Monday, 1st February 2016

ISRAEL – Israel, Cyprus and Greece have agreed to deepen their energy, security and tourism ties in the Eastern Mediterranean, a deal that may have implications for Israel’s testy relationship with the European Union, too. The agreement, signed in Nicosia last week by a beaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, focused on energy and the exploitation of natural-gas deposits off Israel and Cyprus. (The Daily Star)

GERMANY – German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere promised Afghanistan financial help to help reintegrate returned migrants during a visit to Kabul on Monday overshadowed by the latest in a series of deadly suicide bomb attacks. (Reuters)

SIRYA – The United Nations announced the formal start of peace talks for Syria on Monday and urged world powers to push for a ceasefire even as government forces, backed by Russian air strikes, launched their biggest offensive north of Aleppo in a year. (Reuters)

ITALY – Italy will contribute to a 3 billion euro European Union fund to help Turkey tackle the European migration crisis, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday, dropping objections blocking implementation of the plan. (Reuters)

Tuesday, 2nd February 2016

LEBANON – Hezbollah fighters killed at least four members of the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in a rocket attack on their car in northeastern Lebanon on Tuesday, a security source said. The incident took place in a restive area near the Syrian border, just outside the Lebanese town of Arsal, which Nusra Front and Islamic State fighters overran briefly in 2014 before withdrawing after clashes with the army. (Reuters)

SYRIA – An international coalition is pushing back Islamic State militants in their Syrian and Iraqi strongholds, but the group is threatening Libya and could seize the nation’s oil wealth, U.S Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

Jordan’s King Abdullah says his country needs long-term aid from the international community to cope with a huge influx of Syrian refugees, warning that unless it received support “dam is going to burst”. (The Jerusalem Post)

Wednesday, 3rd February 2016

SYRIA – The preparatory phase of Syrian peace talks in Geneva is likely to take longer than anticipated, Bashar al-Ja’afari, the head of Syria’s government delegation, said on Wednesday. (The Jerusalem Post)

Talks being mediated by the United Nations to end the war in Syria are on hold, U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Wednesday, while another official at the United Nations blamed the suspension on Russia’s latest military escalation. (Reuters)

LIBYA – U.S. President Barack Obama will continue to be updated on the risks of the spread of ISIS to Libya, and the United States will take action in the North African country to counter that threat if necessary, the White House said on Wednesday. (Al Arabiya)

EUROPEAN UNION – European Union countries on Wednesday approved a 3 billion euro ($3.32 billion) fund for Turkey to improve living conditions for refugees there in exchange for Ankara ensuring fewer of them migrate on to Europe. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Slabs of concrete wall have sprung up and military patrols have intensified, but local people say this stretch of Turkey’s border facing Syrian territory under Islamic State control is still far from water-tight. Reuters

Thursday, 4th February 2016

TURKEY – Turkey has rejected a Russian request for a routine observation flight over its territory under a decade-old pact meant to enhance mutual confidence, a move Moscow said set “a dangerous precedent”. (Reuters)

Russia has serious grounds to suspect Turkey of preparing for a military incursion in Syria, where Russian jets are bombing rebel and jihadi fighters, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Thursday. (Reuters)

EGYPT – The body of an Italian student who went missing in Cairo was found half naked by the roadside with cigarette burns and other signs of torture, a senior Egyptian prosecutor said on Thursday. (The Jerusalem Post)

 

Friday, 5th February 2016

SYRIA – A senior Russian diplomat said on Friday Syrian opposition envoys who attended U.N.-mediated peace talks this week should have welcomed a government offensive because it targeted Islamist militants, rather than walk out of the parley. (The Daily Star)

Vladimir Putin thinks Russian air strikes in Syria have helped turn the war’s tide but the pace of the Syrian army’s advance has frustrated him, some sources say. If Aleppo falls, he could get the military and symbolic prize he has been craving. (Reuters)

TURKEY – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Russia must be held accountable for the people it has killed in Syria, arguing that Moscow and Damascus were together responsible for 400,000 deaths there, Dogan News Agency reported. (Reuters)

Turkey all but ruled out direct talks with Kurdish militants to end one of the worst periods of bloodshed in a three-decade insurgency Friday, saying the government would instead bring what it called civil society groups to the table. (The Daily Star)