Kurdish referendum risks 'civil war' says Turkey
Turkey had warned that plans by the leadership in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to hold a referendum on independence could lead to civil war, in Ankara's strongest warning yet against next month's poll. "In that country (Iraq), which has been through so many problems, a referendum on independence can make the situation even worse," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the state TRT Haber broadcaster. "God forbid, it could even bring it to civil war," he added. Turkey has a substantial Kurdish minority which is sometimes estimated as making up around a quarter of its total population of just under 80 million. Ankara has in recent years forged strong ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq but is extremely wary of any move towards independence by the region. Turkish security forces in the southeast of the country are still fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly three-decade insurgency. The PKK initially aimed to carve out an independent Kurdish state in the southeast although its declared ambitions are now more focused on autonomy and rights. Ankara is also concerned about the presence of the Syrian Kurdish militia People's Protection Units (YPG) in the border area, fearing an autonomous Kurdish region could also emerge in northern Syria. Analysts have little doubt that the September 25 referendum would result in a 'Yes' for an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in June strongly criticised the referendum plan, calling it "an error" and "a threat" to Iraq's territorial integrity. Iran has also opposed the referendum plan, which is expected to be discussed this week in talks in Ankara between the Turkish leadership and Iran's chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri.
Chinese assure the Philippines
China has assured the Philippines it will not occupy new features or territory in the South China Sea, under a new "status quo" brokered by Manila as both sides try to strengthen their relations, the Philippine defence minister said. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano also said the Philippines was working on a "commercial deal" with China to explore and exploit oil and gas resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea with an aim to begin drilling within a year. The Defence Minister, Delfin Lorenzana, told a congressional hearing the Philippines and China had reached a "modus vivendi", or a way to get along, in the South China Sea that prohibits new occupation of islands. "The Chinese will not occupy new features in the South China Sea nor they are going to build structures in Scarborough Shoal," Lorenzana told lawmakers referring to a prime fishing ground close to the Philippines that China blockaded from 2012 to 2016. Asked about the Philippine comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and their nearby waters, and China would continue to dedicate itself to peacefully resolving the dispute through talks with the parties directly involved.
FARC war over says Colombia
President Juan Manuel Santos declared Colombia's 50-year conflict with FARC guerrillas finally over on Tuesday, as the last truckloads of decommissioned weapons rolled away to be melted down. Santos himself shut a padlock on the last lot of decommissioned rifles before it was taken out of a remote demobilization camp to formally seal the UN-supervised disarmament by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). "With the laying down of arms ... the conflict is truly over and a new phase begins in the life of our nation," Santos said at a ceremony in Pondores, a remote area in the northern Guajira department. "This is truly a historic moment for the country," he said. The leftist rebel force has said it will officially transform into a political party on September 1, a major step in reintegrating into civilian life as part of a historic peace deal signed last year. One of the FARC's senior leaders, Ivan Marquez, said "Soon we will be holding a founding congress for the new political party that will be called the Alternative Revolutionary Force of Colombia,".
Britain’s views on Northern Ireland after Brexit
Britain has said there should be no border posts or immigration checks between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland after Brexit, in a paper that attempts to resolve one of the most complex aspects of its departure from the European Union. Some 30,000 people cross the 500-km border every day without customs or immigration controls; negotiators must work out new arrangements without inflaming tensions in a region that suffered decades of bloody turmoil before a peace deal in 1998. As part of a series of papers that Prime Minister Theresa May hopes will push forward talks with the EU, the government outlined its vision for a “frictionless” customs system, which one EU politician described as ‘fantasy’. The publication drew heavily on those proposals as a solution for Northern Ireland that would not involve “physical border infrastructure and border posts”, or electronic surveillance. Reaching agreement with the EU on this was top of Britain’s list of Brexit priorities, the government said. Northern Ireland minister James Brokenshire said “The aim is to find a practical solution that recognises the unique economic, social and cultural context of the land border with Ireland, without creating any new obstacles to trade within the UK,”. May also said Britain would consider stepping in to replace some EU funding for peace projects in Northern Ireland after it leaves the bloc in March 2019, to prevent a resurgence of violence between pro-British Protestants and Catholic Irish nationalists. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney welcomed the proposals, saying Britain had acknowledged for the first time that it would not be practical to depend on technological solutions to monitor the border. But Senator Mark Daly, deputy leader of Ireland’s opposition Fianna Fil party, said the proposals for a frictionless border appeared “more like fiction, and clueless on this island”. “It will be a smugglers’ charter,” he told BBC Radio Four. The Sinn Fein party, which wants a referendum on ending British rule in Northern Ireland and uniting the island under the Irish flag, said it doubted an open border could be delivered.