22 May 2019

English

Armenian court frees ex-president Kocharyan from pre-trial arrest

KONFRONTASI-An Armenian court on Saturday ordered former president Robert Kocharyan freed on bail from pre-trial detention, local news agencies reported.

The 64-year-old ex-president was arrested last July after peaceful protests drove his former ally and successor, Serzh Sarksyan, from power and propelled opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan into the prime minister’s job.

Pope pays tribute journalists killed; says press freedom vital

KONFRONTASI-Pope Francis paid tribute on Saturday to journalists killed while doing their jobs, saying media freedom is a key indicator of a country’s health.

In an address to the Foreign Press Association in Italy, he urged journalists to shun fake news and continue reporting on the plight of people who no longer make headlines but are still suffering, specifically mentioning the Rohingya and Yazidi.

Flooding in Mali kills at least 15

KONFRONTASI-At least 15 people have been killed in Mali's capital, Bamako, after torrential downpours caused widespread flooding across much of the city.

It is the beginning of the rainy season and the worst of the rain came down in a five-hour period in the early hours of Thursday morning, flooding streets, damaging buildings and sending cars floating down the streets.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Security, Amadou Sangho said the flooding had caused serious damage and rescue teams had been deployed.

U.S. Embassy Jakarta Releases Security Alert Regarding Indonesia Election

KONFRONTASI-On May 22, 2019, the General Election Commission (KPU) is expected to announce the official results of the Indonesian presidential and parliamentary elections. Indonesian police officials have publicly cited a heightened risk of terrorism in connection with the finalization of election results, and media has reported recent arrests of Indonesians on terrorism charges.

Bloomberg: Investigation Finds Indonesia’s Election Commission Violated Vote Procedures. The Mistakes supported allegations of election Fraud

BLOOMBERG- An investigation found that Indonesia’s election commission violated official procedures when tallying votes during the country’s presidential election.Prabowo’s team said the mistakes supported allegations of election fraud

Indonesia’s election supervisory agency, known as Bawaslu, said Thursday that the election commission incorrectly entered vote data during the count. It didn’t release further details, including how many errors were made and what impact they may have had on the final tally.

In quest for bigger military budget, UK’s new defense chief speaks of Russian, Chinese threats

KONFRONTASI - British Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt, who took the position two weeks ago, has used her maiden speech to plead for more military funding by citing Russia and China as threats, following what has become a trend in the UK’s foreign policy of recent months.

In a bid to provide a strong first impression, Mordaunt outlined a post-Brexit world where the “global Britain” would play the role of a “protector” and a “problem solver” in the face of emerging threats.

No easy options for China as trade war, U.S. pressure bite

KONFRONTASI-China is running out of options to hit back at the United States without hurting its own interests, as Washington intensifies pressure on Beijing to correct trade imbalances in a challenge to China’s state-led economic model.

China said this week it would impose higher tariffs on most U.S. imports on a revised $60 billion target list. That’s a much shorter list compared with the $200 billion of Chinese products on which Washington has hiked tariffs.

Washington has also turned up the heat on other fronts, from targeting China’s tech firms such as Huawei and ZTE to sending warships through the strategic Taiwan Strait.

As the pressure mounts, Chinese leaders are pressing ahead to seal a deal and avoid a drawn-out trade war that risks stalling China’s long-term economic development, according to people familiar with their thinking.

But Beijing is mindful of a possible nationalistic backlash if it is seen as conceding too much to Washington.

Agreeing to U.S. demands to end subsidies and tax breaks for state-owned firms and strategic sectors would also overturn China’s state-led economic model and weaken the Communist Party’s grip on the economy, they said.

“We still have ammunition but we may not use all of it,” said a policy insider, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“The purpose is to reach a deal acceptable to both sides.”

The State Council Information Office, finance ministry and commerce ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.

Of the retaliatory options available to China, none come without potential risks.

RESTRICTING U.S. IMPORTS

Since July last year, China has cumulatively imposed additional retaliatory tariffs of up to 25 percent on about $110 billion of U.S. goods.

