Tag Archives: US

Joe Biden’s visit to Israel…Not a good timing…

Well, apparently Joe Biden didn’t chose teh right moment to visit  Israel or lets put it in the other side, Israeñ government chose a good moment to make a statement by pursuing the worldwide condemned jewish colonies construction in palestinian soil. Or at least in what is left. BUt following Haaretz’s quotes, relationship are not in a good term. Hard to be an “hyperpuissance”.

Here some reactions :

Israel Crosses the Line.. But with US Support in asharq alawsat


By Bilal Hassen

The superpower and Israel’s protector, that is, the United States has proclaimed that it cannot play a basic and prominent role in the self-delegated negotiations between the Arabs and Israel and between the Palestinians and Israel. This superpower and protector of Israel came forward and bravely proposed to the world that it wants to broker successful negotiations whose first condition would be that Israel stop building more settlements. The protected Israel refused and the protector superpower gave in.

At this point, the superpower announced that it is ready to oversee indirect negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel that are not based on any conditions or point of reference. Once again and on the same day that the attempt to start indirect negotiations would begin, the protected state announced that it is building new settlements. The protector superpower did not object or protest and the negotiations are now at risk. It is also possible to wonder whether they will ever start. This state of affairs sounds extremely boring to the reader. No one believes that Israel can reject what the United States wishes, and no one believes that the United States cannot impose on Israel’s government a simple political decision such as starting indirect and perhaps binding negotiations. No one believes that indirect negotiations, if they ever start, will have a new practical result. It has become widely known that Israel does not want to discuss the Palestinian issue in the first place. It does not want to discuss the right of return of the Palestinians and does not want to discuss a full Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in 1967. Israel does not want to dismantle the settlements and does not want to approve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. On the other hand, it has become widely known that Israel wants half the West Bank and the waters of the West Bank. It wants the skies of the West Bank, the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip, and it wants a military deployment along the Jordan River. This is all Israel wants and the United States knows that this is what Israel wants. Nevertheless, it comes to the region with all its prestige to tell us that it will broker indirect negotiations. It promises us that such negotiations will end within two years and it wants us to believe this big American lie.


Punishing America in Dar Al Hayat

Sun, 14 March 2010

Elias Harfoush

It would not have been possible to imagine worse for the US’s credibility in the region than what befell it during Joe Biden’s visit this week; a comment made by Aaron Miller, a prominent member of the US team negotiating with the Israelis under the administration of Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr. And because Miller is aware of the balance of power in the American-Israeli relationship, he described it as “dancing with a bear”, where the problem becomes, as he says, that if you start dancing with it, it no longer becomes possible to let it dance alone!

This is what happened with the US Vice President in Israel. Indeed, dancing with “the Israeli bear” (perhaps describing it as a wolf would be more accurate) led to the insult to which was subjected the second highest-ranking man in the United States, an insult which he had to swallow before heading to the dinner table alongside that very bear, then publicly praising the strong relations between Israel and the United States, and declaring complete consideration of the US for Israel’s security, being “Israel’s best friend in the world”.

Israel envoy: U.S. ties at their lowest ebb in 35 years, in Haaretz

Last update – 20:23 15/03/2010
Israel envoy: U.S. ties at their lowest ebb in 35 years
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has told the country’s diplomats there that U.S.-Israeli relations face their worst crisis in 35 years, despite attempts by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to project a sense of “business as usual.”

Oren was speaking to the Israeli consuls general in a conference call on Saturday night.

Netanyahu consulted Sunday with the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers over a list of demands that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made in a telephone conversation Friday.


Clinton harshly criticized the announcement last week of plans to expand the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood in East Jerusalem while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Israel.

Haaretz has learned that Clinton’s list includes at least four steps the United States expects Netanyahu to carry out to restore confidence in bilateral relations and permit the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

1. Investigate the process that led to the announcement of the Ramat Shlomo construction plans in the middle of Biden’s visit. The Americans seek an official response from Israel on whether this was a bureaucratic mistake or a deliberate act carried out for political reasons. Already on Saturday night, Netanyahu announced the convening of a committee to look into the issue.

