‘De-escalation’ agreement in part of Syria

Perhaps not coincidental to the Trump-Putin G20 summit in Hamburg:

Associated Press:  US, Russia reach deal on Syria cease-fire

The United States and Russia have reached agreement on a cease-fire in southwest Syria, three U.S. officials said Friday as President Donald Trump held his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The deal marks a new level of involvement for the Trump administration in trying to resolve Syria’s civil war. Although details about the agreement and how it will be implemented weren’t immediately available, the cease-fire is set to take effect Sunday at noon Damascus time, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the cease-fire publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement, one of the officials said. The two U.S. allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from Syria’s civil war spilling over the border.

This could be significant,and it could be a breakthrough, but note that that is just in one corner of Syria, the furthest corner from Iran and Turkey and the Kurds.

The deal is separate from an agreement that Russia, Turkey and Iran struck earlier this year to try to establish “de-escalation zones” in Syria where violence would be reduced. The U.S., wary of Iran’s involvement, was not a part of that deal. Follow-up talks this week in Astana, Kazakhstan, failed to reach agreement on how to finalize a cease-fire in those zones.

Previous cease-fires in Syria have collapsed or failed to reduce violence for long, and it was unclear whether this deal would be any better.

So it may be a significant cease in hostilities, or it may be a symbolic signal to the G20 summit that is as ineffective as previous attempts top sort out Syria.

Implications for Syria aside, the deal marks the biggest diplomatic achievement for the U.S. and Russia since Trump took office. Trump’s administration has approached the notoriously strained relationship by trying to identify a few limited issues on which the countries could make progress, thereby building trust for a broader repair of ties.

For years, the U.S. and Russia have been backing opposing sides in Syria’s war, with Moscow supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and Washington supporting rebels who have been fighting Assad. Both the U.S. and Russia oppose the Islamic State group in Syria.

Things are very complicated in Syria, and also in the US-Russian relationship.

Would Labour+NZ First have made more sense?

Labour have joined the Greens in trying to oust Key and National from Government. This has major risks for Labour, a major one being the obvious move to the left apparent on Labour+Greens.

Are they again hoping to awake the ‘missing million’? Do Greens think that if only non-voters saw left wing unity they would come aout in force to vote.

The ‘missing million’ strategy, which included at least two get-out-the-vote campaigns from left wing proxy organisations, failed in 2014, in part due to the more left wing Internet/Mana movement.

If Labour wanted to contest the centre votes that tend to decide elections a Labour-NZ First alliance would have made more sense, for Labour at least. That would have looked far more centre-left/centre (although NZ First are more all over the place rather than centre).

Labour have kept a post-election Labour+NZ First option open by ensuring the Memorandum with the Greens terminates by election day.

Andrew Little has even made it clear a NZ First alliance with Labour pre-election is not ruled out.

So why hasn’t Little looked to the centre and instead created a left-left bloc?

Winston Peters.

Labour helped hand the Northland by-election to Winston on a plate.

Peters will be intent on maximising the poll trend towards NZ First at the expense of a Labour recovery.

Peters wants to be the top dog in the opposition and that means poaching as much Labour support as possible.

And even if he doesn’t get NZ First up past Labour this term he is likely to be in a position of strength post-election. Even on 5-10% Winston is likely to be able to play National against Labour+Greens in coalition dealings. National has squeaked by in the last two elections without needing NZ First but that looks less likely to repeat next year.

Winston looks like sitting pretty right now between National and Labour-Greens.

The MoU may have played right into Winston’s hand. If not he will do al he can to maximise any benefits he can get from it – and that will be at Labour’s expense.

Labour+NZ First will have made no sense to Winston, even though it seems that Andrew Little would have liked it and appears to still hanker for it.

NZ First is not known as Winston First for nothing (even though the party is strengthening).

Winston+NZ First is the only coalition Peters is interested in.


Understanding memorandums and Winston

Andrew Little:

People all over New Zealand come up to me on the street and say, “Do I know you? You look familiar. Are you famous?”

Metiria Turei:

And I laugh, and say to them, “In a manner of speaking, yes, I suppose you could say that! Tee-hee!

“Andrew, you need to loosen up! How about I play a merry jig, and you dance to it? Here goes! One, two, three, four!”

Winston Peters:

“Words fail me. I’m lost for words. No, don’t interrupt; I haven’t finished talking.”

I hop into their bed.

I get good and cosy, and commandeer the hot water bottle. I adjust the reading light, and make sure I have the most pillows. But something still isn’t right.

“I should be in the middle,” I say. “Make way.”

We settle in for a good night’s sleep. But Little snores, so I throw him out. I can’t afford to be seen sleeping with Turei, so I throw her out, too.

“Get some rest,” I tell them, “because I’m going to need you to carry me in my bed right up until November next year. Do we have an understanding?”


Steve Braunias: Secret Diary of The Labour-Green pact

Greens on Memorandum of Understanding

From Facebook:

Today we have signed a historic agreement to work co-operatively with the New Zealand Labour Party to change the Government.

Labour and Greens sign historic agreement to change the Government
Metiria Turei MP on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 – 15:19

The Labour Party and the Green Party have announced today they have signed an historic agreement to work cooperatively to change the Government.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) (PDF)between the parties commits them to working cooperatively to change the Government including closer work at parliament and a possible joint policy announcement or campaign.

“We are sending a clear signal to New Zealanders who want a new and better government that Labour and the Greens will work together to deliver that,” said Labour Party leader Andrew Little.

“It is our intent to build on this agreement to offer New Zealanders the basis of a stable, credible and progressive alternative government at the 2017 General Election.

“The MOU is a fresh start and a sign of newfound strength in our relationship and our mutual commitment to changing the Government.

“When I was elected Labour leader I made it clear that we would not go into another election without strong cooperation with likeminded parties to change the Government. Today, I am delivering on that promise.

“A new Labour-led Government will focus on the critical issues facing our country. We will provide better housing, health and education and a cleaner environment while building a sustainable economy with decent jobs,” said Andrew Little.

“New Zealanders who want a better future now have crystal clear clarity about what they are getting with their vote, we are a vote for change,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“It is time for a Government that puts the wellbeing of people and the environment at the centre of everything it does.

“When Labour and the Greens have actively cooperated and campaigned together, New Zealanders did perceive our parties as a credible alternative to National.

“New Zealanders want to see politicians working together. This MOU lets people see we are a strong and stable alternative to the current Government.

“We are separate parties with our own policies and ideas, but with more than enough in common to work together. We are a good match for building a better Aotearoa New Zealand,” Metiria Turei said.