Europe/Americas update: June 30 2017

I know it’s a little early this evening, but I’m beat and so I’m deciding to call it a night barring some major thing happening.



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UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at Cyprus reunification talks in Switzerland (YouTube)

There has apparently been progress in Cyprus reunification talks, but not enough to say if or when there might be a deal:

Progress has been slow in high-level talks to reunify the ethnically divided island of Cyprus, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday, with security issues in particular standing in the way of a peace accord.

Guterres, whose presence on the third day of talks at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana is intended to give the discussions a boost, also played down suggestions that the body is getting weary of the drawn-out problem, which has been in its in-tray since 1964.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Guterres told reporters after lunch with the east Mediterranean island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci.

“It is slow progress and many outstanding issues are still to be resolved,” the U.N. chief said.

Turkey is still flat-out refusing to remove its forces from the island as part of a deal, and Greek Cypriots are still refusing to do a deal unless Turkish forces are removed from the island, so while I guess there may be progress on other issues, it doesn’t appear that there’s been any on the main sticking point.


Ukrainian authorities have detained two Russian border guards who appear to have strayed into Ukrainian territory just north of Crimea. Yes, I know, technically all of Crimea is Ukrainian territory, but sometimes you have to deal with the world as it is and not as you think it should be. Assuming those guards weren’t up to anything more nefarious than guarding an illegitimate border established via Moscow’s naked revanchist land-grab, Kiev ought to release them as soon as possible.


UNESCO is holding a world heritage conference starting Sunday in Krakow, and Poland’s environment minister, Jan Szyszko, wants to use the opportunity to defend his decision to increase logging in the country’s Białowieża Forest, one of the last remnants of primeval forest anywhere in Europe. Szyszko’s move has been heavily criticized by environmental groups, but he says he’s only allowed increased logging in younger sections of the forest and in the interest of preventing bark beetle infestations.


The German parliament on Friday voted to legalize same-sex marriage, a step that will also allow same-sex German couples to adopt children by the end of this year. Chancellor Angela Merkel personally voted no on account of, let’s not forget, she’s a religious conservative, to her credit she enabled this outcome by telling other members of her party to vote their consciences.


It’s been quite a year for Marine Le Pen, who’s gone from “presidential runner up” to “average member of parliament” and now to “target of a criminal investigation“:

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been placed under formal investigation over an alleged European parliament funding scandal.

The allegations were passed to French investigators who have opened a case.

The parliament suspects some €5m (£4m; $5.4m) went to assistants of Ms Le Pen’s National Front (FN) who were not working for MEPs but were actually engaged in FN party work in France.


Say, you want to know how well Brexit is going? So well that some senior EU diplomats are reportedly starting to discuss the possibility that London might either try to outright reverse the process or find a back-door way to essentially stay in the EU under some other construct. Neither of those things seems possible. Politically it’s not clear there’s a will for it in the UK and the EU doesn’t seem to have any procedure to accommodate such a change of heart. Adding to the uncertainty is the fact that Theresa May’s government still really doesn’t seem to have a collective handle on what kind of Brexit it wants–full removal from the customs union and common market, some kind of association relationship, full removal but with a long transition period, etc.

While of a smaller scale than the Finsbury Park mosque attack, here’s another story of a horrifying anti-Muslim hate crime in London:

Jameel Muhktar and Resham Khan were attacked while sitting in a car at traffic lights in Beckton on the morning of 21 June while out celebrating Khan’s 21st birthday.

Both suffered severe burns to the face and body and Muhktar was initially placed in an induced coma. The Metropolitan police named the suspected attacker as John Tomlin, 24, but initially ruled out a religious or racial motive for the crime. However, the Met said on Friday night that new evidence had come to light, prompting them to investigate the assault as a hate crime.

Acting DS Neil Matthews said police were treating the incident “very seriously”, adding: “This investigation continues to move at great pace and my team continues to act on a number of leads to find Tomlin. I would also appeal directly to Tomlin to make contact with police and hand himself in and would urge anyone who knows of his whereabouts to contact police.”



With FARC rebels having given up their arms, the UN’s envoy to Colombia, Jean Arnault, spoke to the Security Council on Friday about the path toward reintegrating them into Colombian society:

Arnault said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stressed that reintegration is a “daunting endeavor,” particularly in light of entrenched illegal economies, the spread of armed groups including organized crime and FARC dissidents, and “a pattern of violence against social leaders.”

The reintegration of combatants is “the first and most urgent challenge,” but the peace process “must also respond to the needs and expectations of the more vulnerable sectors of Colombian society,” Arnault said.

He said the U.N. agrees with Colombia’s government that the focus must be on deploying security forces to protect communities most affected by the war and establish the rule of law, bringing goods and services to rural areas long outside its reach, and delivering on the promise of justice for victims of the conflict.


This sounds like it should go well:

With the political world distracted by President Trump’s media wars, one of the most consequential and contentious internal debates of his presidency unfolded during a tense meeting Monday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, administration sources tell Axios.

  • The outcome, with a potentially profound effect on U.S. economic and foreign policy, will be decided in coming days.
  • With more than 20 top officials present, including Trump and Vice President Pence, the president and a small band of America First advisers made it clear they’re hell-bent on imposing tariffs — potentially in the 20% range — on steel, and likely other imports.
  • The penalties could eventually extend to other imports. Among those that may be considered: aluminum, semiconductors, paper, and appliances like washing machines.

One official estimated the sentiment in the room as 22 against and 3 in favor — but since one of the three is named Donald Trump, it was case closed.

Trump’s decision comes down to pure politics–his core base wants this, and he’s pretty much already lost the support of everybody else, so what does he have to lose? The rest of us have plenty to lose if Trump goes through with this and it turns out to be a disaster, but he really can go for broke at this point.

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