Weekly News 03 – 07 July 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs
Weekly News 03 – 07 July 2017
Monday, 03 July 2017
France: Declaring that citizens had an “overwhelming thirst for renewal,” President Emmanuel Macron urged France’s legislators in a speech on Monday to live up to the “gravity of the circumstances,” warning against the fear and cynicism wrought by poverty, terrorism, new forms of labor and ecological change.
The new president cast himself both as the agent of change France wanted and as his country’s rampart against a newly uncertain world order. (The New York Times)
Tuesday, 04 July 2017
Israel: Narendra Modi has arrived in Tel Aviv, becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel.
Mr. Modi, who recently said India and the Jewish state share a “deep and centuries-old” connection, is expected to agree military and cyber security deals. Defence deals will be top of the agenda. (BBC)
Migration crisis: Austria has announced it is ready to use soldiers and tanks to stop migrants crossing its border with Italy, as Brussels urged Europe to help Italian authorities manage an “unprecedented” arrival of people from North Africa.
Austrian defence minister Hans Peter Doskozil announced that four Pandur armoured personnel carriers had been sent to the Tyrol region and 750 troops were on standby. (The Guardian)
South Sudan: The government of South Sudan and its militias are behaving with vicious brutality in the country, with reports of men being locked in huts and burned to death, and of machete attacks being carried out in remote villages.
The atrocities are just one of the causes of the major refugee crisis in the region, with almost a million people fleeing to Uganda. (The Guardian)
Spain: Catalonia’s ruling coalition has vowed to declare independence “immediately” if a majority of voters back it in an October referendum. Secessionists in the north-east region have long argued that it should break away from Spain.
They argue that the prosperous enclave, which includes tourist hub Barcelona, pays more to Madrid than it gets back. The question put to voters in October will be: “Do you want Catalonia to be an independent state in the form of a republic?” (BBC)
Qatar: Gulf states are preparing to ramp up economic sanctions against Qatar, as well as widening its diplomatic isolation and suspending it from the Gulf Co-operation Council, senior Gulf diplomats have indicated.
They were speaking before a meeting in Cairo of foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which have been leading the blockade of Qatar since 5 June, accusing the emirate of supporting terrorism. On 22 June they issued a 13-point list of demands to end the standoff and gave Qatar 10 days to comply. That deadline was extended on Sunday by 48 hours. (The Guardian)
Wednesday, 05 July 2017
Turkey: Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has claimed Germany is “committing suicide” by not allowing him to speak to Turks at a rally in Germany. Germany has blocked Mr. Erdogan from making a speech to supporters during the G20 summit in Hamburg later this week, which could have drawn huge protests from Kurds living in Germany. (Independent)
Qatar: The bitter confrontation between Qatar and a Saudi-led coalition shows no sign of ending, and looks set to escalate, with neither side seemingly prepared to back down amid angry accusations and recriminations.
With tension rising between the two sides – both considered staunch allies of the West – Qatar’s foreign minister accused its Sunni neighbours of “clear aggression” and enforcing an “illegal blockade” to “try to force us to surrender our sovereignty”. (The Independent)
Thursday, 06 July 2017
Germany: Hamburg is bracing itself for an escalation of violence on the eve of Friday and Saturday’s G20 summit, after local people complained that heavy-handed police have ratcheted up tensions in Germany’s second largest city.
A fleet of hi-tech water cannons was used to disperse crowds partying near the conference venue on Tuesday evening. Five people were injured and five arrests made, said police, who have warned that protesters could be hoarding weapons at secret locations.
Authorities in Germany’s second-largest city are preparing for the arrival of an unprecedented lineup of controversial world leaders including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as thousands of international protesters ranging from anti-capitalist activists to middle-class families keen to voice dissent. (The Guardian)
Iraq: Up to 20,000 civilians are trapped in the last ISIL-held areas in Mosul’s Old City, which Iraqi forces are battling to retake, a senior UN official said.
