Saturday, December 16, 2017

EU Leaders Agree on Next Phase for Brexit, Deeply Divided on Immigration

European leaders finished a summit in Brussels agreeing that Britain has done enough to move on to the second phase of negotiations to leave the EU, but without any signs of agreement on matters of immigration.
European Council leader Donald Tusk put immigration high on the agenda for the two-day summit. He said at the end of the day Friday that EU leaders will find it “very hard” to reach a compromise in talks on a new policy for admitting refugees by a June deadline.
“Mandatory quotas remain a contentious issue although its temperature has decreased substantially,” Tusk told a press conference ending the summit.
“Will a compromise be possible? It appears very hard,” he said.
​Divided on immigration
Officials say EU leaders continued a discussion on immigration Friday after a heated, more than a two-hour-long debate over migration on Thursday evening.

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Trump Says Russia ‘Not Helping’ On North Korea; Russia Fires Back

U.S. President Donald Trump said he has sought Russia’s help in resolving the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program but he is not satisfied with Russia’s efforts.
Shortly after Trump made his remarks to reporters at the White House on December 15, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Russia and China to do more to pressure North Korea, and charged that Moscow continues to employ North Korean workers in “slave-like conditions.”
Trump said that he had a “great” phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin late on December 14 in which they discussed the North Korean crisis.
While the two discussed other issues, “the primary point was to talk about North Korea, because we would love to have his help on North Korea,” said Trump, who the Kremlin said initiated the phone call.
“We’re going to see what happens with North Korea. We have a lot of support.

Trump Aide Manafort, Facing Trial In Russia Probe, To Be Released From House Arrest

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is close to winning release from house arrest after satisfying terms for posting a $10 million bond.
Manafort has been confined at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, since his October 30 arrest on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent when he was working for the government of Ukraine’s former pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych.
U.S. District Court Amy Berman Jackson on December 15 said she will order Manafort’s release once he executes documents agreeing to forfeit $10 million in property posted as bond, should he ever fail to appear for court proceedings.
Prosecutors working with U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller sought to prevent Manafort’s release, citing his recent move to write opinion artlcles about his work for Ukraine, which they said violated the court’s order not to discuss the case publicly.

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Turkey Opposition Leader Faces Prosecution as Crackdown Intensifies

ISTANBUL — 
Turkish prosecutors have taken another step toward the prosecution and possible jailing of the country’s main opposition leader. On Thursday, Ankara prosecutors announced they had prepared their case against Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and called for the lifting of his parliamentary immunity.
The CHP responded by criticizing the ruling party and Turkey’s president.
“[The] Justice and Development Party, and most importantly, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is different from the parties in the past. It has no tolerance against being criticized heavily and this intolerance is reflected in the indictment written by the prosecutors,” said deputy CHP head Sezgin Tanrikulu.
Kilicdaroglu is being prosecuted for his criticism of Erdogan over this year’s controversial referendum to extend presidential powers that was narrowly passed amid accusations of vote-rigging.

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UN Condemns Iraq Mass Executions

GENEVA — 
United Nations human rights officials are condemning what they call the shocking and appalling mass executions of 38 men in Iraq on Thursday. The men, who were executed at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, were convicted for terrorism-related crimes.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, told VOA her office did not learn of the mass executions until after the fact.
“That again just underscores the situation, that suddenly we get sort of word, we get news that there has been a mass execution,” Throssell said. “That goes back to the lack of transparency, the lack of information regarding what is happening to these people.”
Throssell said that since 2015, the U.N.’s office in Iraq repeatedly has asked the Iraqi minister of justice for information regarding the many men on death row, but with little response.

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Ukrainian Prosecutor Suggests Saakashvili Will Be Extradited To Georgia

Ukraine’s prosecutor-general says opposition figure Mikheil Saakashvili will likely be extradited to Georgia, where he is wanted on charges linked to when he was that country’s president.
Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko on December 15 told reporters that “the biggest likelihood is extradition” to Georgia.
“We have an official request from the country, which we do not have the right to refuse,” he said.
However, Russian state-run TASS news agency quoted senior Georgian officials as saying the Caucasus country had not issued an extradition request and denying press reports that an official had traveled to Belarus to negotiate with Ukrainian authorities.
Saakashvili faces separate charges in Ukraine, and Lutsenko left open the possibility he could still be tried in the country should the extradition process to Tbilisi be delayed.
Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004-13.

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NATO Levels Missile Accusations Against Moscow, As Treaty Dispute Escalates

WASHINGTON — NATO has accused Russia of developing a missile system in violation of a key Cold War arms treaty, the latest accusation from the West in a dispute that some fear will lead to the treaty’s demise.
The statement from the alliance, released on December 15, comes days after the United States signaled a tougher stance in its approach toward Moscow and the missile system, which a U.S. official identified publicly for the first time last month.
“Allies have identified a Russian missile system that raises serious concerns,” the December 15 statement said.
It urged Russia “to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way, and actively engage in a technical dialogue with the United States.”
The statement wasn’t the first time the alliance has weighed in on the dispute over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, or INF.

Russia to Resume Flights to Egypt, Halted After 2015 Bombing

MOSCOW — 
Russia and Egypt signed a deal on Friday to resume flights between Moscow and the Egyptian capital of Cairo starting from February, after more than a two-year break, officials announced.
Moscow suspended flights to Egypt after a bomb by the local Islamic State affiliate brought down a Russian airliner over Sinai in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board.
The attack decimated Egypt’s vital tourism industry. Egyptian authorities have since spent millions of dollars to upgrade security at its airports, hoping to get Moscow to change its mind.
Russian Transportation Minister Maxim Sokolov said he and Egyptian Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathi signed a protocol on security cooperation that would allow direct flights between Moscow and Cairo to resume, starting from February.

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Trump Says Russia ‘Not Helping’ On North Korea

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump says he is not satisfied with Russia’s cooperation in efforts to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump on December 15 said that “China is helping; Russia is not helping.”
“We would like to have Russia’s help — very important,” he added.
The comments came hours after Trump spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone. U.S. and Russian officials said the two leaders discussed North Korea during the call, which the Kremlin said Trump initiated.
Outside the White House, Trump repeated comments made earlier in the day that Putin had complimented him on his efforts regarding the U.S. economy but also had said “some negative things in terms of what is going on elsewhere.”
“But the primary point was to talk about North Korea, because we would love to have his help on North Korea,” Trump added.

Ex-Russian Minister Jailed for 8 Years Over $2 Million Bribe

MOSCOW — 
Russia’s former economics minister was handed an eight-year prison sentence Friday after being convicted of accepting a $2 million bribe from President Vladimir Putin’s top associate.
The case against Alexei Ulyukayev has been widely seen as part of infighting between Kremlin clans. Ulyukayev was a prominent member of a group of liberal-minded Cabinet members, while his nemesis Igor Sechin is the most prominent representative of the hard-line flank of the Russian elite.
Sechin heads Russia’s largest oil producer, Rosneft, and his clout seconds only that of Putin.
Ulyukayev was detained a year ago at Rosneft’s headquarters following a sting operation by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main KGB successor agency. He rejected the charges as a provocation set up by Sechin.

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