2. Reverse the decision by the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee to approve construction of 1,600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo.

3. Make a substantial gesture toward the Palestinians enabling the renewal of peace talks. The Americans suggested that hundreds of Palestinian prisoners be released, that the Israel Defense Forces withdraw from additional areas of the West Bank and transfer them to Palestinian control, that the siege of the Gaza Strip be eased and further roadblocks in the West Bank be removed.

4. Issue an official declaration that the talks with the Palestinians, even indirect talks, will deal with all the conflict’s core issues – borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security arrangements, water and settlements.

Two advisers of the prime minister, Yitzhak Molcho and Ron Dermer, held marathon talks Sunday with senior White House officials in Washington and U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell and his staff to try to calm the situation. Mitchell will return to Israel Tuesday and expects to hear if Netanyahu intends to take the proposed steps.


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“US Economic Sanctions on Syria Have Failed,” by Joshua Landis

US Economic Sanctions on Syria Have Failed,” by Joshua Landis : see link

Contrary to what Andrew Tabler of WINEP, a right-wing think tank argues, US sanctions on Syria have failed. Tabler, in a Newsweek article copied below, recommends keeping sanctions on Syria.  He claims they are working. He is joined in his desire to keep sanctions on Syria by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She worries that Obama is going soft on Syria because it has returned its ambassador and is engaging. She said, “The administration is aiding an unrepentant regime and is sending a signal that the U.S. will make concessions and seek dialogue regardless of what the facts dictate.” She said this in a Feb. 12 statement after the U.S. let Chicago-based Boeing Co. sell aircraft parts for the repair of two 747 jets owned by Syrian Arab Airlines.

Tabler argues that US sanctions have worked and are forcing Syria into a corner where it must finally make important foreign policy concessions. I don’t know what cool-aid Tabler has been drinking, but it may well be from the same dispenser as Ros-Lehtinen’s. US sanction efforts have failed badly. Don’t take my word for it.  Here is what Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman said about Washington’s backfiring sanctions effort just the other day:

So you ended up at a point when we isolate – we were the ones isolated. It was no longer Syria being isolated. It was the United States that was being isolated. So I think this administration decided that engagement is not – engagement is something we need to try.

This contorted jumble of passive constructions by Feltman can be summed up to mean only one thing: sanctions failed. Over a year ago, France broke the isolation regime that Washington had established. Quickly other European countries followed suit. They invited Syria to join the Mediterranean Process, a free trade agreement linking Europe with Mediterranean countries. Western bankers and businessmen are streaming into Syria to sniff out the possibilities for investment. Abdullah Dardari, Syria’s Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy, has been besieged with delegations of businessmen from American banks as well as European countries over the last few months. Big Western concerns may make only small investments in Syria for the time being because Syria’s financial infrastructure is primitive and new legal protections for foreign capital are untested. All the same, it is in Syria’s power to attract foreign money if it makes the desired reforms. US sanctions are no longer a major factor inhibiting investors.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillion is arriving in Damascus this Saturday flanked by over 30 French businessmen eager to have his support to clinch deals in Syria. If Americans don’t get into the act soon, they will find themselves at a serious disadvantage in an emerging market that has promise and where most assets are undervalued.  As Feltman explained, the US is only sanctioning its own businessmen in Syria. For someone who is in better touch with Syria read Chris Phillips of the BBC: Syria’s Assad: pariah to power-broker.

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New US Ambassador in Syria, in Syria Comment

Obama has nominated diplomat Robert S. Ford to be the first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005. There were reports in the last few days that the nomination might not go through, but it has. Laura Rozen belives it was timed in part to add pressure on Iran to fall in line.

Several friends have told me that Syria has been hosting one delegation of American and European businessmen after another as Western banks scramble to get in on the bottom floor of the Syrian economy. The normalization of US – Syrian relations has been in the air for some time and the reform process in Syria is beginning to reach a critical mass. There remains much to be done in the way of reforming the legal infrastructure and, perhaps even more importantly, the judicial system, but capitalists are taking notice and no one wants to be left out while Syrian assets are undervalued.

