Weekly News 30th January – 3rd February 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Weekly News 30th January – 3rd February 2017

Monday 30: 

Iraq: Iraqi MPs have voted to call on a reciprocal travel ban to US citizens. The move is a response to Trump’s executive order barring citizens from Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – from entering the United States. The government of Haider al-Abadi has not expressed its opinion on the vote, which represents no binding obligation on the government. The Parliament wishes to enact the order until the US withdraw its decision. (Al Jazeera)

Israel: the Parliament is voting to retroactively legalize 4,000 housing units occupied by settlers on private Palestinian land. The attorney general judged the act as unconstitutional, however this has not stopped the Knesset which has passed the first round of voting. Experts in Israel said that the bill violates Israeli and international law on settlements: unlike territories occupied by Israel under military rule, the “regulation bill” concerns land where Palestinians themselves own title deeds. (Al Jazeera)

Migrant crisis: a paper sent from the German ambassador to Niger denounced barbarous conditions in which migrants and refugees are living in Libya. Executions, tortures and other systematic rights abuses seem to happen often in camps on the refugee route in Libya. Similar evidence of abuses in Libya came from a court case brought by the Italian State against a leading smuggler. Access to these camps is difficult due to security reasons and a Turkey-style deal from the European Union has been excluded by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and by the German chancellor Angela Merkel. (The Guardian)

Morocco: the country has been readmitted in the African Union (AU) during a summit in Addis-Abeba. 39 of the 54 member states approved the readmission of Morocco after 33 years, however the AU remains vigilant on the situation in Western Sahara. Algeria and South-Africa heavily spoke against the readmission of Morocco: these nations have long supported the self-determination by Western Sahara’s Polisario Front, which Morocco outlawed since years. Morocco maintains that the former Spanish colony under its control is a part of the kingdom, while the Polisario Front campaigns for the territory’s independence. AU wishes that with Morocco back in the fold, it will be easier to treat this question. (The Daily Star)

Tuesday 31:

Austria: Austrian coalition government has announced that it will prohibit full-face veil and restrict eastern European workers’ access to labour market. The proposal was made with the aim of countering the rise of far-right parties. The Austrian chancellor Christian Kern said he wanted to avoid “giving 600,000 Muslim in Austria the feeling that they are not part of our society”. Furthermore, the 35-page program obliges migrants to sign an “integration contract” and a “statement of values” in order to verify if migrants are “prepared to accept Enlightenment values” according to the text. (Al Jazeera)

Italy: the Italian police issued an arrest warrant for four persons accused of selling arms and helicopters to Libya and Iran without any permission. These people, three of which Italian and one Libyan, are also charged of violating the international embargo imposed on Libya from 2011. They have allegedly sold “dual use” material, which can be employed both for civilian as well as military purposes. In addition, they were accused of smuggling surface-to-air missiles and anti-tank missiles to Libya between 2011 and 2015. These weapons seem to be shipped from other countries and manufactured in the old Soviet bloc. (La Repubblica)

Ukraine: Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for a surge in fighting that broke the two-year-old ceasefire deal. The fighting has caused the biggest number of casualties in weeks, killing eight Ukrainian troops and wounding 26. Furthermore, power and water have been cut off for thousands of civilians on the frontline. Ukraine’s foreign minister commented that this episode signals “Russia’s continued blatant disregard of its commitments under the Minsk agreement”. The truce was signed in February 2015, however this did not halt daily violations of the ceasefire to happen. (The Guardian)

Wednesday 1:

Greece: Greek Defense ministry reported several violations of its airspace over islands in the Aegean amid tensions over Athens’ failure to hand over Turkish soldiers Ankara accuses of involvement in a coup attempt. Particularly, 138 mass incursions by Turkish military aircraft were intercepted. Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos commented by underlining the country’s interest in a peaceful situation in the Aegean. (The Daily Star)

Migrant Crisis: Prime Minister of UN-backed Libyan government Faye al-Serraj has said that he could permit EU or NATO ships to patrol Libyan coast alongside the national military coastguard to slow the flow of people-smuggling across the Mediterranean. This came amid accuses of corruption of the Libyan coastguard but also due to the horrendous conditions of Libyan refugee camps. The EU is due to discuss a plan for Libya at a special head of state summit on Friday. (The Guardian)

Syria: a Syrian opposition figure has told Reuters they are training with US-led coalition forces in preparation to help drive so-called Daesh from its de facto capital in the city of Raqqa. Ahmad Jarba controls the Syrian Elite Forces and is engaged together with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the battle for Raqqa. The SDF started an operation to liberate Raqqa in November in the attempt to capture territory north and west of the city, the next phase will aim at taking remaining areas. (The Daily Star)

Brexit: MPs have voted to allow Prime Minister Theresa May to start Brexit negotiations. By a majority of 384, they backed the government’s European Union Bill, supported by the Labour leadership. However, 47 Labour MPs and Tory ex-chancellor Ken Clarke voted against. The bill will now be examined by the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law. The Prime Minister has set a deadline of 31 March for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting official talks with the EU started. (BBC)

Thursday 2:

Migrant Crisis: Italian Prime Minister signed a deal with the Libyan UN-backed government leader Fayez al-Serraj involving aspects regarding development, illegal immigration, human trafficking and reinforcement of borders. The document, which is made up by 8 articles, sees engagement from the Italian government to support development plans for areas with a high flow of migrants and refugees, but also to provide the Libyan security personnel with adequate training and material to contrast illegal immigration. Whereas, Libya will engage in trying to reduce the flow of immigrants. (La Repubblica)

Romania: more than 200,000 Romanians held demonstrations across the country to protest against a decree that decriminalizes a range of corruption offenses. The decree was issued in order to counter the problem of  crowded jails, however many believe it was made to liberate certain political figures. The decree decriminalizes certain corruption offenses and makes abuse of power punishable by jail only if the sums involved exceed 44,000 euros. These protests were among the biggest rallies in the country since the end of communism in the late 1980s. (Al Jazeera)

Friday 3:

European Union: the leaders of the European Union met in Malta in order to discuss of immigration from North Africa, however several head of state have talked about an uncertain future in the relations with the United States due to Trump’s aggressive policies. French President Holland more than others expressed his worries due to the lack of predictability of Trump’s administration as regards EU defense. British Prime Minister Theresa May was one of the few that did not comment in any way the new-born US administration. (The Guardian)

France: a man with a machete tried to enter the Louvre museum in central Paris and was shot by a soldier. According to the Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, the incident was “terrorist in nature”. The Police reported that the man tried to enter the museum’s underground shop with a suitcase, however his bag contained no explosives. The man was shot five times and seriously wounded and is now under medical treatment. An anti-terrorism inquiry was open. (Al Jazeera)

Syria: Syria’s main opposition groups and Turkey rejected discussing the future administrative make-up of the war-thorn country or a new constitutions. Turkey has hosted Syrian opposition groups together with representatives of armed rebel factions at a meeting in Ankara ahead of new peace talks in Geneva later this month. Russia-backed talks in Kazakhstan concluded with Russia offering rebels a draft version of a new Syrian constitution which could give a solution to the conflict; however, opposition groups have claimed that this may serve more unilateral agendas. New talks backed by the United Nations are scheduled in Geneva on February 20. (The Daily Star)

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