The EU’s diplomatic chief on Tuesday urged all parties to the Iran nuclear accord to save it, saying escalating tensions made the deal “more important than ever.”
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs high representative, spoke after Britain, France and Germany formally triggered a dispute mechanism under the accord, after Iran announced its fifth major step back from compliance.
The 2015 deal gave Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
Borrell, who will oversee the dispute mechanism which could ultimately lead to reimposition of UN sanctions, said the aim of the process was to save the deal, not sink it.
“The dispute resolution mechanism requires intensive efforts in good faith by all. As the coordinator, I expect all JCPOA participants to approach this process in that spirit,” he said, using an acronym for the deal’s formal title.
“In light of the ongoing dangerous escalations in the Middle East, the preservation of the JCPOA is now more important than ever,” he said.
The former Spanish foreign minister stressed that there was “no alternative” to the existing accord, which took a decade of hard-fought negotiations to agree.
“The aim of the dispute resolution mechanism is not to reimpose sanctions. The aim of this mechanism is to resolve issues related to the implementation of the agreement,” Borrell told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“Let me say this clearly: the dispute resolution mechanism that is being triggered now is not about reimposing sanctions.”
In launching the process, Britain, France and Germany accused Tehran of repeated violations of the deal but insisted they remained committed to it.
But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that he would be willing to work on a “Trump deal” to replace the existing accord. Borrell refused to comment on the idea when asked.
US President Donald Trump dealt a devastating blow to the Iran deal — struck by his predecessor Barack Obama — by unilaterally withdrawing from it in May 2018 and reimposing swingeing sanctions.
The EU on Saturday voiced its opposition to US sanctions against companies building a Russian natural gas pipeline to Germany.
“As a matter of principle, the EU opposes the imposition of sanctions against EU companies conducting legitimate business,” an EU spokesman said.
The sanctions were signed off by US President Donald Trump on Friday, targeting companies building the nearly $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
The project aims to double deliveries of Russian natural gas to Europe’s leading economy, Germany, but US lawmakers warn it will enrich a hostile Russian government and vastly increase President Vladimir Putin’s influence at a time of heightened tension across the continent.
The European Commission, the bloc’s executive, is now analysing the likely impact of the US sanctions.
“The Commission’s objective has always been to ensure that Nord Stream 2 operates in a transparent and non-discriminatory way with the appropriate degree of regulatory oversight,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman noted that EU rules on pipelines to the bloc, which came into force in May, have been recognised by the US.
The US sanctions came just days after the EU brokered a deal between Russia and Ukraine on the transit of gas to Europe ahead of a looming New Year deadline.
Some 18 percent of the EU’s annual natural gas consumption comes from Russia via Ukraine, putting additional pressure on EU officials to broker a deal.
European leaders arrived for their Brussels summit Thursday knowing that before their late-night budget debate is over British voters will have given their latest verdict on leaving the bloc.
The 27 remaining EU chiefs have a packed summit agenda and a dispute to resolve over how to fund the fight against climate change, but diplomats will have an ear to the ground for news from across the Channel.
Meeting reporters on their arrival, the leaders were tight-lipped, but privately many officials in Brussels say they hope Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins a working majority.
Only then, they believe, will he be able to ratify a deal to oversee an orderly British departure on January 31 and rapidly launch talks on the future trading relationship.
On Friday, when the British result is clear, they are expected to task the European Commission’s negotiator Michel Barnier with drawing up a united EU position on a trade deal for their approval.
In the meantime, however, with polling still under way, they were cautious.
“I have a lot of respect for the British voters, and I think they will find a wise solution,” said Ursula von der Leyen, attending her first EU summit as president of the European Commission.
Summit host Charles Michel, who as president of the European Council will wield the absent British leader’s vote at the summit, was also discreet.
“I show always respect for the choices made by the voters and we will wait and see what will be the outcome of this election,” he said.
‘No one knows’
Johnson made a career as a journalist and later as a leader of the pro-Brexit movement by criticising the European Union — making several enemies in Brussels.
But, after three years of chaotic attempts to agree separation terms in the wake of the 2016 British exit referendum, many EU leaders are resigned to Johnson representing the best chance of a orderly divorce.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said a British prime minister should have a majority “to fulfil the agreements we decided on both sides… a parliament in London that agrees on the future relationship, and all these things very quickly”.
