Brussels, Oct 17 (AP/UNB) — Britain and the European Union said Thursday that they have struck an outline Brexit deal after days of intense see-saw negotiations — though it must still be formally approved by the bloc and ratified by the European and U.K. Parliaments.
Hours before a summit of all 28 EU national leaders, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: "We have one! It's a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the two sides had struck a "great new deal" and urged U.K. lawmakers to ratify it in a special session on Saturday.
Immediately complicating matters was Johnson's Northern Irish government allies which didn't waste a minute to say they could not back the outline deal because of provisions for the Irish border.
Johnson needs all the support he can get to push any deal past a deeply divided Parliament and will surely temper jubilation at the EU summit. The UK parliament already rejected a previous deal three times.
Technical negotiators struggled longest to finetune customs and sales tax regulations that will have to manage trade in goods between the Northern Ireland and Ireland — where the U.K. and the EU share their only land border.
After months of gloom over the stalled Brexit process, European leaders have sounded upbeat this week. French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday that "I want to believe that a deal is being finalized," while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said negotiations were "in the final stretch."
They were proven right on Thursday.
Upon the news, the pound hit a five-month high upon the U.S. dollar.
Johnson — who took office in July vowing Britain would finally leave the EU on Oct. 31, come what may — likened Brexit to climbing Mount Everest.
He will have to climb some more to get the Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party on board. DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party's parliamentary chief Nigel Dodds said they "could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues," referring to a say the Northern Irish authorities might have in future developments.
The party said the position was unchanged after the announcement of the provisional deal.
Both the customs and consent arrangements are key to guaranteeing an open border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.
Barcelona, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — The regional leader of restive Catalonia is participating in one of five large marches by separatists that plan to cross Spain's northeast corner in the coming days in protest of the Supreme Court's guilty verdict for a dozen separatist leaders.
Quim Torra, a fervent separatist, said Wednesday that "nobody doubt that this president is beside his people" while walking with the stream of people down a highway between Girona and Barcelona.
The marches from different Catalan towns aim to reach the Catalan capital by Friday.
Catalonia is reeling from two days of violent protests over the Supreme Court's verdict.
Torra has yet to condemn the violence that has left more than 200 people injured.
Torra's office says he plans to only do a part of Wednesday's march.
The Spanish government says that isn't ruling out any means to guarantee security in Catalonia following three days of major protests over the imprisonment of separatist leaders.
Clashes between angry crowds of mostly young protesters and riot police across the northeastern region have eclipsed largely peaceful demonstrations since Monday's conviction of those who led the 2017 bid for Catalan independence.
Spain's caretaker government has blamed violence on "coordinated groups" and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is discussing the issue in meetings on Wednesday with leaders of opposition parties.
Sánchez has told the conservative Popular Party leader Pablo Casado that "he doesn't rule out any scenario," a government statement said.
It added: "Everything is prepared and (the government) will act, if needed, with firmness, proportionality and unity."
The Spanish soccer league wants Barcelona's game against Real Madrid to be moved out of the Catalan capital to avoid coinciding with a planned separatist rally.
Separatist groups in Catalonia have called for supporters to rally in Barcelona on Oct. 26 when Barcelona is scheduled to host Madrid in the "El Clásico" match.
The league runs the top two tiers of Spanish soccer. It has called on the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) — which controls regulations and fixtures for professional and amateur games — to shift the match to Madrid. The league has also requested for the return match to be switched from Madrid to Barcelona.
The league said Wednesday it has "requested the competitions committee of the RFEF to meet and change the location of El Clásico because of exceptional circumstances beyond our control."
Catalonia has seen violent protests for the last two days with police clashing with protesters angered by the Supreme Court's decision to sentence nine separatist leaders to prison.
The federation said the clubs have until Monday to respond to the request to change venues.
Catalan independence flags are a regular feature at Barcelona's home games at the Camp Nou Stadium.
Thousands of people have set out on foot from several towns in Catalonia to protest the sentencing of nine leaders of the region's separatist movement to lengthy prison terms.
Organizers have urged the marchers to be peaceful, after two nights of rioting in Barcelona against the Supreme Court's ruling.
The five marches set off Wednesday and aim to converge on the Catalan capital on Friday.
Also Wednesday, protests continued to clog traffic in Barcelona and students in the restive region went on strike.
Rallies by the Catalan separatist movement have traditionally been non-violent.
But two nights of violent clashes between police and protesters have injured more than 200 people.
Catalan and national officials were meeting separately Wednesday to discuss events.
Spain is on edge after two straight days of violent clashes in northeastern Catalonia between police and protesters at over the Supreme Court's sentencing of nine leaders of the region's separatist movement to prison.
Protest marches are starting in several Catalan towns on Wednesday with the goal of reaching Barcelona by Friday.
