<![CDATA[ Policy Analysis ]]> http://en.theinternational.club/2 <![CDATA[ Moody’s Upgrades Egypt’s Sovereign Rating from B3 to B2 ]]> Sat, 20 Apr 2019 14:44:17 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/522 Rating agency Moody’s has upgraded Egypt’s sovereign rating, saying ongoing economic reforms will help improve its fiscal position and boost economic growth. Moody’s upgraded the long-term foreign and local currency issuer ratings of Egypt to B2 from B3.

The decision was based on “Moody’s expectation that ongoing fiscal and economic reforms will support a gradual but steady improvement in Egypt’s fiscal metrics and raise real GDP growth,” the agency said in a statement last Wednesday.

Moody’s also said it believed Egypt’s large domestic funding base would support its resilience to refinancing shocks despite the government’s very high borrowing needs and interest costs.

Moody’s said it expected a steady improvement of Egypt’s fiscal position, “albeit from very weak levels.. the fiscal reforms implemented in the last few years, would allow the government to maintain the primary budget balance in surplus in the next few years, Moody’s said.

Egypt’s Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said that it is an acknowledgment of the government reforms' success and the state’s commitment to implement its comprehensive economic and financial reform program.

In a statement released commenting on the rating upgrading, Maait added that Moody’s affirmed that there is a huge and flexible funding foundation, which provides better dealing with foreign strikes such as the global rise of interest or the exit of some financial surges outside the country.

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<![CDATA[ US envoy denies 'Deal of Century' to give portion of Egypt's Sinai to Palestinians ]]> Sat, 20 Apr 2019 14:10:09 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/521 U.S. President Donald Trump's long-awaited peace treaty plan does not include giving a portion of Egypt's Sinai peninsula to Palestinians, said US Special representative for international negotiations Jason D. Greenblatt in a tweet Friday.

Greenblatt denied "fake stories" about the plan, which is known in Arabic as the "deal of the century," as false. The plan, yet its details has not been disclosed, includes the US vision for the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. In his tweet, the US envoy advised people not to believe everything they read.

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and a senior adviser in the deal efforts, previously said that details about the plan would be released after April 9 elections in Israel; however, he did not determine a certain time.

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<![CDATA[ Polling stations in Egypt open doors on 1st day of referendum ]]> Sat, 20 Apr 2019 13:58:09 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/520 The first day of the referendum kicked off in Egypt, where polling stations across governorates have opened their doors at 9 a.m., and will close at 9 p.m. for three consecutive days.

TV channels showed queues of voters at some polling stations waiting minutes before the doors were opened and they were allowed in to cast their ballot by either agree or disagree on a set of proposed constitutional amendments passed by the parliament Tuesday.

A number of societal dialogues were held over the past weeks attended by various segments and experts in the country, to discuss the amendments ahead of a plenary session at the House of Representatives, where parliamentarians voted for passing them.

A total of 61 million eligible voters were called for casting their ballots in the public referendum on the constitutional amendments.

On Saturday, a number of consulates have also opened their doors to continue the three-day referendum process abroad, which kicked off on Friday. The first embassies to open was in New Zealand and Australia.

Egyptian nationals in China have also started flocking to the Egyptian embassy in Beijing for the second day of referendum. The first day of voting has reportedly seen many Egyptians at the polling stations abroad.

Egyptian expatriates started a three-day voting on the new constitutional amendments in 140 embassies and consulates of 125 countries worldwide, amid massive campaigning for the amendments abroad and domestically.

 “The referendum on constitutional amendments will be completely supervised by the judiciary,” said Judge Lasheen Ibrahim, head of the National Election Authority, at a press conference held at the headquarters of the State Information Service in Cairo’s Nasser City district. “There will be a judge at every ballot box. The media and civil society will be able to follow the process.”

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<![CDATA[ Egypt affirms ‘full support’ to Sudanese people’s will, choices ]]> Sat, 13 Apr 2019 14:21:53 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/519 Egypt expressed its “full confidence” in the ability of the Sudanese people and their “loyal” national army to overcome the challenges of such “decisive” stage and meet the Sudanese people’s aspiration to achieve stability, progress and prosperity.

This came shortly after Sudanese Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced in a statement the overthrowing of President Omar al-Bashir’s regime following four months of protests calling for toppling the regime.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry affirmed in a statement Egypt’s full support of the choices made by the Sudanese people, voicing respect for their will in shaping the future of their country. The ministry also stressed Egypt’s unchangeable stance toward respecting the sovereignty of Sudan and its national decision.

The ministry called on the international community to support the choices of the Sudanese people in this “historical decisive stage.” It also urged the brotherly countries to help Sudan achieve a peaceful transition toward a better future, in a way that meets the people’s aspirations.

 “Egypt is following closely and intensively the current and accelerating developments in the brotherly Sudan at this momentous stage in its modern history,” the statement said.

 “Egypt will continue to support the Sudanese people and government until stability and prosperity are achieved,” the ministry added.

In March, Ibn Auf met with Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo, where the former praised Egypt's unlimited support for maintaining the safety and stability of Sudan, according to Egypt's presidency spokesman Bassam Radi. Ibn Auf expressed his country's aspiration to take advantage of the leading role Egypt plays in the region, and its inspirational development experience.

The Cairo meeting was also attended by Head of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Services Salah Gosh, and Sudan’s Ambassador to Egypt and Permanent Representative to the Arab League Abdel Mahmoud Abdel Halim, in the presence of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, and Egypt's Intelligence Chief Abbas Kamel.

During the meeting, Sisi congratulated Ibn Auf for assuming his new post as Sudan's first vice president, saying that it reflects a belief in his capabilities and his vision on achieving stability, development and prosperity for the Sudanese people.

The Sudanese presidency named Ibn Auf as first vice president on February 23, 2019.

Sisi affirmed Egypt's full support of Sudan's security and stability, considering it as an extension of the Egyptian national security.

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<![CDATA[ Sisi back home after overseas tour ]]> Sat, 13 Apr 2019 14:00:33 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/517 By: MENA

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi returned home Friday following an overseas tour, presidential spokesman Bassam Rady said in a statement.

The tour included Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and the United States.

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<![CDATA[ Egyptian, French naval forces carry out maritime joint training ]]> Sat, 13 Apr 2019 13:50:24 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/516 Egyptian and French naval forces carried out maritime training across the northern Mediterranean during the crossing of the French frigate ‘PROVENCE’ and supply ship ‘MARNE’ to the Suez Canal, with the participation of an Egyptian frigate.

The training included the implementation of realistic scenarios to confront threats to maritime security, combating terrorism and piracy, training to protect vital oil and gas platforms against non-stereotyped threats, and the implementation of qualitative training of French helicopters with the Egyptian and French naval units, and more.

The training aims to standardize operational concepts and exchange experience to achieve stability and maritime security in the region.

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<![CDATA[ Ahmed El-Tahry writes from washington: Egypt and the American media.. a battle worth fighting ]]> Wed, 10 Apr 2019 13:57:57 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/515 It was in 2012 winter, when I went to the museum of " new zeem" in washington, the cement block that narrates the history of humanity, as documented by media. in addition to the state of dazzling which  is expected to catch the visitor of this career.. a great gallery shows the front bages of  the world papers issued on september 12, 2001, those handled  september 11 attacks, papers from  Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latine america..All world languages. The thing which made me sad, that I didn't see any Egyptian newspaper, and we are at the front of the states which knew the press in its modern style.. at that time, I asked the person who assigned to explain the Collectibles of the museum, about the secret behind the absence of the Egyptian press. " We send letters to the whole embassies, when we estabished this gallery, every paper we  received, took its place." he replied.

I didn't visit the museum since that time, and I didn't know whether there is a place in the gallery for the Egyptian press now, or not. but this event reflets in breif an Egyptian authentic state of laziness in dealing with the world media, specially the American one. as if there was a culture of whatever we do, our goals won't be acheived, and the best option that we leave the space, that was.

We left the space of movement and maneuvering with the American media from the ground here from Washington. We surrendered to the idea of not being able to explain Egypt's media point of view and defending it and our ability to carry out a counterattack if necessary.

This free space was exploited by the opponents of Egypt in a sudden way after 30th June revolution.. I experienced this stage closely and saw the threads of the spider network of "the Brotherhood"  inside the research centers, the Congress newspapers, channels and radios. The falsification of Brotherhood propaganda was revealed by the success of the Egyptian state on the ground, the more accurate meaning, the ability of the president Al Sisi to re-establish a third and new construction for the Egyptian-American relations.

Although this construction has started strongly in various directions in the military, economic and political fields, the image of Egypt in the American media, which is the most influential pole in the world media , A contrary picture to reality, but distort this reality, weaken, and reduce it.

Egypt succeeded, but did not exploit its success in building its image in the world media ..we did not succeed in marketing the reality of the horizon of citizenship, which has become at home, we did not explain our war with terrorism and what we achieved and what we face, the The dazzling economic success,  the outcome of growth rate  has achieved, the rate of unemployment has fallen, structural reforms are moving with a strong and unprecedented infrastructure that has not been old to the world. Why?.

Why do we accept that attack without reaction?.. When we reply, We talk  to our selves!!.

We can move, and we have the tools to success, if we want. Egypt can link the research, academic  channels in Washington with its agenda, the Egyptian universities, and centers interact with them.

We can establish research platforms to combat terrorism here in the heart of the American capital. We can influence the American media, whether elite or free, and have an audible echo even if it does not have the desired fame. We can employ the second and third generations of Egyptian immigrants in a specific framework to communicate with Members of Congress in the states in which they live, the so-called "lobby."

Egypt is a big country and it is worthy of all that is great and the image of Egypt in the American media worth working, thinking, and moving, and political system in the United States that allows enough space and maneuver, so that we can maintain our media interests that serve our political and economic interests.

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<![CDATA[ Egypt supports efforts to realize fair Palestinian solution: Sisi ]]> Tue, 09 Apr 2019 14:41:59 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/514 President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi asserted Egypt’s support to sincere and earnest efforts to reach a fair solution to the Palestinian crisis on the basis of international legitimate re solutions and terms of reference, the internationally-recognized two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative.

This came during Sisi's meeting with White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner in Blair House in Washington D.C. on the first day of his current three-day visit to the United States, according to a statement issued by presidential spokesman Bassam Radi.

The two sides covered the latest developments of the Palestinian crisis and the Middle East peace process. Also, Sisi said that any Palestinian settlement should preserve the inalienable rights of the Palestinians in a way that helps in formulating a new reality in the Middle East region, achieving the aspirations of all its peoples to enjoy stability, development, peace and security, the statement reported.

Sisi affirmed the need for international action to end the humanitarian suffering in the occupied Palestinian lands, especially in the Gaza Strip.The president highlighted Egypt’s efforts to contain the deteriorating situation, alleviate the suffering of the people of the Gaza enclave and realize a national reconciliation among differing Palestinian factions, Radi said.

Kushner asserted that the US gives special importance to consulting with Egypt on the Palestinian situation, given its important and influential position in the region and its expertise in dealing with all the parties concerned.

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<![CDATA[ Eastern Libyan forces conduct air strikes on Tripoli as UN fails to reach truce ]]> Mon, 08 Apr 2019 14:32:44 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/513 Eastern Libyan forces carried out air strikes on the southern part of Tripoli on Sunday and made progress towards the city centre, residents said, escalating an operation to take the capital as the United Nations failed to achieve a truce.

The Libyan National Army (LNA) force of led by  lieutenant marshall Khalifa Haftar, which backs a parallel administration in the east, last week launched an advance on Tripoli in the west, home to the internationally recognised government.

The offensive intensifies a power struggle that has fractured the oil and gas producer since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.

The LNA reached the southern outskirts of the capital on Friday and says it took the former international airport, though the Tripoli military officials deny this.

At least one warplane carried out an air strike in the area, a resident said. "The air force took part for the first time in the military operations," said LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari. "It conducted a very successful operation to secure the airport road (to city centre)," he added.

The LNA moved up north from on the road from former airport in the district of Khalat Furgan, coming some 11 km from the city centre, a resident said, adding he could see the troops as forces loyal to the Tripoli government withdrew.

The UN mission to Libya (UNSMIL) called on Sunday for a truce for two hours in southern Tripoli to evacuate civilians and wounded, it said in a statement without giving details.

But the true was not observed by evening, one UN official said. In another sign of the situation worsening on the ground, a contingent of U.S. forces supporting the U.S. Africa Command evacuated Libya for security reasons, a U.S. statement said. It gave no details.

Forces allied to the Tripoli government meanwhile announced their own operation called "Volcano of Anger" to defend the capital, a spokesman said, without giving details.

The offensive has taken the United Nations by surprise, undermining plans to find agreement on a road map for elections to resolve the protracted instability in Libya.

Lawless since Gaddafi was toppled by rebels backed by NATO air strikes, Libya has become the transit point hundreds of thousands of migrants trekking across the Sahara with the objective of reaching Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

Haftar, 75, who casts himself as a foe of Islamist extremism but is viewed by opponents as a new dictator in the mould of Gaddafi, enjoys the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which see him as a bulwark against Islamists and have supported him militarily, according to UN reports.

The UAE, however, has joined Western countries in expressing its deep concern about the fighting.

"No justification for LNA move on Tripoli," UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt tweeted, adding he was watching the situation very closely and would discuss the "next steps" with the European Union on Monday.

In the past, Haftar has struck deals with armed factions outside Tripoli to advance his forces. But gaining control of Tripoli - the ultimate prize for Haftar's eastern parallel government - would be far more complicated.

Armed groups allied to the Tripoli government have moved more machinegun-mounted pickup trucks to defend Tripoli from Misrata down the coast. Misrata is known for a spirit of resisting "old regime" figures, developed during 2011 when pro-Gaddafi forces besieged it for three months.

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<![CDATA[ Egypt to double LNG export capacity in 2019 ]]> Mon, 08 Apr 2019 14:18:37 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/512 By: Hellenic Shipping News

Egypt will nearly double its liquefied natural gas export capacity to 2 billion cubic feet per day by the end of 2019, and also plans to collaborate with Saudi Arabia in exploring hydrocarbon reserves in the Red Sea.

