Weekly News 31 July – 4 August 2017 | Mediterranean Affairs
Weekly News 31 July – 4 August 2017
Monday, 31 July 2017
Migration crisis: The French government has said it will provide water and sanitation to refugees and migrants in Calais and open two reception centres away from the port, hours after a court ordered it to end the inhuman treatment of migrants. France’s highest administrative court ruled that President Emmanuel Macron’s government and the Calais region must provide hundreds of refugees with drinking water, showers and toilets. (The Guardian)
Poland: The Russian government has warned Poland that it will face sanctions if it removes monuments glorifying the Soviet victory in World War Two.
Last month Poland updated its “de-communisation” legislation, banning “totalitarian” symbols, which would include Soviet propaganda monuments.
Now Russian foreign ministry officials have warned of “asymmetric measures” if Poland removes Soviet war monuments.
Russia could refuse visas for Polish officials or downgrade trade relations. (BBC)
Syria: The transfer of thousands of Syrian fighters and refugees from Lebanon’s border region into rebel territory in Syria in exchange for Hezbollah prisoners has been delayed to Tuesday.
A Hezbollah military media unit said that the delay was to allow for “logistical measures”, including the arrival to the area of all buses being used for transportation under a local ceasefire deal.
Under the deal between the opposition fighters and Hezbollah, about 9,000 rebels and their relatives were to leave to rebel-head areas in Syria in exchange for eight Hezbollah fighters held by the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly known as the al-Nusra Front. (Al Jazeera)
Ukraine: Ukraine has been trying to break free from its communist past, and the campaign is changing the face of whole cities.
Zaporizhya is typical of eastern Ukraine in that it was full of communist monuments and street names. But new laws say they must be removed because they symbolise the country’s repressive past.
The campaign has triggered controversy, with critics saying that it is a crude assault on Ukraine’s past. (BBC)
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Migration crisis: Aid groups helping refugees in Greece are packing up and leaving after the European Union withdrew its funding.
The EU says there’s no further need for emergency funding since the refugee flows from Turkey have slowed.
It’s paying the Greek authorities to take over services instead.
But many aid groups say Greece is unprepared and refugees may lose access to vital services. (Al Jazeera)
MSF and the German Jugend Rettet did not sign a ”code of conduct” on Monday proposed by Italian officials for all NGOs involved in migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean. Save the Children and the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) instead signed it. (ANSAmed)
Turkey: For the past four years I’ve been blessed with such an outpour of support and kindness. Moreover, I’ve been subject to the immense wrath of people on the internet. My trust in people has dwindled, thinking that they probably have a negative thought about who I am or what I’ve done or what I’ll do next, so who am I to trust and befriend them? I do my best to be kind and understanding, and I will honestly say, that it took me learning the “hard way” to be able to do so. I would never wish upon anyone that they learn “the hard way” about how to treat others online. (BBC)
Wednesday, 2 August 2017
Afghanistan: US President Donald Trump promised he would craft a new strategy for the conflict in Afghanistan.
His plans were expected to be announced in July, but it is still not known if a decision will come anytime soon.
It is the longest war ever fought by the United States and many doubt that plans to add more US troops in the fight against Taliban fighters would bring real change. (Al Jazeera)
Italy: Italy has signed a 5bn-euro ($5.9bn) agreement with Qatar’s naval forces that includes the sale of seven naval units, according to a joint announcement by the foreign ministers of Qatar and Italy.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s foreign minister, also announced the signing of two other bilateral agreements that will increase political consultations and joint economic investments between the two countries.
During his one-day visit to Doha, Angelino Alfano, Italy’s foreign minister, stressed his country’s excellent political and economic ties with Qatar and expressed his support for Qatar’s efforts to combat terrorism.
“I would like to point out to our excellent ties with Qatar and that our goal is to support Qatar’s plans in the international arena,” he said. (Al Jazeera)
Migration crisis: Human Rights Watch, the rights advocacy group, has given warning that Italy’s naval mission to prevent refugees and migrants from setting sail from Libya for Europe could see Italy commit human-rights abuses.
Italy says its mission is backed by Libya’s UN-recognised unity government based in Tripoli.
