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  • EU, U.K. Negotiators Closing In on a Draft Deal: Brexit Update

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    (Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.U.K. and European Union negotiators are closing in on a draft Brexit deal amid optimism there could be a breakthrough before the end of Tuesday, two EU officials said.They cautioned talks haven’t yet finished, and there could be problems hitting the midnight deadline. But there are clear signs that a legal text is close to being ready.The aim would be to present the draft to national delegations on Wednesday morning, an EU diplomat said. The pound surged, climbing as much as 1.2% to $1.2756, the highest level in nearly four months.Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still need to secure the agreement of the U.K. Parliament. Negotiators have approached, and even managed to strike, a Brexit deal before -- only to see it shot down in London. Any concession Johnson makes to secure a deal in Brussels risks incurring the opposition of the Democratic Unionist Party, whose support will be vital for any agreement to pass.All time stamps below are Brussels time (CET).Key developments:EU, U.K. negotiators said to be closing in on draft Brexit dealPound traders are gearing up for a nail-biting finish to BrexitJohnson still needs to persuade his Northern Irish alliesDavis: Time to Back Johnson’s Deal (7:15 p.m.)Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has urged his Conservative colleagues to back any deal Johnson can reach. Talking to Sky News, he said his message to the “Spartans” -- the Tory MPs who have so far refused to back any deal, taking their name from ancient Greek warriors who refused to surrender -- was to remember that “the Spartans lost!” Baker: ‘Optimistic’ Johnson Will Get ‘Tolerable’ Deal (7 p.m.)Steve Baker, chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, and a man who refused to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal, has left Downing Street after talks on what Johnson is trying to achieve. He sounded like he was minded to support the prime minister, something that raises significantly the chances of a deal passing Parliament. “I’m happy to say it was a very constructive conversation,” Baker told reporters, “and I’m optimistic it is possible to reach a tolerable deal which I’ll be able to vote for.”EU Envoys To Meet Wednesday Afternoon (6:30 p.m.)Ambassadors from the 27 remaining EU governments will be briefed by European Commission negotiators at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.This could be the moment when we find out officially whether Johnson has a deal to take to the summit of leaders on Thursday.Varadkar: Gaps Remain as Talks Make Progress (5:30 p.m.)Irish premier Leo Varadkar said Brexit talks have made “progress,” and are moving in the right direction, but as of a few hours ago, significant gaps still remain between the EU position and that of the U.K. The key difference remains on plans for customs checks on the island of Ireland.Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Varadkar said the situation may have developed in the last few hours and he would be briefed this evening on developments.Negotiators Closing In on Draft Brexit Deal (4:30 p.m.)A dramatic breakthrough in negotiations could come within hours after a productive day of intensive talks in Brussels so far. The British side submitted revised proposals for a deal which appear to have unlocked progress.The U.K’s plans are shrouded in secrecy but the focus is on Northern Ireland’s relationship to the EU’s customs union and the degree to which checks on goods crossing the Irish border can be eliminated. That border has been the scene of violence for decades until the late 1990s and both sides are committed to protecting the peace, which border posts could undermine.Two EU officials suggested that the U.K. had accepted that customs checks would have to take place on goods traveling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland -- in other words between two parts of the U.K. -- rather than at the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.That’s something that Theresa May ruled out, and Boris Johnson’s Northern Irish allies in the Democratic Unionist Party has previously said they cannot support. This means getting a deal on these lines through a vote in Britain’s Parliament could be difficult.Saturday Sitting Will Depend on Talks: Rees-Mogg (3:15 p.m.)Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said it still hasn’t been decided if the U.K. Parliament should meet on Saturday, and events at the summit of EU leaders on Thursday and Friday will determine if it does.“The events that might require a Saturday sitting have not yet reached their fruition,” Rees-Mogg told the House of Commons. “It will only happen if we have something, subject to what happens in European Council, to debate on Saturday.”He said Parliament meeting on a Saturday for only the fourth time in 70 years would be necessary to fulfill the terms of the Benn Act, which requires Boris Johnson to write to the EU to request an extension if a Brexit agreement has not been reached by then. Chris Leslie, a Labour MP who backed the legislation, said it does not need Parliament to meet for the law to be obeyed.Finnish PM Says U.K. Making ‘Real Effort’ (1:45 p.m.)Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne said an extension to Brexit may come up at the EU leaders’ summit at the end of the week and there are grounds to consider it.Rinne, whose views are significant because his country holds the rotating presidency of the bloc, also said it’s possible an extra summit on Brexit will be needed before the end of the month. “It makes sense to try to reach a common view until the last moment,” Rinne told reporters in Helsinki.“For the first time during this process I have a feeling the U.K. is making a real effort,” he said. “Britain’s actions have shown it is seeking a deal to avoid a hard Brexit.”Johnson, Macron Had ‘Constructive’ Brexit Call (12:48 p.m.)Boris Johnson discussed Brexit with French President Emmanuel Macron in a 20 minute phone call, Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London.“It was constructive. I would say it was a good discussion,” Slack said, without giving further details of the discussion.The U.K. is working hard to reach a deal with the bloc as time runs short before Thursday’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels, Slack said.The Pound Pares Earlier Gains (12:25 p.m.)After rallying on Barnier’s comments that a deal is possible this week, the pound pared some of its gains, as details emerged from the meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg, in which remaining sticking points were highlighted.It was still up by 0.3% against the dollar as of 12:20 p.m in Brussels, amid cautious optimism that an accord is within grasp. The whipsaw between positive and skeptical headlines pushed one-week volatility to its highest since July 2016.France Says U.K. Made Serious Brexit Proposal (12:14 p.m.)The French government believes that the U.K. presented a “serious proposal” to exit the EU, though it’s too early to say if there will be a deal by the European summit later this week.The situation regarding Brexit must be clear before the EU leaders meet on Thursday in Brussels, about two weeks prior to the Oct. 31 deadline for the U.K.’s exit from the bloc, a French presidency official said during a briefing with reporters in Paris.JPMorgan Says Pare Back No-Deal Brexit Protection (12:12 p.m.)JPMorgan Chase & Co. credit strategists are so confident that the U.K. will avoid crashing out of the EU without a deal this month that they recommend closing Brexit hedges on no-deal exposed borrowers such as Lloyds Banking Group Plc and ITV Plc.Coveney Says “Today is a Key Day” (12:00 p.m.)“This isn’t the time for optimism or pessimism,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters in Luxembourg after the meeting with his EU counterparts and Barnier. “The negotiating teams have made progress but it’s been slow,” he added.“This is difficult, but it is possible,” according to Coveney, who reiterated that EU leaders aren’t willing to negotiate on a legal text. Such text must be finalized by negotiating teams.“Today is a key day,” he said. “I don’t want to raise expectations, but later on today or this evening, but if there is going to be a positive report that is needed in EU capitals tomorrow in advance of the EU Summit, well clearly, a big step forward needs to happen today.”Barnier’s Cautious Optimism (11:35 a.m.)Barnier was cautiously optimistic about the prospect of a Brexit deal during his meeting in Luxembourg with EU ministers, according to a national official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A breakthrough is possible as soon as today, in which case the matter would be to EU leaders when they meet Oct. 17-18, according to the official.While the sticking points remain the same, Barnier’s optimism reflects U.K. willingness to address EU concerns, said the official. Barnier himself, walking by reporters in a hallway in Luxembourg, told them the search for a Brexit agreement is an “ongoing process.”Barnier Sees Chances of Significant Progress (11:05 a.m.)Here’s a bit more from Barnier’s discussion with EU ministers in Luxembourg. “Not all that U.K. has been saying in the last days is totally unacceptable,” the chief negotiator said, according to one of the people in the meeting. “They have moved in our direction on key points and that’s why I think we still can make significant progress today,” he said, according to the official.Rees-Mogg: Parliament Would Approve Deal (10:45 a.m.)Jacob Rees-Mogg, the U.K. minister in charge of steering legislation through the House of Commons, said that if Johnson secures a deal with the EU, it could be ratified by Parliament very quickly. “The votes are there,” Rees-Mogg told LBC radio.For any deal to pass, the issue of the Irish border would need to be solved in order to guarantee the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, which has 10 crucial votes in the legislature.“I don’t know what is being discussed in Brussels,” Rees-Mogg told LBC. “Basically, I am trusting Boris Johnson because he has been a Brexiteer before the term Brexiteer existed.”Barclay: Deal is “Very Much” Possible (10:45 a.m.)“Talks are ongoing and we need to give them space,” U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told reporters in Luxembourg. He added that a “deal is very much possible.”Merkel Promises to Work to ‘Last Minute’ (10:40 a.m.)Chancellor Angela Merkel says Brexit talks are like “squaring the circle,” but she will continue to work for a deal until the “last minute.”“It’s very, very complicated,” Merkel said in a speech in Berlin at an industrial conference. “We’ll work on it until the last minute.”Text Ready for Summit? (10:30 a.m.)Barnier has told EU ministers that there is a chance the two sides could have a consolidated legal text ready by Thursday’s summit, according to two officials present at the meeting. The two sides are closing in on an agreement on the Stormont lock and customs checks in Northern Ireland.Barnier cautioned that the talks could still go one of three ways: conclude, reach a deadlock, or need to continue after the summit. He plans to debrief the bloc’s envoys in Brussels on Wednesday about the outcome of the discussions.U.K. Carmakers call for EU deal (10 a.m.)After spending more than 500 million pounds ($628 million) preparing for Brexit, British carmakers made a last-ditch call to the government to reach a deal. Crashing out of the EU would threaten jobs and the industry’s long-term survival, the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders said on Tuesday.U.K. Submits New Proposals (9:55 a.m.)The U.K. submitted new proposals to EU negotiators on Monday clarifying its plan for customs rules for Northern Ireland, two officials said.Barnier had told diplomats on Sunday that the U.K.’s plans were too complex and risked opening up the European single market to fraud. Monday’s proposals were aimed at responding to that, the officials said.France Says a Deal Is Up to the U.K. (9:30 a.m.)France’s Europe minister, Amelie de Montchalin, said she is still hopeful of a Brexit deal -- but the onus is on the U.K. to bring forward its proposals. The complexity of what was being requested for the Irish border and the short time available make things difficult, she said.“An agreement is possible, but it has to be a balanced deal for everyone,” she said.U.K. to Submit New Proposals (9:20 a.m.)The U.K. will bring forward new proposals today, RTE’s Europe’s editor Tony Connelly reported, citing two unidentified people familiar with the matter. It is not clear if they are revised version of the current British plans being discussed -- which involve keeping Northern Ireland in both the EU and U.K.’s customs zones -- or a different plan, Connelly added.Late Night Talks (9:15 a.m.)In a sign of how intensive the Brexit negotiations have become, they didn’t break up until about 11:30 p.m. on Monday, officials with knowledge of the talks said. They have already resumed in Brussels on Tuesday morning, they said.German Minister Not Sure Deal Is Close (9:10 a.m.)“I’m not quite sure a deal is close but we’re doing our best to find a good deal,” Germany’s Europe Minister Michael Roth told reporters in Luxembourg. “A hard Brexit would be a disaster, not just for the U.K., but also for the 27.”Roth said Germany was “extremely flexible” but that the integrity of the single market and the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of violence, were key.Dutch Minister Says Proposal Needs More Work (8:56 a.m.)The foreign minister from the Netherlands told reporters that the U.K. offer indicates progress, but more work needs to be done.“The U.K. proposal contains some steps forward but doesn’t yet guarantee that the single market will be protected,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok told reporters in Luxembourg. “There have been intensive talks and they’re still going on, but let’s use the remaining time until Oct. 31.”Pound Gains After Barnier Comments (8:50 a.m.)The pound jumped on Barnier’s comments, rising as much as 0.7% to $1.2698, close to the three-month high touched last week after leaders said they could see a “pathway” to a potential Brexit deal. Hedge funds and asset managers have been paring their bets on a weaker pound, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.Barnier Says Brexit Deal Difficult, Possible (8:35 a.m)EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said a Brexit deal is possible this week but talks remain tough. “Even if an agreement will be difficult -- more and more difficult to be frank -- it will still be possible this week,” Barnier told reporters in Luxembourg.“Reaching an agreement is still possible. Obviously, any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the U.K. and the whole of the EU,” he said.He added that it’s high time to “turn good intentions into a legal text.”Earlier:Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal On Knife Edge as EU Needs More TimeJohnson Has a Big Brexit Problem: His Northern Irish FriendsThe Brexit Threat to World Markets Remains Too Huge to Ignore\--With assistance from Thomas Penny, John Ainger, Jessica Shankleman, Patrick Donahue, Kitty Donaldson, Vassilis Karamanis, Helene Fouquet, Leo Laikola, Jonathan Stearns and Robert Hutton.To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Tim RossFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 13:22:26 -0400
  • European growth failed to 'lift off' amid Brexit, slowdown: IMF economist

