China forges strategic ties with Djibouti after opening base

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh attend a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2017
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China forges strategic ties with Djibouti after opening base

BEIJING: China on Thursday offered loans to Djibouti, the site of its first overseas military base, as the Horn of Africa state’s leader told President Xi Jinping he considered himself a great friend of the Asian giant.
With a population of less than one million, Djibouti has long punched above its weight, thanks to a strategic location on the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes linking Europe to Asia and the Middle East.
China formally opened the base, which it calls a logistics facility, on Aug. 1, the 90th birthday of the People’s Liberation Army. Djibouti also hosts large US and French bases.
Djibouti was politically stable, Xi told its president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, at a meeting in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.
“China sets great store by its relations with Djibouti,” he added.
Guelleh, who has been in power since 1999, said he considered himself a “great friend of China’s” and could not count the number of times he had visited.
“Djibouti is known for being a country of peace, exchanges and meetings,” Guelleh said.
“I would like to recall the geostrategic position of Djibouti and its importance in this part of the world as an island of stability for Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”
The two, who did not mention the military base in comments to reporters, later oversaw the signing of a framework pact for preferential loans.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong declined to reveal the amount of loans offered, saying he could not remember.
“In this area both countries have always had good cooperation,” Chen told reporters.
Xi and Guelleh did discuss the military base, Chen added.
“What I want to stress is that China building a logistics base in Djibouti benefits China to even better fulfil its naval protection, peace-keeping, disaster relief and other international work,” he said.
The base will be used to resupply navy ships participating in peacekeeping, humanitarian and anti-piracy missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular.
The Chinese base is just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, the US’ only permanent base in Africa.
A Pentagon report said the strategically-sited camp, “along with regular naval vessel visits to foreign ports, both reflects and amplifies China’s growing influence, extending the reach of its armed forces.”
China also has deep economic interests in Djibouti.
Last week, China’s POLY-GCL Petroleum Group Holdings Ltd. signed a memorandum of understanding to invest $4 billion in a natural gas project in Djibouti.
In January, the government launched construction of a project billed as Africa’s largest free trade zone, as part of China’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure initiative stretching to Asia, Europe and beyond.


EU slaps sanctions on Syrians, Russians over attacks

Updated 21 January 2019
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EU slaps sanctions on Syrians, Russians over attacks

  • EU foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes on nine people and on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on four Russians blamed for a nerve agent attack in Britain as well as a Syrian research center and its staff as the 28-nation bloc stepped up its action against the use of chemical weapons.
EU foreign ministers slapped travel bans and asset freezes on nine people and on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center.
Five of those targeted are linked to the Syrian center’s activities. Britain’s foreign office said they “have played a central role in the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against their own people.”
The four Russians on the list are the two men accused of planting the nerve agent in Salisbury last March, Anatoly Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, and their superiors, the head and deputy head of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit.
The ministers said in a statement from their meeting in Brussels that the sanctions move “contributes to the EU’s efforts to counter the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, which poses a serious threat to international security.”
It’s the first time the EU has imposed sanctions to combat chemical weapons.
“Today’s new sanctions deliver on our vow to take tough action against the reckless and irresponsible activities of the Russian military intelligence organization, the GRU, which put innocent British citizens in serious danger in Salisbury last year,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a statement.
“We will continue to show our willingness to stand up for the international rules that keep us safe, and which the Kremlin and the Assad regime seek to undermine,” he added.