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UKB-EU:160927:(30-SEP-16):Europe will be hit harder by Brexit than Britain, German business chief says
Daily Telegraph 27-Sep-16
One of Germany’s most prominent businessmen has said Brexit will be more difficult for the rest of Europe than it will for Britain and that leaving the bloc could make the UK more attractive to foreign investors.
Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of giant media company Axel Springer, said although the act of leaving the European Union would result in some short term pain for the UK, in three to five years it will be “better off than continental Europe”.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Dopfner said he thought Britain would move towards a “more free market-oriented model, while Europe is step by step transforming into a transfer union” where financially successful countries prop up struggling ones.
Investors are put off by this, he said, and would be more likely to invest in Britain if it “can create an alternative”.
Although he said that in the short term the UK would suffer from currency fluctuations and a struggling property market, in the long term it would be better off outside the EU.
The comments are in contrast to most of the commentary that has emerged from Germany since the June 23 vote, with the country’s political and business elite suggesting that Britain will struggle outside the bloc.
Last week, the country’s finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble slammed Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, over comments made regarding the free movement of EU workers. Mr Johnson had previously suggested that the UK could have both a free trade deal and end free movement, which Mr Schäuble said would be contrary to the Lisbon treaty.
Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest media companies, said last month that it was scaling back its revenue guidance for 2016 as a result of the uncertainty after the June referendum. Around 12pc of its earnings are derived in the UK.
Last year the company made an attempt to buy the Financial Times, but lost out to Japanese publisher Nikkei. It later bought an 88pc stake in business and technology website Business Insider, in a deal worth $343m (£226m).
Daily Telegraph 27-Sep-16
There are some words that make such an unlikely pairing that we find it hard to put them together. Italy and efficiency, for example. Or Bake Off and Channel 4. And ‘Germany’ and ‘banking crisis’ is another one. Our image of German banks, and the German economy, as completely rock solid is so strong that it takes a lot to persuade us they might be in trouble.
And yet it has become increasingly hard to ignore the slow-motion car crash that is Deutsche Bank, or to avoid the conclusion that something very nasty is developing at what was once seen as Europe’s strongest financial institution. Its shares have been in free-fall for a year, touching a new low of 10.7 euros on Monday, down from 27 euros a year ago. Over the weekend, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel waded into the mess, briefing that there could be no government bail-out of the bank.
But hold on. Surely that is an extra-ordinary decision? If the German government does not stand behind the bank, then inevitably all its counter-parties – the other banks and institutions it deals with – are going to start feeling very nervous about trading with it. As we know from 2008, once confidence starts to evaporate, a bank is in big, big trouble. In fact, if Deutsche does go down, it is looking increasingly likely that it will take Merkel with it – and quite possibly the euro as well.
Deutsche Bank has been wobbly for a year now. Back in July, it announced a slump in profits and revenues. Back in February, the Bank’s co-CEO John Cryan put out a statement re-assuring staff and investors that the institution was ‘rock solid’ amid an earlier slide in the share price. Anyone whose memory stretches back a whole eight years will know that is the kind of thing bank CEOs say about three minutes before the whole thing goes pop.
Ever since then, the news has gone from bad to worse. Deutsche has struggled to cuts costs and restore profitability, legal challenges have mounted, and then earlier this month the US Justice Department hit the bank with a $14 billion fine over sales of mortgage securities. In its pomp, Deutsche could have written out a cheque with a nonchalant shrug. Right now, no one is sure where it can get the money from.
The damage can be seen in its share price. Last October, the shares were at 27 euros. Back in 2007, they were over 100 euros, and even in the spring of 2009, when banks were crashing all across the world, they were still trading at close on 17 euros. For most of this year they have been sliding fast. On Monday, they crashed again, down another 6pc. Its bonds have slumped as well, while the cost of credit default swaps – essentially a way of hedging against a collapse – have jumped. It all has a very 2008 feel to it.
To make matters worse, the German government looks to have abandoned it to its grisly fate. An article in Focus magazine quoted senior officials as saying the German Chancellor Angela Merkel was adamant that bank would not be rescued. There could be no state assistance if the bank was unable to raise the capital it needs to stay afloat, and she was not planning to intervene to get the American fine reduced. If it was in trouble, it was on its own.
There is, of course, something to be said for a hard-line position. It is hard to be sure the massive bank bail-outs of 2008 were such a great idea. Perhaps we would be better off now if a few had been allowed to fail. That said, Merkel is surely playing with fire. In the markets, investors, along with other financial institutions, have rightly or wrongly come to assume that major banks are, as the saying has it, ‘too big to fail’. You didn’t really have to worry about how solid they were, because if the crunch came the state would always ride to the rescue.
In Germany, that appears not to be the case – certainly for Deutsche, and possibly for its next biggest player, Commerzbank, which is hardly looking much healthier. Would you want to trade a few billion with Deutsche right now, and would you feel sure you’d get paid next month? Nope, thought not. The risk is that confidence evaporates – and as we know, once that is gone a bank is not long for this world.
True, Merkel’s position is understandable. The politics of a Deutsche rescue are terrible. Germany, with is Chancellor taking the lead, has set itself up as the guardian of financial responsibility within the euro-zone. Two years ago, it casually let the Greek bank system go to the wall, allowing the cash machines to be closed down as a way of whipping the rebellious Syriza government back into line. This year, there has been an unfolding Italian crisis, as bad debts mount, and yet Germany has insisted on enforcing euro-zone rules that say depositors – that is, ordinary people – have to shoulder some of the losses when a bank is in trouble.
For Germany to then turn around and say, actually we are bailing out our own bank, while letting everyone else’s fail, looks, to put it mildly, just a little inconsistent. Heck, a few people might even start to wonder if there was one rule for Germany, and another one for the rest. In truth, it would become impossible to maintain a hard-line in Italy, and probably in Greece as well.
And yet, if Deutsche Bank went down, and the German Government didn’t step in with a rescue, that would be a huge blow to Europe’s largest economy – and the global financial system. No one really knows where the losses would end up, or what the knock-on impact would be. It would almost certainly land a fatal blow to the Italian banking system, and the French and Spanish banks would be next. Even worse, the euro-zone economy, with France and Italy already back at zero growth, and still struggling with the impact of Brexit, is hardly in any shape to withstand a shock of that magnitude.
A rock and a hard place are hardly adequate to describe the options Merkel may soon find herself facing. The politics of a rescue are terrible, but the economics of a collapse are even worse. By ruling out a rescue, she may well have solved the immediate political problem. Yet when the crisis gets worse, as it may do at any moment, it is impossible to believe she will stick to that line. A bailout of some sort will be cobbled together – even if the damage to Merkel’s already fraying reputation for competence will be catastrophic.
In fact, Merkel is playing a very dangerous game with Deutsche – and one that could easily go badly wrong. If her refusal to sanction a bail-out is responsible for a Deutsche collapse that could easily end her Chancellorship. But if she rescues it, the euro might start to unravel. It is hardly surprising that the markets are watching the relentless decline in its share price with mounting horror.
Daily Telegraph 27-Sep-16
The Royal Yacht Britannia should be recommissioned and used to secure trade deals after the Brexit vote, dozens of MPs, former ministers and a senior former aide to the Queen say.
The politicians back a campaign by the Telegraph and call for the return of the “incredible” vessel, which was put out of service in 1997 by Tony Blair’s government.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is understood to be considering a detailed proposal to return the yacht to the seas.
Sources said he sees it as “a great symbol of global Britain”.
MPs in favour of the plans believe it would boost links with the Commonwealth.
Between 1991 and 1995, it is estimated that the yacht helped secure £3billion of trade deals as world leaders and business figures clamored to attend receptions hosted on the vessel.
Three former trade ministers have backed the move, while around 20 backbenchers are said to have given their initial support.
Richard Needham, who was minister of trade from 1992 and 1995 and led four overseas trade missions on the yacht, said: “Britannia was an incredible benefit in terms of trade promotion.
“It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I remember having her in Cape Town, the floodlighting of Table Top mountain behind her, the band of the royal marines.”
Lord Heseltine, who as President of the Board of Trade from 1992 to 1995 fought hard against the decision to axe Britannia, said: “We made a great mistake in not replacing Britannia in the 1990s. That remains my view.
“She was a symbol of many things about this country we have now not got. It was the wrong decision but I full understood the pressures on the Government of which I was a member. In the internal debate I wanted to replace it.”
Calls for the recommissioning follow the vote to leave the EU, with Britain soon having to secure its own trade deals and forge a new relationship with the rest of the world.
Jake Berry, the Tory MP for Rossendale and Darwen, is behind the plan and has secured a debate in Parliament next month to gain support.
Two options are being considered – recommissioning the original yacht, which is currently berthed in Edinburgh as a tourist attraction, or ordering a replica.
Given concerns over the costs of the venture to the taxpayer, Mr Berry is looking into a campaign to raise funds that would not include asking for public money.
Donors from across the Commonwealth would be approached, with a Canadian figure was said to have offered £10m to fund a previous drive for recommissioning.
Dickie Arbiter, a press secretary for the Queen for 12 years, told the Telegraph that recommissioning the Britannia was a “good idea” that should be investigated.
He said: “All the Royals were fond of it, it was a kind of home for home. It was used from 1954 – that’s a long time. It wasn’t a play thing for the Royals, far from it. It was an operational vehicle.”
