Guatemala Cancels on Trump
Plus: Iran says it will talk—if U.S. sanctions end, Italy presents a migration plan, and what to watch in the world this week.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Guatemala postpones President Jimmy Morales’s visit to the White House, Iran again demands an end to U.S. sanctions, and what to watch in the world this week.
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Guatemala Won’t Sign “Safe Third Country” Agreement
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was due to meet U.S. President Donald Trump today at the White House but the meeting was postponed at the last minute. The two leaders were expected to discuss Guatemala’s potential designation as a “safe third country” for asylum seekers passing through—who could be forced to settle in Guatemala rather than the United States. Opponents say the plan would transform migration in Central America.
But Guatemalan officials say that the agreement won’t be on the table. Last week, former senior officials appealed to the country’s constitutional court to get it to block the potential deal. The Trump-Morales meeting won’t happen until the court rules on the issue. Morales is due to leave office at the end of the year.
Unprepared. Critics of the plan, including Guatemala’s opposition, say that the country is totally unprepared to provide safety or economic opportunity for asylum seekers: Tens of thousands of Guatemalans have left their country this year alone. Last month the Trump administration withheld some aid to the country, along with neighboring El Salvador and Honduras.
What about Mexico? While Mexico has increased its migration enforcement under threat of U.S. tariffs, it is not yet a “safe third country,” either. The United States is set to assess its progress at the end of the month, at which point it could bring that agreement back to the table.
What We’re Following Today
Iran will talk—if U.S. sanctions end. Amid escalating tensions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Sunday that Iran would hold talks with the United States only if Washington agrees to lift its sanctions and return to the 2015 nuclear deal. The U.S. government has granted a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif so that he can attend a U.N. meeting in New York this week, signaling that it is still open to diplomacy.
Meanwhile, the European parties to the nuclear deal are increasingly concerned: Britain, France, and Germany issued a joint statement warning that the agreement is at risk of collapse and appealing for talks between the signatories to resume. France in particular is worried that the U.S. withdrawal from the deal in 2018 could lead to an accidental war.
Italy pushes for further migration controls. Italy is expected to present a new plan today for addressing migrant flows to the European Union. Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said that he will only support renewed European rescue efforts in the Mediterranean if migrants are not transferred to Italy. Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has already barred rescue ships from docking in Italian ports.
On the other side of the Mediterranean, the United Nations has called for all refugee detention centers in Libya to be closed amid the country’s ongoing conflict. An air strike killed more than 50 migrants in a Libyan facility two weeks ago, and thousands remain in government-run centers across the country.
More violence in Sudan, talks delayed. Thousands turned out for protests across Sudan over the weekend to mark 40 days since the deadly raid on the main protest camp in Khartoum. Reports emerged that one protester had been shot dead when security forces opened fire on a crowd in the country’s southeast. Continued transition talks between the ruling military council and the opposition scheduled for Sunday have been postponed, with a new meeting expected on Tuesday. The military is demanding immunity for violence committed before the agreement.
The World This Week
On Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on Ursula von der Leyen’s nomination for EU Commission President. To take the job, the German defense minister needs an absolute majority—and the vote could be close, Politico reports.
Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will be questioned in an undisclosed criminal case on Wednesday. (The State Investigation Bureau currently has eight open cases involving Poroshenko.) The summons comes ahead of Ukraine’s snap parliamentary election on Sunday. The party of Poroshenko’s successor, the ex-comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, leads the polls.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travels to Argentina on Friday to mark the 25th anniversary of the country’s deadliest terrorist attack—on a Jewish community center—and meet with President Mauricio Macri. Investigations into the 1994 attack have long been mired in scandals, including repeated accusations of government cover-ups and whitewashing.
The most recent accusation of a cover-up was made in 2015 against then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; her accuser, Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, was found murdered days later. Argentinian courts have in the past blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the 1994 attack and Macri’s government plans to designate the group as a terrorist organization ahead of Pompeo’s visit.
South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma will testify for five days this week over corruption allegations related to his time in office. Observers say he could use the opportunity to attack current President Cyril Ramaphosa, who replaced Zuma as leader of the ruling African National Congress party in December 2017 and as South Africa’s president in 2018. Ramaphosa was elected to a full five-year term with 57 percent of the vote in a general election in May, but some of Zuma’s allies within the A.N.C. remain influential—and fearful that Ramaphosa’s crackdown on corruption might harm them.
Keep an Eye On
New Zealand’s gun reforms. Gun owners in New Zealand have begun turning in their semi-automatic weapons in exchange for money to comply with the ban put in place after a white supremacist attacked mosques in Christchurch in March. More than 250 gun collections will take place across the country, with NZ$208 million (around $139 million) pledged for compensation.
Press freedom in Burkina Faso. Long a bastion of press freedom, Burkina Faso has proposed a law that would criminalize sharing information about military operations, threatening journalists reporting on the country’s security crisis, the Guardian reports. The law has not yet been approved by Burkina Faso’s president.
Portugal’s socialists. Recent polling shows Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa’s Socialist Party extending its lead ahead of October elections, projected to win 38 percent of the vote. Portugal remains one of Europe’s last countries without far-right nationalists in parliament, Paul Hockenos writes for FP.
Drug arrests in China. Sixteen foreigners were detained in China last week after testing positive for using unspecified drugs. Recent history suggests it’s marijuana-related: Chinese officials have become preoccupied with the drug as a growing number of Western countries relax their cannabis laws, Robert Foyle Hunwick writes for FP.
The U.S. Embassy in Iraq. In March, amid escalating tensions with Iran, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered a partial evacuation of diplomats from the Baghdad embassy. U.S. State Department officials say the drawdown in embassy staff could be permanent, Robbie Gramer reports.
Monsoon floods have affected more than one million people in Nepal, Bangladesh, and India, and killed dozens of people, including two children in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. Intense rain is expected to continue throughout the week.
As permafrost thaws in Russia, environmentalists and officials are concerned about a “gold rush” for woolly mammoth ivory that has been preserved for thousands of years. The Russian trade in mammoth ivory already nets more than $50 million annually.
Odds and Ends
India hopes to be the fourth country to land on the moon, but the launch of its second lunar mission was delayed early Monday due to a technical problem. The satellite Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to land near the moon’s south pole. A new launch date has not yet been announced.
For the first time since 1965, tourists will now be able to visit two of Egypt’s oldest pyramids, which were reopened on Saturday. The country has also been touting recent archaeological discoveries, hoping to boost its lagging tourism industry.
Cuba is hoping to revive its railway system—one of the world’s oldest—with aid from China and Russia. Over the weekend, the first new passenger trains in decades made their first trip across the island. The government aims to transform the system entirely by 2030.
That’s it for today.