LONDON - British trade union leaders linked to the opposition Labour Party have agreed to back a second referendum on any Brexit deal reached by the next Conservative prime minister or a no-deal exit, according to a copy of the agreement seen by Reuters.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last month supported holding a second referendum on any Brexit deal, but some in his party want him to unequivocally back a second vote and to commit Labour to campaigning to remain in the European Union.
The unions agreed on Monday that in a choice between a Conservative deal or a no deal and remaining in the EU, they believed Labour should campaign to remain, the text of the agreement shows.
Trade unions are Labour’s biggest financial backers and the decision will add to pressure on Corbyn, who has come under fire for trying to keep both “Leave” and “Remain” sides happy, to move the party to supporting remaining in the EU.
On Sunday, the party’s finance spokesman John McDonnell told BBC TV he wanted to campaign to remain if there were a second referendum.
Asked about the union agreement, a Labour source said Corbyn had been working to unite the party and wider Labour movement around a common agreed position.
The text of the union agreement said that if a national election were called, Labour’s position should be that it would negotiate its own exit with the EU and then that deal should be put to the public in a second referendum.
In that scenario, the choice on the ballot paper would be between Labour’s deal and remaining in the EU, the unions said, and how Labour campaigned in a second referendum would depend on the deal negotiated.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Labour promised to respect the Brexit vote, but re-running the referendum and backing remain would be an attempt to frustrate Brexit and ignore the democratic mandate to deliver it.”
BY Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY - Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked Pope Francis for “very substantive” talks on Thursday, a day before Ukraine’s Catholic leaders were due at the Vatican.
Putin, who has met with Francis twice before, arrived an hour late. He had been 50 minutes late for their first meeting in 2013 and more than an hour late for their second in 2015 - highly unusual for world leaders meeting the pope.
“Thank you for the time you have dedicated to me,” Putin said at the end of 55 minutes of talks, helped by two interpreters.
“It was a very substantive, interesting discussion,” he told the pope within earshot of reporters as they were exchanging gifts in the frescoed private papal study, which Francis uses only for official occasions.
A Vatican statement said the talks concentrated on the situations in Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who did not join the talks, later held a separate meeting with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and its foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
Francis gave Putin a signed copy of his peace message for this year and a large 18th century etching of St. Peter’s Square, “so you don’t forget Rome”.
Putin gave the pope a DVD of a movie about the Renaissance master painter and sculptor Michelangelo by the Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky and a large painted Orthodox icon of the apostles Peter and Paul.
Putin is scheduled to see both the Italian president and prime minister later on, and is expected to return to Moscow in the evening after an official dinner.
Ukraine, which remains a bone of contention between the Vatican and Russia, was expected to be a main topic of the men’s discussion, held in the official papal library in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.
When they last met in 2015, the pope urged Putin to make a “sincere and great effort” to achieve peace in Ukraine and help bring an end to fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels in the east.
TENSIONS IN UKRAINE
On Friday, leaders of Ukraine’s Catholic Church begin two days of meetings at the Vatican to discuss various problems in their former Soviet republic.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which had for centuries been effectively under the control of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared its independence and set up a national Church.
Putin has aligned himself closely with the Russian Orthodox Church and Moscow strongly opposed the move, saying it had been done for political rather than religious motives.
Three years ago, Francis held brief talks with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba — the first such meeting in history and a landmark step in healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity.
The meeting took place amid speculation that Putin’s visit could be a prelude to the first trip by a pope to Russia.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, and Boris Yeltsin, the first president of post-Soviet Russia, had invited the late Pope John Paul to visit.
But a trip was not possible because of tensions between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodox Church, the largest and most influential in world Orthodoxy, with 165 million of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians.
Since meeting Kirill, Francis visited a number of countries with predominantly Orthodox populations, including, this year, Romania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
LONDON - The leak of confidential memos from Britain’s ambassador to the United States in which he describes President Donald Trump’s administration as “dysfunctional” and “inept” could damage relations, a British minister said on Monday.
Trade Minister Liam Fox, who is on a visit to Washington, said he would apologise to the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump who he is due to meet during his trip.
“I will be apologising for the fact that either our civil service or elements of our political class have not lived up to the expectations that either we have or the United States has about their behaviour, which in this particular case has lapsed in a most extraordinary and unacceptable way,” he said.
“Malicious leaks of this nature are unprofessional, unethical and unpatriotic and can actually lead to a damage to that relationship which can therefore affect our wider security interest,” he told BBC radio.
ATHENS - Greece’s opposition conservatives returned to power with a landslide victory in snap elections on Sunday, and Prime Minister elect Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had a clear mandate for change, pledging more investments and fewer taxes.
The win appeared driven by fatigue with years of European Union-enforced belt-tightening, combined with high unemployment, after the country almost crashed out of the euro zone at the height of its financial travails in 2015.
Conservative New Democracy had a commanding lead of 39.6 percent of the vote based on 73 percent of the votes counted versus 31.6 percent for incumbent leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza, the official interior ministry tally showed.
Exit polls showed New Democracy winning between 155 and 167 seats in the 300 member parliament, taking advantage of an electoral system which gives bonus seats to the frontrunner.
