EsadeGeo Daily Digest, 15/01/2020

The New York Times – Steven Erlanger / France, Germany and U.K. serve notice on Iran under nuclear deal

  • Britain, Germany and France formally accused Iran of breaking the 2015 agreement that limited its nuclear program, taking the first step toward reimposing United Nations sanctions. These countries triggered  a 60-days period of negotiations with Iran about coming back into full compliance with the nuclear deal. Under the agreement, if they cannot resolve their dispute, that could revive UN sanctions on Iran that had been suspended under the deal.
  • However, according to a senior European official, these European countries still  want to save the deal and persuade both Washington and Tehran to begin a new set of negotiations about missile development and Iran’s regional activities. There was no immediate reaction from Tehran. 
  • Robert Malley, who heads the International Crisis Group and helped negotiate the nuclear deal, defended that he did not agree with triggering the dispute mechanism now, given the newly complicated setting, but said that doing so was “is not fatal” to the deal. “The only way forward now is to use the time to try to get the U.S. and Iran to talk.”
  • EURACTIV – Alexandra Brzozowski / INSTEX fails to support EU-Iran trade as nuclear accord falters

Financial Times – Jim Brunsden / US, Japan and EU target China with WTO rule change proposal

  • The USA, the EU and Japan had added pressure on Beijing over its model of state-sponsored capitalism, calling for tougher WTO curbs on government subsidies. This is a bizarre example of the Trump administration turning to allies for help in solving trade problems.
  • The proposed rule changes take aim at core parts of China’s economic model, calling for a wider WTO ban on various types of state support and for governments to do more to prove that aid to companies does not distort trade. Phil Hogan, EU trade commissioner, said they were “an important step towards addressing some of the fundamental issues distorting global trade”.
  • The announcement comes at the same time as the USA and China are expected to reveal a “phase one” trade agreement, marking a moment of detente in their trade war. The EU and the US have taken very different approaches in trying to cajole Beijing to change its policies. US president Donald Trump has imposed huge punitive tariffs on Chinese goods, while the EU has emphasised dialogue.
  • South China Morning Post – Mark Magnier / Phase one trade deal gives Donald Trump bragging rights but phase two is likely a mirage, analysts say

Foreign Affairs – Nikita Nikita Lalwani, Josh Rubin & Sam Winter-Levy / Can Oman’s new leader uphold Sultan Qaboos’s peaceful legacy?

  • After Sultan Qaboos’s death, former Minister of Heritage and Culture Haitham bin Tariq al-Said has been named his heir. Long floated as a potential successor, he is described by those who have met him as quiet, steady, and a good listener. The Oxford graduate spent more than a decade in the Foreign Ministry and worked on (largely unsuccessful) attempts to diversify Oman’s oil-dependent economy before his appointment as Heritage and Culture Minister in 2002.  
  • Haitham has already publicly committed to maintaining Oman’s role as an independent mediator, and most observers expect him to continue his predecessor’s tradition of quiet diplomacy, serving as a bridge between the USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the Houthis. However, autonomy in foreign policy has been predicated on Oman’s economic independence, and low oil prices and dwindling reserves have thrown that into doubt.
  • As Haitham confronts rising tensions in the region and an unfavorable economic forecast at home, the new sultan will have to work to maintain the domestic credibility and regional stature that his predecessor enjoyed.

The Washington Post – Sudarsan Raghavan / Libyan cease-fire unravels as eastern warlord Hifter leaves Moscow without signing truce

  • A provisional cease-fire reached two days ago between Libya’s warring factions appeared to unravel on Tuesday, as eastern commander Khalifa Hifter abruptly left Moscow without signing the agreement. Consequently, several clashes emerged in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. 
  • On Monday, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj signed the cease-fire agreement. But Hifter, who is aligned with a rival government, had asked for until Tuesday morning to make his decision. By early Tuesday, however, he left without signing the document. The collapse of the cease-fire effort is a major blow to President Putin and President Erdogan, as well as their aspirations of becoming the main power brokers in Libya.
  • The U.N. mission in Libya on Tuesday urged both sides to adhere to the cease-fire and give the diplomatic efforts a chance “for the sake of the civilian population in Tripoli, the hundreds of thousands who fled their homes and the 116,000 children who are unable to go to their classes.”
  • Al-Monitor – Diego Cupolo / Erdogan vows to defend Tripoli government after Libya talks fail

EURACTIV – Beatriz Ríos / Nuclear ‘excluded’ from EU’s new Just Transition Fund

  • The EU regional policy Commissioner Elisa Ferreira unpacked on January 14th details of the €100 billion Just Transition Mechanism, a key financial component of the European Green Deal that should make the bloc climate neutral by 2050. She stated that “nuclear energy is excluded from the Just Transition Mechanism.”
  • EU leaders agreed in December on a bloc-wide objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050. In order to convince Hungary and the Czech Republic to sign up, they also reaffirmed the right of countries to decide on their own energy mix, including nuclear. Poland refused to sign up, saying it needed more EU funding to help phase out coal.  
  • The Fund will provide financial aid to countries in their work towards climate neutrality. Within a wider mechanism, the Commission aims to provide technical assistance and ease state aid rules for green investments. The fund will be based on €7.5 billion of “fresh money”, to be topped up with financing from the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund Plus, both part of the EU’s cohesion policy.

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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