Iran’s top nuclear negotiator for its 2015 deal with world powers warned Thursday that the agreement was under threat unless foreign businesses and banks were able to trade freely in the country. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told London’s Chatham House that US President Donald Trump’s hostility towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was creating a “destructive atmosphere” that meant businesses were afraid of dealing with Iran, AFP reports. Under the deal, sanctions were lifted in return for a commitment not to pursue a nuclear bomb. However, Iran claims it is not reaping the rewards despite complying with the agreement. “I don’t think the deal can survive in this way. Even if the waivers are extended… if companies and banks are not working with Iran, we cannot remain in a deal that there is no benefit for us,” Araghchi said.
Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party accused the government of “spreading misinformation” on Thursday about causing no civilian deaths in its offensive in Syria, calling on Ankara to halt the military operation. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said earlier in the day that no civilian had been killed in Turkey’s air and ground campaign in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria. Pervin Buldan, the newly elected co-head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), told reporters in Istanbul that many civilians had died in Afrin, including women and children, AFP reports. Buldan added that Turkey will “gain nothing” from the offensive. Ankara says it is fighting the YPG, describing it as a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “The world knows that the YPG is part of the SDF which fought” Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), said Sezai Temelli, HDP’s other co-leader. “We believe the SDF should be part of a peace resolution in Syria.”
Leaders of the Basque separatist militant group ETA are asking members to vote on whether it should disband itself completely by the summer, according to a statement in newspaper Gara. ETA killed more than 850 people during a campaign to carve out an independent state in northern Spain and southwest France, Reuters said. The group is practically inactive since it handed over arms in April to end nearly half a century of separatist violence. With the help of mediators, it led French authorities to caches of weapons, explosives and ammunition. It had declared a ceasefire in 2011. Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido tweeted on Thursday that statements were not enough, and called on ETA to dissolve completely and apologize to its victims.
Ankara won’t allow Cyprus’ government to carry out a “unilateral” gas search off the east Mediterranean island as long as breakaway Turkish Cypriots don’t also reap the benefits, the Turkish energy minister warned on Thursday. For two weeks, Turkish warships citing naval exercises have prevented a rig from reaching an area southeast of Cyprus where Italian firm Eni plans to carry out exploratory drilling. Ankara has extended naval maneuvers in the area. Minister Berak Albayrak said that Turkey would block an offshore hydrocarbon search until there is an accord to reunify ethnically split Cyprus, AP reported. “As long as a concrete and rational solution is not produced, we have to be effective,” Albayrak told an energy forum in Istanbul. “If unilateral exploration is conducted, as Turkey we will not allow it.”
European Central Bank policymakers could indicate as soon as March that they are mulling an earlier end to their stimulus program, AP said, citing the minutes to the last policy meeting. The minutes to the January 25 meeting published Thursday showed policymakers said the “language pertaining to the monetary policy could be revisited early this year.” The next meeting will be held on March 8. The bank is currently purchasing €30 billion ($37 billion) worth of bonds a month in financial markets to keep a lid on borrowing costs. Those purchases are due to run until the end of September “or beyond, if necessary” dependent on inflation getting back toward the bank’s aim.
Retirees were demonstrating across Spain on Thursday, calling for higher pensions and urging authorities to ensure funding for social security. The biggest protests were in cities including Bilbao, Barcelona and the capital, Madrid, where thousands gathered at the gates of the national parliament, blocking traffic and facing off with rows of police, AP reported. Protesters called the 0.25 percent increase in pensions this year “miserable,” saying it was not enough to keep up with inflation. Organizers, including the biggest workers’ unions, petitioned parliament to call on political parties to stop blocking changes to the laws on pensions. Experts have raised concerns about the sustainability of pension pay-outs in Spain.