Foreign affairs

Rupert Murdoch has been on a month-long working holiday in Australia – and judging by his Twitter feed he is not enamoured with the state of politics in his native country.

“Great month in Oz – beautiful country, gtreAT [sic] people but with large problems,” declared the 84-year-old media mogul in the first of a series of tweets. Read more

Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim

Not content with threatening to cut off funding for artists she deems disloyal to Israel, Miri Regev, Israel’s far-right culture minister, is apparently seeking to project power onto her country’s preeminent foreign policy issue: the recently signed nuclear deal with Iran. Read more

Ukraine faces battles on two fronts
Rising violence in eastern Ukraine has prompted the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine to convene an emergency summit to try to halt the fighting; at the same time Kiev’s negotiations with its creditors are reaching a critical point. Ben Hall discusses the twin crises with Neil Buckley and Elaine Moore.

In recent days North and South Korea have resurrected the practice of blasting threats and propaganda at each other across their shared border. But last weekend, amid all the sabre-rattling, one South Korean turned some of his country’s border loudspeakers to a more harmonious use.

Won Hyung-joon, who has been trying to organise a cross-border concert for seven years, deployed them on Saturday at a concert in which Antoine Marguier, conductor of the UN Orchestra, led South Korean instrumentalists through Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Korean folk song ArirangRead more

  • Owning a top English football club used to be every tycoon’s dream, but five stalled sales this summer suggest the asset appears to have lost some of its lustre
  • Fears are growing that Ukraine’s Right Sector, the only big volunteer battalion Kiev has not brought under regular army control, could turn its fire on the government itself
  • The desire to avoid a power struggle within the Taliban and the Pakistan military’s push for peace talks in Afghanistan explain the silence around the death of Mullah Omar, writes Ahmed Rashid
  • Ankara is organizing Syrian rebels for an assault on the Islamic State’s last stronghold along the Turkish border and could even use its warplanes to support their advance (Foreign Policy)
  • Rohingya female migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar seeking to escape turmoil and poverty are often tricked or forced into marriages to pay smugglers for their freedom (New York Times)

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Monitors check-in: The Athens Hilton

During Greece’s first and second bailouts they were known as the “troika”: three bureaucrats in suits endlessly following each other into a Greek government ministry in local television news clips.

Then they began slipping into buildings by a side door, protected by security guards to avoid anti – austerity protesters blocking the main entrance

Then they vanished altogether, banned from visiting Athens by the leftwing Syriza-led government.

Even their name was officially deleted: the troika became the “institutions” after their employers – the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

Now, after six months of being non – persons in Greece, the bailout monitors are back. Read more

Turkey steps up its battle on terror
Nato allies have welcomed Turkey’s decision to step up its fight against Isis. But its decision to include Kurdish opponents as the target of its attacks is causing some to question Ankara’s true motives. Siona Jenkins discusses Turkey’s strategy with Daniel Dombey and Alex Barker.

Once again, it was an agonisingly long piece of Greek parliamentary theatre. But once again, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Alexis Tsipras came out on top.

For the second time in a week, the prime minister survived a mini-rebellion in his radical leftist Syriza party and, with the help of opposition parties, passed a set of reforms required to secure a new, €86bn financial rescue from Greece’s international creditors. Read more

Iran nuclear deal: historic breakthrough or mistake?
Years of painstaking negotiations between Iran and the world powers have finally led to a deal. Was it the biggest international diplomatic breakthrough in decades or a historic mistake? Roula Khalaf, FT foreign editor, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Tehran correspondent, debate the pros and cons.

Alexis Tsipras and Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin in April

We learned on Monday that Yuri Milner, the billionaire Russian entrepreneur, is to spend $100m of his own money over the next 10 years to fund a project searching for alien civilisations beyond our solar system.

According to my calculations, that is $100m more than the Russian government has offered in financial aid to Greece since the radical leftist Syriza party, often presumed to be close to Moscow, came to power in January.

During Syriza’s chaotic six months in office, the notion has cropped up time and again that Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister and party leader, would like to play a ‘Russian card’ to ward off pressure from Greece’s eurozone creditors.

There is something to this, but the picture is more subtly textured than first impressions might suggest. Let’s look below the surface and find out what’s going on. Read more

  • Amid the political noise, the historic nuclear deal between Iran and international powers is a victory for pragmatism in Tehran, writes Roula Khalaf
  • Greece’s creditors have destroyed the eurozone as we know it and demolished the idea of a monetary union as a step towards a democratic political union, argues Wolfgang Münchau
  • Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump offers a megaphone to the noisy minority of Americans who believe they are losing the battle with modernity, writes Ed Luce
  • Europe’s creditor-in-chief has trampled over values like democracy and national sovereignty, and left a vassal state in its wake. Which country will be next? asks Philippe LeGrain (Foreign Policy)
  • We apologise to Marxists worldwide for Greece refusing to commit ritual suicide to further the cause. We elected a good, honest and brave man, who fought like a lion, writes Alex Andreou (Byline)

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The day after Vienna won’t look different. More blood will be spilled in the Middle East; more pain will be inflicted. In Iran beleaguered hardliners who never wanted the nuclear agreement may plot new mischief in the region; in Israel, the Gulf states and Congress, opponents of the deal will continue to protest. Some of Iran’s neighbours may resolve to pursue their own nuclear ambitions.

