Weekly News 22 – 26 May 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday, 22 May 2017
Belarus: The Belarus government has returned to a policy of large-scale repression, causing a dramatic deterioration in human rights, according to a report published on Monday for submission to next month’s session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. (Reuters)
France: President Emmanuel Macron’s new government moved quickly on Monday to act on a campaign promise to tighten up on ethical standards in French politics after an election race marred by an embezzlement scandal.
Justice Minister Francois Bayrou held talks with leading anti-corruption organizations Transparency International and Anticor and with a Socialist lawmaker who is expert in the field as he gathered ideas for a new law to clean up politics in France. (Reuters)
Germany: Iran must stop supporting armed groups in Syria and Iraq that contribute to the destabilization of the Middle East if it wants good relations with the West, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday. (Reuters)
Israel: US President Donald Trump has arrived in Israel for a visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem to seek ways to restart talks between the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government.
His visit is part of his first trip abroad as president and follows an initial stop in Saudi Arabia, where he urged Islamic leaders to focus on unity in the fight against “terrorism”.
On Monday afternoon, the US president hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and toured two sites in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem. (Al Jazeera)
Lebanon: An Israeli “Skylark” drone crashed in the Aita al-Shaab area of southern Lebanon on Monday, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA reported.
Tensions have increased in recent months between Israel and Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah movement, and Monday’s crash is the second of an Israeli drone in southern Lebanon this year. Israel and Hezbollah have fought numerous conflicts but their last big war was in 2006. (Reuters)
Palestine: Israeli forces have shot and injured at least 11 Palestinian protesters who staged a general strike in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the besieged Gaza Strip in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Hundreds of protesters blocked roads in cities and towns of the West Bank on Monday. (Al Jazeera)
Yemen: Thousands of Yemenis, who support the secession of the country’s south from the north, have been rallying in Aden.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government rejects calls for an independent south, saying it is a threat to the country’s future. (Al Jazeera)
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Afghanistan: At least 10 Afghan soldiers have been killed in an attack on an army base in the southern province of Kandahar, according to defence officials.
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the Kandahar attack. (Al Jazeera)
Hungary: Hungary will not back down over three laws which have brought in question its future membership in the EU, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto says. The EU objects to Hungary’s tight controls on asylum seekers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as a higher education law.
Critics say the education law could lead to the closure of the prestigious Central European University, founded by philanthropist George Soros.
Thousands of Hungarians have held protest rallies against the laws in recent months. (BBC)
Italy: Security forces in Rome starting taking up positions on Tuesday for United States President Donald Trump’s visit to the Italian capital.
The president will arrive in Rome on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday he will meet Pope Francis, Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Paolo Gentiloni. (ANSA)
Palestine: Donald Trump has met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank as the US president seeks to restart peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. (Al Jazeera)
Spain: Pedro Sánchez has regained the leadership of Spain’s bitterly divided Socialist party seven months after being ousted in a coup that laid bare the faultlines within the PSOE and left its status as the main opposition party in jeopardy.
On Sunday night, Sánchez took 50% of the vote, sailing past his main rival, Susana Díaz, the president of the PSOE stronghold of Andalucía, who took 40%. The former Basque president Patxi López finished third with 10%. (The Guardian)
Syria: A car bomb blast in Syria’s Homs city has killed at least four people and wounded 16, according to a monitoring group, which also reported a separate explosion in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.
The blast in Homs took place on Tuesday morning in al-Zahra neighbourhood, a government-held area, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. (Al Jazeera)
UK: At least 22 people, including children, have been killed and 59 injured in a suicide bombing at a crowded pop concert in Manchester, the most deadly attack in Britain in a decade.
The horror unfolded at about 10.30pm on Monday at the end of a concert by the American singer Ariana Grande, whose music is popular with children and teenagers. The man who murdered 22 people and injured 59 others has been named as Salman Ramadan Abedi, a Mancunian of Libyan descent. (The Guardian)
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Italy: Donald Trump arrived at the Vatican on Wednesday for talks with one of his most high-profile critics, Pope Francis.
