World Newsletter

IRAN TANKER ROW: DETAINED SHIP SETS SAIL FROM GIBRALTAR
19th Aug 2019

An Iranian ship held by Gibraltar since July on suspicion of transporting oil to Syria has left port. Marine tracking shows the tanker moving east into the Mediterranean and lists Kalamata in Greece as the destination. Gibraltar earlier rejected a request by the US to again seize the ship, which has changed its name from Grace 1 to Adrian Darya-1. The US made the last-minute request on Friday, a day after Gibraltar lifted its detention order. Gibraltar said it could not comply with Washington's request to issue a new detention order because US sanctions against Iran did not apply in the EU. Tehran said it was ready to dispatch a naval escort to the Adrian Darya-1. The Gibraltar authorities freed the vessel on Thursday after receiving assurances from Iran that it would not discharge its cargo in Syria. The US justice department then filed a request to detain the ship on the grounds that it had links to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which it has designated a terrorist group. Gibraltar, in a statement on Sunday, said it could not comply with the request because the Revolutionary Guard Corps is not viewed as a terrorist organisation by the EU, which the British territory is currently part of. It also said that US sanctions preventing oil exports from Iran could not be enforced by the EU, reflecting what it said were "the very different positions and legal regimes in the US and the EU". ISLAMIC STATE CLAIMS AFGHAN WEDDING SUICIDE BLAST THAT KILLED 63 The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility on Sundayfor a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underling the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agree a pact with the United States. The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government. Islamic State (IS) fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban. The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall, in a minority Shi'ite neighbourhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels". The Taliban had earlier denied responsibility for the Kabul attack and condemned it. More than 180 people were wounded with many women and children among the casualties, interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on Sunday, as families thronged to Kabul's crowded cemeteries. MEMO WARNS OF FOOD SHORTAGES IN BREXIT CHAOS Secret British government documents have warned of serious disruptions across the country in the event that the U.K. leaves the European Union without a trade deal on October 31, according to a report. The Sunday Times newspaper published what it said was what the British government expects in the case of a sudden, "no-deal" Brexit. Among the most serious are disruptions to the supply of drugs and medicine, fresh food. Water shortages can be expected due to interruptions of imported water treatment chemicals. Although the grim scenarios reportedly outlined in the government documents have long been floated by academics and economists, they've been repeatedly dismissed as scaremongering by Brexit proponents. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he is ready to leave the EU regardless of whether he is able to renegotiate the Brexit deal struck with Brussels by his predecessor, Theresa May. The documents published by the Times also quote officials as warning that up to 85% of all trucks wouldn't be ready for French customs at the critical English Channel crossing that day, causing lines that could stretch out for days. Some 75% of all drugs coming into Britain arrive via that crossing, the memos warned, "making them particularly vulnerable to severe delays." The officials foresee "critical elements" of the food supply chain being affected that would "reduce availability and choice and increase the price, which will affect vulnerable groups." CHINA WARNS CANADA TO STOP MEDDLING IN HONG KONG China's embassy in Ottawa warned Canada on Sunday to stop meddling in Hong Kong's affairs, saying that "the Canadian side should be cautious with its words and deeds." Canada and the EU issued a joint statement Saturday saying the right of peaceful assembly is enshrined in basic law in Hong Kong. Weeks of protests in the Chinese territory show no sign of relenting. The movement's demands include the resignation of the city leader, democratic elections and an independent investigation into police use of force. Mainland Chinese police are holding drills in nearby Shenzhen, prompting speculation they could be sent in to suppress the protests. The statement from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa says the "people of Hong Kong enjoy unprecedented democratic rights and a broad range of freedoms rarely seen across the world." It also says the "relevant protests and demonstrations in Hong Kong have already deteriorated and evolved into extreme violence. In face of such severe violence and offences, no government with a sense of responsibility would sit idly by." If Canada wants to voice a position, the statement added, it should "clearly condemn the violent criminal activities." JVP ANNOUNCES DISSANAYAKE AS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Sri Lanka's leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) or the People's Liberation Front on Sunday said it would field party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake as presidential candidate, effectively offering a third option to Sri Lankan voters in the polls scheduled later this year. The announcement comes a week after the