Mitsotakis said in a televised address that the election outcome gave him a strong and clear mandate to change Greece.
“I am committed to fewer taxes, many investments, for good and new jobs, and growth which will bring better salaries and higher pensions in an efficient state,” Mitsotakis said.
Tsipras said he respected the will of the Greek people.
“Today, with our head held high we accept the people’s verdict. To bring Greece to where it is today we had to take difficult decisions (with) a heavy political cost,” he told journalists.
Tsipras took over from the conservatives in 2015 as Greece was at the peak of a financial crisis which had ravaged the country since 2010. Initially vowing to resist deeper austerity, he was forced into signing up to another bailout months after his election, a decision which went down badly with voters.
The handover will take place on Monday, after Mitsotakis’s swearing in as new Prime Minister.
Sunday’s poll was the first national election since the country shook off close scrutiny by its European partners who loaned Greece billions in three bailouts.
Tsipras signed up to the latest, in 2015, in return for debt relief.
Mitsotakis, 51, assumed the helm of New Democracy in 2016. Although he is regarded as a liberal, his party also harbors members with more right-wing views.
Golden Dawn, an extreme right-wing party detractors accuse of having neo-Nazi sympathies, lost significant ground with early results suggesting it may not reach the 3 percent threshold to parliament.
“The basic reason (for the result) is the economy,” said analyst Theodore Couloumbis. “In the past 4.5 years people saw no improvement, on the contrary there were cutbacks in salaries and pensions,” he said.
The focus now turns to Mitsotakis’s picks for the key economics ministries - finance, energy, development and foreign affairs. He has been tight-lipped on choices during the campaign.
Mitsotakis will inherit an economy that is growing at a moderate clip - at a 1.3% annual pace in the first quarter - and public finances that may fall short of targets agreed with official lenders.
The Bank of Greece projects that the 3.5% of GDP primary surplus target that excludes debt servicing outlays is likely to be missed this year and reach just 2.9% of economic output.
With Greece still challenged by its debt overhang, the fiscal policy stance of the new government will be closely watched.
The real test will be next year’s budget with Mitsotakiss expected to outline the key contours in the traditional economic address in Thessaloniki in September.
“I want the government that will be elected to do its best for the people, who are hungry,” said pensioner Christos Mpekos, 69. “To give jobs to the young so they don’t leave.”
Tsipras says that a vote cast for Mitsotakis would go to the political establishment, which forced Greece to the edge of the precipice in the first place.
But he has also been roundly criticized for mismanagement of crises and for brokering a deeply unpopular deal to end a dispute over the name of neighboring North Macedonia.
Greece wrapped up its last economic adjustment program in 2018 but remains under surveillance from lenders to ensure no future fiscal slippage. While economic growth has returned, Greek unemployment of 18 percent is the euro zone’s highest.
New Democracy has promised to invest in creating well-paid jobs with decent benefits. It has also promised to be tough on crime in some neighborhoods of Athens where there is a strong anti-establishment movement.
In one neighborhood, activists stormed a polling station and made off with a ballot box.
TEL AVIV - The Falic family, owners of Duty Free Americas shops, donated at least $5.6 million to settler organizations in West Bank over past decade, and have given more money than any other donor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
When travelers shop at dozens of duty free shops at airports worldwide, they may be paying for more than a bottle of vodka or box of chocolates.
The Falic family of Florida, owners of the ubiquitous chain of Duty Free Americas shops, funds a generous and sometimes controversial philanthropic empire in Israel that runs through the corridors of power and stretches deep into the West Bank.
An Associated Press investigation shows that the family has donated at least $5.6 million to settler organizations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the past decade, funding synagogues, schools and social services as well as far-right causes considered extreme even in Israel.
The Falics' philanthropy is not limited to the settlements and they support many mainstream causes in the U.S. and Israel. However, they are a key example of how wealthy U.S. donors have bolstered the contentious settlement movement. Most of the world considers Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to be obstacles to peace, but Israel considers the territories "disputed."
The Falics support the ultranationalist Jewish community in Hebron, whose members include several prominent followers of a late rabbi banned from Israeli politics for his racist views, and whose movement is outlawed by the U.S. as a terrorist organization. They back Jewish groups that covertly buy up Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem, and they helped develop an unauthorized settlement outpost in the West Bank. The outpost was later retroactively legalized.
They have supported groups that are pushing for the establishment of a Third Temple for Jews at the holiest and most contested site in the Holy Land. They also have given more money than any other donor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a strong supporter of settlements, and have donated to other leaders of his Likud party.
In a response to Associated Press questions through his lawyer, Simon Falic, who spoke on behalf of the family, said Jews should be able to live anywhere in the Holy Land, whether it's Israel, Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem or the West Bank. He condemned violence and claimed none of the groups he supports do anything illegal under Israeli law.
"We are proud to support organizations that help promote Jewish life all over the Land of Israel," said Falic, whose business is based in Miami, Florida. "The idea that the mere existence of Jewish life in any geographical area is an impediment to peace makes no sense to us."
