Lebanon’s Hariri in Egypt amid resignation crisis at home

November 21, 2017

The Associated Ptrss

Advertisements

UK ministers ‘agree in principle to higher Brexit bill’

November 21, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP | Prime Minister Theresa May  has promised no EU state would have to pay more because of Britain’s exit

LONDON (AFP) – Senior British ministers have agreed to offer more money to Brussels in Brexit negotiations, but only as part of a final deal on leaving the EU, a government source said Tuesday.Leading eurosceptics were among ministers who signed off on the idea at a cabinet sub-committee meeting late Monday in a bid to move the withdrawal negotiations onto trade.

The source told AFP that “no numbers” were discussed, and stressed that the agreement to up the financial offer was dependent on a wider deal on future relations being struck.

A Downing Street source said: “It remains our position that nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed in negotiations with the EU. The UK and the EU should step forward together.”

Britain wants EU leaders meeting in December to agree that “sufficient progress” has been made on the financial settlement, the issue of Ireland and EU citizens’ rights, to move the talks onto a future EU-UK trade deal.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised that no European Union member state would have to pay more because of Britain’s exit.

This would suggest Britain will continue its payments under the current budget cycle, for around two years after Brexit in March 2019 — about 20 billion euros ($23.5 billion).

British media reports suggest the government could double this to 40 billion euros — although that would still fall short of EU estimates of around 60 billion euros.

May has to tread carefully, as there is strong opposition from her backbench Conservative MPs to handing over a large sum, even if Brussels says the money is simply Britain’s share of four decades of EU membership.

Former Conservative minister Robert Halfon said the public would go “bananas” if Britain committed huge sums at a time of tightened public spending.

Former Brexit minister David Jones, who left May’s cabinet in the summer, confirmed at a conference in London Tuesday that the new financial offer would be linked to moving the talks forward.

“As I understand it, it will be made absolutely clear by the government that the payment of any further sums of that nature will be subject to there being an agreement as to our future relationship,” he said.

However, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned his government would not give up its concerns about the border with Northern Ireland, which risk holding up the negotiations.

“Anybody who thinks that just because the financial settlement issue gets resolved… that somehow Ireland will have a hand put on the shoulder and be told, ‘Look, it’s time to move on.’ Well, we’re not going to move on,” he told London’s Evening Standard.

Jones, a strong supporter of Brexit, said the talks should be suspended unless Brussels gives ground.

“We are arriving at the point where the EU is not really negotiating seriously and we should therefore suspend our participation in the negotiations and tell them, when you are willing to talk sensibly then we’ll come back,” he said.

Speaking at the same conference, Brexit Secretary David Davis repeated that Britain was planning for “every eventuality” but said he expected the two sides to reach a deal.

Related:

Iran’s Rouhani: Middle East Must Not Fall For “Israel’s Trap”

November 21, 2017
BY REUTERS
 NOVEMBER 21, 2017 16:07

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told French President Emmanuel Macron that Hezbollah is an integral part of the Lebanese people.

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani. (photo credit:STEPHANIE KEITH/REUTERS)

BEIRUT – France can play a productive role in the Middle East by taking a “realistic and impartial approach,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Tuesday, according to Iranian state media.

Tensions between Iran and France increased last week after Macron said that Tehran should be less aggressive in the region and should clarify its ballistic missile program.

Iranian state media said Rouhani told Macron that the Islamic Republic was ready to develop its relations with France on all bilateral, regional and international issues based on mutual respect and shared goals.

Rouhani referred to the “adventurism of some inexperienced princes in the region”- an allusion to Iran’s arch geopolitical rival Saudi Arabia – and said France could play a positive role in easing the situation.

“We are against adventurism and creating division in the region and believe that France, by keeping an independent vote and its position in the region, can, with a realistic and impartial approach, have a productive role,” he said.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states criticized Iran and its Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim ally Hezbollah at talks in Cairo on Sunday, calling for a united front to counter Iranian influence.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani fires back at US President Donald Trump on Iran nuclear deal, October 7, 2017. (Reuters)
.
Video:
.
http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran-News/Irans-Rouhani-Middle-East-must-not-fall-for-Israels-trap-514816

Rouhani also highlighted the importance of maintaining stability in Lebanon and, in the phone call with Macron, noted what he characterized as the threat posed by Israel. Other countries in the region, he said, should not fall for “Israel’s trap.”

“Hezbollah are a part of the Lebanese people and are incredibly loved in this country. Their weapons are only defensive and are only for use in the face of a potential attack,” Rouhani said.

“Now we have to try so the Lebanese groups can, with security, have a government that can help advance their country.”

Macron has tried to mediate in a regional crisis that erupted after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4, accusing Tehran and Hezbollah, which was in his coalition government, of sowing strife across the Middle East.

France has called on Hezbollah to disarm. “France’s demands on Hezbollah are well known. In accordance with the relevant (UN) Security Council resolutions, we want it to give up weapons and behave like a party that is fully respectful of the sovereignty of the Lebanese state,” a French foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a daily briefing on Tuesday.

Lebanese government sources told Reuters earlier this month that Hariri was forced by Saudi Arabia to quit because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he would not decide whether to accept the resignation until Hariri returns to Lebanon to explain the situation.

Saudi Arabia has denied holding Hariri against his will or that he had been forced to resign. Hariri left Saudi Arabia to visit France last weekend and is expected to return to Lebanon in time for Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.

Jpost.com staff contributed to this report.

.

The Justin Trudeau Lovefest Gets a Reality Check

November 21, 2017

Bloomberg

By Josh Wingrove

Midway through the prime minister’s first term, once-charmed Canadians are asking hard questions about health care, taxes, and the budget deficit.
Trudeau in Mexico City on Oct. 13.