Human rights issues continue to dog Syria. The president has shown little inclination to loosen security controls as a response to improving relations with the West and growing economic activity.

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Remembering Hariri vs questioning Hariri Jr.?

Next Sunday, 14th February, the Martyrs Square will see once more and for the fifth time a demonstration condemning the former Prime Minister Rafic Harriri’s assassination. If since the beginning the investigation was pointing towards Damascus as the hand behind the explosion, it seems that the International trial is far from concluding its task. The visit of Saad Hariri, son of Rafic and current prime Minister, was viewed by many as a new page in the relations between Lebanon and Syria. But also as a changing attitude towards Damascus.  The responsibility of Damacus may not be discussed but bringing the responsible  in front of the Tribunal seems less urgent today. Moreover, the negotiations between Syria and Israel, despite their slowness and fragility, and the rapprochements between Obama’s administration and Assad’s regime lead us to believe that the investigation will stay in standby until Assad’s news international status gets more defined.

Here,  an article that appeared in the Lebanese Al Akhbar: “Saad Hariri: will he be a Sunni leader or a national leader as his father”.


الأسد للحريري: إما أن تكون زعيماً سنّياً أو وطنيّاً كوالدك

الرجلان في مرحلة ترقّب وكل منهما ينتظر خطوة من الآخر (أرشيف ــ هيثم الموسوي)يخاطب رئيس الحكومة سعد الحريري قوى 14 آذار يوم الأحد بلغة لم يألفها الجمهور العريض لهذا التجمّع، وقد تغذّى في السنوات الخمس المنصرمة على اتهام سوريا باغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري والتخويف من اغتيالاتها ومن سلاح حزب الله

