Britain’s Johnson Faces Brexit Deadline

 

A handout picture released by the UK Parliament shows Britain’s Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove (L) and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) listening in the House of Commons in London on October 19, 2019, during a debate on the Brexit deal.
JESSICA TAYLOR / UK PARLIAMENT / AFP

 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces two crucial Brexit votes Tuesday that could decide if he still has a reasonable shot at securing his EU divorce by next week’s deadline.

The UK is entering a cliffhanger finale to a drama that has divided families and embittered politics ever since voters backed a split from Britain’s 27 EU allies and trading partners in 2016.

Johnson has set himself a very high bar by promising that he will get Brexit done — “do or die'” — by the twice-delayed October 31 departure date.

The Conservative leader now hopes parliament gives initial support to a Brexit bill that translates the revised withdrawal agreement he struck with Brussels last week into UK law.

He then hopes the lower House of Commons commits to passing the entire legislation in three days — a heavy lift for a 110-page text designed to unwind 46 years of intricate EU-UK ties.

Failure in either of Tuesday’s votes could deliver a potentially devastating blow to Johnson that will probably see the process prolonged again.

Parliament has already forced Johnson to request a three-month extension that European leaders will consider once they get a clearer picture of how the battles in parliament play out.

Outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday the EU has “done all in our power” to assure an orderly divorce.

Extra time could allow opposition lawmakers to try and secure much closer future trade relations with the bloc than the firmer break envisioned by Johnson.

Pro-European Britons have also held massive rallies in London demanding a second Brexit referendum, which could allow for the result of the first to be overturned.

A delay would give Johnson a fresh stab at an early election designed to give him the parliamentary majority needed to avoid these scenarios and get his legislation through.

‘Move on’

And victory in both of Tuesday’s votes would by no means guarantee that Johnson will manage to get Britain out in the remaining eight days.

The main opposition Labour Party has vowed to fight the government’s attempt to ram through the legislation at breakneck speed.

A three-day process would still likely see Labour and its allies try to attach amendments that are unpalatable to the government.

“Labour will seize every opportunity through the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to safeguard workers’ rights, protect our economy and ensure the people are given the final say,” the left-wing party’s finance spokesman John McDonnell wrote in the Daily Mirror newspaper.

“MPs have an opportunity to reject the false choice between Boris Johnson’s bad deal and no deal,” he wrote.

Government sources told The Daily Telegraph newspaper that Johnson could pull the bill if it gets weighed down with amendments his Conservatives cannot accept.

The same sources warned that Johnson would then try to call an “immediate” election that could be held as early as next month.

Johnson said most Britons just wanted to get Brexit resolved.

“The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I,” Johnson said Monday.

“Let’s get Brexit done on 31 October and move on.”

‘Repetitive and disorderly’

Johnson is coming off a string of parliamentary defeats that underscore the travails his minority government faces as it oversees a historic break from Europe.

His initial attempts to get a version of the new Brexit legislation through were thwarted at a very rare weekend sitting and then again Monday.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled the government’s bid to push the same Brexit proposal through parliament twice in three days “repetitive and disorderly”.

British newspapers expect Johnson to win the first vote Tuesday that essentially agrees to examine the proposed legislation.

But the second vote on the shortened timeline is widely seen as too close to call.

Johnson’s rapid success would see the legislation move to the upper House of Lords of Friday.

The debate there is expected to last two days.

The new deal must further ratified by the European Parliament before Brexit finally takes effect.

 

AFP

UK Will Leave EU By Oct 31, British Govt Vows

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks on a point of order after the House of Commons in London on October 19, 2019 voting to back an amendment in the name of former Conservative MP Oliver Letwin which delays the decision on the Brexit deal.  PRU / AFP

 

A defiant British government doubled down on Sunday, insisting it would leave the European Union in 11 days’ time despite parliament forcing a reluctant prime minister to request another delay.

In a day of high drama on Saturday, MPs in the House of Commons passed up the chance to decide on the revised withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had negotiated with the European Union.

That defeat leaves Johnson under mounting pressure to find a way out of paralysing impasse on when and how Britain would leave the EU bloc after Britons narrowly voted to exit in a 2016 referendum.

Late Saturday, Johnson reluctantly sent European Council President Donald Tusk a letter legally imposed on him by parliament requesting an extension — but refused to sign it.

The Conservative leader sent a second, signed letter insisting he was not seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline, which has already been postponed twice, warning that “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners”.

Having failed to back a divorce deal, which Johnson had secured on Thursday, MPs triggered a law requiring him to write to EU leaders asking to delay Brexit, to avoid the risk that Britain crashes out in less than a fortnight’s time.

Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove, the government’s Brexit planning chief, was nonetheless adamant that Britain would leave the EU on schedule.

“Yes. We are going to leave on October 31. We have the means and the ability to do so,” he told Sky News television.

 EU ‘fed up’: Raab 

The government will bring forward this week the domestic legislation needed to implement the divorce deal, with a first vote as soon as Tuesday.

Separately, it is seeking a new yes-or-no vote on approving the deal on Monday, although this may fall foul of parliamentary procedure.

Commons Speaker John Bercow will rule on whether Johnson can hold a “meaningful vote” on the deal.

“If we get the legislation through then there is no extension. October 31 is within sight,” said Gove.

He said it was dangerous to assume that the 27 other EU leaders would grant an extension.

More than three years on from the June 2016 vote to leave the EU, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC television that from his conversations with other EU capitals, “they are fed up with this now — and we are fed up with it”.

Johnson’s number two added that he was “confident” of leaving on October 31.

The Labour main opposition has lambasted Johnson’s deal as a “sell-out” and voted for the delay.

However, senior figures hinted Sunday that they could let it go through, subject to amendments including a second referendum pitting a divorce deal against remaining in the bloc after all.

“What we are trying to achieve is that this deal in particular, but any deal, is put up against Remain in a referendum,” the party’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer told the BBC.

“And we will have to see tactically how we get there.”

Johnson “might even meet the deadline”, finance spokesman John McDonnell told Sky News.

 Europe mulls response 

Brussels officials pressed on with plans to ratify the divorce deal as European leaders considered Johnson’s delay request.

Ambassadors and senior officials from the other 27 member states met Sunday.

“The EU is keeping all options open and has therefore initiated the ratification process so that it can be handed over to the European Parliament on Monday,” an EU diplomat told AFP.

“The EU will probably pursue this strategy until there is clarity on the British side,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Tusk will spend a “few days” canvassing member state leaders, and diplomats said this would mean the British parliament will have to vote on Brexit again before hearing their decision on the October 31 departure.

MPs voted by 322 votes to 306 on Saturday to support former Conservative MP Oliver Letwin’s amendment to buy extra time.

Letwin said he would now switch and vote for the deal. Former interior minister Amber Rudd said the same, meaning Johnson is just a few votes short.

“We appear to have now the numbers to get this through,” said Raab.

The Brexit date has already been pushed back twice from March 29, to the fury of those who wanted to chart their own course and abandon the European project after nearly 50 years.

AFP

Britain Asks EU For Brexit Delay

AFP photo

 

 

The British government has sent European Union leaders a request to postpone the date of its departure from the bloc, the president of the European Council Donald Tusk said Saturday.

“The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react,” Tusk tweeted, referring to a letter the UK parliament forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to send.

Johnson insists he does not want to postpone Britain’s departure from the European Union beyond the current October 31 Brexit deadline, and says he will not “negotiate” with the Brussels to do so.

But, after he lost a parliamentary vote earlier Saturday, he was compelled by British law to send a letter requesting an extension until January 31, 2020 while parliament works on Brexit legislation.

The decision will come down to the other 27 EU leaders, but it will be Tusk’s job as head of the European Council to gather their views and he could call a special summit to approve an extension.

Alternatively, some EU diplomats believe that a decision could be made through diplomatic channels and issued by Brussels. Either way, an EU source told AFP that Tusk’s consultations “may take a few days”.

European Governments Move To Veto Facebook’s Digital Money

 

Major European players are joining forces to block Facebook’s proposed digital currency because of the dangers it poses to national sovereignty, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire announced Friday,

The firm opposition from France, Italy and Germany added to the mounting resistance faced by the tech giant’s troubled foray into digital finance.

The Group of 20 economies also warned Friday of “serious” risks of money laundering, fraud and illicit finance posed by Libra, the social media network’s digital currency.

Italy, Germany and France will take unspecified steps in the coming weeks “to show clearly that Libra is unwelcome in Europe because our sovereignty is at stake,” Le Maire told reporters on the sidelines of the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington.

“We will not allow a private company to have the same power, the same monetary power as sovereign states,” he added.

“The major difference between Facebook and governments is that we are subject to democratic control, that is the control of the people.”

The Group of Seven economies on Thursday had said any reserve-backed digital currency like Libra — known as a stablecoin — would require a sound legal framework before entering circulation.

But European officials say they want to go even further by blocking the currency outright.

Like Le Maire, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz also said Friday he was “very skeptical” about Libra.

“I favor not allowing the establishment of such a global currency because that is the responsibility of democratic states,” he said.

But Scholz said he recognized the need for banking reforms to make cross-border payments more simple, cheap and speedy.