The Italian parliament on Wednesday gave the go-ahead to providing technical support to the Libyan coastguard in its fight against human traffickers in the hope it would reduce the number of people arriving on Italy’s coasts. (Al Jazeera)
Yemen: More than 1 million malnourished children aged under five in Yemen are living in areas with high levels of cholera, the charity Save The Children warned on Wednesday as it began sending more health experts to the worst hit areas.
The scaling up in response came after latest figures show that a deadly cholera epidemic that started in April 2015 has infected more than 425,000 people and killed almost 1,900.
Save the Children said children under the age of 15 are now accounting for about 44% of new cases and 32% of fatalities in Yemen where a devastating civil war and economic collapse has left millions on the brink of starvation. (The Guardian)
Thursday, 3 August 2017
Migration crisis: The European Commission said Thursday that it has faith in the Italian authorities regarding the case of the Iuventa, a ship operated by German NGO Jugend Rettet that has been confiscated in relation to a probe into alleged aiding of illegal immigration. No members of the NGO have been charged so far and prosecutors in the Sicilian city of Trapani said that they believed Jugend Rettet’s activists were working for humanitarian reasons and did not have direct relations with the traffickers. (ANSAmed)
Kosovo: Kosovo’s new parliament convened on Thursday for the first time since a snap election in June but deputies did not appoint a new speaker or hold a debate as the winning coalition struggles to secure a majority.
The PAN coalition of parties made up of former guerrillas who fought in a war in 1998-99 gained 33.7 percent of votes but remains two votes short of a majority in the 120-seat parliament.
Two other players, the nationalist Vetevendosje party and the LAA coalition, remain opposed to a deal that would give PAN a majority.
The deputies were divided on Thursday over the election of a speaker, which is seen as a test of PAN’s ability to form a government. (Reuters)
Iran: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to continue his efforts to end the country’s isolation as he was sworn in for a second term, a day after US President Donald Trump signed a bill increasing sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
“We will never accept isolation,” Rouhani told a packed audience of Iranian political and military officials in Tehran on Thursday. (Al Jazeera)
Syria: A ceasefire between Syrian forces and rebels north of Homs has been agreed and will come into effect on Thursday, Russia’s defence ministry says.
It would be the third such “de-escalation zone” put in place since July after talks between powers backing and opposing the Syrian government.
The others cover parts of south-western Syria and the outskirts of Damascus.
Syria’s war has raged since 2011 but fighting has become more patchy amid a series of truce deals in recent months.
The conflict has left more 330,000 people dead and displaced millions more. (BBC)
Friday, 4 August 2017
Israel: Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been named as a suspect in two investigations into allegations of “fraud, breach of trust and bribes” with his former chief of staff signing a deal with prosecutors to testify against him.
The suspicions against Netanyahu, who denies any wrongdoing, were first revealed in a court application by detectives on Thursday seeking a gag order on reporting details of negotiations with Ari Harow, the former chief of staff, to become a state witness. Talks were concluded on Friday with Harow signing a deal in which he agreed to testify.
According to a statement from the Israel Police, Harow is expected to receive six months of community service and a fine of $193,000 on separate breach of trust charges – rather than a prison sentence – in exchange for his testimony. (The Guardian)
Migration crisis: Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Fathi Al-Mejbari has distanced himself from the authorization Premier Fayez al-Sarraj gave for an Italian naval mission to support the North African country’s coast guard, the website of the LibyaChannel TV reported Friday. (ANSAmed)
Rwanda: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has campaigned in Gasabo, a suburb of the capital Kigali, in the run-up to the August 4 general and presidential elections.
Tens of thousands of his supporters had to be beaten back by police brandishing baton sticks and fenced in on Wednesday as they fought to catch one last glimpse of their leader.
Kagame and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) expect a victory that would award the post-genocide president a third term and another seven years in office.
Although Kagame is widely popular, international rights observers have expressed concern over the political environment in which Friday’s vote takes place. (Al Jazeera)
Yemen: Forces backing Yemen’s government have reportedly driven al-Qaeda fighters out of the main cities of the southern province of Shabwa. The Yemeni troops, along with a force of local tribesman, were backed by the United Arab Emirates and US forces. (BBC)