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US threatens to sanction Turkey over Russia’s defense system

The United States threatened to introduce sanctions against Turkey should it buy Russia’s S-400 air defense system, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell (pictured) said on Tuesday, during a hearing in the US Senate. The announcement came after The US Senate passed a draft defense bill earlier this month halting the transport of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey until it has been verified that Turkey will not accept any delivery of Russian S-400 systems.

Mitchell expressed concern over the future recovery of US relations with Turkey if the Russian air defense system deal goes through. “We will introduce sanctions within Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Acts (CAATSA)”, he added.

Mitchell reminded that Turkey is a NATO member and that the military arrangement with Russia is not compatible with its membership in the alliance. However, he added that the US is ready to work with the newly elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on improving bilateral relations between the two countries.

China ready to retaliate if US issues new tariffs list

China is ready to respond with qualitative and quantitative tools if the United States issues a new list of tariffs, Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China said on Thursday. However, the ministry also stated it believes that previous negotiations with US were constructive.

Due to unpredictability in US actions, China must respond strongly, the ministry asserted. China is ready to work towards increasing transparence and stability for foreign companies, the commerce ministry statement added.

On Tuesday, Director of the White House National Trade Council Peter Navarro said that the recently introduced tariffs against Chinese goods, as well as the announcement of additional duties, were prompted by Beijing’s “predatory” trade practices.


China blasts new US tariff threat, warns it will retaliate

BEIJING — China warned Tuesday it will retaliate against President Donald Trump’s latest tariff threat, fueling fears their escalating dispute could harm global trade and economic growth.

The Commerce Ministry criticized Trump’s order to prepare tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods as blackmail. In a forcefully worded statement, it said Beijing is ready to “defend the interests of the Chinese people and enterprises.”

“If the U.S. side becomes irrational and issues the list, China will have to adopt comprehensive measures in quantity and quality in order to make strong countermeasures,” said the statement.

It gave no details. But on Saturday, Beijing announced 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of U.S. imports including soybeans and beef effective July 6 in response to Trump’s tariff hike on a similar amount of Chinese goods. It also scrapped agreements to narrow China’s trade surplus with the United States by purchasing more American farm goods, natural gas and other products.

Asian stock markets fell following Trump’s announcement. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 3.7 percent at midday while Tokyo’s benchmark was off 1.7 percent.

The pain has been limited so far to sellers of goods targeted by U.S. and Chinese tariffs, but economists say the impact could spread.

The risk of “a more meaningful impact on global trade and growth have increased,” said Morgan Stanley economists in a report.

Until now, China has mirrored Trump’s actions, matching Friday’s tariff hike with identical charges on the same amount of imports. But the lopsided status of U.S.-Chinese trade means Beijing doesn’t import enough American goods to match Trump’s latest threat.

China bought American goods worth $153.9 billion last year, while exports to the United States totaled $429.8 billion, according to customs data. That would leave about $120 billion of imports available for retaliatory tariffs after Saturday’s announcement.

Chinese regulators also have the option of broadening their retaliation by tying up American companies in tax or anti-monopoly investigations or by denying or revoking licenses.

“China could target U.S. firms through tax and regulatory policies,” said Citigroup in a report.

Washington’s dispute with China is part of broader U.S. complaints about global trading conditions that have prompted Trump to raise duties on steel, aluminum, washing machines or solar panels from Canada, Europe, Japan and South Korea.

Economists warn Washington might be undercutting its negotiating position by alienating potential allies.

The U.S. tariff hikes imposed so far affect a total of about $109 billion of imports, according to Morgan Stanley. It said with retaliatory tariffs imposed by American trading partners added in, the total rises to $181 billion, or 1 percent of global trade.

The process of negotiating a settlement “is now likely to become more protracted,” said Morgan Stanley economists in a report.

The United States and China have the world’s biggest trading relationship but official ties are increasingly strained over complaints Beijing’s technology development tactics hurt American companies.

Beijing has offered to narrow its politically volatile trade surplus with the United States but has resisted changing technology development tactics its leaders see as a path to prosperity and to restoring China’s rightful role as a global leader.

Trump has taken direct aim at Beijing’s industrial policies by targeting tariffs at goods the White House benefit from them.