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    Europe's economic expansion sputtered this year, disappointing expectations due to the well-known Brexit concerns, but also because of issues within major economies like Germany and Italy, a top IMF economist told AFP. Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti, deputy director of the IMF Research Department, said weakening global demand means those export-dependent economies face growing challenges. "Europe had a very strong 2017 and very strong beginning of 2018 and we were really hoping we would see a liftoff in European growth," he said in an interview.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 13:14:52 -0400
  • The Latest: Doctors group suspends work in Northeast Syria

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    Doctors Without Borders says it has decided to suspend the majority of its activities and evacuate its international staff from northeast Syria because of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish fighters. The aid organization said Tuesday that the extremely volatile situation has forced the group to evacuate from projects in areas including Ein Issa, Tal Abyad and al-Hol that includes a camp hosting tens of thousands of women and children related to Islamic State group fighters. NATO envoys are set to hold talks Wednesday on the impact of Turkey's offensive into northern Syria after several allies raised concerns about the actions of the Turkish armed forces.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:46:30 -0400
  • Russia moves to fill void left by US in northern Syria

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    Russia moved to fill the void left by the United States in northern Syria on Tuesday, deploying troops to keep apart advancing Syrian government forces and Turkish troops. At the same time, tensions grew within NATO as Turkey defied growing condemnation of its invasion from its Western allies. Now in its seventh day, Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters has upended alliances and is re-drawing the map of northern Syria for yet another time in the 8-year-old war.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:40:41 -0400
  • EU, UK seen closing in on 'possible' Brexit text

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    Britain and the EU were seen to be closing in on a detailed draft Brexit deal on Tuesday, although officials voiced scepticism it would be ready in time for a key European summit this week. An EU official told AFP late Tuesday: "Talks are ongoing. EU negotiator Michel Barnier said a text must be on the table by early Wednesday if it is to be put before leaders at the two-day EU summit starting Thursday.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:39:29 -0400
  • France Blocks EU Push to Open Membership Talks With Balkan States

    (Bloomberg) -- France blocked a European Union drive to start membership negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, dismissing German-led warnings that political stability in the Balkans could be at stake.At a meeting of EU general affairs ministers on Tuesday, the French government shot down a plan to give the two countries a target date next year for beginning entry talks, according to two officials familiar with discussion who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The move pushes the whole controversy onto the already-crowded agenda of an Oct. 17-18 EU summit in Brussels, where Brexit and Syria will also be discussed.The deadlock at the ministerial gathering in Luxembourg resulted from a French argument, backed in part by the Netherlands, that no date should be set for opening accession deliberations with North Macedonia and Albania until the EU revamps its whole approach to enlargement. At issue is whether the two countries adhere to EU norms on the rule of law, an area where some newer member nations have been accused of backsliding.“We clearly aren’t in a position today to stand by what we have repeatedly promised, namely the taking up of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania,” German Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth told reporters in Luxembourg. “We are very disappointed.”EU InfightingNorth Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, traveled to Brussels Tuesday for “a last attempt to lobby for an accesstion-talk date,” according to Telma TV. Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said his country would continue to pursue reforms even if the European Council doesn’t decide to open talks, the BalkanWeb news site reported.”For us Europe is a strong relationship,” Rama said. “We are only seeking to open the negotiations, further showing that we want to become part of the EU.”The infighting among EU governments reflects two competing political views: German-backed arguments that offering more Balkan countries the hope of joining the world’s biggest trading club strengthens European geopolitical stability and French-led calls for deeper integration of the bloc before any further expansion.Both Albania and North Macedonia have been lobbying to open accession talks, with the latter changing its name to resolve a decades-long dispute with Greece. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has said both countries have made enough progress in aligning their judicial standards to merit opening of negotiations.Broader PictureJohannes Hahn, the European commissioner in charge of enlargement policy, predicted that EU national government heads would reach an agreement on Thursday or Friday that eluded their general-affairs ministers.“It am still confident the leaders will rectify the decision -- or non-decision -- of today,” Hahn, who comes from Austria, told reporters after the Luxembourg meeting. “I hope our leaders are able to see the broader picture.”The French-German split is itself a symptom of EU successes and failures over the past two decades.On the one hand, the bloc orchestrated a “big-bang” enlargement in 2004 by adding ex-communist nations in eastern Europe. On the other, a Greece-triggered debt crisis that almost broke apart the euro and a rise in euroskeptic political forces that helped lead to the U.K.’s Brexit decision have stoked concerns about letting in more poorer nations.Three other Balkan countries have already started membership negotiations: Serbia in 2014, Montenegro in 2012 and Turkey in 2005.(Updates with comments from Balkan leaders in fifth, sixth paragraphs.)To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Stearns in Luxembourg at jstearns2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Michael Winfrey, Andrea DudikFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:36:30 -0400
  • Pro-Brexit lawmaker Baker says optimistic a tolerable deal can be struck

    The leader of the strongly pro-Brexit faction within Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party said he was optimistic that a tolerable deal could be struck with the European Union that he could vote for in parliament. Steve Baker, the head of the European Research Group which wants a cleaner break with Brussels, told reporters after he emerged from a meeting in Johnson's office that he was very pleased the government was making progress.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:31:26 -0400
  • German climate plan brings sharp air travel tax hike

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    Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet will sign off draft laws on new green taxes and subsidies this week, including much harsher charges on short-haul flights, German government sources said Tuesday. While environmentalists immediately labelled the changes insufficient, conservatives and the far right have challenged it, saying it goes too far.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:31:00 -0400
  • Russian troll freed in Belarus after arrest for US election tampering

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    Anna Bogacheva was detained and briefly threatened with extradition to the US after being named in Mueller reportRobert Mueller alleges that Anna Bogacheva and others posed as US citizens to set up social media accounts aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential vote. Photograph: Tom Brenner/ReutersA Russian national charged with attempting to meddle in the 2016 American presidential elections was briefly threatened with extradition to the United States after being arrested in Belarus, before she was was freed by local authorities. Anna Bogacheva was detained late on Monday evening by police at a hotel in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, while on holiday with her family, according to RIA Novosti, the Russian state news agency. Her lawyer said she had been detained under an international arrest warrant issued by the United States.Bogacheva was one of 13 Russians indicted last year by the US justice department after the investigation into election interference led by the special counsel Robert Mueller. Three Russian entities, including a notorious state-backed “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency, were also indicted. Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday that Bogacheva had been arrested and said that it was providing consular assistance. But shortly after the foreign ministry statement, Russia’s embassy in Minsk announced that Bogacheva had been freed. A spokesman for Belarus’ general prosecutor’s office said that there were “no grounds” for her arrest or extradition to the United States. “She has been released,” the spokesman said, adding that Minsk would apply to have the international warrant for her arrest invalidated on the territory of Belarus. Mueller alleges that the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency’s employees, including Bogacheva, posed as US citizens to set up social media accounts aimed at swaying the 2016 presidential vote that brought Donald Trump to power, as well as sowing “discord” in the US political system. US investigators say the Internet Research Agency is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman known as “Putin’s chef” because his companies often provide catering services to the Kremlin. Prigozhin is also reported to provide mercenaries for Russia’s military operations in Syria, Ukraine and parts of Africa. Bogacheva is accused of working as a translator for the agency and overseeing its data analysis group. She and Alexander Krylova, another agency employee, travelled to the United States in June 2014 on what US investigators say was an intelligence gathering trip. Bogacheva’s arrest in Minsk briefly looked set to derail relations between Belarus and Russia. Viktor Vodolatsky, an MP from Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, accused Belarus of a “betrayal” before news of her release broke.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 12:07:58 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-Sick of Brexit, Scotland's Sturgeon vows new independence vote in 2020

    Scotland must hold another independence referendum in 2020 and will soon request the powers needed to hold it legally, Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Tuesday. Scots rejected independence in a referendum in 2014 but the SNP says that Britain's vote to leave the European Union fundamentally changes its constitutional arrangements and means that the independence question should be revisited. Sturgeon, who is also Scotland's First Minister, said she was "sick of Brexit" and that the United Kingdom was a broken political system that imposed policies on Scotland against its will.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:51:16 -0400
  • Putin talks investments and space in Abu Dhabi

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin signed deals worth over $1.3 billion with the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, wrapping up a tour of the Gulf where he also courted investment in Saudi Arabia. A day after inking a major oil cooperation deal with Riyadh, Putin was greeted by Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. "You will not be disappointed by your Russian partners," Putin said.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:43:28 -0400
  • EU, U.K. Negotiators Said to Be Closing in on Draft Brexit Deal

