Weekly News 26 – 30 November 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs
Monday, 26 November 2018
Russia: Ukraine’s parliament is to decide whether to bring in martial law, after Sunday’s capture of three of its naval vessels and 23 crew members by Russia.
The three ships were sailing off the coast of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, when they were seized.
Russia opened fire, before its special forces stormed the vessels. Between three and six Ukrainians were injured.
Ukraine said it was a Russian “act of aggression”. Moscow said the ships had illegally entered its waters. (BBC)
Brexit: Donald Trump has delivered a weighty blow to Theresa May’s hopes of steering her Brexit deal through parliament, saying it sounded like a “great deal for the EU” that would stop the UK trading with the US.
Trump was speaking to reporters outside the White House when he was asked about the deal May struck with the EU’s other 27 heads of state and government on Sunday. (The Guardian)
Khashoggi’s case: Turkish police searching for the remains of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have scoured the grounds of two adjoining villas in north-western Turkey, the country’s state-run news agency has reported.
Crime scene investigators and other officials, aided by sniffer dogs and a drone, first sealed off one of the villas near the town of Termal in Yalova province and later expanded their search to the grounds of the neighbouring villa, Anadolu Agency said.
The focus of the search was a well in the grounds of the first villa, which was being drained of water with special equipment brought to the scene. (The Guardian)
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
France: Faced with violent anti-government protests, French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday said he would not back down on controversial fuel tax hikes as he announced a blueprint for France’s transition to cleaner energy.
The French president’s energy roadmap comes as he is facing fractious “yellow vest” protests by citizens angry over fuel tax increases designed to finance green initiatives.
Macron acknowledged widespread anger expressed by protesters over the last 10 days, but said he would not back down on environmentally-friendly policies. On the sensitive subject of nuclear power, which accounts for almost three-quarters of France’s electricity output, Macron said the country would move more slowly than previously promised to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy.
He said France would shut down 14 of its 58 nuclear reactors by 2035, starting with the two reactors at the Fessenheim plant, the country’s oldest, which will be stopped by the summer of 2020. (France24)
Iraq: Iraq’s parliament will vote next week on whether to approve the remaining eight candidates for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s cabinet, the speaker’s office said on Monday.
The session initially scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27, was delayed late on Monday night by one week.
Lawmakers last month confirmed only 14 out of the 22 ministers Abdul Mahdi initially presented, but nevertheless approved a confidence motion, allowing him to become prime minister. (Al Arabiya)
Brexit: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have agreed to take part in a live TV debate on Brexit before MPs vote on the deal.
The prime minister said she was the only one with a plan for the UK’s future – Labour said Mr Corbyn would “relish” the chance to challenge that.
Mrs May refused to take part in TV debates with Mr Corbyn in the run-up to last year’s general election.
The SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens have demanded to be involved to ensure a range of views is reflected.
However, Mrs May has rejected calls for smaller political parties to join in, saying she and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn represented almost 90% of MPs in the Commons between them. (BBC)
Italy: The government will not send a new budget document to the EU, Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini said Tuesday.
“There will be a budget that it is parliament’s job to approve and it would at the very least ungenerous that someone from Europe should take sanctionary measures before the budget even exists,” he said. (Ansa)
Palestine: In a new demonstration of the rapprochement between Iran and Islamist political group Hamas, the movement on Tuesday expressed its “thanks” to Tehran for sponsoring victims of the great march of return.
Iran has announced its “adoption” of the families of those killed and wounded in the “return marches” in Gaza. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said in a statement that the movement “values” and “highly appreciates” Iran’s positions and support. (Al Arabiya)
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Yemen: An investigation into weapons being used in the war in Yemen has shown numerous examples of arms supplied by the UK and the US, among others, ending up in the hands of militias including those linked to al-Qaida and Isis.
