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
0

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.


Key ministers back British PM in Brexit battle

Updated 17 November 2018
0

Key ministers back British PM in Brexit battle

  • Michael Gove, a Vote Leave figurehead in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum had stayed ominously silent as his colleagues quit around him
  • Asked Friday if he had confidence in May, Michael Gove said: I absolutely do. It’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May received the backing of the last remaining pro-Brexit heavyweights in her cabinet on Friday as she battled to salvage her EU divorce deal and her job.
After a tumultuous Thursday in which four ministers resigned, MPs slammed her draft agreement and members of her own party plotted to oust her, May received key support from the top Brexiteers left in her government.
All eyes were on Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a Vote Leave figurehead in Britain’s 2016 EU membership referendum, who had stayed ominously silent as his colleagues quit around him.
But, asked Friday if he had confidence in May, he said: “I absolutely do. It’s absolutely vital that we focus on getting the right deal in the future.”
Many media outlets reported that Gove had earlier rejected an offer to replace Dominic Raab, whose decision Thursday to quit as Brexit minister over the EU deal sparked fears the government could collapse.
Raab was replaced on Friday by Stephen Barclay, a previously little-known junior health minister and former insurance lawyer who supported Brexit in the referendum.
In an article last year, the Financial Times said Barclay was “a key interlocutor in crucial Brexit planning” and had impressed in financial circles.
Euroskeptics in May’s Conservative party meanwhile plotted to unseat her by tabling letters of no confidence in her leadership.
But International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, another leading Brexit supporter, backed her and her deal.
“A deal is better than no deal — businesses do require certainty,” he said. “What we need now is stability.”
Seeking to win over the public, May made a rare outing on a radio phone-in.
“I truly believe this is the best deal for Britain,” May said of the proposed EU withdrawal agreement.
She added that she was “very sorry” that ministers including Raab had quit.
She also faced comparisons with prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his 1938 appeasement of Nazi Germany’s dictator Adolf Hitler.
“We are not going to be locked in forever to something that we don’t want,” May insisted.
Brexiteer MPs fear the deal would keep Britain shackled to Brussels long after Brexit on March 29, 2019.
EU supporters say it would leave the UK on worse terms than it has inside the bloc and are calling for a second Brexit referendum to break the logjam.
Later on Friday, May brought an anti-Brexit former minister back into her government.
Amber Rudd, who quit as interior minister in a scandal over immigration earlier this year, replaces Esther McVey, who quit as work and pensions minister over May’s Brexit plan on Thursday.
Despite the support from Gove and Fox, May could yet face a vote of no confidence from her own MPs.
At least 48 Conservative MPs are required to submit letters of no confidence in the party leader to trigger a vote, and 22 have publicly confirmed they had done so.
If May wins such a vote, she cannot be challenged for 12 months.
May’s Conservatives have no majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons, but govern through an agreement with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
However, DUP lawmakers were among MPs from all sides who lined up in the chamber on Thursday to warn they could not support her Brexit deal.
The pound slumped on Thursday amid fears the turmoil at Westminster could result in Britain leaving the EU with no deal, but rebounded slightly on Friday.
The 585-page draft deal aims to ensure a smooth divorce from the EU after more than four decades of membership and outlines a transition period for both sides.
Key provisions seek to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, protect citizens’ rights and settle Britain’s outstanding payments to the bloc.
EU member states have until Tuesday to examine the deal and to agree the wording of a parallel political statement setting out goals for the bloc’s future relations with London.
A special EU summit to seal the hard-fought Brexit agreement is scheduled for November 25.
French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Brexit advocates who peddled an “absurd political promise” must now choose to either accept the deal or face “economic disaster.”