Abadi Does Not Want to Fight Kurds, Erdogan Supports Closing Borders

Paris, Ankara — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed on Thursday that he does not want an armed confrontation with the Kurds in relation to the crisis of the referendum on independence held in the Kurdistan region on Sept. 25.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country would soon close the border with the region, and also spoke about a tripartite mechanism discussed between Ankara, Tehran, and Baghdad on closing the flow of oil from northern Iraq.

The Kurdish file governed al-Abadi’s talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday, although Iraq had in principal negatively responded to the French suggestion that stipulates Macron’s mediation in the crisis between Baghdad and Irbil.

Still, Paris did not amend its position regarding the crisis between the two sides. Macron again expressed the French position during his joint press conference with the Iraqi prime minister on Thursday.

He said France insists to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil, it refuses any escalation, particularly at the military level, and it is attached to the sovereignty of Iraq and the stability and integrity of its territories.

For his part, al-Abadi said: “We do not want an armed confrontation, we don’t want clashes, but the federal authority must prevail and nobody can infringe on the federal authority.”

The Iraqi prime minister discussed with the French president the Kurdish crisis, the war on ISIS and the need to annul the referendum on independence, and he urged Kurdish Peshmerga forces in disputed areas to work with Iraqi security forces under the authority of the central government in Baghdad.

“I call on the Peshmerga to remain an integral part of the Iraqi forces under the authority of the federal authorities, to guarantee the security of citizens so that we can rebuild these zones,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, Erdogan announced that his country would soon close its border with northern Iraq and shut its airspace in response to last week’s Kurdish independence referendum.

The Turkish president added: “We are demanding that the Kurdish government learn a lesson from their mistakes and take the appropriate steps to compensate them.”

Erdogan also announced that Turkey already established a tripartite mechanism with Iran and Iraq that would decide jointly whether to cut oil exports from Kurdish northern Iraq.

Macron Promises Aoun to Organize Three Conferences to Help Lebanon

Macron

Paris- French President Emmanuel Macron asserted on Monday with his guest Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is on an official trip to Paris, that conditions were not yet suitable for the safe return of the Syrian refugees to their country, revealing contradictions in the file of the Syrian war and the fate of the refugees.

Macron, however, promised organizing three conferences to support Lebanon: A donor conference to encourage investment, a conference for the Syrian refugees and another one to aid the Lebanese Army in coordination with Italy and the UN.

French presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the donor conference that Paris is planning to hold in the next few months in Beirut concerning the Syrian refugees “does not aim to push for their return to Syria or to speed it up, but rather to lessen the burdens placed on Lebanon and to discuss their needs and the means of accepting them in the hosting environments.”

For his part, reading a paper after his meeting with the French President, Aoun said: “I pointed out to Macron the need to plan the return of the Syrian refugees to their country, particularly that the most areas from where they came is now safe. In this case, we can’t wait for them to voluntarily leave Lebanon.”

The Lebanese president added that Syrian refugees “are living in a difficult situation.”

Same as in every occasion, Macron stressed that France is keen on Lebanon’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity.

During a joint press conference at the Elysee, the French president saluted the bravery of the Lebanese Army in fighting terrorism,” but added that it does not mean the end of the terrorist threats in Lebanon.

“France’s goal is to confront the dangers that undermine peace in Lebanon by strengthening the capabilities of the army so the Lebanese government can take control of the entire territory,” he said.

Macron Pledges to Cut Red Tape to Rebuild French Caribbean Islands after Irma

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to cut through red tape to quickly rebuild the islands of the French Caribbean during a visit on Tuesday meant to dispel anger at his government` s response to Hurricane Irma, which killed at least 43 people in the region.

Macron was due to travel on Tuesday to St. Martin, an island France shares with the Netherlands that suffered some of the worst devastation from Irma. Most of the 10 people killed by Irma lived on French territories there.

European countries and the United States have sent troops to deliver aid and provide security after the storm toppled homes and hospitals, but locals and tourists short of food or shelter say help was slow to arrive.

