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Greek Prime Minister Says Turkey-Libya Deal Is Unacceptable and Illegal

Greek Prime Minister Says Turkey-Libya Deal Is Unacceptable and Illegal(Bloomberg) — Turkey’s maritime border agreement with Libya is unacceptable and illegal, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, amid growing tension in the eastern Mediterranean.“Turkey has been difficult to deal with,” Mitsotakis said in an interview with Bloomberg in Davos Thursday. “There’s a constant state of provocation, which leads Turkey nowhere.”The premier, who’s focused on bringing the country back from a crippling economic crisis since he took office in July, has been waylaid by smoldering geopolitical tensions in the east Mediterranean.Long-contentious relations with neighboring Turkey soured further in November when Ankara signed a maritime agreement with Libya in a bid to solidify claims to waters off the coast of Greece and Cyprus.“We don’t need Turkey’s permission,” to be able to supply Europe with Cypriot, Israeli or potential Greek gas, Mitsotakis said earlier in Davos. The pact signed by Libya and Turkey has an impact for the planned EastMed pipeline project, he said.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now threatening to start drilling for natural gas in the maritime area Greece claims as its own under international law.Libyan Commander Khalifa Haftar’s visit to Athens last week ahead of a summit in Berlin only raised the stakes, with Turkey accusing Greece of sabotaging the Libya peace process.\–With assistance from Sotiris Nikas.To contact the reporter on this story: Eleni Chrepa in Athens at echrepa@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Sotiris Nikas at snikas@bloomberg.net, Jerrold Colten, Paul TugwellFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.



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Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visits

Ukraine to press for plane crash black boxes as Iran minister visitsUkraine will press Iran to hand over the black boxes from the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane at a meeting with a visiting Iranian delegation on Monday, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told reporters. Ukraine would convey the message to visiting Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslami, that returning the black boxes would show that Iran wanted an unbiased investigation of the crash, Prystaiko said. Iran had said on Sunday it was trying to analyze the black boxes from the airliner its military shot down this month, denying an earlier report it would hand them to Ukraine.



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Did Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Drop a Grim Hint About Putin’s Latest Power Grab?

