2019, March, Newsletter

World Newsletter Mar 13, 2019

World News March 13


British lawmakers crushingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to
quit the European Union on Tuesday, thrusting Brexit into turmoil just 17
days before the planned departure date. Lawmakers voted against May’s
amended Brexit deal by 391 to 242 as her last-minute talks with EU chiefs on
Monday to assuage her critics’ concerns ultimately proved fruitless.
The vote puts the world’s fifth largest economy in uncharted territory with
no obvious way forward; exiting the EU without a deal, delaying the March 29
divorce date, or even another referendum are all now possible.
May might even try a third time to get parliamentary support in the hope
that hardline eurosceptic lawmakers in her Conservative Party, the most
vocal critics of her withdrawal treaty, might change their minds if it
becomes more likely that Britain might stay in the EU after all.
Lawmakers will now vote today on whether Britain should quit the world’s
biggest trading bloc without a deal, a scenario that business leaders warn
would bring chaos to markets and supply chains, and other critics say could
cause shortages of food and medicines.
May said the government would not instruct her own party’s lawmakers how to
vote. An opposition Labour Party spokesman said this meant she had “given up
any pretence of leading the country”.
The prime minister, hoarse after Monday’s late-night talks, told lawmakers:
“Let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension
does not solve the problems we face.”She said parliament was now at an
impasse: “Does it wish to revoke Article 50 (announcing intention to leave
the EU)? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave
with a deal, but not this deal?”
However, parliament is expected firmly to reject a “no-deal” Brexit as well,
so lawmakers would then vote again on Thursday – on whether government
should request a delay to the leaving date to allow further talks.
But Both May and the EU have already ruled out any other changes to the
deal, struck after two-and-a-half years of tortuous negotiations.


Pakistan has assured the U.S. that it would deal “firmly” with all
terrorists operating from the country, and take steps to de-escalate
tensions with India, according to National Security Advisor John Bolton.
The assurance was given by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi
during a phone call on Monday, Mr. Bolton said on a day when Foreign
Secretary Vijay Gokhale called on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo here
and discussed the need to bringing those responsible for the Pulwama attack
to justice and the urgency of Pakistan taking meaningful action against
terrorist groups operating on its soil.
“Spoke with Pakistani FM Qureshi to encourage meaningful steps against JeM
and other terrorist groups operating from Pakistan,” Mr. Bolton said in a
“The FM assured me that Pakistan would deal firmly with all terrorists and
will continue steps to de-escalate tensions with India,” he said.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said the purpose of Mr. Qureshi’s
call was to provide Mr. Bolton Pakistan’s perspective on the “recent
regional developments.”


Kurdish-led forces on Tuesday said more people were surrendering from the
Islamic State group’s last scrap of territory in Syria, after overnight air
raids and shelling ravaged jihadist outposts.
A ragged tent encampment in the eastern Syrian village of Baghouz is all
that remains of a once-sprawling IS “caliphate” declared in 2014 across
large swaths of Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have been trying to crush holdout
IS fighters for weeks but the mass outpouring of men, women and children
from the riverside hamlet has bogged down their advance.
Backed by the U.S.-led coalition, the SDF renewed their assault on Sunday
after warning remaining IS fighters that time was up for surrenders.
Airstrikes and shelling have since pummelled Baghouz for two nights in a
row, killing scores of fighters and prompting hundreds of jihadists and
their relatives to surrender.
“There was fierce fighting.” Ali Cheir, an SDF unit commander, said from a
rudimentary outpost inside the village.
“The objective of our advance is to terrorise IS fighters so they surrender,
and for the civilians to come out,” said the 27-year-old fighter.
The frontline was quiet Tuesday morning, hours after the airstrikes and
rocket attacks on Monday night engulfed the last IS pocket in flames.
The commander said the SDF had slowed its offensive after daybreak to allow
for jihadists and their relatives to turn themselves in.