Macron denied authorities were too slow to react.

“St. Martin will be reborn, I promise,” Macron told reporters in Pointe-a-Pitre, on the French island of Guadeloupe. “I will shake up all the rules and procedures so the job is done as quickly as possible. It will be done quickly, it will be done well, and it will be done better,” he said.

Macron said 50 million euros will be made available as soon as possible, and 2,000 security forces have been deployed, including the army, roughly double the original contingent.

The French government has said it would take at least three months for water distribution to normalize. The electricity supply has also been badly hit, authorities said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also travelled on Tuesday to the Caribbean to visit British territories devastated by Irma. Among the hardest hit islands were the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, plus Antigua and Bermuda.

Low-Cost Workers … Macron’s Problem with Eastern Europe

Washington- Visit nearly any big construction site in France, and chances are that many employees hail from low-wage East European countries. In Britain, farms employ labor from Poland, Romania or Bulgaria when the harvest comes. Nearly half of the drivers of trucks coming in and out of Spain are from nations to the east.

The principle underpinning all of that — the freedom of citizens from European Union countries to work anywhere in the 28-nation bloc — is a pillar of the union itself. In theory, it allows workers to move across the region to find employment and benefits businesses by providing a wider talent pool.

But companies have also long profited from rules that allow them to “post” workers from one country to another. Now, a backlash is growing across northern Europe amid increasing evidence that employers are taking advantage of the rules to hire low-wage foreigners rather than local citizens.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, who promised to protect his compatriots from “unfair competition” from the east, is moving aggressively to focus attention on these posted workers as he begins a three-day tour of Central and Eastern Europe on Wednesday.

The push comes as higher-salary countries like France, Austria and the Netherlands face political pressure to curb “social dumping,” a widespread practice in which companies hire subcontractors in lower-wage European Union member-states and post them in a more costly one. The practice increases profit margins, but often exploits the workers by keeping their wages and social protections low.

Anxiety over the rising number of foreign workers, especially from Eastern Europe, who are posted to jobs in agriculture, construction and other labor-intensive sectors was a pivotal factor in Britain’s vote last year to leave the European Union.

That point is not lost on politicians, including Mr. Macron, whose public-approval rating has dropped precipitously in his first months in office. In an interview with several European newspapers in June, the French leader urged Eastern Europe not to treat the bloc as a “supermarket,” and warned that governments would face consequences if they flouted regional values.

“Do you think I can explain to the French that businesses are closing in France to move to Poland while construction firms in France are recruiting Polish workers because they are cheaper?” he said during the interview. “This system does not work right.”

But the charge has infuriated the leaders of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, widening a rift with West European countries that broke out during the Continent’s refugee crisis, when both sides clashed over plans to distribute asylum seekers across the region.

East European leaders accuse Mr. Macron of protectionism. They question why France and its neighbors have not cracked down on employers abusing the system.

They argue that their countries, which joined the bloc in 2004 during the European Union’s largest single expansion, should be allowed to compete on lower wages to stoke growth and catch up. When Poland and nine other Central and East European countries joined, many older members initially restricted access to their labor markets.

On Wednesday, Mr. Macron sought to smooth the frictions, saying he wanted to push for new rules to combat fraud and to limit to one year the length of time an employee could be posted to another European Union country. His three-day itinerary includes stops in Austria, Romania and Bulgaria, and meetings with the prime ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic while in Austria.

“I deeply believe,” Mr. Macron said, “the time of the European reconstruction has come.”

“The posting of workers directive, as it functions, is a betrayal of the European spirit,” he added, during a joint news conference with Chancellor Christian Kern in Salzburg, Austria.

While posted workers make up less than 1 percent of Europe’s labor force, eastern bloc leaders have vowed to fight any efforts to restrict the rights of their citizens to work across the region.

The European Parliament has found numerous questionable practices used by companies to recruit cheaper labor. These include setting up fake mailing addresses in low-cost member-states and bouncing workers between several countries to avoid the increased costs that permanent employment would bring. Other companies force workers to declare themselves as self-employed so the firms can avoid paying social security contributions.