However, the international community overwhelmingly believes the settlements violate international law, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own population into the territory it occupies.
Since capturing the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, the settler population has grown to about 700,000 people, roughly 10% of Israel's Jewish population. In recent years, it has received a boost from Netanyahu's pro-settler government and from a far more tolerant attitude by President Donald Trump, whose top Mideast advisers are longtime settlement supporters.
This growth has been fueled in part by fundraising arms for leading settlement groups in the United States. According to a past investigation of U.S. tax forms by Haaretz, fundraising organizations in the U.S. raised more than $230 million for settlement causes between 2009 and 2013 alone.
"Far-right foreign donors are a pillar of the settlement enterprise," said Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group.
Other prominent settlement donors include casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, U.S. billionaire Ira Rennert, American financier Roger Hertog and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman. Names of dozens of other lesser-known donors adorn buildings, playgrounds and even park benches throughout the West Bank.
But the Falics stand out for the wide scope of groups they support and their close ties with leading Israeli politicians. Critics say activities billed as harmless philanthropy have come at the expense of Palestinians.
Duty Free Americas is headed by three Falic brothers: Simon, Jerome and Leon. The chain operates over 180 stores at airports and border crossings in the U.S. and Latin America. Leon Falic told the trade publication TRBusiness that the privately held company last year posted over $1.65 billion in sales.
The family has two main charitable organizations, the U.S.-based Falic Family Private Foundation and the Segal Foundation in Israel. During the decade ending in 2017, the U.S. foundation distributed about $20 million to "various worldwide Jewish organizations," according to tax filings.
The Israeli foundation gave away roughly $15 million over that time. Financial reports do not outline recipients, but an AP analysis of the tax records of more than two dozen settlement organizations identified at least $5.6 million in donations. Other funds went to other causes, including the country's amateur American football league, a Jerusalem hospital and a Jewish seminary in northern Israel.
Perhaps the Falics' most controversial activity is in Hebron, a city where several hundred ultranationalist settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves amid some 200,000 Palestinians.
Relations between the populations are tense, and some of the Jewish leaders are followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose "Kach" party was outlawed in Israel in the 1980s for calling for a mass expulsion of Arabs from the country. The U.S. also branded Kach a terrorist group.
According to the AP analysis, the Falics donated roughly $600,000 to "Hachnasat Orchim Hebron," a group that hosts visitors to the Jewish community. Baruch Marzel, a former aide to Kahane, is deeply involved.
Falic said his connections to Marzel were primarily through a "beautiful project" that distributes snacks to Israeli soldiers protecting the residents of Hebron.
"While I may not agree with everything he has said, the work we have done that has been affiliated with the Hebron community has been positive, non-controversial and enhances Jewish life in the Hebron area — which we strongly support," he said.
Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist in Hebron, disagrees. He said the seemingly harmless project serves the settler cause at the expense of Palestinians.
"We are suffering from settler violence," he said. "When I tell the soldiers 'protect me,' they tell me 'we are not here to protect you. We are with our own people, who are the settlers.'"
MOSCOW - Turkey is moving special forces and military equipment to its border with Syria, the Anadolu news agency reported on Friday, after Turkish forces shelled the Syrian army's positions in Idlib.
A convoy of armoured vehicles and special forces units have arrived in Reyhanli and Kirikhan cities in Turkey's southern province of Hatay on the border with Syria, according to the local media.
The shelling by the Turkish forces came a day after a Turkish soldier had been killed in an attack on a Turkish observation post in Idlib. The Turkish Defence Ministry has said that the shelling had been carried out from the territory controlled by the Syrian government and was deliberate.
Reuters reported late on Thursday, citing the Turkish Defence Ministry, that Russia's Ankara attache had been summoned after the attack on the observation post. The Russian Embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the matter.
Last year, Russia and Turkey agreed a deal that created a demilitarised zone in Idlib along the contact line between the armed opposition and the government forces.
GENEVA - The heads of 11 global humanitarian organizations warned on Thursday that the embattled rebel-held province of Idlib in Syria, stands on the brink of disaster, with three million civilian lives at risk, including one million children.
In a direct video address to launch a worldwide campaign in solidarity with civilians trapped there, dubbed #TheWorldIsWatching, the humanitarian leaders said that they face the constant threat of violence. “Too many have died already” and “even wars have laws” they declared, in the face of multiple attacks by Government forces and their allies on hospitals, schools and markets, together with fierce resistance from extremist fighters that have gained control of much of the territory.
“Idlib is on the brink of a humanitarian nightmare unlike anything we have seen this century”, they warn.
UN relief chief and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, said that “our worst fears are materializing…Yet again innocent civilians are paying the price for the political failure to stop the violence and do what is demanded under international law – to protect all civilians.
A huge influx of civilians - many displaced by fighting during urban offensives in places such as Aleppo and eastern Ghouta – has seen the northwestern Governorate double in population since 2015.
At least 330,000 have been forced to seek shelter elsewhere within the region, during the huge uptick in violence of the past two months. Many of them have nowhere left to run.
“Our campaign expresses solidarity with the families under attack and tells everyone that we are watching and witnessing what is happening”, said OCHA chief Lowcock.
