World Leaders voice support for US strike against Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad bears “sole responsibility” for the US strike on a regime airbase, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said in a joint statement on Friday.

“After the chemical weapons massacre of April 4 on Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria, a military installation of the Syrian regime was destroyed by a US air strike last night,” the statement, issued after a morning phone call, said.

“President Assad bears sole responsibility for this development.”

They added that “France and Germany, together with their partners and within the framework of the United Nations, will continue their efforts to hold President Assad responsible for his criminal deeds”.

Berlin and Paris “jointly call on the international community to join forces for a political transition in Syria in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and the Geneva Communique,” they said, referring to a statement issued on June 30 2012 by the UN-backed Action Group for Syria.

Merkel and Hollande were each informed “one to two hours before the strikes,” a source close to the French president’s office said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel earlier said the strike was “understandable” after the UN Security Council was “unable to clearly and unequivocally respond to the barbaric use of chemical weapons against innocent people in Syria”.

His French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, with Gabriel on a trip to Mali, said he hoped the strikes would show Syria’s allies Russia and Iran that they should withdraw their support for Assad.

“The Russians and the Iranians must now understand that they cannot prop up Bashar al-Assad’s regime… it cannot go on, it makes no sense,” Ayrault told France Info radio.


Source: The Guardian

Weakened Merkel Embarks On Tough Election Campaign

Angela Merkel’s conservatives gave her an over 11-minute standing ovation after handing her another term as party chief, but also issued a warning in re-electing her with the worst score since she became German chancellor.

With the mixed verdict Tuesday from her party rank and file on her bid for a fourth term, Merkel embarks on her toughest election campaign weakened by her liberal refugee policy that has polarised Europe’s biggest economy.

While 89.5 percent is hardly a score to be scoffed at, it fell just short of the 90 percent of Christian Democratic Union delegates seen as a crucial threshold.

“It shows that she has lost confidence but has not fully regained it,” said Spiegel Online.

Rheinische Post daily agreed, saying that “it is clear that this chancellor is no longer strong enough to simply use ‘you know me’ to win the 2017 elections,” referring to a previous Merkel slogan.

“That attitude, which helped her in the 2013 (general election) campaign, almost led to her doom in the refugee crisis. For too long, she has trusted her party and voters to simply follow her,” it said.

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Germany’s Merkel Announces Bid for Fourth Term

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced late on Sunday that she will run for a fourth term in office in general elections next year in order “to serve Germany … in these difficult and uncertain times.” Support for the 62-year-old Christian Democrat (CDU) – who has been in power since 2005 – has waned over the past year amid fierce criticism of her handling of the refugee crisis and the rise of a right-wing populist movement.

A dominant figure in European politics with no clear domestic rival for the chancellorship, Merkel is seen as a strong contender to win another term, which would make her one of the longest-serving chancellors in German history.

In a scheduled press conference widely expected to address the speculation surrounding her political future, Merkel said the upcoming general election would be “more difficult than any before.” German society was facing strong polarization and the political centre was facing “challenges from all sides,” she said. She said she was honoured by high expectations of what she could achieve in a possible fourth term – especially since a surprise election win for Donald Trump gave a boost to political outsiders – but said such hopes were “grotesque and downright absurd.”

The CDU’s grand coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), has not yet put forward a candidate for the chancellorship. Thomas Oppermann, head of the SPD’s parliamentary group, told dpa earlier, after she had revealed her decision to her own party: “The parliamentary election is up for grabs. Angela Merkel is no longer invincible.” Fifty-five per cent of Germans said they want to see a continuation of Merkel’s time as head of government, while 39 per cent wanted a new leader, according to an Emnid poll commissioned by the Bild tabloid on Sunday. Merkel’s candidacy comes against the backdrop of political turbulence across Europe, especially in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and as growing populist movements siphon off support from the political centre ground.

Trump’s victory in the US election and the imminent departure of Merkel’s close ally, Barack Obama, also reheated speculation on the future of the German leader. A chancellor can serve a maximum of four years in office. CDU co-founder Konrad Adenauer held the position for 14 years, with Merkel’s one-time mentor, Helmut Kohl, holding the record at 16 years in power.

The German constitution does not limit the number of terms that a chancellor can serve.

Germany Angela Merkel to run for 4th term as Chancellor

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will run for a fourth term in elections next year, a senior politician in her party told CNN on Tuesday.

“She will run for Chancellor,” Norbert Roettgen of the Christian Democratic Union said on CNN’s “Amanpour.”

“She is absolutely determined, willing, and ready to contribute to strengthen the international liberal order. But we can’t see the Chancellor or Germany as last man standing.”

Germans have been waiting for months for clarity on whether Merkel will pursue a fourth term in next year’s elections.

