Iran is ready to negotiate

Iran is ready for “just” negotiations but not if they mean surrender, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday, without saying what talks he had in mind.

Rouhani seemed to be referring to possible negotiations with the United States. U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year but has said he is willing to hold talks with the Islamic Republic.

“As long as I have the responsibility for the executive duties of the country, we are completely ready for just, legal and honest negotiations to solve the problems,” Rouhani said, according to his official website. “But at the same time we are not ready to sit at the table of surrender under the name of negotiations.”

Sweden in talks with Iran

Sweden said on Wednesday it was holding talks with Iran, Britain and others over a Swedish-owned, British-flagged tanker seized last week by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.

“Sweden is concerned by developments in the Strait of Hormuz. For Sweden and the EU it is vital that freedom of navigation is protected. Given the very serious situation in the region, it is also important that the measures taken help to ease tensions,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Sweden is conducting a dialogue at various levels with the UK, Iran and other relevant stakeholders... and we hope to find a resolution to the issues and de-escalate the tense situation.”

Chinese 'ready to go to war' over Taiwan in face of US arms initiative

China has warned that it is ready for war if there is any move toward Taiwan's independence, accusing the United States of undermining global stability and denouncing its arms sales to the self-ruled island.

The Pentagon said this month the US State Department had approved sales of weapons requested by Taiwan, including tanks and Stinger missiles estimated to be worth $2.2bn (€1.97bn).

Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian told a news briefing on a defence white paper, the first like it in several years to outline the military's strategic concerns, that China would make its greatest effort for peaceful reunification with Taiwan. "However, we must firmly point out that seeking Taiwan independence is a dead end," Mr Wu said.

"If there are people who dare to try to split Taiwan from the country, China's military will be ready to go to war to firmly safeguard national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity," he said.

Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. The United States has no formal ties with democratic Taiwan, but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.

The Chinese ministry said the United States had "provoked intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defence expenditure... and undermined global strategic stability".

Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said later in a statement that Beijing's "provocative behaviour... seriously violated the peace principle in international laws".

"We urge Beijing authorities to renounce irrational, malicious acts such as the use of force, and to improve cross-strait relations and handle issues including Hong Kong rationally, so that it can be a responsible regional member," it said.

In Beijing, asked how China's military would handle escalating protest violence in Hong Kong's widening crisis over a controversial extradition bill, Mr Wu referred only to the territory's garrison law.

Boris Johnson confirmed as new UK prime minister

Britain's Queen Elizabeth welcomes newly-elected leader of the Conservative party Boris Johnson during an audience in Buckingham Palace, London, where she invited him to become Prime Minister and form a new government. Photo credit: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

The Tory leader, whose progress to his meeting with the Queen was briefly disrupted by climate change protesters, was appointed after Theresa May resigned.

The new Prime Minister has made clear he will leave the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal, but Mrs May used her farewell statement to say his priority must be a Brexit "that works for the whole United Kingdom".

But she made clear her desire for Mr Johnson to seek a deal with Brexit, having previously warned about the risks of a no-deal departure.

Flanked by husband Philip, she said: "I repeat my warm congratulations to Boris on winning the Conservative leadership election. "I wish him and the Government he will lead every good fortune in the months and years ahead. "Their successes will be our country's successes, and I hope that they will be many." But she added: "Of course, much remains to be done - the immediate priority being to complete our exit from the European Union in a way that works for the whole United Kingdom. "With success in that task can come a new beginning for our country - a national renewal that can move us beyond the current impasse into the bright future the British people deserve."

Mr Hammond, Mr Gauke and Mr Stewart strongly oppose a no-deal Brexit and say they cannot support Mr Johnson's commitment to take Britain out of the EU by the deadline of October 31 "do or die".

In his resignation letter, Mr Hammond said the new PM should be "free to choose a chancellor who is fully aligned with his policy position".

And in a pointed message to Mr Johnson, he warned that headroom built up in the public finances could only be used for tax cuts and spending boosts if a Brexit deal was secured.

Mr Gauke used his resignation letter to say: "Given Boris's stated policy of leaving the EU by October 31 at all costs, I am not willing to serve in his Government. "I believe I can most effectively make the case against a no-deal Brexit from the backbenches."

Mr Johnson has been busy in his preparations for government, with a return expected for Eurosceptic Priti Patel and an advisory role for Leave campaign mastermind Dominic Cummings. Ms Patel is an ardent Brexiteer who was forced by Mrs May to resign as international development secretary over unauthorised contacts with Israeli officials.

Mr Cummings clashed with officials and politicians while he was an adviser to Michael Gove in the coalition government, but Mr Johnson clearly believes his forthright style will help steer Brexit through.

The appointment of the abrasive Vote Leave campaign director will be controversial given that earlier this year he was found to be in contempt of Parliament for refusing to give evidence to a committee of MPs investigating "fake news".

He is also less than impressed with the calibre of Brexiteer MPs, describing a "narcissist-delusional subset" of the European Research Group (ERG) as a "metastasising tumour" that needed to be "excised". Mr Johnson will need the support of those same ERG hardliners for his Brexit plan.

Ms Patel has reportedly been lined up for the post of home secretary as allies said Mr Johnson was determined to create a "Cabinet for modern Britain", with a record number of ethnic minority ministers and more women attending in their own right.

It is likely to mean a promotion for the Indian-born employment minister Alok Sharma, who is expected to take his place around the top table. But uncertainty surrounds the future of Mr Johnson's defeated leadership rival Jeremy Hunt after he reportedly turned down a demotion from Foreign Secretary to defence secretary.

Turks welcome 'Ottoman grandson' Boris Johnson as British leader

Turkey celebrated incoming British prime minister Boris Johnson’s Turkish heritage on Wednesday, with politicians and media proclaiming that the “Ottoman grandson” could strengthen ties between two countries on Europe’s fringes.

The former London mayor is the great-grandson of the Ottoman Empire’s last interior minister, Ali Kemal, and his ancestry has been a source of pride for many Turks.

Despite his sometimes disparaging remarks about Turkey, including a crude limerick about President Tayyip Erdogan and demands in 2016 that Britain veto Turkey’s accession to the European Union, Johnson is affectionately referred to as “Boris the Turk” by some Turkish media.

Erdogan congratulated Johnson on Twitter, adding that ties between Turkey and the United Kingdom were set to improve. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also congratulated him, sharing a video of Turkish reporters asking Johnson about his roots in Cankiri during a 2016 visit to Ankara.

Johnson’s own relations with Turkey have sometimes been rocky.
Three years ago he won first prize in a British magazine competition which asked readers to compose limericks about Erdogan “as filthy and insulting as possible”. He later said the Turkish leader had not brought up the verse when they met.

Johnson, a leading campaigner for Brexit in Britain’s 2016 EU referendum, wrote to then-Prime Minister David Cameron before the vote calling for the government to veto Turkish EU accession and stop a planned extension of visa-free travel to Turkey.

Turkey’s EU accession talks are now stalled, while Johnson has barely three months to meet an Oct. 31 deadline to negotiate Britain’s exit from the bloc.

Receiving a Turkish award in 2012 for his work as London mayor, Johnson was told of a belief in the Black Sea province of Rize, where then-premier Erdogan’s family hail from, that no one could become prime minister unless they could play the kemence, a traditional stringed instrument.

Johnson had a go, video footage shows, and despite his limited skills the instrument appears to have worked its charm. “The kemence brought good luck,” Aksam newspaper said.