Only Donald Tusk, Michel’s predecessor as head of EU council and now leader of the biggest pan-European party the centre-right EPP, still publicly entertains the idea of an alternative endgame.
“We don’t know what the result is going to be, no one knows, and how it will affect Brexit,” the former Polish premier said, as conservative leaders held an EPP meeting ahead of the main summit.
“But regardless of the result, which means regardless of whether it ends with Brexit, an impasse or a second referendum, the EU should do everything to have the best possible relations with the United Kingdom.
“Whatever happens, we must remain friends and closest partners.”
The Nigerian Government has asked the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union to stop meddling in its affairs.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, advised the countries and organisation to rather address the issues in their respective domains.
He stated this in response to a question on the allegations of human rights abuses by the Federal Government with a focus on those in detention, including the convener of #RevolutionNow movement, Mr Omoyele Sowore.
“We are not answerable to either the U.S. or the UK or the EU; we are Nigeria, a sovereign country,” Adesina said during an interview on Wednesday’s episode of Channels Television’s Politics Today.
He added, “Those countries and entities have issues of their own; let them deal with their issues. Let Nigeria also deal with her internal issues. We are not answerable to them.”
A Tiny But Vocal Minority
Apart from Mr Sowore, some of the notable Nigerians in detention include the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Ibrahim Elzakzaky, his wife, Zeenat, as well as former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), among others.
Barely 24 hours after he was released on the order of the court, Sowore was rearrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) on Friday last week.
Sowore’s rearrest and the circumstances that led to it were strongly condemned by the civil society and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, among many others.
In his reaction, Adesina insisted that the criticism was from those he described as a minority compared to the large population in the country.
He stressed, “The President knows the truth about what is happening in the country, so there is no need for any worry or agitation.
“But the question is who are these Nigerians and how many are they among about 200 million people?
“Who are they? A tiny but vocal minority who will always complain. If they mistakenly get to heaven they will complain about conditions in heaven.”
On Professor Soyinka’s comments, the President’s spokesman said, “If there are genuine issues, they would always be looked into.”
“We respect Professor Soyinka. You don’t have too many of them in the country nor even on the continent.
“Professor Soyinka is an avatar, he is well respected but do you know one thing, Professor Soyinka’s opinion will still be his opinion. It will be considered and if there are things to act on, they will be acted on,” he added.
EU leaders will renew economic sanctions against Russia when they meet for a summit this week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday.
Maas said he saw no reason to relax the measures imposed on Moscow over its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions target whole sectors of the Russian economy, including its valuable oil and gas industries.
European measures were first put in place after Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people, and EU leaders have renewed them every six months ever since.
France is hosting a highly-anticipated four-way summit with Russia, Ukraine and Germany on Monday in the hope of making progress towards peace in Ukraine.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been pushing for a thaw between Europe and Russia, but Maas said it was too early to ease sanctions.
“We will continue what we thought was right so far — to extend the sanctions — because the reasons that led to the sanctions continue to exist,” Maas said as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
“At the moment, for me there is no reason to change anything in the sanctions policy of the European Union towards Russia.”
Monday’s meeting in Paris of Macron, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is the first so-called “Normandy Format” summit in three years.
It seeks to implement accords signed in Minsk in 2015 that call for the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the restoration of Kiev’s control over its borders, wider autonomy for Donetsk and Lugansk, and the holding of local elections.
Thousands have been killed since pro-Russia militias in eastern Ukraine launched a bid for independence in 2014, kicking off a conflict that deepened Russia’s estrangement from the West.
The EU insists the Minsk accords must be implemented if sanctions are to be lifted or relaxed.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen assured Africa of the EU’s strong support during a visit to Ethiopia on Saturday, her first trip outside Europe since assuming her post.
The former German defence minister, who took office on December 1, landed in the capital Addis Ababa in the morning and headed to the African Union headquarters for talks with AU chief Moussa Faki Mahamat.
“I hope my presence at the African Union can send a strong political message because the African continent and the African Union matter to the European Union and to the European Commission,” she said after the meeting.
“For us, for the European Union, you are more than just a neighbour.”
Von der Leyen, who has prioritised the fight against climate chang, said the EU and AU could collaborate on the issue.
“You here on the African continent understand climate change better than anyone else,” she said.
She and Faki also discussed migration and security issues.
“Honestly I don’t have all the answers to these challenges but I am convinced that together we can find answers,” she said.