Answer: a clear ‘no’

“At the same time, we must protect the autonomy of democratic states,” he said.

Libra also has faced challenges from within after major financial and commercial players in recent weeks have backed out of the project, including Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe, PayPal and the online travel firm Bookings Holdings.

But the Libra Association has tried to ward off a blockade by saying it will address the concerns posed by government officials.

“I repeat our priority today is to work with regulators to answer their legitimate questions and provide all necessary assurances,” said Bertrand Perez, managing director of the association.

Le Maire, however, appeared to rule out such cooperation with Facebook, noting that the social media giant planned to tie its cryptocurrency to a basket of reserve assets.

“All Facebook would have to do would be to decide to use more or fewer dollars or euros to affect the exchange rate between the euro and the dollar, and thus have a direct impact on trade, industry and nations which use the dollar or euro as their base currency,” he said.

This could harm monetary policy and affect governments’ efficiency, he added.

“Do we want to put monetary policy in the hands of a private company like Facebook? My answer is clearly no,” he said.

Still, he said he was not opposed to the creation of a digital currency, which France could develop “in a European framework.”

“The right answer is not a private digital currency under the control of one of the largest multinationals on the planet,” he said, referring to Facebook’s more than two billion users.

The Libra association officially launched Monday in Geneva with 21 founding members, including the telecoms firms Vodafone and Iliad, as well as tech outfits Uber, Spotify and Farfetch, blockchain operations such as Anchorage, Xapo and Coinbase and the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

US Imposes Tariffs On EU Goods, Targeting Airbus, Wine And Whisky

 

The United States imposed tariffs on a record $7.5-billion worth of European Union goods on Friday, despite threats of retaliation, with Airbus, French wine and Scottish whiskies among the high-profile targets.

The tariffs, which took effect just after midnight in Washington (0401 GMT), came after talks between European officials and US trade representatives failed to win a last-minute reprieve.

The WTO-endorsed onslaught from US President Donald Trump also comes as Washington is mired in a trade war with China and could risk destabilising the global economy further.

In the line of fire are civilian aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Spain — the countries that formed Airbus — which will now cost 10 percent more when imported to the US.

But the tariffs also target consumer products such as French wine, which Trump had vowed to attack in recent months. Wine from France, Spain and Germany will now face 25 percent tariffs.

Speaking in Washington hours before the tariffs were due to come into effect, France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the move would have serious repercussions.

“Europe is ready to retaliate, in the framework of course of the WTO,” he told reporters shortly after meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund annual meetings.

“These decisions would have very negative consequences both from an economic and a political point of view.”

Le Maire was due to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer later on Friday.

He also warned the US against starting another front in its trade conflicts and again called for a negotiated solution.

At a time when the global economy is slowing, “I think that our responsibility is to do our best to avoid that kind of conflict,” Le Maire said.

The Europeans have long advocated negotiation over conflict and they themselves will be able to impose tariffs next year to punish the United States for subsidising Boeing.

But EU officials had already offered in July to call a truce on subsidies for planemakers, in which both sides would admit fault and agree to curtail state aid — to no avail. The two sides have been involved in a row over the subsidies for 15 years.

The tariffs kick in just days after the United States was given the formal go-ahead by the World Trade Organization.

As recently as Wednesday, Trump singled out the Europeans for being unfair with the US on trade, but said his door was open to negotiate a settlement.

‘Very hard’

The Europeans fear above all that Trump will impose heavy duties on imports of European cars around mid-November.

This would be a serious blow for the German automotive sector in particular, even if giants such as Volkswagen or BMW also manufacture in the United States.

“Our products are very hard to bring in (to Europe)” when Europeans easily import their cars into the United States, Trump said.

The Airbus-Boeing row is just one of several issues stoking transatlantic tensions that quickly descended into acrimony when Trump took office in 2017.

Trump embraced a protectionist agenda, slapping import duties on steel and aluminium from the EU and other allies, while also threatening tariffs on cars.

Trade groups in Europe such as winemakers, German tool manufacturers and whisky producers in Scotland have kept a clamour of protest, demanding Washington reverse tack.

The US leader and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July 2018 to a ceasefire in the conflict to hold trade talks that have so far led nowhere.

The epic legal battle between Airbus and Boeing at the World Trade Organization began in 2004 when Washington accused Britain, France, Germany and Spain of providing illegal subsidies and grants to support the production of a range of Airbus products.

A year later, the EU alleged that Boeing had received $19.1 billion worth of prohibited subsidies from 1989 to 2006 from various branches of the US government.

The two cases were then tangled up in a legal quagmire, with each side being given partial vindication after a long series of appeals and counter appeals.