‘Universal principles and values must prevail’: Rochdi
With more than 300 civilians have been killed in the so-called de-escalation area in northwestern Syria since the latest Government offensive, including many women and children, said the Senior Humanitarian Adviser on Syria, Najat Rochdi.
During a Syria Humanitarian Taskforce meeting in Geneva on Thursday, she noted the ambulance that had been hit by aerial bombardment just last week, and the death of three medical workers, who had been attempting to rescue a female patient who also died, while they were trying to reach a local hospital.
“Everything needs to be done to protect civilians”, she said. “Universal principles and values must prevail when so many innocent lives are at stake.”
In Rukban camp on the Jordanian border, she said around 27,000 displaced civilians still lacked the most basic services, in dire need of assistance. “We continue to call for humanitarian access to Rukban to be able to deliver life-saving aid and to assist those who would like to leave”, she added.
UN envoy urges Russia and Turkey to ‘stablize’ Idlib
The UN Special Envoy for Syria, on Thursday urged the Security Council to “work at the highest level to stabilize the situation in Idleb” as the guarantors of the de-confliction zone in and around Idlib, set up last September.
Gier Pedersen told the Council that both countries “have reassured me that they remain committed” to the Memorandum of Understanding and had set up a working group.
“We must see this assurance reflected on the ground” said the Envoy, adding that he hoped Syria would be a main item for discussion at this weekend’s G20 Summit of nations, taking place in Japan.
“We hope that Russia and the United States can build on recent talks and deepen their dialogue at the highest level too”, he said, noting that five international armies were still present in war-torn Syria, making the need for a nationwide ceasefire critical.
Mr. Pedersen also highlighted the “significant presence” of terrorist group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham inside the de-escalation area as another major drawback: “Its attacks must cease. But all due protection must be afforded to the up to three million civilians in Idlib.
“Undoubtedly, there is no easy solution for Idlib. But the only way to find one, is for hostilities to stop, and for key stakeholders to engage in a cooperative approach towards countering terrorism – an approach that safeguards the protection of civilians.”
MOSCOW - Bahrain hosted a two-day forum on 25-26 June, which sought to encourage rich Arab countries to invest in Palestinian projects as part of US President Donald Trump’s "deal of the century".
Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday lambasted the US approach to the Palestine-Israel settlement presented at a workshop in Manama, Bahrain.
According to the ministry, the US stance on the issue appears 'counterproductive'.
The ministry lamented the fact that the issues of relaunching direct Palestine-Israeli negotiations as well as the creation of an independent Palestinian state within its 1967 borders were excluded from the talks in Manama.
GENEVA - “As a priority, we ask that 5,600 refugees and migrants currently held in centres across Libya be freed in an orderly manner and their protection guaranteed” the UN refugee and migrants chiefs said in a joint statement.
The call comes in response to the 3 July airstrikes on the Tajoura Detention Centre in the eastern suburbs of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, which killed more than 50 migrants and refugees and injured more than 130, despite the location of the centre being known by both sides of the ongoing conflict in the country.
António Vitorino, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, insisted that the international community should “consider the protection of the human rights of migrants and refugees a core element of its engagement in Libya”, pointing out that they have appealed to the European Union and African Union to prevent a repeat of the “tragedy”.
If the protection of refugees and migrants in Libya cannot be guaranteed, said the UN officials, they must be evacuated to other countries. For this to be possible, countries, they said, must provide more evacuation and resettlement places, and extra resources.
Mr. Vitorino and Mr. Grandi called for Libya to end the practice of detaining refugees and migrants rescued at sea, and consider alternatives, such as allowing them to live in the community, in open spaces, or establishing semi-open safe spaces such us the Gathering and Departure Facility run by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Some 400 survivors of the airstrike have been moved to the Facility, they continued, which is now badly overcrowded. UNHCR is working to evacuate them from Libya, particularly the most vulnerable.
Libya ‘cannot be considered a safe port’
Some 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, and an estimated 800,000 migrants, are currently living in Libya, and many remain detained in the country where “sufferings and human rights abuses continue”.
People rescued from the Mediterranean, said the UN officials, should not be taken to Libya, because it “cannot be considered a safe port”, and ships from European countries should resume search and rescue operations which have saved thousands of lives.
Commercial vessels should not be directed to bring rescued passengers back to Libya, the statement continues, and NGO boats which have attempted to take on similar operations must “not be penalized for saving lives at sea”.
Support to Libyan authorities, they conclude, should be conditional on an end to arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants, and a guarantee that human rights will be upheld. “Without this guarantee, support should be halted.”
ALGIERS - The speaker of Algeria's lower house of parliament resigned Tuesday, an official told AFP, following calls for him to quit by demonstrators.
"Mouad Bouchareb resigned this morning from his post as speaker of the lower chamber," said Abdelhamid Si Affif, president of parliament's foreign affairs commission.
Bouchareb, the former head of the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) parliamentary group, was elected to the post in October 2018.
No reason was given for his decision to quit, which led to the cancellation of Tuesday's planned closing session of the lower house.