    (Bloomberg) -- U.K. and European Union negotiators in Brussels are closing in on a draft Brexit deal with optimism there will be a breakthrough before the end of the day Tuesday, two EU officials said.Any draft legal text will hinge on whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson believes he has the support of the U.K. Parliament, with the backing of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party crucial. Officials cautioned talks haven’t finished yet and there’s work still to do.The pound surged after Bloomberg’s initial reports, climbing as much as 1.5% to $1.28, the highest level in nearly five months.While there’s some finalizing to do, there are clear indications that negotiators will present a legal text on Wednesday morning for EU governments to scrutinize, an official said. That would only be possible if there’s a green light from Johnson, a separate official said.Negotiators have approached -- and even managed to strike -- a Brexit deal before, only to see it shot down by the British government or the House of Commons, and EU negotiators are aware of Johnson’s need to get the DUP on board. This could complicate clinching a deal by Tuesday’s midnight deadline and shift focus to a summit of EU leaders that starts in Brussels on Thursday.Saturday VoteIf a deal is reached, Johnson would be able to put it to the U.K. Parliament on Saturday and avoid being forced to seek another delay beyond Oct. 31. But he lacks a majority in Westminster and any concessions could prompt the DUP, which props up his administration, to try and thwart the agreement.The U.K’s proposals are shrouded in secrecy but the focus is on Northern Ireland’s relationship to the EU’s customs union and the degree to which checks can be eliminated on goods crossing the Irish border, a scene of violence for decades until the late 1990s.Two EU officials suggested that the U.K. had accepted that customs checks would have to take place on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland -- in other words between two parts of the U.K. -- rather than between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. That customs border in the Irish Sea is something the DUP has previously said it won’t support.(Updates with Parliament details starting in the sixth paragraph.)To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Nikos Chrysoloras in Brussels at nchrysoloras@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Richard Bravo, Thomas PennyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:26:46 -0400
  • Wildfires spread through parts of Lebanon, Syria

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    Wildfires spread through parts of Lebanon on Tuesday after forcing some residents to flee their homes in the middle of the night, while others were stuck inside as the flames reached villages south of Beirut, authorities said. There were no reports of fatalities from the fires — among the worst to hit Lebanon in years. Fire crews were overwhelmed by the flames in the Mount Lebanon region early Tuesday, forcing the Interior Ministry to send riot police with engines equipped with water cannons to help.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:25:17 -0400
  • Nearly Half of Food Waste Happens Before It Reaches the Market

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    The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization says 14 percent of all food produced never even makes it to the consumer.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:21:32 -0400
  • Irish PM says Brexit talks make progress and going in the right direction

    Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday that Brexit talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union had made progress and were moving in the right direction. "In terms of Brexit negotiations, I've a confession to make: Tuesday is a pretty crazy day and I spent the morning in cabinet and the afternoon in the Chamber so I've to go back to the office now and get a briefing from Brussels," Varadkar told reporters. "The initial indications are that we are making progress, that negotiations are moving in the right direction," Varadkar said.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:19:38 -0400
  • 2 contractors killed, 2 injured at Saudi oil refinery

    A Saudi oil refinery owned by its state-run energy company says an apparent industrial accident has killed two workers and injured two others. It did not elaborate on the cause of the incident, nor did it elaborate on what killed and injured the contractors. SASREF is owned by Saudi Aramco, which the kingdom hopes to offer a sliver of in an initial public offering to raise money for the country's development plans.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 11:01:48 -0400
  • Sturgeon Repeats Call for Scottish Independence Vote Next Year

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    (Bloomberg) -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon repeated her call for another referendum on independence next year and said she will demand the U.K. gives her the power to hold one.Addressing her Scottish National Party conference in Aberdeen, she said her government in Edinburgh will have completed legislative preparations in coming months."We are already working to update the independence prospectus," she said. "And I can confirm today that before the end of this year, I will demand the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt."The SNP will also campaign in the next U.K. election on the right to hold another vote, she said. In the last one, in September 2014, Scots chose 55% to 45% to remain in the three-centuries-old union with England.Since then, Scotland voted to stay in the European Union while the rest of Britain opted to leave. Sturgeon called Brexit a "disaster."To contact the reporter on this story: Rodney Jefferson in Edinburgh at r.jefferson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Sillitoe at psillitoe@bloomberg.netFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 10:48:39 -0400
  • Yemeni officials: Saudi troops take control Aden in deal

    Yemeni officials say Saudi Arabian troops have taken control of the airport and ports in the interim capital Aden from separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates. The officials spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 10:39:40 -0400
  • Russia is openly taunting America over Trump's Syria pullout

    Since President Trump decided a week ago, after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria's Kurdish-held border with Turkey, Turkey invaded Syria, Islamic State prisoners previously guarded by the embattled Kurds started escaping, America's erstwhile Kurdish allies joined forces with Syria's Russian-backed government, many of Trump's Republican and Fox News allies are horrified, current and former U.S. military personnel are seething, the NATO alliance is teetering, and on Tuesday, Russian troops "moved to fill the void left by the United States," The Associated Press reports.Trump's decision to effectively abandon the Kurds, in other words, doesn't seem very strategically sound at this point. At least not for the United States.Russia, meanwhile, is "quickly moving to entrench its de facto power broker role," AP says, and that includes sending Russian troops in to keep the Turkish and Syrian armies from directly clashing. Using its troops as human shields may not seem like a winning position for Moscow, but Russia was "gloating on their global television propaganda network" as U.S. forces left the area, Defense One executive editor Kevin Baron captioned this video posted by RT.> Syrian Army meet US troops on a highway as American forces move out from Kobani. Wondering if they waved to each other… pic.twitter.com/iNvBy0By0w> > -- RT (@RT_com) October 14, 2019Russian journalists are also documenting cheerful Russian soldiers apparently moving into deserted U.S. military outposts.> A Russian PMC inside the American base at Manbij after it was evacuated by US special ForcesSyria Russia Turkey pic.twitter.com/sup4taecJ3> > -- CNW (@ConflictsW) October 15, 2019> Video scenes from Manbij Syria this morning. US troops out of base, Russia comes in. > > Putin & Assad making most gains out of US withdrawal & Turkey operation: pic.twitter.com/PyjYbdVfwa> > -- Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) October 15, 2019"It's all in working order!" translated Telegraph foreign correspondent Roland Oliphant, who added: "The Russians are having fun around playing around in this abandoned U.S. military base in Syria."

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 10:35:36 -0400
  • Germany's Scholz: No-deal Brexit would damage Britain the most

    Germany's Finance Minster Olaf Scholz told Reuters on Tuesday that a no-deal Brexit should be avoided as such an outcome would damage Britain the most. The European Union gave Britain until the end of Tuesday to work out a Brexit deal that can be approved at a leaders' summit this week but said a delay to the Oct. 31 scheduled departure date and a breakdown of talks were also still on the cards.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 10:20:00 -0400
  • The Latest: Migrant in Austria kills 1, injures 1

    Austrian police say a 33-year-old Afghan asylum-seeker who killed a farmer and severely injured a social worker at his shelter was known to the authorities for previous violent acts. Police officer Andreas Pilsl said Tuesday the suspect, whose identity hasn't been released, was reported to police before participating in a brawl at a community college and damaging a car after he failed his driving license test. The man killed a 63-year-old farmer Monday afternoon, when he tried to steal his car after he had stabbed a 32-year-old social worker at his shelter in Wullowitz near the Czech border.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 10:19:34 -0400
  • U.N. Security Council to meet on Syria, likely on Wednesday -diplomats

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    NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council will likely meet on Wednesday to discuss latest developments in Syria, diplomats said, adding that a closed-door discussion had been requested by the body’s five European members - Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland. It will be the second council meeting since Turkey began a military incursion across its southern border with Syria, days after U.S. troops pulled back from the area. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols Editing by Susan Heavey and John Stonestreet)

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:52:22 -0400
  • Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling 'Ashamed,' and Kurdish Allies Describing 'Betrayal'

