Creation of Kosovo’s army is provocation fueling tensions in Balkans, says Putin

Vladimir Putin has said that Russia finds the Kosovo authorities’ decision to create their own army regrettable and sees it as another risk of destabilization of the situation in the Balkans.

“Regrettably, Kosovo’s authorities took a series of provocative steps lately, thus greatly aggravating the situation. In the first place I have in mind their decision of December 14 to form a so-called army in Kosovo,” Putin told a news conference. “It goes without saying that this is a direct violation of the UN resolution, which does not allow for the creation of any paramilitary forces except for the international UN contingent.”

“Such irresponsible steps by Kosovo’s authorities may cause destabilization in the Balkans,” he warned. Source: Tass

US lawmakers seek to ban chip sales to China’s Huawei and ZTE for ‘violating American sanctions’

  • The bipartisan bills target firms supposedly in breach of US sanctions, and specifically cite Huawei and ZTE
  • Republican Senator Tom Cotton branded Huawei ‘an intelligence-gathering arm of the Chinese Communist Party’

The measures would require the US president to ban the export of US components to any Chinese telecommunications company that violates US sanctions or export control laws. Source: South China Morrning Post

Syria conflict: US ‘planning immediate withdrawal of troops’

CBS said it was told the White House had ordered the Pentagon to “begin planning for an immediate withdrawal”.

President Donald Trump tweeted that the Islamic State (IS) group – also known as ISIS – had been defeated in Syria, his “only reason for being there”.

Some 2,000 troops have helped rid much of north-eastern Syria of IS, but pockets of fighters remain. Source BBC

Trump warns US Fed against making ‘yet another mistake’

The Fed is widely expected to announce an interest rate rise – its fourth in a year – on Wednesday.

But with financial markets in turmoil and fears of recession growing, some critics are questioning the plan.

In a tweet, President Trump advised the Fed to “feel the market” and not to “just go by meaningless numbers”.

His remarks bring unprecedented pressure on the central bank as policymakers meet in Washington for a two-day meeting. Source BBC

South Korean trains venture over the border for first time in a decade to fix the North’s dilapidated railway

Six railcars carrying dozens of South Korean officials and engineers will inspect 1,200km (745 miles) of track over 18 days, according to the South’s unification ministry. The survey required special permission from the United Nations to take prohibited goods into the North, which remains under heavy economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme. South Korean officials will use the study to draw up plans for modernising the North’s ageing rail lines, most of which date from the early 20th century. South China Morning Post