Lord Jones of Birmingham, a trade minister in Gordon Brown’s Government and former director general of the CBI, told the Telegraph: “When I was Trade Minister I was amazed how many overseas contacts asked me why we ever got rid of Britannia.
“It was such a useful weapon in the armoury when fighting for export orders and inward investment.”
UKB:160927:(30-SEP-16):Laws made in a British Parliament and enforced by British judges – Brexit will make us an independent country once again
Daily Telegraph 27-Sep-16
To the puzzlement of the rump of fanatical Remainers, Brexit is simply about regaining control of the country in which the British people live.
The United Kingdom was, until 1972, a self-governing independent sovereign state. That is, it had a government with power to protect its people and territory, and to govern their conduct with one another and their relations with the state.
To maintain such statehood a government must be able to defend its territory against outsiders. It must maintain peace and order and ensure that people may go about their lawful business in peace. It must provide a currency to facilitate commerce and be a store of value. It must provide a system of law and justice to uphold the peace, to arbitrate between citizens and between citizens and the state. And to exercise such functions it must have a monopoly power to tax.
Brexiteers vs Remainers: Political Ding-Dong Play! 02:13
Of course, in the 21st century, we rightly expect the state to do much more than that, but while the provision of public education or health services may be desirable add-ons, they are not critical to the existence of the state.
There was neither an NHS nor state schools in Tudor days, but the England of Elizabeth I was surely a sovereign state. These days we must be wary of giving the state too much power to do too many things which we might better do for ourselves. Brexit is an opportunity to think not just about repatriating our laws, but also about how much law we require.
Naturally the Brexit debate has often concentrated on taxation and state spending and control over who may cross our borders or reside in our territory. They are important. But so too are our law and its nature, together with our cultural and religious values which mould and are moulded by our society and history. We have a culture distinct from the mainland of Europe because its roots were planted by our Celtic, Scandinavian, Roman and Norman forebears.
Some of those changes were abrupt, almost seismic events. Some permeated more slowly. But for more than 800 years since Magna Carta, English law has developed on a different path to continental law. Essentially, our law sets out what is prohibited. Continental law sets out what is permitted.
That is no pedantic distinction. My colleagues at the Council of Ministers made it plain that while they believed in a right of free speech, that was a right given by law to say what the law permitted, and what was not permitted was therefore forbidden. They mostly had difficulty in grasping that we British enjoyed the right to say whatever we wished, except that which the law prohibited.
“In any conflict between British and European law the latter has supremacy and in any conflict the European Court of Justice trumps our Supreme Court”
In the same way I found myself criticised because we had no law giving a right to strike. Again I had to explain that there was, and there remains today, no law against strikes (except in the military and police) whilst protection is given for strikers from being sued for breach of contract, or inciting such a breach, provided procedures including a fair ballot of those concerned are observed.
At it worst, the attitude of senior people in the European Commission was summed up by one who told me: “We make the law. They (the people) obey the law.” Today, however, there can be no doubt that in any conflict between British and European law the latter has supremacy and in any conflict the European Court of Justice trumps our Supreme Court.
Who are the Brexit ministers? Play! 01:33
The other European Court which has jurisdiction over us is the European Court of Human Rights, which sprang from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which was drawn up in revulsion at the cruelties perpetrated by Hitler’s National Socialist government. It was supported by Churchill and drafted by David Maxwell Fyfe, who had been the prosecutor at the war trial of the leading Nazis.
Maxwell Fyfe was an enthusiast for European integration and the European Court of Human Rights is essentially continental in its approach. It was criticised by Lord Hoffman for “seeking to aggrandise its jurisdiction” or, as I would call it, “judicial imperialism” in such matters as its insistence that Britain should give the vote to convicted criminals in jail.
It is, therefore, good news that Justice Secretary Liz Truss has said that she intends to repeal the Human Rights Act, which sought to incorporate into British law the rights set out in the ECHR. Unhappily, the suggestion is that it will then be replaced with a British Bill of Rights.
This would become a Bill of Entitlements. We have no need of such continental-style, socialist-inspired legislation. Our rights have been secure for generations. They should be neither muddled with our perceived entitlements or with fashionable ways of social conduct. Brexit gives us the chance to be governed again by Parliament and judged in our own courts by our own judiciary.
Let us not muff it.
Russian Gazprom has received through diplomatic channels permission to conduct research on two branches of Turkish Stream in Turkey’s territorial waters, the Russian company reported.
“It should be noted the constructive, efficient cooperation with Turkish partners of the project. The TurkStream project is progressing at commendable speed. An important new resolution for its implementation has been obtained,” CEO Alexei Miller said September 30.
Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is expected to visit to Turkey in October, both his spokesman Dmitri Peskov and the head of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) Rifat Hisarcıklıoglu announced this week.
Peskov did not elaborate on Putin’s agenda, but Hisarcıklıoglu said that his visit would focus on a number of issues including Turkish Stream.
Gazprom and Turkish Botas in December 2014 signed a memorandum of understanding on building Turkish Stream. The pipeline will follow 660 km of the old South Stream corridor in the Black Sea and then strike out in a new direction for 250 km towards the European part of Turkey. South Stream was to have landed in Bulgaria. Up to 15.75bn m³/yr will go to Turkey in the first of possibly four strands.
Russia has said it hopes to sign an agreement with Turkey in October on the implementation of the Turkish Stream project which Gazprom operates.
RU-MEG:160926:(30-SEP-16):Russia to lift import ban on Egyptian fruits, vegetables: Egypt trade ministry
Ahram Online , 26-Sep-16
Egypt’s trade and industry ministry said on Monday that Russia has agreed to lift a ban on the import of Egyptian fruits and vegetables, as the North African country will take every precaution to guarantee the safety and quality of its agricultural imports heading to Russia.
Russia said on 16 September it would temporarily suspend the import of fruit and vegetables from Egypt starting 22 September.
Russia’s lifting of the ban came after intensive efforts on both sides to address the reasons behind the decisions and take the necessary procedures to lift it, the trade ministry statement read.
An Egyptian delegation visited Russia on Sunday to discuss the ban.
The ban was imposed after Cairo rejected a Russian wheat shipment for containing the common ergot grain fungus.
Cairo has since amended its rules and agreed to buy Russian wheat, accepting shipments with low levels of the fungus.
According to the ministry statement, Egyptian agricultural products exported to Russia are estimated at $350 million annually.
farsnews.com 26-Sep-16 [Iranian so not nec accurate figures! Don]
Mohsen Rafiqdoust, who served as minister of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps throughout the eight years of the Iraqi-imposed war on Iran, said the IRGC Ground Force is five times more than the US army troops, adding that the IRGC can dispatch 6 million troops to any battlefield in a matter of days.
“Today, the number of the IRGC Ground Force is five times more than the US army and it is the Ground Force which ends the wars,” Rafiqdoust said, addressing a gathering in Tehran on Sunday.
“The IRGC Ground Force can send 6 million ready-for-combat troops to the battleground in less than 10 days,” he added.
Noting that the country’s warehouses are full of weapons and military equipment, Rafiqdoust said, “Our missiles are ready to be fired at Israel. This has been shown to the Americans and they have been allowed to have videos” (through their broadcast on Iranian TV).
Firing one artillery round against Iran by Israel would mean that “Iran will turn Tel Aviv into dust”, he underlined.
In relevant remarks in 2014, Commander of the IRGC Ground Force Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour said his troops are among the best in the region.
“Today, the Army and IRGC’s Ground Forces are among the best and most powerful ground forces of the region,” Pakpour told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony to commemorate IRGC Missile Industry martyrs in Tehran.
Also in the same year, General Pakpour underscored the IRGC’s full preparedness to defend the security and territorial integrity of Iran powerfully.
“Thanks God and due to the good management done by Iran, we have no special security problem in the country; generally speaking, the problems are in our neighboring countries and sometimes the terrorist elements are directed towards Iran from outside,” Pakpour said at the time.
“The dedicated forces of the IRGC Ground Force are fully ready to defend and establish security in every part of Iran under any conditions,” he added then.
A deal between the operators of the Leviathan oil and gas field off the Israeli coast and Jordan Electric Power Company has just turned Israel into Jordan’s biggest gas supplier. The 15-year, US$10-billion contract was signed with a consortium, which includes local industrial major Delek Group and U.S. Noble Energy. Jordan will receive 45 billion cubic meters of gas under the deal.
Israeli government officials and Delek representatives praised the deal as “historic”, marking an important milestone in the development of the Leviathan field, where full-scale production is scheduled to begin in 2019. The field is estimated to hold some 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 34.1 million barrels of condensate.
Indeed, the news is of the groundbreaking sort, as the development of Israel’s largest gas field has been delayed for years because of regulatory hurdles brought on by political disputes and legal issues. The chief point of contention politically was the possibility that the Delek-Noble Energy partnership would become a monopoly on the Israeli gas market, which would end in higher gas prices for local consumers. Another obstacle was the lack of a government policy regarding the development of Israel’s gas reserves.
The operator of the field, Noble Energy with a 40-percent stake, was finally given the green light to start development works this June. Delek holds 45 percent in the field.
The exploitation of Leviathan could turn Israel into a regional energy leader, even though the state has no onshore oil and gas reserves. Some of its offshore reserves have also been disputed by neighbor Lebanon, with which Tel Aviv has no diplomatic relations but has been embroiled in a dispute with regarding the maritime border between the two countries and allegations from Beirut that Israel is siphoning its hydrocarbon riches.
