High drama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Intrigue ranged from the petty to the profound. According to AFP, Chinese officials had to be escorted out of the Papua New Guinean Foreign Ministry after attempting to force their way in. (Beijing has denied this version of events.) More important, for the first time in its 29-year history, APEC ended its annual summit without releasing a joint statement because, according to several accounts, China would not endorse it. The government felt that a certain line – “We agree to fight protectionism, including all unfair trade practices” – unfairly singled out China. Nor could China feel good about its prospects for resolving its trade dispute with the U.S. After the summit, Washington announced a $1.7 billion deal to provide electricity to Papua New Guinea. Meanwhile, China said it would let Tonga delay payment on overdue debts. The decision comes a day before Xi Jinping departs for a visit to Brunei and the Philippines, where Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte described bilateral relations as “a flower in full bloom.” We aren’t nearly as poetic as Mr. Duterte, but it seems to us that U.S.-China competition is only thing blooming.
Turkey in the middle. Russian President Vladimir Putin is on a visit to Turkey, the stated purpose for which is to participate in a ceremony marking the completion of an offshore section of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline. After the ceremony, though, Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met for bilateral talks (the meeting takes place at the time of this writing). They have much to discuss. Syrian rebels and the Syrian army trade allegations of violence in regions where a tenuous Turkish-Russian ceasefire agreement has held for two months. Kazakhstan announced that the next round of Astana talks on Syria, consisting of Iran, Turkey and Russia, would be held Nov. 28-29. Meanwhile, after meeting with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington yesterday, Turkey’s defense minister criticized U.S. relations with the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia, and said it expected the U.S. to cut ties immediately. The story here is that Turkey, caught between the U.S. and Russia, has its own interests independent of both countries and is pursuing them.
A small win for Greece. In a story we missed last Thursday, officials from the Euro Working Group said that EU finance ministers planned to approve the suspension of Greek pension cuts in January. According to Ekathimerini, the EU conceded the point without much ado because it can’t afford to fight Greece while it is fighting a more important battle with Italy of government spending. The suspension of the pension cuts are up for approval Dec. 3, and we’ll get a clearer picture on Nov. 21, when the Greek budget is submitted to the parliament and to the European Commission for review. The government in Athens will no doubt savor this victory. It may be a small one, and it may have come only because the EU was carefully picking its battles, but a win is a win, especially on such a politically sensitive issue.
Diplomacy in the Middle East. As he evaluated negotiations between U.S. and the Taliban in Qatar at the end of last week, a U.S. envoy told the AP he was “cautiously optimistic” about a deal by April 20. The Taliban was more tight-lipped, saying only that its representatives had left the meeting with “no agreement on any issue.” Elsewhere, Saudi news agency Asharq al Awsat reported that an Egyptian security delegation traveled from Tel Aviv to Gaza yesterday in hopes of maintaining the cease-fire between Israel and Gaza while laying the groundwork for an elusive, longer-term truce. In Yemen, a senior official for the Iranian-backed Houthis said that the group would cease firing missiles and stop its drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen. Meanwhile, Iraq’s president had a busy weekend, visiting Tehran on Saturday and Riyadh on Sunday, though the purpose of both are still unclear. There isn’t much to say about any one of these stories, other than to remind us how fluid the entire region is all the time.
- Theresa May is still prime minister of the United Kingdom.
- The Maldives’ new government reportedly plans to withdraw from a free trade agreement with China. This decision comes after a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Turkmenistan has criticized Russian media reports of a security crisis on the country’s border with Afghanistan.
- China and Indonesia signed a currency swap agreement worth $28.8 billion.
- The Bundesbank said in its monthly report that it expected German gross domestic product growth to rebound from a poor third quarter by the end of the year.
- The Kazakh Defense Ministry said the defense minister discussed military cooperation with China with the Chinese ambassador.