Turkey President Erdogan calls US counterpart Trump over Syria, and protests in Greece over Macedonia name change.
China posts slowest growth since 1990
China clocked in a growth rate of 6.4 per cent in the last three months of 2018, the weakest quarterly growth since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to figures released by Beijing Monday. Its growth rate was recorded at 6.5 per cent in the quarter before.
Overall, China’s economy grew at 6.6 per cent in 2018, which is the country’s slowest ever growth rate since 1990.
“China’s rate of expansion has raised worries about the potential knock-on effect on the global economy. The trade war with the US has added to the gloomy outlook,” BBC reported.
“While China watchers advise caution with Beijing’s official GDP numbers, the data is seen as a useful indicator of the country’s growth trajectory,” it added.
“Asian markets kept their nerve on Monday as data showed the Chinese economy slowed at the end of last year, underlining the urgent need for more stimulus as Beijing wrestles with the United States over trade,” Reuters noted.
Turkey ready to take over security in Syria’s Manbij: Erdogan to Trump
Turkey is ready to take over security in Syria’s Manbij, where four American personnel were killed in a bombing attack last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his US counterpart Donald Trump in a phone call Sunday, reported Al Jazeera.
“Erdogan told Trump that the suicide bombing in Manbij, a town in northeast Syria controlled by a militia allied to US-backed Kurdish forces, was a provocative act aimed at affecting Trump’s decision last month to withdraw US troops from Syria,” news agency Reuters said in a report.
“Located near the border with Turkey, Manbij has emerged as a focal point of tensions after Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces whose presence has effectively deterred Ankara from attacking Kurdish fighters, Washington’s main ground ally in its fight against ISIS,” the Al Jazeera report added.
A militia allied with Syrian Kurds fighting the so-called Islamic State currently holds Manbij. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds an extension of local secessionist Kurds, and refuses to work with them.
According to the Al Jazeera report, Manbij was an issue between Turkey and the US as the former seeks to take charge of the area but Kurdish fighters do not want to hand over control to the Turkish government.
According to Al Jazeera, the call, the second between the leaders in a week, came as “these Kurdish fighters have been inching towards the Syrian government in case of a vacuum created when the US forces pull out – a result that neither Turkey nor the US wants”.
Protests in Greece over Macedonia name change
About 60,000 protesters gathered outside the Greek parliament in Athens Sunday to protest against the rechristening of neighbouring Macedonia as Northern Macedonia.
According to an ABC News report, 25 security personnel were injured and seven people arrested in the protests as the mob threw rocks, flares, firebombs, and paint at riot police, who responded by firing tear gas.
— Marko Subotic (@SuboticAJB) January 20, 2019
The name change is the result of an accord called the Prespes Agreement, signed last June between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which will end a 27-year feud between the countries.
In exchange for the name change, Greece agreed to drop its objections against Macedonia joining NATO and European Union.
The Greek parliament is expected to start a debate in parliament Monday to ratify the agreement, while the Macedonian legislature has already approved the name change.
Greeks believe Macedonia’s bid to retain the name is a bid to usurp Greek history—including Alexander’s legacy—and a sign of its territorial designs on Greece’s namesake province.
“Macedonia is one and it is Greek. What the government is doing is fascistic. It is trying to pass an agreement that so many of us are against. Macedonia belongs to the Greek people, it doesn’t belong to any political party,” Andreas Androutsos, a young engineer who was among the demonstrators, told The Guardian.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has faced major opposition for this deal, narrowly surviving a vote of confidence held in its wake last week.
In his statement to the press, he said, “In our democracy, citizens’ free expression is an inalienable right, even for those who want to abolish democracy… It is also the duty and obligation of those of us who do believe not to allow them. Let’s isolate and condemn them.”
Family of disappeared American man in Syria wants Trump’s help
The family of an American therapist missing in Syria since 2017 has finally spoken out about his disappearance, reported The Wall Street Journal.
Majid Kamalmaz, 61, was born in Syria but had immigrated to the US at the age of six in the early 1960s, when his father got a job in southern California.
Kamalmaz, who reportedly worked with the war-hit around the world, has allegedly been missing since he was allegedly intercepted at a government checkpoint in February 2017, while in Syrian capital Damascus to visit family members. His family had since been working quietly with the US government to track Kamalmaz, the report added.
According to a report in The New York Times, “The F.B.I. and the State Department, which had advised them (his family) to keep the case quiet, have made little progress in finding him, and Mr Kamalmaz’s family now wants to promote the case, hoping to catch President Trump’s ear and encourage him to put the weight of his office behind efforts to free Mr Kamalmaz.”
It quoted Maryam, one of the Kamalmaz’s five children, as saying in an interview, “Isn’t the President of the United States one of the most powerful people in the world? We believe he can do it.”
“Hopefully, President Trump can look through our ancestry and realise that we are American, we’re American citizens, my father is an American, and he needs to be brought home,” Maryam added.
The report pointed out that there were “significant challenges” if the US had to negotiate with the Syrian government to secure the freedom of Kamalmaz as America severed its diplomatic ties with Syria after the civil war broke out in 2011.