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    WASHINGTON -- U.S. commandos were working alongside Kurdish forces at an outpost in eastern Syria last year when they were attacked by columns of Syrian government tanks and hundreds of troops, including Russian mercenaries. In the next hours, the Americans threw the Pentagon's arsenal at them, including B-52 strategic bombers. The attack was stopped.That operation, in the middle of the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria, showed the extent to which the U.S. military was willing to protect the Syrian Kurds, its main ally on the ground.But now, with the White House revoking protection for these Kurdish fighters, some of the Special Forces officers who battled alongside the Kurds say they feel deep remorse at orders to abandon their allies."They trusted us and we broke that trust," one Army officer who has worked alongside the Kurds in northern Syria said last week in a telephone interview. "It's a stain on the American conscience.""I'm ashamed," said another officer who had also served in northern Syria. Both officers spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals from their chains of command.And the response from the Kurds themselves was just as stark. "The worst thing in military logic and comrades in the trench is betrayal," said Shervan Darwish, an official allied with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.The next flurry of orders from Washington, as some troops had feared, will pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria altogether. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Sunday that President Donald Trump had ordered the roughly 1,000 U.S. troops in the country's northeast to conduct a "deliberate withdrawal" out of the country in the coming days and weeks.The defense secretary's statement came after comments Friday pushing back on complaints that the United States was betraying allies in Syria -- "We have not abandoned the Kurds" -- even as he acknowledged that his Turkish counterpart had ignored his plea to stop the offensive.Army Special Forces soldiers -- mostly members of the 3rd Special Forces Group -- moved last week to consolidate their positions in the confines of their outposts miles away from the Syrian border, a quiet withdrawal that all but confirmed the United States' capitulation to the Turkish military's offensive to clear Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.But as the Americans pulled back, the Kurds moved north to try to reinforce their comrades fighting the offensive. The U.S. soldiers could only watch from their sandbag-lined walls. Orders from Washington were simple: Hands off. Let the Kurds fight for themselves.The orders contradicted the U.S. military's strategy in Syria over the last four years, especially when it came to the Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, who were integral to routing the Islamic State group from northeastern Syria. The Kurds had fought in Manbij, Raqqa and deep into the Euphrates River Valley, hunting the last Islamic State fighters in the group's now defunct physical caliphate. But the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as the Kurdish and their allied Arab fighters on the ground are called, are being left behind.U.S. Special Forces and other troops had built close ties with their Kurdish allies, living on the same dusty compounds, sharing meals and common dangers. They fought side by side, and helped evacuate Kurdish dead and wounded from the battlefield."When they mourn, we mourn with them," Gen. Joseph L. Votel, a former head of the military's Central Command, said Thursday at the Middle East Institute.The Kurdish forces and U.S. military have survived previous strains, including Trump's sudden decision in December to withdraw all U.S. troops from northern Syria, a decision that was later walked back somewhat.This time may be different, and irreversible. "It would seem at this particular point, we've made it very, very hard for them to have a partnership relationship with us because of this recent policy decision," Votel said.As part of security measures the United States brokered to tamp down tensions with Turkish troops, Kurdish forces agreed to pull back from the border, destroy fortifications and return some heavy weapons -- steps meant to show that they posed no threat to Turkish territory, but that later made them more vulnerable when Turkey launched its offensive.Special Forces officers described another recent operation with Kurds that underscored the tenacity of the group. The Americans and the Kurdish troops were searching for a low-level Islamic State leader in northern Syria. It was a difficult mission and unlikely they would find the commander.From his operations center, one U.S. officer watched the Kurds work alongside the Americans on the ground in an almost indistinguishable symmetry. They captured the Islamic State fighter."The SDF's elite counterterrorism units are hardened veterans of the war against ISIS whom the U.S. has seen in action and trust completely," said Nicholas A. Heras, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who visited the SDF in July to advise them on the Islamic State group, or ISIS.During the battle against ISIS, coordination between the U.S. military and the Syrian Democratic Forces has extended from the highest levels to rank-and-file fighters, according to multiple interviews with SDF fighters and commanders in Syria over the course of the campaign.SDF commanders worked side by side with U.S. military officers in a joint command center in a defunct cement factory near the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where they discussed strategy and planned future operations.The battle of Kobani that began in 2014 gave birth to the United States' ties to the Kurds in northeastern Syria. ISIS fighters, armed with heavy American-made artillery captured from retreating Iraqi army units, surrounded Kobani, a Kurdish city, and entered parts of it.Despite the Obama administration's initial reluctance to offer help, the United States carried out airstrikes against advancing ISIS militants, and its military aircraft dropped ammunition, small arms and medical supplies to replenish the Kurdish combatants.That aid helped turn the tide, the Kurds defeated ISIS, and U.S. commanders realized they had discovered a valuable ally in the fight against the terrorist group.Thousands of SDF fighters received training from the United States in battlefield tactics, reconnaissance and first aid. Reconnaissance teams learned to identify Islamic State locations and transmit them to the command center for the U.S.-led military coalition to plan airstrikes.Visitors to front-line SDF positions often saw Syrian officers with iPads and laptops they used to communicate information to their U.S. colleagues."For the last two years, the coordination was pretty deep," said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Washington-based Kurdish affairs analyst who has spent time in northeastern Syria. "The mutual trust was very high, the mutual confidence, because this collaboration brought enormous results.""They completed each other," he said of the SDF and U.S.-led coalition. "The coalition didn't have boots on the ground, and fighters didn't have air support, so they needed each other."That coordination was critical in many of the big battles against the Islamic State group.To open the battle in one town, SDF fighters were deposited by coalition aircraft behind the Islamic State group's lines. At the start of another battle, U.S. Special Operations forces helped the SDF plot and execute an attack across the Euphrates River.Even after the Islamic State group had lost most of its territory, the United States trained counterterrorism units to do tactical raids on ISIS hideouts and provided them with intelligence needed to plan them.Even in territory far from the front lines with the Islamic State, SDF vehicles often drove before and after U.S. convoys through Syrian towns and SDF fighters provided perimeter security at facilities where U.S. personnel were based.The torturous part of America's on-again, off-again alliance with the Kurds -- one in which the United States has routinely armed the Kurds to fight various regimes it viewed as adversaries -- emerged in 1974, as the Kurds were rebelling against Iraq. Iran and the United States were allies, and the Shah of Iran and Henry Kissinger encouraged the Kurdish rebellion against the Iraqi government. CIA agents were sent to the Iraq-Iran border to help the Kurds.The Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani did not trust the Shah of Iran, but believed Kissinger when he said that the Kurds would receive help from the Americans.But a year later, the Shah of Iran made a deal with Saddam Hussein on the sidelines of an OPEC meeting: In return for some territorial adjustments along the Iran-Iraq border, the shah agreed to stop support for the Kurds.Kissinger signed off on the plan, the Iraqi military slaughtered thousands of Kurds and the United States stood by. When questioned, Kissinger delivered his now famous explanation: "Covert action," he said, "should not be confused with missionary work."In the fight against ISIS in Syria, Kurdish fighters followed their hard-fought triumph in Kobani by liberating other Kurdish towns. Then the Americans asked their newfound Kurdish allies to go into Arab areas, team up with local militias and reclaim those areas from the Islamic State group.The U.S. military implored the SDF to fight in the Arab areas, and so they advanced, seizing Raqqa and Deir el-Zour, winning but suffering large numbers of casualties.The American-Kurdish military alliance against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq "began with us helping them," said Peter W. Galbraith, the former U.S. diplomat who has for years also been a senior adviser to the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq. "But by the end, it was them helping us. They are the ones who recovered the territory that ISIS had taken."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:46:31 -0400
  • Egypt says archeologists uncover 20 ancient coffins in Luxor

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    Egypt's Antiquities Ministry says archeologists have uncovered at least 20 ancient wooden coffins in the southern city of Luxor. A brief statement from the ministry says Tuesday says archeologists found the coffins in the Asasif Necropolis. Egypt has sought publicity for its archaeological discoveries in the hopes of reviving its tourism sector, which was badly hit by the turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:31:11 -0400
  • Trump threatens to 'destroy' Turkey's economy with sanctions

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    Targeting Turkey's economy, President Donald Trump announced sanctions aimed at restraining the Turks' assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria — an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving U.S. troops out of the way. Some of those U.S. troops leaving northern Syria are being shifted to Iraq, where they could conduct cross-border operations against Islamic State group militants, a U.S. official said.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:29:39 -0400
  • Russia's Putin seeks to enhance ties to US-allied UAE

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    Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, as part of a Mideast tour aimed at strengthening ties between Moscow and this longtime U.S. ally amid tensions in the wider Persian Gulf. Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, met Putin at the airport and traveled with him to the Qasr Al Watan palace. Smiling Emirati schoolchildren waved Russian and UAE flags.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:18:33 -0400
  • Too soon to say if Britain's parliament will sit on Saturday - parliament leader

    It is too soon to say whether Britain's parliament will need to sit on Saturday, Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the lower house of parliament, said on Tuesday, in a reference to ongoing talks in Brussels over a Brexit deal. Last week, a source said the government planned to hold a special sitting of parliament on Oct. 19, following an EU summit on Oct. 17-18 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to secure a deal to leave the European Union. Saturday could become one of the most critical days in Britain's Brexit crisis after parliament passed a law which would force Johnson to seek a delay to his deadline of Oct. 31 if he has not agreed an exit deal by Oct. 19.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 09:11:38 -0400
  • The Latest: US troops leaving Syria to move to Iraq, Kuwait

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    A U.S. official says the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops being withdrawn from northern Syria will reposition in Iraq, Kuwait and possibly Jordan. The official spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning for a U.S. pullout amid heavy fighting between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces. The official says the American troops have pulled out of the Manbij area, where U.S. outposts were set up in 2017.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 08:35:37 -0400
  • Bolton Objected to Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Calling Giuliani 'a Hand Grenade'

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    WASHINGTON -- The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Sondland, Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony."I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Bolton referred to Giuliani and Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Sondland.)It was not the first time Bolton expressed grave concerns to Hill about the campaign being run by Giuliani. "Giuliani's a hand grenade who's going to blow everybody up," Hill quoted Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive Giuliani's efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on Trump's behalf were within the White House. Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president's official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.At one point, she confronted Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the people informed about Hill's testimony.He told her that he was in charge of Ukraine, a moment she compared to Secretary of State Alexander Haig's declaration that he was in charge after the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt, according to those who heard the testimony.According to whom, she asked.The president, he answered.Hill was the first former White House official to testify in the House impeachment inquiry, and her account provided a gripping in-the-room view of the shadow maneuvers that have jeopardized Trump's presidency. While she left her post shortly before the now-famous July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats, she helped House investigators understand the early months of the pressure campaign.The daylong interview with Hill came as House Democrats widened their net in the fast-paced inquiry by summoning Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who abruptly resigned last week, to testify Wednesday.Career diplomats have expressed outrage at the unceremonious removal of Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch from Ukraine after she came under attack by Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr. and two associates who have since been arrested on charges of campaign violations.The interviews indicated that House Democrats were proceeding full tilt with their inquiry despite the administration's declaration last week that it would refuse to cooperate with what it called an invalid and unconstitutional impeachment effort. Three other administration officials were scheduled to talk with investigators this week despite the White House statement. Sondland, who backed out of testifying at the last minute last week on orders of the State Department, is now set to appear on Thursday.George P. Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state who deals with the region, is scheduled to testify on Tuesday. And the committee on Monday set an interview for Friday with Laura K. Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia policy.Trump made no visible effort to block the testimony on Monday, even as he called on House Democrats to interview the anonymous CIA officer who first filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that the president abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats."A total Impeachment Scam!" Trump wrote on Twitter. Later in the day, he posted a number of video clips of Mark Levin on Fox News excoriating the Democrats for pursuing impeachment, quoting the television host calling it "a silent COUP effort."Hill's testimony, which unfolded behind closed doors over nine hours in the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, had been highly anticipated because of her position in a key job coordinating policy toward Russia, Ukraine and the rest of Europe.The House Intelligence Committee issued a last-minute subpoena Monday morning to compel Hill to speak with the investigators, according to an official involved in the inquiry, to make it easier for her to justify ignoring the White House's clear opposition to cooperation with the House inquiry.Hill testified that she opposed the idea of July 25 telephone call between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine because she did not understand its purpose. While it was described as a congratulatory call following parliamentary elections in Ukraine, Trump had already made a congratulatory call to Zelenskiy in April after his own election.She was not told that Trump would use the call to press for an investigation into Biden, nor did she know about the president's decision to withhold $391 million in U.S. assistance to Ukraine until shortly before her departure, according to one person informed about her account.Her testimony did not establish a quid pro quo between the suspended aid and Trump's pressure for investigations, the person said. But she confirmed that the administration leveraged a coveted White House invitation for Zelenskiy to a commitment to investigate corruption, which was seen as code for investigating Democrats.Hill is a widely respected, British-born former Brookings Institution scholar and intelligence officer. She is the author, with Clifford Gaddy, of "Mr. Putin," a critical biography of the Russian leader, and she was appointed senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs on the National Security Council staff in 2017. She turned over her duties to her successor on July 15 and left on July 19, just days before the July 25 call.For much of her tenure, Hill found herself caught in the middle, a noted skeptic of Putin working for a president who valued his friendship with the Russian leader. She came under fire from some of the most conservative figures and news media outlets around Trump, which portrayed her as an enemy within, even as some of her longtime friends and colleagues expressed disapproval that she had gone to work for the president in the first place.One of the most dramatic moments she described came in the July 10 meeting in Bolton's office that included Sondland; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; Rick Perry, the energy secretary; and two Ukrainian officials.The purpose of the meeting was to talk about technical assistance to Ukraine's national security council. The Ukrainians were eager to set up a meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy, who was elected on a promise to clean up corruption and resolve the country's five-year war with Russian-armed separatists.Bolton was trying to not commit to a meeting, according to Hill's testimony. Sondland got agitated, Hill testified, and let out that there was an agreement with Mulvaney that there would be a meeting if Ukraine opened up the investigations the White House was seeking.Bolton ended the meeting abruptly. As the group moved toward the door, Sondland said he wanted them to come down to the wardroom next to the White House mess to discuss next steps. Bolton pulled Hill aside to instruct her to go to the wardroom and report to him what they talked about.When she got downstairs, Sondland was talking with the Ukrainians and specifically mentioned Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that had Hunter Biden, the former vice president's son, on its board.Hill testified that she asked Sondland why he would be discussing this in front of their Ukrainian colleagues and tried to shuffle them out of the room and break things up.At one point, Sondland mentioned Giuliani, who was involved in the discussions about a possible meeting between the two presidents.Hill went back upstairs and reported the encounter to Bolton, who promptly instructed her to report the issue to John A. Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel and the chief legal adviser for the National Security Council, along with his line about the drug deal, which he meant metaphorically.Eisenberg told Hill he would report it up his chain of command, which would typically mean Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. It was uncertain what he did at that point. But when the CIA whistleblower later filed his complaint, the agency's chief lawyer called Eisenberg at the White House. After several discussions over the following week, they decided the accusations had a reasonable basis.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 08:13:41 -0400
  • EU’s Lending Arm Delays Vote on Limiting Fossil-Fuel Financing