The Leviathan field is, thankfully for Israel, not a subject of territorial disputes. Gas extracted from it could also flow to Turkey, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority, according to Delek Drilling’ s chief executive Yossi Abu.
Italy has laid out plans for the creation of a “European force” that goes beyond Franco-German proposals on defence integration.
It said in an informal paper, seen by EUobserver, ahead of a defence ministers’ meeting in Bratislava on Tuesday (27 September) that the EU should create a “powerful and usable European Force that can also be employed in support to Nato or UN operations”.
Giving its full title, it said that the “joint permanent European Multinational Force (EMF)” should be created by “available member states willing to share forces, command and control, manoeuvre and enabling capabilities”.
It added that the force should be “permanently offered” to a new EU military HQ.
It also envisaged even deeper military integration in the future, saying that “the EMF will represent the initial nucleus of a future European integrated force”.
The talk of defence cooperation comes as EU leaders try to reassert the European project in the wake of Brexit.
It also comes amid growing security threats from Russia, from Middle East and north African conflicts, and from terrorist groups.
Italy did not mention Brexit, but it said that its project “would have a strong political impact, as it would express our readiness to relaunch European integration”.
It said that a “quantum leap” in EU military cooperation was needed to “avoid irrelevance”.
It also said “we face a threat both from inside and outside our societies, generating fear and uncertainty … The EU must come up with effective answers to our citizens’ growing concerns, starting with security and defence.”
Italy recognised that some member states do not want to create an EU army.
It said that its ideas would require “political vision”, a “new and more ambitious [EU] political agenda”, and “new political perspectives”.
France and Germany, earlier this month, also circulated an informal paper on EU defence.
They did not call for an EU force, noting that “political responsibility for defence lies in the first place with member states”.
Like Italy, they also called for an EU military HQ, with its own medical and logistical assets, such as air-lift equipment, but they said that the HQ should command EU overseas crisis missions, not a “permanent” standing force.
Italy, France, and Germany concurred in most other areas, however.
Echoing German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen, who spoke, in Vilnius earlier this month, of a “Schengen of defence”, Italy spoke of a “Union for the European Defence, pursuing a model resembling the Schengen Agreement”.
The Schengen accord, which governs the EU’s free-travel zone, was first signed by just five out of the then 10 EU member states in 1985, but later expanded to take in 22 out of 28.
Italy said EU battlegroups should be more readily deployable and EU-funded.
The ad-hoc, battalion-sized forces, made up of select EU states’ soldiers, have never seen action, in part, because capitals did not want to foot the bill.
Like France and Germany, Italy expressed interest in overseas crisis missions, in what it called “capacity to project stability in areas and regions critical to our security”, rather than in the creation of a Russia deterrent.
It said member states should invest in “ensuring a robust [military] industrial and technological base” in Europe.
It said they should do more joint procurement and EU-funded R&D and should create “a common European military education system”.
But with Rome struggling to keep its national debt within EU rules, it called for “fiscal and financial incentives” for military projects, such as “VAT exemption, support of the Investment European Bank … and facilitated loans”.
EU defence ministers will discuss the ideas in Bratislava, together with a Finnish paper, also seen by EUobserver, that took more notice of Russia.
Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden, have broadly endorsed the Franco-German proposals, EU sources said.
France and Germany want to move quickly, with some ideas to be implemented in 2017 or 2018.
The UK, which is likely to remain an EU member until at least 2019, and which has long-opposed EU defence integration,has threatened to veto the plans so long as it still held its seat in the EU Council.
Speaking in an interview with the Reuters news agency, published on Monday, Germany’s Von der Leyen said she had telephoned her British counterpart, Michael Fallon, after he issued the threat.
She said she told him that Berlin expected the UK “will not hinder important European Union reforms”.
“I told him the initiative is designed for a strong Europe, and that this Europe also wants to have good relations with Britain in the future, especially in the area of defence”, she said.
Weekly Standard 26-Sep-16
Everyone is, or pretends to be, in favor of a “two-state solution,” which stipulates that peace between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs will come only when the Palestinians can establish their own independent state next to Israel. There is nary a president, prime minister, foreign minister, or opinion-shaper who doesn’t call for such a state to be established forthwith on the West Bank. Just this week, in announcing a military aid agreement with Israel, President Barack Obama said that “long-term security” was only possible once there was “an independent and viable Palestine.”
Few, though, have bothered to ask what kind of country this Palestinian state is likely to be. A peace loving nation like Holland or Switzerland? One that seeks peace with Israel? Or, as the Palestinian Authority already is, a dysfunctional, irredentist state, like so many of its neighbors?
Asked recently what type of state he envisioned an independent Palestine would be, Ambassador Dennis Ross (the man who served all recent administrations as their top Middle East expert and negotiator) answered that he hoped it would be “a democratic, law-abiding, well-administered, transparent and peace-seeking state,” but that of course “he could not be sure.”
Asked to explain what made him hope that a democratic state could evolve out the dictatorial regime of the Palestinian Authority, Ross pointed to efforts between 2007 and 2013 by the Palestinian Authority’s then prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who pushed for economic reforms to achieve growth and prosperity instead of engaging in armed struggle against Israel. Fayyad believed that a prosperous economy would give rise to moderate leaders and a functioning state that could coexist with Israel. He was right, of course, which is why Mahmoud Abbas gave him the boot. (Elected for a single four-year term, Abbas is now in his eleventh year as “president” of the Palestinian Authority.)
Salam Fayyad’s failure was predictable. Dennis Ross and others rely on vain hopes if they believe a democratic Palestinian state can emerge from a criminal and repressive Palestinian Authority. But it’s just another in a long line of false hopes.
Consider 1993, when Shimon Peres prodded Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin to make a devil’s bargain with Yasser Arafat. Rabin and Peres consented to impose the rule of Arafat and his terrorist gangs over the hapless West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. They provided Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with a territorial base, arms, and money. They foolishly gave Arafat control over billions of dollars in donations and taxes, knowing that most of it would be stolen or used to promote terrorism through vile antisemitic propaganda. The mostly illiterate and destitute Palestinian fellahin were an easy prey for such incitement, so terrorism flourished. And yet, Israel thought Arafat’s Palestinian Authority was a lesser threat than the more radical Hamas movement gaining ground in the West Bank and Gaza.
The deal—signed in Oslo and ratified on the White House lawn with the enthusiastic endorsement of President Bill Clinton—enabled Arafat to establish a corrupt dictatorship whose energies were directed at the destruction of Israel no matter the cost to the disenfranchised poor in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinians had enjoyed relative freedom and prosperity under a mostly benign Israeli occupation. Under Arafat they experienced an iron fist as he jailed, tortured, and murdered any who opposed him (and many he only imagined opposed him).
One of Arafat’s first actions was to destroy the economic “peace process” begun in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza, a process of informal reconciliation through economic cooperation that lasted 20 years.
Initially, Israel followed a laissez-faire social, economic, and to some extent even political policy in the territories. It kept open bridges with Jordan that enabled the Palestinians to trade with most Arab countries and to travel with few restrictions. Israel did not interfere in Palestinian internal affairs and even left Jordanian law in effect. Israelis ate and shopped in Arab towns and markets, their spending accounting for a quarter of the West Bank’s economy. In 20 years Palestinian GNP quadrupled. Enhanced wealth created social mobility, loosening the grip of clan and family. Health and education improved. Child mortality dropped. Palestinian women and children were the beneficiaries of these dramatic improvements.
There were remarkably few terrorist attacks during this period. The few that occurred were mostly perpetrated by PLO hirelings. Not that the Palestinians were enamored of Israeli occupation: No one likes to live under occupation, even a relatively benign one. But, realizing the economic and social benefits it brought them, many Palestinians found the occupation a lesser evil and learned to live with it. When offered a choice after Oslo between receiving Palestinian passports or Israeli identity cards, over 90 percent of Arabs in Jerusalem—a hotbed of Muslim fervor and Arab nationalism—chose the Israeli option.
After Oslo, the Palestinians were subjected to a different sort of occupation, a kleptocracy run by Arafat. To this day, the authority continues to rob, oppress, and impoverish its citizens.
Dennis Ross has acknowledged that diplomats failed to think through what kind of government was being imposed on the Palestinians: “We should have been focused on the state-building enterprise, but we didn’t really focus on that until, in effect, after the collapse of Oslo.”
The United States has given hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Palestinian Authority—billions in total. It’s estimated that, in his day, Arafat siphoned off as much as $900 million from the authority’s coffers. And the money that wasn’t stolen was used mostly to provide jobs and other benefits to the Arafat cronies populating the Palestinian Authority’s sprawling bureaucracy.
Arafat died in 2004, but more than a decade later his corrupt bureaucracy still dominates the Palestinian economy. The Palestinian Authority is the largest employer in the West Bank and Gaza, employing 220,000 workers, 160,000 in the civil sector and the remainder in 17 different “security services.” (Then again, “workers” may not be the right word: According to a 2010 World Bank report, some 13,000 were “ghost employees.”)
The security services include a naval security force for a nonexistent navy. But they’re no joke: These services spy on the population—and on each other. They terrorize Palestinians, especially those who might dissent, with arbitrary arrests, beatings, and torture, all without trial.
Why do the United States and the European Union continue to underwrite such a ruthless regime? Every revival of the “peace process” comes with billions in grants for the Palestinian Authority, without any steps taken to promote decent governance or end decades of corruption. Most recently, in May 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the PA would be rewarded for reaching a peace agreement with an additional $4 billion in aid.
