Minister Blames EU for Banking Problems Hampering Irans Foreign Trade

Minister Blames EU for Banking Problems Hampering Irans Foreign Trade

TEHRAN (Tasnim) Irans Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati said the banking problems hampering the countrys trade with the European Union (EU) member states have their roots in the EUs failure to facilitate the banking ties between the two sides.

Irans governmental organizations and businessmen have difficulties in trading with European countries, Hojjati said in a meeting with a high-ranking delegation headed by the European Union Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan in Tehran on Saturday.

He emphasized that despite claims made by some EU officials, the banking problems are not caused by the Islamic Republic but created by the EU.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the minister appreciated the European Union for importing Iranian agricultural products and expressed the hope that the obstacles in the way to increase the imports would be removed in the near future.

The EU delegation comprises 70 members including some officials from Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission as well as representatives of some renowned companies from different European countries, according to the official website of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (TCCIMA).

The visit comes against the backdrop of a new wave of interest in ties with Iran after Tehran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) in July 2015 reached a conclusion over the text of a comprehensive 159-page deal on Tehrans nuclear program and started implementing it in January 2016.

The comprehensive nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), terminated all nuclear-related sanctions imposed on Iran.

However, Iranian officials have complained about the failure of the other side, especially the US, to fully implement the accord, as Iran still has problems in its banking transactions with other countries.

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Irish Language Act hampering Northern Ireland power-sharing

Sinn Fin wants to put Irish on equal par with English, but DUP is looking to incorporate Ulster Scots language into act

Sinn Fins Caral Ni Chuilin (left) and Declan Kearney speak to the media outside Stormont. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Irish Language Act hampering Northern Ireland power-sharing

Sinn Fin wants to put Irish on equal par with English, but DUP is looking to incorporate Ulster Scots language into act

Tuesday 27 June 201720.02 BSTLast modified on Monday 27 November 201721.07 GMT

The prospects for talks aimed at restoring Northern Irelands power-sharing government were described as incredibly bleak afterSinn Finclaimed the Democratic Unionists have not moved on its demands for an Irish Language Act.

As Thursdays deadline looms, the establishment of such an act remains one of the republican partys core demands in the negotiations and, if agreed on by unionists, would put Irish on an equal par with English in the region.

Speaking at Stormont on Tuesday evening, Sinn Fins national chairman Declan Kearney accused the DUP of being in default over previous commitments to bring in an Irish Language Act.

Kearney stressed that issues such as the Irish language were absolutely pivotal to protecting the rights of citizens. He said that only a standalone Irish Language Act that excludes other languages spoken inNorthern Irelandfrom this legislation was acceptable.

Shortly after Kearney spoke, the leader of the cross-community Alliance party, Naomi Long, described the prospects for a deal being secured before the 29 June deadline for devolution to return as incredibly bleak.

It did not appear thatthe DUPs deal with the Conservativesto back their minority government in Westminster had been a key factor in the apparent worsening of relations between Sinn Fin and the Democratic Unionists.

Earlier, it had seemed that Sinn Fin was interested in taking local control of the more than 1bn injected into the NorthernIrelandeconomy because of the Downing Street arrangement.

Referring to the windfall, Sinn Fin president Gerry Adams said that the only fair way to get whatever resources come to this place, the only forum or the only decision-making body that can do it in a fair way is the executive.

Although the DUP had not commented by early Tuesday evening, the partys former leader, Peter Robinson, took to Facebook to express incredulity over how the language issue is central to preventing power-sharing being restored.

Robinson, still a key backroom strategist for the DUP, said it would be pitiful and absurd if this issue blocked progress towards a new power-sharing coalition being formed.

The former first minister stressed that an Irish Language Act can be accommodated as long as Ulster Scots is also supported in the same legislation.

Robinson continued: It is entirely legitimate for Sinn Fin to press for an Irish Language Act and of course there is every need for all the parties to respect, and where possible, accommodate differences. but that can never be a one-way street.

There is no credibility in asserting your need to have your culture respected if you blatantly disrespect that of others.

So lets see a sensible deal. Who can complain if there are those who cherish the Irish language or who passionately support Ulster Scots culture? Who would find it unacceptable for arrangements to be put on a statutory basis to protect and support both? Both can be accommodated.

The DUP had tried to incorporate aspects of Ulster Scots language and culture into any act giving parity to Irish as political cover against criticism from hardline unionist opponents.

But Sinn Fins insistence that the act concerns the Irish Language only appears at the moment to be key sticking point in the discussions.

The restoration of that power-sharing coalition now appears more remote before Thursdays deadline. A senior Irish official told the Guardian on Tuesday evening that the talks were in a tough phase but added that they are not terminal although progress is very slow.

The talks will continue overnight and for most of Wednesday, even though 10 DUP MPs will be in Westminster later to vote on the Queens speech.

If the talks fail, Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has two choices: either re-impose direct rule and allow London ministers to hand out the 1bn from the DUP-Tory deal; or else allow civil servants to run devolved regional ministries up until the autumn, when a new talks process could be called.

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© 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Power Struggles In The DRC Are Hampering Energy Potential

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Richard is a former commodities analyst currently working as a freelance consultant involved in the development of copper mines.

