Monday, April 28, 2014

UKRAINE – The United States and European Union agreed Monday to impose new sanctions on Russian officials, in a fresh bid to pressure Moscow over its role in the Ukraine crisis. The U.S. sanctions targeted seven Russian government officials, as well as 17 firms with links to President Vladimir Putin’s close associates, The Associated Press reported. President Barack Obama said that while his goal was not to target Putin personally, he was seeking to “change his calculus with respect to how the current actions that he’s engaging in could have an adverse impact on the Russian economy over the long haul,” AP reported. (Al Arabyia)

EGYPT – A court in Minya, Upper Egypt, on Monday sentenced 683 supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, including the spiritual chief of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie, to death. The verdict, which is part of a mass trial against over 1,200 Brotherhood supporters, now goes to Egypt’s supreme religious authority, the Grand Mufti, a senior religious scholar, for approval or rejection. (ANSAmed)

SERBIA – Serbia’s new government led by premier Aleksandar Vucic, a conservative leader who heads the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) easily won a vote of confidence in parliament on Sunday night after its electoral success on March 16. Deputies in the 250-seat chamber voted 198 to 23 to support Vucic. Vucic outlined his cabinet’s program, announcing drastic cuts and austerity policies to help the economy and modernize a country struggling with a long economic and social crisis. (ANSAmed)

ITALY – As migrants and refugees pour into Italy by the thousands, Premier Matteo Renzi on Monday vowed to appeal for more commitment from the European Union and the United Nations on tackling undocumented immigration. “Italy will return with determination to ask more commitment on the part of the United Nations and the European Union,” in view of Italy’s upcoming six-month presidency of the EU Council, Renzi said during a meeting on the Mare Nostrum sea patrol and rescue mission in the Mediterranean. (ANSAmed)

 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

PALESTINE – There can be no peace with Israel without first defining the borders of a future Palestinian state, president Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday. “Since the creation of Israel, nobody knows what the borders are. We are determined to know our borders and theirs, without that there will be no peace,” he said as Washington’s nine-month deadline for reaching a peace deal expired, leaving the process in tatters. In a televised address, Abbas laid out his conditions for returning to the crisis-hit peace talks with Israel which have made no progress since they were launched on July 29 last year. (Al Arabiya)

SYRIA – The United Nations on Tuesday rejected calls for it to deliver humanitarian aid across borders into Syria without the approval of the government in Damascus, saying such operations would be possible only under a stronger U.N. Security Council resolution. Dozens of top lawyers from around the world argued in a letter to the United Nations on Monday that there was no legal barrier for the world body to carry out cross-border aid deliveries or support other organizations to do the same. (Reuters)

TUNISIA – Tunisia will not need to access financial markets to manage its budget deficit this year, its prime minister said on Tuesday, while ruling out harsh public spending cuts that could stoke popular unrest. Three years after an uprising that inspired the “Arab Spring” revolutions, Tunisia has a new constitution and aims to hold elections this year. But the caretaker government, led by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, has said painful sacrifices will be needed to revive an economy hit by the turbulence that followed the toppling of Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali and the financial crisis in Europe. (Reuters)

 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

LEBANON – Lebanon’s parliament failed Wednesday to elect a president, for a second time in a week and Parliament speaker Nabih Berri set the date of May 7 as a new date to hold a parliamentary session, the official National News Agency said. The parliament met on Wednesday in a second bid to elect a successor to President Michel Sleiman, whose term expires on May 25, after failing on a first ballot last week. (Al Arabiya)

IRAQ – The polls have closed in the parliamentary election in Iraq in what was the first ballot since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. There was a low turnout on Wednesday as fresh waves of violence continued across the country. While twenty-two million Iraqis were eligible to vote, turnout was around 60 percent, reported Agence France-Presse. Current Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking a third term in power as the country faces its worst violence levels in years, much of which is blamed on the leader. (Al Arabyia)

JORDAN – Across the desert horizon of eastern Jordan rows of iron skeleton structures rise from the sand, marking what the United Nations says could become the biggest camp for Syrian refugees in the Middle East. Azraq refugee camp, 100 km (62 miles) east of the capital Amman, was formally opened on Wednesday after 10 months of work paving tarmac roads and constructing thousands of zinc and metal shelters that will ultimately be able to host 130,000 residents. (Reuters)

 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

TURKEY – Turkish police fired water cannon and tear gas to prevent hundreds of protesters from defying a ban on May Day rallies and reaching Istanbul’s central Taksim Square on Thursday. Citing security fears, authorities shut down parts of the city’s public transport system and deployed thousands of riot police, blocking access to Taksim, a traditional union rallying point and the epicenter of weeks of protests last summer. (Reuters)

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – European Union peacekeepers took charge of security at Central African Republic’s main airport on Wednesday in their first major operation to try and end months of sectarian slaughter. Just ahead of the handover, four people were killed overnight and on Wednesday morning in the capital, the local branch of the Red Cross said. One of the dead, a Muslim, was decapitated, his heart ripped out and his body mutilated, a Reuters witness said. The EU peacekeepers are meant to share the burden of around 2,000 French troops and 5,000 African peacekeepers already in the country who have so far failed to stop the bloodshed. (Reuters)

 

Friday, May 2, 2014

UKRAINE – Two helicopters were brought down in the flashpoint city of Slavyansk on Friday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said, as Ukrainian security forces launched their most intensive effort yet to try to dislodge pro-Russian separatists. Residents of Slavyansk were warned to stay home and avoid windows as the latest phase of the authorities’ “anti-terrorist operation” got under way. (CNN)

EUROPE – The number of people out of work in the euro zone fell slightly in March but remained near a record high, a sign that European households are yet to feel the bloc’s economic recovery and are unlikely help generate growth in the short term. Around 18.91 million people were jobless in the 18-nation bloc in March, 22,000 less than in February, or 11.8 percent of the working population, the EU statistics office Eurostat said on Friday. (Reuters)

PORTUGAL – The Portuguese government announced on Friday that the so-called troika of international creditors (ECB,EU, and IMF) had approved the efforts undertaken by the country to comply with the aid program agreed three years ago in exchange for a 76-billion-euro loan. ”The twelfth assessment was positive,” Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas said in a press conference, underscoring the ”climate of confidence coming from all European markets.”. (ANSAmed)