‘As if Germany is a US colony’: Bundestag energy chief lashes out at Russia sanctions

Only the US – not Germany or the EU – is interested in economic sanctions against Russia, the head of the Bundestag’s economy and energy committee has said. German MPs are looking at ways to lift the restrictions, he added.

Bundestag energy and economy chief Klaus Ernst of Die Linke party accused the US of behaving as if Germany is its colony, as Washington tries to bully Europeans out of buying Russian gas.

“Those measures don't only target Russians, they deliberately target Europeans, for example German energy companies involved in Nord Stream 2,” he said at a conference on the prospects of energy cooperation between Russia and the EU, organized by the Russian Gas Society – an association of Russian energy companies, relevant research institutions and local administrations.

Also on rt.com US must prevent construction of Nord Stream 2 pipeline to counter Russia – Pompeo...

US officials, including President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Berlin ambassador Richard Grenell, have mounted an offensive against the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that is expected to be completed in 2019. With the stated goal of countering Russian “leverage,” they are threatening European companies with sanctions if they continue investing in the project.

“The actions of the US ambassador to Germany are simply unacceptable,” Ernst said, as cited by Russian media.

It's as if Germany is a US colony.

The real goal, according to Ernst, is to make the EU buy American gas instead: “The Americans are using politics to realize their own interests in this field.”

The threats have had no effect so far, with Nord Stream 2 construction continuing to surge ahead. The Gazprom-owned pipeline's operator stated that each of its European partners, which include German, French, British, Dutch and Austrian companies, have invested around a billion euros in it.

Speaking of other economic measures in place against Russia, Ernst noted that the US is the only party that wins from them.

“There are currently discussions about this in the Bundestag economy committee, and it is growing stronger – how sanctions against Russia can be lifted. Neither Germany, nor Europe is interested in these sanctions. The only ones winning from these sanctions are the Americans.”

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‘No one in Europe’ wants second Iraq: Austrian president slams ‘provocative’ US Iran policy

The US’ reckless maximum pressure campaign against Tehran and nations dealing with it is deeply provocative and hurts international relations, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said, warning against a major “crisis.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday, Van der Bellen slammed the US sanctions against Iran by saying that such policies “do not help international relations” and only erode the system of global treaties.

READ MORE: US orders all non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq

“The fact that the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal undermines trust in this agreement in general,” he told journalists.

It is particularly provocative that the US reimposed its sanctions against Iran after pulling out of the deal and threatened the companies, which continued to work with Tehran, with punishment.

The Austrian leader also admitted that Europe has so far failed to “come up with a mechanism that would help companies effectively circumvent” the US restrictions. He also said that creating such an instrument is a “very laborious” task.

Van der Bellen then warned the US against going down its chosen path by saying that any additional pressure Washington puts on Iran “is going to undermine political relations” on the international arena “even further.”

If America continues to put pressure on Iran, the whole situation risks spilling into another major crisis “as it happened in Iraq some years ago,” the president warned, without elaborating.

No one in Europe wants this to happen.

Van der Bellen’s words came amid growing fears that a military conflict could potentially break out between the US and Iran. These concerns were further fueled by the US decision to recall all non-essential personnel from its embassy in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and a consulate in Iraq’s northern town of Erbil. The developments have prompted Germany and the Netherlands to temporarily suspend its missions aimed at training the Iraqi forces.

Also on rt.com Baghdad won’t let Washington use its territory in war against Iran – Iraq’s envoy...

Earlier, the Iraqi ambassador to Moscow said that Baghdad would not let the US use the Iraqi territory in the event of a war against Iran, adding that it is not interested in another “devastating” conflict in the region.

Washington has deployed the USS ‘Abraham Lincoln’ Carrier Strike Group, as well as B-52 bombers, to “send a message” to Iran while constantly citing an allegedly increased threat from Tehran and criticizing those of its allies who doubted the claim.

US President Donald Trump has recently dismissed a New York Times report of a plan to send “120,000 troops” to the Middle East as “fake news,” saying that it would “hopefully” not be necessary. He added, however, that if it did come to a hot conflict, “we’d send a hell of a lot more troops than that.”

Also on rt.com ‘Attack Iran to get reelected’: Twitter discovers Trump ‘warned’ of Iran conflict plot – but Obama’s

 

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EU ‘rejects ultimatums’, says it’s still committed to Iran nuclear deal after Tehran scaledown

The EU is committed to preserving the nuclear deal with Iran and helping the nation dodge US economic sanctions, and will not bend to any ultimatums, top European diplomats say. Earlier, Tehran suspended some of its commitments.

On Wednesday, Tehran announced it will halt disposal of excessive heavy water and uranium, which is one of the key terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement (known as the JCPOA). Unless European signatories deliver on their promises to Iran, it may enact a further rollback in 60 days.

EU members pledged to create a special financial mechanism which would allow business to be done in Iran without being on the radar of the US, which threatens anyone dealing with the country with economic sanctions.

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Top EU diplomats said on Thursday they remain committed to the deal but will not bend to any ultimatums.

“We strongly urge Iran to continue to implement its commitments under the JCPoA in full as it has done until now and to refrain from any escalatory steps,” the officials said in a statement.

We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPoA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons).

Iran for its part stressed that it wants to fix the JCPOA and not abandon it.

“Our goal is to strengthen the JCPOA and bring it back on track,” Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization, said the same day.

