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Putin idea for Ukraine referendum rejected by White House

The White House has rejected a Vladimir Putin-backed effort to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the region’s future, distancing itself from the idea in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s controversial summit with the Russian leader.Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said the two leaders had discussed the possibility of a referendum in separatist-leaning eastern Ukraine during their Helsinki summit.But Trump’s National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said Friday that agreements between Russia and the Ukrainian government for resolving the conflict in the Donbas region do not include any such option and any effort to organize a “so-called referendum” would have “no legitimacy.”The back-and-forth came as the White House outlined the agenda for a proposed second summit between Trump and Putin — in Washington this fall — that would focus on national security. Moscow signaled its openness to a second formal meeting between the two leaders as criticism of Trump over his first major session with his Russian counterpart kept up in the U.S.Trump left the White House for his New Jersey golf club for the weekend. Once he got there, he returned to Twitter to complain about news coverage of Monday’s meeting.“I got severely criticized by the Fake News Media for being too nice to President Putin,” he tweeted. “In the Old Days they would call it Diplomacy. If I was loud & vicious, I would have been criticized for being too tough.”A White House official said the next Trump-Putin meeting would address national security concerns they discussed in Helsinki, including Russian meddling. The official did not specify if that meant Russia’s interference in U.S. elections. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss planning, said the talks would also cover nuclear proliferation, North Korea, Iran and Syria.One stop Putin almost surely won’t make is Capitol Hill.House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to make clear that Putin wouldn’t be invited to address Congress if he visits Washington.She said Trump’s “frightened fawning over Putin is an embarrassment and a grave threat to our democracy.”Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had a sunnier view of the likely second get-together.He said at the United Nations he was “happy that the two leaders of two very important countries are continuing to meet. If that meeting takes place in Washington, I think it is all to the good. Those conversations are incredibly important.”It was not clear whether such a meeting would take place before or after the November congressional elections in the U.S.A White House meeting would be a dramatic extension of legitimacy to the Russian leader, who has long been isolated by the West for activities in Ukraine, Syria and beyond and is believed to have interfered in the 2016 presidential election that sent Trump to the presidency. No Russian leader has visited the White House in nearly a decade.U.S. officials have been mum on what, if anything, the two leaders agreed to in Helsinki during a two-hour, one-on-one meeting. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Thursday he had yet to be briefed on the private session.The Russian government has been somewhat more forthcoming.“This issue (of a referendum) was discussed,” Antonov said, adding that Putin made “concrete proposals” to Trump on solutions for the four-year, Russian-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people. He did not elaborate on what Putin’s solutions would be.The move may be seen as an effort to sidestep European peace efforts for Ukraine and increase the pressure on the Ukrainian government in its protracted conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region.In a sign of support for the Ukraine government, the Pentagon said Friday it would provide $200 million in additional training, equipment and advisory assistance to Ukraine’s military.Trump tweeted Thursday that he looked forward a “second meeting” with Putin and defended his performance at Monday’s summit, in which the two leaders conferred on a range of issues including terrorism, Israeli security, nuclear proliferation and North Korea.“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems ... but they can ALL be solved!” Trump tweeted.In Moscow, Antonov said it is important to “deal with the results” of the first summit before jumping too fast into a new one. But he said, “Russia was always open to such proposals.”The White House is still trying to clean up post-summit Trump statements on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump’s public doubting of Russia’s responsibility in a joint news conference with Putin on Monday provoked withering criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats and forced the president to make a rare public admission of error.Then on Thursday, the White House said Trump “disagrees” with Putin’s offer to allow U.S. questioning of 12 Russians who have been indicted for election interference in exchange for Russian interviews with the former U.S. ambassador to Russia and other Americans the Kremlin accuses of unspecified crimes. Trump initially had described the idea as an “incredible offer.”The White House backtrack came just before the Senate voted overwhelmingly against the idea.(AP)

Hamas accepts cease-fire after massive Israeli Gaza strikes

Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers said Saturday they had accepted a cease-fire ending a massive Israeli onslaught on militant positions after a soldier was shot dead, once again pulling the sides back from the brink of a full-fledged war.Israel and Hamas have fought three such wars over the past decade and Hamas agreed to the second such cease-fire in a week under heavy Egyptian and international pressure.Even after last week’s cease-fire ended the fiercest exchange of rocket fire and Israeli airstrikes since the 2014 war, incendiary kites and balloons continued to float from Gaza into Israel setting off damaging fires to farmlands. Israel has stepped up strikes since then to signal its new threshold for engagement after months of largely refraining to act.Israel says it has no interest is engaging in another war with Hamas, but says it will no longer tolerate the Gaza militant campaign of flying the incendiary devices into Israel.On Friday, a Palestinian sniper killed an Israeli soldier along the border — the first casualty it has sustained in four years — and Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters. Four Palestinians were killed, of which three were Hamas militants.“The attack delivered a severe blow to the Hamas’s training array, command and control abilities, weaponry, aerial defense and logistic capabilities along with additional military infrastructure,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that the strikes “will intensify as necessary.”Israel’s top leadership convened late into the night Friday at military headquarters to discuss potential actions.In a brief statement early Saturday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement accepted the cease-fire brokered by Egyptian and United Nations officials and that calm had been restored. Later, the Israeli military announced a return to civilian routine along the volatile border.The recent outburst of violence comes after months of near-weekly border protests organized by Hamas aimed in part at protesting the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Over 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the protests began on March 30.Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza for over a decade in an attempt to weaken Hamas. The blockade has caused widespread economic hardship. Israel says the naval blockade is necessary to protect its citizens from weapons smuggling.Israel says it is defending its sovereign border and accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover for attempts to breach the border fence and attack Israeli civilians and soldiers.“Hamas terrorists opened fire today on Israelis. Those are not ‘protesters,’” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon wrote Friday on Twitter. “We will not tolerate attacks endangering Israelis. Under no circumstance.”The Israeli retaliation Friday to the soldier’s killing was fierce, but Hamas’ response was far meeker with just a few projectiles launched that were intercepted by Israel.(AP)

