between the Israeli and the US Forces. A change of strategic perspective by both countries, which significantly modifies the old, traditional postures inherited from the Cold War.

It marks the end of the Russian univocal support to the Arab countries, inherited from the XX CPSU Congress of 1956, to strengthen the “national middle classes” of the Islamic world. It also marks the end of the unique relationship between Israel and the United States, designed to oppose the USSR allies in the Middle East.

On the one hand, the relationship with the United States strengthened Israel at technological level but, on the other hand, it forced it into a strategic horizon typical of a small regional power, which is currently no longer reasonable.

The meeting held on June 7 was also attended by the Head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, and the Head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen. Moreover, next summer joint Russian-Israeli naval and air operations will take place, with Russian aircraft and ships coming from the Syrian bases.

An economic and energy factor must also be considered: the Russian companies can participate in the development and exploitation of the Israeli Tamar and Leviathan gas fields. There is also a strategic factor to be considered: the Russian presence will prevent the fields and pipelines from becoming the target of attacks by Iran, the Hezbollah and Syria.

Obviously, the naval and air cooperation is such as to protect both Israel and Russia from an inadvertent mix of military intelligence. At an operational level, the mechanism for exchanging information between Russia and Israel during the aerial warfare in Syria will be further strengthened and expanded.

The strategic links at Naval level will be established at a later stage. Russia is a great “traditional” naval power, while Israel has a Navy characterized by light and fast response vessels. An ideal mix.

Currently, President Putin’s primary interest is to strengthen the ties between Israel and Turkey while, for Prime Minister Netanyahu, Russia could be an optimal power broker to negotiate and finally achieve stable and lasting peace between the Jewish State and the Palestinian universe.

Furthermore, Russia did not lift a finger when the Israeli air force attacked the convoys which went to supply the Shiite militias in the Syrian war.

Hence, an alliance between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus – also at geoeconomic and energy level – can be foreshadowed, which could change much in the EU financial and political scenario. The European Union, due to ignorance and foolishness, finds itself faced with an economic and geopolitical system in the Southeast it cannot control.

If the European Union still maintains the sanctions against Russia, the strategically smart countries (indeed very rare now) will try to replace the old and naïve European Union, as Israel is currently doing. The sanctions against Moscow are supposed to end on July 31, 2016, but the economic damage to European countries has been dramatic.

Russia is the third largest market for the European Union regarding exports, while the trade balance between the EU and Russia has fallen from 326 to 285 billion euros. Furthermore, harsh countermeasures have been taken by Russia: the extension of the internal market closure and the EU net loss are worth 11 billion euros approximately, which could reach 55 billion euros if sanctions continued.

Here is the strategic equation we were looking for: the European economy, which is already under crisis, becomes a useful test for a particularly strict US version of TTIP; Russia suffers a technological retreat in machine tools and oil drilling machinery and equipment; the United States can start the old game of the Cold War along the new borders between Europe and the Russian Federation again.

It is a naive and shrewd geopolitical project at the same time. However, what does Italy or France get in starting a confrontation in Ukraine? From time immemorial it is mostly a Russian or Russified country and, for Russia, it is the strategic guarantee of the regular crossing of its pipelines from the Caucasus to the Mediterranean. Finally, it is a point for projecting the Russian interests between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea which, for Russia, cannot certainly be left to a generic “international force.”

It is also worth recalling that on January 1, 2016, Ukraine signed the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. According to the latest data available, the trade between Ukraine and the European Union is equal to 20.4 billion euros. Hence, once again, this reveals the underlying strategic equation: Ukraine becomes a “replacement market” instead of the Russian Federation.

Moreover, China currently uses this channel to European markets very well. Hence we have another piece of Ukraine’s current geopolitical equation: if Russia takes no action, it will become the large hub between Central Asia and the European Union, thus bypassing Russia and making it marginal in world trade.

It was the great dream of Jeffrey Sachs from the World Bank, who had been called upon to solve the post-Soviet economic disaster.

But is it a realistic project? We think it is not. Indeed, we believe that Israel has been right in “replacing,” at least initially, the US Forces’ support with the Russian military support. The United States is disengaging from the Middle East. Israel knows this all too well and is taking appropriate measures in this respect.

Nevertheless, apart from the TTIP issue, the United States is also retreating from Europe. Moreover, as far as we know, the TTIP issue reminds of the old Year of Europe, devised by Henry Kissinger in 1973. The underlying idea was that the United States opened part of its markets to European products, but paid them with commercial paper to be discounted.

On the other hand, the Brexit issue is looming large. If, as the latest polls suggest, the Leave option is successful, the whole EU geopolitical structure will change.

We have already long elaborated on the Brexit impact, but there is a strategic factor to consider: if Britain leaves the EU, its ties with the United States will inevitably strengthen, and if Great Britain walks out of the European Union, before renegotiating the commercial treaties, it will be in a position to operate with aggressive policies on the markets. Finally, if Great Britain leaves the European Union, we will have a much more markedly German-led European Union.

In short, any solution must be carefully considered. For the time being; nothing is certain.

 

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RU-TU-IS:160628:(30-JUN-16):Turkey, Russia, Israel find their own pragmatic reasons to recover ties

Daily Sabah 28-Jun-16 [ie Turkish Don ]

 

Seeking to consolidate economic cooperation, Turkey took action to restore ties with Russia, whose economy is in deep recession, and Israel, wich seeks to realize its potential, through energy projects in mutually beneficial deals

Turkey took two steps this week to recover its diplomatic relations with two important trade partners: Russia and Israel. Healing relations with these two have instilled hope into the depressed tourism sector, while exporters and importers have remained cautious. Since global trade shrinks and global economic expectations decline, keeping trade partners close is crucial for countries. However, if you have goods to sell it is always possible to find alternative trade destinations. On the other hand, it is not always easy to find alternative routes for natural gas and shape the energy market, even if you are resource-rich. Globalization is an inescapable fact, and markets become more integrated day by day. And at the end of the day, politicians hold on to pragmatic reasons to heal political ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to call his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today for the first time after Turkey downed a Russian warplane that violated Turkey’s airspace near its Syrian border on Nov. 24, 2015. That move is a follow up to Erdoğan’s letter on Monday saying that Turkey regrets the incident.

Russian energy giant Gazprom did not waste even a day after Erdoğan’s letter to act. The energy-rich but damaged economy’s state-owned company is ready for dialogue on a potential resumption of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project. “Gazprom is and has always been open for a dialogue on the Turkish Stream,” Gazprom’s official representative Sergey Kupriyanov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency TASS. The project, which was announced by Putin during his visit to Ankara on Dec. 1, 2015, was a replacement for the South Stream project. Moscow decided that the negotiations with Bulgaria to carry Russian natural gas to Europe were not working and replaced it with the Turkish Stream to carry gas to Europe via the Turkish-Greek border. However, after Nov. 24 the Turkish Stream project was left in limbo.

The recent past has been harsh on the Russian economy. It contracted 1.2 percent year-on-year in 2016’s first quarter, following a 3.8 percent fall in the previous period. The country has been going through hard times due to a decline in oil prices, Western sanctions and a slump in capital inflow into the country. Despite the loss, the government in Moscow was too angry to realize major projects like the Turkish Stream pipeline would help the energy-rich economy recover in the long term. Now, with the normalizing of relations, Gazprom seems likely to recover the opportunity.

The reconciliation deal reached between Turkey and Israel is seen as a diplomatic victory for Turkey in Israeli media outlets, but has met with mixed reactions ranging from discontent to praise. The Israelis have been emphasizing the benefits of the agreement for Turkey. Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the agreement came six years late and claimed that Israel would have met the very same conditions right after the Mavi Marmara raid. “Turkey does not need Israel as much as it needed it in the past, it was a necessary deal.” Haaretz reported. However, considering Israel’s natural gas potential waiting to be used, which the Israeli government is desirous to offer to the European market, Turkey appears to be the one needed by Israel.

What Israeli officials realized after six years is that opportunity costs. According to Israeli National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister Yuval Steinitz, the possibility of selling natural gas supplies to the Turkish market and Europe via Turkey is promising. Turkey is the only viable route with sufficient volume to carry Israel’s gas exports, as it is a country capable of providing the necessary infrastructure and exporting to the West, according to Consul-General of Israel Envoy Shai Cohen. Also, Turkish and Israeli private sector companies are discussing a possible gas pipeline project between the two countries to transport natural gas supplies to Europe from the Leviathan gas field, which holds an estimated 500 billion cubic meters of gas.

“In order to realize this project, the diplomatic relations between the two countries need to go back to normal,” said Steinitz in February. It seems like Israel will finally turn its opportunity into economic benefit.

 

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UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):EU chief to Brexiter Nigel Farage: ‘Why are you here?’

CNN 29-Jun-16

 

The most vocal architect of Britain’s seismic decision to leave the European Union thumbed his nose at the EU Parliament Tuesday as members booed and turned their backs on him, in the most visible clash of ideologies between Britain and Europe since last week’s vote.

Nigel Farage, leader of the far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP), gloated unapologetically and antagonized a battered union in Brussels, calling for free trade with the bloc while insulting members in the same breath.

