Tuesday, October 31

Manus Island closed
Photo: Wikimedia


Tensions simmer as Manus Island detention centre shuts down

Manus Island closed
Photo: Wikimedia

The Australian-sponsored detention facility in Papua New Guinea is to be closed today. In a bid to prevent forced settlement in the country, the 600 remaining detainees have begun barricading themselves in the camp.

The PNG Supreme Court deemed the camp unconstitutional last year and ordered its closure. While 50 asylum grantees have since been relocated to the US, Australia refuses to accept the rest, fearing that providing illegal migrants with a path to citizenship would encourage more to attempt the dangerous journey.

Instead, Canberra will fund new transit centres to integrate those granted asylum into PNG. Regardless, many refuse, citing their deep misgivings of a country where they’ve had a troubled history with local guards.

Although the tough stance, which involves intercepting asylum seekers at sea and turning their boats back, has been successful in cutting people smuggling to Australia, it has been criticised by human rights activists at the UN.


Hamas hands over control of key border crossing

Rafah Crossing to be handed over to Palestinian Authority
Photo: AFP/Said Khatib

Today, Hamas will turn over control of the Rafah border crossing, the only entry point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Reopening the border crossing is critical to salvaging the dismal Gazan economy, which has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt since 2007.

The handover is part of the latest round of Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah, which split in 2007 after the militant Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian parliament and seized control of the Gaza strip. Under an October 12 agreement, the Fatah-dominated PA will reassume full administrative control of the Gaza strip by December 1, and the two groups are to meet November 21 to attempt to form a unity government.

Any reconciliation could actually have a detrimental effect on Middle East peace; Israel has consistently refused to negotiate with any group that includes Hamas. Expect Israeli and US efforts to scuttle the process and keep the two groups divided.


Delve deeper: Palestine: A long road to unity


Russian prime minister visits counterpart in China

Dmitry Medvedev and Li Keqiang frosty embrace
Photo: Xinhua

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Beijing today for a three-day state visit; he is expected to discuss expanding trade ties with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

In addition to its massive investments in Central Asian infrastructure, China is looking to develop new sea routes to Europe as part of its “One Belt One Road” initiative. In July, Mr. Medvedev and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to develop Russia’s Northern Sea Route as an “Ice Silk Road.”

The route, which runs along Russia’s northern coast, would be 2,800 miles shorter than the current maritime routes between Europe and China, shaving a week off of the standard travel time. It would also circumvent the Straits of Malacca and the Suez Canal, allowing China to avoid costly fees and pirate-infested waters.

A new trade route could strengthen Moscow and Beijing’s positions in the global economy, making them predominant facilitators of trade as global warming opens new trade routes in the Arctic. Expect them to move aggressively to develop more trade passages like these.


Andrej Babis in box seat to form government

Andrej Babis to open coalition talks
Photo: Reuters/David Cerny


Billionaire populist Andrej Babis will meet President Milos Zeman today. Babis will receive formal approval to lead negotiations to form a government after his anti-establishment, anti-corruption ANO party won the most votes on October 20.

Finding governing partners will be difficult. The conservative ODS party has ruled itself out, and Babis has said no to the far-right SPD and the ideologically unpalatable Communist party. For stability, his preference is to join with as few parties as possible.

This would suit a coalition with the runners-up centre-right CDP party. However, they have so far refused to cooperate. The Leftist Social Democrats and Centrist Christian Democrats are the remaining options; they will only enter a coalition if Mr Babis steps down due to an ongoing fraud investigation—he denies any wrongdoing.

The best option for a stable two-party majority is the CDP. A Babis government will reflect traditional Czech euro-scepticism and likely oppose further integration, but remain within the EU. However, if the impasse is not broken, an exit referendum would be the price of a far-right coalition—a bad outcome for Brussels.


The Quad, Japan’s central bank, Eurozone GDP estimate

Quadrilateral exercises back on the table
Photo: Wikimedia

The Indian and Japanese navies will wrap up two days of anti-submarine drills—a sign of increasing maritime cooperation between the two Asian powers. This comes amid renewed talk of quadrilateral coordination between the US, Japan, Australia and India to counter China’s influence in the region. The revival of the ‘Quad’ could well be the subject of discussion when Donald Trump visits Japan on Saturday.

Japan’s central bank is expected to maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy settings today, keeping rates on hold at -0.1% and continuing to buy assets to pump liquidity into the economy. The country’s economy grew at a modest 0.6% in the three months to June and is forecast to grow 1.4% over the entire year. Inflationary pressures remain low at 0.7%. Also released today are unemployment figures, which will likely show the jobless rate at 2.8%.

EU authorities will release an initial estimate of economic growth in the bloc for the three months to September.

Brexit Secretary David Davis will be grilled by Britain’s upper house today on the ongoing negotiations with the EU.


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