Did Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Drop a Grim Hint About Putin’s Latest Power Grab?At a celebration of the Russian Orthodox New Year on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev chose a grim message, the sarcasm of which left his audience on edge. But, then, Medvedev probably knew what Wednesday would bring—the resignation of his entire government—and the audience did not.Putin’s Power Play: Shuffle the Cabinet But Keep CommandOn national television, the prime minister read at length from Anton Chekhov’s story "A Night in the Cemetery," which suggests with ironic wit that celebrating the coming of the New Year is a foolish pursuit, unworthy of a properly functioning mind, since “every coming year is as bad as the previous one,” and the newest year is bound to be even worse. Instead of celebrating the New Year, Chekhov wrote—and Medvedev read—one should suffer, cry and attempt suicide. Every new year brings you closer to death, makes you poorer, your bald spots larger and your wife older, he said.Medvedev’s sour greetings brought on some awkward laughs and sparse applause from confused Russian bureaucrats in the studio audience, most of whom remained stone-faced. The prime minister seemed nervous and almost dropped his papers at the end of the speech.Then Wednesday dawned, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual state of the nation address proposed a constitutional overhaul. It supposedly is designed to boost the powers of parliament and the cabinet, but more likely is intended to give Putin, 67, a firm grip on the country for many more years, even decades, to come. A few hours later, Medvedev submitted his resignation, and his entire cabinet submitted theirs as well. And while some of them may stay on, Medvedev, who once served a term as Putin's placeholder president, will move to a previously nonexistent post.Putin offered the prime minister slot to Mikhail Mishustin, the head of the Russian Tax Service, who has been described as “the taxman of the future,” digitally acquiring receipts of every transaction in Russia within 90 seconds. It's unclear whether Mishustin will be a placeholder technocrat or assume other responsibilities currently known only to Putin. But in his annual address, Putin articulated the need to identify any persons with current or former double citizenships and foreign holdings, eliminating them from government service. Mishustin might become instrumental in such a reshuffling of Russia’s power elites, who are perceived to be unpatriotic by maintaining residences or bank accounts abroad. The added pressure will also give Putin further leverage over them. In the past, Putin and Medvedev have choreographed moves that allowed Putin to remain in charge under different titles, swapping places to circumvent term limits.This time around, Medvedev will assume a newly created position as the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council and all current ministers will remain in an acting capacity until a new government is appointed.Meanwhile, the leader of Chechnya in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, Ramzan Kadyrov has declared himself to be “temporarily incapacitated,” relegating his duties to the current prime minister of Chechnya, Muslim Khuchiyev.Putin’s sweeping changes are widely interpreted as designed to weaken his successor, reshaping Russia’s power structure in order to create additional opportunities for Putin's continued control over the government, even after the conclusion of his fourth presidential term in 2024. Putin proposed amending the Russian constitution to expand the powers of the legislative branch and investing additional powers in the State Council, leading to speculation Putin is contemplating his future return at the helm of a newly empowered Parliament, after the expiration of his current presidential term.Commentary on the Russian president’s likely intention to carve out a new position for himself has been skillfully avoided by the Russian state media. Instead, Kremlin-controlled news outlets chose to focus on promised subsidies for families with young children, designed to address Russia’s demographic crisis by boosting the birth rate, and the general claim that Putin has, as it were, made Russia great again.On the Russian state television show, The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, the host proclaimed, “The greatness of the country is indisputably tied to the name of Putin.” Soloviev argued that the Russian president “restored respect” towards their country globally. His take was echoed by the State Duma Deputy Chair Irina Yarovaya, who pontificated that Putin, having achieved his foreign policy and national security objectives, could now move on to his domestic agenda. Yarovaya said, “We remember statements by [U.S. President Barack Obama] in 2014—very recently—that Russia is a regional power of minor importance. We remember all of that. We remember how the sanctions started. We remember how we weren’t invited to the G8. And today there is a line of world leaders waiting just to talk to our president over the phone…”The sanctions started and Russia was disinvited after it seized and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, then incited and abetted a separatist war in Ukraine's east. They were intensified after Russia's flagrant interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.Russian state media also highlight Putin’s promises of socioeconomic largesse and his prediction that “Russia's economy will grow faster than the global average in 2021.” During the last decade, the Russian leader has promised in vain that Russia will become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2024. It is currently ranked as the 11th largest economy in the world, with a smaller GDP than that of California. President Putin’s current growth prediction is much more modest. It’s still not realistic, but such promises had to be made as Russia’s declining standards of living have led to political unrest and mass protests.Without providing any direct answers as to his own plans, the Russian leader—who has now been in power for 20 years—created new venues for his continued reign in yet-to-be-revealed future capacities.Amid all the uncertainties, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that Medvedev was reading Chekhov’s story about a blind drunk civil servant who stumbles out of a New Year’s celebration only to get lost in a graveyard—and then discovers in the morning he was somewhere else entirely.Russia Loves the Impeachment Hearings Because GOP Is Parroting Kremlin PropagandaRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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A Japanese minister is being slammed for taking 2 weeks of paternity leave, highlighting the country's toxic overwork culture

A Japanese minister is being slammed for taking 2 weeks of paternity leave, highlighting the country's toxic overwork cultureEnvironmental Minister Shinjiro Koizumi says he wants to encourage other men to do the same. Only 6% of Japanese male workers take paternity leave.



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Australia fires: Minister says up to 30 per cent of koalas may have been lost in bushfire crisis