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    (Bloomberg) -- The European Investment Bank stopped short of agreeing a strategy to limit funding for fossil fuels, a plan that would help step up Europe’s ambition to fight climate change.The board of the Luxembourg-based lending arm of the European Union decided at a meeting on Tuesday to postpone until Nov. 14 discussion on a new strategy that includes increased support for clean-energy projects, according to the CEE Bankwatch Network lobby. The EIB declined to comment immediately.A move by the EIB to boost support for renewables would reinforce the Green Deal being pushed by Ursula von der Leyen, the incoming president of the European Commission. She wants the institution to become a climate bank and help unlock 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) to shift the economy toward cleaner forms of energy.“As of 1st January 2021, the EIB should stop handing out public money to fossil fuels projects,” said Anna Roggenbuck, Policy Officer, CEE Bankwatch Network. “Otherwise, the whole idea of turning the EIB into a climate bank will inevitably fall apart.”The EIB’s draft strategy has come under fire from green lobby groups after it was softened last month to allow funding for certain natural gas projects, a move sought by Germany and some central European nations concerned about their reliance on Russian supplies. The nations were pushing back on Tuesday and the new policy rules couldn’t be approved without their support, according to CEE Bankwatch Network.The EIB, which last year invested more than 16 billion euros in climate-action projects, is preparing to play a larger role in spurring low-carbon technologies because the EU is weighing whether to declare itself the first climate-neutral continent by the middle of this century.The 28-nation bloc wants to step up its ambition in sync with the landmark 2015 United Nations agreement to fight global warming, after the U.S. turned its back on the accord.Von der Leyen, who is due to assume her new job on Nov. 1, also wants the EU to deepen its current target to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels. That may involve a reduction of 50% or even 55% to counter the more frequent heat waves, storms and floods tied to global warming. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas are leading contributors to climate change.(Updates with delayed decision in the first paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Ewa Krukowska in Brussels at ekrukowska@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net, James HerronFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 07:53:29 -0400
  • UN: 85 civilians killed in attacks targeting Afghan election

    The U.N. released on Tuesday a special report that describes the severe toll of election-related violence on Afghanistan's civilians, mainly from the Taliban's campaign targeting its presidential election last month. The report said that attacks aiming to disrupt the electoral process killed 85 people and wounded 373 others across the country. The number includes 277 civilian casualties, 28 killed of whom were killed on the polling day.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 07:19:52 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-France: President Macron spoke to UK PM Johnson as Brexit deadline looms

    French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an official in Macron's office said on Tuesday, as a deadline looms to reach a Brexit deal. Macron's official said that while Johnson was right to acknowledge in the call the positive momentum towards getting a Brexit deal done, it remained unclear if a deal could be reached in time for this week's European summit. The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said earlier on Tuesday that reaching a divorce deal between Britain and the European Union was still possible this week, even if it was getting more and more difficult.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 07:19:10 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-U.N. urges Turkey to investigate executions in Syria

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    Turkey could be deemed responsible for summary executions by an affiliated armed group of captured Kurdish fighters and a politician, acts that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said on Tuesday. The U.N. human rights office also said it had documented civilian casualties caused by air strikes, ground-based strikes and sniper fire each day since the Turkish offensive began in northeastern Syria nearly a week ago. Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies launched a military offensive into Kurdish-held parts of the northeast saying it aims to defeat the Kurdish YPG militia which it sees as terrorists for its links to separatists in Turkey.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 07:18:55 -0400
  • Putin in Abu Dhabi seeking $1.3 billion in investments

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    President Vladimir Putin visited Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, seeking to attract over $1.3 billion worth of investments in Russia's economy. Putin, who came to the United Arab Emirates a day after signing a key oil deal with Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, was greeted by Abu Dhabi's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. As Putin made his way to the presidential palace, jets painted the sky white, blue and red -- the colours of the Russian flag -- and ceremonial cannon salutes were fired.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:59:15 -0400
  • Hong Kong Protesters Rage Against Corporate China's Growing Control

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    (Bloomberg) -- The black-clad protesters pushing back against China’s influence in Hong Kong aren’t just focusing on Carrie Lam and the police. They’re also targeting mainland-based brands such as Bank of China Ltd., China Mobile Ltd. and Huawei Technologies Co. with fire bombs, metal bars and spray paint.A walk down the primary route used by Hong Kong’s anti-government marchers shows how big a chunk of the city China owns. Mainland-affiliated supermarkets, drugstores, hotels, Pacific Coffee stores and McDonald’s outlets -- both franchises are operated by state-owned firms -- pepper the vicinity of skyscraper-lined Hennessy Road, the downtown artery connecting the Causeway Bay shopping district with government headquarters in Admiralty. Some of the businesses also occupy property owned by Chinese developers.These perceived outposts of President Xi Jinping’s government expanded their operations after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, adding heft to Beijing’s political goal of integrating the semi-autonomous territory with the motherland. Their deepening presence stokes fears among protesters that Hong Kong soon will become just another Chinese city, deprived of the autonomy former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping guaranteed until 2047.“Mainland Chinese companies are forming a group of entities which can be both economically and politically influential,” said Heidi Wang-Kaeding, who’s done research on mainland investment in Hong Kong and now teaches international relations at Keele University in Staffordshire, England. “That’s why this is shaking the local interest very much.”Hong Kong police said Monday a radio-controlled improvised explosive device was detonated near a police car on Sunday evening, the first time the use of such a device has been reported during months of unrest.The use of explosives marks a significant escalation in pro-democracy protests that started out peacefully in June, with hundreds of thousands of residents marching in the streets in opposition to a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.In recent weeks, protesters have set fires near police stations, hurled makeshift petrol bombs at riot police, and bashed in glass kiosks at train stations and storefronts tied to mainland Chinese businesses.As Chinese Communist Party leaders focus on solidifying control over the rebellious city, companies taking direction from the state likely will play an even bigger role in Hong Kong’s $363 billion economy. The city is sinking into a recession amid the riots, and Lam, the chief executive, may propose remedies during her annual policy address on Wednesday.In the past decade, the total amount of loans given by the Hong Kong-based unit of state-owned Bank of China in the special administrative region has more than doubled to $175 billion, and so have deposits to $257 billion.China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers, is among the four operators in the city, having cemented its position since buying a local provider more than a decade ago to gain entry into the market.Mainland-based developers such as Poly Property Group Co. and China Overseas Land and Investment Ltd. successfully bid for 11% of the land for sale last year in the world’s most-expensive real estate market, compared with about 5% in 2013. They bought almost 60% of residential land sold by the local government in the first six months of this year.In one high-profile deal, state-owned Poly Property and China Resources Land Ltd. successfully bid HK$12.9 billion ($1.6 billion) in June for a 9,500-square-meter parcel at Kai Tak, the former airport in the Kowloon district.Beijing-based Citic Ltd., a state-owned conglomerate, is part of a consortium that runs McDonald’s outlets in the city, and unit Dah Chong Hong Holdings operates car dealerships and Food Mart stores.With forays into retail, telecommunications and property development, mainland-based companies are also altering the city’s traditional business landscape. Homegrown tycoons such as Li Ka-shing and Lee Shau Kee, who built their empires by forging close ties with authorities in Beijing, may see that influence erode. Li, for instance, saw the writing on the wall some time ago and has been steadily reducing exposure to his home base.Over time, the economic balance of power will tilt more in favor of state enterprises and away from the local billionaires, said Michael Tien, a pro-Beijing member of Hong Kong’s legislature and a deputy to China’s National People’s Congress.“It will be very difficult for Hong Kong Chinese companies to fight mainland Chinese companies,” he said. “They are capital-rich and powerful.”But it isn’t just state-owned companies that are building a bigger presence in Hong Kong. In 2015, billionaire Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. agreed to buy the South China Morning Post newspaper and related assets for HK$2.06 billion. Prominent Chinese smart-phone makers such as Huawei, Lenovo, Xiaomi and electronics retailer Suning have retail stores in the city.Mainland-based companies with consumer-facing businesses have been particular targets in the latest phase of the four-month-long protests, which were sparked by opposition to a proposed law allowing extraditions to China.Bank of China branches and ATMs have been firebombed and vandalized, including this past weekend and on the Oct. 1 anniversary of Communist Party rule in the mainland. Huawei and Lenovo stores also were ransacked during the weekend at a mall in suburban Sha Tin.At least two China Mobile stores were attacked Oct. 1 and 2, and a Xiaomi outlet had anti-China graffiti spray-painted on its walls. The local unit of China Construction Bank, which has more than 50 locations, suspended service at two branches because of protest-related damage, including smashed glass doors.At least one local-run business has lost its immunity. Maxim’s Caterers Ltd., which operates bakeries and some Starbucks outlets, is seeing stores vandalized after the founder’s daughter called the protests “riots” and supported the Hong Kong government in comments at the U.N. Human Rights Council last month.Maxim’s tried to distance itself from the comments and a spokeswoman said the group has never taken any political stance. Representatives for China Resources, Citic, the local units of Bank of China and China Construction Bank didn’t respond to requests seeking comments, while a spokesperson for China Mobile said the carrier is focusing on resuming services at the damaged stores.“Anything with a star on it is vulnerable,” Gavin Greenwood, an analyst with A2 Global Risk, a Hong Kong-based political-risk consultancy, said of mainland-affiliated businesses. He was referring to the Chinese flag.“They are extremely soft targets.”(Updates with report on radio-controlled explosive from fifth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Chloe Whiteaker, Demetrios Pogkas and Alfred Liu.To contact the reporters on this story: Bruce Einhorn in Hong Kong at beinhorn1@bloomberg.net;Shirley Zhao in Hong Kong at xzhao306@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma O'Brien at eobrien6@bloomberg.net, Sam Nagarajan, Michael TigheFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:57:15 -0400
  • Sri Lanka presidential hopeful says won't honor deal with UN