Faki for his part called for greater international mobilisation to counter security threats, including terrorism.
‘We are at your side’
Von der Leyen also met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, congratulating him on winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
“I think that Ethiopia has given hope to the whole continent,” she said, adding that “I want you to know that we are at your side”.
Abiy thanked her for the EU’s support but said he hoped for more funding to spur economic reforms.
“We’re still demanding more financial support because we are ambitious. As Madam President mentioned, when you are a young prime minister you are also more ambitious and you want to deliver more,” said Abiy, who will receive his Nobel in Oslo on Tuesday.
The EU and Ethiopia also signed agreements worth 170 million euros ($188 million) on Saturday.
Of that sum, 100 million euros will go towards transport and infrastructure in the East African country, 50 million for the health sector, 10 million for job creation and 10 million for elections ahead of landmark polls next year.
Saturday’s agenda also included a sit-down between von der Leyen, the commission’s first woman president, and Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde, the first woman to hold that title.
Speaking to journalists after her meetings, von der Leyen said it was “important” for the EU to continue to support Abiy’s ambitious reform agenda.
“They have started but we need a long breath to see the effects that these reforms are bringing along,” she said.
Migration and security
The EU is Africa’s largest trading partner and biggest source of foreign investment and development aid.
But the two blocs have struggled in recent years to find ways to curb the number of African migrants heading north to Europe using perilous sea routes.
Just this week at least 62 migrants died when a boat capsized off the coast of Mauritania.
Both African and European officials are keen to address the root causes of migration like poverty.
The EU has also been a strong supporter of the AU’s peace and security efforts.
Its African Peace Facility, a mechanism established in 2004, has allocated more than 2.7 billion euros for peace and security operations, targeting 14 African-led operations in 18 countries.
Yet European officials have signalled they want to shift away from providing stipends for troops in places such as Somalia, where the EU is a main backer of the regional peacekeeping force known as AMISOM.
The AU has struggled to get member states to impose a 0.2 percent levy on eligible imports so the body can provide more of its own financing — an initiative the EU supports.
So far just 17 African countries have followed through on that commitment.
The Senate President told his guest that the will and determination to carry out reforms is there.
Lawan expressed appreciation to the support the EU has been extending to Nigeria particularly in the areas of the electoral process and political development and cooperation.
“Our democracy since 1999 has received a lot of support from the EU and this is making a very positive impact.
“The relationship between the EU and the Nigerian government is not like it is with other organizations.
“We also have a relationship at the level of the legislature. We have the EU-ACPU joint parliamentary Assembly. We believe this is one area thru which we can continue to discuss issues that affect us in relation to the EU or what we think we can be doing together,” Lawan said.
Lawan asked of EU for more support in the area of capacity building particularly for the Senate Committees on INEC, National Planning, and Finance.
Earlier, Ambassador Karlsen said EU is for many years a very significant partner of Nigeria and expressed the hope that the current EU leadership will “be able to establish even deeper relationship with Nigeria.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged Sunday to take Britain out of the EU by January 31 then set about reinvigorating public services, as he launched his Conservative Party’s general election manifesto.
Having taken over a minority administration in July and been unable to speed his EU divorce deal through parliament, Johnson is seeking a majority at the December 12 snap election — called in a bid to break the Brexit logjam.
Johnson said his “sensible, moderate, tax-cutting” agenda would help reunite Britain after three years of acrimony following the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union.
“We’re now, as you know, less than three weeks away from the most critical election in modern memory,” said Johnson as he unveiled the manifesto in Telford, west-central England.
“The choice has never been starker.
“Get Brexit done and we can restore confidence and certainty to businesses and families.
“Get Brexit done and we can focus our hearts and our minds on the priorities of the British people.
“It is time to unleash the potential of the whole country and to forge a new Britain.”
Johnson is promising to bring back his Brexit deal to parliament before December 25 if the centre-right Conservatives are returned to power.
“We can then get the whole thing completed in a matter of days if not weeks, and we’re out by January 31,” he said.
The main plank of the Conservative manifesto is the Brexit deal Johnson negotiated with Brussels in October.
He insists the deal will allow Britain to regain control over its laws, money and immigration policy.
Johnson’s chief rival, left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, wants to renegotiate a new, softer Brexit agreement within three months and then put that to a referendum alongside the option of remaining in the EU by the end of June. Corbyn himself would stay neutral during the process.