In a recent article titled “What to Expect from an Independent Palestinian State,” Fred Maroun, an Arab living in Canada, summed it up: “If a Palestinian state is created without correcting [its] destructive practices, it is highly likely that the new Palestinian regime will follow the same pattern already established, and be a hatemongering, corrupt, undemocratic, oppressive, belligerent, and ineffective regime.”
Peace can evolve between Israelis and Palestinians, but only once the Palestinians have been freed from the rule of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It will require time and patience, but it is achievable. It will come when people realize that peace improves their lives, that peace brings prosperity. Alas, the Oslo Accords put an end to what was an informal economic peace process that could have evolved into a political settlement, perhaps in the form, as in Switzerland, of a loose Arab-Israeli federation of independent cantons. The corrupt government begun by Arafat—imposed on the Palestinians by a clueless Israeli leadership—put an end to this promising evolution.
Peace can still be resuscitated, but not while the Palestinian Authority continues to be supported by billions from U.S. and European taxpayers. Only then will decent Palestinians, now terrorized into silence, be able to build a civil society, the basis for a better life and a healthy polity. Such a civil society would negotiate a real and lasting peace with Israel.
A two-state solution, by contrast, would merely take the repressive Palestinian Authority and invest it with the standing of a nation-state. That wouldn’t bring peace, but only delay it by another generation.
UK:(30-SEP-16):26:(30-SEP-16):Scotland relied on UK’s ‘broad shoulders’ after oil prices plunge, PM says
Belfast Telegraph 26-Sep-16
Theresa May accused the SNP of presiding over a nation where many are ‘only just’ getting by
Theresa May has said Scotland was only able to “weather the storm” of the collapse in North Sea oil revenues because “of the UK’s broad shoulders”.
The Prime Minister said Scotland’s public services emerged “unscathed” from the crisis because of the support provided by being in the United Kingdom.
She also accused the SNP of presiding over a nation where many are “only just” getting by while “those at the top seem to flourish with ease”.
She made the comments in a Facebook statement pitched at wooing Scottish voters ahead of the Conservative Party conference this weekend.
Mrs May said: “It has become even clearer in recent months that the union which really matters to Scotland’s future is its union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, our centuries-long ties of people, trade, history, culture and values.
“The fall in oil prices demonstrates just how crucial that relationship is financially: Scotland was able to weather that downturn because of the UK’s broad shoulders.
“Tax revenues from the North Sea collapsed but funding for Scottish public services remained unscathed.
“That is how our union works: we share each other’s successes when times are good, and shoulder each other’s burdens when times are tough.”
Scotland’s share of North Sea oil revenue fell by 97% in the past financial year, reigniting the debate over whether an independent Scotland could afford to finance itself.
There have been growing calls for another independence referendum following Britain’s decision to leave the EU, which Scotland voted overwhelmingly against.
Mrs May stressed the Conservatives “hold dearly the precious bond” of the UK and will “fully engage with” the Scottish Government as they draw up the UK’s Brexit negotiating position.
She also reiterated her commitment to making a success of Brexit, adding: “As we strike that deal, we have an exciting chance to forge a new role in the world.
“Scotland’s status will not be diminished by that; it will be enhanced.
“We will go out into the world with the aim of being a leader in global free trade, one that makes the most of our advantages, from the financial expertise of Edinburgh to the shipbuilding prowess of the Clyde and the globally-renowned food-and-drink produce of Scotland’s countryside.”
The new Prime Minister again sought to appeal to hard-working but financially-squeezed voters who, she said, felt they had been “ignored by politicians, at Westminster and Holyrood, for too long”.
She added: “These are the people who get up early, put in the hours, play by the rules yet still feel like the wind is against them. They’re getting by – but only just.
“Meanwhile, those at the top seem to flourish with ease and often flout the rules with impunity.
“That feeling is as strong in Scotland as it is anywhere else in the UK, and after nine years as the establishment party in Scotland, the SNP needs to accept its share of responsibility.”
She promised to restore fairness to society and “trust to our political system”.
Pravda 27-Sep-16 [Russian! Don]
The Russian Navy has been actively exploiting strategic space of the Eastern and Western Mediterranean. After having built-up presence of the Russian warships in the port of Tartus, Syria, the Russians passed to operations in close vicinity to the coasts of France and Italy. According to the Western media, a Russian submarine appeared close to waters of the French naval port Toulon.
Algeria allowed the Russian vessels (including submarines, according to confidential sources) to use its base Mers el-Kébir as a stronghold. The Chinese fleet, Russia’s ally on the Far Eastern sea stage, also deployed its contingent in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean.
France tried to provide some response, sending its Dupuy de Lome reconnaissance ship at the order of the Defence Minister Le Drian to the coast of Abkhazia in the Black Sea. 100m-long ship is designed to carry out radar intelligence in the interests of France and the NATO. Richard Labévière, Chief Editor of the Geostrategic Observatory, former chief editor of the Radio France internationale, graduate of the Military Academy, told Pravda.Ru about prospects of fleets’ opposition in the Mediterranean and the Syrian events.
You stated in your latest article that the Mediterranean, at least its eastern part, turns into a Russia-China zone. How would you comment on it?
Since March 2011, i.e. beginning of the operation in Syria, the westerners have chosen a following scenario: they’ve decided to destroy Syria, as they did it with Iraq. The US authorities wanted to turn Asia into a region subject to the US, which presupposes obligatory dismemberment of Syria. The case is about a stake, which was placed on the Salafist and Jihadist movements under the aegis of the NATO. The US itself, its European partners, Israel, countries of the Persian Gulf, starting from Saudi Arabia, have participated in this operation.
But Syria withstood, although the war was waged in Libya first, and oversea mercenaries from the Middle East, Caucasus, Chechnya, out of the Uyghurs and the French, from the Maghreb Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia started arriving. That is in 2012-2013 all of this Jihadist army started penetrating the Syrian borders in order to annihilate it, the dethrone Bashar al-Assad. But Syria managed to cope with it.
Thus, the situation degenerated into a regional civil war. There was an alternative to split Syria into small emirates, populated with Shia, Sunni, various belligerent elements and so on. Russia in its turn for the sake of its partnership decided to defend national unity of Syria. A year ago, President Putin speaking at the UN Assembly called on everything to create a single front against the ISIS, but the Americans wished to stake on another plan – collapse and annihilation of Syria.
It led to the current situation. Russia managed to insist and Assad withstood. Then Russia tried to consolidate its naval stance on the base in Tartus, where yet another port for the Chinese will be established in October 2016. As it turns out, not only the Russian fleet operates in the Black Sea, but also the Chinese one across the Suez Canal has entered the Mediterranean and is building a base next to Tartus.
So, the Mediterranean is no more a western sea. At least its western part is not under total control of the US, British, French fleets due to the Suez Canal, as well as the Gibraltar, because now the Russian and Chinese partners got also involved. And that is affair of the US and Britain which led to current state of affairs, to deterioration of the terror threat.
The Mediterranean is in the centre of a huge, multifaceted geostrategic game around Syria. That is the Mediterranean is an epicentre of the crisis, eye of a cyclone. And it turns out that Russians who govern the Syrian Crisis also cope with their own crisis at the Ukrainian border, in Donbass, in the Baltics. Everything is interconnected though. Governance of the Syrian crisis concerns much more extensive geostrategic context.
German Die Welt claimed that due to Syria, Russia turned back its status of a global superpower. Do you agree with this stance?
On 3 September 2013 Washington and Paris decided to start bombing Syria. Unexpectedly, missiles were launched from one of the NATO’s bases in Italy, which were intercepted by a Russian radar and downed by the Russian destroyer. The missiles belonged to anti-aircraft warfare – missiles against missiles. They were launched to check and uncover radar defence of the Syrian territory. According to data of the military intelligence, the aim was to detect radars in the territory of Syria. And the Russian navy managed to intercept those missiles.
The Syrian bases were not uncovered, at the same time the Russians prove their power, having put the shield. So, due to this crisis, the Russian General Staff made use of the situation in order to explain that they’re aware of the plans, of the French, US General Staffs in particular – to attack the Syrian territory.
That is Russia warned the westerners, showing that it will oppose the NATO at this front and won’t allow it to carry out the seizure.
And it seems that after this exchange of polite courtesy between the US and Russian General Staffs, diplomatic agreements were worked out. So, that crisis of downed missiles led to the start of search of settlement at the time and allowed to escape new escalation and a big war with a wide front from the side of NATO against Syria.
This Russian opposition has restored balance against the US monopoly at sea and in the air for the first time ever. The Syrian crisis allowed to balance and explain the Americans in terms of force that every day is not Sunday and that alike may happen in Ukraine as well. It was discussed at the NATO summit in Warsaw. NATO felt offended and concluded as a result that it’s necessary to deploy bases along the Russian border.
IS-MJO-ECY-EGR:160927:(30-SEP-16):After historic gas deal with Jordan, Israel looking to build Cyprus, Greece pipeline
Jerusalem Post 27-Sep-16
After the Leviathan gas reservoir partners signed a massive deal with Jordan, Israel is now looking to lay a pipeline to Cyprus and Greece, so Israeli gas can be exported there and to other European countries, National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz said Tuesday.
Steinitz, speaking to reporters before the weekly cabinet meeting that was pushed from Sunday to Tuesday because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the US, related to Monday’s announcement of a massive gas deal with Jordan, saying it was an “historic” day for the country, because for the first time in its history it became an energy exporter.