 “What we are exporting currently as of today is 1.1 bcf per day and we expect that by the end of the year this figure will go up to 2 bcf per day, and this is when we resume the operation of the Damietta plant. The second plant is expected to operate within this year,” Tarek El Molla, Egypt’s Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister told The National on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest country by population, has seen economic revival on the back of massive discoveries offshore the Eastern Mediterranean. The finds led by the giant Zohr gasfield, which was discovered by Italian energy company Eni in 2016, have turned Egypt’s fortunes from being an importer to a net exporter of gas. The country ended all of its LNG imports last year and has talked about developing a regional gas hub.

The North African country state has since begun reviving its liquefaction plants, with the one at Idku exporting 800 million cubic feet of LNG in February, more than double the volumes it exported from the facility in 2018. Egypt has since invited the likes of Exxon Mobil and Shell after one of its largest concession rounds, which witnessed healthy appetite from international majors for onshore and offshore exploration blocks.

The country will also tap into unconventional resources in the Red Sea and has tendered 10 offshore blocks in its latest bid round announced last month.

Egypt, which has invited companies to explore along the Eastern Mediterranean, Nile Delta as well as along its western deserts, will look to collaborate with Saudi Arabia in exploring the Red Sea, which straddles both countries.

 “Yes definitely, we started already to talk with them in order to start having arrangements in place, that we can exchange data, what would be the potential discoveries stranded in the Red Sea,” said Mr El Molla.

Saudi Arabia announced in March it had discovered large quantities of gas in the Red Sea. The kingdom will conduct an investment feasibility study on the scheme and intensify exploration over the next two years, according to Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al Falih.

Egypt expects production from its Zohr resource increase to more than 3 bcf day this year. The country will also ramp up output from the North Alexandria West Nile Delta concessions operated by BP this month. Production is expected to reach 700 mcf per day with the coming on stream of 400 mcf per day, he said.

Egypt, which has ambitions of becoming a gas hub in the Eastern Mediterranean will look to raise capacity on its LNG plants at Idku, Damietta and Ain Sokhna.

 “We can expect the full capacity of Idku in two months’ time, and other facilities in a year’s time maximum,” said Mr El Molla.

Ain Sokha, which was as a reclassification plant receiving LNG to be fed into the electricity grid when Egypt had been an importer, will continue to be in operation for “strategic” reasons said the minister.

“Now the reclassification plant which is the FSRU [floating storage regasification unit], which is standing at Sokhna is going to be there for strategic reasons but on idle mode,” said Mr El Molla.

Egypt, which has an import agreement for gas with Israel – a country with which it shares a peace treaty – expects the fuel to flow by mid-year.

 “We are working on the due diligence. They have some technical due diligence for the pipeline itself as well as some formalities in the arrangement of the agreement. Other than that, we expect this gas to start flowing from Israel to Egypt by mid-year. This is what’s planned. We believe this will happen still,” said Mr El Molla.

 

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<![CDATA[ Egypt is guest of honour at Belgrade International Archaeological Films Festival ]]> Mon, 08 Apr 2019 13:45:18 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/511 Ambassador of Egypt to Serbia Amr Aljowaily delivered this week the opening speech of the 20th International Festival of Archaeological Films on the occasion of Egypt’s participation as guest of honour.

Egypt is participating as guest of honour in the 20th International Festival of Archaeological Films in Belgrade. Ambassador to Serbia Amr Aljowaily delivered the opening speech at the festival.

Aljowaily highlighted that the devotion of both the opening and closing ceremonies to films provided by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities at the St Antonious Monastery, the oldest in the world, as well as the Sound and Light Show at the Pyramids and the temples of Abu Simbel, Philae and Karnak, is evidence of the unique archaeological heritage of Egypt, and the extent to which Serbian society is interested in ancient Egyptian civilisation.

For her part, director of the National Museum of Serbia, Bojana Boric Brešković, praised the participation of Egypt for the first time in the festival, noting that the museum dedicated an important place to an ancient Egyptian mummy in cooperation with the Faculty of Archaeology at the University of Belgrade.

She referred to ongoing cooperation to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Antiquities Restoration Centre at the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Assistant Minister of Culture and Information for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, Mrs Daniel Danijela, also delivered an opening speech.

Ambassador Aljowaily pointed out that the "#EgyptALLogy" campaign launched in Belgrade a year ago is still receiving interest in all segments of Serbian society, soon to be emulated elsewhere in the world.

He praised the participation of films by the Sound and Light Show in the Belgrade Festival, in continuation of its ongoing cooperation in directing antiquities shows, especially at valuable Roman sites in Serbia.

The first activity of the National Museum after its reopening last July was a symposium on the science of Egyptology in Serbia, and a high level delegation representing the director of the Egyptian Museum and the general supervisor of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilisation participated in its official opening in June 2018.

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<![CDATA[ Sisi calls for rapid action to stop escalation in Libya ]]> Sun, 07 Apr 2019 14:30:26 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/510 In his speech at a press conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi called for putting an end of the ongoing conflict in Libya, said Egyptian presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi in a statement on Saturday.

"The President affirmed that rapid action and the international community's combined efforts are necessary to put an end to the deteriorating situation [...] and to limit the spread of extremist groups," the statement read.

President Sisi also affirmed Egypt's support to re-establish the Libyan national institutions and unify the Libyan military institutions, the statement added.

Three days ago, Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, whose Libyan National Army took base in Tobruk, announced military advance on Tripoli against the Libyan troops of the internationally-recognized government led by Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord Fayez Al Sarraj.

In a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, the Russian minister stated that the military operation taking place in Libya to capture Tripoli and clashes with the militias dominated the talks between Egypt and Russia.

Lavrov stressed the importance of not leveling accusations at any parties highlighting that NATO caused the destruction of Libya and that no justification for what is happening should be made.

However, the minister expressed his country’s rejection to the use of fighter jets in battles between both parties who are the Libyan National Army and militias affiliated with the Government of National Accord. The operation was launched on Thursday.

Libyan factions held talks in the Moroccan city of Skhirat as per a United Nations initiative and came up with the Libyan Political Agreement signed on December 17, 2015. Accordingly, an internationally recognized interim government was formed bearing the name the Government of National Accord having as prime minister Fayez Al Sarraj and being headquartered in the capital, Tripoli.

The Libyan National Army led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar and based in Tobruk has been controlling the eastern territories of the country. Haftar was appointed as commander of the army on March 2, 2015 by the Libyan House of Representatives.

The Libyan National Army recaptured the cities of Benghazi and Derna in 2017 and 2018 respectively through “Operation Dignity.” The operation was launched in 2014 and since then has regained control over many oil facilities and ports.

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<![CDATA[ Egypt, France conclude military naval drill 'Cleopatra-Gapian 2019' ]]> Sun, 07 Apr 2019 14:20:27 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/509 Egyptian-French naval drill titled 'Cleopatra-Gapian 2019', that kicked up in France last week, concluded on Sunday, a statement by the Egyptian military spokesperson Tamer El-Refai read.

The exercises started on March 31 and continued for several days in France. Egyptian units and vessels including Mistral-class Landing Helicopter Dock Gamal Abdel Nasser and FREMM frigate 'Long Live Egypt' took part in the joint exercise, which is meant to improve the naval performance and increase fighting experience, the statement read.

Commander of Naval Forces Ahmed Khaled, accompanied by Commander of the French Naval forces Christophe Prazuck, witnessed the closing ceremony.

The naval forces also carried out drills to counter threats against maritime security, including terrorist acts, and protecting cargo ships and searching suspicious vessels.

Commander Khaled reiterated deeply-rooted relations binding Egyptian and French Armed Forces. The participating troops were trained on countering threats against maritime security, protecting cargo ships, and searching suspicious vessels.

Students from the Egyptian naval academy participated in the drill to gain experience in naval combat.

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<![CDATA[ Egyptian-Russian Summit to be held in Moscow next summer ]]> Sun, 07 Apr 2019 14:11:51 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/508 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shokry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov met in Cairo on Saturday to discuss the developments of Middle Easteran affairs, particularly the Palestianian Cause, and the status of Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

The matters discussed included counterterrorism in the region, and partnership with Russia, Shokry stated in a joint press conference.

Lavrov described the talks with his Egyptian counterpart and President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as fruitful affirming his country’s commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Egypt.

The Russian minister stated that the military operation taking place in Libya to capture Tripoli and clashes with the militias dominated the talks. Lavrov stressed the importance of not levelling accusations at any parties highlighting that NATO caused the destruction of Libya and that no justification for what is happening should be made.

However, the minister expressed his country’s rejection to the use of fighter jets in battles between both parties who are the Libyan National Army and militias affiliated with the Government of National Accord. The operation was launched on Thursday.

Lavrov said talks had also covered the resumption of Russian flights into Egyptian resort towns bordering the Red Sea, and the necessity to continue the communication about airports security. However, the minister said it was not possible to set precise dates of flights resumption.

The meeting examined peaceful and diplomatic settlements of crisis engulfing the region asserting that his country will continue coordination and consultation with the Egyptian side.

Both ministers held talks over developments in the Gulf and the Middle East declaring that an Egyptian-Russian summit will take place in Moscow next Summer. Also, an African-Russian Summit will take place in October.

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<![CDATA[ Many Egyptian expats gather to receive Sisi in Washington on Tuesday ]]> Sun, 07 Apr 2019 14:05:52 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/507 Many of the Egyptian expatriates in the U.S. were seen gathering in New York, as they reportedly plan to head to Washington to receive the Egyptian president, who is paying a visit to the U.S. capital on Tuesday, April 9.

During his visit, President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi will meet with US President Donald Trump in the White House. The visit comes upon Trump’s invitation to discuss bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual concern, said presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi.

The White House announced in a statement that the meeting comes in light of the continuing cooperation between both countries on economic, military and counter-terrorism levels.

The two leaders will also discuss developments and shared priorities in the region, including enhancing regional economic integration and addressing ongoing conflicts, as well as Egypt’s longstanding role as a lynchpin of regional stability,” the statement read.

On April 4, Trump’s Advisor, Ivanka Trump, praised Egypt’s reform program on women empowerment, saying on her Twitter account “We encourage and support these reforms, and look forward to working with the Egyptian government to advance these efforts."

 

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<![CDATA[ Algeria’s Bouteflika resigns after weeks of protests ]]> Wed, 03 Apr 2019 14:04:15 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/506 Algeria’s ailing leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika submitted his resignation with immediate effect, state media said Tuesday, ceding power in the face of massive street protests after two decades at the helm.

Car horns sounded on the streets before crowds of flag-waving people emerged from their homes and converged in the centre of the capital Algiers to celebrate.

Bouteflika “officially advised the Constitutional Council of the end of his term of office as President of the Republic”, state television reported.

 “I have the honor to formally notify you of my decision to terminate my term of office as President of the Republic from today, Tuesday,” state news agency APS quoted his resignation letter as saying.

 “This decision which I take in my soul and conscience is destined to contribute to the appeasement of the hearts and minds of my compatriots, to allow them to take Algeria towards a better future to which they legitimately aspire,” it added.

Long accused of clinging to power, the veteran leader faced mounting pressure to step down after his decision to seek a fifth term despite rarely being seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

The 82-year-old said last month he would pull out of the bid for another term, and on Monday his office said he would resign before his mandate expires at the end of the month.

The moves failed to satisfy protesters who feared a ploy to extend his rule and the armed forces chief called for him to leave power.

The announcement of his resignation sparked jubilation in the capital. Youths cheered and waved the Algerian national flag at Grande Post square, the epicenter of the protest against his rule in downtown Algiers, an AFP cameraman reported from the scene.

The United States said the future of Algeria was now up to its people. “Questions about how to navigate this transition in Algeria, that is for the Algerian people to decide,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Bouteflika’s decision to step down marked the turning of “an important page in the history of Algeria”.

 “We are confident in the ability of all Algerians to continue this democratic transition in the same spirit of calm and responsibility” that has prevailed in recent weeks, Le Drian added in a statement.

Algeria’s constitution says that once the president officially resigns the speaker of the upper house of parliament, 77-year-old Abdelkader Bensalah, acts as interim leader for up to 90 days during which a presidential election must be organized.

The resignation came shortly after the military demanded impeachment proceedings be launched against Bouteflika, responding to Monday’s announcement that the president would resign by the end of his term on April 28.

Armed forces chief Ahmed Gaid Salah had called for “the immediate application of the constitutional procedure for removing the head of state from power”, in a defense ministry statement after a meeting of top brass.

Without naming anyone, Gaid Salah criticized “the stubbornness, the procrastination and the deviousness of certain individuals who are trying to make the crisis last and make it more complex with the only concern being their narrow personal interests”.

He said the army’s “sole ambition” was to “protect the people from a handful of (other) people who have unduly taken over the wealth of the Algerian people”.

A long-time Bouteflika ally, the general last week called on the president to resign or be declared unfit to rule, becoming one of the first of his faithful supporters to abandon him.

As rumors have swirled of frantic behind-the-scenes maneuvering, prosecutors on Monday announced they had banned corruption suspects from leaving Algeria after launching graft probes against unnamed individuals.

The authorities did not say who was being targeted by probes into corruption and illegal money transfers abroad, but they followed the arrest of the president’s key backer, businessman tycoon Ali Haddad.

Haddad, who Forbes magazine describes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, was detained at the weekend at a border post with neighboring Tunisia.

Bouteflika had named a new government on Sunday, made up mainly of technocrats under recently appointed premier Noureddine Bedoui.

The administration — supposed to steer the country towards transition — included General Gaid Salah remaining in his position as deputy defense minister.

Among the other key Bouteflika backers is his younger brother and special adviser Said, who was frequently cited in the past as a likely successor to the president.

Discreet and rarely seen in public, Said Bouteflika has exerted increasing influence behind the scenes as his brother’s health worsened, but the president’s resignation could take away much of his power.

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<![CDATA[ Britain’s Crisis Isn’t Constitutional. It’s Political. ]]> Tue, 02 Apr 2019 14:21:57 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/505 A Remain Parliament is confronting a Brexit electorate—and none of the solutions on offer is likely to resolve the stalemate anytime soon.

