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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - January 2020

Jan 2020

Jan 31, 2020

EU Eyes 'Association Deal' after Brexit

  • Britain's departure from the European Union was set in law as London returned a signed treaty and EU lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to approve the Brexit deal.
  • After half a century of sometimes awkward membership, the United Kingdom will leave the EU at midnight Brussels time. Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the 27 EU states staying on together that a loose so-called 'association agreement' like the one the bloc has with Ukraine should serve as the basis for a new relationship with Britain.
  • Barnier met Brussels envoys of the 27 countries as part of preparations for looming talks on a new EU-UK deal that will start after Britain leaves the bloc.

MEPs Say Goodbye to Brussels

  • MEPs overwhelmingly backed the terms of the UK's departure from the EU.
  • MEPs ratified the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement by 621 votes to 49 following an emotional debate in Brussels.
  • Martina Anderson and Naomi Long made their final speeches in the chamber, while Diane Dodds spoke at an event after the vote.

Greek Plans to Stop Migrant Boats with Floating Barriers

  • Greece is planning to install a floating barrier in the Aegean Sea to help stop migrant boats reaching its islands from Turkey.
  • The barrier, possibly made of netting and equipped with flashing lights, will cover 1.7 miles (2.7 km) and rise above water near the Greek island of Lesbos.
  • Migrants trying to reach Europe often travel through Turkey to Greece. Arrivals have proved hard to manage.
  • Many are fleeing violence and persecution in their countries. The majority of arrivals are from Afghanistan and Syria, according to the United Nations.
  • Strikes and protests took place on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Samos and Chios over the government's handling of migrant arrivals.
  • This latest initiative is "aimed at containing the increasing inflows of migrants" on islands such as Lesbos.

Jan 30, 2020

Israeli PM Formally Charged

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was formally charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, the justice ministry said, shortly after the embattled politician dropped his request for parliamentary immunity. The indictment came as Netanyahu was in Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump for the unveiling of a long-awaited US peace plan. Attorney general Avichai Mandelblit presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court, where Netanyahu will face trial for corruption over gifts and favourable media coverage received in return for regulatory and financial benefits. Mandelblit had announced his decision to charge Netanyahu in November 2019.

New Zealand PM Ardern Calls September Polls

  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called a general election on September. The centre-left leader announced Kiwis would go to the polls on September 19, when she will seek a second three-year term.

European Parliament Puts off CAA Resolution Vote

  • The European Parliament decided to put off a vote on a resolution critical of India's Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) to a session beginning on March 2, a move that is being seen as linked to the upcoming India-EU Summit next month.
  • The Parliament decided to go ahead with a debate on the CAA from midnight on Thursday. A statement by the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Josep Borrell, will be part of the debate.
  • As the plenary session of the European Parliament got underway, the Identity and Democracy (ID) Group – a far-right grouping whose Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were part of a controversial visit to Kashmir arranged by the government last October – called for the resolution to be withdrawn because it was "very badly timed".
  • This proposal was voted down by a majority of the 483 MEPs present in the House.
  • The European People's Party (EPP) Group that is backing the resolution, said voting should be postponed to the session beginning on March 2. This was accepted by a vote of 271 to 199.

US House Warns China over Dalai Lama Succession Process

  • The US House of Representatives passed a bill that authorises financial and travel sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the process of selecting the successor to the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.
  • Introduced by Congressman James P McGovern, Chairman of the House Rules Committee and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the bill was passed by a overwhelming vote of 392 to 22.
  • The bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, will also prohibit China from opening any new consulate in the US until Beijing allows Washington to open its diplomatic station in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
  • According to the bill, the succession or reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, is an exclusively religious matter that should be decided solely by the Tibetan Buddhist community.

Jan 29, 2020

Libya could Become New Syria

  • The head of Libya's national oil corporation has urged the United States, France and Britain to do more to stop outside powers interfering in Libya.
  • Mustafa Sanalla refused to name the regional powers he was referring to.
  • But the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia are supporting the forces of Gen Khalifa Haftar, while Qatar and Turkey have backed the UN-endorsed government of national unity in the west.
  • Mr. Sanalla told the BBC the situation in his country was becoming very dangerous and there was a risk Libya could become like a new Syria.
  • An oil blockade imposed ten days ago by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar has limited production to just 72, 000 barrels of oil a day.
  • Libya had been producing more than a million barrels.