Despite his relatively low-profile role, Bouchareb had drawn the ire of protesters rallying against the country's ruling elite.
Mass rallies against veteran president Abdelaziz Bouteflika began in February and forced the ailing leader to quit in early April.
But demonstrators have kept up their protests ever since, pushing for key backers of Bouteflika during his 20-year rule to step down.
Plans to elect Bouteflika's successor on July 4 were scrapped after the only two candidates were rejected.
Interim president Abdelkader Bensalah, former speaker of the upper house, is constitutionally due to stay in his post only until July 9.
With no clear solution to the political crisis, demonstrators took the streets again Friday demanding the establishment of independent institutions.
Protesters are calling for transitional bodies to be set up, sweeping aside Bouteflika loyalists such as army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah who had backed the July polls.
ANKARA - Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar says Ankara will retaliate against any attack by militia fighting for renegade Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, who has ordered to target Turkish interests in Libya.
"There will be a very heavy price for hostile attitudes or attacks. We will retaliate in the most effective and strong way," Turkish state news agency Anadolu quoted Akar as saying in reference to potential attacks by Haftar's forces.
"It should be known that we have taken all kinds of measures to deal with any threat or antagonistic action against Turkey," he added.
The minister also said Turkey's efforts in Libya sought to "contribute to peace and stability in the region."
Haftar has ordered his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) to target Turkish ships and companies, ban Turkish flights, and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya.
Turkey supports Libya's internationally-recognized government in Tripoli, which has been under assault by Haftar's forces trying to seize the capital for three months.
Turkey has supplied drones and trucks to the forces allied to UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, while the LNA has received support from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, according to diplomats.
Libyan government forces recently dealt a major blow to the LNA by retaking the strategic town of Gharyan, a supply line for Haftar's forces on the Tripoli front.
Haftar's offensive has upended UN-led plans to stabilize Libya after years of conflict that have left the oil-rich nation divided and caused living standards to plummet.
Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled from power after an uprising and a NATO military intervention. His ouster created a huge power vacuum, leading to chaos and the emergence of numerous militant outfits, including the Daesh terrorist group.
Algiers - The Algerian authorities have arrested a well-known veteran of the war of independence against France after he reportedly criticised military chief Ahmed Gaid Saleh.
Lakhdar Bouregaa, 86, was arrested at his home in the upscale Hydra neighbourhood overlooking Algiers on Saturday and taken to a intelligence services base, grandson Imad Bouregaa said.
Bourega said that his grandfather was arrested for saying Gaid Salah wanted to impose his own candidate in presidential elections but state TV said he had insulted a state body and undermining army morale.
The prosecution charged the 86-year old man of demoralizing the army in times of peace, and harming the national defense, state-run news agency APS reports.
In comments to DzVid news website, Lakhdar Bouregaa had accused army Chief of Staff, Ahmad Gaid Saleh, of wanting to impose his candidate in presidential elections, following the resignation early April of former leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to his grandson, Imad Bouregaa.
“My grandfather said that Gaid Salah wanted to impose his own candidate in presidential elections” to replace Bouteflika.
Algeria is currently led by an interim president whose mandate ends this month. The initial July 4 elections have been scrapped after the Constitutional Council rejected the only two candidacies it received.
Gaid Salah, a key mastermind of Bouteflika’s resignation has become the country’s strongman. The Chief of Staff has assigned the justice to drive a purge against members of Bouteflika’s entourage. The sweeping campaign has targeted several prominent figures including politicians, businessmen and army officers.
Gaid Salah has called for elections to elect a new leader warning that the North African country could find itself in a constitutional vacuum.
Lakhdar Bouregaa fought as commando in the National Liberation Army and was founder of the Front for Socialist Forces (FFS) in 1963.
NEW YORK - There are vast inequalities across countries, and among the poorer segments of societies, says a new UN report.
The 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), shows that, in the 101 countries studied – 31 low income, 68 middle income and 2 high income – 1.3 billion people are “multidimensionally poor”(which means that poverty is defined not simply by income, but by a number of indicators, including poor health, poor quality of work and the threat of violence).
Poverty is everywhere, inequality within countries is ‘massive’
“Action against poverty is needed in all developing regions”, the report states, noting that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are home to the largest proportion of poor people, some 84.5 per cent.
Within these regions, the level of inequality is described as “massive”: in Sub-Saharan Africa it ranges from 6.3 per cent in South Africa to 91.9 per cent in South Sudan. The disparity in South Asia is from 0.8 per cent in the Maldives, to 55.9 per cent in Afghanistan.
Many of the countries studied in the report show “extensive” internal levels of inequality: in Uganda, for example, the incidence of multidimensional poverty in the different provinces, ranges from six per cent in Kampala, to 96.3 per cent in Karamoja.
Children bear the greatest burden
Over half of the 1.3 billion people identified as poor, some 663 million, are children under the age of 18, and around a third (some 428 million) are under the age of 10.
The vast majority of these children, around 85 per cent, live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, split roughly equally between the two regions. The picture is particularly dire in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger and South Sudan, where 90 per cent or more of children under the age of 10, are considered to be multidimensionally poor.