“Isn’t it funny? When I came here 17 years ago and I said that I wanted to lead a campaign to get Britain out of the European Union, you all laughed at me. Well, I have to say, you’re not laughing now, are you?” he said.

“I know that virtually none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives or worked in business or worked in trade or indeed ever created a job. But listen, just listen,” Farage said at the special meeting, held to address the Brexit fallout.

In an interview later with CNN, Farage brushed off his comments as a light-hearted joke, saying that the EU had called him “all the names under the sun.”

“They don’t like me. It’s mutual,” he said.

Britain’s divorce from the EU is shaping up to be messy, with Prime Minister David Cameron also in Brussels and at loggerheads with EU leaders over how to even begin.

Britain wants to hold off invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — which will officially begin the separation process — until it knows what a future deal with the European Union will look like. The union wants the opposite, refusing to talk deals until the withdrawal is made official.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Britain’s separation from the EU was not a “cherry-picking exercise.”

“If you want to exist and leave this family, then you cannot expect all the obligations to drop away but privileges to continue to exist,” she said.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the UK would not be able to belong to the European single market without accepting the free movement of people.

“In my view, it’s impossible to belong to (a) community only with the good things and not with the bad things,” he said.

“It’s impossible to be very communitarian about the economy and not about values. This is the problem, in my view, about this campaign.”

On CNN, Farage called for the article to be invoked “in the next few weeks.”

“I think we do need to send a message that we’re serious about this,” he said. “Let’s crack on.”

A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 1999, Farage appealed to MEPs to be “pragmatic, sensible, grown up” following the British public’s vote last week to leave.

Nigel Farage: Arch-euroskeptic and Brexit ‘puppet master’

“Let’s cut between us a sensible, tariff-free deal, and thereafter, recognize that the United Kingdom will be your friend — that we will trade with you, we will cooperate with you, we will be your best friends in the world,” he said.

Farage warned that the UK would “not be the last member state to leave the European Union.”

European Parliament President Martin Schulz cautioned Farage after the outspoken Euroskeptic insulted his fellow MEPs.

‘Shame on you’

The fiery exchanges took place as the EU Parliament convened for an extraordinary plenary session in Brussels Tuesday, with European and British delegates meeting to discuss the UK’s complicated and potentially messy divorce from the bloc.

At one point, a German MEP accused Farage and fellow Leave campaigners of misleading the British public over the vote.

“The worst liars can be found among UKIP,” said Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, to loud applause.

“Mr. Farage, if you had an ounce of decency in you, you would apologize today to the British. Shame on you.”

During his speech, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, turned to confront Farage and said he was surprised he was there.

“That’s the last time you are applauding here,” he said to the British Brexiters.

“You were fighting for the exit, the British people voted in favor of the exit. Why are you here?”

Racist abuse reported in UK since vote to leave EU.

 

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UK-EU:160702:(30-JUN-16):It is the ‘European Project’, not the UK, that’s now on the back foot

Spectator w.e. 02-Jul-16

 

Liam Halligan

If we hold our nerve and take our time, Brexit will be good for Britain and good for the rest of Europe too

Boris Johnson famously said that Winston Churchill would have voted for Brexit. The wartime leader’s grandson — staunch Remainer and Tory grandee Nicholas Soames — dismissed such claims as ‘appalling’ and ‘totally wrong’. This bad-tempered referendum rift between two traditionalist, Old Etonian Conservatives symbolises, somewhat incongruously perhaps, the broader state of the nation. Deep and traumatic divisions have been drawn between friends and families everywhere — and, of course, within political parties.

David Cameron’s dignified resignation speech has quickly given way to a grim determination to ‘Stop Boris’ from taking the Conservative crown and the Premiership. Labour, meanwhile, is in self-destruct mode, the parliamentary party in full rebellion against Jeremy Corbyn for his ineffective Remain campaign; which was unsurprising after a political lifetime spent needling the European Union.

Beyond domestic political pyrotechnics, the bigger picture is that the UK now faces an extremely complex negotiation with our soon-to-be-erstwhile EU partners. The rest of Europe — the entire world, in fact — is watching. After an exhausting campaign, UK voters on both sides of the referendum divide now want to know what Britain will argue for and what the EU high command will accept in terms of trade relations, cross-border regulation and, of course, immigration. It’s inevitable, though, that for some considerable time we simply won’t know.

Mere minutes after it became clear that Brexit had won, embittered Remainers were accusing Leavers of ‘cluelessness’ and ‘betrayal’ for being unable to provide detailed answers as to what exactly would happen now. The drumbeat of negativity has sounded ever since. But this is not only irresponsibly divisive, it’s also absurd.

A Brexit vote was always going to give a ferocious shake to the UK’s political kaleidoscope. Having campaigned so vehemently to Remain, there was no way Cameron could stay on as Prime Minister. Given this, how can we start negotiating even among ourselves, let alone with the broader EU, until there’s a new prime minister, chancellor and foreign secretary and their opposition counter-parts? A new Conservative leader won’t emerge until 2 September. Even with the best will in the world, which there obviously isn’t, Labour also needs time to recover from the internal trauma sparked by this result.

What’s clear, despite the focus on Westminster intrigue and finger-pointing, is that the UK’s vote is reverberating across the continent. Brexit could alter the course of the entire ‘European project’. Also apparent, even from very early exchanges, is that Britain has far more bargaining power than the Remain side has so far allowed itself to admit.

The ‘Europe will punish us’ doom-mongers were always paid-up members of Project Fear’ — and wrong. Forget the bad-tempered bluster of pompous officials like European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and assorted Brussels nonentities. Angela Merkel runs Europe. ‘There is no need to be nasty,’ observed the German Chancellor, within hours of our Brexit vote. ‘We want a good, objective atmosphere,’ she said, kicking Juncker into touch. ‘We must work together to achieve the right outcome.’

That means keeping UK markets open for Italian furniture-makers, French food-exporters and German car-producers. The UK’s goods trade deficit with the EU — a record £24 billion during the three months to April — represents hundreds of thousands of eurozone jobs and billions of euros in profit. It would be ‘very, very foolish’ to impose protectionist barriers against Britain, said BDI last week, a large German industrial lobby. Merkel, too, knows that trading freely with Britain helps bring home Europe’s bacon.

Our position is strengthened, also, by a growing realisation that, far from being about UK exceptionalism, Brexit is the first serious rebellion in a broader electoral uprising against this relentless Brussels power-grab. Some 73 per cent of voters in Holland oppose ‘ever closer union’, says the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey, and 85 per cent in Sweden — hardly illiberal, reactionary countries. In Greece, it’s 86 per cent — I can’t think why. Even in core EU member states like Germany, Italy and France, no fewer than 68, 65 and 60 per cent of voters, respectively, reject Brussels-driven empire building.

Self-serving Eurocrats and out-of-touch Remain supporters portray Brexit as a temper tantrum by stupid, misguided Brits. The reality is different. Leave won in part because its claims that the EU is arrogant, complacent and guilty of ghastly economic policy-making are true. The democratic deficit is real — and widening. Free movement of people, handy for big business and virtue-signalling professionals, is making countless millions of economically vulnerable people, in the UK and across Europe, feel even more under threat.

Rather than responding to Brexit with humility or self-reflection, Brussels has immediately pressed ahead with plans for a ‘great leap forward’ to ‘political union’, as outlined in a new joint paper from the French and German foreign ministries. Such a proposal, at this time, amounts to bureaucratic megalomania: a move guaranteed to rile Dutch, Nordic and East European voters, as even the EU’s most ardent British supporters now acknowledge. ‘The knee-jerk reaction of the Commission is always to try to seize on any crisis to push for more Europe and closer integration,’ says Charles Grant from the Centre for European Reform. ‘This time, they can dream on.’

Rising EU-scepticism across Europe — galvanised by this Brexit vote — will make it impossible for the Commission to stonewall the UK once negotiations begin in earnest. Of course the talks will get testy — the stakes are too high for them not to. But Merkel and other EU grown-ups will be extremely mindful of the rising popularity of the Swedish Democrats, the True Finns, Italy’s Five Star movement and AfD in Germany — all highly critical of the EU.

That’s why Brexit could well provoke copycat referendums elsewhere. Given that Article 50 won’t be invoked until September at the earliest, and the haggling could take two years or more, such votes could happen at the same time as the UK is striking a better deal. As Britain turns the screw, and other EU members follow — their leaders impelled by increasing voter discontent — Brussels could be forced, iteratively but inexorably, to accept a looser, more democratic and sustainable union.

‘Rubbish!’ I hear EU ‘experts’ snort. But did such ‘experts’ predict the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Arab spring? Of course they didn’t. Because, just like Treasury economists with their laughably one-sided projections of long-term woe, Brussels-focused ‘experts’ have every professional incentive to think and say only what their political masters want.

Much has been made of the market reaction to this referendum result, and rightly so. Financial gyrations represent real money, so sharp falls in sterling and the FTSE the ‘morning after’ and since are alarming. Market turmoil is also politically potent, of course, with those who most vehemently opposed Brexit pointing to the business pages and declaring: ‘I told you so.’