نقولا ناصيف
مذ زيارته دمشق ولقائه الرئيس السوري بشّار الأسد في 19 و20 كانون الأول الماضي، لم يطرأ على علاقة رجلين بدأت قبل أن يتعارفا بعداء ضارٍ وتصالحا حين تعارفا، سوى تطورين:
أولهما مكالمات هاتفية يجريها الحريري بالأسد من حين إلى آخر للتشاور.
ثانيهما مكالمات هاتفية متبادلة، شبه يومية، بين مدير مكتب رئيس الحكومة، ابن عمته نادر الحريري، والمستشارة السياسية والإعلامية للرئيس السوري الوزيرة بثينة شعبان بغية إبقاء صلة الاتصال والتنسيق مستمرة بين الرئيسين.
في موازاة الخطوط المفتوحة هذه، تنتظر دمشق مبادرة لبنانية حيال تنفيذ ما كانت قد قرّرته اجتماعات الحريري مع الأسد، وخصوصاً الإجراءات المتصلة بالعناوين الرئيسية التي قارباها. انتظرت دمشق ولم تتلقّ حتى الآن إجابة عن أمرين كانت قد طلبتهما من الحريري في الأسابيع التالية لمحادثات الرئيسين:
ـــــ تحديد موعد زيارة رئيس الحكومة السورية محمد ناجي العطري على رأس وفد وزاري سوري للاجتماع بالحريري والوزراء اللبنانيين نظراء الوزراء السوريين، سعياً إلى استكمال محادثات دمشق ووضع أطر العمل الثنائي، سواء بين رئاستي حكومتي البلدين أو بين الوزراء المختصين لتحديد آليات التعاون. أرسلت العاصمة السورية أكثر من مرة رسائل إلى بيروت حيال تحديد موعد زيارة العطري، بيد أنها لم تتلقّ أي ردّ إيجابي بعد. عندئذ توقفت عن الإلحاح على هذا الطلب.
ـــــ مناقشة ما يعدّه أفرقاء لبنانيون إجحافاً في حقّ لبنان في الاتفاقات الثنائية المعقودة بين البلدين. وكان الأسد قد أكد لضيفه اللبناني استعداد سوريا لتعديل ما يحتاج إلى تعديل يؤول إلى الإنصاف، أو حتى إلغاء اتفاقات يشكوها لبنان. وطلب تصنيف تلك الاتفاقات ووضع الملاحظات على النصوص والبروتوكولات المشكو منها لمناقشتها. فور عودته إلى بيروت، طلب رئيس الحكومة من الوزراء، في غضون أسبوع، إنجاز ملاحظاتهم على الاتفاقات المتصلة بوزاراتهم التي يرون حاجة إلى تعديلها تمهيداً لبدء حوار مع سوريا بشأن بتّها، تعديلاً أو إلغاءً. انقضى على مهلة الأسبوع شهران، ولم يحدّد الوزراء ولا مجلس الوزراء تلك الملاحظات. ويقول مطلعون على الموقف السوري إن دمشق تنتظر الحكومة اللبنانية للبحث في ما اتفق عليه الأسد والحريري.
الواقع أن ما يصحّ على الاتفاقات الثنائية يستثني المجلس الأعلى السوري ـــــ اللبناني الذي هو خارج نطاق الخوض في مصيره في الوقت الحاضر. كان الأسد والحريري في اجتماعاتهما قد ثبّتا الحاجة إلى المجلس الأعلى لتنظيم العلاقات اللبنانية ـــــ السورية مع فتح الأبواب على تفعليه وتنشيط دوره، ما دام يجسّد إطاراً للعلاقات المميّزة ويلحظه اتفاق الطائف.
هكذا تبدو العناوين الرئيسية لاجتماعات دمشق في كانون الأول الماضي معلقة. إلا أنها تمثّل الشعارات الكبرى التي نهضت عليها قوى 14 آذار في حملتها على سوريا بين عامي 2005 و2008، ثم خففت وطأة بعضها في حملة عام 2009 بعد اتفاق الدوحة وتطبيع علاقات البلدين والتبادل الدبلوماسي. ملفات ترسيم الحدود وبتّ مصير المفقودين اللبنانيين والاتفاقات الثنائية ستكون هذه الملفات الثلاثة في صلب الخطب التي سيلقيها الحريري والرئيس أمين الجميّل ورئيس الهيئة التنفيذية للقوات اللبنانية سمير جعجع الأحد المقبل في الذكرى الخامسة لاغتيال الرئيس رفيق الحريري، لكن بتفاوت ملحوظ على نحو سيجعل الحريري يخفف وزر ما سيتحمّس الجميّل وجعجع لرفع نبرته حيالها. بل ستكون سوريا صاحبة الحصة الأقل تشنّجاً لدى الجميّل وجعجع، والأكثر هدوءاً وانفتاحاً لدى الحريري. وسيكون سلاح حزب الله في صدارة انتقادات الجميّل وجعجع، وهو سبب كاف كي لا يصغي إليهما رئيس الحزب التقدّمي الاشتراكي النائب وليد جنبلاط.

أي زعامة تريد؟

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Syria: again on the spot

Despite the latest indications of a US-Damascus-Israel rapprochement, things seem to stay in standby. US renewed the economic sanctions over Syria, Israel is submerged in its own governmental conundrum  and, Hezbollah is moving towards a more internal Lebanese bounded strategy. Meanwhile, Iran’s regime, despite its new role as Shia leader in the region and even its economics profits from its shrines that since Iraq’s war are becoming the new pilgrimage place for millions of Shias, is still challenged by its own people.

Then what to do for Syria? Many hypothesis circulate in media and reports. Here is one form Stratfor: Getting Hezbollah tight to counter Iran leverage and to have  better card to play expecting that the Golan and the economic reintegration within a Syria-US-Israel deals happens.



Syria: Sowing Discord Within Hezbollah? by Stratfor

Global Intelligence, Stratfor, January 5, 2010

Sources claim that Syria is preparing a political comeback for former Hezbollah Secretary-General Sheikh Subhi al-Tufaili. Al-Tufaili’s potential return is designed to exacerbate existing rifts within Hezbollah and allow Syria to manipulate Lebanon’s militant proxy scene in its favor.

