EU adds Saudi Arabia to list of nations considered hotbeds of terrorist financing

The European Commission has included Saudi Arabia in a list of nations seen as threats because of their unwillingness — or inability — to crack down on terrorism financing and money laundering. The US has condemned the list.

Riyadh is part of a blacklist comprised of 23 nations in total, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Panama, and even US territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The proposal awaits approval by the European Parliament and the 28 member states, with opposition against the list voiced by France and the UK.

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The Saudis have long been accused of directly and indirectly supporting jihadists and terrorist organizations operating across the globe. In the United States, Riyadh has faced accusations of having ties with the Saudi nationals suspected of carrying out the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The US Treasury Department has condemned the list. In a statement, the Treasury claimed that the EU included the states on a "cursory" basis, and did not give them adequate time to challenge their inclusion. The Treasury said it does not expect US financial institutions to take the list into account when implementing their own anti-money laundering and terrorist financing policies.

EU-Saudi relations have deteriorated following the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. In recent months, Denmark, Norway, and Germany have suspended arms exports to Riyadh, citing the country’s troubling human rights record and its bloody war against the Houthis in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s top military spenders – and the largest buyer of US-made weapons. In contrast to Washington’s European allies, US President Donald Trump has remained unapologetic about his country’s lucrative relationship with Riyadh.

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However, a CNN report revealed this month that much of the “beautiful military equipment” that Trump sold to the Saudis ended up in the hands of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen – an eyebrow-raising realization that may have even contributed to the EU’s decision to place Saudi Arabia on its blacklist.

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EU will dissolve like Soviet Union unless Europeans ‘wake up’, George Soros warns

The “sleeping pro-Europe majority” must “wake up” before the EU goes the way of the Soviet Union, billionaire George Soros has warned, adding that Europe’s political parties must give the bloc’s interests first priority.

Pro-EU political parties must rally support ahead of crucial European Parliament elections in May, the Hungarian-American businessman and controversial influencer wrote in an op-ed published by Project Syndicate.

The bloc is “sleepwalking into oblivion” and could soon meet the same end as the Soviet Union, Soros prophesized. In order to avoid catastrophe, he argued, right-minded political parties must resist the lure of EU skepticism sweeping across the continent and “put Europe’s interests ahead of their own.” He chastised Germany’s ruling coalition for not being adequately pro-EU out of fear of losing votes to the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), while praising the German Greens for being “the only consistently pro-European party in the country.”

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The outspoken opponent of Brexit suggested that it wasn’t too late for the UK to hold another referendum, “or, even better, for revoking Britain’s Article 50 notification” – advocacy which appears to clash with Soros’ self-declared affinity for democracy. In the UK, the billionaire has been sharply criticized for forking over £800,000 (US$1,062,000) to pro-EU campaigns, including £400,000 to Best for Britain, a campaign group that has been at the forefront of anti-Brexit activism.

On the topic of Italy, Soros chided the EU for “strictly enforcing” an agreement “which unfairly burdens countries like Italy where migrants first enter the EU.” As a result, the massive influx of migrants into Europe has transformed the once pro-EU Italy into a bastion of populism, Soros lamented.

Curiously, he failed to mention that he is a leading champion of the EU’s open-door migrant policy – a policy which is directly responsible for Italy being swamped with asylum seekers.

Addressing Soros’ arch-nemesis – the Hungarian government under Prime Minister Viktor Orban – the billionaire businessman said that trans-European alliances must show more backbone and not be “dictated by party leaders’ self-interest.”

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He argued that the European People’s Party (EPP) is “the worst offender” in this regard because it continues to grant membership to Orban’s Fidesz party, allegedly “in order to preserve its majority and control the allocation of top jobs in the EU.”

Soros has been repeatedly accused by Orban of using his wealth to push pro-migrant policies on conservative, anti-immigration Hungary and much of the Western world.

“Soros has antagonized not only us but also England, President Trump, and Israel too,” Orban said in February. “Everywhere he wants to get migration accepted. It won’t work. We are not alone and we will fight together… and we will succeed.”

Hungary has even passed a Stop Soros Law, aimed at punishing those who provide assistance to migrants trying to illegally enter the central European country.

If Europe’s political leaders fail to stamp out the rise of populist political parties within the bloc, “the dream of a united Europe could become the nightmare of the 21st century,” Soros wrote in closing. Sadly, Soros doesn’t elaborate on why he believes the democratic will of Europeans poses such a fearsome threat to his grand vision for a “united” Europe.

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Italy vetoed EU recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido – M5S source to RT

Rome has effectively derailed an EU statement meant to recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader if President Nicolas Maduro fails to set up snap elections, a Five Star Movement source confirmed to RT.

Italy announced the veto at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers that started on January 31 in Romania, the source said. The statement, which was supposed to be delivered by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini recognized Guaido as interim president if snap elections were not held.