PHOTOGRAPHER: MANUEL VELASQUEZ/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES

So far, Canada has largely avoided the kind of populist upheaval that put Donald Trump in the White House, undercut Chancellor Angela Merkel, and gave rise to Brexit. Much of the credit for this lands on Justin Trudeau, the buoyant 45-year-old heartthrob prime minister with a penchant for selfies and quirky socks who champions free trade and welcomes refugees. He’s cultivated an image of a tolerant, open, progressive Canada that, incidentally, boasts the strongest economic growth in the Group of Seven.

Outside Canada, it looks enviable: a charismatic leader with a powerful majority government and a solid economy. But internally, the shine is fading. Two years into Trudeau’s first term, a polling aggregator run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. shows his support at 37.9 percent, down eight points from a year ago—still strong in Canada’s three-party system. He campaigned as a friendly Everyguy, but scandals within Trudeau’s administration have sullied that image. His finance minister, Bill Morneau, is under fire for holding substantial shares in his family’s business through a shell company. Although that’s not technically against the rules, Morneau says he’s sold his shares. A bid for tax reform that would’ve hit high-earning professionals blew up, and Trudeau’s chief fundraiser, Stephen Bronfman, is linked in the Paradise Papers to an offshore trust. Trudeau himself was dinged for a secret vacation last Christmas at the Aga Khan’s private island.

Traditional fault lines of Canadian federalism are also reemerging. Some western regions feel underrepresented in Canada’s eastern-centric government. In French-speaking Quebec, identity politics continue to run deep; and across the nation, federal-provincial battles are heating up over health care, climate, and marijuana legalization. Voters’ patience also is being tested as Trudeau’s government has failed to deliver on such lofty pledges as sweeping electoral reform.

Meanwhile, his rivals for the 2019 election are in place: One is a social democrat pledging steep business tax hikes; the other, a conservative who backed Brexit. Both are younger than Trudeau, who won power in part because he was a fresh face. “We’re not immune” to sweeping upheaval, warns David Green, director of the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia. “We’re lucky.”

Green’s research finds that Canadian wage growth, driven largely by oil, has helped avoid U.S.-style anxiety and antiglobalization sentiment. But no Group of 20 nation is more reliant on the U.S. as a share of total trade, meaning none is more exposed to Trump’s attempts at rebalancing. The latest round of trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement talks, concluded Nov. 21 in Mexico City, yielded little progress and no hope of a quick deal. And while the latest quarterly data indicates that Canada’s economy is expanding at a rate of 4.5 percent, projections for the next seven quarters go no higher than 2 percent, according to a Bloomberg compilation of forecasts.

Nanos Research poll conducted for Bloomberg News shows discontent with Trudeau’s handling of the economy is highest in the prairies, of which Alberta—the heart of Canada’s oil sector and its conservative movement—is the biggest part. The sense of alienation there is “typical of what we’ve seen in Europe and the U.S., where a lot of it is first driven by the economy when it’s down, and then they start looking at things that make it harder to improve,” says Jack Mintz, a professor and Palmer chair in public policy at the University of Calgary.

Alberta is Canada’s richest province by almost any measure; its workers earn the highest average wages and pay some of the lowest tax rates, and its economy leads the nation on a per capita basis. After the price of oil plummeted in 2014, however, job cuts and capital spending clawbacks set voters on edge. Trudeau’s carbon price proposal and mounting delays in pipeline construction don’t help. Attempting to court the middle class, Trudeau cut taxes starting in 2016 on those earning from about $35,000 to $70,000 and raised them on incomes greater than $157,000. He expanded unemployment benefits, particularly in regions affected by the oil downturn, and created the Canada Child Benefit, which gives as much as $417 per month for each child to most families and costs a fourteenth of the federal budget.

Economic anxiety in Canada is mitigated by a social safety net far more sprawling than that of the U.S. The budget deficit, though small by world standards, is a real concern. The Nanos poll found 40 percent of Canadians want Trudeau to cut the deficit, twice as many as want new social spending.

Trudeau is already shifting his approach. In an October mini-budget update, the government allocated about two-thirds of a growth-fueled budget windfall to reducing the deficit, with the remaining third largely for social programs, including funding for the working poor. “I mean, my God,” Morneau, Trudeau’s embattled finance minister, said at the time. “If we don’t find a way to make those people feel less anxious, what outcome do you think we’re going to have?”

BOTTOM LINE – Although Prime Minister Trudeau has managed to project a global image of a stable and prosperous Canada, the picture isn’t as rosy at home.
.

Morocco regulator bans bitcoin payments

November 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A screen displays images of Bitcoin and US dollars at the Interpol World Congress in Singapore on July 4, 2017
RABAT (AFP) – Morocco’s currency regulator has announced a ban on transactions in bitcoin and other virtual currencies, in a country where foreign exchange flows are tightly controlled.”Transactions via virtual currencies constitute a breach of regulations, punishable by penalties and fines,” the Offices des Changes said in a statement on its website.

The announcement came a week after Moroccan digital services company MTDS said it would accept payment in bitcoin.

MTDS said it was the first time the regulator had taken a clear position on bitcoin payments.

MTDS head Karl Stanzik said the company had dropped its proposal in order to “comply with Moroccan law” but that it would be “very difficult to control” bitcoin transactions due to the currency’s secretive nature.

Unlike physical currencies, bitcoin and other so-called crypto-currencies are not backed by states or regulated by central banks.