A big reason the pound has fallen so sharply, though, is that all ‘the smart money’, steered by erroneous opinion polls and punditry, was convinced Remain would win. When that didn’t happen, the instantaneous unwind was always going to be violent. Currencies tend to ‘overshoot’ — and the 10 per cent fall in sterling over the last week is likely partly to reverse. Bear in mind, also, that practically every major economy has been trying covertly to devalue over recent years: part of the reason for all that quantitative-easing money printing. Brexit has just delivered that in a stroke. I’m not saying there aren’t losers when sterling falls, but when you’re sporting an external deficit of around 6 per cent of GDP, the export-boosting effects of a lower pound are worth having.

The UK has also had its credit rating downgraded since Brexit. Again, this is serious. Having said that, we first lost our triple-A rating (for the first time since 1978) back in 2013, when Moody’s took umbrage at the rate at which the government was piling up debt. Since then, we’ve seen little fiscal improvement, with borrowing higher so far during the current financial year than in 2015/16.

Yes, you’d have expected other US-based rating agencies to now finally join Moody’s, going along with the ‘official line’ that the UK should stay in the EU. But the initial loss of our stellar credit rating happened three years ago, long before Brexit, and is largely about the doubling since 2009 of our national debt. The main reason Leave’s victory is causing ructions on global markets is that such markets, after years of central bank largesse, are a house of cards.

When it comes to delivering Brexit, despite calls from the Eurocrats for an instant break, the UK should not be rushed. It is perfectly reasonable, given how this vote has shattered the illusions of our two major parties, that the UK’s body politic pauses for breath before plunging into complex EU deal-making.

Before that, senior Leave campaigners must head off the mischief-makers, reassuring 17.5 million voters that Brexit will happen. They should also make clear that the closeness of the vote, and the need to strike a deal with Europe, means some concessions will be made.

‘We are linked to Europe, but not combined,’ wrote Churchill in 1930. ‘We are interested and associated but not absorbed.’ That sentiment, to my mind, rings true – and Soames now backs Johnson for leader anyway. If negotiations go well, if we hold our collective nerve, Brexit could become an inspiration, a source of strength for the other peoples of Europe who have long demanded EU reform but have been haughtily rebuffed by political and business elites. It is the ‘European Project’, not the UK, that’s now on the back foot

 

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RU-TU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Erdogan’s Other Rapprochement: Russia

Media Line 30-Jun-16

 

It was a big week for reconciling with blustery Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with both Israel and Russia healing its rifts. In addition to the well-publicized rapprochement approved by the Israelis on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin lifted travel restrictions on Turkey some seven months after Ankara shot down a Turkish fighter jet. The two leaders talked by phone after which Putin ordered a resumption of passenger flights to Turkey and the sale of tourism packages as well. Still to come is the halt on shipments of food products. Erdogan, however, wasted no time in asking Putin to go all the way. He said he’s asking Putin for the full “normalization of general trade and economic ties with Turkey.”

 

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UK-EU:160629:(30-JUN-16):EU: Summit Continues Without U.K. As Leaders Seek Unity

Stratfor 29-Jun-16

 

The EU summit continued June 29 in the wake of the Brexit and without British Prime Minister David Cameron, who left the summit after attending a June 28 dinner event, AP reported. EU leaders led by European Council President Donald Tusk emphasized the importance of bloc unity in the fallout of the British vote, while other leaders from around the European Union insisted that if the United Kingdom wanted continued access to the bloc’s single market it would have to allow citizens from other member states to freely enter its borders. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has signaled the possibility of a new Scottish independence referendum, held talks with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and was set to meet later in the day with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The next EU summit is scheduled to take place Sept. 16 in Bratislava. Meanwhile the process of replacing Cameron as Conservative Party leader began in London, with candidates including Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Stephen Crabb, former London Mayor Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Theresa May expected to be among the top contenders.

 

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RU-NATO:160629:(30-JUN-16):Russia: Moscow Agrees To Russia-NATO Summit

Stratfor 29-Jun-16

 

Moscow agreed to another Russia-NATO Council following NATO’s upcoming Warsaw summit on July 8, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said June 29, Reuters reported. Holding the council meeting after NATO’s summit will give Russia time to look over what took place in Warsaw, Ayrault said, speaking at a joint press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Ayrault spoke about the importance of NATO solidarity but also of transparency toward Moscow at a time of rising tension between the United States and Russia.

 

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EGE-EFR-EU:160628:(30-JUN-16):The European War Union

German Foreign Policy 28-Jun-16

 

Together with his French counterpart, the German foreign minister has announced the EU’s transformation to become a “political union” and its resolute militarization for global military operations. In a joint position paper, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) and Jean-Marc Ayrault (PS) are calling for the EU’s comprehensive military buildup, based on a division of labor, to enable future global military operations. Following the Brexit, the EU should, step-by-step, become an “independent” and “global” actor. All forces must be mobilized and all “of the EU’s political instruments” must be consolidated into an “integrated” EU foreign and military policy. Steinmeier and Ayrault are therefore pushing for a “European Security Compact,” which calls for maintaining “employable high-readiness forces” and establishing “standing maritime forces.” The European Council should meet once a year as “European Security Council.” Before this paper was made public, Germany’s foreign minister and chancellor had made comments also promoting a German global policy and massive rearmament, possibly also with EU-support.

The EU’s Global Mission

In a joint position paper propagated by the German foreign ministry yesterday, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) along with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault (PS) announced steps toward a political union. They noted that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU has created “a new situation” with consequences “for the entire EU.”[1] Berlin and Paris “firmly believe” that the EU provides “a historically unique and indispensable framework” not only for “the pursuit of freedom, prosperity, and security in Europe,” but also “for contributing to peace and stability in the world.” Therefore, further steps will be made “towards a political union in Europe” and “other European states” are invited “to join us in this endeavor.” The EU should become “more coherent and more assertive on the world stage.” It is not only an actor “in its direct neighborhood” but also on “a global scale.” In their paper, Steinmeier and Ayrault wrote, “on a more contested and competitive international scene, France and Germany will promote the EU as an independent [!] and global [!] actor.”

European Security Compact

To implement the EU policies of global power, Steinmeier and his French counterpart drew up elements for a “European Security Compact.” “External crises” have become “more numerous” and have moved geographically “closer to Europe both east and south of its borders.” There is no mention that the EU and its major powers have significantly contributed to the fomenting war and civil war – euphemized by Steinmeier and Ayrault as “crises”: In Ukraine, by seeking, through the Association Agreement, to fully integrate the country into its sphere of hegemony;[2] in Libya, through its aggression, ousting the Gaddafi government;[3] or in Syria, through its political and low-intensity military support of an increasingly jihadist-controlled insurgency.[4] Nevertheless, the German foreign minister and his French counterpart announce that they not only support “the emerging government of national accord in Libya,” but that they are also “convinced that Africa needs a continuous commitment, being a continent of great challenges and opportunities.”

Maximum of Insecurity

According to Steinmeier and Ayrault, the “European Security Compact” will be comprehensive and include “all aspects of security and defense dealt with at the European level.” The foreign ministers write that the EU must “ensure the security of our citizens.” However, the concrete demands indicate that the “European Security Compact” will, of course, not bring greater security, but rather the contrary, a maximum of insecurity – an increase in EU-provoked wars and the inevitable effects, they will have on the centers of European prosperity.[5]

Everything for Policies of Global Power

As a first step, the paper written by France and Germany’s foreign ministers proposes that “a common analysis of our strategic environment” be made. These reviews will be regularly prepared “by an independent situation assessment capability, based on the EU intelligence and situation centre” and submitted and discussed at the “Foreign Affairs Council and at the European Council.” On the basis of this common “understanding,” the EU should “establish agreed strategic priorities for its foreign and security policy.” It is political experience that reaching an “understanding” in the process of foreign and military policy standardization, the standpoint of the strongest member-state – Germany – will be taken particularly into consideration. The results should then be “more effectively” than ever, implemented “as real policy,” according to the paper. The objective is an “integrated EU foreign and security policy bringing together all [!] EU policy instruments.”

Arms, Arms, Arms

Steinmeier and Ayrault write in detail that to “plan and conduct civil and military operations more effectively,” the EU should institute a “permanent civil-military chain of command.” In addition, it must “be able to rely on employable high-readiness forces.” In order to “live up to the growing security challenges,” Europeans need “to step up their defense efforts.” For this, the European member states should “reaffirm and abide by the commitments made collectively on defense budgets and the portion of spending dedicated to the procurement of equipment and to research and technology (R and T).” A few days ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel had already taken the first step in this direction, when she declared that Germany’s defense budget should now begin to converge with that of the United States, in terms of their respective GDP percentages – Germany spends 1.2 percent of its GDP on military, while the US spends 3.4 percent.[6] Next, Steinmeier and Ayrault explain that a “European semester” should support the coordination of the individual member countries’ future military planning. “Synergism” is the objective. Throughout the EU, an arms buildup must be as coordinated and efficient as possible. The EU should provide common financing for its operations. “Member states” could establish permanent structured cooperation in the field of defense “or push ahead to launch operations.” Particularly important is “establishing standing maritime forces” or acquiring “EU-owned capabilities in other key areas.”