Steinitz said that he was going to Athens on Wednesday to meet with his counterparts in Greece and Cyprus to discuss the laying of a “long” pipeline to Cyprus and then to Greece, and from there further inland to other parts of Europe.
“We will export gas to other countries in the region, and also to Europe,” Steinitz said. “That will turn us into a world energy player and enable us to discover and develop additional large gas fields.”
Map showing planned pipelines running from Israel’s Levianthan natural gas rig into JordanMap showing planned pipelines running from Israel’s Levianthan natural gas rig into Jordan
Steinitz’s visit to Greece and Cyprus comes just a month after a Greek hydrocarbon exploration and production, Energean Oil & Gas, announced its intentions to enter Israeli waters. Although still pending Israeli government approval, Athens-based Energean Oil & Gas signed a $148.5 million deal in mid-August to purchase the Karish and Tanin gas reservoirs from two Delek Group subsidiaries.
As far as Monday’s deal with Jordan is concerned, the Leviathan basin partners will be supplying Jordan’s National Electric Power Company Ltd. (NEPCO) with a gross quantity of 45 billion cubic meters of gas, or 8.5 million cubic meters daily, over a 15-year period. Houston-based Noble Energy – which holds the largest share in the 621-BCM reservoir – announced the execution of the gas sales and purchase agreement on Monday afternoon.
Gas supplied through the $10 billion contract will involve industry-typical “take-or-pay” commitments, with pricing linked to Brent oil and a firm floor price, a statement from Noble Energy said.
The buyer also has the option to purchase an incremental 1.4 MCM per day for a total of up to 9.9-MCM per day, the statement added.
The initial field development will involve a subsea connection to a shallow-water platform. with a pipeline leading to Jordan. Leviathan’s stakeholders said they aim to complete construction, and begin delivering gas to Jordan, in as little as three years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu termed the accord a “very important agreement” that both significantly promotes the Israeli energy market and “strengthens ties with Jordan.”
He said that Israel is now reaping geo-political, economic and social benefits from extracting the gas from the ground.
The Globe and Mail 30-Sep-16
Saudi Arabian officials say the controversial $15-billion Canadian deal to supply Riyadh with weaponized armoured vehicles should be seen as a goodwill gesture by the Islamic kingdom to cement its friendship with Canada.
They are also denying the authenticity of reports which show older Canadian-made combat vehicles taking part in the Yemeni war – a use for the machines that was not contemplated when Canada sold them to Saudi Arabia to maintain internal security.
Saudi Arabia’s chief envoy told The Globe and Mail that the General Dynamics LAV contract, personally approved for export by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion in April, is an act of friendship.
“This contract has been given to Canada to improve the relations and enhance the relations,” Ambassador Naif Bin Bandar al-Sudairi told The Globe during a media event at the Saudi embassy in Ottawa on Wednesday evening. “So we have to see this contract from this perspective – co-operation.”
The Saudi declarations of goodwill come as Riyadh’s relationship with the United States is under increasing scrutiny. This week, Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate voted by large margins to override a presidential veto and allow the passage of legislation that permits families of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for its alleged role in the event. Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens but Riyadh denies any role in the attacks and had threatened to punish the U.S. economically if the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act passed.
The motive behind Riyadh awarding deals such as the one Ottawa brokered – the largest advanced manufacturing export contract in Canadian history – has been questioned by experts, including one of Mr. Dion’s top advisers. Just weeks before he joined the ministers’ office last March, Jocelyn Coulon wrote in LaPresse that Saudi Arabia has “bought the silence” of Westerners by awarding them “juicy” contracts to supply it with military and civilian goods.
A memorandum written by the department of Global Affairs in the spring said that, among other reasons, Ottawa should approve the LAV export deal to help the kingdom defend itself – even though human-rights advocates warned the armoured vehicles could be used for offensive purposes in Yemen and against Saudi citizens.
Canada’s export-control rules for weapons shipments are supposed to require Ottawa to restrict arms exports to countries such as Saudi Arabia, that have “poor human-rights records.” Saudi Arabia, regularly ranks among the “worst of the worst” on human rights by U.S. watchdog Freedom House.
Abdullah al-Rabeeah, a senior adviser to the Royal Court who also runs King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, said the critics are wrong about Saudi intentions in buying the LAVs, calling the contract a way to “open jobs … and [build] bridges with Canada.”
“It is very easy to criticize when you are 4,000 or 5,000, 6,000 miles away,” Dr. al-Rabeeah said, urging The Globe to reach out to the Canadian embassy in Riyadh: “I am sure they have information that will be credible.”
Mr. al-Rabeeah flatly denied that older Canadian-made LAVS are deployed in the fight against Houthi rebels as Riyadh tries to alter the outcome of a civil war in neighbouring Yemen.
“Those light armoured vehicles are not actually suitable for the conflict in Yemen and for what is happening in Yemen. These are for the Royal Guard, which is an internal use. To my knowledge, they have not been used in Yemen,” he said.
He also said those LAVs have not been used against the Shiite minority in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia who have engaged in street fights with the Saudi security forces.
The Saudi ambassador, who had Mr. Dion to the embassy for dinner just before the Foreign Affairs Minister approved the export contract, appeared annoyed at the persistent questions about the LAV contract and Saudi’s much documented record of human-rights abuses.
“Why are you only talking about this contract? We have many other contracts like Bombardier or SNC-Lavalin,” he snapped. When asked if the kingdom plans to buy more Canadian-made LAVs, Mr. al-Sudairi replied: “I think we have enough.”
Alex Neve, secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, said Western countries, including Canada, are making a huge mistake by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, which stands accused of mounting indiscriminate air strikes that have hit schools, hospitals and mosques in Yemen.
“We are not at all assuaged by assertions that this is just a goodwill gesture to Canada,” Mr. Neve said. “The bottom line is that military equipment is making its way from Canada to Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is leading a military intervention in Yemen that is replete with war crimes.”
The Saudi denial about the use of the LAVs in Yemen has been contradicted by information published on social-media sites. Photos on the official Twitter site of the Saudi National Guard in late 2015 showed columns of combat vehicles moving near the Yemeni border that were identified by experts contacted by The Globe as Canadian-made LAVs. At least one video of wartime footage posted on YouTube also showed what appears to be a disabled Canadian-made LAV, presumably abandoned by Saudi troops in Yemen.
On May 11, 2016, The Globe and Mail also reported on video evidence of LAVs being used to suppress protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. While the origin of the vehicles is unclear, these reports deepen Amnesty’s concern that Canadian-made LAVs could be misused.
Saudi Arabia has come under widespread criticism for its conduct in the air war in Yemen. The United Nations has accused the Saudi-led coalition of a breach of international law for air strikes against civilian targets.
Dr. al-Rabeeah insisted his country applies the “principles of humanity” in the conflict and spends about $500-million (U.S.) on relief efforts in Yemen, although he acknowledges Saudi pilots have made mistakes in targeting.
“They do their best to avoid hitting civilian targets as best they can,” he said. “Some of them were co-ordinates that were given wrongly to the coalition and I am sure in any conflict there will be mistakes but I know, as a fact, there is no intention at the level of the government or the nation of Saudi Arabia to harm the people of Yemen.”
RUSI Newsbrief, 05-Sep-16
The UK’s relationship with the EU’s foreign policy will be critical as it seeks to reposition itself on the international stage in the aftermath of the referendum result.
In the wake of the referendum on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, much of the discussion has focused on the procedural details of Article 50 and whether the UK can retain access to the single European market.
Both are critically important. And negotiating trade deals with the EU and other countries should top the political agenda. But important as market access is, the EU has a much broader role. It is therefore imperative to also examine other policy areas and think about ways to make the separation work.
EU foreign policy cooperation has received little attention since the referendum. The Brexiters have repeated time and again that ‘we still have NATO’ and so there is nothing to worry about. At the same time, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon – a Bremainer – noted on 19 July that the UK can continue to participate in EU military operations as a non-EU country. But such superficial statements do not really give sufficient consideration to the challenge that Brexit actually presents.
The discussion over the UK’s relationship with EU foreign policy will be a difficult one, particularly because it is so political. The UK has traditionally been sceptical of an integrated EU foreign policy, so it is possible it may choose not to pursue continued cooperation. The ambiguous concept of British ‘sovereignty’ also played a key role in the Brexit debate: overblown fears about the potential creation of an EU army worried even some Bremainers.
Yet on a day-to-day basis, at the micro as well as at the macro level, a coordinated EU foreign policy has been able to get things done. This was acknowledged in the coalition government’s July 2013 review of the balance of competences between the UK and the EU on foreign policy: ‘The majority of the evidence we received argued that it was generally strongly in the UK’s interests to work through the EU in foreign policy.’ Rather than breaking off all foreign policy ties, it would appear to be in Britain’s interests for it to think about how to continue interaction.
As a starting point, it is worth pointing out that EU foreign policy cooperation was established in the 1970s as an informal platform for ministers and diplomats to exchange views and share information. In his authoritative 1992 account of the evolution of European foreign policy, Simon Nuttall, then a British civil servant working for the European Commission, likened European Political Cooperation, as it was called at the time, to ‘a private club, operated by diplomats, for diplomats’.
