Oil tanker bound for Syria seized in Gibraltar for sanctions-busting

Robie de Guzman   •   July 5, 2019   •   939

British Royal Marines seized an oil tanker in Gibraltar on Thursday (July 4) accused of bringing oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions, a dramatic step that could escalate confrontation between the West and Iran.

The Grace 1 tanker was impounded in the British territory at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, after sailing around Africa from the Gulf.

Shipping data reviewed by Reuters suggests it had been loaded with Iranian oil off the coast of Iran, although its documents say the oil is from neighboring Iraq.

The Gibraltar authorities who seized it did so under the authority of European sanctions against Syria that have been in place for years, with no reference to the source of the oil.

But the likelihood that the cargo was Iranian draws a link between this incident and a new U.S. effort to halt all global sales of Iranian crude, in what Tehran has described as an illegal “economic war” against it.

European countries have tried to stay neutral in that confrontation, which saw the United States calling off airstrikes against Iran just minutes before impact last month, and Tehran amassing stocks of enriched uranium banned under a nuclear deal.

In a statement, the Gibraltar government said it had reasonable grounds to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas refinery in Syria. (REUTERS)

(Production: Lisa Giles-Keddie)

Indonesia sends security forces to contain fresh Papua protests

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

Courtesy: Reuters

Protests around Indonesia’s Papua province entered third day on Wednesday (August 21), as extra police officers and military were sent in to contain the situation.

In Timika, where the giant Grasberg copper and gold mine operated by the Indonesian unit of Freeport McMoran is located, video shows protesters holding banners and shouting “we are not monkeys” as they march down the streets.

Protesters were also reported to have thrown rocks at a parliament building, houses, shops and a hotel.

Indonesian police have sent 1,200 additional officers to West Papua, Muhammad Iqbal, a national police spokesman told media.

While a separatist movement has simmered for decades in Papua, with frequent complaints of rights abuses by Indonesian security forces, the recent anger appears to be linked to racist slurs against Papuan students who were detained last week.

Papuan students were detained in the East Java city of Surabaya over accusations that they had disrespected the Indonesian flag in front of a dormitory during celebrations of Independence Day on Saturday (August 17). (Reuters)

(Production: Heru Asprihanto, Angie Teo, Lion Schellerer)

US tests first land-based cruise missile after quitting INF treaty

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday announced the test of a medium-range land-based cruise missile for the first time after pulling out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

It was reported that the “conventionally configured” test missile hit the target after flying more than 500 kilometers on Sunday local time in San Nicolas Island, California.

That was the first time the United States carried out a missile test previously prohibited by the INF, marking the resumption of an arms race.

According to the statement, the data collected from this test will be applied for development of future intermediate-range capabilities.

The INF Treaty, signed in 1987 between the former Soviet Union and the United States, had banned land-based missiles with a range of 500 km (310 miles) to 5,500 km (3,410 miles).

The treaty ceased to operate on Aug 2 after the United States and Russia accused each other of violating it.

On the same day, the U.S. Defense Department announced the full development of the ground-based conventional cruise missile previously banned by the arms control treaty. (Reuters)

Trump calls off meeting with Danish prime minister over Greenland comments

Robie de Guzman   •   August 21, 2019

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday (August 20) he was postponing his scheduled meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen in two weeks because of her lack of interest in his offer to purchase Greenland.

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump said in a post on Twitter.

A White House official said Trump had dropped the Sept. 2-3 stop in Denmark, a NATO ally. Trump had been due to discuss the Arctic in meetings in Copenhagen with Frederiksen, who took office in June, and Prime Minister Kim Kielsen of Greenland.

He is due to visit Poland on Aug. 31.

Frederiksen said on Sunday the idea of selling Greenland to the United States was absurd after an economic adviser to Trump confirmed U.S. interest in buying the world’s largest island.

“Greenland is not for sale. Greenland is not Danish. Greenland belongs to Greenland. I strongly hope that this is not meant seriously,” Frederiksen told the newspaper Sermitsiaq during a visit to Greenland.

Trump confirmed to reporters on Sunday that he had recently discussed the possibility of buying Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory, although he said such a move was not an immediate priority.

“The concept came up and … strategically it’s interesting,” Trump told reporters in Morristown, New Jersey.

A defense treaty between Denmark and the United States dating back to 1951 gives the U.S. military rights over the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland.

Trump’s interest in buying Greenland has been met with incredulity and humor. Lars Lokke Rasmussen, who recently stepped down as Danish prime minister, tweeted last week: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.” (Reuters)

(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)

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