Earlier, Tehran clarified that its decision to partially suspend compliance with the JCPOA was in response to the US’ withdrawal and the failure by European signatories to alleviate the damage done by American sanctions.

Also on rt.com Iran’s row-back on nuclear deal is legal & reversible – Foreign Minister Zarif (VIDEO)...

The deal offered Iran the lifting of sanctions in exchange for placing restrictions on its nuclear industry. Lucrative business deals with European and American companies were expected to follow, boosting Iran’s economy and building trust with the West.

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Iran tells foreign envoys it will 'stop implementation' of some nuclear deal commitments

Iran told ambassadors from the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia that it will renege on “some commitments” under the 2015 nuclear deal, but will not quit the pact completely.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani appeared Wednesday on national TV to announce the decision to scale down implementation of the 2015 deal, which is officially called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He said the Iranian move was reciprocal action to US complete withdrawal from it under President Donald Trump.

Rouhani announced that Tehran will be gradually suspending its commitments under the deal, giving other parties subsequent periods of 60 days to negotiate a reversal of those actions. He blamed European signatories of failing to compensate to Iran the damage done by US unilateral sanctions after Washington broke its part of the bargain.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif earlier told reporters Tehran would be backing out of some "voluntary commitments" under the 2015 agreement as a response to the EU's inability to stand up to the pressure of Washington's attempts to isolate Iran.

Also on rt.com Pompeo arrives in Baghdad for surprise visit amid US-Iran tensions...

The JCPOA was signed under Barack Obama and offered Iran lifting of international and unilateral economic sanctions in exchange for voluntarily restricting its nuclear program. The document was signed by Iran, China, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the US and the EU.

Trump sided with Israel in calling the agreement “the worst deal ever” and refused to keep Washington’s part of the bargain in May last year. The US has since re-imposed the unilateral sanctions, which had been lifted from Iran under the JCPOA terms, and is currently seeking to cripple its oil export by targeting buyers with secondary sanctions.

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Brexit Deal Rejected For Third Time By British Lawmakers

London, United Kingdom: British MPs on Friday rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's EU divorce deal for a third time, opening the way for a long delay to Brexit -- or a potentially catastophic "no deal" withdrawal in two weeks.

Lawmakers in parliament's lower House of Commons defied May's plea to end the political deadlock that has plunged Britain into crisis, and defeated her withdrawal agreement by 344 votes to 286.

It is yet another blow to a prime minister who has all but lost control of her government and the Brexit process -- particularly after she offered to quit if MPs backed the deal.

Britain had been due to leave the EU on Friday, the long-heralded March 29 "Independence Day", but faced with chaos in Westminster, May asked European leaders last week for a little more time.

She now faces having to return in the coming days to explain what happens next, with speculation in Brussels of an emergency summit on April 10 or 11.

The EU has set a deadline for April 12 for a decision, with two likely options: Britain leaves with no deal at all, or agrees a lengthy extension to allow time for a new approach.

May has said it would be "unacceptable" to ask voters to take part in forthcoming European Parliament elections, three years after they voted in a 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

But while "no deal" remains the default legal option, MPs have repeatedly voted against this, fearing catastrophe if Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no plan in place.

DUP holdouts

The failure by parliament to agree the terms of its exit from European Union has left Britain in limbo, with business leaders and trade unions warning of a "national emergency".

Voters are divided, many of them anxious and angry, and May blames MPs -- but they in turn accuse her of refusing to countenance any alternative to her unpopular deal.

"She is, frankly, unable to govern," opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, urging her "either to listen and change course or to go".

Tired of waiting, MPs this week gave themselves unprecedented powers to vote on a range of options for Britain's future relationship with the EU.

A prosal for a new customs union got close to passing in a first round on Wednesday, as did a plan for a referendum on May's deal, with more voting planned next Monday and Wednesday.

The risk that MPs decide to agree closer ties to the EU, or even stop it altogether, has focused the minds of some Brexit supporters, who reluctantly agreed to back May's deal.

Her offer on Wednesday to quit if it passes also helped persuade some of her staunchest critics, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson.

But others refused, including May's Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which says planned arrangements for the Irish border after Brexit are unacceptable.

"We are not prepared to see our constitutional position altered by Brussels in a fit of pique for daring to leave the EU," said MP Sammy Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman.

Snap election?

May's offer to quit fired the starting gun on an informal race for the leadership of her Conservative party.

Her resignation was dependent on getting the divorce deal passed -- and she might try one last time to get her deal through.

Even so, her days are numbered.

Getting another vote on a deal would be tricky, as parliament speaker John Bercow has already warned he will not let her bring the same deal back again and again.

Under an agreement struck with EU leaders last week, Britain would have left on May 22 if MPs approved the deal this week.

Officials believe there is still a chance that, if she can get it through before April 12, this date is still possible.

However, speculation is also growing that the only way out of the impasse is a snap election.

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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.

Also on rt.com US judge tosses Saudi Arabia’s motion to dismiss 9/11 complicity lawsuits...

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.

Also on rt.com Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN...

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.”

Also on rt.com ‘George Soros-type seance’: Orban mocks EU opposition to Hungary’s anti-migrant law...

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.”

Also on rt.com George Soros’ Open Society foundation ends operations in Hungary...

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.

Also on rt.com Maduro says next election will take place in 2025, rejects Europe's 8-day ultimatum...

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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