March 14th – 18th

Monday, 14th March 2016

EGYPT – Egypt’s central bank devalued its currency and said it would adopt a more flexible exchange-rate policy as it seeks to ease an acute dollar shortage that is hurting the economy, sending local stocks sharply higher. (The Wall Street Journal)

SYRIA – The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has abruptly declared that he is withdrawing the majority of Russian troops from Syria, saying the six-month military intervention had largely achieved its objective. (The Guardian)

TURKEY – In late February, Turkey’s Constitutional Court paved the way for the release of two prominent journalists, arrested over reports of Turkish arms shipments to Syria, in a landmark ruling that infuriated President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sparked fresh internal spats in the Justice and Development Party (AKP). (Al Monitor)

Tuesday, 15th March 2016

MIGRANT CRISIS – Thousands of desperate refugees who had made a dramatic push into Macedonia – bypassing its sealed border by wading through the freezing waters of a river – were forcibly returned to Greece on Tuesday amid heightened tensions between the two countries. (The Guardian)

SYRIA – Rebel groups and opposition activists have reacted with cautious optimism to news of a major withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, saying the Kremlin’s move would ease the pressure on the opposition and strengthen the prospects for peace talks. (The Guardian)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be under pressure to negotiate a peaceful transition to end the Syrian civil war if Russia withdrew the bulk of its forces from Syria. (Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry said he would travel to Moscow next week to discuss a political solution to Syria’s five-year war, as the U.S. and key players strain to figure out how Russia’s partial military withdrawal changes the dynamics of the conflict and nascent peace talks. (The Wall Street Journal)

SYRIAN KURDISTAN – Syria’s foreign ministry has condemned Turkey’s shelling of Kurdish fighters in northern Syria and sent two letters voicing its concern to the United Nations, Syrian state media reported. (Al Arabiya)

Wednesday, 16th March 2016

MIGRANT CRISIS – More than 2,400 migrants have been rescued from boats in the Strait of Sicily in the last two days and emergency services recovered three corpses, Italy’s coast guard said on Wednesday. (Daily Mail)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday a draft European Union deal with Turkey would be decisive to easing Europe’s migrant crisis but made clear the bloc would not compromise democratic principles to win over Ankara. (Reuters)

The European Union on Wednesday explicitly linked advancing Turkey’s membership bid to a settlement of the decades-old Cyprus dispute, further complicating efforts to win Ankara’s help in resolving Europe’s migration crisis. (The Wall Street Journal)

SYRIA – The Arab League welcomed Russia’s decision to withdraw its troops from Syria, saying on Wednesday the move would help U.N.-mediated talks to end the country’s war. (Al Arabiya)

Thursday, 17th March 2016

MIGRANT CRISIS – Turkey is not planning to ask for new demands at a meeting with EU leaders on the migrant crisis, Reuters cited a senior Turkish official on Thursday. The official also expressed Turkey’s willingness to discuss new proposals from the European side, adding that countries including Cyprus should not be allowed to block progress. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

SYRIA – Humanitarian agencies demanded unconditional access to all communities in Syria as Russia continued on Wednesday to withdraw its military forces from the country. (Al Arabiya)

SYRIAN KURDISTAN – The Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and several allied groups have voted to create an autonomous federation in the northern part of Syria. PYD officials claimed autonomy for the Kurdish-controlled areas on Thursday after two days of meetings with delegates of different communities in the region. (Al Jazeera)

Friday, 18th March 2016

GREECE – Six suspected members of a trafficking network were arrested in Greece as they prepared to fly seven Iraqi migrants to Italy in a light aircraft, Greek police said Thursday. The gang of four Greek nationals and two Iraqis were arrested in Messolonghi, western Greece. (Al Arabiya)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Turkey and the EU have reached a controversial deal European leaders hope will stop the flow of refugees to the continent in return for political and financial concessions for Ankara. (Al Jazeera)

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades is satisfied with the latest draft of an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to send back migrants reaching Europe across the Aegean sea, a diplomat said. Cyprus has previously threatened to block the agreement over tensions with Turkey if what the EU was offering to Turkey was not agreed with Nicosia as well. (Reuters)

SYRIAN KURDISTAN – Syrian rebel factions on Friday condemned a declaration of federalism in Kurdish-controlled regions of northern Syria and vowed to resist it by force, a day after those areas voted to seek autonomy. (Reuters)

WAR ON TERROR – Salah Abdeslam, the suspected Isis jihadi accused of helping kill 130 people in the Paris attacks, has been caught alive after being shot in the leg during an anti-terror raid in Brussels. (The Independent)

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