The details of the accord reached in Vienna after weeks of tortuous negotiations will be ripped apart according to political attitudes – those who favour Iran’s rehabilitation will highlight Iran’s concessions; those against it will play up American compromises. A glass half full to some, half empty to others. Read more

It is not just the Greeks who are lamenting a humiliating defeat in Brussels.

The Spanish government, too, has suffered a stinging setback. The headlines on Tuesday morning told the story: “Spain left without influence in the EU,” declared El Mundo. The El País daily, meanwhile, bemoaned the “diplomatic incompetence” that produced this latest Spanish “failure”.

Despite furious lobbying from Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and despite the support of Germany, Madrid failed to get what it so badly wanted: the appointment of Luis de Guindos as the next president of the eurogroup. “De Guindos loses and plunges Spain into political irrelevance,” remarked el diario, the Spanish news website. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Europe woke up on Monday to a lot of headlines about the humiliation of Greece, the triumph of an all-powerful Germany and the subversion of democracy in Europe.

  • Scott Walker, the “regular Joe” governor of Wisconsin and Republican presidential hopeful, needs to shrug off concerns that he is a foreign policy lightweight in his run for the White House
  • Young people are shunning cocoa farming in Ghana, leading to fears that production and productivity could be harmed in the world’s second-biggest grower of the soft commodity
  • Mexico’s most wanted drug lord, known as “Shorty”, has pulled off his second sensational jailbreak in 15 years – dealing a blow to the government which had taken pride in capturing top crime kingpins
  • A full transcript of the first interview with Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, since his resignation (New Statesman)
  • A nationalist militia in Ukraine engaged in a standoff with soldiers and police following a gun and grenade attack after its fighters confronted supporters of a local MP critical of the group (The Telegraph)

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses the European Parliament (Reuters)

Two thoughts come to mind when one looks at the last-minute reform proposals which Greece’s radical leftist-led government has sent to its creditors as a way of saving the nation’s eurozone membership.

1) Why should the creditors, financial markets or anyone else have faith that the Syriza-dominated government will actually implement any of these reforms?

After all, even Greek governments that were more politically mainstream, more pro-EU and, in theory, more business-friendly found it impossible to execute comprehensive reform programmes between May 2010, the month of Greece’s first bail-out, and last January, when Syriza came to power.

But much of the Syriza leadership is wedded to Marxist or quasi-Marxist dogmas that run completely counter to the spirit governing the reforms to which the government, all of a sudden, is promising to put its signature.

In other words, there seem few reasons to believe that Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, and his colleagues would want to carry out these reforms, even if the party and the Greek state possessed the capacity to carry them out – which they don’t.

2) The latest proposals appear to be deafeningly silent on some important matters raised with Greece by the creditors since January. In the letter sent by Euclid Tsakalotos, Greece’s new finance minister, to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch head of the eurogroup, I see no mention at all of labour market reform or privatisation of state assets. Read more

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (Getty)

His hair is receding, his beard is splashed with grey, and he speaks English with the grammatical precision of an independent-minded Balkan intellectual who grew up in the communist era – which is exactly what he is. But Edi Rama, Albania’s prime minister, is also so tall and muscular that, as a young man, he played for the national basketball team. Before he gave up art for politics in the post-communist era, his paintings were exhibited in Berlin, New York and beyond.

As he explained over dinner in Tirana on Thursday night, he is also old enough – he turns 51 on Saturday – to have searing memories of the cruel, isolated madhouse that was Albanian communism under Enver Hoxha, the dictator who ruled from the end of the second world war until his death in 1985. This is why Rama passionately wants Albania’s future to be in the EU, and why he foresees danger ahead if his and other Balkan countries are denied this prospect. Read more

I contributed to the Weekend FT’s “Summer Books” round-up last week. But there are lots of other interesting titles that have come my way, over the past six months, and that might interest readers. Here is a selection:

Greece, the EEC and the Cold War 1974-1979 (Palgrave Macmillan) by Eirini Karamouzi -A scholarly and readable history of how Greece joined the EU provides a fascinating and valuable context to today’s events. Read more

Another chapter will be written this weekend in Greece’s proud, painful history of national suffering, defiance and martyrdom, real as well as imagined, at the hands of foreign oppressors.

Whether Greece’s radical leftist-led government capitulates to the demands of its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund, or whether it rejects them, the essentials of this narrative will not vary much.

Here is the reason: thanks to the way that Greece and its creditors have mishandled the debt crisis since it erupted in October 2009, the only available choice now, from the perspective of ordinary Greeks, is between extremely bad and worse. Read more

Nato renews its commitment to collective defence
Defence ministers from the Atlantic Alliance’s 28 members are meeting in Brussels to discuss the reinvigoration of the alliance in the face of Russian aggression. The US is to make the biggest reinforcement of its forces in eastern Europe since the fall of the Soviet Union. Ben Hall discusses the development with Geoff Dyer and Sam Jones.