Weekly News 29 May – 2 June 2017 |Mediterranean Affairs
Weekly News 29 May – 2 June 2017
Monday, 29 May 2017
France: Emmanuel Macron, the new French president, has warned that France would respond immediately to any use of chemical weapons in Syria, while urging a closer partnership with Russia in fighting Islamic State (Isis) in the country.
The highly symbolic meeting in the sumptuous setting of the Palace of Versailles was aimed at defining the two leaders’ personal relationship after tension and mistrust during the French presidential election campaign and suggestions Russia had sought to meddle in the French democratic process. (The Guardian)
Germany: Europe can no longer completely rely on its longstanding British and US allies, Angela Merkel has warned – saying the EU must now be prepared to “take its fate into its own hands”.
Speaking after bruising meetings of Nato and the G7 group of wealthy nations last week, the German chancellor suggested the postwar western alliance had been badly undermined by the UK’s Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election as US president. (The Guardian)
Morocco: The fugitive leader of a protest movement that has shaken Morocco’s northern Rif region for months was arrested on Monday.
Nasser Zefzafi, 39, who had been on the run since Friday, had been taken into custody along with other individuals and transferred to Casablanca. The prosecutor’s statement said on Monday that those detained would be investigated for undermining the security of the state and other criminal acts. (Al Jazeera)
Moldova: Moldova’s Foreign Ministry expelled five Russian diplomats on Monday, according to the Russian ambassador to Moldova, Farit Mukhametshin.The Foreign Ministry declared the Russian diplomats “personae non gratae” in a note to Mukhametshin, giving the diplomats had 72 hours to leave Moldova. The ambassador confirmed he received the note but declined to give a further comment.
The names of the five expelled diplomats have not been publicly released. No reason has been given for the ambassadors’ expulsions. (Deutsche Welle)
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
Azerbaijan: Europe’s top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has launched an investigation into alleged corruption at the council involving Azerbaijan.T he criticisms concern some members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), accused of doing favours for Azerbaijan.
There are suspicions that Azerbaijan influenced PACE’s rejection of a report on Azeri political prisoners in 2013. (BBC)
Egypt: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has signed into law a contentious new bill to regulate non-governmental organisations, making it harder for charities to operate.
The measure restricts NGO activity to developmental and social work and introduces jail terms of up to five years for non-compliance. (Al Jazeera)
Under the law, foreign non-governmental groups will have to pay up to $16,500 to start working in Egypt and renew their permit on a regular basis, a human rights lawyer said.
France: French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed his support for Syria’s opposition on Tuesday in a meeting with its chief coordinator, a day after hosting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The unannounced meeting with Riad Hijab and a broader delegation from the Riyadh-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), which includes political and armed groups, came as Macron seeks to review French policy on the six-year civil war. (Reuters)
Germany: German police have arrested a teenage asylum seeker suspected of planning a suicide attack in Berlin, Brandenburg state officials say.
The suspect, 17, was arrested in the Uckermark district, Interior Minister Karl-Heinz Schröter announced.
Special forces arrested the teenager after police received a tip-off, Brandenburg police tweeted (in German). He had sent a message to his family saying farewell and that he was joining the “jihad”, the police said. (BBC)
Iraq: An Islamic State car bomb that targeted families eating ice-cream after breaking their Ramadan fast has killed at least 13 people and wounded 40 more in southern Baghdad.
The blast outside a popular shop in the Karrada district of the Iraqi capital was followed by another attack outside an office where people collect their government pensions.
Isis quickly claimed responsibility for the first attack on Monday night.
However, there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the second blast, on Tuesday, which took the death toll to 27. (The Guardian)
Turkey: Curfews were imposed in more than 40 villages in southeastern province of Diyarbakir early on Tuesday as part of a security operation against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, Turkish officials said.
The curfews in 43 villages in Lice, Hani, Kocakoy and Dicle districts started at 7:00am local time (04:00 GMT), and will remain in place until further notice, according to a statement by the government office. (Al Jazeera)
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Afghanistan: A suicide attacker detonated a bomb hidden inside a tanker truck close to the heavily protected diplomatic area during the morning rush hour.
Some 400 people were injured by the blast, which left a deep crater and killed at least 90 people. The bomb went off at about 08:20 local time (03:50 GMT) near Zanbaq Square, outside the Green Zone.
No group has said it carried out the attack but Taliban militants denied being involved. (BBC)
Iraq: Iraqi government forces and their allies say they have surrounded ISIL fighters in Mosul.
