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7 things you need to know about the results of the Trump-Putin meeting

It was a political victory for both Putin and Trump with possibly important short-term geo-political implications.

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has given a detailed explanation of what was discussed during the meeting between himself, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Rex Tilleron. The meeting which was supposed to last for 35 minutes went on for 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Here are the main points.

1. Syria

The United States, Russia and Jordan will implement and guarantee a ceasefire in south-western Syria, covering Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida. The ceasefire will coincide with the creation of a new de-escalation zone in the region which will be monitored jointly by Russia, the US and Jordan. The details of this were enshrined in a memorandum on de-escalation zones agreed between Washington, Moscow and Amman.

The ceasefire will formally begin at 12.00 Damascus time on 9 July, 2017.

Lavrov stated that the US has agreed on the importance of respecting Syrian sovereignty and will work for a political solution. The clear implication here is that the US has agreed with Russia not to engage in regime change in Damascus. In other words , Trump more or less told Putin, ‘Assad can and will stay’.

Sergey Lavrov also confirmed that the new ceasefire and de-escalation zone in south western Syria does not replace but compliments the de-escalation zones established in the Astana Memorandum which was signed in May of 2017.

2. Ukraine–Donbass War and Crimean Peninsula 

The Presidents of Russia and the US have agreed to set up a bilateral channel of communication between Moscow and Washington on the continuing war in Donbass and the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.

Meetings will shortly be held in Moscow between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US envoy for Ukrainian issues who was named today by the US as Washington’s former ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker.

The discussions will work towards implementing the Minsk agreements for a ceasefire in the Donbass war.

Lavrov confirmed that Donald Trump did not offer a unique opinion nor any solutions to the Donbass-Ukraine crisis beyond a commitment to the existing Minsk agreements and the existing Normandy format for peace.

It was also confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke about the Crimean peninsula but no further details were given on this matter.

3. Russiagate and Cyber-security

Sergey Lavrov stated that Donald Trump accepted President Putin’s assurances that Russia played no part in any hacking or meddling in the recent US Presidential election.

Russia and the US will continue to discuss this issue.

Sergey Lavrov conveyed Donald Trump’s assertions that the obsession in the US with Russigate is “bizarre”.

Russia and the US affirmed their commitment to cooperate in cyber-security against terrorism, paedophilia, suicide encouragement and organised crime activities.

4. North Korea 

Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson will be in close communication over the issue of de-escalation on the Korean peninsula.

Russia and the US will also work on the issue within the UN Security Council

5. Russian Ambassadors/property in the US and Russian nationals in US prisons 

Donald Trump has promised to work with Russia to expedite the process of bringing new Russian ambassadors and embassy staff to the United States after Barack Obama kicked them out late in Obama’s final period in power.

The two sides will also work together on the restoration of Russian property in the US seized by the Obama regime.

The two sides will also continue to work on the issue of human rights matters concerning Russian  nationals in US custody including Viktor Bout.

6. Personal relations 

Lavrov refused to call Trump and Putin friends and instead said that, the meeting was a,

“Constructive atmosphere because both Presidents were driven by their national interests. They also both understood that both countries can only do this (cooperate positively) if we search for a balance between the interests of both our countries”.

No future meetings were planned but both sides are committed to the agenda outlined in the meeting.

7. Analysis 

By far the most important result of the meeting was the creation of a de-escalation zone for south west Syria and the accompanying ceasefire.

This represents the second time that Russia has brought a state whose position has been adversarial in respect of the Syrian government into a political peace process that explicitly rejects regime change and seeks to work constructively with Russia.

The last time this happened was when Russia successfully brought Turkey into the Astana peace talks.

Some have speculated that Iran is being jettisoned from the peace process in Syria in favour of the US and America’s ally Jordan, but it is still vastly premature to make such a statement definitively. America’s deteriorating relationship with Turkey over the US support of Kurds in Syria and possibly also Iraq appears not to have been discussed.

However, the fact that the US, Russia and Jordan will be guarantors of the ceasefire in parts of Syria bordering Israel, as opposed to Iran which Israel has no relations with, means that Israel could cease its illegal acts of military aggression against Syria, thus giving the Syrian Arab Army and its Russian partners a better opportunity to rid south western Syrian of al-Qaeda terrorists.

Whereas Putin scored a geo-political victory in bringing America into a peace process that does not involve militant regime change, Donald Trump scored something of a domestic political victory. He can now say that after just a few months in office, he was able to reach an agreement with Russia while Obama failed to achieve anything remotely close to this.