The practice can easily spiral into exploitation when posted workers lack the social protections given to local hires. The host country also loses tax revenue and social security deposits to the East European countries where the workers’ pay slips are based.

The issue has long been politically charged in Europe, but it flared anew during the French presidential election when Mr. Macron and his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen cited the free movement of cheap labor as a source of joblessness and unfair competition.

A high-profile labor abuse case in March also raised scrutiny.

One of the biggest French construction companies, Bouygues Travaux Publics, was fined around 30,000 euros, or $35,000, after lengthy government investigations found it had contracted with exploitative, low-cost employment agencies to hire hundreds of Polish and Romanian workers.

The workers, who were enlisted to help build a nuclear power plant run by Électricité de France, known as EDF, in Flamanville, a town on the country’s northwest coast, received little to no health care coverage from 2009 to 2011, when the facility was being constructed. The employment agencies were also charged with bilking the French state of social security contributions totaling nearly €12 million.

Last year, the European Commission proposed reforming the system to require that posted workers be paid on par with local ones, and that any posting occur “within a climate of fair competition and respect for the rights of workers.” But Central and East European countries halted the proposals, and asked Brussels for a further review.

Some member-states are taking matters into their own hands.

Austria recently tightened measures to deter domestic companies from contracting low-cost European laborers. This month, the government fined an Austrian engineering group, Andritz, €22 million for using a Croatia-based contractor to hire around 200 Croatian workers for a €7 million construction project, citing a violation of national fair labor laws.

An Austrian industry body has appealed, saying the government crackdown violated European Union rules, hindered entrepreneurship and jeopardized jobs in Austria.

In Spain, the National Union of Spanish Transport Associations has warned that social dumping is the most serious problem facing the sector. The group estimated that half of all truck drivers coming into and out of the country hailed from Eastern Europe, where wages were as little as an eighth of those in Spain.

Many of the truckers are employed by Spanish companies that set up a head office in Poland or another eastern country. The companies then pay the lower taxes and social security charges of the cheaper country, avoiding the higher Spanish fees.

It is the type of practice that Mr. Macron wants to limit.

“A Europe that protects,” the French president said, “is a Europe which is able to solve the issue of posted workers.”

International Invitation for Syrian Deal to Prevent Reemergence of Extremism

Moscow, London, Paris- Syrians went out on Friday to celebrate the Adha Eid for the first time in the four de-escalation zones at a time when international calls were made to strike a “comprehensive deal” that allows the return of refugees and prevents the re-emergence of extremism.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, UN envoy for Syria Staffa de Mistura said: “What we are seeing is the beginning of the end of the war… what we need to make sure is that this becomes also the beginning of peace. And that is where the challenge starts at this very moment.”

The UN envoy also warned from the possibility that extremists return to Syria, similar to what happened in Iraq in the absence of a political operation that leads to the lineup of a comprehensive government.

“Even those who believe they won the war – that is the government – they will need to make a gesture, otherwise ISIS will come back in a month or two months’ time,” he said.

For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an article published in the run-up of the BRICS summit published on Friday that “conditions for improvement have been created in Syria, but anti-terrorism effort must continue in the country.”

The Russian president also called on partner countries to help in the reconstruction efforts in Syria.

Meanwhile at the Elysee Palace in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron said after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri that his country plans to hold a conference in the first quarter of next year to organize the return of the Syrian refugees.

For his part, Hariri told the French “Le Monde” newspaper that “Assad must leave,” adding that “the refugees will not return while the regime is in place.”

Lavrov, Haftar: Mediation Efforts in Libya Should Come through the UN

Moscow– Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the situation in Libya with Libyan National Army Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar currently on official visit to Russia.

Both officials reiterated that all mediation efforts in Libya should be carried out via the UN.

Haftar stated that he is seeking military aid from Russia to Libyan forces fighting terrorists and extremists.