Signs of progress towards poverty reduction
One section of the report evaluates the progress that is being made in reaching Goal 1 of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, namely ending poverty “in all its forms, everywhere”.
The report identifies 10 countries, with a combined population of around 2 billion people, to illustrate the level of poverty reduction, and all of them have shown statistically significant progress towards achieving Goal 1. The fastest reductions were seen in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
Speaking ahead of the launch, Pedro Conceição, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP, told UN News that the report “gives a more comprehensive picture of poverty, and gives an indication of where to target policies that may address the dimensions in which people are deprived, whether it’s education, health, or other aspects that could enable people to be lifted out of poverty if these investments are made.”
However, the report notes that no single measure is a sufficient guide to both inequality and multidimensional poverty, and that studies such as the MPI, Human Development Index, and Gini coefficient (which measures countries’ wealth income distribution), can each contribute important and distinctive information for policy action to effectively reduce poverty.
By Thomas Wright, Brookings, 11 July 2019
Editor's Note: In forcing the ouster of British ambassador to the U.S. Sir Kim Darroch, President Trump sends a clear message: everything is transactional, argues Thomas Wright. This piece originally appeared in The Atlantic.
Theresa May did everything she could to accommodate Donald Trump. She was the first leader to visit him as president. She offered him a state visit to the United Kingdom at a much earlier stage in his tenure than his predecessors had received one. She uttered nary a word of criticism of his administration. She had a foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who Trump likes. She accepted without protest when Trump’s decisions went against her advice—on climate change and the Iran deal, in particular.
Trump actively undermined May on at least a dozen occasions—whether by interfering in investigations into terrorist attacks or criticizing her Brexit strategy—but every single time, the prime minister turned the other cheek. She went out of her way to make the state visit a success. The president brought his extended family to London and seemed to treasure every moment. Trump could not have wished for a prime minister who was less demanding or more sycophantic.
Trump gave May nothing in return. Her government’s extraordinary generosity and tolerance of the intolerable could not even save the U.K.’s ambassador, Kim Darroch, from the president’s wrath. After the ambassador’s cables were leaked to the Daily Mail, Trump denounced him as a “pompous fool” who had not served the U.K. well. He declared that his administration would no longer deal with him. Darroch was immediately disinvited from a White House dinner with the emir of Qatar. He resigned this morning.
This brings U.S.-U.K. relations to a new postwar low. The president’s casual cruelty toward friends and the failure of Darroch’s many friends inside the Trump administration to say anything publicly on his behalf speak volumes about how much value the Trump administration places on alliances.
Darroch’s crime was to state the obvious: that the Trump administration is inept and dysfunctional. Gérard Araud, who served as France’s ambassador to the United States for four years, told me that “anyone who has any experience of Washington would agree” with Darroch’s assessment. “There is no bureaucratic process anymore,” Araud said. He offered Syria as an example: “When Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces, nobody in the administration—not Bolton, not the head of the CIA, not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs—knew he would take this decision. They did not know what it meant. Syria was just one of countless examples. Trump makes these decisions from the hip. No one knows what he will decide or what will happen the day after.”
The administration’s brazen hypocrisy on what is expected of ambassadors is unsurprising but still shocking. Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, has been scathing in his criticism of Brussels, calling the European Commission “out of touch with reality” and “off in the clouds.” In a New Year’s Eve interview on BBC Radio 4, Woody Johnson, the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., said he had traveled throughout the United Kingdom and found the people desperate for new leadership. Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, began his term by calling for the United States to shame Germany on defense spending, and said he wanted to empower Trumpian conservatives in Europe. And this is what they have said on the record. One can only imagine their private briefings to the president.
I asked Araud if the United Kingdom should retaliate by restricting the U.S. ambassador’s level of access in London. He responded with a resounding no. There would be no reciprocity. “The U.S.” he said, “is playing in a different category. Ultimately, politicians do not care about ambassadors. They will not create an existential crisis over the fate of a diplomat. If necessary, they will make the sacrifice.” Darroch “is the victim of a political game in London.” Araud acknowledged that if his own cables had been leaked while he served as ambassador, he would have been recalled to Paris after a short interval. For this reason, he took extraordinary precautions in how he communicated his private impressions of the Trump administration to Paris.
There are important lessons to be learned. For the United Kingdom’s next prime minister, it is obvious that flattery and sycophancy are not enough when dealing with Trump. In one cable, Darroch noted that Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron were busy distancing themselves from Trump but warned London: “I don’t think we should follow them.” He was wrong. The United Kingdom needs to fight its own corner. Trump respects only power and leverage.
The problem for London, as Araud told me, is that “the U.K. is trapped by Brexit.” Its positions on Iran, climate, and trade are almost identical to those of continental Europe, but it is leaving Europe and so has no natural allies to turn to. The United Kingdom hoped to survive because of the special relationship, but in Trump’s Washington, Araud said, “alliances don’t matter and there is no sentimentality. The past is increasingly irrelevant.” It’s not just Trump. “Americans are not romantic; all that matters is what you are doing.”
