“We discussed in detail issues of bilateral interaction in the energy sector,” Putin said after talks. “The key joint project in this sphere is construction of a nuclear power plant of Russian design in Egypt by Rosatom. Preparatory activities started on the site. Contracts with Egyptian companies intended to be proactively engaged as subcontractors are planned to be signed by the year-end,” he said. “Positive experience of cooperation has also been accumulated in the hydrocarbon resources development sphere,” he said. “Regular supplies of Russian oil products and LNG to the Egyptian market take place.”
The two also discussed the establishment of a free trade zone between Egypt and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). “Our country supports Egypt’s aspiration to conclude an agreement on a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union,” Putin said. The EAEU comprises Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.
Belgrade Hosts China-CEEC Transport Ministers and Mayors Meetings for 16+1 Countries
Oct. 17 (EIRNS)—The transport ministers of the China and Central and East European Countries (CEEC), otherwise known as the 16+1 mechanism, met in Belgrade, Serbia for their third summit to discuss closer cooperation in water transportation, logistics, human development and trade.
Speaking at a press conference, together with Serbia’s host Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic after the first session of the meeting, China’s Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng pointed out that the increase in overall trade between China and CEE region last year reach $68 billion, while its share in the overall China-EU trade increased from 9.3 to 11%, thus creating the need for stronger interconnection. “Our wish is to achieve further development, together with CEE countries, as well as to strengthen the cooperation in transport and infrastructure within the 16+1 mechanism, along with strengthening political ties in order to achieve long-term cooperation,” Li said according to Xinhua yesterday.
Mihajlovic, who is also Serbia’s Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, said that participants “not only exchanged experiences from each of the individual countries about our development of infrastructural projects, but also talked about the ways to improve interconnection, and to jointly influence in order to decrease non-physical obstacles that exist among the countries of this region, which also means increasing the flow of goods and people across borders.”
“CEE countries established this mechanism together with China, and from the perspective of Serbia it has so far fulfilled all our expectations. I think that we can continue to make progress in this regard in the following years, because each additional interconnection through infrastructure, whether energy or transport, will definitely bring additional investments, new jobs as well as better living standard for citizens, which is in fact—sustainable growth,” Mihajlovic pointed out.
She point out that since the establishment of the 16+1 mechanism, Serbia has attracted €16 billion of investments, of which almost €9 billion are joint investments with China in infrastructure and other projects.
Among the problems discussed at the meeting was dealing with the issue of long retention at border crossings, especially for railways which could take up as much as 8 to 24 hours. It was proposed to intensify cooperation to establish a one-stop shop system and integrated border crossings with as few border-stops as possible.
Parallel to the 16 +1 transport conference, the third China-CEEC Capital Mayors Forum was held at the Palace of Serbia with the presence of delegations from 17 countries. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic addressed the joint opening ceremony of the two meetings at the Palace of Serbia:
“The participation in the Belt and Road Initiative brings benefit to all participants,” Vucic told the Mayors and Transport Ministers. “Serbia’s drop in unemployment to 11.9%, its GDP growth of 4.9% in first six months … trajectory of the public debt is in decrease despite all factors…. Despite all great infrastructural projects our debt, which was 79% of GDP when I became the prime minister in 2014, will drop to 48% on Jan. 1, 2019,” he said, stressing, “Serbia would not achieve such good economic results if it weren’t for the assistance of China and regional countries.”
Vucic further emphasized that without cooperation from Chinese friends and their positive pressure to “build something, to bridge the rivers, to build new roads, we would never have succeeded ourselves,” and encouraged regional countries to interconnect through infrastructure and to make use of the Belt and Road Initiative.
U.S. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC
Senior Treasury Official Arrested for ‘Russiagate’ Leaks
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)—Has the stage of arrests in the war against British intelligence’s coup finally arrived? Politico reported yesterday that senior U.S. Treasury official Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards was arrested in Virginia Oct. 12 for illegally leaking large numbers of Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) sent by banks to the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) where she worked. The leaks, which were published by BuzzFeed, were all attempts to substantiate the false claims of Russian electoral interference, Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, and other allegations from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. The subjects of the leaks and BuzzFeed articles ranged from the Trump Tower meeting of June 2016, to the payments for Paul Manafort’s political work for foreign clients, and the banking transactions of Russian diplomats, among many others. BuzzFeed published 11 stories based on these leaks. The preliminary charges against Edwards are one count of leaking SARs, and another of conspiracy to do so, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
BuzzFeed, it should be recalled, played an important part in MI6 operative Christopher Steele’s Trump “dossier” blackmail operation.
The judge said that Edwards’ next appearance would be in New York (where BuzzFeed is headquartered).
According to Politico, Edwards appears to be the first criminal case in which a government employee is accused of releasing “Russiagate” information.
Last June, however, retired Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI concerning his contacts with journalists, as part of a broader investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Ali Watkins of BuzzFeed, later of the New York Times, was one of four reporters who prosecutors alleged communicated with Wolf. The Times reported that the two had earlier had a romantic relationship.
The FBI focused on Wolfe as the source of an April 3, 2017 BuzzFeed article by Watkins, in which she identified Carter Page as being in contact with a Russian intelligence officer, Kevin Johnson reported for USA Today.
