Daily Memo: A Russia-Turkey Meeting, Another Sino-Philippine Summit, a Suspended British Parliament

All the news worth knowing today.


Erdogan and Putin talk Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Moscow yesterday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin showed off Russian military aircraft to his Turkish counterpart at an air and space show. But the real reason Erdogan was in Moscow was to discuss Syria. Russia and Turkey have been working at cross purposes there; indeed, Erdogan called for the meeting after Syrian government forces reportedly targeted a Turkish military convoy in the town of Khan Sheikhoun while Syrian anti-government rebels were retreating from the town. (For those keeping score, Syrian government forces allegedly used chemical weapons against anti-government rebels in Khan Sheikhoun two years ago.) Putin made no mention of the town or the incident in his statement after the meeting; instead, he sought to assure Turkey that Russia empathized with its situation and suggested the creation of a buffer zone on Turkey’s southern border. Russia’s goal is, as always, to secure Syria’s territorial integrity under the rule of Bashar Assad while also maintaining a pragmatic and even cooperative relationship with Turkey – an exceedingly difficult balancing act.

Duterte’s trip to the Middle Kingdom. For the fifth time in three years, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is visiting China, where he will hold talks with President Xi Jinping and meet various other officials during a four-day visit. A few hours before Duterte was due to arrive, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs sent an apology letter from the Guangdong Fishery Mutual Insurance Association to the Philippines’ Foreign Ministry regarding an incident in which a Chinese ship collided with a Philippine fishing boat in June near Reed Bank. The conciliatory move is a nice touch but hardly enough to provide much of a release on the internal domestic pressure Duterte is facing over his government’s pursuit of a closer relationship with China. Duterte and Xi are reportedly set to sign a number of impressive-sounding deals. The two countries have signed many deals totaling billions of dollars in recent years, but their execution has been less impressive. Meanwhile, the Philippine navy announced earlier today that it will acquire multiple new ships, including two submarines.

Britain’s prorogued Parliament. Freshly minted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent a letter to Queen Elizabeth requesting the prorogation of Parliament – that is, to discontinue Parliament’s current session without dissolving it. According to the BBC, the Queen approved the measure, which means Parliament will be suspended no earlier than Sept. 9 and no later than Sept. 12 until Oct. 14. Proroguing is a normal part of British politics; the quickly approaching deadline for the U.K.’s exit from the European Union is not. Johnson’s opponents are livid (Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called him a “tin pot dictator”) and claim the move is designed to prevent Parliament from passing legislation that would block the U.K. from crashing out of the EU without a deal. The House of Commons speaker, normally above commenting on political announcements, echoed these concerns. Johnson and his backers point out that the current session of Parliament has been exceptionally long and that the move will force lawmakers to get on with the business of governing. As the drama ratchets up in the coming weeks, it’s worth remembering that Johnson’s ultimate goal is to take the U.K. out of the EU on Oct. 31 – the current deadline – with a deal that he can say is appreciably better than his predecessor’s, and his maneuvering is about achieving that difficult goal.

Awaiting Italy’s government. Today is the deadline for Italy’s main political parties to present a path forward to Italian President Sergio Mattarella. The Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party have been trying to create a workable coalition, but as late as yesterday afternoon, the Five Star Movement said talks had achieved nothing. Optimism has since returned but things always feel good right before a roller coaster takes a new dip. In any case, we’re keeping an eye out.

Honorable Mentions

  • Strange explosions occurred at two police checkpoints in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday; earlier today, a Hamas spokesperson said the intelligence services of the rival Palestinian Authority might be to blame.
  • The profits of Turkish banks in the first half of the year decreased by more than 30 percent compared to last year.
  • Japan’s decision to revoke South Korea’s status as a trusted trade partner went into effect today.
  • India’s government said it created a new group of ministers to look into development, economic and social issues in the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • The defense ministers of Russia and India met; the Russian minister viewed the expanding military and technical cooperation between the two positively.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with the Iranian foreign minister to discuss maritime security in the Middle East.
  • China’s State Council unveiled a raft of new measures to boost consumer spending.
  • Nikkei reported that Google will move production of its Pixel smartphone from China to Vietnam.