By Vernon Bogdanor | Foreign Policy

In June 2016, the British people voted in a referendum to leave the European Union by 52 percent to 48 percent. Party leaders declared that they would abide by the outcome. In the 2017 general election, both major parties—the Conservatives and Labour—promised to implement the referendum decision, and in 2018, Parliament passed the European Union Withdrawal Act providing for Brexit on March 29, 2019. It still hasn’t happened though.

Remainers dominate Parliament—almost 75 percent of the House of Commons, 80 percent of the House of Lords, and a majority of the cabinet are Remainers. And that arithmetic is the source of Britain’s current political crisis: A Remain Parliament is confronting a Brexit electorate. A supposedly sovereign Parliament is being required to do something that it does not want to do. That is unprecedented in the country’s constitutional history

    A supposedly sovereign Parliament is being required to do something that it does not want to do. That is unprecedented in the country’s constitutional history

, and it is why Takis Tridimas, a colleague of mine at King’s College London, suggested that the 2016 referendum was the most important constitutional event in Britain since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

After much difficulty, Prime Minister Theresa May succeeded in securing a deal with Brussels. That deal has two elements. The first is a withdrawal agreement that provides for a transition or implementation period until December 2020. That is an essential gateway to the final relationship to be negotiated with the EU. It is legally binding, and the European Council has confirmed that it cannot be renegotiated.

The second element is a political declaration. That, unlike the withdrawal agreement, is not legally binding but lays out a set of aspirations for the negotiators. It points the way to a bespoke free trade and internal market agreement in goods while allowing Britain to negotiate independent trade agreements with other countries.

The agreement is perhaps better than Britain had a right to expect. But it has aroused ferocious criticism both from Brexiteers, who argued that it tied Britain too closely to the European Union, and Remainers, who sought either a closer relationship or a further referendum so as to give the people second thoughts.

The House of Commons rejected the composite deal twice by some of the largest majorities in British parliamentary history, making it impossible for Parliament to meet the March 29 deadline for withdrawal. The EU then extended the exit date to May 22, just before the European Parliament elections—on the condition that the British government pass a withdrawal deal. But on Friday, the withdrawal agreement alone—severed from the political declaration—was rejected for a third time by 58 votes.

Until 2011, any government defeated on a major policy matter would have had to treat it as a matter of confidence and either resign or seek a dissolution of Parliament. Theresa May could, therefore, have told members of Parliament that if they did not support her, they might face a far-left government led by Labour head Jeremy Corbyn. That might have brought them into line.

Prime Minister Edward Heath used that tactic in 1972 to secure passage of the European Communities Act, taking Britain into the European Community, as the EU then was known. By using a threat of dissolution, he brought rebel MPs into line and won the crucial vote by 309-301. But, in 2011, the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act required that a confidence motion could not be attached to any other legislation; it had to be a no-confidence vote and nothing more. Consequently, Britain’s current minority government remains in office but hobbled in its attempt to pass major legislation.

for two reasons. First, almost every alternative proposal has public expenditure implications. But the standing orders of the House of Commons require that, as in any parliamentary system, public spending can be authorized only by a minister responsible to Parliament, not by backbenchers.

Second, the EU can negotiate only with the government, not with a motley collection of backbenchers. And the government cannot be forced to negotiate an agreement that it does not itself support. If it were to do so, it could not be expected to negotiate with much enthusiasm. That is why Parliament has never in its history negotiated a treaty.

So far, the attempt by MPs to take control has not helped. Last week, the House of Commons rejected every single option presented to it. Its stance resembled that of Groucho Marx in the classic Marx Brothers film Horse Feathers, when Groucho, playing Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, tells his fellow academics: “I don’t know what they have to say/It makes no difference anyway/Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

MPs will vote again this week. The option most likely to achieve majority support is for Britain to remain in a customs union with the EU. But that idea has, so far, been dismissed as unacceptable by May’s government and the vast majority of Conservative MPs since it would prevent Britain from negotiating independent trade deals with other countries and make Brexit, in their view, pointless. Rather than agree to it, May might seek a general election. But even if Britain were to adopt the customs union option, she would still need a withdrawal agreement in order to achieve Brexit on May 22.

It is not clear what will happen next. It is possible that May’s thrice-defeated withdrawal agreement could be put to a vote yet again

    It is not clear what will happen next. It is possible that May’s thrice-defeated withdrawal agreement could be put to a vote yet again. But if it is not, or if it is again defeated, there are just two alternatives.

The first is for Britain to leave the EU without a deal. Although a majority of MPs are opposed to it, that is the legal default position, unless Parliament legislates to alter it, since the withdrawal act remains on the statute book. Even if one rejects the much-discussed terrifying scenarios of food and medicine shortages, there would be an immediate impact in that the EU would be required to treat Britain as it does all nonmember states by immediately imposing tariffs and regulations on British exports. Since Ireland remains a member of the EU, there would be a hard border on the island of Ireland, and this would contravene the spirit of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which has brought peace there. A no-deal Brexit, therefore, is not a happy prospect. It would force many hard-pressed companies into bankruptcy and unemployment.

The second alternative is to seek from the EU, by April 12, a longer extension to avoid a no-deal scenario. But the EU is not required to grant Britain’s request. It needs unanimous agreement from all 27 member states; any member state could veto it. They would certainly not be eager to grant a further extension since it would require Britain to participate in the European Parliament elections. The European Charter of Fundamental Rights gives every EU citizen the right to stand and vote in these elections; if May’s government sought to deny this right, it could be sued in the courts.

Were Britain to take part in the European Parliament elections, there might well be large gains for Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party, fueled by voters frustrated with the failure of the Conservative government to deliver Brexit. In the 2014 European elections, two years before the Brexit referendum, the UK Independence Party, then led by Farage, won more votes than any other British party. Other member states, already plagued by their own populist parties, would hardly welcome the accession of a British contingent in addition to their own. They might decide they have had enough of British dithering and that no further extension is possible. And if the EU does grant a longer extension, it has declared that it will do so only if the government presents it with a viable alternative strategy. Presumably a request for an extension because Parliament cannot make up its mind would not count.

There are three possible strategies. The first is for Parliament to call a general election. “I fear that we are reaching the limits of this process in this House,” May declared on Friday, after her deal was defeated for the third time. But May can’t call an early election herself; that requires either a no-confidence vote in the government or a two-thirds vote by Parliament. In practice, if the government seeks an election, the opposition could hardly declare that it was opposed to one, and a two-thirds majority triggered an early election in 2017. But Conservative MPs are unlikely to vote for it today. In 2017, they were 20 percent ahead in the polls, but the party lost its overall majority resulting in the current hung Parliament. Currently, the Conservatives are trailing Labour in many polls or barely ahead.

The Conservatives are divided between those who favor the prime minister’s agreement and those who favor a no-deal Brexit. The latter is particularly strongly represented among the constituency associations whose members would choose the next Tory leader after May’s resignation, which is likely to occur soon. Labour is divided between predominantly middle-class Remainers and predominantly working-class Leavers.

Furthermore, it is rarely possible to deduce from the outcome of a general election which issues determined the result. The parties might declare Europe to be the overriding issue. But Labour voters might choose to support the party not because of its European policy but because of concerns about austerity and the National Health Service. And Conservative voters might be voting out of fear of a Corbyn government rather than out of support for May’s Brexit policy. That is why it is so difficult to regard a general election as providing a specific mandate for any particular course of policy. Only a referendum can yield such a mandate.

A second strategy would be to hold a second Brexit referendum. But it would take Parliament some time to agree on the enabling legislation. The act providing for the 2016 referendum took seven months to draft and pass. It could take even longer today since there would be disputes about the options to be presented and about who should be entitled to vote. Meanwhile businesses would be in limbo, with investment plans on hold, and jobs at risk. And if a referendum led to a narrow Remain majority with a lower turnout than in 2016, which is a possible outcome, it would lack legitimacy.

A third strategy would be to remain in the EU, renegotiate the political declaration so as to achieve a softer form of Brexit with a closer relationship to the EU or even full membership of the customs union and internal market, and then, once again, seek to pass the withdrawal agreement—the essential gateway to the negotiation on the final relationship. But under this strategy, Britain could remain in the EU for a very long time, perhaps even forever

All of these strategies, therefore, put Brexit at risk. As Liam Fox, the pro-Brexit international trade secretary, predicted, the Tory hard-liners—by voting against the prime minister’s deal—may have succeeded in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Some have suggested that Britain faces a constitutional crisis. It does not. It faces a political crisis because MPs will not follow through on the logic of their decisions. Having passed the EU Withdrawal Act, they have consistently rejected the means of implementing it—nor have they been willing to repeal it. So they have willed the end without willing the means. They are, as Winston Churchill characterized the governments of the 1930s, “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”

Vernon Bogdanor is a professor of government at King’s College, London and the author of Brexit and the Constitution. In April 2019, he will be giving the Henry L. Stimson lectures at Yale University on the consequences of Brexit for Britain and the European Union.

 

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<![CDATA[ A Political Quake in Turkey as Erdogan’s Party Loses in His Home Base of Support ]]> Tue, 02 Apr 2019 14:02:59 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/504 By Carlotta Gall, The New York Times

Step by step over the years, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey sought to ensure nobody could challenge him. He marginalized adversaries. He purged the army, the police and the courts. He cowed the press. He strengthened his powers in the Constitution. And he promised Turks a bright economic future.

So it was a huge surprise when the outcome of weekend municipal voting showed on Monday that Mr. Erdogan’s party had not only lost control of Ankara, the political center, but also Istanbul, the country’s commercial center, his home city and longstanding core of support.

 the results amounted to the most momentous political earthquake to shake Mr. Erdogan in nearly two decades of basically uncontested control at the helm of Turkey, a NATO ally and critical linchpin of stability in the region.

What was different this time was the rapidly tanking economy and a highly disciplined opposition. It deployed monitors to not only scrutinize the vote tallies but also sleep on sacks of sealed counted ballots to guard against possible tampering by members of Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP.

“We think they were not able to rig the election,” said Ilayda Kocoglu, 28, vice president of the Istanbul branch of the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, who slept on some sacks herself. “They were not expecting us to be that organized, or that resolved.”

The results do not mean that Mr. Erdogan, whose term as president lasts for four more years, will change his behavior, which includes promoting Islamic religious values over secularism, closer ties to Russia and chillier relations with NATO. But the election showed Mr. Erdogan has weaknesses.

 “It’s a catastrophe for him,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “We now know he is not invincible.”

Turkey’s weakened economy, which had rapidly expanded for years under Mr. Erdogan, was at the top of voters’ concerns, despite Mr. Erdogan’s exhortations that the problems are not of his making. The country tumbled into a recession in March. Unemployment exceeds 10 percent, and up to 30 percent among young people. The Turkish lira lost 28 percent of its value in 2018 and continues to weaken. Inflation has reached 20 percent.

Ms. Kocoglu said she and her colleagues understood within an hour of the closing of polls Sunday night that they were watching Turkey’s most momentous change since Mr. Erdogan took power. Even the most remote areas of the Istanbul metropolitan area showed a defeat for Mr. Erdogan’s mayoral candidate.

As of Monday night, results from the High Election Council had still not been fully released and Mr. Erdogan’s party had not conceded defeat in Istanbul. But the tally showed the opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, ahead with 99 percent of the votes counted.

At a late-night news briefing in Istanbul, Mr. Imamoglu said he was trusting in Turkey’s institutions more than the AKP to confirm his victory. “I don’t expect this from the party,” he said. “For years to come AKP will not accept my win.”

Opposition mayors in Turkey’s two most important cities give the Republican People’s Party high-profile opportunities to show how it can govern effectively, with control of municipal services from garbage collection to mass transit. And Mr. Imamoglu has promised that as mayor of Istanbul, he would audit the books, a prospect that could create new problems for the AKP should he uncover evidence of corruption under the ruling party’s watch.

The Republican People’s Party, long criticized for a lack of organization, for once was well prepared for the election. Mr. Imamoglu, 49, a former district mayor, mobilized thousands of volunteers to observe every ballot box in the greater metropolitan area and record the count on a specially designed application, giving the party its own independent tabulation.

“We were able to compare our numbers with theirs,” Ms. Kocoglu said. A decisive moment came at 9 p.m. Sunday when Mr. Erdogan gave his first speech of the evening, claiming victory for the AKP overall in the municipal district elections. The election commission suddenly stopped releasing election results for Istanbul, as did the semiofficial Anadolu news agency, which is widely followed on election nights as the source favored by the government for results.

The president’s camp had already seen which way the vote was going and had stopped the count, said Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara director for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a research institute. “They stopped it to think what they could do,” he said. There was even discussion of some kind of intervention, he said.

 “We were very afraid,” Ms. Kocoglu said. She recalled several elections when the election commission had stopped releasing details in the count, only to resume later and show an unlikely jump in favor of the ruling party.

Opposition supporters say this happened in a previous election for mayor of Ankara, and during the count for the 2017 constitutional referendum that gave Mr. Erdogan more executive powers and even in the presidential election in June.

The CHP’s efforts to tabulate its own count in 2018 failed when the party’s computer system broke down midcount. Its candidate later conceded defeat.

But this time was different. When Mr. Erdogan’s candidate, Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister, declared himself the winner in Istanbul, Mr. Imamoglu immediately went public, announcing that he was leading in the race and had the records to prove it. He made 10 public statements of his lead through the night.

Mr. Erdogan is responsible for what many critics call an imperial presidency in Turkey. He oversaw a severe repression and government purging after a failed 2016 military coup attempt that he blamed on a longtime rival-in-exile, Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who lives in the United States. Under Mr. Erdogan, Turkey also has been a leading jailer of journalists.

But Mr. Erdogan’s domination as Turkey’s leader is also attributed to his unquestioned political talents and the failure of the main opposition party to put forward good candidates and broaden its appeal. CHP supporters have often questioned why their leaders have seemed to hand election after election to Mr. Erdogan.

The determination of the opposition was one thing, but support across society and even inside Mr. Erdogan’s own party appeared to waver in the latest vote.