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    A former Sri Lankan defense chief who is a front-runner in next month's presidential election said Tuesday that if he wins, he won't recognize an agreement the government made with the U.N. human rights council to investigate alleged war crimes during the nation's civil war. If Gotabaya Rajapaksa wins the Nov. 16 election and follows through with his comments, it would be a severe setback to Sri Lanka's post-war reconciliation process. "We will always work with the United Nations, but I can't recognize what they have signed" with past Sri Lankan governments, Rajapaksa said at a news conference.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:46:19 -0400
  • Donald Trump asks Turkey for ceasefire and orders sanctions as violence escalates

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    * President freezes negotiations on $100bn trade deal * Trump vows to ‘swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy’Turkish troops fire a heavy gun near Syria’s northern city of Manbij. Photograph: Aref Tammawi/AFP via Getty ImagesDonald Trump spoke directly to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Monday to demand an immediate ceasefire in Syria while announcing a series of punishments for Ankara that critics saw as an attempt to save face.The US president’s conversation with Erdoğan was revealed by the vice-president, Mike Pence, who said he would soon be travelling to the Middle East. “The United States of America did not give a green light for Turkey to invade Syria,” Pence insisted to reporters at the White House.But Trump’s announcement just over a week ago that he was withdrawing US troops, who had served as an effective buffer against Turkish invasion, has been widely viewed as a historic foreign policy blunder and provoked an extraordinary backlash even from Republicans.As the situation in northern Syria spiralled out of control, and the White House scrambled to catch up, the president said he had issued an executive order to impose sanctions on current and former Turkish officials and was immediately freezing negotiations on a $100bn US-Turkey trade deal.Syria mapTrump said he was also reimposing tariffs of 50% on Turkish steel – one of a series of measures taken last year to win the release of the American pastor Andrew Brunson from detention, which triggered a record-breaking 30% slide in the Turkish lira, sending inflation soaring and damaging living standards. In May, Trump scaled tariffs back to 25%.“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” the president said on Monday.Erdoğan was quoted as dismissing such threats as “quips” on Sunday, while the country’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva called a possible European Union arms embargo “a joke.”The Turkish lira slid 0.8% to its weakest position since May on Monday, but many traders and investors said in effect they would believe it when they see it, especially after US threats earlier this year to sanction Turkey over buying Russian S-400 missile defences failed to materialise.Trump’s statement also confirmed that all 1,000 US troops in north-eastern Syria are pulling out entirely, although they will “redeploy and remain in the region”. It added that a “small footprint” of US forces are staying in At Tanf Garrison in southern Syria “to continue to disrupt remnants” of the Islamic State.Who is in control in north-eastern Syria?Until Turkey launched its offensive there on 9 October, the region was controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which comprises militia groups representing a range of ethnicities, though its backbone is Kurdish. Since the Turkish incursion, the SDF has lost much of its territory and appears to be losing its grip on key cities. On 13 October, Kurdish leaders agreed to allow Syrian regime forces to enter some cities to protect them from being captured by Turkey and its allies. The deal effectively hands over control of huge swathes of the region to Damascus.That leaves north-eastern Syria divided between Syrian regime forces, Syrian opposition militia and their Turkish allies, and areas still held by the SDF – for now.How did the SDF come to control the region?Before the SDF was formed in 2015, the Kurds had created their own militias who mobilised during the Syrian civil war to defend Kurdish cities and villages and carve out what they hoped would eventually at least become a semi-autonomous province. In late 2014, the Kurds were struggling to fend off an Islamic State siege of Kobani, a major city under their control. With US support, including arms and airstrikes, the Kurds managed to beat back Isis and went on to win a string of victories against the radical militant group. Along the way the fighters absorbed non-Kurdish groups, changed their name to the SDF and grew to include 60,000 soldiers.Why does Turkey oppose the Kurds?For years, Turkey has watched the growing ties between the US and SDF with alarm. Significant numbers of the Kurds in the SDF were also members of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) that has fought an insurgency against the Turkish state for more than 35 years in which as many as 40,000 people have died. The PKK initially called for independence and now demands greater autonomy for Kurds inside Turkey.Turkey claims the PKK has continued to wage war on the Turkish state, even as it has assisted in the fight against Isis. The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US, the UK, Nato and others and this has proved awkward for the US and its allies, who have chosen to downplay the SDF’s links to the PKK, preferring to focus on their shared objective of defeating Isis. What are Turkey’s objectives on its southern border?Turkey aims firstly to push the SDF away from its border, creating a 20-mile (32km) buffer zone that would have been jointly patrolled by Turkish and US troops until Trump’s recent announcement that American soldiers would withdraw from the region.Erdoğan has also said he would seek to relocate more than 1 million Syrian refugees in this “safe zone”, both removing them from his country (where their presence has started to create a backlash) and complicating the demographic mix in what he fears could become an autonomous Kurdish state on his border.How would a Turkish incursion impact on Isis?Nearly 11,000 Isis fighters, including almost 2,000 foreigners, and tens of thousands of their wives and children, are being held in detention camps and hastily fortified prisons across north-eastern Syria.SDF leaders have warned they cannot guarantee the security of these prisoners if they are forced to redeploy their forces to the frontlines of a war against Turkey. They also fear Isis could use the chaos of war to mount attacks to free their fighters or reclaim territory. On 11 October, it was reported that at least five detained Isis fighters had escaped a prison in the region. Two days later, 750 foreign women affiliated to Isis and their children managed to break out of a secure annex in the Ain Issa camp for displaced people, according to SDF officials.It is unclear which detention sites the SDF still controls and the status of the prisoners inside.Michael SafiThe Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were in the forefront of the campaign to defeat Islamic State extremists, but Erdoğan links them to separatist militants within Turkey. The Kurds have turned to a deal with Russian-backed Syrian president Bashar Assad to help fend off Turkey’s invasion, creating a potential tinderbox.Along with Pence’s upcoming trip, defense secretary Mark Esper said he would next week travel to Brussels to request that Nato allies punish Turkey over the invasion, which he said had “resulted in the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees”.The White House appears to have shifted to a strategy of claiming that the Turkish invasion was inevitable and it is merely moving US forces out of harm’s way.On a Monday evening conference call, a senior administration official said: “This was something that was caused by an action of President Erdoğan who, after repeated warnings that this was a bad idea, he shouldn’t do it and the United States in no way endorsed this activity, took a very, very rash ill-calculated action that has had what, for him, were unintended consequences.”Another official added: “The forces that the [defence] secretary withdrew from the northeast, the dozens of forces, were in an area that was 40 kilometres long and 30 kilometres deep. The idea that somehow those couple of dozen forces would somehow be in a position to stop an invading army is just not logical.”Trump has also maintained his argument that he made a campaign promise to stop endless, faraway wars and bring troops home. Shortly before his statement announcing sanctions, the president tweeted: “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”The new sanctions may not be enough to satisfy Congress, which returns to session on Tuesday. Trump has faced a rare rebellion from congressional Republicans, who have habitually backed him to the hilt, and are currently defending him against an impeachment inquiry.Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader in the Senate, said the pullout of US troops from Syria threatens a “strategic calamity” and “catastrophic outcome” for American interests in the region, although he did not mention Trump by name.Three top Democratic senators called the sanctions “good and justified” but also insufficient and warned that they would ask Republicans to join them in passing a resolution calling on Trump to reverse the pullout of US forces, viewed as unravelling five years of diplomatic graft.“President Trump should use this moment to step up, do the right thing, and correct course,” the top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, wrote in a joint statement along with Bob Menendez and Jack Reed, the senior Democrats on the Senate foreign relations and armed services committees.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier said she was forging ahead on a Turkey sanctions bill with Republican senator Lindsey Graham, who has been fiercely critical of the withdrawal.Graham said on Monday that he “strongly support[s]” Trump’s executive order sanctions and had joined the president and his team on phone calls with leaders in the conflict. “President Trump gave Turkey the ability to undo the strategic damage they have already caused in a win-win fashion,” he said. “I hope they will accept his outreach.”Jeremy Hunt, the former UK foreign secretary, said Trump had made a “profound strategic mistake” and that he would be sympathetic to a UK arms sales embargo on Turkey. Unlike a host of other EU countries including France, Germany and Italy, the UK has not yet imposed an arms sale ban.Trump again warned Turkey it was responsible for the safety of civilians and minorities, and eventually the detention of Islamic State extremists held by Kurdish fighters. “I have been perfectly clear with President Erdoğan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes,” Trump said.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:40:40 -0400
  • UK's Johnson tells Macron: we will work hard for a Brexit deal - spokesman

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson told French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday British officials would continue to work hard to secure a Brexit deal before a summit later this week in what his spokesman described as a constructive discussion. Asked about comments attributed to the European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier that a legal text for the deal should be agreed by the end of Tuesday, the spokesman said Johnson was aware of the time constraints.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:26:12 -0400
  • Turkey's Erdogan defiant in face of sanctions and arms embargo, warning offensive to continue until 'objectives met'

