Weekly News December 12th – 16th

Monday 12:

Italy: Italian President Sergio Mattarella appointed the lead of the government to former Foreign Affairs Minister Paolo Gentiloni. The proposal was not accepted without objections from opposition parties such as the anti-Europe Five Star Movement and the far-right Northern League (Lega Nord). Mr Gentiloni affirmed he will try to form a government in the most rapid way in order to be able for Italy to participate to the European Council to be held during the week. The new Prime Minister is now faced by the task of appointing ministries and ask for the support of the parliament. (La Stampa – published on December 11th)

Egypt: a blast has killed 25 and wounded 49 people at a chapel near to Egypt’s main Coptic Cathedral. This is one of the deadliest attack carried out on the religious minority. President Al-Sisi declared that no group has claimed the attack; he added that the government will be harsh in punishing the responsible. The attack ushered the anger of hundreds of people who gathered in front of the church making clear their complaints against conservative Muslim groups. The attack raised the doubt that the al-Sisi government may not be able to maintain its promise of providing security to all Egyptians. (The Guardian – published on December 11th)

Turkey: two bombs exploded outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul leaving 29 people dead and wounding 166. The attack was made to target the police and it happened just after the crowd left the stadium after the match. A car bomb exploded next to the Vodafone arena, home to Istanbul’s Besiktas soccer team and forty seconds later a suspect wearing explosives detonated them while surrounded by police. Two civilians and 27 police officers died. (Reuters – published on December 10th)

At least 199 people were detained after the twin bombings claimed by a Kurdish group. The death toll raised to 44. Police has arrested these people while targeting officials from the Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over allegations to links to the Kurdish group who carried out the attack. These operation were launched the day after the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for the attack. The TAK is an armed group which is probably a splinter of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Furthermore, Turkish warplanes conducted airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq. The HDP party is the second-largest opposition group in parliament and its members are often jailed over alleged ties to the PKK. (Al Jazeera)

Tuesday 13

Greece: after a 16-months period of austerity measures imposed by the European executive, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is returning to his anti-austerity rhetoric. The Prime Minister has criticised the Greece fiscal adjustment programme by addressing it as silly, since it overlooks the steps and efforts committed by the country in the last period. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: the fight for Aleppo is almost over. The civilians and fighters left in the city are trapped between the choice of staying (and facing capture) or hazarding an escape which may bring them towards the same end. The city will be cleansed of anyone who sympathised with anti-Assad opposition, those who succeed to escape are heading to Idlib, which, after ISIS-controlled Raqqa, will be the last stronghold outside regime control. Assad’s claim that the victory of Aleppo may pave the way to the end of the conflict might be true, but the instability in the country is likely to continue for a long time. (The Guardian)

 United States: due to concerns over civilian casualties, the US will limit the military support to the Arab coalition fighting in Yemen. This reflects on some kind of weaponry received by Saudi Arabia, which leads the alliance fighting the Houthis. “Systemic, endemic” problems over Saudi Arabia’s targeting drove the US to stop the provision of precision-guided munitions. The US administration started an investigation over US assistance for the Arab coalition after planes struck mourners at a funeral in the capital Sanaa in October, killing 140 people, according to one UN estimate. (Al Jazeera)

 Wednesday 14:

Italy: the newly appointed Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won also the Senate confidence vote after the successful voting session at the Chamber of Deputies on Tuesday. The vote has occurred with in a large absenteeism of the opposition parties Five Star Movement and Lega Nord; however senators of the former entered the parliament between the first and the second vote. From this vote, the Prime Minister is officially leading the Italian government and may participate to the two important events of the week: the European socialist leader meeting and the Council of Europe. (La Repubblica)

Migrant Crisis: Europe will call on Thursday for more vessels patrolling the Libyan coast in order to prevent migrants from leaving its shores for Europe. The number of refugees that reached the Italian coasts this year has been sensibly higher than in the past year, due to the Europe-Turkey deal. The “Sophia” is the name of the programme for the control of the Libyan coasts and training of the Libyan coastguards. EU diplomats have criticised it recently since instead of preventing migrants from reaching Europe, it is often busy with “search and rescue operations”. (The Daily Star)