 “The opposition stood firm, and there were signs of a public unleashing,” Mr. Unluhisarcikli said, describing strong public support on Twitter and other social media.

By 11 p.m. Sunday, Mr. Erdogan appeared in Ankara and conceded the loss of at least one city to the opposition — a huge setback by itself.

Then people inside Mr. Erdogan’s party headquarters posted screenshots taken from AKP computer monitors showing the opposition candidate in Istanbul leading the race. Mr. Erdogan’s own supporters were apparently leaking the information, said Ms. Aydintasbas at the European Council for Foreign Relations.

Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly aloof over the years, surrounded in his vast presidential palace by a smaller and smaller circle of aides and ministers.

Yet political analysts were in little doubt that he made the decision to allow the true results for the Istanbul vote to be released Monday morning in order to protect his own electoral legacy. “Erdogan is not a crazy person, he is intelligent,” Ms. Kocoglu said.

Ms. Aydintasbas said Mr. Erdogan, who has always drawn legitimacy from the ballot box, would have seen it was impossible to alter the result. “There was no real way,” she said. “They did not find a way of doing it without losing legitimacy.”

Others said Mr. Erdogan knew the risks to the economy if there were a wrangle over the election or a protracted dispute. The lira could fall sharply, as it did last summer, with drastic repercussions for businesses and livelihoods.

By accepting the election result, Mr. Erdogan has saved the reputation of the Turkish electoral system, which has given him legitimacy over the last 17 years, Mr. Unluhisarcikli said. “With this one election Erdogan has dispensed the clouds of doubt of all the past elections.”

The swing away from Mr. Erdogan and his party in his home city, a place that he often describes with love and emotion, showed an unexpected success from the opposition alliance, which persuaded voters to vote tactically, despite their differences. Votes from the minority Kurds, and from unhappy conservatives who abandoned Mr. Erdogan, were critical, said Ms. Aydintasbas, who has followed Mr. Erdogan’s career closely.

Ms. Kocoglu said that the election was a critical victory for the opposition since no further elections are scheduled for four years.  “I still cannot believe it,” she said. “When AKP came to power I was in middle school. I have never seen a victory.”

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<![CDATA[ Middle East visitors to Egypt to increase 50% by 2022: ATM report reveals ]]> Tue, 02 Apr 2019 12:43:09 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/503 Arrivals from the Middle East to Egypt are expected to increase 50% from 1.49 million in 2018 to 2.23 million in 2022 with visitors from Saudi Arabia driving this growth, according to data published ahead of Arabian Travel Market 2019, which takes place at Dubai World Trade Centre from 28 April – 1 May 2019.

While arrivals from Europe are expected to be the largest contributor on a regional basis, increasing from 6.2 million in 2018 to 9.1 million tourists in 2022, the latest research from Colliers International revealed arrivals from the Middle East will actually witness the highest Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) at 11%.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Over the last 12 months, Egypt’s tourism industry has witnessed healthy and steady growth, with arrivals up 14.5% from 8.3 million in 2017 to 9.5 million in 2018. Growth has been fuelled by the cheaper Egyptian Pound and government incentives for charter airlines operating international flights.

 “Adding to this, we are witnessing this growth first hand at ATM with the total number of attendees coming from Egypt increasing 16% YoY.”

Taking advantage of this resurgence in tourists are some of Egypt’s most prominent tourism companies including Dana Tours, Nicolas Tours and Standard Tours who will exhibit at ATM 2019 – and of course the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board who will have a major presence too.

Egypt tourism capital investment is estimated to reach US$ 4.2billion (EGP 75bn) in 2019, up 25 per cent on 2018, as the country strives to keep pace with an ongoing leisure travel boom and GDP growth.

The data from Colliers revealed that Egypt’s total tourism revenue will increase at a CAGR of 16.5% between 2018 and 2022 – outperforming the business segment. During 2017 and 2018, the leisure spend was US$ 13.79billion (EGP 239bn) and US$ 16.67billion (EGP 289bn) respectively, while business totaled US$ 1.93billion (EGP 33.5bn) and US$ 2.36billion (EGP 41bn) over the same period.

 “The overall revenue generated by the leisure segment in 2018 represented 87% of total tourism spend and we expect this growth to continue as a series of new government and private sector attractions and investments are unveiled – including the development of new airports and new luxury hotel resorts in Red Sea destinations Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada,” Curtis said.

Egypt has a diverse range of source markets – decreasing the risk of being over-reliant on one specific market. Germany, Russia, the UK and Italy are Egypt’s top four source markets, with the first and last in top gear – both growing 29% in 2018 – and showing the highest CAGR growth of 11%.

The UK, which recorded just a 4% increase in arrivals between 2017 and 2018, has traditionally been a long-standing major source market for the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh. However, an ongoing ban on direct flights between the two destinations has stifled visitor numbers.

Curtis added: “It is hoped the recent resumption of Serbian flights to Sharm El Sheikh after a six-year absence and the introduction of Turkish Airlines’ daily flight from Moscow to the Red Sea via Istanbul, will kick-start direct flights between the UK and Egypt, and of course Russia and Egypt.”

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<![CDATA[ Egypt's Sisi announces first raise in minimum wage for state employees since 2014 ]]> Tue, 02 Apr 2019 12:23:08 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/502 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced on Saturday that the minimum monthly wage of state employees would increase from EGP 1,200 to 2,000, to take effect from 30 June.

The last a minimum wage increase for public sector was introduced in January 2014 from EGP 700 to 1,200.

El-Sisi also announced a number of reform measures to ease the effects of austerity on Egyptians.

The decisions came during a speech at a celebration organised by the National Council for Women to celebrate Egyptian women and ideal mothers at Al-Manara International Conference Centre in New Cairo.

The president also announced a raise in pensions and bonuses.

El-Sisi announced that the annual raise for state employees will be increased to 7 percent of the minimum wage, at a minimum of EGP 75, under the salary scheme of the civil service law.

Workers who are not part of the salary scheme will receive 10 percent of the basic wage as an annual raise, at a minimum of EGP 75.

The president also announced the granting of an exceptional addition bonus of EGP 150 to all state employees, in an attempt to ease austerity and inflationary effects on wage levels.

He also announced the raising of the minimum number of all job grades in the country among those who are not under the civil service law.

The Egyptian president announced a 15 percent increase in basic pensions for state employees, at a minimum of EGP 150.

He has also announced an increase in the pension from EGP 750 to 900.

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<![CDATA[ 2020 Will See a Monumental Clash Over America’s Place in the World ]]> Tue, 26 Feb 2019 14:50:35 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/501 By: Stephen Wertheim, The New York Times.

Mr. Wertheim is a historian who writes about American foreign policy.

In the past several months, a meaningful debate has finally started to emerge over America’s role in the world. Politicians and analysts — left, right and center — are conceding that longstanding mistakes have brought the United States to an uncertain moment. Provoked by President Trump, they are concluding that the bipartisan consensus forged in the 1990s — in which the United States towered over the world and, at low cost, sought to remake it in America’s image — has failed and cannot be revived.

But the agreement ends there. Foreign policy hands are putting forward something like opposite diagnoses of America’s failure and opposite prescriptions for the future. One camp holds that the United States erred by coddling China and Russia, and urges a new competition against these great power rivals. The other camp, which says the United States has been too belligerent and ambitious around the world, counsels restraint, not another crusade against grand enemies.

Though still in formation, these camps are heading for a clash in the 2020 presidential race, if not in a straightforward way. Each has bipartisan backing. Each finds a little to like in Mr. Trump but rejects him as a member. And each is willing to pull back from wars in the Middle East. It’s this contest, not the sound and fury over “America First,” that is set to redefine America’s world role in the 21st century, during the rest of the Trump years and beyond.

The New Cold Warriors

Mr. Trump has consistently criticized American leaders for being too weak and too generous toward other countries, and none more than China. When he began his campaign in 2015, he decried China as a “bigger problem” than the Islamic State, denouncing Beijing’s trade practices alongside its military buildup. Now, a growing number of foreign policy experts, including centrists who deprecate the president, agree — and add Russia to the list of great power competitors.

In this view, the United States emerged from the Cold War with naïve hopes: It welcomed China into the World Trade Organization and Russia into the G-20 and expected them to liberalize their societies and conform to an American-led “world order.” Instead, China and Russia became more authoritarian and more assertive, shaping global politics against America’s wishes. As the latest National Security Strategy maintains, the United States assumed its power would be “unchallenged and self-sustaining” and “surrendered our advantages” as a result.

The Trump administration has led the way in confronting China, an agenda that transcends its internal fissures. Under Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who left the administration after denouncing the president’s worldview, the Pentagon oriented itself around the premise that “great power competition — not terrorism — is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.” The administration increasingly treats China’s economic actions as national security threats. In the past several months, the United States has pushed its allies to block the Chinese tech giant Huawei from participating in their 5G wireless networks on the grounds that the Chinese state could use the company to conduct espionage. This move may mark a pivot toward the economic containment of China, with core North Atlantic and East Asian alliances of the Cold War reconstituted in opposition to Chinese economic and political power.

Pressuring China is one of Mr. Trump’s only policies to have gained bipartisan traction. Elizabeth Warren, eyeing 2020, accuses Russia and China of “working flat out to remake the global order” in their authoritarian image. Similarly, think-tankers who began the Trump presidency defending the “liberal international order” are changing tack. The Brookings Institution’s Thomas Wright, for example, now writes off the Russo-Chinese “neo-authoritarian world,” urging America to lead the “free world” against it. The message is not far from that of Vice President Mike Pence, who in October blasted China as a crypto-totalitarian force committing aggression wherever it goes, even when it finances infrastructure in poor countries.

Despite the rhetoric, the most basic aims of great power competition remain to be defined, especially toward a rising China. Does the United States seek merely to modify Chinese conduct, or to block China’s ascent outright? How much economic separation from China do national security concerns warrant? The irony is that Mr. Trump himself, having ratcheted up tensions, may merely seek leverage toward a trade deal. He is disposed to regard no country as a permanent ally or permanent enemy. But America’s hardening line has bipartisan support and it won’t be easy to reverse.

At the same time, Mr. Trump has helped to incite a counter-movement. A trans-partisan coalition, aligning progressives and libertarians, is encouraged by the electoral success of his criticism of Middle East interventions, but seeks much greater restraint than the president has delivered. Those who advocate restraint believe the United States went wrong by expanding, not contracting, its global responsibilities after the Soviet Union collapsed.

Mr. Trump shares some of these inclinations. “Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he proclaimed in the State of the Union. He has pledged to pull most ground troops out of Syria and is pursuing negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. On the whole, though, most advocates of restraint find little to like in Mr. Trump’s militarized foreign policy. They see a president who has attempted to assert American dominance over the world, boosting the defense budget, escalating military interventions in the Middle East and Africa, and imposing new sanctions on Iran and now Venezuela.

Yet they also see an opportunity to constrain the United States’ military adventurism by opposing the war powers of an unprincipled and unstrategic commander in chief. On Feb. 13, antiwar forces scored a victory when the House voted to end military support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. If the resolution passes the Senate, it will mark the first time Congress has invoked the 1973 War Powers Act in order to bind the president to remove American forces active in hostilities abroad.

The bill also offers a template for further withdrawals, according to its Senate sponsors, Democrat Chris Murphy, Independent Bernie Sanders and Republican Mike Lee. “Since 9/11, politicians have become far too comfortable with American military interventions all over the world,” they have written. The next step may be to repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, which successive presidents have used to justify almost unlimited warmaking in the greater Middle East.

Restraint is advancing on the left of the Democratic Party, but it’s not yet clear whether it can pierce the center as domestic proposals like Medicare for All have done. Calls to cut military spending, advanced by Mr. Sanders and House progressives, have not quite become a core principle of the progressive movement. And advocates of restraint tend to become less vocal and unified when they turn beyond the Middle East. The sponsor of the House’s Yemen resolution, Representative Ro Khanna, has distinguished himself by supporting diplomacy with North Korea and opposing regime change in Venezuela, but he stands apart. The restraint coalition would benefit from taking a similarly global view if it is to advance a comprehensive alternative to the status quo.

Does the future belong to great power competition or restraint? Partisans of each camp have good reason to feel the wind at their back. Decades of policy failure have converged with the daily eruptions of President Trump to throw open the question of what America’s place in the world should be.

What’s more, the two camps have not quite trained their sights on each other. That is partly because advocates of great power competition in the establishment remain obsessed with Mr. Trump, while advocates of restraint have been marginalized for so long that they need to pick their battles. One can even glimpse the outlines of a tacit bargain between them, breaking down geographically: As restrainers try to end wars in the Middle East, centrists pivot toward the Pacific, where the adversaries are larger but war less likely.

For now, savvy politicians can adopt both positions at once. Ms. Warren, for example, denounces Chinese and Russian behavior at the same time that she promises to remove troops from Afghanistan and “cut our bloated defense budget.” And Democrat-leaning experts not previously outraged by America’s Middle East entanglements now bemoan them as distractions. Before long, it will be only anti-Iran, pro-Israel hard-liners — members of the Trump administration and Democratic leadership included — who will strongly defend America’s posture in the region.

But the two sides disagree fundamentally, and Americans deserve a forthright debate between them after decades of stifling consensus. Advocates of great power competition, after all, will hardly accept cutting military spending even if all they seek is to maintain current levels of superiority over a rising China and an assertive Russia. Restrainers, for their part, might succeed spectacularly in the Middle East, only to find America embroiled in a new Cold War. To avoid being outflanked, they ought to amplify the potential for cooperation with China, a power that has successfully practiced its own form of restraint, refraining from war for the past 40 years.

In the upcoming election, battles within the parties may prove as consequential as the main fight between them. For if the last two years have shown anything, it is that America’s purpose in the world is deeply unsettled, and just might be poised for a major change.

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<![CDATA[ Withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria is proving easier said than done ]]> Sat, 09 Feb 2019 16:14:57 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/500 By: Liz Sly, U.S. newspaper of The Washington Post

President Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria has triggered a scramble among international powers and local forces to figure out how to fill the potentially destabilizing vacuum the Americans will leave behind.

