What We Are Watching: New EU Migrant Plan, A Governor on the Ropes, Trump’s Kashmir Curveball

A new EU plan for refugees – French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that 14 EU countries now back a new plan for handling refugees rescued from the Mediterranean Sea. Details of the plan are vague, but at least one important country is not on board: Italy, where right-wing interior minister Mateo Salvini has chased away rescue boats and accused other member states of turning his country, often the first landing point for migrants from Africa, into "the refugee camp of Europe." Differences of opinion across the EU have hampered efforts to hammer out an effective union-wide migrant policy. That hasn't stopped people fleeing dire conditions in Africa and the Middle East: at last count, nearly 32,400 migrants had arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean since January.

Ricky on the Ropes – Puerto Rico's embattled governor Ricardo "Ricky" Rossello says he'll step down after his term ends next year but not before then. He's even willing, he says, to face impeachment – but he won't resign. That won't play well with the hundreds of thousands of protestors now demanding his ouster over unpopular austerity policies, a corruption scandal, the botched response to Hurricane Maria, and a recent leak of Rossello's vulgar and offensive chat messages. Can Ricky really ride this out, hoping that the protesters lose momentum in the summer heat? Or will he succumb to popular pressure, opening up a broader contest for power and potentially reopening basic questions about the relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington?

Claims on Kashmir – Kashmir is a territory claimed by both India and Pakistan. Sporadic fighting over it has killed tens of thousands over the past three decades. On Monday, President Donald Trump told visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the US president to mediate this dispute. Khan was no doubt surprised and delighted: international mediation on Kashmir is a long-standing Pakistani goal. Not so for India, which continues to insist that Kashmir's status can be decided only by direct talks between India and Pakistan. Enraged opposition lawmakers in India have demanded that Modi explain himself. India's foreign ministry responded that "no such request [of Trump] has been made." We're watching to see what Modi himself will say.

What we are ignoring:

Rumors about dead strongmen – It's been a busy week on the are-they-dead-or-aren't-they front. First came the rumors that Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, a renowned trance DJ and rapper whose deft marksmanship recently earned him a mention in this newsletter, had died from kidney failure. Then it was Recep Tayyip Erdogan's turn in the rumor mill. On Monday night, several news reports of dubious provenance suggested that the Turkish president had suffered a heart attack and died. We're ignoring these rumors until we see some better sources or hear from the leaders themselves. But we do want to point out that more transparent governments don't usually suffer from this particular brand of fake news.

Every day thousands of people legally cross back and forth between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, on their way to jobs, schools, doctor's appointments, shopping centers and the homes of family and friends. This harmonious exchange has taken place for more than 400 years, uniting neighbors through shared social ties, geography, history and, most importantly, an interlinked economy.

Beyond the people and goods, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez also converge in a cross-border flow of ideas, ambition and aspirations that have shaped the region for centuries. This forward-looking spirit is what attracted Microsoft to the region in 2017, when it launched Microsoft TechSpark to create new economic opportunities and help digitally transform established industries with modern software and cloud services. It's also why Microsoft announced on Monday that it is expanding the TechSpark El Paso program to include Ciudad Juárez and making a $1.5 million investment in the binational Bridge Accelerator. Read more about the TechSpark announcement here.

Foreign policy played a bigger role in last night's Democratic presidential debate than in previous ones, in part because of events that came on the heels of President Trump's surprise, and disastrous, withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria. Some candidates used the opportunity to play up their foreign policy bona fides, but not all of their punches landed cleanly. Here are some key takeaways.

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Will there be agreement, and will negotiations carry on if there is no agreement in the EU?

Lord William Hague: Well, they won't carry on if there is no agreement at the European Council in the next few days. But in the EU, while you always think of things going to the last minute, in fact they usually go beyond the last minute. And that could happen in this case where there could be political agreement, agreement in principle to a Brexit deal. But they'd have to have another European Council, and more detail hammering out the actual text of it before another summit on the 28th of October, which would mean some extension to Brexit.

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Since Syria's brutal civil war began eight years ago, millions of Syrians have fled their country to escape the bombs and bullets. But hundreds of thousands have been displaced within Syria's borders, where they languish in packed refugee camps. The al-Hol camp in northern Syria is sprawling, and of its nearly 70,000 residents, some 11,000 are family members of foreign ISIS fighters, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The surprise American withdrawal from northern Syria last week paved the way for Turkey and Syria's Bashar al-Assad to move in. Some 160,000 civilians have now fled the border region that Turkey is bombarding, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a stretch of Syria that had been relatively secure since the defeat of ISIS's self-declared caliphate back in March. Here's a look at the camps for displaced people in the area.

Mozambique's democracy test Mozambicans voted yesterday in an election that will test a fragile peace accord between the ruling Frelimo party, led by president Filipe Nyusi, and Renamo, a former rebel group-turned-opposition party. The two factions were on opposite sides of a Cold War-tinged civil war that killed an estimated 1 million people between 1977 and 1992. Frelimo, which has ruled Mozambique since independence, has been losing popularity due to a corruption scandal, but is likely to hold onto power at the national level. Renamo, which foreswore violence just two months ago in exchange for electoral reforms that will help the party, will be hoping to make regional gains that allow it to win some key governorships. Disputes over the final vote count and even outright fraud or violence are possible in coming days, particularly if Renamo fails to make its hoped-for gains.

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