Instead, they derive their value from decentralised ledger systems known as blockchains for verifying transactions and the contents of virtual wallets.

“As secretive payment systems not backed by financial institutions… virtual currencies involve significant risks for their users,” the Offices des Changes said.

It added that all of Morocco’s financial transactions with foreign countries must go through intermediaries approved by the authorities and be carried out in foreign currencies listed by Bank Al-Maghrib, the country’s central bank.

Local media outlets have estimated that virtual payments worth around $200,000 (170,000 euros) pass through Morocco each day, although an exact figure is extremely difficult to verify.

One bitcoin was worth over $8,200 (7,000 euros) on Tuesday, up from less than $1,000 at the start of 2017.

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, November 22, 2017 — Feast of St Cecilia, Patron of Musicians!

November 21, 2017

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Lectionary: 499

Bartolome Esteban Murillo - The Return of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Seville, Spain, 1670, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.

Reading 1 2 MC 7:1, 20-31

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother,
who saw her seven sons perish in a single day,
yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage,
she exhorted each of them
in the language of their ancestors with these words:
“I do not know how you came into existence in my womb;
it was not I who gave you the breath of life,
nor was it I who set in order
the elements of which each of you is composed.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe
who shapes each man’s beginning,
as he brings about the origin of everything,
he, in his mercy,
will give you back both breath and life,
because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words,
thought he was being ridiculed.
As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him,
not with mere words, but with promises on oath,
to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs:
he would make him his Friend
and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all,
the king appealed to the mother,
urging her to advise her boy to save his life.
After he had urged her for a long time,
she went through the motions of persuading her son.
In derision of the cruel tyrant,
she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language:
“Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months,
nursed you for three years, brought you up,
educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth
and see all that is in them;
then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things;
and in the same way the human race came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner,
but be worthy of your brothers and accept death,
so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said:
“What are you waiting for?
I will not obey the king’s command.
I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses.
But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews,
will not escape the hands of God.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 17:1BCD, 5-6, 8B AND 15

R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
My steps have been steadfast in your paths,
my feet have not faltered.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Alleluia SEE JN 15:16

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I chose you from the world,
to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
.

Related image

Gospel LK 19:11-28

While people were listening to Jesus speak,
he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem
and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately.
So he said,
“A nobleman went off to a distant country
to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.
He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins
and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’
His fellow citizens, however, despised him
and sent a delegation after him to announce,
‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship,
he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money,
to learn what they had gained by trading.
The first came forward and said,
‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said,
‘Sir, here is your gold coin;
I kept it stored away in a handkerchief,
for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man;
you take up what you did not lay down
and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him,
‘With your own words I shall condemn you,
you wicked servant.
You knew I was a demanding man,
taking up what I did not lay down
and harvesting what I did not plant;
why did you not put my money in a bank?
Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said,
‘Take the gold coin from him
and give it to the servant who has ten.’
But they said to him,
‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’
He replied, ‘I tell you,
to everyone who has, more will be given,
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king,
bring them here and slay them before me.'”

After he had said this,
he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.

.
********************************************
Image result for Parable of the Ten Gold Coins, art, pictures
.
Homily for The Parable of the Ten Gold Coins
.

The point Jesus wants to make for the people who thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately, is that it will not come immediately.

In our day also some fellows from time to time come along predicting the end of the world in the very near future, on a certain day.

Jesus tells his listeners and us: NOT YET! In the meantime, he advises us to work for the kingdom, to use all our talents of nature and grace to give glory to God and do good for our neighbor.

Some day though, the King will return and ask an accounting of how we used our time and talents, especially the graces he has given us so generously. To bring out his point, Jesus tells the story we just heard. He will praise those of us who have done our best. He will accept no excuse for laziness from us who were too afraid to take any risk because we are too lazy to work and too afraid to face difficulties.

So we know now how it will be. Let us listen then to his advice and with courage busy ourselves with the concerns of God and with promoting his Kingdom. (Fr. Stan Plutz, SVD Bible Diary 2002)

*****

In the parable, Jesus invites us to use the talents we have given by God. Talents here refer not only to natural talents and abilities, such as having a high I.Q. or ability to compose music, to paint beautiful pictures or make furniture, to croquet, and so forth. Talents are also the graces which God gives to us on the supernatural level, for example, the grace to pray, to do good works for the poor and the sick for the love of God. So whatever gifts God has given us can fall under the classification of talents.

Many a person may think he/she has no talent for praying. The person tries praying and finds that she/he can spend even an hour in prayer. Another may feel he/she is shy and cannot deal well with people. He/she joins a group doing some apostolate like making. He/she joins a group doing some apostolate like making house to house visits and finds that he/she can meet people, converse with them, feel for them and influence them in a positive way.

So let us try to tune in on the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, try tasks that we think he asks of us through obedience to our parents or superiors or needs of the people around us. We may discover hidden talents. We can use them and receive the praise of the master, Jesus, when we appear before Him at our death to give an accounting of our life (Fr. Stan Flutz, SVD Bible Diary 2005)

*****

My first thought after reading the rather lengthy gospel for today was just to let it be, and not add any commentary to it anymore because it is already long and it is good enough as it is, and it will not take more time from you, dear reader. Correct, but not quite, because one is better than zero, a little effort is better than no effort at all. When tempted to take it easy and be complacent, remember, the better never comes because we hold on to what we think is good enough already. Are there areas in your life that do not welcome change because you think they are good enough already? Remember, the good can easily become the enemy of the better. (Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD Bible Diary 2006)

*******

A story is told about a young freelance artist who tried to sell his sketches to a number of newspapers. They all turned him down one editor told him he had no talent.

