U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo in Ankara for talks on Turkey’s Syria offensive

Robie de Guzman   •   October 17, 2019   •   167

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens to US President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a meeting with President of Italy Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 16 October 2019. EPA-EFE/MICHAEL REYNOLDS / POOL

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Ankara on Thursday (October 17) as part of Washington’s efforts to convince Turkey to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.

Turkey’s week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.

Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Following a phone call with Erdogan, who has rejected calls for ceasefire or mediation, Trump dispatched top aides including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks to try to persuade Turkey to halt the offensive. (Reuters)

Trump calls for Afghan peace talks but with ceasefire rider

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019

US President Donald Trump

Kabul, Afghanistan – The United States president has telephoned his Afghanistan counterpart to thank him for his efforts in facilitating the release of two foreign hostage professors, and insisted on ceasefire as a precondition to begin any peace talks with the Taliban, an official said on Friday.

According to the Afghan president’s office, Donald Trump called Ashraf Ghani on Thursday evening.

“(President) Trump thanked (President) Ghani for his efforts and support in ensuring the release of the two American University professors from the Taliban’s captivity,” tweeted Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesperson for the Afghan president.

Australian Timothy Weeks and his American colleague Kevin King, who in 2016 were abducted outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul where they worked, were released by the Taliban Tuesday in exchange for Kabul releasing three senior militants.

The prisoners released by the Afghan government, who have since arrived in Qatar, were Anas Haqqani, son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network that has claimed several deadly attacks in Afghanistan in recent years, as well as Hajji Mali Khan and Abdul Rashid.

Trump and Ghani also spoke about the Afghanistan government’s seven-point peace plan for ending the 18-year-long war in the country.

“The two leaders had a detailed discussion about the peace process and the important progress the Afghan security forces have made in the battlefield,” Sediqqi said.

“In response, President Trump insisted on a ceasefire as a precondition before negotiations.”

Sediqqi said Trump stressed on the need to include the Afghan government in peace talks, insisting that “their ownership and leadership of the process from the outset is imperative, which must begin immediately”.

Citing escalating violence and deadly attacks by the Taliban, Trump canceled talks with the Taliban in mid-September after US peace negotiators had held several rounds of parleys with Taliban leaders in Qatar and the UAE.

Sediqqi said Trump invited the Afghan president for an official visit to the US, which Ghani accepted. EFE-EPA

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China wants trade deal with US, but will retaliate if needed, says Xi

Robie de Guzman   •   November 22, 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) speaks during a meeting with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (not pictured) as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 22 November 2019. EPA-EFE/JASON LEE

Beijing – China’s president said Friday his country wanted to work out an agreement with the United States to resolve the ongoing trade dispute but warned that he was also willing to take counter-measures if required.

This is the first public statement by Xi Jinping on the possibility of reaching a pact with Washington to end – at least temporarily – the tariff war that the world’s two biggest economies have been involved in since March 2018.

“When necessary, we will fight back. But we have been working actively to try not to have a trade war. We did not initiate this trade war and this is not something we want,” Xi said at an economic forum in Beijing.

“As we always said we don’t want to start the trade war but we are not afraid,” he emphasized.

The Chinese leader said a possible agreement between the two countries should be based on “mutual respect and equality.”

The disputes with the US “may affect the future prospects of the world economy so this is a very important topic to watch”, said Xi. “We always hold positive attitude towards that.”

The remarks came a day after the Ministry of Commerce denied that the partial trade agreement between the two countries, known as phase one, was in jeopardy.

“At the moment, there are no more details to offer on the agreement, but the external rumors are not accurate,” Gao Feng, spokesperson for the Ministry of Commerce, told reporters on Thursday.

The statement seemed to be a response to US President Donald Trump’s recent claim that Beijing was not taking the lead in the talks.

Trump also said that if a trade agreement is not achieved tariffs will rise even more.

Representatives from China and the US spoke on the telephone on Saturday to advance the agreement although no details of the call have been divulged so far.

In early November, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said it had reached an agreement with Washington to phase out the levies both parties have imposed during the trade dispute.

However, days later, Trump dampened hopes that the tariffs on Chinese products would be phased out and lowered expectations a deal could be met.

The two-year trade war has seen a tit-for-tat hike on tariffs in both countries.

Most recently on Sep. 1 by increasing a 10 percent tax on Chinese imports to 15 percent.

The hike would be worth around $112 billion.

It remains to be seen if on Dec. 15 the same increase will be applied to the remaining imports taxed currently at 10 percent.

If Washington does follow through, the tariff increase would be valued at some $300 billion.

Trade tensions between the two largest world economies go beyond bilateral relations and have profound global consequences.

In its latest global growth forecasts, released in July, the International Monetary Fund lowered its projections of global growth to 3.2 percent this year, one-tenth less than in April weighed down by doubts about a possible resolution of this dispute. EFE-EPA

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SWS: Pinoys’ trust in China falls to ‘bad’, remains ‘excellent’ in US

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 21, 2019

The Filipinos’ trust in China has fallen from ‘poor’ to ‘bad’, based on the third quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey (SWS).

The net trust for China fell by 9 points from -24 in June 2019 to -33 in September 2019.

“The September 2019 Social Weather Survey was conducted from September 27-30, 2019 using face-to-face interviews of 1,800 adults (18 years old and above) nationwide,” according to the SWS survey report.

Meanwhile, the United States net trust remain ‘excellent’ at +72 in September 2019, it has little to no change compared to the +73 in June 2019.

Other countries like Australia and Japan stay at a ‘very good’ net trust rating, +37 and +35 respectively in September 2019.

Vietnam fell from ‘moderate’ net trust to ‘neutral’ with a net zero-rating in September 2019 from a +13 rating in June 2019.—AAC

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