As international concerns continue to rise over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the report by journalist Mohamed Abo-Elgheit and the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalists (Arij) alleges that not only are weapons being openly passed to militias aligned to the Saudi coalition but also to marginalised and feuding groups fighting their own territorial battles. (The Guardian)
Ukraine: US President Donald Trump says he may cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin following a maritime clash between Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Trump told the Washington Post he was waiting for a “full report” after Russian ships fired on and seized three Ukrainian boats on Sunday. A Crimean court later ordered that 12 of the Ukrainians be detained for 60 days. The court is expected to issue rulings for the remaining servicemen on Wednesday.
The FSB security service has since released videos of some of the men making statements. One of them, Volodymyr Lisovyi, said he was aware of the “provocative nature” of the Ukrainian action. (BBC)
Vladimir Putin has shrugged off Donald Trump’s threat to cancel a meeting with him due to Moscow’s seizure of three Ukrainian navy ships, and accused Ukraine’s president of orchestrating the crisis. But Putin, in his first public comments on the Black Sea incident, said the Ukrainian vessels had clearly been in the wrong, dismissed the clash as a minor border issue, and accused Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, of having orchestrated the crisis in order to boost his dire ratings. Poroshenko, after warning of the threat of “full-scale war” on Wednesday, signed an act imposing martial law for 30 days in regions bordering Russia, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. He donned a camouflaged uniform as he toured a military training centre. “It’s important to keep our powder dry and be ready at any moment to push back the aggressor,” Poroshenko said. (The Guardian)
Thursday, 29 November 2018
France: A French civil servant has been placed under formal criminal investigation on suspicion of spying for North Korea.
Benoît Quennedey is suspected of treason and “supplying information to a foreign power”. He faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.
Mr Quennedey holds a senior position in the French Senate’s department of architecture, heritage and gardens.
He is also president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association, which promotes closer ties with North Korea. (BBC)
Egypt: Italian prosecutors have named several members of Egypt’s national security agency as suspects in the alleged murder of Italian doctoral student Giulio Regeni – the first Egyptians to be named by the Italian side in connection with the case after almost three years.
The move comes after a meeting, the 10th of its kind, between Rome’s deputy public prosecutor Sergio Colaiocco and Egyptian authorities in Cairo.
The prosecution in Rome decided to proceed on its own, listing several members of Egypt’s national security agency as potentially responsible for the alleged torture and murder of the student, Italian prosecutors told the Guardian.
Reports in multiple Italian news outlets detail how the Italian prosecutors were frustrated by a lack of progress in the investigation following Colaiocco’s visit to Cairo. On his return to Italy, they added the names of Egyptian security officials to the preliminary list of suspects. (The Guardian)
Ukraine: The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has called on Nato to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov to “provide security” amid a deepening crisis with Russia.
Nato foreign ministers are due to meet next Monday in Brussels and will assess their existing presence in the area, but it is unlikely they will send warships to the area. (The Guardian)
Yemen: A United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire and the resumption of humanitarian deliveries in Yemen has been stalled by the US and other security council members after a lobbying campaign by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to diplomats at the UN. The resolution, drafted by Britain, called for a halt to the fighting for control of the port city of Hodeidah, the main entry point for supplies, and for guarantees from the warring sides that food and medicine could be delivered safely to a country at risk of a famine that could threaten the lives of 14 million Yemenis.
The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, had strenuously opposed the resolution when the UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, visited Riyadh on 12 November. (The Guardian)
Friday, 30 November 2018
Ukraine: Ukraine will not allow Russian men aged 16-60 into the country following the imposition of martial law, Kiev says.
An exception would be made for “humanitarian cases” such as those travelling to funerals. Russia says it is not planning retaliatory measures.
Martial law has been imposed in 10 Ukrainian regions until 26 December.
The restrictions were announced after President Petro Poroshenko met the country’s top security officials, including border guard chiefs, in Kiev.
The president tweeted (in Ukrainian) that the ban was designed to prevent the formation of “private armies” in Ukraine.
Mr Poroshenko also said registration criteria would be tightened for Russian citizens in the regions under martial law. (BBC)