But as the diplomacy drags on, it is becoming clear that there is no readily apparent arrangement that will satisfy the competing concerns and agendas of all the parties involved — and that none seems likely to emerge soon.

Turkey, Russia, the United States’ Syrian Kurdish allies and the Syrian government all have a strategic interest in any arrangement for the future of northern Syria, yet most of their demands are diametrically opposed. That they are not all talking to one another only compounds the difficulty of reaching a solution.

Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be a terrorist force and wants to create a Turkish-controlled buffer zone to keep them away from its border. The United States’ Kurdish allies, who fear persecution at Turkish hands, want the Turks kept out.

The Trump administration wants to satisfy both sides, making good on its contradictory promises to protect its Kurdish allies and to give Turkey a stake in the area.

The Kurds would prefer a return of Syrian government authority in the area they control. But one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s closest allies is Iran, and the Trump administration objects to any plan that allows the Iranians to maintain — much less extend — their influence in Syria.

The various positions are “irreconcilable,” said Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. “They are massive issues. The U.S. is throwing a lot at this, but they are just irreconcilable.”

The Pentagon still has not announced a date for the withdrawal, but the question of how and when it will happen is gaining urgency as the Islamic State’s once vast “caliphate” dwindles. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by U.S. airstrikes, have the group’s holdouts pinned down in one last village in the southeastern Syrian desert.

After initially announcing in December that U.S. troops would be pulled out right away, Trump said they would remain until the last pocket of Islamic State territory had been liberated — and that could come as early as next week, he said Wednesday. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the U.S. military is eyeing an April deadline for the troops to leave.

U.S. officials say they are committed to negotiating a handover agreement, but they also stress that U.S. troops will pull out regardless.

 “We are withdrawing. There should be no doubt to that,” said a senior U.S. official. That raises the prospect of a no-deal withdrawal that could plunge the region into chaos and, potentially, conflict as the competing powers pile in to stake their claims. Turkey is threatening to invade the area if its demands are not met. The Syrian government has deployed troops to the south of the region, and the Islamic State is already trying to regroup in areas from which it has been expelled. A power vacuum or new conflict could help the Islamic State make a comeback, military officials say.

To avert such an outcome, intensive diplomacy is underway between the United States and Turkey, primarily with the aim of fulfilling Trump’s promise to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a December telephone conversation that the area of northeastern Syria where U.S. troops are deployed is “yours.” James Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition, has been traveling to Turkey, and Turkish officials have visited Washington for talks.

The emphasis of these discussions is on meeting Turkish demands for what both sides are terming a “safe” zone in Syria along the Turkish border. But the talks have revealed only that the United States and Turkey have vastly differing interpretations of what counts as “safe.”

 “The United States wants a safe zone to protect Kurds from the Turkish army, and for Turkey, it is the exact opposite,” said Nihat Ali Ozcan, a military analyst with the Tepav think tank in Ankara. “How can two countries cooperate when their goals are that much opposed?”

Washington is meanwhile also exploring the possibility of maintaining overall American control without U.S. troops on the ground, U.S. officials say. Under that scenario, small contingents of British and French troops, who are already operating alongside Americans, would remain in the area with the SDF and perhaps also with private U.S. military contractors and U.N. observers, while the United States provides air cover.

That is the outcome the Kurds say they would like most. But otherwise, they have stated a clear preference for a return of Syrian government authority instead of any arrangement that gives Turkey a role.

It is not clear, however, whether Damascus is prepared to make the kind of concessions the Kurds are seeking to guarantee the autonomy they have secured recently with the support of U.S. troops.

During a Jan. 2 Cabinet meeting, President Trump said his decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal had significantly weakened Iran. (The Washington Post)

In January, the Kurds asked Russia to mediate between them and the Syrian government. The Kurds have demands that include allowing them to maintain their control over local government and security forces. A delegation from the Syrian Democratic Council, a coalition including Kurds and local Arabs, visited Damascus to present those demands.

But there has been no response, either from the Syrians or the Russians, said Salih Muslim, a senior official with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the main Kurdish political organization.

"The matter is very complicated,” he said. “Everybody is waiting to see what steps the other side is going to take. And we are waiting for everybody.”

Russia, as Assad’s most powerful ally, also favors restoring Syrian government control and has proposed reviving the 1998 Adana agreement between Turkey and Syria under which Damascus would be responsible for keeping militant Kurds away from the Turkish border. The agreement committed Syria to preventing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates from using Syrian territory as a springboard for attacks against Turkey and forced PKK fighters based in Syria to take refuge at their headquarters in northern Iraq’s Qandil Mountains.

Some of those fighters are now in action alongside U.S. troops in the PKK-affiliated People’s Protection Units (YPG), the main component of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Turkey, however, is wary of having Syrian government forces return to its border after eight years of war, without a broader settlement to the Syrian conflict. The war, which has seen the Syrian government regain control over large areas of territory once in opposition hands, has turned Assad and Erdogan into bitter foes because of Turkey’s support for the rebels seeking Assad’s demise.

 “This will not help,” said Burhanettin Duran, who heads the SETA think tank in Ankara. Cutting a deal with Assad that neglects an overall solution to the war “will just empower him and make him very happy,” he said. “But it won’t solve the problem, and the future of Syria will be unstable, uncertain, and the way will be open to conflict including the return of” the Islamic State.

Turkey also opposes the Kurds’ preference for some form of no-fly zone in northern Syria, which Ankara fears would only facilitate the further evolution of the Kurdish autonomous region taking shape under U.S. tutelage.

"If this means a new kind of northern Iraq on our borders, Turkey will not accept that,” said Duran, referring to the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq that emerged from the no-fly zone imposed there by the United States in the 1990s.

Turkey’s preference remains, he said, that a buffer zone along the border be controlled by the Turkish military and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels. But that approach does not satisfy the United States’ concerns for the safety of its Kurdish allies or Russia’s desire to restore Syrian government control.

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<![CDATA[ How Russia is growing its strategic influence in Africa ]]> Sat, 09 Feb 2019 14:38:31 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/499 By: Theo Neethling

Professor and Head: Political Studies and Governance in the Humanities Faculty, University of the Free State

Much has been made about China’s role and profile in Africa and the factors underlying its activities on the continent. Less debated is the spread and depth of Russia’s contemporary presence and profile in Africa.

There was a strong Russian influence in Africa during the heyday of the Soviet Union. The post-independence governments of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda and Benin at some point all received diplomatic or military support from the Soviet Union.

But this began to change after the superpower started to collapse in December 1991. More than a quarter of a century later Russia’s President Vladimir Putin seems to have new aspirations in Africa. This is in line with his desire to restore Russia to great power status.

Putin places a high premium on geopolitical relations and the pursuit of Russian assertiveness in the global arena. This includes reestablishing Russia’s sphere of influence, which extends to the African continent.

Like Beijing, Moscow’s method of trade and investment in Africa is without the prescriptions or conditionalities of actors like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Russia is gradually increasing its influence in Africa through strategic investment in energy and minerals. It’s also using military muscle and soft power.

Increasingly, the pressing question is: is the relationship between China and Africa as good for Africa as it is for China? The same question applies to Russia-Africa relations.

Energy and minerals

Interaction between Russia and Africa has grown exponentially this century, with trade and investment growing by 185% between 2005 and 2015.

Economically, much of Russia’s focus in Africa centres on energy. Key Russian investments in Africa are in the oil, gas and nuclear power sectors.

The fact that 620 million people in Africa don’t have electricity provides Russia’s nuclear power industry with potential markets. Several Russian companies, such as Gazprom, Lukoil, Rostec and Rosatom are active in Africa. Most activity is in Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Nigeria and Uganda. In Egypt, negotiations have already been finalised with Moscow for the building of the country’s first nuclear plant .

These companies are mostly state-run, with investments often linked to military and diplomatic interests.

Moscow’s second area of interest is Africa’s mineral riches. This is particularly evident in Zimbabwe, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia and the Central African Republic.

In Zimbabwe, Russia is developing one of the world’s largest deposits of platinum group metals.

Russia has also been reestablishing links with Angola, where Alrosa, the Russian giant, mines diamonds. Discussions between Russia and Angola have also focused on hydrocarbon production.Uranium in Namibia is another example.

Russia’s current controversial involvement in the Central African Republic (CAR) began in 2017, when a team of Russian military instructors and 170 “civilian advisers” were sent by Moscow to Bangui to train the country’s army and presidential guard. Shortly after that, nine weapons shipments arrived in the CAR.

Interest in the country has focused on exploring its natural resources on a concession basis. The murder of three Russian journalists in a remote area of the country last year focused the world’s attention on what looked like a Kremlin drive for influence and resources.

Military influence and diplomacy

Russia is the second largest exporter of arms globally, and a major supplier to African states. Over the past two decades it has pursued military ties with various African countries, such as Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

Military ties are linked to bilateral military agreements as well as providing boots on the ground in UN peacekeeping operations. Combined, China and Russia outnumber the other permanent members of the UN Security Council in contributing troop to UN peacekeeping efforts.

Russia has also been actively supporting Zimbabwe. Shortly after it was reported in 2018 that China had placed new generation surface-to-air missiles in Zimbabwe, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that his country was pursuing military cooperation.

Significantly, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said that his country may need Russia’s help with the modernisation of its defence force during a recent visit to Moscow.

Russia, Africa and the future

Both Russia and China are keen to play a future role in Africa. The difference between these two major powers is that China forms part of the Asian regional economy. This will surpass North America and Europe combined, in terms of global power - based on GDP, population size, military spending and technological investment.

China and India have sustained impressive economic growth over many years. And, their enormous populations make them two world powers of extraordinary importance. Growth prospects for the Russian economy, on the other hand, remain modest - between 1.5% and 1.8% a year for 2018-2010, against the current global average rate of 3.5% a year.

Still, Russia remains a major power in global politics. For African leaders, the key word is agency and the question is how to play the renewed Russian attention to their countries’ advantage, and not to fall victim to the contemporary “geopolitical chess” game played by the major powers on the continent.

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<![CDATA[ Egypt’s Sisi takes over African Union presidency on Sunday ]]> Sat, 09 Feb 2019 14:07:40 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/498 President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will arrive in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Saturday to attend the 32nd ordinary session of the African Union (AU) Assembly, during which Egypt will take over chairmanship of the AU.

In preparation for the AU summit, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that Egypt looks forward to work with it’s fellow African nations during it’s presidency of the union during 2019.

Shoukry reviewed the priorities of the Egyptian presidency, which include economic integration, regional integration, economic and social development, peace and security, cultural and civilization bridges between African peoples and cooperation with international partners.

The theme for the AU’s 32nd ordinary session is “Migration and Displacement in Africa: Addressing the underlying causes through innovative risk financing mechanisms Background.”

African countries attach particular importance to this crisis in light of the armed conflicts and disasters in the continent which have displaced over 2.7 million Africans, in addition to the movement of terrorist organizations to certain African countries after losing their grip on Iraq, Syria and Libya which would drive large numbers of Africans to seek illegal immigration in European countries, or even join these terrorist organizations.

Secretary-General of the Arab League (AL) Ahmed Abul-Gheit will also deliver a speech at the opening session of the AU Summit, in which he will renew the AL’s commitment to continue its strategic cooperation with the AU and ways to strengthen Arab-African action to address common crises and challenges.

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<![CDATA[ As Government Shutdown Persists, Americans Feel the Bite ]]> Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:59:57 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/497 By: Jim Tankersley, Matthew Goldstein and Glenn Thrush, The newyork Times

The impact of a partial government shutdown began to ripple across the U.S. economy as it stretched into Day 17, with mortgage applications delayed, public companies unable to get approval to raise capital and thousands of Secret Service agents expected to show up for work without pay.

President Trump and congressional Democrats have made little progress in negotiations to end a shutdown that has affected about 800,000 federal workers, many of whom will miss their first paycheck this week, and who owe a combined $249 million in monthly mortgage payments, according to the online real estate firm Zillow.

The shutdown shows no sign of ending soon, with Mr. Trump announcing Monday that he would address the nation on Tuesday evening from the Oval Office to discuss what he called the crisis at the southern border, and the White House saying that he would travel to the border this week as part of his effort to persuade Americans of the need for a wall — the sticking point in negotiations with Democrats.

The standoff is beginning to inflict pain on Americans, whose lives are affected, in one way or another, by the federal government. It is already the second-longest shutdown in history, behind the one that started in December 1995 and lasted 21 days.

On Monday, the Trump administration moved to soften some of the blow — and prevent taxpayer outrage — by directing the Internal Revenue Service to issue tax refunds during the shutdown, reversing previous policy. While the decision will allow taxpayers to get their money, the I.R.S. workers being called back from furlough to process those refunds will not be paid until the shutdown ends.

 

The effects of a prolonged shutdown have some Wall Street economists predicting a hit to the United States economy. Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists said Monday that it had pushed them to downgrade their estimates for economic growth at the end of 2018 by a 10th of a percent.

The ramifications of a prolonged shutdown are beginning to unnerve those both inside and outside the federal government. Some private companies and charities that serve public employees are searching for ways to cushion the impact.

The effects extend from the president’s inner circle, to Wall Street to farm country.

Virtually every employee with the Secret Service involved in investigations, security and the protective division, which protects Mr. Trump and dozens of other current and former government officials and their families, is required to work during the shutdown. And 6,000 of the organization’s roughly 7,000 employees will not be paid.

The same is true at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has come to a standstill with “only an extremely limited number of staff members available to respond to emergency situations,” according to a shutdown plan posted on the commission’s website.

As the effect moves well beyond the nation’s capital, craft brewers cannot get approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for new beer labels. And the Commerce Department has stopped processing requests from auto suppliers and other manufacturing companies seeking an exemption from Mr. Trump’s metal tariffs, leaving them uncertain over the price they will need to pay for key materials this year.

Farmers who planned to apply for subsidies to help mitigate the effect of Mr. Trump’s trade war must wait to get paid until the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency offices reopen. And in neighborhoods across the country, as many as 39,000 federally backed mortgage applications may have already been delayed because of reduced staffing in federal agencies, according to Zillow estimates.