While the initial ambition was for the six European foreign ministers to take part in an exclusive retreat twice a year (and for their political directors four times a year), the amount of consultation increased rapidly. Today, EU foreign ministers meet every month in the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, while ambassadors and diplomats meet daily in a range of permanent committees.
In addition to this continued exchange in Brussels, European diplomats also participate in coordination meetings in countries and international organisations around the world. From Washington to Moscow to Beijing, European diplomats meet continually in the offices of EU delegations. At the UN in New York, for instance, there are thousands of annual intra-EU meetings. Diplomats from EU member states often meet in the morning, before negotiating with their UN counterparts later in the day.
The risk of Brexit is that the UK would be completely cut out of these EU foreign policy coordination meetings. This would be a tremendous loss for both the EU and the UK. The UK has one of the best diplomatic networks in the world and therefore occupies a privileged position. The process of sharing its information and views with the other member states enables the UK to canvass support for its positions, while British diplomats also benefit from hearing what the French, Germans and others have to say on any given topic.
In addition to exchanging views, EU member states also make joint statements and adopt common positions on a wide range of international events. After Brexit, the UK would naturally want to issue its own statements on global events (as it does today). But beyond the headlines, the EU also adopts various positions and issues statements. And the question is how the UK will relate to them. The EU currently allows non-EU states (such as candidate countries) to ‘align’ themselves with EU positions, but they do not have any input. It would be strange if the UK, as a major diplomatic actor, were meekly to align itself post hoc with EU positions that had been debated and agreed in its absence.
It is also striking that EU actors, such as High Representative Federica Mogherini, increasingly negotiate on behalf of EU member states. The high representative participates, for instance, in the Middle East Quartet with the US and Russia. Mogherini and her civil servants were also the key negotiators on the non-proliferation agreement recently concluded with Iran. They also negotiated normalisation deals between Serbia and Kosovo.
These are important international diplomatic negotiations, which the UK is currently able to significantly shape by providing input and formal control, and about which it receives ongoing briefs. Brexit would reduce the UK’s input and all but end its control over such high-level diplomacy. Yet Brexit would also be harmful for EU diplomatic efforts. The high representative would, for instance, have more credibility if she spoke on behalf of the EU with the UK rather than the EU without the UK.
It is clear that a full withdrawal of the UK from the area of EU foreign policy cooperation would be a major setback for both the UK and the EU. Completely ignoring EU foreign policy during the exit negotiations – to find that all ties are cut at the end of the process – is therefore undesirable. Naturally, it is also clear that, for political reasons, the UK cannot continue to participate as if nothing has changed. Furthermore, the remaining EU member states may want to move forward on certain aspects of EU foreign policy, whether or not the UK is involved.
But it does not have to be a simple ‘in’ or ‘out’. Once again, it is worth looking back at the informal arrangements of the 1970s and 1980s. European Political Cooperation was kept entirely separate from economic cooperation, precisely because it was recognised as different and much more sensitive. In this spirit, it should not be too difficult to consider a number of informal mechanisms which would enable this cooperation to continue.
One obvious possibility is that the UK foreign secretary continues to attend the Foreign Affairs Council, if not monthly, then perhaps four times a year. To make this appear more palatable to both the EU and the UK, the council could meet in an ‘EU+ format’ with participants consisting of the EU, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members and the UK. The foreign secretary (and the defence secretary) could also attend informal meetings of the Foreign Affairs Council (following what is referred to as the Gymnich format, where meetings have an agenda but no formal decisions) as well as those formal meetings where decisions are taken on security operations with British contributions.
Naturally, such arrangements would require political will on the part of both the EU and the UK, but it is worth pointing to several precedents. During the NATO operation in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Council regularly met in ‘ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) format’ with all the troop-contributing countries (51 in total) around the table. Furthermore, the NATO secretary general regularly attends the Foreign Affairs Council, as did US Secretary of State John Kerry on 18 July.
Opening up the EU Foreign Affairs Council should therefore be discussed. Beyond this it should not be too difficult to invite British diplomats to EU foreign affairs coordination meetings in Brussels and across the world. Particularly in third countries, far away from Brussels, local EU diplomats should be accorded some discretion. Finally, the UK should seriously consider continuing to second staff members to the European External Action Service, since such exchanges are mutually beneficial.
While much can be done informally, the EU and UK should also consider formal arrangements for consultation and British participation in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). As the EU continues to deploy autonomous civilian and military operations, it would be good to keep the UK on board. While the actual contribution of the UK in the CSDP has been limited in recent years, it nonetheless brings significant experience to this relatively new policy area.
As has been observed, including by Fallon, the UK can continue to participate in CSDP missions as a
non-EU country. Yet this is not ideal. Troop contributions from non-member states are only sought after plans have been established. In other words, non-EU countries do not have much influence over the mandate or the objectives of a mission. For both symbolic and practical reasons, non-member states cannot take command roles, which means that the EU would lose access to the UK military headquarters in Northwood.
It would therefore be much better if the UK (and the EFTA countries) were to be granted a formal seat (without a formal veto) on the Political and Security Committee at ambassador-level when CSDP missions are discussed. This would provide the UK with significant input and would allow it to contribute more extensively. It would be helpful if the UK were to continue to second a couple of staff members to EU planning bodies.
These are only some of the challenges that Brexit presents in the area of EU foreign policy. While the current focus seems to be on internal market access and free trade, the EU is much broader in scope and aspiration. While it is already clear that Brexit will likely be harmful for both the EU and the UK in terms of individual policy areas, Britain’s traditionally strong role in foreign policy makes it particularly important to acknowledge the potential consequences of Brexit for EU foreign policy.
A report that some hedge funds have reduced their exposure to Germany’s biggest bank sends its shares spinning again
Sep 30th 2016
When main trading ended in Frankfurt on Thursday, Deutsche Bank’s shares were 1% up on the day—cause for quiet relief in another jittery week. At close of play in New York four and a half hours later, they were 6.7% down. The catalyst: a Bloomberg report saying that “about ten” hedge funds that use Deutsche’s prime brokerage had moved part of their derivatives holdings elsewhere, to reduce their exposure to Germany’s biggest lender.
Bloomberg noted that “the vast majority” of clients had not budged. Deutsche responded that it was “confident that the vast majority of them have a full understanding of our stable financial position”. But the news dealt another blow to Deutsche’s already battered shares, which have been plumbing 33-year lows. Deutsche has been reeling for a fortnight, since receiving a request for $14 billion from America’s Department of Justice (DoJ) to settle claims that it mis-sold residential-mortgage-backed securities between 2005 and 2007.
A $14 billion legal bill would blow a sizeable hole in Deutsche’s capital (it has set aside €5.5 billion, or $6.2 billion, for legal claims, and other cases are pending). The bank insists it will not pay anywhere near that much, and no one expects it to. Though the likely bill should be bearable, Deutsche can ill afford to pay a lot more than it bargained for. It is struggling for profitability: German domestic banking is fiercely competitive; and its once-swaggering investment bank is being left in the dust by American firms. Its plans to plump up its capital cushion without asking investors for money looked a stretch even before the DoJ came knocking. This week it stuffed in a few more feathers by selling Abbey Life, a British insurer, for £935m ($1.2 billion).
But trouble begets trouble. Unhelpful rumours have been swirling that the German government is drawing up a rescue plan for Deutsche. The government denies this; Deutsche’s chief executive, John Cryan, has told Bild, a tabloid, that state aid is “not an option”. But it is unsettling that aid is even being gossiped about.
Deutsche is not the only German bank with woes. On Thursday Commerzbank, the second-biggest lender, said it was cutting 9,600 jobs and suspending its dividend. The country’s local savings and co-operative banks are squealing about the slow squeeze on their margins—the product of the European Central Bank’s negative interest rates and a flat yield curve. But Deutsche is the biggest and most immediate headache.
Should push yet come to shove, Germany would surely stand behind its biggest bank. Both the country’s politicians and bankers must be desperate to avoid such an embarrassment; and these days, under Europe’s stricter state-aid rules, the consequences can be severe. Shareholders and junior bondholders stand to be bailed in. Meanwhile, Greeks, Italians and others who are fed up of German lectures about financial rectitude may be enjoying a new sensation. The Germans have at least given them a word for it: Schadenfreude.
Britain looks very different 100 days after voting Leave.
Tomorrow, the first of October, marks 100 days since the largest democratic exercise in the history of the United Kingdom, when seventeen and a half million people voted to withdraw from the failing undemocratic European Union. Much has happened since to confirm the wisdom of the decision and to undermine the arguments deployed by pro-EU Remain activists during the referendum campaign.
A new government
The Remain backing Prime Minister David Cameron, who practiced dirty fear tactics in the run-up to the vote, swiftly resigned from his office and triggered a contest for the leadership of the Conservative party. After an unexpectedly short contest Theresa May stepped out as the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, vowing to lead Britain out of the European Union under the slogan that “Brexit means Brexit”.
We have a new government with high profile Leave backers in key roles: Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary, David Davis is the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Liam Fox is the head of a restored Department for International Trade.
On the way to global trade
Britain’s post-Brexit place in the global economy has started to emerge, with numerous countries expressing interest in doing trade deals with the UK. Old friends in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, and Ghana have expressed interest in enjoying closer relations with an independent Britain, and so have other key players around the world like China, Brazil, and South Korea.
The Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox has already forged a committee with his Australian counterpart to hash out the details of a deal ready to be signed as soon as Britain is legally free to do so – once the up to two year negotiating process triggered by Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is over.