Pakistan’s military is taking a key role in the development of one of the
world’s biggest untapped copper and gold deposits, which is currently
stalled by a multi-billion dollar legal wrangle with foreign mining firms,
multiple sources familiar with the situation said.
The Reko Diq mine, buried at the foot of an extinct volcano near the
frontier with Iran and Afghanistan, has become a test case for Prime
Minister Imran Khan’s ability to attract foreign investment to Pakistan as
it struggles to stave off an economic crisis that has forced it to seek an
International Monetary Fund bailout.
Ten current and former provincial and federal government officials and
mining sources familiar with the project in the Baluchistan region say the
military has become the most important voice on the future of Reko Diq,
which it sees as a strategic national asset.
The military will not only be in a position to decide which investors
develop the deposit, but an army-controlled engineering firm, Frontier Works
Organization (FWO), is positioning itself to be a member of any consortium
“This has been taken over by GHQ,” said a senior Baluchistan government
official, referring to the Pakistan army’s General Headquarters in
In a statement in response to Reuters’ questions about its role in Reko Diq,
the military spokesman’s office said: “(The military) may only participate
in government’s plan of development of Reko Diq, as per national


The United States is withdrawing all remaining diplomatic personnel from its
embassy in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, because of worsening conditions in
the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said late Monday. The move is a
setback for the Trump administration, which had vowed to keep diplomats in
the country to legitimize the opposition challenger to President Nicolás
Maduro, who cut diplomatic ties with the United States in January.
Pompeo said the move reflected the “deteriorating situation” in the country
and the belief that the presence of U.S. diplomats “has become a constraint
on U.S. policy.” The last phrase could be read as hinting at some form of
military intervention. Top administration officials have said since the
start of the political standoff in January that “all options are on the
Pompeo made the announcement in a Twitter post and a two-line statement
released just before midnight Monday. Hours earlier, in the late afternoon,
he gave a briefing on Venezuela to reporters at the State Department without
mentioning any concerns about the handful of U.S. diplomats remaining in


A Chinese official on Tuesday rejected international criticism of internment
camps in the restive Xinjiang region, calling them job training centres that
will “gradually disappear” if “one day society no longer needs it”.
Nearly one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic minorities are
being held in detention centres in Xinjiang, according to estimates cited by
a UN panel.
But Beijing has denied the accusations, saying people are attending
“vocational education centres” to rid them of any extremist thoughts in a
region that was hit by deadly riots and attacks in recent years.
“Our education and training centres have been set up according to our needs.
The students that come in to learn, it’s a dynamic number that changes,”
Shohrat Zakir, chairman of Xinjiang’s government, told journalists on the
sidelines of China’s annual parliamentary meeting.
“As a whole, the number of people in the education centres should be less
and less, and if one day society no longer needs it, these education centres
can gradually disappear,” he said, without providing the number of people at
the facilities.
In an 18-minute-long reply to a journalist’s question, Mr. Zakir defended
the centres, saying that they taught Xinjiang residents Chinese, helped them
gain awareness of the law, improved vocational skills, and were vital in the
region’s fight against extremism. “When (students) are able to distinguish
between right and wrong and able to resist the infiltration of extreme
thoughts… they have a strong desire to get rid of poverty and get rich,
actively pursuing a better life,” he added.


The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has said it will not suspend Boeing
737 Max aircraft despite mounting pressure from senators and workers’
The FAA said a review showed “no systemic performance issues” and there is
no basis for grounding the aircraft.
An Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed on Sunday killing all 157 people on
board, in the second fatal accident involving the 737 Max 8 model in five
A wave of countries and blocs have banned the plane from their airspace.
They include the UK, China, the European Union and Australia.


The European Union expanded its tax haven blacklist by 10 countries on
Tuesday, adding the United Arab Emirates and Bermuda despite the objections
of powerful member states such as Italy.
The list, now 15 countries long, was first drawn up in 2017 in the wake of
several scandals, including Panama Papers and LuxLeaks that pushed the EU
into doing more to fight tax evasion by multinationals and the rich.


Malaysia Airlines may be sold or shut down, Malaysia’s leader said on
Tuesday, the latest bad news for a carrier that has been in crisis since
suffering the loss of two planes.
The 71-year-old airline has been on the ropes since 2014 when Flight MH370
disappeared and MH17 was shot down by a Russian-made missile over war-torn
With the carrier teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, sovereign wealth fund
Khazanah stepped in to take it over several years ago and major reforms were
instituted, including cutting thousands of staff.
But it has continued to fare poorly and its performance was blamed in large
part for a set of poor financial results released by Khazanah last week.
Responding to questions about the airline’s future, Prime Minister Mahathir
Mohamad told reporters in parliament: “I think it is a very serious matter,
to shut down the national airline.
“We will nevertheless be studying and investigating as to whether we should
shut it down or we should sell it off or we should refinance it.”

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