The tax refund decision flies in the face of previous shutdown plans — and interpretations of federal law — when the I.R.S. was prohibited from dispensing tax refunds.

The earliest I.R.S. statistics from 2018 show that 18 million individual tax returns had been filed by Feb. 2. By that point, the I.R.S. had issued more than six million refunds, totaling $12.6 billion — an average refund of $2,035. The agency issued more than $324 billion in refunds for all of last year.

Several nonprofit organizations, including the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, are trying to aid Department of Homeland Security workers who need immediate help with a limited pool of cash and other resources, an officer with the group’s charitable foundation said. The Navy Federal Credit Union is offering no-interest loans to service members who face the prospect of missed paychecks. USAA, though, has drawn criticism from members of the Coast Guard for offering similar loans that charge interest.

Secret Service agents are growing increasingly anxious and angry about the shutdown, according to several current and former agents. The Secret Service protects 42 people associated with the Trump White House, 11 more than were given details during the Obama administration. In August 2017, the agency’s new director, Randolph D. Alles, told an interviewer that the sprawling Trump entourage was putting unprecedented strains on his agents, in terms of staffing and budgeting.

 “They are asking you to put your life on the line and not paying you — it’s ridiculous,” said Donald Mihalek, 49, a 20-year Secret Service veteran whose own retirement paperwork has yet to be processed because of the shutdown.

 “Morale is a serious issue,” said Mr. Mihalek, who served on the presidential detail during George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations. “This is an incredibly stressful job that requires your full attention, and if you are standing there thinking about your mortgage, or your credit card bills, or the fact that you are burning through your savings, you are distracted, you not able to give 100 percent.”

Financial enforcement is also suffering. The S.E.C. has about 4,400 full-time employees and during the shutdown is operating with just a few hundred — most of those tasked “to protect life or property.”

The constrained operations means pending investigations in securities violations have ground to a halt, and there is no one reviewing applications for company stock offerings to raise cash or consider merger and acquisition filings.

Defense and corporate lawyers said meetings with potential witnesses in pending investigations have been canceled, and some companies seeking to raise cash through a stock offering are having to bide their time. Staff lawyers at the S.E.C. are largely prohibited from responding to emails seeking information or guidance.

In the past, the S.E.C. had managed to keep operating during government shutdowns by shifting around money in its budget. But the commission, which has been operating under a hiring freeze for more than a year, is not able to do that this time.

 “When I was there, we always had money to be able to operate for a certain period of time,” said Andrew M. Calamari, a lawyer with Finn Dixon & Herling in Connecticut, who stepped down as the director of the S.E.C.’s New York office in October 2017. “I was there for 17 years, and in my time, we had several shutdowns, and in each case, we continued to operate.”

The S.E.C. said in a statement that staff “continues to monitor the asset management space, track market activity and watch for systems issues or other events that could disrupt the fair and orderly operation of the securities markets.”

The agency also said it had advised financial filers to request expedited action before the shutdown.

But corporate America will now have to wait for the government to reopen in order to move ahead with things like initial public offerings and pending corporate mergers that need approvals from regulators.

 “I have a client in registration right now for an M.&A. deal, and nothing is going on,” said Marc Leaf, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in New York who used to work for the S.E.C. as an adviser to a commissioner.

Mr. Leaf also said so-called secondary stock offerings — which companies often rely on to raise cash — are paused. A dearth of those deals could create financial hardships for midsize public companies that have fewer financial resources to draw upon.

 “If this it is not solved and goes on for weeks, there will be companies who are really slowed down in the public offering process,” Mr. Leaf said. “There is a lot of basic blocking and tackling that can’t get done, and that will impact a number of issuers.”

Deutsche Bank economists warned on Monday that the shutdown could also affect the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decisions by delaying the release of key economic data, like new home sales and durable goods orders. That delay “would significantly impair” economic forecasters’ ability to gauge growth, the economists wrote, and cloud decision-making for Fed officials who have emphasized “data dependence” in their policy decisions.

The biggest and most far-reaching effect of the shutdown looms on Feb. 1. Trump administration officials say that funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which provides food benefits for about 40 million people, will run out of cash by the end of the month. The Agriculture Department has not made it clear how long it will be able to fund the program, which costs about $4.7 billion a month, but estimates by anti-hunger groups put the department’s reserves at $3 billion to $5 billion, meaning funding is more likely to completely run out in February or March.

Other food assistance programs are facing a more immediate cash crunch. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has already been cut off, with state funds filling the gap as the shutdown drags on. WIC provides aid to an additional seven million low-income Americans who are considered to be at “nutritional risk.”

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<![CDATA[ Assad receives an Arab NGO delegation ]]> Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:39:34 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/496 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received on Monday the delegation of the Arab Lawyers Union (ALU) affirming the importance of the role of popular unions and organizations in preserving Arab societies and raising awareness in light of conspiracies and dangers threatening their existence.

Assad highlighted as the main threat attempts to erase the national identity, and sense of belonging among the Arab peoples to weaken them, and undermine their faith in their causes and abilities to defend their rights.

Discussions in the meeting covered the status of different Arab countries, and possible ways out of issues and crises in the Arab world. The Syrian president pointed out that the first step to resolve problems is dialogue and transparency as the lack of those concepts led to the accumulation of issues over the years.

Assad stated that problems suffered by Arab states are the same in nature but differ in form and image.

The ALU founded in 1944 is an Arab non-governmental organization headquartered in Cairo, and is formed of the Arab countries’ lawyers syndicates. The delegation was headed by ALU’s Secretary General Nasser Hamoud Al Kraween.

 

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<![CDATA[ Egypt rejoices at opening Middle East's largest cathedral ]]> Tue, 08 Jan 2019 13:30:35 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/495 The world turned on Sunday to watch the Egyptian and Palestinian presidents inaugurating the "largest church in the Middle East" along with a huge and spacious mosque in Egypt's New Administrative Capital.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has recently been keen to attend such touching occasions, inaugurated al-Fattah al-Alim Mosque and the Cathedral of Milad al-Masih (Nativity) which reportedly accommodates eight thousand people.

In a recorded message, Pope Francis of the Vatican congratulated Egypt on the opening of the cathedral, thanking President Sisi and the Egyptian government for accomplishing such historic work.

"I offer a special tribute to my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Twadrous II, and to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which knows how to give a true testimony of faith and love in times of crisis," Pope Francis said.

Before the celebration, which coincided with the eve of Coptic Christmas, US President Donald Trump said he is excited to see the inauguration of the Church of Nativity, praising his Egyptian counterpart for the step.

During his speech, President Sisi honored the Egyptian victims who were killed in terrorist and other hostile attacks. "I am not speaking about the army, the police, the civilians, or our Christian brothers, but all Egyptians."

Sisi welcomed Palestine's Abbas and the Arab delegates who participated in this historic moment.

"This moment is important in the history of Egypt, because two years ago in [Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox] Cathedral in [Cairo's} Abbassia, I told the Pope (Tawadros II) that next year we will celebrate in the new cathedral. We [already] celebrated the first phase and today we celebrate in full," Sisi stated.

The President, during his speech, said that he refuses to use the term "sectarian strife" when talking about Egypt, explaining that this is not the situation, and that all Egyptians are unified "We will not allow anyone to [negatively] impact us," Sisi stated.

"We need to be aware that the strife will not end, but [we have to adopt] vigilance and awareness," Sisi stated, adding that Egypt is building 14 cities and embedding mosques and churches inside them.

"Here I quote from the words of His Holiness Pope [Tawadros II] in 2013 after the attacks on churches; the Holy Father responded: a homeland without churches is better than churches without a homeland," Sisi stated.

For his part, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Egypt's top Islamic institution Al-Azhar expressed his happiness at the opening of mosque and the church, adding that he considers it "an exceptional event that has never happened before in the history of Christianity and Islam."

"The Islamic state is a legal guarantor of the churches of the Christians and the synagogues of the Jews. The Sharia obligates the Muslims to protect mosques and churches equally," al-Tayeb said.

Standing Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark Diocese thanked President Sisi for delivering on his promise that Sisi gave in January 2017, to build the mosque and the cathedral. "This was impossible because they are huge buildings and [needed to be] built in this short time," Pope Tawadros stated.

"We see and care about bread as food for the bodies, but souls also find their food in these spiritual and religious institutions," he added.

The Pope affirmed that these huge buildings were "established by the money and donations of Egyptians," adding that the President was the first to donate.

"As an Egyptian citizen I stand in this holy mosque (Al-Fatah al-Alim) and rejoice with all my beloved brothers at this happy occasion, which is recorded in the history of Egypt," the Pope stated.

By yesterday's opening, the New Administrative Capital is considered as having the largest mosque and church in Egypt, according to Chairman of the Armed Forces Engineering Authority Kamel al-Wazir. Wazir also explained that the cathedral covers a total of 63,000 square meters with a hosting capacity of 8,200 persons.

The New Administrative Capital is planned to include 21 residential districts, educational institutions, hospitals, 40,000 hotel rooms, a theme park, solar plants and a new international airport.

 

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<![CDATA[ Egypt Tops 2019 travel rankings ]]> Sun, 06 Jan 2019 13:57:53 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/494 Egypt has long been known for being a top holiday destination, a fact that has been further supported by articles in CNN Travel, the Independent, The Sun, and the Vancouver Sun in 2019. All four news sites have ranked Egypt as a top holiday destination during 2019.

CNN Travel

On January 4, 2019, CNN Travel published their annual list of top destinations for the year, placing Egypt in Second place, after Christchurch, New Zealand. Despite the recent terrorist attack, CNN explains, 2019 will be different.  “So what's different in 2019?” writes CNN.

 “Well, while the sand has been settling on deserted classic monuments, Egyptologists have been brushing it gently aside elsewhere to discover a litany of exciting finds, many of which are now being opened to the public,” answers CNN.

As for the safety concerns, CNN writes, “And while safety concerns persist, hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings take place without incident each year. Likewise, Egypt's main Red Sea resorts are considered safe.” Positively, CNN expects Egypt to receive many more tourists in the run up to its 2020 opening of its Grand Egyptian Museum.

The Independent

Cairo tops the British Independent’s top ten cities to visit in 2019. Egypt has lots of treasures that are world admired such as the Greatest Egyptian Museum that cost $ 1 billion, pointed out the Independent. The Journal further stated that the museum will attach the whole set of Tutankhauman Tomb for the first time.

Cairo is rich with the fabulous Nile cruises and incredible destinations that you have to see. Matera, the Italian city, ranked second in Independent’s list, which described it as the capital of European culture. Perth, the Australian city, ranked third, while Lyon, the French city, came in fourth and Chengdu, in China, came fifth.

The Sun

BRITS have shunned Benidorm in favour of alternative destinations such as … Egypt this year,” wrote British news site “The Sun” on January 4, 2019. The Sun cites Hosbec’s statistics that show that hotels have seen an eight percent fall in British tourists. Instead of heading to Spain, more Brits are not heading towards Egypt and Turkey due to them being cheaper.  “Last year, around 319,000 British nationals visited Egypt,” writes The Sun.

Vancouver Sun

 “King Tutankhamun’s complete museum collection — among 100,000 artifacts in total and some of which have never been seen in public — are housed in the newly opened, $1 billion Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) that overlooks the pyramids of Giza, in greater Cairo,” writes Canada’s Vancouver Sun.

Ranked third on its list, Egypt is actually number one, according to the news site, for tourists who are interested in art, history and ancient life. “If art, history and the grand scope of ancient life is your balm, this is your happy place,” the news site writes in reference to Egypt.

 “Egypt has had its share of travel warnings in the past since the Arab Spring of 2011, but like any metropolis, it is safe as long as you are aware and avoid areas that are off limits, such as the Sinai Peninsula, and don’t wander off into the desert unaccompanied. The GEM is the largest museum in the world dedicated to one civilization. King Tutankhamun’s sandals, more than 3,500 years old, have been restored using special processed developed specifically for this task.”

Egypt’s strategy to attract more tourists

In an interview with Manus Cranny and Tracy Alloway on “Bloomberg Daybreak: Middle East” on November 8, Mashat revealed that Egypt has witnessed a “steep rebound” in the tourism industry, citing the significant increase in the influx of tourists.

Mashat spoke of tourism’s future, its prospects and the work that the government is doing to get the industry back on its feet. She also revealed, “At the end of this month in Parliament, I will be announcing E-Trip: Egypt Reform Program”

Shortly after, Mashat revealed the E-Trip at a Luncheon at the American Chamber of Commerce. The five-pillar strategy is designed to reform and regulate the industry, as well as to ensure its sustainability.

The five pillars start of at an area that has been criticized over and over again by Egyptians and experts, as well as the minister herself: Administrative and legislative reform. Earlier this year, while speaking to more than 10 experts about the problem in the industry, they had all agreed that there is a problem with professionalism and that most workers are not trained well enough to deal with tourists.

Chairman and CEO of Emeco Travel, former head of the Egyptian Tourism Federation and former Chairman of Tourism Chambers Elhamy El-Zayat explains that one of the top priorities in the tourism sector for the next period is training. El-Zayat adds that because there is no language-proficiency requirement for most hospitality-degree admissions, graduates are often left with poor English skills.

He adds that funds do exist to train people working in the sector, indicating that money for training has been allocated ever since former Minister of Tourism Fouad Sultan (1985-1993) was in office. To reach a higher level of service and communicate better with tourists, El-Zayat, Counsellor to the Minister of Tourism Walid El-Batouty and Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Board (ETPB) Hisham el-Demery all call for training.

 “We need to make sure that people have a good time. Traveling is an experience. You have to make sure that when tourists come, they will find good English, service and information. It is the guide’s role to show the best of Egypt,” says El-Batouty. “Tour guides are in a great position to generate more business for themselves and for the country by showing the best of Egypt. A guide makes it or breaks it.”

In addition to language and technical abilities, Magdy Saleh, the head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism in Hurghada says there’s a need to improve the organization of services offered to tourists. He explains, for instance, that the crowds of taxi drivers at Cairo International Airport’s arrival halls is a chaotic scene for someone stepping out of the airport to be greeted by flocks of drivers shouting randomly at him. “There is need for a policy to organise taxis at the airport better,” he adds. Similarly, Demery would love to see “a global awareness campaign on how to treat tourists.”