He said the issue of potential Russian military aid to Libya was discussed with Lavrov, adding that Russia is a “good friend” of Libya. He reiterated his intentions to further develop relations with Moscow in various fields, hailing its position concerning the Libyan crisis.

“The outcome of the talks is very positive. We briefed [Lavrov] on our problems, described the picture in whole. Naturally, Russian side considers how it can participate in the search for the required decisions. We’d be delighted, if Russia continues to participate in this work,” Haftar told journalists after the meeting with Lavrov.

He also stated that the Libyan army is doing its best to fight terrorism and has been making sacrifices for the past three years despite unfair sanctions on armament.

Haftar, however, stated that his country is adamant on continuing its battle until the Libyan army is in control of all Libyan territories.

When asked about the political process in Libya, Haftar said following requests from neighboring countries he initiated to meet with Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez Sarraj in Abu Dhabi, UAE, earlier this year. He explained that despite agreeing on several issues with Sarraj, the latter never committed to the deal.

Last month, Haftar and Sarraj agreed on a plan to take Libya out of its crisis during anotehr meeting in France under the patronage of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Russia has expressed its readiness to work toward achieving a successful political solution to the Libyan crisis, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday in the follow-up to the meeting between Lavrov and Haftar.

“Russia’s continued readiness to further contribute to the successful advancement of the political process in Libya in contact with all of Libya’s sides was confirmed,” the statement said.

Russia underscored the importance of continued inclusive intra-Libyan dialogue with the participation of the representatives of all major political powers, tribal groups and regions of the country to reach mutually acceptable decisions, aimed at ensuring the sustainable development of Libya as a united, sovereign and independent state.

Russia supports the intention of Commander Haftar to reach an agreement with Sarraj, Lavrov said.

“We are aware of the efforts being made with your participation, with the participation of Sarraj, which are aimed at ensuring generally acceptable agreements on optimal ways of implementing the Skhirat agreement,” the FM told Haftar.

He added that Moscow expects Special Representative and Head of UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Saleme to visit Russia soon.

Following the meeting with Lavrov, Haftar held talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The talks focused “on the developments in North Africa and mainly the situation in Libya,” the Russian defense ministry said in a brief statement, noting that both sides emphasized the importance of continued bilateral dialogue.

Russia is trying to communicate with all parties in Libya which would enable it to have a more influential role on the situation in the country.

Earlier in March, Sarraj met with Lavrov who said that Russia wants to see Libya united, prosperous and supported by reliable state institutions and a capable army.

Lavrov believed it is in the interests of the Libyans themselves that regional stability and promoting conditions are bolstered for the resumption of relations between Libya and all its partners, including Russia.

“We are convinced that the current crisis can be overcome only by the Libyan people and all the Libyan parties through an inclusive, as is commonly said, nationwide dialogue aimed at reconciliation,” stated Lavrov.

Sarraj reiterated the strong relations between Russia and Libya, saying he is keen on establishing relations political, economic, security and military fields.

Prior to Haftar’s current visit to Russia, news reports stated that Sarraj might simultaneously arrive in Moscow.

Head of the Russian contact group on the settlement in Libya Lev Dingov said that both Haftar and Sarraj will visit Moscow on Monday. But the news was soon denied by the ministry which said that only the LNA chief would be visiting.

US, China Presidents Hold Talks to Resolve North Korea Crisis

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Bejing- Chinese leader Xi Jinping urged restraint in a phone call with President Trump on Saturday, following a week of blustery rhetoric between North Korea and the US.

Xi warned that “concerned parties” should avoid “remarks and actions” that could escalate tensions with North Korea, according to the state-run New China News Agency.

He reiterated China’s desire to work with the US, citing “common interests” in preserving stability in the region.

A White House statement said the US and China agreed North Korea must stop “provocative and escalatory behavior” – this week, Trump waged a verbal attack on North Korea on the background of its nuclear and ballistic program.

Japanese media reported that Tokyo deployed its Patriot missile defense system on Saturday after North Korea threatened to fire ballistic missiles over the country towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the regime of North Korea is responsible for the crisis with the US and must fix it, affirming that London longs to a diplomatic resolution.