More Domestic Repression

The Social Democrat Steinmeier and the Socialist Ayrault write that to ensure “internal security,” the “operational capacity” must be enhanced at the EU level. This includes making the best use of “retention of flight passenger data (PNR)” – the “data exchange within the EU” must be “improved” – but also “making the best use of Europol and its counterterrorism centre.” “In the medium term,” there should otherwise be the “creation of a European platform for intelligence cooperation.” Last weekend, SPD Chair, Sigmar Gabriel and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz (SPD) called for the extension of domestic repression as well as the creation of a “European FBI.”[7]

Seize the Opportunity

Just a few days ago, Foreign Minister Steinmeier declared in the US journal “Foreign Affairs” that Germany has become “a major power” and will “try its best” on the world stage “to hold as much ground as possible.”[8] With Britain, which had always adamantly opposed an integrated EU military policy, leaving the EU, Berlin sees an opportunity for reviving its efforts at restructuring the EU’s military and mobilizing as many member countries as possible for the EU’s future wars.

[Footnotes to articles in German removed] [1] This and the following quotes are taken from “A strong Europe in a World of Uncertainties” – Joint contribution by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. www.auswaertiges-amt.de. [2] See Expansive Ambitions and Die Verantwortung Berlins. [4] See Forced to Flee (I). [7] See Flexible Union with a European FBI.

 

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CG-CV-CR:160629:(30-JUN-16):Pan-Orthodox Council: Russian Absence Saves Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Status — for Now)

National Catholic Register 29-Jun-16

 

The historic council ended Sunday, leaving more questions than answers.

It has been a tough week for globalists, even on the island of Crete.

The weeklong “Holy and Great Council of Orthodox Churches” concluded on June 27, with the release of a message and broad encyclical that, mainly, asserts its vitality, relevance and primacy as the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” — the English translation even refers, twice, to the Orthodox Catholic Church.

Holy See diplomats can be relieved that the document represents no setback for ecumenical relations, a Vatican priority for more than 50 years.

In the Holy Father’s words — delivered as he flew home from Armenia, a nation with a predominantly Orthodox local Church, although one in communion with the Oriental Orthodox Churches rather than with the participants at Crete — the council represents “a step forward” because it brought 10 autocephalous (self-governing) Churches together, and encounter yields greater understanding, in Francis’ view.

Yet the Holy and Great Council made public an enormous gulf in worldviews between the historic ecclesial power of Constantinople and the earthly power of Russia.

By opting “exit” through its refusal to participate in the council, the Russian Orthodox Church — by far the largest of the 14 autocephalous Churches that comprise the Orthodox communion — foiled Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s dream of projecting global Orthodox unity.

Yet the Russian Church also served to elevate Bartholomew’s status by giving him an unimpeded stage in Crete to project his leadership as “first among equals.”

Vatican’s View

Pope Francis sent two observers to the council: Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the pontifical council’s secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell.

They were denied participation in the council. Instead, they were invited to opening and closing ceremonies, as were observers from the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

“We believe very strongly in the unity of the Orthodox Church, so we have been eagerly waiting for this moment,” Cardinal Koch told the Register.

The cardinal added that the last-minute decisions against participation by the Russian Orthodox and three other autocephalous Churches did not invalidate what had taken place.

“I think this question [of the absence of four Churches] is temporary. There are difficulties, but they can be overcome. It’s a process,” he continued.

The Holy See has been engaged in dialogue with the Orthodox Churches of the Byzantine tradition for more than 50 years, with the next meeting scheduled in Italy in September.

But, Cardinal Koch recalled, there have been periods of tension. The dialogue was suspended from 2000 to 2006.

“We had tremendous difficulties with Churches that emerged from communism. Trust was lost. But little by little, especially with the help of Patriarch Bartholomew, difficulties were discussed and overcome,” explained the cardinal. “He was able to bring the Churches back to the table.”

At that time, the problems especially related to Greek-Catholic communities trying to get properties back from Orthodox Churches in Ukraine and Romania, as well as accusations that Catholic priests were proselytizing in Russia.

But today, Cardinal Koch continued, the Holy See has strong relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, symbolized by the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis four months ago in Cuba.

“We’ve had marvelous, friendly visits and normal relations, full of hope for the future,” said the cardinal.

And whatever caused the Russian Orthodox Church to drop out, “it has nothing to do with us,” he said firmly.

‘Everything Is Normal’

“Everything is normal with this council,” professor Alberto Melloni reassured the Register in Crete, adding that it took 100 years for the Council of Trent to convene.

Melloni, who teaches Church history at the University of Modena-Reggio and the University of Bologna, serves as director of the St. John XXIII Foundation for Religious Studies, which has published the Decrees of the Ecumenical and General Councils series, including the first critical edition of the first millennium’s ecumenical councils and the Byzantine and post-Byzantine Councils of the Orthodox Church.

“The fact that this council has been celebrated is the real accomplishment, and it’s the success of Constantinople,” Melloni said.

Melloni explained that it is not unusual for eleventh-hour decisions to be made about participation in historic Church councils: “Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev ordered Russian observers to attend the Second Vatican Council in 1962 at the very last minute.”

Does Melloni think President Vladimir Putin told the Russian delegation not to attend the Holy and Great Council this month?

“We don’t know, but there is strong evidence President Putin imposed the meeting of Patriarch Kirill with Pope Francis.”

Constantinople’s Gain

According to Melloni, the Russian Orthodox Church planned to exert strong control over council proceedings.

It managed to win agreement that a “consensus” model of decision-making would be used, which effectively gives veto power to one voice.

“Having this principle of consensus, the Russians could have been a perpetual threat” to Constantinople’s goals, explained Melloni. “Bartholomew can thank Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion [effectively, the Russian Orthodox Church’s foreign minister] for giving him a council that was able to run by consensus” because they stepped aside.

As a result, “this council proves the ability of the Orthodox to gather as a worldwide community,” he said.

The historian considers this pan-Orthodox experience to be relevant to the Catholic Church because “synodality is a field of battle” for all churches.

He reminded the Register that Pope Francis transformed last year’s Synod on the Family “from a banal meeting” into a semi-council, to endorse the authority of bishops working through a conciliar structure.

Mystical Resilience

Two related 20th-century phenomena have tremendous bearing on what unfolded on the island of Crete — and both testify to the mystical resilience of the Orthodox Church: the post-communist renaissance of the Russian Orthodox Church and the resurgence of Orthodox theology in the diaspora since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.

In his indispensable history The Orthodox Church (Penguin Books, 1997), Timothy Ware (now Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia) dedicates a chapter to “The Twentieth Century I: Orthodoxy and the Militant Atheists.”

He recounts the communist assault on the Russian Orthodox Church from 1917 to around 1988, as well as the face-off between other communist regimes and autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

As brutally as the regime persecuted the Church, just as fiercely did the Church manifest indestructibility.

Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky wrote in 1944, “In every place where the faith has been put to the test, there have been abundant outpourings of grace, the most astonishing miracles — icons renewing themselves before the eyes of astonished spectators; cupolas of churches shining with a light not of this world. … Nevertheless, all this was scarcely noticed. The glorious aspect of what has taken place in Russia remained almost without issue for the generality of mankind.”

So the renaissance of the Russian Orthodox Church since communism’s collapse in 1991 is one of Christianity’s great modern miracles.

It has created a muscular Church and powerful Church leadership, not keen on deferring to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, whose Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople is on the point of extinction.

The Church of Constantinople, with some 2,000 local believers, has been hounded by the Turkish government (which closed its only seminary) and routinely humiliated by the local Muslim population, which opened Ramadan this year with prayers in the Hagia Sophia, Christianity’s first cathedral and Constantinople’s see.

As scholar Melloni observed, what was probably annoying the Russian Orthodox Church most about the Holy and Great Council was the “too large role” it felt the council gave to the patriarch of Constantinople — who relies largely on bishops and theologians living in the large Orthodox diaspora, especially in North America and Western Europe.

Creative Diaspora

The second phenomena that greatly influenced proceedings in Crete has its roots in early 20th-century history, as well.

Professor Paul Gavrilyuk, an adviser to the Holy and Great Council, wrote a fascinating account in First Things magazine of how Orthodox theology has flourished in the West after the Bolshevik Revolution sent religious thinkers into exile.

The vitality of Orthodox theological scholarship continues to this day, explains Gavrilyuk, Aquinas Chair in Theology and Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

Patriarch Bartholomew drew heavily from this contemporary talent bank to prepare the Holy and Great Council.

One reason is jurisdictional: Although the patriarch’s home Church is miniscule, the majority of Orthodox faithful in North America fall under the control of the Church of Constantinople.

In the chaotic lead-up to the council — when Churches from Antioch, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia and Serbia advocated postponing it (although the Serbians subsequently shifted their position and attended) — explaining Patriarch Bartholomew’s decision to forge ahead to the Western press fell largely to Father John Chryssavgis, a theological adviser to Constantinople from Australia, who lives in Maine.

In First Things, for example, Father Chryssavgis and Gavrilyuk assert “a minority [of Churches] desire ethnic isolation.”

Even before the May-June crisis, Father Chryssavgis criticized the “paranoia,” “provincialism” and “ethnocentrism” coming from the Russian Orthodox Church in a public lecture at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on Feb. 1.

He angrily declared: “It’s … deplorable to see contemporary leaders, exposed to and educated in the global challenges of the modern world, less interested in transcending parochialism and prejudice than their predecessors, who were restricted by an oppressive xenophobia behind the Iron Curtain. Isn’t this sin of nationalism alone sufficient reason to convene the Great Council? How can we so brazenly justify this heresy?”