Economic authorities exposed
The partisan Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, who breached his job remit by making political interventions to aid the Remain campaign during the course of the referendum, made a fool of himself in August by cutting interest rates and punishing responsible savers to mitigate the effects of an economic slowdown that hasn’t happened. He then took credit for averting an economic fallout which, before the vote, he had claimed was inevitable.
But Mr Carney isn’t the only economic “expert” to get shown up by the Leave vote. The Treasury, which former Chancellor George Osborne (good riddance) recklessly used to undermine confidence in the British economy, has rowed back on its promise of an immediate Brexit recession and totally reversed its 2016 growth forecasts. At least they have the competence to get things right, even if it is after the fact.
Europe continues heading in the wrong direction
The European army we were repeatedly told would never happen is coming together at an alarming pace with Europe’s major powers – Germany and France – pushing the hardest for the plan to be put into action. Fortunately our Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has enough sense to commit to vetoing this measure so long as we remain in the EU, to protect NATO from having its operations duplicated and undermined.
The dissatisfaction with the European project that led to June’s Leave vote is being felt across the continent, with anti-establishment parties on the left and right continuing to rise over the summer. Marine Le Pen of the French Front National has continued to ride high in opinion polls while centre-right rival Nicolas Sarkozy steals her script. Angela Merkel, the central figure in European politics, has had an awful time as the Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany group continues to gain ground as the extreme consequences of the once Iron Chancellor’s refugee policy become more and more obvious.
Heading out for good
More and more indicators point to a full withdrawal from the European Union in conformity with the wishes of the British people. Liam Fox has made his position quite clear, calling for a fully independent United Kingdom unshackled to the protectionist European single market. Despite initial anti-democratic stubbornness, which some people like Tim Farron and Ken Clarke continue to maintain, even some of the deepest hard core of Remain supporters have come out in favour of full Brexit. Chuka Umunna has openly said that control over immigration must take priority over continued access to the single market in Article 50 negotiations, and the defeat of Owen Smith in the Labour leadership election has demonstrated the limited political appeal of attempting to refuse the will of the people.
The Trumpet 30-Sep-16
Germany’s biggest banks are in big trouble. That’s not exactly news. Before the financial crisis, Deutsche Bank’s share price was nearly €100 (us$135) a share. At the start of this year it was €21.45 ($24). This week, it hit its lowest value since 1973 and currently stands below €12. Now its situation is so dire that its name is trending on Twitter.
Since the 2008 financial crisis, Germany has been the rock of stability for Europe’s economy. It has weathered the storm with low unemployment, while economic crises upended entire political systems elsewhere in Europe. Now the banks at the heart of Germany’s economy seem on the brink of going under. The global economic crisis that began in 2008 could be about to hit Germany.
This is far more than a problem for rich shareholders. It has implications for German Chancellor Angela Merkel personally, German politics as a whole, the euro crisis, the immigration crisis, and all of Europe. As Geopolitical Futures founder George Friedman wrote a week ago: “Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world, the largest economy in Europe, the lender of last resort, and the foundation of European stability. If Germany weakens or destabilizes, Europe destabilizes, and it is not too extreme to say that if Europe destabilizes, the world can as well.”
The immediate trigger for the uncertainty came on September 16, when the United States Department of Justice announced that the bank could have to pay fines of up to $14 billion to settle claims of miss-selling mortgage-backed securities. Normally, $14 billion would be a trivial sum for a bank. But judging by its share price, Deutsche Bank is only worth $18 billion. The final number it ends up paying will be less—probably by a few billion dollars.
But the company is losing billions of euros each year—it seems only a matter of time before the bank is worth less than nothing.
On September 26, the bank denied rumors that it had asked Chancellor Merkel for help with the fine and had been turned down. The rumors sent the share price falling another 7 percent.
Share price and profitability do not determine bank solvency.
A catastrophic drop in share price alone doesn’t mean a bank will go under. But it does show the institution has some huge problems.
And it does mean that people are quickly losing confidence in the bank.
This summer, the International Monetary Fund (imf) declared Deutsche Bank the most dangerous bank in the world. Among globally systemically important banks, “Deutsche Bank appears to be the most important net contributor to systemic risks,” it wrote on June 30.
Deutsche Bank is one of two banks at the core of Germany’s economic system. The other is Commerzbank, and it too is in trouble. It shares Deutsche’s long-term problems. Before the financial crisis, Commerzbank’s share price nearly hit €300 ($336) a share. Now, it’s less than €6. Its problems are also in the news—it announced it would cut 10,000 jobs and give no dividends this year.
Deutsche Bank is older than Germany itself. Known as the Big Three, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank and Dresdner Bank bankrolled Germany’s economy for decades. In the mid-1980s, a German government study found that they control the voting authority of three quarters of shares in most big German companies.
Dresdner Bank failed in the 2008 financial crisis and had to be bought out by Commerzbank, so the Big Three is now the Big Two. “Disaggregating Deutsche Bank from the German government’s political goals or the structure of German corporations is impossible,” reported Geopolitical Futures. “They are all inextricably linked.” If either of these banks goes under, a huge number of German businesses will take a major hit.
A crisis in Deutsche Bank would also spread far beyond Germany.
The bank has deep links to banks around the world, including many in the United States. It would bring about the worst episode of the euro crisis yet seen. And it would put Ms. Merkel in an impossible position.
A bankrupt Deutsche Bank would trigger a political crisis in Germany, at the same time as the eurozone goes into economic meltdown. Therefore it seems almost certain that Deutsche Bank and probably Commerzbank would get some form of state aid if they were about to go bust.
That would be the lesser of the two evils, but it is still dangerous.
In the recent Berlin elections, fringe left-wing parties—the Greens and the Left Party—won around 30 percent of the vote.
A lot of Germans would not be happy to see their government bailing out fat cats, as they would see it. The pressure on the Christian Democratic Union to get rid of Merkel would increase.
And Merkel’s whole strategy for the euro crisis would unravel.
“[I]f Deutsche does go down, it is looking increasingly likely that it will take Merkel with it—and quite possibly the euro as well,” wrote Matthew Lynn in the Telegraph. He wrote:
The politics of a Deutsche rescue are terrible. Germany, with is chancellor taking the lead, has set itself up as the guardian of financial responsibility within the eurozone. …
For Germany to then turn around and say, actually we are bailing out our own bank, while letting everyone else’s fail, looks, to put it mildly, just a little inconsistent. … In truth, it would become impossible to maintain a hard-line in Italy, and probably in Greece as well.
And yet, if Deutsche Bank went down, and the German government didn’t step in with a rescue, that would be a huge blow to Europe’s largest economy—and the global financial system. No one really knows where the losses would end up, or what the knock-on impact would be. It would almost certainly land a fatal blow to the Italian banking system, and the French and Spanish banks would be next. …\ In fact, Merkel is playing a very dangerous game with Deutsche—and one that could easily go badly wrong. If her refusal to sanction a bailout is responsible for a Deutsche collapse that could easily end her chancellorship. But if she rescues it, the euro might start to unravel. It is hardly surprising that the markets are watching the relentless decline in its share price with mounting horror.
But the most disturbing aspect of this story comes when it is put in context with other worrying signs coming from Germany.
The German economy depends on exports. Weak growth in the eurozone means that other European nations can’t afford to buy as many goods from Germany. They have so far made up for this lost business by selling to China and the U.S. However, America is now importing less. This is having a knock-on effect on China, meaning that Germany’s last two growing customers will be cutting back simultaneously.
At the same time, international bodies are warning about the health of the entire global economy. With Germany’s reliance on imports, global problems very quickly become German problems.
The Bank of International Settlements warned in its quarterly report on September 18 of growing instability in the financial market, especially in China. The instability that it warns of “does not seem to be cataclysmic,” wrote Friedman, “but given that Germany is at the heart of the earthquake, even a moderate shaking will bring it down.”
The annual report of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, published on September 22, is more dire. In “UN Fears Third Leg of the Global Financial Crisis—With Prospect of Epic Debt Defaults,” the Telegraph’s international business editor Ambrose Evans-Pritchard warned that the coming crisis could “prove to be the definitive crisis of globalized capitalism, the demise of the liberal free-market orthodoxies ….”
A crisis in just Deutsche Bank, or even in Deutsche and Commerzbank, could possibly be fixed with a bailout. Germany’s debt is manageable, and it is taking in more money in tax revenue than it is spending. But when you view the whole situation, it’s clear that the bank crisis is a symptom of a much deeper sickness—one that cannot be cured so easily. Last week, Freidman warned: In my view, there is a growing sense in Germany that the German system is failing … the tremors are now being felt by the finest financial analysts in the world: ordinary people who work for a living and need their paychecks to survive.
The political base of modern Germany is crumbling ….
Economic crises in the 1930s drove Germans to vote for the Nazis and Communists. Now they are already voting for fringe parties like Alternative for Deutschland and the Left Party. These parties are not the same as Nazis and Communists, but the trend points to the same rejection of mainstream politics.
At the same time, economic troubles in Germany would open up all the old wounds and questions in the euro crisis. Such a crisis would transform Germany and Europe.
We’ve seen this already in Greece. The nation is ruled by Syriza, a party that won only 5 percent of the vote before the financial crisis. The party came from nowhere to govern the country. If the same kind of political earthquake hits Germany, its effects would be felt around the world.
Even if these problems don’t come to a head soon—if investors never test the assumption that the German government will always stand behind its main banks, for example—the weaknesses are still there, ready to ensure that any global crisis rocks Germany to its core.