Boris Johnson may believe that he gets on with Trump, but when he is in power, he will find that his personal rapport buys him nothing of substance. He needs leverage. He needs to be transactional. He is dealing with a man without honor.
International Crisis Group, 12 July 2019
Somalia and Somaliland have been at odds since the latter’s 1991 declaration of independence, which the former rejects. The dispute has cooled after heating up in 2018, but lingering tensions could threaten regional stability. To restart dialogue, the two sides should meet for technical talks.
What’s new? Relations between Somalia and Somaliland, while back from the brink after a difficult 2018, remain tense. International actors are leading efforts to revive dialogue between the two sides.
Why does it matter? Absent progress toward dialogue, the parties’ relationship is likely to deteriorate in ways that could endanger regional stability.
What should be done? The two sides should agree to technical talks as a step toward negotiations on more sensitive political subjects. These talks should focus on security and economic issues where tangible gains can build mutual confidence. Discussing Somaliland’s political status could create counterproductive dynamics, including with Gulf states, and should happen later.
Tensions between Somalia and Somaliland remain high. The core bone of contention is still Somaliland’s political status in light of its 1991 declaration of independence, which Somalia rejects. Relations frayed in 2018 when troops from Somaliland and Puntland, a semi-autonomous regional state in Somalia notionally loyal to the federal government in Mogadishu, clashed over disputed territory. Somaliland’s deal with an Emirati conglomerate and Ethiopia to manage its main port – which Mogadishu saw as challenging its claim to sovereignty there – deepened antagonism. But frictions have eased in 2019, and outside pressure has created some momentum toward renewed negotiations between the two sides, which last gathered to talk in 2015. The two sides should meet for technical talks, focusing on security and economic matters of mutual concern, and avoiding for now the polarising issue of Somaliland’s political status. A neutral party such as the African Union ought to convene the talks, so that none of the many states vying for regional influence sees the mediation as threatening its interests.
Getting back to talks will likely not be easy. In addition to historical grievances and decades of separate rule, efforts to restart dialogue face political opposition on both sides. With parliamentary and presidential elections approaching in 2020 and 2021, respectively, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” is particularly susceptible to pressure from his nationalist support base to shy away from talks and the give-and-take they may entail. Somaliland leader Muse Bihi, a former rebel commander who fought against the government in Mogadishu in the late 1980s, is less open to compromise than his predecessor. He will also face political pressure from hardline separatists, including other former insurgents, for whom any concession to Somalia is anathema.
Moreover, Gulf states could very well use their influence with leaders and others in Somaliland and throughout Somalia (including in its federal member states) to play the spoiler if talks are not carefully designed to take their interests into account. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) in particular enjoys close relations with the Somaliland government in Hargeisa and is unlikely to welcome a negotiation in which Somaliland is pressed to yield decision-making power to Mogadishu on issues that affect its interests. The Emiratis would likely prefer to engage on weighty matters with Somalia after its next elections in the hope of dealing with a federal government more sympathetic to their concerns.
But there are issues short of Somaliland’s political status that the two parties could meaningfully tackle to the benefit of both. Some relate to security. Defeating Al-Shabaab’s Islamist insurgency will require Mogadishu and Hargeisa to share intelligence and pool resources. And calming the volatile military standoff between Somaliland and Puntland over contested territories along their border will require Hargeisa to commit to de-escalation and Mogadishu to support, as it did in 2018, UN-led mediation efforts.
Other mutual interests are economic in nature. Agreements on freedom of movement and trade are essential in order for businesses in Somalia – especially livestock farmers – to benefit from the upgrade of Somaliland’s Berbera port and development of the trade corridor between it and Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Both Somalia and Somaliland also have incentives to cooperate on sharing the benefits of debt relief packages under discussion with international financial institutions and on negotiating access to shared territorial waters for companies interested in oil and gas exploration.
Given high levels of suspicion between Somalia and Somaliland, international mediation will be crucial to achieving progress, but roles need to be assigned carefully. While Turkey and Ethiopia have been diplomatically very active in both Mogadishu and Hargeisa, neither is ideally positioned to play the lead role. Turkey’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, which also has deep interests in both Somalia and Somaliland, is too fraught. And despite Ethiopia’s recent improvement of ties with the Farmajo administration, it has historically enjoyed too close a relationship with Somaliland for Mogadishu to trust it fully.
The most promising approach might be for the African Union to convene the talks, ask an eminent statesperson to lead them and solicit technical assistance from a “group of friends” that might include countries like Turkey, Ethiopia, Sweden and Switzerland – which have been at the forefront of efforts to encourage talks – as well as the European Union.
The time for serious discussions about Somaliland’s political status will likely come after Somalia’s next elections. But waiting until then to have any talks at all would be dangerous: tensions between the two sides persist, regional powers are competing for advantage at a cost to local stability, and Somaliland and Puntland remain at loggerheads as forces gather in border areas. Against this backdrop, drifting along with no movement toward reconciliation raises risks of conflict. Engaging in technical talks about common security and economic challenges might help defuse those tensions and could build mutual confidence and create good-will for the more difficult negotiations down the road.