But he had faith in his ability and kept on trying to sell his work. Finally he got a job making drawings for a church publicity material. He rented a mouse-infested garage and continued to produce drawings in the hope that someone would buy them.

One of the mice in the garage must have inspired him, for he created a cartoon character called Mickey Mouse. Walt Disney was on his way. It is because of the diligence and perseverance of the young freelance artist that led him to success and at the same time a blessing to many others.

Likewise, the parable of the talents challenges us to cultivate regularly and perseveringly our God-given talents – qualities and virtues to produce good fruits. Like a garden that is taken care of regularly in order to produce flowers our talents are not kept personally or secretly, they must be shared to others. Do I share my talents to others? Is my success a blessing to my community? Could my life of good example help others to come closer to Christ?

Prayer: “My Lord and my God be the King of my heart and thoughts. Help me to make good use of the talents You have given me for the good of others and for Your greater glory. Amen. (Fr. Cris Cancino, SVD Bible Diary 2008)

********

November 16, 2016 Wednesday

In 1947 a teenage Arab shepherd boy found the first Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave. These are handcopied scripts of the Bible on leather scrolls about 2,000 years old. Jesus could have read from them himself.

The boy sold the priceless scrolls very cheaply to a leather worker in Bethlehem. The buyer thought he could use the leather to repair shoes but later thought the scrolls were too valuable. He turned them over to scholars instead.

These scrolls we know now were copies of the Bible we accept as the Word of God and used to further help Biblical scholars determine the genuineness of the Bible today.

This story dramatizes the point Jesus makes in today’s story about the gold coins entrusted to different servants. One was given ten, another five, and still another, one. What mattered was not how many each one received, but what the servants did with what was entrusted to each. The first two doubled their coins. But he who received only one did not do anything to make it productive.

God entrusts each of us with certain gifts and talents as a test and as a trust. At the end of our life, we will be evaluated and rewarded according to how well we handled what God entrusted to us. We can use them for worthwhile and noble purposes or just want to waste them. But remember that everything that we do with them here on earth has eternal implications. “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke 16:11). (Fr. Jun de Ocampo, SVD | Archdiocese of Berlin, Germany Bible Diary 2016)

rveritas-asia.org/daily-reflection/1018-november-16-2016-wednesday

https://justmehomely.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/wednesday-of-the-33rd-week-of-the-year-2/

***********************************************

See also:

THE PARABLES OF JESUS CHRIST

http://www.jesuschristsavior.net/Parable.html

*********************************************

Commentary on Luke 19:11-28 From Living Space

Immediately following the story of the tax collector Zacchaeus comes a parable about the use of what God has given to us. Jesus and his disciples are near Jerusalem “where they thought the reign of God was about to appear”. How right they were! It was indeed going to appear in Jerusalem but not at all in the way they expected – with the political and military defeats of enemies. As the beginning of the Acts reveals, they “were hoping” that Jesus was about to restore the political kingdom of Israel. In time, they would learn that a kingdom of far greater significance was coming into being and that they would play an important part in its inauguration.

The parable which follows differs significantly from a similar one of the talents in Matthew (25:14-30). In Luke, too, there may be two parables fused into one – that of the coins and that of a disputed claimant to a royal throne (symbolising Jesus himself).

Jesus begins the parable by saying that a man of noble birth went to a far country to have himself appointed king and then return. This may have reminded his hearers of Archelaus, the son of Herod the Great, who went to Rome in the year 4 BC to get himself appointed king. On his return, he succeeded his father. It may seem a rather unusual procedure but the Herods used to go to Rome in order to get appointed as rulers over the Jews.

Similarly, Jesus is soon to depart and in the future will return as king. During his absence, his servants are entrusted with their master’s affairs.

In the parable, the king, before leaving, gives ten units of money to each of ten servants and tells them to invest the money until his return. The coins are called ‘minas’ and were each worth about 100 drachmas, where a drachma was the equivalent of one day’s wages. Each coin then was the equivalent of about three months’ wages. This is a much smaller sum than those in Matthew’s parable. The other difference is that there are ten people and each one gets the same amount. (In Matthew’s parable there are three people who get respectively 10, 5 and 1 talents.)

In the parable, we are told that the people despised this man and did not want him as their king. In fact, a Jewish delegation had gone to Rome protesting at the idea of Archelaus becoming king. In the same way, Jesus was soon to go away and return some day as King and Judge. While he is ‘away’, his ‘servants’ will be entrusted to take care of their Master’s affairs. But others will reject him completely.

When he returned, the new king asked each of his servants to give an account of their trading, as Jesus will do at the Judgement. One had made another ten units on his capital of ten and he was rewarded by being put in charge of ten towns. Another had made five and was rewarded with five towns. But a third came along with just the capital he had been given. He had not traded the money for fear of losing it but kept it in a safe place. He was afraid of the king who, he said, took what he had not deposited, reaped what he had not sown.

The king was angry. He did not dispute his ruthlessness but he said that the man could at least have lent the money and got some interest. He ordered the ten units be taken from him and given to the one who had already made ten. This man was obviously good at business. The lesson of the parable is spelt out by Jesus: whoever has will be given more, but the one who has not will lose the little he has.

The last sentence of the parable, in a way, describes a third set of people in the story. The first set consists of those who used their coin well and profitably. The second is the one who kept his one coin and carefully guarded it. But finally, there are those who did not want this man as king and these are executed. “Now about those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king, bring them in and slay them in my presence.”

They are the greatest losers of all and it probably points to those Jews who rejected Jesus as King and had their city destroyed, referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD. The punishment of those who rebelled and actively opposed the king was much more severe than that of the over-cautious servant.