Australia fires: Minister says up to 30 per cent of koalas may have been lost in bushfire crisisOne of Australia’s most famous animals is now a threatened species, with the country’s bushfire crisis wiping out huge numbers of koalas. Sussan Ley, the environment minister said Friday that the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, home to a sizeable part of Australia’s koala population, may have lost 30 per cent of its koalas. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Ms Ley said 30 per cent of koala habitat had been destroyed in the region.  She added: “We will know more when the fires are calmed down and a proper assessment can be made”. Before the fire crisis began it was estimated that up to 28,000 koalas lived in the Mid North Coast. Eight people have died in New South Wales alone, and about 3.4million hectares and almost 1,000 homes have been lost to the long-running bushfire crisis. Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia have also faced large, emergency-level fires this fire season. Australian wildfire status Early on Friday the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) issued a “very high fire danger rating” for many parts of the state. In a statement, the RFS said there were “almost 1,300 firefighters in the field. Over 70 bush and grass fires, 33 uncontained”. Late in the day, it warned that Saturday would see “widespread very high fire danger”. South Australia’s Country Fire Service (CFS) assistant chief officer Brenton Eden told The Advertiser that the state is extremely dry and the conditions and coming heatwave poses a serious threat. “We are seeing fire behaviour across SA, Victoria and NSW that we haven’t seen and experienced for a long time… These fires are now travelling immense distances and covering an enormous amount of the landscape before people are prepared either to defend their property or to get out,” he said. “Cudlee Creek has been the most classic example recently, together with Yorketown, of fires that have started from a very small ignition source… The CFS responded within minutes to them and had no capacity to bring them under control.” Mr Eden warned that the two fires that have burnt through a total of 42,300 hectares of land at Cudlee Creek in the Adelaide Hills, and in Duncan, on Kangaroo Island, would continue to burn for weeks. “It’s tinder dry and ready to burn and that’s what we’re seeing at the moment,” he said. As the crisis continues there is renewed pressure on Scott Morrison, the prime minister, to reform Australia’s firefighting services and infrastructure. Weeks after he rejected calls to transform Australia’s largely volunteer bush firefighting services into professional organisations, one of Mr Morrison’s own senior Ministers has called for change. As three large fires raged in his electorate of Gippsland, Victoria, Veterans' Affairs Minister and Nationals MP Darren Chester said this week that there is strong support among his constituents to pay volunteers when they worked for extended periods.  Veteran NSW fire fighter Brendan Hurley, writing for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, said: “I've been a firefighter for 20 years and these fires have delivered the worst conditions I've ever faced. We have been responding to bushfires since the end of September and it is fair to say that as we move further into the campaign fatigue is setting in.” And one week after the uproar over Mr Morrison's Hawaiian holiday, New South Wales Emergency Services Minister David Elliott is leaving the country for a trip to the UK and France. His office said the Minister would not cancel his trip, but in a statement Mr Elliott said he would return home, “if the bushfire situation should demand it”. Mr Morrison’s Liberal Party is also in power at a state level in New South Wales.



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Iraq president rejects Iran-backed prime minister nominee

Iraq president rejects Iran-backed prime minister nomineeIraq’s president refused on Thursday to designate a prime minister candidate nominated by the Iran-backed parliamentary bloc, plunging the country into further political uncertainty amid nearly three months of unprecedented mass protests. Al-Eidani’s name was proposed on Wednesday by the Fatah bloc, which includes leaders associated with the Iran-supported paramilitary Popular Mobilization Forces. Demonstrators first took to the streets on Oct. 1 to call for the overthrow of Iraq’s entire political class over corruption and mismanagement.



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Brazil’s environment minister ridicules climate talks with image of steak dinner

Brazil’s environment minister ridicules climate talks with image of steak dinnerBrazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles has taunted COP25 climate talks with a photo of a large steak after President Jair Bolsonaro dismissed them as a “commercial game”.Mr Salles tweeted the photo with the caption: “To compensate for our emissions at COP, a vegetarian lunch!”



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Russian Foreign Minister to Visit Washington for Talks Tuesday

