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G7 leaders warn Russia all sanctions on table over Ukraine border buildup

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All forms of economic sanctions against Russia are on the table if it makes an incursion into Ukraine, the British foreign secretary has said.

Speaking on the final day of a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Liverpool, Liz Truss also hinted she may be prepared to look again at the UK’s anti-money laundering laws that are seen by some as a way for Russian elites to stash their cash.

Ms Truss said that if Russia were to invade, it “would face massive consequences for which there would be severe cost”, amid fears over a Russian troop buildup.

The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia was being demonised for moving its troops within its own borders.

Although all foreign ministers at the G7 – a gathering of seven countries that collectively represent 50 per cent of global GDP – were clear that they had to send the strongest possible signal to Vladimir Putin not to invade Ukraine, there were differences of emphasis on the best kind of sanctions, and whether G7 domestic laws needed to be reviewed.

Pattern

However, ministers agreed they were facing a pattern of disruptive behaviour by Russia, and that it was simply unacceptable for one country to try to use force to change the borders of another.

Ms Truss replied to a question on whether she was willing to launch a review into the UK’s anti-corruption laws in the wake of global criticism that London has acted as a haven for kleptocrats.

“We do have very strong anti-corruption and money laundering laws in the UK, but let us be clear, when the UK has wanted to send clear messages and achieve clear goals we have been prepared to use economic sanctions, so we are considering all options and together with our allies, including the US and our G7 partners, we have been very clear there would be severe consequences,” she said.

It was not clear from her reference to “all options” how far Truss intended to go.

Warn

The joint statement from the G7, which was due to be published later, warned Russia to stop its aggressive rhetoric, to de-escalate and use diplomatic channels including the Franco-German-led Normandy format.

EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday are likely to announce the start of a process to impose sanctions on the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group. Moscow denies Wagner is linked to the Russian state but has said the EU would face retaliation over any sanctions on its citizens.

The move is being pushed forward by France, which is concerned by the scale of Wagner group intervention in the Sahel region of Africa.

Ms Truss also said Iran had only a last chance to come back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Foreign leaders in Liverpool exchanged notes on whether they believed Iran was being serious in seeking a deal in the talks in Vienna, or was instead playing for time.

Negotiators from Europe, Russia, China, the US and Iran have stayed in the Austrian capital over the weekend to work on a possible text that would see the US lift sanctions against Iran, leading to Tehran’s return to the nuclear deal.

“This is the last chance for Iran to come to the negotiating table with a serious resolution to this issue, which has to be agreeing the terms of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action],” Ms Truss said.

“This is their last chance and it is vital that they do so. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Effort

European diplomats claim that Iran’s behaviour cannot be seen as a true effort to secure a deal.

It is likely that if talks do make progress at the speed required by the US and Europe, a discussion at leaders’ level will be called to decide whether to refer Iranian noncompliance with the 2015 deal to an emergency board meeting of the UN’s nuclear inspectorate. That would signal the start of the final collapse of the deal. At the same time, however, diplomats stressed that some progress had been made over the past three days because Iran was no longer insisting that talks focused on drafts the newly elected regime had prepared.

The G7 members, joined by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, spent the evening at the Beatles Museum, which has a Cavern club mock-up inside, and were due to travel to Anfield, the home of Liverpool football club, for lunch. –Guardian

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Taoiseach’s family shaped by their working-class roots

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As a special needs assistant at Bunscoil Chríost Rí in Turner’s Cross on the south side of Cork city, Mairéad Martin-Richmond is often asked how she manages financially.

Martin-Richmond, a 59-year-old separated mother of two grown-up children, is a sister of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and says her family’s working-class roots keep her grounded.