Britain And EU Strike Brexit Deal Ahead Of Summit

An official hangs a Union Jack next to an European Union flag at EU Headquarters in Brussels on October 17, 2019, ahead of a European Union Summit on Brexit. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

 

Britain and the European Union reached a last-ditch Brexit deal on Thursday, just hours before an EU summit that is expected to give it a seal of approval.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still have to take the accord to a sceptical British parliament for its backing on Saturday, and it is far from certain that it will pass.

Johnson, who has pledged to take Britain out of the EU with or without an agreement, tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday.”

EU officials are pleased they avoided an immediate crisis at the European Council summit, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recommended that the other 27 EU leaders endorse the deal.

READ ALSO: N. Ireland’s DUP Says Opposition To Brexit Deal Remains

“Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions,” Juncker tweeted.

The draft agreement was forged just weeks before Britain was due to leave the bloc on October 31, ending more than four decades of close economic and political ties with its nearest neighbours.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said: “We have managed to find solutions that fully respect the integrity of the single market.

“We created a new and legally operative solution to avoid a hard border, and protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland,” he said.

“It is a solution that works for the EU, for the UK and for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”

One immediate hurdle is opposition from Johnson’s allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which pre-emptively rejected the compromise.

The agreement would see the British-ruled province remain under EU customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) rules, and the loyalist DUP announced that it can not support it.

It is not clear how many of Johnson’s Conservative MPs will back the deal, and if the British opposition could vote it down or attempt to force a nationwide referendum to approve or reject it.

Before setting off for Brussels, German Chancellor Angela Merkel noted approvingly that London had been ready to negotiate and put “concrete proposals on the table”.

Economic disruption

Under the measures to replace the so-called “Irish backstop” in the previous failed agreement, the plan would see Northern Ireland remain British legal territory but trade under EU regulations.

This is intended to prevent the return of a hard border with EU-member Ireland. But, because it would involve some customs and tax checks with the rest of the UK, it raised the hackles of the DUP.

EU negotiator Michel Barnier was to give a news conference to outline more details of the deal.

But one EU source told AFP the agreement “is politically fragile in London” because of Johnson’s reliance on votes from the DUP and Conservative eurosceptics.

The leaders also hope the summit will rise above the Brexit mire and focus on the EU budget debate, bids by North Macedonia and Albania to start talks to join the bloc, and the crisis in relations with Turkey.

The Brexit issue is first on the agenda, with the EU’s 27 other leaders to hear Johnson speak then retire to mull their response. But the issue could be delayed to Friday if the deal text needs more work.

N. Ireland’s DUP Says Opposition To Brexit Deal Remains

In this collage, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster (R) and deputy Nigel Dodds leave from 10 Downing Street in central London on September 10, 2019, while Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) leaves from the rear of 10 Downing Street in central London on October 16, 2019.

 

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is holding out in opposition to the Brexit deal struck Thursday between London and Brussels — a stance which has the potential to sink the agreement.

The DUP, which supports Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, holds major sway in whether a divorce agreement can get through parliament.

In the desperate scramble for votes, DUP backing would have smoothed the path for hardline Conservatives to get behind Thursday’s Brexit package.

Northern Ireland has proved the sticking point in the Brexit negotiations, so satisfying the DUP, the province’s biggest party, has proved a key test on the road to an acceptable deal.

The DUP is a hardline group whose tough negotiating tactics were forged in the sectarian conflict over British rule in Northern Ireland that left thousands dead over three decades.

The party is known for its fiery rhetoric and steely determination in holding out, rather than its willingness to compromise.

“No” has been its classic watchword.

Hours before London and Brussels announced they had found an agreement, the DUP said it could not support what was on the table — notably on customs and consent issues, as well as sales tax arrangements.

The party said it wants a deal that “protects the economic and constitutional integrity” of the United Kingdom.

Following the news from Brussels, a DUP source told AFP that the earlier statement “remains our position”.

Clout

The hard-bargaining party has only 10 MPs in the 650-seat British parliament in London.

However, those votes could prove vital to the prime minister if he is to get any deal through the lower House of Commons.

The DUP propped up the Conservative government after the 2017 general election, giving it a slim majority in the lower house.

The alliance agreement with the government came at a price of £1 billion ($1.3 billion, 1.15 billion euros) in extra funding for Northern Ireland.

Since Johnson expelled rebel Conservatives in early September, the government is now well short of a majority — even with DUP votes.

Fundamentalists

Deeply socially and economically conservative, the DUP is firmly rooted in Northern Ireland’s Protestant, pro-British community.

It has softened its fiery anti-Catholicism since it was founded by the Protestant evangelical minister Ian Paisley in 1971.

