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Top House Republican gets subpoena from U.S. Capitol riot panel

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump riot in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, and other lawmakers on Thursday received subpoenas from the House committee investigating last year’s attack on the Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters, an escalation of the panel’s efforts to secure their testimony.

The Jan. 6 House Select Committee had previously sent letters to Republican lawmakers, asking for their voluntary cooperation with the panel’s investigation.

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Does the Commonwealth have a future after Queen Elizabeth?

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Queen Elizabeth leaves after watching the Royal Windsor Horse Show Platinum Jubilee Celebration at Windsor Castle, in Windsor Britain, May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

By Sarah Mills

LONDON (Reuters) – As Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 70th year on the throne, there are questions about whether the Commonwealth of Nations, which she was instrumental in creating and remains one of her proudest achievements, has a future when her reign is over.

The Commonwealth evolved out of the British empire, and Elizabeth became its head in 1952 when she became queen, three years after the London Declaration formally created the voluntary association in its current form.

Now it is one of world’s biggest international organisations, made up of 54 countries, almost all of which were former colonies of the United Kingdom, covering some 2.5 billion people or about one third of the world’s population.

The 96-year-old queen has always been at its heart, but there are suggestions it has already become outdated and irrelevant.

“I think perhaps the Commonwealth has historically run its course,” said Philip Murphy, professor of British and Commonwealth History at the University of London. “And what you’re really seeing now is the ghost of an organisation.”

Commonwealth members range from wealthy nations such as Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada – who still all have the queen as their head of state – to populous India, as well as tiny Pacific republics such as Nauru.

Supporters say it provides a network to foster international cooperation and trade links, with a focus on promoting democracy and development, and addressing issues such as climate change.

So when Barbados cut its ties with the British monarchy last year when the Caribbean nation became a republic, it was keen to remain part of the Commonwealth.

“The Commonwealth is beneficial to many Caribbean nations as well as many African nations and it links us into countries like Australia and New Zealand and Canada,” said Barbados-based David Denny, general secretary for the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, a non-government organisation.

The organisation was regarded as playing a significant role in helping to end apartheid in South Africa, and Murphy says it has uses for smaller, less powerful members. But he remains unconvinced of its wider benefit.

“The Commonwealth talks about the importance of promoting democracy, tackling climate change, tackling gender inequality,” he told Reuters. “But the Commonwealth isn’t necessarily a logical framework internationally in which to deal with any of those problems.”

Where the organisation could have a role, Murphy says, is in dealing with the legacy of the British empire and colonialism, with a new purpose of dealing with issues such as reparation and restitution.

‘MASSACRED’

“We were massacred and killed for the economic development of Britain,” Denny said.

“The nation states within the Commonwealth should demand reparation for that sufferation from the royal family, from the British government, all of the British companies that would have benefited from slavery and the exploitation of our African people throughout the Commonwealth nation states.”

Another question the organisation will have to address is who will lead it, with Denny arguing it should not be the British royals, despite Commonwealth leaders agreeing in 2018 that Elizabeth’s son and heir Prince Charles should be her successor although the role is not hereditary.

Charles’s eldest son Prince William, after a difficult tour of the Caribbean nations earlier this year when he faced protests, calls for reparations and an apology for slavery, suggested he might not get the job.

“Who the Commonwealth chooses to lead its family in the future isn’t what is on my mind,” said William. “What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can.”

However, in the meantime, there is no question of the importance of the organisation to its current head.

“Today, it is rewarding to observe a modern, vibrant and connected Commonwealth that combines a wealth of history and tradition with the great social, cultural and technological advances of our time,” Queen Elizabeth said in her annual message to the Commonwealth in March.

“That the Commonwealth stands ever taller is a credit to all who have been involved.”

Murphy said he suspected it would survive, but with even less attention that it attracts now.

“I think it will stagger on,” he said. “I don’t see the will to draw a line under it, and I don’t see who would really have the authority to do that. I think the danger is that it will just gradually become less influential, less important and less interesting to its citizens.”

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Russian and Chinese jets patrol East Asia skies, capping Biden trip

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Flags of China and Russia are displayed in this illustration picture taken March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

By Michael Martina, Nobuhiro Kubo and Hyonhee Shin

(Reuters) -Russian and Chinese military planes conducted joint exercises to patrol the Asia-Pacific region on Tuesday in a pointed farewell to U.S. President Joe Biden as he concluded an Asia trip that rankled Beijing.

Japan scrambled jets after Russian and Chinese warplanes neared its airspace while Tokyo was hosting the leaders of the Quad group of countries, which includes the United States, said Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, who called the move a provocation.

It was the first joint military exercise by China and Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, according to a U.S. official, and it came at the tail end of Biden’s four-day trip.

“We think it shows that China continues to be willing to closely align themselves with Russia, including through military cooperation,” a senior administration official said, adding that such actions must be planned well in advance.

“China is not walking away from Russia. Instead, the exercise shows that China is ready to help Russia defend its east while Russia fights in its west,” the official said.

Biden stressed during the trip, intended in part to counter China’s growing influence in the region, that the United States will stand with its allies and partners to push for a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Beijing and Moscow declared a “no-limits” partnership just weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, and China has refused to condemn the move.

The joint patrol lasted 13 hours over the Japanese and East China seas and involved Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and Chinese Xian H-6 jets, the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

Planes from the Japanese and South Korean air forces shadowed the Russian and Chinese jets for part of the exercise, it said.

Tokyo conveyed “grave concerns” to both Russia and China through diplomatic channels, Kishi said at a news conference.