U.S. Top Court Gives Go Ahead to Trump's Green Card Rule

  • The US Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration to move forward with plans to deny green cards to immigrants who are thought to be likely to make even occasional and minor use of public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps and housing vouchers.
  • The vote was 5 to 4, with the court's conservative justices in the majority. The court's brief order gave no reasons for lifting preliminary injunctions that had blocked the new program. Challenges to the program will continue to move forward in courts around the nation.
  • The administration announced in August 2019 that it would revise the so-called public charge rule, which allows officials to deny permanent legal status, also known as a green card, to immigrants who are likely to need public assistance. In the past, only substantial and sustained monetary help or long-term institutionalization counted, and less than 1 percent of applicants were disqualified on public-charge grounds.

Peru Election: Crushing Blow for President's Opponents Popular Force

  • Peru's once influential conservative Popular Force party suffered a crushing defeat in congressional elections.
  • The party dominated Congress before the body was dissolved by President Martín Vizcarra in September 2019.
  • Mr. Vizcarra took the drastic step arguing that lawmakers were obstructing his anti-corruption agenda.
  • No party won an overall majority but centrist parties have made gains, which could ease the passage of reforms.
  • The new Congress will be short-lived - it will be replaced in next year's general elections.

Jan 28, 2020

UK to Unveil Fast-track Visa for Scientists Next Month

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his government will unveil a fast-track visa for scientists, mathematicians and researchers next month, and said that the country was open to the most talented minds in the world.
  • The Global Talent visa will be open from February 20 to those who work in a qualifying field and have been endorsed by a recognised UK body.
  • The new visa system will be managed by the UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI), which funds government research. This is to ensure that suitable applicants are quickly assessed and fast-tracked.
  • As per Boris, that is why the UK is leaving the EU (European Union) I want to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world, and stand ready to support them to turn their ideas into reality.

Jan 27, 2020

Trump: US Won't Lift Sanctions on Iran

  • The US will not lift sanctions on Iran in order to negotiate, President Donald Trump tweeted, seemingly in response to an interview of Iran's foreign minister.
  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded by tweeting an excerpt from the interview with Der Spiegel, where he said that Iran is still open to negotiations if sanctions are lifted.

Rockets Hit Near US Embassy in Iraq Capital

  • A volley of rockets landed near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, in the latest unclaimed attack on American installations in the country.

UN Slams Ongoing Libya Arms Embargo Violations

  • According to the United Nations mission to the North African country, weapons are pouring into Libya in violation of an arms embargo and despite commitments made last week by world powers.
  • World leaders met in Berlin last weekend and committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to upholding the 2011 UN Security Council weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the country''s conflict.
  • They also agreed to a permanent ceasefire and steps to dismantle numerous militias and armed groups, as well as a political process under the auspices of the UN.
  • As per the UN mission in Libya, UNSMIL, over the last 10 days, numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters.
  • Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival administrations vying for power.
  • The conflict deepened last year when military strongman Khalifa Hafter, who controls much of the south and east of Libya, launched an assault in April 2019 to seize Tripoli, base of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.

Palestinians Threaten to Quit Oslo Accords

  • Palestinian officials threatened to withdraw from the Oslo Accords signed with Israel if President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan this week.
  • The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry called for a clear international declaration rejecting 'the deal of the century'" that it said would endanger regional stability.
  • Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the Palestine Liberation Organisation reserved the right "to withdraw from the interim agreement" if Trump unveils his plan.
  • As per Erekat, the US deal was "an attempt to destroy the two states", and would "open the doors of one person one vote from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean".
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, signed in Washington in 1995, sought to put into practice the first Oslo peace deal agreed two years earlier.
  • Sometimes called Oslo II, the interim agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said that the Middle East peace plan "will not pass" and could lead to renewed Palestinian violence.
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