Based on 2018 U.S. Census Bureau trade data, China would only have about $10 billion of U.S. products, such as crude oil and big aircraft, left to levy duties on in retaliation for any future U.S. tariffs.

In contrast, U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening tariffs on a further $300 billion of Chinese goods.

The only other items Beijing could tax would be imports of U.S. services. The United States had a services trade surplus with China of $40.5 billion in 2018.

But China does not have as much leverage over the United States as it might seem because large parts of that surplus are in tourism and education, areas that would be more difficult for the Chinese government to significantly roll back, James Green, a senior adviser at McLarty Associates, told Reuters.

China is more likely to further erect non-tariff barriers on U.S. goods, such as delaying regulatory approvals for agricultural products, said Green, who until August was the top U.S. Trade Representative official at the embassy in Beijing.

Polish far-right supporters protest against restitution of Jewish property

KONFRONTASI-Hundreds of far-right supporters marched in Warsaw on Saturday to protest against a U.S. law on the restitution of Jewish property seized during or after World War Two, an issue increasingly featuring in campaigns for upcoming Polish elections.

Carrying placards with slogans including “Poland has no obligations” and “Holocaust hyenas”, demonstrators marched from the prime minister’s office to the U.S. embassy in central Warsaw.

Yemen's Houthis begin withdrawal from Hodeidah ports in boost to peace deal

KONFRONTASI- Yemen’s Houthi movement on Saturday started withdrawing forces from Saleef port in Hodeidah under a U.N.-sponsored deal stalled for months, a Reuters witness said, reviving hopes for peace efforts to end the four-year war.

But a minister in the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia dismissed the Iran-aligned Houthis’ pullout as a “show” meant to “misinform the international community”.

The move, yet to be verified by the United Nations, is the first major step in implementing the pact reached last year by the government and the Houthis for a truce and troop withdrawal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

U.N. teams were overseeing the Houthi redeployment in Saleef, used for grain, as other teams headed to the second port of Ras Isa, used for oil, to start implementing the withdrawal from there, according to the witness.

A dozen trucks carrying Houthi fighters, armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, departed from Saleef. Two ships were docked at the port and operations were running normally, said the witness who was at the facility.

“The coast guards have taken over in Saleef,” he said. “They and U.N. officials have started checking equipment at the port.”

The Houthis said their “unilateral step shows our commitment to implement the Hodeidah agreement and to achieving peace,” after four years of fighting in the Arab nation. The group called on the U.N. to press the Saudi-led coalition to take “similar steps”.

However, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani told Reuters the pullout was “a flagrant show”.

“It’s an attempt to misinform the international community ahead of a meeting of the U.N. Security Council” on Yemen, he said. “A group of (Houthi) militiamen left and they were replaced by others wearing coast guard police uniforms.”

The U.N. Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) has said the Houthis would make an “initial unilateral redeployment” from the ports between May 11 and May 14.

It said the redeployment would enable the United Nations to take a leading role in supporting the local Red Sea Ports Authority in managing the ports and enhance U.N. checks on cargoes. It would also allow humanitarian corridors to be reopened.

There has been no comment so far from the Saudi-led Sunni Muslim military coalition that has massed forces outside Houthi-held Hodeidah, which handles the bulk of Yemen’s imports and aid supplies.

Western allies, which supply arms and intelligence to the coalition, have pushed for an end to the war.

 

The British ambassador to Yemen reacted sharply to the Yemeni government’s scepticism about Houthi withdrawal. “The Yemeni cynics who criticize everything the other side does even if it is positive and who say the UN are naive seem to be saying the only solution is perpetual war in Yemen,” Michael Aron said in a Twitter post. He said a U.N. presence in the ports would prevent arms smuggling.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice tried to seize its port to cut off the main supply line of the Houthis, whom they accuse of smuggling Iranian weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities. The group and Tehran deny the accusations.

Nancy Pelosi agrees America is in a constitutional crisis, trump officials fail to ‘respect the oath of office’

KONFRONTASI -  As the tension between House Democrats and the White House continued to escalate this week with a contempt citation issued to the attorney general, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she agreed with a Democratic colleague that America is in a “constitutional crisis.”

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