More than eight months since the start of the operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), the armed group has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a small pocket of territory on the west bank of the River Tigris. (Al Jazeera)
Migration crisis: German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Thursday that Berlin was against the Italian proposal of taking asylum seekers saved in the Mediterranean to the ports of other EU states to share the burden. “We do not support the so-called regionalization of the rescue operations,” de Maiziere said as he arrived at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Tallinn.
Italy is demanding more help from its EU partners with the asylum-seeker crisis, saying its capacity to cope is at the limit. Over 85,000 migrants have arrived in Italy via sea so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). (ANSAmed)
Poland: U.S. President Donald Trump described Poland as an exemplary ally in building defenses to counter Russian “destabilizing behavior”, while appearing to encourage Polish defiance toward the European Union.
Trump, en route to a potentially fractious G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, urged western NATO allies in Europe to spend more on defense, drawing a comparison with Poland which meets the agreed target of two percent of annual economic output. (Reuters)
Turkey: Turkish police have arrested eight leading human rights activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser in Istanbul.Two trainers – from Germany and Sweden – were also arrested in the raid on a digital security workshop at a hotel in Buyukada. The police raid was “blatantly without cause”, an Amnesty statement said. (BBC)
The European Parliament called on Thursday for Turkey’s European Union accession talks to be suspended if Ankara fully implements plans to expand President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, in a vote which Turkey dismissed as flawed and wrong. EU leaders have been critical of Erdogan and his behavior toward opponents, both before and after an abortive military coup against him last July. (Reuters)
Friday, 07 July 2017
France: Police have moved more than 2,000 refugees and migrants off the streets of Paris, where they had been sleeping rough for weeks in squalid and insanitary conditions.
Riot officers watched the refugees as they were bussed to temporary shelters in school gymnasiums on Friday morning.
Hundreds of refugees and migrants had arrived in the Porte de la Chapelle area of northern Paris, sleeping under road bridges and on the side of the road with almost no access to water, sanitation and food, outside Paris’s new aid centre for asylum seekers that was opened in November. (The Guardian)
Egypt: Militants killed at least 23 soldiers and injured dozens more in a car explosion and gun attack on an Egyptian military checkpoint in the north-eastern Sinai peninsula, officials have said.
Among those killed in the attack on Friday – the deadliest on the country’s military this year – were five officers, including a high-ranking special forces colonel, Ahmed el-Mansi, according to security officials. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. However, Egypt has been battling a stepped-up insurgency in northern Sinai in recent years, mainly by militants affiliated to Isis. (The Guardian)
Germany: Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Germany’s Hamburg city to protest against capitalism, climate polices and globalisation among other issues as world leaders gather for the two-day G20 summit. (Al Jazeera)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed fellow Group of 20 leaders to compromise at the start of talks on climate and trade that have pitted U.S. President Donald Trump against virtually every other country in the club of leading economies.
The host of the G20 summit addressed her counterparts on Friday in a hall at the Hamburg convention center, after video footage showed Trump shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the first face-to-face encounter between the two men. (Al Jazeera)
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have held their first face-to-face talks, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the German city of Hamburg. Both sides listed a wide range of topics discussed, including Russia’s alleged meddling in the US election.
Climate change and trade are set to dominate the two-day G20 meeting. (BBC)
Italy:Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, the head of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), said on Friday Italy did not have any moral duty to take in migrants, sharply toughening his stance over surging numbers of asylum seekers.
Critics accused Renzi of adopting the language of rightist opponents less than a year before national elections, where the growing migration crisis is likely to dominate campaigning. (Al Jazeera)
Qatar: Qatar has expressed regret over false claims in statements issued by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Cairo and Jeddah, describing the accusations by the anti-Doha quartet as a defamation.
Qatar’s state news agency quoted a foreign ministry source as saying on Friday that the claims by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt about Qatar’s interference in internal affairs of other countries and financing terrorism are baseless allegations. (Al Jazeera)