The context of the whole parable is emphasised by the last sentence of today’s reading: “Having spoken thus Jesus went ahead with his ascent to Jerusalem.” We are coming near the end of our story and the climax to which it is headed. The parable points to all those who are being called by Christ. It is the final part of one large unit (Luke 18:18-19:28) which includes the story of a rich man with good intentions but not able to respond to Jesus’ call, a prediction of Jesus’ passion not understood by the disciples, the story of a blind man who, after having his vision restored, becomes a follower of Christ, the story of another rich man who was willing generously to share his wealth with the poor and ending with the parable of the proper use of what we have.

The first rich man claimed to follow the commandments (the Law) but wanted to keep his money safely in his own possession. He is like the man who buried his money and did not invest it in the love and service of his brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The other, Zacchaeus, generously shared his wealth with the poor. He had invested his money well. He had learned to see. Any one who can really see where Jesus is has no alternative but to go his Way.

Finally, there are those who totally reject Christ and all that he stands for. Their blindness is total.

Today we are asked to reflect on the special gifts that God has given to each one of us and how we are using them for the benefit of brothers and sisters in need. What are our attitudes to money, to property, to professional status, academic or other qualifications or other gifts with which we are endowed? Where do we invest our gifts, our talents both inborn and acquired?

The message is clear: the more we invest, the more we will gain. We cannot stand still or just cling to what we have. The only way to gain is to let go, to give and to share. Good examples of this would be St Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa. It is an attitude very foreign to many people’s way of thinking, who feel that life consists of amassing more and more, that security is in having.

But the Gospel way is really the only way that makes sense. It is not collecting but sharing that generates wealth, the wealth that really matters – freedom, security and peace.

.

**********************************

Art: The parable of the talents

Parable of the talents or minas

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_talents_or_minas

************************************

.

Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
.
22 NOVEMBER, 2017, Wednesday, 33rd Week, Ordinary Time
THE MIND OF A MARTYR

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2 MC 7:120-31PS 16:1,5-6,8,15LK 19:11-28 ]

We have read stories of martyrs of faith.  In the past, there were many more martyrs of faith who died cruelly in the persecution of political and religious leaders, just like the story of the mother whose seven sons were tortured and killed for their faith.  Today, there are still instances of such cruelty in some countries.  But generally, because of growing civilization, better education and information, such practices are condemned by the global community. Yet, even though believers might not be put to death, they suffer discrimination in the practice and worship of their faith.  There are still countries where there is a dominant religion continuing to discriminate those of other faiths, such as depriving them of benefits, rights of promotion and service, and imposing restrictions to curtail the practice and expansion of other religions.

Perhaps the only so-called martyrs that we hear of today are misguided martyrs who confuse religion with politics; and heavenly reward with earthly rewards.  This is present among the terrorists that seek to impose their religion and political power on peoples of other faiths.  They think that killing those from other religions or unbelievers whom they consider infidels is the will of God.  This is because those in power use God for political and selfish motives.  It is the poor, the marginalized and those who suffer failures and injustices who are being indoctrinated in the cause of those who are interested to gain political and religious powers; believing that a better life awaits them in heaven if they sacrificed their lives for the cause. It is frightening how religion can easily be used to fuel hatred and violence instead of peace and love.

It is therefore important for us to understand the mind of a martyr, whether an authentic one who sincerely dies for his or her faith, or someone who is misguided.  How else do we explain the courage and generosity of the mother who not just allowed her seven sons to be killed in a single day but even encouraged them to die for their faith!  Similarly, it is also the case of terrorists as well.  How is it that many are willing to give up their lives to fight for the establishment of a religious-political kingdom on earth?  What motivates them and gives them the courage to do what they do?

Three motives propel one to be a martyr for his or her faith.  The first motive is faith in God.  This is foundational.  Without faith in God, one would not be willing to give up one’s life for Him.  This was the case of the mother and her seven sons.  They knew in faith that God was the author of life and their future.  This was what she said to encourage her sons to die for God:  “I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with the breath of life, I had not the shaping of your every part, ‘It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.”  If we are convicted that God is the author of life and death, then we would be able to surrender our lives to Him.

If there are few people who are willing to die for God today, it is because of secularism, agnosticism and relativism.   Even among believers, how many of us could truly say from the depth of our hearts that we truly believe in God?  Many of us have doubts whether He exists, especially in the face of our own suffering and the suffering of the innocent.  Living in a secular society where the Sacred is often hidden from public eyes, we can no longer feel His presence in daily life.  With an increasing knowledge gained from study and the sciences, some have become agnostics and question their faith.

Secondly, martyrs are willing to die for their faith because of their love for God.  For the love of someone, we are willing to die and sacrifice our lives.  So when a person is brought up to love God and more importantly to experience His divine love, that person would be willing to sacrifice his or her life for God.  As St Paul himself wrote, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.  For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.  And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” (2 Cor 5:13-15)  Love makes us go crazy indeed.  When we are in love, we are willing to die for our beloved.  Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”  (Jn 15:13f) Indeed, many martyrs and saints for the love of Jesus have died for Him either in death or in life.

However, this could be a double-edged sword.  It could lead to fanaticism.  Many think they are dying for the love of God but in truth they are dying for an ideology.  How do we know?  If we die for the love of God, it should also be for the love of humanity.  If we love God, we will also love our fellowmen.  Only those whose love is expressed in non-violence, like the seven sons and their mother, truly die for the love of God.  In the case of the terrorists, although they claim to be doing it for God, it is hard to believe that a God of love and justice would endorse such cruel and insane violence committed in His name towards innocent people.  So a confused love for God could lead to destruction rather than giving life to others.