He characterized the incident as a likely provocation by both Beijing and Moscow on a day when Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s newly elected leader, Anthony Albanese, were meeting in Tokyo.

“We believe the fact that this action was taken during the Quad summit makes it more provocative than in the past,” he said, adding it was the fourth such incident since November.

Chinese naval vessels likely participated in the joint exercise, a U.S. official said.

China’s defense ministry confirmed the joint aerial patrol over the Sea of Japan, East China Sea and the Western Pacific and called it part of an annual military exercise.

On Monday, Biden angered China by saying he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan, but he said later U.S. policy toward the self-ruled democratic island had not changed. China considers Taiwan an inalienable part of its territory that should be reunited with the mainland.

Tuesday’s drill was the first reported since new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol took office on May 10. On Sunday, Yoon wrapped up his summit with Biden, where the two leaders pledged support for measures seen as countering China’s influence in the region, and criticized Russia’s war in Ukraine.

South Korea’s military said it scrambled fighter jets after at least four Chinese and four Russian warplanes entered its air defense zone.

The Russian and Chinese aircraft entered and left the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone (Korea ADIZ) in the Sea of Japan, known in Korea as the East Sea, several times through the day, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The aircraft, which included fighter jets and bombers from each side, did not violate South Korea’s airspace, it said.

South Korea had no warning of the apparent drills, a military source in Seoul said. When Seoul saw that the aircraft appeared to be headed toward the defense zone, it used hotlines to warn Chinese and Russian counterparts, the source said.

China responded that it was a regular exercise, the source added, while there was no response from Russia.

Unlike airspace, an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, is usually an area where countries may unilaterally demand that foreign aircraft take special steps to identify themselves, with no international laws governing ADIZs.

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Analysis: Erdogan’s vow to expand Syria operations raises stakes in Turkey-NATO row

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Turkish soldier waves a flag on Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria January 28 ,2018. REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi/File Photo

By Daren Butler, Jonathan Spicer and Maya Gebeily

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan’s pledge to launch military operations soon to expand safe zones already set up across Turkey’s southern borders has raised the stakes in his row with NATO partners over Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

Analysts said Erdogan’s surprise announcement on Monday reflected his belief that the West would not oppose such operations at a time when it needs Ankara’s support for the Nordic countries’ bid to join NATO.

Turkey accuses Sweden and Finland of harbouring people linked to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). All 30 NATO countries must agree the Nordic states’ application to join. The United States said on Tuesday it was confident that Sweden and Finland could overcome Turkey’s concerns.

Analysts said Erdogan’s announcement was also aimed at bolstering Turkish nationalist support for his two-decade rule as he gears up for difficult elections next year. Cross-border military operations have boosted his poll ratings in the past.

Turkey has conducted three incursions into northern Syria since 2016, seizing hundreds of kilometres of land and pushing some 30 km (20 miles) deep into the country, in operations targeting mainly the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.

It has also stepped up military operations against PKK militants in northern Iraq in recent years.

Turkey views both groups as a single terrorist entity. Its NATO allies only view the PKK as a terrorist group, not the YPG.

Asli Aydintasbas, Istanbul-based senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said Erdogan’s move was about testing Turkey’s NATO allies.

“President Erdogan’s style of meeting international challenges is upping the ante – and it almost always works in causing NATO allies to blink,” she said.

“It worked in the eastern Mediterranean and in Syria in the past – why not try again.”

Erdogan said operations to combat threats from across the border would start once Turkey’s armed forces and intelligence had completed their preparations, with decisions set to be made at a National Security Council meeting on Thursday.

KURDISH FACTOR

The YPG, or People’s Defence Units, are a key element of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led coalition which the United States has largely relied on to fight Islamic State militants since 2014.

Commenting on Erdogan’s announcement, the SDF accused Turkey of attempting to “destabilise the region” by threatening military action in northern Syria.

The SDF also said it had shot down a Turkish drone on Sunday which it said Ankara has used for surveillance of SDF-held areas ahead of planned shelling.

“In case of any attack, of course we will resist and fight back. The international community now faces an important test: will it effectively rein in Turkey?” said Ciwan Mulla Ibrahim, spokesperson for the SDF-controlled autonomous administration in northeast Syria.

Syria’s foreign ministry in Damascus did not immediately respond to requests for comment. There was also no immediate comment from Washington.

Erdogan said the planned military operation would reveal which countries respected Turkey’s security concerns and which did not – an issue that cuts to the heart of the current NATO row.

Dareen Khalifa, analyst on Syria at the International Crisis Group, said a Turkish military move against the YPG was always possible despite the relative calm along Turkey’s border with YPG-held areas in northern Syria since 2019.

While mediators including the United States have managed to calm tensions in recent years, “the crux of the issue – Turkish-PKK relations – hasn’t been addressed”, she said.

ELECTIONS LOOM

Erdogan hopes to leverage the issue of Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO into an opportunity to achieve his long-held goal of creating a buffer zone free of Kurdish fighters along Turkey’s entire border with Syria, analysts said.

His move comes as opinion polls show support for Erdogan and his ruling AK Party sagging amid deepening economic woes. Turkey holds presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023.

Aydintasbas said Turkey had previously staged cross-border operations ahead of elections. But mounting a large-scale military incursion brings risks too.

As well as the YPG presence, Russia has forces deployed in the area to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. troops, Turkey-backed insurgents, Iran-backed fighters, jihadists and Syrian government forces also operate across the patchwork of territories in northern Syria.

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