EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 14/11/2019

The New York Times – Isabel Kershner & Iyad Abuheweila / Exchanges of fire continue across Israel-Gaza border

  • Gaza militants and Israeli forces are clashing after the Israeli assassination of a senior Islamic Jihad commander on Tuesday. After a quiet night and a resumption of hostilities early Wednesday, Israel and Gaza teetered between a quick resolution to this round of violence and a possible escalation — either intentional or through a misstep — that could lead to a much broader conflict.
  • By midnight, the death toll in Gaza over the two days of violence had risen to at least 26, according to Palestinian health officials, a number that includes several civilians. Palestinian officials defended that more than 80 people had been wounded. The Israeli military put the number of militants killed at about 20. No deaths have been reported in Israel.
  • The fight remained between Israel and the Islamic Jihad. Hamas, which is the larger militant group that governs Gaza, has stayed out of the fray so far. If Hamas were to start firing, the conflict would likely spiral down sharply, with Israeli officials warning of harsh consequences.
  • Haaretz – Anshel Pfeffer / Netanyahu and Hamas chief in Gaza have emerged as unlikely allies

Euractiv – Georgi Gotev / Germany makes legal changes to ease completion of Nord Stream 2

  • The German parliament approved on Wednesday changes to the law governing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to make it compliant with European Union regulations, removing a hurdle to completion of the project led by Russia. The legal tweaks approved by the Bundestag lower house relate to EU rules signed off in February that stipulate import pipelines should not be owned by gas suppliers and that third parties should also be able to use them.
  • The European Commission amended its Gas Directive in April, and the amended document entered into force on 23 May. It stipulates that a third-party nation cannot own both the pipeline and gas imported into the EU market unless the conduit was built before May 23, 2019. However, member states have yet to transpose the amendments in their respective national legislation. While the amended Directive is unable to halt the construction of Nord Stream 2, it is capable of delaying or suspending its operation.
  • Germany sees it as a primarily commercial project that is essential to energy security. But Eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries, as well as the United States, see the pipeline as increasing EU reliance on Russia.
  • Brookings – Steven Pifer / Congress, Nord Stream II, and Ukraine

The Washington Post – David Nakamura, Karen DeYoung & Seung Min Kim / Trump welcomes Turkey’s Erdogan to White House, offers thanks for tentative cease-fire in northern Syria

  • President Trump expressed optimism that the United States and Turkey are on their way to resolving the many differences between them, but he provided few details at a news conference with Turkish President Erdogan after a day of White House meetings. After defending that Turkey is a “great NATO ally and a strategic partner of the United States around the world,” Trump described their talks as “wonderful and productive.”  
  • That alliance has been sorely tested in recent years. In Syria, Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters allied with the United States to be terrorists who threaten Turkey’s security. Erdogan recounted what he said were both Turkish and Syrian Kurdish attacks against the Turkish military. “But some circles who are empathetic towards these terrorist organizations are feeling deeply upset,” he said in a clear reference to congressional critics.
  • Sanctions on Turkey were mandated under U.S. law when it purchased Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, although Trump has delayed imposing them. The purchase came after Turkey and the United States failed to reach an agreement over the price and configuration of the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system. Trump said Wednesday that the S-400 issue “creates some very serious challenges for us” but that “we’ve asked our secretary of state and ministry of foreign affairs and our respective national security advisers to immediately work on resolving” the problem.

Financial Times – Robin Harding / Japan grows at its slowest pace in a year

  • The Japanese economy recorded its slowest growth for a year in the third quarter of 2019 as it expanded at an annualised pace of just 0.2 per cent. Although underlying growth was solid, a run down of inventories subtracted a full 1.2 percentage points from the final figure, leaving it below consensus expectations for growth of 0.8 per cent.
  • The robust data on domestic demand suggest that Japan’s economy held up well in the run-up to a rise in consumption tax at the start of October. However, even if the slide in inventories is reversed, economists expect the economy to struggle in the fourth quarter as the higher taxes weigh on consumer spending.
  • “The slowdown in GDP growth in the third quarter isn’t too worrying as it reduces the likelihood of a slump in output after October’s sales tax hike,” said Marcel Thieliant, senior Japan economist at Capital Economics in Singapore. Both the Bank of Japan and the government of prime minister Shinzo Abe are worried about the slowing economy given the backdrop of trade tensions between the US and China and global economic fragility. The BoJ recently tweaked its guidance on interest rates while the government is preparing an economic stimulus package to boost the economy beyond the Tokyo Olympics next summer.
  • Financial Times – Martin Arnold / Germany narrowly avoids recession as growth ticks up

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and EsadeGeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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