Thirdly, martyrs die for their faith in view of a better future in store for them.  Like St Paul, they know that they belong to God.  “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”  (Rom 14:7-9)  The seven sons and the mother lived and died for this conviction.  This was what the mother told the youngest son who was about to be executed.  “I implore you, my child, observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of what did not exist, and that mankind comes into being in the same way.  Do not fear this executioner, but prove yourself worthy of your brothers, and make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brothers’ company.”

Even the worldly seductions of the king could not appeal to their conviction that a greater life is ahead of them.  Of course, many of us, unlike the seven sons, are not willing to give our lives to God because we are not too convinced of a life hereafter.  Many are living in a world filled with despair for the future.  This explains why this hopelessness of the future has led many to live only for this life and grab all that they can before they vanish into thin air and life is no more.

Again, this principle of hope for the future can be used for good or for evil.  It is true that this earthly life is passing but it is not evil as well.  Creation and its gifts are good and are meant to be appreciated and used well.  Yet, we must also realize that these are passing things in life.  We cannot cling on to them.  It is equally true of sufferings as well.  These too will also pass.  But the danger is that misguided martyrs are given a pie in the sky.  They are told that if they die for God and kill the infidels, they will be rewarded with all the things in heaven that they could not enjoy in this earthly life.  Such earthly conception of heaven is but a postponed or delayed gratification.  Rather, what we have been promised in heaven is a life of joy, love, peace and communion.  This is what brings us true joy and is not to be measured simply in terms of material rewards.  When there is love, we need few things to be happy.  When there is a lack of love, we need things to fill up the vacuum in our hearts.

Today, in the parable of the talents, we are all called to account for the gifts that the Lord has given to us.   How we use our gifts of faith and the resources God has given to us will determine our happiness in this life and hereafter.  Our happiness is not just in the next life but it must already begin here and now.  We must be careful of a theology of hope in the next world rooted in a negative outlook of this world.  Rather, we must learn to enjoy life and make the best of it in whatever we do.  Eternal joy comes at the end of death but it is already here as a foretaste.  We must be careful that we do not fall into the mistake of the servant who kept the talent for fear of taking risks.  By not living his life to the fullest by taking risks and being creative and proactive in loving God and his fellowmen, he was stripped of everything that he had.  But if we are like the other two servants, ever ready to invest whatever the Lord has given to them, we will be given great responsibilities and opportunities to develop ourselves.  Work is not a punishment from God but a privilege for us to develop our minds and keep our bodies fit for life, love and service.  In this way, even as we work, we also enjoy God’s love and life.  This is what it means to serve God our King.  We are called to establish His kingdom of love, compassion and life on this earth as a foretaste of the future life that is to come.

.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
.
.
**********************************
Image may contain: 1 person
.
Saint Cecilia
.

In the fourth century a Greek religious romance on the Loves of Cecilia and Valerian was written in glorification of virginal life with the purpose of taking the place of then-popular sensual romances.

Consequently, until better evidence is produced, we must conclude that St. Cecilia was not known or venerated in Rome until about the time when Pope Gelasius (496) introduced her name into his Sacramentary.

It is said that there was a church dedicated to St. Cecilia in Rome in the fifth century, in which Pope Symmachus held a council in 500.

The story of St. Cecilia is not without beauty or merit. She is said to have been quite close to God and prayed often:

In the city of Rome there was a virgin named Cecilia, who came from an extremely rich family and was given in marriage to a youth named Valerian. She wore sackcloth next to her skin, fasted, and invoked the saints, angels, and virgins, beseeching them to guard her virginity

During her wedding ceremony she was said to have sung in her heart to God and before the consummation of her nuptials, she told her husband she had taken a vow of virginity and had an angel protecting her. Valerian asked to see the angel as proof, and Cecilia told him he would have eyes to see once he traveled to the third milestone on the Via Appia (Appian Way) and was baptized by Pope Urbanus.

St. Cecilia by Guido Reni. She is the patron of musicians!

Following his baptism, Valerian returned to his wife and found an angel at her side. The angel then crowned Cecilia with a chaplet of rose and lily and when Valerian’s brother, Tibertius, heard of the angel and his brother’s baptism, he also was baptized and together the brothers dedicated their lives to burying the saints who were murdered each day by the prefect of the city, Turcius Almachius.

Both brothers were eventually arrested and brought before the prefect where they were executed after they refused to offer a sacrifice to the gods.

As her husband and brother-in-law buried the dead, St. Cecilia spent her time preaching and in her lifetime was able to convert over four hundred people, most of whom were baptized by Pope Urban.

Cecilia was later arrested and condemned to be suffocated in the baths. She was shut in for one night and one day, as fires were heaped up and stoked to a terrifying heat – but Cecilia did not even sweat.

When Almachius heard this, he sent an executioner to cut off her head in the baths.

The executioner struck her three times but was unable to decapitate her so he left her bleeding and she lived for three days. Crowds came to her and collected her blood while she preached to them or prayed. On the third day she died and was buried by Pope Urban and his deacons.

St. Cecilia is regarded as the patroness of music, because she heard heavenly music in her heart when she was married, and is represented in art with an organ or organ-pipes in her hand.

Officials exhumed her body in 1599 and found her to be incorrupt, the first of all incurrupt saints. She was draped in a silk veil and wore a gold embroidered dress. Officials only looked through the veil in an act of holy reverence and made no further examinations. They also reported a “mysterious and delightful flower-like odor which proceeded from the coffin.”

St. Cecilia’s remains were transferred to Cecilia’s titular church in Trastevere and placed under the high altar.

