The week in foreign policy

This week in foreign policy, and domestic affairs, has been one like no other, with countries across the world introducing unprecedented measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. With news outlets saturated with stories and information relating to the coronavirus, we will continue to bring you foreign policy pieces you might have missed – as world activity continues.

Although relegated to a video-conference, EU leaders met this week with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the migrants crisis and the humanitarian situation in Idlib, Syria. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson attempted to negotiate a resolution to the migrant crisis with Erdogan, as well as coordinate a humanitarian response to the situation in Idlib. Further details available on Euractiv.

Following the courts’ decision to declare a planned third runway at Heathrow ‘unlawful’, the proposed expansion has now been declared to be in a ‘deep freeze’, reports CityAM. Stefan Boscia writes that the aviation industry’s crisis, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, will likely delay a government decision on the expansion of one of the UK’s busiest and most international airports.

Over in the US, the Democratic Primary rumbles on, albeit with a reduction of live debates. Michael O’Hanlon examines for The Hill how different foreign policy would be under either of the frontrunners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Whilst the candidates appear radically different, O’Hanlon suggests that upon examining their actions and proposals, their ideas could be reconciled. Many of Sanders’ specific proposals, for example, rooted in international cooperation, and the fight against climate change, inequality and authoritarianism, are much more mainstream than his ‘favorable comments about Fidel Castro back in the day might suggest’, creating overlap with the more centrist Biden.

The coronavirus has piled the pressure on the global economy, and for Iran – a nation subject to tough international sanctions and hit particularly hard by Covid-19 – the outlook is bleak. Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor at The Guardian, reports that the UK has been pressuring the US behind the scenes to ease sanctions on Iran in order to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak. As 17,361 people in Iran have been infected with the virus, the Iranian embassy in London has appealed for sanctions to be lifted. The World Health Organization has suggested that the Iranian health ministry figures have underestimated the true numbers of those affected by the coronavirus by a fifth, meaning that the strain on the country is even greater.

Whilst the UK’s ‘transition period’ for leaving the EU is still due to expire at the end of this year, the Telegraph suggests that the UK is preparing to seek an extension to this transition period as both the UK and the EU are focused on the coronavirus crisis. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been confirmed to have the virus, and his British counterpart, David Frost, is reportedly self-isolating with symptoms, adding further credence to the idea that an extension will be sought before the June deadline expires.


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Flora Holmes

Flora Holmes is a Researcher at the British Foreign Policy Group.