The UN estimates almost 10,000 people fled from Mosul’s northwest and the Old City every day last week. (Al Jazeera)
Italy: Italian police should be allowed on board NGO ships rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean, National Anti-Mafia and Anti-Terror Prosecutor Franco Roberti told the parliamentary Schengen committee Wednesday. (ANSAmed)
Serbia: Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic is set to hand over power to Aleksandar Vucic, a former prime minister, who won a decisive election victory last month.
But opponents accuse Vucic, who is known for his pro-Russia stance, of abusing his power. (Al Jazeera)
Syria: A Russian warship and submarine in the Mediterranean have fired four cruise missiles at so-called Islamic State (IS) positions in central Syria.
The strike targeted militants and heavy weapons near the city of Palmyra, the Russian defence ministry said.
The militants had been redeployed from the IS stronghold of Raqqa. (BBC)
Thursday, 1 June 2017
Algeria: Algeria has agreed to allow 41 Syrian refugees stranded on its frontier with Morocco to stay in the country as a humanitarian gesture, the foreign ministry said.
Earlier this week the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR urged Morocco and Algeria to allow the group safe passage after they had been trapped for weeks in a dispute between the North African neighbors.(Reuters)
Italy: Police chief Franco Gabrielli on June 7 will meet in Lampedusa with his counterparts from France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Croatia and Slovenia to discuss immigration, terrorism and organized crime.
It will be the first meeting of the European Relationship for Mediterranean Security (Ermes), a gathering attended by representatives of nine countries on the Mediterranean to promote wider cooperation.
The meeting will take place in the conference hall of the airport of Lampedusa. (ANSAmed)
Climate deal: U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday withdrawing the country from the Paris climate accord would stave off an economic crisis and protect American jobs – but many American companies seemed to disagree. (Reuters)
Friday, 2 June 2017
Germany: Germany has temporarily suspended group deportations of rejected Afghan asylum seekers in the wake of a deadly suicide attack in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul that killed at least 90 people and injured more 460.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday agreed to the provisional new security step a day after the deadly blast.
Until a new security assessment is completed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, deportations of Afghans will be halted barring exceptional cases.
Merkel’s decision does not represent a general halt of deportation procedures for Afghans denied asylum in Germany. (Al Jazeera)
Greece: Greek riot police have begun evacuating hundreds of refugees from a makeshift shelter set up inside the abandoned buildings of Athens’ old airport.
A heavy police presence blocked off all access to the Elliniko airport site in the early hours of Friday, denying entry to journalists, as men, women and children collected their belongings and began boarding buses to camps elsewhere in Greece.
Police had previously said up to 500 people, mainly families, would go to a camp outside the town of Thebes, about 70km northwest of Athens.
The remainder of mainly single people, estimated at more than 150, would be taken to Athens’ aliens department for identity verification, before being moved to facilities outside of the capital. (Al Jazeera)
Israel: Israel is expected to approve nearly 2,500 new settlement housing units across the occupied West Bank next week after the projects were tabled at a planning council meeting on Friday.
Israeli NGO Peace Now said on Friday that Israel’s Civil Administration – the military body governing the occupied West Bank – was scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss 27 separate plans for settlement housing units across the West Bank.
According to local media reports, about 1,500 of the housing units set to be approved are in major settlement blocs including Maaleh Adumim and Ariel, which Israel wants and expects to annex in any potential peace deal. (Al Jazeera)
Malta: Maltese voters are casting their ballots in a general election that was called against a backdrop of corruption allegations against the centre-left government of Joseph Muscat, current prime minister.
Final opinion polls before Saturday’s vote pointed to 43-year-old Muscat’s Labour Party (PL) retaining power with a reduced majority. (Al Jazeera)
Morocco: Thousands of people have taken the streets across Morocco’s northern Rif region for an eighth night demanding the release of a prominent protest movement leader.
Nasser Zefzafi, the head of the grass-roots Al-Hirak al-Shaabi, or Popular Movement, was taken into custody on Monday and transferred to Casablanca.
Protests also gripped the town of Imzouren, where scores of protesters clashed with policemen after Friday prayers. (Al Jazeera)
Yemen: An estimated 70,000 cases of cholera have been reported by UNICEF in Yemen, with nearly 600 people dying over the past month, as the disease continues to spread at an alarming rate.
The UN agency, which provides humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries, said on Friday that the already dire situation for children in Yemen was quickly turning into a disaster. UNICEF said at least 10,000 cholera cases were reported in the past 72 hours alone. (Al Jazeera)