Al-Tufaili was Hezbollah’s leader from 1989 to 1991, but was expelled from the organization in 1998 after rebelling against the Hezbollah leadership over the group’s strengthening alliance with Iran and the leadership’s decision to integrate Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political landscape. Syria has since kept al-Tufaili in reserve in Lebanon’s northern Bekaa Valley, where he reportedly lives among his supporters. According to STRATFOR sources, Syrian intelligence in Lebanon regularly supplies al-Tufaili with cash and provides him with around-the-clock security. Syria has instructed Lebanese authorities to leave al-Tufaili alone and make no attempt to arrest him.

STRATFOR first heard of Syria preparing a comeback for al-Tufaili in July 2008. After keeping his name in circulation for a while, Syria now appears to be stepping up its support for al-Tufaili and reportedly is encouraging him to start a separate group that would attract disaffected cadres away from Hezbollah.


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Reshuffling the Cards? (I): Syria’s Evolving Strategy, by ICG

Reshuffling the Cards? (I): Syria\’s Evolving Strategy

This executive summary and recommendations is also available in Arabic.


Syria’s foreign policy sits atop a mountain of apparent contradictions that have long bedevilled outsiders. Its self-proclaimed goal is peace with Israel, yet it has allied itself with partners vowed to Israel’s destruction. It takes pride in being a bastion of secularism even as it makes common cause with Islamist movements. It simultaneously has backed Iraqi Sunni insurgents and a Lebanese Shiite armed group. The U.S. has wavered between different approaches in unsuccessful attempts to persuade Damascus to clarify its stance, from a peace process focus in the 1990s to isolation and pressure under George W. Bush in the following decade. Barack Obama, having turned an old page without settling on a new one, seems intent on engagement on bilateral issues, albeit more cautious than ambitious. It might work, but not in the way it has been proceeding. Syria might amend its policies, but only if it is first reassured about the costs – in terms of domestic stability and regional standing. That will entail working with Damascus to demonstrate the broader payoffs of a necessarily unfamiliar, and risky, journey.

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El régimen de Damasco exige, entre otras cosas, una reinserción económica plena a cambio de renunciar a la influencia política que le proporcionan sus vínculos con Hezbolá y Hamás. Sin embargo, Arabia Saudí, Egipto o Israel no tienen interés en una Siria fuerte que les haga competencia.

Parece que los dirigentes europeos empiezan a aceptar el antiguo dicho de “la paz pasa por Damasco”. Un ejemplo de ello es que el presidente español, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, eligiera Siria como primera parada de su reciente visita a Oriente Medio. Esto también deja entrever que Egipto ya no tiene el monopolio ni de ser el mejor amigo en la región ni de único mediador en el conflicto palestino-israelí o en los cismas palestinos. Hoy las fronteras entre países árabes considerados moderados (Egipto, Jordania y Saudí Arabia) y radicales (como Siria), bien claras y definidas durante la era de George W. Bush, se difuminan.

Si la paz pasa por Damasco: ¿qué quiere Bashar al Assad? Tras nueve años de embargo económico, aislamiento internacional y desprecio político, Siria está en su derecho de hacer esperar a los que antaño le negaban la palabra. O al menos así lo consideran algunos políticos del país. Puesto que Israel y el régimen sirio disfrutan desde hace más de treinta años de una paz virtual, el hipotético acuerdo de paz pondría fin a la guerra retórica que enfrenta a ambos países. Y recuperar el Golán es la condición mínima para un cambio radical en el discurso político de Siria hacia el Estado israelí.

Sin embargo, no es suficiente. En los regímenes autoritarios las crisis económicas representan uno de los mayores desafíos para la estabilidad del régimen. Damasco quiere una reinserción económica plena que le permita hacer frente a la demanda interna y crear puestos de trabajo. Además, está la parte política. Para renunciar a proxies en la región como Hezbolá o Hamás, Occidente tendrá que compensar esa pérdida de influencia política. Un mayor reconocimiento y peso de Siria en las instituciones regionales e internacionales sería un paso previo. Aunque aquí existe el problema de statu quo regional: países como Arabia Saudí, Egipto o Israel no están por la labor de aceptar al régimen de Bashar al Assad como un igual y menos como un nuevo competidor. Europa y EE UU tendrán que esforzarse en encontrar la fórmula que satisfaga los intereses de cada cual. Por el momento, tan sólo Arabia Saudí está acercándose a Siria mientras el proceso de negociación con Israel sigue estancado.