He tweeted: “The North Korean regime is the cause of this problem and they must fix it.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said that France and other UN Security Council members want North Korea to “proceed with the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear and ballistic programmes,” knowing that the UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose new sanctions on North Korea that could reach up to $1 billion annually.

France Seeks a Libya Breakthrough during Haftar-Sarraj Elysee Meeting

Paris- French President Emanuel Macron has shown that French diplomacy will be adopting a new approach in which it is prepared to take on a direct role in mediating for a Libya settlement.

For over six years, the Libya row and crisis has affected European countries in terms of immigration, an upsurge in terrorism, growing trafficking activity. Not only that but regional stability and security for north African countries and the coast have been threatened.

On that note, Paris is preparing to host an exceptional meeting on Tuesday, likely to be held at the Elysee Palace. The meeting will bring together President Macron, Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) leader Fayez al-Sarraj, and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The new head of the United Nations support mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salame, the Arab League representatives, European Union delegates will also attend the meeting.

So far, Paris had stuck to general diplomatic rhetoric concerning Libya, and arranging for an intervening meeting did not appear in any of government’s agendas.

A number of Paris-based sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that France seeks a “breakthrough” in the Libya file, hoping that the upcoming Sarraj-Haftar will hold better prospects for a settlement than the last two meetings.

The warring leaders had met in Abu Dhabi, UAE last May.

At the Abu Dhabi meeting, the two agreed on a number of issues, notably fresh parliamentary and presidential elections, a truce, the need to fight terrorism, the development a united army and an end to the UN-imposed weapons.

It would be surprising, if the Paris encounter takes place, if they do not repeat these, especially the elections call now that it has become a key policy of Sarraj.

France recognizes the Presidency Council and insists the Libyan Political Agreement is the sole basis for resolving the Libyan crisis, but it has also provided intelligence support to the Haftar-led LNA in its fight against extremists in the east of the country.

The Dark Side to Macron’s Bright Idea in France

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Emmanuel Macron has completed a political revolution. The man swept out of nowhere, with no party behind him, and in a few short months, managed to secure the French presidency, then lead his new movement to a substantial legislative majority. Now he’s proposing to embark on another revolution by reshaping the legislature: to reduce the number of representatives, to limit lawmakers’ terms, and to provide “a dose” of proportional representation.

These are all proposals that get floated in the U.S. as well. And it’s easy to see why.

Why reduce the size of the legislature? Because the larger a deliberative body is, the harder it is to get enough members to agree on anything. Three people may debate where to have lunch, but in a group of 20, the issue needs to be settled by executive decision.

Meanwhile, term limits and proportional representation — the idea that a party should be represented in government in approximately the share that it received of the national vote — promise to fix everything people hate about America’s political inheritance from England: Single-member districts elected on a first-past-the-post system tend to squash smaller parties, resulting in two megaparties that seem to please no one fully. You end up with parties full of entrenched, self-dealing legislators who cling to their seats for decades, thanks to a combination of gerrymandering and voter bias towards the devil they know.

All these ideas are, in fact, favorites of exactly the class of people that Macron represents and typifies: educated cosmopolitans of a technocratic bent, who think that most important problems can be solved by twiddling the system’s rules. They look at the messes created by the elderly political apparatus and think “We must be able to do better.” And when you look at those messes, it’s hard not to agree.

And yet, there are ample reasons to dislike what Macron proposes to do. Start with proportional representation, an idea that seems hard to disparage: popular parties should hold more power. Who could possibly disagree with such an obvious principle?

Well, maybe someone who’d looked at actual governments that use this system. Proportional representation makes it very hard for a party to get a majority. This often leads to unstable coalitions that have difficulty holding together or getting anything done. In the most extreme case, as happened in Belgium, no governing coalition can form, and the country is left without a government.