Monday’s tariff threat comes on top of $34 billion of Chinese goods subject to an extra 25 percent tariff effective July 6 in response to complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

The Trump administration also has threatened a tariff hike on another $100 billion of imports in its parallel dispute over Beijing’s trade surplus, though it has yet to say when that might take effect.

Europe, Japan and other trading partners raise similar complaints, but Trump has been unusually direct about challenging Beijing and threatening to disrupt such a large volume of exports.

“Beijing will not panic in response to Trump’s latest threat, but will be deeply concerned,” said Eurasia Group in a report. “China’s government will step up an already intensive effort to determine whether Trump has the political strength to carry out his threats, while working to maximize pressure on US interests to force him to back down and accept a compromise.”

Dozens killed as earthquake strikes Iran-Iraq border area

A strong earthquake that shook the Iran-Iraq border region on Sunday killed at least 66 people, authorities and state media in the two countries said.

The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network quoted the head of the country’s emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, as saying at least 61 had been killed and 300 injured on Iran’s side of the border.

In Iraq, officials said the quake had killed six people in Sulaimaniyah province and injured around 150.

“Four people were killed by the earthquake” in Darbandikhan, the town’s mayor Nasseh Moulla Hassan told AFP.

With tensions high, Trump, Abe strengthen bond on the links

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his speech to the U.S. military personnel upon his arrival at the U.S. Yokota Air Base on the outskirts of Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. President Trump arrived in Japan Sunday on a five-nation trip to Asia, his second extended foreign trip since taking office and his first to Asia. The trip will take him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and Philippines for summits of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). AP

TOKYO (AP) — With a round of golf, a custom cap and a hamburger of American beef, President Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia began with a taste of home.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed Trump to Japan Sunday with an effusive display of friendship that, in the days ahead, will give way to high-stakes diplomacy. The two leaders, who have struck up an unlikely but easy rapport, shared a casual lunch and played nine holes at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, joined by professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama.

The low-key agenda was a prelude to the formal talks, a press conference and state dinner planned in Tokyo Monday. Abe will be looking for a united front against North Korea and reassurances that the U.S. will stand by its treaty obligations to defend Japan if attacked.

Chinese Largesse Lures Countries to Its Belt and Road Initiative

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to revive an ancient trade route connecting the Middle Kingdom, Central Asia and Europe has morphed into a sweeping campaign to boost global trade and economic growth. While globalization is losing public support in the U.S. and Europe, Xi’s“Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) has met with increasing acceptance from both developing and developed countries hoping to cash in on Chinese largesse.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative

 

Hundreds of leaders and dignitaries from 110 participant countries will gather at a summit in Beijing this month to discuss the grand plan. Countries along the routes account for 16 percent of the global economy today and about a fifth of global trade. But with about 43 percent of the world’s population, China is betting that’s set to increase.

Indeed, China’s outreach seems to have no geographic limits, with New Zealand and South Africa among those to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China to jump on the “Belt and Road” bandwagon.

From Bangladesh to Belarus, railways, refineries, bridges, industrial parks and much else is being built. In Colombo, a new city larger than Monaco is taking shape near Sri Lanka’s main port. With an estimated total investment of $13 billion spanning about 25 years, the new city is shaping up as the poster child for the China’s grand plan.

A freight route linking China’s eastern coast and London has already started operating. Stretching over 12,000 kilometers and passing through nine countries, the railway allows cargo to travel across the Eurasia continent in 18 days.

But it’s not going to be all good news, if history is any guide. From Africa to Latin America, China has a checkered history when it comes to its foreign investments. In Venezuela, a high-speed railway project was abandoned. The Latin American country, also one of the largest recipients of Chinese lending, defaulted last year on a payment of principal in an oil-for-loan program due to a mounting economic crisis at home.

Even in Myanmar, where demand for Chinese money to develop infrastructure is huge, a $3.6 billion dam project was halted after local protests over environment concerns.

Doubters claim the “Belt and Road Initiative” is all about China exporting its industrial overcapacity and seeking to generate new contracts for its bloated state-owned industries or worse, forcing more and more neighbors into its strategic orbit. Optimists see Chinese investment unlocking economic growth across a vast region with a young population. For Xi, this month’s summit is a chance to persuade a skeptical world that globalization indeed does have a new champion.