    Golocal247.com news

    Turkey’s president has said he would not stop his offensive on northern Syria until “all our objectives had been achieved", defying US sanctions, a European arms embargo and increasing international isolation. Turkey is in the seventh day of its assault against the Syrian Kurdish forces, which has so far forced more than 150,000 people to flee and left some 60 civilians dead. "God willing, we will quickly secure the region stretching from Manbij to our border with Iraq and ensure that, in the first stage, one million, and then two million Syrian refugees return to their homes of their own free will," Mr Erdogan said in a televised speech. Turkey plans to establish a buffer zone stretching hundreds of miles across the Turkey-Syria border to free the area of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) it considers terrorists. Mr Erdogan has said he wants to repatriate many of the 3.6 million refugees that it is hosting from the Syrian conflict, however critics have said it could amount to ethnic repopulation. Syrians fleeing Turskih advance arrive to town of Tal Tamr in northwest Syria Credit: Baderkhan Ahmad/AP Overnight on Monday, the US announced sanctions against Turkey’s defence and energy ministries, as well as the ministers of defence, energy, and the interior. Mr Trump also said he was raising sanctions on steel and cancelling a $100 billion trade agreement with Turkey.  Mr Erdoğan appeared unmoved by the prospect, responding by saying: “We have seen all the threat from sanctions to embargoes just because we fight against terrorism,” he said.   But privately Turkish officials are deeply concerned that widespread American sanctions could devastate Turkey’s already flagging currency and sharply drive down the Turkish lira.  A growing number of EU states have piled on pressure, halting arms exports to Ankara over the humanitarian disaster unfolding. The United Nations, meanwhile, is urging Turkey to investigate reported cases of "summary executions" that could have been committed by a Turkish-backed militia on Kurdish civilians. A Turkish-backed Syrian fighter fires during clashes in the border town of Ras al-Ain Credit: AFP Mr Trump on Monday launched a diplomatic effort to broker a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish forces after more than a week of US inaction. Mr Trump spoke by phone to both Mr Erdoğan and the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and called for a halt to the Turkish offensive in Syria.   “President Trump communicated to [Mr Erdoğan] very clearly that the US wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire, and begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria,” Mike Pence, US vice president, said.      Mr Pence said he would travel to Turkey at the head of a US delegation to try to broker an agreement. Earlier on Monday, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence and interior ministers in an effort to put pressure on Ankara.  Mr Trump’s lurch into action came eight days after he appeared to greenlight Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria by telling Mr Erdoğan that US forces would move aside and allow Turkish troops into the region.  But in the face of stinging criticism for the move from fellow Republicans and US allies, Mr Trump appears now to be trying to reverse course and pressure Turkey into calling off the offensive.   Even if Mr Trump is able to broker a deal much of the damage is likely irreversible. The SDF feel deeply betrayed by US actions and have already struck an agreement with Russia and the Assad regime to allow Assad’s forces back into northeast Syria for the first time since 2012.  A woman with a baby sits at a back of a truck as they flee Ras al Ain town Credit: Reuters More than a hundred civilians have been killed in Syria and southern Turkey during the fighting and aid groups say around 200,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the face of Turkish airstrikes and ground assaults.  While Mr Pence addressed reporters and the White House released a statement in Mr Trump’s name calling for a ceasefire, there was silence on Mr Trump’s normally voluble Twitter feed, where he often expresses his unvarnished views.  In a tweet earlier on Monday, he expressed indifference over whether the fighting continued or not.  “Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land,” he said. “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte. I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”   Fighting continued around the border city of Manbij, where Kurdish and Assad regime forces are trying to hold off an assault by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. So far, there have been no direct clashes between the Turkish and Syrian militaries.  The US appeared to have effectively handed over one its bases in Manbij to Russian special forces as American troops withdrew from the city.  US officers coordinated a Russian takeover of the facility, according to Newsweek, and Russian media soon began broadcasting from inside the abandoned US facility.  Mr Pence said the US had secured a commitment from Turkey not to attack Kobani, another border city that is of enormous symbolic importance to the Kurds and was until recently a base for US forces.  Mr Trump has ordered all American troops out of Syria with the exception of a small garrison at al-Tanf, a southern base focused on deterring Iran in the country. The move will force the withdrawal of all UK and French special forces in the country.   Mr Pence said he would lead a delegation to Turkey that would include Robert O’Brien, Mr Trump’s new national security advisor.  The vice president’s schedule showed he was due to attend a reception for an ice hockey team at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, so it is unlikely he will reach Turkey until at least Wednesday.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:16:25 -0400
  • Mass raids target Russian opposition chief

    Golocal247.com news

    Russian investigators raided opposition offices across the country on Tuesday, in the latest move to increase pressure on top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his allies. The early morning raids targeted more than 100 offices and homes in 30 cities, the opposition said, including the headquarters of Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) in Moscow. Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who has emerged as President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, denounced the raids as an attempt to intimidate the opposition after a summer of protests and significant losses suffered by Kremlin allies in local elections in September.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:10:08 -0400
  • Vulnerable Trump Gives Democrats an Opening

    Golocal247.com news

    (Bloomberg) -- Want to receive this post in your inbox every day? Sign up for the Balance of Power newsletter, and follow Bloomberg Politics on Twitter and Facebook for more. U.S. Democratic presidential aspirants take the debate stage in Ohio tonight armed with a battery of fresh ammunition against Donald Trump.Trump’s would-be challengers will be targeting a president who’s the subject of a deepening House impeachment inquiry and whose whiplash foreign policy in Syria is drawing withering criticism, even from some in his own party.Look for Democrats to capitalize on bipartisan anger at Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria — a move that paved the way for a Turkish military offensive — especially since penalties subsequently imposed on Turkey were milder than lawmakers demanded.The developments are a dramatic shift from the last Democratic debate in September. It remains to be seen whether the candidates focus just on Trump or also on Joe Biden, who’s on the verge of potentially losing his front-runner status.Stressing the need for unity, the former vice president has warned Democratic rivals against joining in criticism over his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and China, the target of unrelenting attacks from Trump.As foreign interventions increasingly influence the 2020 race, the temptation could prove too strong for some.Global HeadlinesChess pieces | Trump’s actions created the space for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s operation against the Kurds in Syria. As Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov explain, it also opened up a role for Russia’s Vladimir Putin as kingmaker, mediating a deal for the Kurds to gain protection from their former foe, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.Volkswagen delayed a decision on a $1.4 billion car plant in Turkey, citing the political upheaval over Syria. Turkish markets rose today after Trump imposed milder than expected sanctions focusing on calls for a cease-fire in Syria.Party pooper | No sooner had Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte celebrated outmaneuvering his one-time deputy, populist leader Matteo Salvini, than his reputation was overshadowed by his ever-closer relationship with Trump. As John Follain reports, Italy was a key link in the U.S. president’s efforts to discredit his enemies in Washington, and Conte is suspected of bending the rules to curry favor with a powerful ally.Power brokers | Indonesia’s elites are edging closer to securing constitutional changes to strip President Joko Widodo of key powers and end direct elections, the biggest test for democracy in the country since the downfall of the dictator Suharto in 1998. The push is gathering pace just months after a record turnout saw the president win another five-year term with an increased majority. Analysts warn the elites’ move could entrench the “sovereignty of the oligarchs.”Out of gas | Bolivia’s fiery leader, Evo Morales, has tripled the minimum wage and boosted social programs during his tenure, thanks to healthy sales of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina. Now, cheap seaborne imports of gas are threatening that buffer. Bolivia’s gas exports plunged 25% in the first half of this year, and with no new discoveries, Morales is facing his toughest re-election campaign yet this month.Waning Moon | Street protests that helped propel Moon Jae-in to the South Korean presidency are now stinging the leader, who has faced mass rallies for appointing a scandal-tinged confidant as his justice minister. Moon issued a public apology when the minister resigned after a few weeks on the job, hobbling his presidency and economic reform agenda as he heads into the latter half of his single, five-year term.What to WatchChief European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says a deal can still be done with the U.K. this week, even if reaching an agreement is becoming “more and more difficult.” Mozambicans vote today in elections that have the highest stakes in the southeast African nation’s history, after a campaign marked by violence, insurgent attacks and the fallout from a debt scandal. The winner will oversee more than $50 billion of investments in gas projects. The South Korean men’s national soccer team plays its first match in North Korea in nearly three decades with Kim Jong Un’s regime doing all it can to prevent the world from watching the game live.Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally ... Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro ordered a 275 percent increase in the monthly minimum wage yesterday — the third hike this year — as hyperinflation drains the value of workers’ salaries. Problem is, the new 150,000 bolivars wage is barely enough to buy four kilos of meat. Annual inflation is currently running around 50,100%, while Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche inflation index has hit 19,900% annually. \--With assistance from Karl Maier, Jon Herskovitz and Rosalind Mathieson.To contact the author of this story: Kathleen Hunter in London at khunter9@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Alan CrawfordFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 06:04:21 -0400
  • France Says U.K. Made Serious Proposal for Brexit

    (Bloomberg) -- The French government believes that the U.K. presented a “serious proposal” to exit the European Union, though it is too early to say if there will be a deal by the European summit later this week.The situation regarding Brexit must be clear before the EU leaders meet on Thursday in Brussels, about two weeks prior to the Oct. 31 deadline for the U.K.’s exit from the bloc, a French presidency official said during a briefing with reporters in Paris.Earlier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said a deal is possible this week -- but talks remain tough, after British negotiators submitted a revised set of Brexit plans to Brussels.The talks between the U.K. and Barnier must advance before the summit, the French official said, as negotiations on Brexit won’t happen during the EU leaders meeting, the official added.To contact the reporter on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Geraldine Amiel, Vidya RootFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:57:22 -0400
  • Trump is discrediting a sane foreign policy

