Monthly Archives: November 2012

Gideon Rachman

What does the vote upgrading Palestine’s status at the UN to “non-member state” with observer status actually mean? Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, was quick to rubbish the vote as essentially meaningless in her speech. She could be right. But it all hinges on whether the Palestinians will now be able to pursue the Israelis through the International Criminal Court in the Hague. If that happens, then this really is a big deal. If the ICC does not come into play, then today’s vote matters a lot less.

As far as I can gather the legal situation is very unclear – and different lawyers take different views on whether Palestine’s new status will allow it to use the ICC. Inevitably, politics will also come into play. It would be a bold and risky decision for a fledgling institution like the ICC to go after Israel, since that would immediately and possibly permanently sour relations with the US. Most of the European powers would also be opposed. The reason that Britain abstained on today’s vote, for example, was this hovering question of the ICC and the refusal of the Palestinians to give assurances that they would not head straight for the Hague. On the contrary, Mahmoud Abbas hinted heavily in his speech that he was considering doing exactly that. Read more

Daniel Dombey

In the latest in a series of disagreements, Turkey’s prime minister and president have clashed over a popular Ottoman-themed soap opera.  Read more

Esther Bintliff

The advances made in recent weeks by a group of rebel soldiers calling themselves M23 have laid bare the frailty of the Congolese state. They have also underlined the continuing and disruptive influence on the country’s politics by its smaller eastern neighbours, particularly Rwanda. But who are M23? And what do they hope to achieve?  Read more

Edward Luce

If I could be a fly on the wall, I would skip today’s White House lunch between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. I would rather be buzzing around the caddy when the president next plays golf with John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House.

For a start, no alcohol will be served. Mr Romney’s Mormon faith will forbid him from even accepting a coffee. This puts a ceiling on the potential for candid disclosures – convivial or otherwise. Any half-educated fly knows why the Latin phrase in camomile tea veritas was never coined.

But even if Mr Romney received some kind of a religious waiver and agreed to do a round of tequila shots with the president, this fly would still head for better walls in Washington. For all the White House’s piety about consulting Mr Romney on how to run the federal government better – the main topic of discussion according to Jay Carney, the White House press secretary – real business is unlikely to be conducted. Read more

What’s next in Egypt following protests against Morsi?
Almost two years after the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Cairo’s Tahrir Square is once again the scene of angry demonstrations. This time, however, the object of protestors’ anger is Mohamed Morsi, an elected president and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose proposed reforms of presidential powers have sparked accusations that he is setting up a new dictatorship. Heba Saleh, Cairo correspondent, and Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, join Gideon Rachman to discuss what’s next for Egypt.

Esther Bintliff

IMF chief Christine Lagarde arrives at Monday’s eurogroup meeting where Greek deal was struck.

When eurozone finance minsters announced their long-delayed deal to overhaul Greece’s second bailout early Tuesday morning, there was much they didn’t disclose.

The most glaring was how big a highly-touted bond buyback programme would be, a question dodged repeatedly at a post-deal news conference. But there were other things that were left out of a two-page statement summing up the deal, including how much the European Central Bank was making on its Greek bond holdings, profits that will be returned to Athens as part of the agreement.

It turns out, those were not the only – or even the biggest – unanswered questions left after the early-morning deal. As we report in today’s dead-tree edition of the FT, ministers failed to find enough debt relief measures to get to the purported Greek debt target of 124 per cent of economic output by 2020, far above the 120 per cent target set in February.

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Esther Bintliff

David Pilling

Built five years ago, Myanmar's capital is still eerily quiet. (AFP)

At Naypyidaw’s international airport, members of staff in stylish uniforms are at their posts behind ranks of check-in counters. The large departure hall is brightly lit and the air temperature pleasantly cooled. Two pilots and a glamorous young air hostess in traditional Burmese dress breeze across the polished marble floor of a terminal that would grace any European capital.

The only thing missing in this palace of modernity is passengers.

The airport was completed last December on the edge of a ghostly city that had itself not formally existed until November of 2005. After several years of construction, the generals who then ran Myanmar announced without warning that they had built a new capital in the interior of the country 200 miles north of Yangon. Government ministries were to relocate immediately.

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