The Russian Orthodox Church undoubtedly heard Father Chryssavgis’ performance.

At the Holy and Great Council, Father Chryssavgis served as Patriarch Bartholomew’s chief spokesman, together with Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos, a Ukrainian Canadian.

No Need to Demonize

Not everyone attending the gathering blamed the Russian Orthodox for not coming. Romanian Archbishop Nifon was quick to warn against demonizing Russia and pointed to the authenticity of Russians living their faith.

Writing on June 23, Catholic Father Mark Drew counseled Catholic Herald readers: It’s a mistake to accuse Russia of undoing the council.

“Spokesmen for Bartholomew have had difficulty in masking the bitterness of their conviction that the Russians are trying to wreck the synod. But we should beware of oversimplification. Binary oppositions rarely do justice to the complexity of conflicts, either in the world as a whole or in the Church. And this is no exception,” the priest wrote.

Father Drew pointed out other antagonisms at work: a historical resentment of Greek dominance of Orthodoxy among some Churches, for example, and fears that council documents were too accommodating to secular society — or not engaged enough.

He evoked the important, and long-simmering, complaints from the Church of Antioch, which decided not to attend the gathering, over Constantinople’s failure to solve a jurisdictional dispute with the Church of Jerusalem.

The Church of Antioch has strong communities around the world, including the United States.

Terry Mattingly, founder of the “Get Religion” website and a member of an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Tennessee, explained, “The Qatar dispute is actually a major escalation in decades of tensions between Arab Christians and the Greek bishops that rule them, operating in a system that is ultimately propped up by the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

As Metropolitan Hilarion told RT.com on June 14, “You can’t impose unity.”

What’s Next?

Time will tell whether the Orthodox Church can institutionalize the council process, as was advocated by the Romanian Orthodox Church and supported by others.

The Orthodox Church has certainly survived far bigger conflicts and contests.

Asked what’s next, Cardinal Koch commented: “Some surprise of God! We try to respond to the possibilities we find in each moment.”

 

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UK:160630:(30-JUN-16):U.K.: Former London Mayor Steps Out Of Conservative Race

Stratfor 30-Jun-16

 

Former London Mayor Boris Johnson dropped out of the competition for the next British Conservative Party leader June 30, saying he could not bring the leadership or unity the party needed, BBC reported. Johnson’s surprise move — the ex-mayor was in many ways a face of the Brexit campaign and was seen by many observers as a front-runner to be the country’s next prime minister — followed an announcement by Justice Secretary Michael Gove that he planned to run for party lead. Much of the Brexit’s future depends on the political situation in the United Kingdom.

 

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TIS-MIQ-RU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Iraq: Airstrikes Exact Heavy Damage On Militants’ Retreat From Fallujah

Stratfor 30-Jun-16

 

Airstrikes against Islamic State convoys fleeing their defeat in Fallujah exacted a heavy toll against the militant group, Iraqi military representatives said June 30, AFP reported. Strikes beginning late June 28 targeted a massive Islamic State convoy fleeing the group’s last positions to the city’s west, reportedly destroying more than 200 vehicles and killing many militants, an officer said. The convoy was said to be heading south out of the city toward the desert when the strikes took place. Another round of strikes on an Islamic State convoy to Fallujah’s northwest destroyed around 60 vehicles, a high-ranking military representative said. The Islamic State is being pounded by offensives on multiple fronts in Iraq and Syria.

 

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EU-RU-UK:160628:(30-JUN-16):Brexit Could Open the Door to Russia Joining the EU

Fortune 28-Jun-16

 

And that’s a good thing for everyone.

Britain’s exit from the European Union opens the door to a possible Russian entry—a “Rentry” or perhaps “Russ-in”—into the (now) 27-member club. While it could take years, even decades, before the Russian Federation could meet all the criteria under the so-called Copenhagen Criteria to join the EU as a full member, it is far more likely to occur now with the U.K. out of the picture.

Tempting Russia with EU membership would do far more to elicit better behavior from Moscow than the weak economic sanctions the EU currently imposes on it. Russia’s entry would not only be a boon for trade in the region, but it would also finally make Europe a true superpower with the ability to take on China and the U.S. both economically and militarily.

At first blush, it might crazy to think “Rentry” could happen. After all, tensions between Russia and the EU are arguably at their highest level since the end of the Cold War. Last week, amid Russia’s continued aggression in the Ukraine, the EU extended its long-running banking sanctions against Moscow for another year.

Retaliatory Russian sanctions against EU foodstuffs will remain in effect as well, costing the EU agri-food sector billions of euros in lost revenue. Meanwhile, net foreign direct investment flows between Russia and Europe are now at their lowest level in nearly two decades, going from $80 billion in 2013 to almost nil last year.

And if the economic tension wasn’t bad enough, the Baltic states and Poland, which are all EU (and NATO) members, have increased their defense spending considerably following Russia’s invasion of the Crimea two years ago. They are increasingly concerned that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s long-standing leader, might try to reenact the opening scene of World War II and invade their territories. This might be paranoid, but it’s not totally off-base.

Still, despite the increased tensions and simultaneous crash in energy prices, Russia remains the EU’s fourth-largest trading partner and the EU continues to be Russia’s biggest trading partner; total trade between the two was nearly €209 billion in 2015, according to figures from the European Commission.

If energy prices rebound, which will happen sooner or later, those trade figures will explode. Back in 2012, before energy prices crashed and before sanctions were imposed, annual trade between the two equaled €338 billion, making Russia the EU’s third largest trading partner behind the U.S. and China. If there was truly free trade and open borders between Russia and Europe, that number could easily double or triple in just a few years.

It will be hard for the sides to continue dismissing each other given their close geographical proximity and historical ties. Indeed, half of the European Union was either directly or indirectly ruled from Moscow at some point in the last century. As such, much of the infrastructure needed for trade—such as pipelines, roads, and railroads—are already connected. Today, Russia supplies nearly all he natural gas for many of the eastern members of the EU, as well as the bulk of Germany’s needs. As Germany continues to retire its nuclear and coal power plants, this link will only grow more important.

 

The number one issue hurting the relationship between the EU and Russia today is the Ukraine controversy. Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea was truly shocking and inexcusable. But while much of Europe disapproved of Russia’s aggression, few countries—especially those in the east that are reliant on Russian gas—were willing to jeopardize their close trading relationship.

Leading the charge for sanctions and a more confrontational relationship with Russia was the EU member that traded the least with Russia: the United Kingdom. The U.K. was the only EU signatory of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which obligated the U.K., the U.S., and Russia to give security assurances protecting the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine. In exchange, Ukraine agreed to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and hand over its legacy Soviet nuclear missiles to Russia, where they could be better monitored and contained.

When Russia forcibly annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, the U.K. government was obligated to respond, amid what was clearly a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity (by a signatory of the Budapest Memorandum, no less). Britain was unwilling to go to war with the Russians over Crimea, however, so it instead pushed its fellow EU members to join it in levying economic sanctions against Russia. The rest of the EU, which remain far more reliant on Russian trade than the U.K., ultimately agreed to minor economic sanctions in a bid to support the U.K. and express displeasure over Russia’s aggression.

While most of the sanctions were economically insignificant, they did have a big negative impact on Russian public sentiment toward the EU. When recently asked if they would want their country to join the EU, 67% of Russians surveyed said they were against it, with only 18% in favor of it occurring anytime in the next 20 years, according to DW-Trend, a monthly survey of Russians carried out for the German media company Deutsche Welle.

But public opinion, on this issue in particular, is fickle. Back in December 2010, some 54% of the Russian public said they were in favor of their country joining the EU within the next 20 years—with a third believing it could happen within the next five years. Clearly that didn’t come to pass, but the survey shows that Russians don’t have a fundamental problem with joining the EU—they are just upset with the EU at the moment.

This row between Russia and the EU is fleeting and Russia knows it is time to make amends. “Sooner or later common sense will prevail and sanctions will be lifted,” Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister and former President said earlier this year. “But for this to happen we need to make steps toward each other.”

With Brexit now really happening, the EU and Russia have an opportunity to mend their relationship and seek peaceful co-existence through diplomatic and positive reinforcement, instead of through sanctions and posturing.

“Without the U.K. in the EU, there will no longer be anyone so zealously standing up for sanctions against us,” Sergei Sobyanin, the influential mayor of Moscow, tweeted last week after Brexit was confirmed.

Public opinion toward the EU has been soured by Russian propaganda, but that can be quickly turned. The EU can now choose to offer Russia the opportunity to join, pacifying them through economic prosperity instead of via sanctions. It is a page ripped right out of President Obama’s playbook in his recent decision to drop the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

It is no coincidence, then, that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker showed up at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum before the Brexit vote talking about “building bridges” between the EU and Russia. It was the first time since the Ukraine crisis broke out that Western officials have attended the event, which President Putin likes to think of as Russia’s Davos.

Nor was it a coincidence that Mr. Putin declared last week that America was the world’s superpower, downplaying Russia’s significance on the world stage. It was almost as if he was saying that Russia needed to join with others if they, or anyone else, wanted to counter the heft of the U.S. economic and military machine.

