Weekly News 30 October – 03 November 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs

Weekly News 30 October – 03 November

Monday 30 October

Iraq – kurdish referendum: Masoud Barzani is to step down as Kurdish president after the contentious independence referendum. The veteran Kurdish leader told a parliamentary sitting in Erbil on Sunday that he would not re-contest the presidency and asked for his powers to be dispersed. His decision comes six weeks after the poll. Barzani said his position would become vacant on 1 November, after which parliament will redistribute his powers. The Kurdish prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, is expected to be handed some of the presidency’s duties, with the rest to be contested among senior officials. (The Guardian)

Kenya: Police in Kenya are searching for opposition politicians they blame for an outbreak of violence in a slum neighbourhood of Nairobi, senior officials have said. At least three people killed in Kawangare area of Nairobi over weekend after contentious rerun of presidential elections. Fears of bloodshed in Kenya are growing after violent clashes between ethnic groups and a hardening of divisive rhetoric after the contentious rerun of presidential elections last week. (The Guardian)

Migrant crisis: Unprecedented plans to combat human trafficking and terrorism across the Sahel and into Libya will face a major credibility test on Monday when the UN decides whether to back a new proposed five-nation joint security force across the region.

The 5,000-strong army costing $400m in the first year is designed to end growing insecurity, a driving force of migration, and combat endemic people-smuggling that has since 2014 seen 30,000 killed in the Sahara and an estimated 10,000 drowned in the central Mediterranean.

The joint G5 force, due to be fully operational next spring and working across five Sahel states, has the strong backing of France and Italy, but is suffering a massive shortfall in funds, doubts about its mandate and claims that the Sahel region needs better coordinated development aid, and fewer security responses, to combat migration. The Trump administration, opposed to multilateral initiatives, has so far refused to let the UN back the G5 Sahel force with cash. (The Guardian)

Spain: Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has left Spain and travelled to Brussels, Spanish government officials have said.

Mr Puigdemont is facing sedition charges from the Spanish government after Catalonia declared independence under his leadership.

The Spanish media reports that the former leader is accompanied by an unspecified number of other members of the Catalan government. (The Independent)

spain: Spain’s attorney general, José Manuel Maza, announced that he would ask the national court to bring the charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds to be brought against members of the deposed Catalan cabinet for their role in trying to create an independent state.  The supreme court would oversee possible action against the Catalan parliamentary authorities. (The Guardian)

Tuesday 31 October

Spain: Puigdemont said he will respect the outcome of the election, planned on 21th December, but urged Spanish authorities to do the same.

The sacked regional president arrived at Brussels Press Club for a news conference on Tuesday, amid speculation he and his ministers would seek political asylum in Belgium, which he said was not their intent. The former Catalan government and select members of the parliament were charged by the Spanish prosecutor with sedition and rebellion, among other charges, on Monday. (Al Jazeera)

Migration crisis: The European Union has been urged to shed more light on how it is spending emergency money intended to curb mass migration from Africa to Europe.

In a report to be published next month, Oxfam will call on the European commission to boost transparency of the EU-Africa emergency trust fund, which was created by EU leaders in 2015 to stem the flow of people making the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Italy. (The Guardian)

Wednesday 01 November

Iraq – kurdish referendum: Iraq is moving to take control of a key border crossing into Turkey from the Kurdish Regional Government. The Ibrahim Khalil crossing separates the semi-autonomous Kurdish region from Turkey. Iraqi military chiefs visited the Turkish side of the border on Tuesday – but Kurdish officials deny they’ve taken control of the crossing.

Baghdad has vowed to take over all Kurdish-controlled crossings, in retaliation for holding an independence referendum last month. (video) (Al Jazeera)

Palestine: Hamas has handed over administrative control of five border crossings in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which governs the occupied West Bank. However, the handover does not mean that the people of Gaza will be able to move freely through border crossings. They will still need to apply for an Israeli travel permit.  (video) (Al Jazeera)

Yemen: At least 29 Yemeni civilians have been killed after a Saudi-led air strike “decimated” a busy market in the impoverished north of the country, witnesses and rebel media say.

The raid targeted the Alaf market in the northern province of Saada shortly after midnight on Wednesday, killing 29 people and wounding at least nine others as they slept.  (Al Jazeera)

Thursday 02 November

Israel – UK: The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will wade into a decades-old controversy over Britain’s role in the formation of the state of Israel when he meets on Thursday Theresa May as part of celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, which pledged Britain’s support for a Jewish national home in Palestine. Netanyahu’s talks with May in Downing Street will extend beyond Britain’s role in the formation of Israel, and cover Israel’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, which is strongly supported by the UK government.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Israel’s military incursions into Syria and the prospects of reopening Middle East peace talks if the Palestinians are able to form a national unity government between Hamas and Fatah.

There are signs that the UK is using the Balfour declaration centenary to press Israel not to undertake further settlement-building in the West Bank. (The Guardian)

Malta: The heads of eight of the world’s largest news organisations have called for the European commission to investigate the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and the independence of the media in Malta.

The editors and directors have written a letter to Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the commission, which describes the murder of Caruana Galizia as “shocking” and an “appalling reminder” of the dangers that journalists and citizens practising journalism face as they try to uncover corruption and criminal behaviour. (The Guardian)

Spain: Spain’s state prosecutor has asked a judge to issue a European arrest warrant for the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and four of his former regional ministers after they failed to return from Belgium to testify in court.

Puigdemont, who is in Brussels, had been summoned to attend Spain’s national court to give evidence on Thursday and Friday. Earlier on Thursday, Puigdemont’s lawyer said that although his client would cooperate with the courts, he intended to remain in Brussels. (The Guardian)

Friday 03 November

Iraq: At least 741 civilians died in “execution-style killings” by Islamic State militants during the battle for the Iraqi city of Mosul, the UN says.

The jihadists are also alleged to have carried out mass abductions, used human shields, intentionally shelled homes, and targeted people trying to flee. In total, at least 2,521 civilians were killed and another 1,673 were wounded during the military operation, mostly as a result of IS attacks, according to the report published on Thursday by UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. (BBC)

Spain: Thousands of Catalans have protested against the detention of eight regional ministers sacked over Catalonia’s push for independence from Spain. The officials – who appeared in Spain’s high court – are accused of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. Prosecutors are also seeking a European Arrest Warrant for ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who did not show up in court and is now in Belgium. Carles Puigdemont in a statement broadcast on Catalan TV from an undisclosed location in Belgium, described the detentions as “an act that breaks with the basic principles of democracy”. “I demand the release of the ministers and the vice-president,” he added. (BBC)

Syria: The Syrian army has retaken Deir al-Zour, the last major stronghold of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria, state TV says. “The city is completely liberated from terrorism,” the state TV report said. The militant group is now confined to just a few pockets in Deir al-Zour province. Some 350,000 civilians in the province have been forced to flee their homes. (BBC)

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