ENDING THE STRATEGIC WAR DANGER
U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis and China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe Conferred in Singapore
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)—China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis met for 90 minutes on the sidelines of the annual Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense ministers meeting in Singapore, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. Randall Schriver, a U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told reporters afterward that Mattis described the meeting as “straightforward and candid” and that he had made clear Washington’s views on China’s alleged increased militarization of the strategic waterway. “That’s an area where we will continue to have differences and talk through,” Schriver said, SCMPreported.
Reporting on the meeting, the New York Times wrote, “during an hour-and-a-half meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Mattis sanded down some of the sharp edges from Vice President Mike Pence’s pointed critique of China this month. Mattis urged the two militaries to talk through their many differences, and even repeated an invitation for Wei Fenghe, China’s defense minister, to visit the United States, according to a senior defense Department official who was in the meeting.”
Today, as well, two U.S. B-52 bombers flew over the disputed South China Sea as part of a routine training mission in the vicinity of the South China Sea, the Pacific Air Forces said in a statement today, according to SCMP.
Greek Foreign Minister Resigns over Macedonia Name Change, Prime Minister Takes Portfolio
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)—Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias resigned on Oct. 17 following dispute during a cabinet meeting, in which the government supported the deal for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.) to adopt the name of North Macedonia. The strategic issue involved, is that the deal to accept that name change is directly linked to Greece agreeing that Macedonia will be able to enter NATO and the EU.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s office announced that the foreign minister’s resignation was accepted, and Tsipras himself would take over the post.
During the cabinet meeting on Oct. 16, Kotzias clashed with Defense Minister Panos Kammenos who opposes the deal. The latter, who heads the governing coalition’s junior party Independent Greeks, said his party will vote against the name agreement in parliament, but will not bring the government down, since there are members of the opposition parties who will vote for the agreement. However, the agreement has to also pass the Macedonian parliament, which is doubtful.
Kotzias’ resignation could lead to a government coalition crisis, given his role as head of the Pratto movement which is part of the Syriza coalition of movements that Tsipras heads. The Pratto has three members of parliament. If they withdraw from supporting the government, it could fall.
Kotzias’ resignation is not likely to affect relations with China, Russian or the U.S. There is strong opposition in the F.Y.R.O.M. parliament, where it could fail and lead to early elections. In that case the deal would be dead.
COLLAPSING WESTERN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
One-Third of Greeks Face Poverty and Social Exclusion
Oct. 17 (EIRNS)—The EU Commission’s statistical agency Eurostat, reported Oct. 16 that, based on 2017 data, one out of every three Greeks, or 34.8%, faces the risk of poverty or social exclusion compared to an EU average of one in five, or 28.1%, reported Kathimerini today. Households considered at risk of poverty are those whose incomes are less than 60% of the national average or in which no family member has a full-time job and who struggle to cover their basic needs. Eurostat,
In Greece, 20.2% of the population were deemed to be living in poverty compared to 16.9% in the EU.
Comparatively, 38.9% of the population were found to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion in Bulgaria, compared with 35.7% in Romania, 12.2% in the Czech Republic, 15.7% in Finland, 16.3% in Slovakia, 17.1% in Slovenia and France, 17.2% in Denmark and 17.7% in Sweden.
Takeovers of German Industry? It’s the British, Not the Chinese!
Oct. 17 (EIRNS)—There has been an enormous propaganda campaign in the mainstream media about alleged Chinese plans to take over all of the industry of Germany; however, as a new survey just published by the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) shows, China is involved in only 2.2% of all takeovers between 2005 and 2017. It is true that there has been an increase in Chinese takeovers, to 5.9% in 2016 and 4.2% in 2017, but note should be taken that companies that are faced with insolvency have a bigger chance finding a new owner in China, than in any other foreign country. Chinese takeovers of otherwise collapsing companies in which no non-Chinese investors had shown interest, were 14% in the 2005-2017 period, by far the biggest share.
During the same period, 58% of takeovers were actually carried out by Germans, and even in 2017—the year of massively increased protesting that “China is buying up the Mittelstand,” it was still 51%. The Mittelstand is Germany’s small and medium entrepreneurial sector, especially associated with high-technology inventiveness, so crucial to its industry.
Some 24% of all takeovers have been carried out by investors from Europe, particularly from the United Kingdom, which alone accounts for 5%—more than twice those from China. And American takeovers in Germany were 8.3% during the 2005-2017 period—more than three times those by China. On the Anglo-American side, investment and equity funds rather than corporate investors that are dominant on the German side, are prevailing in takeovers.
SCIENCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Iran and China Sign Deal To Set Up Desalination Plant in Iran
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)—The Industrial Development and Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and China’s ZSM Company signed a contract for the transfer of technical know-how and purchase of high-tech reverse-osmosis water desalination equipment and machinery, Mehr News Agency reported today. Under the contract, the relevant technical know-how together with water desalination machinery have been purchased, and construction of a factory will begin soon.
Once this factory is established, about 50,000 one-meter filters with 8-inch diameter will be produced annually, with the aim of sweetening drinking water and for use in the petrochemical and steel industries. The total investment needed for the construction of this factory is 1,000 billion rials, equivalent to nearly $24 billion.
As EIR has often reported, Iran suffers from a critical water shortage.