The instability of proportional representation can make the government hostage to tiny coalition members — which is why, for example, the ultra-orthodox parties have such outsize influence in Israel. This may be of particular concern to liberals, because France’s current system awards the far-right Front National only a handful of seats — behind even the moribund communist party — in a country where the nationalists recently took a third of the vote. If French politicians try to shun the National Front, as has happened in other countries, the coalition politics would be unstable indeed.

Smaller legislatures, meanwhile, may be easier to corral into action, but by the same token, they are less accountable to voters, because each legislator represents more of them. That means legislators have less time to listen to individual constituents, and significant interests may get lost entirely.

Okay, but what about term limits? Who wants political lifers fondly patting each other on the back while trading favors and entrenching their own power? Shouldn’t we all crave a body of citizen-legislators, bringing real-world experience into government, and then returning to some productive labor?

If we were all sitting around designing some theoretical system from first principles, for an imaginary country full of industrious yeoman farmers, I would probably find myself enthusiastically endorsing this idea. But sadly, the real world, as so often happens, has declined to cooperate with our happy imaginations. When we get a look at term limits in practice rather than theory, they look a lot less attractive.

The citizen-legislator is a marvelous principle for a tiny, 19th-century government that practically doesn’t do anything at all. And if you have a viable plan for getting us to such a government, well, I’m all ears. But we in the Western democracies have 21st-century governments, whales so bloated that they have an entire ecosystem swimming along with them. As so happens with complex ecosystems, seemingly simple changes can have unexpected, even catastrophic effects.

For what happens when our citizen-legislators arrive in the seat of government, ideals clutched firmly in hand and just a short time to Make a Difference? They discover that the circling sharks (lobbyists, bureaucrats, etc.), unlike them, are not term-limited.

These lifers often have intentions just as noble as the citizen-legislators of our imaginations. But each of them is laser-focused on one priority. Their predation in pursuit of their priorities is limited mainly by their fear of legislators, and by extension, of the voters.

So while lobbyists and bureaucrats may be tempted to treat legislators like the proverbial mushroom — keep them in the dark and feed them manure — they can go only so far, because they know that next term, the legislator will probably be around, and will remember. Over time a few legislators gain expertise in a their subject areas, and can push back.

Term limits change that calculation. The citizen-legislators and their staffs arrive in Washington ignorant not just of the complexities of individual policy areas, but also of the ecosystem. By the time they know enough to recognize a shark and its agenda, they are getting close to their term limit, and their ability to threaten retaliation is waning.

So while it’s true that term limits strip power from self-interested politicians, that power is not returned to the voters. Instead it’s handed over to bureaucracies and interest groups — every bit as self-interested and self-dealing, but much less accountable to the public.

So why is Macron pursuing these changes? Because some of that power stripped from legislatures ends up empowering the executive. In a system like France’s, with a strong presidency, a weak legislature means a president with more scope for action.

I don’t say that he is acting from bad motives, mind you. Macron probably feels, with some justification, that reforming France’s often dysfunctional political economy will be impossible with the current legislature structure. Legislatures are, after all, the body most responsive and accountable to voters, and the reason that reforms have not happened before now is that each bad regulation or poorly designed welfare benefit comes attached to a group of voters with a powerful interest in continuing it — and they have the ear of some politicians.

And of course no political system ever designed is without problems. Israel may look enviously at nations with decisive elections, while we look enviously at those who get to have more than two parties. Who’s to say which problem is worse?

But those considering endorsing Macron’s program should give the question careful thought. As recent American experience has shown, “good government” often isn’t — and the devil you know really may be better than the beckoning stranger.

Bloomberg

Macron says US, France Demanded “Concrete” Initiative on Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he and US President Donald Trump had asked diplomats to draw up in the coming weeks a concrete initiative aimed at preparing the future of Syria.

“On the Iraq-Syria situation, we have agreed to continue working together, in particular on the building of a roadmap for the post-war period,” Macron said in a joint news conference during Trump’s visit to Paris.

“We have asked our diplomats to work in that direction, so in the next few weeks a concrete initiative can be taken and managed by the P5,” Macron said, referring to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.