Syria: civilians in Aleppo are asking for help to the international community as airstrikes resume. People had hope in the evacuation deal during the ceasefire, but now mounting horror is taking over as numerous civilians are trapped in the eastern part of the city. The ceasefire agreed on Tuesday between Turkish and Russian intelligence was thought to allow civilian flee to Idib, however, Iranian-backed militia who led the Syrian army assault on the city were not permitting civilians to leave. Nearly 1,000 people were being held at a militia checkpoint, according to Turkish Red Crescent. Residents reported that the airstrikes targeted exactly the roads where evacuations was supposed to take place. The UN described this as a “meltdown of humanity”. People recorded farewell messages as Iranian-backed militias and the army rampage through the newly reclaimed neighbourhoods. (The Guardian)

 Thursday 15:

Brexit: a trade between the United Kingdom and EU after Brexit might take 10 years to finalise. This is what was learnt from the Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union Ivan Rogers. Mr. Rogers warned ministers that the European consensus might take years since it needs to be approved by the EU leaders at a first stage and by every EU national parliament then. The second stage might take longer since obstructions from national parliaments are likely to slow down the process. Mr. Rogers’ advice contrasts with the opinion of many ministers wishing to conclude a deal in the two years allowed by the triggering of Article 50. (BBC)

Syria: the evacuation of the eastern part of Aleppo has begun in the morning thanks to a ceasefire supposed to last three days. Hundreds of families gathered to the departure points, where around 20 buses and 13 ambulances have taken people to the rural areas of the city with three slow moving convoys. A member of the Syrian Civil Defence has reported that some army troops have been shooting on the ambulances early in the morning, however the convoys have not stopped. Families are left the choice to leave or to stay and be under regime control; many people fear massacres and reprisals and thus decided to leave. The International Committee of Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have led the convoys, followed by green governmental buses. (Al Jazeera)

Turkey: a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly criticised Turkish repression of the press. The report is based on a review of court documents and on 61 interviews with journalists, editors, lawyers and press freedom advocates. Journalists have been detained on false charges such as terrorism, furthermore they are continuously threatened with physical attacks. One journalist said in the report: “in the past journalists were killed in Turkey, this government is killing journalism in its entirety”. (The Daily Star)

 Friday 16:

Europe: the leaders of the European Union decided to extend sanctions applied to Russia in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis. The sanctions will be thus protracted until mid-2017; some had wished for a longer time span in order to contrast a possible ease on pressures to Moscow by the future Trump administration. The bloc is caused by the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian island of Crimea in 2014. The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko welcomed the decision. (Reuters)

Syria: the evacuation of the eastern part of the war-torn city of Aleppo has stopped. According to government officials, there were “obstructions” that halted the convoys. What is clear is that each part of the conflict is accusing the other for being responsible. State-owned SANA news agency reported that at the time of the deal’s suspension, 8,000 people – civilians and fighters – have been evacuated from the city. The State TV affirmed that rebels were trying to smuggle heavy weaponry, violating the terms of the deal. At the same time, the Turkish State news agency said that pro-government forces first attacked the convoy. The ceasefire deal between Putin and Erdogan had concluded that rebel fighters and civilians should leave the city in order to move to the rebel-held Idlib and so that the Syrian government could take again control of Aleppo. (Al Jazeera)

United States: Donald Trump has appointed ambassador to Israel Mr David Friedman. This man, known for being a hardliner pro-settler lawyer, has expressed positions against a two-state solution and against the divided city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The man has served Trump’s advisory team of the Middle East and has protected Mr Trump over his failing hotels in Atlantic City. Liberal US Jews described the appointment as “reckless” and affirmed that the man is the least experienced in foreign affairs.  (The Guardian)



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