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The Belt and Road

2018 Belt and Road International Forum held in Beijing

Masood Khalid, Pakistani Ambassador to China, speaks at 2018 Belt and Road International Forum in Beijing on June 28.The Belt and Road International Forum was held in Beijing on June 28, with the theme of “The Win-Win of the Belt and Road Initiative”. Nearly 200 Chinese and foreign guests attended, including officials, diplomatic envoys, experts and think tanks.Topics of discussion included international economic cooperation corridors, economic integration, regional connectivity, and cultural exchange.At the forum, the BRI Think-tank Alliance Presentation Platform, BRI Entrepreneurs’ Alliance and the BRI Fund of Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation were launched. "The Belt and Road" Think-Tank Alliance Presentation Platform is also launched here today in Beijing.“The Belt and Road” Think-Tank Alliance Presentation Platform aims to draw on the wisdom of the Belt and Road Initiative through further interactions with experts from various research institutions at home and abroad. It will conduct policy analysis, political consultation as well as sharing platforms for information, resource and achievement.Wang Xiaohui, Editor-in-Chief of CIIC, believes this platform will promote win-win cooperation among Asia, Europe and Africa by carrying out the Silk Road spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit.”“By facilitating exchanges between entrepreneurs and think-tank experts, we mobilize domestic and foreign experts to make targeted subject research and risk assessment reports on enterprise investment projects, provide “one - to -one” strategic consultation, to help solve their problems when going aboard, “he said. Honored guests jointly launch "The Belt and Road Entrepreneurs' Alliance" in Beijing, June 28th. “The Belt and Road” Entrepreneurs Alliance was co-established by CIIC, China World Peace Foundation (CWPF) and Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation (BJIPCF), and supported by China Enterprise Confederation and China Enterprise Directors Association. It will promote business case and experience sharing, inviting experts to give lectures, issuing country-level big data reports, holding analysis report on overseas investment environment and Belt and Road entrepreneurs forum, etc, as a move to enhance global cooperation on production capacity and help Chinese enterprises go global.Li Fugen, Vice President of CIIC, said that under the principles of policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity, the Alliance will draw on information, resources, capital, business opportunities and talents to facilitate enterprises to increase visibility in global market. He also disclosed that this alliance would maintain close connection with embassies to China. Projects recommend by the embassies will be assigned to entrepreneurs by Belt.china.org.cn. "The Belt and Road" Fund of Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation, co-initiated by Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation, Beijing Jiangyin Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, and ZZ HD Health Industry Group, is also launched here today. “The Belt and Road” Fund of Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation was co-initiated by Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation (BJIPCF), Beijing Jiangyin Enterprise Chamber of Commerce, and ZZ HD Health Industry Group. With the funds donated by entrepreneurs, more favorable environment will be fostered for cultural exchanges among countries along the Belt and Road, thus advancing the Belt and Road Initiative and win - win cooperation.the most urgent one. For that reason, the Foundation will play an active role in providing investment and financing support for and preventing risks in economic and trade cooperation, bilateral or multilateral connectivity.The forum was co-hosted by China Internet Information Center (CIIC), China World Peace Foundation (CWPF), Beijing International Peace Culture Foundation (BJIPCF) and Jiangsu Normal University (JSNU); jointly organized by China.org.cn Belt.china.org.cn and China Development Gateway, and supported by Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Belt and Road Research Institute of Beijing Normal University, ZZ HD Health Industry Group and Beijing Hanyihuang Cloisonne Crafts Co. Ltd. (XINHUA)

2018-07-01

Work conference held in Yiwu for China, Czech to coordinate their efforts in promoting Belt and Road Initiative cooperation

By APD Writer He Wei The conference, which jointly organized by the western development department of the National Development and Reform Commission and the second foreign policy department of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade kicked off on June 6, 2018. It is of great significance in implementing the plan for China-Czech cooperation and promoting bilateral communication and cooperation. Both sides took a review on the development of the plan and held a talk over the cooperation prospects on trade, finance, think tank and projects. The priority work of the China and Czech cooperation in the next phase was discussed during the conference.Both sides reached an agreement on enhancing the cooperation on the field of policy coordination, facility connectivity, economic and trade, investment, finance and culture aiming at boosting the economy of both countries and benefiting the people. Almost 100 people from government officials, financial institutions, think tanks  and enterprises of both countries attended the conference.(ASIA PACIFIC DAILY)

2018-06-06