Britain and EU reach deal to move Brexit talks forward

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, left, is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the EC headquarters in Brussels on Friday, December 8. The two announced that the second phase of Brexit negotiations should begin, ending an impasse over the status of the Irish border. (Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2017
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Britain and EU reach deal to move Brexit talks forward

BRUSSELS/LONDON: The European Commission said on Friday enough progress had been made in Brexit negotiations with Britain and that a second phase of negotiations should begin, ending an impasse over the status of the Irish border.
The Commission announced its verdict in an early morning statement after intense talks, which resulted in British Prime Minister Theresa May taking an early-morning flight to Brussels to announce the deal alongside Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The Commission’s recommendation that sufficient progress has been made will now go to the EU summit of leaders taking place next week. May said she expected a formal agreement to be approved at the summit.
“Prime Minister May has assured me that it has the backing of the UK government. On that basis, I believe we have now made the breakthrough we need. Today’s result is of course a compromise,” Juncker told a hastily arranged news conference.
The commission said it was ready to begin work immediately on Phase Two talks, which cover trade and long-term relations with the bloc.
Moving to talks about trade and a Brexit transition is crucial for the future of May’s premiership, and to keep trade flowing between the world’s biggest trading bloc and its sixth- largest national economy after Britain leaves on March 30, 2019.
May’s key parliamentary ally in Northern Ireland said a text clarifying arrangements on the UK-EU border on the island of Ireland had been agreed, four days after 11th-hour objections from Belfast scuppered May’s attempt to sign off on an accord over the Irish border during a lunch in Brussels on Monday.
A carefully choreographed attempt to showcase the progress of Brexit talks collapsed at the last minute when the Northern Irish party that props up May’s government vetoed a draft deal already agreed with the government in Dublin.
Since then, May has been scrambling to clinch a deal on the border in Ireland acceptable to the EU, Dublin, her own lawmakers and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which keeps her government in power.


US sanctions Chinese military unit for buying Russian jets, missiles

Updated 21 September 2018
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US sanctions Chinese military unit for buying Russian jets, missiles

  • It was the first time a third country has been punished under the CAATSA sanctions legislation for dealing with Russia
  • US sanctions are meant to punish Russia for its aggression in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, cyber attacks, interference in the 2016 elections, and other malign activities

WASHINGTON: The United States expanded its sanctions war against Russia to China on Thursday, announcing punitive measures against a Chinese military organization for buying Russian fighter jets and missiles.
Stepping up pressure on Moscow over its “malign activities,” the US State Department said it was placing financial sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Chinese Ministry of Defense, and its top administrator, for its recent purchase of Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
Officials said it was the first time a third country has been punished under the CAATSA sanctions legislation for dealing with Russia, and signaled the Trump administration’s will to risk relations with other countries in its campaign against Moscow.
They also said that the US could consider similar action against other countries taking delivery of Russian fighter jets and missiles. US ally Turkey is currently talking with Moscow about an S400 deal.
“The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia,” a senior administration official told journalists, insisting on anonymity.
“CAATSA sanctions in this context are not intended to undermine the defense capabilities of any particular country. They are aimed at imposing costs on Russia in response to its malign activities.”
CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, was passed in 2017 as a tool that gives the Trump administration more ways to target Russia, Iran and North Korea with economic and political sanctions.
With regard to Russia, CAATSA arises from the country’s “aggression in Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, cyber intrusions and attacks, interference in the 2016 elections, and other malign activities,” the State Department said.
The legislation allows the government to take action against those companies and individuals who have been placed on the CAATSA blacklist.
EDD and its director Li Shangfu became targets after taking delivery over the past year of the jets and missiles from Rosoboronexport, Russia’s main arms export entity already on the CAATSA blacklist for its support of the Assad regime in Syria.

More Russian entities added to blacklist
At the same time, the State Department also announced it was placing 33 Russian intelligence and military-linked actors on its sanctions blacklist under the CAATSA rules.
All of them — defense related firms, officers of the GRU military intelligence agency, and people associated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency disinformation group — have been on previous US sanctions lists and 28 of them have already been indicted by Russia election meddling investigator Robert Mueller.
“We will continue to vigorously implement CAATSA and urge all countries to curtail relationships with Russia’s defense and intelligence sectors, both of which are linked to malign activities worldwide,” the State Department said.
The sanctions freeze any of EDD’s and Li’s assets in US jurisdictions.
They also restrict EDD’s access to global financial markets by blocking foreign exchange transactions under US jurisdiction or any transactions in the US financial system.
The senior official stressed that CAATSA is not going to be implemented across the board, but that the US was choosing Russia’s sale of “bigger ticket items” of “new, fancy, qualitatively significant stuff” that could have a “security impact” on the United States.
“The CAATSA was not intended to take down the economy of third party countries. It’s intended to impose appropriate pressures on Russia in response to Russian malign acts,” the official said.
The official declined to answer if the US would take similar action if Russia delivers S400 missiles to other countries such as Turkey, which is in talks to buy them.
However, he said, “You can be confident that we have spent an enormous amount of time talking about prospective purchases of things such as S-400s and Sukhois with people all around the world who may have been interested in such things and some who may still be.”
“We have made it very clear to them that these –- that systems like the S-400 are a system of key concern with potential CAATSA implications.”