Much like questions over Turkey’s participation in the Astana process, there are no guarantees that America will live up to its obligations or that the de-escalation zone in south west Syria will work. In this sense, as with Astana, the political and geo-political implications are more important than the military implications.

Militarily speaking, Syria with Russian aid is quickly finishing off most terrorist groups west of the Euphrates. Astana did not inhibit this (if anything since the Astana memorandum was signed, this has become expedited) and there is no saying that this new ceasefire will have any negative impact on this. It could have a positive one, especially if it causes Israel to cease its aggression against Syria, however temporarily.

In respect of Donbass, it is clear that Donald Trump has few concerns about this conflict which realistically means that he will be less likely to placate the fascist regime in Kiev than his predecessor Barack Obama was. Beyond this, there were really no startling or new developments on this issue.

Finally, on the Russian hacking allegations, it is clear that Donald Trump believes Vladimir Putin more than he believes members of the Democratic party, some Republicans and the US mainstream media. This should not come as a surprise based on previous statements by Trump.

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Brexit Withdrawal Agreement may lead to Theresa May’s downfall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 151.

Alex Christoforou

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The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement has been published and as many predicted, including Nigel Farage, the document is leading to the collapse of Theresa May’s government.

During an interview with iTV’s Piers Morgan, remain’s Alistair Campell and leave’s Nigel Farage, were calling May’s Brexit deal a complete disaster.

Via iTV

Alastair Campbell: “This doesn’t do remotely what was offered…what is the point”

“Parliament is at an impasse”

“We have to go back to the people” …”remain has to be on the ballot paper”

Nigel Farage:

“This is the worst deal in history. We are giving away in excess of 40B pounds in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union’s rulebook.

“Nothing has been achieved.”

“In any negotiation in life…the other side need to know that you are serious about walking away.”

“What monsieur Barnier knew from day one, is that at no point did Theresa May intend to walk away.”

“Fundamental matter of trust to the electors of our country and those who govern us.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, and why the deal is a full on victory for the European Union and a document of subjugation for the United Kingdom.

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Coming in at 585 pages, the draft agreement will be closely scrutinized over the coming days but here are some of the highlights as outlined by Zerohedge

  • UK and EU to use the best endeavours to supersede Ireland protocol by 2020
  • UK can request extension of the transition period any time before July 1st, 2020
  • EU, UK See Level-Playing Field Measures in Future Relationship
  • Transition period may be extended once up to date yet to be specified in the text
  • EU and UK shall establish single customs territory and Northern Ireland is in same customs territory as Great Britain

The future relationship document is less than seven pages long. It says the U.K. and EU are seeking a free-trade area with cooperation on customs and rules: “Comprehensive arrangements creating a free trade area combining deep regulatory and customs cooperation, underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition.”

The wording might raise concerns among Brexiters who don’t want regulatory cooperation and the measures on fair competition could amount to shackling the U.K. to EU rules.

As Bloomberg’s Emma Ross-Thomas writes, “There’s a clear sense in the documents that we’re heading for a customs union in all but name. Firstly via the Irish backstop, and then via the future relationship.”

Separately, a government summary of the draft agreement suggests role for parliament in deciding whether to extend the transition or to move in to the backstop.

But perhaps most importantly, regarding the controversial issue of the Irish border, the future relationship document says both sides aim to replace the so-called backstop – the thorniest issue in the negotiations – with a “subsequent agreement that establishes alternative arrangements for ensuring the absence of a hard border on the island of Ireland on a permanent footing.”

On this topic, recall that the U.K.’s fear was of being locked into the backstop arrangement indefinitely in the absence of a broader trade deal. The draft agreement includes a review process to try to give reassurance that the backstop would never be needed. Basically, the U.K. could choose to seek an extension to the transition period – where rules stay the same as they are currently – or opt to trigger the backstop conditions. In fact, as Bloomberg notes, the word “backstop,” which has been a sticking point over the Irish border for weeks, is mentioned only once in the text.

As Bloomberg further adds, the withdrawal agreement makes clear that the U.K. will remain in a single customs area with the EU until there’s a solution reached on the Irish border. It’s what Brexiteers hate, because it makes it more difficult for the U.K. to sign its own free-trade deals, which they regard as a key prize of Brexit.

Predictably, EU Commission President Juncker said decisive progress has been made in negotiations.

Meanwhile, as analysts comb over the documents, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group, has already written to Conservative lawmakers urging them to vote against the deal. He says:

  • May is handing over money for “little or nothing in return”
  • The agreement treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the U.K.
  • It will “lock” the U.K. into a customs union with the EU
  • It breaks the Tory election manifesto of 2017

The full document…

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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