Another stint would be significant because a large part of the German electorate is looking for stability in uncertain times after the Brexit vote in Britain, the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the rise of populist movements in several European countries.

If she pursues the position, she’ll be the favourite to win, political experts say, even though she is facing some backlash over Germany’s refugee policies and the acceptance of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and other nations.

Christian Democratic Union spokesman Jochen Blind said Merkel “will announce her decision in due time.”

On the Amanpour program, Roettgen was asked whether Merkel was willing and desirous of “holding the liberal order, in the trans-Atlantic area, together.”

“The Chancellor is a cornerstone of this political concept of the West as acting as a global player. So she will run, and she will act as a responsible leader,” Roettgen said.

“But it would be impossible to rely only on one person. We need the West, and the West is indispensable.

“And this of course means fundamentally and indispensably also the participation and contribution of the strongest part of the West, and this is the United States of America.”

Speaking after Trump’s victory last week, Merkel laid out some ground rules, of sorts, for the incoming American leader.

“Germany and the United States,” she said, “are joined by common values — democracy, freedom, respect for the law and human dignity, regardless of skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political beliefs.

“Based on these values, I offer close cooperation to the future president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.”

In Berlin two months ago, Merkel’s party was knocked out of a ruling coalition with the center-left Social Democrats after winning just 17.6% of the vote.

Anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany entered Berlin’s state parliament for the first time after winning 14.2% of the vote.

The Berlin result marked the second recent defeat for Merkel since Germany adopted its open-door refugee policy.

But nationally she is seen as a bulwark against populism and stands for an analytical, unemotional and stable style of politics.

Merkel has acknowledged she has made mistakes with the controversial refugee policy. “If I could, I would play back time so I and the German federal government and leaders could have been better prepared,” she said.

Merkel, 62, is the daughter of a Protestant minister and was brought up in communist East Germany. She entered Germany’s parliament in the first post-unification election, serving in ministerial posts and as the leader of the opposition before she was finally elected Chancellor in 2005.

Merkel has been a leading figure in the fight against the region’s financial crisis. She has blocked bailouts, rejected proposals, denied pleas and stood up to the rest of Europe.

While citizens in France, Spain, Italy and Greece voted out her counterparts, Merkel has been re-elected with one of the strongest mandates in the history of modern Germany.

Merkel, With Nod To Trump, Warns Against Protectionism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for globalization to be framed in multilateral agreements rather than see countries adopt protectionist measures, in a thinly veiled warning to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

In his campaign, Trump argued that international trade agreements had hurt U.S. workers and the country’s competitiveness. He has promised to “get tough” with China and withdraw from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which is still not finalized.

Merkel, having last week offered to work with Trump on the basis of democratic values, used a speech to set out the case for strengthening international cooperation in the field of trade and avoiding a slide into protectionism.

“We are at the moment in a situation in the European Union, in our country and worldwide where there is an argument about how we want to shape globalization,” Merkel told a meeting of Germany’s BDA employers association.

“Globalization is happening. We can arrange it such that we strengthen multilateral instruments … or such that we seal ourselves off and become protectionist.”

“I am pleased that you, like me, are convinced that we must fashion globalization in a multilateral way,” added Merkel.

She said she would make globalization a theme for debate during Germany’s presidency of the G20 next year.

Merkel was the driving force in Europe behind the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an ambitious trade deal between the European Union and United States).

That agreement, still in the negotiation phase, seems sure to die under Trump, whose protectionist promises, should they become reality, would hit few countries harder than Germany, whose economic strength depends heavily on the openness of the global trading system.

Read More: reuters

Buhari, Zuma, Putin, other world leaders react to Donald Trump’s victory

President Muhammadu Buhari and other world leaders have reacted to the surprise election of Donald Trump as the 45th U.S. president.

President Buhari in a statement by a media aide, Femi Adesina, congratulated Mr. Trump, saying he “looks forward to working together with President-elect Trump to strengthen the already established friendly relations between both countries, including cooperation on many shared foreign policy priorities, such as the fight against terrorism, peace and security, economic growth, democracy and good governance.”

Mr. Trump had, in his victory speech, sent conciliatory signals, pledging to seek common ground with America’s partners.

In his congratulatory message, Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, talked about his country’s sour relations with the U.S.

“It is not an easy path but we are ready to ready to do our part and do everything to return Russian and American relations to a stable path of development,” Mr. Putin, for whom Trump expressed admiration during the election campaign, said.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, congratulated Mr. Trump and said Britain and the U.S. would remain “strong and close partners on trade, security and defence.”

During the election campaign, Ms. May had criticized Mr. Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims from entering the United States, saying it was divisive, unhelpful and wrong.

Egypt’s president congratulated Donald Trump, saying Cairo wants to see more “cooperation and coordination” between the two nations to bolster stability and peace in the Middle East.