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Hines invests in industrial portfolio in Northern Italy

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Hines has reached a binding agreement for an off-market investment to acquire 20 logistics assets located between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy through the Italian fund HEVF II Italy managed by Prelios SGR on behalf of the Hines European Value Fund 2 (HEVF 2). The transaction involves the acquisition of the real estate portfolio from four different selling companies and the simultaneous 15-year lease of the same portfolio to Snatt Logistica Group, a leader in the third-party logistics (3PL) sector focusing exclusively on the fashion industry. The portfolio of 20 logistics assets provides a total of 200,000m² of logistics space around Milan, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna. They are strategic, well-established logistic centres that enjoy effective, rapid connections with Italy’s main cities and the rest of Europe.

 

“We are pleased to start 2022 with an important investment in the logistics sector that consolidates our presence in the main intersections in Northern Italy. At Hines, we believe in the potential of the logistics sector in Italy and have set an investment target of around €1bn in 2022,” commented Mario Abbadessa, senior managing director & country head of Hines Italy. “We are proud to collaborate with Snatt Logistica Group, which is an international 3PL logistics leader in the luxury fashion industry, and we are certain that we will be able to develop a shared path for growth, guided by common values, including ESG, which is key to our DNA.”

 

Paul White, senior managing director and fund manager for HEVF 2 at Hines, said: “This is an attractive portfolio of assets with a strong, innovative tenant at the forefront of Italy’s fast-growing third-party logistics sector for the fashion industry. We believe that e-commerce will continue to drive long-term demand for high-quality logistics facilities in Italy’s northern cities, pushing the value of these investments forwards, while there is also a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability performance of existing assets here. This is aligned with our ESG objectives as recognised by GRESB, with HEVF 2 achieving the award of Overall Global Sector Leader in the Diversified Office/Retail category for sustainability performance in 2021.”

 

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Latest Coveney gaffe shows new knack of ‘making small problems big’

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“Don’t mind your press releases,” a Fine Gael source was told by a more experienced hand on their first day in Leinster House; “If you want something out there, just say it in the PP [parliamentary party meeting].”

It’s a truism of Irish politics that these meetings – especially those of the two larger Government parties – leak like the proverbial sieve. This got worse during Covid, when virtual meetings meant members were unencumbered by the need to even appear interested, and journalists were freely briefed in real time. The content of the meeting, coupled with the observations of parliamentarians – arch, knowing, and unfiltered – populated twitter streams and news copy.

So, when Simon Coveney’s remarks about his surprise at the meeting between the Russian ambassador to Ireland and the head of the defence forces were promptly headline news, it can’t have been too much of a shock. “He knows he’s speaking at the leakiest meeting in Leinster House,” observed a source present.

Still, some in the room thought when Michael Creed raised the issue, Coveney would just “warble on like you normally do”. Instead, after a gap of several minutes while other questions were fielded, the Minister for Defence bit down. He said he was “surprised to put it mildly”, several sources present said, and questioned the judgement of it.

Afterwards, sources close to Coveney quickly asserted the Minister meant the tweet from the Russians, and the accompanying picture, were the issue, not the meeting. But multiple sources at the parliamentary party interpreted it as referring to the meeting, and what’s more, as a direct rebuke to the chief of staff. “The tone I got was he was f***ing livid,” said one source.

Either way, the remark was leaked, it was controversial, and early the next morning, Coveney was mending fences in the Dáil, expressing confidence in Clancy and contrition for having brought him into the line of political fire.

A kind interpretation, offered by some at the meeting, is that he feels honour-bound to respond fully to questions from parliamentary colleagues. There is likely truth to that. But equally, many believe he would have known his comments would have been controversial, open to interpretation as a rebuke to the head of the Defence Forces, and that it was meant as a shot across the bows.

Others postulate that – perhaps more worryingly – he didn’t detect the political risk inherent in the remarks, which the Opposition would say had undermined the Chief of Staff . “Simon should have known this was going to result in public comment,” said another person there.

That, in truth is the bigger concern – that Coveney’s bad run of form is down to a blunted political dexterity. “You’d know by the way he said it he wasn’t trying to cause controversy,” one colleague said – adding that it was, however, evidence of Coveney’s new knack of “making small problems into big ones”.

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