December 14th – 18th

Monday, 14th December 2015

SYRIA – Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels fighting President Bashar Assad in western Syria denied receiving any support from the Russian air force, saying that on the contrary it continued to bomb them and rejecting comments by a top Russian general. (The Jerusalem Post)

LIBYA – World powers back Libya unity government as way of fighting Daesh. The US and Italy have pressed Libya’s divided factions to lay down their weapons and back a UN brokered peace plan. Forming a national unity government is key to the talk, which may halt Daesh militants. (Deutsche Welle)

EUROPEAN UNION – The European Union revived Turkey’s membership bid on Monday and opened accession talks with Serbia, showing how a migration crisis and Russia’s presence in the Balkans has prompted the EU to rethink plans to stop expanding. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Turkish-Russian relations continued on a downward spiral Monday as Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Pesko said a bilateral summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned for December 15 in St. Petersburg would not happen. (Haaretz)

Tuesday, 15th December 2015

LIBYA – Daesh is looking at potentially vulnerable oil assets in Libya and elsewhere outside its Syria stronghold, where the militant group controls about roughly 80 percent of the oil and gas fields, a senior US official said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

ITALY – A controversial German pipeline deal with Russia has attracted a new adversary in Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, whose frustration with the project is complicating efforts to extend the EU’s economic sanctions against the Kremlin. (Financial Times)

GREECE – In a last-minute drive to assure European Union partners that it is getting to grips with a mass influx of refugees, Greece released aerial photographs on Tuesday of new registration centers for migrants on its northern Aegean islands. The move is part of Athens’ efforts, ahead of an EU summit starting on Thursday, to rebuff criticism by Germany and other EU governments that it has done too little to manage the flow of hundreds of thousands of people arriving on its shores. (Reuters)

EUROPEAN UNION – The EU has proposed a new border and coast guard agency for the bloc and plans to increase spending on border security. The plan aims to stem the flow of migrants from conflict zones in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. (Deutsche Welle)

FRANCE – France has used cruise missiles for the first time against the Islamic State during strikes in Iraq on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said. SCALP long-range missiles were launched from French fighter jets based in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan as part of a bombing raid that targeted a command center, training site and logistics depot in western Iraq on the border with Syria. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 16th December 2015

LIBYA – Delegates from Libya’s warring factions signed a UN-brokered agreement on Thursday to form a national unity government, a deal that Western powers hope will bring stability and help to combat a growing Islamic State presence. Four years after Muammar Gaddafi’s fall, Libya is deeply fractured, with a self-declared government in Tripoli and an internationally recognized one in the east – each backed by coalitions of former rebels and militias. (Daily Star)

EUROPEAN UNION – European leaders struggled on Thursday evening to agree on action to cope with the migration crisis amid ever deepening divisions, impotence, and failure to follow through on earlier pledges. While David Cameron’s campaign to refashion the terms of Britain’s EU membership occupied much of a critical EU summit, for many of the other leaders the immigration crisis loomed larger given that an estimated 1.2 million people have entered the EU mainly from the Middle East this year. (The Guardian)

SYRIA – The UN Security Council warned on Thursday that some countries are failing to implement long-standing sanctions against Daesh, as an unprecedented meeting of finance ministers put the global focus on cutting off the militant group’s funds. The 15-member council unanimously adopted a US and Russian-drafted resolution that ties together existing measures targeting Daesh’s finances and offers guidance on implementation in a bid to push more countries to act. (The New York Times)

Thursday, 17th December 2015

LIBYA – Representatives of Libya’s dueling parliaments signed a United Nations-brokered agreement on Thursday to form a national unity government that supporters said was an important and long overdue step toward ending years of chaos and civil war. Negotiations over the agreement, which was signed in Skhirat, Morocco, had been underway for more than a year. It was finalized after intense diplomacy by Western nations, including the United States that was widely seen as motivated by concerns about the growing strength of a Libyan branch of the Islamic State. (The New York Times)

LEBANON – Hezbollah Thursday outright rejected Lebanon joining a Saudi-led Islamic counter-terrorism alliance formed earlier this week, accusing the coalition of being an American project. (Daily Star)

SYRIA – Russia has made clear to Western nations that it has no objection to Syrian President Bashar Assad stepping down as part of a peace process, in a softening of its publicly stated staunch backing of Assad ahead of talks in New York, diplomats said. Russia, like Iran, has been a firm ally of Assad and is intervening militarily on his behalf against anti-government forces in the five-year civil war that has claimed more than a quarter million lives. Both Russia and Iran have long insisted Assad’s fate should be decided in a nationwide vote. (The Jerusalem Post)

Friday, 18th December 2015

TURKEY – Turkey accused Iraq on Friday of undermining the global fight against Islamic State militants by taking its complaint about the deployment of Turkish troops in northern Iraq to the United Nations Security Council. The 15-member council met on the issue on Friday at the request of Iraq and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari who asked the body to adopt a resolution demanding Turkey withdraw its troops immediately. (Reuters)

SYRIA – The United Nations Security Council on Friday unanimously agreed a resolution endorsing an international roadmap for a Syria peace process, a rare show of unity among major powers on a conflict that has claimed more than a quarter million lives. Council members agreed Friday on a resolution on a peace process for Syria involving talks by representatives of the Damascus government and the opposition, but the draft says nothing on the critical issue of what role President Bashar Assad will play. (Haaretz)

There must be decisions on what kind of transitional unity government Syria should have within the next month or two, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday. Speaking at a news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Kerry also said talks between the Syrian opposition and government aimed at reaching agreement on a unity government were not likely to start before mid to late January. (The New York Times)

The number of people forcibly displaced worldwide is likely to have “far surpassed” a record 60 million this year, mainly driven by the Syrian war and other protracted conflicts, the United Nations said on Friday. The estimated figure includes 20.2 million refugees fleeing wars and persecution, the most since 1992, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report. (The Jerusalem Post)

TURKEY – President Barack Obama urged Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Friday to “deescalate tensions” with Iraq by continuing to withdraw Turkish forces from northern Iraq, the White House said in a statement. The leaders also discussed the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria including efforts to support the moderate opposition in the war-torn nation, the White House said. (The Jerusalem Post)

LEBANON – The family friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he will stand for Lebanon’s presidency, a post that has been vacant for more than 18 months. Lebanese lawmaker Suleiman Franjieh announced his candidacy late on Thursday in an interview on LBCI television, voicing confidence in a power-sharing proposal that would put him in the top role and make Sunni Muslim politician Saad al-Hariri prime minister. (Reuters)

ISRAEL – Turkey is making progress in talks with Israel and a final deal to restore ties will not take long, a Turkish official told Reuters on Friday. Relations between the two soured in 2010 when Israeli commandos killed 10 Turkish activists when storming the Mavi Marmara, a ship in a convoy seeking to break an Israeli naval blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. (The Jerusalem Post)

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