La oportunidad de España pasa por Damasco

El Gobierno español puede jugar un papel en Oriente Medio a través de Siria.

AFP/Getty Images
  El presidente español y el líder sirio en Damasco.

España mantiene excelentes relaciones con el régimen de Damasco desde hace años y disfruta de una imagen de neutralidad en Oriente Medio. Desde 2008 Siria está adquiriendo un protagonismo creciente como mediador en la región, y a través de ella, España puede adquirir un mayor peso en la zona. A parte de El Cairo, Madrid no dispone de aliados importantes en esta área. A medio plazo, Egipto promete convertirse en un foco de inestabilidad política en cuanto surja el dilema de la sucesión que derive en crisis política o en otra monarquía presidencial como la de Siria, pero menos popular. Por lo que diversificar las alianzas siempre es bueno, y sobre todo con aquellos países que son parte inalienable del eterno conflicto palestino-israelí.  

El ministro de Asuntos Exteriores, Miguel Ángel Moratinos,

subrayó en Damasco la desproporción existente entre las

excelentes relaciones políticas y los paupérrimos lazos económicos

entre ambos Estados. Anunció la inminente llegada de hombres de

negocios españoles a Siria. Aquí reside uno de los puntos clave en el

 acercamiento europeo hacia Siria y, por supuesto, del cambio radical

 que ha operado el pragmático Nicolás Sarkozy, frente al sentimentalismo

 de Jacques Chirac, hacia Bashar al Assad.

Si bien todo Oriente Medio está repartido desde hace tiempo en zonas de

 influencia política y económica entre las antiguas potencias colonas como

Reino Unido y Francia, y nuevas como Estados Unidos, Siria es uno de los

pocos países que debido al largo embargo y aislamiento político representa

 un campo más o menos virgen con un potencial mercado de consumidores,

 un terreno fértil para inversión económica y un aliado político por definir.

 Un lugar donde países como España, que tradicionalmente no tienen

 influencia en Oriente Medio, pueden encontrar un hueco. -N. S.


Ya en 2001, el régimen sirio inició un acercamiento político hacia Israel y la Administración Bush, colaborando con sus servicios secretos y proporcionando valiosa información. Esta actitud de buena voluntad no se vio recompensada y el lobby israelí (AIPAC) siguió presionando al Congreso estadounidense para retirar de la mesa cualquier acercamiento.

Hoy más allá de la cuestión de qué quiere Bashar al Assad, los dirigentes occidentales se preguntan con qué se conformaría el líder sirio. La dinámica del palo y la zanahoria empleada por la Unión Europea y EE UU, hace ya tiempo que no funciona y de ahí el declive de las políticas de democratización en el Magreb y Oriente Medio. Si no se ha logrado reinsertar todavía a Siria en un proceso de paz regional es debido a un desequilibrio entre lo que se le exige y lo que se le ofrece.

En las conversaciones para llegar a un acuerdo de asociación entre la UE y Siria, se le pide a Damasco que pierda poder político y económico a cambio de reconocimiento y unos 250 millones de euros en cinco años. Este se firmará como se han firmado tantos otros en el Magreb. Sin embargo, como en otros regímenes árabes autoritarios, el delicado equilibrio político reposa, entre otros, en un reparto de intereses económicos y políticos entre una burguesía adepta al régimen por un lado y una redistribución (por mínima que sea) entre las clases mas pobres. La apertura de la economía siria y su exposición a la competencia europea puede cortocircuitar el control del régimen sobre su economía y despojar a la oligarquía de sus privilegios. De ahí que una gran parte de la clase política de este país se oponga a la firma del acuerdo. A pesar de la oligarquía, parece que los suecos firmarán el acuerdo en su último mes de presidencia europea.

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