    American foreign policy has been an overreaching mess for a long time -- especially in the Greater Middle East.First we toppled the government of Saddam Hussein for no good reason, beginning a chain of events that has destabilized the entire region -- prompting an insurgency and civil war in Iraq that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and then, a few years later, sparking a civil war in Syria that has killed half a million more. Along the way, Iran has been empowered by having its leading regional rival laid low, a savage new Islamist movement emerged and set up a caliphate, and we spread the chaos to North Africa by doing the whole thing over again in miniature by toppling the government of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.At each stage of this slowly unfolding disaster -- including the return of American troops to Iraq and insertion of them for the first time into the morass of the Syrian civil war in order to defeat the Islamic State we helped to birth -- the wise men and women of Washington's bipartisan foreign policy establishment have been ready with arguments about how we must never, ever, ever withdraw from the region. Why not? Because American airpower and artillery are its only source of stability. If we leave, the bad guys will come roaring back in no time, and we'll have to return and fight again at greater cost, just as Barack Obama did after prematurely pulling out of Iraq. In this way, every decision to intervene militarily, no matter how bad the consequences, requires an extension or even expansion of our intervention. Because withdrawing always makes it worse.These arguments have seemingly received vivid confirmation over the past week or so, as Donald Trump, at the request of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, withdrew a small number of troops from northeastern Syria, where they were protecting Syrian Kurds who had helped the U.S. to defeat the Islamic State's caliphate and were holding a number of ISIS fighters in makeshift prisons. If news reports are to be believed, this shift of just a few dozen American soldiers has precipitated a catastrophe. Turkey has started bombing, killing our Kurdish allies, including civilians, and even committed war crimes. ISIS fighters have broken out of their captivity and will soon spread terrorism all over the Middle East, Europe, and even the United States, while also reestablishing the caliphate. Meanwhile, every adversary of the United States within thousands of miles of the fighting -- Syria, Turkey, Iran, Russia -- is jumping for joy at their good fortune.As far as pundits from across the political spectrum are concerned, Trump has tried to "end our endless wars" and shown it to be a disaster. The hawks, it seems, have been thoroughly vindicated.Except they haven't been. What we've learned from the debacle of the past week or so is rather that, for what feels like the thousandth time, Trump is unfit to serve as president of the United States -- and that Trump's critics will revise any previously held opinion in order to gain added leverage against him in our country's cold civil war.To begin, as we always must, with Trump: The president knows next to nothing about the world. He is incapable of thinking strategically about anything beyond his personal enrichment. He is impulsive and impetuous. And he has numerous financial interests in various regions of the world that remain murky at best. Some mixture of these considerations seems to have resulted in Trump deciding, after a single phone call with Erdogan on the night of Sunday, October 6, to withdraw a small number of American troops to make way for the Turkish military to begin operations in Syria intended to create a buffer zone along the border separating the two countries.That move has produced a mess in both humanitarian and geopolitical terms. But was that the inevitable outcome of the U.S. pulling troops out of this area of Syria? Not at all. If Trump had made it clear what he wanted to do and stood by it resolutely, and if he had staff in place who could be trusted to get his preferred policy enacted, many other scenarios could have unfolded, with most of them far less bloody and chaotic than what's happening on the ground right now. Planning matters. Talking to allies matters. Thinking beyond the next few hours or days matters. Trump has failed on all these fronts, and far more. He's dangerously ill-equipped for the job he holds, and lots of people are paying the price.But what's the excuse for those who should know better? I'm talking about those who suddenly think the U.S. owes greater loyalty to a battlefield ally (the Kurds) than we do to a longstanding member of NATO (Turkey). I'm also talking about those who should know very well that the Kurds of Syria are dominated by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a far-left organization known for practicing terrorism and eager to foment civil unrest as a means to helping the Kurds of Turkey to establish an independent state. One needn't be an Erdogan apologist to recognize that this constitutes a threat to the territorial integrity of a treaty ally. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton certainly understood it when she vowed during a visit to Turkey in August 2012 that "Syria must not become a haven for PKK terrorists whether now or after the departure of the [Bashar] al-Assad regime."If the U.S. military was able to form an alliance of convenience with the Syrian Kurds in order to achieve a mutually advantageous goal (defeating and dispersing the caliphate of the Islamic State), great. But that doesn't mean that we should be risking our far more geopolitically important relationship with Turkey because we're now best buddies with and long-term protectors of a group we treated with well-founded suspicion less than a decade ago.Then there's the matter of what exactly we're even doing in Syria. Yes, our actions in Iraq helped to set events in motion that ultimately precipitated the Syrian civil war, and its consequences have been horrific. But that doesn't mean there is anything the U.S. could have done or could do now to produce a better outcome. Obama understood this, which is why he resisted getting involved -- at least until the rise of the Islamic State required it. He did so with a very limited goal: degrade and destroy the fragile territorial caliphate using airpower and a limited number of troops. It made sense that the scope was limited because Congress hadn't approved another war.Whatever euphemism we use to describe it, the operation in Syria was a success, achieving its goal under President Trump. Yet now we're told that we need to maintain a military presence indefinitely to keep the caliphate from returning. Or to protect the Kurds. Or to guard imprisoned ISIS fighters. Or to serve as a counter-weight to Iran and Russia. Or to try and undermine the government of Assad. Or all of the above. The reason almost doesn't matter, as long as we never leave.This is unacceptable. We can't allow Trump's moronic way of governing, or his limitless capacity to inspire idiocy in his partisan opponents, to discredit the attempt to change course. Fashioning a saner and more sustainable foreign policy depends on it.Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:55:00 -0400
  • Lebanon, Cyprus to work on curbing migrant arrivals by boat

    Lebanon's defense minister said his country and Cyprus have agreed to work together on curbing boat loads of migrants from reaching the east Mediterranean island nation. Elias Bou Saab said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart on Tuesday that Lebanon would pass on information to Cypriot authorities to better coordinate in heading off such arrivals. Saab added that the both countries are looking to better coordinate their naval forces.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:42:59 -0400
  • US-China trade talks to resume next week, eyeing to clinch 'phase one' deal during November forum

    Golocal247.com news

    High-level trade talks between China and the US will resume next week as the two sides aim to finalise a "phase one" agreement during an upcoming regional leaders forum next month, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday.Mnuchin and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer plan to have a phone call with Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He next week, following deputy-level calls this week and then further face-to-face meetings on that level.The meetings are meant to prepare for US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to sign an agreement at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Chile next month."The next phase is there is deputy level calls that will be going on this week," Mnuchin said in an interview on CNBC. "Ambassador Lighthizer and myself will have a principal level call next week with the vice-premier."US President Donald Trump listens to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speak during a media conference on trade talks with China's Vice-Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo: EPA-EFE alt=US President Donald Trump listens to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speak during a media conference on trade talks with China's Vice-Premier Liu He in the Oval Office of the White House. Photo: EPA-EFE"My expectation is we'll have the deputies meet between now and Chile, and my expectations are that we will be meeting with the-vice premier in Chile before the presidents meet to finish the deal," he added.Trump said on Friday that the two nations reached a "very substantial phase one deal" after two days of meetings between Mnuchin, Lighthizer and Liu in which the US would suspend a 5 percentage point tariff increase on Chinese imports scheduled for Tuesday, and China would buy more US agricultural goods.China's state news agency Xinhua cited "substantive progress" in the negotiations aimed at ending the 15-month bilateral trade war.Mnunchin said he expected "short-term scaling" up on purchases of agricultural products, valued between US$40 billion and US$50 billion, to meet the Trump administration's expectations. "There is some scaling up to get to that given the amounts," Mnuchin said. "And, again, short-term scaling."China Shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles in California. Enforcement of any trade deal Washington might strike with Beijing is a central issue for lawmakers in both US political parties. Photo: AFP alt=China Shipping containers at the Port of Los Angeles in California. Enforcement of any trade deal Washington might strike with Beijing is a central issue for lawmakers in both US political parties. Photo: AFPThe Treasury secretary declined to explain how much authority China would have in a dispute resolution mechanism that would be part of the interim trade deal, one of the sticking points that caused a breakdown in talks earlier this year.Asked whether the US will have unilateral authority to determine whether China was upholding whatever trade deal is struck or whether Beijing will "have a seat at the table" within the mechanism, Mnuchin said: "I'm not going to go through it, but what I will assure you is that it will have an enforcement mechanism that we can enforce and we're comfortable with."Enforcement of any trade deal Washington might strike with Beijing is one of the key issues many lawmakers in both US political parties have seized upon in their criticism of China.For example, Florida Senator Rick Scott, a Republican who has supported Trump on many issues, issued a statement harshly critical of China shortly after Mnuchin's interview."While it's positive the United States is working towards a deal that would require Communist China to buy more US agriculture products, let's remember: Communist China never lives up to the bargain," Scott said.US Senator Rick Scott, a Republican who has supported Donald Trump on many issues, echoed critics' claims that Beijing has been deceptive in making agreements. Photo: Reuters alt=US Senator Rick Scott, a Republican who has supported Donald Trump on many issues, echoed critics' claims that Beijing has been deceptive in making agreements. Photo: ReutersEchoing complaints from other lawmakers, Scott referenced other areas in which critics have claimed that Beijing has either been deceptive or has not kept its commitments.Beijing is "militarising the South China Sea, even after they promised President Obama they wouldn't, and breaking the agreement to give Hong Kong autonomy and freedom", Scott said."Earlier this year, Communist China agreed to buy more US soy beans, but we haven't seen that happen."When asked in the CNBC interview about Beijing's hard-line reaction to a comment about Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators by an NBA general manager, which has threatened the sports league's future in China, Mnuchin said the resolution would need to be left to the NBA and China."You're dealing with issues of people at the companies ... the NBA itself," Mnuchin said. "It has processes in China, and this is up for them to work out."Pressed further on whether the NBA controversy shows that the American constitutional right to free speech is at risk for US companies operating in the country, Mnuchin said: "As it relates to the overall political system, obviously they have a very different political system than we do."This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:30:00 -0400
  • UPDATE 1-EU's Barnier says he needs Brexit text agreed Tuesday to recommend deal at summit - sources

    The European Union's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the 27 member states staying in the bloc after Brexit that the latest British proposals on a departure deal were not yet good enough, three diplomatic sources said. Barnier also said he needed a legal text agreed by the end of the day to recommend that a summit of EU leaders on Thursday and Friday approves any deal, the sources said. "There is a deadline today evening to agree on legal text," one senior EU diplomat said as Barnier was debriefing the room.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:27:07 -0400
  • U.N. urges Turkey to investigate executions in Syria

    Turkey could be "deemed responsible" for summary executions by an affiliated armed group of several Kurdish fighters and a politician, reportedly shown on videos on social media at the weekend, the United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday. U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a briefing in Geneva that it was obtaining footage of the killings, apparently carried out by Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters near Manbij. "Turkey could be deemed as a state responsible for violations by their affiliated groups as long as Turkey exercises effective control of these groups or the operations in the course of which those violations occurred," Colville said.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:21:21 -0400
  • EU's Barnier says current UK Brexit proposals not good enough - sources

    The European Union's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the 27 member states staying in the bloc after Brexit that the latest UK proposals were not yet good enough, three diplomatic sources said. Barnier also said he needed a legal text agreed by the end of the day to recommend that a summit of EU leaders on Thursday and Friday approves any deal, the sources also said.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 05:09:54 -0400
  • Money, hatred for the Kurds drives Turkey's Syrian fighters

    Golocal247.com news

    The Syrian fighters, trained and funded by Turkey, present themselves as heirs to the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. "The main problem with these forces is their criminality," said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the U.S.-based Foreign Policy Research Institute who has interviewed dozens of the fighters and said they appear to be driven by a desire for power and money rather than by any specific ideology.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 04:56:48 -0400
  • British Brexit minister Barclay says a deal is still very possible

    It is still "very possible" to reach a Brexit deal with the European Union, Britain's minister for the withdrawal from the EU Stephen Barcaly said on Tuesday. "I am looking forward to ... an opportunity to discuss these issues with my EU counterparts," Barclay told reporters on entering a meeting with ministers from the 27 countries that will remain in the EU after Britain leaves.

    Tue, 15 Oct 2019 04:43:42 -0400
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