“He used to be indecisive — now he’s not so sure,” Johnson said, in a dig at the veteran socialist.
Britain Elects poll aggregator puts the Conservatives on 42 percent, ahead of the Labour main opposition on 29 percent, the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats on 15 percent, the Brexit Party on six percent and the Greens on three percent.
Despite the poll lead, Johnson has his weak spots, especially given the years of austerity imposed by Conservative governments since 2010.
He promises to end the years of reining in the budget deficit by pumping billions of pounds into public services.
However, the Conservatives are pledging they will not raise the three main taxes — income tax, sales tax and national insurance contributions to state benefits.
Mark Littlewood, director-general of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, said the manifesto raised questions about the Conservatives’ commitment to fiscal responsibility.
“The Conservatives have yet to be clear about how they intend to meet their substantial spending commitments without either raising taxes overall, increasing public debt or both,” he said.
Measures unveiled Sunday included 50,000 more nurses to plug the vacancy gap, more money for childcare support, energy efficiency measures, skills retraining and road upgrades.
Hospital car parking charges in England would be axed for certain patients and the National Health Service staff.
Johnson is also committed to increasing the NHS budget by £33.9 billion ($43.5 billion, 39.5 billion euros) by 2023-24, and has promised a programme of building or upgrading 60 hospitals lover the next decade.
He also pledged to make the streets safer by recruiting 20,000 police officers.
On education, the prime minister announced a three-year plan to increase state-school spending in England by £7.1 billion by 2022-23.
On the environment, Johnson promised to get Britain to net-zero carbon emissions within 30 years.
“Let’s go carbon-neutral by 2050 and Corbyn-neutral by Christmas!” he said.
On immigration, he wants to end freedom of movement for EU citizens and introduce an Australian-style points-based system.
The scale of eastern European immigration since 2004 was one of the key factors behind the Brexit referendum vote in 2016.
Corbyn said Johnson had unveiled “a manifesto for billionaires” and was only offering “more cuts, more failure, and years more of Brexit uncertainty”.
The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will undergo surgery on November 11 to treat an aneurysm, members of his inner circle told AFP on Thursday.
The 64-year-old former Luxembourg premier had been due to retire on Friday from EU’s executive arm.
But that has been postponed until at least December, because his successor Ursula von der Leyen has failed to win parliamentary approval for her commission.
Juncker “will undergo surgery on November 11 to treat an aneurysm,” his spokeswoman said.
According to AFP’s sources, Juncker is suffering from an aortic aneurysm in his abdomen, or an AAA in medical parlance.
Juncker’s duties will be covered by commission vice president Frans Timmermans and the president expects to be back at work in time to attend the handover to Von der Leyen.
If untreated an AAA can rupture with potentially fatal consequences. It was not immediately clear how serious Juncker’s case was.
In August, Juncker cut short a vacation to undergo urgent surgery to have his gallbladder removed, and he has often shown signs of discomfort at public events.
Juncker has held Brussels’ top job for the past five years, despite recurring problems with back pain, but his commission has been winding down business in recent months.
He is not expected to make any big political decisions in the coming weeks, as the current commission is now just overseeing everyday business while von der Leyen’s team prepares to take over.
Von der Leyen, the former German defence minister, had hoped to make a fresh start from this week. But the European Parliament rejected three of her nominees for commission posts, leaving her in limbo until new ones are put forward and confirmed.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead five migrant labourers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Tuesday, police said, in the bloodiest incident since New Delhi moved to strip the region of its autonomy.
The killings in southern Kulgam district, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of the main city Srinagar, came as India allowed a group of mostly far-right European Union parliamentarians to visit the region where tensions have soared since New Delhi began a clampdown on August 5.
A police official told AFP an unknown number of gunmen, believed to be rebels, barged into an accommodation rented by the six labourers late Tuesday and shot one of them dead on the spot.
They later took five others out of the residence and shot them with automatic rifles some distance from the building, killing four and wounding one.
“He is critical and undergoing treatment at a hospital,” a local police official said of the wounded labourer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another top police official said the victims were from the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, and that additional government forces were rushed to the area to track the attackers.
No group has taken responsibility for the attack, but police in the past have accused militants of targeting non-locals in a campaign allegedly aimed at driving them from the region.
A non-local truck driver was shot dead on Monday by gunmen while he was ferrying apples in the Himalayan valley’s southern region.