The party has been led for nearly four years by Arlene Foster, 49, who survived a school bus bombing as a teenager.

The no-nonsense figure was Northern Ireland’s first minister throughout 2016 before the province’s power-sharing institutions collapsed in early 2017 over a lack of trust.

The DUP campaigned for Brexit but the four other major parties in Northern Ireland were all against it.

The DUP is the only Northern Irish party in the British parliament. Members of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein do not take their seven seats and there is one independent unionist.

On the lowest UK regional turnout of 63 percent in the 2016 EU membership referendum, 56 percent in Northern Ireland backed the UK staying in the European Union.

EU, UK Reach Brexit Deal

 

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said Thursday that Brussels had come to an agreement with Britain on a Brexit withdrawal agreement to be presented to EU leaders.

“Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions,” Juncker tweeted.

“I recommend that EUCO endorses this deal,” he said, referring to the European Council of the leaders of member states that was to meet later Thursday.

READ ALSO: US House Condemns Troops Withdrawal From Syria

Affirming Junker’s statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also on Thursday announced what he said was a “great new deal” for Britain to leave the European Union, as leaders gathered in Brussels for talks.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control,” he wrote on Twitter, calling on lawmakers in London to approve the agreement at a rare sitting of parliament on Saturday.

EU Condemns Turkey’s Syria Offensive

 

EU member states united on Monday to condemn Turkey’s offensive in Syria but stopped short of imposing an arms embargo, while opening the way to sanctions over Ankara’s controversial drilling off Cyprus.

“The EU condemns Turkey’s military action which seriously undermines the stability and the security of the whole region,” the bloc said in a joint statement at a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

AFP

Syria: Erdogan Threatens To Flood Europe With Refugees

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the extended meeting with provincial heads of ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in Ankara, Turkey, on October 10, 2019.
Adem ALTAN / AFP

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the EU on Thursday that Ankara would allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticised Turkey’s military offensive in Syria. 

“Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you,” Erdogan said in a speech to his party.

Turkey launched an operation into Syrian territory on Wednesday, aimed at combating Kurdish militants tied to insurgents in its own territory.

Erdogan said 109 “terrorists” had been killed so far in the operation, which would soon cover ground from Manbij in northern Syria to the Iraqi border some 350 kilometres (220 miles) east.

“God willing, we will crush these snakes’ heads quickly,” he said.

“What we are trying to do is prevent the establishment of a terrorist state on our southern border. This cannot happen,”

Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million refugees from the eight-year conflict in Syria — the highest number in the world.

Under a 2016 agreement with the EU, Turkey agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros and visa-free travel for its citizens, but has frequently criticised the lack of assistance from Brussels.

“You have never been sincere,” Erdogan said, addressing the EU.

“Now they say they will withhold three billion euros from us. Have you ever kept any promise you gave us so far? No.”

One aim of the military operation is to establish a “safe zone” in which at least one million Syrian refugees can be repatriated, after the long-term presence of refugees became an increasingly political liability.

“For those who want to return to their country but don’t have a home left anymore, we plan to build settlements for one million people, with international financing,” Erdogan said.

He also sought to assuage concerns regarding Islamic State prisoners currently held by Kurdish forces.

“Those that need to be kept in jail we will keep in jail. We will return foreigners to their home countries if they accept them back,” he said.

AFP

EU Asks Turkey To Stop Syria Operations

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday demanded Turkey halt its military operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any so-called “safe zone” that might be created.

“I call on Turkey as well as the other actors to act with restraint and to stop operations already as we are speaking under way,” Juncker said at the European Parliament.

AFP

EU Warns Turkey Operation In Syria Will Harm Civilians

 

The European Union on Monday warned that a threatened Turkish offensive against a Kurdish militia in northeast Syria would harm civilians and cause a “massive displacement” of people.

Turkey has sent reinforcements to the border in recent weeks and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the long-threatened operation against Kurdish militants Ankara regards as terrorists could come “any night without warning”.

“The renewed armed hostilities in the northeast will not only exacerbate civilian suffering and lead to massive displacement but will also risk severely undermining current political efforts,” spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels.

EU foreign ministers will discuss the looming crisis during talks in Luxembourg on Monday, she added.

“While recognising Turkey’s legitimate security concerns, the European Union has from the very beginning said that any sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict will not be reached by or through military means, but requires a genuine political transition,” she said, urging “unhindered, safe and sustainable” access for humanitarian help.

President Donald Trump has given his blessing to the Turkish operation, saying the US would stand aside when Turkey advances — effectively abandoning the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia, which had been an important American ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

AFP