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Power Struggles In The DRC Are Hampering Energy Potential

ByRichard Talley- Oct 21, 2017, 2:00 PM CDT

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is known for two dueling realities

Below ground, the DRC sits on immense natural resource wealth, including some of the worlds highest-qualitycopper reservesand potential hydropower capacity that could eventually generate42GW of energyand effectively double Africas entire electricity output.

Above the surface, however, the DRC is a war-torn kleptocracy whose natural riches continually fail to improve daily life for the populace of one of the worldspoorestand most unstable countries. That instability is now set to grow even worse with the announcement that overdue presidential elections will not be held untilApril 2019 at the earliest.

The DRCs worsening political situation has cast a bright light on the massive economic potential that is going to waste. The mining sector is excessively corrupt, and despite being themain driver of GDP growth, only some 6 percent of revenue garnered from it goes to the cash-strapped government. The rest is shamelessly looted or otherwise spirited away, which explains why the state-owned Gcamines companywhich owns the worlds greatest deposits of cobalt and copperishemorrhaging money. If Gcamines cannot make ends meet, theres little hope for the rest of the economy: copper and cobalt collectively make uparound 89 percentof the DRCs exports.

Beyond metals, international observers are increasingly appreciating the countrys immense green energy potential. The $14 billion, 4.8GW Inga 3hydroelectric projecthas been repeatedly delayed due to corruption concerns. The latest blow came after the World Bank pulled funding following a non-transparent government takeover. Even if the dam could treble Congos current installed capacity of just 2.5 GW, it would just represent the tip of the iceberg of Congos energy potential. In a new report published last month,International Riversoutlined 85GW in abundant, low-cost and accessible wind and solar potential that could power not only the DRC but also many of its central and southern African neighbors.Related: Half A Million Bpd At Risk From Geopolitical Firestorm

Its difficult to overstate the extremity of the DRCs energy poverty.Only 13.5 percent of the DRCs 78 millioninhabitants have access to electricity. This is a major reason why the country has one of the worlds lowest GDPs per capita, ranking176 out of 187in the UN Human Development Index. International Rivers seeks to demonstrate that the country has alternative options to hydropower, but a development strategy focused on delivering energy will need to leverage all available options. Wind and solar may not be as easily deployed as the report suggests.

To put things into perspective, the DRCs hydropower potential ranks behind only China and Russia globallyand yet just2.5 percentof it is being exploited. So whats preventing foreign investors and local actors from unlocking the countrys economy? A toxic yet painfully familiar mix of politics, corruption, and internal conflict. From 1965 until 1997, strongman Mobutu Sese Seko was allowed to ruleand spectacularly lootthe DRC with tacit Western backing. Since deposing Mobutu, the Kabila family (first Laurent and now son Joseph) have held power in Kinshasa.

So far, there has never been a peaceful transfer of power, further jarring already weary investors. That was supposed to change last year, with Joseph Kabila stepping aside after his second and final term as president and the people voting to choose a successor. Instead, Kabilas government isactively stalling electionslikely in order to preserve a corrupt economic system that directly benefits his associates and family members. The corruption scale is off the charts. Between 2013 and 2015 alone,Global Witnessfound that mining revenues of up to $1.3 billiontwice what the DRC spends on health and education yearlydidnt make it to the treasury.

This goes far beyond the political realm. By trampling on the constitution to stay in power, Kabila undermines the states legitimacy and economic stability. There aregrowing calls for resistancefrom the opposition, as the threat of civil unrest increases. A paralyzed political process also aggravates bureaucratic mismanagement.Related: The U.S. Shale Play To Watch In 2018

There have beenno environmental impact studiesconducted for Inga 3, for example, despite this being an ironclad precondition for any outside financial backer. The DRC is dependent on the World Bank and other Western and Chinese investment vehicles to finance major projects, making the idea of proceeding without environmental assessments an obvious non-starter. Obvious, at least, to everyone outside Kabilas government.

The standoff is also hardening the stance of the political opposition. Chief among them is Mose Katumbi, the governor of the resource-rich Katanga Provincefrom 2007-2015. Katumbi is effectively president in waiting and has experience working with mining companies and dealing with the regions infrastructural challenges. No wonder he is topping opinion polls to replace Kabila by a wide margin, which is almost certainly why he was sentenced in absentia to36 months imprisonmenton trumped up charges.

From his self-imposed exile in Europe, Katumbi seems to be sounding the right notes. As he toldAfrican Arguments, Id fight corruption. Create jobs. We need to have a strong economy. How? First, you need energy. I would call the private sector and all partners to help us and use money you have locally to improve energy. Unlike Kabila, hes also shown an ability to respect term limits: herelinquished powerafter serving two terms as governor.

If and when Kabila is replaced, a significant amount of damage will need to be undone. Despite its massive untapped resources, the DRC already had a poor reputation as a place to invest and do business, and outside capital is becoming even more wary as the crisis drags on. The global cobalt industry is starting to turn its back on the country and looking to smaller (but safer) sources in Canada and Russia, based entirely onpolitical risk. The mining sector could be a key partner in expanding energy accessbut if the fragile security situation continues to break down amid the presidential impasse, they will most likely vote with their feet and leave.

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Richard is a former commodities analyst currently working as a freelance consultant involved in the development of copper mines.

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