Now, a country doesn’t become a member of the EU overnight. It is a process that can take years—even decades—to complete. As of now, Russia would miserably fail a number of the 35 tests necessary to attain EU membership. But it wouldn’t fail on all of them, and if Russia starts the process with some wins, there would be pressure on the Kremlin to clean up its act so that Russia could finally reach EU membership.

It took Russia 18 years to negotiate its entry into the World Trade Organization—by far the longest negotiation in the WTO’s history. President Putin cancelled membership talks a few times, insulted the organization and its leaders often, and balked at making the necessary reforms for entry. But in the end he acquiesced and the two sides worked out a compromise, as joining the WTO was seen as vital for the country’s future growth and prosperity.

“Rentry” would probably require a similarly painful process but, in time, the two sides could come to an agreement. Russian EU membership would not only serve to revitalize the EU in what is a dark time for the club, it would also help modernize Russia and curb its abuse toward itself and others. There really is no downside here. It will just take patience and open minds in both camps to see this through.

 

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RU-TU:160629:(30-JUN-16):Russian Tourism to Turkey Falls 90%

The Moscow Times 29-Jun-16

Russian tourism to Turkey in May 2016 was down 91.82 percent year-on-year, according to figures released by Turkey’s

 

Culture and Tourism Ministry, the RBC newspaper reported Tuesday.

May is typically a popular time for Russian tourists in Turkey. In May 2015, over 501,000 Russians visited the country, and in 2014 — almost 695,000, RBC reported, citing the ministry report. In May 2016, just 41,000 Russian tourists visited Turkey.

In November 2015, Russian authorities banned the sale of package tours to Turkey and stopped all flights between the two countries, while also introducing a raft of economic sanctions. This followed the shooting down of a Russian warplane by the Turkish military over the Syrian-Turkish border earlier that month. The measures have led to the almost total collapse of the Russian market for the Turkish tourism industry.

Russians made up 1.65 percent of the foreign tourists to Turkey in May 2016 — compared to 13.17 percent for the same period in 2015 and 17.82 percent in 2014. The drop in Russians visiting Turkey is part of a wider trend of falling visitor numbers to Turkey.

In the first five months of 2016, Turkey was visited by 8.3 million foreigners, 22.93 percent fewer than during the same period last year, RBC reported.

Ankara sought to repair Russian-Turkish relations this week with a personal letter from President Erdogan to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The letter apologized for shooting down the Russian jet in November 2015 and offered “deepest condolences” to the pilot’s family, the Kremlin reported Monday.

 

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TIS:160630:(30-JUN-16):The Islamic State, Two Years On: Is it Indeed on the Verge of Collapse?

INSS Insight No. 883, 30-Jun-16

 

SUMMARY: The history of the Islamic State in the last two years indicates that the hopes of the international coalition operating against global jihad to eradicate the phenomenon militarily have been dashed. Despite its military defeats, the Islamic State and its allies still have vast territorial, economic, and human resources available. It thus seems that its ability to continue to serve as a significant, central actor in the international area and be the focus of attention in international media and political discourse has not ebbed. A vast amount of additional resources – military, economic, diplomatic, and legal – will be needed to stop and contain its destructive impact on the Middle East and the rest of the world. If the nations fighting against the Islamic State want to accelerate the rate of its collapse, they will have to set aside their disagreements that are the result of opposing interests. Yet while it is doubtful that respective particular interests will be subordinated to the greater common good, the lessons of 9/11 and the consequent military campaigns should be remembered by any state that refuses to fully cooperate in the fight against enemies such as the Islamic State, lest that state ultimately be forced to do so by its own painful reality.

The two-year mark since the Islamic State was established as the foundation of a new caliphate, with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi crowned as its caliph, invites a situation assessment of this singular enterprise. Unlike the first year of activity, in which the Islamic State projected an image of a successful, expanding entity, it now appears that the fulfillment of its vision to establish a caliphate in the heart of the Levant has dwindled. In recent months there have been many reports of the Islamic State’s military setbacks throughout the Middle East. In Iraq, it lost its hold on Fallujah, and there are preparations underway to liberate Mosul, the Islamic State’s key stronghold in the country. The Islamic State has lost strongholds in Syria too, and reports testify to preparations for the conquest of Raqqa, the Islamic State’s capital in the region. In Libya there is fierce fighting to liberate Sirt – the principal stronghold of the Islamic State after it was ousted from its strongholds in Benghazi and Derna – between the Islamic State and local forces, some of which are fighting in the name of the “unity government” (whose unity is questionable) while others are fighting in al-Qaeda’s name. Furthermore, senior officials, leading the US campaign against the Islamic State, have said that to date, the Islamic State has lost 50 percent of the territory it captured in Iraq, some 20 percent of land conquered in Syria, and about 50 percent of its income because of the losses in the oil reserves it had seized. These developments indicate that Baghdadi, who two years ago gambled heavily when he declared himself caliph, is now facing the very real possibility that he might lose Islamic State strongholds to a broad coalition of enemies. For its part, this coalition is intent on proving that Baghdadi’s calculations were mistaken and that the cost he and his people will be forced to pay will be no less painful than the price that the Islamic State and its destructive, murderous conduct exacted of its enemies.

Yet despite these optimistic reports, it is too early to conclude that we are seeing the collapse of the Islamic State as a state entity in control of vast territories. First, it is difficult to foresee how long the efforts to liberate key areas from the Islamic State may continue and at what cost. The liberation of Mosul, for example, might confront several obstacles, including: internal conflicts within the Shiite ruling circles in Iraq; the complexity involved in operating forcers that will have to lead the campaign in the city; the concern about the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) taking revenge against the Sunnis in the liberated areas and perpetrating mass slaughters there; and the United States’ reservations about Iran’s involvement – either directly or via its proxies – in this campaign. In Syria, too, it is hard to find the forces that will lead the battle to liberate Raqqa. The Kurds, who have shown themselves to be supremely effective in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and are leading the charge on the city together with the Free Syrian Forces, are currently reluctant to enter the city, fearing resistance from and tensions with the local Sunni population. Moreover, there is well-founded fear of local residents being subjected to mass killings and destruction not only in Mosul but in all battlefields at the hands of the Islamic State, which has opted for a systematic “scorched earth” policy.

Furthermore, even if it becomes clear that the rapid – almost meteoric – rise of the Islamic State and its past conquests of extensive territories have been curbed, and there is a clear process of retreat underway, the disappearance of the Islamic State as an influential and game-changing actor in the Middle East is not expected within the next several years, as the fundamental conditions in the chaotic Middle East have not changed and are not expected to change in the foreseeable future.

The Middle East in the post-Arab Spring era remains unstable. Many places have seen the destruction of their economic infrastructure, and many of the war-torn region’s residents are displaced in their native lands or have become refugees in neighboring countries. Many have left the Middle East altogether. Much of the Middle East enjoys only partial governance and much lacks any effective governance whatsoever, let alone such that can function as a stable pillar and serve the needs of the local people. In such places, the Islamic State can find alternate territories, ripe for takeover, to replace the areas it has lost.

In addition, the particular – often contradictory – interests among the region’s power brokers, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, as well as the global powers of Russia and the United States, can also be expected to complicate coordination of the push against the Islamic State and slow down the process of its dismantlement. Great economic and military investment as well as political will and, most importantly, ongoing consecutive coordinated activity, are all needed to keep Islamic State forces from recapturing areas from which it has been ousted.

Moreover, the major concern that the Islamic State is preparing for an extensive terrorist campaign in cities throughout the world, especially in the West, is not unfounded. The primary means available to the Islamic State is its large reserve of fighters located in a hundred different countries across the globe. In the last two years, the Islamic State has managed to recruit local allies in various countries in the Maghreb, the Gulf, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa. These elements are liable to act to promote the Islamic State agenda, even if it sustains further blows in the Levant. According to US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the Islamic State has a reserve of some 30,000 fighters, of whom 7,000 are from West European nations. These are skilled, experienced fighters, indoctrinated Salafist jihadists , liable to carry out mass-casualty attacks in their countries of origin when ordered by the Islamic State or in response to attacks against it. These attacks, whether initiated by the Islamic State or self-initiated by Islamic State supporters, may fan incitement by Muslim immigrants and minorities against the West. This in turn will unleash radical right-wing elements that will exploit the opportunity to sharpen the suspicions of the Western public at large against immigrants from the Middle East and Africa and translate this into political gains affecting the political maps in many states, first and foremost in Europe. These countries are now at a crossroads because of the mass waves of immigration from the Middle East and Africa and the destabilization of the intra-European system, now in part also as a result of the British exit from the European Union.

The history of the Islamic State in the last two years, both in the Levant and in Europe, indicates that the hopes of the international coalition operating against global jihad (led in the past by al-Qaeda) to eradicate the phenomenon militarily have been dashed. Despite its military defeats and the losses of previous conquests, the Islamic State and its allies still have vast territorial, economic, and human resources available. It would thus seem that its ability to continue to serve as a significant, central actor in the international area and be the focus of attention in the media and political discourse throughout the world has not ebbed. A vast amount of additional resources – military, economic, diplomatic, and legal – will be needed to stop and contain its destructive impact on the Middle East and the rest of the world. If the nations fighting against the Islamic State want to accelerate the rate of its collapse and rebuild the wreckage it has wrought, they will have to set aside the disagreements that are the result of opposing interests. Yet while it is doubtful that respective particular interests will be subordinated to the greater common good, the lessons of 9/11 and the consequent military campaigns should be remembered by any state that refuses to fully cooperate in the fight against enemies such as the Islamic State, lest that state ultimately be forced to do so by its own painful reality.