The European Parliament is the first European body to recognize Guaido “as the only legitimate interim president of the country until new free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be called in order to restore democracy.”

The parliament urged the EU to follow suit but the effort stalled due to internal discord. A range of European nations have separately recognized the opposition chief as Venezuela’s acting president, including the UK, France, Sweden, Spain, and Austria. The coordinated move came after an eight-day deadline for Maduro to call presidential elections expired on Monday.

The US announced that it is backing the new interim leader and pledged their full support immediately after what has been labeled “a coup” by officials in Caracas. However Russia, China, Turkey and Iran said they see Maduro as the only legitimate leader, warning against meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.

Maduro himself rejected the EU ultimatum but promised to push for political reform. He suggested that parliamentary elections be held earlier than 2020, arguing that the National Assembly – a legislative body dominated by the opposition and headed by Guaido – needs to be “re-legitimized.”

Following the announcement, Venezuela witnessed massive rallies, both for and against Maduro. Some of the country’s high-ranking officials, including a defense attaché in the US, voiced their support for Guaido, but the majority remained loyal to Maduro, including the army.

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Political turmoil escalated in Venezuela after a plummeting economy led to skyrocketing prices, and management flaws left most of its population in poverty.

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Moscow slams EU’s ‘arbitrary’ chemical-weapons sanctions, threatens to retaliate

Russia has threatened to respond to “freshly invented” punitive measures imposed by the EU over the Skripal poisoning. Moscow says it’s an arbitrary punishment that disrespects established non-proliferation norms.

The accusations that gave rise to the sanctions “don’t stand up to criticism,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We reserve the right to retaliatory measures in response to this unfriendly act.”

On Monday, Brussels used its new powers against four Russian nationals over the March 2018 poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK.

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Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (named in the sanctions ruling as Russian intelligence agents Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga) were subjected to a European asset freeze and a travel ban, along with Igor Kostyukov, the head of Russia’s main intelligence directorate (the GRU), and his deputy, Vladimir Alekseyev.

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The EU also sanctioned five Syrians who it claims were involved in the Damascus government’s chemical-weapons program.

“It’s notable that among the first subjects to be added to the EU’s ‘chemical’ restrictions list are citizens of Russia and Syria – two countries that (unlike, for example, the US) have ensured the complete destruction of their chemical weapons arsenals under OPCW control,” said the Foreign Ministry.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripal poisoning and offered to help with the investigation. London has not provided any conclusive proof of Russian involvement.

The EU Council adopted a new regime of restrictive measures on October 15, 2018. Under the new regulations, the EU reserves the right to sanction persons and entities it deems to be involved in the development and use of chemical weapons, without seeking the opinion of the UN Security Council.

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Text for post-Brexit ties between EU & UK ‘agreed in principal’ – Tusk

Britain and the EU have agreed on the text of the Brexit deal “in principle at a political level,” President of the European Council, Donald Tusk announced on Thursday.

EU leaders have agreed on the Brexit draft “at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level,” Tusk wrote on Twitter, citing a message which he had received earlier from the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

I have just sent to EU27 a draft Political Declaration on the Future Relationship between EU and UK. The Commission President has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level, subject to the endorsement of the Leaders.

The text was discussed by Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday. The draft of the divorce deal was then sent to the 27 other EU states.

The draft of the British-EU post-Brexit relations, obtained by Reuters, envisions“wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership,” including “a free trade area as well as wider sectoral cooperation.”

Parties agreed on building “a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible,” while Britain and the EU will “retain their autonomy and the ability to regulate economic activity.”

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May during a news conference at Downing Street in London, November 15, 2018.  

The deal is expected to be signed at a special EU summit on Sunday.

Lengthy and tense Brexit negotiations led to several rifts within the British government. May’s cabinet was thrown in disarray last week after several high-profile ministers resigned, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Minister of State for Northern Ireland Shailesh Vara. They left their posts in protest at Brexit terms agreed by May.

The series of resignations and the renewed political in-fighting prompted some politicians to question May’s future as prime minister.

The former head of the anti-establishment UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, called the Brexit terms the “worst deal in history” and argued that the ensuing political crisis will eventually lead to May’s downfall.

On Wednesday, the PM urged everyone in Parliament to support the draft. As she was grilled by MPs unhappy with the deal, May said the prospects of no deal will leave Britain with “more uncertainty, more division or it could risk no Brexit at all.”

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She later expressed confidence that an agreement will go through before March 29, 2019 – the date set for the nation to leave the EU.

Even before May’s cabinet came close to striking a deal with the EU, negotiations polarized the nation. Vocal Brexit supporters, like former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, had been accusing the prime minister of not having the country’s best interests at hand. Some were even skeptical that the government would reach any agreement with Brussels.

Johnson resigned in July, blasting the government for “surrendering control over our rulebook” and steering the nation into becoming EU’s “colony.”