Consequently, the minister has taken a positive step forward and moved towards giving people vocational training, educating them to enable them to deal with tourists well, and teaching them proper etiquette for dealing with visitors. The ministry will look to hire more high-quality professionals who are able to manage work. Moreover, vocational training will be given to those who work in the industry.

The second pillar is one that has also been on the forefront of people’s minds over the past two years: Rebranding Egypt. All experts unanimously said that there is an urgent need to maximise the types of tourism programs for an uptick in tourist inflows to occur. “We need to introduce new types of tourism including medical, the Holy Family and MICE [meeting, incentive, conference and events],” Demery told us.

Similarly, Saleh calls for an increase in religious events and festivals to attract tourists. “We have forgotten that Egypt is the land of religions,” he says. “Between Mount Moses, the Holy Family tour, and many other heavenly locations in Egypt, Egypt has the potential to rebrand itself from being [solely] a beach-and-monument destination.”

Batouty explains that we need new ideas, and we need to be updated to revive the tourism sectors, citing two new initiatives that have attracted many guests so far. Run by Art D’Egypte’s founder Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, the first initiative is “Eternal Light. Something Old, Something New,” which took place at the Egyptian Museum, and managed to gain much interest. The exhibition displayed 16 artworks of Egypt’s most prominent contemporary artists, creating a wonderful contrast against the timeless backdrop of arte facts in the museum. Displayed pieces were influenced by ancient Egypt’s art and artists, like Mohamed Abla.

Through social media platforms and social media influencers and bloggers, international tourism campaigns and travel Expos, the tourism is working to rebrand the tourism industry in Egypt as a “responsible choice for eco-friendly tourists” and one that “economically empowers women,” revealed the Tourism Minister.

The third pillar is concerned with fining new markets and diversifying the base from which tourists come to visit Egypt, in addition to beefing up cooperations, focused on tourism, with countries that are considered well-established markets.

The fourth pillar concerns upgrading the hospitability infrastructure. To do so, the Tourism Ministry has decided to launch a private equity find. This fund will also be used to upgrade hotels and resorts that have gone out of style or need to be revamped; an issue that experts we spoke to also brought up.

Concerning this pillar, experts had previously told us that to ensure that the sector keeps growing and accommodate the expected increase in tourist inflows, El-Zayat believes that investors should be allowed to take loans from Egyptian banks. The fact that the door was shut in recent years, he explains, led many investors to downsize their businesses, leaving many unemployed. To maintain the growing tourism sector, investors should be able to rely on banks when needed, El-Zayat suggests.

Calls of increased high-quality investments also came from El-Batouty, who indicates that good investments always make money for Egypt, as well as for the investor. El-Batouty gave Cosmos, an Egypt-based travel company that partners with Viking USA, as a successful model that played a role in tourists’ return to Egypt by providing high-quality services, portraying a positive image of tourism in Egypt.

The fifth, and final pillar, concerns an upgrade to the legislative framework that governs the industry as of right now. This is something that has been on Mashat’s mind for a while: During her first meeting with investors in the tourism sector, Rania El-Mashat, the new minister of tourism, has indicated that she is set on building a newer administrative framework for the sector to allow processes to go smoother and quicker. El-Mashat said that she intends to build a system that would move the sector forward, leading it to be a case study for the international community to take lessons from.

 

Building on this, Demery told us that there are many great ideas and that people are energetic and enthusiastic to implement them, but to do that, bureaucracy needs to be addressed and the processes need to be upgraded. To keep up with the digital world today, one needs to take actions quicker and keep up with trends, he says, and so we need to be constantly updating our systems to keep up with international trends and needs.

Having spoken to sources who called the industry highly bureaucratic, advising that less bureaucracy would help the industry flourish, it sure is a relief to see the fifth pillar of the strategic plan aim to remove bureaucracy and better the legislative framework. The new framework will be an update to a framework that has not been updated in about 40 years, and will see the ministry itself propose ideas for legislative changes.

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<![CDATA[ Report: Brotherhood-Linked Group Killed Egyptians in 2017 ]]> Sat, 08 Dec 2018 15:26:13 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/493 By Steve Emerson, newsmax

A violent Brotherhood-affiliated group, the Hasm Movement, carried out several deadly attacks contributing to an overall increase in terrorism plaguing Egypt last year, according to the 2018 Global Terrorism Index report.

Deaths from terrorist attacks more than doubled in Egypt in 2017, as coded by the Global Terrorism Database (GTD). Wilayat Sinai, th Is's Sinai Peninsula affiliate, remains Egypt's deadliest group. Wilayat Sinai launched the deadliest attack in Egypt's history when 311 people were killed in November 2017 in a coordinated assault on the al-Rawda mosque.

IS in Egypt, which operates in the country's mainland and was responsible for 98 deaths in 2017, is the country's second-deadliest terror group. But beyond the IS affiliates, the next most lethal Egyptian terrorist group is the Brotherhood (MB) affiliate Hasm Movement. Hasm carried out seven attacks in 2017, resulting in 14 deaths.

While less lethal than IS affiliates in the country, the Hasm Movement is relatively nascent, only emerging in 2016.

In June 2017, it detonated an "anti-vehicle explosive device" in Cairo "which led to the destruction to the military vehicle and the killing of two officers," according to a Hasm Movement statement released shortly after that attack.

Intelligence collected last year by Egypt's interior ministry suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood is establishing "terrorist entities," including the Hasm Movement and others, to carry out attacks in an attempt to conceal the Brotherhood's responsibility.

In May, Najah Ibrahim, a former leader of the terrorist organization Gamma'a Islamiya, revealed that these terrorist offshoots consist of Brotherhood youth seeking to escalate violence against the Egyptian regime. Ibrahim told al-Hayat news that some Brotherhood leaders encouraged the terrorist groups to commit violence, according to an IPT translation.

Brotherhood figures also engage in violent incitement and encourage others to conduct terrorist attacks. In April 2017, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member, 'Izz Al-Din Dwedar, called for an "intifada" targeting Egyptian embassies around the world in protest of death sentences handed to members of the Brotherhood in Egypt at the time.

The terrorist group continues to pose a threat to Egyptian national security. Egyptian authorities foiled an alleged Hasm plot to attack during Egypt's presidential elections in March. The U.S. designated Hasm and Liwa al Thawra, another Brotherhood-linked group, as terrorist organizations in January.

.................................................................................

Steven Emerson is executive director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism. He was a correspondent for CNN and a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report.

 

 

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<![CDATA[ Sisi to participate in 'African young entrepreneurs' session ]]> Sat, 08 Dec 2018 14:20:10 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/492 President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is set to participate on Saturday in a session on the "young entrepreneurs in Africa", a preparatory session that will be held ahead of the official opening of the forum, slated for Sunday in Sharm el Sheikh.

According to a statement issued by the Presidential Spokesman Bassam Radi that today's session is aimed at supporting the potentials of the African youths in entrepreneurship and innovation domains.

President Sisi will deliver a speech on Egypt's vision towards backing and empowering the youth, the spokesman added.

The Rwandan president, chairperson of the African Union Commission and the secretary general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) will also take part in today's session along with senior African businessmen and heads of major companies operating in Africa, Radi noted.  

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<![CDATA[ African Leaders, Billionaires Converge In Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt For Business Forum ]]> Sat, 08 Dec 2018 14:12:01 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/491 By: Mfonobong Nsehe,U.S magazine of  Forbes

The 2018 Business for Africa forum kicks off in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt today. This year’s event will feature three programmes: events focusing on issues such as Infrastructure, Finance and Energy; a Young Entrepreneurs Day; and a high-powered meeting of influential African women who will discuss Women Empowering Africa. It will conclude with a Gala Dinner recognizing some outstanding African women and also celebrating Africa’s creative industries.

The two-day event will also feature a Presidential panel and high-level discussions. As Egypt looks to take over the chair of the African Union in 2019, President Abel Fattah Al Sisi will host two Roundtable discussions to help shape the African sector private sector agenda for the upcoming year as well as look to strengthen cross-border collaboration and investments. At least 5 African Heads of State and Government are attending the event, including President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda among others.

Some of the African business leaders expected to speak at the event include Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, Algeria’s richest man Issad Rebrab, Malagasy tycoon Ylias Akbaraly and Nigerian cement mogul Abdulsamad Rabiu.

Now in its third year, the 2018 Business for Africa forum is a platform for business owners to nurture new partnerships and meet investors. The forum will provide business owners with an opportunity to engage with African political leaders and policy makers on new ideas to improve business environment across the continent. There will also be a series of events for entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses to investors from within and outside Africa. More than 1,500 delegates from more than 40 countries are expected to attend the event.

The event is organized by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

The Africa 2018 Business Forum will under the high patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on 8th and 9th of December 2018 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and is organized by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

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<![CDATA[ African Leaders, Billionaires Converge In Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt For Business Forum ]]> Sat, 08 Dec 2018 14:12:01 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/490 By: Mfonobong Nsehe,U.S magazine of  Forbes

The 2018 Business for Africa forum kicks off in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt today. This year’s event will feature three programmes: events focusing on issues such as Infrastructure, Finance and Energy; a Young Entrepreneurs Day; and a high-powered meeting of influential African women who will discuss Women Empowering Africa. It will conclude with a Gala Dinner recognizing some outstanding African women and also celebrating Africa’s creative industries.

The two-day event will also feature a Presidential panel and high-level discussions. As Egypt looks to take over the chair of the African Union in 2019, President Abel Fattah Al Sisi will host two Roundtable discussions to help shape the African sector private sector agenda for the upcoming year as well as look to strengthen cross-border collaboration and investments. At least 5 African Heads of State and Government are attending the event, including President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda among others.

Some of the African business leaders expected to speak at the event include Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, Algeria’s richest man Issad Rebrab, Malagasy tycoon Ylias Akbaraly and Nigerian cement mogul Abdulsamad Rabiu.

Now in its third year, the 2018 Business for Africa forum is a platform for business owners to nurture new partnerships and meet investors. The forum will provide business owners with an opportunity to engage with African political leaders and policy makers on new ideas to improve business environment across the continent. There will also be a series of events for entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses to investors from within and outside Africa. More than 1,500 delegates from more than 40 countries are expected to attend the event.

The event is organized by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

The Africa 2018 Business Forum will under the high patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on 8th and 9th of December 2018 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and is organized by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

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<![CDATA[ African Leaders, Billionaires Converge In Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt For Business Forum ]]> Sat, 08 Dec 2018 14:12:00 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/489 By: Mfonobong Nsehe,U.S magazine of  Forbes

The 2018 Business for Africa forum kicks off in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt today. This year’s event will feature three programmes: events focusing on issues such as Infrastructure, Finance and Energy; a Young Entrepreneurs Day; and a high-powered meeting of influential African women who will discuss Women Empowering Africa. It will conclude with a Gala Dinner recognizing some outstanding African women and also celebrating Africa’s creative industries.

The two-day event will also feature a Presidential panel and high-level discussions. As Egypt looks to take over the chair of the African Union in 2019, President Abel Fattah Al Sisi will host two Roundtable discussions to help shape the African sector private sector agenda for the upcoming year as well as look to strengthen cross-border collaboration and investments. At least 5 African Heads of State and Government are attending the event, including President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda among others.

Some of the African business leaders expected to speak at the event include Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, Algeria’s richest man Issad Rebrab, Malagasy tycoon Ylias Akbaraly and Nigerian cement mogul Abdulsamad Rabiu.

Now in its third year, the 2018 Business for Africa forum is a platform for business owners to nurture new partnerships and meet investors. The forum will provide business owners with an opportunity to engage with African political leaders and policy makers on new ideas to improve business environment across the continent. There will also be a series of events for entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses to investors from within and outside Africa. More than 1,500 delegates from more than 40 countries are expected to attend the event.

The event is organized by Egypt’s Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation and by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

The Africa 2018 Business Forum will under the high patronage of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi on 8th and 9th of December 2018 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and is organized by the Ministry of Investment and International Cooperation of Egypt and the COMESA Regional Investment Agency (RIA).

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<![CDATA[ EDEX reveals Egypt’s value in the region, U.S charge d’Affaires ]]> Tue, 04 Dec 2018 13:54:52 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/488  The US mission to Egypt was keen to participate in the first International Egypt Defense Expo (EDEX) on Monday. The mission congratulated Egypt on its first military event where over forty American companies were given a warm welcome.

Many of the US exhibitors were represented by senior officials who came from the companies’ headquarters to participate in the event. American companies offer the most technologically advanced defense solutions in the world.

The official U.S. delegation attending EDEX includes U.S. Embassy Cairo Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Goldberger, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Defense Exports and Cooperation Ann Cataldo, Defense Security Cooperation Agency Principal Director Michele Hizon, Director of the Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center Stephen Renna, and Senior U.S. Defense Official in Egypt Major General Ralph Groover.

"We are proud to have strong American participation in this event and will continue to work with the Egyptian government and U.S. companies to see that Egypt has the tools it needs to ensure its security”, said Chargé d’Affaires Thomas Goldberger in press statements.

Goldberger added that EDEX reveals Egypt’s value in Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean sea, along with Egypt’s strong partnership with the US.

Goldberger said that more than forty American company participate in the event to showcase the most recent military weapons, represented by senior officials.

Goldberger asserted the strong ties between Cairo and Washington adding that the US government is seeking to broaden its cooperation with the Egyptian army.

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<![CDATA[ U.S., China agree trade war ceasefire after Trump, Xi summit ]]> Sun, 02 Dec 2018 14:52:04 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/487 China and the United States agreed to a ceasefire in their bitter trade war on Saturday after high-stakes talks in Argentina between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, including no escalated tariffs on Jan. 1.

Trump will leave tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports at 10 percent at the beginning of the new year, agreeing to not raise them to 25 percent “at this time”, the White House said in a statement.

“China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” it said.

“China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.”.. The two leaders also agreed to immediately start talks on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture, the White House said.