In 1599 Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, nephew of Pope Gregory XIV, rebuilt the church of St. Cecilia.

http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=34

Rouhani tells Macron Iran ‘not seeking to dominate’ Mideast

November 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | France’s President Emmanuel Macron (left) meets with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in New York on September 18, 2017

TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran is not seeking to “dominate” the Middle East, President Hassan Rouhani told his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, according to the Iranian presidency.

“Our presence in Iraq and Syria is at the invitation of the governments of those countries to fight terrorism,” Rouhani was quoted as saying in a telephone call with Macron.

Rouhani said “Iran does not seek to dominate” the region, but was instead working “for peace and security and to avoid the dismembering of countries”.

The comments come days after France’s foreign minister sparked Tehran’s ire by accusing it of “hegemonic” ambitions in the Middle East.

Macron — who has pledged to visit Iran in 2018 — on Friday insisted that France wants a “dialogue” with Tehran.

Macron has been heavily involved in trying to defuse a crisis in Lebanon over the resignation of premier Saad Hariri that ramped up tensions between Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia.

From rail and airports to its first overseas naval base, China zeroes in on tiny Djibouti

November 21, 2017

President of African nation will visit China this week

By Kinling Lo
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 November, 2017, 3:00pm

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh will arrive in China on Wednesday for a three-day state visit that is expected to further boost ties with the African nation.

Situated in the Horn of Africa – adjacent to one of the world’s busiest shipping routes – Djibouti has a population of less than one million and is home to China’s first overseas military base.

With access to the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean beyond, the area is a gateway into Northeast Africa and the Red Sea region.

 Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh arrives in China on Wednesday for a three-day state visit. Photo: AFP

According to United Nations trade data, Djibouti’s exports to China – including leather, salt and cement – totalled just US$7,500 in 2009. That compares to China’s exports to Djibouti, such as vehicles and electronic equipment, which reached US$20.7 million that year. But the relationship between the two nations goes far beyond trade.

People’s Liberation Army naval base

China is the seventh country to set up a military base in Djibouti, a relatively stable nation with proximity to restive areas in Africa and the Middle East.

But Beijing has played down military use of the base, claiming it will be used for “logistics purposes”.

It said the base would enable China to better support its peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in waters off nearby Somalia and Yemen, in particular.

Other countries with military bases in the former French colony include the United States, Japan and France, and these bases provide the country’s biggest source of income and employment.

China agreed to pay US$100 million per year for its base in Djibouti, while the US pays US$63 million.

 PLA personnel attend the opening ceremony of China’s new military base in Djibouti in August. Photo: AFP

Natural gas

Last week, China’s POLY-GCL Petroleum Group signed a memorandum of understanding to invest US$4 billion in a natural gas project at Damerjog. The preliminary agreement will be finalised in six months, with work to begin on the project soon afterwards. It includes a natural gas pipeline, a liquefaction plant and an export terminal.

The gas pipeline will transport 12 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Ethiopia to Djibouti, while the liquefaction plant has a target capacity of 10 million tonnes per year of liquefied natural gas.

Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway

The 750km railway linking Djibouti and Ethiopia is the first fully electrified cross-border railway line in Africa.

China Railway Group and China Civil Engineering Construction Corp (CCECC) financed 70 per cent of the US$490 million project. Under the deal, Chinese staff will run the project for the first five years, after which Ethiopians will take over.

Launched in October last year, it took four years to build and connects the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to the Red Sea port of Djibouti – through which 90 per cent of Ethiopia’s goods are traded. Commercial operations are due to begin this month.

Airports

Two new airports in Djibouti were to be built by CCECC at a combined cost of nearly US$600 million under contracts signed in 2015. But the projects are expected to be put out for tender again, according to a Bloomberg report last month. It is unclear why the projects will go through another tendering process, but the report quoted a local official as saying that the Chinese company “will have no exclusivity”, although it can apparently bid for the contracts again.

Hassan Gouled Aptidon International Airport will be 25km from the capital and was due to open in 2018. With capacity for 1.5 million passengers per year, the airport is to have runways big enough for commercial jets including the Airbus A380.

The other airport, Ahmed Dini Ahmed International Airport, located in the north of the country, will have capacity for 767,400 passengers annually.

 The Port of Doraleh in the capital, Djibouti City. China’s exports to the African nation reached US$20.7 million in 2009. Photo: Felix Wong

Free-trade zone

In January, Djibouti started construction of a free-trade zone with Chinese funding. The 48 sq km free-trade zone is being built by Dalian Port. The zone will be operated by the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority in a joint venture with China Merchants Holdings.

.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2120713/rail-and-airports-its-first-overseas-naval-base-china

Related:

.
.
.
.

Iran’s Rouhani Says France Can Play Productive Role in Middle East

November 21, 2017

BEIRUT (Reuters) – France can play a productive role in the Middle East by taking a “realistic and impartial approach”, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in a phone call on Tuesday, according to Iranian state media.

 Image may contain: 1 person, beard

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting of the Social Council of Iran, in Tehran, Iran, October 31, 2017. President.ir/Handout via REUTERS

Tensions between Iran and France increased last week after Macron said that Tehran should be less aggressive in the region and should clarify its ballistic missile program.

Iranian state media said Rouhani told Macron that the Islamic Republic was ready to develop its relations with France on all bilateral, regional and international issues based on mutual respect and shared goals.

Rouhani referred to the “adventurism of some inexperienced princes in the region”- an allusion to Iran’s arch geopolitical rival Saudi Arabia – and said France could play a positive role in easing the situation.