“It is as though we are sending our vanguard into battle with the white flags fluttering above them,” the politician stated at the time. His exit followed the departure of then-Brexit Secretary David Davis, also highly critical of May’s stance in talks with the EU.

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Iran: New European Initiatives for Non-Dollar Trade to Come

European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini announced, in September, the establishment of a legal entity that would facilitate business between Iran and international trading partners.

On Wednesday, Iran praised European efforts to maintain business with Tehran despite U.S. sanctions, citing discussions to conduct non-dollar trade. "We had constructive meetings with British and French officials and nuclear negotiators in Tehran," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said, in a tweet, on the occasion of the British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's visit.

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In May, U.S. President Donald Trump's Administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in an attempt to prevent the entry of financial resources for the country. As a reaction to the sanctions, the European Union’s (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini announced, in September, the establishment of a legal entity that would facilitate business between Iran and international trading partners.

The “Special Purpose Vehicle” (SPV) system was conceived of as a barter-based system to avoid handling dollars by keeping "credit" records.

“If Iran exports crude oil to a French company,” according to an Al Bawaba report, “[that] company would register an agreed amount of “credit” with the SPV. Iran could then arrange to import goods from an Italian company, and that company could claim back the credit from the SPV as payment. Technically, this translates to no dollars changing hands with Iranian companies.

A French delegation was also in Tehran, on Wednesday, to meet with Araghchi, who commented that "the EU and the three European countries are still determined to save the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) [nuclear deal]. New initiatives are being designed for the SPV."

The Iranian foreign ministry's spokesman said that Iran had not yet given up hope on the mechanism.

"We have not been able yet to finalize the (SPV) issue to facilitate Iran's purchase of essential goods, and business with small and medium-sized enterprises," Bahram Qasemi said.

However, the United States' stance has not changed.

Recently, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, threatened to sanction European banks and companies that are or become associated with the SPV.

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Russian Loses Interpol Presidency After US Pushes Opposing Vote

The election had been hotly contested, with anti-Russian sentiment projected by the United States and Europe.

Russian interior ministry’s Alexander Prokopchuk loses an election, held in Dubai, for Interpol's new president. The favored candidate was best by South Korean Kim Jong-yang after heavyweight opposition.

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Last week, The Times had reported that Prokopchuk, who currently serves as one of Interpol's vice-presidents, was the "favorite" to lead the organization. However, the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) 194 member states, in a shock decision, chose Kim following several terse exchanges which prompted Moscow to state that critics were running a "campaign aimed at discrediting" Prokopchuk.  

The election had been hotly contested, garnering anti-Russian sentiment projected by the United States and Europe. Several U.S. senators openly urged voting nations to oppose the Russian candidate, while other countries threatened to disrupt Interpol membership structure if Prokopchuk was elected.

The General Assembly is INTERPOL’s supreme governing body. Here's how it works.

., , , and I oppose Russian leadership of Interpol. Russia routinely abuses Interpol for the purpose of settling scores and harassing political opponents, dissidents, and journalists. Read our full statement here: Read our full statement here:

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov retorted to the constant pushback, stating that the U.S. senators' action was an “intervention in the voting process.” 

Additionally, during his stint as Interpol's Moscow bureau chief, Prokopchuk was accused, but not prosecuted or charged, of allegedly using international arrest warrants to target critics of the Kremlin.

"Our world is now facing unprecedented changes which present huge challenges to public security and safety. To overcome them, we need a clear vision: we need to build a bridge to the future," Kim said.

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Cuba's National Assembly Rejects European Parliament's Resolution

Havana, Nov 17 (Prensa Latina) The International Relations Commission of the National Assembly of Cuba strongly has rejected the European Parliament's resolution on human rights in the island.

Through an official declaration, Cuban lawmakers consider the resolution unacceptable, as it distorts reality and is contrary to the principles of respect, equality and reciprocity contained in the Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation (ADPC), signed between Havana, the European Union (EU) and its member states.

Using manipulations and alleged concerns over the current process of constitutional reform, the resolution tries to malign Cuba's image, thus hindering the successful implementation of the ADPC.

The Cuban statement insists the European Parliament document is interventionist and contrary to the principles of International Law.

'It is based on lies fabricated and disseminated by people who are not human rights advocates, who nobody knows nor our people accept, and who actually qualify as salaried agents of a foreign power,' the statement adds.

It upholds that in Cuba, unlike what happens in European societies, all human rights are promoted, protected, exercised and guaranteed.

The resolution also stresses the European Parliament has no right to judge democracy in Cuba, as it is participatory and popular, which has been shown in the recently concluded process of consultation of the draft of new Constitution.

It also states that in Cuba there is no transition and the country is immersed, by popular will, in a process of updating its model of economic and social development, whose objective is to ensure a more independent, sovereign, socialist, democratic nation, prosperous and sustainable.

  • Published in Cuba
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