CHINA/N KOREA – Chinese state banks are reported to have begun suspending transactions on accounts held by North Koreans. If so, this makes it almost impossible to do business between the two countries.  The resrictions suggest Beijing may be serious about squeezing N Korea on the nuclear issue.

SYRIA/ISIS – Syrian government forces have seized the final stretch of main road linking the eastern city of Deir el-Zour to Damascus in another blow to ISIS. Government troops and allies have also recaptured an oilfield near Deir el-Zour.

MYANMAR/ROHINGYA – The government has rejected a cease-fire declared by the Muslim insurgent group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) sayying it does negotiate with terrorists. ARSA had declared a monthlong unilateral cease-fire, starting on Sept. 10, so that aid could reach displaced people.

SAUDI/QATAR – Saudi Arabia has suspended dialogue with Qatar, accusing it of distorting facts. This came soon after a phone call between Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in which compromises were discussed to end the three-month rift between the two. Riyahd accused Qatar of misrepresenting the phone conversation in public.

TURKEY/KURDS – The Turkish military claims it has killed about 100 Kurdish militants in operations in southeast Turkey in the past fortnight. The Kurdistan Workers Party, considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union, has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 3 decades.

FRANCE/EMF – President Emmanuel Macron has announced his support for Germany’s idea to create a European Monetary Fund (EMF).  The EMF would allow EU states to borrow from a permanent bailout fund.  Macron sees this is as part of greater European integration.

POLAND/EU  – The ongoing row between Poland and the EU over refugee quotas may be spilling over into other areas. Warsaw is now threatening to block part of a trade deal between Canada and the EU. Under the deal a dispute would be dealt with by a panel of 15 judges – 5 from the EU, 5 from Canada, and 5 from other countries. Poland says its interests could be harmed by non-Polish judges.

COMING UP –

A busy week with a lot going on. On Tuesday, the USA wants sweeping sanctions against North Korea to be passed by the U.N. Security Council. However, China and Russia are likely to block it. If so – the next step may be for the USA to hint that diplomatic options are running out and begin putting into place the means to threaten N Korea with a military attack.

On Thursday Russia and Belarus begin their week long Zapad (“West”) military exercises.  These are expected to simulate an invasion of the Baltic States. It will be interesting to see how much hardware the Russians leave behind in Belarus when the exercises end on the 20th.

DIARY –

Tues – USA will push for a UN Security Council vote on sanctions against N Korea.

Tues –  Parliamentary elections – Norway.

Tues – Catalonia National Day in Spain; protests expected.

Tues – UK Parliament may vote on changes to law-making rules in order to easily pass Brexit legislation. Rules based on the ‘Henry VIII Powers’.

Tues – Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in India, for groundbreaking ceremony for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail.

Weds – French union strike over government’s labour reforms to be adopted later this week.

Weds – EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers State of the Union address.

Thurs –  Week long Russia/Belarus Zapad (“West”) military exercises begin.

Thurs –  Qatari opposition conference in London.

Thurs – Latest round of Syrian peace talks between Russia, Turkey and Iran in Kazakhstan.

Fri – Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Berlin to see Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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