Friday, June 23

Friday, June 23

NO LET UP; NO EFFECT EU RENEWS CRIMEA SANCTIONS EU trade sanctions on Crimea were originally set to expire on

NO LET UP; NO EFFECT

EU RENEWS CRIMEA SANCTIONS

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

EU trade sanctions on Crimea were originally set to expire on Friday. Earlier this week, the sanctions, which block all imports from the peninsula (and some exports to it), were renewed until June 23, 2018. The measures were imposed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, and its support of separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

EU leaders are expected to discuss renewing a different set of sanctions on Russia at the European Council summit today. Despite some reluctance from Moscow-sympathetic members like Italy, these sanctions—restricting Russian banks’ international market access and blocking most arms trading—are expected to be unanimously renewed.

Despite President Donald Trump’s overtures to Vladimir Putin, Brussels will enjoy continued support for this approach from Washington. On June 15, the Senate passed a bill both containing new sanctions and making it difficult for existing ones to be removed. The legislation passed by a 98-2 vote—enough to defeat any potential presidential veto.

Renewed EU sanctions are unlikely to lead to any immediate action from Russia. A peace deal in Ukraine has been constantly violated for two years and shows no signs of being effectively implemented soon.

STABILITY OR AUTOCRACY?

RWANDA’S ELECTION NEARS AS CANDIDATES DECLARE

Photo: Marc Hofe/AP

Photo: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP

Today is the submission deadline for candidacy for the August 4th presidential election in Rwanda.

President Paul Kagame of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which has ruled since 1994, will be on the ballot. Kagame has been serving since 2003 with a 2015 constitutional amendment allowing him to stand for reelection in 2017 then for another two terms after 2024.

Supporters claim that only Kagame can ensure Rwanda’s prosperity and stability. Others, like the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, contend that a third term for Kagame and the RPF will solidify Rwanda as a one-party state. Critics also worry that Kagame has become intolerant of political opposition over his tenure, with threats, arrests, and forced disappearances of political opponents reported.

Another term of Kagame could further disenfranchise Rwanda’s political minorities and lead to uprisings. In neighbouring Burundi, ongoing revolts were sparked by similar circumstances to those in Rwanda today. While ideological opposites, the concern for both sides lies in preserving democratic stability in a country that was wracked by chaos not so long ago.

ISLAMIC DISUNITY

IRAN HOLDS ANTI-ISRAEL PROTESTS AMID TENSIONS

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Iran is encouraging a massive turnout for Quds Day rallies this Friday. Quds Day, marking the last Friday of Ramadan, was proclaimed by Iran in 1979 to protest Israel and support Palestinians.

The rallies highlight ever-present hostility between the Islamic Republic and Israel. Tehran recently launched missiles at ISIS targets in Syria, which doubled as a show of strength. For its part, the Israeli government mocked the attacks, claiming they had mostly missed their targets. PM Benjamin Netanyahu said “I have one message for Iran: Don’t threaten Israel.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said today’s rallies are an opportunity for the Muslim world to unify—a reference to high tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Most recently, the Saudis claimed they captured a Revolutionary Guard ship; Iran says they were merely fishermen. Additionally, the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar is in part over its closeness to Iran.

Mr Rouhani’s appeal for unity will likely fall on deaf ears; the Saudis see Friday’s demonstrations as distinctly Iranian. In the Islamic Republic, Saudi Arabia and Israel have a common adversary.

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE

Today is the deadline set by the US House Intelligence Committee for Former FBI Director James Comey to hand over memos of his conversations with President Trump. Mr Trump has also been asked to turn over any tape recordings he may have made of his interactions. While the president has teased the public about the existence of such recordings, it’s uncertain whether they actually exist.

Day two of the European Council summit will feature discussions on migration and counterterrorism. Specifically, European leaders will mull ways to force technology companies to detect and remove online content aimed at radicalisation and inciting violence.

India’s defence minister will meet his Russian counterpart in Moscow to discuss deepening military-to-military ties. The two countries cooperate on joint military programs, including a fifth-generation fighter jet and cruise missiles. The two leaders are also expected to explore options for holding more comprehensive joint land and sea military exercises

Back home, the Indian Space Research Organisation will put 30 satellites into orbit atop its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. Two other launches will take place today—a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida and a Soyuz launch in northwestern Russia. Having three separate rocket launches within hours of each other is rare and demonstrates the increase in space activity and private-sector demand for small and medium-sized rockets.