Monday, 25th April 2016

EGYPT – Protests against the authoritarian rule of Egyptian president Fattah el-Sisi were broken up with tear gas and police batons today while staged pro-government demonstrations went ahead unhindered. (The Telegraph)

IRAQI KURDISTAN – Clashes between Kurdish and Shi’ite Turkmen fighters in an Iraqi town late on Monday cut the main road from Baghdad to the north for the second day in a row and threatened to undermine a ceasefire agreement reached by military leaders a day earlier. (Reuters)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Queen of Jordan Rania Al Abdullah has visited refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos – before highlighting the urgent need for a “sustainable long-term solution to this crisis.” (The Independent)

SYRIA – U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed on Monday that he had approved the deployment of as many as 250 additional U.S. personnel to Syria, including special forces, to train and assist local forces fighting ISIS militants. (Haaretz)

Tuesday, 26th April 2016

EGYPT – An Egyptian coalition of rights groups said Tuesday that police arrested at least 237 people during the previous day’s protests in Cairo against a government decision to hand over to Saudi Arabia control of two strategic Red Sea islands. (Daily Mail)

GREECE – Greece has offered to automatically cut spending as a contingency plan for further financial aid, using official data as a trigger point if bailout targets are missed, a government official said Tuesday. (The Daily Star)

LIBYA – Libya’s government has asked for foreign help to protect its oil wells from the threat posed by the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group and the international community has shown signs of support. (ANSAmed)

France said Tuesday it was ready to help Libya’s new unity government with maritime security as the fledgling administration seeks to assert its authority over the chaos-wracked country. (Al Arabiya)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Two ferries left Greece for Turkey on Tuesday with 18 migrants on board, as a government spokesman said Athens was doing all it could to process returnees under a deal with Turkey intended to stem a huge refugee influx into Europe. (Reuters)

WAR ON TERROR – Turkey has struck a deal with the United States to deploy American light multiple rocket launchers on its border with Syria to combat the Islamic State group. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) “will be deployed on the Turkish border in May as part of an agreement” with Washington, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview published Tuesday. (Al Monitor)

Wednesday, 27th April 2016

IRAQI KURDISTAN – Senior Kurdish and Shi’ite Muslim leaders agreed on Wednesday to withdraw their forces from a northern Iraqi town in a bid to end violence that has killed more than 10 people in recent days. Fighting began several days ago after members of a Shi’ite militia threw a grenade into the house of a Kurdish leader. (Reuters)

SYRIA – The United Nations special envoy for Syria closed two weeks of talks with warring parties on Thursday without setting a date for the next round, and he urged Russia and the United States to “revitalize” a collapsing cease-fire. (The New York Times)

Russia said on Wednesday that it has asked the United Nations Security Council to blacklist two powerful Syrian rebel groups that it considers “terrorist organizations,” one which is playing a key role in political negotiations aimed at ending the five-year conflict. (Al Arabiya)

SYRIAN KURDISTAN – The Kurdish government in Iraq has dealt a blow to Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria by keeping the border closed for more than one month, an economic and political setback for the Syrian region as it plans for wider autonomy. The Kurdish administration in northeastern Syria believes it is being targeted by the Kurdish government in Iraq in coordination with regional power Turkey. (Reuters)

Thursday, 28th April 2016

ISRAEL – Israel’s prime minister has rejected a French peace initiative to break the impasse in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. In a short statement issued a few hours before the start of the second Passover holiday in Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu’s office insisted formally that it saw no benefit to a proposed French peace conference mooted for later this year. (The Guardian)

LIBYA – Libya’s new unity government announced Thursday plans to establish a joint military command to drive the Islamic State jihadist group out of the North African country. Its presidential council called on “all military forces” in Libya to await instructions after “a joint command” has been formed and not to launch any unilateral offensive on the IS stronghold of Sirte, 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli. (Al Monitor)

MIGRANT CRISIS – The deputy head of the European Commission insisted on Thursday that the EU executive would not lower its standards to offer visa-free travel to Turks in exchange for Turkey’s help in preventing migrants reaching Europe from its shores. (Euronews)

SYRIA – Syria’s eight-week truce was dead in all but name on Thursday after airstrikes destroyed an Aleppo hospital backed by Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Committee of the Red Cross, killing patients and doctors. (The Guardian)

WAR ON TERROR – Italian police issued arrest warrants on Thursday for six people suspected of conspiring to join Islamic State, and court documents said three of them had been discussing possible attacks on the Vatican and the Israeli embassy in Rome. (Reuters)

Friday, 29th April 2016

LIBYA – Libya’s National Oil Corporation has ambitious plans to restore output to pre-2011 levels after years of violence and disruption, officials said. Oil output is now less than a quarter of the 1.6 million barrels per day Libya pumped before Muammar Qaddafi fell in 2011, and the National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli hopes to ramp it up swiftly with the backing of a new unity government. (Al Arabiya)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Germany’s interior minister has said he’s concerned more migrants will risk trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. At the same time, Thomas de Maiziere says the Balkan land route should stay closed. (Deutsche Welle)

SYRIA – Another medical facility has reportedly been bombed in Syria just days after dozens of people were killed at a hospital in Aleppo. Airstrikes and shelling in rebel and government-held areas of the city resumed on Friday, with one child and five others feared injured so far. (The Independent)

TURKEY – A Istanbul court yesterday sentenced two prominent Turkish journalists to two years behind bars for illustrating their columns with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed originally published by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. (The Daily Star)

Europe’s migrant deal hinges on Turks getting visa-free travel. It may collapse. On April 27th the French and Germans proposed strengthening safeguard mechanisms in the visa process, so that it could be suspended in the event of a large number of visitors who exceed the 90-day limit. (The Economist)