Accompanied by his wife Melania and several aides, the US President received a tribute from the Swiss Guard in a Vatican courtyard where he was greeted by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the prefect of the pontifical household. (The Telegraph)
In his meetings with President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Paolo Gentiloni, US President Donald Trump thanked Italy for its contribution to the efforts in the fight against terrorism, specially for its participation in the global anti-ISIS coalition and its active role in Iraq and Afghanistan. In their meetings, the leaders discussed the alliance between the USA and Italy, and also priorities in the area of cooperation for defence, the fight against terrorism and the efforts to deny terrorists safe havens from Mali to Libya, from Iraq to Afghanistan. (ANSA)
Romania: Romania believes moves toward a “multi-speed” European Union could cause divisions in the bloc, and does not favor the creation of new mechanisms to address rule-of-law issues in Hungary or Poland, its foreign minister said on Wednesday. The European Parliament has alleged a serious deterioration in the rule of law and fundamental rights in Hungary, at the start of a process that could theoretically lead to Hungary being stripped of its EU voting rights. (Reuters)
Thursday, 25 May 2017
Belgium: US President Donald Trump has told his Nato allies in Brussels that all members of the alliance must pay their fair share of defence spending.
Nato states’ contributions are voluntary and a target of spending 2% of GDP on defence is only a guideline.
The alliance later agreed that member-states would report back annually on defence spending to Nato.
Before visiting Nato’s new headquarters, which was formally opened at Thursday’s gathering, Mr Trump met several EU leaders for the first time, including France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron. (BBC)
Greece: Former Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has been injured by an explosion inside his car in Athens. Reports say the blast may have been caused by a letter bomb.
Mr Papademos, 69, had leg, arm and stomach injuries, but officials said his condition was “not a cause for concern”. His driver was also injured – but not seriously. No group has so far claimed responsibility for Thursday’s blast.
The explosion occurred at about 18:30 local time (15:30 GMT) in central Athens. (BBC)
Israel: Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement executed three Palestinians on Thursday convicted of killing a commander in the Islamist group’s armed wing while acting on Israel’s orders.
Hamas’ military prosecutor said the three men admitted to receiving orders from Israeli intelligence officers to track and kill Mazen Fuqaha on March 24 in Gaza City. (Reuters)
UK: British police have resumed sharing information with their counterparts in the US after a brief suspension over a series of leaks by American officials to journalists providing details of the Manchester bomb investigation.
The suspension, announced early on Thursday morning, lasted less than 24 hours. It was primarily intended to send a message to US law enforcement agencies registering anger at the casual way in which sensitive information was disclosed to American journalists. (The Guardian)
Friday, 26 May 2017
Chechnya’s Republic: Russian officials are actively investigating claims of a purge of gay men in Chechnya, a process that could lead to a showdown between Moscow and the local Kremlin-backed strongman, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Dozens of men in the southern republic are reported to have been held in extrajudicial detention and tortured as part of a campaign against gay males in Chechnya that began several months ago. Many have fled and are in hiding in other regions of Russia or have gone abroad. (The Guardian)
Egypt: Gunmen have attacked a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt, killing at least 23 people and wounding 25 others, state media report. The bus was heading towards the Monastery of St Samuel the Confessor in Minya province, about 220km (140 miles) south Cairo, when it came under fire. No group immediately said it was behind the attack. (BBC)
Italy: The 2017 Group of Seven (G7) summit opened in the Sicilian town of Taormina on Friday. with the traditional ‘family photo’ of leaders at the Sicilian resort’s ancient Greek theatre. The fight against terrorism, migration, ties with Africa, international trade and climate change are on the agenda. (ANSA)
UK: Members of Manchester’s Libyan community are struggling to come to terms with the fact one of their own was behind a bomb blast at a concert that left 22 people dead and scores wounded.
Salman Abedi, 22, who was born in the northern English city to Libyan parents, is believed to have carried out the attack, which was claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). (Al Jazeera)
Police have arrested a man in the Moss Side area of Manchester in connection with Monday’s attack at the city’s Arena venue that killed 22 people.
He is one of eight men now in custody on suspicion of terror offences, police have said.
Police believe Manchester-born bomber Salman Abedi, from a family of Libyan origin, acted as part of a network.
His older brother, Ismail Abedi, 24, is among 10 people to have been arrested in the UK. Two were later released. (BBC)