According to a statement by his office on Wednesday, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi telephoned Mr. Trump to offer his congratulations and invited him to visit Egypt.

Also, Chinese state media said President Xi Jinping had called Mr. Trump to congratulate him on his victory.

“I place great importance on the China-US relationship, and look forward to working with you to uphold the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” Mr. Xi was reported to have told Trump.

In his statement, President Jacob Zuma conveyed his best wishes on behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa.

Mr. Zuma said he “looked forward to working with President-elect Trump to build on the strong relations that exists between the two countries”.

The Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, also congratulated Mr. Trump and said he was looking forward to continued support in his country’s fight against Islamic State.

In a statement on his website, Mr. al-Abadi said he hopes the “world and the United States will continue to support Iraq in fighting terrorism.”

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to reach “new heights” in bilateral ties under Mr. Trump.

Also, the Philippine government said it was looking forward to working with Mr. Trump to enhance bilateral ties.

President Rodrigo Duterte congratulated Mr. Trump and hailed the U.S. two-party system that gave the country’s voters freedom of choice based on party platform, not just personalities.

“I wish Trump success in the next four years as Chief Executive and commander-in chief of the U.S. military.

Mr. Duterte said he was looking forward to working with the incoming administration for enhanced Philippines-US relations anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law.

Mr. Duterte, who has been compared to Mr. Trump, has criticised the U.S. in recent statements and vowed to “separate” the Philippines from the U.S., vowing to chart a foreign policy that does not mimic that of Washington’s.

Some world leaders have, however, expressed worry with Mr. Trump’s election.

“Trump is the pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement. He is also a warning for us,” German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with the Funke newspaper group.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the result was “different from what most people in Germany desired. But of course, we have to accept it”.

Though French President Francois Hollande congratulated Mr. Trump on his victory, he warned that the election result opened a period of uncertainty.

Mr. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and President Barack Obama have also congratulated him via telephone conversations.

Mr. Obama also phoned Mrs. Clinton, “and expressed admiration for the strong campaign she waged throughout the country,” the White House said.

Mr. Trump’s victory represents a huge shift in American politics because of his stand on immigration, foreign policy and minority rights.

Merkel Offers To Work Closely With Trump

German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Trump on his win. She added that the campaign had often been connected with confrontation that had been hard to tolerate.

Merkel said the person who ruled the United States carries a lot of responsibility, which was palpable almost everywhere in the world.

She stressed the Americans had decided Trump should be their President. Democracy, freedom and the respect of people’s dignity — regardless of race and religion — were pillars that connected Germany and the USA.

And, on the basis of those values. she offered to work closely with Trump.

Credit: CNN

“Aisha belongs in my kitchen and bedroom”, says Buhari.

President Muhammadu Buhari says his wife, Aisha, belongs in his kitchen and “the other room”, apparently a euphemism for the bedroom.

Buhari said this while speaking with journalists in Germany in response to an interview Aisha granted the BBC, where she said that his government had been hijacked.

In the interview, Aisha had also said that she might not support her husband under the present circumstances if he seeks re-election in 2019.

I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room,” he joked.

I claim superior knowledge over her and the rest of the opposition, because in the end I have succeeded. It is not easy to satisfy the whole Nigerian opposition parties or to participate in the government.”

Buhari is on a three-day visit to Germany.

Merkel Reacts To Buhari’s Alleged “My Wife Belongs To My Kitchen…” Statement

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel was reported to have laughed at President Buhari when he responded to journalist on his wife controversial interview.

Buhari was reported to have said “, “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other room.”

His comments to reporters in Germany promoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, standing at his side, to give him a short glare and then laugh, AP reports.

Credit: dailytrust

Buhari Meets German Chancellor, Merkel

President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived Berlin, Germany, on  three-day  official visit from Oct. 13 to 15 to discuss matters of security and national development.

While in Berlin, Buhari would confer with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on issues of interests between the two nations.

A statement earlier issued by Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said the president would discuss issues of further security cooperation with Merkel.

The president, Adesina said, would also discuss issues on humanitarian situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria with Merkel.

He said Buhari would discuss issues on the rehabilitation of the North-East as well as on trade and economic relations between both countries.

He is accompanied by Governors Kashim Shettima of Borno, Rochas Okorocha of Imo and representatives of the National Assembly, will meet with President Joachim Gauck.

EU Split One Year After Merkel Migrant Offer

One year since Germany controversially opened its arms to Syrians fleeing war, the EU has tightened the borders of “Fortress Europe” but remains deeply divided over how to share the refugee burden.

Angela Merkel justified her decision at the time by saying that the biggest migrant crisis since World War II “did not reflect well on Europe”, yet other countries furiously accused her of opening the floodgates.

Since last year when one million migrants entered the continent, the EU has successfully shut the main Balkans route, while a deal with Turkey has massively reduced numbers reaching the Greek islands.