 

Fighting Between Azerbaijan and Armenia Flares Up in Nagorno-Karabakh

Dozens of people have been killed in clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed Caucasus region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia said 18 ethnic-Armenian soldiers had died in the fighting, among the worst in two decades.

Azerbaijan said it had lost 12 troops and there were unconfirmed reports of civilian deaths on both sides.

Nagorno-Karabakh has been in the hands of ethnic-Armenian separatists since a war that ended in 1994.

Frozen conflict threatens to reignite

Azeris dream of return

Nagorno-Karabakh profile

Russia, which has sold arms to both sides, called for an immediate ceasefire and for both sides to exercise restraint.

Azerbaijan said its armed forces had come under fire first from large-calibre artillery and grenade-launchers, and that it had taken over two strategic hills and a village.

Nagorno-Karabakh's military had images on its website reportedly showing a downed Azerbaijani helicopter

Nagorno-Karabakh’s military had images on its website reportedly showing a downed Azerbaijani helicopter

Both sides reported civilian casualties in the fighting

Both sides reported civilian casualties in the fighting

 

The fighting prompted a rush of potential recruits to Nagorno-Karabakh's military

The fighting prompted a rush of potential recruits to Nagorno-Karabakh’s military

The Armenian government said Azerbaijan had launched a “massive attack” with tanks, artillery and helicopters.

The Armenian-backed defence ministry in Karabakh said a 12-year-old boy had been killed and two other children injured.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has spoken with his Armenian and Azeri counterparts – Seyran Ohanyan and Zakir Hasanov – by phone, Interfax reported, in an effort to calm the situation.

Fighting between the two sides began in the late 1980s and escalated into full-scale war in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed, killing about 30,000 people before a ceasefire in 1994.

The region, which lies inside Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Armenians, has since run its own affairs with Armenian military and financial backing, but clashes break out on a regular basis.

_89048314_nagorno_karabakh_map


Analysis: Konul Khalilova, BBC Azeri

The fighting that erupted on Friday night is some of the worst since a 1994 ceasefire between the two sides. Azerbaijan says it has taken back two strategically important villages from the Armenian army, a claim denied by Armenia. As usual, both sides say the other pulled the trigger first.

There are reports of civilian casualties on both sides. Witnesses told the BBC’s Azeri service that people were being evacuated from villages near to the conflict zone and that others were hiding in basements.

Both President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Armenia’s President Sargsyan are on their way back from the international nuclear summit in Washington.

Azerbaijan has purchased at least $4bn worth of arms from Russia. Armenia, an important strategic partner of Russia in the Caucasus, also buys weapons from Russia. There are concerns that the fighting could lead to a more wide-scale military conflict.

Leaders on both sides have been blamed for not making enough effort to achieve peace and instead using the conflict as a tool to stay in power. Nationalist sentiment boosted by pro-government media in both societies has been at its height in recent years.


The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has expressed “grave concern” over the reported large-scale ceasefire violations.

The co-chairmen of the body’s Minsk Group – ambassadors Igor Popov of Russia, James Warlick of the US, and Pierre Andrieu of France – issued a joint statement saying: “We strongly condemn the use of force and regret the senseless loss of life, including civilians.

“The co-chairs call upon the sides to stop shooting and take all necessary measures to stabilise the situation on the ground. They reiterate that there is no alternative to a peaceful negotiated solution of the conflict and that war is not an option.”

Frozen conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh

_89049338_89049337

  • The conflict has roots dating back over a century to competition between Christian Armenian and Muslim Turkic and Persian influences
  • Frictions exploded into violence when the region’s parliament voted to join Armenia in the late 1980s
  • The ethnic Azeri population – about 25% of the total before the war – fled Karabakh and Armenia while ethnic Armenians fled the rest of Azerbaijan
  • Russian-brokered ceasefire signed in 1994, leaving Karabakh and swathes of Azeri territory around the enclave in Armenian hands
  • Progress on a peace process stalled after talks between Armenian and Azeri leaders in 2009. Serious ceasefire violations have followed
  • Karabakh is a word of Turkic and Persian origin meaning “black garden”, while “Nagorno” is a Russian word meaning “mountain”

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