Spain's Interior Ministry says that 54 members of Catalonia's regional police force and 18 National Police officers were hurt when they engaged with protesters on Tuesday.
Police made 29 arrests in Barcelona, the Catalan capital, during a raging street battle Tuesday night. Protesters set light to over 150 barricades they erected in the streets, according to the ministry.
Health authorities say they treated 125 people, both police and protesters, on Tuesday.
Moscow, Oct. 16 (Xinhua/UNB) -- Russia is ready to assist in the establishment of practical cooperation between Damascus and Ankara on the basis of the 1998 Adana Agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.
"The militaries of the two countries should determine the specific parameters of such cooperation in practice and on terrain," Lavrov told reporters in the Black Sea resort of Sochi at an international meeting on security issues.
"We are ready to assist in such a dialogue," he added, according to video footage provided by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In 1998, Turkey and Syria signed an agreement in the southern Turkish city of Adana, according to which Syria stopped supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) considered as a terrorist party by Ankara, and expelled its leader Abdullah Ocalan, which paved the way for his capture by Turkey in 1999.
On Oct. 9, Turkey started a military offensive dubbed Operation Peace Spring in the east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to "secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria's territorial integrity."
Ankara wants to clear east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed PKK, listed as a terrorist organization also by the United States and the European Union.
Lavrov said that Russia has always recognized the legitimate interests of Turkey in ensuring the security of its borders.
At the same time, Moscow is in favor of the current situation being resolved through dialogue between the Syrian government and the Kurdish structures, Lavrov said.
Such a dialogue has begun and it is yielding concrete results, he said.
The Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria said on Sunday that it had reached an agreement with the Syrian government on the deployment of Syrian troops along the Syrian-Turkish border to aid the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in facing the Turkish offensive and recapturing areas that had fallen to the Turkish forces.
Lavrov said Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are planning to meet later this month.
They will discuss the situation in Syria, as well as the tasks of ensuring its sovereignty and territorial integrity "in an uncompromising struggle with the remnants of terrorist gangs and, of course, simultaneously promoting the political process in the form of organizing the first inaugural meeting of the constitutional committee," Lavrov said.
The Hague, Oct 16 (AP/UNB) — Dutch farmers drove their tractors in slow-moving convoys across the country Wednesday to protest their treatment by the government as it seeks to rein in carbon and nitrogen emissions.
It is the second major protest this month by Dutch farmers who say the government is unfairly targeting them as it seeks to slash emissions.
"They blame agriculture for everything at the moment because of nitrogen emissions," said farmer Jans de Wilcher.
He added that, "we as a sector store far more nitrogen than we produce. So we are actually helping the Dutch problem rather than making it worse - so why do we get the blame?"
Hundreds of drivers on tractors gathered in the central town of De Bilt to protest near the headquarters of the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, which is responsible for measuring nitrogen emissions.
Farmers accuse the institute of inaccurately calculating nitrogen levels as the Dutch government struggles to meet European Union emissions targets in part by offering to buy up farms voluntarily.
From De Bilt, the farmers were driving to The Hague, where the military parked heavy trucks at strategic junctions to help police block roads leading to the historic town center.
Farmers were driving their tractors onto a large grassy field just outside the center where their demonstration was scheduled to begin in the afternoon.
Some even drove along the North Sea beach, parking there and being driven into town on busses, police said.
Their lobby is powerful because of the economic significance of agriculture to the Dutch economy.
The Dutch farmers' organization, LTO, says exports from the country's nearly 54,000 farms and agriculture businesses were worth 90.3 billion euros ($98.3 billion) last year.
But it comes at an environmental cost, with farms emitting carbon and nitrogen.
Earlier this month, the government announced it is planning a raft of measures to rein in nitrogen emissions including a voluntary program to buy up old and inefficient farms and subsidies to help other farms modernize.
Other measures take aim at the construction and transport industries, which also are responsible for emissions.
One tractor in The Hague bore a sign saying simply: "No farmers. No food. No future."
Geneva, Oct. 16 (Xinhua/UNB) -- During the summer heatwaves of 2019, Switzerland's glacier melt rates reached record levels, leading to another year of major losses of ice volume, the Cryospheric Commission of the Swiss Academy of Sciences said on Tuesday.
In a press release issued Tuesday, the Swiss Academy of Sciences said that Switzerland's glaciers have shrunk by 10 percent over the past five years.
According to the Academy, during the two week-long periods of intense heat at the end of June and the end of July this year, the volume of snow and ice melting on Swiss glaciers within just 15 days was equivalent to the country's total annual consumption of drinking water.
As a result, the thick snow layer rapidly disappeared, and the strong melt persisted until the beginning of September.
"This means that, over the past 12 months, around 2 percent of Switzerland's total glacier volume has been lost. Altogether, over the past five years, the loss exceeds 10 percent - a rate of decline never previously observed in the time series extending back for more than a century," the press release added.