Russian Foreign Minister to Visit Washington for Talks Tuesday(Bloomberg) — Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will host his Russian counterpart in Washington Tuesday for Sergei Lavrov’s first visit to the U.S. capital since a trip in 2017 set off a storm of criticism.Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced the plans Monday. Lavrov is also expected to meet with President Donald Trump, state-run Tass news agency reported, citing an unnamed person in the Foreign Ministry. In May, Pompeo and Lavrov met in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, when the top U.S. diplomat also held talks with President Vladimir Putin.While Pompeo called those talks “very productive,” relations between the countries remain at the lowest point since the Cold War. Trump called again for closer ties with Russia while at a NATO summit in London last week, highlighting the possibility of reaching a deal to extend the New Start nuclear-arms-control agreement, which expires in 2021.“With respect to nuclear weapons, I’ve spoken to President Putin and I’ve communicated with him,” Trump said. “We are — he very much wants to and so do we — work out a treaty of some kind on nuclear weapons.”Arms TreatyThe visit comes as Trump is facing an impeachment investigation that turns in part on his embrace of a theory that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. Lavrov arrives a day after the Justice Department’s inspector general is to release the results of a probe on Russia’s 2016 meddling.Russia has criticized U.S. plans to keep troops in Syria and warned that time is running out to extend the New Start agreement.“It’s hard to say what the rush is” for the Lavrov meeting, said Vladimir Frolov, a former Russian diplomat and foreign policy analyst. “The only thing would be to get the negotiations started on extending” the New Start agreement, he said.Lavrov’s last trip to Washington, in May 2017, included talks with Trump in the Oval Office and drew attacks amid reports that Trump had provided his Russian guest with sensitive intelligence information.Tuesday’s meeting comes a day after Putin meets in Paris with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for talks on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.Trump has also said he’s considering Putin’s invitation to come to the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II on May 9 in Moscow.(Updates with possible Trump meeting in second paragraph)To contact the reporter on this story: Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at skravchenko@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory L. White at gwhite64@bloomberg.net, Tony HalpinFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Exclusive: Iran intervenes to prevent ousting of Iraqi prime minister – sources

Exclusive: Iran intervenes to prevent ousting of Iraqi prime minister - sourcesIran has stepped in to prevent the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi by two of Iraq’s most influential figures amid weeks of anti-government demonstrations, sources close to both men told Reuters. Populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demanded this week that Abdul Mahdi call an early election to quell the biggest mass protests in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.



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Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn? The Markets Say No

Prime Minister Jeremy Corbyn? The Markets Say No(Bloomberg Opinion) — At last we have a date for the inevitable U.K. general election, or at least a range of probable dates: Dec. 9 to Dec. 12. The opposition Labour Party has agreed to back the ruling Conservative Party’s legislation for an early election, which will be put to Parliament on Tuesday. The pound’s instant reaction was to strengthen versus the dollar, a somewhat surprising response to would will be a fevered six weeks of opinion polls and uncertainty (assuming there are no last-minute changes of heart from Labour lawmakers). The fracturing of British politics along Brexiter and non-Brexiter lines makes elections fiendishly difficult to predict and voter polling hard to trust. But it’s the overriding expectation of currency traders that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s championing of Brexit will win him a majority.Recent polls have shown a consistent lead for his party over Labour of 10%-15% or more, which would probably be enough to secure victory. In that event he would return to Parliament with his Brexit deal early next year and pass it without fear of significant alteration. Even that sniff of some kind of resolution to the three-year Brexit saga is enough to cheer some sterling bulls. Of course, politics is never without risk. Johnson will look at his predecessor Theresa May’s last campaign, where her initial poll lead of 18% evaporated to 2%, resulting in a hung parliament and the current Brexit impasse. But Johnson is a better campaigner. At the same time, such are the depths of Corbyn’s unpopularity that even a defeat for Johnson would probably mean victory for some kind of second referendum-supporting coalition of Labour, the centrist Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National party. That would naturally water down many of the hard left policies supported by Corbyn that have so bothered investors, such as nationalizations and wealth redistribution.While fears of a no-deal Brexit have tended to dominate headlines, the prospect of a Corbyn government has always been a bigger negative for the pound. The threat of no deal is now pretty much eradicated, as the Conservatives will campaign on bringing forward Johnson’s deal with the European Union. The Corbyn threat looks much diminished too. So overall there’s less downside risk for sterling.It will be a bumpy road up to Britain’s first December election for nearly a century, but if Johnson keeps his nose in front then the pound should continue to slowly appreciate.Just remember that the U.K. and the global economy aren’t in a strong place so any post-election or Brexit bounce is going to be tempered, especially as 2020 will be the year of negotiating a future trade deal with the EU — a thorny prospect. There’s still the very slight danger of the U.K. exiting without a deal under World Trade Organization trade terms at the end of the current planned transition period in just over 14 months time. If it happens, traders are right to welcome this election, without getting carried away.To contact the author of this story: Marcus Ashworth at mashworth4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Marcus Ashworth is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering European markets. He spent three decades in the banking industry, most recently as chief markets strategist at Haitong Securities in London.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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