However the bloc’s flagship scheme to share out refugees around the bloc has been an embarrassing failure — meeting just two percent of its target — while deaths in the Mediterranean have actually risen this year.

Yves Pascouau, director of migration at the European Policy Centre think-tank, told AFP that the “idea of cutting migration routes, in terms of realpolitik, has worked effectively.”

But the deal with post-coup-bid Turkey is “fragile” and “we have still not succeeded in overcoming the divisions between member states” on sharing out migrants and on reforming asylum rules.

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EU-Canada Deal Should Be Put To Parliament- Merkel

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that the German parliament should be consulted on the EU’s free trade deal with Canada, setting her on a collision course with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Canadian and European leaders formally concluded the deal known as CETA in 2014, but implementation has been delayed due to last-minute objections in Europe over provisions for an investment protection system that would help shield companies from government intervention.

This system is key to a similar but far more ambitious agreement currently under negotiation between the EU and US and has drawn fierce criticism, especially in Germany where hundreds of thousands of people rallied in October to oppose both accords.

Credit: Guardian

Three Reasons Merkel (German Chancellor) Is So Stubborn

1. Germany Sees Grexit as Not Just Survivable, But Actually Desirable

At the beginning of the year, Germany’s Spiegel magazine ran an incendiary article saying Merkel’s government had decided a Greek departure from the euro zone could happening without damaging the broader currency project. “Grexit Grumblings: Germany Open to Possible Greek Euro Zone Exit,” said the headline. Re-reading with the benefit of hindsight, the article actually went further than that. The key passage is here:

Officials in Berlin and Brussels no longer subscribe to the so-called domino theory,’ which held that a Greek collapse would be followed by others. It has been replaced by the `chain theory,’ which holds that the entire chain would become stronger were its weakest link to be eliminated.

Even as the discussions between Greece and its creditors have become increasingly deadlocked, there’s almost zero evidence of contagion. Portugal, typically viewed as the second-weakest euro member, is enjoying 10-year borrowing costs today that are only a whisker away from the record lows of a few weeks ago.

Here’s a thought experiment: the morning after the reintroduction of the drachma, would the euro be stronger or weaker based on its trading levels in the foreign exchange market? A couple of months ago, I would have argued that Grexit would be disastrous for the health of the euro project. Now, I’m not so sure.

The euro is up half a percent against the dollar today, even after talks between Greece and the euro region’s finance ministers broke down last night. That could be because investors expect a compromise. But it could also be that they’ve stopped caring whether Greece is in or out.

2. Germany Would Sacrifice Greece to Keep Everyone Else in Line

Germany has been steadfast in its demands for fiscal discipline from its neighbors and its insistence on economic austerity. Others aren’t so keen. France has been whispering ever louder about the need to boost growth, while in Spain, the anti-austerity Podemos party leads Spanish opinion polls, with an election due by the end of the year. Ceding ground to Greece to keep it in the euro might encourage other countries to strengthen their demands for more spending and fewer budget cuts. Again, the Jan. 5 Spiegel article seems prescient:

Berlin officials fear that giving in to a new, leftist government in Athens would further call into question controversial austerity and reform policies — an eventuality that would be welcome in France and Italy, countries where reform has not been welcomed with open arms.

In the immediate aftermath of the Greek election on Jan. 25, France seemed to be making conciliatory noises about reaching a compromise to keep Greece’s life-support funding switched on. Yesterday, though, Finance Minister Michel Sapin stuck to Europe’s official position that extending Greece’s rescue program is the only way forward. By holding the line on austerity, Germany seems to have corralled its European Union peers back onto the path of Teutonic economic righteousness.

3. Germany Isn’t Interested in Game Theory 

Much has been made of the game-theory background of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and how it might help Athens achieve a compromise. But people are less rational and logical in real-life negotiations than in theoritcal ones. As my colleague Justin Fox put it earlier this month:

Greece’s negotiations so far with the EU, though, have repeatedly resulted in outcomes that leave both sides worse off. They have gotten stuck in a prisoner’s dilemma — which seems all the more reason to try to shake up the negotiations.

In the Greek negotiations, two implacably opposed ideologies are butting heads, the seemingly unstoppable force of Greece’s democratic mandate meeting the immovable object of German economic philosophy. In his novel “Walking on Glass”, Iain Bankssuggested the only outcome in such a collision is that “the unstoppable force stops, the immovable object moves.”

Right now, that’s not happening. Commerzbank today puts the chances of Grexit at 50 percent, double what it was predicting last week. A one euro bet on Grexit with the bookmaking company Paddy Power will net you a profit of less than 38 cents; last month, you’d have made 3 euros. We may be on the verge of finding out whether a Greek exit from the euro is a self-contained explosion, or an existential threat to the single currency. Here’s hoping the optimists are proved right.