US looking ‘very closely’ at Qatar-Air Italy deal after subsidies spat

Mike Pompeo said the State Department was looking closely at Qatar Airways’ acquisition of a 49 percent stake in Air Italy. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 10 April 2019
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US looking ‘very closely’ at Qatar-Air Italy deal after subsidies spat

  • Pompeo said: “We’re looking very closely at this recent decision by Qatar to take on 49 percent of this airline”

LONDON: The US State Department is looking closely at a deal involving Qatar Airways buying a 49 percent stake in Air Italy following a long-running row over state subsidies.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the disclosure to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee after concerns were raised that the deal may have violated an agreement Qatar Airways reached with the US last year.
Pompeo said: “We’re looking very closely at this recent decision by Qatar to take on 49 percent of this airline.”
In a side letter to last year’s agreement between the US and Qatar, Doha indicated there were no current plans to launch additional Qatar Airways flights that picked up passengers in Europe before flying to US destinations.

An aide to Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the committee said that the acquisition of the Italian carrier with five US destinations from Milan ran counter to the earlier agreement.

The 2018 agreement was intended to resolve a years-old quarrel between US carriers and Qatar over alleged subsidies offered by Doha to its flagship airline.


India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2019
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India suspends Kashmir border trade with Pakistan

  • Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries
  • India said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency”

NEW DELHI: India has suspended trade across its disputed Kashmir border with Pakistan, alleging that weapons and drugs are being smuggled across the route, as tensions simmer between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Kashmir has been on edge since a February suicide attack that killed 40 Indian paramilitaries and brought the two countries to the brink of war with cross-border air strikes.
On Thursday, India’s government, which is in the middle of a tough national election, said it had reports that trade on the border was being “misused by Pakistan-based elements for funnelling illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.”
It also said many of those trading across the Line of Control, which divides Kashmir into zones under Indian and Pakistani control, had links to militant organizations.
The home ministry said trade would be suspended until a stricter inspection mechanism is in place.
The cross-border trade is based on a barter system, with traders exchanging goods including chillies, cumin, mango and dried fruit.
It began in 2008 as a way to improve strained relations between New Delhi and Islamabad, who have fought two of their three wars over the disputed region.
The Indian Express newspaper said Friday that 35 trucks carrying fruit traveling from the Indian side of the border had been stopped after the government order.
Trade on the border has been suspended before, including in 2015, when India accused a Pakistani driver of drug trafficking.
The latest move comes after India withdrew “Most Favoured Nation Status” — covering trade links — from Pakistan after the February attack, which was claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group.
Islamabad has denied any involvement in the attack.
India’s Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made national security a key plank of his re-election campaign, pointing to the recent flare-up of violence as he battles the center-left opposition Congress party.
He is seeking a second term from the country’s 900 million voters in the mammoth election which kicked off on April 11 and runs till May 19. The results will be out on May 23.