The Trumpet 30-Sep-16
“A rare gate shrine from the First Temple period (eighth century bce), unearthed in Tel Lachish National Park, near Mount Hebron, may prove King Hezekiah’s biblically recorded efforts to abolish worship in the region, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Wednesday,” reported the Jerusalem Post
“The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city, and the most important one after Jerusalem,” said dig director Sa’ar Ganor
“According to the biblical narrative, the city’s gates were the place where ‘everything took place’: the city elders, judges, governors, kings and officials—everyone would sit on benches [by] the city gate. These benches were found in our excavation.”
Now completely exposed, the Lachish city gate, (measuring 24.5 meters by 24.5 meters [80.4 feet by 80.4 feet] and preserved to a height of 4 meters [13.1 feet]), consists of six chambers, three on both sides, and the city’s main street that passed between them, he said
“Artifacts discovered in its rooms indicate how they were used in the eighth century bce,” said Ganor
The continuation of the building is constituted by the gate shrine, its walls treated with white plaster. Steps away, a staircase once ascended to a large room where there was a bench upon which offerings were placed
“An opening was exposed in the corner of the room that led to the holy of holies,” said Ganor. “To our great excitement, we found two four-horned altars and scores of ceramic finds consisting of lamps, bowls and stands in this room. It is most interesting that the horns on the altar were intentionally truncated! “That is probably evidence of the religious reform attributed to King Hezekiah, whereby religious worship was centralized in Jerusalem, and the cultic high places that were built outside the capital were destroyed: ‘He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles … (2 Kings 18:4).’” Moreover, besides cutting the horns on the altar, in an effort to further intensify the abolition of worship in the gate shrine, Ganor said a toilet was installed in the holy of holies as “the ultimate desecration of that place.”
“A stone fashioned in the shape of a chair with a hole in its center was found in the corner of the room,” he said
“Stones of this type have been identified in archaeological research as toilets. Evidence of abolishing cultic locations by installing a toilet in them is known in the Bible, as illustrated in the case of Jehu destroying the cult of Ba’al in Samaria: ‘And they demolished the pillar of Ba’al, and demolished the house of Ba’al, and made it a latrine to this day (2 Kings 10:27).’” Ganor claimed this is the first time an archaeological find confirms this phenomenon
“Laboratory tests we conducted in the spot where the stone toilet was placed suggest it was never used,” he said
“Hence, we can conclude that the placement of the toilet had been symbolic, after which the holy of holies was sealed until the site was destroyed.”
The Trumpet 30-Sep-16
Former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is reappearing in German politics increasingly often. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (faz) invited Guttenberg to give a talk on the immigration crisis from an American perspective
“Guttenberg continues seamlessly where he left off before the plagiarism scandal,” it wrote (Trumpet translation throughout)
“[A]fter just a few minutes, he drew his audience into his spell,” it wrote. “Hardly anyone else could be more inspiring than the fallen new hope who has kept his distance for so long.” It continued:
Yes, his fall has been “abysmally self-inflicted” and was caused “by his own hubris,” says the 44-year-old. And yes, it took a long time to overcome his vanity after his fall, Guttenberg says. “I saw a land of unbridled critics and self-righteousness, but I was also ashamed and was suddenly afraid, even of myself. Today I know: The criticism was more than justified.” These are strong words of one [who was] always so self-confident. …
Since October 2015, Guttenberg has been a member of the “competence team” of the Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer (Christian Socialist Union), who would be more than happy to attract him back to Bavaria—to bask in his revived gleaming brilliance, but even more so to prevent Markus Söder’s rise as new strongman of the csu. But at the moment this in not up for debate, says Guttenberg. …
Guttenberg restrains from specific objections or even attacks on German politicians. Instead, he gives a lecture about the “international power shift in American foreign policy,” speaks of the “transatlantic force field” that has shifted to the east, and criticized the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has “devalued” the political scandal by celebrating it. …
Shortly after his appearance, Guttenberg had to give autographs just like in the days when he was seen by many as the next chancellor. When he later ate in a nearby restaurant for lunch, some stood in line to shake his hand and congratulate him—whether for his mere presence or his appearance, perhaps both
As Guttenberg stood on the podium, a few minutes prior to this, an elderly gentleman urgently wanted to get rid of something. “Let us take your doctorate and stamp it into the garbage,” he says. “And you can just come back to German politics.” Guttenberg smiles; the compliment flatters him. “I like being a guest in Germany,” he says and smiles
Then he adds afterward: “At some point I’ll be back.” However, another writer at the same magazine is less than pleased to see Guttenberg’s return. In “Guttenberg: A Dangerous Man,” one of the faz’s journalists writes, “The untold story goes like this: Guttenberg managed to build, with tremendous charm, reliable relations with almost all the important editors of this country. This caused reporters in some establishments to not write the way they thought.”
The author implies that editors go easy on Guttenberg, because they want a good relationship with this possible future chancellor
Guttenberg is a “juggler,” he says. “They charm those who are close: You feel important and comfortable in their presence. Or even with distance, as they give the masses what they long for. Few can manage both. Guttenberg is one of these great masters. Meanwhile, he denounces the entire political class as a failure in the euro crisis and as indifferent towards ordinary people … He is a truly dangerous man.”
As these articles bring out, many hope Guttenberg will return to politics, while some fear it.
The Trumpet 30-Sep-16
Both United States presidential candidates met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. Donald Trump’s campaign originally called for the meeting, but Netanyahu’s office invited Hillary Clinton’s team to attend so there would be no favoritism. During discussions, Trump said as president he would recognize Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. The two also discussed the Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic State, and other regional concerns.
Clinton met with Netanyahu later in the day for about an hour. Clinton stated that as president she would oppose any outside solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, counter any one-sided motions by the United Nations, and fight anti-Israel boycotts. The meetings are seen as a harbinger of the future relationship between Israel and the next U.S. president.
Daily Sabah 30-Sep-16 [Turkey. Don]
Rebel held area of al-Kalaseh neighbourhood of Aleppo where regime and Syria have intensified airstrikes since Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire deal failed. Rebel held area of al-Kalaseh neighbourhood of Aleppo where regime and Syria have intensified airstrikes since Kerry-Lavrov ceasefire deal failed.
With Putin’s visit to Turkey approaching, officials from Turkey and Russia spoke of a possible cease-fire deal between the countries for Aleppo or even a joint military operation in Syria
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Meşkov said to TASS news agency on Friday that Russia is ready to evaluate Ankara’s cease-fire offer for Aleppo. Yesterday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Turkey would cooperate with Russia “if Russia is sincere in cooperating to establish a permanent cease-fire and transporting humanitarian aid to Syria.”
“Russia labels every group against Assad in Syria terrorists regardless of their stance; including moderate opposition. However, Turkey has been providing logistical support to these moderate factions since the beginning of the Syrian crisis. That makes a possible cease-fire deal between the two countries less likely,” Ufuk Ulutaş, foreign policy coordinator at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) told Daily Sabah.
Ulutaş added that a possible Russia-Turkey agreement for a cease-fire in Aleepo would be more functional and durable than the Kerry-Lavrov deal, however, in order to create a common military strategy, Russia’s policy toward the opposition should be changed.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday to a Russian website that Russia and Turkey are cooperating constructively in Syria, adding that the two countries could even conduct a joint operation in Syria.
“A comprehensive joint ground operation is not possible since Russian forces have mandate for only air operation for now, not for ground,” said Maria Beat, freelance Russian journalist living in Istanbul.
Beat said it is not easy to get such a mandate from Russian Parliament, because not everyone in Russia is happy about the Russian army’s presence in Syria, because of it has been losing its soldiers as well as costing the country money.
Saying that Russia has long been equipping and give training to the Syrian army, she said the Syrian military now has very sophisticated weapons including tanks, howitzers and other equipment. “Russia is doing it for a purpose since the beginning; to able to use the Syrian army for such ground operations. But first, Bashar al-Assad and Turkey must shake hands, which is not likely,” Beat said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to Turkey on Oct. 11. The visit will focus on a number of issues including the Syrian crisis, the Turkish Stream and the restoration of business ties between Turkey and Russia through lifting select restrictions imposed on Turkish businessmen following the jet downing crisis. Putin will attend the Joint Economic Commission (KEK) meeting in Istanbul during his visit.
“Apart from the period following the jet crisis, the two countries have long been talking about a strategic partnership despite differences and we’ll see whether this rhetoric will actually take shape during the visit,” Eşref Yalınkılıçlı, a Eurasian analyst and journalist, told Daily Sabah yesterday. He also said both countries have shown maximum effort to avoid a possible conflict in Syria, particularly in Aleppo via the Bashar al-Assad and Syrian opposition.
The last time Putin visited Turkey was at the G20 Antalya Summit in November 2015.
Relations between the two countries hit a low in November 2015 after Turkish jets downed a Russian Su-24 bomber near the Syrian border for violating Turkish airspace. Turkey provided radar data that the Russian planes breached the border while Moscow insisted that the warplane had not crossed the border.In the beginning, Erdoğan and Putin exchanged harsh criticism and ultimatums in the wake of the jet crisis. Kremlin directed accusations at Ankara and imposed sanctions to various Turkish sectors.
Tension between the two countries settled when President Erdoğan expressed regret for the downing of a Russian military jet in June and the relations entered a new phase following the August 9 meeting between Erdoğan and Putin in St. Petersburg.
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