Five truck drivers and businessmen from other Indian states, who were associated with valley’s vital apple trade, have been killed in recent weeks.
New Delhi in August controversially stripped the disputed region of its decades-old semi-autonomous status, which barred non-residents from buying land and taking government jobs.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with most residents demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.
The region has been in armed rebellion for the past 30 years, with New Delhi accusing Pakistan of training and arming scores of militant groups active in the area.
Before stripping its autonomy, India sent tens of thousands of additional troops to join a 500,000-strong force in the region and imposed a weeks-long security and communication lockdown.
Authorities also ordered thousands of tourists and Hindu pilgrims to leave and arranged flights to take them elsewhere.
But tens of thousands of labourers who migrate to Kashmir every summer were left on their own.
Many departed due to the curfew, but others stayed, planning to leave as usual at the start of winter.
In the weeks since, landline telephone service and half of the region’s eight million cellphone lines have been restored, but internet remains cut off.
New Delhi, which has barred opposition politicians and a United States senator from visiting the valley since the clampdown, agreed to let nearly 30 EU lawmakers visit Kashmir.
Authorities have claimed that things have gradually returned to normal, but many residents, supported by militants, refuse to go to work, crippling the region that’s home to more than seven million people.
British MPs looked set Tuesday to vote for a pre-Christmas elections to try to resolve the political deadlock over its exit from the European Union, as the bloc warned there may not be any more Brexit delays.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying for a fourth time to call a snap poll for December, and looks likely to succeed after the main opposition Labour party said it would support him.
As ever in the tortuous Brexit process that began with the 2016 EU referendum, however, there was a risk of the House of Commons rejecting the plan in a row over extending the franchise to EU citizens and teenagers.
In Brussels, European Council President Donald Tusk warned against prolonging the turmoil.
Confirming that the three-month Brexit delay approved in principle by EU members on Monday had now been formally adopted, he warned: “It may be the last one.
“Please make the best use of this time.”
Johnson took office in July promising to end more than three years of political wrangling over Britain’s EU exit but a rebellion over his hardline strategy has left him without a Commons majority.
Unable to get MPs’ support for his divorce deal with Brussels, he was forced by law to abandon his “do-or-die” pledge to leave the bloc on October 31.
He is now pressing for an early election in December which he hopes will give him the Commons majority he needs to push through legislation to enact Brexit.
After three failed attempts to pass a normal election motion, which requires the support of two-thirds of MPs, the prime minister on Tuesday took an alternative path.
Johnson introduced a bill to legislate for an election — a method which requires only a simple majority to pass.
“We are left with no choice but to go to the country to break free from this impasse,” he told MPs.
A newly elected parliament would have a “new mandate to deliver on the will of people and get Brexit done”, he said.
In a major boost, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced his support for a December poll after meeting with his top team on Tuesday morning.
The veteran socialist has been torn between rival camps within his own party over whether to proceed, with some fearing Labour faces electorate defeat.
Corbyn had argued that he would not allow an election until Johnson’s threat to leave the EU without a divorce deal was removed.
The EU’s agreement to delay Brexit meant that “for the next three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met”, he announced.
“We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.”
After the EU delay, the government halted costly “no-deal” exit preparations and reportedly melted down 50-pence commemorative Brexit coins.
However, the risk of a disorderly exit may still remain, for example if there is no Brexit deal by January and the EU declines to grant a further delay.
‘Boris has to win’
Johnson is pressing for an election on December 12, but some opposition parties pushing for December 9 — with the decision to be made in votes later Tuesday.
There is a risk that the election plan is derailed, due to a number of amendments tabled to Johnson’s legislation.
One demands EU citizens living in Britain be allowed to vote in the election, while another wants the franchise extended to people aged 16 and 17.
The government opposes both, and Downing Street said that if either passed, it would abandon the entire project.
There have been two general elections in the last four years in Britain, in 2015 and 2017, and the next is not scheduled to happen until 2022.
Johnson is taking a risk in calling an early poll, but he has few other options.
John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow said Johnson is in a strong position to get a majority but an election remains a gamble.
“Boris has to win. A hung parliament and Boris is out,” he said, referring to situation — as is the case now — where no party has a majority in the Commons.
Curtice told AFP that failure to win a Conservative majority would see a Labour-led coalition seek a new Brexit referendum.