Greece managed to buy some more time to resolve its crippling debt problems. Talks with the Trokia of the EU, IMF and World Bank allowed Athens to secure a package of loans (valued at 44 billion euros) and debt restructuring, without which it would have run our of money and had to defult, probably leaving the Eurozone in the process.
One facet of the latest agreement is a program for Greece to buy back bonds held buy foreign creditors. Greek Finance Minister Stournaras did not give many details of the 14 billion euro scheme, but insisted bondholders would not be forced into selling.
EU leaders worked towards thrashing out a budget for the recession hit bloc. David Cameron overcame his previous isolation and found allies in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and even Germany. The Northern pro-austerity group of nations want the EU to trip, or at least freeze its budget. Southern state however see this as short-sighted, and a pressing for further increases…to be paid for by the prosperous north, obviously.
President Morsi of Egypt cashed in the political capital gained from helping to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas by securing himself sweeping new powers. The salient feature of the new powers is the inability of judges to vote down a presidential decree. Judges naturally reacted angrily and there were running battles between pro and anti Morsi supporters in the capital Cairo. Many watched to see how SCAF, the unnecessarily sartorial sounding Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would react. The generals seem content to let the move pass. In reality the powers are very similar to those wielded by Mubarak until his ousting, and the leave the military’s vast business empire unscathed.
Supporters of President Assad seemed undaunted by the latest efforts by rebels to organise themselves into a coherent bloc. Government jets pounded positions outside Damascus and Allepo, leaving roughly thirty dead. At the same time, rebels claimed to have captured a base near the Iraq border, as well as shooting down a government helicopter.
The only good news is that both Syria and Turkey seemed to have realized that lobbing shells at each other and making holes in the sand isn’t the best way to encourage stability. Artillery exchanges have also ceased on the Golan heights.
In a militarily dull but symbolically significant move, China landed its first jet fighter on its first aircraft carrier. China has been showing off its new toy as a symbol of its growing economic and military clout in the region. Beijing is involved in about a dozen territorial disputes with its neighbours, most notably Japan. The two powers both claim ownership of a group of uninhabited islands in the China sea, which are said to be surrounded by vast reserves of oil and natural gas. The US, desperate to avoid a war between its two biggest trading partners, has been trying to placate China while reigning in the more militant elements of Japanese policy making.