Rajapaksa camp named former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa its candidate contesting from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP or People's Front). Amid much tension among different factions within, the incumbent United National Party (UNP)-led alliance is yet to name its candidate. Mr. Dissanayake enters the fray through the JVP-led 'National People's Power' alliance, challenging two mainstream political camps, and promising an alternative. While the JVP has not electorally threatened mainstream parties - the UNP, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and SLPP - in recent national or local elections, it has remained a significant voice of dissent in the legislature, frequently taking on the big parties on allegations of corruption and nepotism. During the nearly two-month political crisis last year, the six JVP MPs proved a crucial block in the Parliament. Along with the Tamil National Alliance legislators, they resisted the illegal power grab by the Rajapaksas. Mr. Dissanayake's speeches, hailed by many as powerful and persuasive, drew wide attention at that time. ICELAND COMMEMORATES FIRST GLACIER LOST TO CLIMATE CHANGE Iceland unveiled a plaque to its Okjokull ice sheet on Sunday, the first of the country's hundreds of glaciers to melt away due to climate change. Scientists see the shrinking of glaciers as one of many warning signs that the earth's climate is lurching toward dangerous tipping points. A ceremony to unveil the plaque was attended by scientists and locals at the glacier in west-central Iceland, which in 2014 no longer fulfilled the criteria to be classified as a glacier after melting throughout the 20th century. "Ok (Okjokull) is the first Icelandic glacier to lose its status as a glacier. In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path," said the inscription on the plaque written by Icelandic author Andri Snaer Magnason. "We know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it," said the inscription, directed towards future generations. According to satellite images from the NASA Earth Observatory, the glacier appeared as a solid-white patch in 1986, but in an image from August 1 this year, only small dashes of white ice remained. Icelanders call their nation the "Land of Fire and Ice" for its other-worldly landscape of volcanoes and glaciers, immortalised in literature. But the glaciers are melting and scientists say rising global temperatures are to blame. "There is no longer any doubt that the climate in the Arctic is changing markedly and rapidly," said Minik Rosing, professor at the University of Copenhagen. "All of the Nordic countries comprise Arctic territories, where climate change has gone from theoretical predictions of the future to everyday reality," he said. APPLE CEO WARNS TRUMP ABOUT CHINA TARIFFS, SAMSUNG COMPETITION President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he had spoken with Apple Inc's Chief Executive Tim Cook about the impact of U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports as well as competition from South Korean company Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. Trump said Cook "made a good case" that tariffs could hurt Apple, given that Samsung's products would not be subject to those same tariffs. Tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese goods, including consumer electronics, are scheduled to go into effect in two stages on Sept. 1 and Dec. 15. By contrast, the United States and South Korea struck a trade agreement last September. "I thought he made a very compelling argument, so I'm thinking about it," Trump said of Cook, speaking with reporters at a New Jersey airport. U.S. stock futures rose upon opening on Sunday after Trump's comments. In addition to his comments on Apple, Trump said on Twitter earlier in the day that his administration was "doing very well with China." Apple's MacBook laptops and iPhones would not face the additional tariffs until Dec. 15, but some of the company's other products, including its AirPods, Apple Watch and HomePod, would be subject to the levies on Sept. 1. US PRESIDENT TRUMP DOES NOT WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH CHINA'S HUAWEI US President Donald Trump on Sunday said he did not want the United States to do business with China's Huawei even as the administration weighs whether to extend a grace period for the company. Reuters and other media outlets reported on Friday that the US Commerce Department is expected to extend a reprieve given to Huawei Technologies Co Ltd that permits the Chinese firm to buy supplies from U.S. companies so that it can service existing customers. The "temporary general license" will be extended for Huawei for 90 days, Reuters reported, citing two sources familiar with the situation. On Sunday, Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One in New Jersey that he did not want to do business with Huawei for national security reasons. He said there were small parts of Huawei's business that could be exempted from a broader ban, but that it would be "very complicated." He did not say whether his administration would extend the "temporary general license." Speaking earlier on Sunday, National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said the Commerce department would extend the Huawei licensing process for three months as a gesture of "good faith" amid broader trade negotiations with China. "We're giving a break to our own companies for three months," Kudlow said on NBC's "Meet the Press”.

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