Both countries agreed they will try to have this “transaction” completed within the next 90 days, but if this does not happen then the 10 percent tariffs will be raised to 25 percent, it added.

The Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi, said the negotiations were conducted in a “friendly and candid atmosphere”.

“The two presidents agreed that the two sides can and must get bilateral relations right,” Wang told reporters, adding they agreed to further exchanges at appropriate times.

“Discussion on economic and trade issues was very positive and constructive. The two heads of state reached consensus to halt the mutual increase of new tariffs,” Wang said.

“China is willing to increase imports in accordance with the needs of its domestic market and the people’s needs, including marketable products from the United States, to gradually ease the imbalance in two-way trade.”

“The two sides agreed to mutually open their markets, and as China advances a new round of reforms, the United States’ legitimate concerns can be progressively resolved.”

The two sides would “step up negotiations” toward full elimination of all additional tariffs, Wang said. The announcements came after Trump and Xi sat down with their aides for a working dinner at the end of a two-day gathering of world leaders in Buenos Aires, their dispute having unnerved global financial markets and weighed on the world economy.

After the 2-1/2 hour meeting, White House chief economist Larry Kudlow told reporters the talks went “very well,” but offered no specifics as he boarded Air Force One headed home to Washington with Trump.

China’s goal was to persuade Trump to abandon plans to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent in January, from 10 percent at present. Trump had threatened to do that, and possibly add tariffs on $267 billion of imports, if there was no progress in the talks.

With the United States and China clashing over commerce, financial markets will take their lead from the results of the talks, widely seen as the most important meeting of U.S. and Chinese leaders in years.

The encounter came shortly after the Group of 20 industrialized nations backed an overhaul of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which regulates international trade disputes, marking a victory for Trump, a sharp critic of the organization.

Trump told Xi at the start of their meeting he hoped they would achieve “something great” on trade for both countries. He struck a positive note as he sat across from Xi, despite the U.S. president’s earlier threats to impose new tariffs on Chinese imports as early as the next year.

He suggested that the “incredible relationship” he and Xi had established would be “the very primary reason” they could make progress on trade.

Xi told Trump that only through cooperation could the United States and China serve the interest of peace and prosperity. Washington and Beijing have also increasingly been at odds over security in the Asia-Pacific region.

At the same time, Trump again raised with Xi his concern about the synthetic opioid fentanyl being sent from China to the United States, urging the Chinese leader to place it in a “restricted category” of drugs that would criminalize it.

The White House said Xi, “in a wonderful humanitarian gesture”, had agreed to designate fentanyl a controlled substance.

Xi also said that he was open to approving the previously unapproved Qualcomm-NXP deal should it again be presented to him, the White House added.

“This was an amazing and productive meeting with unlimited possibilities for both the United States and China. It is my great honor to be working with President Xi,” Trump said in the statement.

Earlier on Saturday, the leaders of the world’s top economies called for WTO reform in their final summit statement. Officials expressed relief that agreement on the communique was reached after negotiators worked through the night to overcome differences over language on climate change.

The final text recognized trade as an important engine of global growth but made only a passing reference to “the current trade issues” after the U.S. delegation won a battle to keep any mention of protectionism out of the statement.

Trump has long railed against China’s trade surplus with the United States, and Washington accuses Beijing of not playing fairly on trade. China calls the United States protectionist and has resisted what it views as attempts to intimidate it.

The two countries are also at odds over China’s extensive claims in the South China Sea and U.S. warship movements through the highly sensitive Taiwan Strait.

In addition to tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the United States this year. Numerous countries have filed litigation at the WTO to contest the levies.

The United States is unhappy with what it says is the WTO’s failure to hold China to account for not opening up its economy as envisioned when China joined the body in 2001. The European Union is also pushing for sweeping changes to how the WTO operates.

G20 delegates said negotiations on the summit statement proceeded more smoothly than at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders two weeks ago, where disagreement on protectionism and unfair trading practices prevented a consensus.

European officials said a reference to refugees and migration - a sensitive issue for Trump’s administration - was excised to ensure consensus.

On climate change, the United States once again marked its differences with the rest of the G20 by reiterating in the statement its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and its commitment to using all kinds of energy sources. The other members of the group reaffirmed their commitment to implement the Paris deal and tackle climate change.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde said high levels of debt accumulated by emerging market nations was a pressing concern.

U.S. officials said a call by G20 leaders for the IMF and World Bank to improve monitoring debt levels was aimed at ensuring that developing economies did not become to heavily indebted to China in return for infrastructure projects.

U.S. officials have warned about China’s increasing influence across swaths of the developing world, including Latin America. G20 summit host Argentina is expected to sign a series of deals with China on Sunday during a one-day state visit by Xi.

Apart from trade and climate change, Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian vessels drew condemnation from other G20 members.

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<![CDATA[ France ready for state of emergency - minister ]]> Sun, 02 Dec 2018 14:33:51 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/486 French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he is ready to explore all possibilities, including declaring a state of emergency.

"I have no taboo, I'm ready to explore all possibilities," said Castaner in statements to France 24 Channel.

The state of emergency was called for Saturday night by the Alliance police union and suggested by the union of police commissioners (NPC).

The minister compared the perpetrators of violence that occurred Saturday in the capital to "factious, seditious". "We identified about 3,000 people who were in Paris and committed degradations, "which actually made it much more difficult for law enforcement to intervene," the minister said.

"All the means of the police, gendarmerie, civil protection were mobilized today" in Paris and regions, said Christophe Castaner, noting that 4,600 police and gendarmes were mobilized in the capital.

This is the third straight weekend of clashes in Paris involving activists dressed in the fluorescent yellow vests of a new protest movement and the worst urban violence since at least 2005.

The scene contrasted sharply with other protests in France, where demonstrations and road blockades elsewhere were largely peaceful Saturday.

The violence is Macron’s biggest challenge so far as president that erupted following fuel tax rises. France’s failure to quell the anger has led to copycat yellow jacket movements in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

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<![CDATA[ Egyptian, French navies carry out joint-military exercise at Red Sea bas ]]> Sun, 02 Dec 2018 14:26:25 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/485 The Egyptian and French navies conducted an exercise at the Red Sea base, with the French vessel, Courbet, taking part. A group of Egyptian and French vessels participated in an extensive training aiming to boost cooperation between both armed forces, master the latest systems and techniques of naval warfare as well as maximize the mutual benefits for the armies of both countries.

The training includes the implementation of many activities such as the use of modern tactics to counter threats against maritime security, fight terrorism and protect vital targets against non-traditional security threats.

The joint naval exercise also comprises advanced training on formations for sailing during day and night, while demonstrating the ability of participating naval units to take positions with a high degree of accuracy and speed.

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<![CDATA[ Trump proposes ‘worldwide network’ to counter CNN overseas ]]> Wed, 28 Nov 2018 14:54:23 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/484 US President Donald Trump is raising the possibility of starting “our own Worldwide Network” to counter news spread internationally by CNN. Trump said via Twitter on Monday that CNN “has a powerful voice portraying the United States in an unfair and false way. Something has to be done.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what he meant. The US government already operates Voice of America, which last year reached some 275 million people worldwide with news reports from the United States available on television, radio, online and social media.

CNN had no immediate comment about the new criticism by the president. The president has frequently criticized CNN and its reporters. His administration recently backed down from its effort to ban reporter Jim Acosta from the White House.

It wasn’t known why he was focusing on CNN’s worldwide reach. CNN International is the most widely distributed television news network overseas, with BBC World News second.

Trump said he wanted a worldwide network “to show the World the way we really are. GREAT!”

The president’s favorite news network, Fox News Channel, is available in nearly 100 countries, although not distributed as widely as CNN. The president has complained about being in hotel rooms abroad and having no alternative to CNN.

Voice of America, which began operating during World War II, is also determined to show the United States as it really is, but not through the prism of any particular political leader.

The agency’s charter, signed into law in 1976, says VOA “will represent America, not any single segment of American society, and will therefore present a balanced and comprehensive projection of significant American thought and  institutions.” Voice of America had no comment on the president’s tweet.

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<![CDATA[ Egypt launches first international oil and gas exploration bid in ]]> Wed, 28 Nov 2018 14:44:54 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/483 Egypt will launch the first international tender for oil and gas exploration in the Red Sea next month, a petroleum official has said. The government is now conducting a seismic study off the country's eastern coast to identify areas of prospective resources, Mohamed Abdel-Azim, head of the state-owned South Valley Egyptian Petroleum Holding Company, was quoted as saying by state news agency MENA.

The company has been working with US firm Schlumberger to carry out 2D seismic surveys of more than 10,000 square kilometres in Egypt's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Red Sea, he added.

A maritime demarcation accord signed with Saudi Arabia in 2016 has allowed the country to embark on oil and gas exploration for the first time in the Red Sea. Petroleum Minister Tarek El-Molla said the region, except for the Gulf of Suez, had remained "untouched" by exploration.

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<![CDATA[ Brexit deal: which obstacles await May in parliament? ]]> Mon, 26 Nov 2018 15:06:47 EET http://en.theinternational.club/news/482 If Theresa May is to get her Brexit deal through parliament, these are the groups she will have to convince:

Diehard Brexiter Conservative MPs

They were always going to be the trickiest group to pick off, and amid significantly varying estimates of their numbers – anything from fewer than 40 to 80-plus – May knew some rebellion was inevitable over any deal she was likely to bring back.

The trick was always going to be to reduce the size of the rebellion, and hope MPs from other parties could fill the gap.

May’s task has been made all the trickier since the European Research Group (ERG) of strongly pro-Brexit Tory MPs moved from campaigning against her Brexit plans to actively seeking to depose her as prime minister.

Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG has urged Tory MPs to send letters of no confidence in May in sufficient quantities to trigger a leadership challenge and, they hope, replace her with a more Brexit-committed prime minister.

The bad news for May is that if an MP has called publicly for you to go it is hard to see any realistic tweak to the Brexit plan that would get them back on side.

The much better news for her is that the attempted coup has revealed how relatively weak the ERG is, the attempt fizzling out when not enough MPs heeded its call to reach the 48 letters needed.

That arguably takes May back to where she was at the start – having to factor in a relatively small if influential group of irreconcilables into her Commons mathematics.

Other Tory MPs

It is arguably a bit misleading to lump together all the non-ERGers, as their Brexit sympathies range from the broadly supportive, to diehard remainers such as Anna Soubry, who would most likely oppose any departure deal.

As such, May has to once again present her Brexit plans as different things to different people, playing off each group’s aspirations and fears as best she can. A big part of this is likely to be based on using the vagueness of the political declaration on a future trading relationship as something on to which people can project their own ideas as to how it might play out.

For the more centrist Tories, May’s pitch will be her standard one: this is the only deal in town; it delivers the basics of what leavers voted for; block it and you risk all manner of chaos, from a leadership challenge to a general election or a no-deal departure.

When addressing her remain-minded MPs, May will seek to play up the softer elements of the deal, such as continued alignment with the EU, as well as raise fears over what she will pitch as the alternative: no deal.

She could face an obstacle in this respect if some remainer Tories decide they might welcome the chaos of a rejected deal, seeing it as a way to potentially bring about a second referendum.

DUP

May and her negotiators have spent many hours, days and weeks over the past year and a half trying to placate the party she relies on for her majority. But it appears to have been to no avail. The DUP’s position has been hardening from the moment the 585-page withdrawal agreement, containing the Irish backstop, dropped this month.

The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said explicitly on Saturday that her party intended to vote against the deal, not just abstain.

Tory whips will no doubt stress the limited, “de-dramatised” nature of border checks and insist Stormont, as and when it gets up and running, will have some say in how EU rules are implemented in Northern Ireland if the backstop is invoked.

Downing Street’s strongest argument is that both sides have committed to pressing ahead with trade talks in the new year in the hope the backstop will never be needed; but the DUP does not appear to be in the mood to be persuaded. Its 10 MPs seem to be beyond May’s reach.

Labour MPs

Earlier in the autumn, Conservative whips were confident May’s deal would scrape through parliament with the help of a dozen or more Labour rebels – perhaps up to 30.

As well as a small core of openly pro-Brexit MPs, such as Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer, they hoped a swath of others from leave constituencies would back the deal rather than appear to be “blocking Brexit”; and a third group of centrists would support the government, rather than risk the economic disruption of no deal.

However, the newly rehabilitated cabinet minister Amber Rudd said last week she did not believe parliament would allow no deal to happen and Labour plans to table amendments to the meaningful vote to make it impossible.

Taking it off the table would give wavering MPs a free pass, without the fear of unleashing chaos; and many of those centrists that Tory whips were targeting are now shooting for a second referendum.

Perhaps more importantly, some of those Labour MPs who had been most wary of rejecting the prime minister’s deal, including Wigan’s Lisa Nandy and Gareth Snell in Stoke Central, have now suggested they will not vote for it.

Nandy highlighted the vague nature of the 26-page political declaration; other MPs in leave seats say they are hearing on the doorstep that even Brexit voters are not enthusiastic. Even Hoey appears likely to join Labour in the no lobby.

The public

As with her own MPs, May has to accept any PR pitch is to an extent a damage-limitation exercise, with significant percentages of the population never likely to be reconciled to her plans, not least the 700,000 or so people who marched in favour of a second referendum.

The government is certainly thinking hard about how to put out the message that May’s deal is both inevitable and the only grown-up conclusion to 29 months of post-referendum arguments.

This month a leaked memo supposedly setting out a sales pitch to the nation – dismissed as unofficial by Downing Street – laid out a schedule in which business leaders and foreign dignitaries were teed up to endorse May’s proposals.

As with all the PM’s current Brexit sales pitches, the tone looks likely to be somewhat less elegiac than the sunlight uplands of unfettered prosperity set out by some leave campaigners, with the main message likely to be: this deal isn’t too bad, let’s get it over with.

To an extent, this sense of ennui might be May’s greatest asset in selling her plan to the nation.

Speaking on Sunday, her foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, spoke of what he said were a significant group in Brexit Britain: those he termed the “Bobs” – people “bored of Brexit”. These are the people who might just accept May’s proposal because it finally brings the process to an end.

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