“We are against adventurism and creating division in the region and believe that France, by keeping an independent vote and its position in the region, can, with a realistic and impartial approach, have a productive role,” he said.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states criticized Iran and its Lebanese Shi‘ite Muslim ally Hezbollah at talks in Cairo on Sunday, calling for a united front to counter Iranian influence.

Rouhani also highlighted the importance of maintaining stability in Lebanon and, in the phone call with Macron, noted what he characterized as the threat posed by Israel.

“Hezbollah are a part of the Lebanese people and are incredibly loved in this country. Their weapons are only defensive and are only for use in the face of a potential attack,” Rouhani said.

“Now we have to try so the Lebanese groups can, with security, have a government that can help advance their country.”

Macron has tried to mediate in a regional crisis that erupted after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri announced his resignation in a broadcast from Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4, accusing Tehran and Hezbollah, which was in his coalition government, of sowing strife across the Middle East.

France has called on Hezbollah to disarm. “France’s demands on Hezbollah are well known. In accordance with the relevant (U.N.) Security Council resolutions, we want it to give up weapons and behave like a party that is fully respectful of the sovereignty of the Lebanese state,” a French foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a daily briefing on Tuesday.

Lebanese government sources told Reuters earlier this month that Hariri was forced by Saudi Arabia to quit because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he would not decide whether to accept the resignation until Hariri returns to Lebanon to explain the situation.

Saudi Arabia has denied holding Hariri against his will or that he had been forced to resign. Hariri left Saudi Arabia to visit France last weekend and is expected to return to Lebanon in time for Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut and John Irish in Paris; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Russia-hosted Syria talks: what to expect — Chemical weapons and war crimes won’t come up

November 21, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Maria Panina with Maya Cebeily in Beirut and Stuart Williams in Istanbul | Syrians carry for burial the bodies of victims who died following reported shelling by Syrian government forces in the rebel-held town of Douma in eastern Syria. The conflict has claimed over 300,000 lives.

SOCHI (RUSSIA) (AFP) – 

The presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran will meet on Wednesday for a summit aimed at bringing peace in Syria.

Here is what you need to know about the trio’s summit at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, hosted by Vladimir Putin ahead of parallel UN-led talks in Geneva set to be relaunched on November 28.

– Building on Astana talks –

Syrian regime backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey have co-sponsored peace talks in Astana, the capital of Russian ally Kazakhstan.

With seven rounds of negotiations this year, the Moscow-initiated talks brought together representatives of the Syrian government and the opposition, including some key armed groups who had previously steered clear of other negotiations.

Unlike the Geneva talks which were politically focused and led to deadlock, the Astana diplomatic push concentrated on military issues.

While unable to halt fighting altogether, the talks did lead to a lowering of violence on the ground with the creation of four “de-escalation” zones.

Following its military intervention that allowed Damascus regime forces to get the upper hand on the ground, Moscow now wants to use the Astana result to relaunch a political process.

“There are three countries setting the future trajectory of Syria, and none are the US or an Arab country,” said Randa Slim, an expert at the US-based Middle East Institute.

– Summit agreement? –

Ahead of the summit the trio in no way forms a united bloc: ongoing major differences between the powerbrokers will make the negotiating process difficult.

“Russia wants to have allies” at the Geneva negotiations, said Russian expert Alexei Malashenko. “This is proving to be difficult as the three (countries) need to come to an agreement: each has its own vision and its own interests.”

“There is a chance to at least demonstrate that there are some common points,” he said, but the parties will not be able to reach a “concrete agreement.”

According to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, who has said he wants to relaunch the political process, the heads of states will have to discuss the Kremlin-sponsored “Congress of National Syrian Dialogue”, which seeks to gather both the regime and the opposition in Russia.

The idea was first put forward during the last round of the Astana talks in October but was flatly rejected by the Syrian opposition, which has refused to hold any political discussions at the UN Geneva talks since 2014.

– What about Assad? –

All Syrian peace processes so far have come to a deadlock on the political issue at the centre of the conflict which has left over 300,000 dead in six years.

For Moscow and Tehran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure would lead to chaos, whilst for Turkey-backed rebels and the West, all solutions that include Assad after what they perceive as the regime’s war crimes continue to be unfavourable.

But the Syrian leader, in power since 2000, is currently in a strong position on the ground. The United States and France no longer make his departure as much of a priority as they once did.

Even Ankara, despite calling for Assad to step down, could be more compromising behind closed doors in Russia.

“For now, it’s more important for Turkey to keep its say in the future political negotiations than to have Assad depart from power,” Timur Akhmetov, an Ankara-based Turkey expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, told AFP.

The Middle East Institute’s Randa Slim said that “it seems like we are heading towards holding parliamentary elections… but that Assad’s fate will be decided in elections after his current term ends.” In other words, in 2021.

– Other collision points –

If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is willing to be flexible on Assad’s fate, it’s because the Syrian president’s future is not Ankara’s sole priority.

For over a year now, Turkey appears to have been more anxious to stop the expansion of Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) forces in northern Syria.

Ankara views the YPG as a Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), whose fighters have carried out guerilla attacks on Turkish security forces for three decades. The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

For the heads of state gathered in Sochi, “one of the principal differences is what form the Kurdish participation in Geneva will take,” said Noah Bonsey, an analyst at the International Crisis Group.

“This question is currently being discussed and I do not see the Turks making progress on this point,” Bonsey said.

He added that “it’s hard to believe” the Sochi summit will make significant progress given the major differences between the three countries and the absence of other major plays like the US, Saudi Arabia or Jordan.

by Maria Panina with Maya Cebeily in Beirut and Stuart Williams in Istanbul