 

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UK-MGS:160628:(30-JUN-16):What Brexit Means for the GCC

MENASource 28-Jun-16 [Must read! Don]

 

The startling result of the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union has caused political and economic chaos in Britain unparalleled since World War Two. Prime Minister David Cameron will be out of power by September 2 and Britain faces a period of profound uncertainty and volatility over the nature of its future relationship with the EU. While the next prime minister may come under pressure to seek an electoral mandate through a new general election, the implosion of the opposition Labor Party means that it is likely that the ruling Conservative Party will continue to govern. This is likely to minimize the fallout from ‘Brexit’ on the Middle East and may even lead to greater British engagement with Gulf partners in a bid to offset economic and commercial volatility in Europe, while for the EU the ramifications of the vote will further undermine the already weak efforts to forge a common foreign and security policy or deal effectively with the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe.

In the immediate term, the most direct impact of Brexit will fall on the heavy investments in Britain held by Gulf sovereign wealth funds and other high net worth individuals, who face a period of considerable uncertainty and may seek to shift investments to safer havens. Oil prices may also take a hit if the turmoil in the UK leads to slower economic growth that drags Britain and/or the EU into a triple-dip recession. Any such impact may be tempered in the next few months by signs that Brexit does not necessarily entail UK disengagement from the EU, particularly if the British government refuses to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon that sets in motion the two year separation period. After claiming during the campaign that he would activate Article 50 immediately, in the event of a Leave vote, Cameron notably did not do so and has claimed that such a decision would be left to his successor as Prime Minister; however, the most likely candidate, Boris Johnson, has significantly watered down his enthusiasm for doing so in his post-Brexit comments, amid growing signs that the British political class is shocked by the outcome of the referendum and seeking to delay acting upon the result for as long as possible.

British policy toward the Middle East, and particularly in the Gulf, is unlikely to alter significantly if the Conservatives remain in government under a new Prime Minister. Since coming to power in 2010, initially in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives have focused heavily on building up economic and commercial relationships with the Gulf States and rebuilding historic ties that were perceived to have suffered during the Labor years of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The ‘mercantile’ foreign policy that resulted has been criticized for seemingly putting trade and investment over political and human rights issues, but it brought British-Gulf relations closer together. Moreover, since 2013, Britain has returned militarily to the Gulf (which was under British protected status until 1971) while senior politicians in the United Kingdom have even revived the old ‘East of Suez’ term that had lain fallow for decades.

It is not inconceivable that a new Conservative prime minister might redouble the outreach to the Gulf if it can partially offset the spiraling uncertainty in EU relations. The Gulf is one of the few areas where Britain holds a natural advantage, partly through a sense of shared history but additionally through the soft asset of the British royal family, and this closeness offers the UK an opportunity in the coming months, especially in the (unlikely) event of a victory for Donald Trump in the US presidential election in November. Rulers in GCC states have, in any case, no strong attachment to the EU, and they recall with frustration the failure of the lengthy negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement; moreover, EU-Gulf ties have long been undercut by the preference of both Gulf and European states to deal bilaterally with each other rather than through the blocs themselves. This strongly bilateral emphasis will continue and will likely intensify in the wake of Brexit.

More broadly, EU policy toward the Middle East will suffer from the growing sense of drift in European policies at all levels and, in particular, in the formulation of a common foreign and security policy. Britain worked closely with the EU in early diplomatic manoeuvres with Iran in the late 2000s and the EU has been among the most active international partners in the Israel-Palestine arena. It is likely that a period of introspection will blunt European ‘diplomacy’ in the Middle East and make it less effective in the event of any eventual (partial or comprehensive) settlement of the conflict in Yemen or the tragedy in Syria. Finally, the impact of Brexit weakens the ability of the EU and its member states to work collectively to resolve the issue of Syrian refugee and migration crisis that has, over the past year, threatened to tear up some of the most significant aspects of the European integration project and which still retains the potential to inflict far greater lasting damage on the EU than the Brexit vote.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Ph.D., Fellow for the Middle East, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy

 

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CM:160522:(30-JUN-16):Egyptian author Sayyid Al-Qemany: Islam in Its Present Form Is a Threat to the World, All Scorpions Sting

MEMRI translation 22-May-16. [Only put this in because of language of Rev 9! Don]

 

Egyptian author Sayyid Al-Qemany, speaking at the first convention of the Adhoc organization, a London-based “secularist, modernist, pluralist” international NGO, warned about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, saying: “Any Muslim who believes that his religion is suited to all times and places is a terrorist by definition.” Al-Qemany said that “all scorpions sting” and that the only difference is that some have not yet had the chance to perform “the best act that brings you close to Allah” by carrying out the duty of Jihad. The convention, titled “The Roots and Causes of Islamic Violence,” was held in Brussels on May 22, and Al-Qemany’s address was posted on the YouTube account of the “I Think” Magazine.

Sayyid Al-Qemany: “The real danger that the world faces is Islam, in its prevalent form in our Arab and Islamic world.

[…]

“In recent years, which have witnessed a growing number of terror incidents, we have discovered that [French President] Hollande knows Islam very well, and so he said that what is happening is not true Islam. And that guy from the… All the world’s heads of state, in whose countries there were… Even good and wretched Ban Ki-moon, who is not from these parts, knows Islam too. They all say that [terrorism] does not reflect true Islam. Every single group in Islamic society since the dawn of history and to this day, says: ‘We alone know what true Islam is.’ It turns out they all know true Islam, and the only ones who don’t are us.

“But we do know Islam. If you compare the views of the various Islamic groups on what true Islam is, you will find that the Prophet Muhammad was the only one who did not know true Islam. There are huge differences among them. Personally, I would like to ask you the following: Please pour oil on the flames of Islamophobia in the world. Please let the world know that it faces a total danger. Any Muslim who believes that his religion is suited to all times and places is a terrorist by definition.”

[…]

“All scorpions sting. Some scorpions have actually killed someone, while other scorpions have not killed yet. The only difference between them is that the latter have not had the chance to kill yet. They have not had the chance to perform the best act that brings you close to Allah. The best act that brings you close to Allah is storming into the enemy’s midst. The best act that brings you close to Allah is the duty of jihad.”

 

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MAR-MSY-US-RU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Syria: U.S. Proposes Limited Military Cooperation With Russia

Stratfor 30-Jun-16

 

The United States has proposed a new military deal with Russia in Syria, a significant change of direction from previous U.S. policy in the war-torn country, The Washington Post reported June 30. The proposal, which was reportedly approved by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, was sent to Moscow on June 27. In it, Washington puts forth a plan in which the United States would join Russia in coordinating and carrying out airstrikes against the al Qaeda-affiliated militant group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is primarly taking on Syrian government forces. In exchange, Russia would pressure Damascus to stop bombing areas in which groups that the United States does not consider to be terrorist organizations operate.

Russia has long sought cooperation with the United States in Syria as a means to gain legitimacy for its actions there and as a way out of the isolation it has found itself in over the conflict in Ukraine. But detractors have several issues with the proposal. Among them are that it would bestow legitimacy on Russia’s actions in Syria and that it could open the way for major gains by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, a crucial area in the yearslong civil war. Furthermore, it would likely be difficult to implement, because militants from Jabhat al-Nusra could move to other areas if they were targeted by heavy airstrikes. Because Moscow supports the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, coordinating with Russia could put the United States in a morally dubious position. Regardless of what comes of it, however, the proposal’s existence represents a major shift in Washington’s view of the conflict in Syria.

 

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UK-EU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Cold shoulder for Sturgeon over separate EU deal

Daily Telegraph 30-Jun-16

 

Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes of negotiating a deal to keep Scotland in the EU suffered a major setback yesterday after Francois Hollande ruled out talks and the Spanish prime minister said it has to leave with the rest of the UK.

Mariano Rajoy said after the European Council meeting in Brussels that the Scottish Government “does not have the competence” to negotiate with the European Union. He concluded: “If the United Kingdom leaves… Scotland leaves.”

He was echoed by Mr Hollande, the French president, who said the EU will make no advance deal with Scotland. “The negotiations will be conducted with the United Kingdom, not with a part of the United Kingdom,” he said.

During a chastening visit to Brussels yesterday for Ms Sturgeon, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, also made clear that neither he nor Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, would “interfere in the British process” by negotiating with Scotland. A series of other member states, including Germany, also made clear they would not get involved in “internal” British politics.

The First Minister put a brave face on their interventions, saying Spain’s views represented a “starting position” and that she was still “optimistic” about reaching an agreement after Scots last week voted for Remain by a margin of 62 per cent to 38 per cent.

She argued that a deal to keep Scotland in Europe could be reached in negotiations between the UK Government and the EU when the Article 50 process to leave is triggered by the next prime minister.