Nairobi/Brussels, 12 July 2019
By Siemon T. Wezeman, SIPRI, June 2019
Since 1993 states have been asked to annually report exports and imports of major arms to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms (UNROCA) as a transparency mechanism to prevent destabilizing accumulations of arms. UNROCA has been a partial success with most states participating at least once since 1993.
However, reporting to UNROCA has never been universal and has in recent years dropped to barely 25 per cent of UN member states—the lowest levels since 1993. Participation from states in regions with international tensions and conflict has been particularly low. UNROCA reports also continue to suffer from various quality problems.
This paper focuses on reporting for 2017, the most recent reporting year, as indicative for both the problems of participation and quality. Despite the problems and ‘competition’ from a similar reporting system under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), UNROCA remains the only global transparency instrument for arms transfers. However, it needs to be reinvigorated and expanded in scope.
I. Reporting trends
II. Assessing the quality of reporting for 2017
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)/EDITORS
Siemon T. Wezeman is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers and Military Expenditure Programme.
To download the full report, visit: https://mail.aol.com/webmail-std/en-us/basic#
KIGALI/KAMPALA - A coalition of East African citizen groups announced Tuesday they were suing Uganda and Rwanda in a regional court for financial losses resulting from a border dispute between the feuding nations.
Trade has been severely disrupted since late February when Rwanda abruptly closed the border with its northern neighbour, severing a major economic land route used daily by merchants and businesspeople on both sides.
The closure followed months of rising acrimony between Rwanda's Paul Kagame and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, former allies turned foes who have exchanged public accusations of spying in each other's territory.
Apart from a brief interlude in June the frontier has remained shut, damaging the local economies of both countries reliant on cross-border trade to survive.
Three civil society groups, on behalf of communities along the border, said they had filed a complaint with the East African Court of Justice demanding reparations from Uganda and Rwanda for their losses.
The court, in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, was set up to rule on matters of the East African Community (EAC) — a six-member bloc including Rwanda and Uganda as well as Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and South Sudan.
Sheila Kawamara-Mishambi, executive director of the East African Sub-regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women, one of the complainants, told AFP the attorney generals of both countries had been served with court papers "over the continued arbitrary border closure".
In a statement, the coalition said the blockade contravened the treaty terms of the EAC concerning freedom of trade and movement over the border.
"The court should declare that this impunity must not be allowed to happen anywhere else within the EAC," the statement read.
The closure has "far reaching effects on the lives and livelihoods of the business community, and has caused social and emotional distress among the local people, anguish and dislocation of families, deaths among others", it continued.
The coalition said it had received statements from 400 citizens affected by the blockade, and demanded that they be "adequately compensated" for their losses.
Analysts say the spat between Kagame and Museveni risks not only economic integration but stability in the strife-prone region.
ABUJA - A planned common currency for 15 western Africa states boasting a market of 385 million people that will come to force next year will be known as the ECO.
Leaders of the member states of the Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS, formally agreed on the name at the end of a summit in Abuja Nigeria.
The single currency is expected to boost cross border trade between Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Eight ECOWAS countries - Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo - currently use the CFA franc but the other seven have own currencies that are not freely convertible.
ADDIS ABABA - African countries have joined the list of nations seeking an end to a United States veto on judicial appointments at the World Trade Organization (WTO), leaving Washington isolated on the matter.
A statement from the African Group of 43 countries that was circulated on Wednesday in New York confirms a large majority of WTO member states - 114 out of 163 - now openly oppose the US position.
The US is blocking new appointments to the WTO's dispute appeals tribunal which has potential to override US law and comes after several rulings went against US tariffs.
NOUAKCHOTT - Mauritania's electoral commission announced Sunday that ruling party candidate Mohamed Ould Ghazouani had won the presidential election with 52 percent of the vote, Reuters reported. His nearest rival, anti-slavery campaigner Biram Dah Abeid, came reportedly second with 18.58 percent.
The vote took place on Saturday. Mauritania's government reportedly declared Ghazouani's victory ahead of the official announcement of the country's electoral commission.
In March, Mauritania’s Defence Minister Ghazouani announced that he would run in the upcoming presidential election, vowing to "to preserve the territorial belongings, strengthen national unity and social integrity, improve the status of women and achieve economic progress".
The election was the first in the northwestern African country's history to choose a successor to a democratically elected president since independence from France in 1960. Former Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz stepped aside after serving the maximum two five-year terms in the country.
Abdel Aziz has been reportedly criticized for not tackling the country's most grievous injustice - the persistence of slavery.
Mauritania continues suffering from slavery, a phenomenon dating back to times when Arab tribes bought slaves as if they were horses or camels and inherited them, but is driven in the 21st century by chronic poverty and the illiteracy of former slaves, as well as insufficient government protection of these vulnerable people.
Slavery in this northwestern African country was banned by presidential decree in 1981, which freed a special caste of Haratins from their masters. A lack of law enforcement and a painful historical legacy contribute to a continuation of the deeply-rooted practice.
As a result, children of former slaves returned to work for their parents’ masters, being incapable of making their living amid a lack of government support and effective labor legislation, as well as illiteracy, acute poverty, and marginalization created by centuries-old slave practices.