Weekly News 29 January – 2 February 2018 | Mediterranean Affairs
Weekly News 29 January – 02 February 2018
Monday 29 January
Brexit: The European Union has set out its demands for the temporary transition period after the UK leaves in March 2019.
The EU wants the UK to continue to follow its rules but not be involved in making decisions. (More details in the article —> BBC)
Egypt: A candidate from the pro-government centrist Ghad party suddenly emerged in the form of Mousa Mostafa Mousahas added his name to the candidate list for elections in March, minutes before a nomination deadline was set to pass with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi the sole officially recognised candidate. (The Guardian)
Germany: The German government has denounced experiments funded by German carmakers in which humans and monkeys reportedly inhaled diesel exhaust fumes.
German media say the health impact research was done by EUGT, a body funded by Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Such tests could not be justified, the government said, demanding details. (BBC)
Poland: Poland’s President Andrzej Duda says he will review controversial plans to outlaw any suggestion of Polish complicity in the Nazi Holocaust.
During a phone call, Mr Netanyahu and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki agreed to open a dialogue on the issue
Poland’s draft bill, which is an amendment to an existing Polish law, would make using phrases like “Polish death camps” punishable by up to three years in prison.
It must pass in the Senate and be signed by the president before it becomes law.
President Duda promised “careful analysis” of the legislation following the outcry from Israel on Sunday.
Poland’s government insists the legislation aims to prevent the international defamation of Poland, and is not intended to impede genuine academic debate.
Israeli officials have condemned the bill. (BBC)
Syria: Turkish air strikes have seriously damaged an ancient temple in Syria’s Kurdish-held Afrin region, the Syrian government and a monitoring group say.
Pictures circulated online showed what appeared to be a crater in the centre of the Ain Dara site and rubble where there used to be carved basalt lions.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, says at least 51 civilians living in Afrin have been killed in Turkish air and artillery strikes since the offensive began. Dozens of YPG fighters and rebels are also reported to have died in clashes, along with seven Turkish soldiers. (BBC)
Turkey: More than 300 people have been arrested in Turkey after posting messages online criticising the country’s military offensive across the border in Syria.
On Monday, Turkey’s interior ministry said that a total of 311 people had been held for “spreading terrorist propaganda” since the operation began 10 days ago.
Detainees, it added, included politicians, journalists and activists. (BBC)
Tuesday 30 January
Italy: Italy outrage as Amsterdam ‘NOT READY’ to take EU drug agency in Brexit snatch
Amsterdam is “not ready” for the arrival of a key European Union agency which is due to relocate to the Dutch city from the UK after Brexit, sparking a fresh row over where the organisation should be based. Now the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, has seized the opportunity to launch a renewed bid for the EMA, which attracts some 36,000 visitors each year.
ANSA has reported Mr Sala has already spoken with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to discuss mounting a fresh appeal. (Express)
Yemen: Yemeni separatists have taken almost full control of the southern port city of Aden after days of fighting with government forces, residents say.
PM Ahmed bin Daghar and members of his cabinet are believed to be holed up inside the presidential palace in Aden.
There are reports of talks between the southern separatists and government forces, who were previously allies.
The fighting opens up a new front in Yemen, splitting the alliance against Houthi rebels in the north.
It has already led to the deaths of 40 people since Sunday, the Red Cross says. (BBC)
Wednesday 31 January
France: An eight-year-old boy wearing a Jewish skullcap, or kippa, has been attacked in a suburb of the French capital, Paris, in what officials suspect is the latest case of anti-Semitic violence.
Two teenage suspects, who fled the scene, did not shout any insults or steal anything from the boy, who also wore a traditional Jewish belt.
President Emmanuel Macron has condemned it as “an attack on the republic”. (BBC)
Italy: he leader of Italy’s 5-Star Movement told international investors on Wednesday he would be willing to govern with mainstream rivals if a March 4 election produces no clear winner. Di Maio later denied he had said he was willing to make post-election alliances with other parties, but said he would be willing to negotiate with them on policies.
“I will make a public appeal to all the political parties, asking them to agree on policies and on our government team, without any type of alliances,” he posted on Facebook. (Reuters)
Palestine: The United States has designated the political leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas as a terrorist and imposed sanctions on him.
The state department said Ismail Haniya had “close links with Hamas’ military wing” and been a “proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians”.
Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip, is already designated a terrorist group by the US, Israel, the EU and UK. (BBC)
Spain: Fugitive Catalan politician Carles Puigdemont has denied he is giving up on leading an independent Catalonia after his private text messages were broadcast on Spanish TV.
Mr Puigdemont admitted he had had a moment of doubt but insisted: “We continue!”
In his texts, shown by Telecinco, he said “it is over” and Madrid “has won”.
Mr Puigdemont was due to attend an event in the Belgian town of Leuven on Tuesday but Toni Comín, an aide, went instead and a camera behind him picked up Mr Puigdemont’s messages to him. Responding to the broadcast, Mr Puigdemont accused Telecinco of violating his privacy and said he was still president of Catalonia. (BBC)
Thursday, 1 Febraury
Poland: Poland’s Senate has approved a contentious bill that criminalises acts blaming Poland or its citizens for complicity in Nazi war crimes, drawing strong rebuke from its allies and Jewish organisations.
The legislation, which seeks to punish individuals who publicly describes Nazi Germany concentration camps as “Polish death camps”, passed overwhelmingly early on Thursday, and is now awaiting the signature of President Andrzej Duda.
Poland’s state news agency PAP reported that 57 senators voted for the bill, while 23 voted against with two abstentions. If signed into law, the legislation sets fines or a maximum three years imprisonment for anyone found guilty of violating it. (Al Jazeera)
Syria: The United States has accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against its people.
US State Department spokesman Heather Nauert said on Thursday that reports of chlorine gas being used against civilians in Eastern Ghouta were “very concerning”. (Al Jazeera)
Turkey: A Turkish court has overturned a decision to release the head of the local branch of Amnesty International, Taner Kilic, from detention. The decision came after a Turkish prosecutor filed an appeal contesting an earlier court decision on Wednesday that ordered Kilic’s release. (Al Jazeera)
Friday, 2 February
Migration crisis: Ninety migrants are feared drowned after a boat capsized off the Libyan coast, says the UN’s migration agency.
Three survivors said most of those who drowned were Pakistani nationals. Libyans were also aboard. (BBC)
Brexit: Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is to visit Downing Street next week to kickstart negotiations over the terms of the transition period, although senior officials in Brussels have ruled out any hard and fast agreement by the time of a European council summit in March.
The Brexit secretary, David Davis, will host a working lunch with Barnier on Monday, as officials start technical talks in Brussels. The most contentious issues lie over the rights of EU nationals arriving in the UK during the 21-month period, and the UK’s right to have a say on new laws. (The Guardian)
Cyprus: Greek Cypriots go to the polls this weekend in a tight presidential election that pits the incumbent conservative, Nicos Anastasiades, against a leftist-backed academic, Stavros Malas.
Although a political neophyte by the standards of his opponent, Malas has captivated voters, with the geneticist winning 30.2% of the vote last Sunday. Anastasiades, who heads the centre-right Disy party, came in with 35.5%. (The Guardian)
Syria: Jordanian authorities on Thursday approved $7.3 billion Syria Crisis Response Plan for the next three years, as prime minister Hani Mulki told foreign diplomats that his country needed international backing to provide aid to more than 1.5 million asylum seekers. The response plan will be the reference point for dealing with refugees in the coming years including projects funding on the local level, infrastructure projects and efforts to collect donation from the international community. (ANSAmed)