But any special deal would require the support of all member states. Spain is determined to take a hard line with Scotland in order to discourage its own separatist movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

Mr Rajoy’s uncompromising stance appears to make a second independence referendum more likely, as Ms Sturgeon has said she will propose it if that is the “best or only way to protect Scotland’s place in the EU”. However, it also suggests that a separate Scotland would start life outside the EU and have to negotiate entry, a process that could take years and involve adoption of the euro, a hard border with England and tight public spending controls.

Mr Rajoy said: “I want to be very clear. Scotland does not have the competence to negotiate with the European Union. Spain opposes any negotiation by anyone other than the government of United Kingdom. “I am extremely against it, the treaties are extremely against it and I believe everyone is extremely against it. If the United Kingdom leaves… Scotland leaves.” Speaking at a press conference after the conclusion of her talks, Ms Sturgeon said it was unsurprising “at this early stage to hear starting positions from a country like Spain”. She said she “absolutely respected” the fact that the EU would negotiate with the UK Government as the member state but wanted to ensure “all of the options are on the table”.

Andy Murray says the fate of the UK after the EU referendum is far more important than tennis. The world number two says the aftermath of the vote and the political chaos it unleashed is uppermost in his mind.

Murray said the state of the UK is the last thing he thinks about at night and the first thing he thinks about in the morning, despite being busy trying to win his second Wimbledon title.

 

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UK-EU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Britain is a land of opportunity in a world of opportunity – it is time to feel like a special country again, outside the EU

Daily Telegraph 30-Jun-16

 

Last week the referendum triggered a political earthquake in British politics and beyond.

After a contest with such deep-rooted passions, many feel bewildered and bruised. We now have a duty to maximise the benefits and opportunities that our people have made possible.

We need to move swiftly to deal with the uncertainty caused. It is time to correct those who seem to believe that our country cannot stand on its own two feet without the help of Brussels.

I do not believe there is room for membership of the single market, if it entails free movement of people.

We do not need to be part of the single market to sell into the single market; countries like the US do perfectly well in that position.

The unelected commission is likely to be stubborn but elected governments are likely to be different.

We need to make clear to  them that it would be in our mutual interests to have a free and open trading relationship, but that we cannot accept the  concept of free movement of people. This is not a requirement for a trading  agreement.

No other country with whom we have such an agreement demands it in return.

Great Britain is an outward looking liberal democracy, which has helped shape much of the world around us with our values and behaviour.

We have exported concepts of free markets, democracy and rule of law around the globe and have resisted, sometimes alone, the threats to liberty and freedom.

Three reasons why young people can feel positive after Brexit Play! 01:59

As a result we are a hugely connected country with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, we have the world’s fifth biggest economy, with membership of the G7 and G20, seats on the IMF and the World Bank, the world’s fifth biggest defence budget at the  heart of NATO, we are at the centre of the Commonwealth, have a special relationship with United States.

We are right to take control of our own destiny, recognising that cooperation is an indispensable part of the era of globalisation in which we live.

We are a land of opportunity, in a world of opportunity. We have huge natural economic advantages that we can exploit and build upon. We have a system of law that is admired the world over, making Britain one of the safest countries for inward investment anywhere.

We have a skilled workforce and low levels of industrial unrest, certainly compared to some of our continental neighbours. We have some of the world’s best universities; we speak English and are in one of the best time zones for global trade.

All these are unaffected by being outside the European Union. We should never forget that we are a special country. It is time to feel special again.

Part of this process must be to encourage a genuine opportunity society to all our citizens. We must understand that, on the social ladder, it is just as important to get from the bottom rung to the second bottom rung as it is to get from the second top rung to the top.

Aspiration must be king and we must recognise that poverty is not simply about lack of material wealth. Poverty of aspiration  and poverty of hope are destructive powers in even the wealthiest societies.

Talent and effort must be rewarded. I am a capitalist, but my capitalist heroes are not the big bankers who pocket bonuses  whether or not they are successful, but the corner shop owners and the small businessmen and women who sacrifice family time and holidays in order to pass something on to the next generation.

We must encourage a society where it does not matter what your parents did, where you went to school, what part of this nation you come from, what regional accent you have or have not, or how you choose to worship your God.

All that should matter is that you share the same values, aspirations and goals for our country, keeping it strong, proud and free.  Last week we showed that we truly value our freedom.

That freedom was forged in the heat of our history, snatched from the hands of tyrants and defended against dictators, fascists and  communists.

It is now time to take pride in our achievement and make this special country ever stronger, not just for ourselves but in helping to shape a better, stronger and more secure world around us.

 

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UK-EU-NZ:160630:(30-JUN-16):New Zealand offers UK its top trade negotiators for post-Brexit deals

Daily Telegraph 30-Jun-16

 

New Zealand has offered its top trade negotiators to the United Kingdom, relieving the British civil service as it prepares for the strain of seeking new deals with countries across the globe.

The Telegraph understands that the Commonwealth country has made an offer to loan staff to the British civil service, which has few trade negotiators of its own.

Wellington’s olive branch came alongside an offer to discuss a trade agreement with the UK, which would help Britain get out of the starting blocks and begin replacing the trade access lost as a result of the Brexit vote.

Experts say that drafting negotiators will be crucial for forging new agreements between the UK and Brussels, as well as with more than 50 other markets with which EU members currently enjoy trade agreements.

Murray McCully, New Zealand’s foreign minister, confirmed to the New Zealand Herald that he had had a discussion with Jonathan Sinclair, Britain’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, on Monday.

“We’ve simply made an offer that we as a country that is a long-standing friend … stands ready to be useful in any way we can be,” Mr McCully said. The foreign minister did not rule out providing the UK with the expertise of its trade negotiators.

Todd McClay, the trade minister for New Zealand, said that loaning staff was not “currency on the table given the range of trade negotiation commitments New Zealand is currently managing”.

However, Mr McCully said that his colleague’s comments were no contradiction, and that Wellington would “wait and see” on the issue of loaning staff. “We will obviously look at what they ask us for and whether we have it.”

Lord Price, the minister for trade and investment, has said that the Government has around 40 trade negotiators, compared with the 550 employed by the EU. Whitehall has outsourced trade powers to Brussels for 43 years, meaning that the number of negotiators employed by Government has dwindled.

These experts require years of experience to become proficient, time that the UK would not have if formal notification of the country’s intention to leave the EU was issued soon.

Allie Renison, head of trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said that the civil service would need to “massively scale up” in order to negotiate new trade deals. Ms Renison said that drafting in help from New Zealand could help, although there remained a risk that negotiators would lack familiarity with the UK’s regulatory system.

Donald Trump, the real estate mogul running for the US Presidency, has famously said that he believes seconding people from the world of business to run trade negotiations would result in better deals.

However, Ms Renison pointed out, modern trade deals are written in “very, very technical language, that would not make sense to any business person”.

Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, said on Tuesday that Whitehall would increase the number of negotiators it had available over time.

He said: “That process has already begun, and I’m very confident that we can get the right resources in place so we can take advantage of those opportunities that have been created.”

New Zealand itself has been successful in striking deals with partners around the world. The country enjoys eight free-trade agreements, including deals with China and Australia. It has also concluded talks with the United States, Canada and much of the Gulf, although these agreements are not yet in force.

John Key, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, has said that the country will work with Australia in arranging new ties with the UK as it withdraws from the EU. “Where it makes sense we [New Zealand and Australia] will co-operate together,” he said.

Mr Key’s Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, said that “opportunities and challenges” arose from the UK’s decision to split with the EU. He said: “There are some big issues in terms of the access of Australians and New Zealanders to Europe and indeed to the UK.”

Mr Javid said this week that the UK was “open for business”, and had already received offers to begin negotiation immediately with Australia and South Korea. Canada, India and Mexico are also understood to have contacted the Government with a view to undertaking post-Brexit talks.

The Conservative minister also announced that he and Lord Price would be going on trade missions to China, Hong Kong and Brazil in order to strengthen Britain’s links with other economies.

 

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RU-TU:160630:(30-JUN-16):Erdogan and Putin Hold Telephone Talks After Eight-Month Standoff

The Moscow Times 30-Jun-16

 

Kremlin Press ServicePresident Vladimir Putin is pictured during a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Dec. 1, 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Erdogan spoke on the phone for 45 minutes in what media sources are describing as a “productive” and “positive” conversation, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The phone call marked the first contact between the two leaders since Turkey shot down a Russian jet on the border with Syria in November 2015.

President Erdogan sent a letter of apology to the Kremlin on Monday after an eight-month standoff between the two countries, paving the way for talks with Putin.

The presidents used the phone call to stress their commitment to the collective fight against terrorism and agreed to meet face-to-face in the near future, the RBC news outlet reported.

Plans to restore ties between the two countries, including normalizing travel and trade relations have been set in motion, the Interfax news agency reported.

The two leaders agreed that their respective foreign ministers will meet on July 1 in Sochi at a Black Sea Economic Cooperation conference. They are to discuss resuming collaborations between the two nations as well as more topical issues such as Syria.

The English translation of Erdogan’s on the Kremlin’s official website drew media attention after the original translation was changed. The letter originally read: “I once again express my sympathy and profound condolences to the family of the Russian pilot who was killed and I apologise to them.”

 

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